I guess since I was ten or so. The moment I picked up The Hobbit and got hooked for life.
Who is your favorite author in the genre?
Uh-oh, that’s a tricky question. Mostly because time skews my perspective and taste. Furthermore, fantasy is not a single block of text and style, so it’s hard to judge the entire genre this way. But I really enjoy the works of Martin, Pratchett and Abercrombie. I hope that’s a fair answer.
What is your favorite book?
Another difficult one. Well, if I have to choose just one work, and ignore nostalgia and childhood illusions, then I would say Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett. It’s simply a book that touches you deep inside. You feel like you are part of a story, even though you know it’s just fantasy.
The best book you have read this year is ______?
So far, I’d have to say Wool, by Hugh Howey. True, it’s a novella, or even a novelette by some word count standard, but it’s also a magnificent piece of prose.
Are you a fan of grimdark fantasy?
Is there any other kind? Seriously, I think books should touch upon the tricky, unpleasant areas of humanity. If you cannot relate to the character, it’s boring. Grimdark actually means realistic, even though it may not be pretty.
If so, do you consider Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, or someone else the current master of the genre?
You may be surprised to hear (or rather, read) that I don’t think Joe or Mark write grim. Joe is cynical, Mark is somewhat brutal, but their topics are fairly easy to digest. I might be jaded, emotionally unavailable – I guess that’s the popular term – or just raised in a different culture slash mentality and to different standards, but I find myself enjoying and liking their books. No grimness there, no despodency, just solid fun. For me, the king of grimdark is Paul Kearney. If you’ve read The Monarchies of God and The Sea Beggars, there’s a guy who can squash the hope out of your soul.
Was there a certain book that made you decide you wanted to write a fantasy novel?
It’s hard to say. I’d like to believe that. But by the time I started writing fantasy, which was around the time I turned seventeen or so, I’ve probably read more than a hundred fantasy books. I guess it’s a combination of Tolkien, Jordan and Goodkind, at that time, who kind of paved the way for me.
What was the inspiration behind The Lost Words series?
I simply sat down and started writing. There was no critical mass of inspiration boiling in my head.
How long was The Betrayed floating around in your head before you actually put it down onto paper?
Probably seconds. Sorry for the corny answer. Now, I did take time elaborating the concept into a four-book series later on. That sure did some deep thinking. But the premise of the series was an instanenous, almost impulsive choice.
Do you consider The Lost Words series to be grimdark fantasy? Why or why not?
I think yes. And from the feedback I’ve received from my readers, definitely so. Most of the Amazon reviewers recommend keeping children away, and I agree. Some of the chapters can be a little grim. And it’s a rule that I make my wife cry at least once while reading each one of the four books, so there.
There are a lot of serious themes regarding organized religion in the book. Did you ever worry that such deeply philosophical commentary would scare off readers?
I try to avoid preaching, because I don’t like it when ideas are shoved down your throat, or in this case, pushed into your eyes. There’s one particular chapter in The Betrayed where a character does get a bit fascistesque, but I hope I got away with it. Now, overall, I write for myself, for my own fun and pleasure. Otherwise, the whole exercise of writing and enjoying oneself loses the point.
How many books do have you tentatively planned in The Lost Words series?
The series is complete. It’s a four-book work. The second volume, The Broken, has been released in 2013. The Forgotten, the penultimate volumes comes out next month. And the last book is slated sometime for mid 2015. So if you like the books, don’t worry, it’s 100% done.
Is there anything you cut from The Betrayed prior to publication or something you later wished you would have done different?
As a perfectionist, there’s always something I wish I’ve done differently. It never ends. The whole point is to let go and make your future works better, smarter, smoother, more eloquent. My wife does the editing. She is fairly brutal and objective in her judgment, and she can yank entirely chapters out if she thinks they are unnecessary or stupid or anything of that sort. Small bits and pieces went out, but not too much. And I wouldn’t add. The mistakes of books past are the lessons for the books to be.
Which one of the characters in The Betrayed is most like you?
I really don’t know. All of them have a bit of me. But I try really hard to be apersonal and avoid having one character repeated over and over. Now, whether I succeeded, you tell me.
Did you use any historical leaders as the mold for the people in the book?
Yes. Oliver Cromwell was an inspiration. And some of the Russian tsars.
Do you love, hate, or feel indifferent to the major role social media plays in the success of novels in this era?
Mostly indifferent. It’s just another communication dimension. As a technical blogger for quite some time, I’ve found that you either use the media, or you don’t. But there’s no point fretting about it, fighting it, or trying to subvert your writing to match public expectations. Fun and self-truth first, everything else later, if at all.
How has the publication process treated you?
The Lost Words series is a self-published body of works, so that’s the one I should talk about. Simply put, I’ve learned a ton in the past two years. It’s amazing how much you can learn, even when it comes down to optimizing your publication package, working with artists, growing your following, and so forth. I have been working with CreateSpace, and overall, they are okay. I guess they do offer a slightly more comprehensive package than most other publishing houses, but you do sometimes feel you’re just a ticket number waiting its SLA in a mail queue. Still, I’m trying to learn and optimize. I’ve recently hired my own external artists for the cover work. I believe that most of the extras in publishing packages, like reviews and marketing and others, are completely unnecessary. Comprehensive editing and proofing is a must, though.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring fantasy authors?
Just write for your own sake. The glory and money will come later. Or they won’t, but at least you’ll be enjoying yourself. Did I mention you should be writing? A lot? All the time?
What is next for you in writing?
I’ve quite a few new ideas lined up. I’ve completed a gunpowder-era anti-hero book recently, and I will probably self-publish this next year. I’ve also finished the first volume in a first-person zombie-themed series. A novella really. I’ve also written about 35% of a Biblical fantasy book, which I will try to peddle to the traditional market. And I’m currently working on a modern fantasy book with an agent, and we will try to approach one of the big houses out there, but at the moment, I’m not at liberty to divulge any details yet. There’s an anthology coming, too, World War One, and it will feature a story of mine in there. Grimdark to the core. Finally, I’m also writing a technical book on Linux problem solving in high-performance compute environment, but by now, you’re all deeply bored. 🙂
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Igor Ljubuncic is a physicist by vocation and a Linux geek by profession. He is the founder and operator of the cool and highly popular website dedoimedo.com, where you can learn a lot about a lot. He really likes to write, particularly in the fantasy genre, and has been doing so since the tender age of ten summers. You can learn more at his blog.
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THE BETRAYED (THE LOST WORDS:VOLUME 1)