I’m honored to have had the opportunity to interview the wonderfully talented Mr. Thaddeus White before his new book, Crown of Blood, comes out on April 6th. If you’re unfamiliar with Thaddeus White, I can honestly say you need to rectify that problem. His books are wonderful, engaging, and the writing superb.
For the next few days and the first two weeks after publication, you have the opportunity to purchase his new release for a mere $2.99US. Below are convenient links for preordering and purchasing:
Without further ado …
What kind of research did you do for Crown of Blood?
Mostly I looked at historical sources to try and avoid blatant howlers when it comes to an approximately medieval world. One thing I was particularly worried about (for events around Carnmel Castle in Kingdom Asunder, the first book) was getting the brutality/merciful angle wrong. A book I found which helped a lot with that was By Sword and Fire, by Sean McGlynn, which looks at the morality of the Middle Ages in warfare (grim reading in place, as you’d expect). That helped inform an interesting conversation in the first book about whether erstwhile enemies who surrendered should be forgive and spared, or executed.
Other books about the Hundred Years’ War (by Philippe Contamine and Christopher Allmand) were also useful, and a great everyday history I highly recommend is Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England.
Did you hide any secrets in The Bloody Crown Trilogy that only a few people will find?
Well… if I did and then told you, they wouldn’t be secrets any more, would they? That said, there’s one thing which does not have any bearing on the story, but is implied, relating to the past of one character (a POV character from all three books). Those who’ve read Bane of Souls, or Journey to Altmortis, will probably make the connection without too much difficulty.
What was the hardest scene to write in Crown of Blood?
I can’t say. I know the answer, but if I tell you it’d be a spoiler, so…
What do you think makes this a good story?
I’m not sure it is. I mean, the battles are pretty exciting, but apart from that, and the rising tension within each faction as treachery rears its ugly head, there’s not much to enjoy. Just the battles and scheming. And the plot twists, of course. There are a few early on, and a fantastic one (the author wrote, modestly) towards the end which I really rather like. But apart from the battles, scheming, plot twists and the character development as we see long-term protagonists try and come to terms with potential defeat and cling on for victory, even though it’s come at a high price, there’s nothing much. Except the cover.
But other than the battles, scheming, twisting plot, characters and a nice cover there’s not much to enjoy really.
Were there alternate endings you considered?
Yes. Up until about 80-85% of the way in any fiddling was pretty minor, but I had a couple of potential endings in mind, and initially wrote a completely different one. The ending I went with felt like it fit the story better.
[As an aside, I also changed the ending of Kingdom Asunder, the trilogy’s first book, and then ended up changing it back to the original version].
If Sophie Hurstwood could be any animal in the world, what animal would she be and why?
Ages ago in a wildlife documentary I saw astonishing nocturnal footage of a mother leopard protecting her cub from a bear. The bear was massive, far larger than the leopard, but the cat wouldn’t leave her offspring and even attacked the bear, driving it off. That sort of tenacity, and loyalty to family perhaps beyond what might be considered pragmatic, is what I think of when I think of Sophie. She has a lot of bad luck to deal with, but she isn’t a quitter.
What was William Penmere like as a child?
Spoilt, and quite lonely. Not only had his mother died a long time ago, he lost his father when he was about seven, and his older brothers around the same time. He’d gone from being the spare of the spare to the heir, and then the king (albeit with his uncle, John Esden, governing the kingdom) in a short space of time. Pretty hard for servants to keep an impulsive, overly confident boy, who’s also their king, in check. Karena’s barbs and force of personality was, along with John Esden, the only thing that could make the younger William stop and think.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Bane of Souls came out a long time ago now, but, as with most things, when you do it for the first time you make rookie errors, so simply the process of gaining that experience makes things run more smoothly next time.
On a technical level, you learn what formatting woe can occur if you do X and Y rather than Z. More creatively, it becomes clearer what level of planning is right for a given writer (it varies a lot from writer to writer). Generally, I like to sketch out broad chapter outlines, to keep the central storyline consistent whilst allowing a good degree of flexibility in individual chapters. Any more than that feels like micro-managing and putting the writing into too much of a straitjacket.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Just one. Sir Edric and the Corpse Lord is mostly finished, I’m currently polishing off the beta-reading stage and then need to get the proofreading and cover done. Otherwise, it’s there, and hopefully out later this year.
What is your favorite childhood book?
Very tricky to narrow it down to one. I loved the Kershaw Sonic the Hedgehog books, which introduced me to time travel paradoxes and transmogrification, and Animal Farm, for less jolly reasons. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was another childhood favourite. But perhaps the two that stick in my mind from earlier are The Five Minute Storybook (may’ve gotten the title slightly wrong, it featured the Hollybush Knights) and Richard Scarry’s Picture Dictionary.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Varies wildly from a Sir Edric novel, which can be written in 2-3 months (plus beta-reading/proofreading time), to a trilogy novel, which has probably averaged about 12-18 months. Multiple POVs make things more complicated, and writing books as part of a trilogy requires a good idea of where everything’s going over both a book and the series, plus arcs that can be resolved within one, two, and three books.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
When I’m editing I make simple changes immediately and leave myself notes, often intensely sarcastic/brutal, for more difficult changes to be made later. Once, brilliantly, I sent a chapter for beta-reading with the notes still in there. The beta-reader was quite amused.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Including just novels, it’s about eight. I have a soft spot for Journey to Altmortis. The tighter focus works, and tying together the various stories at the end meant the second half of the book has great pace. Plus Roger the Goat was a fun character to write. He’s simultaneously useful and reprehensible.
For you, what is the hardest thing about writing?
Proofreading comedy. The final check of any book is very difficult, but comedy has the additional problem of coming after you’ve read the whole thing perhaps eight times (across the editing and beta-reading stages). By the time the proofread trundles around, almost none of the jokes seem funny any more, so you reach the end of the book having smiled thrice and laughed once and have no idea whether the comedy’s up to scratch.
What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?
Writing obnoxious, wealthy men who are full of themselves and rather cynical. Sir Edric as a character came about partly because I found Captain Urquhart so naturally easy to write in Bane of Souls.
What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research online for your book?
Reptile eggs. For one book, dragon eggs feature and I wanted to find out if reptile eggs, particularly of large reptiles like Komodo dragons, were different to bird eggs (in colouring or smell or something like that). During that research I discovered Komodo dragons are capable of parthenogenesis (virgin birth), and a lady dragon that ends up on an island by herself can still have a brood of little reptiles.
If you were deserted on an island, which two people would you want to have with you? Why? Criteria:
One fictional character from your book
Cheating magnificently, I would have Aurelian, of whom we only see glimpses of in The Bloody Crown Trilogy, as he can turn into a dragon, and I could hitch a ride.
One fictional character from any other book
Tempted to go with Kaladin, from the Stormlight Archives (by Brandon Sanderson), on a similar basis… I’m not fond of the sun, or heat, and would really prefer to escape
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
After Crown of Blood I’ll be finishing off Sir Edric and the Corpse Lord, the latest in the comedic adventures of the eponymous knight. No idea of a specific release date but I’m hoping to get it out later this year.
If you haven’t yet, get your hands on this trilogy!!