Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Interview with Paul Lewis and Giveaway - September 13, 2011

Please welcome Paul Lewis to The Qwillery as part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge Interviews.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Paul:  I write on the move. I have the biggest writing room in the world! I love being outdoors and go on long walks whenever time permits. But I can hike eight miles and hardly remember any of it. My head's away somewhere else. That's how I do most of my writing. Storylines, characters, settings, even lines of dialogue ... it's all been played out in my head before I sit down at the keyboard. It's the same if I hit a problem with whatever I'm working on. I don't sit there and fret about it. I get my hiking boots on and let my subconscious deal with it. Earlier today I went out and came back with a prologue, opening chapter and beginnings of a plot for a fantasy novel that I'm going to start outlining.

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Paul:  James Herbert and Stephen King got me into horror. I was in my early teens when they broke through in the 70s. I couldn't get enough of them. Herbert in particular was an inspiration because his books were set in Britain, so I could relate more to them. I actually wrote to him when I was still a schoolboy fan and told him I wanted to be a writer. He was kind enough to write back, wishing me good luck. I've still got that letter.

Ramsey Campbell was another big influence. For a while I wanted to write like him, before I realised no-one else can. But he taught me a lot about atmosphere and what you don't see being scarier than what you can.

I've read a lot of fantasy ...Tolkien, Alan Garner, Charles De Lint and Tad Williams, Susan Cooper, the list goes on. Newer favourites include Joe Abercrombie and George RR Martin. But my all-time fantasy influence is Robert Holdstock. Mythago Wood was, for me, the perfect British fantasy, so original and beguiling. His untimely death robbed the world of a great storyteller and a lovely man. There are a few lines dotted around The Savage Knight that are my little tributes to him.

Outside the genre, Adam Hall, who created the Quiller spy novels, was a big influence in terms of writing action scenes. His were some of the best I've ever read, real edge-of-seat stuff.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a panster?

Paul:  If I have to make the choice I suppose I'm more of a plotter ... though I don't really like the term because I tell stories, not plots. And I'm an old-fashioned kind of storyteller. I like proper beginnings, middles and ends. Very few people are good enough to do that on the hoof.

But it's not as if I come up with plots and slavishly follow them. Although I work out the main beats of the stories before I start writing, it always surprises me the extent to which they write themselves once I'm in the zone.  So I like to know where I'm going before I set out, but not necessarily the exact route. The journey often takes a few unexpected twists and turns before it's over.

With The Savage Knight, I had to write a 5,000-word outline first. Mainly because the publishers requested one, which was only fair because they were investing in the novel. But equally I needed to be sure how the storyline would unfold. With work and family commitments, and a deadline to meet, I knew I wouldn't have time to go down blind alleys.

Yet there was plenty of scope for diversions along the way. In the outline, I wrote something like: "They journey through the forest and are picked off one by one." I had no idea what would happen, no idea how they would be picked off or even exactly who "they" were as I hadn't yet created all the characters. Those dozen words led to a sustained suspense sequence running to perhaps 10,000 words, and I had a lot of fun dreaming up the gory details.

TQ:  Describe The Savage Knight in 140 characters or less.

Paul:  Brutal Dark Ages knight leaves Camelot in search of peace. Thinks he has found it. Then hideous creatures strike and he is forced to fight again.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Savage Knight?

Paul:  I wrote a short story, Act of Sacrifice, which appeared in an anthology called Swords Against the Millennium in 2000. It featured an Arthurian knight named Dodinal, known as Dodinal Le Savage. Malory refers to him a few times but only in passing, so I was able to create a personality and back story for him. Act of Sacrifice was okay. With hindsight it was a bit predictable, the writing somewhat stilted. I can't be too self-critical, though, because I was still learning. Even so, I really wanted to write a Dodinal novel. I thought the character and his world had great potential.

Last year I heard Abaddon were starting a new series of Arthurian novels, the idea being that each would be a modern retelling of a newly-rediscovered "lost" Malory tale. I sent them the basic idea that later became The Savage Knight. We exchanged emails, that basic idea was developed and I got the go-ahead. The first chapter is is an expansion of the opening of Act of Sacrifice but after that the story is completely new.

It was both hard work and great fun. I'd written two small-press novels with my regular collaborator Steve Lockley. But this was a completely different experience for me. It was much bigger in scale and daunting because I didn't have the safety net of a collaborator to bounce ideas off. At the same time it was liberating too. I didn't have to compromise. It's all me. Regardless of whether people like or hate it, I'm pleased with how it turned out.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do to create the world of The Savage Knight?

Paul:  Not a huge amount, to be truthful. Much of it is set in the Dark Ages wildwood. The novel opens during a harsh winter in a forest on the Wales-England border from which all wildlife has mysteriously vanished. I live close to some fantastic Welsh countryside and I've spent a lot of time walking in the woods over the years, summer and winter. Everyone knows what woods look like so I didn't bother with long descriptions. It was more about invoking atmosphere, giving readers a feel of what it would be like to suddenly find yourself alone in this huge yet empty snowbound forest.

I'm no expert on ancient history, wildlife or hunting. Yet as I was writing the novel I actually surprised myself by how much I did know. I love books and documentaries about Britain, its history and natural world. I hadn't realised how much of it I'd absorbed. There are little details scattered throughout the novel that, while not important to the story, hopefully add a veneer of realism.

