|Tom Stacey, Author|
EXILE, Book#1 Bloodforge Series
Reviewers describe Tom Stacey’s EXILE, #1 of the Bloodforge Series, as “the very definition of epic fantasy” with "insanely vivid characters” and the feel of “one of the richer, more complex computer games.” Stacey defines an epic fantasy as a story whose characters “deal with themes beyond that of individuals.” He claims that his characters are "flawed." And he writes strictly "to tell a good story."
When he’ s not writing, Stacey is a video producer in London. He’s working on the second book in the Bloodforce Series which he plans to finish by the end of 2016. He’s also writing a short story/novella and another novel. For fun, he likes to read, go to the movies, and support his favorite UK soccer team.
Don’t miss his excerpt from EXILE following the interview.
Q: EXILE has been described by a reviewer as “the very definition of epic fantasy.” How would you define an epic fantasy? Do you agree that EXILE is an epic fantasy? Why or why not?
Tom Stacey: I think an epic fantasy is something that deals with themes beyond that of individuals. That is not to say that it can’t tell the story from the perspective of individuals, but each has to be a character involved in grand themes, in events that effect nations and entire peoples. In that respect, I do agree that EXILE is an epic fantasy. It tells the story of an invasion that turns the known world on its head, but it tells it from the viewpoints of a few people. Some are directly involved, some merely on the periphery.
Q: The setting for EXILE was described as “majestically sweeping landscape. To create the world for EXILE, how did you make it “majestically sweeping?” Did you follow any world-building rules?
Tom Stacey: I wouldn’t say I followed any rules. I don’t really believe in rules when it comes to writing, short of the rules of language. I just try to be as descriptive as possible without being indulgent, and try to make things visceral and real. I want my readers to feel like they can touch the weathered stone of a ruined watchtower, smell the damp grass on the coastal plains, feel the bite of the wind on the Dalvossi Steppe. Reading fiction is all about escapism and I hope I have delivered that.
Q: How relevant is credibility for readers of fantasy? How do you create a believable story? What will annoy a fantasy reader and make them stop reading a story?
Tom Stacey: I think fantasy is a bit of a saturated genre. I know from being a fantasy fan myself that clichés annoy me. I am also not a fan of characters that are seemingly indestructible or godlike. The fantasy I like needs to be grounded in reality, even if it does have elements of magic. I think this is why something like Game of Thrones has seen such success – it never strays from feeling like a story of Medieval Europe, despite the more typical fantasy elements. I hope I replicated that sense of authenticity, even a little bit.
Q: Your characters are described as “solid and carry the story with power.” Are your characters perfect or do they have flaws? What makes powerful characters that will engage a reader’s interest?
Tom Stacey: I would say my characters are completely flawed. Perfect characters are boring, because nobody is perfect in the real world. Who can relate to a flawless human being? Loster is a coward (or at least he thinks he is), Beccorban has committed atrocious acts of violence and brutality, Riella is full of shame for the way she made a living. All of my characters have colored pasts that influence their decisions and that’s why I love to write them.
Q: How important is the concept of heroes vs villains in EXILE? How would you define a hero? Do you need a villain to have a hero? How do you create an effective villain?
Tom Stacey: It’s one of my favorite themes in any book. We all love a good villain and I am no different. In terms of EXILE heroes vs villains probably takes a back seat to good vs evil, but then a lot of the battles in EXILE are internal ones. Nevertheless my heroes protect the weak, and have their own moral code. Whether that aligns with everyone else’s idea of good is a different conversation, but the point is that my heroes mean well. For the villains however, I feel that fear is an important factor, as well as power. Villains need to have a hold over the heroes, whether it is strength, or intelligence, or support. The villains in Exile have that in abundance.
Q: Did you write EXILE purely for entertainment? And/or did you embed any messages for your readers?
Tom Stacey: In short, yes and then no. I wrote Exile to tell a good story, like something you might hear around a campfire. I don’t think there are any hard-coded messages in the book, but I have had a lot of people interpret things in different ways. I find it really flattering that people read into my work and find things I never consciously intended. Ultimately Exile is a story about dealing with guilt and moving on, nothing more.
Q: How did you conceive of the story for EXILE? What gave you the idea?
Tom Stacey: I wrote several short stories and then realized that they could all potentially exist in the same world. I bridged them together and then the story sort of grew a life of its own and went from there. The part of the story that speaks to me the strongest is the ending, which is already in my head, but does not feature in EXILE. At the moment, I don’t think I will get to said ending in anything less than three books.
Q: What makes EXILE “absorbing, dynamic, and gripping”? How do you create suspense and entice readers to turn the page?
Tom Stacey: I try to make every chapter end with the promise of more to follow. Also, although I like to be descriptive, sometimes I find that things are more effective if you hold information back from the reader and keep them guessing. Don’t talk of a monster, talk of a shadow, don’t show a demon entering the room, just make things colder, snuff out a few candles. In general, suggestion is much more suspenseful and ultimately rewarding.
Q: What’s next? Since this is the first of a series when can we expect the next one?
Tom Stacey: I am aiming to finish the second in the Bloodforge Series by the end of the year, work/life balance permitting. Otherwise I am writing a short story/novella called Tomb about archaeologists uncovering something sinister, and a standalone novel called Flotsam about a man who gets stuck on an island by himself.
Q: Tell us about Tom Stacey. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Tom Stacey: I’m not all that interesting really! I’m a video producer in London, but when I’m not working or writing, I’m reading, going to the movies, or supporting my beloved West Ham (a soccer team in the UK).
