Well, despite the global pandemic/zombie apocalypse, the convention circuit has risen from its grave, from the ashes, whatever metaphor you’d like. I’ve now fully updated this website’s listings, all the way through to late 2022! Check it our here: UK conventions and festivals: scifi, fantasy, horror and comicbooks | Metaphysical Fantasy (wordpress.com)
Sammy HK Smith is the author of the new smash-hit novel Anna. I blackmailed her into giving us this exclusive interview. It’s full of insight and secrets on how to become aninternational fantasy author – or your money back. Enjoy!
1. Sammy, your new book is pretty hefty. How much does size matter in fantasy, do you think?
So ANNA comes in around 100k, so not too hefty in size, but certainly hefty on subject matter. I’ve covered sexual abuse, PTSD, coercive behaviour, narcissism, murder, all in a pretty cover with a pretty name! Looks can definitely be deceiving…
With the actual word count of fantasy, no, I don’t think size does matter. If your story is told and it evokes the emotions/response you want – it’s done. I LOVE long over-arching storylines and worlds that go on and on, but equally those standalone novels and short stories are just as satisfying.
2. Of all your books and short stories, do you have a favourite… or do you love all your children equally?
Hmmm, I think I can comfortably say I love them in different ways! In Search of Gods and Heroes (ISOGAH) was my very first novel and so, as if the way with the eldest, it holds a special place in my heart. ANNA was my second and so vastly different that it’s impossible to say whether I love one more than the other! Technically, I would say ANNA is more focussed as it’s entirely one POV, whereas ISOGAH is told from 8 interweaving viewpoints…
3. Readers always ask authors where they get their ideas or inspiration. Do you have a muse? What’s your secret?
No real muse (God, I’m boring!) but I draw influence from everything around me: real-life work, politics, history, TV, literature, you name it! I love to think ‘what if…’ and mash ideas together.
With In Search of Gods and Heroes I thought ‘What if the goddess of Love was a masochist?’ and started to develop the character that way.
With ANNA, I initially wanted to write a light-hearted dystopia with revenge and romance… but it became something much darker and as I work investigating domestic and sexual abuse I started to realise that I could write something different. I drew on my experiences at work and the story unfolded from there.
4. Who’s your favourite fantasy author now deceased? Why them?
I think I’ll bypass some of the more famous authors and go for Sara Douglass. The Axis Trilogy was released during my teen years, and I think it was around 2000 I picked up the series and fell back in love with fantasy. It’s ‘old school’ in plot and pace, but it’s nostalgic and I love it.
5. Who’s your favourite living fantasy author and why (apart from Tom Lloyd or A J Dalton)?
Hmm, tough one. I have two favourites. Jacqueline Carey and Ian Irvine.
Jacqueline’s use of language is just beautiful and poetic, and her world-building is second to none, whereas I love how Ian can merge science fiction and fantasy seamlessly. They’re both ‘epic’ fantasy writers, though.
6. What’s the best thing about being an author?
Creating new worlds and characters that feel alive. It gives me a mini god complex! Oh the power!!! *evil laugh*
7. And the worst?
The crippling self-doubt, the knock-backs and rejections. It’s tough out there, especially for newish authors like me. I’ve been exceptionally lucky so far in that Rebellion publishing took my novel direct from me as I’m unagented.
8. What are you currently working on that you can tell us about without then having to kill us?
I’ve had loads of projects in various stages of development for years. Having kids stalled all of them! However I’m slowly flexing my writing muscles again and working on a standalone novel in the same world as ANNA but this time we focus on someone who is outwardly strong but inside they’re falling apart. We have drugs, slavery, murder, bit of romance, disabilities and a world of grief.
9. If people want to find out more about you, what sites do you maintain and what’s your handle on Twitter?
So I’m a technological luddite, so my sister has created a cool site for me at www.sammyhksmith.com but I’m on all the usual social media platforms for the @Sammyhksmith handle.
10. What question have I not asked you that I should have done? And what’s the answer?
Why should we read ANNA?
ANNA is unique. I don’t say that out of ego. It really is. I couldn’t find a book to compare it to that covers PTSD and sexual abuse so closely in the fantasy arena. There are some outstanding novels that cover childhood sexual abuse in a fantasy setting, but not many that delve into domestic abuse and the trauma that Anna goes through.
