The Writing Life of: Tom Lloyd
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Tom Lloyd. Tom will be sharing with us details of his writing life, telling us all about his book ‘Stranger of Tempest‘, which was released on 20th April 2017, and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Tom Lloyd was born in 1979 in Berkshire. After a degree in International Relations he went straight into publishing where he still works. He never received the memo about suitable jobs for writers and consequently has never been a kitchen-hand, hospital porter, pigeon hunter, or secret agent.
He lives in Oxford, isn’t one of those authors who gives a damn about the history of the font used in his books and only believes in forms of exercise that allow him to hit something.
1) Did you enjoy writing when you were a child?
Not really – I remember one school project that I loved because it asked us to write instalments of a fantasy story, giving us a picture of a scene to start each one with. Beyond that it was just homework – sometimes enjoyable enough, but I only started thinking about writing as a proper activity I could do for fun when I was 18.
2) Which author shaped your childhood?
Just one?! The choice was definitely more limited back then (and my folks weren’t into SFF) so it was people like Judith Kerr when I was little, then the usual suspects like Enid Blyton with the odd Steve Jackson book. I was put off reading for a good few years because of poor teachers and I simply never encountered writers like Susan Cooper, while Terry Pratchett only because of a huge influence in my teens.
3) What motivated you to begin your first novel?
Laziness and a childish sense of competitiveness – honestly! I don’t know what I was thinking because nowadays writing means I’m almost constantly tired and feeling guilty about not working hard enough, but I started out because I wanted to keep from getting under my parents’ feet during one long summer. They’d been threatening to make me get a summer job and I just wanted to laze around at home.
I remembered a friend had recently thrown a book across the room and declared he could write one better. I thought to myself, “if he can, so can I, and won’t it annoy him if I finish a book before he does?” When I had all this free time keeping out of the way I picked up a notebook and started wondering what sort of book I’d like to write. Two million words of finished works later, Andy has to date not yet written anything I believe. He does still occasionally demand royalties however.
4) Do you plot your book, or are you a pantser?
A bit of both. The invention is what’s fun – setting up a problem and writing your way to a solution, letting the characters take their own path and surprise you, but I need a framework.
There’s too much to create in fantasy to do it on the fly, I find books just don’t hold together if you try. So for my biggest series I had elements in from the start that I didn’t know what I was doing with them until plotting book 4 – from offhand references to fragments from dreams and entire novellas I wrote and had to incorporate into the canon. Even the most rigid structure doesn’t survive contact with the enemy, as it were, so I try to keep the plan bare-bones.
5) What is your average writing day?
Fragmented, these days. Life in my 40s with two or three jobs, children and a dog has much more structure than it used to. Back when I started I could ignore the world and crack on as I wished. These days I write when I can around the routines of the school run etc, stealing a few hours in the afternoons and at weekends. Come 5pm I’m solely a family man aside from the odd hour I grab while the kids are busy.
6) What is the best thing about being an author?
I do honestly love the bit where I get paid. That me *just making stuff and playing with my imaginary friends* up can (help) put a roof over our heads etc is genuinely brilliant.
On the actual writing side, it’s that moment when something clicks. It could be when the plot fits together and you suddenly see the landscape of the book unfold ahead. Or when the character becomes alive to you and not just this collection of attributes. Or that point when the draft doesn’t seem so terrible and you feel at last you’ve created something worth being proud of, when after weeks and months of struggle you glimpse the summit. It’s like the first day of spring after a hard, miserable winter.
The God Fragments Book One
Publisher – Gollancz
Pages – 512
Release Date – 20th April 2017
ISBN 13 – 978-1473213180
Format – ebook, paperback, hardcover, audio
Lynx is a mercenary with a sense of honour; a dying breed in the Riven Kingdom. Failed by the nation he served and weary of the skirmishes that plague the continent’s principalities, he walks the land in search of purpose. He wants for little so bodyguard work keeps his belly full and his mage-gun loaded. It might never bring a man fame or wealth, but he’s not forced to rely on others or kill without cause.
Little could compel Lynx to join a mercenary company, but he won’t turn his back on a kidnapped girl. At least the job seems simple enough; the mercenaries less stupid and vicious than most he’s met over the years.
So long as there are no surprises or hidden agendas along the way, it should work out fine.
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
I didn’t – the plot was actively improved by my decision to avoid research, as silly as that may sound. I’m talking about Stranger of Tempest here which isn’t actually my latest, but it’s the start of the series I’ve just closed out and it makes more sense to discuss that as a whole. So I wanted a mercenary company who could play off each other and give me a fun group dynamic. I wanted them to have guns but couldn’t face doing research into flintlocks/matchlocks which would root a secondary world novel in a specific historical tech level equivalent. So I decided to have guns that used magic ammunition so I could have fun blowing stuff up. That then fed into a magic system and entire structure of gods/religion so in the end I spent far more time on it that I would have researching things, but it’s a prominent characteristic of the series now.
