When we found out that a QM contributor landed a publishing deal, we asked him for an interview. For those who don't remember, Ross wrote three awesome tales in past issues of QM. Thanks, Ross.
1) How does it feel to have your first novel picked up by a real publisher?
I was thrilled, given the difficulties in getting speculative fiction into print. Fantasy Island Book Publishing is a fairly new publisher and it feels exciting being in on the start of something new. Iíd previously self-published it and was happy with what Iíd achieved, but the FIBP involvement has given the whole project a new lease on life.
2) One aspect of "Dreams of Darkness Rising" that really struck me is the detailed world-building and history. You obviously spent a lot of time working all that out. Tell us a bit about the world and the characters, and the book itself.
I was keen to write something that would be accessible to all fantasy fans and set out to try and create a story that had all the hallmarks of traditional epic fantasy, but with a more contemporary style to the characterisation and dialogue.
The world of Nurolia is populated by a range of human nations, elemental races and races corrupted from those (goblins, giants, ogres). I detailed several thousand years of history, through four or so Ďerasí so I had a sense of progress and development for the nationalities. Most of the human nations were established in an Era of Heroes, which then ran into an Era of Magic when humans discovered sorcery. That Era ended poorly and the ramifications are still felt in the current day. There have been two empires in the history of Nurolia, and again their influence pervades the culture and the societies of the current day.
There are three main characters. Emelia is a servant who discovers she has latent magical abilities. This ability is a Wild-magic, sorcery derived from the mind, which is derided by the traditional elemental schools. She hooks up with Jem, another Wild-mage, and Hunor, a thief, when they break into the keep she lives in. She escapes with them and the crystal they have stolen, which turns out to be a key component of a
magical prism (devices which act like magical amplifiers). It all gets a bit crazy when an undead sorcerer returns and needs the prism to enact his plan. There are several story arcs that run over the series and weave into and out of
3) Now that you've had some success with your writing, what advice would you give to authors just starting out?
Without sounding sappy, first of all enjoy writing. Iíve never found it a drag and I think that comes across in what I write. I think building my confidence (and grammar) with short stories really helped too. Reading voraciously, both in and out of genre, is vital. It gives you far
greater understanding of structure and style. Finally joining groups of like-minded individuals can also help, in terms of feedback and support.
4) What kind of fantasy do you enjoy, and how has it influenced your work? What are your favorite authors?
Most of what I read fantasy-wise as a teenager was influenced by my love of role-playing games. I read Tolkien, Brooks, Fritz Lieber, Moorcock, Robert E Howard and was a massive fan of Dragonlance. Then I took a long hiatus from fantasy, getting into contemporary fiction, and
returned to it when I started thinking of writing. Then I read Erikson, David Eddings, George RR Martin, Scott Lynch, Gene Wolfe, Jack Vance and Philip Pullman.
Oddly my favourite authors are probably comic writersóI think Alan Moore and Grant Morrison are astonishing writers. Their versatility in a genre that was traditionally quite restrictive is admirable.
5) Where did you grow up, and what have you done with your life besides write great fiction?
I grew up in Leeds, in northern England, although I have lived in a number of places over the years since. I went straight from school to university to study medicine. After qualification I worked in psychiatry and emergency medicine before settling into anaesthetics and intensive care. Iíve been a Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care for five or so years now and have a particular interest in patient safety. Iím married with three amazing kids and they soak up most of my free time. The eldest, Charlie, is looking forward to reading Darkness Rising when the print copy arrives.
6) If people want to keep track of you, give us some links to blogs, websites, Facebook pages, stories you've published that fans can read online, etc. Sure, anyone can search for that stuff, but help out the slackers among us.
OK, my blog is http://rossmkitson.blogspot.co.uk. I have started up a book blog (The Roaring Mouse) to support other independent/self-pub/small press authors at http://mousesroar.blogspot.com.
The World of Nurolia has a website, wherein I post stuff about the books and info about the world that Darkness Rising is set within. Thatís at http://sites.google.com/site/worldofnurolia/home.
All my short stories are published here on Quantum Muse (thanks, guys) and copied onto the website. Finally, you can stalk me on Twitter as @rossmkitson.
7) So what's next? What writing projects do you have planned? Do you have any other books or stories soon to be released?
Iíve got the trilogy to complete. The publisher is splitting the books for print, so the series will run to six individual paperbacks. Iím writing the fifth at present, with it all plotted out (so no Wheel of Time fiascos planned). I have written a teen sci-fi/ steampunk book,
called the Infinity Bridge, mainly to stop the kids nagging about reading my fantasy book. Thatís been sent out to UK agents and publishers at the moment. After the fantasy books are done Iíve got a steampunk novel planned, and of course, short stories in the interim.
8) We usually ask SF writers about what they think the future holds. We might as well ask you, too! What is your take on where we're going as a civilization, as people, as a species?
Crikey! Iím a fantasy writer... ask me about orcs or something...
I think a big worry for all of us is the perception of a rising culture of selfishness in the first world, both as individuals and as societies (at the expense of the third world). Thereís a promotion of the individual above all else by the fickle media of the world, promoting the culture of celebrity above all else. The boom in information technology and communications has had this strange effect of people seeking the approval of strangers and transient on-line acquaintances before being bothered about events occurring on their own doorsteps. So my big worry is that we become an insensitive, individual orientated culture at the expense of those whose voice is inherently weakeróthe poor, the sick, the mentally ill, the disabled etc.
Nonetheless, on a day to day basis I see patients and families under extreme stress and through it all I am often astonished by more positive aspects of human nature. By and large I see kindness, compassion and love in the families that I care for on intensive care and that reassures me that despite how our society appears to be slipping, there is hope still.
9) As a complete aside, as a doctor in the U.K., what do you think of the three-ring circus debate about health care here across the pond? Sorry, that's one of those politically charged questions, so feel free
to dodge it if you want.
I have been brought up with access to one of the great institutions of the world, a National Health Service. Iím a socialist at heart and as a result entered the NHS because of a firm belief in equitable healthcare. Itís a core principle of medicine that there should be equal access
to essential services, irrespective of means.
How that is funded is a sticking pointówhether thatís via taxation, other methods of contribution, subsidised insurance or whatever. Weíre used to the former in the UK, although we do have a private system also thatís generally of use for more routine cases and doesnít really offer a better standard of care per se. Iím not certain about the precise details of US Healthcare reform, although superficially it seems President Obama is trying to reduce the influence (and naughtiness) of health insurance companies, expand Medicare for the poor and avoid coverage denials. I imagine the controversy surrounds the idea of mandatory insurance, of shifting the burden of payments onto certain income groups and whether it violates your Constitution.
Good luck with it! If it all goes arse up then Iím sure I can cut you a deal...
10) Anything you'd like to add to startle, amuse, or enlighten us? Is there anything we didn't ask that you'd like to talk about?
Just to say that I love the site and the stories posted each month here. Thereís a real freshness to the ideas in the fiction that I have found inspirational and you guys should be really proud of it.
Check out Darkness Rising: