So this week, I used the art of stalking, ahem, persuasion, to speak to author Mark Lawrence about his writing process.
Alongside his day job as a research scientist, which focuses on problems in the field of artificial intelligence, Lawrence has also found the time to write The Broken Empire Trilogy, and has started a second trilogy set in the same world, called The Red Queen’s War. Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled. When he isn’t working, writing, or caring for his disabled child, Lawrence spends his time playing games, tending an allotment, brewing beer, and avoiding DIY.
The Broken Empire Trilogy begins with the Prince of Thorns, where we are introduced to Jorg Ancrath, a privileged royal child whose life is uprooted by violence and betrayal. Jorg’s path soon becomes treacherous, full of darkness, brutality and chaos, with a hint of magic. Hailed as “epic fantasy on a George R. R. Martin scale, but on speed”, Lawrence not only has the ability to create a sadistic yet witty protagonist, but also bring him, and his story, to life. This story continues through the next two books, King of Thorns and Emperor of Thorns, with Jorg on the rocky path to the Empire Throne. Full of twists and turns, and highly anticipated, the final book gives a stunning conclusion to the trilogy.
Prince of Fools, the first book in The Red Queen’s War series, is just as impressive, albeit very unique. With the second novel in the series due to be released next year, I wanted to know more about Lawrence’s writing process.
“I never had any ambition to be a writer”, he said, when I asked what inspired him to start. “I started writing because I enjoyed it and my imagination has always needed some sort of release valve. But I never thought of what I was doing as ‘becoming a writer’.” Coming up with ideas, he says, is the easy part:
Writing is the difficult part. Writing well is the rare skill that – if you’re lucky – might earn you a living. Ideas, on the other hand, are a thousand a penny. Ideas bubble up from the ground, condense out of the air, smack you in the face if you let your guard down. Most writers are drowning in ideas. The hard bit is bringing those ideas to life with the right combination of words so that they take root in a reader’s head.
Joining a critique group is one way of developing your writing, while developing a thick skin. Being honest with yourself, risking ridicule and misunderstanding, and writing “as if you’re the only one who will ever read it” are further tips for aspiring writers. Lawrence was fortunate enough to be published very quickly: “so I really shouldn’t have waited 4 years before letting someone guilt-trip me into trying”.
What you’re writing needs to be important to you:
If your writing doesn’t move you, it won’t move anyone. It’s incredibly difficult to push strong emotion through into another human’s head simply by the ordered depression of plastic letter keys..You shouldn’t write because of something you want to be or some place you want to get. Write because right now, this moment, you need to.
Considering your story on both a grand and small scale is also important, as “there’s a power in the language that can be exploited in almost every sentence to propel a reader on”.
Lawrence has already written the second book in The Red Queen’s War trilogy, and is currently working on the third. “I also have a few short stories on the go for various anthologies”.
The Sun recently said that Prince of Fools is “like the Wizard of Oz, but with whores and gore”. I’m not quite sure what to do with that statement, so maybe you’d better read the book and make up your own mind.
Due to looking after his daughter, Lawrence currently has no plans for a book tour, but if you do want to catch him – alongside Joe Abercrombie, Peter V. Brett and Myke Cole – head to Fantasy Faction’s Grim Gathering, which will take place at Waterstones Kensington on the 13th of August.
Prince of Fools was released last month, and is available on Amazon. Lawrence’s other novels are available on Lovereading.co.uk, the UK’s Leading Book Recommendation website. For more information, visit Lawrence’s website, or find him on Goodreads.