Welcome to today’s stop on the Blackwing blog tour hosted by Gollancz. Blackwing was an outstanding success, read my gushing review here, and I was excited to be able to put some questions to Ed McDonald for the tour. Thank you for stopping by to check out the interview and don’t forget to check out all the other amazing blogs taking part in the tour this week. First I will share a few details about Blackwing and Ed McDonald himself. Then on to the Q&A!
Book Synopsis for Blackwing
You think you know Misery? You’ve not seen anything yet…
The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.
The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.
Blackwing is a gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch and Daniel Polansky.
About Ed McDonald
Ed McDonald has spent many years dancing between different professions, cities and countries, but the only thing any of them share in common is that they have allowed him enough free time to write. He currently lives with his wife in London, a city that provides him with constant inspiration, where he works as a university lecturer. When he’s not grading essays or wrangling with misbehaving plot lines he can usually be found fencing with longswords, rapiers and pollaxes.
Ed’s debut novel Blackwing is the first part of The Raven’s Mark trilogy. Blackwing will be published on July 20th 2017 by Gollancz in the UK, and October 2017 by Ace in the United States. German, Spanish, French, Hungariann and Russian translations will be available from 2018. This bio was taken from Ed’s personal website: edmcdonaldwriting.com (The picture is from Twitter)
The Q&A Section
Thank you for taking the time for answering a few questions about your work. I loved Blackwing, it is most certainly the best fantasy release of 2017.
Could you tell us all a little bit about yourself?
Thanks for the kind words! I’m in my mid-thirties, I fight people with swords, I write books about people who fight with swords and ultimately, I wish I was a wizard.
Where did the intial inspiration for Blackwing come from?
I think that there are so many bits of me in Blackwing in one form or another that there’s no clear single idea in my mind about what it even is. I have always wanted to write sword fights, but I also love themes of magic and power (especially the terrifying magic that you can’t really fight). I wanted to write a fantasy where the romance wasn’t a sideline – people often don’t seem to notice that the relationship angle is the driving force behind the plot at all times. Where did all the messed up stuff in the Misery come from? I really don’t know… but I think children are scary, which kind of explains the Darlings, the gillings and the grey children.
The characters in Blackwing are superb. Ryhalt Galharrow was gritty, scarred and hilarious at times. The monsters and villains are menacing and terrifying! What challenges did you face when writing these characters into the book?
The characters never really presented much by way of challenge – I think that there’s a balance to hit when you’re writing a character like Galharrow, though. As he’s an alcoholic, I felt it was important to portray the downsides of an addiction, not just have him slugging whisky all day and then being on top form. Hopefully readers can see that there’s nothing glamorous about his hard-drinking existence, and that really, he’s ashamed of himself.
The hardest thing to write was working out the mechanics of Nall’s Engine, the paradox, the investigation and then making it all tie in together in a fun story. I couldn’t sleep for three nights at one point as I tried to resolve it all.
Your fantasy writing is excellent. I thought The Misery was an amazing and unique setting. Could you give us some insights into your time writing Blackwing?
I always planned to write super-historical fantasy, a really ‘accurate’ alternative history. But I’d been doing that for years and to me, it just wasn’t fun anymore. With Blackwing I took a different approach and just said to myself that I’d write whatever I felt was fun. I had this random idea to have neon lights and then that just kind of morphed into a central theme and plot device. So I guess I’d say that I just write what I enjoy.
I will say however that I write in a very awkward and inefficient way. I massively over-write then delete a lot, I write tangents and plot lines that never go anywhere and then get deleted and beating the mystery plot into shape… well, that’s where the sleepless nights start!
I am desperate to read the other instalments of The Raven’s Mark series. Can you give any insights into where you plan to take the series?
The second book is written – it continues the story four years on, building on the idea that gets put forward in the final chapter of Blackwing. All of the surviving characters return in one way or another, and there’s another good dose of the Misery. The third book will resolve an overall arc that began in Blackwing and will run throughout.
You blended together fantasy and sci-fi so effortlessly. What attracted you to these genres as a writer?
I’ve always wanted to write fantasy. I never really considered Blackwing as having sci-fi elements, I was just throwing in things that I thought were cool. The Engine and the light spinning and all that stuff just seemed to be a way to do something a bit different to what else is out there right now, and I always love it when I read a book that’s not just the ‘same old, same old’ fantasy world.
Are there any writers/authors who have influenced you when writing Blackwing?
Oh, sure. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, right? Joe Abercrombie, Bernard Cornwell, Lee Child, David Gemmell and Daniel Polansky would probably be the ones that I’d say I feel had the biggest impact on Blackwing.
What is your favourite part about being an author?
When the book connects with a reader and they really love characters, especially the female characters. I really wanted to write a feminist novel. It’s not a novel about feminism, but it’s a novel that uses feminist ideas – none of the characters are limited or defined by gender. They’re characters first, and gendered second. I consider myself a feminist and if I can help spread gender-positive messages through fiction then to me that’s a huge success. When someone tells me that they love Nenn or Ezabeth it always puts a big smile on my face.
What is the most stressful part to being a writer?
By far it’s the fear that the next book won’t work; that I won’t manage to pull it off a second time; that I lucked out on the first one and it’s all downhill from here. That’s a real drain and can really affect my stress level.
How was your experience publishing a book with Gollancz?
Gollancz are brilliant. The day that I went in to meet them, they all gathered round and drank champagne. They’re very supportive, my editors are brilliant, and they buy me a lot of free drinks. I had always hoped that Gollancz would be the one to publish me, and I got them!
What have you done to celebrate the release of Blackwing?
I had a sword made by Danelli Armouries, who I consider to be the best sword makers in the world right now. It’s a functional, sharp sword that’s based on historical sabre but with a Blackwing theme.
Is there a book you have read recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this Q&A?
If you’d like to try something funny, witty and a bit of a romp, try Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. Good fun all round and a good palette cleanser if you’ve had enough grimdark for a bit.
Thank you Ed McDonald for taking the time to answer a few questions. Good luck with the launch of Blackwing. I loved Blackwing and I am eagerly anticipating the release of Book 2. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by to check out the interview today as part of the Blackwing Blog Tour. Please see below for more information about other great blogs taking part in the tour.