Halloween is almost here and what better way to celebrate then with tales of ghouls and the ravenous undead! Coming through the woods with bloodied axe in hand is fantasy author, Lee Conley the author of the Dead Sagas.
- Hi Lee tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?
Hello Matt, thank you for having me. My name is Lee C Conley, author of The Dead Sagas series. I live in the cathedral city of Lincoln in the UK with my wife and daughters. By day I work as a professional guitarist, and by night I am either teaching historical martial arts, and generally fighting with a longsword or a sabre, or I am writing. I’ve always loved reading so it just seemed natural when I wanted to write my own stories and it just went from there.
- What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?
Fantasy is my preferred genre to read, always since I was a kid. I only recently branched out into other genres of fiction in the last 15 years. I think it’s the escapism of it all, a chance to remove yourself from the world and enter another. It’s as simple as that really. I’m a big horror fan too, and believe if a book can scare you the writer has got it right so I am on a little quest to write things that are scary. It just seemed natural to try and do that in the fantasy settings I always knew I’d write in. Fantasy is such a fantastic genre, full of myths, legends and folklore all mixed up with popular historical culture into the pure fantastic. Fantasy and speculative fiction is potentially limitless really. It gives the imagination complete freedom to make up whatever you like, however you like, its pure fantasy and escapism.
- Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?
I just recently released the second book in The Dead Sagas, A Ritual of Flesh, it certainly came with some challenges. One a writing level, this book was the book that really revealed the mystery of the first book, A Ritual of Bone. I took a calculated gamble with the writing of the first book, I knew the second was needed straight away as there are many plot threads that were set up and still needed resolving by the end. I wanted to hook readers and drive them straight into book 2 with questions. The challenges were to weave all those threads together as book two really finished the story elements that were left hanging and completes and resolves the first part of the series. A Ritual of Flesh required a lot more careful plotting that the first. Also this new one was the culmination of my publishing learning curve to date. It is the first novel that I think I got right first time and will not have to make future tweaks to the covers or editing, I made those mistakes on my earlier books and this time it all came together into a pretty workable process to move forwards with.
- What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?
One striking trait of the people of Arnar in The Dead Sagas is undoubtedly the sense of honour that pervades that culture. It is so steeped in Anrar culture, it is a way of life for them, and that it has given the book a nobledark aspect which was unexpected. Most of the characters in The Dead Sagas, even the antagonists, are certainly noble characters they are just all working to their own ends, in fact it is quite hard to pin down exactly who all the antagonists are. I think a little of yourself goes into any character you write, there is certainly more of my perceived traits in some characters more than others.
- For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?
Get an editor! Definitely polish that work so it is the best it can be, you will need that second set of eagle eyes, no matter how good you are. Getting a good editor is a must, something I learned by having to re-edit some of my previous work.
Also if you’re going the indie route, do not skimp on cover art and book design. The old adage, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is unfortunately, yes true, but also, in this day and age, completely wrong. Your book will indeed be judged by its cover before a reader even picks it up, and with the masses of great books out there, you cover will need to stand out. Don’t skimp on covers or editors, they are the essentials.
- What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?
I don’t like deadlines so simply never use them. In any project, my own sense of obsessive work ethic will simply get it done if it needs doing, and creatively it just takes as long as it takes. I am now studying a creative writing degree and sometimes you need to write to a deadline in that, so I always give myself a few extra weeks and just crack on, often it doesn’t take long for the initial draft anyway I find, and without the pressure I find it helps to keep the creativity going.
- Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?
I am a bit of both. A Ritual of Bone was heavily pantstered in the early stages just to get a feel of how the plot and characters would emerge. As things appear, sometimes they were re-written and a bit of plotting came in to help me really pull it all together and entwine the plot threads in the most effective way that I needed for that scene, for the impact I was trying to achieve with certain elements.
As I said earlier, the second book, A Ritual of Flesh, was much more plotted out. All events and plot threads were woven together to a plan, but the chapters were still pantstered in a way. I knew what I needed to achieve in each chapter but had no idea how that would actually happen until I wrote it, the small details, the sometimes can be the best and most crucial parts.
- What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?
I will be writing the rest of The Dead Sagas in one go I think. It will be two books but I will write them in one consecutive drafting period. Those four books will be the main series, but there will be scope for perhaps a few standalones in the same world. Once I have finished the main series, I may well start a different project before I return to any standalones for The Dead Sagas, perhaps some dark sci-fi, maybe a wyrd west, but possibly a different horror fantasy. We’ll see. I do have plans to release a short story collection, probably very soon as I seem to be amassing some fun short stories and though it would be nice to release a small collection in the next 6 months, so watch this space.
- With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?
I always seem to prefer stories with a darker touch, regardless of the world around me. I do like very dark stories and settings with heroes, I do appreciate a good hero, but I just want the themes to be dark and brooding, it’s how I like to escape, strange as that sounds.
- What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?
Easily Lord of the Rings! The films, books, everything—it has been so incredibly awesome! It has had such a huge impact on the genre as a whole, more so I would say, than Star Wars has had on Sci-fi, I’d say fantasy has influenced sci-fi more, and Lord of the Rings is so important to fantasy it’s the winner by far. I do love Star Wars though, especially the games that have spawned from their canon. I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan if I’m honest, I enjoyed what I read but never finished the series, I was content to just watch the films to finish the story but never found to much of a draw to that world, I was more Conan and things like that.
Anyway, that’s all from me, but thank you to Matt Olney for inviting me to do this interview. Thank you to anyone who is reading this for taking the time, and I hope you found my ramblings interesting.
The first two books in The Dead Sagas, A Ritual of Bone and A Ritual of Flesh are out now (links below). If any of my work sounds of interest, please do dive into the world I have created, but if you do, remember… Fear the Dead!
For more information on Lee’s work visit his website:
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Social media links
Twitter: @LongswordLee or https://twitter.com/LongswordLee
Instagram: @LeeConleyAuthor or https://www.instagram.com/leeconleyauthor/
Reddit: u/LeeConleyAuthor or https://www.reddit.com/user/LeeConleyAuthor
Universal Sales links:
Many thanks to Lee!