Welcome to our Author Spotlight on two awesome authors who wrote an equally awesome novel: Anumal Empire! I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the novel earlier on our blog! It was a truly unique adventure, and a series that I am looking forward to continuing. I highly recommend this read to those of you that are interested in reading something unique. I was also very impressed with the artwork, and thrilled to come across some of these graphics throughout the novel. They brought the characters to life!
The authors have also generously offered 5 ECOPIES of Anumal Empire to some very lucky readers, so don't forget to enter for your chance to win.
We have a two part interview, Part I posted today with the giveaway. Come back on Wednesday September 19th for the conclusion.
How did the writing team of David & Darren form and decided to collaborate on this book together?
Dave has been my mate since we were kids at school. While there we had similar interests in acting, and used to perform in plays together. We also went to the same stage school too. We were both quite precocious, but Dave was worse than me :) (if he says different, DON’T believe him). Dave had the initial concept for Lazarball (the game) and the idea of animals playing it. When he told me about it I thought it had great potential, but needed to be fleshed out with reasons why these human/animals came to be, and what their world would be like. Obviously we mapped it all out and wrote a short story to bridge the worlds together and fill in the gaps, but it was only source material to be used for the real project, and what would be the novel. We never really intended to write a novel, though, it just happened. But we liked the process, even when we finished writing something amazing… and reread it the next day and thought it was utter garbage.
Darren was in the year above me at school, but I always remember him being the sad loner in the corner of the playground that no one talked to, so I took him under my wing…only kidding. As Daz said, we have always shared the same interests and the same sense of humour, and we have been best friends for many years. I had written the very bare bones of the Lazarball concept whilst I was bored at work, but that’s all it was, just ideas. I remember being at a music festival, and my wife had told Darren about the idea of Lazarball. When I got back and found out he thought it was a good idea, I immediately knew there was no better person to work with, and really make something of it. That was about ten years ago…and here we are today.
What was your inspiration for ‘Anumal Empire: Lazarball’?
We had a well of inspiration for this project. The initial one was from Dave and it was from a cartoon he used to watch called Animalympics. For me I had inspiration from Garth Nix. I read the Abhorsen trilogy and loved Nix’s writing. It was gripping, and at the end I was so caught up in the story I was really depressed when it all finished, and I wanted to be able to do that; I wanted to make readers feel that from reading our work. I also was inspired by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. They always create settings that are a world away from ours, but characters that you can associate with. I wanted to achieve that with the Anumals. I wanted the reader to totally forget that the character was an animal hybrid, and come to understand it on a far deeper level. Also I researched The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Dark Tower series, and His Dark Materials as these had a similar ambience I wanted to create: an isolated, alienated feeling, where the protagonist is alone in a feral landscape.
Definitely the most basic influence of Lazarball and Anumal Empire is the Animalympics cartoon. It is a fairly unknown cartoon (although I have since found more and more people on Facebook etc who also love it) but the whole idea of animals taking part in sporting activities, and using their individual characteristics to help them always appealed to me. A second love for me was the old computer game called Speedball which I loved. These two concepts seemed to just marry together to create the basic foundation of what Lazarball is today. As for artistic inspiration, I am a huge Star Wars and Marvel geek (hence the Bobafett and Wolverine tattoo I have on my arm J ) Tolkien is another huge influence, as well as authors such as Garth Nix and Kevin J Anderson. I am also a huge fan of Transgressive fiction, however, and love to read anything from authors such as Charles Bukowski and Irvine Welsh, to Bret Easton Ellis and my favourite author, Chuck Palahniuk. Of course, all inspiration doesn’t come from books either. I think between us both, we have been inspired by other media, from the Final Fantasy computers games, comics such as Jamie Hewlett’s Tank Girl, the films of Hayao Miyazaki, to even the sculptures of Patricia Piccinini (Google her, its awesome stuff.)
Though I enjoyed this novel immensely, I can see this novel being attractive to a YA male audience. Was that your intended audience?
I can see where you’re coming from, but to be honest there is not much of a market for the young male audience. Young guys would love this novel - and it’s a real shame that more aren’t reading in general – but we wrote Lazarball to be enjoyed by all demographics. Harry Potter was a unique example of how a book can be loved by everyone, but we knew we had a very hard sell with our concept. The idea of the Anumal Empire series itself puts some people off reading it. Animals???? Creating a society???? Are you mad???? Well, actually, no. I think that many animals and insects are very capable of creating their own basic societal order, but we have used our imagination to go a few steps further. But to answer your question, Anumal Empire: Lazarball can be enjoyed by anyone who wants a good read, a few laughs, an action-packed story…and something different to read. If you can indicate one demographic that these attributes are specific to, then let me know and I’ll get onto it immediately!
It was definitely intended to be enjoyed by all demographics, but if it is suited to, and helps younger males to pick up a book and begin reading, then that makes me a happy man. We have received a lot of comments from younger males who have enjoyed the action of the story, and the fact that it isn’t revolved around a romance of some kind, which is a plot device that seems to permeate a lot of YA books. On the flip side, we have also been told that it’s sometimes a very violent book, but these complaints have come from the older generation. If we have created something that spurs a young male to start reading more and exploring other books, then that’s reward in itself really. At the same time however, we also receive a lot of comments from females (of all ages) who love the book and especially Clinton the protagonist. I think it is the case of having a very far fetched concept such as the Anumal race, but placing them in a world with much the same trials and tribulations that we have, which make the unbelievable become believable. Readers of all ages can identify with some of the problems these anumals face. This is what I hope gives Anumal Empire its ability to reach a wide demographic.
There are a lot of visual treats within this book. What made you want to incorporate artwork within the novel? Tell us a little about the artist.
Originally, we toyed with the idea of creating a graphic novel, and eventually we decided not to, but by that time we had found Steve Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org) as an artist. He created loads of concept ideas to give us inspiration and ‘feelings’ for the world, and what it might look like. That’s why the pictures in the book are not locked into one specific style. We were just trying to find out how everything might appear. When the time came close to releasing the book, though, I thought it might be a good idea to have a snippet of art to introduce each chapter, and then I sent my ideas to Dave. He loved it the proposal and, of course, made changes and suggestions about which illustrations to use, until we had a book with wonderful concept illustrations running all the way through it. What is better is that many readers (like you) have said how much of an added treat it is for them too.
I should also mention that Ben Wilkinson (email@example.com) did a WONDERFUL job of creating the cover. He was a real find, and knew exactly what we wanted.
What is hard, when creating a completely new species, is that you have to manage the balancing act between over describing them, or not giving the reader enough information. Darren and I always knew what anumals would look like, but the concept art Steve did seemed to cement our vision, and acted as a really good (and cool looking) guide. An author can write ‘The man walked to the park,’ and at its most basic level, you can picture a man. Another author can write, ‘The elf dived from the treetops, and collided with the dwarf,” and once again you have preconceptions of what these characters will look like at their most basic level, ie pointy ears, blonde hair and bow and arrow for the elf, and short stature, big beard and battle axe for the dwarf. When we write, ‘The feline anumal raced through the dusty streets,’ no preconceptions exist. It is completely new, so we have to begin from scratch, building in the reader’s mind what these creatures look like. The inclusion of the pictures in the book, then, are our nod to the great work the artist has done, a chance for us to share with the reader how the anumal species has evolved, and, of course, to help build the reader’s vision of this new world.
To be continued.... Come on back on Wednesday September 19th for Part II of our interview with Darren & Dave!
But Don't go yet! Enter the giveaway for a chance to win your very own e-copy of Anumal Empire!