In honor of Mark Lawrence’s newest book, The Girl and the Moon (Book of the Ice #3), I had the great privilege of interviewing him.
I’ve long been a fan of his, having read almost all of his books. One thing I find wonderful about his writing is that every single series stands out on its own; I love how so many people I know have a different favorite series. With main characters like Jorg, Jalan (my favorite of all), Nona, Yaz, and Nick, there’s a series for everyone. One of the best things about being a Lawrence fan is that we are consistently graced with new books and we can always count on the next book coming in a timely manner.
Now, the much-awaited final installment in the Book of the Ice trilogy comes out this week on April 26th. The Girl and the Moon is sure to be explosive and satisfying, just like the rest of Lawrence’s work. He does an especially fantastic job at wrapping up his series, with the final books always delivering beyond what we expect.
Synopsis for The Girl and the Moon:
In the third exhilarating novel in this dazzling epic fantasy series, a young outcast will fight against staggering odds to save her world.
On the planet Abeth, a narrow Corridor of green land is surrounded on all sides by ice plains where only the strong survive. Ice triber Yaz has completed a perilous journey and arrived at the Corridor, and it exceeds and overwhelms all of her expectations. Everything seems different but some constants remain: her old enemies are still two steps ahead, bent on her destruction. She makes her way to the Convent of Sweet Mercy, where nuns train young girls who show the old gifts, but like the Corridor itself the convent is packed with peril and opportunity. Yaz has much to learn from the nuns—if they don’t decide to execute her.
The fate of everyone squeezed between the Corridor’s vast walls, and ultimately the fate of those laboring to survive out on ice itself, hangs from the moon, and the battle to save the moon centers on the Ark of the Missing, buried beneath the emperor’s palace. Everyone wants Yaz to be the key that will open the Ark – the one the wise have sought for generations. But sometimes wanting isn’t enough.
Hey, Mark! Thanks so much for taking the time out of your day to do a written chat with us! We’ll jump right in.
Congratulations on your newest book! With that being said, how has your writing process changed since you wrote Prince of Thorns?
It hasn’t changed a great deal. I used to write late at night on a PC after dealing with the day job and children. Now I write during the day on a laptop in the comfort of my home office – so the location and time have changed. And the internet wasn’t quite so diverting back then. Now that I can slope off onto Facebook, Twitter, or my Patreon’s Discord, the process tends to be fractured around that sort of slacking rather than other kinds.
But the process itself is much the same. I sit down and type. I don’t seem to do the things that many other writers do. There’s no outlining, planning, research etc, and generally just the one draft – the one I hand in. I guess you could say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
For the first book in my latest trilogy (2023/4/5) I did rewrite about 10% of it before sending it to my agent. Which is something I haven’t done before. And there was more shoving it around during the editing process than normal. Also, something unheard of, I even cut about 5-10% of it.
Again, I’m not sure that’s a change to the process rather than just some parts of the process being made more use of.
The pandemic has affected all of us in different ways. Do you feel like it has been easier to write since COVID hit or harder? During lockdown, did you feel more productive or less?
I don’t think it really moved the needle for me. Having a profoundly disabled child to look after tends to make you somewhat of a lock-in anyway. Combine that with me being a rather self-contained individual, and not very social, and you get someone who is largely unmoved by the pandemic in terms of how I live and work.
That makes sense!
In a battle in which they are pitted against each other, which of your protagonists would come out as the winner?
That rather depends on how much value you attached to low cunning, pre-planning, and cheating. On paper Nona is definitely the toughest since she has all manner of magics to help her. It’s hard to bet against Jorg finding a handy sniper rifle though.
Yaz, from the Book of the Ice, is certainly a dangerous proposition if given the chance to employ her skills. She’s not one for violence or killing though – so the fight would have to be hard to avoid or in a very good cause.
Jalan is noticeably absent from that list, although I’m sure Snorri could give them a run for their money! I find it hard to pick from those three, as well. Nona and Jorg would be an entertaining and fearsome duo to watch battle it out.
