Author Spotlight: JOHN C. ADAMS
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is John C. Adams!
John C Adams is a Contributing Editor with Albedo One Magazine, and Reviewer with Schlock! Webzine and British Fantasy Society. You can read their fiction in Horrified Press, Lycan Valley Press and many other anthologies. A non-binary writer, John’s fiction appears in The Horror Zine, Siren’s Call and many smaller magazines. John’s fantasy novel ‘Dagmar of the Northlands’ is available on Kindle and Smashwords.
Welcome to the Hive, John! Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
I’m currently re-reading Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. There’s so much to it, I get something more from reading it every time. I’m simply blown away at how forward thinking she was as a writer all those years ago, exploring concepts that are still new and developing today. I’m non-binary for gender, so I always appreciate reading fiction that includes characters I can relate to directly as a part of my identity.
I’m a reviewer with Schlock! Webzine and the British Fantasy Society, so I’m constantly getting amazing books to read. With Schlock! I tend to review something I’ve recently read and enjoyed, such as Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco. The BFS have an open submissions policy, so I’ll review something that’s been sent in by a publishing house. I just read The Hexarchate Stories by Yoon Ha Lee for them and really appreciated that it contained a non-binary character.
I always seem to have at least three or four books on the go, some that I read because I like them and others I’m reading for reviews. It’s really important to read for pleasure, too. As someone who writes fantasy with a side helping of romance, I read a lot of love stories. I’ve just finished re-reading Sanditon by Jane Austen because we’re watching the ITV adaptation.
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’d choose to be a wizard. I’d love to be casting an awesome spell and saving the whole group, but (just like in real life) I’d probably be told to go to the back where I can carry everyone’s stuff and let the more capable among us lead the way. Kind of like being a parent really…
I wish I could say my weapon of choice would be my brain coupled with lots of awesome spells that never go awry, but my memory is definitely not what it was so something physical like a sword or an axe might be a better bet. Spells are very precise things and one word out of place can mean disaster. Then again, I’m really clumsy, so maybe an axe isn’t the way forward either. Perhaps it’s a good thing that all my best fight scenes are in my head ready to be typed into my laptop.
Know. Those. Feels.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, 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!
Silence? Gods, I wish! I have a daughter and I’m a carer for my husband Brian who has brain damage, so the notion that I’d be able to go into a room, shut the door and be able to work without distractions is a dream I yearn to have come true. We always have a real houseful when it comes to pets, as well, since my daughter and I are both really fond of animals. In the words of Eighties pop band Madness: There’s always something happening, and it’s usually quite loud.
Whether I hand write or not depends on the length of the fiction involved. I write plenty of long fiction. I draft this as a first go on the laptop, print it out and then polish it and edit by hand. I like to get a good look at the printed page on a piece of paper, but then I’m old fashioned like that. For flash fiction I do actually write it out in longhand and then type it up when it’s finished.
Our stone miner’s cottage can get a little warm in summer so in the past few months I’ve been writing outside and getting a tan at the same time! And as a vegan I am going to pass on the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps, if that’s okay with you. [We at The Hive would not recommend eating soul-damned shrimp.]
So far as planning goes, I like to have at least some concept of where a full-length novel is going. I do think that can help keep things moving. That can be something as simple as a two-page summary. I like to plan the plot using points such as quarter, half, three quarter because with longer fiction pacing is really important. With shorter fiction, it usually starts with an idea and then I get a snappy title. The plot and characters then crystallise around the two factors.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
I do like the fantasy fiction of David Gemmell. I like to have a good bit of romance in my fantasy reading as well as battlefield action. No one does that combination better. I’m a fan of writers like Melanie Rawn, who have falling in love at the heart of their epic fantasy tale. I like good old-fashioned pitched battles, mythical creatures, sword and sorcery too. I do like writers who are open to different orientations and genders, so I’m a fan of Storm Constantine too, for example. And I quite enjoy children’s fantasy, such as David Eddings. One of the things I love most about fantasy is what a versatile genre it is.
I’ve never collaborated in writing but I’d love to, because I always find editing feedback from my regular editors fruitful and inspiring so I always think of writing as quite a team-based activity. Writing a story with another author would be great fun. I’d love to be able to go back in time and write a story with one of the saga writers from Old Norse. They knew how to craft a cracking tale!
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
We watch such a mix of TV, but because my daughter wants to be an actress we do watch quite a bit of it. Anything from Game of Thrones to American Horror Story. I’m loving Cody Fern in Season 9 and they’ve really got the Eighties feel down!
