John R. Fultz: ICE FORGED is a “fresh start” in a new fantasy world, one that is separate from your previous five books (which were all set in the same world). Why start fresh after six books’ worth of fleshing out your first fictional universe? Along those lines, what was your initial inspiration for ICE FORGED and the Ascendant Kingdoms?
Gail Z. Martin:I love my characters and the world I created in my previous series (Chronicles of the Necromancer series and The Fallen Kings Cycle), but the action had come to a natural resting point. I still hope to tell more stories about that world, but there is a natural break in the action for the characters, so it seemed like a good time to go do something else myself for a while.
I got some of the inspiration for Ice Forged and the new Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series by turning a few elements of my original series upside-down. In my first series, my main character is a necromancer, with very powerful magic. In Ice Forged, my main character has very little magic, more on the hedge witch level of power. In the Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings books, my main character keeps magic from failing. In Ice Forged, the magic upon which the civilization depends becomes impossible to harness and wipes out much of civilization. In my original series, my main character was wrongfully hunted as an outlaw. In Ice Forged, my main character not only actually committed the murder for which he is exiled, he is unrepentant about it.
Stories, for me, begin with the question, “What if?” What if…a civilization depended on magic like we depend on the power grid—and the magic could no longer be controlled? What if…the only one who might be able to restore the magic was someone exiled to the farthest reaches of the world? What if…the future of the kingdom depended on a handful of convicts?
My other favorite question is, “And then what?” As I think through a plot, I always ask myself, “And then what?” So they have a battle—and then what? So there’s a confrontation with the forces of the opposition—and then what? So they win a battle—and then what? Even after a victory, there are messes to clean up. For me, that’s where the story starts.
‘Breakneck pacing and nonstop insanity . . . It’s epic with a capital EPIC’
. . . as that just about summed it up for us.
With giants walking alongside men, monstrous serpents wreaking havoc and kingdoms doing battle with sorcery, we think this is ideal for anyone who likes their fantasy big, epic and about the ultimate clash between good and evil.
Whilst in some ways the series could be said to hearken back to the “old school” or “traditional” type of fantasy, in many other ways we really felt this series was one of the most original we’ve read in years – having a beautifully lyric, mythical tone and what we considered to be a very unique, distinguished style.
We were really interested to hear about how this style of writing came about. So we asked John what the influences behind his series were:
I could write a whole book answering this question, but I’ll try to contain myself.
Lord Dunsany was perhaps the inventor of the modern fantasy tale. His work never ceases to inspire me, and his novel The King of Elfland’s Daughter is an immortal classic. His gift for speaking with clever metaphor and concise imagery is stunning, even a hundred years later. Fantasy writers should study his works the way classical composers study Mozart and Bartok.
I’m also a big Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft fan, but Clark Ashton Smith is my favorite of the old-school Weird Tales writers. In my opinion Smith invented the whole dark fantasy genre. He had the lost cities, the sorcerers, the creatures from beyond space and time, the mummies, the vampires, the decadent dying empires of Zothique and the primordial ooze of Hyperborea. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m delighted to unveil the cover for BEFORE THE FALL, the second novel in the Rojan Dizon series by the debut British fantasy author Francis Knight.
This superb new fantasy series kicks off at the end of this February with book 1, FADE TO BLACK (UK | US |ANZ). BEFORE THE FALL will follow in June 2013, and the final book in the trilogy, LAST TO RISE, will be out in November 2013.
I’m just loving the design for these books, created by the very talented illustrator Tim Byrne. The crazy, dizzying perspective on the covers really sums up just how mind-warping and unusual the city feels in the books.
The series is set in the vertigo-inducing fantasy world of Mahala, where the streets are built upwards from the shadow of a steep valley. While the dregs of society lurk in the city’s shadowy depths, the sinister Ministry rules over everyone from the privileged sunlit summit.
The novels feature the reluctant hero Rojan Dizon, a mage whose power relies on drawing magic from pain – both his own and other people’s. His powers are officially forbidden, but it turns out that he’ll have to use them if this city’s going to survive. And only one thing’s sure: it’s going to hurt.
We’ve all been raving about this series here in Orbit, as we really think it’s one of the top fantasy debuts to look out for this year. If you enjoy fast-paced adventure fantasy, such as Scott Lynch‘s Lies of Locke Lamora, Douglas Hulick‘s Among Thieves or even Ben Aaranovitch‘s Rivers of London, then this will be up your street.