I did spend a bit of time researching the early medieval period, but not in any great detail, more to get a general idea of how people dressed, how they lived, what they ate and so on. That was more about ensuring I didn't include any anachronisms rather than making it strictly historically accurate. While it's set during a specific period of history, The Savage Knight is a fantasy, so I allowed myself some freedom. I was more interested in a world that felt real than one that necessarily was real.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Savage Knight?

Paul:  The first big set-piece is the attack on the village and I think that and the finale are my two favourite action scenes. But there are some quieter moments, mainly between Dodinal and Rhiannon, the woman who saves his life and who comes to mean a great deal to him. I liked them, too, for different reasons. I also had a lot of fun working on Dodinal's origin story, which is told in a series of flashbacks.

TQ:  In The Savage Knight, who was the most difficult character to write and why? The easiest and why?

Paul:  The most difficult was Gerwyn, a very unsympathetic character to begin with. His father is the sort-of chieftain of the village where Dodinal fetches up and he is very petulant and angry. He changes over the course of the novel. I had to come up with motivations for his boorish behaviour at the start as well as his slow transformation. The easiest was Dodinal. I had his entire story in my head before I began writing. He's no angel. He's an extremely violent, exceedingly dangerous man, but only to those who deserve his wrath. He would sacrifice his own life to save the innocent.

TQ:  What's next?

Paul:  I was working on a contemporary teen fantasy-horror called The Grey Men but put that aside to work on some other projects. I'm going back to that; if it works out they way I hope it does, it could be the start of a series. Meanwhile I've started outlining the fantasy I mentioned at the start. It has nothing to do with the world of Savage Knight but is similarly action-driven. I also have the beginnings of an idea that could be a Savage Knight follow-up or a novel for another character. We'll see.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Paul:  It's been a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

About The Savage Knight

The Savage Knight
Malory's Knights of Albion
(Abaddon Books, September 13, 2011)
Sir Dodinal the Savage is more at home in the wild forest than in the tilting yard or the banquet hall. Keenly attuned to the natural world, but burdened with a terrible rage, he turns his back on Camelot to find peace, or a just death.

In a quiet village on the Welsh border, Dodinal believes he may have finally found a home, but the village is struck by childstealing raiders from the hills, and he must take up arms once again in his new friends’ aid. His quest will take him into the belly of darkness, as the terrible secret hidden in the hills comes to light...

About Paul

Paul Lewis has penned hundreds of comedy sketches for British TV and radio, along with several radio sitcoms. He has also written numerous short stories, which have appeared in publications in the UK and US, with one appearing on Dutch actor Rutger Hauer's website. Paul's collaborations with Steve Lockley include a Doctor Who contribution for BBC Books' The Story of Martha, the novels The Ragchild and The Quarry, and several novellas. The Savage Knight is Paul's first solo novel. A full-time journalist with a regional daily newspaper, he lives with his wife and teenage son in a village in South Wales.

The Giveaway


What:  Three commenters will each win a copy of The Savage Knight generously provided by Abaddon Books.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

Arthur or Lancelot?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1) Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2) Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3) Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Tuesday, September 20, 2011. Void where prohibited by law. Must be 18 years old and older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*


  1. Definitely Arthur. Lancelot did much worse with historical recognition :)
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    Thank you!
    impy80 at hotmail dot com

  2. I'd go with Arthur here since he was a far more important literary character than Lancelot imho, hence all the Arthurian tales and the not all that much Lancelotian :)

    +1 comment
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    Thanks for the interview and giveaway!


  3. Definately Arthur. Arthur loved his unfaithful wife and his disloyal friend. Lancelot threw away his honor.
    +1 comment
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  4. I love Arthur and Lancelot. Arthur was very important and a honorable man. Please enter me in contest. I am a follower and email subscriber. Tore923@aol.com

  5. Arthur, because he put his trust in the wrong person. Poor him!

    GFC follower

    aliasgirl at libero dot it

  6. Definitely Arthur for me, too! Lancelot was a dog who did Arthur wrong, dang it!! LOL Thanks for a terrific giveaway:D

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    jwitt33 at live dot com

  7. Arthur, how could you doubt it? Such a fascinating legend.


  8. I was never a huge fan of either one, but I supposed I'll choose Arthur. edysicecreamlover18@gmailDOTcom
    GFC Krystal Larson

  9. I know that most folks go for Lancelot, but I have been a true blue Arthur fan! I love knights' tales and this book looks like a winner!
    Thanks for the interview and giveaway..
    msmjb65 AT gmail DOT com

  10. Oops. Forgot
    +1 comment
    +1 GFC follower as MJB

    msmjb65 AT gmail DOT com

  11. Lacelot, he was such a hardcore fighter!
    +1 comment
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    thegirlonfire27 at gmail dot com

  12. I'd have to go with Arthur, he's definitely the man. Savage Knight sounds very intriguing and I'm looking forward to checking it out.

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com
    GFC follower

  13. +1 Arthur, all the way! He was more honourable than Lancelot, in my eyes.

    Thanks for the giveaway:)

    +1 GFC Follower: Identity Seeker

    +1 Tweeted: http://twitter.com/#!/SweetNSensible/status/114038383914909696


  14. I guess it's Arthur. Lancelot is all very noble and competent and all that but he's just not that great a leader of men :)

    +1 comment
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  15. I also am going to go with Arthur :)

    Thank you for the interview and giveaway!

    I am a follower.

    ssosborn At gmail dot com

  16. Between the two, I must choose Arthur; he was devoted and dedicated to his clause.

    (side note - my favorite is Gawain!)

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    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com