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Round 2 continues with author Rick Haynes, and a new round of course means new questions! This time, my guests can choose from a list of 80 questions, and can only answer 10 of them! Hopefully Rick will re-visit in the future and answer another 10 for us.

Tell us a little about yourself - Perhaps something not many people know?

I love football, watching, but especially playing. I gave up at the age of 47 because after a full game - I did score with an over head kick - I couldn’t move the next morning. As the years passed my joints began to sing the song of despair. I had 7 knee operations (inc. one nice metal knee) two shoulder operations and various procedures on my neck. I now await a new hip. The local hospital nearly gave me a permanent parking space. Do I regret my lunacy? Not a chance even though I was going stir crazy.

Screaming at the wall failed to help, so my wife screamed back. I asked her what I could do, but her answer of doing the washing up didn’t really stir me. And then came that wonderful light-bulb moment when my lovely lady said, “Why don’t you write your feelings down?”

Within weeks I was up and running – my writing was crap but I’ve never been one to give in. I joined a local writing group and out of the blue the Portsmouth News decided to publish a 2 page spread entitled ‘Without my injuries, I wouldn’t be a writer.’

I love the buzz of a finished tale, and the comments of those that enjoy my work. My life revolves around my family and my writing.

If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Here is an imaginary interview with Grona, a warrior with a huge chip on his shoulder and a major protagonist in Evil Never Dies. I open my epic fantasy novel, Evil Never Dies, and turn the pages. I close my eyes and the warrior Grona stands before me.

“In my book I wrote that you hate everyone, well almost. But I have to ask, have you ever murdered anyone? I’m open for tips if you have any to share.”

Grona’s eyes closed to mere slits, his right hand moving to a dagger on his belt. I shudder, wondering whether I have gone too far.

“You could be my next victim,” Grona says, “but then again, I’m in a good mood today.”

He takes a long drink of ale before continuing. “If you wish to live, my creator, never call me a murderer.”

I nod, feeling dampness under my armpits which was quickly spreading over my back.

“I have killed many men, even a few women, but I have never murdered anyone, well at least none that didn’t deserve to die.”

“Very well," I reply. "Why do you hate everyone?”

“You’re the bloody author.”

“I know who I am, but your character is determined to annoy me.” I shout back.

His snarl would make a lion envious. I see Grona fighting with his emotions.

“Define hate. I have few friends but apart from them I trust no one. My small band of men has earned my respect and with them my circle of trust is complete. Everyone else is either trying to cheat me, bribe me or kill me. Who wouldn’t loathe them? Besides, old men like me have only survived because of our skills and our hatred.”

I look into Grona’s eyes seeking contempt or even lies. The cold stare tells me more than any words.

“Yea gods! Which one of us is mad? Figuratively speaking, I’m not alive, and you’re talking to a figment of your vivid imagination.”

“I understand your predicament, Grona, but think of the possibilities. It’s the only chance that you, a strong character in a fantasy tale, can tell your side of the story.” I wait patiently, sensing the turmoil in Grona’s mind as he paces to and fro.

“Maybe it would be fun at that, I’ve nothing else to do these days except wait around for a second book. So I’ll play your little game but beware, once the beast inside me is aroused, it cannot easily be tamed.”

With my heart beating twice as quickly as normal, I know that I must tread carefully, and if I do, Grona will likely be amenable.

“The summary of my story says there are rumours of dark magic in your kingdom. Who wields the power, and what does that mean to your people?”

“A shaman has risen in the mountains and is intent on wiping the Maxilla clan from history. Why the Helgs have pledged allegiance to him is unknown, yet they have rushed to his banner and threaten my people.”

“And what does it mean to you?” I ask.

“Are you stupid or do you wish to goad me?”

An advancing Grona was never a pretty sight in my mind, but here, a man with a face of thunder would turn the stomach of the hardiest of men. I decide to back away and try to compose myself. “I mean no offence, Grona, merely asking.”

“What the hell do you think it means? I am a mercenary but if any person endangers my people I will fight until I have no more strength to give. The Maxilla people, most of them anyway, mean everything to me.”

“Who is Myracadonis, and what does he want from you?”

