Interview – S.C Gowland, Author of The Souls’ Abyss: Book One – The Dark Crown

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S.C Gowland "...I was raised with a very straight split view between right and wrong; good and bad.  But as I’ve got older and experienced life, it really is 100 shades of grey and I find that grey interests me...."

Describe yourself in ten words or less…Go!

A man with a big heart and big ideas.

Tell me about your novel, The Souls’ Abyss: Book One – The Dark Crown?

It’s a story about a broken family.  A story about friendship. A story about how far you would go to do the ‘right thing’. It’s also a story about a world in trouble – not unlike our own at the moment – and how the simplest things are often the hardest to do.

It tells a story about a group of magical peacekeepers (Walkers) and the fine line they must tread to be able to do their job – it is rarely clean cut and straightforward. It focuses on one principal character – Kaoldan and the challenges that are thrown at him.  He has secrets and a dark past, and somethings he’d rather hadn’t happened.  It shows how good intentions have unforeseen consequences, and how what you may want and what you may need are often complete opposites.

It’s the start of a trilogy.  Book 2 (Coven of Shadows)  is written and out on the 20th November and book three (Darkness Falls) is mostly written and is out on the 23rd April 2021. If all goes well I have 6 other books roughly plotted, but I might be getting ahead of myself.

The Souls' Abyss coverFrom the blurb, it sounds like The Souls’ Abyss is more grimdark then high fantasy. Do you gravitate more towards morally grey characters?

I didn’t specifically set out for it to fit that subgenre, it’s just a good fantasy story.  But you are correct.  I was raised with a very straight split view between right and wrong; good and bad.  But as I’ve got older and experienced life, it really is 100 shades of grey and I find that grey interests me.  We all have little moral codes, and the boundaries differ from person to person.  As John Cusack said in Grosse Pointe Blank – “I have a certain moral flexibility.” And I find that fascinating.

Little things stick in my throat like the Jedi being so calm, pure and goodie.  I became slightly obsessed with Grey Jedi and that middle area of – would you, if you could. Objectivity is all a matter of where you happen to stand, I suppose.

Just consider this. If you could walk into a bank and pick up a bag stuffed with money, leave with no one getting hurt and not get caught, would you do it?  I think you’d be surprised how many people would say yes.  And before you wonder, yes, I would.

Who or what are your inspirations when it comes to writing? Is it a particular author or authors, art, history, culture, current events, something else? How have they influenced your work?

I love films and crap tv.  It is a proper hobby of mine; you must sample the bad and the good.  Who wants to see perfect all the time? Besides, bad tv/films/books can inspire you, just as much as good. I try to avoid politics, although I do have passionate views on certain things, but they may well have subconsciously seeped from my head into my writing.

I love Pinterest; it is my little rabbithole where I can easily lose several hours, just looking at images and art, thinking about what ifs and whys.  If I was going to pick just one image, I’d say that whilst browsing I came across an image on Susan Dennard’s Tumblr page and it just knocked me sideways. I haven’t been able to find the original post, so the artist is unknown to me, it’s lost somewhere in hundreds of pages of content on her website.

But goodness.  It just kicked my mind into overdrive.  Why, what, who, when, how.  An avalanche of thoughts and reasons for it. Complete inspiration in just one image, it might even be truthful to say that is where most of the story for book one came from.

In terms of other influences video games are huge, in particular a Megadrive (AKA Sega Genesis) game called ‘Shining Force’ just blew my mind.  The complete hero’s journey story line, with chapters.

David Eddings was my fantasy gateway author, although recent reports about him have sullied him and his work. At the present time, Joe Abercrombie is my writing hero. I have met him and he’s lovely.  The complete fantasy story author in my view.  Regardless which subgenre you stick him in. His stories hit you in the head and the heart, and that is all that matters.  Best Served Cold is the perfect fantasy book.

Other obvious influences include sci-fi from my childhood; Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica (the Glen A. Larson version) and Buck Rogers.

Oh, and I love a good John Barry or Hans Zimmer soundtrack.

What do you love about self-publishing and on the flipside, what drives you nuts about it? What aspects of self-publishing do you excel at and in what ways do you struggle?

I love the fact I can just do it without permission. Without the authorisation of a gatekeeper.  It’s also dangerous. There is some real awful stuff out there. But I have faith in my story and the trilogy. 

It is also very new to me – I only published The Dark Crown a day or two before the deadline to be able to enter SPFBO6.  With hindsight, I’d have done more prep and less last-minute stuff. Sourcing a cover in 2 days is tough!

