Interview with Andy Remic, Author, ‘A Song For No Man’s Land’

 

remic_songGrimdark? Science-Fiction? Fantasy? Thriller? What’ll Andy Remic write next? It’s hard to know and even harder to catch up with him. Whether blazing past you on his motorcycle or bashing out a mind-boggling array of scripts, novels, short stories, and heaven-knows-what-else, Remic is a man in motion. Fortunately, we were able to get him to take a pit stop and chat with us about his novella A Song for No Man’s Land (out February 9th, read an except here) and a bunch of other stuff, too.

UW: I saw a picture of you in what appears to be a motorcycle jacket. Do you ride? I’m terrified of those things.

Rem: Yeah, I’ve been biking for about 18 years. I’ve had everything from a Honda CBR600 to a Moto Guzzi Griso, but my real passion is big Ducati V-Twins. I had a Monster 900 with twin Yoshimura exhausts that used to set off every car alarm when I rode it down the street – that was super fun! I guess I just love the insane acceleration. There’s nothing quite like 0-60mph in 3 seconds on two wheels, with your chest on the tank trying to keep the damn front wheel down! J

UW: You don’t seem limited by genre or medium. You direct films, work on games, you write science-fiction, fantasy and other things. The first thing I want to know is how you get the time and energy: I’m envious! The second thing is how did you develop all of these interests? Do you get bored or restless when you work on one thing too long?

Rem: Ha, I don’t get the time, that’s the problem. I need an extra day in the week. Sunday 1 and Sunday 2. I always work through my lunch and, well, to be honest, I find writing and film editing very relaxing; I don’t see these activities as work. They are my hobbies… I suppose other things like playing video games and watching movies and reading books take a hit. I’m desperate to play GTA V and Fallout 4, but just can’t fit them in. I have a stack of fifty books waiting to be read! And how did I develop these interests? I just do what I enjoy doing, to be honest. I create my own projects, and only do what I really want to do, so I never, ever get bored. Sometimes I pray for boredom!

UW: I love seeing novellas in front of the public again. Short novels were a part of the fantasy and science-fiction publishing biome in the sixties and seventies, but with notable exception they fell to the wayside in favor of larger works. Has eBook publishing made novellas viable again? Was this originally intended to be a novella?

Rem: I don’t think it’s necessarily eBook publishing, but more the vision of Tor and my editor there, Lee Harris (top bloke). It might possibly be something to do with the perceived shorter attention span of many people nowadays thanks to our superfast machine gun culture. Whatever reason, I’m happy about it! And yes, A Song For No Man’s Land was always a 30,000 word novella, but I’ve been able to create three kinda discrete novellas which are linked by the central protagonist and themes. It’s been a lot of fun writing something set in a WWI dark fantasy setting!

UW: Some of your fantasy fiction is kind of brutal: demons, big, hefty weapons, buckets of blood. What’s going on there as far as your inspirations? What got you writing this kind of fiction?

Rem: I find watching the news concerning real world events extremely brutal, and I think my violence and brutality simply mirror humanity. We’re a pretty brutal species, unfortunately. I was inspired to write by Tolkien, David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett and Iain M. Banks. My early unpublished work was heavily influenced, but eventually, over the years, I developed my own voice and style.

UW: Some might consider works like Rage of Kings as “grimdark”, and I wonder what you think of that label? What about grimdark as a sub-genre? Does it even exist? I sometimes wonder if this is just a new label for something that we used to call sword and sorcery or “heroic” fantasy. Does it only stand out because the prevailing trend in fantasy over the last few decades has been toward epic fantasy?

Rem: When I was first labelled “grimdark” I had to look it up on Google! So yes, it’s just another label for a style of fiction I think of as “heroic fantasy” – or even just a sub-genre of fantasy. I think of grimdark as simply “fantasy”. I’m no expert. I just write what I’d like to read, about interesting characters having to face terrible situations and odds, and hopefully discovering their own humanity along the way. I write violence and fast-paced action because I get bored easily. There’s some fantasy out there which bores me rigid, so I kick-back against the banal. I suppose what I’m effectively writing are fantasy thrillers. If others see them as grimdark, that’s fine by me. I’ve been called worse, haha.

UW: Let’s talk about A Song for No Man’s Land. This is a fantasy story set in the trenches of World War I. Historians have referred to the Great War as a forgotten conflict. What inspired you to make it part of this story?

Rem: When I did my degree in English Literature (oooh a few years back now), I was first introduced to War Poets like Sassoon and Owen, and they blew my mind with the power of their poetry; with the sheer horror of life in the trenches from men who experienced it firsthand. I tried to imagine what it would have been like, the terror of the trenches – and I simply could not plumb the depths of horror these poor souls endured. I was then introduced to Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. Both were just awesome reading experiences. These incredible writers inspired me to write my own WWI story. To these incredible writers, I offer a sad salute with tears.

There’s a song by New Model Army called “Drag It Down”. The lyrics go:

They started work this morning down at city square
They’re pulling down the statues of our great grandfather’s hero
The new books said he wasn’t such a great man after all
And anyway remember that the times they are a-changing

Pull it down, drag it down
Till there’s nothing to look up to
But the brand names on the posters all around

I wanted to do something to remember our great grandfathers and their heroes.

My dad fought in the Second World War. In some ways, I suppose, I was trying to honour my heroes.

UW: Welsh mythology plays some kind of role in this, doesn’t it? I find that interesting. It seems like Welsh myth doesn’t get as much play as that of the rest of the British Isles. As a citizen of the UK, was this stuff closer to you than it might have been to other people?

Rem: I think the Welsh are massively under-represented in fantasy fiction. In fact, I can’t think of a single example. Now, I’m a mountain climber, and have experienced the joy and horror of Crib Goch many times, amongst other Welsh mountains. I have enjoyed the valleys, forests and mountains of Wales for decades. I was offended by that Yorkshire idiot Jeremy Clarkson’s idiotic comments about Wales (“It’s a beautiful country spoiled by the people who live there”). And thus, I thought it was time we had a Welsh hero in fantasy fiction.

UW: Tell me a little bit about your protagonist. War isn’t exactly what he thought it was, in more ways than one, right?

Rem: For Robert Jones, 3rd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, the reality of the Great War is one massive, horrific learning curve. Not saying no more, as it’ll be full of those nasty spoiler-type things.

UW: How much research did you do to get the gritty details of the conflict right, especially the experiences of an individual soldier?

Rem: My Lit degree began the research, and then I had to do a lot. I mean, a LOT. It was very upsetting. I recommend everybody researches the Great War – it puts your Playstation 4, brand new car, cosy settee and large steak dinner into a real f****** stark perspective.

UW: What’s next for you?

Rem: I’m just finishing the final edits on the third novella for Tor, The Iron Beast, then straight on to completing the next dragon book for Angry Robot Books, Twilight of the Dragons, which is a direct follow up to my most recent novel, The Dragon Engine. Oh yes, and filming and editing my ZX Spectrum homage film, Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict. So busy busy busy!…… All work and no play, makes Jack……