Andy Jamieson is an Edinburgh based novelist. He also runs the website www.geekzine.co.uk
1. Andy, your debut novel was published in summer 2013. How long had you been writing before being picked up by publishers?
I first started properly writing, as in taking the craft seriously, in the year 2000, after finishing university. I explored lots of writing mediums; film and theatre scripts (which I studied at uni), short stories, then finally novels. My dream project was always what would eventually become The Vengeance Path, but I found the prospect of writing a fantasy novel quite intimidating, so I began work on another book idea. I wrote that novel to prove that I could do it, to take an idea and plot through to a finished thing. Shame it was no good! This particular book is locked away for a future revisit, but at the time I was quite pleased with it, and sent the manuscript out to agents without any success. All of that is a long way of saying it took me about 12 years approximately, as I signed a contract with my publisher in August 2012.
2. Did you ever dabble in other genres, or was it fantasy all the way for you?
The novel I mentioned in my last answer was an adventure horror thriller, which flitted between a contemporary setting, and an ancient Rome-esque setting, the idea being that they were inter-linked. There’s some good stuff in there that I want to revisit, but not for a while. Before writing this one, I did dabble in trying my hand at crime fiction, and I did start a couple of ideas, but found that I was always introducing elements of fantasy or horror into the stories…
3. Who were some of your early influences?
Before I settled into writing The Vengeance Path, back when I thought it was horror I wanted to write, I took a lot of inspiration from Clive Barker, particularly WeaveWorld and Cabal, which are incredible novels, blending contemporary horror and fantasy in spectacular ways. American Gods by Neil Gaiman, too, is a great book, and very much in this mold, being a hugely epic novel that blends horror, fantasy and noir.
Growing up, my favourite books were fantasy, ranging from the old Fighting Fantasy series, to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (still the standard), and the Forgotten Realms series. They fired my imagination up, and still do to some extent.
I have diverse tastes though, and one of my favourite writers is Barry Gifford, of Wild At Heart fame. He is definitely not a fantasy writer, but a very talented purveyor of twisted Americana noir. I’m a fan also of Cormac McCarthy’s books, and his writing style is fascinating to read. I have over the last few years become a big fan of Dan Abnett, who is a shockingly talented writer, best known for his work for 2000AD and Marvel, and Games Workshop’s Black Library publishing house.
My two favourite books are Dune by Frank Herbert, which I am very clear about being a big influence on The Vengeance Path, and Salamander by Thomas Wharton, which is a period-set adventure romp, featuring a printer hired by an eccentric count to create a book without end. It is simply incredible (but not simple) and features a clockwork castle.
I’m also very much inspired by movies and tv shows, and even videogames. David Lynch’s Dune, most notably, is one of my favourite films, along with Laputa: The Castle In The Sky and Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind, two Japanese anime films, from animation director Hayao Miyazaki (these two very much fuelled the industrial style I was aiming for the setting of The Vengeance Path). Krull, a mid-80s fantasy film, is chock full of energy and swagger. And, of course, Star Wars and the LOTR films are close to my heart, and always remind me of how much fun and enjoyable fantasy can be.
4. Do other genres influence your fantasy writing?
I think my series, the Chronicles of Edenos (The Vengeance Path is volume one of four, or possibly five novels), is rich with potential to explore this universe I’ve been dreaming up for the best part of nearly fifteen years. There are elements in my new book that I’m working on at the moment (cheap plug: Children of War is the second book in the Chronicles series, due out after the summer) that are infused by my love for noir, and also conspiracy/political thrillers. There are elements of science-fiction and horror mingling in there too. I think due to the time period of the series, which is an industrial era setting, it allows me quite a scope to explore myriad ideas and styles.
5. The Vengeance Path has been many years in the making. How much does the published version have in common with early drafts?
The published version is significantly different – and better! One of the first things my publisher suggested in our first meeting was creating a new opening for the book, to inject a big action beat at the start, and to also totally restructure the book. In The Vengeance Path there are numerous plot strands and a huge character list, and it was a case of balancing each story thread alongside the others, to give the book some structure. George R. R. Martin uses a similar technique in his A Song of Ice and Fire series; for example, A Game of Thrones has nine viewpoints, and each chapter is told strictly from one of those viewpoints.
6. How did your deal with Thistle in the Kiss come about?
Quite simply, through a friend of mine who is also published by Thistle In The Kiss. I had been thinking about self-publishing The Vengeance Path as an eBook (after yet another rejection from a literary agent), and had read an article in the Guardian about the eBook phenomenon. I submitted the first half dozen or so chapters to the publisher and about two months later I submitted the whole manuscript. It was a nervous process.
