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Monday, June 10, 2013

Interview with Rob J. Hayes (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Heresy Within
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Colour Of Vengeance

Rob J. Hayes was an author that I took a chance with and the read proved to be exhilarating. I feel that he has been the Indie find of 2013 for me (so far). I loved his debut trilogy and so wanted to get to know him better. So read ahead to see what makes him tick, what he thinks about his books and why you should absolutely read them if you love/like Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and David Dalglish.

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. For starters, could you please introduce yourself, tell us what inspired you to write in the first place, and describe your journey to becoming a published author.

RJH: My name is Rob J. Hayes, I’m an independent fantasy author from the UK and The Heresy Within is my debut novel.

It’s a hard question to answer, what inspired me to write. I’ve always loved literature and stories and fantasy but I think the thing that first inspired me to pick up a pen (keyboard) and try it myself was reading The Artefacts of Power series by Maggie Furey. I remember being so invested in her characters and their plight, caring so much about them and the world they inhabited that I wanted to emulate that with others, I wanted other people to care about the characters that I create.

I spent a few years writing fan fiction and short stories, most of it revolving around the supernatural, and forced my unfortunate family to read them but eventually came back to the fantasy worlds I love so much. About 4 years ago I started writing my first book, finished it, threw it in the bin and started The Heresy Within. Now, roughly 14 years after first picking up that pen I have a full trilogy to show to the world. Here’s hoping the world likes it.

Q] Could you explain how the genesis of the Ties That Bind trilogy occurred? How long have you been working on it and whether it has evolved from its original idea (if any)?

RJH: I’ve been working on the trilogy for about 3 years now. I created the main characters long before the story, back when I was writing the book I subsequently threw away. When I decided to put all 3 of them in their own story it was originally intended to be a stand-alone novel but about half way through writing The Heresy Within, I realised there would have to be another two books to tie them into the rest of the world.

Q] So for someone who hasn't read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write, what would be your pitch for The Ties That Bind trilogy?

RJH: Shiny, happy fun-books for children of all ages… Either that or fantasy set in a grim world with plenty of death, pain, dark humour and characters that are so psychologically flawed you can’t help but hate them and fall in love with them both at the same time, often within the same sentence.

Q] Nowadays there has been a heady discussion involving self-publishing and many of my favorites such as Anthony Ryan, Blake Crouch and David Dalglish have also espoused e-books and self-releases, What was your reasoning in going the Kindle way for your trilogy, did you make an attempt for the traditional publishing?

RJH: I applied to a number of agents and received a number of rejections (all of which are hanging on my wall like blood-stained trophies) and decided to look into alternative methods of publication. Nowadays e-book publication is big business so I thought I’d give it a shot. I have to admit I’m quite impressed with it so far but it’s still early days.

Q] When you started out did you have an overall plan for the books, did you have a set number of books to be written in this series? How much of the plot do you plan out earlier, or to quote George R.R. Martin “are you a Gardner or an Architect” when it comes to your writing?

RJH: I’m very much a gardener. I have the utmost respect for the architects of the business but it just doesn’t work for me. I usually have a good idea of where the story is going, all the main plot points mapped out in my head, and a rough idea of what is going to happen in each chapter as I come to it, but most of it appears as I write it. There are actually a couple of major characters in The Ties that Bind that didn’t even exist in my head until the chapters they appear in.

Q] The settings and characters of the Ties That Bind trilogy are very gritty and dark. When you started writing your books, what was it that particularly made you mold this world to be such a grim one?

RJH: Probably my natural cynicism. I wanted to create a world where the heroes could be bad and villains could be good, where even the bad guys could believe they were good because they were doing bad things for good reasons.

If you create a world with light and dark as absolutes then the characters naturally polarise into paragons of their respective qualities. The more realistic you make the world, and make no mistake the real world can be a very dark place, the deeper (and more interesting) you can make your characters.

Q] Can you tell us more about the world that Ties That Bind trilogy is set in and some of the series’ major characters?

