Interview with Tim Hardie

Interview with Tim Hardie

It’s our pleasure to host Tim Hardie, the author of the Brotherhood of the Eagle series, including the SPFBO 7 finalist Hall of Bones, A Quiet Vengeance which was published earlier in 2023, and one of the authors of The Anatomy of Fear and The Advent of Winter anthologies.

Meet the Author
Tim Hardie

Tim Hardie grew up in the seaside town of Southport during the 1970s and 1980s.  This was before anyone had even heard of the internet and Dungeons & Dragons was cutting edge.  Living in a house where every available wall was given over to bookshelves, he discovered fantasy writers like JRR Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Ursula Le Guin, Alan Garner, Stephen Donaldson and Susan Cooper.  Those stories led him into the science fiction worlds created by Frank Herbert, Philip K Dick, Arthur C Clarke and HP Lovecraft.

After training to become a lawyer Tim lived in London for three years before moving to Yorkshire in 1999, where he has worked ever since in a variety of legal, commercial, financial and management roles.  His writing began as a hobby in his early twenties and has gradually grown into something else that now threatens to derail his promising career.

Tim writes epic fantasy that will appeal to fans of Joe Abercrombie, John Gwynne and Robin Hobb.

The Wolf Throne is available via my bi-monthly newsletter, which you can sign up for via my website.

Connect with Tim Hardie

About the Book
A Quiet Vengeance by Tim Hardie

Nimsah is an abandoned child living on the streets of Bengarath, surviving on her wits as part of a criminal gang in the City of Tents, home to the dispossessed. Dojan is the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Fujareen, enjoying a life of luxury in Bengarath Palace. Their lives are brought together as the threat of war looms in the neighbouring city state of Kandarah. However, Dojan and Nimsah share a secret, one that will set in motion a chain of events leading to vengeance.

The Anatomy of Fear anthology

‘The skull bell tolled, but only Lena heard it.’ – L.L. MacRae (Bone) Fear is universal – a shared human experience that provokes awe, curiosity and terror. It feeds our anxieties, elevating our heartbeats and driving the instinct to survive. But what are we afraid of – and why? Each story in this anthology seeks to answer that question, blurring the boundaries between horror and fantasy fiction. A collection of tales written to evoke feelings of discomfort and despair, fear and fascination in equal measure – inspired by the different parts of our own fragile, breakable, all-too-mortal bodies. Ranging from dark, blood-stained gothic streets to haunting visions of otherworldly beings to drug-fuelled paranoia trips that twist reality, The Anatomy of Fear is an exploration of the dark realms of the mind.

Interview
Welcome to the Asylum, Tim! Take a seat by the fire, have a glass of the beverage of your choice and tell us something about yourself that’s not in your bio!

Thank you! It’s a cold, dark, wet and wintery evening here in the UK, so that sounds like a great idea.

I must confess I’m always really careful about what I reveal on social media and in interviews like this. Whilst I’m as authentic as possible in what I put out there as Tim Hardie, the author, I keep my family, friends and work life separate from that. This is something I’ve chosen to do, not them.

Whilst that limits some of what I could otherwise say, one thing I am willing to share is that Tim Hardie is not my only author name. I recently adopted another, secret pen name to allow me to experiment with a completely different writing style. Rather against my expectations, this has now become an ongoing project. When the time is right I plan to reveal more, so watch this space.

Ooooh, intriguing!
What inspires your writing? Do you listen to music, stare into the fire, listen to the whispering of the wind, make deals with the Devil?

I always find this question so difficult to answer. I’m a Christian, so making deals with the Devil is definitely off the table. Fortunately, I haven’t felt the need to make a pact with the dark side, as my imagination is never short of dark ideas of its own! I’d describe my writing style/genre as dark epic fantasy for that reason.

Mundane as it sounds, those ideas tend to come when I’m doing very ordinary things like domestic chores, driving to work or just going for a walk. I think a writer’s subconscious is always active, busy shaping the story, and sometimes you need to give it time to work things through. Trying to force it in front of the laptop has never worked for me, although it took me years of wasted effort to realise this. Instead, doing a simple unrelated task can be enough for an idea to emerge. Sometimes they come and go, but occasionally an idea will stick and when that happens I know it has the potential to grow into a story.

