To kick start my Macho May, I have an interview with Andrew John Rainnie, the author of Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits.
In the distant land of Enara, the religious zealot Lord Malenek marches across the continent of Amaros, cleansing the world with his army of Vengeance Spirits. Standing in his way is an unlikely adversary, Kamina Elloeth, a young tree elf who is inadvertently entangled in Malenek’s plans. She embarks on a quest with her ghostly brother and a mysterious Ishkava Ranger to find an ancient artefact, one that may hold the key to saving the world from Malenek’s destructive schemes. Facing her fears, Kamina will travel over oceans and deserts, fight through swamps and jungles, and battle legendary creatures to unearth the power hidden within the Stone of Spirits.
Born in the Scottish town of Renfrew, Andrew had a love of films and fantasy novels from an early age. That passion paved the way to a future in filmmaking and writing, having made various short films, including an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s short story, ‘The Collector.’
In 2011 he took a year out to fulfil a lifelong ambition of travelling the world, sharing his adventures in his book of collected blog entries, ‘My Right Leg Is Tastier Than My Left.’
His first fantasy novel, ‘Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits’ was released in 2014.
Website – http://www.andrewjohnrainnie.com
Twitter – andrewrainnie
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/andrewjohnrainnie
**Thank you so much to Andrew for answering my questions and for taking part.**
1. Where did you find the inspiration for your book series?
Spirits of Vengeance started life as a paint by numbers fantasy screenplay that I had to write for my final year at university. One of my lecturers told me it was probably a book, so I had to write another film instead (a dark thriller set in Scotland).
But Spirits of Vengeance stayed with me. Originally it was as you would expect – a boy goes on an adventure with a legendary warrior to get a MacGuffin to save the world. And it took a few drafts to realise that the main character was not the boy, the one willing to go on the adventure, but his sister, who does not wish to leave her home. That was when it really fell into place, when Kamina became the protagonist, because she had the most to lose. And it made it more dramatic, because she doesn’t want to go on this journey, but is forced to, and then she has to choose whether to continue.
She was, and very much still is, my inspiration. She is very real to me. The more she grows, the stronger the series is.
2. If your book came with a theme song, what would it be and why?
The first book had a sort-of playlist, but because I’m a filmmaker I always wondered what the soundtrack would be like. I’m a big fan of Jeremy Soule’s music, especially his work on The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, although that’s possibly a bit too dark in style for this. I’d probably edge towards what Howard Shore did with The Lord the Rings and The Hobbit films.
I’m showing my age, but Nelly Furtado has a song called All Good Things (Come To An End). If the first Spirits of Vengeance book was ever made into a film, I would love that song (or a version of that song) to play over the end credits.
3. Who is your favourite character and why?
It’s a funny question, because you expect it to be the protagonist, Kamina Elloeth. She is the centre of my story, and she’s been with me so long that she’s now a permanent voice inside of me. She’s just this story character who goes from a quiet, timid, frightened tree elf that we meet in the first book to a warrior facing difficult choices in the second. The whole trilogy is her story.
But my favourite pair of characters (I know I’m cheating a wee bit) are Innes Vangar and Ariel Atari. Both were minor characters in the first book – at that point Vangar was a former soldier turned marauder, who goes through an arc of change that leads to where we meet him again in book two. Ariel is his loyal friend, an expert archer who took a vow of silence, and book two allowed me to really bring their stories out, because they share a similar theme. And they are such tragic stories, and I think there is a heartbreak to their tales that makes me savour them a bit more.
4. What is your favourite genre/author to read?
Although Spirits of Vengeance is an epic fantasy series, I tend to read a lot more sci-fi, with a small dose of fantasy on the side. I’m currently working my way through Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy set in the Star Wars universe.
My favourite author is Terry Pratchett – I renamed a character in the second book as a small tribute to him. He managed to create several series of books, especially the Discworld, that told very human stories dealing with contemporary issues, while based in this absurd fantasy world. And it’s a credit to his storytelling and world building that it works so well over 40 books. I read an interview with him where he told a story about someone asking him what was the first thing he figured out when creating a city like Anhk-Morpork, and they were disappointed when he answered that he works out where the water comes in and the shit flows out. But that’s how you build worlds. You make sure they work within the logic of the world. I learned a lot from my decades wandering the Discworld.
5. Do you have any tips on the process of getting published.
No! I’ll explain how I got published, but I think people have to take their own path. I self-published Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits, which was the first book in the series. I then heard about a new publisher looking for books a couple of years later, and they picked up the first book and the sequel. However, they were a new company, so there was a lot of teething issues that often made me think if I made the wrong choice. I think self-publishing has lost a lot of the stigma it once had, especially if you can write and market your book. I made my own book website and book trailer, but I imagine I’m in a minority of writers who can do all those different things.
If I had to give you one tip, it would be get a lot of people to read it before you publish. Friends are great to get a sense of what they like and what does not work, but find an editing professional to give it a once over. Two editors are better – one that specialises in grammar, punctuation, the technical stuff. The second should be a story editor, who can suggest ways to heighten the drama of your story, or where to give it pauses and beats to help pacing. I’m originally a screenwriter, so I cannot stress enough the power of pacing.
6. When you’re not writing, what other hobbies do you have?
I don’t have much of a life anymore. I work full time, I have another job writing copy, I have a couple of screenwriting commissions. I also make films and promo videos. My wife hates me.
When I get a spare five minutes, I love nothing more than playing video games. I just love disappearing into these rich worlds filled with colourful characters and stories.
7. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m just finishing off the second book, Spirits of Vengeance: The Assassin of Araneque, and plotting the final book, The Rise of Rakkatoa. The two are tied quite closely together, but I’ve changed a lot of the story from book two, so the original plan for book three is getting chucked out of a window.
I’m also finishing up on a short film I shot in 2018 called Water Rats. The editing is mostly done, I’m just tidying up the special effects and working with my sound crew to bring it to life with music and sound effects.
In addition, I’ve optioned a couple of feature film scripts so I might have some more work to do on them for their respective directors in order to get them into pre-production.
And I’m revamping a website I run about my home city – http://www.DiscoverGlasgow.org.
I plan to take the whole of March off to do nothing but watch Netflix and play video games!
8. Where is your favourite place to write?
I have an office at home, but its far from my favourite place because our two cats who HATE closed doors. If I close it for some peace and quiet they just scratch and scratch. However, it’s the only space I have, so I make it work.
9. What are your go to tools for writing?
I have some odd writing habits. I have a small office at home where I like to write. If I’m stuck on something or just need to unblock the creative flow, I print pages out and lie on the carpet or bed and write with pen and paper. I find the technique of chopping and changing writing methods keeps things fresh. I also now have an Apple iPad, which I use a lot for editing. I can just go sit in a café or bar and read the book and scribble any notes.
10. Do you prefer it quiet or some background noise when you’re working? If you prefer background noise what do you usually have on?
It depends. I can’t tell you what it depends on exactly – I don’t want to say my mood because that’s wrong. It’s often about the flow. I often listen to a YouTube channel called Pandora Journey – they do long playlists of 2-3 hours of fantasy music, with different kinds from fast paced, epic stuff to emotional and heart wrenching tunes.
But sometimes you need silence. If the writing is more about working things out – plot, story arcs, character motivations, a joke – I need silence to concentrate and essentially talk to myself to see how things sound out loud. There’s another tip – don’t be afraid to say things out loud!