Interview with Nicholas Eames
Those who follow my reviews over on Booknest may already know that I found “Kings of the Wyld” one of the greatest debuts I’ve ever read. I even took a gamble and declared it debut of the year. Since I have the joy to call Nicholas a friend (at least as far as a Facebook friendship can go), I seized the opportunity and arranged an interview – in fact, the first of many to come, fulfilling my new role on Fantasy Faction. Let’s see what Nicholas had to say:
Hello, Nick! Thank you for agreeing to this. Let’s start with an easy one: tell us a few things about yourself and your debut.
Well, I’m a guy who claimed for about thirteen years to be an ‘aspiring author’ until suddenly, over the course of a whirlwind year, I became a ‘published’ one! My debut, Kings of the Wyld, is about a band of retired mercenaries who reunite to rescue the daughter of their leader, who’s trapped in a besieged city half the world away. Also, it bears mentioning that the setting, story, and characters are inspired by the golden age of classic rock.
Are you a spontaneous writer, a planner, a rewriter, or a mix of them all?
A bit of all three, but mostly spontaneous, and definitely a rewriter! My plans tend to change quite a bit—right up until the end. Also, although I tend to be meticulous about every word (right down to how many syllables are in a given sentence), it doesn’t stop me from going back and rewriting everything at least once.
Every year there are dozens or even hundreds of new fantasy debuts. Among them, there are always some that will steal the spotlight even before they are published. In 2017, Anna Smith Spark’s ‘The Court of Broken Knives” is set to be one of them. ‘Kings of the Wyld’ is another. Why do you think this happens? Where and how does the ‘hype’ start?
Firstly, thanks for saying so. I think the hype for Kings of the Wyld didn’t start until right before it launched (as opposed to Anna’s, which has been raging for some time!), but it really seemed to take off after that, and has certainly eclipsed my expectations (and hopefully Orbit’s!). I attribute the hype to a slew of insanely generous reviewers, an incredibly supportive community of readers/bloggers that helped spread the word, and obviously that kick-ass Richard Anderson cover doesn’t hurt.
Which character in ‘Kings of the Wyld’ do you identify with the most, and why? Also, who was your favourite character to write about?
Probably Clay. I’m not big, or brawny, and my past is about as dark as the sun looking into a mirror, but his sense of humour and his pragmatism resonate pretty strongly with me. Also, he personifies a lot of the qualities identified in Rudyard Kipling’s poem, ‘If’, which is sort of the cornerstone of my moral fibre.
Favourite character to write? Gotta say Moog. I mean, an eccentric wizard in one-piece pyjamas who says whatever hilarious thing pops into his head? Yes please!
Lastleaf was one of the most compelling and complex antagonists I’ve ever had the joy to read about. Did you always plan to write him like that, or was he originally a pure villain? (If you originally envisioned him as a villain, what made you change that?)
Wanna know a secret? When Kings of the Wyld landed an agent and was bought by Orbit, Lastleaf DIDN’T EXIST! The book had no antagonist at all, and was purely about the characters and their journey to Castia. However, once I got the green light for a series AND the opportunity to flesh out the existing book, Lastleaf became the villain I didn’t know I always needed. I couldn’t imagine the story without him now, and his actions kick off the arc that will tie every book in the series together.
Although a pure villain is fun from time to time, I tried to make Lastleaf (and his plight) as sympathetic as possible. So much so, in fact, that if the main characters fail their quest it might actually be a better thing for the world at large.
What kind of research did you do for KoTW? How did this research influence the final outcome?
I read a few books on the era of Classic Rock upon which the book is based, and I watched plenty of ‘documentaries’, but my prime source of research simply involved listening to music. A LOT of music. There are a great many scenes in the book that simply would not exist without the feel and cadence of the songs that inspired them. From Led Zeppelin, to David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones, I drew most of my inspiration from the bands of the late sixties and seventies.
In ‘Kings of the Wyld’ you mentioned that you have included a lot of cultural references. For people who completely missed them, could you name a few?
Sure! Missing them is good! I wanted to make certain that the references were a bonus, not a necessity, for enjoying the book. Most of the weapon names are references: Blackheart was an homage to Joan Jett’s band, for instance, and Syrinx was named for the priests in Rush’s song, ‘2112’. The names of most northern towns and cities are based on brands of Scotch, and Gabriel’s legendary sword is called Vellichor, which is a word that means, essentially, ‘the sense of peace and sad wistfulness one gets by being surrounded by books they will never find time to read’.
Then, of course, there’s ‘The Cake is a Lie’, but if you don’t know where it’s from, I ain’t telling you.
At the end of “Kings of the Wyld”, we were lucky enough to read an excerpt from the second book. Can you tell us a few things about it? For instance, is it set in the past or in the future? What’s the title? GIMME SOMETHING, NICK. I NEED IT.
It’s set about five years in the future, and its protagonist is a bard tagging along with what has become the world’s biggest band. The title is up in the air, still, so you’ll likely find out the moment we have it nailed down. What I can say is that the excerpt found in the back of Kings has undergone some major changes since the book went to print.
Since the second book is a different story and not a continuation, will someone be able to read it without reading KoTW first? Also, what have you done differently this time, and why should someone try the second book if they didn’t like the first?
Yeah, it’s very much a standalone story. Kings of the Wyld references events that came before it while telling a tale all its own. Book two does the same, although those who’ve read its predecessor will certainly have a leg up when it comes to understanding the history of a few of its characters.
Regarding what appeal it might have to those who found difficulty enjoying the first? To me, the main fault of the first book is its lack of female characters. The few that it has are great, I think, but I’m committed to doing better. To that end, the second book features a lot of women, and they kick some serious ass.
And the last Q to finish this interview. With the level of success that you are heading to, a lot of people are bound to be inspired/influenced by you. What do you have to say to them? A simple piece of advice that would possibly help them with their future writing career?
Again, I appreciate the vote of confidence, and I certainly hope you’re right about all that success!
I suppose my advice to aspiring writers would be this: when you feel whatever you’re working on is as ready for submission/publication as it’s ever going to be, send it out (to agents, beta readers, etc), and while it’s out, work on something new. I started writing Kings of the Wyld while the book I was sure would get me an agent was racking up rejections. And, in fact, Kings of the Wyld got rejected a few times itself. You never know which book will finally get your foot in the door (or better yet, kick the door off its hinges!) but starting fresh, and applying all the lessons you’ve learned through your past successes and failures, is a great way to grow as a writer. Just my opinion, of course. I could be wrong.
Thanks for the questions!
Nicholas Eames was born to parents of infinite patience and unstinting support in Wingham, Ontario. Though he attended college for theatre arts, he gave up acting to pursue the infinitely more attainable profession of “epic fantasy novelist.” Kings of the Wyld is his first novel, and you can order it NOW. Nicholas loves black coffee, neat whiskey, the month of October, and video games. He currently lives in Ontario, Canada, and is very probably writing at this moment.