I return as promised with another interview! Nothing new to say today so let’s get right down to it. Next to enter my victim’s lair is Jacob Sannox, author of Dark Oak.
Check out a selection of past interviews down below:
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Hello! I’m Jacob Sannox, and I write in all kinds of genres, but my debut novel, Dark Oak, is grimdark epic fantasy. My first ever novel was epic fantasy, my second was about Napoleonic privateers & smugglers, while my last was a paranormal thriller.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I like to write about real people rather than character classes. Nobody is just a ranger or a cleric or a warrior in real life. Sure, that might be your job, but does your job entirely define you? No!
I make a conscious effort to make every character the protagonist, at least in their own minds. I’d be hard-pressed to identify the baddies and the goodies in Dark Oak. Readers, on the other hand, have been vocal on the issue!
In terms of developing plot, I generally start with a situation or a concept I’d like to write about and start the book halfway through the first scene.
I spent years writing chapters one, two and three of various books before grinding to a halt, and it took me a fair while to come up with a system that stopped me despairing when I looked up at the mountain ahead. I now take my word count goal and divide it by, for instance, thirty chapters. That gives me a word goal per chapter. I then create a spreadsheet and list those chapters, the point-of-view character for each, and I go through and write a single sentence about the events therein.
So, I look up at the mountain and decide on a route up before I start climbing.
As soon as I’m making my ascent, I’ll get taken by surprise and with any significant changes to the route, I’ll go back through the rest of the plan and make changes as I go. I guess I continuously outline in response to making it up as I go along…
I keep updating word counts for each chapter, which updates pie-charts showing percentage complete/percentage done, alongside constantly adapting ‘Words Left Before the End’ boxes to give me a little hit of dopamine every time I manage to type a word!
I drag my sorry ass through the process, complaining I’m out of breath and forgetting not to look down.
Tell us about your current project.
Knight Errant: Book Two of the Dark Oak Chronicles. Right now, I’m on a high ridge at the foot of a scree-covered slope just below the summit. My vertigo is playing up and there’s cloud coming down.
I’ll let you know how it goes, but keep mountain rescue on standby. If Book One tore down the world then Book Two is about the characters emerging from the debris, while book three will build a new society from scratch.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
Morrick was a tradesman and family man in his own part of the world, but he was conscripted along with the rest of his people to fight for the Dark Lord against the rest of humanity.
When Dark Oak begins, the Dark Lord has just been killed, leaving Morrick to keep his men in one piece, to persuade the Queen he is no traitor and to get back to his family, if they are still alive.
He’s a pragmatist, for sure, but I wouldn’t say he’s a hero.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Do as I say, not as I did.
I maintained the perfect work space, I wore things that made me look like a writer, I talked about writing, and I wrote the beginnings of many stories, but never pushed on with them. I was the epitome of a writer placing affectation over hard work. I thought you were supposed to write in the wee hours when the moon was full and magic was in the air.
These days, at my most effective, I write in snatches whenever I have a few minutes to spare. In my last job, I used to hammer out a few hundred words in an email to myself while stopping for a coffee in between sales calls. Now I write at the coffee table or at my kitchen table, but rarely at my desk. I focus less on being a writer and more on actually writing.
Take it seriously, and just sit down and write. It really is hard to tell between those times when you were throwing your head back to sigh every ten seconds and those sweet sessions during which the muse whispered sweet nothings in your ear.
Write about real people, not stereotypes or plot-enablers.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
I used to take part in English Civil War battle reenactments as a pike-man, so that informed much of the first chapter.
Various events in history have influenced Knight Errant, the second book.
When I first started, I was working from some of the environments from fairytale, but the Hinterland quickly changed into a landscape more inspired by western frontiers, at least in terms of the isolation and life on the brink of a great wilderness.
Much of the rest of the world was inspired by my childhood holidays spent on the Scottish islands.
What inspires you to write?
You won’ t like some of this answer. The first bit will be alright and is pretty obvious; reading inspires me to write. The second bit will raise the odd tut-tut; I am inspired by whatever films or TV series I am watching.
Generally, I am very, very easily influenced, and I have to carefully manage my entertainment consumption if I want to stay productive in a particular genre. If I am watching Star Trek, I’ll find it harder to stay in an ancient fantasy world than if I’m watching/reading Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.
Specifically, I am very driven to produce characters. I studied psychology, and my day job is all about interacting with the best and the worst of humanity, so human thought and behaviour has long been an interest.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The hardest part about writing Dark Oak, which I’ve entered into SPFBO, was not losing heart and having confidence that I was producing something worthwhile.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I particularly enjoyed writing about the Dryads. I put a lot of thought into their general psychology, as a race devoid of most human desires, limitations, needs and fears. Obviously Dryads are nothing new, but I think I’ve got a unique take on them.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
Mostly what I said earlier about writing whenever and wherever I can instead of needing an allocated six hours in an ivory tower.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
I’m pretty empathic as a person and quiet by nature, so I tend to observe and listen more than I take part during social engagements. That helps. I find I struggle more with writing small talk and banter between lads than I do about someone’s inner demons.
What are your future project(s)?
I’ve started the first in a new fantasy series which is based around the Tower of London. I’ve also started to outline a sci-fi series based on a generational ship, but with a twist.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I can’t make a living writing yet! I’m in my ideal job to pay the bills. It’s challenging and no day is the same, but it sometimes leaves me struggling to find energy when I get to sit down to write.
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)?
You can get in contact with me at jacobsannox.com, where you can also sign-up for my newsletter, but I’m happy to hear from you on Twitter or Facebook. Just search Jacob Sannox!
I’m on Goodreads too, and I’ll be excited to hear from you however you choose to get in touch.