When writing, you do a great job of making sure that all of your characters have their own voice, but the writing style is always recognizable as yours. Did you struggle with finding any of their voices? Which characters were the most natural for you to write?
I guess my own voice is a snarky one with a dry humour, and that I tend to think of sneaky, non-obvious solutions that may not occupy the moral high ground (not that I follow through – those just spring to mind first). So, the characters closest to that are the easiest to write. Jalan would probably be the one to come most naturally. But once I have a clear idea of who the character is I don’t find it too hard to stick to their instincts over my own.
Jalan really cracked me up through the entirety of the series! I love how he was very honest with himself about his cowardice and poked jabs at himself and others.
I really enjoy when authors write books with connecting characters or settings, something that you seem fond of doing. When you write a series, do you usually know that you’re going to continue the story in that world or do you wait to see if there’s more stories to be told in that world once you’ve finished the series?
I don’t follow writing plans, so I often don’t know how a chapter will end, let alone a book or a trilogy. I write by throwing things out for a while and then starting to tie them together in interesting ways that suggest themselves on the fly. The same process can be used to form connections between different stories. It amazes me how well the technique works and how things always seem to mesh, forming structures and arcs that loom out of the fog and become a part of something that fascinates me.
I guess it might be a bit like how some sculptors chip away at block of stone, or whittle at a piece of wood, following the internal structure and hoping that something will reveal itself, only to be amazed to discover that there was an owl, or a dragon etc hiding in there.
That’s fascinating! Authors all write so differently, some writing completely linear and others creating scenes and placing them where they seem to fit. I love getting a glimpse into that creative process.
Which of your books would you most like to see as a television show or set of movies?
Tough question. I guess it depends on how good a job I’m supposed to imagine they do. The Impossible Times trilogy, for example, would be the cheapest to make and the hardest to screw up. But I guess I would like to see what a really great actor would make of Jorg from Prince of Thorns / The Broken Empire trilogy. Then again … some great slow-motion fight choreography for Red Sister / Book of the Ancestor would really be something.
The Impossible Times absolutely would translate well to the screen. I’d love to see any of these series make it to film.
Who are your favorite authors at the moment? Are you reading any books right now?
I’ve been reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon for 5 months now! It’s a long book, I’m a slow reader, and it’s entertaining but not gripping. Still … FIVE MONTHS! And every week I’ll get several people asking me to read their book, or the book they’re representing/publishing. I don’t like saying ‘no’, but I say it a lot!
I don’t tend to be a favourite author type of reader. Probably because I’m so slow, and read so few books, that I can’t afford that kind of loyalty. I tend to have favourite series and favourite books. I really enjoyed GRRM’s A Song of Fire and Ice series, for example. But I haven’t, in the decade spent waiting for Winds of Winter, picked up any of his other books. I guess the one author I was loyal to in the past was Stephen King, but it’s been quite a while since I read any of his work.
I urge people to not be like me, however, and to try all of my trilogies!
Favourite recent books have included Senlin Ascends (Bancroft), Master Assassins (Redick), Strange the Dreamer (Taylor), The Library At Mount Char (Hawkings).
I can understand that about Outlander, those are some hefty novels. I enjoyed them but they probably could have been condensed a bit. Senlin was such unique worldbuilding, though!
What’s the best thing someone has ever said about your books or writing?
There are too many good things that people have said for there to a ‘best’, but quite a few people have said my books either got them back into reading, or into it for the first time, and that’s pretty special. Also, a lot of people have said, about Prince of Thorns / The Broken Empire in particular, that the books have helped them when they were in a bad place mentally. That wasn’t something I ever expected. I wrote those books when I was in the first throes of grief at what my daughter’s condition had taken from her. There’s a strong mix of anger and defiance running through the narrative, and for various reasons it has helped quite a number of people fight their own darkness. Being able, even unintentionally, to have stepped it past just being a story, and into something powerful and meaningful in some people’s real lives has to be one of the best things.
That sounds so humbling and fulfilling!
At what point in your life did you decide you wanted to become an author? Is writing something that you’ve always dabbled in or was there a moment that you felt it calling to you?
