Well, it’s time for the second part of my exclusive interview with the soon to be world famous author person, Matthew Harffy!
Having released Matthew from his
6 x 6 cell guest suite here at Speesh Towers and Golf Resort, we’re both reclining on plush leather sofas, being served sherbert in silver glasses and when the football’s finished, we’ll be ready for the second half of the interview they’re already calling ‘the best since Nixon and Frost.’
OK, Matthew, Your house is on fire, the wife and kids are safe, your manuscripts are saved to the ‘cloud.’ You’ve only got time to save one book. What is it?
One of my favourite books is the graphic novel, Watchmen. And, if I had got my copy of that signed by the artist, David Gibbons, when I saw him giving a talk at Comic-Con last year, that would be the book I’d save. But I chickened out, and didn’t, so now I have no book I’d feel the need to save!
Books are just things, and the only reasons I can see for valuing any one above any others is if it is rare, or if it has some sentimental importance. When I moved from Spain to England I had to get rid of most of my books, so I have none which mean anything to me sentimentally. And, although I have accumulated a lot of books since then, no single one is particularly valuable.
I think books are too cheap, the amount that authors make from each book sold, too low – how about you?
I agree! It is very hard in today’s world where everyone wants amazing quality content for nothing. I just pray that people keep buying original works and allow people to continue to create. It takes a lot of time to create anything of real value, but the returns for the creators of most art is negligible. I’m doing well, and consider myself one of the lucky writers out there, and I still need a day job to help pay the bills.
Is there a book, in your genre, not by you, that you could recommend? Maybe one we’ve not heard of, and not by ‘The Usual Suspects’ (you know who I’m thinking of).
I have already mentioned, Justin Hill’s Shieldwall. I heartily recommend that and his more recent novel,
Viking Fire. Both books are great historical fiction set in 11th century. Justin is not a household name just yet, but he may well be one day. I wouldn’t be surprised.
The other recent surprise novel for me was Robert Lautner’s The Road to Reckoning. Set in the 19th century American west, it is a wonderful book. If you haven’t read it, do so!
What is your second favourite book-related blog?
Yours, after my own!
Oh, is that not the correct answer? No.
I think the other blogs on this Kin of Cain blog tour are all great, but the one that probably most closely links to my tastes is Parmenion books. After yours, of course! Better.
Paperback or hardback?
I prefer to read paperbacks, but you’ve got to love a hardback!
‘Hardback’ or ‘hardcover’?
I would go with hardback for the consistency with paperback, but I notice that Amazon has paperback and hardcover…
Who (apart from yourself, obviously) is ‘the next big thing,’ the ‘rising star of historical fiction’? Who should we be watching out for?
Wow – that is a really difficult question to answer! I think given his drive, passion, business acumen, hard work, not to mention his oodles of talent, I would go for Steven A. McKay. He is doing tremendously well as an indie writer and I can only see him going from strength to strength.
I once met Robert Jordan at a book signing for the fourth of his Wheel of Time series. There are to date 12-odd*. At the time, when I asked him how many books there would be, he said he had planned ‘eight or nine’. How many books have you got planned for The Bernicia Chronicles?
I originally planned the whole of Beobrand’s life as one book! I then realised that at the end of The Serpent Sword he was still only eighteen. I haven’t got detailed synopses for any book past the one I am currently writing (the fifth in the series), but I would go with Robert Jordan and say I have “planned” about eight or nine. When I hit twelve, you can remind me of this answer.
*I should have checked first, but there are actually 14 books in The Wheel of Time series. Started by the late Robert Jordan, the series was finished by Brandon Sanderson.
Are you in ‘The Bernicia Chronicles’? What about your wife, is she in there (yet)?
I’m not in the books, or perhaps all of me is in there as parts of different characters. My wife isn’t in the books either, but if we have a row, I might just find Beobrand or another character has problems with his love interest when I next sit down to write!
You were clearly reading a lot of Lee Child when you began The Serpent Sword. I’m pretty sure you’re up-to-date (I’m currently on #9). What’s with Jack Reacher exactly?
