Author Spotlight: David Wragg
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is David Wragg!
David Wragg really got into writing stories just as he finished English GCSE, then took about twenty years to get back to it. In the meantime, he studied software engineering, worked in global shipping and technical consultancy, and once spent a year in the Foreign Office “hiding in the basement”.
David lives in Hertfordshire with his wife, two small daughters and two smaller cats.
His debut fantasy novel The Black Hawks is out in October 2019.
Welcome to the Hive, Dave. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Hi! That would be True Grit, by Charles Portis. An absolute masterwork in character tone of voice, and a very swift read! I’m appallingly behind on my TBR and really appreciate shorter books these days…
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 an absolute coward, so the kind of Rogue who hides in the shadows and picks off his foes from a distance with a, um, sniper crossbow. Or better yet, makes for the exit at the first opportunity, and goes on to live a long and suspiciously happy life telling tall tales of imagined dungeon adventures.
When you’re not hiding in shadows, 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’ve got a desk at home in a room that’s either my study or the junk-dumping-room depending on who you ask. I mostly write to music, but it needs to be something entirely familiar or there’s a danger that I start listening to it. Turns out that the works of Iron Maiden and Silversun Pickups fit the bill there – I must have listened to Seventh Son of a Seventh Son on repeat a thousand times over the last few years, and I doubtless will again.
I’m by and large a plotter – the new project had a 7,000 word outline (including lots of pre-written dialogue for pivotal conversations). Doesn’t mean I have all the answers worked out already, of course – joining things up remains a challenge, as do the inevitable “my characters are doing things wrong again” issues. Sometimes I look back at my outlines and shake my head at their naive optimism.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
I read vast oceans of fantasy when I was growing up, a lot of which was utter garbage, but the writers who stayed with me were Terry Pratchett and David Gemmell. When I first started writing I thought I’d be writing humorous pastiche in the vein of the former, but it turns out I’m just not that funny. Or clever. I like to think I’ve ended up somewhere between the two.
I’d love to collaborate with another writer, but it’s hard to imagine which – they all seem to be doing just fine on their own!
Excellent influences Dave! What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
Just watched The Boys on Amazon. Friends of mine have raved about the comics for years but I wasn’t convinced it was my kind of thing, but I loved the series. One day, I too hope to roam the globe like Karl Urban’s accent.
I am very behind on games – still clearing my backlog of titles I kickstarted between 2011-2015. The Witcher 3 remains my best game of the last few years – well-told story, fantastic world and mission design, expansive but not repetitive. And it looks fantastic.
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?
Is there childcare? I mean, er, of course I would treasure the opportunity to spend more time with my adorable young family, but if for some reason they were unavailable – perhaps they were at the zoo (the monkey house seems appropriate) – I would either spend the day playing boozy board games with friends or trying to clear my games and TV backlog. I might need more than a day, is there room to negotiate?
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I’m just polishing up Black Hawks 2 before sending it to my editor, but I’m about half way through the first draft of the next project. It’s a standalone, set in the same world, about 12 years after the second book, in the wild, uncivilised plains to the far north. A mysterious, rootless woman and her niece find themselves suddenly pursued by sinister forces from multiple directions, and must risk everything to survive. There will be many chases and explosions.
Sounds like it’ll be a banger! Geddit? Ahem…
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
The best is probably Chuck Wendig’s “finish your shit”, which goes well with the “draft zero” approach of assuming your first version of anything is going to be bilge and not trying to fix it (or show it to anyone!) until you’ve got to the end. I’m not sure about the worst – everyone’s approach is going to be different, and what’s solid-gold advice for some will be brain-poison to others. Try new things, find what works, then hammer it like a Megadeth bass drum.
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?
Some days it’s harder to get started than others, but generally it’s a case of getting in the right frame of mind more than not wanting to write. My opportunities are limited, and reminding myself of how little time I get to write each week can help focus (as does calculating how many months a draft will take at my current rate). And then, of course, there are the Deadlines…
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Oooh, my first inclination might be north-west Gaul in 50 BC to see if those wild boar banquets were really as good as they looked, but probably Renaissance-era Florence (without wishing to come over all Hannibal Lecter). As well as the art and architecture, you’d have Medici power-games, political and martial insurrection, and the odd Borgia Poison Party. Of course, I’d last all of twenty minutes in an Intrigue, but at least I’d get to wear a smashing doublet.
So, wherever there’s a party!
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I hope this doesn’t count as obscure but I do feel the works of Robert Jackson Bennett deserve more acclaim. I loved the Divine Cities trilogy and Foundryside has just kicked off what looks like another excellent series.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
Do you like reading about dysfunctional and violent mercenaries who bicker and tease on a near-constant basis, or do you get enough of that at work? Have you ever wondered how a protagonist with no particular skills, experience or acumen might fare in a fantasy narrative? Do you find unusual swearing funny? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might like to check out The Black Hawks, coming this October from HarperVoyager!
Thanks for joining us today, Dave, and good luck with THE BLACK HAWKS’ release!
David Wragg is the author of THE BLACK HAWKS, which will be released on October 3rd 2019.