Earlier this year I had the opportunity to read The Fangs of War, book #1 in the Blood and Steel Saga. Very early on I was blown away by the exceptionally high standard; it goes without saying that indie fantasies are not to be underestimated! In his debut novel, Doble has shaped some of the best characters I have read in fantasy, complete with witty dialogue to flesh them out; along with an amazing story – you can read my full review of the book here.
After devouring his book, I approached Ethan to discuss some points and amazingly, he agreed to participate in this author interview!
After the brutal execution of Provenci’s King by the roving forces of Tarraz, a new military government vaults into power with the nefarious Alvarez at the helm. Hell-bent on bloodshed and the glory of an imperial past, he amasses the largest army seen in a generation and plunges the two nations into a bloody war, against the will of the god-like being known as the All-Mother.
Cavara, a general of the army at odds with her superiors over the war, is ground under the heel of the scheming Commander Revek and betrayed by her own people, left for dead on a distant shoreline. Saved by a passing ship and taken to the other end of the world, she is plagued by visions of a white void and a figure known as the Shadow Woman, who begins to unravel the true nature of the war – a conflict not only of men, but also of gods alike.
In a story of hope, power, greed and hatred, all are driven mad by the enemy within – none are safe from the Fangs of War…
- If you had to recommend a single book that everyone should read, what would it be?
One book everyone should read has to be Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie – bold, gritty, sweary, beautiful writing and great characters. A book that said to me “THAT is how you write fantasy”.
- Where did the idea for Fangs of War come from?
The Fangs of War started off as a three-page English project when I was 14 actually, which ended up as the prologue to the book itself. I then returned to it about three years later after long periods of poor mental health, and the inspiration just came to me to write the whole thing in 8 months – the book was a saving grace to me in many ways.
- When reading it I felt an influence from the British Empire, did you take inspiration from our history?
I certainly did! While writing it I was studying British Empire at sixth form and took a lot of interest in the disingenuous morality of it all. Imperial powers facing the consequences of their actions is always an interesting power struggle to write about, none more so than based on our own history.
- If you had to put yourself in the novel, do you think you would be a military leader, a member of the army, a scout, or a criminal mastermind?
I would probably choose to be a scout – in the same way as Savanta and Markus in the Fangs of War, I would want to define my own path and make my own mark on the story (although hopefully with different results!)
- Are there any other books that influenced the creation of TFOW?
The Shadows of the Apt Series by Adrian Tchaikovsky – I took a lot of inspiration from his writing. It is a daunting 10 book series I admit, but the ability to spin a grand political narrative with intriguing characters and a fantastic plot always resonated with me, and I wanted to replicate that in writing the Blood and Steel Saga.
- You’ve written some of the best female characters I’ve read in fantasy, how did you create them and what process did you go through to ensure they felt real?
I appreciate that! I think the best way to explain it is that I don’t write characters based on their personality – instead, I write them by a certain emotion. That character becomes the embodiment of an emotion, and that emotion shifts as the book progresses: Cavara is virtuous, then anxious, then defiant; Revek is manipulative, then arrogant, then maniacal. I’ve always found its the best way to keep them grounded and realistic.
- You have also created some of the best character dialogue I’ve read in a long time. Aside from some excellent banter, what quote from your book stands out for you?
The best quote for me is actually in the first chapter, when Revek is being insulted by General Cavara: “If I’d come here for your childish antics, Cavara, I’d have put myself in the stocks and given you the s**t to throw myself… but as it so happens, I did not”. It’s a prime example of how the dialogue reads throughout the book: sarcastic, tense and always with hidden intention.
- If had to live anywhere in your world, where would you pick?
Probably the City of the Sun, the capital of Sevica in the east. A city built along the spear of a mountain, with bronze domed palaces and winding city streets. I’m sure those who’ve read the book would agree!
- Without any more context, can you let us know what your favourite chapter is from the Fangs of War?
Chapter 60, “Champion’s Fate” … that is all I will say.
- You’ve written your first novel by 19, that’s insane! How did you find time to complete it around your day-to-day life!?
Thank you so much! For many people the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns were a curse, but for me in many ways they were a blessing, and none more so because I had so much free time all of a sudden. Lots of sitting in the sun in the summer with a notepad, or at my desk on my laptop in the evenings with a rum-on-ice to-hand. It was bliss, really.
- When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading a vast array of fantasy and history/politics books, painting impressionist landscapes, writing up my university coursework, or just out with good friends having a drink. I have many creative outlets, but also enjoy being social when I can!
- Can you give us an idea of what we can expect from book 2 and when you hope to release it?
Book 2 is all about pain: deep, emotional, wrenching pain, and the utter elation as characters finally get what they deserve and find the love and redemption they long for. Expect many more plot twists, and some unexpected results.
I’m hoping it will be released in Spring next year – and I have a title in the works that I’m very pleased with, but I’m keeping it well under wraps for now. Stay tuned…
Thanks so much for participating in this interview Ethan, it was great learning more about the inspiration behind the book, and of course when we can expect the much-awaited sequel!