The world is ending. The adventure begins. Outfit your computer and favorite electronic devices with these wallpapers and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.
ICE FORGED (US | UK | AUS) is the first book of The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga – new series by Gail Z. Martin. Look for it online and in stores now or read an excerpt here from this exciting new fantasy series.
I’m a movie nerd from small times—my parents had an impressive betamax collection growing up, and a dearth of actual cable led to my worshipping the sacred VCR. In college (okay, and for a few years beyond) I managed an independent video store called Video 21—it was and is a great little rental joint that caters to both FSU’s film school elite and the more salacious tastes of Tallahassee’s underbelly. The stories I could tell of some of our regulars…but that would be akin to breaking the physician-patient privilege, and so mum’s the word. You can learn a lot about people from their taste in movies, is all I’m saying, but then who am I to judge if an otherwise upstanding member of society gets their kicks watching 2 Fast, 2 Furious on a bi-weekly basis?
Right, so I’ve digressed. The point is, while I could make a blog post about the process of writing The Folly of the World, the ins-and-outs of negotiating a blurry historical record with creative license, the unique struggles one faces when working primarily in shades of grey, or even just cataloguing my literary inspirations for the novel, I’d much rather talk about movies. Sure, I could tie all the films I want to talk about into a cohesive essay touching on the salient points of each and the greater cinematic quilt they contribute to, but because certain things are hallowed by usage and consecrated by time (points for whoever gets that reference), I’ll just lay them out in a top ten list instead. The Top Ten what? The top ten films that might vaguely relate to my new novel in ways both obvious and obscure, of course, laid out in an order of my own inscrutable devising. So poke through the list below and see what inspiration you might find for your next movie night, and in the event you’ve already seen them all, well, have I got the book for you.
A flimflam man and a young girl who may or may not be his daughter travel around the dustbowl during the Great Depression, fleecing suckers and exchanging banter. A tough-beyond-her-years youngster and an embittered grifter forging an unlikely bond and possibly finding redemption even as they continue to use one another and anyone else who gets in their way? Uh, no comment.
Kurosawa’s fast and loose play on the Prisoner of Zenda set-up is pretty goddamn great—not the director’s best three hour long samurai epic, but a close second. As war and social upheaval throw a land into turmoil, a lower-class crook takes on the role of an important man and loses himself in the process, to results both tragic and wry. Brilliantly conceived, beautifully executed.
Forget George and the Dragon. Forget Fancy Knights and daring deeds. Slaying dragons is a bloody business.
So sharpen your blades, folks, because as 2012 draws to an end, the creatures of the Wild will rise up. THE RED KNIGHT is the fantasy debut of Miles Cameron and the first book of the Traitor Son Cycle. Look for it in stores next month, and in the meantime download these wallpapers for your computer and electronic devices.
Here’s all the download links, and if anyone needs a specific dimension made, let us know!
The long-awaited day is almost here! In a few short hours, The Hobbit will be hitting the silver screen. To mark the occasion, we decided to ask several of our Orbit authors with recent and upcoming books what Tolkien’s The Hobbit has meant to them. We hope you’ll also share your own story in the comments below, and if any of you are going to the movie in costume, we’d love to see pictures!
I was introduced to The Hobbit and to Lord of the Rings in high school by the same friend who got me into Dungeons and Dragons (gee, think there was a connection?). While I had been a Star Trek and Star Wars fan for a while, and had read a few sci-fi novels, I had never read anything with the scope of The Hobbit and LOTR. I was totally hooked, and I credit it with giving me another nudge toward growing up to write epic fantasy.
Gail Z. Martin, author of ICE FORGED (US | UK | AUS)
I have to admit a shameful secret — I was a late bloomer as far as Tolkien is concerned. While I knew of his work, I’d never read any of it until I was 25. I was introduced to the incredible world of Middle Earth by my then-boyfriend (whom I later had the good sense to marry), Steve. My older sister is a fantasy and science-fiction fan. Without her I don’t think I would have developed a love for either genre. She has in her possession, an illustrated, hard cover, gorgeous edition of The Hobbit that I … liberated from her library for a brief time. Steve couldn’t believe I’d never read it, so it then became a ‘thing’. Every night one of us would read The Hobbit to the other. Mostly he read to me, because he would comment on things characters did, make up voices, and basically make the entire experience wonderful because of his love for the story.
