Sam Sykes 60 Second Interview

In celebration of the David Gemmell Award long-lists being published, Gollancz is thrilled to be running a series of interviews-in-sixty-seconds with as many long-listed authors as we can get our hands on. Today we’re wrestling with Sam Sykes, the renowned and feared author of The Tome of the Undergates which was hotly followed by Black Halo ( which is shortlisted for the David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Novel) and he’s be finishing us all off with the epic The Skybound Sea. We caught up with him, and took a moment to ask a few questions from a safe distance . . .

Congratulations on being long-listed for the David Gemmell Awards! Can you tell us, in a few words, why any readers who are new to your work should rush out and read it?

Because if you don’t, I will probably cry. And due to an ancient curse that was brought down upon my family when my grandfather used a civil war era cannon to sink a boat full of virgins atop unicorns while in a drunken rage (he was a good man, bless him, but he had his demons), my tears actually cause a number of significant and horrible maladies, the most notable of which is Buttfever, the mysterious problem in which a man of average height and weight may become rocket-propelled via the flame of rectus.

. . . where am I?

Who was your first favourite author?
Some other asshole probably already said ‘Tolkien’, so I can’t do that shit. So, let me be as honest as possible and say that I loved Dr. Seuss. Why? Because today I am an educated and concerned citizen about the world around me and this all came from being terrified of hurting trees for fear of a furry, moustachioed paedophile leaping from their severed trunks and rhyming at me.

Who would you cite as your influences?
What counts as an influence? I always wanted to write a book thick enough that I could bludgeon Joe Abercrombie to death with it. But that would have to happen after he’s started some insane 80’s action movie scheme like trying to drain oil from penguins or some shit so he could burn down libraries for orphans. So I’d whack him with my book and then say: ‘You’re three weeks overdue, Abercrombie’, then I’d probably walk off into the distance.

Does that count?

Do you think authors have a responsibility to do more than tell an entertaining story?
I’d say ‘let me be serious’, but I’m never anything but serious about everything. So let me be less than entertaining for a moment.

The author’s job is to tell his or her story. The author’s job is to be as genuine and true to themselves as possible. The author’s job is to be entertaining, be poignant, be horrifying, be tragically misguided, be wrathful, be joyous, be totally in love with the boy next door, have poor relations with his or her daughter, think that dogs are better than cats and have a six-page essay why, look at a loaf of bread and wonder how he or she’d kill a man with it, and then do none of those things and let the reader figure it out sometimes.

Is there a storytelling tradition you see your work as part of?
I uphold the storytelling tradition of writing a fine story . . . was I supposed to do something else? Someone should have told me. I blame you for this, you jerk.

And finally:
If your novel were to be arrested for a crime of passion, what crime would it be and why (society may not be to blame!)?

I guess beating up other authors doesn’t count as a crime of passion, since that’s really more practical than anything else.

I have often lain in bed at night wondering what it would be like to see the headline: ‘TEENAGE GIRL STRANGLES BOYFRIEND FOR FARTING, BLAMES LOCAL AUTHOR’S NOVEL’. Then I wondered what I was doing thinking about that at night. Then I remembered I was doing it deliberately so I wouldn’t have to think about how terrible it would be to be eaten by wolves.

And then that’s all I could think about. So I took the book and beat Joe Abercrombie with it so I could think about what I was going to tell the police instead.

Samuel Sykes began writing his debut novel when he was seventeen. He is now twenty-five. He lives in the US, and you can learn more about him and his novels on his website,, or follow @SamSykesSwears on Twitter!

You can vote for Black Halo, or any of the novels long-listed for the Legend Award for Best Novel, here. You can also vote for Paul Young’s striking artwork, as the Best Art of the year, here.