I spoke to Tej about his new book: Bloodsworn
“Everyone from Jalard knew what a bloodoath was. Legendary characters in the tales people told to their children often made such pacts with the gods. By drawing one’s own blood whilst speaking a vow, people became ‘Bloodsworn’.
And in every tale where the oath was broken, the ending was always the same. The Bloodsworn died.”
It has been twelve years since The War of Ashes, but animosity still lingers between the nations of Sharma and Gavendara, and only a few souls have dared to cross the border between them.
The villagers of Jalard live a bucolic existence, nestled within the hills of western Sharma and far away from the boundary which was once a warzone. To them, tales of bloodshed seem no more than distant fables. They have little contact with the outside world, apart from once a year when they are visited by representatives from the Academy who choose two of them to be taken away to their institute in the capital. To be Chosen is considered a great honour… of which most of Jalard’s children dream.
But this year the Academy representatives make an announcement which is so shocking it causes friction between the villagers, and some of them begin to suspect that all is not what it seems. Just where are they taking the Chosen, and why? Some of them intend to find out, but what they discover will change their lives forever and set them on a long and bloody path to seek vengeance…
Tell us about your book (what’s the sales pitch?)
Bloodsworn starts like a lot of medieval epic fantasy stories do; a handful of characters from a rural setting – some of whom are coming of age – find themselves swept up into a series of world-changing events. But during its narrative, many tropes which are usually associated with that premise are broken and the story takes a grim turn, becoming something darker.
It is a novel which will simultaneously feel familiar to readers but often surprise them.
If you could be a character in the book who would you be and why?
I think most of my characters have a piece of me within them… but none of them are completely me. Out of the main cast of this series, Jaedin is probably the one I have the most in common with though.
Do you have a set writing process, if so what is it?
I type almost everything.
The only time I write anything by hand is once the first draft is finished: I print it out and grab a red pen. If I see anything which doesn’t feel right, I scribble it out and write in the margin how I will make it better. I am quite brutal during this stage, and will often massacre entire paragraphs and restructure entire pages.
Then, I open up a new Word document and write the entire chapter again. From scratch. Using my annotated print-out of the first draft as notes.
This is how I create my second drafts. From there, all future refining is done on screen.
What’s one question you think would be really fun to answer, but has never been asked of you?
If I could live for a week in the setting of a mythological tale/cycle, which one would it be?
And my answer would be the Mabinogion; a collection of 12th-century Welsh folktales thought to be descended from oral tradition. There is something about its setting (in medieval rural wales, but filled with gods, heroes and mythical creatures) which is enchanting.
What made you choose to write your book as an epic fantasy?
Epic fantasy is one of my favourite genres. It is the one my parents introduced me to when I was young, and I continued to read into my adulthood. I have always had a very active imagination so it was only natural that when I started to create my own stories they would be in that genre.
With this particular novel, I would say that it wasn’t just epic fantasy that I was inspired by though. It is quite dark and gory, and it has mutant beings and other weird creatures in it; some of these things are more reminiscent of horror and Japanese anime than typical epic fantasy.
How much research did you do before writing the book and how did you go about it?
Because this story takes place in my own imaginary second world, it was more of a case of brainstorming than research. I have studied history (both at College/University level, and in my spare time) and I did draw upon some of my knowledge of medieval cultures for some of my inspiration, but I also had to conceptualise a whole new map, timeline, and mythos – as well as a plethora of cultures which inhabit this world and were shaped by these things.
Another bit of research I had to do (which is probably a little unusual for medieval-age fantasy settings) was some astrophysics. The world Bloodsworn and its sequels takes place in has three moons, and this has consequences for their nocturnal activities, knowledge of astronomy and, most importantly, their nautical tides.
Do you remember the first story you told? What was it?
My debut novel was called The Janus Cycle. It was a contemporary, semi-biographical coming of age story with elements of surrealism. It was a hard novel to categorise, so we (my publisher and I) eventually settled upon ‘gritty and surreal urban fantasy’. That description sometimes gives people the wrong impression of its themes though (it doesn’t contain many of the usual novums people associate with that genre, such as vampires). I am very proud of it, and almost everyone who has picked it up has enjoyed it, but it has been a difficult novel to market at times.
What are you reading? Who do you think we should be reading?
I am currently reading Blood Song by Anthony Ryan.
My answer to that question is usually this; more books published by indie presses.
I am not saying that in any way to diss books published by the ‘Big Five’… most of them are great too, of course, but the thing about indie books is that it is easier to miss them if you don’t put an effort into seeking them out because they don’t have anywhere near the same level of advertising (and other routes to exposure) behind them as books published by the bigger imprints. There are some real gems out there in the indie presses – they often take more risks, and pave the way – but yet, they can be easily missed.
In one sentence what’s your best piece of advice for writers?
For new/aspiring authors my main advice would be this; when you are first starting out and you finish your first novel, put it aside for at least a year and then look at it again before you consider it ready. You will probably know better ways to refine it and do that story better justice after that. I made the mistake of submitting things before they were ready, early in my journey to becoming a writer, and it set me back a bit in terms of publishers/agents I could submit to later down the line.
Tej Turner is a writer of fantasy and science fiction. His debut novel The Janus Cycle was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015 and its sequel Dinnusos Rises was released in 2017. Both of them were described as ‘gritty and surreal urban fantasy’. He has also had short stories published in various anthologies.
Tej Turner has spent much of his life on the move and does not have any particular place he calls ‘home’. For a large period of his childhood, he dwelt within the Westcountry of England, and he then moved to rural Wales to study Creative Writing and Film at Trinity College in Carmarthen, followed by a master’s degree at The University of Wales Lampeter.
After completing his studies, he moved to Cardiff, where he works as a chef by day and writes by moonlight. He is also an intermittent traveller who every now and then straps on a backpack and flies off to another part of the world to go on an adventure. So far, he has clocked two years in Asia and a year in South America. He hopes to go on more and has his sights set on Central America next. When he travels, he takes a particular interest in historic sites, jungles, wildlife, native cultures, and mountains. He also spent some time volunteering at the Merazonia Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Ecuador, a place he hopes to return to someday.
Find out more about Tej and his books on his website or follow him on Twitter @tejturner
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