SF & Fantasy

Interview: David Anthony Durham


Epic fantasy. It is always there in the fantasy genre.

Author David Anthony Durham is no stranger to it. After writing his epic historical novel Pride of Carthage, he wrote an epic fantasy trilogy titled Acacia. War With the Mein, The Other Lands, and The Sacred Band comprise the trilogy and it has gotten rave reviews on fantasy blogging websites, Amazon, and B&N. In a world where many of the best epic fantasy series are unable to come to conclusion, David Anthony Durham managed to do it and with grace.

Here are the books:


durham-acaciapb
durham-otherlandspb
durham-sacredbandpb

I decided to highlight these books a bit more since I don’t see many people talking about them on author forums when I venture out into the internet(s). Here is an interview with Durham, talking about the trade paperback release of Acacia: War With the Mein as well as what he’s been working on since The Sacred Band!

INTERVIEW: DAVID ANTHONY DURHAM

Shawn Speakman: First, your epic fantasy trilogy Acacia saw its completion with the publication of THE SACRED BAND in October 2011.  George R. R. Martin calls you one of the best epic fantasy writers working today. What do you think draws George to your work?  Does it mirror his own at all?

David Anthony Durham: George and I both have an interest in the gritty stuff of history. The first thing of mine that he read was Pride of Carthage, my novel about Hannibal’s war with Rome. It was a large, multiple point of view epic of war and politics spread over a large territory, but firmly grounded in the harsh realities of the time in which it was set. That sentence could just as easily be about A Game of Thrones. So, in a way it’s a foundation in historical fiction that feels like a similarity in our approaches.

George probably also likes it that when he edits me for Wild Cards I do what he says without hesitation. Change that storyline? Sure. Cut that character and replace her with this one? You bet. Trim down on the exposition here and add more sex? Done. I’ve actually learned a lot by working with him – including a greater understanding of why his novels work so well for readers.

SS: For the trade paperback release of THE WAR WITH THE MEIN, Book I in the Acacia trilogy, you made some changes to the book long after publication. Is that a part of this learning process? Do you think the book is stronger for it?

DAD: Absolutely. I was thrilled that Anchor wanted to do a trade paperback edition of all three books. They didn’t have to, since they’d already published the books in hardback and mass market. I got to thinking… New format, new opportunities. I asked if it were possible for me to make some changes – mainly cuts – from THE WAR WITH THE MEIN. I knew that a lot of readers had found the first part of the book slow. Some of them even stopped before getting through it – which is never something an author wants to hear. I also knew that most people thought the novel picked up as of the second part and moved increasingly quickly toward the end.

I took a good long look at the book and felt there was some world-building throat clearing going on in the beginning. I saw things that could be trimmed out for the reader’s benefit. So I asked Anchor if I could do that. They sort of shrugged and said, “Yeah, sure. Go ahead.” I think the end result will be a slightly stronger entry into the story. I didn’t cut out characters or plotlines or anything. It was more on the level of cutting out a sentence here, a paragraph there, a phrase of description, a few lines of dialogue… I’d hope that someone rereading the book won’t notice specific changes – but will find that the first part gets hold of them faster.

SS:  Will you ever return to Acacia?  Possibly in a novella or short story?  I know I’d love one.

DAD: Thank you. I’d love to return to Acacia. I can see so many ways to come back to it, so many different formats, even writing in this world for different ages. I’m not actively developing any of these ideas right now. I’ve got several other things on my plate. But maybe, a little ways in the future…

SS: What are you currently working on?  How did you come to the project and where are you at in its development?

DAD: Three things.

The big one that hangs behind everything is my historical novel about the Spartacus rebellion. It’s research heavy, with lots of characters and big-scale violence, like Pride of Carthage. I’ve been working on it for a while, but it just takes time to get traction on this sort of story.

I also have a multi-part story for George RR Martin’s next Wild Cards book, Lowball, in the works. I had written a three parter, but when revisions came back a lot of stuff had changed about the various plot lines of the book. Now it looks like my story needs to be five parts, with lots of additions and cuts too.

And I’ve just completed a middle grade novel on the side, The Shadow Prince. It’s a fantasy set in ancient Egypt. It’s full on, fast paced fantasy, with lots of demon fighting kids, weird gods, and impossible situation after impossible situation. Even some humor. That’s a new one for me. It’s light. My kids loved it, and my agent is gearing up to take it out to publishers. Hopefully, I’ll have more news about it soon!

SS: Those are three completely different-sounding projects. How do you balance working on something light for kids with something heavy and adult? Will your Spartacus novel be as steamy and bloody as the cable series?

DAD: I enjoy reading vastly different types of books. Why not write them, too?

No matter what else has been going on in my life in recent years, children’s literature has been part of it. Either I was reading it to my kids, reading it for my own enjoyment or remembering how important fantasy was to me as a young reader.

But I didn’t start writing for kids until a story – a concept of a world for it – really got a hold on me. That’s what happened with The Shadow Prince. My take on the gods and demons and a very Egyptian take on magic has me excited. It feels like I’ve discovered something pretty cool. I hope young readers will feel the same way.

Spartacus will be a very different creature than the Starz series. It’ll be brutal, but it’s going to be a lot closer to the historical record. A lot closer.

In Pride of Carthage quite a few of the supporting characters were from North African tribes. In this one they’re mostly from European clans. You might not get that impression from the televisions series – which has a very ethnically diverse population (of slaves, at least). I’m enjoying getting connected with the cultures of the Thracians and Gauls that were the bulk of Spartacus’ forces. I’ve got all these different tribal names and unfamiliar gods floating around in my head. That’s where the research gets fun; when it starts to add specific detail that I can grab from. The past starts to take on texture and atmosphere; characters emerge and take shape.

Fun stuff.

I’m excited for The Shadow Prince. I love me some Egypt and David is such a researcher that I have no doubt it will feel real. Throw in more Spartacus, and I’m a fan for the next several years, it seems!

Learn more about David Anthony Durham and his work at www.davidanthonydurham.com!


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