The Art of Hunting is both a fantastic, character-driven adventure story and a top-class piece of wonderfully atmospheric prose. As in the best kind of books, the way it's written is as enjoyable and mesmerizing as the need to just *find out what happens!* I gave an introduction to the book and the fantastic praise for book one, Sea of Ghosts, here.
But now it's time to talk to Alan Campbell and find out how being a games designer can impact on writing, discover George R. R. Martin's theory of writers and also hear what Alan would most like to take from his fictional world and put in our own. It would be great to hear from you too - so if you could take one thing from your favourite read and bring it into our world, tell us in the comments! And onto the interview...
1) Did you always know you wanted to be a writer and if so, what were the signs?
I've always been drawn to reading and writing. My mother consumed books at a terrific rate, so I suppose it seemed natural for me to always be reading something. Anyone who is an avid reader will probably try their hand at writing at some point. The rest is just persistence.
2)The Times has called the world of your Gravedigger Chronicles ‘bizarre, fascinating and dangerous’, among other great reviews. What kind of world did you set out to create?
I wanted to create a world nearing the end of its days - a place where it is becoming harder and harder for people to live, so that they are always in conflict. I wanted to use magic in this world, particularly magical artefacts, however I'm always very wary of using such things. So I've tried to come up with a scientific basis for the magic in this world, so that it feels grounded rather than just a writer's fancy.
3) As an ex-coder and games designer, do you think that work has influenced the way you tell and structure stories?
I think it was George R. R. Martin who said that there are two kinds of writers: Architects and Gardeners. Architects plans everything out to the last detail before they write a word of story. Gardeners plant a seed and watch it grow. I'm very much in the latter category, so it wasn't a great help to have come from a coding environment where what you create is highly structured. I know where I want the story to go, but I'm always having ideas I like to incorporate as I write it, and keeping to a rigid structure inhibits that sort of creativity. It was even stricter with games. Once you have an engine, you really have to stay within the bounds of what that engine can do. Books offer far more freedom.
4) In The Art of Hunting, which character was the most fun or interesting to write? And would your choice be the same for book one, Sea of Ghosts?
It would be the same character for both. Thomas Granger. I do like anti-heroes and Granger is no exception. He's very stubborn and determined, which brings him into constant clashes with his daughter, Ianthe, who is equally stubborn and just as determined to get what she wants. In The Art of Hunting, Granger finds himself stuck in this palace, which is essentially a gilded cage. He wants to get away. But his daughter wants to stay, which frustrates him terribly.
5) As a genre fiction author, you can give the reader an extraordinary other world to visit. If you could bring something back from the Gravedigger Chronicles world, what would it be? Or are your creations safest left in the world of fiction?!
I'd bring back a dragon, complete with armour and a saddle. Incredibly useful for getting away for the weekend.
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The Art of Hunting, book two of the Gravedigger Chronicles, is published in hardback this month from Tor UK. Please see here for more information on this and other Alan Campbell titles.