#SPFBO4 Interview with Phil Parker, author of The Knights’ Protocol Trilogy

midsummer

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing by William Blake, c. 1786

Okay, the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off just started, my first books are all lined up and I have a number of interviews and guest posts scheduled from some of the authors of the books from my list.  Excitement am I.  So, my first interview :

Today, I’m really pleased to welcome Phil Parker (yes – P, Parker – who I so want to call Peter).  Phil is the author of The Bastard from Fairyland (The Knights’ Protocol Trilogy #1)

Hi Phil, welcome and thanks for agreeing to take part in an interview.  To begin with could you tell readers a little bit about yourself and also a quick summary of your book

I live in beautiful Worcestershire with my wife, daughter and our labrador, Maddie. I’ve been a teacher for most of my career but now I write full-time, from online learning resources, marketing copy as well as my books. When I taught, I wrote three non-fiction books for other teachers, I enjoyed doing that a lot. I wrote plays which I produced at my school and for a youth theatre I ran. Writing has always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. 

Writing The Knights’ Protocol trilogy has been a real labour of love. It’s been eight years since I seriously started work on it, when I stopped teaching. That story has had so many versions! Like a dog with a bone, I couldn’t leave it alone. But I could never get it to feel quite right. Then I did a three month writing course and my tutor gave me the confidence I needed to bring it all together. Getting it published felt marvellous, I never thought I’d ever get to that point!

The Knights’ Protocol is a dark fantasy. It’s the story of a cruel and ruthless Fae race declaring war on Humanity that’s on the edge of survival after ecological catastrophe has flooded the world. Caught in the middle is Robin Goodfellow, an exiled member of the Fae nobody likes. He’s a bitter, lonely ex-soldier with a psychotic alter-ego called Puck. He has no interest in either race killing each other until events drag him into the conflict and he becomes a crucial factor in its resolution. 

I’ve been enjoying SFF stories since I was a child and I’m sure you have too.  It would be great to hear what books you love to read – I’m always fascinated to know what books authors love and if they feel like their reading experiences have had an influence on their writing.  I guess, like most readers, I’m nosey (or curious) and I’m also always on the look out for recommendations.

Yeah, I have always loved reading. I loved how I could lose myself in a story as a kid. I’m going to give my age away now when I tell you that I first got into fantasy by reading Astounding Stories comics in the 1960s. They evolved into superhero comics which a bunch of my friends collected and swapped. True nerdy behaviour! I was a massive fanboy of The Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four. I could relate to Spiderman too, not just because he was a nerdy kid as well but also because his name was P. Parker – like mine! I was so proud of that!! (Years later, kids at my school nicknamed me Spiderman!)

Who to recommend? Oh wow! The list is endless. If I limit it to the authors who’ve influenced my own writing the most? Top of that list is Richard Morgan, I loved Altered Carbon (the TV show too) and his Land Fit For Heroes trilogy. It was my route into all things Grimdark so then I discovered Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence and at the moment I’m fascinated by the Grimdark-with-Heart stories of Ed McDonald. 

You mentioned your love of Celtic Mythology and Arthurian legend.  Do these play a leading role in your book?  How did you go about incorporating them, did you have a plot and then work those elements in or did you know from the beginning that they would play a role and they were actually a part of the story’s development?

Oh I wish you hadn’t asked me that Lynn!  You’re going to get a lecture on my 10 year journey of research if I’m not careful. 

OK, the quick summary version. About 12 years ago I read Faerie Tale by Raymond E Feist and I got fascinated by how he wove his story around myths and made them sound like they could be based on real history. I decided to do the same thing. I became fascinated by the Green Man legend and how it stretched around the world. That became the central focus of my research but I went off in so many different directions, I was like a firework! My research took me into Celtic mythology and from there to Arthurian legend, which landed me in Glastonbury and that’s when the Knights’ Trilogy really took shape. My first novel in it, The Bastard from Fairyland, takes place in and around this mystical town. When the Somerset Levels were badly flooded in 2014 that gave me the setting of a world suffering from the impact of  global warming. I think the myths and the plot met and shook hands, that’s the only way I can describe how the books formed.

