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DJ: Hey Vance! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Vance Huxley: I’ve worked in a lot of fields from building labourer to accountancy, from graphic design to running a heavy engineering workshop. I’ve also read a lot of books, thousands because I used to read the average paperback in a few hours. I mainly read SciFi, Fantasy, military fiction, westerns, and historical fiction, both single books and long series such as the Honor Harrington, Bolitho, Pern or Malazan Empire type.
My wife died, and, retired with little mobility and poor vision I sat with a cat on my knee, and wondered what to do. I wrote short stories for my granddaughter, and she enjoyed them. I wrote others, about subjects from Vampires-ish and Werewolves (with a twist) to spaceships to ancient spirits and magicians to dystopian now or far future to alternate timelines and a world where Dark Matter became malleable.
Four years ago I went on a typing spree, putting about three million words onto my computer in just over two years. None of it made actual books, and I wondered how to do that. I sent a couple off chunks to an editor (Sharon Umbaugh in Hawaii). She applied a literary hatchet (and sometimes dynamite). Sharon also had to cope with my using UK English as opposed to US English.
A year of that and I sent a book for Beta, because now I wondered if the result was readable. (I wasn’t considering actual publication). The verdict was too much back-story so I wrote the back story – The first book of Fall of the Cities, and sent it to be Beta read. Then boom, Entrada offered me a contract and here I am, trying to turn that three million words into real books.
DJ: What is The Forest and the Farm about?
VH: The physical and mental growth of a young man who is marginalised in his medieval community. Some is his own lack of confidence, of self-worth, and some is the way others see him and treat him. Then one incident kicks him out of the rut, just a bit, and he starts to wonder if he can do better. Some of the journey is him striving, some is him hiding, some is reaction to conflict, and a lot of it is the constant friendship and encouragement of his Hound. He also makes a physical journey, further than anyone else in his village. Billi discovers what he is capable of and along the way he shows us his world, or at least his corner of it.
DJ: What were some of your influences for the The Forest and the Farm?
VH: I’ve thought and can’t nail down a specific influence. I wrote two short stories, each with different elements of this one, and the pair combined in my head to create this world.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
VH: I don’t know about cool – though having a Hound like Rabbit would be awesome.
Some readers might empathise with Billi’s lack of self-belief and the way he is ignored by much of the community including his family.
Others might identify with Ellibeth, a widow with a young son trying to avoid being a burden on her father.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Forest and the Farm?
VH: Rabbit, the three legged hound, and how he helps Billi to find himself.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
VH: I honestly don’t know. With a bit of luck, they’ll want to know more about the world, and what happens to the characters next.
DJ: What is the universe like that The Forest and the Farm takes place in?
VH: This isn’t Earth. I can’t tell you about the world, properly, because the history and how the current situation came about will be revealed eventually J Though this book doesn’t need to know that. Please adapt the following however you see fit. (I’ve probably gone over the top)
There is something in the Forest that is sentient, but details are lost in legend. If the Laws are broken (A live tree cut down, or prey wounded but not tracked and finished) the Wild beasts will descend on the culprit, be it one man, a family or a whole village, and wipe them out. If the Wild trespass on the Farm, even non-Hunters can kill them.
The Laws are so the Forest and Farm can exist side by side, and were allegedly brokered between the Wild and Man by the Hounds. The Hounds are giant dogs, who come from the Forest to form a mental link with their chosen human, a non-verbal ‘song’ that guides and protects them. The chosen youth becomes a Hunter, one of those allowed to enter the Forest. (Providing he has his bow and spear). Hunters are a valued group as they can find fallen trees, coal, ore, precious stones and meat out in the Forest to keep the village fed and warm through winter. Hunting is a dangerous occupation, at least two or three die every year because permission to enter the Forest isn’t a free pass. If the Hunter dies, the Hound pines and dies. If the Hound dies, the Hunter usually does as well.
Trail’s End is literally the small village in an area of cleared land at the northern end of the trading trails. Around it is a huge forest that as far as they know, stretches north to the world’s end. The technology level is medieval-ish. Bows for hunting, pack ponies or occasionally carts for transport. Homes are stone-built because timber is usually used for cooking and heating. (Only deadfalls can be taken from the Forest)
There is no formal government in the Village, just a council of the eldest villagers. Subsistence level survival, there are no scholars or artists in Trail’s End though all are basically literate. The travelling bards and Tinkerers bring new songs and music, and gossip. There is little crime. Shunning and fines deal with most infractions. For serious crimes banishment. (To other villages, since the Forest without a Hound means death)
There tends to be a division in male/female roles. Hounds only come to young men, so only men are Hunters. (Don’t worry, there’s an all-female role on this world) Men work the land and become tradesmen such as smith, carpenter, brewer and tanner (no plumbing L). Women tend to raise children and assist their bonded mate when they can but some have businesses. The elders consist of more females than males.
