Monday 16 December 2013

My author spotlight falls on...John Sawney

I am pleased to feature the work
John Sawney


Author of

Fireship Press
March 2013

It is the fifth century AD, in the former Roman colony of Britannia, where civilization has all but disappeared. Some vestiges of the old infrastructure remain in the urban south, but the west and north are wild and lawless. Plague sweeps through the entire country, leaving thousands dead in its wake. Eiteol, a cloddish and apathetic nobleman, saves the dictator Vertigern from an assassination attempt. The two go on the run, and as time goes on Eiteol finds himself called upon to do things he finds more and more morally repugnant. Deep down he knows that Vertigern is a monster, and that he should walk away, but for reasons he does not understand he finds himself bound to the man whose life he has saved. Their flight takes them into the barbarous west-where money has no value, the law has no power and murder is a daily reality-and they are forced to look for shelter in a country that is falling apart around them.

*~Welcome John ~*

What can you tell us about The Ruin that will pique the reader’s interest?

Well, it’s set during the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, but really that’s just background. The story is about how people can tie themselves in knots out of a misplaced sense of duty, even when they know consciously that they’re in the wrong. There’s no heroics or grand ideas in there.
The main character is a lazy, apathetic aristocrat (nice enough, but not too smart) who rescues the local despot from an assassination attempt, almost by accident. He ends up going on the run with the man he’s rescued, and the two of them are chased across the country (post-Roman Britain in this case) by various warring factions. It doesn't end well.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of The Ruin?

Just under three years, I think. It was written very much in fits and bursts, whenever I could find the time.

The book world is very competitive – how do you get your book noticed?

If I knew that I’d be really onto something!

Yes, it’s pretty daunting, especially with all the changes in the industry lately. The internet is revolutionising everything, just like it did with the music industry. I suppose the flipside of that is that it’s becoming more democratic, and that there’s more power in the author’s hands if they’re willing to put the time in promoting the work. So I guess the finish line is no longer typing ‘THE END’. That’s really just the beginning, and all the real work is ahead of you.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

If I was in a position to give advice, it would only be the most basic practical stuff. By far the most important thing is to carry a notebook everywhere, I think, because no matter how good you think your ideas are, you will forget ninety per cent of them. Or you’ll forget the crucial details, or why it was a good idea in the first place. Other than that, I’d say just make sure you write as often as possible, and make sure you enjoy what you’re writing.

Which writers have inspired you?

The big ones are George Orwell, Albert Camus, JG Ballard, and Edgar Allan Poe. Those four don’t really have a lot in common beyond the fact that I love pretty much everything I’ve read by them.

As far as direct inspiration for The Ruin goes, I had a couple of specific books in mind when I was writing it—namely Perfume by Patrick Süskind and Grendel by John Gardner. I wanted to write something in an historical setting that could be enjoyed by people who don’t necessarily read historical novels. Whether or not I managed it, I don’t know, but those two books are pretty wonderful examples of that.

Thanks so much John for sharing your thoughts on the writing process.
 Jaffa and I wish you much success in any future writing venture.


My thoughts on The Ruin

In the fifth century AD, life was all too often violent and ruinous, as ordinary citizens were beholden to the whims and fancies of unprincipled men. When Eiteol, a rather slow-witted member of the local nobility rescues, by chance, Vertigern a powerful tyrant, the resulting drama of their combined lives, as they seek to make sense of the barbaric world around them makes for an interesting read.

The story evolves rather slowly and at first I found that it took a little time to get fully involved with the characters. However, once I settled into the author’s style of writing, I thought that he captured the darkness and unscrupulous nature of living in such a barbarous time. The main characters take on their own momentum and as they begin their epic journey to salvation they start to develop some quirky peculiarities which are essential to the story.

The book is professionally finished to a high standard. I thought that the cover art was particularly striking and the added inclusion of a couple of maps at the start of the book helps to set the story in its geographical context.

Overall, this was an interesting and slightly different look at our dark and distant past.

 My thanks to the author and Fireship Press for my copy of this book.


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