Let’s talk about research.  To what lengths would you say you’re prepared to go to?  Are you obsessive about the detail?  Have you found that when researching some of your discoveries have resulted in changes to your story?  – that leads me on to a slightly different question which is when you started your series – did you have a full plan, did you know the beginning and the end or was it a very fluid process that changed as you went along?

Dyrk Ashton (he of the wonderful Paternus stories) and I agree that we’re obsessive about research. We get so carried away with it, the difficulty comes in deciding what NOT to include! But to answer your question, I certainly didn’t plan anything. I can’t. This was a discussion Dave Woolliscroft (he’s written the brilliant Kingshold) and I had recently. He plans really carefully. I think it’s my drama training that means I write with my characters in my head. Once I’d found Robin, the books wrote themselves. It just took ages to find him. So I had a fair idea of how The Bastard from Fairyland would end but that vision got significantly dimmer as the trilogy progressed! It was an organic process. As each event took place it left me thinking how Robin would react. By the time I’d finished I knew that guy inside and out. He’s had a very positive effect on the people who’ve read all three books – they’ve all said how they hope it’s not the last we’ll hear of my dark warrior. I hadn’t thought about doing anything else but, I’ve got to say now, I miss him. That probably makes me sound very weird.

(Nope – it, doesn’t sound weird at all – of course you’re going to miss a character who has been in your headspace for such a long time).

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the only Shakespeare that I’ve read, although I’ve watched a number of adaptations.  I love the idea of the fae and particularly their meddling in mortal lives.  Does your book use any of the characters from A Midsummer Night’s Dream?  Do you have any particular favourites?

It’s my favourite Shakespeare play, can’t understand why I never produced it at school! I’ve seen it performed more than any other too. I got fascinated by the Elizabethan perspective of the Fae. They believed in their existence completely. They were seen as cruel, ruthless, a race who hated human beings and did everything they could to make their lives a misery. It’s from this time that the idea of the Fae being sterile comes, which was why they were supposed to steal human babies and replace them with Changelings. This issue is a huge factor in my novels. If you’ve ever made a daisy chain, you might not know they were originally placed around sleeping babies to stop fairies from stealing them, fairies hate daisies!

It was the Victorians who made us think fairies were ‘painty-winged’ creatures that looked like flowers – artists like Arthur Rackham. The Victorian writer Rudyard Kipling wrote Puck of Pook Hill – it’s a lovely child’s fantasy story of two kids who meet Robin Goodfellow. That got me interested in the character and reminded me of his cruel behaviour in Dream. The conflict in the play describes how the human world is turned upside down environmentally by Oberon and Titania and their two Courts. Then there was one more factor – but I won’t mention that! It is the denouement of The Bastard from Fairyland – so no spoilers!

In terms of self publishing, can you share with us a little bit about the process that led you to choose this path.  It would be great to hear about your experience and what were the highs and the lows.

I’ve tried the conventional route. There are so few agents who appear really interested in fantasy so finding representation hasn’t been easy. Those who did show interest got bogged down with the Grimdark features. My treatment of a minor character – a kid – right at the start got a thumbs down. I was told to avoid certain words and terms, one agent didn’t like swear words, another said it was ‘too English’ so it wouldn’t work with the US market. That last one I’ve disproved by my sales already. So I decided to do my own thing with Amazon. It was so easy it astonished me. KDP take you through the process step-by-step so you can’t go wrong. They provide loads of sales data for you to analyse too. Getting my first royalties payment was a big moment of satisfaction, after the 8 years of commitment to Robin and his world.

It takes time to get established, you have to be patient I’ve realised. Dyrk Ashton pointed that one out to me! But my reviews so far have all been 4 and 5 star (fingers crossed they continue that way!) and it’s brilliant to get people telling you how much they enjoyed the stories. Having done so much social media marketing in my career in the last 3 years, that’s helped me as a writer! And I’m looking forward to attending SFF events from now on too. All in all, I’m pleased I went down the Indie Writer route. 

