Monday, June 27, 2016

Andy Livingstone, author of Hero Born

Welcome, Andy Livingstone, author of the epic fantasy novel Hero Born (Harper Voyager UK) to It's All About Story. You can find Andy's blog here:


1) Describe Hero Born in one paragraph.

Can the paragraph be 5000 words long, ha ha? (Spot the novelist--I was never cut out for short stories!) Ok then . . . It takes the story of a hero back to where they started, rather than having a ready-made champion with hints at a backstory, and also touches on why we need heroes. It is at its heart a straightforward adventure following the story of one boy, Brann, who is dragged from all he is ever known. A prophesy links him with a vital role in his land's destiny, but all he is trying to do is survive to the end of each day and into the next. Meanwhile, there is a hint of a parallel story at the start of each chapter: a gradually unveiling of another character whose own place destiny just might prove to be linked by fate to Brann's.

2) What inspired Hero Born?

A childhood feasting on all sorts of heroic fantasy, from Tolkien and Gemmell to Le Guin and Lewis, to Eddings and Feist and with any others I could find, some of which proved awful and some brilliant, as well as anything I could get my hands on connected with adventure: Enid Blyton leading to Capt WE Johns leading to Ian Fleming leading to Jack Higgins and Frederick Forsyth . . . and a host of similar authors. Plus, contrary to the way I am now, I was terrible at falling to sleep when I was a child and would stave off the boredom in my bed by imagining a variety of adventurous scenes--the most recurring were similar to Brann's story.

3) Was Hero Born your first work of fiction?

It was my first work of adult-targeted fiction. I previously wrote a series of young children's books based on the adventures of the character Sydney Squirrel, named after my maternal grandfather who gave me The Lord of the Rings when I was a young child myself and told me that one day I would love it. (Please note that my grandpa's unused first name was Sidney; I don't mean that he was a squirrel.)

4) What song or music piece would you put on a soundtrack for Hero Born?

Oh, several and eclectic: Tubthumping, by Chumbawumba; Dream on, by Aerosmith (live version); Blood Red Skies, by Judas Priest; White Blank Page, by Mumford and Sons; Over and Out, by Newton Faulkner; Carry On, by Fun; Battle of Evermore, by Lovemongers, and Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns, by Mother Love Bone (These must be played together as that is the first way I heard them and ever since one doesn't seem right without the other); When I Ruled the World, by Coldplay (It sparked the idea for the parallel story at the start of each chapter); This is Way, by Thirty Seconds to Mars; Welcome to the Black Parade, by My Chemical Romance; and Jungleland, by Bruce Springsteen (anything that contains the line "the poets round here don't write nothing at all, they just stand back and let it all be" can't possibly be left out of anything!). There are more, some by the same groups and some by others, but I'm saving them for the soundtrack of the next book!

5) Which character in Hero Born was easy to write? Which was the most difficult?

Brann was the easiest to write--although we see into the heart of him more than all of the other characters combined, he had been in my head for years and was the character that prompted me to write the book, with the story evolving as it grew. Grakk was hard initially until I gave him a personality at odds with his appearance, which just seemed to fit him and after that he flowed much more easily. The consistently most difficult is Gerens, who has the most complicated personality and background. Even I don't fully know him yet. But we will.

6) What is your writing space like? Or can you write anywhere?

I can write anywhere that doesn't have constant interruptions so I can lose myself in the pictures in my head, but my most common writing place is my small study. It has a bookcase, many swords on the walls, an antique desk and, most importantly, a door that shuts.

7) Any odd writing habits? Rituals?

The closest thing to a habit is that I write better with music in the background, though even that is not essential.

8) George R.R. Martin describes 2 kinds of outliners, the Gardener (let it grow) or the Architect (plan it). Which are you?

Definitely the Gardener. I have a rough overview, but the details, large and small, fill themselves in as I go. My imagination doesn't switch off when I am writing--in fact, the writing itself acts as a stimulus for new ideas constantly as I go along. Even if I plan it, it usually takes many different turns than I thought it would. Having said that, I have had to go against the grain somewhat in my third book, which I have started very recently, as it is the final one in the trilogy and so I have to ensure the things I have been building up to, and have been dropping lead-ins to in the previous books, actually take place and make sense. It therefore has more of a plan, though things are bound to change and be adapted as I go along---there's no point in me pretending otherwise.

9) What are some of your favorite world myths or fairy/folk tales? Why?

I grew up from an early age devouring Greek, Roman and Celtic myths and legends (Brann is named after Finn McCool's dog, Bran). However, I constantly returned to the tales of King Arthur and Robin Hood. I loved the language, the characters and the adventures.

10) What is your favorite fictional world,one you'd want to visit?

As a child, Narnia or Middle Earth, but as an adult, Raymond E. Feist's Midkemia.

11) Who is your favorite fictional character?

Aragorn. Always has been.

12) What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

From Mrs. Richmond, my Primary 1 teacher: picture something in your head, then write what you see there. From my dad: think what other people would write, then do something different. And from myself: stop agonizing over every sentence and word--just get the story down and take it from there.

13) In Hero Born, are there any hidden acknowledgements to friends, places you've lived, favorite writers etc?

Not so much in Hero Born, but in the following two books there are/will be. Ask me again once they are out;)

14) What do we have to look forward to after Hero Born?

The followup, Hero Grown, continues Brann's adventures and will be published this year (and can be pre-ordered now, plug plug!), 

And I am starting writing the final book in the trilogy, Hero Risen, with a view to it being released next year. I have plans for another two trilogies following Brann's story, so I'll be kept occupied for a wee while yet--and hopefully readers will, too!

Thank you, Andy!

Thank you for having me, Katherine!

1 comment:

  1. Great interview. Such a talented writer.. Of course I'd like to say it runs in the family... ;)