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The Mortal Blade by Christopher Mitchell

The Mortal Blade by Christopher Mitchell

The Magelands Eternal Siege Series
SPFBO 7 Finalist 2022

What led you into writing?

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to write. Throughout my early teens, I created lots of detailed epic storylines (that I never got round to drafting!), role-playing games, and then, when I was eighteen, I wrote my first novel. It was pretty terrible, and quite dark and nihilistic… I wrote another one when I was twenty, which was equally depressing, and then both were filed away in a drawer somewhere, never to be seen again. In my twenties and thirties, I shied away from writing fiction, and instead wrote a lot of dry statistical reports, and manuals for teaching English. It wasn’t until I hit my forties that I gave fiction another try.

How does a typical day look?

I take our youngest child to school for nine o’clock (it’s a two minute walk), then settle down to six hours of writing, planning or editing, depending upon which phase of a book I happen to be on. I seem to be incapable of multi-tasking, so I handle one job at a time. I usually go out for a long walk with my wife and the dogs over lunch, then it’s back to the school at pick-up time. Once things have settled down for the evening, I usually manage to fit in another couple of hours work. I’m quite restless, and the urge to work is strong.

In what way do your characters test your abilities?

The challenges come on practical and emotional levels. For the Dragon Eyre books, much of the action is set at sea, so it was important that I was somewhat familiar with sailing and its associated nomenclature. Luckily, I have a fair bit of experience with boats, but I had to study sailing manuals and other literature before I was confidant enough to tackle the subject. On an emotional level, the main challenge is to get into the heads of people who are fundamentally different; not just from each other, but from myself, as the author. My ideal is that a reader can immediately tell which character’s Point of View they are reading within a few sentences.

What’s your setup?

I have a cabin in the back garden of our house, where every word of the Magelands series has been written. I am surrounded by books, and have three chairs – one in front of the laptop for typing; one in front of a table for writing notes and plans; and an ultra comfy chair for reading. I have occasionally been known to fall asleep in the latter of these chairs…

What lasting effects have your favourite authors had on your writing and style?

This is a very hard question to answer. Part of the problem is that I cannot bring myself to read fiction any longer – not since I started to write for myself a few years ago. It feels as though I am incapable of enjoying the act of reading, as all I do is attempt to deconstruct the narrative flow, the characters’ motivations, the sentence structure… and so on, which completely ruins the fun. I also dread the thought that I might subconsciously steal ideas and plots while I read. Because of this, I now restrict myself to reading works of non-fiction – mainly history, philosophy and science. Before I started writing, however, I devoured fantasy novels, and there is no doubt that some of that has influenced my style, though I would need an outside observer to tell me what those influences are.

What do you do for inspiration?

I try to walk for around an hour each day. I find it can be a good time to think through plot problems, although sometimes I get so absorbed in my thoughts that I can walk past people I know without acknowledging them, which can be embarrassing! Other than that, I think that last thing at night can also be productive when I’m looking for ideas. I can stare at my handwritten plot notes for hours at a time. Anyone watching would probably think that I am idling, but I’m not, honest!

The Mortal Blade
“She edged to the side of the doorframe, drew her sword and swung the door open. A crossbow bolt flew past her, striking the concrete wall opposite and gouging out a two-inch hole. Aila burst through the entrance before he could loose again. She cursed as she saw him pick up a second loaded bow, then dived to the floor as the bolt whistled over her head. She pulled her knife from her boot and hurled it at him, but he brought the bow up to his face, and the blade embedded itself into the thick stock. She rolled to her feet and rushed him, her sword flashing in the dim light. He swung the crossbow, and the edge of her sword snagged among the cords of the pulling mechanism. He pushed, shoving the bow into Aila’s face as he let go of it. Aila dropped her sword, and it fell to the floor with the bow in a tangled mess.”  More

What repeating themes do you find yourself pulling into your stories?

I often find myself thinking (and writing) about redemption. None of my ‘good’ characters are completely good, and very few of my ‘bad’ characters are utterly lacking in some decent qualities; therefore, the issue of redemption can crop up. How many chances should people get? Are there acts that are so reprehensible that no redemption is possible, even if the character is full of remorse? Is remorse necessary, but not sufficient, for redemption? And, can people change?

How do you wind down?

It depends on which phase I am at with any given book. When writing the drafts, I wind down by picking up whichever non-fiction book I happen to be reading. When editing, I edit some more, as I find editing to be relaxing. The same goes for planning.

What sort of challenges do you regularly overcome while designing your world/setting?

I guess that striving for something original in world-building is a never-ending challenge. For my first series, I decided to randomise everything, to avoid any unconscious bias. I had five different peoples, five different geographical locations, five different political systems, five different types of mage powers etc. and I randomly assigned them out to see what would happen. I liked the result, but I’m not sure I would ever try that approach again.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading Grant, by Ron Chernow, a biography of Ulysses Grant, the Civil War General, and President of the United States. I’m enjoying it very much. I have read a few books on the US Civil War, but this is the first biography of Grant that I have tackled. I haven’t finished it, but I would definitely recommend it.

What’s the most useful advice you could give to an aspiring author?

Keep writing, believe in yourself, develop a thick skin, and own the fact that, if you write, then you are a writer. In other words: Persistence – Self-belief – Resilience – Ownership. A good thing about these qualities is that anyone can learn them.

Tell us about the book you are promoting.

The book is called The Mortal Blade, which is the first part of the Blade Trilogy, and Book 1 of the Magelands Eternal Siege series. It involves a city under permanent siege, dragons, gods, a mortal champion and a whole load of treachery. The city in question is the only safe place in the world, and holds the entire sum of humanity within its walls. There is nowhere to run, and the city can feel like a claustrophobic prison, but the people there have no choice but to carry on.

In this article:

Cabin office
Morally Grey Characters
Multiple POVs

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Christopher Mitchell

Christopher’s first memory is of Elvis dying. His gran told him it was because he’d eaten too many cakes, and Christopher believed her. She also told him that there were fairies at the bottom of her garden, and he believed that too. He counts himself very fortunate to have a supportive wife and four beautiful children. He loves deserts, which is too bad as he lives in Scotland, but the mountains, glens and lochs more than make up for it.

Read about Christopher

The Mortal Blade by Christopher Mitchell
A city ruled by Gods, a mortal champion, a misfit girl and a disobedient dragon… Stolen from his home, Corthie Holdfast has arrived in the City of the Eternal Siege as a new Champion. He must fight alongside the Blades, whose lives are dedicated to the defence of the City against the hordes of monstrous Greenhides; or die at the hands of the Gods who rule. Maddie Jackdaw, a young Blade, faces her last chance. Thrown out of every unit defending the City, either she takes on a new role, or she will be sent to the Rats, a company of misfits given the perilous tasks beyond the Great Walls. Her new role, if she takes it, will bring her face to face with her deepest fears, for beneath the walls, in a secret and hidden lair, lies a dragon, imprisoned and waiting…

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