A little while ago, I reviewed the books Black Feathers and The Book of the Crowman. They were excellent books, and the author, Joseph D’Lacey, was kind enough to take time out of his schedule and answer some questions for us. Yay!
1. The Black Feathers Duology is quite unique in its premise and themes. How did you develop it?
I’m fortunate in that ideas seem to happen to me regularly and naturally without me having to do anything. If they’re good ideas, they hang around and bump into other ideas, getting bigger and heavier. Eventually, if I can’t ignore a subject any longer, I start working – that’s the point when I happen to the idea.
Quite honestly, most of the ‘development’ happen as I write, with many notions arising spontaneously. It’s haphazard but it works for me.
2. How long did it take you to write the books?
I wrote both books as a single novel, initially. I never expected to see it split up, even though a psychic friend told me back in 2010 that that’s what would happen. The first draft took seven months and the initial editing another four.
3. I understand that you normally write horror. What made you decide to write a fantasy? Do you see Black Feathers as a fantasy?
I’m known as a horror writer because that’s how I got my break – with MEAT in 2008. But I write all kinds of things. I love humour as much as horror and there are often strong elements of SF and Fantasy in my stories.
Writing The Black Dawn wasn’t a decision to change genre, it was simply the next thing I needed to write. But, yes, I see it as either a dark or apocalyptic fantasy.
4. Let’s talk about the themes in the book for a moment. Did you actively decide to include the religious parallels, or did that happen organically? What about the technology vs nature conflict? How did that come about?
I’m fascinated by spirituality and sacrificial figureheads. I think it’s visible even in my earliest work. In The Black Dawn, I wanted to chronicle the life of a martyr from birth to death whilst exploring our broken relationship with the land that supports us. The themes worked together very naturally and I still contemplate them daily.
5. Do the book’s themes about nature, technology, and people reflect your personal views?
They reflect my concerns and I investigated those concerns as deeply as I could within the fiction at the time. Actually, I don’t feel the ‘conclusion’ I reach at the end of The Book of the Crowman is conclusive enough. I may need to write a third book to reconcile everything!
6. I was sad about Gordon’s ending, but at the same time not surprised. It seemed like the perfect ending for his character (as sad as it was), given the parallels in the book. Did you always know that was what would happen to him?
I knew his birth and I knew his ‘death’. All I had to do was take him on a journey from one to the other.
But, of course, there is no death; only a change of worlds…
6. What happened to Megan?
I think it’s more a question of what will happen to Megan.
7. Will you write more fantasy now?
I’ll probably keep doing what I’ve always done, which is to please myself before I think of anyone else! That said, I love the imaginative opportunities fantasy offers and the epic possibilities it lends to central characters, so the short answer is ‘yes’.
8. We have a few writers in our audience (and here at ICoS). Can you describe your writing process? Do you have any advice for beginner writers?
Having taught writing at various levels, I’ve learned that every writer is different and that they progress through many phases of development. There’s no single piece of advice that works for everyone.
I’ve spent many years flogging myself in a variety of ways in order to achieve results. I think, on some deep level, I must have believed that suffering was essential in order to write well. Nowadays, I’m not so sure. I want to be happy and I want to enjoy my life. Because so much of my life is about stories, I’m doing everything I can now to make the actual process of writing pleasurable. After all, if you’re not getting happier as you get older, something’s wrong.
Out of all of this, though, there are a few things that might be of use:
- write in the knowledge that you will make mistakes and let yourself make a ton of them.
- try every method you can find and quickly discard what doesn’t help.
- don’t let other people tell you there’s a single, foolproof method. It’s bullshit.
- that being the case, be true to yourself and find your own way. Because your own way is the only one that will sustain you.
- consider what success really means and define it in your own terms.
9. What projects do you currently have in the pipeline?
I’m writing a series of children’s books for 5-7 year-olds and a psychological thriller screenplay. When that’s done, I plan to write a new novel; very likely a fantasy.
10. Out of curiousity (and to pad my own reading list), what books are in your Kindle (or on your bookshelf)?
Since September last year, my genre reading has been, exclusively, horror or dark fiction by women. This is a result of my ignorance becoming very public in a Halloween article I wrote for The Guardian.
Best by far, to date, is HOME by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone. Go and get a copy immediately if you enjoy dark, challenging fiction. I have many more female authors on my TBR pile and hope to interview some of them in my new TV slot – ‘The Vault’ on The Book Show.
You can see a list here.
11. Because this is In Case of Survival and we like the apocalypse, I have to ask: What does your apocalypse look like? (Personally, I favor an evil space monkey apocalypse, but realistically I think we as a species will find a way to destroy ourselves without interstellar help.)
Yes, our overlords are doing such a superb job of killing us and our planet, it appears their nefarious schemes are far more inventive than any fiction I could create! In the meantime, what can I do but take each day as it comes?
About Joseph D’Lacey
Joseph D’Lacey writes Horror, SF & Fantasy, often with environmental themes, and is best known for his shocking eco-horror novel Meat. The book has been widely translated and prompted Stephen King to say “Joseph D’Lacey rocks!”.
His other published works to-date include Garbage Man, Snake Eyes, The Kill Crew, The Failing Flesh, Blood Fugue, Black Feathers, The Book of the Crowman and Splinters – a collection of short stories. He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 2009.
He enjoys being outdoors, eating vegetarian food and was recently adopted by two cats.