Monday, 8 July 2013

Interview with Francis Knight plus GIVEAWAY!

Francis Knight was born and lives in Sussex, England. When not living in her own head, she
enjoys SF&F geekery, WWE geekery, teaching her children Monty Python quotes, and boldly going and seeking out new civilizations.

Hi Francis, and welcome to Wilder’s Book Review!

Thanks for having me!

Congratulations on the publication of Fade to Black and Before the Fall, both this year. And the third part of the trilogy is out later in the year, right?

Thanks, and yes, it’s out in November.

So, first up, give us three words that best describe the Rojan Dizon trilogy.

Twisted, cynical, hopeful (if you’d allow me a short sentence, a dark and twisted kind of hope would be it!)

Can you give us a little more detail on the series and maybe a little insight into Book 2, Before the Fall?

I can try without spoilers. Rojan, the MC, starts as a man who is isolated inside himself in a cramped and teeming city. He’s cynical about everything and everyone, and about no one more than himself. He learns a lot during the series thanks to the events he’s caught up in. Without giving too much away, at the end of Fade to Black Rojan has managed to upset just about everyone and screw the city. In Before the Fall he has to try to make things right, while at the same time dealing with a series of grisly murders that look set to tear the city, and his life, apart.

What was the initial idea behind the Pain Mage trilogy and your motivation for writing it?

Initially it was an antidote to the romance I write under my own name. I wanted to write about a character who would, to be fair and putting it mildly, not fit into a romance story. Someone not a hero. I wanted to write about a man who wasn’t especially nice, but who even so could discover the good in himself. “None is so good he lacks all fault, none so wretched he lacks all virtue” is a quote from the Havamal (sayings of Odin) and it’s a phrase that, as a writer, I find very interesting. Could I make someone whose views are so opposed to mine not only interesting, but in some small way sympathetic? That was where it started, though originally it was supposed to be dystopian future. Until my writers group (quite rightly) pointed out I’m horrible at inventing future tech. So I thought of a dark fantasy, and a little scene from Thomas Covenant came to mind, about a healer who could only heal if she took the injury onto herself – a magic you really don’t want to use. The personal quandary of that – of having power but being afraid to use it – became a very interesting thing to explore.

The city of Mahala is a central focus point of the series. Was their a particular reason for that, or was it just the natural reason for the setting?

Not a special reason, no. I don’t plan much, and even less in Fade to Black. I wanted to explore the differences in social stratas, how they interconnect etc and going out of the city would have diffused that. Basically I was having fun where I was so I didn’t want to stop….

I’ve seen the books referred to as “Urban Fantasy”, “Noir Fantasy” and “Painpunk” – what would you categorise the books as?

I pitched it as fantasy noir, which I think fits it best. It’s not really urban fantasy (it’s not on Earth,
and UF pretty much is, or much of what we usually call epic would be UF!), but I quite like painpunk. I did think of magepunk for a while, but noir really nails it, I think.

The focus is firmly on Rojan Dizon in these books – was he just a character who jumped out at you while planning, or did he develop more organically?

As I say, I don’t plan. I had an idea for a particular kind of guy, doing a thing (the first scene) and just…went from there. Rojan was one of those rare gifts – a character who turned up almost fully formed. He was cynical and snarky and all the rest right from the off. I have no idea where he came from, but he was great fun to write!

Are we likely to see much of the world outside of Mahala later in the series?

Oh, I couldn’t possibly say without spoilering! OK, Rojan does in fact make it Outside. That’s as far as I’m willing to go. I do have plans for other stories in other cities in the same world though.

What were some of your main influences in writing the series?

I think atmosphere, the sort of feel I wanted to create was a big one. Bladerunner, Sin City, the Crow….they all were in the back of my mind for tone. Other than that, just your general mish mash of stuff I like.

The full trilogy will be out within the span of one year. Was there any particular reason for this decision, or are you just a lightning-quick writer?

They were supposed to be spread a little further apart originally. Orbit have had good results with releasing books close together (I don’t know about you, but if I wait too long for a second book I may forget I want it!) but I am a pretty quick writer, luckily, so the pub dates took that into account. Obviously, I was an unknown quantity when I signed, so they couldn’t know whether I’d be able to turn in a decent book in X months (or how I’d take editorial comments!) Once I’d turned in number two and had a provisional estimate for number three, things got shuffled. I think the edited and all but finished number three was handed in the same week number one released.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author, and can you tell us a little about your first attempts?

