Monday, February 3, 2014

The Unremarkable Squire by Nick Hayden: Interview and Excerpt


 


INTERVIEW


Welcome!  Thanks for this chance to ask you some questions so we can find out a little about you.  Plotter or Pantser? Why? 

Pantser by nature, occasional plotter by necessity. I’ve been intrigued by serialization since high school and my first long works were the results of weekly “installments.” There’s an edge of danger and excitement in not knowing what’s coming next. I am convinced that my best writing is done when I’ve worked myself into a corner and need to find a way out. 

Even when I have a rough outline in my head, my characters routinely derailed the plot and do things I would never have written in a nice outline. I have this story about a character of mine who was just suppose to yell and intimidate another character but ended up snapping the other's arm to make her point. Fun stuff. 

I’m convinced most great writing has at least an element of improvisation somewhere in its DNA 

Or maybe that’s just my defense.

 

What is the hardest part of writing your books? 

For The Unremarkable Squire, the last three chapters stopped me dead in my tracks. For years. Partly, I was distracted by other, newer projects. Partly, Squire is one of the few books I actually outlined, so I think I lost that edge of not knowing what was coming next and got bored. 

And, honestly, there’s this fight scene at the end that seems rather effortless now but that kept scaring me away whenever I tried to write it.

Generally, though, the hardest part of writing any book is sitting down consistently to write. I love the second draft, but first drafts are blood and sweat. And with two young kids, being consistent is even harder. Especially since I like to start a new project when I get halfway through an old one.
 

Have any of your characters been modeled after yourself? 

Is “all of them” an appropriate answer? 

Okay, that’s not technically true, but early on nearly every character was some slice of myself or a close friend/family member in disguise. I think in some real way, I can’t truly write the character, from his point of view, unless there’s some slice of me hiding deep within. Often, I have an instinctive knowledge of how a character will act that cannot be easily summarized in a character profile, and I suppose that comes from the Vulcan mind meld I perform with each character. 

Characters have always been my strong suit. Once I manage to get a handle on a character, he basically tells me what to write. Probably just some multiple personality disorder. You know how it is.

 

Is there one passage in your book that you feel gets to the heart of your book and would encourage people to read it? If so, can you share it? 

Well, the heart of the book is not easy to condense into a passage. But I think sometimes when you say “fantasy,” people automatically think epic world-building, earth-shattering plots, tome-writing magic system, etc. The Unremarkable Squire has a more traditional Arthurian setting and, shall we say, a distinctly dryer tone than your run-of-the-mill war-to-end-all-wars fantasy novel. I think the best way to illustrate that is to introduce you to the enigmatic and apparently unremarkable titular character: 

“What is your name?” Sir Valentino asked, smiling broadly down at the boy.

“Obed Kainos.” He did not return Sir Valentino’s smile. “Who are you?”

“You shall have to teach him deference, Sir Valentino,” Sir Giovanni said.

Sir Valentino nodded. “You need to learn not to speak smartly to your superiors.”

“My parents don’t like me to speak stupidly.”

Sir Valentino let the comment pass. “I have chosen you to be my squire, Obed Kainos.”

He waited for the boy’s stunned reaction.

“Why?” Obed asked in the same polite tone as before.

“Why? Have you not dreamt of rescues and sword fights? Do you not desire love and glory?”

“I was not aware one had to become a squire to attain such things.”

Sir Valentino’s smile slipped momentarily before reappearing with greater intensity.

“Have you never desired to be party to the making of history?”

“I’ve never given it much thought. I’m usually busy with work at home.”

Sir Giovanni laid a hand on Sir Valentino’s shoulder. “Give it up, my friend.”

“No!” Sir Valentino replied harshly, but he quickly recovered. “No,” he repeated nobly. “I shall take him on as a challenge. I shall shape him into the ideal squire. It will be an act of supreme sacrifice.”

“Very good,” Sir Giovanni said.

“You will swear an oath of loyalty, will you not?” Sir Valentino asked the boy.

Obed considered a moment. “Would you like me to?”
 

Does your significant other read your stuff? 

Read is perhaps the wrong term. My wife would love to read my stuff. Unfortunately, she’s a better grammar editor than I am, so she ends up editing my stuff. And that’s quite different than reading it for enjoyment.  

So she gets to agonize over whether I need a comma or not, while everyone else reads over the commas not noticing, because they’re enjoying the story. 

Someday, when we’re old and grey, I’ll have her read them, after she’s forgotten everything she read the first time.
 

What books have most influenced your life?

