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Where did Stranger of Tempest come from?

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Stranger of Tempest by now… It has perhaps the most stand-out cover of the year and is being hailed as relentless, fun and unputdownable by readers lucky enough to land an ARC. We wanted to know from Tom Lloyd how the idea of the book came about, why he took a slight departure from his last series and generally provide you with a few more clues about what to expect. We’re glad to say that Tom agree to tell us exactly where the novel came from with this excellent guest post… check it out:

Both the Twilight Reign and Empire of a Hundred Houses were stories in my head for a long time before the books got published – and I’m talking a good five years or more brewing at the back of my mind. When suddenly that’s not the case because something new is nagging to be written, it’s both scary and liberating. Having just done a novella (Fear the Reaper) where I deliberately didn’t plan anything, I knew I couldn’t go to that extreme for the start of a series, but I could still work in a different way.

So what did I have? A short story I’d never written that was now nagging to be the start of a novel, a few general ideas about what I wanted to be doing next and a desire to test myself. All I had was a world-weary veteran waking up in a cell, not knowing why he was there. Too hungover to be surprised he was in prison, too aware of his past to rule much out. Something about it wouldn’t let me go so when I was scribbling a list of things I might want to include in my next book, the idea started to feed hungrily off them.

As for that list….

I didn’t want to do a traditional fantasy epic – after the God Fragments I will probably go back to it unless something jumps the queue, but right now I want shorter, less complex, more fun… I’m a tired parent these days, I still read epic fantasy of course, but I’m often favouring something less heavy and involved at the moment, something my feeble little brain can keep up with. I was reminded of the Sharpe novels and even re-read the first to remind me of what I had always liked about them. Lynx is no Richard Sharpe and that was apparent from very early on, but I suspect the two men would be happy to sink a few beers in each other’s company.

Once I’d thought about the Sharpe books and had discounted the usual epic fantasy in favour of smaller conflicts within a bigger picture, did I want gun technology? The Empire books had them but if I was writing about soldiers or mercenaries, the guns would take a more prominent place and, frankly, it changes a lot about the way conflicts happen on top of requiring research. But guns aren’t that interesting to me so…. oooh, magic guns. I had no idea what I was going to do with that, but it was worth leaving to simmer in my mind.

Next – the people around my main character. A group of soldiers implies an army, a structure and shared background, so I went with mercenaries. More scope for variety, and a lack of professionalism to keep me entertained. After that I realised I wanted a female lead as well, a counterpoint to the man I’d been picturing. Almost immediately I recalled another failed short story, one about a Twilight Reign character called Legana and a well-meaning knight off to rescue her (it had already influenced the short story God Tattoo, for anyone who’s interested). Add to that the thought that I’d not really seen a tomb-raider style fantasy outside D&D spin off titles, and Toil pretty much sprung fully-formed and less-than-fully-clothed onto the page.

I played with ideas, discarding things, added others, and slowly got a sense of who Lynx was. My wife made a suggestion about time-lines which made Toil’s story and the whole shape of the book click into place. Lynx grew further from the ripped archetype into more of a proper person and the Cards took on a life of their own. The world-building and plot were really fuelled by that random thought about magic guns and without really noticing, I had something that just felt indefinably right – from the childish humour and mental scars to tiny movie references (that no one is expected to spot, but kept me amused on grey days) to the inevitable cover image that resulted from imagining a great underground bridge.

So where do I get my ideas from? A primordial soup of half-baked thoughts and the voices of childishness, paranoia, hope, enthusiasm, anger and confusion that echo fairly constantly through my brain. Yes, this is why I drink, but it’s also perhaps why I write.

stranger-2Stranger Of Tempest is out tomorrow!

Lynx is a mercenary with a sense of honour; a dying breed in the Shattered Kingdom. Failed by the nation he served and weary of the skirmishes that plague the continent’s principalities, he walks the land in search of purpose. He wants for little so bodyguard work keeps his belly full and his mage-gun loaded. It might never bring a man fame or wealth, but he’s not forced to rely on others or kill without cause. Little could compel Lynx to join a mercenary company, but he won’t turn his back on a kidnapped girl. At least the job seems simple enough; the mercenaries less stupid and vicious than most he’s met over the years. So long as there are no surprises or hidden agendas along the way, it should work out fine.

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