An Interview with Matthew Ward
Before the release of his fantastic second instalment of the Legacy series. Fantasy Book Nerd talks with Matthew Ward about his book, Legacy of Steel.
Hi Matthew, welcome to the site. Things have been a little frantic for you just lately to say the least. What with the release of the new book, the blog tour and the YouTube appearances, how are you doing?
A little (a lot) of blurring with the whole work-life balance thing aside, I’m doing great. For the last few months, my time’s been split between the Legacy Trilogy and my creative consultancy role on Vermintide, so I’ve been awash in fantasy goodness.
So your new book, Legacy of Steel gets released on 3rd November in the US, and on Bonfire Night (5th November for those of you that don’t live in the UK). Is that a coincidence? Are there going to be fireworks?
It’s weird, actually. I didn’t realise until last week that I’ve accidentally written an autumnal book (the story takes place during Aradane’s equivalent of October). No fireworks, but plenty of Halloween-y type happenings.
One character, in particular, owes a lot to traditional Halloween motifs …
I know some people are just coming to your Legacy series, and I am going to try to ask this next question in a spoiler free fashion (as much as I can!).
In the Legacy of Ash, Biiiig things happened that lead us into the next part of the series. Where do we start in Legacy of Steel? What is happening in the world of Aradane?
So, Legacy of Steel kicks off about a year after the events of Legacy of Ash and our core protagonists (Viktor, Josiri and Melanna) are adapting to changed circumstances resulting from their decisions at the close of the last book. They’re each on a pretty even keel, but forces beyond their control are going to shake things up all over again, and change both Republic and Empire forever.
How have the characters changed in this book? You know, Josiri seemed to accept that he had become part of the very Republic he was fighting against. Is Viktor just the same, or is he in a different place – and I don’t just mean in the physical location sense.
I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but pretty much every character has to do a lot of soul searching in this book. What they want. How they’re going to get there. What they’re prepared to pay, or even lose along the way. Allegiances are challenged and a good many certainties shaken.
So, in the last book, one of my favourite characters, besides Anastacia, was the Raven, the mischievous God of Death. Do we see more of him? Do we see the other gods of Aradane?
Oh, the Raven’s back, along with his younger sister Ashana. And we’re also getting a bit of a look at the remaining gods of Aradane (at least, the ones who still concern themselves with this particular world).
They’re an … interesting bunch, as readers will find out. Hands down one of my favourite parts to write. Despite being key to the ongoing story, their inclusion still feels whimsical to me – which is the best of both worlds!
I have seen you write ‘that as long as you can remember, you have loved the supporting cast more than the main characters’. Why is that?
Secondary characters have more fun – they don’t have to prop up the narrative in quite the same way – because of that, they’re much freer to do as they please and surprise the reader (or the writer).
Or maybe it’s because I don’t like following what’s popular. Could be that.
Of all the characters, who do you feel was the easiest character to write, the one(s) that seemed to come alive when you were writing the book?
It’s probably tied between Anastacia, the Raven and Kurkas, mostly due to the ‘secondary character’ thing above. That they manage to remain quirky and defiant even while they’re shouldering a portion of the narrative – as is the case for them in Legacy of Steel – just makes me fonder of them.
When I read the 1st book, I wrote a review and tagged you into the review (I was really nervous, this was the first review I had ever tagged an author in and you were really good about it), you immediately tweeted back:
Who was your favourite character?
Which Character did you identify with?
So, just imagine that you didn’t write the book, I am going to fire the same question back at you.
Dangerous questions …
The Raven’s been with me almost as long as Viktor and Josiri, and I love how he never quite reacts to circumstances as you might expect. I guess he’s an introvert’s introvert – generous when he’s comfortable with being so, but otherwise by turns dismissive or cagey around strangers.
As to the rest? Most every character from all three books has inherited some of my less noble qualities and had them dialled up. Josiri and I are more similar than is healthy for either one of us – I often need a bit of a run up to do the thing I’m terrified (or resentful) of doing.
Given the chance, I’d be Ana. Because who wouldn’t?
One of my favourite things in both books is the relationships between the characters. In the first it was Kurkas and Revekah, and in this book it is the relationship between Kurkas and Anastacia, which at times was totally laugh out loud funny. Why do you think he gets away with calling her things like ‘plant pot’ when she is this powerful angel?
Ana’s an odd soul, who uses her scorn to control the distance at which people view her. Kurkas is immune to that sort of thing – he’s one of the very few people in her life who treats her as a person, and not something to be worshipped or feared. That buys you a lot of leeway.
I know that you are a big Star Wars fan, and you were recently talking about how perfect John William’s score was at the end of A New Hope. If the Legacy Series was made into a film, which composer would you have to do the score and why?
I think if I could get 80s-era John Williams (Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones), that would be incredible – or while we have a time machine to hand, perhaps the late Jerry Goldsmith (The Mummy, The Shadow, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, etc.)
