Today I’m joined around the campfire by epic fantasy author and another New Zealander (the desire to write fantasy must be in the air down there!) Mark Johnson.
- Hi Mark tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?
Hey Matthew, thanks for having me on! I’m an Epic Fantasy writer from New Zealand. I started writing as I was getting bored with high school teaching, and decided to do something different with my hours off.
- What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?
I’d say the thing that I like most about fantasy is the ‘mystery’ aspect. Most fantasies have some sort of ‘hidden secret’ the author asks you to consider and predict, and for me, the addition of a ‘supernatural’ element into the mystery is just too alluring.
I also like books that explore other societies and ways of living. How would society change if X technology were considered an everyday fact of life? What would you do differently if you could do X?
- Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?
My latest book is coming up in the first half of this year. It’s called ‘The Engine of Gods’, and it’s the fifth in my ‘FireWall’ series, and second to last of the series. The first book is ‘The Renegade Within.’ It’s about a woman who discovers corruption within her martial society, which is similar to Paladins. The corruption turns out to be the tip of the iceberg, and threatens the life of her god. She finds herself going down a path she never wanted, but must if she wants to save the life of her god and people.
- What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?
I tend to write people who just want to get on with their lives, but find themselves morally obliged to participate in the right action. That’s not really me at all, but I find the question of ‘have I done enough for my conscience to let me rest?’ is compelling to write.
I also like writing characters who learn about the nature of their powers, along with the dangers inherent in those powers. Are the powers truly making their lives better? Do they make anyone’s lives better? Can they keep the powers secret so they can just get on with life?
- For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?
Start with dialogue, and dialogue only. You’ll know if a scene works or not if the dialogue flows.
Start with a mystery. That’ll get you to write until the end of the book.
- What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?
Lol: ‘on track’. I usually start out with an ending and the middle changes completely, meaning that my deadlines have to get pushed out so I can go back and write new things. I try to keep to 1000 words a day, but I usually can’t, because I’m too busy redoing the plot and other scenes.
- Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?
Oh man I’m the worst combo of the two. I start with a plot. The plot gets cooler as I go and I have to go back and change the preceding chapters several times as I go, as well as changing the plot outline. If I’ve written several books in advance of publication (like I did for FireWall), then I go back and touch up a few chapters there, as well. It’s utterly frustrating.
- What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?
I’m currently plotting my sequel series and FireWall’s sixth and final book. My next series is about what the consequences are for what happens after the climax of the first series. An ongoing theme of my books is ‘there are consequences even for doing the right things’, and my characters go to a new place, to find the echoes/ripple effects of what happened in FireWall are continuing to spread.
- 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 find like stories that reflect the spirit of the times. There’s no clear bad guy and the heroes on both sides and their methodologies and worldviews both have flaws.
I prefer a darker approach to deal with the more complex side of social problems, when the answers to society’s problems aren’t obvious.
- What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?
LotR’s context was amazing for the time, and it deserves the praise it gets. But it also is showing its age and overt simplicity. Harry Potter has much more complexity and nuance, and it’s what people need in these times. The good guys aren’t always obvious.
Don’t get me started on Star Wars.
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