Up to the point that I was an author I don’t think I ever had any strong ambition to be one. I wanted to WRITE, but I didn’t expect it to be published or to be paid for doing so. It was a hobby. I doubt most people who head off to play tennis or football at the weekend expect to be doing it for a living a few years later.
I played D&D as a kid, and helped run a fantasy Play-By-Mail game as a young man (in my spare time), so I was always writing stories of a kind, but never considered myself a writer. I took a creative writing class in my early 30s, just for fun.
Prince of Thorns was the third book I wrote, and I sent to an agent just because a lady on my online writing group kept pushing me to do so. I didn’t have much skin in the game. I wasn’t emotionally invested in getting it into print.
So, yes, a lot of dabbling and then I was suddenly hauled in by the throat.
Is there a book that you’re most proud of having written?
That’s easier if it’s about short stories. I’m proud, for different reasons, of During the Dance and The Visitor – both free on Amazon.
I guess I’m pretty proud of Prince of Fools / The Red Queen’s War trilogy for successfully making readers laugh out loud. That’s surprisingly difficult to do, and I didn’t know when I started the books if I could pull off ‘funny’.
I certainly laughed out loud quite a few times.
I’ve always found your books very quotable, do you have a favorite quote (or two) from your books?
I do have a fair few aphorisms that I’m fond of. I’ll choose this paragraph though, since one of my readers performed it on youtube and did a great job of bringing it to life. So, whenever I think about it, the words carry the extra weight of that interpretation.
“And there it is, proof if proof were needed, that though God may mould the clay and fashion some of us hale, some strong, some beautiful, inside we make ourselves, from foolish things, breakable, fragile things: the thorns, that dog, the hope that Katherine might make me better than I am. Even Rike’s blunt wants were born of losses he probably remembered only in dreams. All of us fractured, awkward collages of experience wrapped tight to present a defensible face to the world. And what makes us human is that sometimes we snap. And in that moment of release we’re closer to gods than we know.”
That is glorious!
What takes precedence to you when it comes to characters, plot, and world-building?
Characters by a long margin. Then I guess plot and then world-building. Books that readers praise for their world-building usually leave me cold. I guess GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire would be the exception to that rule.
I love to hear that. Character-driven novels are my favorite. I could read any book as long as I am interested in the characters. When reading, your line-up is exactly what I’m looking for. Characters, then plot, then world-building.
I always like to end with some rapid-fire questions to get to know our authors a bit more!
•Pepsi or coke?
•Wine, beer, or liquor?
Vacations are a dream for me – last one was in 2002.
•Cats or dogs?
•Weapon of choice if you were a fantasy character?
Sword if I were fantasy brave. Bow if I have to be me.
•Would you be the knight, the mage, or the king?
•Sweet or savory?
Savory, I guess.
•What would you choose as your last meal?
One that took 100 years to eat.
•Desert island book?
Something long and comforting. Lord of the Rings, probably.
•Favorite fictional character?
Dunno … Tyrion?
Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions!
If you haven’t had the time to pick up one of Mark Lawrence’s books, I highly recommend that you do! You can get his new book, The Girl and the Moon here:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mark Lawrence was born in Urbana–Champaign, Illinois, to British parents but moved to the UK at the age of one. He went back to the US after taking a PhD in mathematics at Imperial College to work on a variety of research projects including the ‘Star Wars’ missile defence programme. Returning to the UK, he has worked mainly on image processing and decision/reasoning theory. He says he never had any ambition to be a writer so was very surprised when a half-hearted attempt to find an agent turned into a global publishing deal overnight. His first trilogy, THE BROKEN EMPIRE, has been universally acclaimed as a ground-breaking work of fantasy. Following The Broken Empire is the related RED QUEEN’S WAR trilogy. THE BOOK OF THE ANCESTOR trilogy is set on a different world and is followed by the related BOOK OF THE ICE trilogy. There is also THE IMPOSSIBLE TIMES trilogy, a D&D/sci-fi work set in London in the 80s. All of these trilogies can be read in any order. Mark is married, with four children, and lives in Bristol.