Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing the fantasy author James Maxwell.
This interview is part of the Iron Will Blog Tour.
About the author:
James Maxwell is the bestselling author of The Evermen Saga and The Shifting Tides series, and has previously ranked in the top 5 bestselling authors on Amazon worldwide. The final book in The Shifting Tides series, Iron Will, is out now in paperback with 47North, Amazon Publishing. Find out more about James and his books here.
About Iron Will:
The epic conclusion to James Maxwell’s gripping fantasy series.
The world is facing a war to end all wars, a confrontation that will destroy everything Dion and Chloe hold dear. With Palemon’s dragon army growing in number, time is running out...
Dion is doing everything in his power to prepare his kingdom, but he knows it will not be enough. Although he needs Chloe’s help, recent tragedy makes him terrified for her safety. Magic is dangerous. Only Palemon is too arrogant to see it.
As chaos engulfs the land and Palemon risks civilization itself, Dion and Chloe must unite people of all nations to have any chance of survival.
AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES MAXWELL
Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
I’ve been writing full time for just over five years and in that time I’ve published eight fantasy novels across two series, The Evermen Saga and The Shifting Tides. I’ve just signed up with my publisher, 47North, to write a new trilogy and it’s something I’m extremely excited about. My permanent home is in London, but I’ve also lived in New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Mexico, Austria, Malta, and France.
How did you become a speculative fiction author? Have you always wanted to tell stories?
I’m generalising here, but I think all good children’s books are pretty fantastical. I’m thinking of Enid Blyton, Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, C.S. Lewis... When I was young I found anything that wasn’t speculative just didn’t excite me, and it seemed natural to write my own stories. When I was eleven I went to a young writer’s retreat and got to work with published authors who were adults. From then on, I definitely knew I wanted to a novelist. As I grew up I broadened my reading horizons, but I always knew I wanted to write fantasy.
What authors do you admire the most? Have any of their novels or stories influenced your writing style?
I really admire Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, authors of the Dragonlance novels. Also Jack Vance, who was writing incredible fantasy before Tolkien, and Harry Harrison, author of the Stainless Steel Rat books as well as a bunch of fantasy novels.
There’s a theme here – they all had hugely-successful worlds, but they didn’t write interminable series and managed to branch out and do something unique and wondrous every time they developed a new project. Jack Vance and Harry Harrison were prolific authors who wrote both science fiction and fantasy. Weis and Hickman also delved into science fiction, but in particular they knew how to finish each series conclusively and then do something exciting and original for the next.
I’d feel incredibly trapped if I had to write novels in the same world forever. World building is half the fun!
Your latest novel, Iron Will (the conclusion of the Shifting Tides Series), comes out this week. Could you tell us what kind of a novel it is? What can readers expect from it?
Iron Will is the fourth and final volume in The Shifting Tides, so it wraps up everything that has happened before it and brings it to a huge climax; the world basically explodes with action. There’s a threat in the previous books that’s hinted at and then is finally revealed in detail. There’s a romance that is tested to its limits, a war that brings about catastrophe, and a mystery that the main characters need to solve in order to save their worlds. It’s not for the faint-hearted.
What kind of a series is the Shifting Tides series? Could you tell us something about it without spoilers?
The series is set in a fantasy world that revolves around control of a central sea. It draws a lot from mythology and also the conflicts of the ancient world (I’m a history buff), but it’s far from historical. The story is drenched in magic and steeped in gods and monsters but also features revenge, love, and betrayal.
Is there anything you could tell us about the protagonists of this series? What kind of characters are they?
The Shifting Tides has a wide cast of characters but most-closely follows Dion, the brave but overlooked second son of a king, and Chloe, a politician’s outspoken daughter. They are two young adults from neighbouring kingdoms, who independently realize the threat posed by an empire across the sea, yet struggle to convince their elders to put aside their tribalism. When they are both swept up by events, their determination gets them through. Dion is a terrible warrior but a skilled sailor and navigator. Chloe has learned to handle people at her father’s knee and has a ready grasp of politics.
What has been the most rewarding part of writing the Shifting Tides series?
I loved everything about it. The period in history that you’ve placed your fantasy series in is hugely influential as to what’s possible, and writing something set in a magical version of the ancient world was utterly different from writing The Evermen Saga, which is Middle Ages fantasy. We have all this stuff in our heads from places like the Bible and Greek and Roman mythology, as well as ancient Egypt and even the Fertile Crescent. Add magic to the mix, and there’s so much potential.
And how about the most challenging part?
When I tell you about one major difference between the world of Hannibal and the world of the Middle Ages, it won’t surprise you – and that’s the level of violence. People did terrible things in the Middle Ages – witch burnings, medieval torture, devastating wars – but a few thousand years ago the violence was on a whole different level. Think about the Bible or the fall of Troy. When a city fell or an army was defeated, the victors did the most horrible things imaginable. I wanted to be true to the period, but I actually had to tone down the violence in a big way – and there’s still some pretty grisly stuff in there.
When you began to write this series, did you know how it would end? Did anything change during the writing process?
I write big, multi-volume story arcs, while also giving each book in a series a conclusive ending. So I had to know where I was going. Of course, sometimes your characters decide to send you in surprising new directions – and it’s always good to listen to them when they do – but I had a pretty good idea about where I would end up.
How do you come up with ideas for your novels?
I start with the time I want to write in – it impacts so much – and generally I’ll have a burning desire to tell a story about that time. I jot down as many things as I can that I might use for material and use my notes to inform me as I go. I think of a world, and a conflict within that world. I come up with a magic system that fits the world and is capable of being instrumental in solving the conflict. I work most of all on my ending – it doesn’t just arc the plot, it arcs the characters. Once I have an ending I work backwards to find where it all begins.
When I say it like that it all sounds very systematic, but there’s a lot of mental stewing along the way. Sometimes great things just bubble up. It’s something you can’t exactly control.
How would you advertise The Shifting Tides Series to potential readers who are thinking of reading it?
The Shifting Tides is an epic journey, full of magic and adventure, where my main characters, Dion and Chloe, are tested to their limits as they try to resolve an oncoming war that will destroy everything they love.
What are you currently working on? What can readers expect next from you?
After writing four-book series I’ve now decided to vary things up and write a trilogy. It’s going to have a huge mystery at the heart of it, as well as the most threatening world I’ve come up with yet.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Just a quick note of gratitude to my readers. I have spoken with so many of you and the response to my books has been overwhelming. Thank you!