8) How long did it take to go from the ideas stage to writing the last word?
Checking my old email records, it looks like I’d put together the idea and a few chapters for Stranger of Tempest to give to my agent at the start of 2014. I delivered God of Night almost exactly a year ago so… six years. During that period I did four novels and two novellas in the series, plus I wrote a historical fiction that I’m still trying to find a publisher for.
9) What made you choose the genre you write in?
There was never any question about it – while I had limited contact with it growing up, I’ve always loved SF and fantasy, far more so than the rest of my family. So I was the one glued to Star Trek after school etc and one who played Warhammer while the rest looked on, bemused. Half of the summer I’d be outside making up games for myself in the big garden my parents have, often alone because my siblings were a few years older. I think if you live somewhere like that, a very old house on the edge of an English village, you’re more naturally inclined towards fantasy anyway.
10) How did you come up with the name(s) for your lead character(s)?
The two main figures are Lynx and Toil. Lynx I came up with because I didn’t want yet-another-made-up-name when I was telling people about my new book. So I picked something easily recognisable and distinctive. Then I had to come up with a reason for it, which told me more about the sort of person he is. It’s not the name he was born with – I never actually decided on that, weird as it may seem given I spent six years with him in my head – but one he chose for himself, so it was something that had to be explained.
As for Toil – clearly I’d recently read about some Victorian-era (I think?) figure who’d been named a virtue, so it amused me to give a solid, hardworking name to a savage and quixotic figure as the woman I’d envisaged.
11) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
Lynx is a war veteran with serious trauma after being imprisoned in a military gulag by his own army. These days he basically goes on by trying to do good in the world – not easy when your only skills are violent. But either he stands up for what he believes in or he dies in the process because he can’t face anything else. Trying to be a hero without claiming to actually be one.
Toil is… not a hero. She’s highly intelligent, skilled and driven. Pretty amoral too however – she’s an agent in service of her home city and will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. She’s trying to avoid a war that would likely see the whole region dominated by religious fanatics, so if that means theft, murder and manipulation that’s fine with her.
12) How did you feel when you had completed your book?
Hollow. I tend to get that way right after finishing, the last few chapters I’m running solely on adrenaline so I’ve got nothing afterwards. It takes me a while to feel some elation about what I’ve achieved, even if no one’s read it to see if it’s any good yet. That builds during the first edit though, as I recover my enthusiasm builds and I remember what I enjoyed about it in the first place!
1) Do you have a favourite quote you live by?
Not particularly – I’m a big Terry Pratchett fan so there’s so many to choose from for a start! “What would Jesus do?” is a fairly unimpeachable approach to take (even if people take it in very odd directions) but given I’m not religious I’m more likely to consider any action by “would Granny Weatherwax or Sam Vimes approve?”
However – amid all the Pratchett quotes out there, these are two that definitely jump out at me:
“The enemy isn’t men, or women, it’s bloody stupid people and no one has the right to be stupid.”
“Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.”
2) Do you have any pets?
I’ve got a keeshond called Ripley, who’s decided she’s a grand old lady who shouldn’t have to do much exercise, but she’s only 8 and I definitely need my morning walk so she has to come along too. Some writers have companions while they work, Ripley nods towards the back door of the house after her walk, a not-so-subtle hint that I should get out to the office and leave her in peace and quiet until supper.
3) What’s on your current reading list?
I’ve just started The Infernal Battalion by Django Wexler which is no 5 in an excellent military fantasy series, then the current plan is to read Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell, followed by an epic fantasy like Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter or the Wolf’s Call by Anthony Ryan to keep my brain in that mode. Unless I have edits to do on the short SF I’ve written, in which case it might be something like Velocity Weapon Megan O’Keeffe. Whenever I’m starting/returning to a book I try to adjust what I’m reading to get my mood going in that direction. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it really kick-starts the imagination!
4) Your book has been made into a feature film, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what would you be doing?
If I had any acting ability, it’d probably be Deern who is hugely offensive, egotistical and unpleasant, so might be a lot of fun to play! However I’d actually end up going for one of the Cards, members of the mercenary company Lynx and Toil both join, and demand I die spectacularly.
5) If you could travel to the fictional world of any book for the day, which would you choose?
Other than my own? I’d probably ask to go on a culinary tour of Camorr with Locke Lamora, out of Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards novels.
6) There’s a penguin sitting in your writing chair, what is the first thing he says to you?
“Would it kill you to tidy this place? Are you sure? Should we test it, just in case it’s not actually fatal?”
I would like to say a big thank you to Tom Lloyd for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.