Hello everyone, here is another author interview for you all. This time it is David Towsey, author of Equinox, which is due to be published on the 12th May 2022.
David Towsey is an established author with a completed trilogy under his own name.
He is also half of writing duo D.K. Fields.
If you like the look of Equinox (which is fabulous, by the way), any of his other books, or just like to read about the writing process, then this post is for you.
Without further ado, let’s start!
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some of my questions.
So, first of all – I wanted to ask some questions on behalf of budding fantasy writers out there about your writing process. You write within the fantasy genre – How do you go about creating your worlds?
Worldbuilding for me starts with two things: a core concept, and a central image. The image is usually something to do with the landscape; for the Walkin’ trilogy I had a photo of an Arizona desert scene, for Equinox it was an Austrian forest. It’s a simple place to start, without all the complications of who lives where, etc. But it’s about setting the tone. When I match the core concept with that place and tone, worldbuilding becomes a much more natural and manageable process.
What authors have inspired you? (please include any other genres/art forms that have inspired you too)
As a kid I read all the fantasy big hitters that graced the shelves of my local WHSmiths: Robin Hobb, Raymond E. Feist, David Gemmell, and the like. They kickstarted my love of the genre. Now I find myself drawn to authors who explore big SF/F ideas while experimenting at the level of the sentence. Writers such as Jeff Vandermeer, N.K. Jemisin, and James Smythe.
What is your favourite perspective to write from? (1st/3rd or omniscient – I’m going to assume it’s not second – but maybe I’m wrong)
I’m happy writing in most perspectives, though I do find myself naturally drawn to 3rd person. I tend to be quite distant with it, giving my characters a lot of space for their actions to speak louder than their thoughts.
How do you go about your line by line editing? Some writers talk about the rhythm of their sentence structure – others like their work to be sparse and edit out the unnecessary. Where do you fall on this?
Sparse would definitely sum up my approach. My early novels were edited back to within an inch of their lives, creating a very staccato rhythm. That felt right for those bleak Western landscapes. But I’ve loosened that up a little, just a little, and that’s often led by the voices of characters.
In terms of drafting – can you go through this process. Some writers have a first draft that is almost complete, other writers only do the bare bones of the story and their editing is a lengthy process. How long does it take you to edit a novel comparative to how long it takes for you to write the first draft?
I try to push through to that first full draft, and then give myself plenty of time (deadline or no) to edit. I get out some revision cards – a tragically low-tech approach. I write down each scene on a card, then spread them out across the floor of my office. That helps me see the shape of the novel, more so than a three-hundred-page word doc. From there I try to find any bits in the narrative that feel saggy, or rushed, or underdeveloped. It’s often a process that highlights those niggling doubts I had during the initial drafting – yes, this character does need more page-time; no, they can’t take that long getting to the town; that kind of thing. And then the real work begins as I try to fix it all…
How are you managing work/life balance? When do you find time to write around work and other commitments?
I’m very lucky to have a day job that values my writing (I teach Creative Writing at the University of South Wales). Certain parts of my year are very busy and I barely write a word, whereas others I get to write in a way that almost feels fulltime. It’s a feast and famine approach, which actually suits me really well. I know “write everyday” works for some folks, but not me. I use those parts of the year I’m not bashing away at the keyboard to plan, to read research materials, and to just let ideas percolate. As for a writing routine, I’m happy working any time of day except right after lunch. That’s a terrible time for me, so I’ve learned to just do other stuff then like going for a walk or doing the washing up.
Do you listen to music while you write/edit? If so, what music is on your playlist.
Music and writing go hand in hand for me. For any piece of writing I have a specific playlist (even writing blog posts and interviews gets one – a lot of upbeat stuff, like a workout playlist). My tastes are pretty eclectic, so it’s about the vibe or tone I’m trying to create through combing tracks. My Equinox playlist had a lot of melancholy music, some from obvious artists like Elliot Smith and Tom McRae, but also bands like Alice in Chains and The Mars Volta. My work on the last D.K. Fields novel, Farewell to the Liar, was the opposite; I was writing a romance element, so I’d belt out ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ by Cher and the best of REO Speedwagon at every opportunity.
Lots of writers out there are currently in the submission trenches. Can you tell us about your road to publication?
