Ian Graham, author of Monument, Q&A

I’m VERY pleased to be joined today by a really fantastic writer, Ian Graham. I reviewed one of his two new books a couple of days ago HERE, and now I get to ask him some questions about his work. Read on and enjoy!

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Hi Ian, thanks for joining me for this short interview today. I’ve been a fan of yours for years now so it’s been a joy to finally get hold of your second book. Going back to that first book, though, why did you decide to write about an anti-hero in Monument?

Hi Steven. Oddly enough, I didn’t consciously decide to write about an anti-hero. During the writing of Monument, Ballas didn’t strike me as exceptionally unpleasant at all; I suppose that I was considering more his virtues – determination, resilience, physical competence – than his vices. Of course, I wasn’t quite so oblivious as to fail to recognise that he was fairly unwholesome in many respects, but I was generally preoccupied with his admirable qualities; also, knowing that his childhood had been harrowing, I was inclined to regard him with a certain degree of sympathy.

Only when the book was released, and reviews started to appear, did I realise that Ballas appeared a much darker character to readers than he did to me, which was a great – and gratifying – surprise.

 

How did you plan it out before you started writing? I mean, Ballas is such a bastard yet, somehow, you managed to make readers empathise enough with him that they were rooting for him and reading right until the end of the book to see what happened. It must have been incredibly difficult to strike that balance so people didn’t just throw down the book in disgust at his behaviour.

Monument is the only book I more or less improvised from start to finish. I began with a handful of loose ideas: the Penance Oak, the character of Ballas, and a (very) vague notion of an artefact called the Monument (I didn’t know what its function was, only that it was a device of great importance). Each day, I’d write a scene, or part of a scene, then spend time working out what I would write the following day. Nowadays, its seems an appallingly reckless way to work, but back then it felt completely natural. As I didn’t think of Ballas as being conspicuously unpleasant, I did not foresee any real problems regarding the readers’ empathy – beyond the usual ones, at least; if I had, Ballas might’ve turned out a softer – and less interesting – character. Sometimes, perhaps, it helps to be stupidly unaware of important things!

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Now, I should say, I read Monument years ago but I’ve been waiting eagerly for the next book from you. Finally, I found it (and another one!) just a couple of months ago. You had a gap of years between your first and second books – why?

After Monument, I became paralyzingly self-conscious when I sat down to write – and self-consciousness obliterates the vital naturalness of the creative process. This led to a catastrophic drop in confidence, and a hideous loss of perspective. I became hypercritical, and everything I wrote didn’t seem up to scratch. I’d show work to friends and other writers, but when I received positive feedback, I’d assume it arose from politeness or a desire to be encouraging. It was a long, grim period; I was writing every day, but getting nowhere. Of course, I still have a self-critical streak – most writers do, I think – but it’s largely under control, thank goodness.

Let’s just make things clear for people – Monument was your debut novel, but your two recent books Path of the Hawk (Books 1 and 2) are actually prequels to Monument. What made you go down that route and are you glad you did it like that?

The publishers asked if I’d consider writing a prequel – it was that simple – and I was more than enthusiastic about the idea. I’d often wondered what Ballas was like in the period between childhood and embittered middle age. I knew, roughly, how he had spent the time – that he’d been a soldier, then a member of the Hawks, Druine’s elite regiment. But how had his personality developed? What was he like before he sank into alcoholic hopelessness? Fortunately, when I started writing Path, I found that I had an instinctive feel for the younger Ballas, and didn’t have to go through a tricky process of “reverse engineering” the character back to his former self.

What would be your suggested reading order for the series?

As Monument and The Path of the Hawk can be read as standalone pieces, there is no necessity to read one before tackling the other. If someone starts with Monument, they’ll be catching Ballas at his lowest ebb; if they then move onto the prequel, they’ll get a good – and hopefully interesting – sense of what he once was, and exactly how far he had fallen by the time Monument takes place; within Path, there are hints of the unhappy direction his life will eventually take . . . Alternatively, if Path is read first, the reader may enjoy the shock of coming abruptly face-to-face with the reprobate version of Ballas.

I haven’t read Path of the Hawk Book 2 yet, so is that the end of the Ballas series, or will there be more from him? And will there be another long gap before you publish something new again? I hope not! What are you working on now, if anything?

I’d be delighted to write another Ballas book, but at present I’m working on a story set in a different world with a different cast of characters. With any luck, the new one should be finished before too long. I won’t say anymore about it; I’m one of those writers who feels that discussing a work-in-progress, no matter how vaguely, completely kills the desire to write it. Unusually for me, though, I plotted out the entire story before starting to put down the words; hopefully, this will prevent me from crashing into dead-ends or getting lost amongst plot-tangles . . .

