Author Anthony Ryan joins The Object today to talk about the Raven’s Shadow trilogy, share with us his favorite authors, and give a little advice to aspiring writers.
WELCOME, ANTHONY RYAN!
Author of Raven’s Shadow Book One: Blood Song
Winston: Today in our continuing series of author interviews, we have fantasy and science fiction novelist Anthony Ryan, whose Raven’s Shadow Book One: Blood Song currently sits at 237 on Amazon’s Bestseller List, with a 4.9 star rating and nearly 160 customer reviews. Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to speak with us here at The Object, Anthony. It’s great to have a science fiction author in the interview schedule. You fit right in with our theme here. Why don’t you tell us a little about your Raven’s Shadow series?
Anthony: Raven’s Shadow is an epic fantasy trilogy set in a world beset by religious and political conflict. The principal character is Vaelin Al Sorna, who finds himself placed in a militant religious order at a young age and subjected to fairly brutal training which makes him a fearsomely skilled warrior. Blood Song, the first book in the series, is basically the story of Vaelin’s life from boyhood to manhood and all the intrigues and battles he encounters along the way. I’m staying pretty tight-lipped about plot details for the next two books, but suffice to say, difficult times are ahead for all of the characters.
Winston: When I find a new author I enjoy, I like to learn about how he/she began writing, a little of his/her history, and in the case of successful self-published authors, what led him/her to take that route. What should our readers know about you, and where should they go to keep up with your work?
Anthony: Mine is a somewhat typical story for a writer who finds some measure of success through self-publishing these days: spend six and a half years writing a novel, spend a year collecting rejection letters from pretty much every literary agent in the UK, self-publish, sell some books, then receive an email from a publisher four months later asking if I’d like to have a conversation. A couple of weeks later I’d agreed a three book deal. It’s fair to say my expectations were exceeded by a considerable measure.
Updates on my work and ramblings about stuff I like can be found on my blog: http://anthonystuff.wordpress.com
Winston: As a fantasy and science fiction author, I’m taking a wild guess that you’re a fan of both genres. Who are some of your favorite writers? What book would you take with you if you were being launched into deep space for the next five years and could only bring one?
Anthony: I’m a huge fan of George RR Martin (who isn’t?). In terms of current series I’ve greatly impressed with R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing and Aspect Emperor books. Robin Hobb’s assassin books were also a huge influence in terms of the realism they brought to the genre. But probably my all time favourite fantasy author is David Gemmell, the master of pace and action.
Science Fiction wise I love everything William Gibson produces, and will buy anything written by Peter F. Hamilton, Dan Simmons and Richard Morgan.
I do read a lot of non-fiction, my geekdom encompasses history and science as well as sci/fi fantasy. So, if I’m going to be stuck in space for five years the book I’d take would be The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, something I’ve always wanted to read but never got round to.
Winston: Your book is currently ranked 7 in Epic Fantasy on Amazon and it’s customer rating is remarkably high. What is it about Raven’s Shadow Book One: Blood Song that readers seem to be enjoying the most? What are the unique aspects of the story that have made it stand out?
Anthony: I think readers generally respond to a good story and characters they care about. Looking at the feedback I’ve received from readers, the words that crop up the most are ‘pace’ and ‘character’. Whilst I make no claims for the uniqueness of Raven’s Shadow, it sits firmly within its genre and I’m quite happy for it to stay there, I was keen to explore themes of religious conflict and the relationship between church and state. So given events over the last ten years and the current state of politics in the US and elsewhere, there may be some resonance for a modern audience. I should also acknowledge that, thanks to Game of Thrones, this is a really good time to be writing epic fantasy.
Winston: When can we expect Book Two of the Raven’s Shadow series?
Anthony: I’m about halfway through the first draft of Book Two, which will be called Tower Lord pending publisher approval, and it’s taken me three months to get here. However, as the second book won’t appear until after the publisher’s edition of Blood Song, I’m afraid there may be a while to wait yet.
Winston: Before we close, I’d like to ask, on behalf of our fellow aspiring authors, some of whom lurk around here from time to time, what advice would you give an unknown writer trying to break through?
Anthony: It’s been said many times, by better authors than me, but it bears repeating: Just write. There’s no magic formula. Write, as often as you can. Oh, and read a lot, but writing is the main thing. Current scientific thinking on the nature of human proficiency estimates a commitment of 10,000 hours practice before you get good at something (see Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell), so the sooner you start, the better.
If you’ve already written something and you’re wondering about whether to self-publish, you should first canvas opinions from people who will give you honest feedback, not just your immediate family who are likely to tell you it’s a work of genius. If the feedback is generally good then go ahead (although you should probably pay more attention to proof-reading than I did). Publicity wise, I’d say having your own blog / website is a minimum. You can also give some short stories away for free on your blog or via Smashwords which could generate some buzz. The first thing I self-published was one of my Slab City Blues stories which garnered enough positive feedback and downloads to convince me it may be worth sticking at this writing thing.
Winston: We’ll be keeping an eye out on your progress. In the meantime I think I’ll add Raven’s Shadow to my reading list. Thanks again for stopping by The Object, and good luck with Book Two!
Anthony: Many thanks, it was my pleasure.
Anthony Ryan writes fantasy, science fiction and non-fiction. He works full time as a researcher, has a degree in history, and lives in London. For news and general wittering about stuff he likes, check out Anthony’s blog at: anthonystuff.wordpress.com.