I had the opportunity recently to interview fellow 'Skullduster' Ross Kitson, Author of the Darkness Rising series. He believes (and I agree) that we have very similar writing styles and influences along the way that made it so.
I admire Ross as a writer and as a human being. He is a doctor in the UK with a family and still somehow finds time to gift us with some amazing fantasy. Do yourself a favor and check some of that out here:
Explain your main characters briefly~
The main character in the Prism series is Emelia. We first meet her as a teenager, serving as a housemaid in a noble house in a land called Eeria. Emelia was sold into servitude by her father, and is still coming to terms with that. She begins to have prophetic dreams and develops odd powers, which we learn are the emergence of a type of (vilified) sorcery called Wild-magic.
The series follows Emelia’s growth as a woman. The price of utilizing Wild-magic is mental illness, and Emelia struggles with bipolar disorder through the books. Her relationships with other main characters, both intimate and friendships, become a key factor in the fate of the world she lives in.
I was aware that the’ rags to riches’ story has been done to death, especially in fantasy. What I wanted to avoid was the idea that Emelia is secretly some reborn hero, or prophesized great hope that’ll save the world. She isn’t: she’s just a naïve, slightly screwed-up girl, with powers she struggles to control. I think I drew more from the world of comics, such as X-men or Spiderman, in the creation of Emelia and Wild-magic (well, minus the Spandex pants….).
Give us a brief synopsis of your storyline~
Well, some I’ve alluded to above, but here goes. Emelia, who works as a servant, begins to develop strange powers. One of her friends at the Keep (where she serves) dies mysteriously, and Emelia suspects the Lord’s son is the culprit. Her days there are numbered after she confronts him, and she then escapes with two thieves- Jem and Hunor- one of whom is a Wild-mage. He takes Emelia under his wing and trains her.
The thieves have stolen a strange crystal, which later turns out to be part of an ancient Prism of Power. A group of knights arrive to reclaim it, and then that’s when the adventure really kicks in. You see, a group of undead sorcerers, led by a ghast called Vildor, need the Prism for their nefarious plan. So the chase is on, and will continue to be on for all six books!
What are you reading now?
I have three books on the boil. Firstly, I’m slogging through Robert Zelazney’s Amber chronicles: all ten books in one 8 font tome! Slow going, but very very good.
Second, on my kindle, I’m reading Clive Johnson’s Leiyatel’s Embrace. It’s a fantasy book with a degree of eloquence that I’ve not read in years.
Thirdly, I’m reading Elise Stoke’s Cassidy Jones and The Secret Formula with my daughter. It’s a YA superhero book and is simply fantastic.
Who is your favorite character to write?
That is really tricky. I love the slightly affected indulgence of Vildor, the bad guy in the Prism series. He has a trace of melodrama to his actions, and a confident patter that makes you want to slap his smug face. At the same time, the Fire-mage, Ygris, has such fun dialogue that he’s a close contender. His people, the Pyrians, learned their ‘common’ tongue from old Imperial literature and so speak everyday like they are eloquent actors. He certainly provides the best quotes in the book.
Do you have a writing process?
LOL, when I can!
In seriousness I tend to plot and re-plot continually and jot these all down. I create a framework of a plot, then the characters within that framework, and then I write. I find that sub-plots, scenes and dialogue sort of evolves as you do it. With the first draft, which is a sort of ‘splurge’ writing, I then go back and tweak it for consistency, style etc. Next stage is running it past my friends who beta-read, and then I generally take their suggestions on board. Final stage is then to get it out to the editor.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Self-belief is vital. Be happy with what you do, do it because it is fun, and don’t continually seek reassurance from others. Don’t be afraid to say ‘screw it’ to traditional publishing and do-it yourself, but be aware of the work involved and ask others for advice, via social networks. Refine your book again and again, but be aware there comes a point when you just have to put it out and sit back…
What inspired you to pursue writing?