What about your own reading tastes – who are your favourite authors? Monument was, of course, graced with a cover endorsement by the much-missed David Gemmell, were you a fan of his?

I’m fairly magpie-like in my reading tastes. When I’m working on a book, I avoid fiction as I find myself involuntarily adopting the stylistic traits of whoever I’m reading at the time; during such periods, I’ll read a lot of philosophy, psychology and occasional gobbets of history. Novelwise, though, there are so many writers I admire. My academic background is in the Romantic poets – Keats, Byron , Wordsworth et al; they made an enormous impact on me. But so did many other writers: Graham Greene, Dostoevsky, Dickens, Goethe, Borges, Gogol, Bulgakov . . . The list rolls on, endlessly. Within the genre, though, it was David Gemmell who had by far the largest impact on me. I think there are primarily two ways in which a writer can influence an aspirant: he can either make them realise which kind of fiction they want to write or, if they already know, they can show them how to go about it. With Gemmell, it was the latter: I already had an inkling of the type of fantasy I was keen on writing – in particular with regard to the realism of the characters – and when I read my first Gemmell novel – Morningstar – I thought, Ah, this is how it’s done! It was quite a revelation.

I was incredibly fortunate to know Dave in person. In the winter of 1992, I attended a five-day residential writing workshop at which Dave was the writer-in-residence. Afterwards, we stayed in touch, and I’d occasionally go to visit. He was a fountainhead of good advice and encouragement and, of course, is greatly missed.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to say to readers, old and new?

To the old readers, I’d say, Thanks for your patience! And to the new ones, I hope you enjoy the books – and try not to pick up any of Ballas’s bad habits . . .

Thanks for doing this Ian, I really appreciate it. It was a great pleasure to finally read more of Ballas, a character who truly stuck in my brain. You created a real classic in my opinion!

Bio: Ian Graham is a writer living in the north of England. The Path of the Hawk is a prequel to his first novel, Monument.

Website: iansgraham.net

One final note – a few people asked me (Steven) where to get Ian’s books in the USA as apparently they’re not available there. I’d suggest American readers track down the paperback versions from the Book Depository or Amazon UK as they are really worth reading!

“Path of the Hawk Book 1” by Ian Graham. Reviewed!

The Path of the Hawk

Book 1

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I’ll start this review by telling you Path of the Hawk is a prequel to a book called Monument that originally came out back about a decade ago. I read Monument years ago and it was so good that it truly lodged in my mind, particularly its main character, a real anti-hero called Anhaga Ballas. The legendary David Gemmell even endorsed it fer Gawd’s sake!

I’ve spent the intervening years looking for information about any more books by this guy Ian Graham who just seemed to write that one, fantastic, book then disappear completely.

Well, finally, in January of this year I half-heartedly searched Amazon for Ian’s name again and found out, to my delight, that he hadn’t just written one new book, but TWO.

So, noticing Path of the Hawk was just 99p on Kindle I bought it and eagerly dived in. I must point out, I haven’t read a novel in over a year – I just don’t have the time these days, but I made an effort for this. I really did love Monument that much!

Anyway, I’m very glad to say Path of the Hawk did not disappoint me at all. It tells the tale of Ballas’s days as part of an elite fighting unit (kind of a fantasy SAS or Navy SEAL) and, again, he’s not your usual clean-cut hero with a fairly well defined moral compass. Oh no, he kills people out of hand in brutal ways and basically doesn’t give much of a damn about anyone although he’s not as jaded and unfeeling as he was in Monument.

He has a couple of partners along with him for this adventure, as they seek to locate the source of some outlawed books and from beginning to end the action never really lets up. There’s a little side story but even that is full of action and some of it pretty gruesome too with a rather nasty biological/magical weapon described in horrible detail!

Even that seems tame compared to Ballas though, who is really an excellent protagonist. It’s interesting to see him feeling somewhat friendly towards one of his companions and I’m looking forward to Path of the Hawk Book 2 to see how his character progresses and comes closer to the drunken, bitter, nasty bastard he was in Monument.

The writing style is engaging and entertaining, the action fast paced and imaginative, and the characters interesting and well-drawn. The world they inhabit is detailed enough to feel real but not in the boring, overdone way some fantasy writers do.

Overall, this is an excellent fantasy read and a fine prequel to one of my favourite ever books.

