Wednesday, September 22, 2010

JOA Interview - David Dalglish


This is the first of what I plan to be an ongoing series of interviews with some of the writers I have reviewed, artists, and others in the publishing industry. David Dalglish is the author of four books - The Weight of Blood, The Cost of Betrayal, The Death of Promises (all from the Half-Orc series) and A Dance of Cloaks. You can read more about his work by visiting I have read and reviewed the first three listed, and they are not among my favorite new works, they're at the top of that list. The following interview was conducted through a series of emails between the author and myself.


Journal of Always:
Hello there, Mister David.

David Dalglish: Howdy Rob.

JOA: First, I must start this with a generic question every writer must be asked. What were the circumstances in your life that convinced you writing was to be your choice of career?

DD: Nothing actually convinced me it was going to be my choice of career. I loved writing, and I knew I was good at it, but I felt the odds of getting 'published' were pretty lousy. I mean, prior to putting my work out on the Kindle, I'd had a grand total of two short story sales. Much as I wanted to believe myself a superstar, it's hard to imagine actually making any significant money without much to back it up.

When I bought my wife a Kindle, and we devoured books on it for several weeks straight, I decided this thing was going to be huge. At this point I had three of my half-orc books written, in various state of edits and whatnot. I saw I could upload them for free, so I hammered the first into a workable state, found myself an awesome cover artist, and then uploaded it. Did I think I was just launching a career? Hahahhaha. No.

JOA: On that note, it should come as no surprise to you that I love the half-orc series. To me, it is everything a fantasy tale should be. Please tell us the humble beginnings of the story - how you came up with the characters, where the idea of your world came from, when you decided it would be a five-part series, etc.

DD: Heh, humble indeed. A friend of mine kept telling me about this text-based online computer game. It was very role-playing focused, and he told me of all these crazy things he was doing. Well, he'd made a half-orc necromancer named Qurrah. I wanted to make his brother. That was it, the grand creation moment for my two brothers; heck, one of them wasn't even my own creation!

I did get permission, btw. My friend knows that my Qurrah is not his Qurrah. Anyway, we started up our little story-arc. I met my wife-to-be playing this game (a spry little elf named Aurelia), so needless to say I have some fond memories. Eventually we started a war between the brothers, one that had hundreds of characters pledging allegiance to one or the other. And then one of the moderators took over Qurrah, hijacked the storyline, and then vanished halfway through.

We were devastated. Qurrah was reduced to some boogie-man draining the blood of children. I decided then that the story I wanted to tell was just too big for a game. I took all the characters, made my own simple little world for them to play in, and then started anew.

Of course, part of me hates telling this story. There's a big stigma on crappy indie fantasy writers just "retelling their D&D campaigns" as one reader put it. Perhaps I fall in that category. Ah well. The moments I wanted to retell weren't "omg look how many skeletons we killed in this dungeon." No, I wanted to give life back to moments such as when Harruq returned home to find his daughter sick in bed, her mind lost to insanity, while all his friends and family could only stand and wonder until a shadow of Qurrah appeared over the bed, threatening death if he was not given what he wanted...

JOA: That's actually quite a funny story. And it completely ties in with my next line of questioning. The scenario goes like this - early on in my own writing career, I struggled mightily when attempting to create characters. For a long time, all I could do is take people I knew (family and friends) and turn them into my focal points. In the time since those early days, I've done a much better job of separating the reality from the fantasy in my fiction. Has this been an issue for you? Do you pull from the folks you know for characters? And if you do, how much do you attempt to create the separation between real life and fantasy? Do you feel it even matters?

DD: For a little while, I started worrying that I wasn't that great at making characters. Almost all of mine were based off of characters my friends had made, in various games like World of Warcraft or D&D campaigns. Tarlak is clearly my older brother. Qurrah is my previously mentioned friend. Aurelia and Tess were both my wife's creations. But I think this helped in that I had a solid idea of who these characters would be when I created them and put them into the story. More importantly, I felt like I had an obligation to these characters. I had to keep them true to who I knew they were. I think that respect and admiration bleeds into my writing, whether I'm aware of it or not.

But at the same time...these characters are mine. I know that. Perhaps Tarlak is based on my older brother. You know what? Far as I know, he can't hurl fireballs from his fingertips. He hasn't fought a duel to the death with a mad goddess. Even though they may start out similar to someone in real life, the story should quickly take over, crafting the character into something else entirely. But every now and then, through a comment or joke, you might see flashes of that inspiration.

