Interview with Author Martin Owton

After my recent review of Exile by Martin Owton, I reached out to the author and he was kind enough to agree to an interview. Many thanks to Mr. Owton for sharing a bit about his methods, and if you haven't read one of his books yet, I recommend it!

What inspired your world building process?

The towns and countryside around me here in England plus the books I've read.  I went to a school that was founded in the 14th century and still uses some of the original buildings. Likewise with where I went to university. Nandor town is slightly based on Machynlleth in mid-Wales which I've visited several times. The Holy City is somewhat based on Verona.

I wanted the settings to feel reasonably familiar to a fantasy reader so that they could focus on the story and characters rather than have to assimilate a new world where they don't know how it works.

Who are you writing for and why?

Primarily myself, though with Exile I was fortunate to acquire a couple of muses who read the chapters as they were produced and would nag me to write quicker. It was also great to be able to kick ideas around with them about what should happen next. There are a couple of chapters that would not have happened without their direct input.

I would hope that Exile would suit the readers of the big well-known fantasy series, maybe to read while they are waiting for The Winds of Winter. Exile was deliberately written to be non-epic – if the bad guys win winter is not coming – which has nor served me well in the recent fantasy marketplace. A number of reviewers have drawn comparison to the works of David Gemmell - flattering to be sure and I certainly am influenced by his books, particularly the Drenai series - so any Gemmell readers would probably like Exile.

What do you do to recharge your creative energy?

I used to play a lot of competitive sport but unfortunately those days are past. I can no longer listen to music so these days I cook.

What reactions do you hope to inspire in others?

Pleasure. The best words an author can hear are “I loved your book”.

Where is your writing taking you?

Into book stores, I hope (and to WorldCon in Dublin next year). I'm close to retiring and becoming a full-time writer though I doubt my output will increase greatly. Time to write is not the problem, microplotting – what happens in detail on the next 2 pages – is what takes me the time. I have a contemporary fantasy coming out sometime with Crossroad Press, and I'm getting close to finishing a new book (not a Nandor Tale). I hope this time my agent will be able to find a home for it.

Find Martin Owton online: 

Exile on Amazon

Nandor on Amazon


Review: Exile by Martin Owton

Aron of Darien, raised in exile after his homeland is conquered by a treacherous warlord, makes his way in the world on the strength of his wits and skill with a sword. Both are sorely tested when he is impressed into the service of the Earl of Nandor to rescue his heir from captivity in the fortress of Sarazan. The rescue goes awry. Aron and his companions are betrayed and must flee for their lives. Pursued by steel and magic, they find new friends and old enemies on the road that leads, after many turns, to the city of the High King. There Aron must face his father’s murderer before risking everything in a fight to the death with the deadliest swordsman in the kingdom.

4 of 5 stars

Aron of Darien kills a notable swordsman in a bar brawl, and then has to serve the Earl of Nandor to make up for it. Nandor is out in the sticks or something because they don't have a lot of great heroes or money. They do have daughters who are both very attracted to Aron. You get the idea they don't have a lot of visitors coming through, and you see their different personalities through their advances. Aron is a very talented swordsman and these ladies are both very eligible. It sets up a love triangle that, being sisters, definitely brings tension and stress to Aron. Not to mention, their mother's not been satisfied with the Earl in awhile, so she's making eyes at Aron, too.

Just when things are heating up, Aron has to leave Nandor. The Earl sends him to rescue a kidnapped nobleman (the Earl's son) and the adventure really begins there. They send a small party to help, which leads to more complications than Aron bargained for.

It's a fairly classic style of fantasy, although Aron is not your classic fantasy hero. He seems humble and uncertain about his direction in an endearing way, with a pessimistic and sometimes humorous outlook. Rather than charming the ladies with confidence, he's indecisive and overwhelmed with the romantic attention he receives. As far as his ego is concerned, he is willing to do anything to achieve his objectives, including cross-dressing. The hair and makeup scene was delightful.

The setting feels like medieval Europe, but has some unique religions and customs to give it its own sort of flair. The ending did not wrap everything up as smoothly as I'd hoped, but it is book one of a series, so I'm sure the author desired to leave some questions open.

I recommend this story for readers who enjoy classic medieval European fantasy with risky adventures and complicated romances.

You can find it here on Amazon or here on Goodreads.

Review: Darklands by M.L. Spencer

Compelled to obey the dark god he pledged his soul to, Darien finds himself tasked with delivering the people of the Black Lands from under the curse of darkness which shrouds the skies. With the enemy mage Azár, Darien sets out across a barren darkscape to assume his place as the leader of a people who despise him.

As he journeys deeper into the shadowed waste, Darien is confronted with difficult truths that force him to question every loyalty he has ever held. For there, in the brutal proving grounds of the north, Darien will be inexorably forged into the most dangerous adversary the Rhen has ever faced.

5 of 5 stars!

This book differs from Darkstorm and Darkmage in the scale of its conflict. Rather than being about a battlefield, this story heavily focuses on Darien and Meiran sorting out their dynamic after all the repercussions of Darien's choices in Darkmage

The main characters spend time planning and negotiating their terms building up to what will perhaps be all-out war, but the imminent clash does not yet arrive in this book. We do learn a lot more about The Enemy, their lifestyles, their struggles, and their humanity. Spencer has created a unique and thriving culture in a region with a perpetually dark sky. 

The story is smaller in scope, the stakes more intimate. The ending gives little resolution, leading into what I presume will be major problems for the next book to tackle. The emotional struggles in Darklands are heartbreaking. This author so skillfully teases up angst and turmoil for the characters. Darien has even more consequences to suffer for his actions in the previous book. It's hard to watch him suffer so, as I often find myself rooting for him. Meiran herself bends the definition of the Oath of Harmony, while relentlessly advocating to uphold it. Maybe it's my own skewed sense of priorities, but I found a hard time relating to Meiran and her perception of righteousness.

Just when they seem to have an understanding, Darien & Meiran find themselves in an unpredictable conflict of interest. Spencer is an expert at weaving characters' choices through differing motivations, leading to true questions of what defines right and wrong. 

Darklands is a story of tenuous promises, and reminds us even the strongest bonds can lead to fragile alliances.  

You can find it here on Amazon and here on Goodreads