Duncan Lay is an Australian fantasy author and bestseller whose Dragon Sword Histories first hooked me a few years back, but which I still think about now. Like a lot of readers, I think it’s hard to forget Martil and Karia! Check out the first book The Wounded Guardian here and see what Duncan is up to on twitter or visit his new site where he has a great competition running for fans - you can get yourself named after a character.
Duncan was kind enough to answer a few questions for the City of Masks blog, so, without further rambling from me:
Ashley Capes: I remember being drawn in to The Wounded Guardian right away and the longer I read, the more compelling Martil and Karia’s relationship became – I’d love to know, did you always set out to write about those two? How did the story begin?
Duncan Lay: They were the beginning of the story and it grew from them. I wanted to write a story about a man in a dark place, coming back from that through the love of a small child. That was always going to be the heart of the story. Then I read about the battle of Pilleth, where the Welsh defeated the English and nearly changed the course of British history. It’s fascinating because the English had forced Welsh archers to fight for them but, just when it appeared the English would win, these Welsh changed sides and altered the battle. History has never been able to explain why they changed sides then, when they had the most to lose an, seemingly, little to gain. That intrigued me and much of the storyline of Dragon Sword Histories flowed from there.
AC: That sense of mystery and of what was unexplained was one of the things I really enjoyed about the series too, the way you paced the delivery of Martil’s history, keeping the mystery intact. Are there any plans for delving further into Martil’s back-story one day?
DL: I do have thoughts of another trilogy, following on from Dragon Sword Histories, called Dragon Sword Legacy, set 10 years after the events of Radiant Child. Within that there would be, of course, a deeper exploration of Martil's back story, including a return to Rallora. I'll just have to wait and see which characters' voices in my head grow loudest in demanding to be written first!
AC: Followers of your blog will be aware that you’re a very hard working and hands-on author, your 50 bookstores in 50 days tour is a great example of this. How important do you think face to face interaction is with the audience?
DL: Meeting people is hugely important. While online promotion is extremely useful, making that personal connection is enormous. I have lost count of the number of people I have spoken to in my travels around Australia who have become huge supporters and even friends because of it. It’s a special moment for both reader and author!
AC: In your experience, how strong do you find (general) industry expectation on authors to maintain online an presence at the expense of some of that face to face interaction? Or is there a possible resurgence of face to face coming to you think? I believe you mentioned that HC was supportive of your tours for instance.
DL: Online presence is a huge thing, naturally. Face-to-face can be a very challenging thing for many authors, who feel more comfortable about interacting with readers via online means. Just because it worked for me does not mean it works for everyone! Publishers want to see authors who are prepared to work hard to promote their own books, however that is done. These days, writing a book is only half the job. You have to use any and every tool available to promote it.
AC: I’m curious about what sort of challenges you faced when following up The Dragon Sword Histories with the Empire of Bones series, with both being set in the same world, but three hundred years apart.
DL: Setting a series in the same world is, in some ways, easier as you have already established many of the ground rules.
The challenge I faced was a personal struggle because I did not want the main character to be a carbon copy of Martil. He struck such a note with readers that the last thing I wanted was to have a “Martil Lite” running around the second series. But, in doing that, I initially created a version of Sendatsu who was unlikeable. He was too young and arrogant and by the time he had matured, my beta readers were warning me that people might not care about him. So I actually changed his character dramatically, made him older and gave him children. I had this idea about a man being forced into doing things he never thought possible because he wanted to protect and get back to his children but I didn’t have a story for him. So I took this character who was merely wandering around the back of my head and put him into the Empire of Bones story. This meant I had to rewrite the first book and part of the second book utterly. But I’m very happy that I did and the reaction to the series indicates it worked!
AC: I was actually lucky enough to win the whole series just last month and I’m keen to get into them, Sendatsu sounds great! Did anyone else end up sneaking into the series – or do you plan roles and characters in detail before writing?
DL: I do plan in detail - but I also let my characters take control of their own destinies in many ways. There are characters in both series who were only supposed to be in one scene but they demanded a bigger role. Equally there are ones who were supposed to go through who reached the end of their lives earlier. I like to plan but I need to be flexible as well, as the story changes as it is created and characters twist it to suit their needs. To me, that's what makes writing so much fun!
AC: I'd love to hear about a character who demanded a bigger role, does someone come straight to mind in that respect? Was there an urge to 'control' them or was it more exciting?
DL: One of the best examples of the character who demanded a bigger role was Kettering from the Dragon Sword Histories. he was only supposed to be a figure of fun in one scene in Wounded Guardian but there was something about him and he went on and on, growing more integral to the story as he went.
Conal was another classic example. Again, only supposed to be in one scene but he just grew and grew.
You don't control characters like that. They just take control of their own destiny. Having them around makes the writing far more fun!
Thanks again to Duncan for agreeing to the interview, hope you enjoyed it!
Free ebook with every newsletter sign up in 2016
Ashley Capes is an Australian writer of fiction, poetry and very occasional non-fiction.
Imperial Towers (Never Book 5) - draft 1
Moss Dragon - draft 1
Reed Lavender (working title) - draft 1
Unnamed Spec Fic - draft 1
Whisper of Leaves (sequel) - Outline