The popularity of the fantasy genre continues unabated as the success of the TV show Game of Thrones amply demonstrates. Now comes Miles Cameron's The Fell Sword, the second in his Red Knight series, about an elite troop of mercenary knights in a mythical land, who take on a job protecting a nunnery from attack, only for the knights to find themselves embroiled in a much bigger battle. Here the author discusses his work.
Where did the idea for the series come from?
The Traitor Son series was born in four phone calls with my brilliant editor, Gillian Redfern at Gollancz. I won't take all the credit. However, I will say that the germ of the idea was hatched thirty years ago when I was in university, studying--you guessed it--chivalry and chivalric literature. Or maybe lying on my grandparent's farmhouse floor and reading The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights.
How long did the first book take to write?
It took about five months, and then about the same again in re-writes and editing. I knew what I wanted it to say--I knew the story pretty well before I put pen to paper. We had decided to have many points of view, not just one, and that took a great deal of work--most of my editing came down to writing minute-by-minute timelines to make sure that everything happened the right day. Despite which, I find I've made errors...
Explain your interest in the fantasy genre.
That's a mighty topic and not one I can cover in a short interview. I'm not positive what 'fantasy' is. I could make you an argument that in the twenty-first century, with our contempt for history, we've transformed all of mankind's experience before, say, the Vietnam War into a sort of 'fantasy.' The past is another country--so much another country, so alien to many readers, that it is not far removed from fantasy. However, I wanted to write about chivalry. I wanted to write an epic. I wanted to play games with memory palaces and hermeticism--basically, to have magic as people imagined it in the late Middle Ages work and affect the reality the characters experience. Chivalry plus Magic plus Epic equals Fantasy.
Tell me about your writing career. What was your first book?
That would be telling. I write under a pseudonym and I've promised.
Whose work do you admire? Name the authors whose work has influenced you.
I admire Steinbeck. I admire Jane Austen and Patrick O'Brian and JRR Tolkien and ER Eddision. I admire William Morris. I love Dorris Lessing. I love the work of the modern Canadians Joseph Boyden (Three Day Road) and Steven Erikson (Malazan Book of the Fallen). But I also love Chaucer and the Gawain poet and the 'original' chivalric literature.
What do you read for pleasure?
Wow. I read everything. I'm that kid who reads the cereal box at breakfast. I read quickly and I retain well, so I get to be pretty catholic. That said, I read quite a bit of what you might call 'non-fiction', most of which is research for my writing. That's a fancy way of saying I want to read it and I'll find a way to cram it in later. That's everything from Agrippa on swordsmanship to a work on building a palace in late fourteenth-century Venice.
What have you read recently?
I'm on page eight hundred or so of Winston Churchill's biography of the Duke of Marlborough. I'm reading The Fellowship of the Ring aloud to my daughter. I'm reading a bunch of original treatises on the use of pole-arms and partisans.
Describe a typical working day. Where do you write?
I sit at one of two local restaurant/coffee shops with a laptop and, often, a stack of good old fashioned books. I start at ten in the morning--earlier if all goes well taking my daughter to school. I write pretty much without interruption until two-thirty in the afternoon. I expect to write between ten and twenty pages in that time. Two or three times per book I'll start earlier and write later and get in 30 or 40 pages--two or three of these days can define a book. Despite what I used to think (I wrote five pages a day for years), I believe that the more I write, the better it is. There's more passion and more flow. It's hard to describe. It's as if, at some point, my imagination actually flows through my fingers into my laptop without my interfering or overthinking.
What's next for you? What's the next book in the series?
The next book in this series is called 'Tournament of Fools,' at least in my mind. I'll sit down to write it after Christmas. I'm looking forward to it immensely. In the meantime, I owe another fantasy editor the rewrite of a short story for an anthology, and I have about five of those mini-projects hanging fire, so I'll use the next weeks to polish them up and send them out. And to enjoy Christmas, my favourite season of the year.
The Fell Sword is published by Gollancz, £8.99.