Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Mark de Jager?
He’s a long time fantasy fanboy who wishes he had more time to play games and spends his downtime re-reading dog eared paperbacks. The constraints of reality mean I work full time in the City and write whenever I can around that.
Your debut novel, Infernal, will be published in August by Del Rey UK. It looks rather interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
Thanks. I did try come up with the classic ‘elevator pitch’ for Infernal; I always liked ‘It’s Jason Bourne meets Lord of the Rings, except Jason Bourne is the Balrog’. Of course, that only works if the person I’m talking to knows the references!
If not, I’d say its a character driven fantasy thriller following the story of a demon with a fractured mind who’s only certain of one thing: that he’s being hunted.
I’ve written it to stand by itself and as part of a series, and am currently working on book two, which will pick up right where Infernal ends.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
The main character, Stratus, has his roots in a (very) old but long running D&D campaign that I ran for some friends. He’s come a long way from there, and has evolved along the way like the rest of us. The catalyst for Infernal came from watching a rather dull clip on youtube, which started me asking my favourite question: what if?
I read a lot, and have always done so. It’s fantasy for the most part, but I’m equally happy to dive into crime, horror and non fiction, mostly historical stuff. I have a huge interest in World War 2.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
My first exposure was in High School. We didn’t have much money growing up and, aside from begged and borrowed Tintins, my reading had been fairly limited. Finding the school library was a real ‘choirs of angels’ moment for me. Someone asked me if I’d read any Dragonlance stuff, and so I found my way to the tiny sci fi and fantasy section and had my mind blown again. I read my way through it all, then went on to plunder the local municipal library. Libraries rock.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
It’s great! It’s still a bit of strange experience seeing my name on a shelf or in a window, but it’s been a fantastic experience so far. It’s an amazing community. Despite all the commercial considerations that have to be taken, passion and creativity are still at the heart of it all.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I try and keep to the same writing routine: an hour in the morning before my day job starts, and another at lunchtime. Weekends are a bit looser on when, but I stil try to keep to two hours a day. Even if I only write a single sentence, I put the time in. It’s a discipline that gets easier the more you do it. We’re all creatures of habit.
We’re surrounded by information these days and spoiled for choice when it comes to researching things, although I did go as far as taking up historical fencing to try and understand how it feels to fight with longswords, shields, spears, and so on. It really is an under-appreciated art form and boy, is it a world away from the guff that Hollywood puts on.
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’d been writing bits and pieces since High School really, mostly background fluff for roleplaying games I was running with my friends, but nothing more than a few thousand words at any one time. When we moved over to the UK, I no longer had that outlet, and so began writing down what would have happened in the adventures I had planned. It was truly terrible stuff, but it was fun.
I finished my first full length fantasy novel several months before Infernal came to me. Even though it wasn’t very good, it was a massive learning experience, and the rush of typing ‘The End’ was incredible. I knew I wanted, needed, to do it again.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I think fantasy is in great shape today, and it owes a massive debt of gratitude to George R.R. Martin and J.K. Rowling for that. The popularity of their respective series’ has done so much to dislodge the stigma that had been attached to fantasy for so long. They’ve made it okay for adults talk about wizards, magic and dragons in open company and an army of Harry Potter fans have grown up with an appreciation of what the genre offers, and they’re hungry for more.
I wanted Infernal to be accessible to anyone, and if it could serve as a gateway drug for someone to discover the joys the genre has to offer I would be over the moon.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on the follow up to Infernal and expect to wrap that up in the next few months. I have a number of ideas that I’d like to explore after that, although the ones I am most excited about are a contemporary horror and a standalone fantasy set sometime in the aftermath of the Infernal series.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I tend to read two books at a time, one on the train and one for downtime at home. I just finished an ARC of The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp, and have about two chapters left to read of Sleeping Giants by Sylvan Neuvel.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I once had a pet slug but my brother set it alight. Yes, it really is true.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
So much! First and foremost, Infernal will be released very shortly. There are a couple of good conventions coming up after that, which I’ll be attending as an author for the first time, then there’s our delayed summer holiday and Christmas (officially my all time favourite time of year), by which time book two will be with my agent. Who knows what 2017 holds?
Stratus wakes alone, with no memory of his past. All he knows is his name and that he is not human. Possessing immense strength, powerful sorcery and an insatiable hunger, he sets out across a landscape torn apart by a war, as a dark magic drives the world to the brink of destruction.
Disoriented and pursued relentlessly by enemies, he will have to learn what he truly is, or risk bringing the world into ruin…