#SPFBO Saturday : Interview with Tim Hardie, author of Hall of Bones

Posted On 10 July 2021

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As part of the SPFBO Competition each weekend I am hoping to post guest blog posts inviting authors taking part in the competition to visit my blog to either write an article, discuss covers, take part in an interview or post an excerpt or teaser for their work.  If you’d like to pay me a visit then don’t forget to leave me a comment 😀

This weekend I’m really pleased to welcome Tim Hardie to my blog.  Tim is the author of Hall of Bones, the first book in The Brotherhood of the Eagle series.  Hall of Bones is one of the submissions allocated to Lynnsbooks/The Critiquing Chemist.

First things first – a warm welcome to Tim and my thanks for agreeing to take part in an interview.  I will also be sharing two excerpts from Hall of Bones at a future date so keep your eyes peeled:

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Can you give us a short introduction to Hall of Bones?

HallofBones

Thanks for the invitation to take part.

Hall of Bones is the first of four planned books in an epic fantasy series called The Brotherhood of the Eagle. It’s a Viking-inspired tale but the fantasy setting has its own unique history and mythology. The story’s central character is Rothgar Kolfinnarson, the second son of the chief of his clan, and the challenges he faces when his people come under threat from their neighbouring rivals.

Hall of Bones is a debut but you mention on your blog that you have written other books. Do you think you’ll return and dust any of those off at any point? What lessons did you learn from those earlier books?

My first novel, called The Final Seer, took me nearly five years to write and I don’t think I’ll return to it because it’s not very good! It’s still an important part of my writing journey because The Final Seer was the book where I learned a lot of hard lessons. In short, I completely underestimated the level of endurance and attention to detail required to write a good novel.

That first draft was panster from start to finish and involved unnecessary sub-plots and side characters (which ultimately had to be cut), appallingly clunky dialogue, anguished periods of writer’s block and an unfathomable main story. It was meant to be Firefly set in medieval times and I have a lot of affection for that novel but, in the end, my heart wasn’t in continuing the story.

It also was a bit dated in terms of the story and characters, which was basically the feedback I received when I submitted it to a literary agent. He (rightly) rejected the story but in his rejection email he kindly put me on to some of the current crop of fantasy writers (including Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence and John Gwynne). I read those authors and realised there was a different way to approach a fantasy novel. Hall of Bones was the novel I wrote next, applying those lessons and taking a tighter approach to plotting as well as spending more time developing distinctive and believable characters.

The other legacy from The Final Seer was the fantasy world of Amuran, which I used as the setting for Hall of Bones. So a lot of that novel’s background and in particular the early history and mythology provided the foundations for Hall of Bones.

How do you strike a balance between including all your world building or leaving some of it out to keep the pace more punchy?

I leave out a lot more than I include. For example, there are various fantasy races in Amuran that don’t feature at all in Hall of Bones (they were prominent in The Final Seer, which was set in a different location). Detailed world building is important, because it provides depth to the setting you’ve created as an author. This fires my imagination as I write. For example, the early history of Amuran provided the driving force behind the underlying narrative for Hall of Bones. Generally, my rule of thumb is if it’s not important or relevant to the plot (either novel or series) then it shouldn’t be included. Sometimes I incorporate extra elements just to add a bit of colour to a scene and to make it clear these events are taking place in a much larger world. That’s an indulgence, though, and I have to restrain myself from using that too often.

From first draft to finished article – how did the book change during the course of writing and publishing? Did you have to cut certain storylines for example or were there any surprises that you hadn’t imagined?

I think Hall of Bones was where I found my voice as an author, rather than imitating other writers. Unlike my previous novel, it didn’t need any major cuts or rewrites. However, it was full of annoyingly repetitive phrases and sentence structures and in need of an overall tightening of the text. Those bad habits had to be ironed out during the editing phase, which I worked on with my agent prior to independent publication.

Although I carefully plotted the novel I had a lot of new ideas as I was writing it. I think that’s the best part of creative writing, where the characters take the story off in an unexpected direction. For example, the magical elements of the story weren’t in the original plotline at all – they were additions that came to me later that are now integral to the plot. One minor character, the Reavesburg warrior called Djuri, just wandered into the book without any warning and he’s become one of my favourites as the series has progressed. Plotting is an important part of my process but it’s important not to lose that creative spark. It’s brilliant when those things come together and your own novel surprises you completely.

