How are you? Today, I am super excited (Sorry, I don't think I have ever used the word super in my life - it just slipped out!) to be on the blog tour for Matthew Ward's new book, The Fire Within Them.
The Fire Within Them is the second book in Matthew's latest Trilogy, The Soulfire Saga.
Now as you know, I am a big fan of Matthew's work (Queen of Eventide is one of my favourite books ever!) and as you know Matthew has visited Nerd Central previously when he released his first Trilogy, The Legacy Trilogy.

Right, let's stop the wittering and get to the Q & A with Matthew.


Hello Matthew, How are you?

I’m good. Well, I’m okay. I think. I’m definitely one of life’s “7/10, must try harder” folk. 

Obviously this is a blog tour for The second book in the Soulfire Saga, but for those just coming to the series, what’s it about?

Okay, so the Soulfire Saga is set in the Kingdom of Khalad, an isolated realm surrounded by a hungry mist that devours all who set foot within it. At best it’s an uncaring regime; at worst, an actively despotic one. Throughout the books we’re following Katija Arvish as she attempts to right her societal freefall and put her life back together. It doesn’t go as well as she might like, bringing her into contact with notorious rebels, ageless beings and all kinds of truths she might wish she didn’t know.

You have written quite a number of stories, some of them traditionally published, some self-published, what are the differences, pitfalls or strengths that each have?

Traditional publishing’s nice, obviously, because you more or less get paid up front and get to hand off a lot of the work onto other talented folk. On the other hand, it’s a much longer process than, say, self-publishing, and means ceding a lot of control over the details. I think there’s a case to be made for pursuing both in your writing career, but don’t hold me to that. I’ve only been around for ten(ish) years, and given publishing’s often geological timescales that makes for a teeny tiny sample size. Ask me again in another fifty.

You have written a number of books, each different in terms of the fantasy genre, for instance game tie in books for Frostgrave, more supernatural like Coldharbour and Edges of the World and epic fantasy such as the Legacy Trilogy. Do you have a particular favourite subgenre of fantasy?

I’m a hopeless butterfly. Always have been. When I was growing up, I’d get frustrated because I’d be told “Oh, you’ll like this, it’s science fiction” when actually I didn’t really click with science fiction as a genre - it was more that I liked some things that were Science Fiction. Same with Fantasy. And then a bit later, Historical Fiction. I like what I like, and it’s a bit hard to predict. I love the movie Truly Madly Deeply, but there’s almost certainly a load of similar films out there that I’d consider too arty. I love some Star Trek series while others just make me angry. I am, in other words, a tough crowd.

Writing’s the same. I don’t really think in terms of genre, but story … and to be honest, characters. I like telling stories I haven’t told before and tend to look at genre as being in service to the goal, rather than the driving seat. In that way, I think I’m quite lucky because my feeling - so take it with a pinch of salt - is that Fantasy is a much broader church than it was when I was younger, so it’s the natural place to play (or at least to sit on the shelf). There are definitely places in the Soulfire Saga where it could just as easily have been a Science Fiction/Space Opera story or even a Horror/Thriller set in what we politely call “the real world”. It’s all about the detail and the trappings. 

You have mentioned previously that when it comes to books, you read things like Alistair MacLean, Bernard Cornwell etc. However, what other mediums have influenced your work, like television programs, games, comics etc.?

These days I’m much more about other media than books, because I find it hard to turn off my inner editor when reading. I love From Software’s fantasy offerings (Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro sadly the recent Armoured Core didn’t quite land for me). I also have an avid viewing relationship with Babylon 5, Star Trek, Star Wars and Doctor Who (I went to my very first convention this past weekend) that goes back decades - I definitely see them creeping through from time to time. 

I’d horribly out of date with comics now - keeping up with the ever-evolving continuity’s a bit of a slog lately - but on the Marvel side I’m hugely fond of The Avengers and The Thunderbolts (I’m holding out hope for Baron Zemo coming back for the upcoming movie), whereas on the DC side I love Secret Six (seriously, it’s great) almost anything involving The Question (either Vic Sage or Renee Montoya) … and it doesn’t get better than 52.

I’ve always had an appreciation for actors and writers who maybe don’t get the attention they deserve, and that definitely lingers in my books. How would so-and-so play this character? How would such-and-such write this scene? There are definitely moments in everything I write that are inspired by the people behind the stories.

Your books have been set in different worlds, such as our world, a mediaeval kind of setting in the Legacy Trilogy. The Soulfire Saga seems to be set in an Arabian style world. Is this something you did consciously or did it evolve organically? Did you set you to write an Arabian style adventure?

