Some Thoughts with ... Damien Francis
Damien is an Australian author living in Canberra. He has had a love and passion for writing, reading, and telling stories since he discovered the joy of escaping into fantastical worlds from a young age.
He considers his faith, family and friends to be the most important things in the world and strives hard to honour all three.
When he’s not writing, he can be found enjoying a wide variety of film, television shows, music, and video games.
Welcome to a new post on my favourite section of the site. Today we are interviewing an Aussie author, Damien Francis, whose book The Tome of Haren we have reviewed recently.
Let's dive in!
1.- How did you start writing?
Initially, I started reading lots of books when I was very young. And it didn’t take me long to figure out I could start writing and telling my own stories. I fell in love with the fictional worlds inside my head and wanted to put them all down so other people could enjoy them too. I think I was about 12 when I had the very early idea for my own epic fantasy series, which eventually grew and grew throughout high school. I then went to uni to study creative writing and continued to expand my writing skills. So it’s been a whole process of following a childhood passion to finally reach where I am today.
2.- How was the process followed to get The Tome of Haren published?
It took a long time. So I started the Tome of Haren when I was 12. It took me sixteen years of writing and drafting over and over. I started submitting these drafts to publishers about eight years ago. And then it was a process of write, re-write, submit. I lost count of how many rejection letters I received. Most were automatic ones. Some were more positive with good feedback but most were just basic. And eventually, around 2020 I started to consider going the self-published route. I started researching and exploring all the different avenues one could take. But I had one last round of publishers to try, mostly indie publishers (all in Australia too). And then early 2021 I received an email from a small indie press called Shawline Publishing Group who had accepted my manuscript and wanted to publish it. It took another year and a bit with delays from Covid etc. But eventually, The Tome of Haren was published and I officially became an author! Achieving a dream I’d had since I was a child!
3.- What inspired you to create the world of Narean?
I think my inspiration came from so many different areas. There was always the classic inspiration of other fantasy novels I’d read growing up, Deltora Quest, Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, Eragon, Kingkiller Chronicles, The Night Angel Trilogy, and so many others. I looked at their worlds and felt like I wanted to create something like that, but was my own. A world full of everything I wanted, but with room to expand and grow as time goes on. I wanted the assassins, the dragons, the monsters, the cool heroes, the terrifying villains, the wicked sense of evil, the awesome scale and wonder of magic, the interesting spiritual realm, the flawed characters, the unique cultures, the different environments, the political schemes and so much more. I wanted all of it to all roll into one place. And I kind of realised that if this was the world I was creating, why couldn’t I fit it all in? It had to make sense within the world, but once that was sorted, I knew I had something I loved on my hand. I love the world of Narean and all of the intricacies and details (lots of which aren’t in The Tome of Haren, but might get explored in future books, or might never see the light of day). So Narean is just one nation of many, with its own borders, and states inside, and different cultures, and political systems. But there is also so much I haven’t put in yet that’s far wider than just the single nation of Narean. But that’s for future stuff.
4.- How would you say the draft evolved from the first version to the published one?
The first draft was initially a much shorter story. And it was very simple. It only followed one POV. As I grew up and read more widely and read much more detailed fantasy stories, my own story started to evolve to better reflect what I had read and my growth in skill. Uni really helped me hone this idea of a classic fantasy story following a chosen one but with some twists as I wanted my own spin on things. And the drafts kept growing and growing. I realised that telling it from one perspective just didn’t quite fit with what I wanted to tell. And so 1 POV became 3, which became 5, which became 6. And every subsequent draft grew in size and length, and I had to make adjustments after adjustments to make sure everything fit quite right. And then things had to get removed and replaced with better storylines. I think it took me 2 years of hard planning and plotting to get to a point where I was happy, not just with the story I was telling for the Tome of Haren, but the stories beyond it. What would happen next? At that point, all I had to do was write it. And with some help from some beta readers who are dear friends of mine who all gave such great insight and feedback, I was finally able to get it to a point where the published version was exactly how I wanted it to be.
5.- Did writing a multi-POV adventure made it easier or more difficult? How did it influence on your narrative style?
Writing a multi-POV was not in the initial plan and only came about later. It definitely made things harder. I wasn’t juggling one character and where they were at all times, but 6! A bit ambitious, but I always like the idea “Go Big or Go Home” so I decided I wanted to go big. I had to make sure that characters who did overlap were seeing similar things, or weren’t somewhere else at the same time. I found this to be incredibly difficult and it took a long time of hard work and adjustments to figure out and fix the most egregious of these errors. Thankfully I had a good group of friends and beta readers who helped me find most of these errors and I’m a stickler for details, so I was able to spot most of them myself earlier on.
I’m fortunate that the more I developed each of the POV’s and their individual stories, the easier I found it was to incorporate them into the wider narrative. For a long time, I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew, but I think that at this stage it all comes down to the readers.
It greatly changed my narrative style, because I was now writing many different stories, all linked together in different ways. I couldn’t just tell a straightforward ‘Quest’ story anymore. It had to incorporate more. So I decided to explore different parts of the world or different ideas through the different characters. This meant that each character was really focussing on one aspect, which helped to simplify things immensely. And by making their stories unique, it meant I could develop them in different ways, and give them different challenges instead of just fighting bad guy (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) I think that the Epic Fantasy story I wanted to tell grew from something simple and straightforward into something complex, multi-layered, and detailed beyond what I had ever envisioned and I love it for that! I love giving myself this challenge to write something difficult.
Only the readers and time will tell if I did a good job or not. But the way I see it, there’s always room to improve down the line, and with each subsequent book.
6.- What other fiction works would you say have inspired you?
I would probably say reading and watching a lot of horror, like Stephen King, H.P Lovecraft, and the multitude of horror films. They really helped me formulate other ideas to incorporate into the world, such as the Vale of Onofor. My action writing was influenced more by Matthew Reilly (an amazing Australian action author) than other works. I also think reading lots of thrillers like Lee Child, Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, also influenced my style of writing. That slow build kinda styles to a crescendo. I also read a bunch of comics that also inspired my love of fantasy worlds with epic but flawed heroes and disturbing but multidimensional villains. I’m also a huge film buff and player of video games, so they all had some kind of inspiration for what I wanted to write about. At the end of the day, The Tome of Haren is the story I wanted to tell, the one I wanted to read, incorporating all of my loves and inspirations together.
7.- What can we expect from Damien Francis in the future?
Well, I’m currently working hard on the sequel to the Tome of Haren. And then I’ll work on the rest of the books in the series. There are 8 books planned for this first series. And I’ve had some people already start asking if I’ll write some stories outside the main series but centered around characters or events still in Narean, so I might tackle that at some point too. Beyond that, I have plans to write many more stories and series set in the same overarching universe, but possibly set at different times or locations. There are lots of plans I have and I hope one day I can go full-time as an author/writer so that I can get more of these stories down on paper for people to read and enjoy. Plus I might churn out some stuff under a pseudonym at some point to tell stories set outside this world. But that’s not on the agenda currently. I love writing and if I could have my way, I would write stories until the end of time.