Six Elementals Author Interviews will introduce prospective readers to some of the best writers in their genre you may, or may not, have heard of, via a series of six questions. I encourage you to check out the work of these phenomenal creatives! Links to their websites and purchase links will always appear, accompanying the interview. Check them out!
I am extremely honoured today to be interviewing the award-winning fantasy author Tim Hardie! Tim’s published works are: Hall of Bones and Sundered Souls.
P.L.: Thank you so much Tim, for joining me on Six Elementals Interviews! And huge congratulations on Hall of Bones reaching the finals of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off this year (SPFBO7)! Very well deserved! I truly enjoyed Hall of Bones, and it’s obvious the SPFBO Judges did too! What’s it been like to be part of SPFBO, to be one of the 10 out of approximately 300 writers to reach the glory of the finals, and experience this kind of success with your debut novel?
Tim: Hi PL. Thanks so much for inviting me to take part in an interview. I don’t mind admitting when I found out Hall of Bones had made it through to the finals I was absolutely stunned. Don’t get me wrong, I think Hall of Bones is a good book and the longer the process went on, I knew a semi-finalist spot was a possibility. However, the competition in SPFBO is fierce and the level of talent on display is incredible. When it comes down to it luck plays an enormous part in the contest, making it both exciting and unpredictable. Lots of good books didn’t connect with that initial reviewer and I’m well aware Hall of Bones could quite easily have been cut in Phase 1.
Ultimately, I feel both fortunate and privileged to have made the finals. Yes, I believe Hall of Bones deserves its place but so did lots of other books that didn’t make it through. Being part of this competition and seeing my book in the list of finalists is amazing. I think all of the finalists are now (as at 10th December 2021 when I’m writing this) waiting with some trepidation for those first finalist reviews. SPFBO is a very public contest. The level of exposure it provides is the real prize but there’s obviously a risk some reviewers will not connect with our novels in the way we’d hoped. So to try and answer your question, it’s a real mix of emotions if I’m being completely honest, although it’s definitely one of the real highlights of my short career as a published author.
P.L.: Having read it, I feel strongly that Hall of Bones is a very worthy finalist for SPFBO! I loved the unexpected twists and turns in Hall of Bones, the depth of the characters, immersing myself in the world building (especially the history of the clans), and of course your stellar action scenes? What was your favourite aspect of writing your award-winning book? Characters? Dialogue? Themes? Plot twists? Battle scenes? World-building?
Tim: Those elements are found in Hall of Bones (and The Brotherhood of the Eagle Series) because I love them all! Writing a novel is really a case of combining your favourite ingredients, whilst trying to produce something fresh and new. I think world building is important, because the setting and history shapes the characters and how they interact with each other and the wider world. I build that as a canvas and then I work out my principal characters and a broad outline for the story. The novel starts to take shape from there. Many of those plot twists were as much a surprise to me writing the book as they were to the reader. Characters take on a life of their own and they can drive the plot in unexpected directions. Those are my favourite moments – when my own writing surprises me.
P.L.: As you know, I’m all about the characters, and yours are outstanding, really compelling (Etta the Crone probably being my favourite)! The Brotherhood of the Eagle series, with Hall of Bones as the first instalment, is Norse-inspired. Have you always been interested in Norse Mythology and the Norse world? What fascinates you about it?
Tim: I describe Hall of Bones as Viking-inspired fantasy, because it doesn’t draw on Norse mythology at all. I’ve borrowed from the Viking culture whilst combining this with my own magic and mythology from my fantasy setting, the world of Amuran. Hall of Bones just happens to be set in a region with similarities to Viking culture. Beyond their borders are a much wider range of peoples, cultures and fantasy races.
Whilst I’m interested in Norse mythology it’s definitely not something I would hold myself out as an expert in. In fact, when I was working on the initial concept for Hall of Bones, I steered clear of re-reading Viking myth and legend. I didn’t want my books to be too heavily influenced by those stories, even subconsciously.
The decision to use the Viking setting really was a bolt from the blue. The idea just popped into my head as I was thinking about starting a new writing project. I’d finished my first novel but I wasn’t completely happy with it, so I decided I needed to start again with a new storyline and a different set of characters. That previous novel had a character from Laskar (the Viking equivalent region of Amuran) and that got me thinking about setting the whole story there. As soon as I had the idea for Hall of Bones, something clicked. I did some very basic research on Viking culture as part of the world building process and worked out the overarching plot. After that, I dived into the story and by about a quarter of the way through I knew I was onto something.
P.L.: Viking, and Norse inspired fantasy is all the rage, so no doubt your series will continue to be very popular! You have a very well-known and illustrious literary agent in John Jarrold, who has many successful traditionally-published authors as clients, and some of the other top Indie fantasy authors as well, such as Ben Galley. What’s it like working with an agent of that calibre? We presume you plan to query some of your work, since you have enlisted John’s services. You’ve self-published the first two entries in The Brotherhood of the Eagle, but how long will you remain self-published?
Tim: I’m enormously fortunate to work with John – he’s one of the best agents in the business and he’s been an important influence on my writing. I set out to become traditionally published mainly because I didn’t really understand back then that there was an alternative. I have vivid memories of submitting my sample manuscript to John and the excitement when he asked for the full novel. It was Christmas time when he got back in touch with an offer of representation. That was a real turning point, when I realised writing had gone from being a fun hobby (which it still is) to something I could consider doing professionally.
