New Tom Lloyd Interview

Already well-known in the UK, fantasy author Tom Lloyd's debut, The Stormcaller, has just been released in the USA. I'm pretty sure everyone at Pyr is hoping that he will enjoy the same sort of success as Joe Abercrombie last year, so I invited Tom to introduce himself!

Two volumes of the Twilight reign series are already available in Canada and Europe, with the third installment just around the corner:

- The Stormcaller (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Twilight Herald (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Grave Thief (Canada, USA, Europe)

To learn more about the author and his work, visit


- Without giving anything away, can you give us a taste of the story that is THE STORMCALLER?

Sure. Stormcaller is, at its heart, a story about a shifting balance of power on a global level. For various reasons, the object intended to engineer this change is a young man called Isak, who is thrown into events and expected to sink or swim. All the plans that have been building over the past years and centuries are about to bear fruit and Isak is going to find all of this being played out around him.

In plot terms, each of the Seven Tribes of Man are ruled by white-eyes, divinely blessed warriors with bulging muscles and a nasty temper. Isak is raised from poverty to the post of heir-elect of one of the most powerful tribes and soon realises that this isn’t even the most dramatic or terrifying of the changes planned for his life.

- Tell us a little more about yourself. What's the 411 on Tom Lloyd?

I’m a Brit who’s spent most of his life day-dreaming, so there really was only one job I was suitable for! I work in publishing, most recently negotiating contracts for an independent publisher in London, and have just taken the leap to working part time so I can write the next book a bit faster.

- Can you tell us a little more about the road that saw this one go from manuscript form to finished novel?

It was a long damn road I can tell you! I spent most of uni writing what would eventually become Stormcaller, then got a job at a publisher with the aim to understand the craft better and make it worth reading. Frankly, the first few versions were rubbish, utter crap, but after a few years I started thinking more clearly about stories and hammered it into shape until the day when Jo Fletcher could take her red pen to it and depress me further… ;0) I’m not a natural writer like some, so I had to learn the hard way – trial and error more often than not to train my brain in how sentences should be put together.

- What can readers expect from the upcoming sequels, THE TWILIGHT HERALD (already out in the UK), and the forthcoming THE GRAVE THIEF? Any tentative release dates for the American Release of THE TWILIGHT HERALD and the British release of THE GRAVE THIEF?

The Twilight Herald ramps up the level the games are being played on. I always wanted to write a wide, complex plot where the good guys were not always so easy to distinguish from the rest, but you can’t throw everything into the first book. Stormcaller introduces the world and kicks off some of the events, but it’s only in Twiglet where you can fully appreciate the direction some of the schemes were going in. Grave Thief continues this and sees the plans being followed through; while Isak learns how to use the powers he’s been given and fight back before events overtake him.

On the dates front, Twilight Herald will be out in the US in the Spring of 2009 according to what I’ve been told, with Grave Thief six or seven months after that. In the UK, Grave Thief is out at the end of December and by the time Ragged Man is published it’ll probably be published simultaneously!

- Will you be touring to promote THE STORMCALLER on our side of the pond this fall? If so, are there any appearances you would like your fans and potential readers to know about?

I’m afraid I don’t think I’ll manage to get over there, but if anyone wants to nag Pyr and tell them how great it would be to have me over to the US in six months time when Twilight Herald comes out over there, I’d love the support as I nag them. I’ve never been to the US in my life so it’s really overdue!

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write THE STORMCALLER and the rest of the series in the first place?

There were several sparks – the first scene which I’d been dreaming (and day-dreaming) for a while before I started writing, an irritation with how particularly in films the weedy hero someone overcomes the monstrous bad-guy. Then I had the instance of a friend of mine throwing away a fantasy novels, pronouncing it rubbish and saying he could do better – whereupon I thought if he could, I certainly could!

That didn’t give me a series however. Once I’d fleshed out the basic ideas of what I wanted to do, I just let it run to see where it went. My degree is in International Relations so I knew I’d want to have a number of different factions in play and working against each other, but once you’ve got an idea the more you flesh that out the more it attains a life of its own.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

From what readers and my editor have said, I’d say firstly in dragging the reader in to the more dramatic sequences; I’ve had a load of people complain that they missed their stop on the train or went to sleep hours late because they’d got too into the book. Secondly, the complexity that I like to have in a story, which has put some off but others have loved for producing a properly textured setting. No conflict exists in isolation of any other forces so if you ignore those it lacks the richness a reader’s looking for and doesn’t ring true.

- By the same token, what would be your weaknesses, or aspects of your craft you feel you need to work on?

Mainly, the complexity probably! I know the stories better than anyone else of course so my editor’s constantly reminding me that I can’t just hop between scenes, mentioning a dozen names and assume people will know who I’m talking about and what they need to remember about that character. We’ve put catch-ups in to the later books to help with any confusion that might arise, but it has put some people off the series as a whole I think so I’ve had to think more about how I plan things out.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write THE STORMCALLER and its sequels?

Firstly, I think it’s sensible to say that my goal was never to subvert the genre, people like Joe Abercrombie did and did that well, but it wasn’t my aim at any point. I had two frustrations with fantasy that I didn’t want to follow – firstly that the hero gets his powers/position slowly over the course of the book or books, and secondly that the imbalance between hero and villain was vast yet the hero somehow manages one last blow that wins the day, having been hammered into the ground for half an hour.