Now I just need to find time out from researching my own new novel to read Path of the Hawk Book 2!

I will be doing a Q&A with Ian Graham within the next couple of days, so why not load up your Kindle with his three books and check back to see what he has to say about them all? You won’t regret it!

EDIT – check out that Q&A HERE now!

Final note – a few people asked me how to find Path of the Hawk in the USA and I’ve found out it’s not available as the publisher hasn’t put it out there! I’d suggest you find the paperbacks from the UK or email Orbit, the publishers, and tell them to get it sorted as these books deserve to find a huge audience.

My small collection of historical and fantasy weaponry

I’ve been a fan of historical and fantasy fiction since I was a teenager so, when I got my own house as a nineteen-year-old  (twenty years ago) and I found a website called BattleOrders, I realised I could fulfil my fantasies and own all sorts of awesome swords and stuff. And at that time there were no legal restrictions, it was awesome!

I never really got into it much after that initial enthusiasm though, since I was just a young lad with a mortgage, then kids came along… I only have a small collection compared to guys like Ben Kane, Anthony Riches and Christian Cameron who you should badger to show you their stuff. It’s much better than my meagre lot. I’m quite sure many of you have lots of fantastic weapons and armour so please share it here with us!

The one thing I’d like to add would be a realistic replica of Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum but that’s never going to happen in the UK. We’re not even allowed air guns over here which I have no argument with.

Anyway, here’s my small collection…

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Sting, Excalibur, Sword of the Witch King, medieval arrows, SS Officer’s dagger, Roman Senator’s dagger.

STING

Sting was, of course, Bilbo’s sword which would glow blue when evil Orcs or Goblins were around and he passed it on to Frodo who carried it in the excellent films. Mine never glows but it is a really nice copy of the short sword you can see in those LotR movies. Most replicas I’ve come across have a dull edge to the blade but this thing is razor sharp!

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The Sword of the Witch King

This is the sword that belonged to the Lord of the Nazgul. This one is a massive piece, comes right up to my shoulders from memory. This was the first sword  I ever owned and my girlfriend (now wife) bought it for me. It’s an exact licensed replica of the one used in the LotR movies.

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Excalibur

This is an exact replica of the real sword King Arthur was given by the Lady of the Lake.

Hahaha, nah, of course not, that would be ridiculous!

It’s an exact replica of the sword Arthur pulled from the stone around AD 480.

 

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SS Officer’s dagger

Let’s just head this one off at the pass: I’m not a neo-Nazi despite my shaved head. I’m just bald, and the Nazis were pure evil.

A real one of these would sell for a lot of money (Lemmy owned a few)  but this is quite a crude copy. I don’t even think they sell these in the UK any more, presumably because people found them offensive which is fair enough. It’s not something I’d display openly. I’m sure Battle Orders used to sell these with gold or silver trim and I just bought this silver one because it was really cheap.

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ROMAN SENATOR’S DAGGER

This thing was billed as a “Roman Senator’s dagger” but I don’t think that’s very accurate. It’s a nice little dagger that would do some real damage but I have no idea where the design might come from. Anyone got any ideas? Let me know!

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Now comes the favourite – and pointiest – part of my small collection!

My Jackson Kelly guitar alongside the medieval arrows my friend Chris Verwijmeren made for me. Look at the size of those things! Imagine one of them fired from a warbow, slamming into your chest….I have to say, the guitar is amazing too – Megadeth fans would love it.

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So, readers – do you have any weapons or armour? Are you a re-enactor with a load of nice kit? Share your links with us, either here in the comments or share your links to my Facebook page!

 

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Auf mysteriöse Weise verschwinden mehrere Menschen in einem kleinen Dorf auf Rhodos. Als zudem drei Mitlieder des Johanniter-Ordens vermisst werde, sendet der Großmeister Foulques de Villaret den englischen Richter Sir Richard at Lee aus, um in dem Fall zu ermitteln.

Gemeinsam mit seinem Waffenmeister Jacob stößt er bei den Einheimischen auf eine Mauer des Schweigens. Er ahnt nicht, dass sich dahinter eine Verschwörung verbirgt. In einem Strudel aus Aberglauben und okkulten Riten, wird nicht nur sein Leben bedroht, vielmehr gerät er an den Abgrund seines Verstandes.

„Ein großartiges, actionreiches Lesevergnügen, in dem trotz der Kürze einer Novella der Autor eine spannende Idee umgesetzt hat.“ Matthew Harffy, Autor von „The Serpent Sword“.

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