Now, 25 wasn’t yesterday, but there are things about The Hobbit that linger for me. As a small-town (I’m talking mud puddle small) girl, I instantly related to Bilbo. In fact, I’m pretty certain my maternal grandmother was a hobbit. Poor Bilbo was so outside his comfort zone, but he found so much courage inside himself. Who wouldn’t love such a character? Of course finding ‘the’ ring was a big moment in literary history, but I remember the trolls more than the ring. I remember loving the character Beorn, even though I can never remember his name. And despite having a deep-seated crush on Richard Armitage, I think I’d love Thorin no matter who played him, because his character was just so… great. Of course, who can forget meeting Gollum for the first time? In the end, The Hobbit is — literally and figuratively — all about the little guy taking on seemingly insurmountable problems to triumph at the end. But there’s a cost. There’s always a cost. I think what I took away from The Hobbit are two lessons I try to remember in my own writing — 1: It’s the journey, not the destination, and 2: Bittersweet endings are sometimes better than happy ones. Oh, and I guess there was a third as well, though it doesn’t apply to writing – second breakfast is the most important meal of the day. :-) Thank you, Mr. Tolkien.
Kate Locke, author of THE QUEEN IS DEAD (US | UK | AUS)
I can’t recall how or why I first picked up the Hobbit – I suspect one of my brothers left it lying around. I can recall how it inspired my son into reading voraciously, something he still does even now he’s a teen. It was the first proper book he’d ever read on his own, and it was that and the new and unexplored vistas that utterly captivated him.
For years afterwards, every book report that he could get away with was on the Hobbit. Every book he read was compared to it, and most often found wanting. He reads, I sometimes think, to try to rediscover that sudden realisation that the world is a different place, that things and people are strange. He reads because he wants to fall for a world, a story, the same way he did with Middle Earth. It was his first literary love.
As legacies go, I think that’s the best one to hope for – Bilbo and his friends inspired my son to read.
Francis Knight, author of FADE TO BLACK (US | UK | AUS)
The Hobbit is, more or less, the distillation of the purest, deepest of wish of the child (or of any adult who still has a spark of curiosity smoldering away in them, for that matter): the wish that one day, while you’re bumbling through your silly little routine, adventure will walk right up your front path, knock upon your door, and refuse to be turned away.
When I first read the Hobbit, I yearned so much for the leafy, cool shadows of Middle Earth that one summer, in an attempt to recreate that world, I carried a hefty bag of wax myrtle seeds to my grandmother’s house – for she had a much bigger yard than ours – and planted them all over her property, as well as the piney properties of the people on either side of her. Wax myrtles, as it turns out, can be wildly invasive, so within several years the damn things were popping up everywhere; but by then, unfortunately, I was a bit too old to enjoy them properly. I still hope that some child may come along, rest in their shade, and feel, for an instant, a bit more hobbity than before.
Robert Jackson Bennett, author of AMERICAN ELSEWHERE (US | UK | AUS)
In a word, what The Hobbit means to me is Fantasy, with a capital F, for the same reason that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy means Science Fiction in Bullingtonese—my parents had book-on-tape versions of those two novels when I was a kid, and long before I even understood most of what was going on in the stories, I adored the broad strokes and general cadence of the narratives. The Hobbit was actually a radio play version produced by the Mind’s Eye in the late seventies, and to this day I can’t talk about the book without imitating some of the silly voices that imprinted the text on my young brain.
When I was older and read the book on my own I was delighted to discover all the content which had been abridged from the radio play, but my progression to The Lord of the Rings was not met with the same enthusiasm—I found it a colder, less-engaging read. Although with age I’ve grown to appreciate a lot about the trilogy, its epic, fate-of-the-world action and dully black-and-white ethics can’t hold a light of Earendil to The Hobbit’s comparatively small-scale adventures and petty moral dilemmas, at least for this particular Sackville scribe. Like many of my peers, I owe a great debt to Tolkien; he still has a lot to teach, both by his strengths and his failings, and The Hobbit is the text of his that keeps pulling me back, even after all this time, and always with a smile on my face.
