Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Clifford Beal about his latest fantasy novel, The Guns of Ivrea.
Information about Clifford Beal:
Clifford Beal is a former journalist and the author of Gideon’s Angel and Raven's Banquet by Solaris Books. Following a swashbuckling past where he trained in 16th-17th century rapier combat, he now leads a more sedentary life but daydreams of returning to fighting trim. When not imbibing endless mugs of tea and writing, he can usually be found imbibing endless mugs of tea and reading. Originally from Providence, Rhode Island, he lives in Surrey, England with a fiery redhead of a wife and a crazed Boston terrier.
Follow Clifford on Twitter, and for more information visit the official Clifford Beal website.
Information about The Guns of Ivrea:
An incredible new sea-faring fantasy series begins! A gritty, thrilling epic that reads like a cross between Patrick O'Brian and George R.R. Martin, bringing together the tang of the sea and the taste of cold steel.
Acquel Galenus, former thief and now a reluctant monk in the Great Temple at Livorna, uncovers a terrible secret, one that could topple the Holy Church. A secret that could get him killed.
Pirate princeling Nico Danamis, mercenary to the King and captain of the largest fleet in Valdur, has made one deal too many, and enemies are now closing in to destroy him.
Citala, daughter of the chieftain of the Merfolk who inhabit the waters of Valdur, finds herself drawn to the affairs of men. She puts events in motion that will end her people's years of isolation but threaten their very existence.
Their fates will intertwine as they journey across the island kingdom, through duchies and republics riven by political intrigue, religious fervour, and ancient hatreds. Alliances are being forged anew and after decades of wary peace, war is on the wind once again...
AN INTERVIEW WITH CLIFFORD BEAL ABOUT THE GUNS OF IVREA
- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
A: I’m a former journalist who used to cover defence and technology and who later moved over to PR work. I’ve been writing fantasy stuff since I was in school and started on my first novel back in 1994. But my first published book, in 2007, was actually non-fiction: the life and times of an 18th century pirate name John Quelch. People have often asked me “why don’t you write techno-thrillers since you have a background in military stuff?” I usually reply “because it’s too much like the day job.”
- What inspired you to become a fantasy author?
A: The desire was always there and back in the 70s I devoured everything in SF and fantasy including stuff by Moorcock and Zelazny, still two of my favourite authors. Although my first novels are historical fiction there’s a strong supernatural element to them. Historical fantasy or secret history is a genre that is still a little below the radar though, except maybe for Tim Powers and his Anubis Gates. I love infusing the fantastical into the real life of a bygone era.
- Your latest fantasy novel, 'The Guns of Ivrea', will be published soon (Solaris Books, February 2016). What inspired you to write this novel? Have any sea-faring adventure novels been a source of inspiration to you?
A: The inspiration came upon me like a bolt from the blue. Believe it or not it was on a piece of pottery. I was in a display of 19th century ceramics of the “Arts & Crafts” movement. I saw a big plate with a sailing ship on it with amazing sea creatures and mermaids frolicking in the waves. It struck me as a great fantasy scene in itself and then I started thinking about those sailors on the ship. I’ve always liked seafaring stories and I was completely hooked over the last decade reading Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey & Maturin series. Simply unparalleled for detail and period feel.
- Your previous fantasy novels are 'Gideon's Angel' (Solaris Books, 2013) and 'The Raven's Banquet' (Solaris Books, 2014). How does 'The Guns of Ivrea' differ from them?
A: I thought it was time to take the plunge into true epic fantasy after dipping my toe in with the previous novels. This is the full monty. My previous novels were set in the 17th century and I’m proud of the level of authenticity in them which took some considerable time to research. But Ivrea is a completely secondary world with new cultures, creatures, and magic. That said, there are many echoes of a “latin” renaissance world with duchies and city states and the costume and technologies that go with that era.
- Is there magic in 'The Guns of Ivrea'?
A: There is magic here but I’ve made it ambiguous. Is it religious revelation or the workings of a magical world outside religion? You won’t find magic wands or runestaffs and duelling wizards here though. The magic elements are more subtle and deal with mind control, visions and for lack of a better word “soul projection” to travel in mind without body. Some characters do have powers that would be construed as magic or even as sorcery. Magic, as such, has been asleep for a while in Valdur but it is now waking again as ancient forces arise.
- Could you tells us a bit about the characters in 'The Guns of Ivrea'? What kind of characters are they?
A: I can safely say they’re an interesting bunch. We have a pirate who has gone legitimate and commands a large fleet on behalf of the king but now his largest source of income is a questionable trade with the merfolk; a young monk who’s only in it for the roof over his head but who stumbles on a terrible secret that might get him killed; and a mermaid princess who has a dream to bring her people back to the kingdom of Valdur from hidden exile—but without triggering a massacre in the process.
- How would you advertise 'The Guns of Ivrea' to readers? What can readers expect from it?
A: I’d call it a retro epic fantasy that evokes a Mediterranean-like world that is rapidly changing. It’s really character-driven though, with a plot that rockets along once the elements are unveiled. Readers can expect intrigue, great battles at sea, some exotic races and creatures, and even romance. There’s no lengthy info-dump world-building stuff: I let the characters tell you about their world instead.
- 'The Guns of Ivrea' is the first novel in the 'Tales of Valdur' series. How many sequels are you planning on writing?
A: I’m currently writing the final quarter of the sequel, The Witch of Torinia. After that, it’s down to the reading public. There’s still huge scope. Valdur has so many interesting characters with exciting stories to tell.
- Was it challenging to write a sea-faring adventure? Did you have to do any research before or during the writing process?
A: Well, reading all that Patrick O’Brian stuff certainly helped! And also my research for Quelch’s Gold I did a decade ago. That said, it was difficult to find a lot on naval tactics in the 15th century which was the “feel” I was aiming for. The world was just coming to grips with iron cannon on ships instead of just arrows and boarding parties. I had to describe a naval battle which was halfway between medieval and modern. It was tremendously fun but challenging.
- What was the most rewarding part of the writing process?
A: I could be facetious and say typing “The End” but, actually, it’s when you’re writing a scene and the dialogue or description just flows. When you’re finished and reread the passage, it just sings back to you. That’s a special feeling which helps compensate for all those times when you’re just banging your head against the keyboard in sheer frustration.
- Is there anything you'd like to add?
A: Thanks for letting me talk about The Guns of Ivrea.