Welcome to another brilliant author interview here on Always Trust In Books. Today’s interview is part of The Legion Prophecy hosted by Titan Books. Thanks Philippa for a spot on the tour. I have Mark A. Latham here today, answering a few questions about his latest release The Legion Prophecy, which is part three of his The Apollonian Case Files series. I am excited to get into this series as it sounds right up my street. Historical fiction that bends reality, perfect :D. I will share a few details about the book and Mark himself, then on to the Q&A! Please see the poster below for more details on the other amazing blogs that are taking part in the tour.
About Mark A. Latham
Mark A. Latham is a writer, editor, history nerd, frustrated grunge singer and amateur baker from Staffordshire, UK. A recent immigrant to rural Nottinghamshire, he lives in a very old house (sadly not haunted), and is still regarded in the village as a foreigner.
Official Website: www.thelostvictorian.blogspot.co.uk/
Official Book Synopsis for The Legion Prophecy
London, 1893. The Order of Apollo, investigator of mysterious events for the Crown, has been uncovering artefacts and refugees from another world, smuggled through boundaries that seem to be thinning. A breach would mean disastrous consequences for the entire universe. Meanwhile, rumours abound of an enemy the Order thought long-since dead, alive and gathering followers. Colonel John Hardwick, an embittered veteran of Apollo, is forced to join the fight again, with his former friend Captain Jim Denny and mysterious adventuress Marie Furnival. But facing this new threat brings them to dark secrets that implicate whole nations and threaten the very fabric of reality.
The Q&A Section
Thank you for taking the time to answers some questions about the next instalment in your The Apollonian Case Files series, The Legion Prophecy.
First off could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thanks very much for having me. Well, let’s start with my ‘official’ bio:
Mark A. Latham is a writer, editor, history nerd, proud dogfather, frustrated grunge singer and amateur baker from Staffordshire, UK. An immigrant to rural Nottinghamshire, he lives in a very old house (sadly not haunted), and is still regarded in the village as a foreigner.
Formerly the editor of Games Workshop’s White Dwarf magazine, Mark dabbled in tabletop games design before becoming a full-time author of strange, fantastical and macabre tales.
It’s tongue-in-cheek, but it’s true that I used to be in a grunge band, and like to bake bread to de-stress. I live in Nottingham with my lovely wife, Alison, and our massive dog (regular Twitter followers will know him as #bdog). Career-wise, I started out as an editor, and I’ve worked specifically on SF and fantasy products since graduating back in 2001. The Lazarus Gate was the first piece of long-form fiction I ever had published, and it’s been a rollercoaster ride since then.
Could you give us your own personal overview of the series and where The Legion Prophecy picks up from?
The first two books kind of set up a mythos, and tell the story of the Hardwick family in two different universes. The Legion Prophecy starts three years after the events of the Lazarus Gate, and we see things initially through the eyes of Captain Jim Denny, John Hardwick’s confidant from the first book. We learn that John, having made a name for himself as the most efficient and uncompromising agent of Apollo Lycea over the last three years, has retired from the spying game, leaving Jim as the Order’s most trusted agent. Jim and John are somewhat estranged, having fallen out quite dramatically since we last saw them. Now, Jim faces a new threat that could quite possibly change the world as we know it, and is forced to work with a strange American adventuress who he really doesn’t trust.
Where did the original inspiration for The Apollonian Case Files series come from?
I was a bit nerdy in my youth, and the greatest escape I ever had was books, and even as a pre-teen I was reading grown-up novels rather than getting into mischief. My love of Victoriana in general comes from two places: a weird obsession with Victorian ghost stories that was sparked by some old books we had in the house when I was a kid, and my mum’s love of matinee westerns. As I got a bit older, I started reading Victorian novels for pleasure – my favourites were Wuthering Heights and Dracula – even as a teen I was drawn towards darker tales. Add to this the Sherlock Holmes stories, HG Wells’ War of the Worlds and the Time Machine, and the ghost stories of M R James (although they’re actually Edwardian), and you have the bedrock of a lifelong passion.
I knew I wanted to write a multiple-worlds book ever since I read The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. That book stuck with me more than anything I’ve ever read, and when I started to write seriously, it was with the intent to blend multiple-worlds SF with my love of Victorian history, but to make something grittier and darker than the burgeoning Steampunk genre.
How long did it take you to finish a book from first draft to finished piece?
My first book was written in my spare time, and took a couple of years! But when you write full time, and have deadlines to hit, books stop taking ‘as long as they take’. You have to hit some kind of rhythm, and I struggled with that at first. Basically I’d never been much of a planner, and my editors have pretty much bashed the importance of a solid plan into my head, so that now I at least have some kind of framework to follow.
This has led to me being able to produce a first draft in 3-4 months, with a further month or so for edits. That editing time gets longer if serious rewrites or redrafting is required, but I’ve been lucky in that respect so far. I think my main tendency is to write too much, so most of the editing process comprises ‘highlight this entire section and hit delete’. It’s equal parts painful and cathartic!
