Mitchell Hogan on Crucible of Souls: interview

Ah, Twitter. The giver of all things like letting me know when my favourite store — Galaxy Books — is holding a book launch for an epic title and award-winning author — Mitchell Hogan and the release of Crucible of Souls. Of course, I was on deadline and couldn’t get away to the event on time. Dammit.

I then spent way too many days kicking myself for missing Mitchell’s launch, until I finally plucked up the courage to email him about an interview — and voila, he was kind enough to fit me in while travelling around Australia promoting the book.

So, about the book — Crucible of Souls is the second thing Mitchell ever wrote as he’ll tell you below. It’s a traditional epic fantasy, that Mitchell self published. Then sales took off, he won an Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2013, and Harper Voyager snapped up his trilogy.

Book 2, Blood of Innocents, will be out in January 2016 and in August/September 2016 book 3 will be released.

Read on to learn about Crucible of Souls and how this book came to be.

Mitchell, what was the first thing you ever wrote? And why did you begin to write?

A long time ago when I was at university I wrote a page or two which had old, evil wizards (with long beards), dressed in black, living in a tower…and it was so bad I deleted it straightaway. Fortunately, the second thing I decided to write was A Crucible of Souls! I kept coming up with characters and scenes I thought would be interesting, so one day I decided to try my hand again at writing. My dream wasn’t to be published, only to finish the book I wanted to write.

What sort of fantasy reader are you? Who are the authors you read?

I love epic fantasy. My favourite authors will be obvious: George RR Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, Janny Wurts, Robin Hobb, Robert Jordan, Glenn Cook, David Gemmel, R Scott Bakker… there are too many to mention!

What is it about the genre that drew you in as a writer?

I want to immerse myself in a detailed and interesting world. And with epic fantasy the world, culture, magic system and settings are as important as the characters. Along with the fact the stakes are usually high – the conflicts and issues are larger than life. The world must be in danger!

Tell us how the idea for the Sorcery Ascendant series began?

I started out with ideas for characters and certain scenes I thought were interesting. Then I came up with an overarching plot to tie them all together. I actually think I tried to do too much for a first book! I put everything in it as I thought it would be the only book I ever wrote.

What was the most difficult thing about writing a character like Caldan? Or was he the easiest part of the book?

Caldan was both easy and hard to write. Some scenes flowed without a problem, for example when he develops his sorcerous skills, while others were extremely difficult. It was tough as a new writer to find a balance for him as he is intelligent and talented, while at the same time callow and naive.

I’ve read that a villain is what makes the hero a hero – did you find this case?

I don’t think so, though I love a good villain! To me what makes a hero is sacrifice (giving something up to help others), making hard decisions and acting on them, working hard, and overcoming previous failures to finally come through at the end. Villains are great for giving your hero stumbling blocks along the way and to ratchet up the tension, and provide a focus – but (dare I say it…) they aren’t essential. I think a great example is Menolly in Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall trilogy – she is a hero but there’s no villain.

Tell us about worldbuilding – Caldan’s world sounds immense and detailed – how did you approach that?

Slowly! With each scene I wrote I added details and the world became more complex. The only part I detailed in advance was my magic system and some of the history of the world. From there ideas kept coming to me as I wrote and it expanded.

How do you bring something new or different to a genre like fantasy?

All authors bring many new things to fantasy, since each has their own world (or multiple worlds), their own magic systems and characters. Even magic systems that have been around for a while can be made to feel fresh and new with an author’s unique spin on them. As I said earlier about epic fantasy: the world, culture, settings and magic system are as important as the characters – so there’s a lot of room to play around with!

I’ve read that you decided to self-publish the first book in the series – looking back, what did you wish you knew before beginning the process?

I wish I knew more about the business of writing, which is something you really need to know about as an author. If you want to make a living from your work, writing isn’t enough. You’re essentially a small business operator trying to make money from your intellectual property. Write for yourself, or your partner, or for whatever reason, but publishing is a business and you need to understand it to make well reasoned decisions.

What’s next for you?

The sequel to A Crucible of Souls, Blood of Innocents, comes out in January 2016 (February for US/UK readers). The third book (tentatively titled A Shattered Empire) has already been delivered to Harper Voyager and will be released in August/September 2016. I’ve also just published a sci-fi space opera novel, Inquisitor. And now I’m writing a stand alone epic fantasy set in a different world, while coming up with ideas for another series set in the same world as A Crucible of Souls.

Will Crucible of Souls be on your reading list? You can buy the book here.

What do you think of Mitchell’s path to success: self-publishing and then traditional publishing? Find out more about Mitchell here.

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