It’s hard-hitting. It’s not an easy read. I make no apologies for that. Rape isn’t easy for a survivor and I want people to think about how Anna behaves and the path she takes. It really is proving to be a Marmite love/hate novel and I find it interesting how it sparks of such strong feelings one way or another.
If you’re looking for something revenge-driven, Rambo style shootings and loud displays of vengeance, then this probably isn’t for you.
If you want something that makes you think, and draws out emotions, then give it a try.
Decide if each of the short passages below represent fantasy (F) or realism (R).
- Selden paused in surprise. In the afternoon rush of the Grand Central Station his eyes had been refreshed by the sight of Miss Lily Bart. It was a Monday in early September, and he was returning to his work from a hurried dip into the country; but what was Miss Bart doing in town at that season? If she had appeared to be catching a train, he might have inferred that he had come on her in the act of transition between one and another of the country-houses which disputed her presence after the close of the Newport season; but her desultory air perplexed him.
- The name he bore as a child, Duny, was given him by his mother, and that and his life were all she could give him, for she died before he was a year old. His father, the bronze-smith of the village, was a grim unspeaking man, and since Duny’s six brothers were older than he by many years and went one by one from home to farm the land or sail the sea or work as smith in other towns of the Northward Vale, there was no one to bring the child up in tenderness. He grew wild, a thriving weed, a tall, quick boy, loud and proud and full of temper.
- ‘I have come to vanquish thee!’ bruited the knight, his horse rearing. The sun shone prettily off the killer’s plate armour. / She retreated further into her cave and called out: ‘Do you really have to? I’m not that bad once you get to know me, honestly.’
- Dust. As strong as the seals on his father’s chambers were, the dust of the realm still found its way inside to cover everything. It was in the air, unseen but there, like so many things. It coated the inside of his throat and made his eyes run constantly. It was a permanent taste in the back of his mouth and he could feel it causing damage down in his lungs. When he moved, it caused irritation between his robes and his body, and sores at his joints. There was no escaping the dust, for it was pretty much all that was left of his realm.
- I’m not even sure I belong at this party. That’s not on some bougie shit, either. There are just some places where it’s not enough to be me. Neither version of me. Big D’s spring break party is one of those places. I squeeze through sweaty bodies and follow Kenya, her curls bouncing past her shoulders. A haze lingers over the room, smelling like weed, and music rattles the floor. Some rapper calls out for everybody to Nae-Nae, followed by a bunch of “Heys” as people launch into their own versions. Kenya holds up her cup and dances her way through the crowd. Between the headache from the loud-ass music and the nausea from the weed odor, I’ll be amazed if I cross the room without spilling my drink.
- Many years later as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.
Answers: 1R, 2F, 3F, 4F, 5R, 6 (trick question – magical realism, which is both F and R).
Most readers are able to identify the passages correctly as either fantasy or realism. What that tells us is that there is a particular style, quality, theme and set of motifs typical for each of fantasy and realism.
Furthermore, it tells us that realism is a genre of literature just as much as fantasy is. Realist literature, therefore, is not so simply understood as being ‘about the real world’. Instead, we might understand that realist literature is just as artistically created, deliberately contrived and dramatically constructed as any other genre of literature.
Curious, right? Why label it ‘real’ then? Ah, well, the reasons for that are concerned with social history, philosophic arguments, and artistic movements. Suffice it to say that any aspiring writer needs to have a grip on the features that typify realism and fantasy, which brings us to the ingenious checklist below…
For each pair of statements, decide which one tends (as a ‘rule of thumb’) to represent or be used by realism (R) and which one by fantasy (F)…
DESCRIPTION AND NARRATIVE PERSPECTIVE
- Stative, matter-of-fact or journalistic description/language
- Figurative, metaphorical or symbolic description/language
- Mainly emotional, Anglo-Saxon and sometimes antiquated vocabulary
- A regular mix of Latinate and Anglo-Saxon language
DESCRIPTION FOR GROUNDING THE NARRATIVE
- Familiar, domestic, boring detail
- Rich, exotic, world-building detail
- Dialogue in vernacular, colloquial, ‘street’ language
- Declarative, rhetorical speech
CHARACTERS WITH PLOT
- Heroic and archetypal characters who triumph against the odds
- A disempowered individual who fails despite their best efforts
- Incidental and haphazard plot, a bit like life
- A plot that has a clear shape and is a journey of spiritual growth
If you’d like me to check your answers, please do feel free to email me (Adam): adz_d2003 @ yahoo.co.uk – deleting the two spaces either side of the @ sign.
