by Autumn M. Birt
For my first post in 2015 for the Guild, I decided to let someone else do most of the talking! I know, it is a bit of a cop out, but I’ve known Martin through Twitter and noticed he had a book being released this week and well… I thought you should meet him too! So I’m happy to introduce Martin Bolton, author of The Best Weapon and more!
Introduce yourself and tell us a little about your writing and books.
I was born in Cornwall in 1979 and, after eleven years in London, now live in Bristol. I’ve always enjoyed writing but didn’t do anything seriously until I met David Pilling (co-writer of The Best Weapon) in 2007. I wrote one short story and then we immediately started working on The Best Weapon together. We’ve since written a sequel called The Path of Sorrow and we’re now working on a third epic fantasy, as yet untitled.
I love fantasy/speculative fiction, but I also write short stories in various genres for The 900 Club, a group of four writers who each post a short story on the 900 Club blog on a monthly basis.
You have a re-release that came out yesterday entitled the Best Weapon. I LOVE the Nietzsche quote you use on your website for it: “The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy” (I could so use that for my new series Friends of my Enemy! lol). Tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
My own personal inspiration for The Best Weapon was how people learn to cope with conflicting emotions and personalities, vices and virtues, and how they grow and mature dealing with them. I think everyone is multifaceted: a dark side, a funny side, a compassionate side, an angry side etc. I wanted to explore how we manage the negative ones and try to nurture the positive ones.
Fantasy is a good way to do this because you can embellish the negative and make it manifest itself in ways it doesn’t in reality (unless you believe it does), such as demonic parentage or supernatural powers. Equally, the positive can manifest as celestial beings or nature itself. Ultimately, we all have to “battle our demons”. For me, The Best Weapon is about that, and a lot more besides.
The Nietzsche quote seemed to fit so naturally with the story, and it is punchy, so it was an easy decision to use it. I love it when a story, especially an epic fantasy, uses a quote from a real-life historic figure, hopefully it helps with the suspension of disbelief.
It sounds like you are working on a sequel to it. How is that going and could you tell us a little about it?
The sequel was initially released by Musa Publishing as a serial called Sorrow. It was actually written as a single novel, and we have restored it to its original state ready for release later this year with the title The Path of Sorrow. It is the story of a child whose entire tribe is violently wiped out, leaving only him alive. The child is named Sorrow after a prophecy. He is reputed to possess great power, as his nomadic tribe were descended from the very first people, and those who wish to seize control in The World Apparent will stop at nothing to acquire him.
You co-wrote the Best Weapon with David Pilling. I can’t imagine working on a story with someone. It sounds great and a challenge. How did you make it work?
I get asked this a lot, and the answer is we worked together with surprising ease. Initially, we weren’t sure how it was going to work, and this influenced our thought process when we came up with the story for The Best Weapon. We decided to write a story with two main characters who don’t actually meet until very near the end of the book. I suppose this was our way of putting off having to deal with it!
Looking back, we needn’t have worried, because we each created so many different characters and cultures to go along with our main protagonists that the book is not just a story about two people. It is a story of many different beings, some human, some gods, some demons, and some from other dimensions altogether, each striving to survive in their own way.
David and I have very similar tastes in literature, music, humour and beer, we also have similar influences when it comes to writing. We found that our styles fit together pretty seamlessly, as more than one reviewer has pointed out. We’ve since written another fantasy novel and are half way through a third, with a fourth planned, and we don’t even think about how it works any more, it just does.
Why did you choose to write in the fantasy genre? Are there any others you’d like to write in?
Fantasy has always inspired me, ever since I watched Arnold Schwarzenegger play Conan the Barbarian when I was a snotty little oik. Something about being able to play out any story you like, without the constraints of reality, in a world of your own creation is irresistible. There is no better genre to write.
I do, however, write a lot of short stories. For the past two years, all of my short stories have been written for The 900 Club: a group of four writers who each post a nine hundred word short story on a blog every month. I do like to try out other genres, and a short story is a nice way to dabble without having to commit a lot of time to something. I tend to play about with genres though, so not a lot of my stuff fits well into one, it often ends up getting a bit surreal, and sometimes downright nonsensical and ridiculous.
At some point, I will write something longer in another genre, but it will be a twisted, harrowing, unholy mockery of it and I will probably be arrested soon after. And rightly so, I should never have been shaved down and taught the rudiments of reading and writing.
See? I can’t help it. I’m ill.
Who are some of authors who’ve inspired you?
At the moment I am influenced by Bernard Cornwell, Robert E Howard, Rafael Sabatini, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Joe Abercrombie and Charles Bukowski. I think I have taken inspiration from every author I’ve read whether it is style and technique, or just how NOT to do something (the authors I’ve mentioned don’t fall into the latter category).
My inspirations change as I discover new literature. The aforementioned authors, however, remain in mind constantly when I write as I have been inspired so strongly by specific elements of their work. Cornwell for his characters. Howard for his vision and originality. Sabatini for his story telling and sense of adventure. Lovecraft and Poe for their imagination and ability to build atmosphere and describe a scene. Abercrombie for his slick, gritty style and dark sense of humour. Bukowski for… I just don’t know where to begin with Bukowski and, more importantly, I don’t know where it would end.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about writing?
My favourite thing is the freedom to express myself. Like all creative things, for me, it is therapy, it is anger management.
I often read things like “writing/reading takes you into new worlds” or “discover new worlds” etc. Well, I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I don’t really relate to that. I am already in another world, and it is chaos. It is violent and noisy and painful and it stinks. I’m not talking about reality (that’s a bit clichéd), I mean what goes on in my head is like that. I’m not discovering new worlds or escaping into them. I’m escaping FROM them, mastering them by trapping the bastards on a page. That’s my favourite thing.
My least favourite thing is that writing makes my arse, my back and my eyes hurt. And sometimes my brain.
Do you get writer’s block? How do you deal with it and find new inspiration?
I do half the time, but not serious writer’s block that lasts days or weeks. My main problem is my tiny attention span. I’ll write two hundred words and then spend an hour thinking about cake. I find wine or beer helps me concentrate, it gets me more emotionally charged and single minded, so I can plough on, heedless of anything else going on around me. The right music helps as well – something atmospheric that goes on for ages and ages is ideal.
I also find that if I sit down and find my mind blank, simply reading the last few thousands words I wrote will warm the brain up a bit and get me going. I haven’t found writer’s block a huge problem though, the main problem is finding the time to write since I still have a day job.
What is your favorite non-writing related thing to do? There is more to author’s than novels (supposedly!).
I do a bit of artwork, for the same reasons outlined under question 7. You can see that on my blog or at boltanart.blogspot.com. I like ink or pencil best, my favourite thing to do is dot drawings because it requires hours of painstaking concentration and I find it a bit like meditation.
I also play football, which hurts. I might have to stop at some point as my knees have been ground to a fine paste and my ankles are held in place mainly by prayer.
Anything else you’d like to share?
You haven’t seen me. Right?
Thanks so much for the interview, Martin. And best of luck with your re-release of the Best Weapon!