Sunday, November 30, 2014

PUYB Chats with Tom Stacey, author of 'Exile'

Tom Stacey is an English author of the fantasy novel, Exile. Tom was born in Essex, England, and has lived there his whole life. He began writing at school, often taking responsibility for penning the class plays, or writing sketches with his friends. While attending university to read history, Tom developed his writing by creating several short stories, some of which would later become to basis for his debut novel, Exile.

Tom self-published Exile in summer 2014 and is currently working on the sequel as well as another unrelated novel. He earns a living as a video producer in London in the day and writes at night, a bit like a really underwhelming superhero.
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About the Book:

On the fringes of the Verian Empire, two small boys stumble upon a strange altar, buried in the heart of a mountain. There they awaken a horror unseen for generations, that will descend upon the realm of men while it is at its weakest. For Veria is a nation at war with itself, only recently recovered from a bloody rebellion, and the time of heroes has passed. The empire is in a state of chaos, and while its ruler, the Empron Illis, rids the land of his remaining enemies, unseen forces are gathering at the borders. However all eyes are turned inwards. The Empron is not a well man, and there are whispers among the common folk that his advisors are spies; demons that only wear the flesh of men.

Yet there is hope...

In the distant mountains, a forester who has buried his past learns that he has not been forgotten, and that his crimes have sought him out at last. But he is no simple woodsman. He is Beccorban the Helhammer, Scourge, Burner and the Death of Nations, and his fury is a terrible thing.

For when all the heroes are gone, Veria will turn to those it has forgotten, before all is lost.

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Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads

Thanks for joining us at the book club today, Tom!  I’d like to start out by asking you about your earliest stab at writing? 

Tom: When I was at primary school (elementary school), our teacher set us a creative writing task called ‘The Quest,’ where we had to get a character through a series of trials in order to reach a Holy Grail type object. It was my first real piece of creative writing and I loved it. My poor character had to face such wonders as a corridor of spinning blades, an acid lake, and a dark and twisting labyrinth, complete with Thesean monster. I wish I still had it but it’s either buried beneath mountains of schoolwork in a dusty cupboard somewhere or it has long since turned to mulch. Probably for the best since my handwriting would have been awful!

You work as a video producer in London.  I know that must be an exciting job!  Tell us about it?

Tom: I get this question a lot when I meet new people and I can tell you that unfortunately it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. I work largely in corporate video, so most of the time I am simply overseeing a one camera interview with a CEO talking about financial reports and the like. Surprisingly, a lot of the executives I film can be very nervous in front of a camera!

Every now and then something more exciting does come up. For example last year I was asked to help promote the TV series Vikings. We gathered a group of about twenty Viking reenactors and a 150ft wooden longship on a trailer and spent the day causing havoc in London. That was a lot of fun, especially when we had to be out on the Thames at 6am filming the ‘invasion.’ If you want to see the final result, you can see it here:

That’s the kind of thing that makes it more than a desk job. It also makes you fall in love with the city, since although we didn't have any permits, people just looked on in wonder or wanted to pose for photos. London is a magical place sometimes and it is a privilege to work there.

How did you get into epic fantasy?

Tom: When I was about 8, my teacher put a drawing of a wizened little creature in a reed boat up on the projector. It had a passage describing him and I was mesmerised. The creature turned out to be Gollum, and the descriptive passage was the first time he is mentioned in Riddles in the Dark, a chapter of The Hobbit. My teacher told me that she knew I would like the book and so I asked my mum to get me a copy of it. I went on to read The Lord of the Rings and then anything else I could find. A few years later, I discovered Hero in the Shadows by David Gemmell. It turned out to be the third part of the Waylander series so I went back and read the others and I was hooked. David Gemmell has been my favourite author from that point onwards, and is arguably my biggest influence as a writer.

As for what got me into writing fantasy, I had always told myself I would write a book, and knew that it would probably be a fantasy book when it came. I wrote a short story when I was at university called The Soldier. This eventually became the first chapter of one of the characters in Exile and the rest sort of fell into place.

I love the premise of your new book, Exile. Tell us about this altar that two small boys find which sets the scene for the beginning of your book?

Tom: I don’t want to give too much away about the altar itself, but I can tell you that it is something of great power. It is commonly known as a 'bloodforge' and is something that modern Verians have not been exposed to, in the same way that in our world we have ancient religions and cultures that we know very little about. The characters will discover more and more towards the end of the book and in the sequel (which I am currently writing).

Who is Veria?

Tom: Veria is actually a place. It is the chief nation in the continent of Daegermund and, at the time when Exile is set, is the seat of a powerful empire. Its ruler is the Empron, a man named Illis. 

Who is your favorite character in your book?

Tom: That is a difficult one. It’s sort of like asking me to choose my favourite kidney! They all have things I like about them. Beccorban is a love letter to some of my favourite characters from books I have read. However, I like to think that he is more troubled. He has done some very bad things in his life. Loster thinks he is weak but he’s got a lot of courage inside of him, and that is something I think we all can identify with. Callistan is a bit of a man removed. It’s difficult to get inside his mind as he doesn’t really know who he is past a name and a title. Riella has a special place for me. I never really intended her to have too much to say, perhaps because I was nervous about being able to write a woman well. She quickly became someone I really respected. I will say, the oddest thing about writing a book — as I’m sure anyone who ever has can agree with — is that your characters quickly become friends. In my more absent-minded moments, I find myself wondering how Beccorban is getting on, or what Callistan is up to. It’s a strange thing, I’ll admit, but sometimes it can be really rewarding to live in your own head.

Who would be the character most people would love to hate?

Tom: I would be interested for the readers to tell me, though I think it will be Droswain. Droswain is someone you meet later in the book but he always makes my skin crawl.

Will there be more epic fantasies for you in the future?

Tom: Absolutely. I am already writing the sequel for Exile and I have a big notebook full of future stories. There are lots of fantasy ideas in there but also a sci-fi series, a historical fiction book, a historical fiction saga, a robinsonade that I have already begun, a truckload of short stories, and some screenplays. Just need to find the time to write them!

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