Restricting myself to composers currently working, I’d go with Michael Giacchino, who’s responsible for some of the best modern movie scores (Star Trek, John Carter, Doctor Strange, Rogue One).
On Twitter, you have been doing a casting for a theoretical TV series of Legacy (unless there is something that you know and you’re not telling us!). If you appeared in this series, what part would Matthew Ward play and why?
No one needs to see me in front of the camera. I’ll keep practising my reading, and I’ll be the narrator.
As a writer, you have a good relationship with bloggers, appearing on YouTube, being tagged in reviews etc. Do you think the role of bloggers etc. have had an impact on authors and their books?
I’m far from an expert in any of this so I’m not sure how much my answer’s worth.
I’m sure interaction with bloggers and the like helps sales, but that’s not really the focus for me.
(Not that you shouldn’t all go out and buy my books. Of course you should. Think of my cats, and their rapacious appetites, if nothing else.)
I grew up long before SFF enjoyed anything like the mainstream appeal it has now, and my options to engage with it beyond a handful of mismatched books in the local library was severely limited. Oh, and it was about the uncoolest thing you could possibly be into.
It’s so different now, and long may it stay that way. I think anything that helps folk share and learn more about the things they enjoy can only ever be a good thing. The blogosphere is a huge part of that, and I’m always happy to offer my support if I can.
On a personal level, I’m always willing to talk to bloggers, because I’m always dealing with someone who’s passionate about what they do. As someone who’s not always super-comfortable in social settings (virtual or otherwise) I’m more than happy to feed, vampire-like, off your energy.
Leading on from that, when I first started reading fantasy books, the only way that you could get to see your favourite author was to stand for ages in a long line at bookshops.
However, in this day and age, authors are much more prominent on social media, websites (such as your own, The Tower of Stars, for instance) and they bring the fans closer to the authors. How much impact do you think that social media etc has had on bringing authors and fans together? How much value do you think these mediums have?
Social media can be a fantastic tool, but as I’ve mentioned I’m still not hugely comfortable with it. Where it shines is when you can dip in and out of it as much as you want to without there being too much pressure.
Like most social settings, if you’re able to put plenty in, you’ll get plenty out, but that’s not going to work for everyone.
Besides Legacy of Ash and this book, there are two other stories based in the world of Aradane (The Tribute and The Game). How do they fit into the wider story?
I’m going to have to play a cheat card here, and compare their status to the Star Wars expanded universe which is, ‘as long as I don’t contradict them in trad-published works, they’re canon’.
At the moment, they still stand as-is, and long may that remain the case. As to the what, where and why of how they fit in, I can’t really talk about that at the moment. Hopefully they’ll be fully back in the fold before too much longer.
Besides being an author, you have worked at Games Workshop and were also involved as Creative Consultant on Vermintide 2. Do you think these experiences gave you a good grounding in developing your own fantasy world?
It all helps. Working with an established IP teaches you discipline. Worlds you don’t wholly control have rules that can’t be broken, and you have to look at ways of developing the setting within those guidelines.
Most of what I do for Vermintide is write pages and pages and pages of voice lines, which has given me a huge leg up on honing my dialogue skills (I don’t recall how many voices lines are in Vermintide, but it’s well into the thousands). I love the characters and I love our wonderful voice cast to bits. Getting to sit in on the recording sessions is easily one of the highlights of my year.
Besides being a busy author, promoter of books and cat servant, you apparently play a variety of instruments. How do you get the time and what do you play?
Honestly, I don’t get the time any longer – though that’s mostly indiscipline and poor time management.
I’m a brass player first and foremost, though I’ve only a cornet and a trombone in the house these days. I can strum a guitar well enough, though I’ve so many bad habits there that I doubt it’ll ever go beyond that. I’m still trying to play the same piano I started learning on 25 years ago, but I’m steadily releasing that the ‘two hands’ thing isn’t working out there (nor is bass clef, if I’m honest).
I also have a sitar, a ukulele, a fiddle and a theremin stashed away, but I still haven’t gotten properly to grips with those.
So, what’s your favourite type of music, and your favourite band?
I … don’t really have one, if I’m honest. It’s a running joke in my house that I have a default ‘car playlist’ that can leap from one genre to another so fast as to give you whiplash.
As for favourite band? It’d have to be The Levellers, specifically their earlier albums (Weapon Called the Word through to One Way of Life).
I know you have talked about the ‘the elusive book 3’ which is coming next year. Do you have any ideas germinating for future books or other plans, like taking your music on the road? It could be called The Legacy of Ash experimental pop art band?
A definite ‘no’ to the ‘music on the road’ thing. As for future ideas, I have a queue of ‘em stacked up and waiting for their moment. We’ll have to see what fights its way to the front over the next couple of months, because I’m looking forward to getting to grips with something new. Might be more Aradane, might not. We’ll have to see.
Thank you, Matthew
"Legacy of Steel is released on 3rd November 2020 in the US and on 5th November 2020 in the UK by Orbit"
Check out the other dates on Matthew Ward's blog tour