Monday 3 March 2014

Guest Author Interview - Martyn Stanley

 In today's guest author interview we meet Martyn Stanley, author of the 'Deathsworn Arc' series, find out more about him and his writing below:
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Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I'm Martyn Stanley, my background is really in Information Technology, but for the last few years I've been in a non-IT management position. I've had varied non-work interests over the years, from being the lead guitarist in a band, to martial arts, including attaining a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I've been a keen reader and a keen video games player and commentator. These days most of my free-time is taken up with either writing or toddler herding my two children.

What first inspired you to start writing?
I started writing on an online collaborative writing forum, or RP forum where each poster writes what their character does and you build stories together. It's a great way to start out as you can practise dialogue and narrative without concerning yourself too much with structure. Plus of course it's very easy to write small chunks and bounce ideas off each other, I started writing on forums in around 2000. It was really the Star Wars Galaxies MMORPG RP forum that got me interested and got me to start writing.

And what attracted you to writing fantasy?
I've always loved fantasy, in games, films and books. I think Star Wars is actually more space-fantasy than science fiction, that's why I started writing Star Wars fan-fiction. Unfortunately I don't own the intellectual property rights to Star Wars so to write something commercially I had to create a new world to write in. I love Star Wars as a theme, but Star Wars withholding, I'd prefer dwarves, elves and dragons to spaceships and warp drives any day. (Though I'm not ruling out a space series at some point in the future.)

If you could write anyone's biography, whose would it be and why?
Difficult question, I don't think I'd like to write a biography. The reason I like writing is that it's so free of constraints. If you ever play a lengthy, open ended RPG video game like 'Skyrim' you can do a lot of things and be very free in your character development. However you are always constrained, by the game mechanics, by the pre-populated world, by many things. In writing you sit down with a blank page and the possibilities are endless. The only real rules are the ones you write yourself, and even then those rules can be broken if you have a specific need to and can convincingly write an exception to that rule. I think if I could write a fictional biography I'd write the biography of 'god' it'd probably be the abrahamic god of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Mormonism. I'd maybe write it that he'd presented himself as other gods like Brahma, Vishnu, Osiris, Zeus, Mithra, Apollo, Ahura Mazda and Quezovercoatl for specific reasons and try to explore his thoughts and feelings behind doing this - the 'Whys' if you like. I am an atheist as you can imagine, and I find the idea of a universe creating god fascinatingly absurd. Now we're drawing a conclusion that there may be multiple universes - if god created our universe did he create the others? Did he create reality itself? What if reality is infinite? I think it'd be a difficult book to 'get right' and I imagine it wouldn't be popular with religious fundamentalists, but I think it'd be fun to write and an interesting project - I might even take it on one day, when I'm feeling brave!

What is your favourite word?
I have many temporary favourite words, much to my wife's dismay. It's almost like I have a 'word of the week' thing going on, where I find a word interesting, and use it to death for a while until I'm bored of it. Recently it was 'tolerable' and I went around describing benign things as 'tolerable' if I didn't mind them, but didn't have a strong positive opinion on them. 'Benign' was word of the week once as was 'banal' and 'exponentially'. When I'm having a 'word of the week' I often use it inappropriately, partly for fun and partly to exercise freedom of expression. Words are interesting in that they can be used to convey meaning in many ways, sometimes you can use words to convey a meaning which is contradictory to the official 'meaning' of the word. I think that's something unique to English. Maybe according to Chomsky's Theory it explains why native English speakers perhaps have a reputation for being eccentric, creative and easily capable of 'thinking out of the box'. A good example is the story of world war 2, when the Nazi's were holding all the French ports and had them ready to destroy if they were taken by the British, Hitler reasoning that if you held the ports you held Europe. The British Solution was to build a port, Arremon? Something like that - you can still see big concrete bits of the temporary port on the beach there today. It was an incredible feat, to build a port under enemy fire and use it to start transporting troops and armour over. I can't help but think part of why it worked was that it wouldn't occur to the Nazi's to do something as outlandish and audacious, so by the time they were aware of what was happening it was too late.

