Andy is, first and foremost, a storyteller and an artist–words are his palette. Fantasy is his genre of choice, and he loves to explore the darker side of human nature through the filter of fantasy heroes, villains, and everything in between. He’s also a freelance writer, a book lover, and a guy who just loves to meet new people and spend hours talking about his fascination for the worlds he encounters in the pages of fantasy novels.
Fantasy provides us with an escape, a way to forget about our mundane problems and step into worlds where anything is possible. It transcends age, gender, religion, race, or lifestyle–it is our way of believing what cannot be, delving into the unknowable, and discovering hidden truths about ourselves and our world in a brand new way. Fiction at its very best!
Andy, thank you for agreeing to this interview. While many of us would like to leap directly into writing full-time, a writing career takes time to establish. Have you held any day jobs that impacted your writing style, focus, or characters? Could you share an example?
For the last six years, I have been a copywriter, blogger, and article writer for a number of websites (fitness, product review, health, and many more). I wouldn’t say this job particularly affected my character creation, but they definitely prepared me for the arduous work of sitting still and writing for hours on end. Thanks to this day job, I’m able to organize my time very well, work from home with few distractions, and put in solid 8-hour days of writing. Thanks to this, I’m able to write a lot of words very quickly without tiring.
I know you have had a few releases this past year, including the Hero of Darkness Series. As a fan of many of your works, I am curious what led you to write this collection. Did you have a theme you wanted to convey to readers?
The Hero of Darkness series began as a “bad-ass assassin” story, the kind I always wanted to read when I was younger. But as it came into being, I found it shaping up to be the story of an outcast, a loner like me, someone trying to find their place in a world they don’t belong. Once I realized that, it became a much clearer path to telling the true story—beneath all the action, magic, violence, mystery, and monsters, there was this one man’s search for family, friends, and a sense of purpose. That gave me a better understanding of not only the character of the Hunter, but of myself as well.
You have started making a name for yourself, not only in the fantasy genre, but among fans of grimdark fiction. What does grimdark mean to you and why do you think so many readers enjoy these darker tales?
Grimdark is a feeling, one that brings a sense of gloom and darkness that epic and high fantasy tends to avoid. Even the most beautiful pastoral scenes are rife with danger and death, and the greatest beauties and good things can be turned to darkness, ash, and violence in an instant.
To be clear, I, Andy, don’t have this outlook on life. I’m much more a “cup half full” kind of person. But when I write, I find myself drawn to this strange balance between the dark and light side of everything. The most beautiful flower can be the deadliest, and the ugliest lump of coal may hide a diamond. This lends a very grim and dark air to my stories, but it’s also a fascinating way of finding beauty and value in the strangest places.
Many readers are most familiar with your Queen of Thieves series. The world of fantasy literature has recently been talking about strong female characters and gender equality in fantastical worlds. I am curious how this series might offer a respectful bow to those seeking strong women characters in fantasy.
Queen of Thieves was written because I found myself struggling to read 90% of the female epic fantasy characters around. The only one I truly enjoyed was Paksenarrion from the Elizabeth Moon series. The rest were, pardon me for saying so, too “feminized”. The stories focused on their looks, their feelings (to, in my opinion, an excessive degree), their feminine traits, and other things that pushed me, a man, away from reading them. Really, they stopped me from connecting and identifying with the female characters.
Ilanna was my attempt at writing a woman that I could understand from a male viewpoint, but who women could immediately recognize as one of their own. Instead of the struggles of “female vs. male”, I tried to make her problems “everyman/woman”, the sort of things everyone could immediately recognize and get behind.
Ultimately, I realize the secret for writing a successful female character: focus on the things that make us SIMILAR. The more we point out differences (race, gender, sexuality, politics, religion, and more), the more we begin to distance ourselves from things unlike us. But by drawing attention to the similarities, it’s easier to identify and empathize with any character, no matter who or what they are.
Every single book I write has nods and callbacks to other stories. There is always a connection between series, as well as threads that can point the way to the ultimate conclusion. In fact, one thing I’ve started doing is dropping hints in the early books to give the answer for the series overall. For example, in an opening scene of Darkblade Justice (Hero of Darkness 7), I dropped this line
“Just as beautiful garments often hide ugly souls.”
If you remember that as you read the book, it will tell you who the murderer is. Things like that are my nod to intelligent, insightful readers who like to figure things out ahead of time.
What can we expect from you in 2019?
I have the five-book sequel spinoff series, Heirs of Destiny, coming January 22nd, with all five books and the prequel novella released by May. Then, I’ll be releasing two box sets of the Hero of Darkness series, and I intend to release an epic military fantasy series, The Silent Champions, (4 primary novels + 2 companion novels) shortly thereafter. Lots of work and fun ahead!
It has been a pleasure, Andy! Please tell us where fans can find you online or in the upcoming year at events.
You can find me at all of my links:
Thanks so much for having me!