Author Spotlight: Andrew Watson (HARBINGER OF JUSTICE)
Andrew Watson lives on the outskirts of Edinburgh where he rambles about made up people and places. He has a first class degree in Digital Media from Edinburgh Napier University and currently works as a freelance video editor. His debut dark fantasy novel, Harbinger of Justice, releases on the 9th June 2023. Andrew can also be found on YouTube and Instagram where he jumps around excitedly shouting about books.
Let’s start with the basics: tell us about Harbinger of Justice – why should readers check it out?
Hi Fantasy Hive! Thanks for having me!
Harbinger of Justice is the first book in the Shadowbinders trilogy. It follows the journey of two characters: Nya, a young girl living on the streets, stealing to survive and caring for her sick mother. And Rai, a mercenary that has a dark past and a snarky creature living in his shadow called Fax. This is a dark epic fantasy trilogy taking place on a desert continent. It has ruined cities, shadow magic, blood magic, ancient gods, and goats. It’s a character driven story that touches on themes of mental health and justice. It’s my debut book and I’m so excited to be able to share it!
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!
Writing is a chaotic process. I like to have a rough outline with all the major plot beats, as well as notes for character arcs. I need to know roughly where I’m guiding the ship, but the world building, side characters, and scenes are mainly discovery written with the first draft and honed in editing. It’s an iterative process where each draft I try to focus on one thing. Then I throw my ramblings at anyone who is willing to read it and cross my fingers that it somewhat makes sense.
I usually write in silence in the morning but with music in the afternoons. I’m not sure why but that’s the habit that I’ve formed. For Harbinger of Justice, I listened to a lot of Polyphia. It doesn’t match the tone but their music is great!
Speaking of worlds, what inspires your worldbuilding or setting? Can you tell us a bit about it?
I pulled inspiration from all over the place for this world! The idea of tarps being pulled over city streets was something I saw in Spain. The offerings for gods left outside of buildings was something I saw in Bali, known as canang sari. But the main inspiration was ancient Egypt. It’s such a fascinating mythology and part of history. It is a wholly new world and mythos but there is a lot of inspiration taken from ancient Egypt. I’ve always loved a desert setting and the ancient mysteries that come with that type of world.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
Brandon Sanderson was what brought me back into reading as an adult and I’ve devoured most of his books since. I love the scale, depth, and quirks to the world building and how it all ties into the narrative. He’s a huge influence to my work. More recently, Chris Wooding’s Darkwater Legacy books have played a part in my writing. His prose style is beautiful and so smooth to read. I love the lyrical nature of it without it being overly metaphorical.
As for working with creators, I was unbelievably lucky to work with the two I wanted with this book. Felix Ortiz is the cover artist and I adore his work and think he did a terrific job with the cover. Also Sarah Chorn edited this book for me, and she is an unbelievably talented editor. I had seen both of them in interviews after finding them through their previous work and thought, “how cool would it be to work with them?” And now I can say I’ve worked with both.
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?
Editing constantly slingshots between, “I love this! Writing is the best!” to “I must burn this story and never admit to having written it.” Fixing up a first draft isn’t a lot of fun but as it smooths out and the story that you wanted to tell starts to shine through, it can be a satisfying experience. Then you’re launched back into the stress when you realise you’re coming to the end and it needs to be as good as you can get it.
Luckily, I worked with one of the best editors and Sarah helped bring out the story I wanted to tell, and made sure I didn’t keep the obscure Scottish slang that snuck in. I thought it was a common phrase…
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray?
I watched an interview with Felix Ortiz before working with him where he talked about liking to have some creative freedom, which was exactly what I wanted from an artist because I had no idea what I wanted for this cover. I knew I wanted it to be a warm colour palette to reflect the desert setting but that was it. So I sent Felix a bunch of information about the book and some snippets, then he sent back a couple different compositional sketches. And once we settled on one, he worked his magic!
Can you tell us a bit more about your characters? Do you have a favourite type of character you enjoy writing?
Originally this book focused on Rai. He is the dark brooding type and Fax, the creature living in his shadow, teases him which is a fun dynamic to write. But it wasn’t until I was writing the first draft that I realised this was Nya’s story and not his. She goes through so much throughout this story and I loved exploring themes of mental health and grief with her character.
However, my favourite to write was a side character called Kit. He wasn’t even in the first outline but snuck his way into a couple POV chapters. His cynical, sarcastic attitude makes writing in his voice so much fun.
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?
I want to say reading but I think that might be a cop out answer. I love to run and go on walks up the hills where I live. I also like to play guitar and I find a lot of my ideas come when playing. Then I’d finish the day off by kicking my feet up and either playing Nintendo Switch or watching TV.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
Part of me would love to ride into battle on the back of a giant wolf, sword swinging and decapitating my enemies while laughing maniacally. But realistically riding a dragon would be more devastating for the enemy forces, and I think I’d be a lot safer up in the air and away from the battle. But I would still be laughing maniacally, of course.
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
Oh boy. So many. Recently, the Darkwater Legacy by Chris Wooding, starting with The Ember Blade, that I mentioned earlier is terrific. It’s a modernised classic fantasy that captures that magic and wonder that I felt reading the classics. The character work is phenomenal and it’s such an immersive read that I didn’t want it to end. Also, I would be amiss to not mention Flames of Mira by Clay Harmon. I read it last year and the setting is really creative. A society living underground in tunnels and caverns clinging close to lava because the surface is uninhabitably cold. And the character relationships are fascinating.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share?
As soon as Harbinger of Justice is finished I’ll be starting book 2! I’m so excited to continue this story. I’m also weighing up writing a novella based in the same world but we shall see.
Are you planning anything fun to celebrate your new release? Do you have any upcoming virtual events our readers may be interested in?
Does a Lord of the Rings rewatch count? I also think a nice dinner and a couple beers is in order.
I’m hoping to do more virtual events over the summer but nothing announced yet! However, you can find me on YouTube and Instagram shouting about books most days.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
I hope that readers lay down the book having had a good time. And that, just for a moment, they could believe that there are other worlds out there, where ancient mysteries are waiting to be stumbled upon, where adventures can sweep anyone away to unexplored lands, and I hope they believe, if only for a moment, that magic is out there if one is brave enough to search for it.
Pre-order for Harbinger of Justice coming soon – find out more here