Welcome to A J Dalton
Where are you from and where do you live now? From Croydon, now living in Manchester, UK. I also live online a lot. My website is www.ajdalton.eu, which is a portal for those who like fantasy, and which gives plenty of advice and steer to aspiring authors. And I’m on facebook and twitter, blah blah.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I’m the UK’s leading author of metaphysical fantasy, mainly cos all the other writers are dead. It wasn’t me. I wrote the first new-wave zombie book back in 2008, called Necromancer’s Gambit. I then did a trilogy for Gollancz, starting with Empire of the Saviours, which sold very well in Germany for some reason (they either have good taste or no taste). Now, I’m doing a trilogy for Grimbold Books: The Book of Orm (2015), The Book of Angels (2016), and The Book of Dragons (2017).
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? My fantasy novels tend to be second-world and psychological, so I don’t need to do much research. Mind you, I’ve taught English all round the world, and other cultures definitely influence my writing. I’ve also learnt a number of martial arts – I’m one of your better authors when it comes to writing a bloody fight scene. But the only book I’ve ever done historical research for is ‘I Am a Small God’, because it’s about a minor Greek god who survives through different eras – so I had to get human historical details right. I don’t enjoy researching that much, as it slows down the writing. Unlike Hilary Mantel, I prefer the writing to the research.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book? Yes, a number of philosophical themes, including the impossibility of true freedom. I actually coined the sub-genre of ‘metaphysical fantasy’, which is now a category of fiction within the Amazon website.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I self-edit because I’ve been an English language teacher for like 20 years. I have better grammar and punctuation than anyone my publishers can supply. BUT I do use a reading group to spot typos and continuity errors – and they give me emotional support too (very important during long winters).
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? Yes. There is a (false) idea that self-published work is inferior to stuff published by the mainstream. This idea is wrong, and probably an idea put round by those with a commercial agenda. Basically, publishers reject commercial-standard manuscripts on a daily basis simply because the publishers (falsely) believe the market is only looking for certain things. Look at Marlon James (Booker Prize Winner) – his books were rejected by everyone. Charlaine Harris’s True Blood series was rejected by every single publisher until vampire fiction was suddenly fashionable again.
What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? I think authors should be able to comment on reviews, especially reviews that are unfair. BUT that’s not how things work, I’m afraid. Any author commenting on a review gets accused of silencing free speech, etc. It’s a shame.
What are your views on authors reviewing other authors? Ha. Authors are often very enthusiastic about the genre in which they write. They’re readers too. They often want to share their enthusiasm. BUT if the review isn’t entirely positive, the reviewing author will suddenly find their own books start getting reviews that aren’t entirely positive too. Tit for tat. It’s a shame.
What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? Well, F. R. Leavis said a book was ‘active entertainment’ but a movie was ‘passive entertainment’. I tend to agree. A book makes you work harder than a movie. But a book and a movie serve different functions. They both have their strengths.
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?
- Develop your selling skills – cos writing it is far easier than selling it
- Ignore feedback unless you’re getting similar feedback from a range of readers
- Learn to master narrative perspective and avoid ‘intrusive author voice’ – if you’re not sure what that means, check my short essay and the cited examples in Art of the Novel, by Salt Publishing.
Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? My guilty pleasure is Gotrek and Felix, by the Black Library. Very strong characters, with well constructed moral dilemmas, and good fight scenes.
What are your views on authors offering free books? If an author has a range of titles, then giving one away for free can win you readers for your other titles. Look, authors make very little money as it is, so we’re not doing any of this to make money really. We’re doing this cos we have something we want to share with people. Giving away a few books never really hurt. And if the person who got the free copy passes it on, they’ll help recruit new readers for you and your other titles.
Do you have a favourite movie? Rollerball, James Caan. The individual fighting the world… and winning.