Exclusive: Mark Lawrence talks King of Thorns, influences and #Jorgism
|INTERVIEWS - PRINT|
Shadowlocked talks to the new pro of the fantasy genre, Mark Lawrence...
Considering the phenomenal success of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones series - which is currently seeing similar success in its HBO-inspired television transformation - it's hardly surprising that Mark Lawrence and his fantasy offering Prince of Thorns have seen such global success.
So, in the run up to the Prince of Thorns sequel, King of Thorns, Shadowlocked secured some one on one time with the best selling author to discuss his hopes for the sequel and where he sees the story going from here. Furthermore, Mr. Lawrence discusses his inspirations, hopes and how #Jorgism is sweeping the nation...
With Prince of Thorns you talked about how you wrote with no idea you would be published. You knew you would be this time. Was that a very different writing experience for you?
I guess it should have been. I felt some pressure, but fortunately I had almost two years to the deadline for handing King of Thorns in and I didn't know how Prince of Thorns would be received, so I went at it in fairly relaxed style. The only real difference was the tempo. I wrote more often and the story occupied more of my imagination. In the end I wrote both King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns in a single year so that both were complete six months before Prince of Thorns hit the shelves. Writing them now, with all the reviews and feedback from readers, and obvious expectations - that would be a very different experience.
What was it like knowing you will end your time with Jorg and that world? Will it really be the last we see of him?
I think it will have more impact when I'm done with the edit and when book three hits the shelves. It will be bittersweet but I'm firmly of the opinion that there's great power in knowing when to quit. I'm proud of what I've done so far - to drag that out and leave readers with the memory of the series as being the book they finally quit on, rather than having the last memory being how much they enjoyed the trilogy and were left wanting more after book three - that would be a mistake. It might be more lucrative, but if making money was my main aim in life I'd have gone into merchant banking.
And yes. I've no plans for Jorg to walk the page again.
What's your favourite thing about Jorg Ancrath?
His depth. On the face of it he's a simple creature, albeit clever and vicious, but he's most interesting to me in his denials and in the things he can't or won't see about himself.
In the acknowledgements for the novel you mention that you have a favourite line in this book. Any chance you will tell us what it is? Or give a clue...a page number?
Sure, I'm not shy about my prose! It's the last line of these three:
"Beyond the enemy I could see forever. I could see the wildness and wideness of the mountains. Beyond them, the day moon, white like the memory of bone."
The fact my editor singled it out shows she looks for and appreciates the same poetic power in description as I do.
You said about Prince of Thorns that you were writing to see how far you could take a character and still have the reader be on side with them. In King of Thorns you push this even further. You're not afraid to make your readers uncomfortable about your main character. How did you manage to strike a balance between amorality and likeability?
I guess the truth is that I don't attempt to strike a balance. I never set out to make Jorg likeable or worried if the reader would approve of him. I have a sense of him in my mind and I simply set out what it is. Take or leave it. My hope is that he be sufficiently interesting to keep the readers' attention. I've seen quite a few comments along the lines of 'does the author want us to like Jorg?'. To my mind that's an issue born of genre reading where traditionally characters arrive wearing nameplates that read, 'hero', 'baddie', 'everyman anti-hero who discovers hidden strength', 'diamond in the rough who does the right thing whilst grumbling about it', etc. More generally literature presents us with people and lets us form our own judgments, allowing that there may well be a wide range of reactions. For me a book is a set of questions, not a list of instructions.
As well as the darkness in the book, you have some genuinely laugh out loud lines. Do you think comedy may be a genre you want to explore in the future?
I don't think so. I don't try to be funny. I think if I tried then any success I have in that direction would quickly fizzle away. Some things you can't force. I can be as funny as I am and no funnier!
"I'd move countries to avoid DIY. At one point we'd lived in 11 houses in 10 years (owning mortgages on most of them). When DIY needs doing my traditional response has been to sell the house."
As an author you're not afraid to kill off characters that readers have grown attached to. Is it hard to write these deaths and are you ever tempted to let your favourite characters survive?
To borrow from George Martin: valar morghulis - all men must die. My characters live on the page and that's enough for me. I don't require them to be retired to contented old age once the covers are closed.
What things inspire you these days?
For writing? Everything really. Fragments of description come to me in quiet moments, watching the world. Staring out the window at the hospice where I go to stay with my daughter Celyn quite often these came to me, so I jotted them down and I'll use them somewhere. The view is gnarled trees, a stream, and a field beyond that has cows in the early morning.
Grey dawn reached in, blunt-fingered, finding only edges.
Blossom, offered to the cruelty of the season.
Leaves dancing to please the wind.
Music inspires me with the emotions and lyrics. Films, books, conversations...
What has been the best part of becoming a published author for you?
Being read and interacting with people who have enjoyed my work. I only get to do it online, but in truth I'm much more relaxed doing it that way anyhow. I love how stories spun out of the jumble of my imagination have become part of the internal landscape of other people across the world.
Some authors say their characters often decide what they will let their authors do or not do with them. Seeing as Jorg seems to dislike being told what to do was this something you had to deal with?
It's never been a problem for me as I don't plan books out. I just write and let the story go where it will. So, no, not a problem. I'm just following on making a record of events as Jorg runs wild!
"I love how stories spun out of the jumble of my imagination have become part of the internal landscape of other people across the world."
Your book cover tells us DIY is something you avoid. What's the most extreme thing you've done to avoid it?
Move countries. At one point we'd lived in 11 houses in 10 years (owning mortgages on most of them). When DIY needs doing my traditional response has been to sell the house.
You're not the only author in the family. Your daughter Celyn's published an e-book called Wheel-Mouse vs. All The Crazy Robots. How does it feel when the younger generation become the competition?
It's true. She's better than me. Wheel-Mouse vs. All The Crazy Robots is a towering work of imagination and sure to be a classic of children's literature. She actually has a publishing deal to get into hardcopy now, so hopefully Wheel-Mouse will grace shelves near you before the year's out.
Because Celyn is eight, non-verbal and can't use her hands, I had to help out with the illustrations and enable her in getting the story down. She made all the narrative choices and proved very stubborn regarding plot. If she didn't like any of the options for description or solving a problem that I listed for her then I'd have to add more until she found one she approved of. Some of those lists were very long indeed before she was satisfied!
Fans of the Broken Empire series will know that Jorg has a way with words. If you were to leave us with a 'Jorgism' for the day, what would it be?
You're either part of the solution or small bloody chunks of the problem. #Jorgism
Thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us Mark...
A review of Mark's new book, King of Thorns, can be found here...
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