Richard Ford talks to Stephen Jewell about launching the Steelhaven series with his new novel Herald Of The Storm
The author of Kultus has scored a three-book deal to write the Steelhaven fantasy series for Headline. Not to be confused with the other Richard Ford (ours is @Rich4ord on Twitter, who has written short stories for the likes of Dark Horizons and Black Library), Ford has just released Herald Of The Storm . Stephen Jewell tracked him down:
SFX : Your first novel Kultus explored steampunk territory. How did you come to move from that to epic fantasy? Is this like a new start for you?
Richard Ford: The Steelhaven series is most definitely a new start, since it nabbed me a new agent, a new publisher and a three-book deal.
I'd wanted to write a big doorstep-sized epic fantasy for a while. I'm certainly not keen on being a one-trick-pony kind of a writer and there's a lot I'd like to explore as my career develops - though perhaps it's a bit premature to call it a "career" just yet - that may well take me beyond the fantasy genre.
SFX : What would you write for Herald Of The Storm 's cover blurb?
Ford: I'd probably use my original selling pitch: "David Gemmell's Legend meets HBO's The Wire ."
SFX : Your bio says you live "on the first town on the Thames" so have your surroundings – or maybe even the local pub? - influenced the landscape of your novel?
Ford: It's funny you mention the pub – the Steelhaven series is very character driven, and I find it a great place to meet different characters: good, bad and ugly. Luckily, where we live I have six to choose from. My long-suffering better half has come to accept the fact that I like to "research" quite long and hard, sometimes well into the night.
SFX : Herald Of The Storm has been described as appealing to fans of both fantasy and historical fiction. How have you woven the historical side into the story?
Ford: I'm much more interested in character and story than I am in magic systems and world-building, though this is obviously epic fantasy, so those elements are still very important.
SFX : And what's your attitude towards the story's magical and fantastical elements?
Ford: Herald Of The Storm is relatively low fantasy - so no dragons, dwarves or pink unicorns - and I wanted to make the use of magick quite dangerous, so there are dire consequences for those who wield it.
SFX : As for your cast, Herald Of The Storm features "an unbalanced veteran, a disillusioned assassin, a hapless apprentice" amongst others… Do you enjoy playing with such character archetypes?
Ford: I don't see anything wrong in using archetypes as long as you're going to do something a bit different with them. In fact it would be fairly difficult to write a fantasy novel without them. Subverting tropes is all well and good, but doing so just for the sake of it is a bit pointless and can come across as kind of gimmicky if not done well. Herald Of The Storm has seven main point-of-view characters whose story arcs cross over as the story progresses. I wanted to tell the story of a city on the edge of destruction, but from all levels of society. We've got a princess, an assassin, a mercenary veteran, a thief, a wizard's apprentice, a rakish swordsman and a warrior priestess. All the usual suspects really, but hopefully not how you'd expect them.
SFX : Are there any particular books or authors that have influenced the creation of Steelhaven?
Ford: My earliest writerly influences came from comics; principally 2000 AD and its hardboiled characters like Judge Dredd and Slaine, which are probably reflected best in my first novel Kultus . For Herald Of The Storm there's a clear influence from George RR Martin, and even some of the newer gritty fantasy authors, but I'm also a big fan of episodic TV like Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad , and story driven computer games like Mass Effect . As a writer you're constantly influenced by whatever you're exposed to, character and story-wise, so it's impossible to pin it down to any one thing.
SFX : Herald Of The Storm is only book one of the Steelhaven series. What can you tell us about what comes next?
Ford: I've signed for a series of three novels with Headline, and the Steelhaven series will definitely be a self-contained trilogy. After that, who knows? There will certainly be more tales to tell within the world I've created, whether it's with existing characters or new remains to be seen.
SFX : Thanks Richard!