When I was contacted about reviewing Tower Broken, I had to admit to not having read any of them. So I quickly hit on the idea to have a Tower & Knife week, reviewing the whole trilogy and including an interview with and a guest post by Mazarkis themselves. Yesterday I brought you my review for The Emperor’s Knife, today I have an interview with Maz. I hope you enjoy Maz’s great answers!
First to start off with a basic question: for those folks who don’t know who you are, how would you introduce yourself?
Mazarkis Williams is a fantasy author responsible for the Tower & Knife trilogy, comprising The Emperor’s Knife, Knife Sworn, and The Tower Broken. A bit dull, but there you go.
Having just finished off the Tower and Knife series with The Tower Broken, what’s the biggest lesson finishing the series has taught you about writing?
To stop being romantic about writing. The writing advice out there is always to write with your gut, to make it painfully real, to essentially throw up all over the page. But I have found that keeping some distance allows me to get the job done.
In addition, I have learned how to write to a deadline, which some people in my family, writing for newspapers or magazines, learned a long time ago. I am the kind of person who starts lots of things but really has to be encouraged to finish them. The Emperor’s Knife took six years to write while Knife Sworn took ten months and The Tower Broken six. It’s a job and you sit down and get it done like any other job. You can’t sit around and wait for inspiration to hit you. That’s not to say it can’t hit you, just that you can’t wait for it.
And finally, I learned to trust myself. I can write. Most of the time I believe it.
In your guest post “Writing is writing” on Justin Landon’s Staffer’s Book Reviews you talked about your struggle writing Knife Sworn, not just because writing your second published book is difficult for every writer, but you also had a tough year due to other circumstances. After all that, how hard was writing The Tower Broken? Was it easier than you imagined or did the sale of Night Shade Books and the resultant turmoil make it harder than you’d hoped it would be?
I don’t remember that particular post, but of course I remember Knife Sworn being bone-shakingly difficult. But I found a better way to work and as a result The Tower Broken was far easier to write.
Because my primary contract is with Jo Fletcher in London, the turmoil in Night Shade Books did not affect me as much as it did the other authors. I was mostly concerned for them, and crossing my fingers that the third instalment of Tower & Knife would eventually be released in the United States.
I’ve noticed that author’s often have characters in their story who they feel closer to than others, whose voice comes to them more easily than others. Did you have any favourites? And which character from the series will you miss most?
I loved all the characters in The Emperor’s Knife. I spent six long years with them, and I cared for each like children – even Tuvaini. In Knife Sworn, I mainly connected with Banreh. He was depressed and disconnected from the people around him, which is exactly how I was feeling at the time. He had a strong undercurrent of ambition, yet liked to think of himself as a good guy. Ultimately his self-loathing slid into addiction. You might be remarking to yourself right now that you don’t remember Banreh in Knife Sworn. In fact his storyline, about the war in Fryth and his rise to leadership, was cut from the final version – a good call by my agent, since it distracted from the overall plot.
Beyond him I liked Rushes, who was brave when she could have hidden away and done nothing.
In The Tower Broken, I had several themes and storylines to wrap up. Therefore each character was chosen carefully. Mesema and Sarmin, as a callback to the first book and to wrap up their story; Govnan, to show the workings of the Tower; Didryk, to show the politics of Yrkmir; and Farid, to show the magic of Yrkmir from the point of view of someone learning it for the first time. I chose them for plot reasons, but that does not mean I cared less about them. They were all very important to me, and I wanted to make sure their arcs were resolved.
As far as who I will miss, nobody. You see I can always make up stories about them in my own head. They’re never really gone.
With a series finished and under your belt, what’s next? Will you be exploring more of the world you created for this series or are you looking forward to exploring new worlds and civilizations?
I’m looking forward to something new. My next book is more of a post-collapse thing, with a mixture of science fiction and fantasy elements.
If I did ever return to the world of Tower & Knife, it would be so far in the future that Sarmin the Saviour would be legend.
In this interview with Dominic at Fantastical Imaginations, your true identity would be revealed at WFC 2013 in Brighton. Did that not happen or did I completely miss it?
It turned out my editor was very surprised to hear this. It was a misunderstanding.
I don’t know if or when the Mazarkis identity will be revealed.
In the same interview you said you wouldn’t keep writing as Mazarkis Williams. Will you allow your new (pen)name to be linked to the Mazarkis Williams name or will you keep them completely separate?
Will you keep writing fantasy or do you plan to explore other genres placed under the umbrella of speculative fiction or even further afield to crime, historical fiction or even literary fiction?
What I like about fantasy are the questions of loyalty and heroism, the bonds of friendship versus the pull of ambition, and the corrupting nature of power. I suppose that would fit in a literary book, except I wouldn’t get to make up a world.
I think that if I attempted writing literary fiction I would accidentally stick a dragon in there or something. Better to stick with what interests me, and stick with fantasy, or at least books that can be shelved in that section.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
In the coming months? I’m still catching up on 2010! Let me give it a try, though.
Anne Lyle’s The Prince of Lies, the third in her Night’s Masque series, is one that I am looking forward to reading. Another, coming out a bit later, likely in 2014, is the third to Courtney Schafer’s Shattered Sigil trilogy, called Labyrinth of Flame.
I am going to list some authors now that I think you should check out, if you haven’t already: Howard Andrew Jones, Teresa Frohock, Zachary Jernigan, Jeff Salyards, and E. J. Swift. I promise you will be amazed by any one of them.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
Generally speaking, by genre. But we moved four years ago, and had boxes of books that were crowding the house. I wanted to shelve them both by genre and alphabetically, and it was taking me too long – so they got thrown up on the shelves without rhyme or reason. Over time I have been able to sort them to some extent. All my histories of piracy are in one place, as are most of my medieval history books, and most of the fantasy. Still, there is a constant need to search the shelves for misplaced titles. An honest answer to this question is “chaotic lack of a system,” but it’s not my preference.
Thank you, Maz!
Bio: Mazarkis Williams has degrees in history and physics, and a passion for cooking and cats. Mazarkis has roots in both Britain and America and now divides time between Bristol and Boston.