John helped me edit Hall of Bones and his input was vital, polishing my voice as an author and ironing out a host of annoying verbal tics. It was great fun going out to publisher submission, although Hall of Bones didn’t get picked up in the end, despite getting some excellent feedback. That was the reason why I went independent, because I felt the book was good enough and it deserved to find an audience. I should explain here that I did this with John’s full cooperation – after all, even as an independent author there are elements of the business where having representation is incredibly useful. John’s a consummate professional but the reason I enjoy working with him is he’s incredibly supportive, evidenced by the way he always gives time to encourage and advise new writers. When I went indie with Hall of Bones we agreed we’d also try the traditional route with a new novel I’d written, called A Quiet Vengeance. That story, based in a setting inspired by the Middle East and North Africa, is currently out to query with publishers in the UK and US. We’ll have to see what happens.
Obviously I’m now a finalist in SPFBO as an independent author. I know a lot of my fellow writers are fiercely pro-indie and wouldn’t even consider traditional publication. Their reasons are totally valid – creative freedom, full control of your business, a larger slice of royalties and so on. I’ve enjoyed all of these myself as an independent but I don’t believe it’s an intrinsically better route to releasing novels. Traditional publication also has its advantages, the main one being the (currently) greater reach of bookstores, which gives you access to a wider group of readers. We can be so wrapped up in the Amazon distribution system and its equivalents it’s easy to forget the majority of readers do not consume eBooks (my main source of royalties).
At the moment, you have two competing business models, which are both jealously guarding their respective territories. So much of this is wrapped up in the evolution of the high street and whether eBooks continue to secure a growing share of the overall book market. In the future, I think we’ll cross a threshold and start to see these models coming closer together. From my perspective, I’m keeping an open mind. I enjoy being indie but if a traditional deal was put on the table I’d give it serious consideration.
P.L.: I have no doubt, if that’s what you want, a traditional deal will be coming your way one day soon, due to your immense talent! Please tell us a bit about Tim Hardie, the man. What is your other work besides writing? Any other hobbies or interests you’d be willing to share?
Tim: Like virtually all authors, I have a day job that pays the bills. That’s a really important point for readers to remember. Most authors do this because they love writing, not because they’re making £1,000s every month from their novels. I’ve had a long career in Local Government, working on projects in various legal, commercial and management roles. It’s been a rewarding and interesting career. Originally I used writing as a way to relax and do something different, away from the pressures and challenges of my day job. Over the years, as I started to improve, I realised writing was something I was able to do well, so I now balance both those careers alongside family responsibilities.
Writing is my main hobby, mainly because of the amount of time it takes up. And when I refer to writing, I now mean all the other things that go with a writing career. So that’s interviews like this, blog posts, commissioning cover designs, social media, short stories, newsletters, building and maintaining my website, designing marketing materials and all the associated administration of running a small business. I’ve got to a point now where I’d say it was 50% writing and 50% all this ‘other stuff’. That feels like the right balance.
Family is important to me and I’m a Christian, so I’m a member of a local church as well, which in many ways is an extension of the same thing. I also live in a beautiful part of England, with the Derbyshire Peak District right on my doorstep. I enjoy walking in the area and finding new routes to explore. It will come as no surprise that I love reading and often unwind in the evenings curled up with a good book.
I have, on occasion, also been sighted down my local pub once more, now some of the COVID restrictions have started to ease. I enjoy craft beer and have been known to sample the odd whisky in my time as well. I’m a fan of Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing with the Stars in the US/North America, I believe) – an interest I share with John Jarrold! Cheese is my biggest weakness – without that habit I’d probably be two stone lighter but life is for living.
P.L.: Tell me about it! I love cheese too! Have you read any of the other 9 SPFBO7 finalists? If so, do you have any input about their books?
Tim: I’m a slow reader but when I made the finals I wanted to get a feel for what my fellow finalists had written. I sat down and read the opening chapters of the other finalists and my main impression afterwards was just how high the standards are. The books are all so different and each of them has that distinctive voice you need as a writer to stand out from the crowd. Based on that sample, I really couldn’t tell you who is going to win but I can say if you pick up any of the ten finalists, you’ll have your hands on a good book.
Long before the SPFBO finalists had been announced I’d already read We Men of Ash and Shadow by HL Tinsley. I thought that was a fantastic book and it’s easily my favourite fantasy read of 2021. It has so many memorable lines and there’s this wonderful dark humour weaving its way through the novel. The characters are great and the plot is tight, leaving you guessing right until the end. The sequel, The Hand that Casts the Bone, is due out in 2022 and I can’t wait to get my hands on that one.
I’m currently reading Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar. One of the things I love about the independent writing scene is how there are so many distinctive books out there. Legacy of the Brightwash is one of those. It’s a slower read, more character driven and, frankly, difficult to classify. I’d say it’s gaslamp fantasy, with elements of steampunk, westerns and film noir all adding to the unique feel of the story. Krystle is an incredibly talented writer and this title is definitely going to do well in the competition.
P.L.: Yes, Krystle is surely one of the top Indie fantasy writers out there, and all of the finalists are incredible writers, including yourself! Can’t wait to see how this SFPBO plays out! It was a real pleasure to speak to you Tim! Thank you so much once again, for being willing to be interviewed by me!