Many books in many different ways. I’ll skip over a lot of them, because they affected me at a particular time and then went the way of all books, but here’s a brief summary, in no particular order:

1.     Lord of the Rings - for obvious reasons

2.     C. S. Lewis - especially the non-Narnia stuff like Perelandra and Till We Have Faces. Fascinating, literary fantasy.

3.     The Wheel of Time - It was the fantasy for me growing up. It consumed half my life. It couldn’t help but influence me.

4.     Dostoevsky - Because he is awesome. All the time. His perception of the spiritual state of man resonates with me.

5.     Ray Bradbury - I only just started reading him. Why did I wait so long? Combine insane creativity and incredible word-skill and it’s a shame he’s just recently entered my life.
 

What book are you reading now? 

I’ve been alternating Phillip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury. I just finished Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, after having finished The Martian Chronicles. I’m just starting Something Wicked This Way Comes. The Man in the High Castle waits on my desk. 

In my science fiction phase back in high school, I mostly read Asimov and Arthur C. Clark. I’m making up for some of my gaps now.
 

Entice us, what future projects are you considering?

Though you really need to read The Unremarkable Squire, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Children of the Wells, a free(!) webfiction post-apocalyptic modern fantasy series I contribute to. It’s a collaborative effort with some writer friends to write episodic, character-based fantasy. My first novella for the project was The Select’s Bodyguard, and my second entry, The Well’s Orphan, is just starting up.
 

You can check it out at www.childrenofthewells.com.
 

I also have A Girl Called Snort, a novel about a girl born with a pig's face, and Buckethead, a cyborg action novella, and That Mad Heaven, the third novel is a fantasy series I should have finished eons ago, and various short stories in the queue. The trick is not getting sidetracked with new ideas. I encourage you to check in on www.worksofnick.com occasionally to see where things stand.



The Unremarkable Squire

by Nick Hayden

 

  

BLURB:

 
A squire’s oath is to be of service… but to whom? 

In the kingdom of Basileon, an unremarkable and emotionally detached young man named Obed Kainos is about to stumble into adventure—quite against his will. When the knights of the realm gather in a quest to search for the lost Armor of Arkelon, Obed is chosen at random to replace the recently deceased squire of Sir Lance Valentino. While trying to perform his menial tasks faithfully, the young squire becomes entangled in the plots of mages, thieves, and kings. 

And that’s just his first week on the job. 

Unfortunately for Obed, his indifference cannot save him from his new oath. For despite his enigmatic personality (or perhaps because of it), he manages to attract a band of misfits to his cause— the ugly, the arrogant, the clumsy, and the cowardly—putting the legendary armor within the grasp of one who never wanted anything at all.
 

EXCERPT

Sir Valentino had not yet arrived. With an ugly contortion of her face, taken from a vast collection of such expressions, Violet shooed Obed out of the kitchen and set to cooking a meal she claimed would satisfy the most voracious and knightly appetite. 
Obed went to await his master. He leaned against the manor’s crooked gate, his eyes set on the road, but in time returned to the kitchen. “Do you need any help?” 
Violet turned in surprise from the various pots, skillets, and fires she tended. “No, no,” she said quickly. “Wait!” She scraped some eggs onto a dish still wet and soapy. “Eat this.” 
“You should eat first.” 
“I do not have the time to eat,” she said, her back to Obed. “How do you like it?” 
Obed ate a mouthful. “It’s good. Like last night.” 
“Cooking is one of my many talents.” 
“Of how many?” 
“Innumerable. Too many to describe. Do you have any skills worth mentioning, squire?” 
Obed finished his meal in silence. 
He returned to the gate. The sun drifted across the sky and found itself above a manor that still held no master. Finally, a blinding host appeared on the road, their armor and lances and horses flashing brightly. Obed informed Violet, who nodded sullenly. He prepared to greet them.
Raucous laughter and clinking metal met Obed’s ears soon after the glare met his eyes. There were six knights and a dozen women, to whom Obed was formally and elaborately introduced, one by one.  
“Is everything prepared as ordered, squire?” Sir Valentino asked. 
“Yes, sir.” 
“Good.” Sir Valentino gestured to his guests with a broad hand. “Follow me.” 
At the manor door the squires of each knight scurried to attend to the ladies. Returning to Sir Valentino, Obed took his stallion, Justice, and placed him in a musty corner stall. 
“No, we are all satisfied, are we not? We have already eaten our fill,” Sir Valentino was saying as Obed entered the manor. Violet’s face was chiseled fury. “My good cook, we feasted splendidly with the king last night and this morning and were entertained by many intriguing acts. It was a great honor and privilege.” 
Abruptly, Sir Valentino turned to Obed. “I did not give you permission to hire this woman.” 
“I didn’t hire her, sir. She volunteered.” 
“Indeed?” Sir Giovanni said, raising a precise eyebrow. “What do you make of this, Sir Valentino?” Sir Giovanni’s eyes traveled from Violet to Obed and back. He smiled knowingly. “Your squire seems to be taking liberties with the freedom you granted him.” 
“It’s not that, sir.” 
“Do you mean to insinuate—” Violet began. Sir Valentino raised his hand peremptorily. Seventeen pairs of eyes glanced at her before returning to Sir Valentino. 
“It is dishonorable to speak falsehoods,” Sir Valentino told Obed. 
“Then I am not dishonored, sir.” 
Sir Valentino studied him. “Giovanni?” 
The other hesitated. “It may be true. I do not know.” Sir Giovanni shook his head. “You should not have chosen him. At the least, he is disrespectful. At the most… nothing good can come of this.”
“Do not shame me, squire,” Sir Valentino whispered.
“Don’t shame me, sir,” Obed returned quietly. The words were as the touch of cold stone.
Something more terrible than a grimace passed over the knight’s face. But then he smiled and turned to his guests. “He is a most resourceful squire!” The others murmured politely. “Now, you shall take this money,” Sir Valentino held up a bulging pouch, “and purchase the necessary supplies.” He rapidly listed the supplies then lowered his voice. “Do not disappoint me, squire.” His voice returned to normal. “Take your lady friend as well.” His voice rose further. “A long walk to town may improve business relations between servants.”
 “Sir, I don’t think she likes you to joke about her that way,” Obed said privately to Sir Valentino.
“I am the master, squire. Keep your place. I hope to prove Sir Giovanni wrong about you. Now, go.”



