SPFBO Entry Interview: Tony Mitchell “The Ember Child”

First off, an apology that it has taken so long to post up another one. Been a bit ill this past week, and somehow typing while holding my nose with blood gushing from it doesn’t make for good productivity. I prefer blood to come out of my adversaries, not my own, and especially not spewing onto my keyboard!

But on the plus side, the UK heatwave seems to be fading. Good, because it needs to return to the LandofFuckThatShit. Can’t deal with these heatwaves where you just want to rip off your skin. The most important thing is I am back with another interview for you guys, this one with Tony Mitchell, author of The Ember Child.

 

Past Interviews:

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Anyway, onto the interview with Tony!

 

First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?

 

I write fantasy mostly.  The Ember Child is my first completed novel, but I’ve got a series of stories already planned that are set in the same world.  I’ve got plenty of other ideas too, including westerns, post-apocalyptic adventures, and action thrillers… there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get them all down!

I also have a blog where I document and reflect on some of the more interesting challenges life throws up.  If you think you’d enjoy a light-hearted, humorous take on life’s big and not-so-big issues, or if you just want to keep up-to-date with my real writing, you should check it out.

 

How do you develop your plots and characters?

 

I usually stumble across the idea for a story, then try to develop a basic arc for the plot.   I always want to know the ending first – not write it, just know it – as I want to make the pay off as good as I can for the reader.  From there, I can usually work out the best starting point for the story and get a feel for how long it’s going to be. With my beginning and ending in mind, I start to plan out the scenes in between.  This is where the characters come in, adding some meat to the bone.

 

It sounds cliché, but the characters kind of write themselves.  I’ll know the role I want a character to play, along with some of their characteristics, but for the most part their personality and backgrounds emerge as I write the story.

 

This means some characters manage to do the unexpected, and there have been more than a couple of occasions when bit-part players have managed to force themselves into the main narrative.  Occasionally this means tweaking the plot a bit, but I find that one of the true joys of writing.

 

Tell us about your current project.

 

Well, The Ember Child is part one of a planned trilogy, but, as it’s fairly self-contained, I’ve decided to put the sequels on hold while I work on a couple of stand-alone projects set in the same world.

The current work in progress tells the story of a revered warrior who finds out he’s developed a terminal illness and doesn’t have long to live.  Having dedicated his life to the gods, he’s slightly miffed that his only reward is this terrible sickness. As a result, he sets out on a quest to stand before his gods and ask them one simple question: why?

Obviously there are a few obstacles along the way, not least his own people, whose laws prohibit visits to the sacred landmark at which our hero wants to ask his question.  The story involves quite a diverse cast and I’m really enjoying writing it at the moment.

 

Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!

 

Most of my writing to date has involved multiple POV characters, and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.  For the Godsbane Trilogy though, of which The Ember Child is book one, the premise was to write about three main characters, with each book focused on one of the three.  Trying not to be too spoilery, the three characters are destined to collide… brutally. The main idea behind the trilogy was to give readers a taste of each side of the argument, so that they’re hopefully conflicted themselves as to who they want to win.

 

With that in mind, The Ember Child is very much Halasan’s story.  On the day he is born, Halasan’s home city of Danara is attacked by the Lucian Empire, a growing power that has swept across the land like wildfire.  As the rightful heir to the throne, baby Halasan is evacuated to safety under the protection of his father’s most trusted soldier. We next see him sixteen years later, when we learn he has been training, both physically and mentally, for the daunting task of returning home and reclaiming his father’s throne.  Although he understands the enormity of the task before him, his protector and teacher has ensured he is infused with the same grit and determination that his people are renowned for. Whether the tools the old soldier have given him are enough to get the job done is a different matter entirely, and Halasan realises he has much to learn having spent so long isolated in hiding.  Although he goes through some interesting growth himself, I think one of the most intriguing things in the story is watching the effect Halasan has on the characters around him – how some refuse to be bowed by his claim to the throne, while others are moved to switch allegiances entirely.

 

What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?

