Monday, March 14, 2011

Interview with author Christopher Hoare

Today, I'm chatting with Christopher Hoare author of the fantasy novel, Rast.

1) Tell me a little about your book.
Rast is a fantasy and will be my fifth novel published. The story takes place in an entirely new scenario that I class with high fantasy to distinguish from much of the modern writing that has magical happenings in an otherwise stock medieval world. The events happen while the reigning sorcerer king of Rast is being destroyed by rebelling magic and, simultaneously, while the land is invaded by a materialist adventurer looking to add it to his nation's empire. The novel has magic, but it's not a handy parlour trick, it's a deadly force that must be ruled. The clash with the invader is a reversal of the usual conquering hero defeating the savages – the savages are the imperialists, and Rast is the supposed backward land they expect to conquer.

2) What gave you the idea for this particular story?
Actually it was meeting a classic Gothic story that I felt barely deserved its reputation – with apologies to fans of the Gormenghast trilogy. I thought I should tackle the story of a young prince who has real problems to fight against and not something of his own making. I guess I'm not a fan of Gothic.

3) Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
Before I retired, my busiest season was the winter and so I wrote mostly in the summer while things were quieter. Now, I can write full time – except that keeping up with the needs of promoting my work seems to require more of my time than oil exploration ever did.

4) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Forever? In  my teens I delivered papers for both of the newsagents in town – this in Southern England – and we sorted the London and local papers in the lending library rooms they had in the back of their buildings. I guess seeing all the novels on the racks every day made me want to have my work among them.

5) What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
I'm a life-long contrarian and so I hope my readers will find a fresh viewpoint looking at things from the other side. I intend that they enjoy a good read in the process.

6) Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?
Four of my published novels are somewhat SF, set in an alternate earth location and blending modern technology with swordfights and sailing ships. Those stories also look closely at the sociology of the plot as well as the action. Rast is my only fantasy at the moment, although I have written speculative fiction featuring human powers that some might consider magical, in a contemporary setting. I think I prefer building my own worlds, from my lifetime experiences and my wide reading of history, to having to fit my concepts into a modern world where everyone thinks they know what's going on better than I do.

7) What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
Finding the right company to publish the work has to be the most time consuming and frustrating. I have two publishers now and while I value them both I still want to find others who will impel me into developing new perspectives. I will loyally stick with the publishers who want more of my present stories, but for my wilder plans I need new inputs. Actually, what I mostly tend to find are people who think, “this is not what we're looking for.”

8) Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.
Rast may be fantasy but it is linked to my experiences. The geography of the story travels through much of my life -- comprising mountains, foothills, and prairies where I now live; the sea coast where I was raised; and the desert and sebkhet (salt marshes) where I worked in the N. African oilpatch. The people of Rast are something like desert Arabs and something like Plains Indians. The militarist, invading Offrangs grew out of my military service in my youth, while the tenor of the protagonists, Rast's leaders, are from a distant world of chivalry – now long lost. The land of Rast is a disparate but living one.

9) How much is your protagonist like you? How different?
My male and female protagonists undertake different missions as they work together to save Rast. I'm not sure how much Jady reflects my 'female side,' nor how much of the introverted and cautious Prince Egon is in my 'male.' One big difference is that they are very much characters at peace with their environment while I am always the outsider, looking for ways to change it.

10) What kind of research did you do for this type of story?
I started writing Rast in my early sixties, so I can claim a lifetime of research has gone into it. I do carry out specific research for other projects. For example, my latest unfinished novel is closely connected with the contemporary world's wars and war machinery. It has had to have chapters revised several times as news and new articles have released information previously kept secret. I'm quite sure much of its research will be out of date by the time it's published.

11) Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?
I've done some violent scenes that have 'creeped out' reviewers. They are never gratuitously violent – but necessary to bring the readers into the scenario or to understand the personality of a character. Highly sexual scenes the same way, are written to make a point in the story. The nearest Rast comes to a sexually explicit scene is when a human female is absorbed into cavern-dwelling magical creature; definitely a different kind of seduction.

12) What about your book makes it special?
I like to think all my books are special, but Rast is a new byway in the wandering progression of fantasy. If enough readers agree that it covers ground that was formerly missed it could lead to a new destination on the fictional journey.