I wanted to throw Isak in at the deep end with a whole set of powers he doesn’t understand and can barely control, thus forcing him to develop the ethics and restraint that any such power requires. He’s not a plucky young farm boy, he’s an overly-muscled borderline sociopath, only now when things go wrong he’s caused a world of hurt for others and has to live with it.

- The fact that there is a website dedicated to your work ( is an indication that interaction with your readers is important to you as an author. How special is it to have the chance to interact directly with your fans?

Absolutely, in this market it’s crucial to talk to your fans from a business point of view, and from a personal view writing is an isolating activity. Interaction tells you what you’re doing well and what they respond to, as well as adding another dimension to the pleasure of writing. To hammer out a book is fun, there’s no question about it, but to work hard and then have people enjoy it raises that level. It reminds me that I’m producing these books for others, not just my own satisfaction, and I’ve got to keep that in mind to ensure they remain good! At the end of the day, my fans like the same things that I do so talking to them is never a hardship!

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy/Hugo Award? Why, exactly?

Hmm. It’s not an easy question to answer, but I think actually the bestseller. I’m not really in the fandom side of things too much (but I am in the industry and can trust to how that works) and the more I write the less time I’ll have to do so! If I got a bestseller then the profile of the book is raised and more people read it. You’ve got to trust your own ability and if the awards come that would be wonderful, but genre awards are going to depend on people reading and enjoying it anyway. The more I sell, the more people are exposed to the books and that’s what I’m about. I want people to enjoy what I do, I don’t have the grand scheme of making my impact on the world of literature, I just want to give people a good read.

- What authors make you shake your head in admiration? Many speculative fiction authors don't read much inside the genre. Is it the case with you?

I do, I’m writing what I enjoy to read – it’s as simple as that. You can’t just read one genre for pleasure, a writer who doesn’t love books in general won’t make it. As for the writers I admire, Steven Erikson is a giant within the genre and the benchmark for what I’m trying to do, while in terms of prose I conversely love the spare, simple styles of men like Le Carré and Greene, plus M R James whose stories I just adore.

- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the covers that grace your novels? Are you happy with the cover art Todd Lockwood came up with for the Pyr edition of THE STORMCALLER?

I think it’s crucial, especially for a new author. I love cover artwork and it’s a major point for me – in Britain I think the covers are the best in the world, there’s some really inventive stuff produced over here, partly because the budgets aren’t too big so people have to be inventive with what they’re doing!

I love the Larry Rostant covers on the UK books, they’re exactly how I’d envisaged the books would look, but I appreciated that they aren’t going to work in the US so well. They are very dark and that’s what I’d pick up in a shop, but it’s a different market there. I was a bit concerned when Lou said he’d commission a new cover, having seen some shocking paintings on US books, but then he directed me to Todd’s website and I was swiftly on board with the idea! I’m very happy with both the covers he’s done; I think they’re perfect for the market and just great images in themselves.

- Various British SFF authors have had a hard time trying to find commercial success in the USA, and the same can be said of American writers in the UK. Is there a difference between both markets that can explain how difficult it is for popular SFF authors to fail to generate the same sort of interest on the other side of the Atlantic?

They are different markets, there’s no getting away from it, but fundamentally it’s hard to be published anywhere and understandably a country is going to first look at its home grown talent. Also, the voice used by authors depends on where they’re from and that’s something editors are going to consider – word of mouth is important to any book even after you’ve got a core readership. Some styles don’t work so well in the US, some author’s voices will just not be popular in the UK. I’ve read a few books that were very good but still jarred at times when idiomatic phrases are used.

- More and more, authors/editors/publicists/agents are discovering the potential of all the SFF blogs/websites/message boards on the internet. Do you keep an eye on what's being discussed out there, especially if it concerns you? Or is it too much of a distraction?

I read a few, but not many. The power of the net is undeniable, esp with genre fans, but I don’t want to spend too much time reading them when I should be working! I’ve got a list of three or four blogs that I’ll look at, this one included, and my friends list on LJ. After that, I’ve finished my first cup of tea for the day and I need to do some work!

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

No, I don’t. I’m a geek working in a snobbish industry and it makes a lot of people feel better to have a group to look down on, that’s just the way it is but there’s no point worrying too much about it. I’ve met a large number of serious literary authors who’re the most petty, self-obsessed group around. Everything’s a competition, everything involves backbiting and they’re paranoid about the smallest details. Compared to that, I’ll happily be called a geek while I go for a beer with my peers! There are some really great books out there now yes, and great writers, but all we need to care about in the geek community is making sure we’re continuing to do what we do as well as we can.

- Anything you wish to add?

I think I’ve talked for far too long already! The books are out now, go judge me for yourself – just read to the end and take it as a whole, that’s all I ask!

4 commentaires:

RedEyedGhost said...

Holy crap that second cover is laughably bad. Wow!

Aaron said...

He seems to be a really easy going guy. ANd I have to agree with his views on the 'literary' crowd. I know from experience. I will have to check out his first book...

Garrett Quinn said...

Anyone read this yet? I keep seeing it at my local bookstore but never thought to pick it up. And you're right aaron, he does seem like a great guy.

axe said...

Pretty decent first book. You can see the Moorcock/Erikson influence - yet doesn't come off as another copy.