|An Interview with Tom Lloyd|
|conducted by Sandy Auden|
Tom Lloyd is a brand new British author with a knack for epic world-building and devious politics.
His debut novel, The Stormcaller is all about Isak, a white-eye, who is feared and despised in equal measure, and desperate to escape a life of poverty and abuse. His prayers are answered by the Gods, who have marked him as the heir to Lord Bahl, the ruler of Farlan. But others who would be King are watching Isak as he is moulded and shaped to fulfil prophecies he can't possibly escape. The various factions vying for power are set to unleash their fury and Isak suddenly finds himself in the middle of a war he barely comprehends and wielding powers he may never understand.
Stormcaller is an entertaining mix of huge battles, cultural detail and divine intervention but the journey to this first edition has taken time...
How long did it take you to write this first novel?
Before that point, I just wasn't good enough as a writer and the process of writing the novel was in fact writing, rewriting and rewriting; going back to the beginning and starting again as I learned more about what worked and what didn't. It wasn't the best way to go about it and, with hindsight, I would have started on a much smaller scale for the learning process, but I simply didn't know enough to realise how bad the first draft was!
From there I went to the literary agency A.M. Heath and spent a few years in foreign rights, for experience more than anything else. I left when MBA agreed to represent The Stormcaller, moving to another agency, Blake Friedmann, as their temporary contracts manager. That was over a year ago now and I'm still doing it because I haven't really got the time to look for another job until after The Stormcaller is published and I finish the first draft of Book Two!
The good thing about agencies is that they tend to be small and you can be flexible in how you work, there are other writers here besides myself and, of course, they are willing to make some accommodations for you.
Considering how few first-time UK authors get published here -- the lists don't have the space for many writers and you're also competing with the new authors that US companies have taken on and are trying to sell in the UK -- you're looking at maybe six or seven British authors getting a chance. Gollancz are also publishing Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch so some SFF publishers are probably not taking any new Brits this year at all.
It wasn't all plain sailing after that as my editor pointed out a number of areas I needed to rework, but I can hardly complain when the result was that Heyne publishers were given a proof copy on the Monday of Frankfurt Book Fair and by the Friday had bought German rights in the first three novels! Now, Russian rights have gone to Eksmo and it's been chosen as the first of the Fantasy & SF book club's 'Cosmic 5' debut writers promotion.
Once you've got that, it's then a question of dealing with the ramifications -- the fact that the white-eyes wouldn't get along well with their own kind; the ways other humans would view them; the personality traits that come hand-in-hand with such a gross over-abundance of testosterone. The key was finding the right balance between monster and Chosen One -- they have to be people as well as parodies or no one will be interested at all.
My degree was in International Relations, and the sort of story I loved more than any other when I was growing up was the murky cold-war spy novel where there are agendas within agendas and dogma is interlaced with personal gain. With that as the basis, the book was always going to end up complex to a certain degree and my main focus had to be ensuring that the reader could follow it all.
I've promised myself that ten years down the line, once The Twilight Reign is finished and I've put to bed the novels I've got planned for after, I'll allow myself to launch into an über-complicated series of which I keep dreaming fragments. It'll require years of planning however so that's a long-term project.
If I ever get the chance to put together a collection of my other short stories that tie in to the series, I'm sure there'll be one set in Llehden.
I think they were normally very silly in tone but one was a little more mysterious and entitled The Rawdon Witch -- Rawdon Hall being the house where my mother grew up. It's a large old house near Maidenhead with a long garden that is partly covered by a small wood and towards the far end is a great stone lily pool with a fountain in the centre; all wonderfully atmospheric for a young boy with an over-active imagination.
Of course, I grew out of this belief about my mother, but having said that, if I didn't still appreciate the power of a child's imagination -- the ability to accept things without skepticism or doubt -- I wouldn't have such fond memories of my childhood and probably wouldn't be a fantasy writer now. The poem remains my favorite and when I have children someday, why would I not add a touch of dark wonderment to their lives and tell them that granny was a witch?
Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for The Third Alternative and Interzone magazines and a combination of all the above for The Alien Online. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.
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