Holiday Microfiction: “Scientific Romances” by Richard Marpole

Holiday Microfiction

“Scientific Romances”

Jeff Wheeler – Livestream Interview – This Friday!

Jeff Wheeler

Livestream Interview

Fantasy-Faction Turns 10! Help Us Spread the Love of Reading!

Help Us Spread the Love of Reading!

Fantasy-Faction Turns 10!


Catchup Interview with Jen Williams

Today, on the release day of The Silver Tide, Fantasy-Faction has been able to catchup with one of our favourite authors, Jen Williams. For anyone who hasn’t yet picked up Jen’s books, you probably want to check out this review and this interview and skip this one for now (it contains a number of book two spoilers). For anyone who has, today’s interview will cover topics such as what we can expect from book three, whether there are any differences from the previous two books, the complexity of Jen’s characters, the impact of reviews, the SFF community, things Jen is most proud of, what next and much more besides. Well, with all that to cover, I guess we should get on with it, shouldn’t we? 🙂

Interview Commence!

Could you set us up for the Silver Tide? What should we remember going into it and what should we expect from it?

SilverTideThe end of The Iron Ghost saw some difficult times for the Black Feather Three, with none of them escaping from Skaldshollow unscathed. They are still together at the beginning of The Silver Tide, but their alliance has been deeply shaken, and some are coping with the trauma of Joah Demonsworn better than others. When the notorious pirate Devinia the Red arrives with a new job for Wydrin, Frith and Sebastian, they take it with hopes of changing their fortunes. And Wydrin can hardly say no to her own mother… With the final book in the Copper Cat trilogy, you should expect more magic and monsters, with a large serving of pirates and angry gods. Oh, and a few familiar faces are returning.

Do you think this novel offers a different reading experience in anyway when compared to your previous two novels? I certainly felt that The Iron Ghost was darker than The Copper Promise, for example.

The Iron Ghost (cover)The Iron Ghost was the Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy for me, so it was always going to be darker than its predecessor. I don’t think The Silver Tide is Return of the Jedi as such (no Ewoks, for a start) but to me it is the book where a lot of the themes I’ve been developing throughout the trilogy are brought to the fore – themes of responsibility, moving on from trauma, personal identity. The various personal journeys of the characters are coming to a conclusion here, and consequently the book is bigger, a little more complex, and larger in scale than the other two. It’s also the last book in a trilogy where I’ve had a lot of fun trying to come up with more and more outlandish set pieces, so The Silver Tide is approximately 100% more crackers than its sister books. Trying to avoid spoilers here, but there is a big thing that happens about halfway through the story that allows me to play with a lot of the series’ mythology, which was enormous fun.

One thing I’ve noticed (and hugely appreciated) is that each of your characters has a vulnerability or something that makes them ‘an other’ in their culture. Those who don’t, tend to be evil. Is this a conscious decision or can you not imagine writing characters any other way?

Well you see I don’t think of any of my main characters as being particularly vulnerable, and certainly not ‘other’. Wydrin is a woman, which can make life difficult in other fantasy books, but she comes from a cultural background where women are utterly accepted as equal – Crosshaven has a thriving populace of morally dodgy people of all genders. I suspect in fact that calling Wydrin vulnerable to her face would get you a punch on the nose, or worse. Sebastian is gay, and his home of Ynnsmouth isn’t as accepting as Wydrin’s, (although technically he is thrown out of the Ynnsmouth knights for breaking his vow of celibacy – the fact that it was with a man just gave them an extra reason to get rid of him) but most of Sebastian’s struggles come from his responsible nature, and his need to do the right thing. Lord Frith is a privileged man with a bad temper, recovering from a terrible trauma. In Ede, I hope it is fairly clear that being female or gay isn’t unusual or something that needs to be particularly remarked upon.

