Today I am interviewing Marc Turner, author of The Chronicles of the Exile series. The second book, Dragon Hunters, is out now, and features Chameleon priests, dimension-hopping assassins, and sea dragons being hunted for sport.
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DJ: Hey Marc! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview! I want to ask you several specific questions about Dragon Hunters, but first, let’s take care of some of these mandatory questions: For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Marc Turner: Hi, thanks for inviting me. I’m Marc Turner, and I write epic fantasy books with a dark edge and a liberal sprinkling of humour. I live in Durham in the UK, and when I’m not writing, I’m doing more writing, reading, escaping into the countryside, and trying in vain to keep up with my seven-year-old son.
DJ: What is Dragon Hunters about?
MT: At its core, Dragon Hunters is about a military coup led by Imerle Polivar, the head of a group of powerful water-mages called the Storm Lords. Imerle’s five-year tenure is about to end, but she has no intention of stepping down graciously. As part of her plot to hold on to power, she tries to sabotage the annual Dragon Hunt, and thus unleash chaos on her rivals.
But that is only one of many story-threads in the book. Dragon Hunters also features a mysterious assassin who is picking off water-mages, and an apparently deserted titan fortress from which earth tremors are originating. And lurking behind it all is a more dangerous force even than the Storm Lords, waiting for the right moment to show its hand.
DJ: When I heard that Dragon Hunters was a sequel to When the Heavens Fall, but could be read as a stand-alone, it did cause me to pause for a second. What made you come to that decision? Was it for readers like me, who have not read the first book, to be able to join the series at any point, or is having all the books in the series be stand-alones part of a bigger plan?
MT: A bit of both, and a bit of neither! First and foremost, I wanted each book to be a standalone because I’m not a fan of novels that end in cliffhangers. It can be frustrating when a book ends without even a hint of a resolution in sight, and you have to wait another year or longer to find out what happens next. Making each book a complete story also helps me to remain focused on the endgame, and thus to write a story that (hopefully) concludes with a satisfying finale. So each of my books has an ending that ties up most of the story-threads at issue, while leaving a number of other threads to take forward into later novels.
There is a bigger plan in the background, by which I mean all of the stories fit (to a greater or lesser extent) into a larger narrative. You could consider the series to be analogous to a military campaign, with each book being a battle – or other event – within that campaign.
DJ: In making Dragon Hunters a stand-alone, you also brought in a whole new cast of characters. Personally, my favorite POV to read was Kempis because his snarky-ness. Did you have a favorite character to write? Whether it was a main character, like Kempis, or a supporting character, like Sniffer.
MT: My favourite character to write was definitely Kempis. I’m not sure what it says about me personally, but I found that his snarky-ness came very naturally! His verbal clashes with his partner, Sniffer, and his boss, Hilaire, were fun to write. Both of those secondary characters are essential to his story because they bring out the best in Kempis – or the worst, depending on your perspective. Among the other secondary characters that I enjoyed writing, I would mention the emira’s twin bodyguards, Mili and Tali, and the hard-of-hearing librarian, Darbonna.
DJ: On the other hand, there was one POV that I could not stand to read – Agenta. I did not hate her, but it was so frustrating to read her at times! I can see how some readers could sympathize with her, but her lack of empathy for others – I could not stand it.
I feel that characters like Senar, are written for the readers to like, while characters like Agenta, are written to get my blood flowing. Did you have particular intention, to invoke a certain emotion in readers, with Agenta’s character?
MT: No, it was never my intention to provoke a particular emotion as regards Agenta, because that would imply I thought that there was a “correct” response for people to have to her. Agenta is someone who is struggling to come to terms with the loss of her brother and mother, and she deals with her grief by hiding from it. When she shows a lack of empathy, is it really because she does not care? Or is she simply pretending not to? I’ll leave that for readers to decide. I can appreciate, though, why people might find her difficult to sympathise with at times. There is one particular incident at the end of the first part of Dragon Hunters (where she shows indifference to the death of another character) that I considered changing. But I discussed that section with my editor, and he was in favour of keeping it because he didn’t want Agenta to lose her “edge”.
Generally, I think it is important that in books with multiple POV characters, each of the characters must have a distinctive “voice”. Nobody wants to read a novel in which every character is a different shade of the same person. But inevitably that means readers will like some characters more than others. (I suspect I’m not the only one who skimmed the odd Sansa chapter in A Game of Thrones to get to the next Tyrion one.) The challenge is to make every character interesting, and to give them a story that contributes something unique and essential to the book as a whole.
DJ: I was at author event with Brian Staveley and Max Gladstone the day before I started reading Dragon Hunters. One of the topics they talked about was how and when to write a prologue. So I was wondering: do you write your prologues before or after you finish the story, and how many different versions did you go through?
MT: Dragon Hunters is the only book of mine that has a prologue, and I included it because I thought it would set the story up well. I can’t remember if I wrote it before or after the rest of the book because I finished it so long ago. And I don’t think I found writing it any easier or harder than any other part of the novel.
DJ: In the prologue you mention the Spider – the only place in the story where that character’s name is mentioned. Since I didn’t read When the Heaven’s Fall yet, before I started and since I’ve finished Dragon Hunters, I’ve been wondering how the first two, and all the books, will be connected. Right now, my top theory is that it has something to do with the Spider. Am I looking in the right direction?