 

As I’m really just starting out on this journey myself, I’m not sure I’m the best placed to give advice to new writers.  I’d just say go for it. If you want to write, write. The more you write, the better your writing will get. I’m definitely a better writer now than I was when I started The Ember Child.  Indeed, I’m a better writer now than I was when I finished The Ember Child. The key is to know every day is a school day, and just keep going. Reading helps too. Read as much as you can as often as you can.  If you can’t read, maybe invest in Audible, or something similar, as even listening to books will help you improve.

 

So yeah, as Nike would say, just do it.  You’ll have so much fun!

 

What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?

 

Quite a lot really.  Looking at Domanska (the continent in which the book is set) now, it seems I’ve essentially created a playground where I can visit any of the historical cultures I find fascinating – from the city states of ancient Greece to the overwhelming might of the Roman Empire; from the nobility of the Samurai to the raw savagery of the Goths.  There is a flavour of them all to be found somewhere in Domanska, though the history, mythology, and religion that drives them have been crafted in my imagination.

 

What inspires you to write?

 

Probably the same thing that inspired me to play with my GI Joe back when I was a kid.  I just loved living in my imagination and telling stories, even back then, even to myself.  I suppose it’s pure escapism, even more so than playing a game or watching a film, because you’re in control.  You create the characters and direct the plot, and that’s exciting.

 

I’d probably still play with my GI Joe, if it was socially acceptable.  As it is though, I guess I’ll stick to the writing.

 

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

 

Probably how it all started.  I was actually writing another novel originally, which I had gotten around two thirds of the way complete, when, inexplicably, I managed to delete the second third.  This was back when I was young, before I understood the wisdom of backing files up. It was pretty devastating at the time, but I decided that rather than trying to rewrite what I’d lost, I’d start a new project.  

 

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

There’s a chapter quite late on called The Climb.  Again, I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but that chapter pretty much encapsulates everything the book has to offer, from action and emotion to victories and loss.  The same is true of Part 3 in general. By that point everything was set up, so it was just a case of sitting back and letting the story flow.

 

Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?

 

You can edit too much.  I think one of my biggest weaknesses as a writer is feeling the need to edit every line until it’s perfect, which slows down the entire writing process and can make things feel a little less natural than they should.  Truth is it will never be perfect. Sometimes it’s better to just let go and move on. That’s what I’m trying to do these days – prioritising getting it down over getting it perfect.

 

It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?

 

I delve into their history a bit, try to understand their motivations.  If you know where a character has come from, it goes a long way to telling you where they want to go and what they’re willing to do to get there.  

 

What are your future project(s)?

 

Well, as mentioned, I’ve got two sequels to The Ember Child to write, though I think I’ll revisit the novel I half deleted first.  Hopefully I’ve improved enough as a writer to make it better than it ever was. Besides that, I plan on writing a collection of short stories exploring the history of some of the characters from The Ember Child.  Then there’s that western to write, if I can ever tear myself away from Domanska long enough.

 

If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?

 

Tough one.  I’ve just been promoted so I should probably say I already have it… but maybe manager of Liverpool Football Club.  I’m a big supporter, the wages on offer are crazy, and my experience on the game Football Manager tells me I’d be ridiculously successful.  Jurgen’s doing ok though, so I’ll keep plugging away at the writing.

 

What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

 

I’ll always welcome comments and questions about my work, especially constructive criticism, and any and all methods are fine with me.  For anyone who gives my work a go, an honest review on Amazon will always be greatly appreciated – it really does help us authors!

 

Otherwise, you can find me at the following locations:

Personal Blog: https://storiesfromthecave.com/

Twitter: @oldmanmitchell

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/storiesfromthecave/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/325411.Anthony_Mitchell

I’ll look forward to hearing from folk!

And if you fancy giving The Ember Child a go, you can find it on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format:

 

Conclusion

Many thanks for the time, Tony! It feels good being back doing this again. I’ll try and get more interviews up in a few days. Keep the responses coming and if you’re up for an interview, just contact me! In the meantime, here are some of my own links:

 

Blog:  http://bit.ly/1RMNPho

Facebook Author page: http://bit.ly/2kiNHSk

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2kZ4wix

World-building Services: http://bit.ly/2kBMiCB

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Thethousandscar

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2knxeHY

Patreon: http://bit.ly/2laP311

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B017GDAO3Q

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