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Sunday, December 12, 2021

SPFBO Finalist Interview: Tim Hardie, the author of Hall of Bones



Author info: Tim Hardie grew up in the seaside town of Southport during the 1970s and 1980s. This was before anyone had even heard of the internet and Dungeons & Dragons was cutting edge. Living in a house where every available wall was given over to bookshelves, he discovered fantasy writers like JRR Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Ursula Le Guin, Alan Garner, Stephen Donaldson and Susan Cooper. Those stories led him into the science fiction worlds created by Frank Herbert, Philip K Dick, Arthur C Clarke and HP Lovecraft.

After training to become a lawyer Tim lived in London for three years before moving to Yorkshire in 1999, where he has worked ever since in a variety of legal, commercial, financial and management roles. His writing began as a hobby in his early twenties and has gradually grown into something else that now threatens to derail his promising career.

Tim writes epic fantasy that will appeal to fans of Joe Abercrombie, John Gwynne and Robin Hobb.

Find Tim online: WebsiteTwitter,

Book Information: Hall of Bones Series: The Brotherhood of the Eagle Published: November 25, 2020 Genre: Dark Fantasy Pages: 421 

Book Links: GoodreadsAmazon



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

I’m a fantasy author based in the UK. I live in Derbyshire in England and although I’ve been writing creatively for 16 years, I only released my first book, Hall of Bones, in 2020.

Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

I’m employed by a local authority in a city in England, working within the Finance & Commercial Services department. My job is very varied as I’m responsible for a number of different areas, so no two days are ever the same. Writing was something I started as a way to relax after work, allowing me to exercise my creative side.

Who are some of your favorite writers, and why is their work important to you?



This could turn into a long answer, so I’ll confine myself here to talking about current influences. The work of Mark Lawrence (no, I’m not just saying this because of SPFBO!) and Joe Abercrombie were both really important to me as I started to work seriously on my writing. Both of them have a really strong author voice - that ONE THING you’re told as an aspiring writer you need to find but no one can ever describe. Reading their work and the blend of darkness and humour they bring to their novels helped me understand that for the first time - even though I can’t fully explain it either!



More recently I discovered John Gwynne, who I think is probably one of my closest comparable writers. The Faithful and the Fallen is a brilliant series and I loved the way he played with the classic fantasy tropes. It made me think hard about my story structure and how you could mix action with the more human side of the story.




Probably the biggest influence on Hall of Bones was The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. The world and magic system she created was fantastic but the depth of her characters set those books apart. Those novels have an air of sadness and regret that would be unbearable, except there’s just enough love, friendship and hope to balance things out. I don’t mind admitting there are echoes of Assassin's Apprentice in Hall of Bones, especially in the first half of the book.

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

I use as few words as possible. I dislike flowery language and over-description, because I think this slows down the narrative and gets in the way of the plot. I try and keep my prose short and clean. It’s the reader’s job to fill in the blanks and use their imagination, so it’s important not to stifle that interaction. When I edit the first question I always ask is how can I make this sentence shorter? (That previous sentence is now half the length it was when I first wrote it!)

I also try to be realistic, so I show the strengths and weaknesses of my characters, as well as the society in which the story is set. The founders of the Laskan clans had some very fixed ideas, not all of them good. This is putting them at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to facing the various challenges they will encounter during the series.

What made you decide to self-publish Hall of Bones as opposed to traditional publishing?

I originally pursued the traditional publication route, mainly because I had no idea there was an alternative. I secured an agent (John Jarrold) with Hall of Bones and we set out to approach the publishing industry. Hall of Bones got some great feedback, which encouraged me to continue writing the series. However, as time went on I realised if Hall of Bones was going to be taken on it would already have happened.

I couldn’t bear the idea of putting that book aside and abandoning the world I’d created. I knew it was a good novel, so at that point I began exploring independent publishing, with the full blessing and support of my agent. I’ll admit, I was fearful of all the technical work involved and at first I didn’t know where to start. I’ll never forget how helpful other independent authors were in coming forwards and offering their advice and support.

