Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Escapist Book Tours book tour for Aaron S. Jones’ Memories of Blood and Shadow! I’m thrilled to be a part of the kickoff for the tour by sharing my interview with the author down below!
In addition to the Q&A below, you’ll find information about Memories of Blood and Shadow, links to purchase a copy for yourself, and even a giveaway opportunity where you could win either a paperback or hardcover! Also, be sure to check the full tour schedule at the bottom of the post, so you can follow along with the rest of the tour!
Memories of Blood and Shadow by Aaron S. Jones
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
Published: April 7, 2022
Publisher: Self Published
Guilt cuts sharper than the deadliest of blades.
Tavar Farwan lives alone past the Undying Sands. During a violent storm, he is attacked by two young warriors claiming a need for vengeance for pain from ages past. Tavar defends himself, killing one of the intruders and leaving the other to bleed on the floor. Weary and filled with regret, Tavar offers to tell the young man his story: a story of how, in a world of Naviqings, Leviathans, and Shadow Warriors; a poor, nomadic orphan rose to inspire a kingdom, and kill a God.
Seven Samurai meets Unforgiven • Sand People Always Come Back in Greater Numbers… • What We Do in the Shadows
Thank you so much for joining us for this short Q&A! Before we get going, please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Aaron S. Jones. I am a Primary School Teacher as well as a writer and I write fantasy fiction that leans towards the darker side of the spectrum. I grew up in Hall Green in Birmingham, UK, which is where JRR Tolkien spent much of his early life. There must be something in the air that creates fantasy authors!
I now live in Kent and spend far too much of my time dying on Elden Ring instead of actually writing.
I want to start things off by asking: what is a great book that you’ve read recently and why should we give it a go?
Seven Deaths of an Empire by GR Matthews. It blends classic fantasy with elements of grimdark to tell a cracking story of an empire in upheaval following the death of its emperor. I love stories that draw on historical influences and this one had a strong link to the Romans which is an era of history that I adore. I can’t wait for the sequel. Go and buy it and give it a read!
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of reading/writing? Do you care to elaborate?
I love playing video games! Elden Ring is my current obsession. I seem to enjoy dying thousands of times over and over. I watch a lot of films and TV series, especially Korean and Japanese stuff. A bit of D&D each week is always good for the soul and keeps the creative juices flowing. Also, I play football (soccer for my American friends) twice a week to try and stay healthy in between my binges of wrestling (AEW).
Tell us about your road to writing. What made you want to become an author?
I’ve always wanted to write. I was lucky enough to have teachers who always encouraged me to write the mad stories tumbling around in my mind. My dad loved Lord of the Rings and that was my introduction to fantasy. Going to a Catholic school also brought out the writer in my as I actually enjoyed listening to the stories of good versus evil, angels and demons and that inspired me to write (although that definitely wasn’t the intention of my RE teachers!).
I would write a few scenes for fun when I was younger but it wasn’t until I was at university and studying English Literature that I sat down and thought about writing an actual novel. I had just finished reading The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie and was so inspired by it that I thought I’d give writing a go. Ended up writing a bloody mess of a story but it was a start!
Writing is a hard and lonely affair in the best of circumstances. How do you achieve a good work/life/writing balance?
This was difficult at first. When writing The Broken Gods trilogy, I spent hours every single day working on it. It was draining. I managed to finish the trilogy and a few short stories all in a few years but it wasn’t healthy. Memories of Blood and Shadow was written during the pandemic when I had a lot more spare time and going out was rare. Now, I have writing targets but I don’t beat myself up for taking days or even a week of to spend time with friends and family and recharge. The work will get done, there’s no rush. And that’s one of the benefits of being an indie author.
Is this your first book? If so, what lessons have you learned from writing it? If not, what lessons did you learn from writing earlier books that you brought into this one?
This is my fourth book – the first one outside of The Broken Gods trilogy. The main thing I learned was to keep a tighter focus. When I first started writing, I was doing the George RR Martin thing of creating a million characters and threads to a story and being overly descriptive. But that’s his thing, and he’s an expert at it. I had to find my thing and I feel by the time I started writing Memories of Blood and Shadow, it became clear that my writing is strongest when there is a group of losers banding together through grief and tragedy and fighting on, no matter how dark things get.
Do you usually write to background noise, music, etc. or do you prefer silence?
Definitely music. I need noise. So many scenes have changed as I have been writing them because of the influence of music. Often, I will listen to movie soundtracks (Lord of the Rings, Interstellar) or a few heavy bands depending on the scene being written. Devil Sold his Soul, Architects, and Enter Shikari are some of my favourites for inspiration.
What made you want to write in the fantasy genre? Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
The main reason for writing fantasy is that there are endless possibilities. It’s a genre I’m comfortable with because I’ve devoured so much material over the years. With fantasy, a good writer can shine a light on any issue within society and get their reader thinking. There is a lot of freedom in fantasy and at the end of the day, who doesn’t like reading about new worlds and characters?