I’ve read all of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. Some are good, some are excellent. I love Reacher with his direct approach to problem solving. He is like a force of nature and I wanted Beobrand to be “Jack Reacher in the Dark Ages” and pitched The Serpent Sword as such. However, as I wrote, he became a bit too tortured by his past and actions to be compared to Reacher. He is strong and a killer, but Reacher seems to have no conscience. Perhaps Beobrand will get there, but so far, he suffers too much from self-doubt.
I think, and I think I’ve said, that Blood and Blade, is in a different galaxy to how The Serpent Sword started out, now that you’re with a publisher, have you ever thought about going back and re-doing The Serpent Sword?
No. There are probably things I would do differently if I was writing it now, but I am happy with it and still believe it is a good book. I like the way my skill as a writer has improved in step with Beobrand’s growth as a warrior in each book.
What was the last book you bought, with your own money?
You know well that I have a thing about ‘raised eyebrows’ in Historical Fiction (any Fiction books, actually), what’s your reading irritation?
When writers are writing from the perspective of someone from hundreds or even thousands of years in the past and they have them pondering things that they would have had no concept of. For example, I once had a long argument with another writer about the use of the word adrenaline in historical fiction. Sure, the adrenal glands existed and the body has reacted in the same way throughout history, but a Roman soldier should not, in my opinion, “feel the adrenaline pumping through his veins”. He might “feel his limbs shaking with the terror of battle”, or “feel the rush of battle-lust”, or something, but he wouldn’t know that he was feeling adrenaline being secreted into his bloodstream. This is where we come to the use of such terms as “battle-fury” and “battle-lust”, and I know you have a particular opinion on those kinds of phrases too…
I recently saw a picture posted by an author, where she showed how she plans a book. There was a table covered with Post-It notes. I was at a talk here in Aarhus by Peter Swanson (The Kind Worth Killing) and he pretty much said he doesn’t plan at all, goes with the flow. How do you go about planning a book? Do you plan down to the last detail or is there room for surprises?
I have the main skeleton of the story, but the flesh only gets added when I am writing. In other words, I know major things like a battle will take place, or an important character will die, but other events just happen as the muse takes me. For example, when I started writing The Cross and the Curse, Anhaga was not in the plan. Now if you read the book, I think you would be surprised at the important role he plays in the finished novel.
You seem to have a full-time job? When do you write?
Whenever and wherever I can! I had a full-time job until last October when I went down to four days a week. That extra writing day each week has made a lot of difference, and I am able to get about 5,000 words written a week now. Before I was aiming for 3,000 words a week and I was only writing in free moments during the evenings and weekends. If I have an hour or two free, I write.
Were you to write books in another genre, you’d pretty much have to change your name I guess. What would your alter-ego be called?
I’m not sure about the idea of pseudonyms… I’ll have to think about that one!
I thought that Blood and Blade (especially) was very ‘filmic’ conjuring up many images in my mind when I read it – when’s the Bernicia Chronicles TV series?
Like most writers, I would love to see my writing brought to life on the screen. But there are no offers just yet!
There was plenty going on all over the place, but Northumbria was the emerging power of the seventh century. I lived there for a few years as a child and remember the area fondly. When I found out it had such a rich history, I couldn’t resist writing about it.
I’m pretty sure you’ve researched the Dark Ages, what would be something I don’t know?
The modern term is “Early Medieval”, don’t you know? How about the fact that early Christian monasteries in Anglo-Saxon Britain were often Double Monasteries, meaning nuns and monks cohabited.
Can you lend me a fiver while Tuesday?
Do you mean “till” Tuesday? And no, I can’t!
Well, after reminding Matthew I’m a Brummy (from Birmingham, England, here actually) and we say ‘while,’ I’ve had the maid rifle through his wallet, taken all his spare change, driven him to the bus station, put him on an 888 to København and he’s now wandering about Kastrup Lufthavn wondering why he’s there and not Billund, as that is where flights to where he lives go from…
Now, wasn’t that interesting? Blimey. Scarily similar tastes in books, we have. Good to see a mention for Robert Holdstock‘s Mythago Wood in there. Though the last one I read, was very poor, Mythago Wood and the two or three after that, are quite superb. Before I read Matthew’s answers, but read Kin of Cain, I had jotted down ‘Mythago Wood’ in my notes!