I was struck down with ME about ten years ago. Unable to do much at all without having a lie down afterwards (even the washing up left me wiped) I was left with daytime telly, or the PC. I turned to the PC when I realised I was dreaming about breaking the telly in frustration. As I’d DM’d in pen and paper RPGs for years, I had a few character arcs in my head and decided to try writing them out. Then I got hooked. I had to give up for three years or so when the ME got so bad I couldn’t even write – my brain felt like I was thinking through treacle much of the time – and then came back to it as I started to recover. I pootled for a bit, and sucked a very great deal for a time, and then a couple of friends said, hey, you should get these published. So I decided to take it seriously in…er…October 2007. I made my first novel sale (romance, a genre I had no idea I was writing!) to a small press 6 months later. The next few years were a massive learning curve, aided by my romance editor who taught me more than I care to admit. I kind of cringe at my early efforts to be honest, but the last three romances…yeah, I stand by them, and all of them taught me something about the most important thing; how I write, how I construct a story. Because every writer is different. So is every book.

What kind of writer are you? Do you plot down to the last detail, or just start writing and see where the words take you? Do you have any particular writerly ticks, like specific places you work or colour of M&M?

I don’t plan if I can help it! I start with A Character in A place, and perhaps An Idea and the gist of the atmosphere I want and how it will end (usually at the start I say “and then everything explodes!” though this changes as I write the story). If I plan, it messes with my head too much. I tried it once…book ended up a different genre to what I’d planned! My only tic is perhaps I don’t have one. Except I must have tea. Lots and lots of tea.

What’s next in the pipeline for you Francis? Are you likely to keep writing in Rojan’s world, or have you something else planned?

I have a few plans up my sleeve for a later date with regard to Rojan’s world – not in Mahala perhaps (though I’ve got an idea or two). I’m writing something quite different at the moment – I like to make each new work a challenge, do something new – but I can’t tell you about it. Or I’d have to kill you.

What’s something the people reading this interview might be surprised to learn about Francis Knight?

Oh, take your pick. I once punched a policeman and didn’t get arrested for it, though I kind of have an ambition to get arrested, just to say I’ve experienced it. I’ve got three tattoos, two dragons and the Rohirrim flag. I spent many a year as a biker (Still am at heart, but kids will put the kibosh on rallies and pregnancy is not conducive to riding etc!). If you’ve read Fade to Black you might be surprised to know I am not an atheist and I harbour no ill will to any deities. I have a heart shaped birthmark on my leg…

And, finally, what are you reading right now?

Crowbone, by Robert Low. I love his Viking books (the Oathsworn series), written in a voice that sounds just like you’d imagine a Viking telling the tale by a fire.

Thanks Francis!

Thanks for having me!

You can find Francis online at her website, Knight's Noir or on Twitter at @Knight_Francis.


And to go with the interview we have a GIVEAWAY! You can win a copy of BOTH Fade to Black AND Before The Fall by answering the following simple question in the comments:

What's the greatest city in fantasy?

The winner will be selected at random a week today (Monday 15th July 2013).

This is an International Giveaway! 

Remember to leave either your email address or Twitter username in your comment, otherwise I won't be able to get in touch with you and the prize will go to someone else.

Good luck! 


Joey said...

I think Riverside, in Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint novels, is the fantasy city I'd most like to live in. All those dashing swordsmen and chocolate for breakfast!



Caleb Hill said...

I would say Tal Verrar is the most interesting. Most would say Camorr, but I always say the former as having more depth, more mysticism. I mean, a grave that is an abyss? Clockwork garden? Pirates? Sign me up.


Craig said...

Well, I'm tempted to say Ankh-Morporkh, just because it was the site of my great victory channeling Commander Vimes, but I guess I would have to say...Spearpoint from Alastair Reynold's "Terminal World". Just because it's got a little bit of everything and it's all awesome!

Alex Shepherd said...

Well I AM going to say Anhk Morpork. I don't think there's another one I feel I know as well as good old A-M.

Anonymous said...

About a thousand come to mind... but I've always had a soft spot--architecturally--for Villjamur from Mark Charan Newton's Legends of the Red Sun series.

Tomeytown said...

Malazan Book of the Fallen series

I found thinking of a city quite hard actually. There are many great ones but this one for some reason always interested me.


Romeo Kennedy said...

Well I'm also going to say Ankh Morpork. I love the many guilds and of course Unseen University.

Paul Walsh said...

With the recent glut of books surrounding it I have to go with London. Neverwhere, The DC Grant (rivers of London) series , Tom Pollocks books, Paul Cornell etc. A great fantasy city doesn't have to be made up

Josh Atkins said...

Ankh-Morpork forever!

Adam said...

Got to be Dros Delnoch in Gemmell's Drenai Series. A land of heroes.
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