I’ll be posting a new lesson every day (Monday-Friday), to help people who are stuck at home because of the coronavirus situation. These mini-lessons will give you a useful daily routine, and might just keep you sane! Stay safe.
If you enjoyed this mini-lesson, do SHARE it with others.
Argh! Don’t look at it. Put out your eyes! Don’t tell anyone. Bite out your tongue! https://www.lunapresspublishing.com/post/interview-with-aj-dalton-by-megan-bond
From The Satanic in Science Fiction and Fantasy!
Cleopatra the cat has just picked up arcane Satanic secrets from my new book. She is now ready to tyrannise all humans (and mice)! Run for your lives! Or arm yourself with your own secrets by picking up a copy here!
Satan, Dracula, Sauron, Lord Foul, Darth Vader. The motif of the Satanic Dark Lord is ever-present in science fiction and fantasy, a malign intelligence seeking to thwart the Chosen One.
In the literature of the 1980s and 90s, the Dark Lord is always defeated. However, post-millennium, there are signs that he has finally begun to get the upper hand, as we witness his change from anti-hero to hero.
Like it? ‘The Satanic in Science Fiction and Fantasy’ is now available for (pre-)ordering on Amazon. Come on, keep the faith and support your struggling writer friend Adam. And the brave publisher Francesca Tristan Barbini! It might just save the entire world, and your soul to boot!
Here’s the jaunty new collection of essays from Luna Press, about the changing nature of evil in fantasy and science fiction. You can read about how the Dark Lord (Satan, Darth Vader, Dracula, Sauron, Lord Foul, etc) emerged and ultimately became the (anti-)hero of the piece. Or how the Chosen One rose up, only to be considered too wimpy by more recent generations of reader. In a nutshell, each sub-genre of fantasy (dark fantasy, urban fantasy, epic fantasy, high fantasy, grimdark fantasy, etc) tends to have its own distinct version of evil, based upon the socio-historical values that specifically inform that sub-genre. Plus, there’s a superior essay by yours truly in the anthology. Get your copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow-Within-Fantasy-Science-Fiction-ebook/dp/B07QNCXK6Y/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=francesca+barbini&qid=1565771312&s=books&sr=1-3
Stephen Deas is the author of the smash-hit novel The Adamantine Palace (as well as many others). I held his little toes to ransom until he give us this exclusive interview. It’s full of insight and secrets on how to become an international fantasy author – or your money back. Enjoy!
What’s the best thing about being an author?
And the worst?
What are you currently working on that you can tell us about without then having to kill us?
You want a list? OK…
Copy-edits for the penultimate dragon book, The Splintered Gods out in June 2014
The first draft of the last dragon book, The Silver Kings
Edits for Empires: Extraction, one half of a pair of Siamese twin SF novels written with fellow Gollancz author Gavin Smith (Aliens. Snarky spaceships. Sweary SAS men. They fight).
Copy-edits and proofing for an SF game tie-in novel that I can’t tell you any more about without having to kill you. Or more likely having my editor kill both of us.
Rewrites for a historical detective novel set in the English civil war.
All of these have deadlines. This is why it took me a while to get back with some answers to your questions 🙂
So, Channel 4 (UK) launched the new superhero series Agents of SHIELD this week. Was it any good? Bubble gum stuff really… which in Dalton’s world simply isn’t good enough. Missed opportunity. Look, I’m an oldschool Marvel fanboy, I even used to work in a comicbook store. The stuff that is being peddled on C4 at the mo just lacks the grit of the comics I used to read. There was no menace whatsoever. The ‘baddie’ was simply a misunderstood guy who fell in with evil scientists cos he needed the money to look after his family.
The episode had the required wise cracks that are a hallmark of Marvel, and enough babes and dudes to satisfy the eye, but the plot was just too thin – made even thinner by the fact that there was a commercial break every five minutes, meaning that actual screen time for the entire episode can’t have been more than 40 mins of the entire scheduled hour. To be generous, then, it was hard for the writers to fit in character introduction on top of a compelling plot. Something had to give, and sadly it was the plot. Maybe the jury’s still out, though, since there were plenty of nods towards larger themes that still need to play out, and hints about a clandestine movement working against SHIELD. So, I’m gonna give it a second episode, but it better start delivering overtime! … Especially when there are series like Game of Thrones being produced that are of a much higher standard.