Marc Turner is the dashing and debonair (and sometimes delusional) author of the forthcoming epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of the Exile. He was born in Canada, but grew up in England, and currently lives in Durham with his wife and son.
And he’s as confused as everyone else as to why he’s started talking about himself in the third person.
Your debut, When The Heavens Fall, is due to be published this year by Tor Books. How would you introduce it to a new reader? Is it the beginning of a new series?
When The Heavens Fall tells the story of a mage who steals an artefact, the Book of Lost Souls, that gives him power over the dead. He uses it to resurrect an ancient civilization in order to challenge Shroud, the Lord of the Dead, for control of the underworld, and Shroud responds by sending his most formidable servants to seize the Book. But the god is not the only one interested in the Book, and a host of other forces converge, drawn by the magic that has been unleashed.
I spent a long time trying to think of a tag line that captures the book, and I came up with “The Lord of the Rings meets World War Z“. I should note, WTHF is not a zombie apocalypse story, but if you read the book (if? When!) you’ll understand the reference.
WTHF is the first in a series of six books. I know that fantasy authors aren’t always the fastest writers, so about now you may be thinking Six books! and wondering if the series will be completed in your lifetime. Fortunately, books two and three have already been written, and book four is in the planning stage. Book two, Dragon Hunters, is scheduled to come out in February 2016, and book three, Red Tide, in October 2016. That’s right, three books in seventeen months. I’m spoiling you, I know.
What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspirations from in general?
It’s difficult to say what the inspiration for WTHF was because I wrote it so long ago – I started in 2006 or thereabouts. But as for the authors whose work has influenced me most, I’d say Steven Erikson and Joe Abercrombie. Consequently I write 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 …
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
I think the first fantasy book I read was Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings. That led me onto Feist, Brooks, Dragonlance, etc. It’s a well-trodden path, and I confess it became a bit too well-trodden after a while. I fell out of love with the genre at the beginning of the ’90s. When yet another farmboy discovers that he’s the most powerful warrior/assassin/mage (*delete as applicable) in the world, you don’t need to read on to know how the book will end.
George R.R. Martin changed all that for me, as I suspect he did for many others. Then came the likes of Erikson and Abercrombie. So I guess you could say I’ve had two introductions to genre fiction.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
It’s a dream job. I mean, I actually get paid to daydream. Go figure. I’m lucky enough to be able to write full time. I work longer hours than I did even in my old job, but it’s not about the time spent, it’s about the fulfilment it gives you, and there’s something uniquely satisfying in breathing life (I hope) into new stories and characters.
Of course, it’s still work – and there are times when it really feels like it. But if I’m having a bad day, all I need to do is consider what I’d be doing if I weren’t writing, and that quickly brings a fresh perspective.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I have one writing practice that I think people will find unusual. I write multi-threaded books with several different viewpoint characters, and I write each of the threads in turn – so the whole of one character’s story, then the next character’s story, and so on. I find it helps me maintain a consistent character voice. Only after all of the threads are written do I start weaving them together.
It takes a lot of planning, and it can lead to mistakes. For example, I might discover that character X mentions a plot point that gets a big “reveal” by character Y in the next chapter. And in the third book of my series, Red Tide, I reached the end of the first draft only to realise that the story of one of the characters was spread over five days, whereas everyone else’s was spread over four. Cue some re-writing. And swearing.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I’ve been writing on and off for as long as I can remember, but the first significant foray that I can recall was after A-levels when I wrote the opening chapters of a book that I still have gathering dust somewhere. Do I look back on it fondly? Maybe. Just don’t ask me to read any of it again.
I suppose the moment I started taking writing more seriously was after I sent the first two chapters of WTHF to a “book-doctoring” organization. They employ published authors to read and comment on your work (for a price), and the feedback I got back was very positive.
UK Cover (Titan Books)
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I must confess, I’m not the best person to ask for an opinion on the genre. There was a time when I used to be a prolific reader. I would regularly read until three or four in the morning, but with a five year old who doubles as a 7 a.m. alarm call, that’s just not possible any more. Plus the time I spend writing is increasingly eating into the time I would otherwise spend reading.
As to where I fit within the genre, I’ll leave that to others to decide. But somewhere near the top, obviously (ahem).
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m currently planning book four of the series. I’m also pretending to give good editing advice to my wife, who’s working on a book of her own. It’s not a novel. My wife has had chronic glandular fever since she was seventeen. It’s a soul-destroying and poorly understood illness (or at least it is when it hangs around for this long), and my wife is writing about her experiences of it. Obviously, when you’re that ill, finding the health to write isn’t easy (it’s taken her seven years to get this far), so I’m helping where I can.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I’m reading Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence, and liking it. The Broken Empire trilogy was one of my favourite fantasy series of recent years. No-one crams more character into their characters than Mark Lawrence, and Jorg was one of the most memorable characters I’ve come across. At the moment, I’m not enjoying Jalan from Prince of Fools quite as much, but I’ve still got a long way to go, so maybe that will change.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I used to be a DJ … sort of. As a student I helped a friend of mine run a mobile disco. We did weddings, birthdays, and so on. It was fun, mostly. Though every time I had to put on the Can-Can or the Grease Megamix a little piece of me died.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
I would have to say publication of When The Heavens Fall. Anyone who isn’t excited about the release of their first book is probably in the wrong job. And for me the anticipation has really been building over the course of the last month or so, what with the release of my video trailer for the book, and the publication of my short story, There’s a Devil Watching Over You, at Tor.com. If anyone is interested, you can watch the video trailer below (or here), and you can read the short story here. Or if you prefer, you can listen to a free audio version of the story narrated by Emma Newman of Tea and Jeopardy fame, here.
Marc Turner‘s When the Heavens Fall is due to be published in the US by Tor Books on May 19th, 2015; it is due to be published in the UK by Titan Books, on May 22nd, 2015. For more on Marc’s novels, writing, etc., be sure to follow him on Twitter and visit his website. You can also read a short story set in the Chronicles of the Exile world over on Tor.com: There’s a Devil Watching Over You
Also on CR: Review of When the Heavens Fell