I have been wanting to do this for sooooo long (but wanted to wait until I’d read every book in Taran’s now much-loved series – or started, in the case of The Outcast haha) and now I’ve finally had the honour of doing it!
Without further-ado, here is my Q&A with the amazing man himself 😊.
Q1 What is/are your favourite book(s), and who/what influences your writing?
I love the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It’s a wonderful high fantasy series, only instead of your typical fantasy races such as orcs and elves, you have anthropomorphic animals like mice, badgers, rats etc instead!
Q2 What was the inspiration behind the Summoner series?
Where do you get your inspiration? I think that’s the question I get asked the most. It’s both easy and difficult to answer. The easy answer would be simply everywhere. For most writers, every interaction and new experience has the potential to influence your writing.
But when I really drill down into the question, I find that there are four key places where my inspiration comes from:
I have always loved history, even as a subject at school. Historical fiction was one of my preferred genres, with Bernard Cornwell and Wilbur Smith’s books stacking my shelves.
Medieval times, with their great battles, political intrigue and the importance of family, heritage and succession, had a great influence on the nobility in The Novice. In the world of Summoner, only first-born children inherit the ability to summon, and the nobles form the greater part of the officers in the empire’s military.
The 18th century was an age of great empires, rampant piracy and a mad mix of modern and early weaponry, with gunpowder muskets, pistols and cannons being used alongside cavalry, sabres and lances. It was a time of scientific advancement and technological disparities, great clashes of cultures and racial discrimination. All of the above featured in the Summoner series; with dwarves, elves, orcs and humans at each other’s throats.
When creating my “Demonology” and designing my demons, I wanted a mix of the familiar and the new. From the world’s legends, I adapted Griffins, Salamanders, Minotaurs, Golems and Hydras, to name but a few, all of which would be familiar creatures to the well-read.
Then there were the lesser-known creatures, such as the cannibalistic Wendigo from Native American mythology, or the Raiju, a lightning-powered mammal from Japan. Another favourite was the Persian Chamrosh, a griffin-like mix between bird and dog. Of course, I designed my own unique demons as well, but my love for mythological creatures around the world had a huge influence on it all.
My own experiences
One of my passions is travel. All over the world, I’ve encountered fascinating cultures, from the aboriginals of Australia to the native tribes of the Amazon. I have been in deserts and rainforests, deep sea and mountaintops, snowy wastelands and the hilly English countryside. These inspired the geography of Hominum, as well as the cultures and histories of my fantasy races.
For example, the orcs sacrifice on the altars of great pyramids, rather like the Aztecs, while the elves are a pastoral people, following their great herds of deer in the same way that Mongols once did.
During my school days, I saw how class divisions could cause great rifts and shape the people within them. I have also experienced racism as a minority, something that featured heavily in my life when I was younger. From here, the discrimination, classism and personalities in Vocans Academy and the wider Hominum Empire were conceived.
Fantasy and science fiction culture
I love science fiction and fantasy in films, books, comics or videogames. The magical schools of Earthsea, Harry Potter and Discworld inspired Summoner’s Vocans Academy. The multiple races of Lord of the Rings, Skyrim and Redwall inspired Summoner’s elves, orcs, dwarves, goblins and gremlins. Even the portals to another world in the Chronicles of Narnia and Stargate were the catalysts for my own portals to the demon world, and my demons are similar to the creature companions in my favourite video game series – Pokémon.
Q3 Did you plan for The Novice to become the first in a series, and did you write it before or after Origins now newly released as the full-length novel,The Outcast ?
It was always going to be a series. Origins was written right after The Novice, but The Outcast was completed after The Battlemage.
Q4 Did you ever imagine that posting on Wattpad.com would lead to seeing your novels on bookshelves and on the New York Times bestsellers list, thousands if not millions of fans and signings, across the world?
I dreamed of it. But never really considered it would be a possibility!
Q5 Are Fletcher & the other characters based on real people, or completely fictional?
No, although there are elements of family members in the heroes and elements from my school bullies in the villains.
Q6 When I read The Novice & and the others in the series, I felt like Fletcher and Arcturus’s characters – among other humble characters – were sort of like a message to those who don’t have a lot of money or low self-esteem – or both:
“You don’t have to have vast wealth or lots of influence and contacts or be over-confident and cocky, to become something great: if you try hard enough and learn to really believe in yourself, you can achieve anything”
Is that a message you wish portray through your writing and your characters?
Absolutely. You hit the nail on the head.
Q7 What do the symbols on the cover of each Summoner instalment and above the chapter numbers signify? I wondered whether they are drawn to summon certain demons?
The symbols represent the four battle spells, plus the healing spell, which are most commonly used when Summoners are fighting.
Q8 Are you working on anything new right now, and do you have any advice for aspiring authors who want to get published?
I’m working on the Contender series, a scifi book series coming in 2019:
Throughout history, people have vanished with no explanation. Two teenagers are about to discover why.
Cade, a misunderstood juvenile delinquent, and Harriet, a Victorian-era cat-burglar live two different lives in two different eras – until they’re both transported to another world.
Abandoned in a realm populated with lost remnants from the past, prehistoric animals and monstrous creatures, they are forced to become contenders in an endless, brutal tournament by the all-powerful Pantheon. But who are these mysterious overlords and what morbid games do they have in store for them? It’s time to get ready for battle . . . because hiding is not an option.
My advice to aspiring authors would be, read good books with a writer’s eye. Try to understand how the author conveyed the story. Ask yourself questions like, how did the author transition from this scene to the next? Why do I empathise with this character so much?
And that was the last question in my Q&A with Taran. If you are a fan of his, have some of your own questions been answered?
There will be another Q&A coming soon, though I’m not sure when it will be going up – and I’m going to leave revealing who I’m doing it with a mystery until a few days before, which I will do on Twitter (@KatharinaSinead).
Follow your dreams, no matter what you may face. Follow your heart as well as your head, and you’ll go far, and also remember this:
You don’t have to have vast wealth or lots of influence and contacts or be over-confident and cocky, to become something great: if you try hard enough and learn to really believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.
You can find Taran and his books here