Author Interview: Martyn Stanley

Just a reminder! I’m offering a Giveaway for a $20 Amazon Gift Card and ARCs of my upcoming novel, Journey to Landaran. Check out the cover reveal and details here:

And it’s Thursday, and once again I’m interviewing an indie author. Today I have Martyn Stanley, a fantasy writer with a series about dragons. Psst, and by the way, I was lucky enough to see a couple of the new cover designs he’s considering for the series. They’re looking really good.

Find out more about Martyn here:


1. What first motivated you to write?

I’ve always loved writing and making up stories. I think it comes from a love of playing video games, I’ve always loved reading and watching films too, but the magic of a good game is that you control the destiny of the protagonist. I some games, you have an incredible degree of freedom over what happens to your protagonist, but you still have to stay within the confines of the game mechanics. Writing was a way to be creative without any constraints. Of course that was the theory, what I’ve found since is that yes, if you’re writing fantasy, you don’t have any rules except those which you make yourself. Of course if you DO make rules you have to make sure you stick to them. You still can’t ‘god-mode’ as we used to call it on the Star Wars Exodus Roleplaying forum. The way your characters deal with adversity has to be plausible. People don’t like god-like characters either, the only possible exception is when you’ve taken a long time, to explain ‘how’ they became the powerful characters they are, and the challenges and trials they’ve faced to get there.

2. So you like dragons, it seems. What about them appeal to you?

Dragons are fascinating characters. You have a great deal of flexibility with dragons, they can be benevolent, savage, sentient, good, evil, whatever you want. What I didn’t want to do was to write dragons as being the friendly helpful, creatures some fantasy authors choose to portray them as. Not because this is wrong, but because in my rather dark fantasy world I need them to express realistically what dragons might be like. The anatomy and size of dragons, compared to calorie intake required and the fact that they breath fire means they need to be supernatural in nature, so my dragons are essentially living, breathing magic. Why would beings so powerful really want to help humans? Or elves for that matter? If you look at any cases historically of powerful creatures or cultures meeting weak ones, the weak tend to be subdued. I also have a special reason for using dragons, and that reason is the main villain which I introduce at the end of book three. I won’t spoil it, but I like to think big. When I was writing on the Star Wars Exodus RP forum, I wrote a several thousand year old vampiric Sith Lord with a star ship that was forty kilometres long. My Sith Lord travelled to other dimensions, murdered people from the far side of the galaxy with a thought and on one occasion force-threw an entire planet… I think I’ve calmed down a bit since then though – the wisdom of age is catching up with me!

3. The blurb for your first book sounds like pretty standard fantasy fare. What makes it different?

When I started writing it, that’s literally all that it was. A fairly token, off the shelf fantasy adventure. A single character really changed the book though, Brael of House Krazic. He’s a dark elf wizard, warrior who has a reputation for being incredibly good at magic. When we meet him in book one he is cursed though, so he can neither access magic, nor talk about ‘the truth’. This might be a bit of a spoiler, so stop reading now if you don’t like spoilers, but ‘the truth’ is really what the series became about. It all boils down to essentially prior to Brael Truthseeker’s revelations, all Toreans more or less considered the religions of Torea to be true and the afterlife which they keep talking about being real. Brael has almost accidentally proven that there are no gods and no afterlife. Which is why he was cursed and banished, because of the social and political unrest this caused. When the truth finally gets revealed, none of the characters accept it easily, nor do they cope with it. It forces them to re-evaluate their world-view and moral compass. They find coping with loss a lot harder once ‘the truth’ has been laid bare. No longer can they relax and think their fallen comrades are feasting with Ishar in Kirkfell, they find reality very harsh and they start to feel bitter about having their faith taken from them.

4. Tell me about your latest book.

My latest book is ‘Deathsworn Arc 3 : The Temple of the Mad God’. I’m really excited about this book, I’ve introduced some really interesting new characters, and started to allow the companions to gel as a group more, bound together by ‘the truth’ and the terrible ordeals they go through in the first two books. It’s also the book where I finally introduce the main villain of the series, ironically, considering the series is very atheist in nature, the main villain is similar to a god, but again – if there really was a being with god-like power in charge, would this being be benevolent? It’s an interesting philosophical question, and when you read about the horrific punishments some of the main stream religion’s gods have doled out to humanity according to their relevant holy books, it’s very hard to believe that a god would be a loving benevolent being, rather an a vengeful, proud, almost vain god who demanded worship and sacrifice, under the threat of either death or eternal torment in a lake of fire.

5. Who is your favorite writer and why?

Terry Pratchett is a firm favourite. His ability to blend real-world culture and history with folklore and satire is incredible. I really admire him as a person too, his fight against early on-set Alzheimer’s and his determination to carry on working and to raising awareness and support for fellow sufferers is inspiring. I’m also fond of several others, but I’ve read more Pratchett than anyone, and if he releases a Discworld novel, I tend to read it cover to cover in about two days.

6. What are you working on next?

My next project is ‘Deathsworn Arc 4 : Emergence’. I have it largely planned out, but it’s going to be harder to get right than any of the previous books as I have to split the protagonists up. I have some great scenes ready for it though, I plan to visit Maerun, Eldenizar – the main city of the elves, and Durth Orza the capital city of the dark elves as well as the ‘Deathsworn Shrine’ itself, though I have talked about what ‘deathsworn’ means in book 3. I am very, very excited about book four, but I still don’t quite know how it ends.

7. What have you learned so far about publishing?

Publishing is easy. It’s so easy a child could do it. Writing good, solid work is easy. Getting a mainstream publisher to pick it up is as hard as ever. I still think the main reason a person can have to write is purely for the passion of it. If you have a story to tell, write it for yourself. You can’t pick a popular genre that sells well adn churn out cookie-cutter stories in the hope of making it as an author. You have to write for YOU, write what YOU want to write and have a strong idea, a point, something which you feel strongly about. You can’t guarantee you’ll sell a single copy, so don’t try to please anyone but yourself. That doesn’t mean ignore quality. I really wish I felt my writing was up to the grand task I’ve set myself of writing this series, I don’t mind admitting I can get better, no I need to get better. Of course like all things, the only way to get good at writing is to write more and more and ask for criticism, then take it on board, swallow your pride and try to improve, then write more.

8. Any tips for other writers?

Nothing more than what I’ve already said. It’s a harsh game the literary world, there are more title on the virtual shelf now than ever. Don’t write to make money, write for yourself. It’s better to be loved by a few than liked by many. I would never have written ‘The Deathsworn Arc’ if I wanted to please everyone, as fundamentalist believers of any religion could take offence at it. I’m an atheist, and I believe the world can be a better place without religion. However I also acknowledge that a loss of religion would leave a gap in society which at the moment there is nothing else to fill it with. Losing our faith is also hard, accepting that there is no afterlife is not an easy option or cop-out, or a ‘smug’ thing to do. It is hard, not just for you, I couldn’t care less what happens to me, but I look at my children and hate the fact that their lives are finite. I can only hope they’ll be long and fulfilled lives and that they’ll both have children themselves one day. This sounds like a rather bleak view, and it is, but not accepting this reality, having spent a long time studying comparative religion and all disciplines of science, I cannot accept the existence of a creator god, I feel to do so would be compromising my intellectual integrity.

I should also suggest Terry Pratchett is partly responsible for my interest in science and atheism. His ‘Science of the
Discworld’ series is one of the reasons I ended up reading Dawkins and starting a degree in science! So Terry Pratchett has a lot to answer for!

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