The Next Big Thing

A couple of weeks ago my friend Violette Malan invited me to participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Series, which would involve my answering a set of questions. What with all of the family health issues hanging over my head I’m a few days later than I intended to be, but here are my answers.

You’ll find Violette’s blog post for the series here. If you haven’t read any of her work, I have a sneaking suspicion that most of my site’s visitors would be interested in her Dhulyn and Parno adventures.

Right, so here are my answers to the questions.

What is the working title of your book?

Well, technically I’m working on two, the next novel for my Paizo Pathfinder series and the next novel (the third) for The Chronicles of Sword and Sand, tentatively titled The Maiden’s Eye.

But because my NEXT book to hit shelves is out in just two weeks, I think I’ll be talking about that one, The Bones of the Old Ones.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I suppose it had its genesis in the mountain range I saw in a hardback copy of one of Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar books. Of course, the bones in my book aren’t related to mountains, not even remotely, but I loved the place name. The rest of it is a mish-mash of interesting bits of mythology and history I’ve chanced upon over the last decade or so, with a few of my favorite characters thrown into the mix.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s marketed as historical fantasy, or alternate history… me, I think it’s sword-and-sorcery in an Arabian Nights setting, but since it’s an 8th century that’s fairly true to life EXCEPT for bits of dark magic lurking at the edges, maybe historical fantasy is the better description. It’s not really alternate history because all of the real events and people have, and will, happen and be born. When I see “alternate history” I think of stories where Hitler was assassinated, or Hannibal won the 2nd Punic War, or Picasso was really a T-Rex. The only thing “alternate” about my book is that magic is real… except, like I said, it’s not something you encounter every day.

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

My first thought was to skip this question, and then I thought I’d grab my soapbox. My main characters are Arabian and Persian, and there just aren’t a whole lot of parts for these heritages in Hollywood these days unless they’re playing bad guys. Would that there was a whole crop of gifted Arabian and Persian actors to choose for these roles, but, due to the dearth of parts in our movies there is a dearth of actors. I wish it was not so.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?

Dabir and Asim, 8th century scholar and warrior, venture into worst winter in human memory, seeking the aid of their hated enemy, the necromancer Lydia, to stop an ancient evil with powerful magical weapons called the bones of the old ones from shrouding the world in ice forever….

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My publisher is Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s, and my agent is Bob Mecoy of Creative Book Services.

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

A little over a year and a half, which was about a year longer than I expected. If you want to count research, then, yikes, I’ve been researching the 8th century for more than ten years.

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

A lot of people compare my work to that of the talented Saladin Ahmed because we both are writing Arabian Fantasy for major publishers, and we both love sword-and-sorcery, and we both draft standalone novels that are part of a character driven series — meaning that each novel is complete in and of itself. Stylistically we’re different, as Saladin himself would tell you, and he writes in a secondary world, but I think fans of one series would certainly enjoy the other.

There really aren’t many other Arabian fantasy series, sad to say. I’ve heard good things about Mazarkis Williams’ book (The Emperor’s Knife), and I thought Scott Oden’s book (The Lion of Cairo) was brilliant, but I’ve been told his planned sequel is unlikely.

But, of course, there’s a lot more to my book than being an Arabian fantasy. I take a lot of cues from mystery series, the most obvious influence being Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Dabir’s not as infallible as Sherlock Holmes, and his narrator Asim is much more crucial to the team than the literary Watson, but there are surely similarities. And of course I took great dollops of inspiration from my favorite writers, Harold Lamb, Robert E. Howard, Leigh Brackett, Fritz Leiber, C.L. Moore, Roger Zelazny, and C.S. Forester, and you can surely find echoes of them in my work. I think the friendship between Dabir and Asim definitely has some similarities to that of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and the strong moral drive of my characters has a lot to do with those same qualities in most of Harold Lamb’s heroes.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Probably the aforementioned writers. I wouldn’t have become a writer myself if I hadn’t loved the work of those who have come before me. And then, naturally, my great love for The Arabian Nights, and the time and people of the 8th and 9th century Middle-East.

What else about your book might pique the interest of readers?

Well, if you’re tired of fantasy books that have long bits of digression, or slow pacing, or characters who’re mostly dark and in it for themselves, I believe you’ll find The Bones of the Old Ones a refreshing change. Sure, the bad guys are pretty bad, but they think they’ve got good reasons for what they’re doing. And as for Dabir and Asim, they’re brothers in all but blood and stand up to do the right thing even when no one is watching. They make mistakes, but they don’t give up.

Their first novel, The Desert of Souls, was their origin story, showing how they came to depend upon one another. This sequel is more complex, with a larger cast of characters, including two central female characters who are a lot more than generic love interests.

And now for some recommendations, personally selected by me. Here are five authors who’ll be participating in the Next Big Thing Blog Series next week. Check them out!

David C. Smith

Ryan Harvey

Moses Siregar

Charles Rutledge

David Alastair Hayden