Ancient history meets epic fantasy in Andrew Knighton’s book Ocean Gods, Roman Blades. Being a Fantasy fan, it is refreshing for me to see other settings other than the medieval European setting, so I was automatically interested in interviewing Andrew. I hope you enjoy this Epic Interview, and don’t forget you can read more about this story at the bottom.
1. What inspired you to write Ocean gods, Roman Blades?
I wanted to do something different with fantasy. I love medieval history, I even have a masters degree in it, but fantasy literature draws upon that period so much that it misses other possibilities. So I decided to create a fantasy version of the ancient world instead, and in particular to explore the Roman empire.
2. What are you doing when you are not writing?
My day job is writing – mostly history articles and ghost-writing speculative fiction – so reading, writing and thinking about writing fill most of my waking hours.
Like a lot of speculative fiction writers, I also play a lot of games – board games, roleplay games, computer games, pretty much anything. At university I was part of the Assassins Society, a great big game in which hundreds of students hunted each other around lecture halls and dorm rooms with water pistols, which was a lot of fun and occasionally chaotic.
Given how sedentary my work is, I make the effort to get out and exercise. I live in the Yorkshire dales and make the most of the scenery by going walking. I’ve also recently taken up climbing, which is great exercise for the body and the brain, and is helping me tackle my fear of heights.
3. Have you always wanted to write speculative fiction? What attracted you to the genre?
I’ve been a fan of science fiction and fantasy since I was a kid. My dad read me The Hobbit when I was five, and my first trip to the cinema was a double bill of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back when I was six. I love worlds that are different from our own.
My love of writing also stretches back to when I was six, starting with an extended work of Superted fan fiction at an age when I was still getting my ‘b’s and ‘d’s confused. But it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I really started making an effort to write. At that point, when I decided to write stories regularly, science fiction and fantasy was the obvious place to start. It’s what I love, and I think you need that passion to motivate you to write.
4. What would you say was the most difficult challenge during your writing journey?
Believing that writing was something I could do. I was brought up to assume that I would settle into a “real job” – something socially responsible or based in an office. It never even occurred to me to believe that I could channel my creativity into stories other people would enjoy. Once that clicked in my head I started studying the craft, practicing, producing stories, and eventually getting some of them published. There have been a lot of challenges along the way, but self-belief was biggest.
5. Tell us more about Varus, was there a real life person, a concept or idea behind the character?
Varus is an embodiment of the struggle many of us face in understanding and managing our emotions. For me, that struggle is about facing fear and anxiety. For Varus, it’s about rage. I also plan to use him to explore how we deal with our pasts, in a longer book I’m working on, but which is still many edits away from seeing the light of day.
The military campaign Varus is on is based very loosely on real events, in which the Roman leader Pompey crushed Thracian pirates. General Avitus is inspired by Pompey, and Senator Murena, his deputy, is inspired in part by Pompey’s ally, Julius Caesar. The novel that will follow this story splits Caesars role between Murena and his daughter, for a very different twist on the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the empire.
6. Which authors do you feel have influenced you most?
In terms of using history in fiction, Bernard Cornwell. His Warlord Chronicles are a fantastic take on Dark Age Britain, and he has a great knack for bringing the past to life. The fantastic elements are influenced more by the likes of George R R Martin and Joe Abercrombie, writers who combine big events with flawed lives, creating interested and grounded characters.
That said, my biggest inspiration by far is Terry Pratchett. Though I don’t try to write his sort of fiction, I think he was a phenomenal writer, an inspiration to me to be creative, and a great force for good. My proudest possession is a signed copy of his Only You Can Save Mankind.
7. If I’d ask you to recommend me a book, which one would you pick?
At the moment, I’d go for Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky. It’s a fantasy story that’s part Jane Austen drama of manners, part Vietnam War film with flintlocks and magic. An absolutely cracking read.
8. You have been involved in quite a few projects. Would you say there is one you are specially proud of?
A Mosaic of Stars, my collection of flash fiction. I wrote a story a week for over a year, varying between fantasy, science fiction, steampunk and history, and then compiled them into that book. It was great experience for refining my craft, and there are so many varied little gems in there. The stories are still available to read for free on my blog, and I add a new one every week, but collecting the first year’s worth into a book made me realise how much I’d achieved.
9. And speaking of projects, what is it that you are working at the moment?
I’m writing the fourth volume in my Epiphany Club series of steampunk novellas. In a castle under siege, a group of adventurers bicker over clues to an ancient lost library, while something strange stirs in the dungeons…
Other than that, I write articles every week for War History Online, have a monthly column on writing skills at Re:Fiction, and am working on a bunch of ghost-writing gigs, all of which are sadly secret.
10. Are there any final words you’d like to share with your readers? What is the best way to reach you?
Whatever your creative passion, whether it’s writing, art, music, whatever, it is possible to get your work out there. Study your craft, put the work in, believe in yourself, and you can find your audience.
As for me, I can be found at andrewknighton.com, where you can read my thoughts on books, speculative fiction and writing. There’s a link there to sign up to my mailing list, which gets you a free e-book and weekly short stories. I’m also on Twitter, where I’m @gibbondemon .
About the author
Andrew is a Yorkshire based ghostwriter, responsible for writing many books in other people’s names. He’s had over fifty stories published in his own name in places such as Daily Science Fiction and Wily Writers. His steampunk adventure series, The Epiphany Club, is out now in all e-book formats, and the first volume, Guns and Guano, is available for free from Amazon or Smashwords. You can find free stories and links to more of his books at andrewknighton.com and follow him on Twitter where he’s @gibbondemon .
About Ocean Gods, Roman Blades
Ocean Gods, Roman Blades
by Andrew Knighton
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Published October 2015
Ancient history meets epic fantasy in an action packed novella of war, magic and one man’s struggle to find himself.
Varus is the fiercest soldier in the Roman legion, and the most undisciplined. Fighting Thracian pirates on the high seas, he faces attacks not just from spears and arrows, but from divine magic. With the enemy closing in, Varus faces a desperate battle for survival, made worse by his own divided instincts. Will Roman blades be strong enough to survive against ocean gods?