Tuesday, 2 April 2013

An Interview with Walter Spence, author of House of Shadows

I'm delighted to say that I've conducted an interview with that splendid chap Walter Spence, author of House of Shadows.

Q: I think I read on Goodreads that House of Shadows is planned as the first of a 12 part series. What made you decide to write such a lengthy series?

A: What I wanted most of all was to give my readers an engrossing storyline which would act as linking chain for all the stories I wanted to tell. I’ve long been a fan of the epic tale, the one that draws into its embrace a large and fascinating cast of divergent personalities, and a background/history that gives their stories both richness and depth.

Q: With other mega series (notably A Song of Ice and Fire, and Wheel of Time) authors can sometimes lose their way. Have you sketched out (or possibly planned in detail) the entire saga, or are you taking each book as it comes?

A: I know all the nasty and terrifying details of what’s truly going on, and I know how it’s going to end. That being said, sometimes both characters and plotlines have a way of redirecting events, so I never get married to my own preconceptions. As I grow and improve as a writer, it’s entirely possible I’ll come up with something even better than what I have in mind at the moment, so I always leave the doorways of possibility open.

Q: Which authors have inspired, or influenced, you both in terms of getting into writing and your own style?

A: That’s a difficult question. I’ve long been a fan of Stephen King, because he marries both plot and characterization so well. Plus, he never forgets he’s telling a story. I love beautiful narrative styles, like Shirley Jackson’s, as well as the poetry of writers like Dylan Thomas. Recently I discovered the gorgeous prose style of Jacqueline Carey. I hope these discoveries never end.

Q: What aspects of writing do you find most challenging and most enjoyable?

A: Editing my work is probably the most challenging thing. I don’t know how many times I went through House of Shadows, only to find new mistakes or typos.

The most enjoyable aspect? When I feel myself in sync with the story, and can literally feel the impact that what I’m writing will have on the reader.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring author?

A: Vet your work with a good critiquing group. One reason writers need copyeditors is because we’re prone to tunnel vision where our own work is concerned. And that’s simple mistakes in spelling or grammar. Larger issues, like plot holes or inconsistent characterization, are even more demanding, because they’re qualitative in nature. Writers need multiple sets of eyes, because no matter how hard it is to have our peerless prose critiqued in a group, it’s better than hearing the same criticisms from a reviewer.

Q: Excepting House of Shadows, which is your favorite fantasy/paranormal book or series?

A: My favorite stuff is the older stuff, like Roger Zelazny’s ‘Chronicles of Amber’, though George R. R. Martin has created a great work in his ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series.

Q: Joe Abercrombie has talked about writers being gardeners or architects, in that their habits tend to be either organic/spontaneous or meticulously planned. Which camp do you fall into?

A: Mostly the former. I believe that there is a subconscious layer to our brains where a great deal of both these forms of learning take place. I wrote about my views on this in an article on my blog titled ‘The Sexing of Baby Chicks and How to Write More Better’, which was inspired by David Eagleton’s book, ‘Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain’.

Fiction that transcends, that hits those chords deep within is - I believe - largely born from that part of our brains. We have to have the skills, grammatical and otherwise, and these are learned, but telling a fascinating and compelling story is a separate thing.

Q: Without spoiling anything, House of Shadows gives a few details and hints at a significant amount of history and lore. Have you written a complete history for the people involved, or do you prefer to write lore as and when it's needed?

A: A combination of both. I have a framework in my mind to hang everything on, but there are any number of corners and cubbyholes still empty. That subconscious part of the brain I believe the best fiction comes from takes time to weave the good stuff, and I try to give it as much time and space as possible.

Q: When is the next part of the series due out?

A: I’m working on the second book in the series, ‘The Secret Room’, as we speak. I hate to pin myself down to a date, since it’s far more important to me that it be done right than when will it come out. One of the advantages of being self-published, I can say that it will be ready when it’s ready. It took Martin five years to write ‘A Dance With Dragons’, which I found truly sobering. I’m at close to 13,000 words now, but previous experience has taught me that I write best in spurts, so I could go for a month without writing anything and then come up with 3000 words in a week’s time. But I want to get TSR done asap, so here’s to hoping it might be done by year’s end.

Many thanks to Mr. Spence for the interview.


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