After reading Corvus (Canada, USA, Europe), I knew I wanted to have a chat with Paul Kearney so we could discuss this latest trilogy, the two recently reissued volumes comprising The Monarchies of God, Hawkwood and the Kings (Canada, USA, Europe) and Century of the Soldier (Canada, USA, Europe), as well as the author's future projects.
A big Kearney fan himself, Adam (www.thewertzone.blogspot.com) was my partner in crime for this Q&A!
Looks like there's a lot to look forward to!
- Paul, congratulations on your renewed success! The Monarchies of God is back in print, the Macht trilogy is almost complete and next year the Sea-Beggars series will finally be concluded after a lengthy delay. This would appear to be a turnaround from a few years back when you seemed on the verge of giving up writing. What are your views on the publishing business and writing now?
That it’s a crazy mixed up business! I’m also in negotiations at the moment (he touches wood) for the novelisation of a major TV franchise. I’m snowed under! The Ten Thousand seems to have reopened a lot of doors for me, and the Macht books are also selling amazingly well in France and (wonder of wonders) the US. Suffice to say, I have three books to hand in within the next fourteen months…
I give a lot of credit to both my old agents, John McLaughlin and Charlotte Bruton, and especially to my new one, John Jarrold, who is a bit of a Macht himself when it comes to battering away at publishers and editors. My editors at Solaris and Titan have been brilliant too. The business itself has changed out of all recognition since I first started out in it, but it’s still chock-full of good people.
- Between The Monarchies of God and the Macht trilogy, which series do you feel makes for the best entry point for readers not familiar with Paul Kearney? Why is that?
Probably the Monarchies, since I think it’s less dark and dense than the Macht books, and more of a ‘normal’ fantasy – i.e. it has magic, werewolves and a European-type milieu. The Macht books are, as I’ve said elsewhere, not fantasy at all, strictly speaking, but science fiction in the sword-and-planet sense of Robert E Howard or Burroughs.
- Speaking of The Monarchies of God, how has the new omnibus editions been received thus far?
Pretty darned well. In France they’re on their third edition, and my Spanish publisher is bringing out beautiful editions of the original five volumes. Like a lot of fantasy readers, I do get a visceral thrill at seeing those big fat-spined volumes on my shelf. Smaller fantasy books tend to get lost in between the Martin, Jordan and Erikson behemoths…
- CORVUS appears to have generated a positive buzz, which bodes well for the final volume of the series. How happy are you with how the way things turned out since signing with Solaris?
I couldn’t be happier. Solaris have been superb, both in their original incarnation when I was dealing with Mark Newton, and now in their Rebellion guise with Jon Oliver and David Moore. These guys believe in my books, and absolutely straightforward about their ambitions both for me and all my work – I really can’t wait to get stuck into the Sea Beggars again – it was one of my favourite series, and the thought of seeing the whole shebang under one cover has my mouth watering – never mind the readers, the author wants to get his greasy hands on it just as badly!
- Without giving anything away, what can you tell readers about the third installment, THE KINGS OF MORNING?
Well, for those who know their history, it is based on Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire – I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to state that. But it will move beyond that too, to what happens afterwards, and that will come straight out of left field. There will also be more information revealed about the origins of the Macht, and the Curse of God armour. It may in fact be too much for a single book…
- No reason was given for THE KINGS OF MORNING being pushed back to November, other than saying that it wasn't due to George R. R. Martin's A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. So what is the reason behind that delay?
There have been a few things happening in my family – health issues. For a while there, writing just had to be put aside.
- I seem to remember original talk about the Sea-Beggars being a four-book series, whilst it now seems to be being rounded off by just one more book. Was the four-book thing a mistake or will the third book now be much longer and incorporating more events than the first two?
The Sea Beggars are quite short books. I’m more used to the longer size of the Macht series now, and so I reckon on writing one long novel to end the series. So it could have been two short tomes, but I don’t want to drag it out – I’m taking it all the way to a conclusion in one big volume.
- Are there any plans for a separate release of STORM OF THE DEAD for those who already have the first two books? Or will it be available only in the omnibus?
Omnibus only I’m afraid. But just think what Solaris could do with that cover…
- How was it going back to Rol and the other characters after a long break writing about other characters and worlds?
Well, I haven’t started it yet! I intend to start the last Beggars book this autumn, and it’s due for delivery in May 2012. But as I say, I’m looking forward to it – I loved that tight-knit band of shipmates. Elias Creed and Gallico are two of my favourite characters. And Rowen of course…
- Basically every single novel you have written to date has garnered critical success. What is it about your style that has somehow prevented you from gaining a wider readership? Some have mentioned the brevity of your works. Do you feel that, in an era of doorstopper SFF books, this could be a factor?
I used to think so, and I still believe that there is in fantasy an absurd attachment to the Lord of the Rings syndrome, whereby a story is not worth reading unless it’s a thousand pages long. But since writing the Macht books, I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that my style just doesn’t click with everybody. I am a very masculine writer I guess, and I like to bring a harsh realism to my worlds which can be off-putting to those who like their battles blood-free and their unicorns freshly groomed. I read a blogger’s review of Corvus which thought it was a disgusting book because it has rape in it – but for me, that is one of the inevitable consequences of warfare in primitive societies. And not so primitive – look at Bosnia, or Libya now. These things make me angry and disgusted myself, so I choose to channel that rage and disgust in my writing. I do not put these episodes in my book for some kind of prurient thrill, and in Corvus we do not actually see any explicit scenes of rape – what we do see are the consequences. I think it’s important to have that kind of honesty in the story, and I see no reason to apologise for it. If a reader wants fluffy dragons and wand-waving adolescents, let them go elsewhere. I don’t write for children.
- With the Macht books apparently done and your older material back in print, what's next in the way of new material? You've occasionally hinted that you'd like to write some military SF at some point, is that something that could be on the cards?
I have some ideas… But as I said earlier, I’m pretty much booked up for some time to come. I am working with the idea of writing something about the Eastern front in world war two (a hobby-horse of mine), with an occult slant – I call it The Werewolves of Stalingrad. Watch this space!
- With Solaris republishing your earlier works, is there any chance of us seeing your stand-alones back in print? To my mind, certainly A DIFFERENT KINGDOM at the very least deserves a much wider audience.
I would love that. My Spanish publisher wants to reprint Kingdom as soon as he has put out all five of the Monarchies books. I still think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written (and I was only 24 – sigh) I guess we’ll see how it goes – As long as people keep buying my books, there’s hope!
- Anything else you wish to share with your fans?
Yes - thanks for hanging in there with me.