Author Spotlight: Taran Matharu
Taran Matharu is a New York Times bestselling author. He was born in London in 1990 and found a passion for reading at a very early age. His love for stories developed into a desire to create his own during early adolescence, beginning his first book at 9 years old.
Straight after graduating with a First Class degree in Business Administration, Taran was keen to explore a new avenue and get inside the publishing world, landing an internship in Digital Sales at Penguin Random House, from June to September 2013.
Thereafter, while taking time off to travel, Taran began to write ‘Summoner’ in November 2013 at the age of 22, taking part in ‘Nanowrimo 2013’.
Thanks to Wattpad.com and updating daily, its popularity dramatically increased, reaching over 3 million reads in less than six months.
After being featured by NBC News, Taran decided to launch his professional writing career and has never looked back.
Thanks for joining us today, Taran! Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Do audiobooks count? I recently listened to Ready Player One for the third time and I loved it just as much as I did the first time!
The novel tells the story of a futuristic dystopia where an economic crisis has led to most of the population retreating into The Oasis, an all encompassing virtual reality game that has become the world’s chief pastime and economic resource. When the founder of The Oasis dies, he leaves his fortune to whoever can solve a series of clues based on his passion for popular culture from the 1980s. Soon every player in the world becomes obsessed with finding the mysterious “egg” hidden within the game.
After several years, teenager Wade Watts deciphers the first clue and becomes the favourite to win – but is soon forced to go on the run as nefarious corporations close in on him, eager to take the prize for themselves. In a race against time, Wade and his friends must complete the quest before their pursuers catch up to them.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I would choose the Summoner class (my books are about summoning demons after all!) and my blade would be Jon Snow’s Longclaw from Game of Thrones.
Ooh – great choices! When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
Typing for sure! My handwriting is embarrassingly bad.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
In silence, in fact I even use noise-cancelling headphones to block out ambient noise! Listening to music with singing is the worst, it would be like trying to do a complex mathematical equation while someone was shouting random numbers in your ear.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
I tend to signpost a series of events that would take me from the beginning to the end of the novel. I then write between those signposts, changing and shifting them around as I go. This allows me to have a structured novel with a well thought out plot, while also giving me the flexibility to chop, change and let inspiration guide me as I write.
Is this a gardener or an architect? I like to think of it as a gardener who likes an organised garden.
It definitely sounds more like gardening to me! Taran, what are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
TV shows and Films for sure! Although, my favourites tend to be book adaptions, such as Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, go figure. I think Lost, Jurassic park Westworld are big influences on my latest series, the Contender series. I also love video games and those have a huge influence on my writing – my favourites are The Witcher, Skyrim, Mount and Blade and the Total War series.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
I watched Bright on Netflix! Fantasy creatures in a modern day setting, what’s not to love? The critics hated it though, so maybe I don’t have the best taste haha.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
Playing video games for sure! Although I tend to do that a lot on my other days too…
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
None, I have no beef with punctuation haha. Although I do find the em dash, en dash and hyphen a pain. Why can’t we just use one for all of them?
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
It’s like a mix between The Maze Runner, Avatar and Gladiator. What does that tell you? Almost nothing haha. Here’s an unofficial blurb:
Cade, a juvenile delinquent from the modern era and Harriet, a Victorian era cat-burglar, find themselves transported to another world.
Abandoned in a realm populated with lost remnants from the past, prehistoric animals and monstrous creatures, they must race to discover who the mysterious Pantheon are, and what nefarious plans these mysterious overlords have in store for them.
It sounds amazing! If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
I would love to write a spinoff series for the Walking Dead tv show. I’ve always wanted to tell a zombie story and I think they’ve set up a wonderful setting, I just wish it wasn’t always such a soap opera-like with cartoonish plot twists and events. I still love it though (except for season 2).
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I was once told that you didn’t need to be a reader to be a writer. I think that’s rubbish. You will NEVER learn the instincts and inherent skills needed to become an author of any calibre without being a prolific reader. Some things can’t be taught in a classroom, they need to be experienced to be understood.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Oh wow. I’ve always had a fantasy about being able to look into the past through a window, but only be able to see, not affect it. Maybe there’s a book in that, hmm.
In any case, I would LOVE to look back on the campaigns of Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I look at my deadline and think about how unprofessional it would be for me to miss it. Then I sit down and write.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Jeff Long’s The Descent is one of my favourite books of all time, but it’s out of print and not in ebook form – you can pretty much only order it second hand on amazon. It’s very much worth reading though:
We are not alone …In a cave in the Himalayas, a guide discovers a self-mutilated body with the warning “Satan exists”. In the Kalahari Desert, a nun unearths evidence of a proto-human species and a deity called Older-than-Old. In Bosnia, something has been feeding upon the dead in a mass grave. So begins mankind’s most shocking realization: that the underworld is a vast geological labyrinth populated by another race of beings. Some call them “devils” or “demons.” But they are real. They are down there. And they are waiting for us to find them…
Sounds chilling! Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book(s) in no more than three sentences – go!
I’ll keep it short! Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings meets Pokemon. Summoning demons FTW!
Brilliant, Taran. Thanks again for joining us today!
Taran Matharu is the New York Times bestselling author of the Summoner series.