Copper-FeatureAs for the evil characters not being ‘other’ or separate from their culture… Well, Y’Ruen is a giant dragon god, which makes her fairly unique. Bezcavar is a demon and almost by definition something that exists independently of other life. Joah Demonsworn, who was a celebrated mage in his day, would almost have been a shining example of humanity, except that he’s an unhinged, power-hungry murderer. And of course there’s Ephemeral, an ‘evil’ character who gradually becomes more or less ‘good’; who isn’t human but then sort of is, in the ways that count.

I suppose the simple answer is: I just don’t think of any of the characters in those terms. They’re all people (even dragon-shaped people) with different faults and strengths and backgrounds.

The advanced response for The Silver Tide, already, has been incredible. 5* reviews for the most part, I don’t think I’ve seen one below 4* (touch wood) – that’s got to feel pretty good?

It has been pretty amazing so far (I’m crossing my fingers right now). Releasing a book is always a frightening experience to some extent – when you put so much of yourself into something, and then send it out for other people to make of it what they will, there’s always the chance you’ll get kicked in the emotional guts. From a more personal point of view, I really wanted to give the Black Feather Three the ending they deserved, and if readers have enjoyed the journey, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Speaking of Social Media and reviews and such, you are hugely into your Social Media and you always seem to be speaking / visiting some SFF event. How important is the SFF community to you as a writer?

Den-JenWriting can often be a weirdly isolating job, with hours and hours spent in a room by yourself, with only peanut butter kit-kats for company. It’s important to keep in touch with the community for lots of reasons I think – for your own health and pleasure, to keep an eye on the current conversations, to link up with like-minded people. Twitter is brilliant for this; the immediacy of it, and the variety of voices, that continual stream of new information. One of the best things you can do as a new writer is support other writers – go to signings, attend readings, tell people about the amazing book you just read. Den Patrick and I created Super Relaxed Fantasy Club as a welcoming space for people to do these things; meet up, chat about books, and maybe listen to a reading from someone who might become your new favourite author. It’s meant a lot to us to be able to contribute to the community in this way.

Lets say a movie studio picks it up and decides you can cast the stars (they are very kind – you have an unlimited budget),who would you like to play your heroes and villains?

CliveOh this is an evil question! Okay, first up is the easiest one for me – Clive Standen, who plays Rollo in the truly excellent TV series Vikings. I realized halfway through watching an episode that he was eerily close to how I see Sebastian, and ever since then I’ve had to struggle not to refer to Rollo as Seb. He’s appropriately muscly, tall, handsome, rocks the long hair look and you definitely wouldn’t want to meet him on the battlefield. I have always imagined Joah Demonsworn to look a little like Marcus from Babylon 5, so Jason Brian Carter would have to play him. Melissa Benoist would make an excellent Ephemeral (under a lot of green make-up) and Xinian has to be the glorious Danai Gurira. Wydrin and Frith, I’m afraid, have always been impossible for me to cast.

Getting back to writing: Do you think, that since you published The Copper Promise, you’ve changed much as an author?

The Copper Promise (cover)I’m sure that I must have, although it’s difficult for me to tell, being so close to my own work. Writing and publishing three books in three years(ish) is a very steep learning curve, and you have to scramble, in a sense, to keep up. I think I trust myself more as a writer now, and I accept that there are certain ways that I work best – I’m a partial planner, for example, and my notes and plans really act as a catalyst for the first draft. I will never be someone who makes intricate plans for every scene and chapter before the first word even hits the page. You worry a lot, as a new writer, that you’re ‘doing it the wrong way’, but I think I’m happy to trust that I know what’s best for me now.

What do you feel is the most important lesson you’ve learnt since publishing that first novel?

DRAGONcakeGenerally? Keep your receipts and file your tax return well before the 31st of January… But in terms of writing: keep your head in the book every day, whether that’s writing or just writing notes. It’s so much harder to steam through that first draft if you’ve had a few days away from the manuscript and the world that you’re building. Don’t show anyone your work until you’ve got to the end of the story: this won’t apply to everyone, but for me the first draft is a messy, chaotic thing, and I’m usually working it out as I go. Getting advice too early can cause more problems than it solves. In terms of being published: try not to panic. Enjoy it. Eat some cake. 

