Today I am interviewing Mark Lawrence, author of the new fantasy novel, Holy Sister, final book in the Book of the Ancestor series.
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DJ: Hi Mark! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Mark: I’m a former scientist who tried his hand at writing. The Book of the Ancestor is my third trilogy. My first book, Prince of Thorns, is the work I’m most known for.
DJ: What is Holy Sister and then the Book of the Ancestor series about?
Mark: They’re about the same thing, which is the story of Nona Grey after she’s taken to a convent aged around 8. She spends the next 10 years there and, along with a religious and secular education, the nuns also train her in such things as armed combat, poisoning, and shadow weaving. These are troubled times and Nona’s personal difficulties with the land’s high and mighty lead into a larger story of war and a doomed world.
DJ: What were some of your influences for the Book of the Ancestor series?
Mark: Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers. I basically added knives, murder, magic and ice sheets.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Book of the Ancestor series like?
Mark: The world of Abeth is almost entirely covered by miles-thick ice sheets. Only a 50 mile wide corridor around the equator is kept clear, and this is achieved using a huge mirror in space (they call it a moon) that focuses the light of their dying sun into the region. Even so the ice is continuing to close from both sides and, as the corridor narrows, inevitably there’s war for the diminishing resources.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first two book of the Book of the Ancestor series? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
Mark: Reviews have been great. The trilogy focuses on character and so do the readers. They all have their favorites and seem primarily concerned about them surviving, leading happy lives, and ending up with the partners they deserve. There are few hints of romance in the books but many of the readers seem to be advocates of particular romantic pairings starting &/or coming to fruition. Which is fun.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Mark: I think a lot of them will be talking about recovering from the emotional shock. Also about the various “big moments” where secrets are revealed or twists unfold.
DJ: I’m always curious when authors finish a series, how close to the original course they stayed when it is finally completed or if it ended up evolving and changing. Did the plot stay the same as you had first imagined it? How about the ending? The evolution of your characters?
Mark: I don’t plan my books so there’s no real plot imagined. The publisher’s accountants like to insist on a plan, feeling that it will somehow “de-risk” their investment, so I make up any old rubbish and never look at it again. I can’t tell you if the trilogy contains anything from that because I wouldn’t know where to find it.
I follow my characters through the story which unfolds before us as we go. I have no strong expectations of them.
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 from Holy Sister that you can share with us?
Mark: I always struggle to pick favorites. Top of the most liked quotes list for the trilogy on Goodreads is:
“A book is as dangerous as any journey you might take. The person who closes the back cover may not be the same one that opened the front one. Treat them with respect.”
“Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time’s arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated. All that is given to you is the choice: meet it with open eyes and peace in your heart, go gentle to your reward. Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch.”
“I have been too young to know, and I have been too old to care. It’s in that oh so narrow slice between that memories are made.”
DJ: Now that Holy Sister has released, what is next for you?
Mark: I’ve written a sci-fi(ish) trilogy, all three books of which are coming out this year. The first book, One Word Kill, comes out in May. It’s described on the back as Ready Player One meets Stranger Things, and is set in 80s London, centering on a D&D group.
Currently I’m writing a trilogy (probably called Book of the Ice) which is set in the same world as the Book of the Ancestor trilogy. The first book, The Girl And The Stars, will be released next year.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Twitter: Twitter @Mark__Lawrence
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Holy Sister and the Book of the Ancestor series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Mark: Only that it’s an emotional book. Spoiler: not everyone survives. It’s a difficult thing to make emotion bleed through a page. A miracle really that just by punching these letter keys and imagining people who never existed, a person half a world away can find themselves in tears on public transport or punching the air victoriously in the privacy of their own home.
Rest assured, I am also involved in the lives of my characters, and attached to them. The story demands what the story demands, but I also went through the wringer putting it on the page – so if it has an impact, it’s one we shared.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Holy Sister is published by ACE and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
They came against her as a child. Now they face the woman.
The ice is advancing, the Corridor narrowing, and the empire is under siege from the Scithrowl in the east and the Durns in the west. Everywhere, the emperor’s armies are in retreat.
Nona faces the final challenges that must be overcome if she is to become a full sister in the order of her choice. But it seems unlikely that Nona and her friends will have time to earn a nun’s habit before war is on their doorstep.
Even a warrior like Nona cannot hope to turn the tide of war.
The shiphearts offer strength that she might use to protect those she loves, but it’s a power that corrupts. A final battle is coming in which she will be torn between friends, unable to save them all. A battle in which her own demons will try to unmake her.
A battle in which hearts will be broken, lovers lost, thrones burned.
About the Author:
Mark Lawrence was born in Champagne-Urbanan, Illinois, to British parents but moved to the UK at the age of one. He went back to the US after taking a PhD in mathematics at Imperial College to work on a variety of research projects including the ‘Star Wars’ missile defence programme. Returning to the UK, he has worked mainly on image processing and decision/reasoning theory. He says he never had any ambition to be a writer so was very surprised when a half-hearted attempt to find an agent turned into a global publishing deal overnight. His first trilogy, THE BROKEN EMPIRE, has been universally acclaimed as a ground-breaking work of fantasy. Following The Broken Empire comes the bestselling RED QUEEN’S WAR trilogy. The BOOK OF THE ANCESTOR trilogy, in an entirely new setting, commences with RED SISTER in 2017. Mark is married, with four children, and lives in Bristol.