Writing is lonely and self publishing even more so as you have to undertake tasks that wouldn’t fall to you if your book was traditionally published. How do you keep yourself motivated? How do you achieve a work/life balance?

My main motivation comes from seeing how much readers enjoy my writing. It’s small beginnings but I’m slowly finding my audience and that’s what keeps me going. Of course, not everyone will love my writing and that’s absolutely fine because creative writing is subjective and different readers will enjoy different things. The key thing is to write your own books in your own style for the people who enjoy what you do.

I’ve really valued the support I’ve gained from other writers. This competition has already helped me make some links with other contestants and I’ve found social media a fantastic way to make connections. Authors go through many of the same challenges and I’ve found the writing community to be a tremendously supportive place. I’ve learned a lot from other people and that’s really helped me in approaching my own writing.

Like most authors, I have a job that pays the bills, so I don’t write as often as I would like. I’ve had to build a writing routine that helps me write when my energy levels are at their highest, which means early starts at the weekend and doing creative writing at the beginning of the working week, leaving other author related stuff (blogs, promo materials, social media) towards the end. I also have a family (a very patient, understanding and supportive one) who need my time and attention. Whilst writing is important to me it’s not the only thing in my life so, as your question suggests, it’s all about finding that balance.

Can you share with us any information about the next instalment? In particular, do you intend to go further afield and expand on the territories beyond Laskar?

The second book, Sundered Souls, is due out later this summer. I don’t want to say too much and spoil things for people who haven’t read Hall of Bones but the stakes are higher in the next instalment and our characters find themselves ill-prepared as they face a new enemy. I think the other key theme in the sequel is the question of loyalty, as the characters face a difficult choice over which side to support in the conflict that begins during Hall of Bones. This aspect gave me some of my best material when writing Sundered Souls.

The Brotherhood of the Eagle is set primarily in the region of Laskar, although the series does take the reader to the different territories of the clans as the story progresses. Again, this is about using the world building necessary to tell the story. Those wider locations (you can find the maps on my website) are fertile ground for future stories but they don’t feature prominently in The Brotherhood of the Eagle.

In terms of the next instalment – which book would you say has been the most difficult to write and why?

Hall of Bones was hard to write because I was still learning my craft. Although there weren’t big structural rewrites, it went through a lot of editing phases to arrive at the version I published. It took me nearly four years to complete the first draft. Sundered Souls was easier as I’d already established the situation and the characters, so it was a case of diving back in and continuing the story and it only took me 18 months to write. Personally, I think it’s a better book than Hall of Bones (Should I be saying that? Too late!) as I was able to apply everything I’d learned when writing the sequel.

However, when I wrote the third book in the series, Lost Gods, despite all my preparation I didn’t exercise enough control on the ideas that came to me as I was writing. The first draft of that book came in at 200,000 words and I think I’m going to have to cut 50,000 words to focus on the main story rather than the sub-plots. That’s getting close to a discarded novel in its own right! It’s probably my biggest editing challenge so far, so I’d say Lost Gods has proved the most difficult book of the series so far.

Readers frequently highlight particular quotes that resonate with them – do you have any favourite quotes from Hall of Bones that you can share?

I find this really interesting because I don’t remember anything I’ve written! Although I know the plot, the characters and the emotional journey I take them on if you asked me in the street to quote a single line of text, I don’t think I could do it. The novel is more about the feelings and emotions it evokes in me. I’ll sound like a crazy person to non-writers at this point, but to me the characters are real and I feel their triumphs and their failures as if they were my own. It’s this stuff that tends to resonate with me, rather than the specifics.

All that said, I’ve noticed my readers have picked up their favourite quotes and highlighted them in their reviews, which I love to see. The character of Etta, the aged shadowy spymaster of the Reavesburg Clan who orchestrates so much behind the scenes, seems to be someone my readers are drawn to and she’s the one they quote. These seem to be their favourites:

“If you understand your people’s hearts, possess wisdom and learn from the knowledge of your forefathers your life will be a long one.”