Looking back on the Copper Cat trilogy, is there a particular character/scene/something else that you particularly proud of?

There are lots of scenes that make me smile when I look back on them. Wydrin pushing Frith off a balcony, Wydrin punching Frith in the face, Frith exploding a man’s chest with magic… I love Sebastian’s journey with the brood army, his initial horror which grows into responsibility, and eventually becomes a kind of wary affection. His relationship with Ephemeral is something that grew organically from the story, and Ephemeral herself was a delightful, unplanned surprise; her journey from ravenous, unthinking monster to a kind, if often confused individual with her own personality, is something I am quite proud of. I am also pleased with the final set-pieces of each book, and there is a particular action sequence in The Silver Tide which causes Sebastian to shout ‘Isu’s balls!’ – I never get tired of reading that bit.

More generally, now that you’ve finished with this trilogy, how do you feel about it?

trilogy-copperI’m a little bit stunned I got here, to be honest. None of it felt real until I finally received a copy of The Silver Tide, and I put it next to The Copper Promise and The Iron Ghost. Seeing them all together is somewhat incredible – how did I write so many words? How can they possibly all make sense? I am proud of the books, and I still feel incredibly lucky that I got to write them. They have been, all in all, an enormous amount of fun.

How difficult is it going to be to leave this particular story behind? Is there a temptation to keep writing within this world? 

Bringing these stories to an end certainly wasn’t an easy thing to do. I cried when I wrote the first draft of the last few chapters, and then cried again every time I edited them. In the end, the Black Feather Three feel like family to me and it was emotionally wrenching to tie up their stories, but also like family, they are with me all the time anyway. I feel very strongly that a good ending can be as valuable as a good beginning, and I hate the idea of forcing myself to write book after book after book in the same world if I feel like the character’s journeys have come to an end – you can’t avoid becoming formulaic and predictable, that way. It’s better, I believe, to go out on a high. And you never know – I would always be happy to visit Ede again, some time down the line.

And, we know that you’ve got a new deal (passes on High Five from the Fantasy-Faction community), what is it that you will be writing next?

MagicalThanks! I am still over the moon about this! Since I’m in the middle of writing the first book it’s a little early to say, but it will be more secondary world epic fantasy, more magic and monsters, more characters annoying the piss out of each other, more women being badasses, more gleedark. Although having said that, it’s going to be a very different trilogy to the Copper Cat books…

If you could team your characters up with any other set of character from any other fantasy novel for a dungeon raid – which set of characters would you choose and how do you think the raid would go?

witchesI would choose the Witches from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. I mean, they wouldn’t be very happy about it – the dungeon damp would play havoc with their joints – but watching Frith and Sebastian being painfully polite to Granny Weatherwax would be totally worth it, while of course Wydrin would be off drinking unmentionable things with Nanny Ogg. I imagine the raid would be called off due to being ‘too much bother’ and Granny would use headology on the monsters until they all gave up anyway.

We would like to say a HUGE thank you to Jen who took time to give such in-depth answers to each of our questions. And, we are sure you already know this, but The Silver Tide by Jen is out TODAY. Rather incredibly, it’s only £4.99 on Kindle and the huge paperback tome at 550+ pages has been falling consistently from its £14.99 rap (links to each edition below). It you are a fan of Jen’s work, do support her by picking it up and pushing her up those sales rankings on release week 🙂



  1. […] it’s a fabulous read, so go get it! And Jen is also interviewed by those sterling folks at Fantasy Faction this morning, so check that out to, but beware of spoilers for books one and […]

  2. Avatar katya mills says:

    I appreciate all the good advice in this article!

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