Ha, I know what you mean, I used to have ideas in the shower. Or while sleeping.

All my stories tend to begin from a single idea or scene that forms in my mind, long before the characters are fully fleshed out and developed. A shared secret between a prince and a street child has unexpected consequences. How does the hero carry on when they’ve been broken? Footprints on black sand, leading to a fight that has been destined to happen from the very beginning.

The story and characters then grow from that initial seed, and at some point those characters take over. That’s the other aspect of this which is so fascinating – where the characters develop to such an extent they exercise their own influence over the story, often taking it down a completely unexpected direction. I guess that means my ideas start small, and slowly snowball into something much bigger.

What was the most memorable place you’ve visited? Did it inspire any of your work? How did that experience affect you personally?

Travel certainly broadens the mind and I’ve been to many European countries as well as the US and Japan. However, I think the place that’s been the biggest inspiration for me has been closer to home in Scotland. Edinburgh is my favourite city, and I love the creative buzz of the annual Festival and seeking out the weird and wonderful shows and events that take place each summer. Mostly, though, it’s the landscape of Scotland that’s particularly awe-inspiring and I have plans to explore more of the country next year.

I wouldn’t say these things directly influenced my writing in terms of specific scenes or events in the books, although the descriptions in the setting of The Brotherhood of the Eagle give a nod to both the Derbyshire Peak District (near where I live) and the wilder, rugged Scottish landscapes. Exploring new places and experiencing different cultures gives you a broader outlook, which I think is important as a writer. Nature has its own beauty and power, providing those moments of wonder which always help put my worries and problems into perspective.

Scotland’s history, of course, has not always been as pleasant as the picture postcard image you see today. Knowing the hardships those people experienced and the part England played in some of history’s darker moments is something worth reflecting on as well.

I’ve never been to Scotland, but I definitely would love to visit it someday.
Tell us about your publishing journey! When did you start writing, how did you decide on self-publishing and what were the most important lessons you’ve learned so far? How did you utilize those lessons when preparing to publish your upcoming book?

I began creative writing in 2005, deciding to go straight in and write an epic fantasy trilogy from scratch in a brand new world. I mean, how hard could it be?

It was incredibly hard.

It took me until 2011 to have a finished draft of the first novel which I was happy with. Over the five and a half years it took to write there were three major revisions, and I’d say I enjoyed and hated writing it in equal measure. Ultimately, I realised it wasn’t quite good enough but it had been a useful experience. I now knew I could write something of novel length, even if it wasn’t quite up to publishable standards.

In 2011 I started a new project, a book called The Brotherhood of the Eagle, which eventually became Hall of Bones. I completed that novel in 2015 and was absolutely amazed when I queried literary agent John Jarrold and he agreed to take me on as one of his clients. Back then, I didn’t really understand there was an independent publishing scene for fantasy. I went down the traditional publication route because I thought that was what you did. I got great feedback for Hall of Bones from the publishers but ultimately it didn’t find a home. With John’s full support I therefore decided to independently publish in 2020.

As far as lessons learned go, I’d say my biggest regret was not engaging with the wider writing community until 2019. It’s an incredibly supportive group of people, whether you engage through Facebook, X, Instagram, Bluesky or another social media platform of your choice. I learned a lot through those connections, and it’s led to some incredible creative opportunities. Writing is a difficult, solitary profession, so it’s really important to find the people who understand what you’re about and support you.

I think another key point is don’t rush your first release. You have all the time in the world to make your debut. I felt things were slipping by me in 2020 and was too eager to push ahead and get my work out there. Looking back, that first version of Hall of Bones was still too rough around the edges, and I’ve revised the book twice since then. Take the time to edit properly, leave it a while, then go back and look critically at your work once more. If you hire an editor, you should always ask for recommendations first and make sure that relationship is a good fit for you as an individual. A talented editor is worth their weight in gold and they will know how to make your work shine.

Your book cover must be good quality but please don’t think you need to spend thousands on it to guarantee success. The profit margins for book sales are low, so you may never recoup that initial investment. There are plenty of talented designers out there offering reasonable rates, so this is one area where you really need to shop around. Again, personal recommendations are so important. A book is judged by its cover, so make sure you’re comfortable with the financial commitment but also the end result. This is another long-term relationship, so it’s important you both understand each other and can work well together.

