Friday, August 14, 2015

Interview with Tom Doyle, author of The Left-Hand Way and American Craftsmen

Please welcome Tom Doyle to The Qwillery. The Left-Hand Way, the second novel in the American Craft series, was published on August 11th by Tor.

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, The Left-Hand Way (American Craft 2), was published on August 11th. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote American Craftsmen (2014) to The Left-Hand Way?

Tom:  Thanks for having me back! My writing process has indeed changed, but mostly due to where I am in the series. For American Craftsmen, I had a lot of worldbuilding to accomplish in a relatively short space. My modern magician-soldiers have a backstory that fuses the American classics of the uncanny such as Poe and Hawthorne with real history. For The Left-Hand Way, all that heavy lifting was already done, and I could write in a more streamlined style with fewer explanations. So the work was in some ways easier, yet the results (IMHO) are in some ways superior.

TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when American Craftsmen came out that you know now?

Tom:  There were things that I knew intellectually but I didn’t really understand what they meant--for example, the length of time between each stage of the process. Waiting can be psychologically difficult, but what it means in practical terms is that I’m well into the writing book 3 while book 2 is just coming out. I have to catch myself when I sometimes think that everyone already knows the plot of The Left-Hand Way. It’s nice to finally be able to discuss it!

TQTell us something about The Left-Hand Way that is not found in the book description.

Tom:  By using the early American stories of the fantastic to create my magical mythos, I found that I could not also adequately incorporate into my narrative the great singularity of our history--slavery--because those works themselves don’t adequately address it. In The Left-Hand Way, I’m better able to bring that important legacy into the story.

TQWhich character in the American Craft series (so far) surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

Tom:  The most surprising and difficult character by far has been the Puritan craftsman, Major Michael Endicott. In the earliest draft of American Craftsmen, he started as a extremely obnoxious two-dimensional foil for the main protagonist Dale Morton. But I found that the story kept on wanting a lot more from Endicott. So I rewrote him as a bit stiff and hapless, but also as a fundamentally decent person in a difficult position. Still, at the end of book 1, he had a lot of room to grow, so I made him the first-person point-of-view character for The Left-Hand Way. Lo and behold, he turned out to be a great leading character to write. I sometimes wonder if Anne Rice was as surprised by Lestat.

TQWhat appeals to you about writing military contemporary fantasy?

Tom:  It’s oft repeated but I think it’s also true: extreme and potentially terminal situations are great revealers of character. Combat is also a major feature of epic, whether classical or high fantastical. When I take a modern story and add combat and magic, I can also take a straightforward transparent modern style and add flourishes of high epic fantasy to it.

But there’s also a question after two books of how much of the American Craft series can be strictly described as “military.” They also have significant portions that owe more to the spy or techno-thriller genres, and lots of cryptohistory. It’s this fusion of many elements into a single whole that I enjoy most.

TQWhat sorts of research have you done for The Left-Hand Way?

Tom:  Because of all the research I had to do for book 1, I didn’t have nearly as much research that was particular to this book. With the scenes in foreign cities, I’ve been to many of the places I describe in the book (e.g., I lived a year and a half in Tokyo), so I only needed to refresh my memory and check on recent changes. But some scenes off the beaten path required very detailed research indeed. For example, I have a sequence that takes in the Chunnel service tunnel, which is not someplace the public usually roams. I looked at books and documentaries on the construction of the Chunnel for specific technical and sensory details. One of my best resources eventually came from the website for Britain’s Top Gear TV show, which described driving a car through the service tunnel.

TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Left-Hand Way.

Tom:  I think the exchange below between Endicott and a new character, Royal Navy Commander Grace Marlow (the woman on the cover), is one of my favorites. Their pursuers are closing in, so Endicott makes the following proposal:

“You could shoot me,” I said, “maybe even without killing me. Then they’ll give you time to explain. You could end the rot.”

“You’re not one of your service’s intellectuals, are you?” [she said.]

“A simple ‘no’ would do.”

TQWhat's next?

Tom:  I’ll be finishing book 3, tentatively titled War and Craft. After that, I also have some other manuscripts that could see the light of day. One is a novel-length extension of my award-winning story, “The Wizard of Macatawa.” The other is a novel-length extension of my edgy space opera, “Crossing Borders.” Each could be the beginnings of its own series. As for something new, I’ve been considering some YA ideas.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Tom:  My pleasure--like I said above, great to finally be able to discuss this book.

The Left-Hand Way
American Craft 2
Tor Books, August 11, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Poe's Red Death returns, more powerful than ever. Can anyone stop him before he summons an apocalyptic nightmare even worse than himself?

In The Left-Hand Way, the second book of Tom Doyle's contemporary fantasy series, the American craftsmen are scattered like bait overseas. What starts as an ordinary liaison mission to London for Major Michael Endicott becomes a desperate chase across Europe, where Endicott is both hunted and hunter. Reluctantly joining him is his minder from MI13, Commander Grace Marlow, one of Her Majesty's most lethal magician soldiers, whose family has centuries of justified hostility to the Endicotts.

Meanwhile, in Istanbul and Tokyo, Endicott's comrades, Scherie Rezvani and Dale Morton, are caught in their own battles for survival against hired assassins and a ghost-powered doomsday machine. And in Kiev, Roderick Morton, the spider at the center of a global web, plots their destruction and his ultimate apotheosis. After centuries of imprisonment, nothing less than godlike power will satisfy Roderick, whatever the dreadful cost.


American Craftsmen
American Craft 1
Tor Books, June 30, 2015
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Hardback and eBook, May 6, 2014

Ancient magic meets SEAL Team Six-with the fate of the United States hanging in the balance-in Tom Doyle's American Craftsmen.

US Army Captain Dale Morton is a magician soldier-a "craftsman." After a black-ops mission gone wrong, Dale is cursed by a Persian sorcerer and haunted by his good and evil ancestors. Major Michael Endicott, a Puritan craftsman, finds gruesome evidence that the evil Mortons have returned, and that Dale might be one of them.

Dale uncovers treason in the Pentagon's highest covert ranks. He hunts for his enemies before they can murder him and Scherie, a new friend who knows nothing of his magic.

Endicott pursues Dale, divided between his duty to capture a rogue soldier and his desire to protect Dale from his would-be assassins. They will discover that the demonic horrors that have corrupted American magic are not bound by family or even death itself.

About Tom

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has hailed TOM DOYLE's writing as “beautiful & brilliant.” Locus Magazine has called his stories “fascinating,” “transgressive,” “witty,” “moving,” and “intelligent and creepy.” A graduate of the Clarion Writing Workshop, Doyle has won the WSFA Small Press Award and third prize in the Writers of the Future contest. He is the author of American Craftsmen.

Website  ~  Facebook

Blog  ~  Twitter @tmdoyle2

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a hardcover copy of The Left-Hand Way by Tom Doyle from the Tor Books. US / CANADA ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below. Note that comments are moderated.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on August 23, 2015. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change.*

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  1. Thanks for this intriguing novel. Love the title and the series. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  2. Modern day meets magic? Sounds interesting.