Mark Lawrence is the author of Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, Emperor of Thorns, Prince of Fools, and the upcoming The Liar’s Key. Mark has short stories in several anthologies such as the ‘Dark Tide’ in Fading Light, ‘Quick’ in Triumph Over Tragedy, and ‘Select Mode’ in Unfettered.
How often do you write?
Mark: It depends. Right now I’m writing for an hour or more on most days, but certainly not on all days. At other times I might go for several weeks without writing anything.
Why do you choose to write when you do?
Mark: It’s a combination of actually having the time available and having the urge to write. I never force myself to the page – if I don’t have some idea bubbling away that needs to be set down, I do something else instead. The big fear is always having some great scene/lines in mind, not writing it, then forgetting it. That’s really annoying.
Are you a ‘seat of your pants’ writer or do you like to know the direction of your novel (or series) beforehand?
Mark: Generally I make it up as I go and surprise myself each chapter. I’m writing the third book of my second trilogy now though, and for that I decided to plan the story in advance to see what that would be like.
You write wonderfully in the first person POV, what steered your decision to write The Broken Empire from this view?
Mark: It just seemed a natural choice. I hadn’t written anything much in first person at that point, but the inspiration for Jorg, the main character, was Alex from Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange (1962), and that book was written in the first person.
What led you to the idea of making each Broken Empire book into two stories, one of the past and one of the more recent events? (i.e. In King of thorns the reader is led with chapters titled ‘Wedding Day’ mixed with chapters from one year earlier.)
Mark: In Prince of Thorns the ‘four years’ earlier sections are essentially traditional back story, required to explain our protagonist. In King of Thorns they’re a definite and continuous thread. One led to the other but in King of Thorns the earlier thread essentially gives us an extra point of view, allowing the big picture to unfold while in the “now” we’re stuck in one day and one castle. Without the earlier thread it would be a very claustrophobic tale.
It seems to me that many fantasy authors prefer the third person POV, what advantages do you think 1st has in the context of fantasy?
Mark: First person has the advantages of immediacy and giving events a greater impact. You can really get into someone’s thoughts in first person without it feeling forced. The disadvantages are that it can be harder to develop other characters since they’re all seen through the main character’s eyes and you can’t get into their heads. Also, being limited to one point of view makes it difficult to show a large-scale event unfolding. Generally this would be achieved by hopping between a range of characters who between them can deliver the big picture to the reader. Epic fantasy is generally about large-scale conflicts and the like, so first person can struggle under those conditions.
How do you deal with sudden ideas when you write? Do they happen often?
Mark: I write them down/out … and yes, most of my ideas are sudden!
You recently released Prince of Fools, the first book in a new trilogy, what have you learned from writing The Broken Empire that has helped you with writing the next trilogy?
Mark: I don’t know … there’s an assumption that practice makes perfect, but writing talent can’t really be measured so who knows if any particular individual is getting better or worse at it? There are certainly no compact and easily pointed at lessons I can point at and say ‘I learned not to do this’. It’s very hard to know what the reading public will or won’t like. All I can do is write what pleases me and see how it goes down in the wider world.
Any advice for first time writers with hopes of getting into fantasy?
Mark: Keep the day job. Join a critique group and write short stories. Grow a thick enough skin to take the sting out of criticism without being so thick that it stops the important advice getting through. Do not believe that your success or lack thereof with short fiction magazines is an indication of the quality of your work.
Any closing comments?
Thank you for your time!