Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m from the UK. I was born and raised in London. I wouldn’t say we were poor but money was often tight. Reading was a release for me from an early age, that and television. Then I got into the music thing in my teens, played a lot of guitar and probably did more partying than was good for me! I cleaned up my act a few years ago and around that time it dawned on me that I loved writing more than music.
What inspired you to write?
I remember writing a lot of stuff at school that I never finished. Then in adult life I came back to it. Rock ‘n’ roll is very seductive, but the more I got back into writing the more I realised that it offers more. For one thing, you can have complete creative control – especially on a self-publishing ticket. No more band arguments, no struggling with sound engineers or producers… You’re the boss! And words have far more intellectual clout than music – they can be beautiful for their own sake, but they can also be used to send ideas far and wide. I can’t think of a more satisfying feeling than creating your own world and story and watching them come to life through the power of prose.
What inspired your novel?
Er, God? It has to come from somewhere… That collective unconscious that we tap into without thinking, all artists can relate to this I believe. In particular I wanted to explore the links between monotheism and polytheism, how they bleed into one another (despite the best attempts of clerics of many faiths to deceive us to the contrary). I also wanted to write a story of high adventure – chivalry, derring-do, battles, what have you – that was underpinned by creeping horror – demons, evil spirits, possession, warlocks and black magic. HP Lovecraft meets George RR Martin if you will!
What is the genre?
Dark fantasy. Although it crosses over into grimdark too.
What draws you to this genre?
Everything. The creative potential is limitless. You get to design your own world with its history and cultures, drawing on the real one as much or as little as you like. I didn’t choose this genre; it chose me. I may branch out into other kinds of fiction but for now I couldn’t imagine writing anything else!
How did you develop your plot and your characters?
I started much as Tolkien did, concocting a series of histories and nations, each with their own culture, religion and linguistic identity. Once I had a fully functioning world I started to devise the storyline. I went on holiday and spent several days chain smoking and writing out a synopsis for an epic saga. Once I was done I had 50 pages of A4. I thought: I’m on to something here.
What inspired your protagonist?
In Adelko of Narvik I wanted a hero who is a pacifist and doesn’t use violence to solve his problems (although he falls in with quite a few characters who do). I also wanted someone whose job it is to hunt down sorcerers. In that way I believe I’ve come up with a lead character who is the opposite of the stereotypical wizard or warrior you find in most fantasy novels… unless of course you count the prayers Adelko uses to neutralise magic as magic itself…! That’s my idea of an ambiguous character: you can read him in completely different ways.
What inspired your antagonist?
Depends which one you are talking about… There are several, of varying degrees of depravity. You see, I also wanted to channel elements of a thriller/mystery into my work, so in Devil’s Night Dawning the arch villain’s identity remains ambiguous… I would say more but I don’t want to give the game away!
What was the hardest part to write in the book?
Ooh good question! Most of it seemed to come quite naturally… I think editing it was the hardest part. I’ve got years of experience as an editor but making judgement calls on your own work was tough. But again, incredibly rewarding – I have an idiosyncratic style of writing and having complete control of the creative process is very important to me.
What was your favourite part of your book to write?
I think the segment where Adelko is on the run with his mentor Horskram – they know that somebody knows what they know and is sending agents – human and supernatural – to kill them before they can warn the Grand Master of their order. They’re being chased across the wilderness day and night, with the suspense gradually building (a bit like in the first part of The Fellowship of the Ring). I like to pace the telling of a story – don’t give it all away at once! It also gave me the opportunity to world-build through Adelko’s POV – he hasn’t seen much of the world to date so it’s all pretty fresh in his eyes.
Are you a full time or a part time writer? If part time, what do you do besides write?
I worked for more than a decade as a freelance journalist and copywriter, sidelining in music, but now I’ve quit those things to concentrate on writing. The second installment of the Broken Stone series will be out this year!
What are you currently reading?
Dawn of the Gods by Jacquetta Hawkes. I’ve just started and it’s a fascinating read: it details how the Minoan civilization in Crete was influenced by the Near Eastern cultures of Mesopotamia and went on to influence that of mainland Greece – the Mycenaean palace culture that preceded the classical era most people are familiar with. I read a lot of history and it definitely inspires my writing.
Who would you say are your favourite authors?
Oh so many. To name but a few: Sir Thomas Malory, Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, JRR Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Joseph Conrad, HP Lovecraft, Aldous Huxley, Anthony Burgess, Mervyn Peake
How about your favourite books? What would be your top 5?
Ow, that’s hard…! The Heart of Darkness, A Tale of Two Cities, The Lord of the Rings, The Talisman, Gormenghast. Better move on to the next question, before I change my mind!
What are your future projects, if any?
To continue writing the Broken Stone series. I’ve synopsised for five books, but it might run over. I’ve every intention of finishing it too – unlike some other authors of epic fantasy I could mention… Ahem!
What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you and your books?
My website is damienblackwords.com and I can be reached any time of the day at firstname.lastname@example.org – I also have a Twitter account @TheDevilsFriar and I’m on Facebook too under www.facebook.com/damienblackwords/
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Don’t aspire: be.