Last March I reviewed Graham Edwards’ Talus and the Frozen King, a bronze-age crime fantasy, featuring a Sherlockian sleuth and his trusty companion who need to resolve an essentially locked-room murder mystery. I really enjoyed Talus’ story and am looking forward to reading his further adventures in the future. I found the idea of a bronze age historical fantasy fascinating and as it fit my historical fiction quite well, I asked whether Graham would be amenable to an Author Query, which he was. Below you’ll find the results.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Graham Edwards?
Well, I’m an Englishman with Welsh and Scottish ancestry, which I guess makes me comprehensively British. My first novel Dragoncharm was published in 1995. Since then, I’ve written twelve other novels (some under my own name, others ghostwritten under pseudonym) and some short fiction. I have a day job as a graphic designer, and I also get to indulge my passion for movie visual effects by writing weekly blog posts for Cinefex magazine.
Talus and the Frozen King stars Talus and Bran. How would you introduce this intrepid duo to your readers?
The story of Talus and the Frozen King is set at an indeterminate time in the late Neolithic. Talus is a wandering bard, an inveterate storyteller. Bran is a straight-talking fisherman tortured by recent tragedy. Brought together under strange circumstances, they’re on a long trek to the far north to the fabled land where – so it’s said – the northlight (that’s the aurora borealis to you and me) touches the skin of the world.
Talus’s storytelling skills – his interest in cause and effect, his fascination with what motivates people to do what they do, his overwhelming desire to find truth inside chaos and lies – mean he’s well-placed to be a detective. The world’s first detective, perhaps. But his analytical mind make him something of an outsider in the various communities he passes through, and he can’t always fathom the workings of the human heart. That’s where he needs Bran’s stolid, common-sense support.
Is the resemblance to a certain Victorian crimefighting duo deliberate? Well, Talus doesn’t play the violin, and Bran isn’t a qualified medical professional. But since my elevator pitch for the book was “a stone-age Sherlock”, I can hardly deny my sources!
What drew you to writing about the Neolithic?
I hated history at school. Too many kings and queens, too many disconnected revolutions and civil wars. Never any context. I’ve always thought of history differently – as a continuous, flowing river in which everything connects. Whenever I think of it in those terms, my mind naturally strays to the river’s source, the wellspring. Prehistory.
Two novels about prehistory have inspired me. The first is Stig of the Dump by Clive King, which was one of my childhood favourites. It’s about a modern-day boy who befriends a caveman he finds living in an old chalk pit near his home. The second is Robert Holdstock’s incomparable Mythago Wood, in which a small patch of English woodland conceals a vast, magical realm of prehistory and myth.
In their different ways, both books ask questions about who we are, and where we came from. They evoke strangeness and beauty, but they also tell compelling stories about characters you care about deeply. That was the trick I wanted to achieve with Talus and the Frozen King; yes, I wanted to delve into the past and yes, I wanted to explore what it means to be human, but most of all I wanted just to tell a good yarn.
Obviously it’s hard to convey a setting that long ago through language, as we don’t know what sort of language these people spoke. How did you go about thinking up the names of your characters? Did you draw inspiration from cultures that are familiar to us today?
Talus and the Frozen King is set so deep in the past that, as far as the names are concerned, it might as well be a fantasy novel. Yet the names need to sound authentic. They need to sound right.
Since the story is set in the north-west of Scotland, I started with Gaelic. I compiled a list of words I liked from an English-Gaelic dictionary – words that related to character traits like “friend” or “giant” or “spirit”. Then I distorted them, trying to imagine an earlier word from which they might have been derived. But mostly just coming up with a sound I liked.
For example, the Gaelic root I chose for “mighty” was “cumhachdach”. Once I’d mangled the syllables, it became “hashath”, the name of the frozen king from whom the book takes its title.
As for Talus and Bran, well, Talus is a contracted form of Taliesin, the Brythonic poet. And Bran is just an ancient Welsh name I like. My story predates these references considerably, of course, but I believe names are powerful things that endure in one form or another for a long, long time.
Bran is driven by his memories and grief at the lost of his wife, yet Talus seems only driven by his curiosity. Will we ever find out more about where Talus comes from and what has driven him to wandering?
I know more about Talus than I’ve revealed in this book. Equally, there’s a lot he hasn’t told me yet. I hope that, in time, the mystery of what drives him will be fully resolved.
What’s next for you? Are you working on a new book? Do you have any appearances on the docket? Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
I’ve just finished ghostwriting a fantasy novel. My next project is a follow-up to Talus and the Frozen King. The working title is Talus and the ______ _____ (I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks). I’m one of the guests at the one-day genre fiction convention Edge-Lit 3 in Derby, UK in July, where I’ll be doing some panels and a book signing.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
My other big passion is films, in particular visual effects. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some amazing people for the Cinefex blog, including animator Phil Tippett, dinosaur supervisor on Jurassic Park, and Roger Christian, who built Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber for the original Star Wars.
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?
I love everything by Joe Hill, especially his recent NOS4R2, so as far as I’m concerned he can’t write his next book quickly enough. Jo Walton’s upcoming My Real Children – which apparently is about “life and love and choices and moonbases” – sounds interesting. And I’m looking forward to seeing how much shit gets blown up in Gareth L Powell’s Hive Monkey and Macaque Attack.
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?
I use the “chaos” method. It’s marginally more effective than the system used by a colleague I once worked with. When tasked with reorganising our design studio’s extensive reference library, he arranged all the books by size …
Bio: Graham Edwards is the author of novels including Talus and the Frozen King, Dragoncharm and Stone & Sky. He’s also written a number of novels under pseudonym. His short fiction includes the fantasy detective series The String City Mysteries. Graham writes a weekly blog about movie visual effects for Cinefex magazine.