Marketing your book starts long before it’s published. Make sure you allow plenty of time to get advance copies into the hands of book reviewers and bloggers, as they are the lifeblood of the publishing industry. Nothing sells your book better than word of mouth. When I put A Quiet Vengeance out there earlier in 2023 I applied all those lessons, avoiding the mistakes I’d made in the past. The story was one where I felt I’d really grown as a writer and developed my craft, I’d spent enough time on editing, I had excellent advance reviews and Anne Hudson had produced a cover I really liked (it does divide opinion, but I don’t mind that). Despite my best preparations, this turned out to be my least successful book from a commercial point of view (or, as I like to say, it’s going to be my sleeper hit of the 2020s!). This is the other key lesson I had to learn as a writer – luck always plays its part and you just have to accept that. Some books take off, others don’t. It’s the nature of the business you’re in, although I will say the better the book, the more the odds of success lean in your favour.

I literally have nothing to add to that. All excellent points! Actually, no, I have something to add regarding bloggers and reviewers. Please, PLEASE get in touch with them well ahead of time, even if you don’t have a finished copy yet. Chances are, they are juggling a lot of books at a time, so giving them heads up will ensure that they’ll be able to make room in their schedule when the time comes.
I assume, like many other authors, you have quite a few ideas to begin with. How do you decide which idea to focus on? 

This can be really difficult. It’s very easy to be distracted and drawn to the new, shiny thing. I’m always keen to expand my writing and explore new directions, but I’m also conscious that my readers are eagerly awaiting the completion of my first fantasy series. I feel I owe it to my readers to finish the tale, so that’s where my focus is right now, as I complete work on book 4. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying writing Broken Brotherhood! In fact, these are some of the biggest and most anticipated scenes of the entire series as I bring things to a conclusion. It’s going to be an emotional moment when I write those final chapters.

What comes next is more tricky, and it’s a combination of commercial and artistic considerations.

I have an idea for a fantasy horror novel, called The Silent Division, which I think would appeal to traditional publishers. In addition, I’m already releasing a short story series called The Wolf Throne every couple of months via my newsletter, which is gradually building itself into an indie fantasy standalone. I also really want to write a follow-up to A Quiet Vengeance. However, as I mentioned above, the reality is A Quiet Vengeance hasn’t done all that well in terms of sales, so doubling down on that project and world comes with drawbacks when I consider the business side of this. For me, a novel is always a 12-18 month writing commitment, so it’s important to choose the right thing to concentrate on if I want to reach new readers.

At the moment, my plan after Broken Brotherhood is released in 2024 is to split my time between writing The Silent Division and completing The Wolf Throne, with the latter slated for independent release in 2025. Once finished, The Silent Division will go on submission to publishers and I’ll do my very best to try and forget all about it whilst I wait for news and move on to other projects.

Sounds like a busy time ahead! Good luck with all of those projects!
You’ve been quite busy in the past year or two, as well, as you had two books coming out recently. A Quiet Vengeance and The Anatomy of Fear anthology. Was it harder or easier to work on a release with multiple people instead of doing everything by yourself? 

With The Anatomy of Fear I was part of the team delivering that project. It was a very different experience to releasing A Quiet Vengeance, where as you say I was doing everything myself at my own pace and I was in sole creative control.

An anthology requires a great deal of coordination but it also comes with a higher creative energy level, as you find yourself bouncing ideas around with other writers. That was one of the best aspects for me – the early beta reading stage where I worked with various writers and we helped shape each other’s stories. The Anatomy of Fear was a true collective project, as there was no publisher involved. Just twelve authors whose individual contributions came together to make the project happen.

I was responsible for the project funds, taking over the financial reins once HL Tinsley had organised and run an absolutely superb Kickstarter fundraiser. I also led on distributing the ebook rewards to our supporters, as well as helping to proofread the entire collection. The Kickstarter side of things was a brand new experience and there was a steep learning curve. This is also the first project I’ve been involved in where there’s been merchandising – which you can still find via Redbubble! And yes, I do have the T-shirt.

