Mark Lawrence is the best selling author of Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, Emperor of Thorns, and most recently the first book in the Red Queen’s War, Prince of Fools, all published by Harper Voyager. I was lucky enough to get an interview with the man himself about his writing, his history, and his new book.
J: First things first: why fantasy? On that note, why post-apocalyptic fantasy?
M: Fantasy was my favourite genre from an early age – my parents were fans of Lord of the Rings back in the 60s. It’s always been the thing that most fired my imagination. I could see myself picking up a sword … a laser-pistol, not so much.
As to the particular sub-class of fantasy that my published work occupy … it was just what appeared on the page when I typed. I have no explanation for it.
J: What’s been your inspiration for writing the style of tale that you did? Any author, time period of fantasy, or historical age?
M: The main character, Jorg, was inspired by Anthony Burgess’ classic book of 1962, A Clockwork Orange. I feel that George Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series has inspired me as well, although I don’t write in a similar style.
J: So, where did the inspiration for Jorg come from? Any reason for writing in first-person?
M: Jorg’s character, intelligent, charming, amoral and violent, was directly inspired by Alex from A Clockwork Orange. It’s in the first person because that book was written in the first person.
J: Did you map out the entire story in your head first, or did you just let your story take you where it needed to go?
M: I didn’t map out even the smallest part of the story. I’m very much type-and-go.
J: You’ve stated that you didn’t write for publication…so why and when did you go about submitting your work out?
M: I used to run an online writing group and I posted Prince of Thorns there chapter by chapter as I wrote it. One of the members there, a grandmother, kept encouraging me to submit my work to a publisher. She started to send me a big writers’ market book each Christmas, and I knew that at the time she had money problems. After a few years I felt so guilty about her spending the dollars on buying and sending the books to me, that I decided to send my manuscript to some agents. Then I would be able to tell her that I had tried and hopefully she would stop wasting her money.
J: So, do you write full time now? If so, how has that impacted your schedule and day to day life?
M: Nope, I still have my day job. When I come home from work I look after my very disabled little girl. I write either late at night or when we have a respite worker to look after Celyn.
J: How many words do you get down on average a day?
M: About 400, but that’s very misleading. For example, I haven’t written any words at all for several weeks, but I may write several thousand words tomorrow. It’s about opportunity and mood.
J: A lot of people have compared you to GRRM. How do you feel about that, and do you necessarily agree?
M: I’m not sure a lot of people have except for the cover quote that implies a similar level of quality rather than similar style… I certainly don’t remember seeing anyone say I write like him. GRRM is my favorite fantasy writer so it would be a big compliment to be compared favorably against him but our published work is very different in execution.
J: There’s been quite a bit of a star upon the release of Prince of Thorns, with many a strawman shouting “grimdark” and slamming your book for being sexist and jumping on some sort of bandwagon. How have you responded to that?
M: The easiest response (if one is minded to respond) is to ask what ‘grimdark’ is – and nobody I’ve asked has offered a decent or consistent definition. I find the people who complain loudest are those who have read the fewest pages, often zero, with their objection balanced on a carefully stacked tower of Chinese whispers.
J: Speaking of which, how have friends and family responded to your now being a best selling fantasy writer?
M: A fairly muted response in general … they are British after all.
J: In the Broken Empire trilogy, Jorg was a brave, cruel, clever and fearless bastard. In the Red Queen’s War, you’ve had to go in the complete opposite direction with your new character. What was that like?
M: Well, I didn’t have to. I chose to. I knew some people would claim any new character I wrote was a poor reincarnation of Jorg, so I thought it would be funny to make that position as untenable as possible. And, in line with prediction, although 19 out of 20 reviewers note how very different the two protagonists are, there’s still that 1 in 20 unable to unplug from Jorg and saying Jalan is just a watered down / poorly drawn Jorg. Which I find unaccountably amusing.
As for what it was like… well, with a clear vision of who my character is it’s pretty easy to play out situations from their point of view. I enjoyed writing both. One takes impossibly odds as an irresistible challenge, the other takes even a slight chance of minor injury as an excuse to run for the hills – both are fun to play with.
J: The initial response to Prince of Fools has been overwhelmingly response. Did you get similar reviews upon your debut release?
M: Pretty similar, yes. I think the only exception was that in the very few cases where either book elicited a bad review with Prince of Fools they’re expressing disappointment whereas with Prince of Thorns it was more of a ‘you’ve just reversed over my cat … and I think you did it on purpose’ vibe.
J: Without spoiling anything, what’s in store for us in the next few books? And what about after that?
M: I don’t want to answer the first part, and have no answer to the second!
Thank you to Mark Lawrence for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed it and if you haven’t haven’t already, check out his incredible books.
Prince of Fools was released on June 3, 2014, and can be picked up at any good book store or on Amazon, here.