Saturday, 26 January 2013

2013 YA UK Debut Interview: Curse of Kings by Alex Barclay

We all like supporting YA and New Adult debut authors, but this year, rather than just read their books, I'll be highlighting them on my blog too, so you can hear about these wonderful authors.

Today I'm interviewing YA author Alex Barclay whose debut YA novel, Curse of Kings, is being published by HarperCollins Children's Books in the UK on 31st January 2013. Read on for more:

Curse of Kings by Alex Barclay - In the tone of The Hobbit, comes the first thrilling story in an epic fantasy adventure, from a major new voice.
Fourteen-year-old Oland Born lives in dark times, in a world ruled by evil tyrant, Vilius Ren. Vilius and his fearsome, bloodthirsty army have wrecked the prosperous kingdom of Decresian, once ruled by good King Micah. Oland himself has been kept as Vilius’s servant in grim Castle Derrington, and he knows little about his past – or why Vilius keeps such a sharp, close eye on him.

One night, Oland finds a letter addressed to him, from the long-dead king. No sooner has he read the message than a mysterious stranger tries to kidnap him. Oland runs, the dead king’s warning ringing in his ears…

If Oland is to live he must restore the shattered kingdom. This is his quest. This is his curse. Let the trials of Oland Born begin. . .

The setting is a hugely atmospheric fantasy world of medieval castles, Romanesque games arenas, supernatural forests and harsh seas. Terrifying hybrid creatures and monsters abound – and Oland’s greatest ally is a girl called Delphi who has dark secrets of her own.
 From Goodreads.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I love coffee. I love burgers. I am at my most productive on rainy days. Lampreys freak me out. Blue is my favourite colour. I used to be a journalist, I used to be a copywriter, I used to work merchandise in Planet Hollywood. I’ve loved every job I’ve done. Winter is my favourite season. I know a lot of the words to Beauty and the Beast – in English and French. I have a boxing bag. I’m not afraid to use it.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

It was more that I’ve always loved writing. I never thought being an author could be real. Authors seemed unreachable.

How did you come up with the idea for Curse of Kings?

It all began with Oland Born. He just showed up in the same way as – in life – you meet someone and you like them straight away and want to get to know them more. I know that sounds nuts, but I can’t explain it any other way. Delphi appeared almost at the same time and I felt the same way about her. The story came to life from that point – I knew what Oland’s quest would be, and how it would end. All the rest evolved as I wrote. All my books have begun in this way. I have no idea why, but I like it.

If you could describe Curse of Kings in three words, what would they be?

Borne of Born.

Why will readers like your main character, Oland Born?

There’s a line in the book: Oland Born, Oland bred. This is a boy who, despite the dreadful conditions of his servitude, created a better version of himself than he might have become were he to have taken on his savage masters’ traits. Oland has inner strength. He’s a fighter. And he is brave enough to take on the onerous task of saving the kingdom, even though he barely knows a world outside the castle. I hope that Oland will be liked for his strength, his honour, his kindness and his courage.

What research did you have to do for Curse of Kings? Was there anything you found that surprised you?

I researched castles, weaponry, geographical phenomenon, genetics, siege warfare. The purpose of the research was more to create an underpinning to the plot – you don’t “see” it.
What surprised me? HOW disturbing a lamprey with an open mouth is… I have a photo of one in Stickies on my Mac, so, depending on what I’m looking for, sometimes it opens as a surprise. It freaks me out. EVERY TIME. I was compelled to write one into the book (Delphi shows more bravery than I would). The lampreys in the book have been experimented on… they can glow, and they’re called lamplights. They’re vile.

Tell us about how you write; do you write in a particular place? Do you have any music playing? Do you have any must-haves with you while writing?

I work pretty much every day, usually from very early in the morning until late. But that includes everything – plotting, researching, drawing, sending emails, texting my friends etc. :) The writing itself happens in bursts, and usually in scenes. I work at my desk, which is actually a workbench. It’s made from very cheap wood and covered with coffee rings that I refuse to remove. You know how you can date a tree by the rings? Well, some calculation can be made by the number of coffee rings on my desk. Possibly in how many years I will develop an ulcer…
Music: I love all kinds of music, but when I’m writing, I can only listen to classical and movie scores. Sometimes, I need silence.
Must-haves: Mac, coffee, two very specific pens, a bottle of water, a scented candle, note pad and, if I need to draw, colouring pencils.

What was most surprising to you during the writing process?

How different writing a fantasy novel is to writing crime. They’re both complex, but the complexity of fantasy is not in the structure, but in the substructure; there were family trees to design, maps to draw, myths to create, historical backgrounds, geographical backgrounds, rules of the kingdom and the magic. And there are so many characters and creatures, living and dead, that have yet to feature. A fantasy novel really is an epic shape-shifting beast.

How does it feel to know your book will soon be in the hands of very different readers to your
usual crime fans?

Amazing. So many people have told me that the children’s book world is wonderful. I’m looking forward to experiencing more. As it stands, I’m very lucky with the crime readers and writers who I’ve met and corresponded with. They are a fantastic bunch – warm, witty and wise. It’s great to hear I can expect more of the same from the younger readers I hope to have. I feel like I’ve just stepped back from behind my desk… and the rest of the adventure begins now…

Anything else you would like to add?

Just a thank you. :)

Thank you, Alex, for such a great interview! I am so intrigued by Curse of Kings! It sounds like a very detailed high fantasy! You can find Alex on her website.

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