Interview – John Gwynne, author of "Malice"
A treat for you guys today! John Gwynne, author of the powerful debut “Malice”, the first installment in “The Faitful and The Fallen”, is stopping by for an interview. Please welcome him on the blog!
Those of you who read the review I wrote about “Malice” know I really loved it. Now, almost exactly a month later, the story’s still stuck in my head and the characters still have me in their grip. I initially gave the book 4 dragons, but it’s sure a close one to 5 dragons. I eagerly want to read the rest of this story and have put the sequel on top of my wish list.
Haven’t read “Malice” yet? Get to it! If you love Epic Fantasy, you’ll really enjoy it.
But first, let’s have a little chat with the author.
Welcome on the blog, Mister Gwynne! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?
Certainly. Firstly let me say thank-you to Cindy for inviting me here.
My name is John Gwynne and I am 44 years old. I was born in Singapore while my dad was stationed there in the RAF. Up until he retired that meant a lot of traveling around, generally a move every three years or so.
I live with my wife and four wonderful (and demanding) children in Eastbourne in the UK. Also three dogs, two of which will chew anything that stands still. I have had many strange and wonderful jobs, including packing soap in a soap factory, waitering in a french restaurant in Canada, playing double bass in a rock n roll band, and teaching at Brighton University.
I stepped out of university work due to my daughter’s disability, so now I split my time caring for her and working from home – I work with my wife rejuvenating vintage furniture, which means fixing, lifting, carrying, painting and generally doing whatever my wife tells me to do…
I have also had my debut novel, ‘Malice,’ published recently, by Tor UK.
Which books have been your inspiration to write “Malice”?
Literally hundreds. To try and narrow it down a bit:
Tolkien’s ‘the Lord of the Rings.’
Bernard Cornwell’s Arthur trilogy, ‘The Warlord Chronicles.’
John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost.’
And pretty much anything by David Gemmell.
Those four really capture the essence of what I aspired to write. Something epic, with a big landscape, – Tolkien. Something that felt almost historical, with a foot in ancient history, – Bernard Cornwell. Something intimate, personal and character driven, – David Gemmell. And something supernatural, with a sinister edge – Paradise Lost.
There’s indeed a bit of all those in “Malice”! Can you tell us about the journey of writing Malice? How did it start?
The story of me writing ‘Malice’ began about 10 years ago – at the time I had recently finished a master’s degree and was teaching at Brighton University. I stepped out of teaching to help my wife in caring for our daughter, Harriett – she’s profoundly disabled and needs a great deal of care. Life can be pretty intense, when you care for someone full-time, so I thought a hobby might be a good thing, if I could find the time. I’ve always told stories – to my kids and my wife (if I have them backed into a corner with no routes of escape) and they’ve often encouraged me to write some of them down (possibly to make me stop talking). So I started to do that, a hobby that restored a bit of ‘me’ in the juggling act that is the parenting of three boys, working and also caring for my daughter. It was also a place to indulge my passion for general all-round geekery. ‘Malice’ and ‘the Faithful and the Fallen’ just naturally evolved out of this. Somewhere along the way it grew into something more than just a hobby.
Did you expect to get published?
I didn’t think about getting published until I was quite a way into it – probably half way through. Then I tried googling it, and became promptly very disillusioned. My family kept prodding me, though, and eventually I decided to give it a go. Most of the advice that I read at the time spoke about agents, so I sent my manuscript off to John Jarrold – a name that had cropped up repeatedly to me.
Being taken on by John Jarrold was a massive moment for me – he was really one of the first people to look at ‘Malice’ outside of friends and family, and certainly the first professional within the publishing industry to do so. It was at that point that I thought there was actually a possibility of the dream coming true. John is a consummate professional, and a great bloke to boot. His guidance has really been invaluable in my own publishing story. He helped with an edit of ‘Malice,’ then put the manuscript out there, and soon after he phoned to tell me of an offer from Julie Crisp, Acquiring Editor for Tor UK.
How does it feel to see your book on the shelves in the bookstore?
Amazing. And incredibly surreal. The first time I saw it on a book shelf was when I walked into the Pan Macmillan building on publication day! It really was a very strange feeling – quite a mix of emotions, all of them good.
How has the reception of “Malice” been? Have you had many reactions, good and/or bad?
So far the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. There have been great reviews, starting with SFX Magazine back in December, as well as various bloggers such as your good self, and not forgetting Amazon and Goodreads, of course. Needless to say, there are a few negative reviews floating around out there, but the vast majority have been lovely. Also I’ve had a great deal of personal messages through my website, with individuals taking time to let me know that they enjoyed reading Malice. I have been both surprised and touched by the overall reaction.
Why did you chose to write a Fantasy story?
Fantasy is the only thing that I ever would have tried to write. I can clearly remember back in primary school my teacher gathering up the class and reading the opening pages of ‘The Book of Three’ by Lloyd Alexander. Soon after that I had my nose into Narnia and the Hobbit, and then it was a slippery slope of all things fantastical. Alongside that I fell in love with mythology and ancient history, and ever since then my reading diet has consisted mostly of fantasy and historical novels. It was just a natural step I would try to write something in the same vein.
Your book consists of multiple POVs, something common in Fantasy epics. I always wonder, isn’t it hard to give an accurate, different accounting of someone’s thoughts and character everytime you switch POV?
It can feel a bit strange, switching from one character to another. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the way I approached it was to try and get a character’s personality straight in my mind, and then walk through whatever circumstances that they were in with their ‘head’ on. I tried to make reactions and decisions consistent with the character.
Some have compared you to the big Fantasy guys, GRRM, Tolkien, … But I feel like Malice has its very own identity, not comparable to what other authors might have written before you. How do you feel about these comparisons?
Tolkien and GRRM, that’s just insane. Those guys are up on the pedestal, untouchable. Just to be mentioned in the same sentence as them, even in the same paragraph, is a ridiculous honour. I’m just incredibly grateful to see my book in print, and to hear that people outside of friends and family are enjoying it.
What can you tell us about the sequel?
I can tell you that it’s written. That it’s with my editor Julie Crisp at Tor UK right now, and that I am waiting to hear from her, both about the edit and the publication date. Not many have had a read of it yet – John Jarrold my agent, my son Edward, and a couple of other readers. They’ve all been very positive about it, with the main feedback being that it is much faster paced than Malice. Hopefully it has more of what I strived to put into Malice – something epic and intimate. I suppose that I shall have to wait and see what you think of it.