The bit that drives me mad is that it seems so cut throat sometimes. Trying to get your voice heard and noticed is also hard. There is lots of competition and no lack of people selling their books. Also reviews. I got 5 stars across the board and a very good first review, but recently got my first 1 out of 5 stars and it really got to me.  Not because it was a 1 star review – it’s an author’s badge of honour or rite of passage    but that they didn’t say why.  The rating I can live with, but why? Tell me why!  Mostly so that I can take it on board and get better as a writer.

What does your daily writing process look like? What do you do to get in the writing zone?  How many hours do you write or do you go for a word count? Tell us everything!

6am in the backroom every morning. That is my routine and I stick to it.  Also, once the kids are in bed and some weekends too. Whenever I can, really. 

It’s about doing it when you really can’t be bothered most of all. Not rocket science, just persistence and hard work.  My workspace is just a table with a view of the garden.

My rhythm has been disrupted as we have a new standard schnauzer puppy and it’s hard to write while your ankles are being bitten, but we’ll sort it out.

I never really aim for a particular wordcount each day, just that I do write each day.  And never end a session on a completed sentence.  It gets your brain going having to complete that sentence, rather than starting a fresh one at the start of a writing session.

What do you think makes a good story?

Something I can relate to and something that I can believe in. Or something that gets me thinking, perhaps the moral ambiguity thing again. I also like a mixture of the serious, jokes, tension and mystery.

Is there one particular platform you find is most beneficial as a self-published author?

As I say I am a real newbie at this and have learnt a lot over recent months.  I have only used Amazon, and it’s frighteningly easy to do.  I helped my wife publish her books last year and so had a rough idea of how it worked.  I am keen to use other platforms in the future – KOBO Apple books – but need an ISBN first.

I’ve learnt a lot from podcasts like Bestseller Experiment, Self Publishing Show and Writing Excuses.  Just the right mix of inspiration and technical help.

Name an under-appreciated novel that you love. Let us know why we should check it out.

This is a really hard question, as I don’t read as much as I should, so I’m going to cheat and name two.  The first is a classic in my eyes, Knights of Dark Renown by David Gemmell It’s a brilliant mix of heroic fantasy, with a touch of what if.

The other is my favourite book of last year. That didn’t get the attention it so very much deserved.  We are the Dead by Mike Shackle the good guys lose and it’s the tale of what happens next.  A nice twist on the classic good guys winning all the time.  Really well written and a great unappreciated novel.

What comes first, the characters or the plot?

Plot, always.  Perhaps it’s just the way my brain works? Characters are the decoration on the cake once you decide between chocolate, fruit or sponge, etc – and the right answer is always chocolate AND fruit.

Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself?

Definitely.  I can have a very simplistic view of the world and a slightly over inflated opinion of my own abilities.  I decided to write a book 25 years ago (no joke) and I’ve found so many distractions in that time to avoid doing it. It’s easy to talk about writing a book and say you’re going to do it.  I wanted to be part of the 1% who did it, not the 99% who merely talked about it.

I’ve taken creative writing courses and read books thinking ‘I can do better than that’.  But when it actually comes down to writing an entire book, it is bloody hard, and a lot of time and effort. I am more aware of my own shortcomings. 

When I told my wife I was really going to write a book, she told me I was being arrogant and didn’t know the first thing about how to do it structurally, and do you know what – she was right.  It’s taken 5 years to do and my grammar and tenses are still awful. I’m getting better, and nobody ever truly knows everything. Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Wise words.

What do the words “literary success” mean to you? 

They mean a sliding scale between two equally important things. At one end, people simply liking my books at the other end the mortgage being paid off.  Although the former is more likely than the latter.  The main thing is, people enjoy reading my books as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

If you could invite three people to dinner, alive or dead, fictional whom would they be? And why?

Tough question.

In actual life, The Rock, Sir Ian McKellen and Alan Shearer. They all hold a special place as heroes of mine in some way shape or form.

Fictional – Nicomo Cosca, Sir Kalten, The Doctor/Doctor Who – Matt Smith.  Why because they are my favourite fictional characters. Nicomo Cosca would provide the entertainment, Kalten the beer (or gin in my case), and the Doctor would mean we could relive it again and again.

 

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About the Author

s.c gowland

I am SC Gowland, an international selling author and semi-finalist of Self Publishing Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO6).  THE DARK CROWN is my debut novel, and the first in THE SOULS’ ABYSS trilogy.

It will be followed by book two – COVEN OF SHADOWS on 20th November 2020, and book three – DARKNESS FALLS, due out on 23rd April 2021.

My first memory is of holding a light sabre. I misspent much of my youth playing video-games and daydreaming that I was a Jedi or Buck Rogers. Always an enormous fan of fantasy novels, my favourite authors include Joe Abercrombie, George RR Martin and David Gemmell. 

I live by the sea with my family, still daydreaming about imaginary worlds, doing limited housework, and reading far less than I should.

 

Where to Find Him

You can find me on Twitter @stevegowland

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