Fantasy is a popular genre to write in, what makes your books stand out from the rest?
My fantasy is unusual. I don't say that arrogantly, I didn't intend it to be what it became when I started out. I set out to write a fairly off-the-shelf fantasy adventure story. However when I'd had the idea for Brael Truthseeker, I realised I was onto something, something big. I blended a lot of real-world science into the books and anyone well versed in physics, chemistry and biology will have fun spotting the subtle references. I suppose my fantasy series 'The Deathsworn Arc' is a blend of fantasy, science, moral debate and exploration of atheism.

The atheism gets stronger as the series progresses. They are probably marmite books for that reason, religious fundamentalist's won't like them, but someone once told me it's better to be loved by a few than liked by many so I don't mind. It's an interesting thought experiment too, in reality, no matter how unlikely a creator god seems, it's probably impossible to completely disprove the existence of one, so what would happen if you could? I explore this, and I explore the effect of people having their faith ripped out from under them. I am critical of religion in the series, but I also explore the challenge of re-framing your sense of purpose and morality without religion. I don't suggest it's easy and the characters aren't necessarily happy to have their faith destroyed. Eventually the series will progress to a stage where a god-like being will seize the throne of Torea and I will then explore life under a despotic, tyrannical ruler with god-like powers. There's also a strong theme of pragmatism, and deriving morality from pragmatism in the books.

Every author loves a good review, what has been your favourite so far?
My favourite on Amazon, was Linda Parkinson-Hardman's review.

This is a typical fantasy novel; bunch of local tough guys are given a task to fulfill by a ruler and go off to rid the land of an enemy (in this case a dragon). As such you sort of know what to expect and when; this could detract from the story, but it doesn't. Martyn blends characterisation with location and the bigger, broader questions of life in a blend that keeps the reader interested from the beginning. He also delivers some wonderfully unexpected `punches' at just the right intervals to make them read to the end.

On Goodreads I thought Isis Sousa really got where I was coming from with her review:-

When I just started reading this book, in the very first pages, when the characters are being introduced, I was a bit skeptical of what was about to come. The reason is that the main characters in this story are a mage, an elf, two barbarians, a human and a dwarf and I was afraid this would be another “very inspired” LOTR plot.

But I went on reading, and once the gang was formed, the story took a very different course. In this first book, the heroes go on a journey to kill a dragon which is harming a village. During their journey, we learn more about the characters, but specially two of them, Korhan and Vashni (a barbarian and a female elf). They develop a very special relationship along the story, which keeps the reader very curious to know how this may evolve and eventually what the author has planned for these two.

I think the character’s voices could have been written in a bit more distinguishable way and I think the scene/chapter where the bunch fights the dragon could have been more elaborated.

The plot is however very engaging from the beginning to the end, keeping you entertained and curious during the read. Wherever this group goes, they end up helping those they come across, making the reader captive discovering how they will solve these situations, in different towns and villages.

For those who enjoy a good Fantasy series, this first book is very promising and will make you want to read the sequels

What are you working on at the moment?
I'm desperately trying to finish off book 3 of the Deathsworn Arc. It was going to be called 'The Temple of the Mad God' but now I think that will be book 4 and this one will be 'The Blood Queen'. It's crazy, originally 'The Temple of the Mad God was going to be book 2, but it got too big so I split it and pushed it back. I hate that I'm doing it again, but if I don't it will end up being bigger than the first two books put together and I don't want that. I hope to get it done, edited and uploaded early January?

Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
The criticism of religion and examination of belief and morality gets a little stronger in book 3 of the Deathsworn Arc. The survivors of the quest finally make it back to Cormaroth, the Capital, but there is like the other books, a fair amount of death, despair and hopelessness in the book. It's a gritty series, it paints a grim, rather stark reality which the characters inhabit. There's maybe not quite so much action as book 2, but it paints a broader picture of what life for ordinary Torean's is like and it shows the desperate situation the Empire is in during the series. I really start to explore Vashni's past in book 3 and have a lot of 'big reveals' for her.

For more information on the series and any other works I take on, you can see my blog on goodreads:-

Or 'Like' the Deathsworn Arc Facebook page:-

Books by Martyn Stanley on Amazon:

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