Slowly, I got to grips with social media (I’m a relative newbie on places like Twitter and Facebook), building a website, commissioning cover art (that was fun), formatting my book and cover for Amazon (that was not fun) and all the other things that go with being an independent author. I learned lots of new skills, made some good friends and found myself exploring a whole new world. Honestly, the last 12 months has been one of the most positive experiences of my life.

What do you think the greatest advantage of self-publishing is?

The creative freedom. This is obviously part of what SPFBO is celebrating but I think the ideas, tone and story structure of many independent books mark them out as being very different from what you’d find in the local bookstore. Traditional publishers are looking for the next big thing, of course, but they’re also looking for the kind of books that have sold well in the past. They’re counting on those selling well in the future to help them pay the bills and take a chance on other authors. However, that can sometimes lead to a feeling of ‘I’ve read this before’ when you pick up a book off the shelf in a bookshop.

Honestly, I’ve never thought this whenever I’ve tried a new independent fantasy author. Every single time I’ve been surprised by their creativity, and all those stories have stayed with me. The top end of independent publishing is brimming with new ideas. It feels like stumbling on a secret magical bookstore when you discover the work of these authors.

On the other hand, is there anything you feel self-published authors may miss out on?

Don’t get me wrong, traditionally published authors have to work extremely hard but when you're independent the fact you have to do everything can feel a bit overwhelming at times. I do struggle with editing and also the technical side of cover art and getting this spot on for Amazon (although I’m fortunate to have a great cover artist called Anne Zedwick, for whom nothing is ever too much trouble).

I will say, though, that the self-published writing community is an incredibly helpful, friendly and supportive place. Even though I’m literally in competition with my fellow writers in SPFBO it never once felt like that. We cheered each other on through every good review and commiserated with each other when someone’s journey came to an end. This is a brilliant competition, because it showcases not just excellent and imaginative writing but also what can be achieved through being kind and supportive.

Why did you enter SPFBO?

Self-publishing and promotion is hard and getting noticed is much more challenging than I expected. SPFBO offers a welcome opportunity to give new authors like me a lift and a chance to raise the profile of their book.

What would you do if you won the SPFBO?

I only found out I made the finals on 30th October and I’m writing this on the 5th November, so I’m still getting used to the idea of being a Finalist. Frankly, I don’t know how to answer that question. It’s a bit corny, but I genuinely feel like I’ve already won. Getting detailed reviews from ten well-respected book blogs and all the attention and publicity that goes with it is the real prize. Maybe ask me this question again in May 2022!

How would you describe the plot of Hall of Bones if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

Hall of Bones tells the story of Rothgar Kolfinnarson, the second son of the Reavesburg clan chief, and how he and his family deal with a growing threat from a rival clan. As they learn more, they discover dark magical forces are at work and their people face a threat like never before.

What was your initial inspiration for Hall of Bones? How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea?

Hall of Bones was one of those rare moments when an idea just landed, fully formed, in my mind and stuck. I was on holiday in Porthleven in Cornwall during the summer of 2011 and I’d made the decision to set my first novel aside. It wasn’t good enough and I was looking for a new project. Rothgar just wandered into my imagination and based on his character I knew I was going to use the Viking culture as the backdrop to the story.

I wrote the first draft of Hall of Bones between 2011 and 2015. During that period the politics, intrigue and rivalries between the seven clans was ever-present. What came to the fore as I developed the story were the magical elements. This can be seen in the story structure, where magic (though referenced earlier) only starts to become prominent about 40% of the way in.

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

I’m struggling a bit with that one, so I’ll go with three words instead:


Intrigue

Family

Change


Hmm - three words isn’t enough. Turns out I’m not as concise as I thought I was!

Is it part of the series or a standalone? If series, how many books have you planned for it?

Hall of Bones is the first instalment of The Brotherhood of the Eagle series. There are four books in total:

Hall of Bones - published in 2020

Sundered Souls - published in 2021

Lost Gods - due for release in 2022

Broken Brotherhood - due for release in 2023

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to Hall of Bones’ protagonists/antagonists?

I will admit the number of characters in Hall of Bones did get a little out of hand (almost 150, including the gods and various dead historical figures). There is a handy reference guide at the back! However, there’s a much smaller group of central characters:

Rothgar Kolfinnarson - the viewpoint character for Hall of Bones, who aspires to be a great warrior like his father, the chief of the Reavesburg Clan, and elder brother, Jorik.