Being part of SPFBO has made that even better! I’m getting to meet (in reality and online) so many great people in the fantasy writing community.

What is your favourite/least favourite part of writing.

I love all aspects of writing. Even editing. I love the challenge it presents. I need to be creative and I find every aspect of what I’m doing (even the marketing) feeds that need. It had been a rather lonely business but now I spend a couple of hours a day on Twitter (sometimes when I should be doing other things) because I love catching up with other writers and bloggers all over the world. How good is it when you get to chat about the thing you love most – all the time eh? 

(Yep, I can relate – that’s why so many of us readers blog after all)

How do you switch off – or do you not switch off at all?

Switch off?? What’s that?  It’s a standing joke in my family that I never venture out of my study, unless it’s to take our dog for a walk. She pesters me until I give up the battle. But I get most of my best ideas when we’re tramping across fields anyway. I think Nature is a wonderful muse. But when I’m not writing (or thinking about it) then I watch TV and films. Always SFF stuff of course!

What’s on your radar next??

I’m working on my next novel. The Boy Who Wanted to be Normal. It’s a YA fantasy. I started work on it when I took a break from Robin’s adventures. I’ve had a couple of attempts at writing it, again without feeling like I’d nailed it. Now I’m there. At least with the first draft. It’s a story I’m enjoying now, since I separated from Robin! I’ve realised I’ve reverted back to my love of superhero stories. Some of my characters have certain abilities but they’ve suffered genetic modifications by an unscrupulous and powerful organisation, treated like lab animals. You can see the ethical implications I’m exploring. The biggest challenge is balancing that with my marketing work and the daytime job too. But I wouldn’t swap any of it. I’m enjoying myself far too much!

Phil, thank you so much for taking part and for sharing your thoughts – also thanks for bearing with me, you’re probably gathered I’m a bit of a newbie when it comes to interviews so I can ramble a little.  I love your answers and particularly finding out random snippets of information – such as the daisy chain – I’d never heard of that before.

I’m really looking forward to reading your book and wish you all the best with the SPFBO.

Details of Phil’s book can be found here.

thebastard
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9 Responses to “#SPFBO4 Interview with Phil Parker, author of The Knights’ Protocol Trilogy”

  1. sjhigbee

    Excellent interview, Lynn. Many thanks for giving us an opportunity to read more about this interesting author:)

    • @lynnsbooks

      I enjoyed it – although I confess I’m not an experienced interviewer and in fact usually veer away from such things – just because they worry me with my lack of inventive questioning. But, I wanted to offer this to all the authors and I’ve had quite a good take up – some for guest posts and some for interviews so we’ll see how it goes.
      Lynn 😀

  2. bkfrgr

    Cool interview! 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Thanks for the interview, and good luck Phil! The book sounds pretty cool too. I probably wouldn’t have thought much of it from the cover, but the sounds awesome. I like anything to do with dark fantasy and fae!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yep yep yep, dark fantasy and fae – you gotta love em.
      Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m beyond intrigued by the premise of this story and its cross-over between fantasy focused on the fae and a post-apocalyptic world, since both of them are favorite themes with me. I will certainly keep this one on my radar 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      btw – there is a sale of SPFBO books at the moment with over 100 of the submissions being on sale at 99p. I know I’ve not reviewed this one yet so can’t speak for whether I think you’ll love it (although I’m liking the sound of it), but, at 99pm it’s definitely worth picking up a couple if anything catches your eye. Just thought I’d mention it. If you check out the hashtag SPFBO on twitter you should find a link to the sale if you’re interested – not trying to push books on you 😀

  5. #SPFBO4 Interview with Jacob Sannox, author of Dark Oak | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Mark Lawrence’s blog.  Last week I posted an interview with Phil Parker which can be found here and today I’m really pleased to welcome to my blog another of my SPFBO authors, Jacob […]

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