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Law and Hard Fantasy Interview Series: Mark Lawrence

I’ve sporadically run an interview series with fantasy authors who generally write in the burgeoning genre of gritty / hard / dark epic fantasy.  (I’m, obviously, a fan.)  The series began with this book review post, continued with interviews of George R. R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss.  The series continues today as I interview Mark Lawrence.  Mark is the author of the Broken Empire trilogy, and the forthcoming Red Queen’s War.  His work has been lauded on both sides of the Atlantic (Mark was raised in the U.K., where he works as a research scientist).  He was gracious enough to respond to my email queries, which follow:

DH: Briefly for non-readers, can you introduce us to Jorg & the Broken Empire Series? What makes it different from other series on the shelves? ML:  The Broken Empire trilogy is related by Jorg Ancrath, seen through his eyes. Over the course of the books we see him at various points between age six and twenty watching him grow from a violent, charming and amoral child into a violent, charming and amoral young man. The primary element that makes the books unusual is that Jorg isn’t any kind of hero and in most fiction he would be the villain. DH:   You’ve said in another interview that you ”didn’t outline anything. I don’t plan. I just let the story flow as I write and generally have no idea where we’ll be at the bottom of the page.” Did that extend to the rules that governed the world (magic / commerce / time period)? ML: Yes, everything was a revelation. It’s fun to write that way – I lack motivation when I know what’s coming. DH: What do you think the movement toward gritty & researched realism in fantasy world building?  To rephrase: does it add to the value of a book that the author has worked out the distribution network for grain in each major city?  ML: I didn’t know people put those things together. I’ve heard people say books are getting more ‘gritty’, meaning more violent and less stylised in general. The realism there might be in terms of warrior not shrugging off their wounds and being fine the next day etc.  Researched realism and detailed city/country mechanics are not something I was aware of a movement toward. To me nothing is added by, for example, the author working out a grain distribution network. I’m interested in story and character, not mechanics. DH:  Many recent fantasy series, including yours, contrast a current age of violence with a ancient era of peace and civilizing empire. But some parts of civilization appear to survive in your books, particularly the method of selecting the emperor.  What kind of laws and traditions do you think survive the collapse of empire? Which would survive the collapse of ours? ML: I’m not sure I make that contrast. Nobody accuses the Builders (the ancient civilisation in my work) of being peaceful – simply more advanced… until they wrought their own ruin with weapons of...

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