Honestly, I’m not sure what an Arabian style adventure would look like - it’s not my heritage. But I do think it’s important not to repeat yourself, and I wanted to do something different from Aradane (the setting of the Legacy Trilogy) which, if made into a TV series, would definitely be shot with that washed out grey filter that pervades through most historical fantasy. (One of the joys of The Rings of Power for me is just how bright, clean and colourful NĂºmenor is.) Khalad’s a brighter, more energetic place, and is deliberately a lot more diverse on a number of levels.

Certainly I’ve adopted bits and pieces from the Middle-East along the way - language and names are really important to me in helping set a cohesive tone. One of the freeing things about fantasy is that you can set it anywhere. You don’t need to be shackled by geography, history and the like (though drawing a parallel to the real world is of course absolutely valid if that’s what you want to do). I just much prefer to make things up, where I can.

Throughout all your books that I have read, there seems to be one characteristic that has connected all your books in one form or another, the mists. What draws you to it? Does mist have a particular significance?

Well … 

If we’re talking about me personally, I’ve always found mist transforms ordinary spaces into something liminal. I should likely pretend that this is some mystical or spiritual belief, but it probably traces back to The Web of Fear and Robin of Sherwood. When the mists come down, the world we know fades away and something less certain takes its place.

If we’re talking about the books?, I can’t really go into too much detail other than to say that there’s a very deliberate consistency as to what the mists represent and what they mean to any given story. Even in Fantasy, I like things to make sense … if only to me.

Besides writing, you seem to be a pretty busy man. What with all the organisation that the Warhammer stuff has, how do you actually fit writing in as well?

These days my involvement with Warhammer goes no further than Vermintide 2 and Darktide, which are never anything less than a joy to work on - not least because they’ve brought me into contact with several actors I’ve admired for years (or decades, in more than a few cases). 

But as to the question itself, I’m thoroughly unromantic about the process. Stuff needs doing, it all takes time, so you figure out what needs doing when and try to stay ahead of things. The idea of being organised is often maligned in the creative sphere, but honestly it’s a boon: knowing how long something takes and how much time I have to throw at it makes it so much easier to squeeze other projects in here and there. Just as well, really, because I had one of those upbringings that leaves you feeling like you’re not doing it right if you’re not constantly being productive. One project ends and (at least) one more begins.

This is the way.

Now, I know you are a big Dr Who fan, particularly the classic episodes. If you could write a book set in any of the various incarnations of The Doctor, which one would it be and why?

Honestly, it’s not something I’ve ever really been that keen on doing. It’s too “real” for me. Between the worry of not doing it justice and the knowledge that I’d always feel like a fraud, I don’t see it happening.

However if I was to do something, I’d be looking at the early Tom Baker era - the gothic horror stylings of Producer Philip Hinchcliffe and Script Editor Robert Holmes. It predates me by a few years, but it’s absolutely the pinnacle of the original series … and there’s definitely something appealing about forcing Tom’s Doctor to vie with - and of course, reluctantly end up working alongside Roger Delgado’s Master (and why not?). I feel that hilarity would certainly ensue. Harry Sullivan and the Master in the same story. That has an appeal. 

I say Doctor, who is this Master chap? He doesn’t seem like a good egg. Not one bit.”

Harry is criminally underused. Maybe I should cast Ian Marter (the actor who originated the role) in a story regardless?

And finally, what next?

Too early to tell, what with publishing’s geological timescales. I have a story coming up in an anthology (I think) later this year, and I’ve always got books waiting to be written. For the moment, I’ve a busy Summer coming up writing and directing for Darktide. 

After that, I guess we’ll see … 


Just to finish, here's a little bit about The Fire Within Them! 

For the first time in a millennia, the kingdom of Khalad is divided. The Battle of Athenoch has fanned the spark of Bashar Vallant's rebellion to a raging flame. Tyzanta, jewel of the east, has declared for his cause, and other cities have followed. Vallant, the people's hero, may soon be powerful enough to challenge Caradan Diar, Khalad's immortal king.
But such power demands great personal sacrifice.
Afflicted with omen rot after channelling the Deadwinds to save Athenoch from the koilos army, Kat searches for a means to stop the disease killing her as it did her mother. Her journey will uncover secrets long since buried - secrets concerning her past, her family and the kingdom itself.
Eventually she'll learn that the past never stays buried in Khalad - and that the truth can cut deeper than any blade.



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