Interview With Author Dr. Ian Green

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I’m Ian Green, a writer from northern Scotland currently based in Algiers. My first novel THE GAUNTLET AND THE FIST BENEATH is coming out summer 2021. It is an epic fantasy that follows a mother’s desperate chase for her abducted child in a world of brutal juntas, eldritch gods, and storms of uncanny magic (https://www.amazon.co.uk/).

# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

I grew up in rural Scotland surrounded by the ruins of castles, immersed in a deep folklore, and compelled by the brutal and beautiful geography and wilderness. This book drew on the idea of living at the edge of the map, far from civilised lands. I also wanted to create a world rooted in the concepts of animism and paganism, where magic and the environmental are inextricably linked. In the book, the action centres on the people of the Undal Protectorate, a nation founded after revolution against imperial and colonial masters. The incredible breadth of history of Scotland, from oppressed vassal state to revolutionary firebrands to the executors of imperialism afar inspired me to create a nuanced fantasy world where the lines of good and evil are never simple, and even the best intentions can have disastrous consequences.

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

I draw inspiration from a lot of different places. I like to read broadly, from history and science to crime and science-fiction and thrillers. My favourite inspiration is in nature, the vastness of the Scottish highlands, or the view across a rain soaked beach to a sea of iron- I think focusing on the physicality of the world lends weight to the more fantastical elements of my work.

# How do you deal with creative block?

I like to sketch and draw characters, objects, and places within my world, and I also try and describe small scenes and vignettes disconnected to the main narrative- a mugging in the capital city, a ship in a storm desperately seeking safe harbour. If I am feeling totally stuck I look at concept art to try and gain some inspiration, or reread my books of notes to see if something catches my eye.

# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

I think assuming knowledge or inference on the part of the reader can be dangerous- in early drafts of this book I had some readers who were confused about certain aspects of the world, and I realised that whilst the hints and subtext I’d layered in made these points obvious to me, they were approaching the text without the same background I had in developing the world.

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I was very lucky in that my publisher liked the original title of THE GAUNTLET AND THE FIST BENEATH, but authors I’ve spoken to have published dozens of books without getting to use the title they initially suggest. The publishers understand the job of creating titles that will stick with readers, as well as designing covers that will draw them in. As the author in general I don’t have a lot of input on the cover art, so I think my tip would be to trust in artists and designers to know their work! However, if you do have an issue or think something isn’t quite right, make sure you speak up.
# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

My first novel is coming out this summer, so thankfully I haven’t yet had to deal too much with negative reviews and feedback. More experienced writers I trust have counselled me to avoid the reviews and focus on the feedback from beta-readers, agents, and editors, and I hope I can have the willpower to follow their advice!

# How has your creation process improved over time?

When I started writing I used to do a lot less initial planning and world-building, and focused on letting the story grow organically. I still enjoy this method for writing shorter pieces, but for longer work and especially for fantasy I find the more world-building and preparation I can do the better. I only do a rough sketch of the plot, but I spend a lot of time thinking about the characters and world and making endless notes so that when I put those characters into situations I can think of their reactions very naturally.

# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

The best moment I had writing this book was when I reached what I thought was a knot in the plot and realised that I had developed the world so much that what should happen next was actually completely straightforward. It was that moment that I realised that the world stood up to scrutiny, and from there I felt a lot more secure as I moved forward. The most surprising moment was the reactions different readers have had to different characters- the favourite character of readers so far is not who I would have guessed! The worst moment I encountered completing the book was actually after finishing it, in the time it took to find an agent and editor who really liked the work and believed in the story and the world- at that point, there were moments where it seemed like it might have been a project with no future!

# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

I used to write for readers, but I have changed to focusing on what I find most satisfying to write. I’ve done this because I realised all of my best work was the work I’d written without an audience in mind, where I just focused on the story and world I wanted to explore. I’m still writing for a reader, but the reader is me!

# What role do emotions play in creativity?

I think the key thing for this kind of creativity for me is empathy- the ability to empathise with my characters, good and bad, lets me steer them to act in ways that feel natural to their character. The more I get to know a character the more I can try to gauge their emotions and reactions to a given situation.

# Do you have any creativity tricks?

A writer friend once told me that when you are stuck, make things worse for the characters. Even if I don’t stick with what I write down, if I get stuck, I just make things worse! Someone arrives with bad news, an enemy strikes, or whatever would make sense at the time. At the very least that gets me moving again.

# What are your plans for future books?

For the moment I’m working on completing this trilogy- I am coming to the end of book 2, and then the focus will be on sharpening up that book as I start to write book 3. After that I haven’t decided yet, but I am sure it will be in the science-fiction or fantasy genre. I would love to write a novel in every genre at some point, but for the coming years I’m having so much fun with science-fiction and fantasy that I will keep going as long as I can.

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I have a background in research science and PhD in clinical epigenetics (a far fetch from fantasy!), and spend whatever time I can hiking or reading. I’m currently living in Algiers, which is a fascinating city- but I think the heat is a bit much for someone from Scotland!