I just love it. I’ve always enjoyed creating, and I was a big-RPGer when I was younger. Then my creativity focused into convoluted campaigns and mashing up pre-written modules to fit my vision and ideas. It all got put on hold as I trained as a doctor, but then about five years ago I started writing a story based on old DnD characters. A friend said I should try something new, and so off I went!!!
What sets your books apart from others of the genre?
What I think I’ve done is to take a traditional epic/heroic fantasy storyline (small bunch of heroes against vast evil power; hero in menial role becomes saviour) and then throw in loads of other influences to make it feel fresh. So I’ve tossed in some real DnD/RPG vibes, superhero style Wild-magic, comedy, modern dialogue style (rather than pseudo-medieval), some curious races, a villain who is quite intricate and tortured, and themes such as mental illness and self-discovery. I hope the world, with its long history, comes across as detailed and well-structured.
You are obviously a huge D&D guy, which I can tell from your other blog posts and whatnot. What inspired this current storyline?
I think the nature of the storyline is very D&D in principle: we have a quest, with a bunch of cool characters. We have a magic system and magical artifacts. We have a bunch of bad guys and demons, a mythology, weird races and detailed battles. The D&D influences are glaring in my work, and I’m proud of that. After all, D&D was written as a modification of table-top wargaming into role-playing, with many classic fantasy influences such as Tolkien, Lieber, Anderson, Howard, Moorcock et al. That’s a heck of a pedigree.
Also playing and DMing D&D taught me about structure, rules, plot and characters and how all of these need to hand together in a rational way. Your magic has to be consistent in your world, it has to have rules and rationale.
And finally it taught me that, ultimately, it all has to be fun or no-one will be interested in it.
If your books were made into a movie, who would play the roles of your characters?
I love this question! My current fave cast list would be:
Emelia: Emelia Clarke (who plays Daenyrs Tarragon in Game of Thrones)
Hunor: James McEvoy
Jem: David Thewlis (Prof Lupin in the HP films)
Lady Orla: Anna Torv (from Fringe)
Vildor: Tom Hiddleston (Loki in Thor/Avengers)
When did you start writing?
Over the last five years I’ve really started up with the writing. In that time I’ve written five of the six Prism books (two are published, one being edited, two are in draft and need a little more tweaking), a YA sci-fi/steampunk, and several short stories.
At the moment I’m awaiting the final edit on my YA book, The Infinity Bridge. It is set in
and tells the story of two brothers who can see rifts between dimensions, one
of whom gets labeled as schizophrenic. It’s a fairly action-packed story with
touches of steampunk in it. It’s being released in October. I have two
anthology stories written: one is in the Skulldust Circle collection, and that is
about Jem and Hunor in their early days as thieves; the other is a steampunk
short story called the Boat of Ra, which is a collection by a new imprint,
Kristal Ink. I’m putting the final touches on Darkness Rising Book Three –
Secrets, which I hope will be out in e-book around New Year.
Why do you write?
I find the escapism from the pressures of my working life is perfect. I work as a consultant in intensive care medicine and anaesthesia, which is fairly full-on and can be emotionally draining. So writing speculative fiction is a great release. I’ve also found that writing stuff is inspiring for my kids, especially my daughter, who now writes her own short stories all the time!
Who is your favorite author?
Ahh, that’s such a tough question. Can I cheat and have a few? Philip Pullman’s series, His Dark Materials, remains an all time favorite and I love his style. Contemporary literature I’ve always loved Roddy Doyle’s books. Comics has to Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman, who made the cross-over from comics like Sandman to novels. In fantasy I really enjoy George RR Martin and Steven Erikson, although they can be rather bleak.
Thanks for the interview, Gary. I’ve really enjoyed answering the questions!
Here are some more links to find Ross on social media and don't forget that he will be included in the Skulldust Circle Anthology to be released very shortly!
Please join me and the other amazingly talented authors over @ Skulldust Circle where we have formed a Writer's Circle that must be seen--a collection of brilliant, up & coming independently published speculative fiction authors with much to give both now and in the future!
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