AUTHOR Bio and Links:

 

Nick Hayden is the author of the fantasy novels Trouble on the Horizon and The Remnant of Dreams. He has penned a number of short story collections, including Dreams & Visions, and the novella The Isle of Gold. Hayden co-hosts a story-telling podcast, Derailed Trains of Thought, about once a month and also helps run the Children of the Wells web serial. Nick describes himself as a mild-mannered bookkeeper by day, a mild-mannered (albeit tortured) writer by night, a writing teacher three times a week, a youth leader on weekends, and a podcaster every month or so. He has a wife and two kids, who do a fine job of putting up with him.

 

What people are saying:

 

“A remarkable tour de force set in a medieval world where magic is as common as muck, misunderstandings are ten a penny, and everyone but the hero has a remarkably good opinion of themselves. Nick Hayden mixes humor with fantasy to delight the inner eye and ear of the reader.”

— Adele Abbot, author, Postponing Armageddon

 

“Dazzling damsels in distress, a magical suit of armor, mayhem and danger at every turn, a host of unique characters and plenty of laughs make this novel worth reading. Mr. Hayden tells a worthy tale well!” 

—Phillip Tomasso, author, Sounds of Silence

 

Links: 


Link to story page: http://barkbks.me/WfDXRg 

Author Website: www.worksofnick.com


Twitter: @nick_hayden

 

GIVEAWAY  

Nick will be awarding a Winner’s choice of a $10 Starbucks card or a 4-piece box of Moonstruck truffles to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a Winner’s choice of a $10 Starbucks card or a 4-piece box of Moonstruck truffles to a randomly drawn host. In addition, anyone who is interested can go to their website (Barking Rain Press) and get a free 4-chapter sample of the book, plus a coupon for 35% off the price of the print or ebook version of the book.

 Follow the tour and comment often to increase your  chance of winning. The tour dates can be found HERE

 

10 comments:

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Nick Hayden said...

Thanks for letting me stop by and chat today! It was fun to share some of my behind-the-scenes thoughts.

kathy p said...

Love finding new to me authors! Thanks for the giveaway!

Nick Hayden said...

Well, I'm new-to-about-everyone, Kathy--but I'm glad you've heard of me now. Thanks for stopping by!

168d7130-34d4-11e2-91ad-000bcdcb5194 said...

Sounds very intriguing!

vitajex(at)aol(Dot)com

MomJane said...

What a fun excerpt. This story sound fasinating

Nick Hayden said...

MomJane, there's enough crazy characters to keep it interesting, trust me.

Barking Rain said...

Don't forget you can read the first four chapters of this book for free at the Barking Rain Press website.

joye said...

Thanks for having the blog hop. i get introduced to a lot of authors i have yet to read.
JWIsley(at)aol(dot)com

Nick Hayden said...

Joye, the blog hop's been fun. I hope you'll visit the rest of the stops, too. There's some neat stuff still to come.