What can you tell us about The Sword and The Dragon?
The Sword and the Dragon is every fantasy novel I have ever read, all rolled up into one huge epic. It is the first part of The Wardstone Trilogy. Its about 900 book pages long, and it is a complete novel that does not leave you dangling at the end. It is not the hack and slash sort of fantasy, where the good guys are perfect, and the bad guys are monsters. It’s character driven and the plot is simple yet, very complex. If you like fantasy, and you read it, I’m fairly certain that you will enjoy it.
You wrote this book, and several others, while serving time in prison. What special difficulties and/or advantages did that present to you as a writer?
Firstly I want to say this: I have been in and out of jail since I was a teenager. I used to have a serious drug habit. I stole stuff, I lied, and I abused every known drug on the streets. My charges were for drug possession. That is what I did time for. I also did time when I was younger for burglary. I have received correspondence from a major publisher citing my lack of stability as the reason for being rejected for publication. Who can blame them? They have no idea if I will relapse and end up back in prison. If I didn’t have a record I would probably be a published author. But then again, if I never went to prison, I might have never started writing..
Now to your question.
Most of the difficulties of writing in prison are obvious. Lack of resources was a major factor in choosing the stories I wrote. They don’t let you have maps in prison. Creating a “Real City” setting for a crime drama would be next to impossible without street names and local icons. The guy in the cell next door has a sixth grade education, and on the other side is “Shank,” who is doing 25 for stabbing his uncle over a bad batch of meth. Opinions that can be taken seriously are rare (but there are some.) There was no help, and there was no validation. I wrote nine novels in my unorthodox style and had no one to help me improve my craft. I’m sort of thankful for that now. But after writing so much, my bad habits are definitely habits now.
Advantages. Hmm. Time I guess is an obvious one, and no responsibilities, or interruptions. When I sat down to write, or read, I didn’t have to worry about kids, or a spouse, or incoming emails. I ended up in maximum security over a few fights. I was in a solitary cell for well over two years. I could submerge into my story, and that is exactly what I did. For months at a time I would get into a routine of reading and writing. For the better part of four years I read about three hundred pages and wrote two-three thousand words a day.
You were quite prolific while serving time. What additional challenges have you faced trying to write outside of prison?
Besides the “crack addiction-like” need to constantly go check my sales numbers always interrupting my train of thought, I think the biggest challenges have been learning to negotiate the internet, and learning to type. Proper editing is also a challenge.
How do you do your world-building?
Through the eyes and actions of my characters. I write with the “All Powerful Narrator” style sometimes, which means I might be telling you what Billy thinks in one paragraph, and what the girl he is trying to kill is thinking in the next. They call it “Head Jumping,” but I just learned that term recently. I have read a lot of books, and I write like what I have read, so it seems to work. I don’t know the technical terms for what I write. I just write.
What is the magic system in your fantasy trilogy?
This is a strange question for me, because I know exactly what you’re asking, but I have no idea how to approach an answer. I didn’t try to define a single type of magic. The title of my Trilogy is “The Wardstone Trilogy,” and the power of Wardstone is displayed and explained in the book, but Wardstone is just a substance. Pael, the likeable, but dastardly evil wizard, casts spells using potions, scrolls, and spoken spells from memory. His daughter Shaella relies more on her ability to charm what she wants out of people, but even she is fallible and falls in love with the boy she is using. The sword “Iron Spike” fills its owner with an angelic symphonic chorus of power. It’s a big continent. Different regions have different customs all the way around. I would have to say as a whole there is no single “system” of magic.