About Tom Stacey by Tom Stacey
“I am from the wild lands of Essex, and have been all my life.
“I've always been a student of history. My first history teacher at secondary school taught me that there are only five letters in the word history that matter: 'story.' Ever since then I've been hooked.
“I'm somebody who loves to read. I love Bernard Cornwell's earlier works like the first Sharpe novels and the Warlord Chronicles. I've experienced the can't-put-down quality of Wilbur Smith's Courtney novels. I'm a big Conn Iggulden fan (Emperor and Conqueror series) and love A Song of Ice and Fire - who doesn't?
“Arguably my favorite author is the late David Gemmell. His simple historical fantasies really struck a chord with me when I was younger, and encouraged me to write my own stories.
“I like stories about heroes, or things that make you scared to turn the page, stories that leave you feeling empty or that you've left friends behind in the epilogue. A writer is someone who can reach out from a page of prose and grab your attention and not let go until your heart is beating faster or aching with loss.
“If my own stories can make even one person feel something like that then I will consider myself a success. If they don't, I'm going to keep writing them anyway, so you might as well read one of them!”
A novel of the Bloodforge
A gripping tale of heroism and the darkness within
On the fringes of the Verian Empire, two small boys stumble upon a strange altar, buried in the heart of a mountain. There they awaken a horror unseen for generations, that will descend upon the realm of men while it is at its weakest. For Veria is a nation at war with itself, only recently recovered from a bloody rebellion, and the time of heroes has passed. The empire is in a state of chaos, and while its ruler, the Empron Illis, rids the land of his remaining enemies, unseen forces are gathering at the borders. However all eyes are turned inwards. The Empron is not a well man, and there are whispers among the common folk that his advisors are spies; demons that only wear the flesh of men.
Yet there is hope...
In the distant mountains, a forester who has buried his past learns that he has not been forgotten, and that his crimes have sought him out at last. But he is no simple woodsman. He is Beccorban the Helhammer, Scourge, Burner and the Death of Nations, and his fury is a terrible thing.
For when all the heroes are gone, Veria will turn to those it has forgotten, before all is lost.
Kiren leant in close to Huril, shielding himself from the biting wind. It seemed to be a living thing, screaming in his ears as its icy fingers searched for every gap and crevice. After burning down the small hut, Barin had ordered the men to huddle close. Only a few of the older men — about three of them — had brought furs. The rest sat frozen and miserable, every bit of exposed skin wrapped in whatever they could find. The Guide had disappeared an hour before, hissing something in Barin’s ear and then melting into the bushes like a shadow. It felt as if a weight had been lifted off of Kiren’s shoulders, but he did not know why.
Dreng returned from his scout with a brace of winter hares. Whilst the others ransacked the hut, the wiry tracker skinned and prepared his catch, storing the still warm meat in his pack and scraping the skins clean. He sat now opposite Kiren with the white furs wrapped around his hands, each pelt still tinged pink with gore. At any other time Kiren's stomach would have lurched at the thought of touching the oily, recently dead flesh, but now he glared at Dreng with jealous eyes as his own hands threatened to turn blue.
These few days in the mountains had been miserable. Now it seemed that they would all freeze to death, their mission a failure. They had been outfoxed by one old man who was probably somewhere warm and dry with a full belly. If this weather continued he would return home to eight living statues in compensation for the loss of his dwelling.
Barin stood away from the group, leaning against a tree with his cloak wrapped around him. Kiren wasn't sure whether the Lommocel was dead or not. It was hard to look in any one place for longer than a moment yet he wasn’t about to get up and check. The snow was flying sideways and stung his cheeks with its force. Kiren wanted to close his eyes but every time he did so he felt incredibly tired. Before the storm struck, Barin had given them a short speech about staying awake. To fall asleep in this cold was death, he had said, and he tasked every man with keeping his neighbour alert. Nevertheless, it was hard to keep the mind active when all there was to do was sit and wait. Kiren turned his head and looked at the men around him. All were so covered in snow that their crimson armour was frozen and powdered white. In fact it was hard to tell them apart.
“You still with me, boy?” Huril's gruff voice penetrated the fog of Kiren's thoughts.
“Still here,” he said and Huril grunted in response. Kiren had never been this close to the old soldier. He smelt of tobacco and sweat. Strangely he found that comforting. It reminded him of a tavern; the smell of woodsmoke, cooking grease and packed humanity. Somewhere warm.
He looked at the men around him one by one. Next to Huril there was Millar, the farmer's son turned recruit. Next to him sat Sarif Morn and then Shume and Dreng. Next to him was Grosh... was that Grosh? Yes, it must have been. Then... Shume. Kiren shook his head. He must have counted wrong. There was no mistaking that the figure to his left was Shume. He had been staring at the back and side of his face all day and knew every inch of that jowly expanse, even huddled as it was into a cloak. Who was the other figure, then? The Guide? No, he was far too broad to be the Guide. Besides, the Guide had left an hour ago. He had to have counted wrong.
Kiren slowly turned his head and stared at the large man between Sarif Morn and Dreng. He was one of the few who had brought furs, although they were caked in frost and snow. He sat hunkered down, staring at the ground, his hands hidden inside the folds of… what was that? A bearskin? Kiren carefully counted the party in his head. Barin, Morn, Dreng... Huril, Grosh, Millar, himself and Shume. Eight men.
But there were nine in this clearing.