Last year I was introduced to Marc Turner at Nine Worlds. I was afraid I rather scared him off due to my disavowal of zombie fiction (you all know my feelings about zombies) as his first novel When the Heavens Fall contained a number of undead. Thankfully, it turned out that I didn’t when he contacted me earlier this year about reviewing his second novel Dragon Hunters. Having looked at both the cover and the synopsis, I was hooked, so I gladly said yes and also asked whether he’d be up for an interview, to which Marc graciously agreed. I’ve already finished Dragon Hunters and it was massive amounts of fun and a great read. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I might just take my chances with the zombies and check out When the Heavens Fall. Check back tomorrow for a review of Dragon Hunters.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Marc Turner?
Hi, thanks for inviting me!
I am the author of the Chronicles of the Exile series, and I write epic fantasy novels with a dark edge and a healthy dose of humour. My first book, When the Heavens Fall, was published last year by Tor in the US and Titan in the UK. The sequel, Dragon Hunters, had just been released.
When I’m not writing, I’m doing more writing, reading, escaping into the countryside, or trying in vain to keep up with my six-year-old son. He’ll tire first, though, won’t he? I’m almost certain of it.
How would you introduce people to the world of The Chronicles of the Exile?
I guess the best way to introduce people to the world is to explain what I wanted to achieve when I created it. You know those maps that have “Here be dragons” or something similar on them to convey an area that is unexplored and dangerous? I wanted my entire world to be like that. I wanted to cram it full of mysterious civilisations, exotic creatures, and the sort of characters you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.
Most of all, I wanted it to be a world that readers were excited to explore. So for each book in the series, I’ll be taking them somewhere new. In When the Heavens Fall, they will visit (amongst other places) a demon world and a haunted forest littered with the ruins of a long-dead civilisation. In Dragon Hunters, they will spend time in a city slowly sinking into the sea, and a titan fortress that isn’t as empty as it appears.
As for the third book, Red Tide . . . well, let’s just say the Dragon’s Boneyard earned its name the hard way.
I wanted each book in the series to be a standalone story. I understand why writers end novels with cliffhangers – it’s a great way to get readers to pick up the next book. But as a reader, I find it frustrating when a book ends without even a hint of a resolution in sight, and I have to wait another year or longer (or much longer!) to find out what happens next. So, each book in The Chronicles of the Exile will be a self-contained story, albeit part of a larger narrative.
Because of this, you can enjoy Dragon Hunters even if you haven’t already read When the Heavens Fall. There are connections between the two books, but they won’t become apparent until book three and onwards. It’s only in book six that all of the various story threads and characters will come together.
Why fantasy? What drew you to writing in imaginary worlds featuring impossible creatures, instead of say a crime drama set at the Law Courts in London?
I used to be a lawyer, so I guess it would have been logical for me to try and write a crime drama. Unfortunately, when I started writing When the Heavens Fall it was (in part) as a way to escape the day job. Bringing that job back into my writing just wouldn’t have made sense.
More importantly, I’m a firm believer in the adage: “write what you read”. Fantasy is what I’ve been reading since I was a teen. It’s also, for me, the genre that most allows a writer to let their imagination run wild. In what other genre could I have written about Chameleon priests, dimension-hopping assassins, and sea dragons being hunted for sport? Well, I suppose I could have put them in a crime drama, but I’m not convinced there’s a market for that particular crossover.
What is your favourite phase in the writing process? The point where you’ve just started writing and trying to pour the basics of the world onto the page? The point where you’re fully immersed, when you’ve met all your main characters and now you’re just telling their story? Or are you one of those rare unicorn authors who really, really enjoys the editing stage?
I could be facetious and say my favourite part is writing “The End” on the final page. But that wouldn’t be like me at all (ahem).
I guess the part I enjoy most is the planning stage – before you have to do any real, you know, work. A lot of the fun of writing in a secondary world is dreaming up new characters, magic systems and fantastical locations. But, to be honest, I don’t mind the editing stage either. When you finally wrestle the manuscript into a form you’re happy with, you feel a huge sense of achievement.
When the Heavens Fall featured undead, Dragon Hunters has sea dragons, book three Red Tide has…? (Hey, you can’t blame me for trying, right?)
Pirates! An entire nation of them, in fact.
It’s also possible that we might not have seen the last of the sea dragons.
What’s next for you? Any appearances or conventions planned?
Next, I’m finishing the first draft of the fourth book in the series. As for appearances, I’ll be doing a reading at the Special Relaxed Fantasy Club in April. I’ll also be going to a variety of conventions this year, including Nine Worlds, so hope to see you there!
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
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?
Most of the books I’m looking forward to are continuations of existing series, so you’ve probably already heard of them. In terms of something new, I’m excited about Tom Lloyd’s Stranger of Tempest. Judging by the blurb, it sounds like a book I’m going to like, and if it’s anywhere near as good as its cover, then we are all in for a treat!
The other book I would mention is Red Tide, the third book in the Chronicles of the Exile series, which comes out in September. I happen to know it’s a towering force of literature. What’s that you say? It’s also my own book? Purely a coincidence I assure you. *Whistles innocently*
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 only read paper books, and I never get rid of them unless I really haven’t enjoyed them. As such, space on my bookshelves is at a premium. The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that I’ve received so many copies of my own books from my publishers.
I’ve therefore developed an ingenious filing scheme. I call it the “cram the book into any space I can find” system. It works surprisingly well, too – until I need to find the book again, that is.
Bio: Marc Turner was born in Toronto, Canada, but grew up in England. He graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford University, in 1996 with a BA (Hons) in law, and subsequently joined a top ten law firm in the City of London. After realising that working there did not mix well with simple pleasures such as having a life, he fled north first to Leeds and then to Durham in search of a better work-life balance. Unfortunately it proved elusive, and so in 2007, rather than take the next step and move to Scotland, he began working part time so he could devote more time to his writing. Following the sale of his debut epic fantasy novel, When the Heavens Fall, he started writing full time.
Why writing? Because it is the only work he knows where daydreaming isn’t frowned upon, and because he has learned from bitter experience that he cannot not write.
The authors whose work has most influenced him are Steven Erikson and Joe Abercrombie. Consequently he writes fast-paced, multi-threaded novels with a liberal sprinkling of humour; novels written on a panoramic scale, peopled by characters that stay in the memory. Or at least that’s the theory . . .
He lives in Durham, England, with his wife and son.