Jesse Bullington, author of THE FOLLY OF THE WORLD (US | UK | AUS), available now
Writers, if they’re smart, always cut something out of their books somewhere between first draft and publication. Often, that “something” is “quite a lot of things,” or in some cases, “literally everything except some tangentially related idea.” New material supplants old, or the old is excised simply because it adds nothing to the work, and therefore doesn’t require replacing. With THE FOLLY OF THE WORLD (UK | US | AUS), a conversation with my (brilliant) editor at Orbit led to my taking an early draft of the novel and scrapping a full two-thirds of it, salvaging a superior bit here or there but discarding the bulk. It was the right decision, and the vast majority of those undercooked—and by this point rather spoiled—words will stay where they belong, on the compost heap of my mind, so that the unused odds and ends can fertilize new ideas.
Below you’ll find an exception to my clumsy gardening metaphor; a deleted scene from the novel that I’ve opted to publish here on the Orbit blog, rather than discarding it all together. From my zero draft of THE FOLLY OF THE WORLDuntil midway through the revision process, this short chapter was part of the book. Usually it was the opening of the novel, but I also tried using it as the ending. I was able to fiddle with its placement in the text, and I feel comfortable showing it to you here, for the very reason I ended up cutting it from the book: it fleetingly alludes to a character and events from the novel, but doesn’t directly impact the cast or plot. You might think that this textual isolation would make it an easy choice for the chopping block, but no—for one thing, it adds a potential layer to one of the chapters in the finished novel, and for another, it embodies the spirit of the work in a detached fashion that I find all the more satisfying for its disconnect from (almost) everything else in the book.
Here then, for those of a curious inclination, is a complete, albeit rather rough, deleted scene from THE FOLLY OF THE WORLD. If you give this a read before getting a hold of the novel, feel free to incorporate the events laid out below into the greater tapestry. If you’d rather not, that’s cool, too—if this were in any way vital to the book, it wouldn’t have ended up on the cutting room floor. With no further ado, let us turn to a small town in the medieval Low Countries, and a very bad day for a not all-together-faultless fellow…
With the fifth and final book of my Eli Monpress series, SPIRIT’S END (UK | US | AUS)*, coming out November 20, it was high time to crawl out of my coffee splattered writer cave and do some promotion. Seeing as this is the final shebang, though, I knew I wanted to do something different, something spectacular… But then I lost my voice and my lit themed parody video of Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe had to be put on indefinite hold. (Sample: “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but I wrote this series, so read it maybe?”)
The disappointment is crushing, I know, but as a consolation (and an apology to everyone who just got Call Me Maybe stuck in their heads), I wrote a short piece about what would happen if the Eli gang had voice mail instead. So if you’re a fan, get ready, because this fansevice is all for you! And if you haven’t read the series yet and want in on the joke, you can read the first few chapters of The Legend of Eli Monpress here.
*SPIRIT’S END is being published in the UK and Australia as an omnibus called THE REVENGE OF ELI MONPRESS which includes THE SPIRIT WAR and SPIRIT’S END.
So, without further ado, please enjoy The Legend of Eli Monpress: Voice Mail Edition!
Gail Z. Martin’s Days of the Dead tour kicks off today! For exclusive excerpts from her upcoming novel, ICE FORGED (UK | US | AUS) and other literary goodies, keep an eye on www.ascendantkingdoms.com and her partner sites for the next week. Visit her website for further details or head on over to Goodreads and participate in a week-long Q & A with the author!
Ice Forged, which debuts in January, is my seventh epic fantasy novel, and it’s definitely the darkest and edgiest so far.
My main character Blaine McFadden is exiled to a prison colony at the northernmost edge of his world, a place where the weather itself is a remorseless enemy. Ice, snow, bitter cold and darkness pose as deadly a threat as the wild magic, assassins, and sadistic prison guards. Extreme conditions tend to show what someone is really made of, because life or death hinge on luck and choices.
I suspect that Ice Forged feels edgier than some of my other books for a variety of reasons. To some extent, that edginess is probably a product of our times, which have been tumultuous—to say the least. I imagine it also reflects the changes I’ve experienced in the almost 10 years since I wrote my first novel—perhaps some of that “youthful enthusiasm” has worn thin on the edges. Mostly, I feel that I’m bringing a different perspective to these books, one that’s a little grittier than before. It’s a fitting feel for the book, which hinges on a few questions my characters have to answer—and ones that I hope my readers will also try on for size:
Who would you be, if everything you were and everything you had was stripped from you?
When there’s nothing left to lose, what would you do to survive?
How much would you give for a chance to put things right?