I’d say the biggest challenges were getting those twelve stories through final edits, where we worked with the amazing Sarah Chorn, and the subsequent proofreading stage. Getting every story ready is much harder when you’re working with twelve different people, all of whom have their own individual writing style. We spent a long time on both stages, but I think the quality of each story demonstrates this was absolutely the right thing to do. My novels are always going to have a special place in my heart, but I think The Anatomy of Fear is in many ways the book I’m most proud of. It was a special experience to put this together, working with so many wonderful people and helping turn the idea into a reality.

Well, I know you already talked a bit about The Anatomy of Fear anthology above, but let’s dig a bit deeper! Whose idea it was and how did you come up with the anatomy theme? How did you guys get together? What were the ups and downs of publishing an anthology?

HL (Holly) Tinsley was the creative driving force for the project, so she came up with the idea and the anatomy concept after some initial discussions with epic fantasy author, book reviewer and blogger PL Stuart. Holly ran with the idea and assembled the authors she wanted to work with. She asked eleven authors, including me, and everyone said yes, so I think this part proved more straightforward than she was expecting!

As I’ve said above, this was a fun project to work on. Once everyone had written a first draft of their story, we knew we had a product and Holly then ran the Kickstarter to fund the whole thing. That was a massive high, watching us hit that initial funding goal and all our stretch goals too. Holly really did an amazing job with this.

I’m not sure I’d call them downs, but the issues I mentioned in my previous answer were hard work at times. With a Kickstarter project there are also some financial worries, as you have to make sure you can deliver what you promised to your supporters. With the exception of the forthcoming audiobook, we have delivered the whole project now and done it within the budget, so that was probably my biggest concern. Fellow contributor Jacob Sannox did a brilliant job organising the fulfillment of the physical books and shipping them around the world in the most cost-effective way. It was a massive undertaking but seeing those books arrive has been a real high point for me.

I guess this was a project that at some point fairly early on went well beyond being an ordinary book release. It was hard work, but I loved it.

I can totally imagine that!
Your story is titled Ears in the anthology. Why the ears? 

Honestly? It was the only body part left. My recollection of this (and opinions do differ!) is Holly started the whole ‘Who wants which body part?’ conversation (a perfectly normal conversation for authors) whilst I was at work. By the time I got home, all the obvious ones had gone.

I did toy with the creeping dread associated with sentient dandruff, but in the end I settled on ears. I struggled a bit with this at first, until I switched it around and thought about it from the perspective of people being afraid of sound. As soon as that idea came to me, I knew I had a story.

Mhm. Completely normal topic of conversation. Sure. Also, working is bad for you, see?! You should stop doing that!
Your other release this year was A Quiet of Vengeance (again, we talked about this a bit, but I’m supposed to ask questions, you see). Would you tell us more about this book? What was the main inspiration for it? How does it differ from your other series, The Brotherhood of the Eagle? Were you aiming at a similar audience or wanted to try out something else? Is there something you’d like readers to take away from it?

Unlike The Brotherhood of the Eagle, which is a Viking-inspired dark fantasy series, A Quiet Vengeance is a standalone novel which draws on influences from the Middle East and North Africa. After I’d finished writing the first draft of Lost Gods (the third book in Brotherhood) I was mentally exhausted, so I took a break and wrote something completely new. The result was A Quiet Vengeance, where the central idea is two children from different ends of the social spectrum share a secret, which has repercussions many years later when they meet again as adults.

A Quiet Vengeance is a character-driven story, where I deliberately scaled back the cast so there are only two points of view – the street child Nimsah and Crown Prince Dojan. It’s a political fantasy involving plots within plots, so if you like a mystery with unexpected twists and turns, this might be the book for you. The book is very different from Brotherhood, especially in how the story is told as it plays with time, with alternating chapters taking place in the past and the present to create a dual timeline structure.

I wasn’t really looking to reach a separate audience with this novel. It provides an alternative way into my fantasy world (they share the same world, although the events take place on different continents) with less commitment than a four-book series. It also expands on the world of Amuran for existing fans of the Brotherhood series.

The idea is I’ll return to this world with another separate self-contained tale called A Quiet Betrayal. This will focus on different characters, although some of those from A Quiet Vengeance will appear again. I guess I was partly inspired by Joe Abercrombie’s three standalone novels that immediately followed The First Law trilogy. There are threads weaving their way through each of those standalones but you could read one without having read the others. I’m aiming for the same effect. I plan to write A Quiet Betrayal in 2026, which again plays with how time is used to tell a story. I also have an idea for a third standalone, A Quiet Conquest, which takes a minor character from A Quiet Vengeance and puts them centre-stage.

