We know the drill by now! I’m back with a new interview with Craig Welburn. Hope you enjoy it 🙂
Check out some examples of my SPFBO interviews by clicking on the book covers down below!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Hello. I’m C.F. Welburn, most people just call me Craig. I’m an English guy living in Madrid, and I write Fantasy fiction, and sometimes a little sci-fi, too. I also seem to write a lot of lists for some reason.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Whilst writing The Ashen Levels the protagonist’s character developed organically, since he’s very much a blank slate at the beginning. His personality is swiftly revealed, piece by piece, by way of how he reacts and deals with the many bizarre scenarios that confront him. This is not necessarily how I always approach characters, but it seemed very fitting here since it’s essentially a tale of self-discovery.
Tell us about your current project.
The story begins when Balagir awakens at a fire. He has no recollection of his past and is surrounded by strange companions, known as ashen. They are bound to a mysterious entity called the piper to whom they must pay smoke in exchange for power, by completing oaths. The magic system is loosely based on gaming mechanics, though that never gets in the way of the story. In a nutshell it’s a character driven tale full of action, deception and intrigue.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
Yes. Baptism by fire.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
The main character is an ashen called Balagir. As mentioned above, he starts the story not knowing who, or where, he is. Upon discovering he is bound to the piper’s stringent rules, he must make his way in the world, seeking to discover where he comes from and why he is being made to serve such an ethereal host. We quickly find out he is resourceful and witty. In order to survive he must out-think those who would seek to trick him, and use his newfound abilities to survive increasingly dangerous situations. Ashen are by nature loners, but Balagir’s personality sees him gather a group around him—not necessarily all of them trust-worthy.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Get a good chair. Also, have fun. If you’re enjoying yourself, chances are someone else is going to have a good time reading it.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
I’ve travelled quite a lot and I’m sure almost everything in my writing is influenced in some way by places I’ve been. There’s an area in the south of Ythinar called the Valelands, and the landscapes there were influenced very much by a trip to La Rioja (a wine-region) in Spain. The northern wilds with their mossy stones and gnarled trees are reminiscent of some of the old woods around where I grew up in England.
What inspires you to write?
Since I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was 9, and subsequently The Hobbit, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My life’s changed a lot since then, but that drive has always remained a constant. I like pushing the boundaries of my imagination and enjoy the whole creative process of making something out of nothing.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Getting people to read it! It sounds like a joke, but it’s not. I found the writing process enjoyable and the story came together rather smoothly, but I knew very little about what came next. These last few months have been a learning curve, but not an altogether unpleasant one. I’ve certainly met a lot of cool (and very helpful) people along the way.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
My brain tends to function more clearly in the mornings. I also take full advantage of the school summer holidays when I do almost all of my year’s writing in a few short months. Some of my best ideas have come whilst out walking, so I always try to have a break at some point.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
The book is big and divided into five parts. I think I enjoyed each part equally, but for different reasons. Part 1 was very much pantsing and I was as lost and bewildered as the characters themselves. Part 2 takes place almost exclusively on a ship, and was, in a way, my ode to Homer’s odyssey with each island providing fun opportunities for mischief. Part 3 sees some very important characters come into the mix and has perhaps the best travelling/world building sections. Part 4 really sees the world open up and has wars and a bit more of a political slant. But I suppose part 5 was the most enjoyable. I loved tying up all the loose ends, reengaging with old characters, and finishing up with a few tasty twists. Sorry, that was quite a long answer.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I guess, have fun. In the past I’ve become bogged down with notebooks full of scrawled timelines, descriptions and world building. This time I decided to go along with the characters and be almost as surprised as they were by what was happening.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
Definitely a bit of both. The first draft was mostly pantsing. The second and final draft were a bit more meticulous in that I had to make sure there were no loopholes and things that happen in the last part are subtly signposted from the outset. A gardener or an architect? Well, I suppose I let my garden grow wild, and then went back to trim the verge, build a bridge or two.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
Empathy. Attempting to see things from their point of view and think from their shoes. It’s not always easy, but each character should have their own motivations. With Balagir my job was made easier as he was trying to figure out what was going on, at about the same time as I was!
What are your future project(s)?
I’m currently writing a new story which I’ve had on the back-burner for a few years. It’s early days yet, but it looks set to be a duology and I’d like to release book 1 in autumn 2020 and book 2 in spring 2021. This one will have multiple POV’s, one of them being an antagonist. So far it’s coming along nicely and is a challenging change of pace from recent projects.
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
This is a tough question. Growing up it was definitely Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. As a teenager I was also massively into Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Over the last few years I’ve been reading lots of fantasy classics and I discovered Jack Vance. His writing is amazing and has definitely influenced my own. His Lyonnesse trilogy is perhaps my favourite. Also, I’ve recently begun delving the rich mines of indie authors. There is so much talent out there waiting to be discovered.
What makes a good villain?
An agenda. Relatability. An evil laugh and a big chair.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
What is this strange notion? When I do get some downtime between work and writing I read, travel, play videogames, go to gigs and music festivals, hang out with friends…
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
Something creative or something to do with the outdoors, nature or animals. I’m currently an English/Art teacher, but can’t see myself doing it forever.
You can travel to any planet or moon in the Solar System. Where would you go, why and what would you do there?
I’m really trying hard not to say Uranus… I’m going to go with Pluto. Ever since it got downgraded, I’ve felt it was a bit of an underdog. It needs a bit of cheering up.
Pick any three characters from a fiction novel. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
Would have to be the hobbits Sam, Pippin and Merry. Between the Longbottom Leaf and Green Dragon brown beer, we’d be in for a fun time. Probably we shouldn’t go anywhere there are active volcanoes. Bad memories there. Maybe leave Frodo behind so he didn’t bring everyone down. I heard hobbits like New Zealand.
Finally, 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’m easily contactable but spend most of my time on Facebook. You can also reach me via my website, Goodreads, Twitter and Instagram. Links below!
LINK TO BOOK PAGE: