Tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in writing
I was born in Barnsley, a former mining town in South Yorkshire, and first started writing at college. I’d been playing the Final Fantasy games on Playstation whose stories fascinated me and they guided me towards discovering Norse mythology which I found infinitely more absorbing than Greek myths. In 1999 I drew the world map for Elenchera and began building the history which, at present, comprises more than 47,000 years of events.
Having a mercenary as a protagonist is a fascinating choice. Was this a
foundational idea, i.e. did you have an interest in writing a book from
a mercenary’s perspective? How did it come about?
When I was building the early history of Elenchera an institution known as the Merelax Mercenaries popped up. I just couldn’t get them out of my mind but as the timelines of Elenchera extended I found they had a less than prominent role in world events. I decided I wanted to explore the mercenaries in more detail and that’s where Fezariu’s Epiphany came in.
What literary or other works, i.e. movies or TV, most inspired Fezariu’s
Certainly the RPG game Final Fantasy VIII, which included a group of mercenaries known as SeeD, had a big influence on Fezariu’s Epiphany. That game focussed on mercenaries being involved in saving the world but I never wanted my novel to be on a grand scale like that. The Merelax Mercenaries are gifted warriors but they’re not superhuman. My literary influences include The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Truth series for their wonderful fantasy elements, but I must also pay homage to Hemingway and Murakami’s whose simple styles of writing have had a great bearing on my own.
Were there particular people from real life (details optional) who
inspired any of your characters?
General Bayard’s selective hearing was taken from a former work colleague and she did say it’s something I could use when I got round to writing a book, so hopefully I won’t get sued. The jovial and alcohol loving toldere, Vintaro, mirrors myself and some of my friends with similar habits, I would say. A lot of the characters just came from my imagination really. I tend to identify positive and negative traits in people and extract those to use in my characters but I’ve yet to write a character that is perfectly symmetrical to someone I know in real life.
The place names in Fezariu’s Epiphany are great, the cities especially,
tell us about this. Any hints for other writers on creating interesting
I have fond memories of naming towns and villages in Elenchera. When I was building the history of I had to draw twenty-three individual maps for each Shard, or period of history, so 500+ in all, to represent all the islands and continents. When it came to putting dots on the landscapes to show villages, towns and cities I found inspiration for their names from interesting words in the dictionary, street names from the phone book or simply combinations of letters I would painstakingly put together by trial and error until I found something that sounded nice when spoken aloud. Names are all around us so it’s always good to have a pen and paper in case you pass a street sign or shop window and think “I quite like that name, I may use that in future.”
All the characters in the book are intriguing and complex (not an easy
feat for a writer). I will choose two, Vincent and Tessera, and then you
pick one (besides Fezariu) and tell us about your thinking process in
Good choices. Vincent was one of the characters I had the most fun writing. I thought of all the things I simply couldn’t be as a man and I transferred those to Vincent. He’s violent, misogynistic, self-centred and consumed by avarice. For all these faults though he is utterly vital to the story and from day one I wanted readers to despise him and I do think they will. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting Vincent Birchill round for company.
Tessera is one of three important women in the novel, the others being Fezariu’s mother, Jessamine, and his childhood friend, Alycea. You will find in Elenchera that women are often stronger characters than the men and I think that’s partly true in Fezariu’s Epiphany. I wanted Tessera to be a gifted mercenary but one with some degree of fragility, just like all the other recruits she competes with to be the best. With Fezariu having escaped his past by joining the mercenaries there needed to be someone to confront him and discover why he is so withdrawn. Tessera was the only one I would have entrusted with this responsibility. Not only does she challenge Fezariu in training, she challenges him emotionally, not content with knowing the person he reveals on the surface, she wants to go further and reach his core. Tessera is a very special character and, like Jessamine and Alycea, she is there to guide Fezariu on his difficult path.
Arshea isn’t as prominent a character as some of the others but he has a vital role to play. While Tessera is Fezariu’s rival in training and Vintaro is too jovial to be taken seriously, Arshea is more akin to Fezariu. He has joined the mercenaries as a victim of circumstance to raise funds to marry his fiancé and flee from their respective families. Fezariu’s past has driven him to the mercenaries but it appears to be the sanctuary he has yearned for while Arshea sees it as a get rich quick scheme. Fezariu and Arshea share a room at the university and this makes it hard for Fezariu to completely shut Arshea out of his life. Events in the colonies during the battle for Redemption are a testament to what this trio of friends come to mean to Fezariu and with Arshea especially I think he realises they are more important than he could ever have believed. All of the characters in the novel, to a degree, are teachers for Fezariu. They share their philosophies on life and help him to mature a lot as the story progresses. Arshea’s role is as important as any other character and I think his friendship with Fezariu is a moving one in the end.
Fezariu is not a perfect person, which of course makes him a wonderfully
compelling protagonist, but he does seem to have the hand of destiny
guiding him. How did you balance free will vs. fate in writing his
character? How will this work in the next book (if you can tell us a
little bit about it)?
I was careful not to have fate completely thrown against Fezariu. I didn’t believe any reader would be convinced by that kind of story. While the hands of destiny do often deal Fezariu some cruel blows it’s his perceptions as a child that is the key to his undoing. Fezariu blames himself for his mother abandoning him and subsequent tragedies that are beyond his control are all interpreted as his responsibility. I want readers to gasp and feel sorrow for Fezariu, imagining how different events would be if he just thought differently. Once he has left his childhood, Fezariu is very much in control of his destiny but the mark his past has left on him is just too great to forget.
My next novel, A World Apart, will also depict that balance between fate and free will. The three central characters that form a love triangle have to resolve it in their teens which they do, but as adults their lives are drawn back together. By the time they are reunited they are very different people, more enemies than friends, and overcoming their differences is far from straightforward this time. A World Apart will be filled with regrets and missed opportunities and once again had these twists of fate not occurred then the story would have been more pleasant for all three protagonists concerned. If that sounds vague it’s because I’m not giving away too much at this early stage. I’ll just say I believe this will be a better novel than Fezariu’s Epiphany and I’ll be striving to make sure it is.
The event with the politicians (Stanwell & Pilkington) is a powerfully
defining moment. Did this part of the book arise out of the flow of the
book or did you envision it as a central element from the start? Tell us
about your thought process with this scene.
Fezariu’s Epiphany was a very different novel when I first came up with the idea but this segment of the story was there in the original incarnation. It was important that the image of the Merelax Mercenaries as a place of fame and fortune was tested by the realities of war. Fezariu’s experiences in the colonies are certainly eye openers but ones he thrives on rather than laments. The scenario with Walter Pilkington and William Stanwell is much darker and I wanted to see what it would do to Fezariu and his friends when given such a cold responsibility. I think this aspect of the novel works very well and Tessera really steps forward as a character in the aftermath as the voice of reason.
The battle scenes in Fezariu’s Epiphany seem very authentic. How did you
learn about weapons usage, combat tactics and battle strategies?
I always loved history at school but it wasn’t until university that I started studying areas I had long been fascinated about such as the Vikings and the Norman Conquest. Even after my degree was over I continued to read history books and I do love anything to do with military history. Modern warfare I find interesting but I’m more inclined towards ancient and medieval history where your skill with a sword dictated how you would cope in a battle. I’ve read about tactics in pitched battles and about sieges so I think a combination of those elements with a few little additions of my own thrown in contributed to the conflicts in Fezariu’s Epiphany. I was always confident writing the battle scenes and when I wrote about the struggle for Redemption it was practically in one sitting, such was the way I got carried away by all that fighting.
The bakery storyline is a pleasant aspect of Fezariu’s Epiphany. The
baked goods sound delicious! Why did you choose a bakery and do you have
any recipes to offer
The bakery just seemed a warm and homely setting. The book begins in the squalid brothel, The White Oak, where nothing is homely but when we enter Peter’s bakery in Larchfield the novel depicts a relaxed and carefree environment. Archangel University is too discipline orientated to be regarded as homely and outside the mercenaries train hard for the impending pendulum of life and death that is never far away. I think all the settings in the novel save the two bakeries are quite unappealing places and there is some irony that Fezariu would want to flee from the bakery when the other locations are no more comforting. Do I have any recipes? Sadly not. My wife is good at baking and sometimes has me alongside as an able assistant but as a baker I wouldn’t know where to start!
Sometimes, when writing a book, events in a writer’s life parallel or
take place at significant points during the writing. Share with us any
anecdotes from the writing of Fezariu’s Epiphany that its readers might
My wife, Donna, has become an integral part of the Elenchera story and it’s her that my readers owe a great debt of thanks to for Fezariu’s Epiphany. When we first met she was the first person to read some of the history of Elenchera and she thought it was amazing. While we were still friends I pitched the original idea of Fezariu’s Epiphany to her but she immediately picked at the gaps in the narrative and made me realise it wasn’t working in its current form. Thanks to some brainstorming the narrative took on a completely new complexion. We got together and later married while I was writing the book so it’s been an amazing journey for both of us getting it out there. I feel I’ve made the story as complete as I could and it’s Donna that helped me realise this dream.
Thank you David for providing such in-depth and insightful answers. Fezariu’s Epiphany is an exciting adventure and a must read. We eagerly await A World Apart.