"Introducing an outstanding new voice in fantasy fiction
Winter on the lawless plains of the Emmenrule. En route to her wedding in the fortified city of Croad, the beautiful Lady Isola is kidnapped. What is worse, her captor is the infamous Beauceron. But, ruthless as he may be, Beauceron is no ordinary brigand: it is his life's ambition to capture Croad itself – and he will stop at nothing to achieve it.
Mondia, though, is a continent of many stories, and in Croad, a young man named Arren has been taken under the wing of the city's ruler, Lord Thaume. Although of low birth, Arren is destined to become a knight of valour and renown. But as his fortunes rise, so those of his childhood friend Eilla fall.
Beauceron has returned with his human plunder to his home – the exquisite frozen city of Mettingloom. There, the imperious Isola finds herself reassessing her former loyalties as she struggles to adapt to her new life. Beauceron, meanwhile, is manoeuvring to raise an army. He is determined to defeat his enemies, both inside and outside Mettingloom – and to capture the city he loathes.
But what is the source of Beauceron’s obsession with Croad? Can Arren reconcile his youthful ambitions with his growing feelings for Eilla? And just who is the Dog of the North?
Tim Stretton’s debut novel is a spellbinding tale of loyalty and betrayal, homeland and exile, set in a brilliantly imagined world of political intrigue, sorcery, and warfare on an epic scale."
About the author:
Tim Stretton was born on the Isle of Wight in 1967. A graduate of English and American Literature, he now lives in West Sussex.
Hi, Tim, tell us a little about your novel, The Dog of the North
The Dog of the North is, quite unusually for MNW, a mainstream fantasy novel. (In fact, I think Matt and I are the only ones to have done it). It's made up of two interlinked stories. One is that of Beauceron, the "Dog of the North". He's a mercenary captain who is obsessed with capturing the frontier city of Croad, for reasons the reader doesn't understand at the outset. There are many vested interests who don't want him to succeed, and throughout the novel we follow his struggles to come out ahead. Duels, treason, intrigues, kidnaps: all play their part. This part of the story is set in Mettingloom, a city I've envisaged as a kind of frozen Venice—a location I had a lot of fun with, and which I hope readers will enjoy too.
The second strand of the story is set in Croad, the city Beauceron wants to capture. It tells the story of Arren, a young man of talent but few prospects. He's taken up by the ruler of the city, Lord Thaume, and begins to advance his ambitions. But he can never forget his childhood friend Eilla, whose own world is contracting as Arren's expands. Arren has also caught the eye of Lord Thaume's daughter, and he has to choose where his loyalties lie.
I'm a great lover of fantasy literature but much of it is clichéd, the prose is often plodding and humourless, and women are either stereotypical victims or improbably kick-ass. I've tried to avoid all of those pitfalls: only the reader can judge if I've succeeded. And I can guarantee there's not a dwarf or a bloody elf in sight: my fantasies are about humans with the kind of concerns you and I might recognise. Will Atkins, my editor at MNW, said it reads like a historical novel of some obscure country, and that's exactly the effect I was trying for.
How did you and Macmillan New Writing "meet"?
The Dog of the North is the first self-published novel MNW have picked up. In fact it's the third self-published novel I've written, and I'd long given up on commercial publication. I was on a creative writing course in 2006 and Kate Mosse, author of Labyrinth and Sepulchre, told us about MNW. She said that it was controversial within the industry (although I think that's less true now) but she thought it was a great route to publication for new writers. And of course she was right!
I still didn't believe anyone would want to publish it, so I went ahead with my self-publication plan. In early 2007 I submitted it to MNW—about three months later I had an email asking if they could have a bit longer to look at it. I thought this sounded encouraging, and another month or so later I had a first email from Will saying they'd like to publish it—subject to certain caveats, which alarmed me a touch. As it turns out, they were very minor, and once we got into editing, I agreed with 95% of Will's suggestions—and Will was happy to go with my judgement on the remaining 5%. I'd say that working with a professional editor has been one of the highlights of the process.
What is your typical writing day?
I have several different writing regimes. When I'm drafting, I like to write every day to keep the momentum going. I normally write for an hour after work in the garage (which can be bloody cold in the winter!) and I aim to produce 1,000 words a day. Sometimes I'll take a week off work just to write—my aim then is to have two or three sessions a day, and my words target is 2,500—3,000.
In some ways, though, the writing is the easy bit. Getting the characters and the milieu clear in my head will take much longer. I can write a first draft in three to four months, but I spend at least that long beforehand with the ideas percolating in my head.
Four random facts:
Do you have a writing mantra?:
JFDI. This is a family blog, so it stands for "Just Flipping Do It"… If you have a problem with any aspect of your writing, from initial inspiration to plot glitches, the solution is usually to sit down and write something. I've been on several creative writing courses where the unpublished writers are no less talented than I am: the only difference is that I sat down and wrote. It's as simple as this: no-one can publish an unwritten novel.
By pen or by keyboard, and why?:
I'm a lazy sod. If I think I'll ever need to recycle anything, then it's keyboard. For the story I'm working on at the moment, I did the initial scenario and character sketches with a fountain pen in a leather-bound notebook my daughter bought me for Christmas—I knew I'd never need to re-type that, and I profited from the enforced slowness of handwriting. But the day I started the first draft, I went to the keyboard, because some—hopefully a lot!—of that prose will survive.
I also use spreadsheets a lot for timelines, character arcs and the like—so that again drives me down the keyboard route.
The Dog of the North has a major battle in the middle of the book. I had trouble getting that straight in my head, so I drew the troop dispositions and movements on a piece of paper. For some things there's no alternative.
Greatest Influences on your writing:
Jack Vance, who's written the best science-fiction and fantasy on the planet since the 1940s. It's a crime that he's not a household name. I think it's important for genre writers to read outside their field, and I've loved Jane Austen's work throughout my adult life. Other writers I've taken a lot from are Patrick O'Brian and Raymond Chandler. I'm always surprised, as well, how much my work has been influenced by Shakespeare: his influence on the English language has been inescapably pervasive, and even his plots have resonance for a fantasy writer (prompted to avenge your father's murder by his ghost? Driven to usurp the throne by the prophecy of three witches? Today this guy would be categorised as a genre writer!)
Thanks Tim, and congratulations on being published. The Dog of the North is published 4th July and is available at all good booksellers.
For further information please visit Tim's blog Acquired Taste
Or the Macmillan New Writing website