“A clan chief who rules only with the sword sleeps wakefully and their life is short”

As a young boy, Rothgar’s response to Etta’s attempt to tutor him and impart her wisdom offers an alternative perspective:

“I still prefer the sword to the slate, Etta. Darri never sings great ballads about the men who knew all their letters.”

Finally, in terms of your own reading, which three authors have you read the most? What are you currently reading? What three books would you have no hesitation in recommending?

I’ve devoured books by many different authors, so it’s hard to narrow that down to three. In terms of sheer volume, it would be Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series. The central character is so well written and the setting of Edinburgh, one of my favourite cities, feels like a person in its own right. Iain M Banks’ Culture novels (and his ‘mainstream’ output too, which is also phenomenal) are just fantastic and I loved how he combined laugh out loud humour, big concepts and thrilling space opera high jinks in his books. There’s really nothing else like them. More recently, I’ve loved Joe Abercrombie’s books, especially The First Law trilogy, and they were definitely a big influence on my own writing.

My current read is Dark Oak by Jacob Sannox, who coincidentally was an SPFBO Semi Finalist from your blog group back in 2018. What I love about this book is how he’s reversed the typical fantasy tropes by beginning his story with the defeat of the archetypal Dark Lord, focussing on all the chaos, confusion and grey moral choices following that event. It makes for an intriguing and compelling read.

In terms of recommendations beyond the books I’ve already mentioned, I’d say you should look at Gareth L Powell’s Embers of War sci-fi series, which is one of the few books I’ve found that fills the huge gap left by Iain M Banks’ untimely passing. I also can’t recommend Dark Eden by Chris Beckett highly enough. It’s a hypnotic, thought-provoking sci-fi story that stayed with me for days after I finished reading it. If I’m limited to three (this is cruel), I’ll give my final recommendation to We Men of Ash and Shadow by H L Tinsley. I was excited when I started reading this book because the author’s voice was so strong and the gaslamp fantasy world she created, with its various nefarious characters, was incredibly well-realised. Holly’s a fellow competitor in this year’s SPFBO contest and I really hope she does well. Her book is a great example of the sheer talent of many independently published authors at the moment.

Tim – thank you again for visiting with me today.  I loved your answers, they’re insightful and humorous and I hope readers will enjoy reading them as much as I did.

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About the Author:

THTim Hardie grew up in the seaside town of Southport during the 1970s and 1980s. This was before anyone had even heard of the internet and Dungeons & Dragons was cutting edge. Living in a house where every available wall was given over to bookshelves, he discovered fantasy writers like JRR Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Ursula Le Guin, Alan Garner, Stephen Donaldson and Susan Cooper. Those stories led him into the science fiction worlds created by Frank Herbert, Philip K Dick, Arthur C Clarke and HP Lovecraft.

After training to become a lawyer Tim lived in London for three years before moving to Yorkshire in 1999, where he has worked ever since in a variety of legal, commercial, financial and management roles. His writing began as a hobby in his early twenties and has gradually grown into something else that now threatens to derail his promising career.

Tim writes epic fantasy that will appeal to fans of Joe Abercrombie, John Gwynne and Robin Hobb.

I will be posting a couple of excerpts from Hall of Bones very soon so watch this space!

7 Responses to “#SPFBO Saturday : Interview with Tim Hardie, author of Hall of Bones”

  1. Tammy

    I love this interview, especially learning about Tim’s writing process. Looking forward to your thoughts on his book😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      I love listening to author’s describe their process – it fascinates me.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Lexlingua

    I’m wondering if this #SPFBO has a lot of Viking-inspired entries? I certainly need more of those in my life. I think the last one I read was Adrienne Young’s book and that’s been a while. Hall of Bones looks promising indeed!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It really does sound very good – fingers crossed.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Deborah Makarios

    Tim, I’m afraid we all sound like crazy people to non-writers! Goes with the territory 🙂

    Lynn, if your invitation is open to SPFBO contestants outside your batch, I would love to contribute an article or excerpt, if you’re interested.

    • Deborah Makarios

      Interview, not article. The only article I’ve ever written was on Creative Commons licenses. I’m not that great at sticking to facts.

      • @lynnsbooks

        Hi Deborah, you are most welcome to visit me and an interview will be perfect. Could you email me so I have your email too – lynnsbooks64@gmail.com.
        Thanks
        Lynn 😀

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