JOA: Speaking of inspiration, there is a great amount of darkness in these books. What inspired that? Are you trying to make a greater point about the world, or simply having fun telling a rock-em-sock-em story? Not that it matters either way. I'm just curious.

DD: You kidding? I didn't have a clue they were so dark. (What does that say about me?) Seriously, it wasn't until I started getting reviews in that I had a chance to see my stories through outside eyes. My very original goal when I started was to have Qurrah become one of the most awesome villains ever. I wanted him on par with Raistlin Majere and Darth Vader. That means he has to, you know, do something bad. Is this a shock? Are we really so accustomed to dark lords hiding in the center of their fortress, doing nothing worse than having a big sign over their head saying "Bad Guy, Come Defeat Me!"

Course, now I look back at a trail of dead and shake my head and wonder how many I'll have left alive at the end of this series. And now I've started questioning whether or not Qurrah will truly become that villain he was meant to be...

JOA: When it comes to Qurrah, in "The Death of Promises", he seems to have done just what you've said and gone the Darth Vader route, completely to the dark his own stubborn way. Can you give the readers some idea of the direction he'll be headed come the next book?

DD: He's getting desperate. He's basically severed his ties to his brother and their friends, and willingly chosen to sacrifice the whole world for the sake of himself, Tessanna, and their child. It's amazingly selfish, to be honest. The problem with being so internally focused is that should that tiny little world he creates actually crumble, well...he'll be left with nothing to cling to, nothing to believe in, nothing to live for. Qurrah hasn't hit rock bottom, not yet. He will. Count on it.

JOA: In my review of The Weight of Blood, I mentioned how my own understanding of the brothers and their plight, when reflected against real-world problems in war-torn, impoverished areas, aided in my ability to sympathize, and sometimes even understand, their horrendous acts. Not that I condone them, just that I think I get where they're coming from. From your experience, do you think this might be a tripping point for some people? How many folks have expressed displeasure as to these acts, and what would you like to say them in response?

DD: I've had readers post reviews just to warn people that children are killed. I've had others say they wished they could administer lethal injection to my main characters. More baffling, I've seen readers think Harruq is a bad guy, or an anti-hero...and still think that even 2-3 books in. The worst is when people think that I am actually condoning or approving what happens. People do bad things, even good people. I firmly believe that.

I also believe in the ability for people to change. Those that don't, that think once you've done something horrible you deserve immediate cosmic punishment, probably aren't going to get far in my book. To them, I just like pointing out that the New Testament of the Bible was written by murderers, thieves, tax know, the lowest of the low. That enhances concepts like grace and forgiveness, not cheapens them. Forgiving someone who did pathetic little white lies and petty crimes? Easy. Forgiving a murderer? That is real power.

JOA: Changing directions now. You've recently released a new book, "Dance of Cloaks". It is set in the world you've created for Harruq and Qurrah, and involves active character in the series, and yet, if I'm informed correctly, it stands on its own. Correct me if I'm wrong, and please take a moment to tell us about the novel, itself.

DD: I wanted to write a novel that was a standalone, something people could read without having to dive through my entire series to get the whole story. I also wanted to try toning down the over-the-top magic and combat, get rid of all the various races, and try to write a dark, gritty, realistic story of humans warring against themselves. I also wanted to try a lot harder at creating a believable world, one with a rich history of various factions. With the half-orcs, it sometimes feels that the only real powerful people of note are either with the Eschaton, or with Velixar.

Anyway, I tossed in a lot of the minor characters mainly because since the book takes place six years before Weight of Blood, many of them would be hanging around. I introduce them as if you wouldn't know them, though, so there's no worry of someone getting lost or confused if they haven't read the half-orc books. It also gives some of them time to shine without that glory-hog Harruq dominating the show.

JOA: That Harruq. He just can't get enough of the limelight, can he?

One final question, Dave. What does the future hold for Mister Dalglish? Besides the last two half-orc books, what else do you have in the works?

DD: I've got a novella almost finished titled Guardian of the Mountain. It's a little bit of backstory of the character Mira from book 3, as well as a damn good horror story in its own right. I've also got something very different for me. It's a collection of short stories titled A Land of Ash, all following the lives of ordinary people struggling against a cataclysmic eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera. The first of these is already out there for free on Smashwords, as well as included in David McAfee's The Lake and 17 Other Stories.

JOA: Thank you so much for your time. It is appreciated, and I hope all who read this can come away with a little better understanding of what lies beneath this fantastic run of books.

DD: Thanks for the interview, Rob. I hope I didn't bore people too badly!

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