Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Interview with Matthew Ward, author of Legacy of Ash

Please welcome Matthew Ward to The Qwillery as part of the 2020 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Legacy of Ash is published on April 7, 2020 by Orbit.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Matthew a very Happy Publication Day!

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?

Matthew:  I used to scribble stories all the time at primary school, though I’ve no recollection of what went into them. The first real crack I remember taking at writing was a Babylon 5 novel, twenty-five or so years ago. It wouldn’t have worked out – and for all sorts of reasons, not least that I didn’t get very far. It’s long since been lost to hard drive crashes and the like.

Probably for the best.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Matthew:  It varies from book to book. I prefer making things up as I go – writing’s more fun when I’m discovering the story as if I’m reading it. But there are certain tales where things have to slot into place just so. Those end up with quite meticulous plans … character arcs, plot beats and the like nailed into place from the very beginning. That’s a lot more like actual work (yuck), but sometimes you gotta.

I’ll be interested to see which one readers think Legacy of Ash is.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Matthew:  I learnt long ago that I don’t have a lot of patience for heavy redrafting, so everything has to be ‘right’ before I move on – whether to the next sentence, paragraph, chapter or whatever – otherwise the knowledge that it isn’t overshadows everything I try to do afterwards. It makes some days a bit of a grind, and some chapters end up lingering for what seems like eternity. But the results speak for themselves … at least, I hope they do.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Matthew:  I love big, overarching stories, but conversely, light-touch continuity – the idea that you can be reading several separate (but complete) tales that build into something much larger without compromising either.

From that point of view, I discovered comics at just the right time to spark my interest – Babylon 5 was winding down, and there wasn’t really anything left on TV doing what it had done – and just the wrong time, because the trend of massively decompressed storytelling was getting underway.

I think that’s one of the reasons I love narratives with a huge weight of history behind them (Babylon 5, The Lord of the Rings). They create the illusion that the story you’re experiencing – even if you devour it front to back – is only part of a much larger tale whose outline you can just about glimpse, if you squint at it just right. I find that sense of depth fascinating – it’s when the world becomes a living, breathing thing.

TQDescribe Legacy of Ash using only 5 words.

Matthew:  Mistakes of old, come due. Or perhaps ‘Oh no, don’t do that!’

TQTell us something about Legacy of Ash that is not found in the book description.

Matthew:  This isn’t just a war of mortals. There are divine powers waiting in the wings, and sometimes a good deal closer. They’ve been forgotten in Tressia (the main setting for the book), or otherwise warped so much by ‘official’ history as to be unrecognisable, but they’re there, and they won’t be ignored.

TQWhat inspired you to write Legacy of Ash? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Matthew:  The story of Legacy of Ash (in fact, the whole Legacy trilogy) goes back some twenty-odd years, as do many of the characters – if in a very prototypical form – so initial inspirations are a bit hazy at this point.

I knew there was a great story waiting to be told, but I spent years dancing around actually getting started. It sounds pompous, but I’m not sure I was ready to tell the story – my writing just wasn’t there yet, and it was going to need to be if I were to do it justice. And then somewhere along the line, it just clicked, and now we’re here.

Fantasy’s a wonderful genre to write within, because it’s so flexible. You can ground yourself in reality as much (or as little) as you like, so long as you can carry the reader with you. It’s escapism at its finest.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for Legacy of Ash?

Matthew:  Not much of any, if I’m honest. I have an obsession with real world adjacent names, so I spend a lot of time scratching at that aspect – Legacy has names inspired (or directly drawn from) Slavic, Celtic, British, Indian and Hebrew roots.

Otherwise? I started getting a bit obsessed about marching times/distances, but that was about as far as my research went.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for Legacy of Ash.

Matthew:  The illustration’s by Larry Rostant; the design by Charlotte Stroomer. It’s a thing of beauty, and so wonderfully emblematic of the book. Right from the get-go, the narrative pivots around the prophecy of a phoenix – a leader who’ll bring freedom to the oppressed south – and fire is ever-present, both as a metaphor for rebirth, and of cleansing.

More than that, I probably shouldn’t say…

TQIn Legacy of Ash who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Matthew:  I’ve always loved secondary characters. Favourite character in Star Wars? Wedge Antilles. Favourite Ghostbuster? Winston Zeddemore. And so on, etc.