Nuna Kolfinnardottir - Rothgar’s younger sister, who finds herself being used in the politics between Reavesburg and the neighbouring rival Norlhast Clan.

Etta the Crone - the ancient counsellor of Rothgar and Nuna’s father, who is far more influential than she first appears.

Johan Jokellsward - a jarl and staunch supporter of Rothgar’s ruling family, who finds his loyalty tested to its limits.

Gautarr Falrufson - another Reavesburg jarl, who believes his family should rule the clan.

Adalrikr Kinslayer - the main antagonist, who rules the Vorund Clan and begins a war against the Reavesburg Clan.

Tyrfingr Blackeyes - one of Adalrikr’s jarls, a scourge of the Reavesburg Clan, known for his cruelty.

Nereth - a mage in league with Adalrikr, who holds the chief of the Norlhast Clan, Karas Greystorm, in her thrall.

How did you select the names of your characters?

I knew I was going to use a Viking-inspired setting, so the names needed to reflect that culture. Fortunately, lots of records left behind by the Vikings still survive today. A fantastic resource called http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/ gathered them together, including a list of names found in the sagas, grave markers and the like. I used these as a starting point, although I have anglicised them to make them easier to pronounce.

Does your book feature a magic/magic system? If yes, can you describe it?

The Brotherhood of the Eagle features a ‘soft’ magic system, with magic being mysterious and/or intuitive for the user. It’s a gift from the avatars, the god-like servants of the Creator, who helped build the world of Amuran (the fantasy setting for the series) and walked among its inhabitants at the dawn of civilisation.

One of the key themes of The Brotherhood of the Eagle is the consequence of a terrible war between the avatars, which led people to turn aside from magic. Those who do use such arts are shunned or distrusted as a result.


Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Hall of Bones?

I need to be careful not to give away spoilers here, but the cover reflects events in the book. The Norse symbol tells the reader the type of culture they will find in the story. I mentioned earlier I try to keep my prose short and, for a similar reason, I didn’t want a picture of my characters on the cover. I want the reader’s imagination to create their own version of the story and characters.

I opted for more of a stylised feel as a result. Fire is important in Hall of Bones and you can see that in the cover, whilst ice is a key element of Sundered Souls. As for Lost Gods - you’ll have to wait and see!

Which question about the book do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Q - Who opened the postern gate?


A - I’m not saying. You’ll have to read Sundered Souls to find out!

I know that’s a bit cheeky but that very question was rattling around in my mind throughout Hall of Bones - now you get to share the experience.

Can you, please, offer us a taste of your book, via one completely out-of-context sentence.

This quote from Sundered Souls seems to have resonated with readers and picks up on a key plot point for the rest of the series:

“My name was stolen, along with my life. Now I am the Weeping Warrior. I seek to redress the balance if you’ll help me.”

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2021/2022?

As mentioned above, I have a clear plan for completing the series between now and 2023. In addition, I have a separate story, set in the same fantasy world but in a different location with new characters, out to submission with publishers. The book is called A Quiet Vengeance and I completed it in 2020. Due to delays following the pandemic it’s still out to query at the moment but watch this space!


My current focus is on completing Lost Gods so it can be released in 2022. However, I’ve found having a break between drafts is really helpful. It gives me time to do stuff like this but I’m also planning to write some short fiction too. The problem with having such a vast array of characters is you have to be selective about what you include in the novel. These short pieces will flesh out some of the history of Amuran, as well as providing further information on the stories of some of the supporting characters. It’s the first time I’ve written short fiction, so I’m looking forward to trying something new.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

Thanks so much for inviting me to take part. In closing, I’d say SPFBO is a fantastic competition and it demonstrates there are so many incredibly talented writers publishing independently right now. Taking part for the first time this year has been an amazing experience. Do take the time to check out the writers in this and previous contests. More importantly, if you enjoy the work of an author please try and find the time to leave a review. Reviews are a huge encouragement to authors in what can, sometimes, be a lonely road. They’re crucial in helping readers discover new books, so if you leave a good review you’ll make an author’s day!

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