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 delighted to talk to M. D. Lachlan, author of Wolfsangel, Fenrir which is nominated for Best Fantasy Novel 2011) and the forthcoming Lord of Slaughter. We caught up with him, and took a moment to ask a few questions . . .
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?
It’s been very well received by critics and readers and most have described it as something very unusual in fantasy. It will show you magic as you have never seen it before, as well as a pretty unusual werewolf, plenty of action and lots of plot twists.
It’s a book that I hope will entertain you and chill you in equal measure.
I’ll go with this quote from Adam Roberts, author of By Light Alone.
‘Simply the most exciting, visceral and deeply imaginative writer of Fantasy working today’
Who was your first favourite author?
Alan Garner – I loved The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and was, for much of my childhood, convinced a semi-precious stone I had bought in a gift shop in Norfolk was the aforementioned Weirdstone.
I loved The Owl Service with its idea that some stories are so powerful that they enact themselves down the centuries.
Who would you cite as your influences?
As anyone who has read Wolfsangel will see, Alan Garner is still a big one. The central idea of Wolfsangel is very similar to that of The Owl Service. Tolkien is an enormous influence on me, as is Ursula Le Guin. I think a lot of the stuff that goes into the marrow of your writing is picked up very early.
Michael Moorcock was someone I liked very much when I was growing up but I’m not sure I’d call him an influence. His prose style is much more baroque than mine. I’m as much influenced by stuff I don’t like, or rather that doesn’t quite hit the spot for me, as by stuff I love. I go by the idea ‘if the book you’d like to read doesn’t exist, write it’.
In terms of the actual prose style, at the level of the individual sentence, it might seem strange for a fantasy writer but my influences are people such as Jean Rhys, Martin Amis, Harper Lee, PG Wodehouse and Nabokov. When I say these writers influence me I mean I aspire to really make the words count in the way they do. I don’t set out to emulate their actual style – Jean Rhys aside. I do set out to emulate the style of Wide Sargasso Sea, though clearly I don’t get close.
It’s massively pretentious but I’m going to say it anyway, the biggest influence on my fantasy writing – in terms of shaping what I try to do when I sit down at the keyboard – is Shakespeare.
I love everything he does with fantasy, from the deeply disturbing witches of Macbeth to the strangeness of The Tempest and the hallucinogenic quality of Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Shakespeare’s language is quite good*, of course, but I also love the varieties of odd supernatural atmospheres he generates. When I wrote Wolfsangel and Fenrir, I had the frightening, eerie feeling Shakespeare gets with his witches very much in mind. I also like the writing of the poet Ted Hughes and strive to emulate that when I write about nature or myth.
* I am from Coventry. ‘Quite good’ is the highest superlative I know.
Do you think authors have a responsibility to do more than tell an entertaining story?
No. However, stories are revealing and the best ones are resonant too. That said, I think the best way to write a story is just to write it and not worry about making it deep and meaningful. It’s the stuff you try to keep out of a story that makes it interesting, not the stuff you try to put in.
Is there a storytelling tradition you see your work as part of?
The huge bestseller tradition. Apart from that, the tradition of good British fantasy would do me just fine!
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!)?
As my fantasy novels so far have all been about Vikings, it would have to be monastery burning. Actually, as a werewolf novel with a love story at its heart then perhaps . . . no, best not go there. People could be reading this while eating.
M.D. Lachlan is a journalist living and working in the UK., and you can learn more about his novels on his website, or follow @mdlachlan on twitter.