I am, as we say, chuffed to little mint balls, to be on this here Blog Tour for Matthew Harffy’s new ‘novella’
KIN OF CAIN.
Matthew has been rapidly worming his way across my radar these last couple of years, thanks to some quite superb, and rapidly improving, Historical Fiction novels. First there was The Serpent Sword, then The Cross and the Curse, then Blood and Blade. The fourth novel in The Bernicia Chronicles, will be called Killer of Kings and will be out in June this year.
Kin of Caine is what one calls a novella, probably because it isn’t really a short story, it’s a whole lot more (as you will find out when you buy it). It’s available in paperback and on something called Kindle, as of NOW!
And here we are, hosting the Speesh Reads part of a Kin of Cain Blog Tour. I’ve said ‘oh, go on then…’ to writing a review of his novella (having read it first, of course) and to ‘hosting’ as I think the term is, a kind of interview, kind of a load of random questions I scribbled down at work the day I got the email from his people at Aria Books.
So, if Matthew weren’t too stingy to stump up the Ryanair flight to Aarhus Lufthavn, here’s how it might have been…
Well, staying in the guest room here at Speesh Towers, and currently lying back on the Speesh psychiatric couch, today I’m speaking to the very reverend Matthew Harffy, ladies and gentlemen.
“Thank you very much and can I start with saying how hyggeligt it is to be here in Denmark?”
Yes, can you?
“Det er hyggeligt, at være her i Danmark.”
Kind of you to have learnt Danish for the occasion Matthew.
“Det var så lidt”
*conversation switches to English as only around 5 and a half million people the world over, understand Danish*
So, let me begin this grilling, erm, interview by turning this light to shine into you eyes, and being the nice Cop…at least to start with…
Give us some background info about yourself, Matthew
*Matthew reads from Press Release*
“I grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on me. I now live in Wiltshire, England, with my wife and our two daughters.”
Having read Kin of Cain – and without giving anything away (as I think it is important not to reveal how it ends) – it is taking a risk, what on earth were you thinking?!
“I did wonder whether I should write it, and set it aside for a year before finishing it. But once the idea had come to me, I just couldn’t push it out of my mind. Kin of Cain almost wrote itself. It was the easiest writing experience I’ve had so far. I think when something feels that good to write, it cannot be ignored. As to what I was thinking – I explain it all in the Author’s Note and the Acknowledgments in the novella! But don’t read those sections until you’ve finished the story!”
Short stories, I’m thinking, can tend to be left-overs from the writing of other books in a series, Kin of Cain most definitely is not. It could only be set before the main Bernicia Chronicles books start and it features a character mentioned in the Chronicles proper…I could see further short stories about other peripheral characters – what about you?
“You are right. Kin of Cain was definitely conceived and written as a separate story to the Bernicia Chronicles. In fact, at first it was intended to be a standalone, completely unrelated story, and then I saw how it could fit into the Bernicia Chronicles milieu and just went for it. Will I write more short stories or novellas based on peripheral characters? It is a distinct possibility, but I have nothing planned at the moment. There are a couple of new characters that appear in Killer of Kings that could have interesting backstories worthy of further investigation.”
Was there a particular book that got you started on reading? The one I first remember was The Last of the Mohicans, a ‘Boy’s Own’ version, read to me by my father. Oh, and our Junior School teacher reading us The Silver Chair every afternoon before going home.
“One of the first books I can remember reading and being truly hooked was The Hobbit.
A cover can, in my opinion, make or break a book. Who does your book covers? Talk us through the process. Idea, to cover. Who has the final say? Is it different now you’re with a publisher?
“I think covers are extremely important. When I self-published The Serpent Sword and The Cross and the Curse, I designed and produced both covers. Each was based around an original photo. The first photo was taken by Matt Bunker, of his own historically accurate gear. The second one was taken by a good friend of mine, Stephen Weatherly, and features Matt Bunker in the armour from the first cover. For those covers, I decided on the look and pose and was lucky enough to get talented people to help me out. When it came to re-publishing them with Aria/Head of Zeus, the same photos were used, but with work done to improve the designs. This was done by a professional designer, with input from me and my editor.”
Another of Stephen Weatherly’s photos was used for Blood and Blade. This time, I gave a brief of what I would like, and the designer put it together. There was a bit of back and forth over details, but in the end, I was extremely happy with the result.
For Kin of Cain and Killer of Kings, I again provided a brief, but this time the designer was given more free rein, as there wasn’t a suitable photo already available to work from. I think the final covers are both stunning and give a real feel for the books’ subject matter.
I believe I am very lucky with the amount of input I am allowed in this process. I know this is not always the case, but there is a lot of trust between my editor and me, and we have found a good way of working.”
I love Duran Duran, Mary J. Blige and Robyn. What’s your guilty musical secret?
“The Eagles. I’m a sucker for those harmonies!”
I was a huge fan of The Clash, back in the day. I’m old enough to have seen them four times, before 1980… I managed to meet Joe Strummer many years later, when he was promoting his latest album. I’m stood in the queue, thinking ‘this guy has been a hero of mine for so many years – what if he’s an idiot?’ (He wasn’t in any way). Who is your hero (not necessarily musical) and would you meet them? Or have you met them?
My musical hero is Freddie Mercury. Clearly I’m never going to meet him now, and to be honest, I don’t know if I would have liked him all that much.
I’ve always been fascinated by Sir Richard Francis Burton, so if I could choose to meet anyone in history, I might choose him. What a character! If you don’t know much about him or who he was, Google him!
Recently, at the Historical Novel Society Conference in Oxford, I got to meet some authors whose work I really admire. In particular I was excited to meet Justin Hill, whose book, Shieldwall, had really inspired me when writing The Serpent Sword. I am a huge fan of his work, and so to go from the distance of admiration of his books to sitting on a panel with him, discussing how to write battle scenes in front of a packed audience, was surreal and unnerving! I have to admit to being a bit tongue-tied, but I can safely say that Justin is a lovely person, as are the vast majority of authors I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
And, on that bombshell, we’ll leave Matthew being put back into his straightjacket and escorted to his suite in the west wing, whilst sweating on any of his friends ever finding out he likes The Eagles, but maybe not worrying all that much as, well … Freddie Mercury!
I wanted to ask some questions, that would be as if we were sat in the pub, putting the world to rights, while still being book-related. I think I almost managed it, don’t you? There were quite a few questions and though I only expected a one or two word answer to a lot of them, Matthew has been very kind and written three and four. So…
Should you be unable to wait a moment longer, Matthew can often be found imparting words of wisdom on his website, Twitter or Facebook
Read the official Speesh Reads review of Kin of Cain