Thursday, May 21, 2015

[Author's Guest Post] When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner

When the Heavens FallWhen the Heavens Fall
The first of an epic swords & sorcery fantasy series for fans of Patrick Rothfuss, When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods.

If you pick a fight with Shroud, the Lord of the Dead, you had better make sure you end up on the winning side, else death will mark only the beginning of your suffering.

A book that gives its wielder power over the dead has been stolen from a fellowship of mages that has kept the powerful relic dormant for centuries. The thief, a crafty, power-hungry necromancer, intends to use the Book of Lost Souls to resurrect an ancient race and challenge Shroud for dominion of the underworld. Shroud counters by sending his most formidable servants to seize the artifact at all cost.

However, the god is not the only one interested in the Book, and a host of other forces converge, drawn by the powerful magic that has been unleashed. Among them is a reluctant Guardian who is commissioned by the Emperor to find the stolen Book, a troubled prince who battles enemies both personal and political, and a young girl of great power, whose past uniquely prepares her for an encounter with Shroud. The greatest threat to each of their quests lies not in the horror of an undead army but in the risk of betrayal from those closest to them. Each of their decisions comes at a personal cost and will not only affect them, but also determine the fate of their entire empire.

guest post: spiders, schmiders

Let’s start with a quiz. Below are three quotes that I found on Amazon about a well-known epic fantasy book. See if you can guess which one.
“The characters are weak and/or too obvious, the plot thin and contrived.”
“Chock-full of the banal and with nothing new to grab you.”
“. . . the worst book I have ever read.”
I suspect you’ve already worked out where I’m going with this. Yes, those quotes are about that worthless flop of a book, Game of Thrones. By some guy called George RR Martin, apparently. Maybe you’ve heard of him.
Martin is the new godfather of epic fantasy. Once it was Tolkien (to some people it still is), but Martin was the one who breathed new life into the genre twenty years ago and brought fantasy into the mainstream. Even if you haven’t read Game of Thrones, or watched the TV adaptation, you’ve probably heard some of the buzz about Martin’s books. The Red Wedding, for example? So when I read again those reviews above, it leaves me scratching my head. Game of Throneswas groundbreaking in all sorts of ways. Towards the end of the book, at the death of a certain main character, I had to reread the relevant section several times because I was sure I must have misinterpreted it. But according to one reviewer the book is “banal” and contains “nothing new”. If Game of Thrones has all been done before, I’d like to know where, because that’s a book I want to read. And Tyrion Lannister is a “weak” character, is he? I dare say a few people will disagree.
The topic I was given for this article was “my biggest fear”, and you’ve probably guessed what it is by now (at least from a writing perspective): reviews. My debut epic fantasy novel, When the Heavens Fall, was published by Tor last week. It marks the end of a ten-year journey, and the knowledge that it is now being reviewed by others inspires mixed emotions. On the one hand, a review means someone has actually read the book. And that’s the main reason authors write, isn’t it? Otherwise they wouldn’t try to get their books published. On the other hand, it stands to reason that the novel will generate a range of responses. There isn’t a book out there that everyone likes. There isn’t anything out there that everyone likes.
Of course, that doesn’t stop a writer wanting everyone to like their work. No one enjoys receiving criticism, however constructive, but I’d guess authors enjoy it less than most. Why? Because writing is such a personal endeavour. As Red Smith said, “There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Every author bleeds a little onto the page. The themes in their book will be themes that are important to them. They will probably have put a little piece of themselves into some, if not all, of the characters. It’s not so easy, then, for an author to shrug it off when someone says that they don’t like their work.
Plus reviews are important to a writer. It’s all part of spreading the word about a book. As a new author, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. There are thousands of books out there for readers to choose from, so how do you get yours onto someone’s to-be-read list? An author called Mark Lawrence wrote an interesting blog post a while back on the importance of reader recommendations. I’ll spare you his maths, but the conclusion he reached was that a relatively minor difference in the number of recommendations that a writer receives can have a huge impact on sales. And a review – or at least a good one – is a recommendation that has the potential to reach lots of readers.
The bottom line? If you enjoyed a book recently, tell someone about it. Leave a review or a rating on Amazon, or Goodreads, or anywhere else. It may seem like a small gesture, but it could make an author’s day, as well as a big difference to the success or failure of that author’s book – and thus to the chances of you getting to read something else by that author.
Obviously I’d never stoop to anything so crude as to ask someone who’d enjoyed my book to write a review of it. But if they were so inclined, I guess there’s no way I could stop them from doing so here . . .

About this author
Marc TurnerMarc Turner was born in Toronto, Canada, but grew up in England. He graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford University, in 1996 with a BA (Hons) in law, and subsequently joined a top ten law firm in the City of London. After realising that working there did not mix well with simple pleasures such as having a life, he fled north first to Leeds and then to Durham in search of a better work-life balance. Unfortunately it proved elusive, and so in 2007, rather than take the next step and move to Scotland, he began working part time so he could devote more time to his writing. Following the sale of his debut epic fantasy novel, When the Heavens Fall, he started writing full time.

Why writing? Because it is the only work he knows where daydreaming isn’t frowned upon, and because he has learned from bitter experience that he cannot not write. The authors whose work has most influenced him are Steven Erikson and Joe Abercrombie. Consequently he writes fast-paced, multi-threaded novels with a liberal sprinkling of humour; novels written on a panoramic scale, peopled by characters that stay in the memory. Or at least that’s the theory . . . He lives in Durham, England, with his wife and son.