Interview with Kai Greenwood (DEEP’S END)
Kai Greenwood is an acclaimed author of epic fantasy, and semi-finalist in the SPFBO 2020 Fantasy Awards.
For the last twenty years Greenwood has lived and worked within a stone’s throw of J.R.R. Tolkien’s childhood home in the Midlands of England. Greenwood’s work is full of compelling characters and thrilling action set against a backdrop of myth, ancient forests, and misty ruins.
As well as classic influences of Alan Garner, Le Guin and Tolkien, Greenwood’s work has a modern edge comparable in style to Jen Williams’ Winnowing Flame trilogy, Joe Abercrombie and Adrian Tchaikovsky
Welcome to the Hive, Kai. Let’s start with the basics: tell us about Deep’s End – why should readers check it out? And can those who haven’t read Code of the Communer still dive right in?
Deep’s End is set in a small community on the edge of a forbidden forest. Derwa is the last member of an ancient order tasked with protecting the town, but time has moved on around her, and the townsfolk have forgotten how dangerous it is in the depths of Pol Desper. It’s a book about duty, parenthood, age… and monsters.
This is a standalone story set in the same world as Code of the Communer, but there’s no need to read the earlier book.
Tell us a little something about your writing process – do you have a certain method? Do you find music helps? Give us a glimpse into your world!
The old adage of writing every day is pretty essential if you want to complete a novel in your own lifetime, so I try to stick to that. When I need to get focussed straight away I put on headphones and stream the LOTR movie soundtracks, or the LOTR Online game soundtrack. Both get me in the writing mood.
The Lord of the Rings soundtrack is perfect background music for anything really! Does the music inspire you in any way? Do certain tracks work better for when you’re writing particular scenes?
I do have a ‘relaxing LOTR’ playlist that avoids the louder tracks. ‘Days of the Ring’ is perfect at any time. 🙂
And Speaking of worlds, both of your novels are set in a forest setting, what inspired your worldbuilding? Can you tell us about the fantasy elements within your world?
We are creatures of our environment and most of our history has been spent amongst the trees and scrub. The Wildwood is inside us, lurking in our ancestral memory. I believe that’s why we’re endlessly fascinated by stories of ancient, forbidding forests.
I’m also very interested in the roots of myths. The half-forgotten myth in this book is that human characteristics originally came from one of three deities. So for example, the human quality of communication comes from the Birth Goddess Naté and manifests as a disembodied voice beneath a chalk hill that can speak in any language. Similarly, some people and creatures are affiliated with the Witch Goddess Rûk and have inherited negative traits from Her.
The three deities (roughly equating to human concepts of good, bad and chaos) constantly vie for dominance, leading to periods of history which are calm, and periods where one force or another dominates.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy/sci-fi influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
Tolkien of course! 😀
In terms of living creators I would love to work with Alan Lee who illustrates lots of Tolkien’s books. I’d like to see what he would do with some of the creatures and landscapes in Deep’s End.
That would be fantastic to see. Are there any particular scenes or characters you’d like to see illustrated? How would you envisage them?
From Code of the Communer, I’d like to see the White Isles, which are seven man-made hills of chalk in a black lake where Caida was besieged by goblins. I’ve tried drawing it a few times but I don’t have the skill!
We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
I find it quite relaxing to be honest.
That’s unusual to hear!
I hit the occasional sticky part, but for me that is just my brain telling me that something doesn’t work and should be changed. I tend to trust my instincts.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover and we’re so impressed you made yours! How much do you enjoy the design process and are there any parts you found stressful?
Thanks so much! I do enjoy creating the covers, especially bringing the physical art into photoshop and enhancing it. It’s time-consuming, but satisfying.
How long on average does it take you?
I guess about nine or ten hours in total, but I tend to chip away at it over a couple of weeks.
Can you tell us a bit more about your characters? Was Derwa always planned to be so pissed off at everything, or did that naturally emerge as you began writing?! Considering there’s so much mystery around Lukas’ character, was it easy to write his narrative arc or did you encounter any difficulties?
Deep’s End was originally going to be told from Lukas’s POV, but Derwa showed up and kind of took over (as she would in real life.) Also, Lukas begins the story with no memory, and that was really hard to write.
In terms of the two main characters and their personalities, Lukas is an innocent at the beginning, not knowing where he’s from, but he experiences flashes of memory that gradually reveal more of his background and what he experienced in the Deepwood. He’s a strong individual, with an inner moral compass, which is how he survived alone for so long.
Derwa on the other hand has lived by an external moral code, passed down by generations, and some of her anger comes from the repressed conflict this has caused in her. For example, she has a bad relationship with her daughter mainly because Elestren won’t follow the same code.
Part of the story, as they battle through the Deepwood together, is them coming to terms with their true purposes in life.
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?
If the world shifted me a little bit towards the Caribbean I would probably spend it in the sea, snorkelling, and drinking rum cocktails.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
I would definitely ride Yoda into battle. Expect that, they would not.
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
There’s a strange little book called Ape’s Face by Marion Fox, about a writer who stays in the Wiltshire countryside at the turn of the century. It’s incredibly atmospheric and weird, with prehistory leaking through to the present. Worth a look if you can find it.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share?
I am planning to revise Books 2 and 3 of the Shadows in the Wildwood series, which are the direct sequels to Code of the Communer, and carry on Caida’s story. I have good drafts of both, but decided to write a standalone before releasing them.
Are you planning anything fun to celebrate your new release? Do you have any upcoming virtual events our readers may be interested in?
I may have a crafty ale to celebrate!
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
Fantasy is all about escapism, so I hope readers feel like they have been able to escape to the wilds for a while when they read my books.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Deep’s End is out May 1st and is available HERE