Swearing, Sex and Fantasy Ale

“Phat off, you molking bucket of steaming clang!” Right. So what’s that all about, then?

My first fantasy novel Dusk (published by Bantam in the USA, and winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel 2007), polarised opinion. I think that’s a good thing – I’d rather have people love or hate my books, as opposed to being mostly indifferent. And some of the criticism about the book focussed on the sex and swearing it contained. It was suggested that, because it was a fantasy, I should have thought up new swearwords. But I argued that if that were the case, I’d also have to think up new words for hill, and saddle, and kidney.

I stick by that now, and though Echo City is, of course, a purely imaginary world, it’s inhabited by very human characters. A fantasy novel needs distinctly human characters to make it work. So they drink Mino Mont ale and, if they can afford/steal it, Marcellan wine; they swear when they’re angry or scared; and they have sex. Indeed, it’s not glib to say that there’s a hand-job in the novel that is a pivotal plot-point. So watch out for that one when you’re reading it.

I love swearing. It’s effective in real life and in my writing, and can be cathartic, a venting of angry steam. I love ale – dark, light, summer ales, heavy winter warmers. And I love … well, doesn’t everyone?

So in order to create characters that feel human to the human readers of Echo City, I wanted them to come across as people you could almost know. Admittedly, some of the inhabitants of Echo City wouldn’t look at home anywhere we know. But I’d really like to sit down for a beer with Nadielle, and Malia, and Gorham. We’d put the worlds to rights, both mine and theirs. I’d talk about “f**king phone hackers”, and they’d talk about “bastard border spites and Marcellans”. And in ale and swearing, we’d find a common language.