David Wragg is the author of the Articles of Faith series and the Tales of the Plains trilogy. He lives in Hertfordshire, UK, with his family and an increasing number of animals.
1.- How did you start writing?
I’d always fancied writing a book someday, even going back to childhood - on one family holiday aged all of 10 I remember feverishly scrawling a masterpiece in a spiral notebook every night which mysteriously never made it to the bestseller list. In my teens I read voraciously, including buckets of 90s sci-fi and fantasy, and while lots of it was great (especially to my incomplete notions of relative quality), some of it did leave me with an unshakeable belief that I could do just as well myself.
I didn’t actually try writing properly until my 30s though, when I left a long-held job in a state of professional burnout. I couldn’t face the idea of getting another job at a similar company doing the same thing, and eventually my wife was so fed up of my moaning that she instructed me to “just write that book you’re always banging on about”. So I had a go, assuming it couldn’t be that hard, and just 8 short years later The Black Hawks was published.
2.- What inspired you to create the Tales of the Plains series?
After The Righteous, I was happy that I’d finished the story that I’d set out to tell, but when my publisher asked for another series set in the same world I knew exactly where I’d take it. I’d wanted to take on a fantasy western already - I’ve always loved the genre and thought the intersection of Western vibes matched neatly to the kind of fantasy I was looking to write. On top of that, the events of The Righteous had brought the characters into a part of the world that bordered a region of great plains, deserts and mountains, and I suddenly had exactly the landscape I wanted just sitting there, ready to go. After a little bit of delving for loose ends from the first series to pick up and tie off, I was all set.
3.- Your book could be ascribed to the Western genre. Why did you decide to choose it?
Westerns are all about ”freedom”, for any number of interpretations of the word - a world without the structures and strictures of state, where cultures clash and people try to make the world as they would have it anew. Life-is-cheap-lawlessness and casual attitudes to sudden violence are certainly a staple of much fantasy anyway, but what interested me was more about the notions that underpin it all - what, after all, is the purpose of a state? Who does it serve? And how do you build one from nothing? Should you even want to?
That’s all very grand, certainly, and these ideas are explored over the course of the series, but up front, with The Hunters, what I wanted was a stark, unforgiving landscape where it’s up to you to solve your own problems. We can explore from there as we go.
4.- How difficult was writing the relationship between Ree and Javani?
In many ways, it was a doddle. Their relationship has been clear to be from the very first instant, and springs entirely naturally from their opposing ages, objectives and outlooks. Javani is 12, crafty and under-stimulated, and desperate for more excitement in her life. Ree on the other hand is thirty years older and has spent the last decade or more trying to find somewhere quiet and drama-free. Their relationship is one of constant squabbling, of demands for answers crashing against a need to protect through obliviousness, underpinned of course by tremendous affection (as the most tempestuous relationships can be…). Their development over the series, and the development of their relationship, is one of the things I’m most excited about for the books to come.
5.- Tales of the Plains is your second series, after Articles of Faith. Could you tell us more about that one?
I like to call Articles of Faith a single story told across two books. It’s about a lot of things, but central to it is a search for father figures, and a growing understanding that (inevitably) the world is messy, people are complicated and situations are not as black and white as they seem. Mostly, though, it’s about a young man called Vedren Chel who has some firmly held beliefs, his inadvertent shackling to a prince whose position in life is suddenly precarious, and the band of luckless mercenaries (the titular Black Hawks) they find as their fellow travellers. It’s chock-full of murder, cynicism and gutter-talk, so probably not one to get the grandparents,
6.- Could you pitch The Hunters as a mix of two other fiction books?
Harder to name two books as influences (aspects of True Grit and The Searchers, perhaps, but tangentially), but the two obvious film touchstones are Terminator 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road - strong adult/child vibes, unstoppable killing machines, lunatic chasing across the desert. It’s quite deliberate, and I make no apology!
7.- What can we expect from Dave Wragg in the future?
Books 2 and 3 of Tales of the Plains should be arriving in 2024 and 2025 respectively (we’re in edits for book 2 at the moment, and book 3 is outlined and currently a chapter long), so that’s me covered for the next couple of years, but after that with any luck we’ll see something extremely new and exciting. Keep an eye on my website/mailing list for more…