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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Author Interview: fantasy novelist A.J. Walker

I've decided to take a note from uber-blogger Alex Cavanaugh and announce new releases from my followers. If you've been reading my blogs for a while, you'll recognize the name of writer and medievalist A.J. Walker. I've done guest posts for him on such subjects as medieval weapons in the Civil War. He's returned the favor by writing a very popular guest post on leather armor. Now he has a fantasy novel out called Hard Winter and he's joined us to talk about it.

Hi A.J.! First, give us the skinny on Hard Winter.

Hi Sean! Thanks for having me. Hard Winter is the first book in the Timeless Empire series of military fantasy novels. The best summary I can give you is the blurb.

His past has been erased, his future is uncertain, but he knows one thing—in the coming revolution he must choose which friend to support and which to betray.

The Dragonkin have ruled the human race for centuries, but now the eastern territories have broken away and a blight has left thousands of humans destitute. Assassinations and riots plague the cities.

While the empire’s future is in peril, one man struggles to reclaim his past. Recorro lost his wife to the Gatherers, shadowy beings that prowl the streets on moonless nights. Those who witness their passing are forever changed. Recorro can remember nothing about his wife beyond the fact that she existed.

Aimless and struggling with despair, Recorro joins the army gathering to crush the rebels. What he discovers there may answer all his questions, and topple the empire he swore to uphold.

Military fantasy? Tell us more about that subgenre.

Military fantasy isn't a term that's used much, although many books fit into the category. One of my main influences is Glen Cook's Black Company series, especially the grittier early novels where it's a bunch of soldiers just trying to survive. The later books get a bit more elaborate and political. I prefer the common man's view. The same with the Thieves World series. It started out with thieves doing what thieves do, and turned into world-shaking politics. I'm not knocking the later numbers of either series, I just prefer the earlier ones.

Military fantasy is the experience of soldiers in a fantasy setting. Dealing with how magic affects strategy and tactics is a lot of fun and requires some serious thought.

Give us some examples.

In the world of Hard Winter, low-powered magic is fairly common but restricted by harsh laws. Commoners can learn healing, agromancy (to increase crop yield) and some basic utilitarian spells like creating light, but that's it. Lethal spells can only be learned by the police and battlemages. The secrets to these spells are jealously guarded. Some battlemages are very powerful indeed. The Dragonkin ruling class, which are dragon-human hybrids, are even more powerful but their numbers are few.

Ironically, battlemages from opposing armies end up fighting each other most of the time, leaving the infantry to slug it out more or less on their own. The balance only gets tipped when there's a significant difference in the number of battlemages. It's like modern war--missiles and jet fighters are great, but even with situations of grossly uneven technology like the U.S. versus the Taliban, the bulk of the real fighting still has to be done by the poor grunts on the ground.

One thing that caught my notice is that you set this novel is a land reminiscent of medieval Spain.

Yes, we've talked about that privately before. Many fantasy novels are set in worlds that have the feel of medieval England or France. I wanted something slightly different. I didn't play up the Spanish angle too much, but several of my beta readers said it felt very Spanish. Strange since at the time I wrote it I hadn't even visited Spain!

I prefer novels set in slightly unusual settings. Your Civil War story, for example, is set in Missouri, which you don't hear much about. I'd love to read novels set in the Bulgarian Empire or ancient Korea. The past is so rich and most writers keep mining the same veins.

Where can you find Hard Winter? And what are the plans for the series?

Hard Winter is already available on the Amazon Kindle U.S. store and should be up on the other Amazons by the end of the weekend. I'm uploading it to Smashwords and their distribution will put it on Barnes & Noble, the Apple store, and other venues.

The next book in the Timeless Empire series, At the Gates, will come out in July. The third book will come out by the end of the year. Print editions are also on the way.

Thanks for dropping by, A.J., and best of luck to you!

(Are you one of my followers/online buddies? Have you just come out with a book that at least somewhat vaguely jives with the content of this blog? Drop me a line and I'd be happy to post it.)


  1. Thanks again for having me Sean!

  2. True, most fantasy does have an English feel or setting.
    Good luck, AJ!

  3. Hi Sean,
    How generous of you to help out a fellow writer on your blog!
    The military fantasy genre is new to me. Good luck with your book, AJ.

  4. Thanks for the kinds wishes, Alex and Donna!


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