Some Thoughts with … G.M. White
G.M. White has always been an avid reader, a love of the written word instilled in him by his parents at an early age. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that he was a very talkative child and the only time he was quiet was when he had his head in a book. Anyway, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that one.
A lifelong daydreamer he finally decided to put his imagination to good use and set pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) and started to write down the worlds that he carried with him in his head. The Swordsman’s Lament is his first novel.
He has also had the typical author’s chequered job history. He has been at various times an actor, a performer at The London Dungeons, a theatre usher and box office clerk, a ticketing systems specialist working at the Ambassador Theatre Group, National Theatre, and Royal Albert Hall, and played drums in a variety of rock bands.
After thirteen years living and working in London he and his wife gave up the rat race, and moved to St. Martin’s in the Isles of Scilly, where they continue to live.
1.- What made you decide to go for the self-publish route?
Well, it was a deliberate choice with The Swordsman’s Lament. I knew it was slightly quirky, and I’d written it a little shorter than the industry standard for a fantasy novel, so was unlikely to be picked up by a traditional publishing house in any case. I’d always intended to self-publish it as a bit of an experiment, and I’m glad I did! I’ve learned a lot from self-publishing and ideally, in future, I’ll be what they call a “hybrid” author, someone who both self-publishes and has some work traditionally published.
2.- After writing three books, which aspects of the creative process do you find more difficult to deal with?
It used to be editing, redrafting was a huge effort for me. I used a new system for The Swordsman’s Descent (which I can’t go into too much detail about as it’s from a course offered by Holly Lisle called How To Revise Your Novel) which was really thorough and had me throughly dismantle the first draft before rebuilding and improving things for the second draft. So I find that much easier to approach now! I guess in the act of drafting a book it’s the middle. Beginnings are easy as a lot of exciting stuff happens to get the story rolling. Endings are great fun as you’re bringing everything together and tying up all your plot lines, usually with a lot of action involved in my case. The middle is so much harder! It’s all the bit and pieces that have to happen to get your story to the finish line, but for some reason, it’s the part of the book I struggle with most.
3.- Talking a little bit more about The Royal Champion saga, there’s an aspect that I find really well described, and that surprised me, and it is sword combats. So let me ask, do you practice swordsmanship?
I fenced for a while when I was younger. Foil mainly, although I didn’t do it for very long. I enjoyed it, but the club I went to wanted me to do competitions for them. Which meant using the electronic kit, which I didn’t like. There was something about being connected up to it, the constant pull from the wires, that I found uncomfortable. I just wanted to sword fight! I wish I’d known HEMA existed. I lived in London for 13 years, where there are a few clubs and schools I could have gone to, but only discovered it was even a thing after I’d moved to a tiny island of 130 people. If I’d known about it I’d have been down my nearest club like a shot!
4.- As a difference from other sagas, The Royal Champion is a low fantasy saga. What made you decide to go for a lower fantasy idea?
It’s just how the story came out. I didn’t set out intending to write a low/no magic setting, but was about halfway through the first draft of The Swordsman’s Lament when I realised that was what I had done. I dropped a few hints about things in the larger world, some of which you encounter in The Swordsman’s Descent, as I liked the idea that magic exists in this world but only on the fringes. That you don’t find it in cities, and of course The Swordsman’s Lament is set entirely in the city of Villan. Apart from flashbacks to other times and places.
5.- I think Belasko is a character who is easy to empathize with, could you talk more about how you created him?
I had written several drafts of a more traditional epic fantasy novel with a teenage protagonist, but I couldn’t help feeling drawn towards creating a character who was closer to myself in age. Not in the first flush of youth, perhaps just past the peak of his powers, showing a bit of wear and tear. I had this idea of an older champion, a legendary swordsman. At around the same time I was diagnosed with irreparable joint damage in my foot, and I began to wonder what it would be like to have that pain if it wasn’t managed by modern medicine. And if you were someone, a master swordsman, whose life depended on your physical fitness, what would that be like? Then one night, at about 3am, I dreamed the opening scene to The Swordsman’s Lament. I sat bolt upright in bed, grabbed my phone, and typed it up as quickly as I could before the dream faded. I didn’t start work on The Swordsman’s Lament properly until the following year but it gave me a great starting point. The scene as it appears in the book is almost word for word as I typed it out on my phone that night.
6.-What inspired the world of The Royal Champion?
A number of things. I’ve always enjoyed swashbuckling adventure stories, something I can attribute to my love as a young child of the children’s animated series Dogtanian. (A reimagining of Alexandra Dumas’ The Three Musketeers with dogs, for anyone unfamiliar with kids TV from the early 80s!) And when I made the main character a duellist, giving him a rapier for his weapon, the setting of a renaissance level society fell into place.
7.- Mention apart, I really love the art style of the covers. Who designed them?
They’re great, aren’t they? They were done for me by a Ukrainian company called GetCovers. I’d recommend them to anyone who’s looking to get covers done for their books, they’re surprisingly reasonably priced as well!
8.- Has writing become easier with more books written?
In a way, yes. But also, no. I think my writing has improved over time, but then you hold yourself to a higher standard so things become more difficult as you want to keep improving. I’m always looking to improve my process, so am fascinated by other writers’ techniques and approaches. So I often try different things out during the writing process, which sometimes work out. Sometimes they don’t, and you have to back track and start again.
9.- What can we expect from G.M. White in the future?
Belasko will return! It might not be for a while yet, as my wife and I are expecting our second child in October and my focus will obviously be on that huge life event for a while. I’m also trying to get a freelance copywriting career off the ground, which will take up a lot of time, but I’m going to pick up fiction writing again in the new year after a little break to get used to the impact of another tiny human in our lives. I do have another project I’d like to work on first, which is a historical Arthurian book that I’d like to try and get traditionally published. I’m hoping to work on that and the next Royal Champion book concurrently. So plot one, then the other, draft one, then the other, and so on. So that they’ll both be ready about the same time. One to query with publishers and literary agents, the other to self-publish. It’s not something I’ve done before, so we’ll see how that goes!