It’s a quirk that spills over into my writing, and I love every moment I spend with the supporting cast. Of these, Vladama Kurkas is probably the most straightforward, because he’s a straightforward soul – but he’s also smarter than he lets on, which gives him a wonderfully broad range to work with.

Josiri Trelan was probably the hardest. He’s a protagonist, which is already a black mark against him in my supporting character-loving soul, but also he has probably the biggest arc in the book. He’s never there as meat in the room. If he’s in the scene, he’s got to sing.

TQDoes Legacy of Ash touch on any social issues?

Matthew:  It’s fair to say there’s a theme of overcoming prejudice running through the book. Every character brings societal baggage to the table – how they react to that prejudice and (if they) overcome it is ultimately what defines them, as it does us all.

One of the greatest challenges we all face is accepting that what we consider ‘normal’ or ‘reasonable’ may not be when viewed from another’s perspective. How we move forward from that point has the power to change the world, if we let it.

TQWhich question about Legacy of Ash do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: Are you Tressian or Hadari at heart?

A: Tricky one, because the two realms have a lot more in common than they first appear. But on balance, I’m probably Tressian, as I’m a little bit too attached to structure and protocol. I also look a lot better in shirt and cravat than silk robes too, so there’s that.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Legacy of Ash.

Matthew:  Let’s start with a bit of scene-setting, going back to the idea of story behind the story.

The mists of Krayna Dell defied the light of dawn. Revekah wasn’t surprised. It was often thus in the Forbidden Places, where old magic wore thin the walls between the living realm and Otherworld. For those who didn’t heed the priesthood’s warnings about such places, a thousand tales counselled caution. Spirits lurked within the mists, or so it was said. Spirits, and worse. Revekah had never seen such peril for herself – nor spoken to anyone who had – but the fear remained.
        Mists or no, the Forbidden Places were different. As if the turnings of the world held little influence on what passed within, or distant seasons lingered jealously beneath the boughs.

For an actual character quote, I’d go with “They mistake bigotry for the tinder of great days gone.” as it sums up so much of what the book’s about.

(I’ll leave it a surprise which character says it, and when.)

TQWhat's next?

Matthew:  Well, book two – Legacy of Steel – is currently in the ‘making it awesome’ phase (boring people call this ‘editing’), where my editor politely asks me to stop using the word ‘softly’ so much, and otherwise helps me see the forest again, and not the trees. That’s going to be hugely exciting to get capped off.

Meanwhile, I’m well underway with book three, which is even more exciting (a threequel beats a sequel, right?) So I’m still very much neck deep in Tressia.

After? Well, I have plans. I always have plans. There are more stories to tell in Aradane (the world of Legacy of Ash), so I’m hoping people want to read them. Other than that? Something to do with vampires, perhaps. Or maybe monsters in the London Underground.

Either way, it’ll be a fun ride.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Legacy of Ash
The Legacy Trilogy 1
Orbit, April 7, 2020
Trade Paperback and eBook, 800 pages

Legacy of Ash is an unmissable fantasy debut–an epic tale of intrigue and revolution, soldiers and assassins, ancient magic and the eternal clash of empires.

A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic.

Ruling families — once protectors of justice and democracy — now plot against one another with sharp words and sharper knives. Blinded by ambition, they remain heedless of the threat posed by the invading armies of the Hadari Empire.

Yet as Tressia falls, heroes rise.

Viktor Akadra is the Republic’s champion. A warrior without equal, he hides a secret that would see him burned as a heretic.

Josiri Trelan is Viktor’s sworn enemy. A political prisoner, he dreams of reigniting his mother’s failed rebellion.

And yet Calenne Trelan, Josiri’s sister, seeks only to break free of their tarnished legacy; to escape the expectation and prejudice that haunts the family name.

As war spreads across the Republic, these three must set aside their differences in order to save their home. Yet decades of bad blood are not easily set aside. And victory — if it comes at all — will demand a darker price than any of them could have imagined.

About Matthew

Photo by Photo Nottingham
Matthew Ward is a fantasy author, cat-servant, and owner of more musical instruments than he can actually play. He’s afflicted with an obsession for old places — castles, historic cities, and the London Underground chief amongst them — and should probably cultivate more interests to help expand out his author biography. Ward lives near Nottingham with his wife and several cats.

Website  ~ Twitter @thetowerofstars

Facebook  ~  Pinterest


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