To celebrate the release of ‘Unburied Treasures – an illustrated anthology‘, I’ve invited Nyki Blatchley – the author of ‘Finder’s Fee’ – to chat with me about writing, dragons, and publishing. What a fun and insightful talk it was!
Thank you for stopping by to chat with me today, Nyki.
Many thanks for letting me
invade and conquer be a guest on your blog.
Sure, invade and conquer you will! But first, tell us about yourself.
I live just north of London, in the Lea Valley, which is also where I grew up, although I’ve lived around a few places in between. I graduated in English and Classics from Keele University, and I’ve worked in a variety of fields: bookselling, residential care and media monitoring, along with shorter stints ranging from an artist’s model to the obligatory few months at McDonalds. I’m currently self-employed as a copywriter.
One of my greatest passions, outside reading and writing, is for history. I volunteer at the county archive, researching local history — fortunately there’s a lot of it, ranging from King Harold Godwinson, who’s buried nearby, to the last person in England to be condemned to death for witchcraft (fortunately she was released on appeal) to (bizarrely) the first passenger rail service in the world (a horse-drawn monorail). I live about five minutes’ walk from the remains of a house where a notorious plot was hatched to assassinate King Charles II.
Well, it originated from a one-hour writing challenge we have on a website I belong to. I believe the challenge on that occasion was to write about something familiar that was vastly bigger than usual, so I wrote a scene about a dragon-sized office in a dragon-sized office-block.
I’d established in the original scene that the dragons were running the world solely so they could accumulate gold and wealth (so not like the real world at all) and that gave me the idea that the POV character is employed by this particular dragon as a “Finder”, who goes out and locates treasure. Once I had that, the plot slid into place.
I’ve always loved dragons, but I’ve actually written surprisingly few stories about them. This evens the balance a little.
You have published many novels and short fiction, including the famous At an Uncertain Hour. Tell us a bit about these. Where can we go to get your books?
At an Uncertain Hour was originally published by StoneGarden in 2009, but unfortunately the company closed last year and so the rights reverted to me. In an orderly fashion, (check out Writer Beware for some horror stories about how this can go wrong with less reputable companies) I republished it myself.
At an Uncertain Hour is an epic fantasy story of an immortal called the Traveller and the first three thousand years of his life, mostly told in flashback on the eve of a great battle. Well, highlights of his first three thousand years, that is — the book isn’t that long. Quite a few of the short stories I’ve had published are about are about the Traveller, or about his companion Eltava, who started out as a cameo in the novel but demanded her own series.
I have four stand-alone novelettes/ novellas available: Steal Away and The Temple of Taak-Resh are set in the same world and part of a series about Kari and Fai — outlaw sorcerers (according to them) or juvenile delinquents (according to most other people). The Traveller makes an appearance in Steal Away, in classic “spin-off” style.
The Treason of Memory, published by Musa Publishing, is set in the same world but at a later period. It’s a fantasy espionage adventure that I sometimes describe as like a mash-up of Conan, the Three Musketeers and Jason Bourne.
The Triarchy’s Emissary is the only one not set in the Traveller’s world (it doesn’t have a name — the people who live there call it “the world”). This originated in a shared world project that never came to fruition. Several other contributors to ‘Unburied Treasures‘ were also involved in it and produced fine stories, some of which have found homes. I was delighted when the South African company Fox & Raven accepted it.
I’ve had numerous stories published in magazines, anthologies and on websites. The most recent include Penumbra, Lore and Wily Writers, but the earliest was The Thirteenth Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories in 1980. That one actually got me an invitation as a minor guest to Fantasycon in 2012, since the editor was a guest of honour. That was fun.
You also started a copywriting business. How did this come to be?
I was made redundant from my job a few years back and joined the hordes of people looking for work. My last job was rather niche, so it wasn’t likely that I’d find the same thing, and changing tack in my fifties and the middle of high unemployment — well, I was getting nowhere. I’d love to live off my fiction, of course, but that didn’t seem something I could plan for.
Then someone suggested setting up my own business. My first reaction was that it was ridiculous, but when I thought about it, I realised I could use my writing skills, if not the kind of writing I do from choice. I had a lot of help from a business advisor in the actual practicalities of setting up a business (which I knew nothing about) and I’m now up and running.
It’s been a slow process getting established, and I seem to have been doing nothing but networking like mad, but I’m starting to get work in. I hope it’ll take off. I use a slightly different form of my name (a kind of branding thing) to keep the two parts of my writing distinct. My copywriting website is http://www.nickblatchleycopywriting.co.uk.
I remember you as a grammar nazi when I first joined the Fantasy Writers online forum, ha. Will you share with us some of your pet peeves in writing?
Grammar nazi? That makes it sound as if I round up poor, defenceless adverbs to send to the gas chamber. I’m not like that, honest.
The thing about grammar is that it’s not just lots of hoops you have to jump through to please someone. It’s an essential part of getting your exact meaning over. When you write, all you have are the words themselves, and if you arrange them in a way that doesn’t make your meaning clear, how can you expect your readers to understand you?
On the other hand, every rule or guideline associated with writing can and should be broken by someone who knows exactly what they’re doing and is breaking the rule to achieve a specific, planned effect. That’s very different from breaking them because you can’t be bothered.
I suppose my biggest peeve is something I occasionally hear writers say: “There’s no need to get grammar and spelling right, that’s what editors are for.” (Or, more likely, “Theirs no need two get grammer and spelling write thats wot editor’s are four.”)
Haha, ouch! Okay, last question: what are your current projects?
I have an ongoing ennealogy (nine books) that started chronologically with At an Uncertain Hour. Part of it is a trilogy called The Winter Legend, which I’ve been working on since I was at school. It’s finished (ish) and the first part is looking for a publisher or agent, but parts two and three still need quite a bit of reworking.
The novel I’m actually writing now is a sequel to At an Uncertain Hour and a prequel to The Winter Legend — it’s working title is The Empire of Nandesh, though there’s no chance of that being the final title. It’s structured in the same kind of “now and flashback” style as At an Uncertain Hour.
Besides that, I’m putting the finishing touches to a longer novella called The Dweller in the Crack, with the intention of trying my luck with Tor‘s recent invitation to submit novellas. I have several opening scenes, too (courtesy of the one-hour exercises) which I want to complete. Several are set in the Traveller’s world, but there various others too, including one from a loose magicpunk series I’ve recently started. I also recently (for the hell of it) wrote a story I describe as flintpunk (a kind of serious, dystopian equivalent of The Flintstones) and I wouldn’t mind exploring that world more.
One very unexpected project is a series of children’s stories. I wrote a piece a while ago, just for me really, that came out as a kids’ story, and I’ve been encouraged to write a series of stories about the main character, Cariana the Sorceress, with a view to getting it published as a book. I’ve barely started, but I have written a second story and already introduced a second main character, her apprentice, a little girl called Flea. I never thought of myself as a children’s writer, but I’m really enjoying it.
That’s one of the things that’s great about writing. You think you know where you’re going, and a story or character will jump out at you, drag you off the track and demand to be written. You just have to go with it.
What a treasure you are, Nyki, and a fountain of wisdom and information. Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with me.