By Alfie Kimmins
Your fantasy novel, Equinox, is released on 12 May. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?
It’s a dark story that follows a witchfinder, Special Inspector Christophor Morden, as he’s sent to a remote village to investigate a use of evil magic. Complicating matters further, in this world each physical body holds separate two people – one who lives during the day, the other at night. So, Christophor has a day-sibling, called Alexsander. Alexsander is very different to his night-brother; he’s a musician, he drinks too much, and he resents being dragged across the kingdom as Christophor hunts his witches. As this particular hunt starts to reveal details of an apocalyptical ritual, Christophor narrows down his suspects to include a woman Alexsander has started to fall in love with. They have to put aside their differences if they’re to stop the ritual in time…
The premise of the book, as well as the cover art, explores the concept of duality – yin and yang. What was it about this concept which intrigued you?
I was intrigued by that common feeling of being in two minds about something. We experience this about small stuff or major life decisions – one part of you feeling you should go one way, another part telling you to go another. At its worst, we can feel totally at war with ourselves; it goes beyond simply doubting our choices and becomes inner conflict. I wanted to push that to an extreme – as SF/F stories so often do – and that’s where the split lives idea came in.
As well as being an author, you’re also one half of the pseudonym D.K. Fields. How does your process change when writing as a duo, compared to writing on your own?
Everything changes, because everything that was once solely your decision to make – in the drafting at least – now impacts another writer. This is perhaps felt most keenly in the planning stages of a project, but it doesn’t end there. Every time you write you’re constantly making creative decisions, both consciously and unconsciously. Co-writing meant endless discussions, some arguments, and a lot of compromises. But it is amazing to have another creative person just as invested in the story as you are. Editors and readers get close, sure, but they’re never quite as close to a text as a co-writer. Bouncing ideas off each other, talking through knotty plot problems, even just knowing that a draft was progressing while I wasn’t actually at the keyboard – there’s loads of positives to the co-writing process. It’s just quite an adjustment.
As an author, you’ve worked with both indie and “big five” publishers. What are your biggest considerations when trying to find a home for one of your books?
I think the biggest consideration for me when thinking about a publisher is: do I want to read their books? There’s a lot wrapped up in that, of course. Do I like the kinds of stories they’re already publishing? How are the covers and blurbs presented? Do they play it “safe” or publish texts that push the boundaries? Things can and do change at publishers, and maybe one of my books will be part of that. But, while it sounds obvious, one of the best tools we as writers have to judge a publisher is their books. If I’m excited to be among the titles they publish, then great.
Are there any tropes in the fantasy genre which you feel are frustrating or tired?
I’m not a huge fan of monarchies in fantasy. I appreciate that lots of stories are so imaginative that a tried and tested power structure can be useful to hang those fantastical ideas on. But the tensions and dramas of royal lineages do seem tired to me, let alone the “secret heir” trope. There’s a king in Equinox, but he’s not given any page space and the story isn’t about who will succeed him. I prefer fantasy stories that explore other struggles and conflicts. Which is one of the reasons D.K. Fields wrote about a fantasy election. It’s not too hard to identify the challenges and conflicts within any democratic system. I hope more fantasy writers will choose to turn their considerable powers of imagination onto a wide range of systems of power.
Do you have any advice for aspiring fantasy authors?
Finish that draft. It’s a common enough piece of advice for any aspiring author, but fantasy writers in particular are at risk of leaving a novel half-finished. Partly it’s the sheer length of many fantasy stories, but it can also be the danger of shiny new things. Most folks interested in fantasy are buzzing with ideas – whether it’s new worlds, magic systems, characters, monsters and obstacles, you name it. So, sticking with one story can feel like quite a commitment. But it’s worth it. Those other ideas aren’t going anywhere. Get that first draft finished. In fiction at least, it’s nigh impossible to sell half a book.