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An Interview with Tom Lloyd
conducted by Sandy Auden

© Tom Lloyd
Tom Lloyd
Tom Lloyd
Tom Lloyd was born in 1979 and spent most of his childhood believing his mother was a witch -- a white witch. He followed his degree in Politics and International Relations with a series of jobs in publishing, and currently works as contracts manager for a major literary agency in London. He lives in South London.

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The Stormcaller
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?
It took ages. I don't remember being taught anything about how to construct sentences or prose at school so I really did start from scratch. I began putting ideas for The Stormcaller onto paper when I left school and vaguely worked on it for the following five or six years; but the current version was done in the last year or two before I got an agent.

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!

You're no stranger to the publishing industry are you? What's your background?
I started at Simon and Schuster as an editorial assistant when I left university -- like most people I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do so I thought at least in publishing I'd be interested in the subject matter, and the more I looked at manuscripts in a professional capacity, the better it would be for my own work.

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.

How did The Stormcaller come to be published?
In a surprisingly painless way, as a matter of fact. I'd been about to give up on the book and I was 60,000 words into a completely separate novel when my agent took The Stormcaller on. A few months later he'd sold the first three of the series to Gollancz.

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.

We'd better talk about the story that's getting everyone so excited then! What was the first part of Stormcaller to arrive in your imagination?
It was the opening scene of the book, where Isak dreams of being lost in a deserted palace. I think what actually got me going on the novel was the fact that I'd had that image running around my head for days and I needed to get it out. These days, I know my brain well enough to keep my notebook with me at all times; once a scene starts running around it won't stop until I've written it down. That seems to satisfy the voices, but when it happens at three in the morning it's frankly a pain in the arse.

How did the white-eye species develop?
Well I started with the image of the deserted palace but very little beyond that, so I sat and just began to jot ideas down. I've always loved the parts of ancient mythology where the gods are active in the world and meddle as much as they can. I started with almost a Norse mindset of deities; squabbling, argumentative and lacking any form of subtlety. From that, it seemed reasonable that their chosen mortal representatives would be similar; principally be built to fight and overawe the people they're going to be ruling, so white-eyes became these oversized figures of supernatural strength and speed. Rugby fans could call it the Jonah Lomu model of building people: big, quick, far from subtle but if you don't respect him you'll be trodden into the ground before you know what's happening.

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.

How did you manage to make your political wrangling so detailed?
It never really occurred to me to do it any other way, if anything, I could have happily ignored how the reader would view it and make the wrangling twice as complex as it is!

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.

There are many detailed locations in The Stormcaller. Which one's your favourite?
Llehden, despite the fact that it was one of the last places in the world to form in my mind. It's a small shire that's isolated from the rest of the kingdom simply because there's a higher level of what I'd term background magic. It's where things really do go bump in the night, where folklore has a stronger grip on reality and the shadows are always that little bit darker than elsewhere in the world. By day, quiet woods and sleepy villages, by night a playground for all sorts of creatures and spirits.

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.

Aspects of Fantasy have been in your real-life for a long time haven't they? I believe you grew up thinking your mother was a white witch?
It has always been just a small joke within my family that my mother was a witch. I presume it dates back to when she was young and away at school. Knowing that she was homesick, a great friend of her parents, called Teddy Partridge, used to write to her to cheer her up and he included poems in his letters.

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?

Copyright © 2006 by Sandy Auden

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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