RJH: Hard question to answer without spoilers…

The world take a lot from traditional fantasy but also leaves a lot out. There are mythical creatures, such as dragons, but not many of them and those there are tend to be very rare. Similarly, magic certainly does exist within the world, and is practiced by both the Inquisition and those it hunts, but the story doesn’t focus on the magic and nor is it ever used as a crutch to justify the inexplicable.

As for the characters, I’ve tried to make them all as three dimensional as possible each with their own depths, some of those depths are explored as the story progresses and others aren’t. For example, early on you discover Thanquil Darkheart has fairly severe kleptomania; the reasons for it are hinted at but never blatantly stated. As you read it you may find that some characters you dislike early on become much more palatable as you discover the reasons for them being as they are.

Q] Now that you have completed the trilogy, and with the trilogy ending the way they did. What are your plans for the future, will you be writing further stories set in this world or will you be inventing newer worlds?

RJH: Quick answer to that one is both. Without giving too much away there are definitely more stories to be told in this world and the next series may or may not center around a certain pirate who has already been introduced.

Q] What did you think was the most challenging part about writing your debut trilogy? What about the easiest or most rewarding parts?

RJH: I think the most challenging part was keeping going. I work a full-time job as well as writing so I’ve had to write the trilogy around that job. There were times doing that was extremely hard but I forced myself to come home and write something every day and I’m glad that I did.

The most rewarding part (other than really nailing a chapter then sitting back with a congratulatory beer) is giving other people the chance to read that which I have written and knowing that they enjoy it. When people email me asking me questions about the characters and the world… well that brings a tear to my eye despite my bitter, blackened heart.

Q] You have written three short stories that seem to be set in the same world. Could you tell us a bit about all of them and whether reading them before would be pertinent in the understanding of the overall story?

RJH: I have written some short stories (and am planning to write more), all of which are and will continue to be available to download free from my website. They’re certainly not crucial to the understanding of the story but each one provides a little bit of back story for some of the characters that pop up during the books (read for FREE from the links below).

The Kid - Life is hard growing up in the wilds and the Kid's friends don't make it any easier. Might be this time they've gone too far.

The Sword of the North - Derran Fowl is the world renowned Blademaster, the Sword of the North. Before he earned that name he had to witness the tragic downfall of his own family.

The Merchant of Truridge - The Tell family is one of the richest and most prominent merchant families in Truridge and, with the death of his father, Sirion Tell is now the sole heir to everything, including the family debts.

Q] I believe all your book covers have been done by the same artist, how did you approach him. Or was it the other way around? What was the clinching factor in this partnership? Could you give the readers a brief overview in to the process of making one of the covers?

RJH: Yes. All 3 covers were done by Julio Real, an art student from Argentina I found over the website deviantART. After seeing his previous works I just shot him an email asking if he would be up for doing three book covers but the real clinching factor, I’m not afraid to admit, was his very competitive rates.

I gave Julio descriptions of the characters and a brief overview of the world and let his imagination have its wicked way with them. He sent me pictures of the characters at various stages so that minor adjustments could be made and that was pretty much that.

Q] What types of books do you like to read, and who are your favorite authors in the genres which you read?

RJH: I’m a big fan of fantasy… and sci-fi. Some of my favourite authors would be the legendary George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Scott Lynch, James P. Blaylock, Arthur C. Clarke, William Gibson. The list could go on and on so I won’t. Every now and then I do read outside my favourite genres though by asking friends to lend me books of their choice. Usually it works out well but every now and then they hand me something they know I’ll hate just to watch me struggle.

Q] After finishing your respective series, whenever that might be, what do you hope to write next? Do you see yourself trying out different genres? Different formats?

RJH: I’m a very big fan of the Steampunk genre so I’d love to give that a go at some point.

Q] In closing, do you have any last thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

RJH: Just thanks for listening and I hope you enjoy or already have enjoyed my books.


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