The Next Big Thing

The iambically-talented Laura Lam, author of Pantomime (due from Strange Chemistry Books in February 2013), has tagged me with the Next Big Thing meme that is crossing the various voids in the web right now. So obviously, here’s The Next Big Thing – or, at the very least, my Slightly Epic variant of it.

What is the working title of your book?

Heir to the North. It was going to be Malessar’s Curse, but that became the series title instead.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Ah. Second question, and I’m stumped. Not good. It’s a long, slow collision of ideas really: the hero who doesn’t want the mantle, the soldier with an ulterior motive, the unattainable love interest, and the curse that must never be broken. It wasn’t quite working until I turned the lad Cass into Cassia, stopped trying to write in multiple third-person, and got lost in Marrakech. (That last point coloured two or three scenes in particular) Then I wrote the killer ending and worked backwards. As you do.

What genre does your book fall under?

Epic Fantasy, certainly. Good old storytelling. But, oddly, no sex and little swearing.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m better with names than with faces, so this took me a while. Logan Lerman as Hetch – this photo has him with exactly the right sort of “trust me” smile. Sam Neill would have to play Malessar – one of those actors who can do “intense introspection shading to sudden alarm” while still being believable as a mass murderer (um…is that praise?). Cillian Murphy as the human form of Craw – I can’t think of many actors who can pull off that level of detachment. The hardest to cast for is Cassia, of course, probably because I’ve been writing her story for so long. The lovely folks at Sheffield’s SFF Writers’ Group, who have known the characters for almost as long as I have, suggest Maddie Hasson or Shailene Woodley for Cassia (you should have seen the debate…), and Jeff Bridges for Baum. Jeff vs Sam in the face-off – yeahhhh…

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

There is only one thing Cassia knows for certain – the North Will Rise Again.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Around 3 and a half years. Fortunately the sequel has been rather more forthcoming.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Books I kept coming back to, like The Barbed Coil, by JV Jones, or The Dragonbone Chair, by Tad Williams. And I started re-reading Juliet McKenna’s Einarinn series as well, though Cassia is certainly nowhere near as worldly-wise as Livak. And I should mention the excellent Emperor’s Knife by Mazarkis Williams too. Heroes who aren’t always as confident as they would like to be, despite the steel core buried deep inside them.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

See above, mostly, but the first thing to happen was the last chapter. More specifically, the end of the last chapter. It took me months to figure out what to do with it, and that included working forwards too, to get the end of the second book.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, there’s not much gore, or owt like that (no, please don’t go!), but I’ve got characters who have committed seriously unforgiveable acts in the past, and karma has finally come back to bite them. Plus, there’s a whole history to unravel, two great cities to explore, an army of long-dead soldiers, and a bad-ass dragon. Did I already mention the dragon? No?

Right, as the meme obliges, I now nominate several fellow writers to carry it forwards. So give it up for:

Stephen Sweeney, author of the bestselling Battle For The Solar System (and its sequels);

Sarah Cawkwell, excellent Black Library scribe and wielder of blunt instruments.


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Epic Fantasist & SFSF Socialist.

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