Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sorts of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Today we are here to help P.L Staurt launch his book A Drowned Kingdom. Welcome and congratulation on your book.
Thank you for the invited to the tearoom, Paula.
Let’s start by asking you did you try to be more original when writing this book, or deliver what you felt the readers wanted?
Toni Morrison said, “If you find a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” That for me was A Drowned Kingdom. I had a book – indeed a long series of books – inside me, bursting to get out. I believe it’s an original, one-of-a-kind book, and the series will be unique, and not feel derivative of other fantasy works. Make no mistake, there are similarities of who I consider to be the great fantasy authors in my work. You can’t write great fantasy without looking to Jemisin, Tolkien, Martin, etc. as inspiration. Still, I have written something quite different from those great authors. I hope the readers enjoy it. I wrote it for them to be delighted. Nonetheless, I wrote it the way I wanted to write it. I had to be true to myself in my journey as an author. To write only for potential readers, for me would have been disingenuous. Then I would not be telling the story that wasn’t out there yet, but the one I envisioned. We’ll see if they like what I have to say and how I have to say it.
Did you feel energised or exhausted after writing this book?
Much more energized and elated at first upon completion, but soon quite tired! The exhaustion for me did not set in until I turned to the book publication side, and I gave myself a bit of a break between writing novels for this purpose. There was no rest after finishing the actual final draft of A Drowned Kingdom. Then it was onto editing, proofreading, design, and layout concerns, pricing, and so much more. As an Indie author you are heavily involved in all those aspects. It’s all the other business associated things with being an authorpreneur – social media presence, branding, publication details – that take up a lot of time and can leave one exhausted. Fortunately, I have my lovely and talented wife Debbie as my partner in this enterprise. She is extremely smart, dynamic, and has a background in marketing. She is my business manager and handles the bulk of the other work – which is more than half the load of being an Indie author – so I can focus more on writing. Without her I’d be sunk! Not complaining about being tired however, I am privileged to be able to be an author, and I know it. So, in summary, I don’t find the actual writing tiring, but the rest of being an author can wear you out, if you are also coping with working another full-time, shift-work job.
Do you want each of your books to stand alone, or are you building a body of work that is interconnected? Whether that be a theme, a set of characters, a setting, etc. Explain more for our readers.
I am certainly building an interlinked body of work. A Drowned Kingdom, my debut novel, will be the first book in The Drowned Kingdom Saga. The Drowned Kingdom Saga is a planned seven-novel series. After the conclusion of The Drowned Kingdom Saga, two further prequel trilogy series are planned to follow: a total of six more books. When those two prequel trilogies are published, a subsequent continuation of the original story begun in the first saga will commence. This continuation will likely be another thirteen books. Therefore, the entirety of my writing will be based on the world first realized in A Drowned Kingdom.
How do you balance your demands on the reader with taking care of your readers? In the book did you spell everything out, so your reader just had to read it, or did you rely on their emotional response to your words?
I believe I write in a straightforward style. The reader will, for the most part, have many elements of the book quite clearly spelled out, making A Drowned Kingdom an easy read in some ways. In other aspects, the individual reader’s subjective response to my words may take them in different directions, depending on the reader. I don’t want to be ambiguous here in my response. But that’s all I can divulge for now, without giving away too much of the plot.
Do you hope your book will deliver you literary success and how will this look to you?
Literary success is hard to define. I suppose if I achieve a combination of both critical acclaim and commercial success, I would be quite pleased, but how do you measure that? Who, if anyone, do you measure your “success” against? Without being morbid, if you are well-known, still widely read, and selling books long after your death, i.e. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, T.H. White, I believe you are successful. So, if you have an enduring legacy as a writer, you’re successful. But you won’t be around to see it. In one’s lifetime as an author, it’s easy to look at G.R.R. Martin, Mark Lawrence, J.K. Rowling, etc. and use them as a top benchmark to denote if you’ve “arrived” as an author, but those are extremely lofty comparators. Do you set them as “the ceiling”, and choose other lesser-known authors as “the floor”, and gage by that sort of standard where your own work ranks? I believe I will just “know” when, subjectively, I’ve done well as an author. If consistently, people appear to love reading and are willing to buy my books such that it is emotionally motivating and lucrative for me to continue writing, I will feel I have achieved “success”. Ultimately, I believe if I can become a full-time author, and survive financially exclusively by writing, that is success for me.
Was there anything you edited out of this book, you wanted to keep in, but you knew it would be a better book by cutting it?
It’s funny, there was so much more I wanted to add to the book, but I have a sweet spot in my mind as both a writer and reader that I believe is ideal for novel length. Fantasy books tend to be longer than most other genres, and if you are G.R.R. Martin you can write a 1000-pager and it will be devoured by fans. But most writers, especially novice writers should be careful with their word counts. Once you are established, you can consider lengthening your future books if you need to. I believe fantasy readers want enough length they can sink their teeth into, that has a depth of worldbuilding. Yet not too long that they forgot what happened 700 pages ago and need to keep flipping to the list of characters to figure out who is who. I know how I feel as a reader about it, and I think around 400 pages give or take 100 pages, is perfect. That’s the length of books I intend to write. That’s 160-200 thousand words. That is still, by overall literary standards, a long book. I had one major plotline I cut out of A Drowned Kingdom that would have taken up potentially another 50 pages. I moved that plotline to the next novel in the series.
How long did you spend researching this book’s subject matter, or was it a book you had already planned?
Most of my research was done regarding ancient life, weaponry, implements, feudal systems, etc. Much of it I had, I feel, a fair handle on due to my major in University in English / Medieval Literature, and History, and reading books on the subject most of my life.
So there wasn’t a lot of major research involved. The benefit of writing fantasy is that you create the history, the world, the languages, etc. It needs to be realistic and make sense to appeal to the reader, but you don’t need to do the same sort of laborious research you would have to do, for example, a historical fiction novel. Although I can see how that would be a labour of love. I do enjoy historical fiction and likely would write in that genre if I didn’t write fantasy.
What was the hardest scene to write in the book?
Scenes that have an emotional impact on me personally, are typically the hardest to write. There are some interpersonal / family matters in A Drowned Kingdom, bits and pieces of which mimic bits and pieces of my own life. On the other hand, they can be cathartic, like therapy, writing those scenes. There are many of those scattered throughout A Drowned Kingdom, so it was quite the therapy session!
How will you cope with bad reviews on this book?
I won’t lie, the first ones I think will be difficult for me. As writer’s, many of us live in this paradox of wanting our work out there in the world to as wide an audience as possible and have them critique it – really have them love it. On the other hand, we are terrified of people not liking it, and almost want to keep our writing to ourselves for fear of failure. But I believe, like anything else, once there are relatively more positive than negative reviews, like most writers, I’ll cope well enough. I might find something very constructive in negative reviews that may help improve me as a writer. I will take those things under advisement and act upon them if I feel I can. It’s just those first few reviews, especially the professional ones, by entities such as Kirkus and Clarion, that are influential with readers, I will be on the edge of my seat, waiting for what they thought of my book.
What’s the one thing you would give up to become a better writer?
Well, I’d give up my full-time job! I am privileged to have a wonderful job, but if I could devote all my energies to writing, I would certainly improve as an author. That is my plan, one day, hopefully, to retire a bit early from that job, and just write.
Let me wish all of luck with your book sales. If you would like to find out about P.L. click on the links below.
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Members’ Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops, too.