Let’s start with an introduction: Who is David Wragg?
Hi! I’m a middle-aged white British man of impractical height, and the author of the Articles of Faith series, the first of which is The Black Hawks. When not writing, I work as a freelance software engineer, and at home I am generally surrounded by/buried beneath cats and small children (usually mine).
Your debut novel, The Black Hawks, will be published by Voyager. It looks like a lot of fun: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
It’s the first in a two-part series, which I’m apparently not supposed to call a Bilogy. I’d summarise it briefly as: ‘a story about a young man with strongly held opinions about the world, and the intersection of said opinions with said world.’ More prosaically, it’s about a bunch of people just trying to make a living in the middle of a fantasy plot-line.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
The main arc has been with me a very long time (I think I can date it back to a dream I had somewhere before 2009), but the book itself was just writing the kind of thing I wanted to read – some twists, some scares, some action, and some laughs; mostly just semi-professional people trying to find their way through a world in a state of upheaval. The main protagonist has little to him but his wits (and not many of those) and determination, which stems from wondering exactly how well I’d fare if I found myself in a fantasy narrative. (Not well, not well at all.)
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
It’s hard to say for certain, as my early memories are sparse to say the least (I hit my head a lot), but like many of us I think it was being read The Hobbit by my dad on holiday. I was very into Asterix too, so Bard and Cacofonix are forever twinned in my head. This has led to some dissonance, to say the least.
The standard spiralling descent into genre followed: Fighting Fantasy books, Narnia, Hero Quest, my first White Dwarf subscription, Advanced Hero Quest, Advanced Advanced Hero Quest, you name it. On the reading side, it was Alan Garner, Ursula le Guin, then Pratchett and McCaffrey, then there was no stopping me.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
I’d describe myself as industry-adjacent – I’m close enough to see the wheels turning but I’m kept well away from the inner workings. Everyone I’ve encountered has been LOVELY, enthusiastic and supportive; publishing is full of incredibly talented people working extremely hard.
In terms of the writing itself, it’s fantastic but it’s also demanding, tiring and sporadically stressful. Writing is a craft, and working as an author is a job with a whole lot of uncertainty attached. But there’s no feeling like having your book in your hands, and I’m exultant with gratitude at where I am.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
Only routine: I write on weekday evenings, once the children are in bed. It doesn’t give me much time (I’m doing well to get 5,000 words done in a week) but it’s about the only way I can function in the rest of my life. I outline and read a lot of reference material while planning, but once a draft is underway I try not to break off to look things up. I try not to. I spend ages drawing up geopolitical histories, drawing maps, organising timelines and family trees … and then leave the result out of the book completely.
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 read obsessively in my early life, during my teens especially, from trash to transcendent and back again. Some of it was bad enough that it made me think “I could do better than this”. That idea sat at the back of my mind into my early 30s, when I left a long-held job in a huff and couldn’t face doing more of the same elsewhere. My wife encouraged me to have a go at writing instead, if only as a break (from my moaning, if nothing else). Obviously, the result was unpublishable, and I went back to work within a few months, but I’d done it. Then it was simply a matter of doing it again. And better.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
It’s magnificent. The range of voices, of experiences, of ideas, is greater than at any time I’ve known, and standards have never been higher. It’s glorious, if a bit intimidating. I’d see my work’s place as in the back row, between the fire exit and the cake table, just happy to be there.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
Black Hawks 2 is now with the editor, although I expect it will absolutely go through the wringer between now and its release next year. I’m working on a standalone follow-up in the same world, set a little after book two, and I’ve got a few other things planned as well. Watch this space, as they say.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I’m desperately behind on my TBR (and keep adding to it) – I’m still reading The Lies of Locke Lamora, which I should really have managed a decade ago.
If you could recommend only one novel or book to someone, what would it be?
If I were recommending to my younger self, it would be Good Omens, which is my all-time favourite book. To anyone else who’s a fan of fantasy, I’d go with Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, which is wonderful in all the right ways.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I’m taller than Sam Sykes but shorter than Jay Kristoff, and I was once nominated for a Radio 1 Student Award. I got to attend a glittering award ceremony in exotic London, and lost.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Releasing The Black Hawks into the world, getting through the edit on the second book, finishing the new one, then getting to something else. One day I also hope to have a holiday.