13) What is your marketing plan?
I think I found the best publisher, MuseItUp Publishing, for Rast's entry into the world. The readers who gather here will be part of a larger web of exploring minds attracted to the lively and original authors who are my companions. Rast's promotion is to be entirely online at first and in its short life, Muse has established itself as a node in the online promotion business. As many reviews as possible, as many interviews and guest blogs as will have me, visits to all the sites where readers gather, some contests and some giveaways, and perhaps I'll do the same as I did to promote my new website – -- a free download of a new story.

14) Where can people learn more about you and your work?
The website mentioned above, my blog
and older blog at that I keep up less regularly. My author page at Double Dragon and my Muse author site at

15) Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?
Fantasy is a huge canvas, but I'd advise the same for it as any other. Don't try to hop onto the current bandwagon because a new writer will find the journey from first draft to publication a much longer one than they expect, and the train will probably have left by the time your new fantasy novel reaches the station.

Synopsis of Rast:

RAST is a kingdom that depends upon the magic of its reigning sorcerer-king, the DROGAR, for its existence. This magic has the role of evil servant in this mysterious land, devious as well as deadly in the variety of forms it may take. While a Drogar has his vigor and strength, this presents few problems, but as the tireless magic gradually wears down his life-force, so the power of its minions waxes. As the novel opens, the reigning Drogar is losing his control over the magic – within a short time it will burst from its bounds to destroy him and everything in his vicinity.

PRINCE EGON is the heir, unsure if he is ready and capable of mastering the magic forces to succeed his father. The old Drogar has provided aids to help him test his ability and he uses these to investigate the threats that inevitably gather in this interregnum. His sweetheart, JADY, is the Soulingas, Guardian of the Silent Forest ever since her father and brothers were killed in an ambush in the forest by the part-human KRACHINS. The last instruction of the old Drogar sends her to the evil DEEPNING POOLS to carry out the family Soule’s age-old duty – preventing the sacrifice which will allow the magic alliance of Deepning and Krachins.

The NORTH FOLK, who blindly follow the edicts of their Casket of Scrolls, stir and allow the magic to send them like a mindless tidal wave across the borders into Rast. The PYTHIAN, another magic-connected creature, lives beneath the palace of Rast providing oracles and valuable advice in times of power, but is not necessarily trustworthy in these end-times. Even PRINCESS AGATHA sent from Easderly to become Egon’s consort – since only Rast’s and Easderly’s lines may mate to produce a Drogon’s heir – is not untouched by the magic tendrils in the very air.

The most dangerous enemy is not impelled by magic – indeed the OFFRANGS do not believe in it – but is the adventurer, COMMANDER ANTAR, who arrives on the coast in his steam galleys to conquer or loot the kingdom. Driven by the need for burning stone to fuel their iron foundries, Antar and his soldiers arrive on a quest of empire. He has heard of the mission of Princess Agatha and resolves to capture her as either hostage or ransom. His need for a guide to point out a path through the mountains for his steam-powered walking land transporters seems answered when a young Mountlander is captured.

The Mountlander is actually Prince Egon in disguise, who came to the coast to spy on the invaders and fell into their power when his inexpert use of magic against the iron bolt of the Offrangs’ Fire Spitter rendered him unconscious. The two enemies set out together for Rast along a route Egon has never before seen and while Antar constantly threatens him with death for failure, Egon slowly gains strength in magic to overcome the powerlessness that proximity to iron induces in him.

With no Prince in the palace, Rast’s captains do their best to prepare to resist the oncoming hoard of North Folk while keeping a quarantine around the location of the doomed Drogar. Jady, incensed by a quarrel with Egon when he tells her he has no choice but to accept the Princess from the East, sets out to meet the Easderly caravansi and challenge the newcomer for Egon’s affections. Jady is torn by fury and hatred – she wants to destroy the Princess, but duty restrains her. She decides to lead the caravansi within the danger zone around Deepning . . . fate will decide which woman shall become Egon’s bride.

Egon guides the three land transporters through the mountains but then chooses a night encampment in the path of the North Folk to defeat his enemies without resorting to deadly magic. One transporter is overwhelmed but the ones carrying Antar and himself escape and are separated in the confusion. He uses magic shape-shifting to impersonate Antar and so uses the smaller transporter for his own conveyance to gather his forces. Antar travels south away from the North Folk where he intercepts and attacks the Princess’ caravansi in the desert of Skeletal.