I have a few ideas for sci-fi and horror stories but I’m still knee deep in fantasy at the moment. I often end up having ideas for decent horror stories but then just blending them into whichever fantasy story I am writing. I think I will write a sci-fi short story in the next year and then see what the feedback is like.
What is one thing that you love about the current state of fantasy and what is one thing that you wish you saw more of?
I love the push for more diversity in fantasy and speculative fiction in general. I always found it odd that stories seemed to have so many straight, white men running around in what appeared to always be a medieval Britain setting. Life is beautiful for its diversity and I feel that fantasy should always be able to represent that. Books such as The Daevabad Trilogy and Rage of Dragons feel fresh and interesting because they aren’t treading over old ground.
I want to see more foul-mouthed heroic orcs in fantasy! Probably due to the fact that I’ve recently finished Jonathan French’s The Lot Lands trilogy…
Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influences?
Right now, I’m loving Peter Mclean for his grit the way he writes with such a clear voice. RJ Barker is also phenomenal. Anna Smith-Spark and Adrian Selby are great at dragging me into a story and then disgusting me and amazing me in equal amounts. As far as influences go, Joe Abercombie stands out. I love the grey morality of his characters and I try to put that in some of my work. There’s also a hint of Patrick Rothfuss and Stephen Aryan in what I’m currently writing.
What do you think characterizes your writing style?
My books are dialogue heavy. I want the story to move with the interactions of the characters and their relationships more than anything else. The style is different between The Broken Gods and Memories of Blood and Shadow but both have strong dialogue and are light on description where possible. I like the reader having scope to visualize things for themselves instead of suffocating them with description.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Can I be a plantser? I used to be a panster but editing became exhausting! Now, I come up with a general plot but I end up getting dragged off into different directions by my characters so it always changes along the way!
What are your favorite types of characters?
Anti-heroes and morally grey characters. I also love a good redemptive arc. Characters who start off as dark, twisted things who gradually change for the better over the course of a story are the best for me. Saying that, corruption arcs can be just as good…
How much of yourself do you write into your stories?
I think there’s little bits of me in all my characters in some way. I write some characters to show what I would like to be, and others to show what I would hate to become.
For those who haven’t read Memories of Blood and Shadow, give us the elevator pitch.
An aging warrior tells a wounded attacker his story. A story of how a nomadic orphan rose to lead a rebellion, face a Leviathan, and kill a God…
Describe your book in 3 adjectives.
Epic, Bloody, Hopeful
What do you think is the overarching theme?
Hope can be found in the darkest of places.
Were there any specific challenges with writing Memories of Blood and Shadow. Or, did you find anything to be easier?
It was difficult trying to rein things in. The world grew and I created various cultures but I had to make sure I was only showing what was necessary for the story and for the reader. It has made it easier to think of ideas for short stories and for the possibility of sequels.
If you had to do so in just one or two sentences, how would you describe the plot of Memories of Blood and Shadow?
An enslaved and beaten warrior rises to take revenge on those who have wronged him.
They say to never judge a book by its cover and maybe that’s true in the philosophical sense, but it certainly happens with books. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Memories of Blood and Shadow?
Created by Miblart, the cover was designed to show that this isn’t your typical fantasy story. Set in the Undying Sands, it has a bit of an eastern influence and the artist certainly had Prince of Persia vibes when working on it. I love it and think it really captures the heart of the story.
One of my favorite things is highlighting quotes that really resonate with me and sharing them in my reviews. Do you have a favorite quote from [Insert Title] that you can share with us?
Tavar sighed, defeated. “That was no god. He was a man, just like any other, no matter what he tried to claim. Just a man, like any other. And I was no hero. Just a young fool wanting to save his friends. If you want to know it all, I’ll tell you. But I’m starting from the beginning. To understand who I am and why I did what I did, you need to know what happened when I was growing up. It is a tale in three parts: like all the great tragedies of old. I’ll tell you everything. The blood. The shadows. The flames. The hunger. The cries. It all started with a young boy; a naïve, young boy, and a family who loved him…”
What can you tell us about what’s coming up next for you?
I’m working on a few short stories with characters from The Broken Gods and Memories of Blood and Shadow. I also have a book currently titled Long Live the King that I’m about halfway through writing which is about a prince caught up in a coup that kills his family. He escapes and has to start from the bottom as he strives to take back what is rightfully his. I also am part way through a fun orc led novel. A hard drinking dwarven detective is tasked with discovering who killed the human bride of an orc before war breaks out between the races.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for us! I always enjoy this little peek behind the curtain. Do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to leave for our readers?
Just thanks for taking the time to read this and for continuing to support indie authors. There are thousands of great stories out there waiting to be read, it means a lot to authors when you choose their books so let them know!
About the Author
Born in the area of Birmingham that helped inspire Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Aaron S. Jones is the author of The Broken Gods trilogy. He is Head of English at a school in Kent, UK and when he is not tearing his hair out at students struggling with their, they’re, and there, he is tearing his hair out as he dies for the thousandth time on Demon’s Souls. You can find him on Twitter @HereticASjones where he is most likely procrastinating for hours at a time instead of focusing on his Orc murder mystery.
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