Mark Charan Newton finished the last of his Legends of the Red Sun series with The Broken Isles which we published earlier this month. You can click on the following link to read an extract from The Broken Isles.The entire series garnered great reviews:
‘Newton combines strange and vivid creations with very real and pressing concerns with estimable commitment and passion’ China Miéville
'Genre labels just don’t apply here. With Nights of Villjamur Mark has managed to incorporate so many wonderfully varied ideas and themes into a decent blend of excitement and interest that the marketing department is going to have to invent a whole new section just for him' Peter F. Hamilton
‘A dark epic which shows its debt to Gormenghast: death stalks the shadows and scheming, idiosyncratic characters have their own agendas. This is fantasy with vast scope and ambition . . . a complex, eldritch vision with great potential’ Guardian
‘I was reminded of Jack Vance or Gene Wolfe . . . this is a promising start to a series worth pursuing’ The Times
We caught up with Mark recently to ask him a few questions about this series - and the next.
The Broken Isles is the end of a four book series – how did you feel coming to the end of it?
It was a relief, but not strictly speaking in the negative sense. It was a tough novel to write, purely because I had to tie up all the loose ends of the series. It meant concentrating on things which, in previous books, I’d not really had to focus on. For me that meant some of the freedom of writing, a story that could go anywhere, was lost. So it was a challenge, certainly, but one that I hope I handled well.
Are there any particular characters that you’ve been sad to let go? If so, who and why?
Probably just the one, and that’s Brynd. Mainly because he’s been such a cornerstone of the whole series - he’s been in my head for about 4 or 5 years. But if I’m honest, I don’t miss any of them just yet. Give it a few years and I might. But I’m fickle, clearly - I’ve been distracted by new shiny people to write about.
You have a new series called Drakenfeld coming out in October, did you want to tell us a little about what inspired you to write something so different?
Well, it keeps things interesting, for starters. I’d find it quite dull to be committed to the same world for ten years - that’s purely a personal writing view, of course. But it was time to change the aesthetics a little. Not merely the weather, from an ice age to something far hotter, but moving into first person prose, to having a setting more obviously inspired by the classical world. That’s what makes writing interesting.
Also, I wanted to write about someone with a strong sense of morals, who wants to do good. It was a conscious decision to not have a character who lusted after blood. In fact, quite the opposite. Drakenfeld is far more cerebral and doesn’t want to hit people with swords. He’s positive, and understands that when someone is killed, then that’s not just a body, but that a family will be affected, a son or daughter changed forever. Also, a character with strong morals makes for quite an interesting vehicle to present a crime plot.
Did you find mixing the fantasy and crime genres difficult?
Not especially, since I’m a big crime reader and I’d already dabbled with crime plots a little in the previous series. What I was very conscious of, though, was delivering a thoroughly proper crime plot. One thing people in SFF fandom hate so much is when an author steps across from the literary fiction genre to write SFF, and said author thinks they’re reinventing the wheel when they’re simply painting by numbers. And likewise, I keep hearing people online talk about the crime genre wild generalizations and completely misusing terms like ‘noir’. So I wanted to write a crime plot that respected the genre - which is probably why I chose to make it a locked-room mystery as well. It’s an iconic plot (and bloody difficult to construct, I might add).
That said, there is a difficulty in making the crime seem important enough in a fantasy setting. Generally speaking, crime novels depend upon there being a sense of good being undermined. There has to be a sense that civility is being impinged upon. That shit is happening, basically, and it means something. With so much bonkers and weird stuff going on, who would care about a murder? So it’s a very fine line.
If you were investigating a murder – who would you want as your sidekick?
I think, like Drakenfeld, I’d just want someone who could handle themselves in a scrap, because I can’t even remember the last time I engaged in fisticuffs. It was probably so long ago, they even actually used the word ‘fisticuffs’.
Mark's Legends of the Red Sun series is out now. Drakenfeld is published in October 2013.