The historical and science-fiction elements in your novels sound brilliant, what are you trying to achieve with this story?
All good SF uses its more fantastical elements to reveal something about the present – whether that’s social anxieties, the human condition, politics, or whatever. I think the Apollonian Casefiles are no different in that respect. Through the lens of the Victorians, I’m really looking at a moral tale – how far are we willing to go to protect the people we love? What terrible things are we willing to do to protect our way of life, or the entire world? That’s ultimately what the Lazarus Gate boiled down to – it was one man, committing war crimes to regain a version of the ideal family that he never had. In the Legion Prophecy, I’m exploring similar themes on a grander scale. Now we’re looking at a world on the brink of destruction thanks to that most basic human drive: greed. When technological devices of ultimate power are revealed to exist, there are powers who would do anything to possess them, and would be willing to use them despite the cost.
Could you give us some insights into what challenges you faced when writing The Legion Prophecy?
Actually this one was the least troublesome to write (and I think it took the least amount of editing too, which is a good sign – I take that to mean I’ve found my groove). The main challenge this time was balancing my multiple viewpoints. There are really three protagonists in this book – they don’t all have equal billing, but they do all need their time to shine, points of interest and of conflict, POV chapters… I’m still a fairly new writer, so I like to push myself each time. There’s more than one villain in this book too, and I wanted them to have complex motivations and real agency – I think maintaining that complexity whilst still having a pacey, rip-roaring thriller was a tricky balancing act, and I hope the readers think I’ve been successful.
Are there going to be more instalments in this series, or do you have another project in mind?
I am leaving the door open with a few unanswered questions, but I think as a trilogy it’s a pretty satisfying conclusion, and I hope my readers will be blown away by the ending. Maybe one day I’ll come back to the Apollonian Casefiles – I certainly have ideas for other stories I’d like to tell. But for now I’m going to focus on a few other projects, and hopefully avoid becoming too typecast as the ‘Victorian guy’!
What is it like publishing with Titan Books?
There’s a lot to be said for joining a specialist publisher with a proven track record and, most importantly, a love for SF and fantasy. And Titan know their stuff when it comes to genre publishing.
If there’s one thing they’ve done it’s help me become more efficient, and more concise with my writing. As a former magazine editor, I’m fascinated by the editorial process, so actually learning how a book publisher goes about things, and working out how I can improve as a result, has been a rewarding experience.
How do you celebrate after you have finished writing a novel?
I feel like I’ve always got more than one book or something on the go, and overlapping deadlines mean major celebrations can be unwise. Also, there’s a certain ‘comedown’ period after typing ‘The End’, because it’s always a weird bitter-sweet feeling, like you head’s still in the book. When I’ve finally finished a project, and it’s ready for launch, I tend to splurge on a good night in the pub, followed by a movie, and then I’m ready to start the next project in the morning!
What is the most interesting part of being an author in your opinion?
Research! The bit that most people would think is boring, and the bit that most readers never even see. But I’ve found out so much… stuff!… since becoming a writer. Everything from the horror side of things – what recently deceased corpses smell like, which exotic poisons are best for murdering people without a trace, and so on – to looking at maps of abandoned tube lines in London, and trawling through Urban Exploration websites for spooky photos of old houses, and finding out tons more history than I could ever feasibly fit into the books. I have an absolute thirst for this stuff, but I’m terrible at retaining facts, so I write everything down in journals and notepads. Normally, overt research gets edited out in the first pass, but just the job of doing all the legwork and getting the facts straight imbues the stories with authenticity, even if the bulk of it is cut.
How do you wind-down from work/writing?
Sometimes it’s hard to wind up, if I’m honest… No, I’m joking. Once you get into the mindset of writing a novel, it starts to take over. I carry a notepad everywhere I go, I’m constantly thinking away. Sometimes I keep things fresh by working on something different – I’ll do a bit of games design, or jot down ideas for an entirely different book. As I said earlier, I do love to bake. Honestly the act of throwing together a dough and crafting an artisan loaf is the most relaxing thing I’ve ever discovered. Most of the time, though, I clip the lead on the dog and go for a good long walk.
Have you read a book recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this blog?
Some Will Not Sleep, by Adam Nevill. I recommend this without hesitation. I’ve always been a fan of horror novels, but not so much short stories. This collection absolutely blew me away. From the intense prose to the conjuring of every imaginable emotion, it got under my skin, gave me nightmares, and made me wish it was longer!
Thank you for stopping by to check out another amazing Titan Books release for 2017. I am always looking for a new series to invest in and The Apollonian Case Files series sounds really good. Thank you to Mark for taking the time to answer some questions about your work here on Always Trust In Books. Please show your appreciation for Mark in the comments below and make sure to check out the other brilliant blogs that are sharing posts on the tour.