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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Interview with Mark de Jager, author of Infernal

Official author website
Preorder Infernal over here: USA / UK

Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little bit about yourself. Feel free to brag. 

Well, when I’m not at work or writing (yes, writing is work but I meant the day job kind) I’m usually out walking, reading, gaming online, or eating. Food and drink bring me great joy and I might well have been a hobbit in a previous life. I live in southeast London with my wife Liz.

When and why have you decided to become an author? 

The idea that maybe I could actually write something that someone else would like to read only really took hold about eight years ago. I’ve always been a big fan of the fantasy genre and helped run a book review blog for a few years which helped demystify the process. 

How old were you when you first sat down to write a fantasy story or novel? 

About eight years younger that I am now! I’d dabbled with stuff before then, but mostly as background fluff for D&D and similar games that I was playing. The first time I sat down with the idea to write an actual continuous novel length story was late 2012ish, and it took me just over a year to finish it. That first attempt was a mess, but an invaluable learning experience. 

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. When and where do you write? Do you start with a character, an image, or an idea? Talk a little bit about how a novel “grows” for you. 

I work full time, so I had to make a conscious decision to carve out a time for myself. When it comes to writing, I start with the seed of the idea and try to expand on it. More often and not what I think is a cool idea is more like a cool scene. It has to be able to stand up to what I call the ‘And then?’ test. If it survives that, I’ll do a rough outline and start fleshing out the main character until I can get a sense of their ‘voice’. 

How often do you write? Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired? Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day? 

I discovered that I prefer writing early in the day, so I get up that bit earlier and park myself in the (incredibly supportive) Costa near my office for at least 45 mins before office hours, every weekday and with a target of 500 words. I know I should be saying ‘every day’, but life does intrude! Having that routine does help and I try and stick to it no matter what, but if I can’t, I try and make it up another time to hit my 500. It’s an achievable target, so never feels too daunting, and I get a buzz out of beating it. 

What’s the hardest thing for you during the whole “writing experience”? 

The self-doubt/impostor syndrome. No matter who you are, there’s a point where you just look at the manuscript and convince yourself it’s utter rubbish and destined only for the recycle bin. It’s like a runner hitting ‘the wall’ mid-race. 

What did you find easy, difficult, or surprising about the publishing process? 

Firstly, that the people within the industry are generally a great bunch. However, I found the pace that things move at a bit hard to understand at first, which may just be a by-product of the nature of my day job. The wheels turn, but at their own inexorable pace! 

What was your initial inspiration for The Chronicles of Stratus series? 

A Youtube clip of a family at a zoo. They were clearly on a day out and were at the tiger enclosure, trying to get it to react. The tiger wanted to get to them so badly, and they just stood there eating snacks and laughing at it, and I just really felt bad for it. 

You originally published Infernal in 2016. Is the republished version exactly the same or was the story tweaked in any meaningful way? 

It’s largely the same manuscript, except that this time it’ll be followed by the rest of his story. 

What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any? 

It’s written in a first-person point of view, which has its own challenges. I could only tell the story from Stratus’ perspective, which meant that I had to be well and truly inside his headspace, which was a bit of a rollercoaster given his inhuman nature. 

If you had to describe Infernal in 3 adjectives, which would you choose? 

Fresh, gory, and darkly humorous. 

Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers will sympathize with them? 

Stratus is a conflicted character- he knows he isn’t human, and he knows he’s being hunted, but he doesn’t know what he is, who’s chasing him, or why. The world that it’s set in isn’t a friendly one, and despite his strengths, he’s actually quite vulnerable. 

A tricky question - the main characters in any book are commonly considered a reflection of the author. Is this true in Infernal? 

I reserve my right to remain silent on that one! 

Infernal is dark and violent but also darkly hilarious. I loved your grim humor and Stratus’ lack of social graces as it added levity to the narrative. In your opinion, what’s the place of humor in dark fantasy? How exactly would you describe the tone of Infernal? 

I’m glad to hear that! I think that humour definitely has a place in fantasy, and beyond. It’s always been part of the human coping mechanism, even if it’s sometimes very subjective and a product of the circumstances people find themselves in. The real difficulty comes in striking the right balance and keeping it true to the setting. Stratus was a great foil simply because he is so utterly different to whose sensibilities he offends. 

Would you say that the Chronicles of Stratus series follows tropes or kicks them? 

I like to think it gives them a bit of a kicking. Nothing too serious, maybe a bruised rib or two. Tropes should like a good glass of wine, complimenting the meal but not overpowering it. 

Alright, we need the details on the awesome cover. Who's the artist/designer, and can you give us a little insight into the process for coming up with it? How does it tie to the book? 

I like that Rebellion have used the same studio, Head Design, that did the original cover so they had the original notes and background to the story to hand. There are a number of factors they had to take into account, but I think they really knocked it out of the park. Each element ties into something within the story and brings it all back to Stratus and his struggle to understand himself. 

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2020/2021? 

As at today’s date, Infernal is on schedule for publication in November, with Firesky to follow in Spring 2021. If you like the cover for Infernal, you’re going to love Firesky’s! 

Do you have any other authorial goals that you are striving towards that you want to talk about? 

Up to now, getting Firesky into print and telling the rest of Stratus’ story was my number one goal. I’m currently working on another project for Rebellion but also have a few really fun ideas I’d like to tackle, including venturing into Horror territory. 

Can you name three books you adore as a reader, but that make you feel inadequate as a writer/in awe of the craft? 

I’m a big fan of Tolkien and his vision first and foremost so I’ll put Lord of the Rings down as one. Raymond E Feist’s Magician blew my mind the first time I read it, and I read it again last year and it did it again. 

David Gemmell’s Druss the Legend definitely takes pride of place alongside them. 

Can you please provide an out-of-context quote from the book to get readers pumped to read Infernal? 

“How in god’s name do you accidentally eat someone?” 

Finally, can you tell us a couple of fun facts about yourself that are not already available on the internet? 

I make my own sausages, and am terrified of karaoke. 

Thank you so much for agreeing to this conversation, Mark! We greatly appreciate your time and thoughts.

No problem, it was a pleasure! 



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