I recently was fortunate enough to interview new author, Chris Kelly of Scathatch Publishing. His book, Matilda Raleigh: Invictus, is now available.
Chris is an enigmatic straight-shooter who does not hesitate to tell it like it is. The phrase “sugar-coated” is not in his vocabulary. Enjoy!
M.T.M: Thanks for letting me interview you, Chris.
C.K.: You're welcome, Michael. It's great to be here - I'm doing three interviews this month as part of my blog tour and it's making me feel like a big shot author. Loving my 2-seconds in the limelight.
M.T.M: How about we start off with an easy one. Where are you from and how long have you been writing, for yourself and professionally?
C.K.: I'm from Scotland, a tiny village called Laurieston, about a mile from the world-famous Falkirk Wheel (it's famous if you are turned on by canal boats, boat lifts and so on). It's the heart of Braveheart country, according to the tourist board.
I've always wrote, since I could write. I write every single day and I always have. If I miss more than two days I get impossibly crabby and my wife hates me! Writing is my form of relaxation.
I've known I was good enough to get published since I was 22. At that point I just sort of thought "yeah, I'm amazing..." LOL, no - it was more like realising that I actually have talent, my writing doesn't suck.
I don't believe this spiel about "writers can't judge their own work." Why else do so many writers say " I read something I wrote x years ago. My writing used to suck." I read my work and I know it's good, and if other people don't think I'm humble, or feel I don't know what I'm talking about, or whatever, that's fine.
Literature is subjective. I didn't like the Da Vinci Code, but that doesn't mean all the millions of people who bought it were wrong. And if everyone hates Invictus, that doesn't make them right.
By the way, I'm 28 now, so by my count I've been good enough for 6 years. And still improving.
M.T.M: I am 34 and I fully expect it to take about sixty years for people to see my first novel for the masterpiece it is. Then the “F*ck me, M.T. Murphy” videos will start rolling in.
Sorry. I sometimes can have the attention span of a gnat on Red Bull. Back to the topic at hand.
The protagonist of your book, Matilda Raleigh: Invictus, is a seventy-two year old retiree. She definitely does not fit one of the typical fantasy adventure story archetypes. What inspired you in your choice of a main character?
C.K.: I can't deny the influence Legend has had on this book. David Gemmell is not my favourite author (but he's up there) and that isn't my favourite book (again, up there) but it has massively influenced me.
I was probably also influenced by Terry Pratchett's The Last Hero, and other books which peripherally feature Cohen the Barbarian.
Matilda is hard to place in the archetypes. In the original version of my book I told two stories, one of Matilda as a sixteen year old going up against the magic of the crystal skulls for the first time, and the other of her fighting the same magic as a septuagenarian. So she kind of fitted the young hero and old mentor role at the same time (yes, I know that's a stretch).
Of course, the entire book doesn't fit fantasies silly lines in the sand. It's sword and sorcery of the oldest style, and by that I mean it is Conan, and it is Elric, and more. At the same time it is down and dirty steampunk. Yes, she's the richest woman in the Empire, but she speaks thieves' cant and is as at home in the warren-like slums of St Giles Rookery as she is in the royal palaces of Sandringham, watching her king and queen dance.
I'm not a fan of "this is a sub-genre. Keep your writing within it." The compartmentalization of fantasy was a marketing decision, a product placement decision, and never should have carried weight back to the writers. But try explaining that to publishers, editors and agents with their "we sell what we've always sold" attitudes.
Fantasy should be the most open and encompassing genre in all of fiction. After all, the rule in fantasy (the only rule) is consistency within the constraints of the book. Want to have unicorns that go into magical cocoons and then become dragons? Fine, as long as that's where all dragons come from.
And yet, despite the fact that fantasy is the one genre that could take us everywhere, anywhere, to do anything with anyone, despite the fact that it is the one genre without limits, bookshops only ever seem to stock the same five plots with a different cover.
As for Matilda, the more I thought about this story, the more I wanted to do someone who was not only a hero for it, but famous. Famous throughout the entire empire in her heyday
(She was featured in at least 19 supposedly biographical penny dreadful fictions in her youth) and yet is know old and forgotten. No one knows who she is, where she came from, what she did. In a sense, I went in the opposite direction of Gemmell's Legend.
Druss had the expectations of a nation to fulfill when he went to Dros Delnoch. No one expects anything from Matilda, but she does what's needed anyway. She knows from the start of the novel that she is dying, that she probably won't survive long enough to stop the villain, and yet she doesn't give up.
In fact, that's what Invictus means. It's Latin for Unconquerable, and it's the title of possibly the best poem ever written, which is featured at the very beginning of the novel.
Through Matilda I wanted to show what it really means to be a hero. To do what needs done no matter the consequences. To know there will be no reward, no fame, no glory. In my opinion, being a hero simply means having the unbreakable will to make the hardest decisions, decisions ordinary people will never be expected to make.
I think I achieved that, especially with Matilda's victory. She has a choice between two evils, and it's the decision she comes to which truly makes Matilda a hero.
M.T.M: Is Invictus a standalone tale or part of a larger series or world of future connected stories?
C.K.: It's the last in a series. There will be a host of prequels involving Matilda from about age 20 up, when she starts working in the Church's wetworks department, battling magic and monsters.
The first one will feature a book of necromancy, an army of the undead, demonic possession and warrior priests, and I'm hoping to have it written and published in 2011.
There's also the chance for a dieselpunk spin-off. Invictus features a young girl called Emily, and I'm considering following Emily's story through the 20s and 30s in America, returning to Europe for World War II.
M.T.M: When did you begin writing the story?
C.K.: I began writing the story last year, in December I think. It took me longer than anything usually takes to write.
M.T.M: Did it change along the way?
C.K.: Absolutely. I've already mentioned the original told of her youth. Well, the original told a lot more than that. It was 40k words longer. I was writing for New York, which was a mistake. I cut 40k out, changed another 15k words, and came out with something much better and stronger for my efforts.
M.T.M: What do you want the reader to think and feel while reading Invictus?
C.K.: Invictus starts off with a clockman (think clockwork terminator) trying to assassinate King Edward. There are terrifying demons, beautiful angels, vengeful vampires, lovelorn sorceresses, magical explosions, a steam-powered Iron-Manesque power suit, demonically possessed revolvers, a trip to purgatory, a stormy ornithopter ride, and a stunning finale on board the RMS Titanic.
Like I said, it's old fashioned sword and sorcery, and the action catapults from one intense scene to the next, seemingly never-letting up.
So I'd be looking for nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat, wet-your-pants excitement at the very least. I want them to root for her. But I'd settle for a strong sense of like.
M.T.M: When you are not writing, what other authors do you enjoy reading?
C.K.: I really enjoy Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, but his fantasy not so much. I loved Patrick Rothfuss's Name of the Wind, and Martin Millar's Lonely Werewolf Girl.
My favourite book is Robert McCammon's Boy's Life. Everyone needs to read that. My favourite author is probably Terry Pratchett, but I realise he is not everyone's thing.
M.T.M: If you could have the opportunity to write a story, novel, episode, or movie about an existing character, what would that character be? (Doctor Who, James Bond, Wonder Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman, etc.)
C.K.: I'd love to write a whole series of Spider-man novels, starting when he is still at school, back when the spider first bit him. I love Spidey.
Chris's blog tour rolls on throughout the month of October. Connect with him below:
Matilda Raleigh: Invictus - $2.99 at Smashwords.com
Dun Scaith – Chris’s blog