Welcome to Matthew Olney and the first interview of 2016.
Where are you from and where do you live now? I was born and raised in Cornwall but now live in Bristol with my fiancée where I work as a copywriter.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I have dabbled in several different genres over the years. The first book I ever wrote was a science fiction (which I have since redone and re-released on kindle). After that I tried my hand at historical fiction before giving fantasy a shot. I self published Heir to the Sundered Crown in 2014 and it took me by surprise at how well it did. It reached the top 10 in the US and UK Kindle fantasy charts in August of 2014, I always say that my greatest writing achievement so far is that for a week I outsold Game of Thrones! The second book in the Sundered Crown Saga, War for the Sundered Crown was released in November 2015.
Where do you find inspiration? I have always had a pretty active imagination but I would have to say that I find most of my inspiration from history and videogames. I have always been a fan of history as the stories from our past are often more epic than fiction.
Do you have a favourite character? If so why? My favourite character in my Sundered Crown Saga is Ferran of BlackMoor. He is cool and calculating as well as being a bit of a softy at heart. The fact that he is a magic wielding monster slayer also adds to his cool factor.
Do you have a character you dislike? If so why? I don’t dislike any of my own characters, even the villains as they are often the most fun to write.
Are your characters based on real people? Some are. I take peoples characteristics and sometimes put them into a character.
Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? Ha, no not intentionally…
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? I love world building. By making a world that seems alive puts a reader deeper into the story. For map making I use Campaign Cartographer and as for research again I turn to history and religious texts as these contain great stories that I can base my own world upon. I particularly enjoyed writing the worlds creation story as well as making timelines charting key events from the past.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book? I think the message I try to put across is that persistence can lead to both great and terrible things. For example the villain has for thousands of years kept trying to have his way, and the hero never gives up despite the trials he faces. As for how important it is for the book, it will be important as the series progresses.
Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…) Great characters as you need interesting heroes and villains to keep a reader interested. If they don’t care for the hero then why bother reading? A solid plot is vital to keep the reader craving more. Great world building as if it is not believable it will break the immersion. Finally technically perfect. I don’t believe anything can ever be perfect, but it should be of a quality that does not ruin the story for a reader.
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason?Currently the Sundered Crown Saga is available as both E-book and paperback. I would love to turn them into audio books someday too.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? When first starting out I self edited and quickly realised that I was pretty bad at it. Thankfully I am now a member of Firebound Books a small publisher created by me and three other writers. Rob May in particular is a legend and has helped me with editing. A book should always be read by more than one person as an individual always misses bits. Luckily with E-books anything that were missed the first time round can be fixed later a distinct advantage over print as even traditionally published books often have errors in them.
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? I think there is a bit of elitism to be honest. Those who have been traditionally published often think their works are better than those brave enough to go it alone. I have reads many books from both and a lot of the time it is hard to tell the difference.
Do you read work by self-published authors? All the time. I feel that traditional publishers these days seem afraid to take a chance on new writers and as a result some fantastic stories are missed. Self publishing gives those stories an outlet and I think the world is the richer because of it.
What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? At first I used to comment on reviews but now I don’t. Everyone is entitled to their opinion even they can come across sometimes as harsh or needlessly critical. Reviews are very important, every author wants to know what people think of their work.
When buying a book do you read the reviews? All the time.
What are your reviews on authors reviewing other authors? If the author has genuinely read the book then I see no harm in it as long as the author doing the review understands that every author has their own way of doing things.
What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? A book can provide so much more detail than a movie and allows a reader to use their imaginations. I write as though the reader is playing the story as a movie in their mind. Video games I think can be an excellent way of telling a story. I recently just finished the Witcher 3 and man was that a great tale.
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? 1 – Make sure to make time to write even if it’s just a few words a day. 2 – Learn from your mistakes and listen do not be disheartened by critics, learn from them. 3 – Get the story down first before worrying about editing, without the story there is nothing worth editing anyway.
What are your best marketing/networking tips? What are your worst?Take advantage of social media and contact other writers for advice. Paying for adverts can be very hit and miss so do your research.
Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? I recently reread World War Z. Love it.
Can you name your favourite traditionally published author? And your favourite indie/self-published author? My fave traditionally published author is Bernard Cornwell. The way he writes history and battles in particular has been a big influence on me. My fave self-published author is my fellow Firebound writer Rob May. His Kal Moonheart trilogy is great fantasy.
What are your views on authors offering free books? It can be a good way to entice new readers but I feel an author should only give away short stories. We all have to make a living so why give away a book that took years to write for nothing?
Do you have a favourite movie? I am a massive Star Wars fan so Empire Strikes Back.
Do you have any pets? No.
Can you name your worst job? Do you think you learned anything from the position that you now use in your writing? Working in a supermarket and dealing with grumpy customers was a bit soul destroying. I did learn from it however and in some ways it inspired me to write.
Book links, website/blog and author links:
Heir to the Sundered Crown- http://authl.it/3hw?d
War for the Sundered Crown- http://geni.us/B015JPB310
Website – http://msolneyauthor.com/