Because of a vow to the dying captain of the escort, Jady now takes on the duty of rescuing the Princess. She and the child GAMELIN, the Princess’ young brother, attempt to get ahead of Antar as his transporter travels across the SEBKET, the treacherous salt marsh, but her paths all come to dead-ends. The transporter becomes hopelessly bogged, and as Antar investigates the Princess’s palanquin that night a casket containing a love spell is burst open and both are bewitched. Now lovers, the two enemies ally to capture Jady as either guide or hostage to secure a path through Rast back to Antar’s ships.

Jady, with the aid of a desert djin and the survivor of the ruffians sent by LADY GUSTON (Egon’s mother) to kill her, manage to escape Antar’s ambush. She and Gamelin are too late, however, to prevent their enemies from coming under the power of Deepning’s siren spells and attempting to climb the mountain to be absorbed into the magic pools. Ordering the Gamelin to remain behind she sets out to attack Deepning and use its magic fury to alert Egon to the peril.

Egon has gathered his mounted forces and is attacking the horde of North Folk. He sees the tiny figures of his father and GRANDFATHER SOULE in the distance, making for the casket. He leads his young men to clear a path for them, and as some careless hand strikes down the old Drogar, the magic is freed from control. Egon uses the moment to seize the magic for himself, and while a huge magic-induced volcanic eruption destroys the old men and everything near them, he takes wing on the magic SOAR to fly to Deepning.

Now wielding the full power of drogar magic, Egon destroy’s the Deepning’s minions and blasts the mountain slopes into rubble to bury the pools forever. He rescues Jady and the Gamelin who had attempted to fight Deepning themselves and lands on a new tower he has built by magic at the top of the precipice that Antar, Agatha, and the Offrang party are climbing. Confronting Antar he learns that Agatha is no longer acceptable to wed – she may already be pregnant. They fight, and an intervention of the child reveals that the Gamelin has the power to one day become a Drogar. If Egon adopts him as his heir, he and Jady can marry. He wishes to enslave the Offrang, but Jady sees a worse fate – releasing Antar and Agatha at the coast to live out their bewitched love in OFFRAN – surely a marriage made in Hell.


  1. Thank you for the enlightening interview, Penny. I think I learned something, too.

    Christopher Hoare

  2. I read an earlier version of "Rast" several years ago. I was dumbstruck by the power of Chris' prose, the way he could create such a vivid and strong sense of place, and succeed in winding the story around the life of a fascinating young woman. Chris Hoare is one of the few male writers I know who can write female protagonists in such a compelling way that 10 years later, I can still remember Jady as if it were yesterday.

    Great interview Penny and Chris. I highly recommend "Rast", and promise the reader that he or she will be on an exciting adventure from page one to the very last word.

  3. Christopher, it was my pleasure to host you today. Good luck with Rast. It sounds like an intriguing story.

  4. Joylene, thank you for leaving such a wonderful comment about Chris' work. It's always a treat to hear from someone who has read the book and enjoyed it.

  5. Wonderful in-depth interview. I am always in awe of those he write fantasy. Good job and welcome to a fellow Brit at Muse.

    Viviane Brentanos

  6. I have never tried to write these fantasy stories with worlds created by the author, but Christopher certainly makes me want to explore making up such a world. Sounds like an exciting place. Best wishes!

  7. Thanks, both.
    Joylene, your read was part of an organized critique, so some of the rough edges removed are partly to your credit.

    I must say that the quality of a novel is proportional to the insights brought to it by all the critical readers. And, an author should be humble enough to see their value.

    Chris H.

  8. I've read all of Chris' books. I'm a big fan. Not too often does a man really get what it means to be a woman. Chris nails it. Gisel is pregnant in one of the books from the Iskander Series. It brought home memories. Thanks for hosting Chris today, Penny.

  9. Hi Viviane, thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

  10. Janet, thanks for stopping by. You have such a great author's voice, I'm sure you would be able to create a wonderful fantasy world.

  11. Chris, thanks for stopping back to check in.

  12. Joylene, thanks for letting us know. I'm going to have to check out some of Chris' other books.

  13. Rast sounds like quite an epic. I enjoyed both the excerpt and the interview. Thank you for presenting them so well, Penny. Nice getting to know you, Chris. Best of luck with your very imaginative writing!

  14. Pat, glad you were able to stop by and you enjoyed the interview.