Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
I’m Anthony James Smith. AJ or Tony are both fine. I also respond to Old Iron Balls, LL Cool Smith, or The Truth. I’m a sprightly 38.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Born just outside Birmingham, but I’ve lived in the charming town of Luton most of my live.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I’m generally quite shit at writing about myself, but I’ll give you the salient points. I studied Psychology, Sociology and Philosophy at Essex University, and have taught myself a crap-load of history, maths and physics since then.
I’ve worked in a variety of jobs involving psychology and youth-work: counselling, mentoring, tutoring etc. I’ve mostly worked with young offenders and in high schools.
I live with my girlfriend and our three dogs (we’re getting a fourth later in the year).
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
For some reason I’ve made things apocalyptically difficult for myself by inventing an entirely new world for my next series. But it’s coming along well and the first book THE GLASS BREAKS should be out next year.
I suppose that’s not my latest news… hmm, let me think. I’m quite excited about our new dog, especially as my missus has conceded that we call him Christopher Hitchens or Hitch.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. When I was very young I wrote a variety of stories about heroes with magical swords, most of which never got beyond a handful of pages, but the desire was always there. I’m fond of saying that it’s the only thing that doesn’t make me think I should be doing something else.
I should say that the majority of my stuff before I got published wasn’t fantasy. I got a bit obsessed with replicating the wit of Douglas Adams and the style of Michael Marshall Smith, with a dash of Clive Barker. Not sure what genre you’d call it… perhaps surreal black-comedy horror.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The cynic in me still thinks that this is all an elaborate practical joke and that all four of my novels were a weird dream.
I suppose I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, happy that the term has no implications of skill or success. But since I’ve been published a few times, I’ll now gleefully state it as my occupation, safe in the knowledge that the inevitable follow-up questions won’t make me feel like it’s just a hobby.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Two things: a Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game I was running, and a stubborn desire to see if I was actually any good.
I was working in a high school and decided I was going to use my summer holiday productively by writing a book. In one of those freakishly creative periods, I managed to write the thing in just over three months, which at the time I didn’t know was unusually fast. It was based on a world and characters from campaigns I’d been running for years, which made me realize I’d been training myself to tell stories since I started role-playing.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I went through loads of titles, before I settled on THE BLACK GUARD. All of my titles up to this point are the nicknames of main characters. To understand why and what they mean you’ll have to read the book.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I write in third-person limited, and use a large amount of different points-of-view, spread across the world and different plot points. It’s basically a pain in the arse way of structuring a novel, but enables me to weave the story any way I want.
Again, to make things difficult for myself, my new books are in the first-person and structured completely differently. At least no-one can say I only write one thing in one style.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I know the world inside-out and back-to-front. I have maps upon maps of every corner of my world, so, although it’s not the real world, it is internally consistent. The plots are based on role-playing plots and many characters are those from games already-played.
I know a lot about arms and armour, and incorporate as much realism as possible in these areas. Although, strangely, I still get complaints from readers about things they disagree with. I wish they’d just trust that I know what I’m writing about. I take my swordplay very seriously.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Not specifically, but I have travelled a lot. I use a lot of Icelandic/Norse history and have an abiding love of Iceland.
Landscapes, both artificial and natural, are a constant source of inspiration. I like hills, mountains, oceans, primal forests and anywhere your imagination can fill in the gaps.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
A wonderful artist called Nik Keevil, though I drew all the maps myself.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not really. They’re just stories. I agree with Tolkien that allegory is often a rather dishonest way of writing, but I have to accept that each reader will take something different from my stories. When asked, my standard response is “Once you’ve read it, it belongs to you and can mean anything you like.”
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I don’t read as often as I should these days, but I like Jamie Sawyer’s stuff. Really nice guy as well.
As for favourite writers… tricky. Douglas Adams will always be up there, the man knew how to write a sentence like no-one else. Either him or Clive Barker, a man able to terrify or amaze me with a subtlety I wish I could emulate.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
When I was about 18 my best mate gave me a fountain pen as a present. He told me that I had to use it to sign the first copy of my first novel. He had to wait a while, but I gave him the first copy of THE BLACK GUARD and signed it with the fountain pen (though it’d been lost and found a dozen time over the years). He had no doubts I’d one day get published.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yup, though the monetary side is frustratingly slow to increase. I still work part-time, counselling and tutoring kids.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’d make it better. I think it’s pretty good, but I’d incurred such narrative debts by the time I wrote the last book that it was far harder than I’d planned for. My first book took a few months, my last would have taken two years if I hadn’t done without sleep.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
That writing by Zen is not always the best idea when you want things to make sense.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I could give you the entire IMDB cast list, but I’d settle for Christina Hendricks as Halla, Michael “The Fass” Fassbender as Xander Tiris, and Guy Pierce as Utha.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write… just write. Soooo many people message me, asking for advice, and I always ask if they’ve actually written anything. Most say “no” but they have a cool idea. Just write it and see what happens.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Look deeply, read carefully, and feel, as much as possible, what the characters are feeling. And I hope you enjoy it.
Actually, that sounds pretentious as fuck. Just… enjoy it.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
A role-playing book for Shadowrun called Missing Blood. Also, Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It was called “How to Stop a Train with One Finger.” I may have been six or seven.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh at inappropriate things, the darker the better. My general philosophy is that nasty things should be joked about and ridiculed.
The last time I cried was watching “Sharpe’s Battle” when Perkins died. I get a bit upset when I see dogs being mistreated. I’m a bit of a softy really.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I’d love to have a chat about Maths with Alan Turing.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I role-play twice a week. I’ve mostly played World of Darkness, Shadowrun, Call of Cthulhu and D&D.
I used to be heavily into martial arts, but I’m a bit out-of-shape these days.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m a huge film fan. I developed the habit of half-watching films while writing and find it quite conducive to creativity. I’ll watch anything, but my favourite films are, in no particular order – Fight Club, The Exorcist, Chinatown, Withnail and I, Heat, and Dr Strangelove.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Italian and Indian, dark green and black, Massive Attack and New Model Army.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’d probably be an arms dealer. That, or a conman. To be honest, I’d have to have a horrible accident, involving the amputation of both my hands, to stop me writing.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“The best bang since the big one.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Amazon authors pages