Like many people, I finished drafting and editing my first novel – an enormous achievement in of itself – and started the agent submission process. These days it’s easier to find out about this gruelling slog, and connect with others on social media who are working through the same. But back then it felt quite a lonely task. Anyway, I did what people still do, and worked my way through The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. I sent to about fifty agents – those who didn’t specifically rule out SF/F. Genres wax and wane, and I imagine if I were sending out right now there would be more agent options for SF/F than I had ten years ago. I only got two requests for the full ms. And only one follow-up after that. The agent was excited by the idea, but felt it needed a lot of work. A lot of work. But they were willing to throw themselves into the project alongside me. So, I went through about six months of back-and-forth with the agent, re-writing the whole second half of the book, then making more changes and getting closer with each iteration, all the time not sure if they’d sign me. I came close to throwing in the towel so many times; I thought I’d never get it right. But eventually he said it was ready, and sent it out. That was Your Brother’s Blood, which landed me a three-book deal with Jo Fletcher Books. All the hard work paid off in the end, and I learned so much.
You also write as part of a writing duo – under the pseudonym of DK Fields. How did you find writing with a partner vs writing by yourself?
The answer to that is… complicated. We’ve written a number of blog posts and interviews dedicated to that very subject. The short answer is perhaps fairly obvious: it changed everything. All the decisions a writer makes by themselves (at least until they encounter an editor) suddenly have to be discussed with your partner. When writing fantasy, that means a lot of conversations about worldbuilding. People, systems, landscapes, everything. In the generative stage of writing it can be a hugely rewarding approach, with ideas bouncing off someone else who has just as much invested in the project as you do. But in the marathon process that is a novel, the partnership is inevitably tested by various forces. Fortunately, we came out of that crucible stronger for it. And, it was always a lovely surprise when the draft progressed without me even pressing a key!
Without giving any spoilers, what can you tell us about this world?
It’s a dark secondary world fantasy, in which every physical body has two people inside it: one day-sibling, one night-sibling. Another writer, in a different story, would perhaps make this true for one character. But in Equinox it’s true for everyone, from birth until death. It’s one of those “what if?” scenarios that, the more you think about it, the more it changes. Jobs, romantic relationships, even something as fundamental as family. For example, if a child is born during the day how is that child viewed by the night-woman who co-carried them? And when was that child conceived, day or night? One scene in the book shows people leaving a prison as night falls. People just walking out, free, because only their day-siblings are incarcerated. They then return before dawn because it’s possible to imprison just one sibling, but hanging a criminal ends them both. As dark as it sounds, it was a lot of fun (and a lot of work) imagining all the knock-on effects of such a scenario in this world.
What themes (if any) are you exploring with this work?
I guess one of the big themes the book tackles is: what happens when we’re at war with ourselves? Like most people, I experience moments when I’m pulled in two different directions – when part of me knows I should do or say something, and another part of me knows I shouldn’t. Often this is characterised in binaries – good/evil, night/day, etc, and Equinox makes use of the latter, of course. But I wanted that binary to be complex – as complex as people are. Early on in drafting there was the temptation to make all night-siblings meaner, more aggressive, or more melancholy. But that kind of approach simplified people too much for me. I wanted the theme of “inner conflict being brought to the fore” to feel nuanced, less predictable.
Is this going to be a series – if so, how many books are you planning?
This one’s definitely standalone… for now. I’d love to return to this world (if not these characters) at some point. But it was a real challenge to write, from a technical perspective. I’d like to write one or two stories in a less mind-bending world for a while.
Who is on your current TBR list?
I’ve been meaning to read fellow Head of Zeus writer Ian Green’s The Rotstorm series, the second of which has just been released. I also have Ilium by Dan Simmons on my bedside table. I’m a huge Hyperion fan, so looking forward to that. I also try to read one Stephen King every summer. So that’s a lot of big books to keep me out of trouble!
What is your favourite book that you have read in the last twelve months?
Just after Christmas, I raced through Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I’d read her short fiction before, but not her novels, so was keen to fix that. And I wasn’t disappointed! It’s a story that doesn’t need the kind of body-horror I resort to in my writing to really unsettle a reader. I hope this doesn’t spoil anything, but there’s a moment that involves hand-holding in The Haunting of Hill House that will stay with me forever.
Great answers, David. That’s it for now. Thanks for all your time and good luck with the book.
I hope you enjoyed the interview – and remember, Equinox is out soon – and here are the order links!
David Towsey is a graduate of the Creative Writing programmes at Bath Spa University and Aberystwyth University. Born in Dorset, he now lives in Cardiff with his girlfriend and their growing board game collection. Together, they write under the pseudonym of D.K. Fields whose Tales of Fenest trilogy is also published by Head of Zeus. David’s first novel, Your Brother’s Blood, was published by Quercus, and was the first in the Walkin’ Trilogy. He is also one half of the indie games company, Pill Bug Interactive, who have released three titles across PC and Nintendo Switch™.
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