Old Man’s Ghosts: An interview with Tom Lloyd

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Tom Lloyd is the author of the popular Twilight Reign fantasy series. His latest book is something new and Moon’s Artifice introduces a new world, characters and all sorts of new threats.

Geek Native was lucky enough to grab some of Tom’s time and put together a bunch of questions. We discover who his favourite characters in novel are and what might happen next.

How would you describe Moon’s Artifice to a prospective reader who has oodles of experience with fantasy settings, favourable to the genre but sceptical of any new series?

Well I’d suggest Moon isn’t your standard doorstop fantasy epic and if they want something a bit different to that, they’d be in luck. One of the reasons I wrote it was because I’d done the big, bloody western european medieval multi-book epic series, and it was time to try something else. Don’t get me wrong, I loved doing the Twilight Reign but after a decade with your head in that, you want to try something new.

So how would I describe it? A fantasy action thriller – a “hood and dagger” sub-genre of secondary world fantasy. It’s set in a city, spans just a few days and has a copper as main character not a soldier or teenage farmboy. Our man, Narin, finds himself thrown into a conspiracy that, because of his involvement, starts to boil over and run out of everyone’s control. Ably assisted by his worryingly-adept friend Enchei, a grieving young woman, Kesh, and one of the bad guys, Irato, he throws himself right into the fire and doesn’t look back. There’s a lot that’s familiar enough to the hardcore epic fans, but hopefully enough that’s different to spark their interest too.

How would you describe the book to someone who’s far more cautious about fantasy, demons and magic?

Erm, as a fantasy action thriller?! The Twilight Reign was a tough one for non-fantasy types. It takes practice in the genre to run various plot threads and factions in your head simultaneously, remember the major characters out of a cast list of hundreds, etc, but this one’s an easier prospect. We’ve got four main characters and a plot to uncover – plus an ending. There’s a follow up book coming later this year, but the Moon’s Artifice affair is a self-contained story. The basic thriller side is familiar enough to readers and they know they’re not stuck waiting for years to find out how it ends up.

You’ve created the Empire of a Hundred Houses but have you created each of the Houses and their relationships yet? Are there still some blanks to fill in?

Well – I have a spreadsheet of all hundred houses in their ten hegemony blocks, with physical characteristics for each noted down. When you’re talking about a hundred nations, there are always blanks to fill in, but I’d have caused myself so many headaches if I hadn’t written that much down at the outset. Likewise, there’s a map filed away that I check occasionally, though I’ve not drawn all the nations in – just marked out the Great House hegemonies so I can fill in the blanks as and when things come up.

Moon’s Artifice talks about a previous era and we visit buildings that were not built for mankind. How much of this backstory do you have planned out?

I’m not sure… which sounds odd, but some of it was co-opted from a story I’d not planned on having as part of the Empire series. But in the fashion of empires, the idea got conquered as part of Enchei’s backstory and there’s a certain amount there but I wanted to leave the sense of wonder about it. The information bleeds in over various books, but it felt right that some would just be left unknown. I have a framework in my head but I didn’t want to get caught up fleshing out details I wouldn’t be using – otherwise I’d be tempted to tell the reader all about it rather than focus on the book’s plot.

What happens next? Okay; just some teasers will suffice.

Well, the next book is called Old Man’s Ghosts, and it deals with Enchei’s backstory in part. It’s set six-odd months after Moon’s Artifice, and on top of Enchei’s past coming back to haunt him, the Lady Kine is about to give birth. Her castrated husband might therefore have a few nasty surprises for anyone involved.

Who’s your favourite character in Moon’s Artifice and why?

It has to be Enchei – mostly because I know much of his backstory and it’s kinda cool! I enjoy writing Kesh now I’ve got her voice right in my head, that was a tough one to develop but it’s panned out well I think, and if I get around to book 3 I think I’ll be having a whole lot of fun with Prince Kashte.

Are there any sources of inspiration for Moon’s Artifice? Any music you listened to while you were writing or ideas surfaced by TV shows and movies?

I conceived the idea a decade ago, to satisfy my rather teenagery samurai obsession. While I scaled that influence back because I didn’t want it to be pulled from any one place, with fox-spirits and caste systems it’s an Asian-inspired setting. I have a variety of music in my office that’s pretty much just for writing, ones like Ludovico Einaudi, Mogwai or Pink Floyd for those quieter scenes under the starlight of the gods, Anthrax, Metallica, Tool, Oceansize etc for the more urgent, more brutal scenes.

Would the world of Moon’s Artifice make for a good game setting? If so; would you trust a small games publisher to create the game this year (either for the computer or a tabltop game) or would you prefer to flesh out the world more?

Yeah, I think so. There’s a wide range of backgrounds to choose from – the ten hegemonies, the imperial household and the merchant houses – and a near-constant state of cold war between the major factions that provides plenty of scope for a variety of plots. At some point you’d have to trust someone to do a good job, but I’d want to flesh it out some more certainly. That’s a bit I enjoy; sketching out though so I can’t imagine any company would object to me taking a month to world-build and follow plot lines in my head. It could also be an interesting challenge to then incorporate what they did into the canon, to roll with the punches and see what new directions it takes you it!

What projects are you working on next?

Well that’s something I’ve not decided on really. I deliver Old Man’s Ghosts, the follow up, in a month or so, then I need to work out whether I want to do a third (current working title of The Army of Stolen Children, but only half a plot), pick up the heroic fantasy that’s been screaming for attention this last six months or pursue a zombie fantasy epic because, well, armies of zombies!

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