You are one of those people who don’t understand the concept of rest, huh? Okay, just kidding, it’s always good to have a clear plan ahead!
After being an SPFBO 7 finalist with Hall of Bones, you entered SPFBO 9 with A Quiet Vengeance. I expect they were very different experiences. How did you cope with the stress/waiting? What advice would you give to those who are thinking about entering the competition?

With SPFBO7 I really didn’t have a clue, and I was swept along by the whole thing in a giddy rush. Reaching the finals with Hall of Bones was amazing and I made some really good friends through being part of that contest, as well as finding an audience for my books.

With SPFBO9 I was probably more nervous. Part of that was a bit of pressure, having made the finals before, and a better understanding of what the competition can do for your books if you’re successful. The stress of waiting for your review and then seeing how you fare within your group isn’t easy. I really admire people who can enter this competition and not think about it twice – that’s probably the healthiest way to cope! Even so, I enjoyed being part of the contest and I thought my judge Esme Weatherwax did a great job to promote all 30 books in her initial batch, despite some very difficult personal circumstances for her and her fellow judge Kristen. My goal for SPFBO9 was to get a decent review, the same objective I had for SPFBO7. Anything else is down to luck on so many levels – in particular whether you click with your judge and who else you’re up against that year. I’m pleased A Quiet Vengeance was well-received, even though it didn’t make the semi-finals. The standard is so high and I think it’s becoming tougher with each passing year.

Absol utely! A lot of things come down to luck in SPFBO. I’m glad you had an overall good experience, though!
Have you read any other books that entered into SPFBO9? Or are there any that caught your attention? 

Confession time. I’m still reading all my fellow finalists from SPFBO7! I am way behind with my reading. However, a couple of books definitely caught my eye from SPFBO9 and I will get to them in time. These include The Wickwire Watch by Jacquelyn Hagen (the finalist from my group) and Curse of the Fallen by HC Newell.

I’ve already read The Crew by Sadir Samir and Pawn’s Gambit by Rob J Hayes. Both of those are brilliant, and they couldn’t be more different, which is really the essence of SPFBO.

Ha! I *love* The Crew. It’s such a fun book.
If you were a character in any of your books, how would you be described? And what would your profession/role be? How long do you think you would survive in that world?

I definitely don’t think I’d be a hairy-arsed Viking warrior. I’m probably more likely to be a serf, toiling away in the fields somewhere. Frankly, I think this would improve my survival chances compared with my main cast of characters. 

LOL. You are probably not wrong.
Describe an asylum set in the world of one of your books!

I haven’t really considered this for Brotherhood but it’s an interesting idea for the world of A Quiet Vengeance. I actually think I will include an asylum in The Silent Division, which is a gaslamp fantasy horror story that follows on from my short story in The Anatomy of Fear. In that setting, the world of Assanda, madness is a common malady as a consequence of the horrors unleashed by the mysterious Whisperers. I can imagine a grim, grey, gloomy Victorian-style building treating people whose cases are, sadly, hopeless. There’s no cure for the madness inflicted by the Whisperers.

Ooooh, yes, please!
What are your future plans? Are you working on something now? Do you have plans to attend any events in 2023/2024?

I think I’ve covered my future writing plans in the previous answers. Since it’s in the UK next year I intend to go to the Glasgow WorldCon in August 2024, which promises to be an amazing event. I’m looking forward to catching up with a lot of my friends there.

Yeah, sounds like Glasgow is the place to be next August.
While you are locked in here for eternity, we will allow you to invite one visitor (fictional and otherwise) – who would you invite? And no, they can’t help you to escape.

I’m always hopeless at these sorts of questions! After some mental flailing, I’ll go with Bridget Jones, who was a really important literary figure for me back in the 1990s. Lovely as this asylum is, I think after a while I could do with a few laughs and find out what’s going on in the outside world. 

Okay, now I see why you and Bjørn are such good friends.
Well then, it was a pleasure to have a chat with you! Please allow these nice attendants to escort you out. We hope you’ll enjoy your stay in the Asylum! Any last words?

It’s been a pleasure! Wait a minute, did you say I’m here for eternity?

Yup, you heard that right! *locks door*
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