Interview mit/with James Barclay (Bilingual)

Scott Barclay-128 colour
James Barclay

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A few weeks ago I picked up a very nice idea for a blog-post over at Heldenwetter (Nr. 95).
So I just wrote mails to my two favourite authors… and I nearly freaked out, when both of them answered!!!

I’m really incredibly happy to present you an interview with James Barclay today – on World Book Day.
The second interview will follow ;)

DarkFairy: You can spend a day with one of your characters. Whom do you choose and why? What do you want to do?

James Barclay: This is a brilliant question and terribly hard to answer because I love so many of my characters and would kill to spend more time with them. So, on the shortlist… Paul Jhered from the Ascendants because behind his tough persona is a highly complex, intelligent and caring man with so much knowledge to impart; Hirad Coldheart, of course – the heartbeat of The Raven and a man who knows more about courage, loyalty and heroism than anyone else in the fantasy genre; Ystormun – yes a Wytch Lord but wouldn’t it be fascinating to get inside the mind of a total bastard to find out why he thinks as he does?; and Erienne because she endured such tragedy in her life yet refused to break, refused to be beaten and I’d love to spend time with someone with such enormous strength of spirit and character.

But in the end, it has to be Auum. Not because he’s an elf but because he has lived so long and learned so much, experienced so much and has incredible wells of knowledge, passion and belief I’d love to tap. I want to understand for myself what can drive someone to give their life so selflessly to a single cause for thousands of years. What I want to do is simple…walk the rainforest with him. Learn of the bond between elf and earth, see what he sees, the joy and the danger of the place he lives and loves and would die to protect. Try to understand the complexities of his faith and the wider elven faith. I want to hunt with him, live off the land with him and pray with him. A day with Auum would be life-affirming and life-changing. One that would live with me forever.

DarkFairy: Why are you writing Fantasy? What is its appeal to you?

James Barclay: I’ve always loved writing fantasy (and sci-fi) because I’ve always loved reading it, watching it and gaming in the genre. I grew up on Dungeons & Dragons and Dragon Quest, reading Moorcock, Gemmell, Aldiss, Pratchett, May, Gentle…you name it and it’s where I feel most comfortable working.

I love being able to investigate the lives of my characters, their challenges and their relationships beyond the constraints of this wonderful Earth of ours. I love the mysticism I can create, the idea of magical systems and I feel there is no truer place to write about heroism and loyalty than within the fantasy genre. That doesn’t mean I’ll write fantasy forever but it’s a wonderful genre full of amazing writers and fans and I’m proud to be a part of it.

DarkFairy: Do your read (a lot) for yourself? What’s your favorite genre as reader?

James Barclay: I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to. I read for research of course and though I love to read fantasy and sci-fi, I’m not a prolific reader. Right now, I’d say my favourite genre is historical fiction and I’m currently reading authors like C J Sansom and Robert Harris.

DarkFairy: Where do you take your inspiration from? I, for example, listen to music while I’m writing…

James Barclay: I’m going to slightly dodge this question by saying I don’t consciously take inspiration from anywhere, but probably from everywhere. I spent many years writing on my way into work and so I’m very good at shutting everything else out and writing in a bubble no matter what the distractions around me.

For me, writing isn’t an inspiration thing but a motivation and will power thing and sometimes those things are difficult to bring to bear. What I never do is drive myself insane by staring at a blank page when the mood isn’t with me. My advice is to walk away when that happens, don’t beat yourself up about it. Go for a walk, weed the garden, whatever it is to help unlock the mental paralysis.

DarkFairy: Does the end of a story evolve while you’re writing or have you already planned the end before you start?

James Barclay: When I begin a book I always have an ending planned. In fact, these days, I have a detailed plan for the whole book. But, and there’s always a ‘but’… I don’t make myself stick rigidly to the plan. That’s because as the writing process goes on, the story, characters and relationships evolve in ways you won’t have considered. Things you assumed would happen become unworkable and conversations take you off at a tangent. As a for instance, I’ve developed my plan for my next novel and it had a very specific ending. But already, after writing only a few pages, it’s clear that ending – the ending for a particular character in particular – doesn’t make sense. I have an idea what needs to happen but we’ll see what gets thrown up.

So in summary, planning is a great idea because it gives you a structure when you start. But on no account be shackled by that plan. Let your story evolve organically, let it grow any which way it wants because only then will you write a genuinely true book – one where your characters do what humans do best…be totally, randomly unpredictable :).


Thank you very much, James – yes, I’m allowed to call him James – it was a great pleasure to interview you! And except for the one-day permanent-grin, I really only freaked out a little bit when your mail arrived… ;)


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