There is more civilisation far to the south, rumours of wealth, cities, kings and endless salt lakes. The traders bring salt, cloth, threads, fine leatherwork, coal, and iron and steel goods, and take silver, gold, furs, rough stones (from streams), hides and meat in barter. New technology comes from there, such as a pot-bellied wood-burning stove instead of open fires.
Climate: snow in winter but plenty of warm weather for growing crops. Forest is mixed, evergreens and deciduous. Winters can be bitter, with rivers freezing. (Canadian? Northern USA?)
DJ: The synopsis says that The Forest and the Farm is “light on magic, but big on heart.” From solely reading the book’s info, I had the feeling that this was going to be an emotional story, but I feel like it is going to be more than just Billi’s bond with Rabbit that is going to draw on reader’s emotions?
VH: The main story is about a ‘cripple’ – a one-legged man in a medieval rural village, who receives a gift from the Wild, Rabbit the Hound, and gradually learns that he isn’t a failure. His handicap just means that he must learn to succeed in a different way, something new.
There are other stories of people in the Village. The Village must all work together to survive, and there is sacrifice for the community. There are love stories and tragedies, misunderstandings, persecution, banishments and fatal confrontations with men and beasts. There is also humour, Tinkerer beguiling and Bearrr dancing (no real bear).
DJ: Then for the magic: does that come into play with the Forest, or the “wordless song” between Billi and Rabbit, or these “sparkuls” the synopsis mentions?
VH: The magic can probably be described as the inexplicable. Such as how can the Forest and the Wild make Laws, let alone have the will to enforce them? (Which it does)
The wordless song is a mental link only the Hunter and his Hound hear, and each pair hear it differently.
The magic is not formal Magic as in spells or incantations. (nor sparkuls)
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes The Forest and the Farm that you can share with us?
VH: Sorry, I can’t think of any that could be lifted out of context.
Maybe “If the Wild doesn’t agree, nobody will ever find our bones.”
Or “There’s a bit of the Wild in every cat, it’s in their eyes.”
DJ: Now that The Forest and the Farm is released, what is next for you?
VH: Next book out (probably within the next month) is Breach of Contract.
A future military story (about 150 years from now – not high-tech) about a small group of ‘volunteers’ who stick together through years of battles (literally). They learn to survive in a world where corporations consider the soldiers are worth less than property, using them to settle contract disagreements.
Then the third of the Fall of the Cities series, where there are new threats to both Orchard Close and the Cabal (release date about two months away).
After that, either another book in The Forest and Farm world, another in the Breach of Contract world, or the fourth Fall of the Cities (all partially written). There is also the first of a series about an interstellar empire reliant on teleportation, if the Betas don’t slaughter it.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: Vance Huxley
Goodreads: Vance Huxley
Website: Entrada have put up a site for the first series: – http://fallofthecities.com/index.html
Sorry there’s not more but I’ve always kept to myself and I’m still coming to terms with being published. My daughter tells me I should get onto Facebook at least but I’m busy writing. (That’s my excuse anyway J)
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
VH: Thank you for your interest.
I’d like to explain that I don’t write in one genre (or even three) so while one Vance Huxley series might not appeal, please don’t assume the other series are similar. Even the levels of world-building or character development vary depending on the story. J
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
VH: You’re more than welcome.
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*** The Forest and the Farm is published by Entrada Publishing and is available TODAY!!! ***
* It will also be FREE to read from July 7, 2016 – July 11, 2016 *
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
Billi has always been different, and how could he not be? A man with one leg was uncommon enough. Then a three-legged Hound, Rabbit, came from the Forest and sat by his wheelchair, and he had to learn to be a Hunter. Paired for life, Hunters and Hounds are vital to their Village for hunting and protection in the Forest. They share a wordless song which allows them to know each other’s moods and warn of danger. Rules about the Farm and Forest keep the villagers safe – no living tree can be cut, and any man without a Hound is prey once in the Forest.
But an unexpected turn of events leads Billi into new territory. A solitary life evolves as he explores the Forest and finds friends in unlikely places. Now Billi must learn about gifts, chasing, catching and sparkuls as he includes others in his life. Light on magic, but big on heart, Billi’s story rings a chord with anyone who’s ever felt they don’t fit in.
Join Billi on a world-building journey through a land you almost feel you recognize that still has the ability to surprise you.
Vance Huxley lives out in the countryside in Lincolnshire, England. He has spent a busy life working in many different fields – including the building and rail industries, as a workshop manager, trouble-shooter for an engineering firm, accountancy, cafe proprietor, and graphic artist. He also spent time in other jobs, and is proud of never being dismissed, and only
once made redundant.
Eventually he found his Noeline, but unfortunately she died much too young. To help with the aftermath, Vance tried writing though without any real structure. As an editor and beta readers explained the difference between words and books, he tried again.
Now he tries to type as often as possible in spite of the assistance of his cats, since his legs no longer work well enough to allow anything more strenuous. An avid reader of sci-fi, fantasy and adventure novels, his writing tends towards those genres.