My Guest, James Austin McCormick is the author of Dragon: the Tower of Tamerlane.
Tell us why you wrote this YA Story.
I’ve wanted to write a fantasy series for young readers for quite some time now.
The premise, I feel, is a promising one. It involves a kingdom bordered by a magical forest. The tale begins with a Machiavellian uncle plotting to kill his nephew, the heir to the throne. Managing to escape, the young prince is lost in the magical forest, where he’s saved by the mysterious Fey who transport him to their realm and teach him their ways. When the prince comes of age, he decides to return to the human world and right the wrongs of his uncle, now the ruler of the kingdom.
Even writing this now fills me with a sense of creative excitement but—and this is where the sheer frustration creeps in—every time I attempt to set the tale down all I come up with are stale, clichéd characters and a sort of paint-by-numbers narrative that bores me even as I’m writing. The last time I attempted this was ten months ago. Then, I decided to use the 500 words a day/ just get it down approach. Well, I did and was over fifteen thousand words in before I was forced to admit it just wasn’t working.
I decided I couldn’t give up this time so went back and started revising what I had, trying to add more details, give characters a more distinctive voice and any idiosyncrasies which might work well. (I know Dean Koontz constantly re-works a single page over and over before moving on to the next one). I did this, but instead of improving what I had, the story got away from me, changing completely.
I found I simply had no control over it.
What I have now in its place is a rough draft of a steam punk, sci-fi, horror-fantasy that I had no intention of ever writing. It couldn’t be less suitable for a young audience. Don’t get me wrong, I think I have something with this new version, but I’m as far as I ever was in realising my fantasy series.
In frustration at so much work producing so little in terms of output I decided to return one last time to my sci-fi series, Dragon, as I felt there was one more story to tell. I realised I’d never fully explored the backstory and inner psychology of the main character, Sillow, a cowardly yet also restless elf with an advanced ship which allows him to punch above his weight. He’s an orphan, driven by insecurity and a sense of not belonging. Although the tale is still very much light-hearted, action orientated speculative fiction; it has more depth than the previous books, with the character study being as important as the narrative.
I’ve now submitted this to Class Act Books (who have published several of my other works, including the Dragon series), so I’m hoping they’ll also like this one. If they do, it should be out sometime in the next few months, tentatively titled DRAGON: The Prisoner of Alathia.
About the Author:
James Austin McCormick is a college lecturer from Manchester, England and in my free time enjoy writing speculative fiction, mostly science fiction, horror and a little sword and sorcery fantasy. He is also a particular fan of classic Gothic and Victorian horror tales and is currently in the process of writing updated versions of these with a science fiction spin.
More about James at:
BLURB for Dragon: The Tower of Tamerlane:
Now a reluctant solo agent, Sillow is called upon to undertake his first mission, investigate the Tower, a high-tech prison complex along with the oligarch who runs it, a mysterious nobleman who calls himself Tamerlane.
Seeking evidence to prove Tamerlane is responsible for a series of terrorist attacks, Sillow quickly uncovers the sheer scale of his plans, a lethal military strike on all four humanoid home worlds. Caught and imprisoned however, the Sylvan finds himself helpless to warn the Alliance of the coming danger.
EXCERPT from Dragon: The Tower of Tamerlane:
Laser fire and shouts echoed as Sillow was thrown headlong into the cell.
“What are you?” a female voiced asked. “Some type of green midget?”
Sillow groaned and tried to get up. He settled for a slumped kneeling position.
“I’m a Sylvan,” he replied. He squinted into the shadows and saw a figure seated on the upper berth of a bunk. He could make out little apart from a muscular, yet shapely pair
of legs. “Who are you?”
The figure jumped down from the bunk. She was an Amazonian, strong and athletic with an impressive cleavage and long chestnut hair falling around her shoulders. She was
also extremely pretty despite the artificial eye and cheek implant. She stretched out a perfectly formed silver arm, extending her hand. “Titanya.”
Sillow’s eyes widened. “The Pirate Queen?”
The woman nodded.
The Sylvan took her cybernetic hand and let himself be hauled to his feet. He found himself head high to her magnificent chest.
“Sillow,” he replied, smiling at her breasts. “I’m from the Alliance.”
“Up here, short stuff,” the woman told him.
Slowly and very reluctantly, Sillow turned his attention upwards. He grinned. “Nice to meet you.”
Outside, cries and weapon fire continued to echo through the halls.
Titanya frowned. “Any idea what all that’s about?”
“Whole place is going crazy,” the Sylvan replied. “Something got into Tamerlane’s AI system.”
The woman took a couple of tentative steps toward the door. Screams echoed through the walls.
“Sounds like a warzone out there,” she remarked. “You sure the AI is causing all this?”
Sillow frowned. “You know, this is going to sound kind of crazy but…” he paused, running a hand over his pointed chin.
“What?” Titanya demanded.
“Well, it kind of looks like the one causing all this is Darius Drake. You heard of the guy?”
“Oh yeah,” the Earth woman answered. “We’ve met.”
“Well, somehow he’s put himself into the computer system.” Sillow gave an embarrassed shrug. “Sounds sort of off the wall I know.”
There was a sudden explosion and flames tore through the slits at the top of the door.
“Look out.” Sillow threw himself at Titanya, knocking her off balance and sending her tumbling to the floor. The Sylvan landed on top of her, head buried in her thick auburn
locks. A fireball tore past them, turning the bunks into cinder.
It was some moments before Sillow glanced up. He found himself looking at the stern, beautiful features of the Terran woman.
“You okay?” he asked. “Just so you know, that was me protecting you.”
“Just so you know,” Titanya replied, “under any other circumstances I’d have busted your jaw for that.”
Sillow grinned. “You mean saving your life?”
Titanya flung the little Sylvan back onto his feet. “Yeah, right. I can’t believe a pipsqueak like you got the drop on me.”