How I Write: Brian Staveley, author of Skullsworn

13 April 2017

Brian Staveley, author of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Thrown series, is back with Skullswornthe story of Pyrre Lakatur, an apprentice assassin. Brian stopped by the blog to tell us how he writes. 


The White Witch. Sauron. Emperor Palpatine. As far as I’m concerned, none of them compare, for sheer destructive villainy, to the Internet.

The Internet is determined to ruin my life. For starters, the Internet definitely does not want me to write books. It thinks writing books is way less important than, say, looking at a video of an anaconda swallowing a cow. The Internet thinks it’s a good idea for me to spend ten minutes clicking through photos of baseball players falling down. Sometimes, when I don’t want to write any more, I’ll think, “I’ll read a book.” I love reading books, but if the Internet is anywhere around, it will do its level best to convince me that, instead of reading, what I should really be doing is filling out some quiz to figure out what kind of penguin I am.

I have nothing but contempt for myself every time I fall prey to one of the Internet’s schemes, but here’s the thing. The Internet is f*****g sneaky. While writing Skullsworn, for instance, I needed to do a little research. The book is a love story that takes place in a tropical river delta city where people keep getting eaten by various creatures. There’s a fight between some assassins and some crocodiles, which I thought meant I was totally justified in doing some research about crocodiles. I wanted to understand basic stuff like size, speed, age, strength, and the rest of it. So far, so good.

Or so I thought. This is how the Internet gets you.

I went in looking for crocodiles, then watched some alligator wrestling, then ended up watching some mixed martial arts, then wanted to know just why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is so damned effective, then spent a lot of time reading about the history of BJJ, then checked to see if there were any local places that teach BJJ, and now—I’m not making this up—I can’t type the Q, A, or Z keys effectively because I started going to one of these classes, dislocated my finger, had some dude named Ben yank it back into place, and now it doesn’t work all that well. Because of the Internet.

The Internet is like the One Ring: you think you’re going to be able to use its power for good, but in the end it will destroy you. And by you, I mean me. Fortunately, I learned my lesson from The Lord of the Rings. Like Gandalf and Elrond, I’m well aware that, in the face of the Internet, whatever self-control I think I possess will crumble to dust. The only way to survive is not to touch it, and since when it’s around the temptation is so great, I have to flee into the wilds. Specifically, I go to a lake in the mountains of southern Vermont where there is no internet connection and incredibly spotty cell service. It’s there—sitting at a wobbly old picnic table, listening to the loons—that I’m able to do my best, most consistent work.

It’s not that there aren’t distractions outdoors. Those loons can be loud. There’s one particularly swashbuckling chipmunk who will literally climb over me to get at my snacks. When it’s warm, I’ll take a break to swim. These distractions, however, unlike the pernicious seductions of the Internet, have a way of leading me back to myself and the book I’m trying to write. Half an hour scrolling through facebook leaves me feeling desiccated and useless; half an hour swimming across the lake and I’m brimming with ideas. I never would have finished Skullsworn without that lake.

There is, however, a flaw to this strategy: winter. The only way to get to the lake in winter is to ski, and in this part of Vermont the temperature can hover around -10F for weeks. All of which drives me inside, and you know what’s waiting inside…

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to write. By which I mean I need to watch this slow motion montage of people falling off of rope swings.



For one apprentice assassin, the clock is ticking . . .

Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the description skullsworn. It doesn’t capture the beauty of her devotion to Ananshael, God of Death. And she’s not an assassin, but a priestess. Or she will be, if she can pass her final trial. The problem isn’t killing, as Pyrre has spent her life training for this. The problem is love. To pass the trial, she will have fourteen days to kill seven people detailed in an ancient song, including one true love, ‘who will not come again’. However, Pyrre has never been in love, time is short, and if she fails she’ll be given to her god ...

Skullsworn is out now in Hardback and as an ebook! 

Read extract  

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