Happy Friday, friends. Here’s something fun for you to read today.
This week’s spotlight is on G.R. Matthews, the author of The Forbidden List, a fantasy series with a taste of the East, and Corin Hayes, an underwater action-adventure, science fiction/mystery series.
Known for his beautiful prose, Geoff has created an amazing and unique world in his fantasy series inspired by the East Asian mythology and geography. The series is a lyrical magic with two polar opposite personalities as heroes who take on the journey of defending their land against a significant threat. Sounds familiar? That’s why we readers call it the classic epic fantasy. If you are not already a fan of his poetic prose and unique main characters, read his books. You are missing out a lot.
The science fiction series is about another tragic hero, the dashing Corin (this very name makes me go googly eyed), who has lost too much in life but fate isn’t done with him yet. Poor man tries to earn a living and keeps getting into trouble without looking for it. The mystery-suspense elements are stronger than science fiction elements in these books, but the hero’s bad luck is the winner. You won’t even know when you have started falling for his antics.
The next book in the series is soon to be hitting the markets. As Geoff gets ready to bring his hero in a fish suit a lot of bad luck once again, we are going to have a little chat with him behind the curtains.
Men and women, gentle or not, without much further ado, I present before you the sweet and charming, G.R. Matthews.
Hello, Geoff. How are you?
GRM: I am actually fine. Suffering something of a post-book hangover though. I’ve taken two Aspirin, a short story and reread of the Belgariad, alongside Peter Newman’s The Malice to cure it. It seems to be working.
[Ani: Gotta keep a copy of that prescription!]
Let’s talk about the Fantasy series first.
GRM: That sounds like a good idea. They were the first books I wrote, and I think of them fondly. I did a re-read of The Stone Road last year and thought, “hrm… Not bad.” (I am super-critical of my work… I think a lot of authors/artists are).
How did you come up with your kiddies? How did you conceive the idea of your heroes, Zhou and Haung?
GRM: It was very easy and yet really hard. I don’t plan. Well, not in the way of writing out a full book plan, having everything mapped out. I start with an idea, a setting and rough idea of what happens in the middle of the book. I’ve little idea how it starts and certainly no idea how it ends. After that, I have a think about the Point of View and main characters.
With ‘The Stone Road’ I knew I wanted to tell the story from both sides of the conflict. At that point, I had Zhou in mind. Arrogant, desiring greatness, but not achieving it, never reaching his potential. He was an academic, intelligent with little common sense (good grief, he is starting to sound like me) and not good with people (still me).
On the opposite side, I needed some who was… well… the opposite. Driven, achieving without seeming to try, confident and dangerous. And young. A soldier, someone who will have to fight in the coming war, who looks forward to it, who seeks glory in battle.
But that’s not enough. They had to change, to grow, to come to realizations about their own lives, to recognize the similarities and differences.
The Stone Road is a story about how these two grow and change, how they suffer and overcome challenges. In fact, the whole series, by unconscious desire and machination, is about family. I was writing it as my children grew from toddler to monsters. [:O] Strange how things happen.
And that’s how they came about and why they change over the trilogy. Easy…
How did you perform the research for this series? The Chinese magic system, geographical similarities, what was your inspiration? Did you do a culture specific beta test?
GRM: Now you’re going to catch me out here. Let’s start with inspiration;
One line in ‘China; A History by John Keay.’ One line. A mention of an old myth about two cities and a road. That’s the middle of the book. What happened on the road? Why was it built? What consequences would that have? What would it be like to be involved in its building? The questions just kept coming so I had to write the answers because no one was going to tell me. Actually, that’s not true. Zhou and Haung, along with some other characters, told me the answers. I just gave them a voice and listened when they spoke, watched when they took action and cried at the end (I did cry at the end… soppy, I know, but there you have it).
[Ani: men who cry are called sensitive. An admirable quality.]
My research began decades ago. I love Kung-Fu movies. When Channel 4 came out in the UK, and I could start to watch them without cycling the 4 miles into the nearest town to rent a VHS (and the 4 miles back).
And I am a Geographer, properly qualified and everything. How can you not be enthralled and entranced by the Empire that is China – maybe not the communist, human right abusing aspects, but the size, the complexity, the differences in my western upbringing, the culture, and the history? It is just fascinating. I am generally and genuinely intrigued by different places, cultures, and landscapes – they fire off so many questions in my head.
So while the Empire in the books is based on China, it is not China. I’ve tried to describe it as an alternative China. There are some cultural similarities; there are Chinese myths, and traditions. The colors too… Colors have different meaning depending upon the culture, so here, in the books, I’ve reflected the Chinese meanings of colors to add col… Erm, flavor to the world. Throughout I’ve tried to drop those little flavorings in without making everything so overwhelming to a reader. Different, but comfortable. Unexpected, but reasonable.
The locations where the action occurs can be found on a map of China if you know where to look. The distances are the same, and many of the geographical features (I am a Geographer, after all) are correct.
I’d have loved to have gone to China, but cost and time are against me. Google earth and good internet research are always available these days.
If I got things wrong, the errors rest on my shoulders alone.
[Ani: I haven’t been to China but read and watched enough to think you have done a splendid job. I love Kungfu too. :)]
Who inspired Xióngmāo? She is one my favorite characters from your series.
GRM: Every woman I’ve ever met. She is contained, practical, esoteric, knowledgeable, wise and skilled at so many things. I am in awe of the resilience, independence, grace, and wisdom of so many women. Xióngmāo encapsulates so much of that and more. I’m not saying she is perfect, she has flaws, but there is something so strong about her. In some ways, as I am listening to Pawn of Prophecy and my son is reading it (so proud of my little ten years old), Xióngmāo is a little bit like Polgara – not all powerful, not recognized, but a competent and strong woman.
Who should read The Forbidden list and why?
GRM: Everyone because it is great!
Or rather, I’d like everyone to give it a go. It isn’t “Grimdark,” which seems to be the pigeon hole in favor at present, though it is dark and sometimes grim. It is, however, in my opinion (and I am biased), a fantastic series about characters who struggle, grow and change. There is magic, betrayal, characters you can care about, and a setting you don’t see as often as I’d like.
Either that, or it is the worst book ever written, and you can read it just to see how not to write!
I think, if you are fans of Michael J Sullivan’s novels, you’ll find something to like in The Forbidden List.
[YES. Totally agree. Love M J Sullivan. He is as nice and polite as you and writes beautiful prose!]
Okay, times up for today (What? SO soon!) The next part of the interview is going to feature my beloved Corin Hayes. So let’s take a break here (don’t worry, I won’t disappear for weeks again, anytime soon).
No! GR, wait!
How can readers discover more about you and you work? Please share your links here.
GRM: I’ve got a website where folks can pick up a free short story or read chapter one of Corin Hayes or just read my random blog posts. Folks can also check out my Goodreads profile. It is also worth checking out the Fantasy Faction website as I write articles for them (50 at present).
Where can we check out your books?
Amazon – will take you to the books wherever you are.
Smashwords for Outlaw Mountain (Free)
Barnes and Noble for Outlaw Mountain (Free)
Where can we find you?
Okay, dear ones, what are you waiting for? Go pick up your copies of GR goodness and start reading. Oh, don’t forget to be back for the next episode (coming soon). We are going to talk about hot guys in stinky fish suits. 🙂