Author Spotlight – Ed McDonald
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Ed McDonald!
Ed McDonald is the author of the Raven’s Mark books, a university lecturer, D&D player and historical swordsmanship enthusiast. He lives in London, a city that provides him with constant inspiration. A lifelong love of fantasy fiction makes him write down the nonsense he comes up with about magic and babies that eat you.
Welcome to the Hive, Ed. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Can I pick my favourite two from the start of the year? At the start of the year I decided to read the first couple of pages of THE EMBER BLADE by Chris Wooding. It’s totally not the kind of thing I would normally read these days – 800 pages usually puts me off. But it was fantastic! Real classic quest fantasy with a ragtag band of almost-friends trying to save the day.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, I read RAWBLOOD by Catriona Ward. It’s horror in the classic Gothic style, with ghosts, a house that won’t let you leave, and a family plagued by a curse. Beautifully written and genuinely scary.
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’m currently playing an Eldritch Knight in D&D and that’s what I’d stick with. Full-on tanking style, a nice big shield and a hammer, Shield and Thunderwave spells to keep me alive and to smash back the waves of enemies. I like taking point as a tank.
When you’re not smashing back waves of enemies, how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? 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 a little bit about your writing method!
I sit on my sofa with my feet up, laptop on my knee, and Spotify playing. Today I’m listening to music that’s similar to Rita Ora, which is quite outside my usual “melancholy singer with strings” or “melancholy singer with piano” tastes. I usually have to make a cup of tea or coffee every twenty minutes.
I am a plotter, but then my inner pantser takes over. I find that all my best ideas come to me on the fly, or mid-book, or maybe a new character just appears on the page to serve a plot role and then I love them and they have to carry on having a much larger part. I don’t know how anyone can stick to a plan! My plans just dissolve into goop. It’s the same reason that I don’t write any world building – anything I write down will just be replaced with something better and more interesting as I go along. I do note the world details down as they appear, but usually just place names.
If I get stuck, or it’s a nice day outside, then I head to the pub to write there. I find that it focuses my brain to get out of the house.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
For me, Robin Hobb is still the pinnacle of fantasy writing achievement. I don’t think that anyone has created a deeper character than Fitz in the fantasy genre, and she’s always going to be an idol. I don’t think that I could effectively co-write with anyone, but if I got to work with TV and film people then there are some actors that I’d love to see in the roles of characters that I created. Mike Colter and Stephanie Beatriz are topping the list right now.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
I’m currently watching Westworld, and not sure how I feel about it, and of course I just watched Game of Thrones. For a more off-the-track recommendation, Inside Number Nine is three series of one-shot bottle episodes, and most of them are very good (written by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton of League of Gentlemen fame).
I’m playing MtG Arena at the moment. I used to play MtG as a card game a long while back and it’s better than ever. Red-black aggro decks are always close to my heart.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
Sitting in the sun with my family and loved ones! Easy.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
Errrrm I can try but my WiP is a bit like a blob of slime that gets constantly remoulded into new shapes. I’d written 50k words, decided to go back and change two chapters near the start, and ended up writing 50k new words, with new characters, and they have completely replaced everything else and that original 50k words is in the bin.
What I can say is: swords, demons, magic, technology, heroism, and love all get wrapped up in a spy-thriller type plot in a very big fantasy empire. The setting is much larger than in The Raven’s Mark books, and there are two point of view characters initially. We’ll have to see where it goes, and not even I’m sure just yet.
Sounds epic! What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
I think that daily word counts and ‘write every day’ are both helpful and unhelpful pieces of advice. On the one hand they do the most important thing – encourage a writer to put down some words constantly, because that’s how books get written, but even more than that, if you’ve not written for a while, it’s so much harder to get back into the zone. Your brain gets stiff if it isn’t used creatively. But at the same time, they create a false sense of accomplishment at times, and make people feel guilty if they don’t hit them (which in a busy life, you won’t). I don’t write every day.
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?
Logistically, I change my surroundings. Go write somewhere else, get away from home in any way I can. A trip to the countryside is usually very helpful. But if it’s a plot point or something within the story that’s causing a problem, then that almost always means I’m trying to make myself write something that I don’t like, or that I feel is necessary for the story, but boring to create. So I cut it out, ask myself what I really want to write about today, and I write about that instead.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
It’s hard not to want to go and see dinosaurs, isn’t it? It depends whether the dinosaurs would just eat me or if I have some kind of tank to drive around in.
A tank oughta do it! Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
The Red Pavillions series by Kim Hunter was a great read. It’s funny, odd, and I’ve never met anyone else who has read it.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
When you’re on the edge of mental collapse, exhausted beyond endurance and beset on all sides by demi-gods, demonic child sorcerers, traitors and political forces that seek to use you, there’s only one option left: drink through it. That is, until your god-like master tears himself out of a tattoo in your arm to give you the orders that give the world one last chance at survival – survival that lies with a woman who is either mad, or a genius, or maybe both.
Fantastic! Thanks again for joining us, Ed!
Ed McDonald is the author of THE RAVEN’S MARK trilogy. The last book in the trilogy, CROWFALL, is due for release 2nd July 2019.