MT: The answer is in the next book. Almost certainly. Well, maybe. You’ll just have to keep reading to find out!
DJ: I thought you did a magnificent job at the world-building; I thought that was what you excelled at most in the novel. Aside from the map (which literally shows how large The Land of the Exiles is), the amount of details about the world you provided in the story made me feel how massive it was; how deep and how much more there is still left for us to explore. Things such as the demon’s world, Fume and his followers, the Spider, Senar’s back-story and Erin Elal and the gates, the Lord of Hidden Faces, and the executioner, to name some.
How much of this world in The Land of the Exiles did you plan out before you began writing The Chronicles of the Exile series and do you have any plans on exploring any of the examples I listed in more detail in any future novels?
MT: I’d say I knew the bones of the COTE world before I started writing the book, but much of the flesh was added during the telling of the story. For those parts of the worldbuilding that are integral to the story, I do a lot of planning beforehand. So, for Dragon Hunters I made detailed notes on the Storm Isles, covering its history to its governance to its architecture. I also knew everything there was to know about its capital city, Olaire, from its flooded outer districts to its palace with its underwater throne room. But for those parts of the world that don’t directly feature in the book, I know a lot less. Generally speaking, the farther one travels from the heart of the action, the sketchier my knowledge becomes. And the cities at the extreme reaches of the Storm Lord empire are little more than names to me.
As for the second part of your question, most of the locations you mention will be explored in other books of the series. For example, the truth behind the identity of the Lord of Hidden Faces will be revealed in Red Tide (if you haven’t already guessed it), and a different character visited the demon world in When the Heavens Fall. But I’m also keen to show readers new parts of my story world, which is why every book in the series will be set in a new location. Coming next, in Red Tide, we have Gilgamar, city of snakes, as well as the pirate-infested Rubyholt Isles where even dragons fear to stray.
DJ: How about some of our characters? When we first meet Senar he apparently went through a couple traumatic events in his life for end him up in that cell; Kempis lost his partner, and him and Sniffer going around solving crimes is something I would love to read; and I can’t help but wonder what Karmel is going to do with her brother now with the Chameleon God.
Any chance of getting novels that deal with some of these origin questions in details, or sequels that will continue these plot lines? Possibly some short-stories?
MT: Yes, from Red Tide onwards there will be some returning characters (as well as some new ones). Of course, I can’t say which characters will be returning because that would give away who survived from the first two books. 😉
DJ: I have one burning question that I have been dying to know for the longest time, and I am so grateful I have the opportunity to ask you this: who did the art for UK cover?! I cannot find that information anywhere, and need to know, so I can add them to my list of artists to nominate for the 2016 Hugo Awards.
MT: I will ask my UK publisher, Titan.
DJ: How is progress looking for the third book in the series, Red Tide? Can you share with us what it will be about?
MT: I recently finished the copyedit of Red Tide, so the novel is now all but finished. As for what the book is about, there are lots of different storylines woven together. At its heart it deals with the coming of an Augeran expeditionary fleet, and the attempts of the Storm Lords to destroy it. But it is also about a man who is able to make his dreams – or should that be nightmares? – manifest in the waking world, and a woman whom one of my beta readers refers to as a female Jorg Ancrath.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
MT: The pleasure was mine!
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*** Dragon Hunters is published by Tor Books and is available TODAY!!! ***
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Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
The sequel to When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods
Once a year on Dragon Day the fabled Dragon Gate is raised to let a sea dragon pass into the Sabian Sea. There, it will be hunted by the Storm Lords, a fellowship of powerful water-mages who rule an empire called the Storm Isles.
Emira Imerle Polivar is coming to the end of her tenure as leader of the Storm Lords, but she has no intention of standing down graciously. As part of her plot to hold on to power, she instructs an order of priests known as the Chameleons to sabotage the Dragon Gate. There’s just one problem: that will require them to infiltrate an impregnable citadel that houses the gate’s mechanism — a feat that has never been accomplished before.
But Imerle is not the only one intent on destroying the Storm Lord dynasty. As the Storm Lords assemble in answer to a mysterious summons, they become the targets of assassins working for an unknown enemy. And when Imerle sets her scheme in motion, that enemy uses the ensuing chaos to play its hand.
Marc Turner was born in Toronto, Canada, but grew up in England. He graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford University, in 1996 with a BA (Hons) in law, and subsequently joined a top ten law firm in the City of London. After realising that working there did not mix well with simple pleasures such as having a life, he fled north first to Leeds and then to Durham in search of a better work-life balance. Unfortunately it proved elusive, and so in 2007, rather than take the next step and move to Scotland, he began working part time so he could devote more time to his writing. Following the sale of his debut epic fantasy novel, When the Heavens Fall, he started writing full time.
Why writing? Because it is the only work he knows where daydreaming isn’t frowned upon, and because he has learned from bitter experience that he cannot not write.
The authors whose work has most influenced him are Steven Erikson and Joe Abercrombie. Consequently he writes fast-paced, multi-threaded novels with a liberal sprinkling of humour; novels written on a panoramic scale, peopled by characters that stay in the memory. Or at least that’s the theory . . .
He lives in Durham, England, with his wife and son.