7. Tell us about some of the innovative approaches Thistle have taken to promoting your work.
Well, The Vengeance Path was initially syndicated as a weekly downloadable serial, available exclusively from the publisher’s website, that lasted for about four months. This was a mixed bag in terms of success but was certainly an interesting experience. Thistle are an independent publisher and therefore do not have deep pockets to spend on promotion, so exposure has been limited and mainly down to my own efforts, alongside the digital/social media knowledge of my publisher and their excellent publicist, Eleanor Pender.
As an aside, my publisher took the innovative step of creating an app to go alongside the release of The Vengeance Path, called quite simply The Vengeance Path App. It comprises an interactive map (created by an illustrator pal of mine, Culprit Art : http://culprittech.blogspot.co.uk/
), where you can click on cities and features and will get some basic information. Also, there is an A to Z appendix, that I originally created to go at the end of the book, which is a guide to all the weird and wonderful places and creatures that I created for the Chronicles series (no orcs, hobbits, or elves in this!). To top it off there is a genealogy section as well, that is a guide to the Imperial feudal Houses that make up the empire where the bulk of the story is set.
This app opened my eyes to the potential of the digital format, and I would imagine that anyone who has read and enjoyed The Vengeance Path will, hopefully, have found the app quite a nice addition.
and Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ctc.android.widget
8. Many writers, both emerging and established, have ambivalent attitudes towards the eBook phenomenon. What’s your take on it, and how have your views changed since becoming published yourself?
Before being published as an eBook author, I’d never read an eBook, so had very little inkling of the potential of the format. Personally, I think it is a wonderful format that has masses of potential – for example, as mentioned with regards to the app. I like the immediacy of the format. It will never replace the traditional print format, quite rightly, but eBooks have shaken things up and invigorated, to some extent, the tired behemoth that is the publishing industry (I worked as a bookseller for 8 years at Waterstone’s so have a reasonable amount of insight).
But I would love a print contract, to go alongside my digital experience. Nothing would beat seeing my books on a shelf in a big bookstore.
9. There seems to be a real appetite for fantasy in the mainstream at the moment. The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Game of Thrones being obvious examples. Do you think this is an exciting time to be a fantasy writer, or do you worry this thirst for fantasy will be a passing fad?
Fantasy has been kicking around as a popular genre long before it became an acceptable addition to the mainstream. Has the geek inherited the world, so to speak? To some extent, yes, and it is a good thing. What sets fantasy and science-fiction aside though (in a similar way to crime and horror fiction), is that the fans are accustomed to reading long series, and trying out new authors. In particular with fantasy, it is almost a case of anything goes. It’s a very exciting genre because alongside your standard orcs n’ elves etc, there is also some original stuff getting released. ‘Steampunk’ is an emerging genre, and that is where I find my work being classified, which is more down to my publisher than myself. It hadn’t occurred to me during the writing of the actual thing but the tag fits nicely so I am fine with it. And no, Fantasy is not a fad that will pass, due to the scope of the genre. The appetite is definitely there to search for the Next Big Thing, and I say that as a fan myself. It is the stories that are the pull, not necessarily the authors.
10. You have already expanded the Vengeance universe with The Winter Throne, what’s next?
The Vengeance Path: The Lost Brother is a prequel novella set three years before TVP, and was originally a free download that I gave away as a collectable postcard (with a QR barcode which you could scan that would take you to the ‘secret’ location on the publisher’s website where you could get the e-novella) at my event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last summer. The Lost Brother features one of the main characters from The Vengeance Path and charts his fall from grace.
The Winter Throne is a short story set nearly a thousand years before TVP and is a more traditional heroic fantasy yarn, and again features one of the more important characters of TVP, and of the series to come.
Next up is Children of War, as mentioned earlier. This is a far different work to that of The Vengeance Path, and is more clandestine in style, concentrating as it does on the aftermath to the disastrous (for the heroes, anyway) climactic events of TVP.
11. The story arc you have hinted at sounds fairly mammoth, are you planning other works independent of this, or will these characters keep you busy for the foreseeable future?
My plan is that, over the coming years (I am contracted to write four novels), each novel in the series will be followed by a novella and/or a short story that explores the wider universe (and timeline, as seen in The Winter Throne) of the Chronicles, but that also has some link to the main story thread. It is quite an audacious plan and will require, yes, mammoth amounts of planning and writing… But I love it, so it is an absolute pleasure. The money’s shite so that definitely is not a motivation! I’ve got a real passion for what I’m doing and I hope that is reflected in my work.