Today I am interviewing Angus Macallan, author of the new fantasy novel, Gates of Stone, first book in the Lord of the Islands series.
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DJ: Hi Angus! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Angus: Hi DJ! I’m Angus Macallan. I’m an Englishman, of Scottish descent, 53, married, two kids: a girl, 10, and a boy 7. I live in the UK, in Kent, about 30 miles outside London. When I’m not bashing out adventure stories in my garden office, I like travelling, reading, drinking, country walks, watching rugby on TV, and cooking for my family. I’m making my debut this month as an epic fantasy novelist with my Indonesian-inspired yarn Gates of Stone. This will be the 12th novel I’ve written: I usually write historical fiction under the name Angus Donald.
DJ: What is Gates of Stone about?
Angus: Gates of Stone is a 500-page epic fantasy novel set in an imaginary world that resembles Indonesia about two or three hundred years ago. It depicts a cut-throat pirate society in the warm southern tropical ocean called the Laut Besar. The chief cut-throat is the Lord of the Islands and he loosely controls the trade in obat – an opium-like drug, that can only be cultivated in this region. Two great world powers – the Celestial Republic to the north (a sort-of China) and the Indujah Federation to the west (a sort-of India) are vying for control of this very lucrative yet addictive and deadly drug trade in the Laut Besar.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Gates of Stone and the series?
Angus: The main influence for the book was reading George RR Martin’s brilliant series A Song of Ice and Fire. But I had wanted to try my hand at epic fantasy for years before that – since reading Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings as a boy, I guess. The specific inspiration for the extraordinary world of the Laut Besar came from a time in the late 1980s when I worked at an anthropologist in Indonesia. I was studying magic, witchcraft and sorcery in a remote village in Bali as part of my field work for a Masters degree. I spent five months in a remote rice-farming village on the slopes of Bali’s sacred mountain, a lovely, tranquil place but without electricity, or shops or restaurants, and with almost no residents who spoke English. I had an extraordinary time there, living in a bare room above a chicken house, and witnessed some incredible things. The magical parts of Gates of Stone are based on my weird and sometime very scary experiences there. I hung out with the local witch-doctors, known as balian, and came away a changed man. I didn’t believe in magic then, and I still don’t, but I saw things which were hard to explain rationally. I witnessed exorcisms of demons who were infesting sick people, and went to ceremonies at which people became possessed by gods and spirits. I thought I saw – or perhaps I hallucinated – a lot of very strange things. It was absolutely fascinating – and I knew that one day I would have to write a novel about my time there. Continue reading