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?
Last summer we had quite a bit of time at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh because we live midway between Newcastle and Edinburgh, so both are accessible. This was work and play for us. We saw lots of amazing shows, and Midnight made her debut at the festival with Laughing Horse Comedy.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
Well, my recently published novel is called Dagmar of the Northlands. It’s a fantasy novel set in a Nordic-style universe. It features some of the main characters from the prequel Aspatria, which is free on Smashwords and 99p on Amazon as a series starter. However, Dagmar and her culture and home and family are completely new, because I do like to have a number of fresh characters per book to add to the existing universe.
Dagmar is a fearsome warrior. She’s a much better leader of the Men of the North than her half-brother Njal, who became konung after his father Thorlak died. It’s autumn and the Northlanders sail off to the island of Orkna for one last raid before winter closes in. During the raid, Njal’s inept leadership makes the simple business of plundering the island go awry. Before long the Men of the North are more interested in fighting each other than the enemy. Let’s hope the Gods take mercy on the Men of the North and go to their aid!
Dagmar of the Northlands also features Gortah van Murkar and his wife Queen Dextra of Aspatria, who were central to Aspatria when they met and fell in love. Now, each of them faces different challenges. Dextra has two husbands because the ruler of Aspatria is allowed to have two spouses, but Gortah’s jealousy over her other husband is pulling them apart. Things aren’t going too well between Dextra and her other husband either. Gortah is also fighting the Eirans, his most longstanding enemy, and hoping for revenge against them after they killed his father and all his elder brothers.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Actually, the most helpful piece of advice I’ve ever been given was in fact a question. Frank Ludlow, Director of the International Aeon Award, asked, ‘Would you like to train as a Submissions Reader?’ after I’d been long-listed for the award twice. Since then, I’ve read some amazing stories for the Aeon Award and learnt an awful lot about what makes a successful story work. I also get to see the comments from other readers during the discussion phase about whether to put a story on the longlist, and I get to see which stories from the longlist were then most successful in the hands of the judges. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for me to grow as a writer.
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 just don’t work out for writing! On the basis that it’s easier to start afresh tomorrow than to undo the failed work of yesterday, I sometimes just get on with something else instead. Writing is about much more than just putting pen to paper to create fiction, so there’s always something useful that can be done, from adding more followers on Twitter, to seeing what others are reading or reviewing, to doing research. One way or another, a writer is always busy and sometimes it doesn’t matter so much if the creative side of the brain just won’t kick into gear.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
I love travel, but the place I’d most like to visit via time travel is actually the house we live in. Despite being two hundred years old we don’t have any ghosts. One of our friends lives in a house that is nearly seven hundred years old and you can really feel the presence there, you know? But I’d like to meet the people who lived in our cottage in centuries past and learn a little more about their lives because, over hundreds of years, we’ve all inhabited the same physical space and called it home.
Bet that would make a great story, too!
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I read quite a bit of history to help support my fantasy writing. I’d actually recommend The Viking Achievement [by David M Wilson and Peter Foote]. It’s arranged thematically, with chapters about daily life, literature and so on. I read it when I was researching Dagmar of the Northlands and it gave me such a powerful glimpse into how they actually lived.
I’m also a big fan of the British Fifties Science Fiction writer John Wyndham. Some of his short fiction doesn’t get as much attention as novels like The Day of the Triffids or The Kraken Wakes, so I’d recommend Consider Her Ways and Other Stories.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
The best way to decide if an author’s work is for you is to get the chance to sample some so you can make up your own mind. I frequently have work published with ezines such as Schlock!, Sirens Call and Farther Stars Than These, all of which are free to download. My website also has a whole section of ‘Free Fiction’ including early chapters of all three novels and some short stories as well. There’s also a magnet work called The Red Dawn And Other Stories for free when you sign up to my quarterly newsletter at my website. Aspatria and Souls for the Master are free on Smashwords, so you can always give them a go and see what you think. The first 20% of Dagmar of the Northlands is free to download on Smashwords, and the early chapters are also available to read for free on my website. You can also read a sample of ‘Dagmar’ on Amazon before deciding to buy.
Brilliant! Thanks for joining us today, John, and good luck with the release of Dagmar of the Northlands!
John C. Adams is the author of ASPATRIA and DAGMAR OF THE NORTHLANDS, both available now.