“Have you forgotten already? He is a shaman and has unusual abilities; probably earned from the gods. Like so many others he seeks power. But whilst I breathe he will never succeed. With a stupid name like Myracadonis, how could he?”

I try hard not to smile. “Your son, Tarn, is leading the soldiers into battle. How do you feel about that?”

”Pah! That boy is no true son of mine. Lucky! That’s what he is. I should be leading the men. What Lord Bokin sees in him is beyond me. He will fail and when he does, so will the Maxilla, unless I am there to win and claim the glory.”

It would seem that you don’t love all the Maxilla, I think.

“Why was Tarn chosen instead of you? Seriously, someone who hates everyone sounds like the perfect commander to me. Get the job done.” I watch carefully, wondering whether Grona is now living his role in the book. His eyes narrow once more as he hears the word hate. I decide, wisely, to say nothing.

“Tarn was fortunate; right place – right time. At the last battle all those years ago my men gave everything, yet he received the glory. A young pup succeeded but I bet he still pisses his pants when he remembers the fight. He stole my glory; hatred doesn’t even come close to how I feel about him.”

“You have enemies. Who are they?” I ask, delighted that Grona is indeed living the tale once more.

“Ha! Ha! Ha! I can’t remember the last time anyone made me laugh. Perhaps I won’t cut your throat after all.” Grona draws his sword and holds it aloft. Rubbing his fingers lovingly over the blade, he grins at me before placing it to one side of the hearth “Everyone is my enemy. Many want to be the one that felled old Grona, and all will say that they were there. I spit on them, for as you can see, I still live.”

“What will happen if Myracadonis gets his way?” I ask, hoping that Grona doesn’t explode too much.

“Over my dead body, but we can’t lose can we? You wouldn’t allow it, would you? How could you write the follow up novel, ‘Heroes Never Fade,’ if all your main characters died in the first book?”

“Conversely, what will happen if the shaman perishes?”

Grona takes a long draught of ale before continuing. “The shaman will die and we all go home as heroes, but think how boring that would be.” Grona looks into the flames of the fire. I guess he has more to say. “Sometimes … I wonder what is in store for me. I have my faults. Perhaps you will decide to kill me off?”

I ignore the menacing voice. “Do you feel that I portrayed you well?”

“No!” The words echo off the stone walls. “I’ve always wanted to meet you, to tell you my feelings. I have to win. Nothing else matters.”

I wrote the words and try to understand the complexities of the man I created. Grona will give his life for his beloved clan, yet he freely admits his hatred of them and everyone else.

“And if I refuse to listen?” I ask.

“I guarantee you won’t be writing another book.” Grona’s face is afire with anger, his body tense as he clenches his fists together.

I close the book firmly to a volley of curses.

Do you write alone or in public?

I usually write alone, especially when the words are tumbling around and around inside my head like one massive washing machine on a fast spin cycle. My typing skills are pretty poor – in fact I don’t know anyone slower – which is pretty frustrating when I have to remove the words from my overcrowded brain as quickly as possible. Forgetting is an everyday hazard, but c’est la vie. I can be tenacious when I want to be, so one way or another, those ideas will be dragged onto my computer screen.

Conversely, we are often asked to write a short tale in my writing group, before reading it back for others to offer critique. Our inspirational teacher may have shown us a variety of pictures, or given us a list of names, and we have about 30/40 minutes to write the tale. I find this stimulating and am proud to say, because of the fantastic encouragement, that I have always delivered a tale with a beginning, middle and a closing line.

Now that’s tough on the old brain box but great fun.

If I can give any new writer one tip, I would urge them to join a local writing group. The critique is invaluable, the company excellent and sometimes the cakes are free.

Do you set goals of certain number of words a week or just when inspiration strikes?

In the beginning I ravenously devoured many facts about writers and their modus operandi. All were – same, same, but different. It’s clear to me now that there is no right or wrong way. The author should experiment, take note of the various options, and decide which method suits them best.

I write when the inspiration is so real that I can touch it. Yet, I make damn sure that when my body yells at me, I listen. Walking away from my latest masterpiece is difficult, but doing something, anything completely different, really does help in the long run.

What is your advice to Indie Authors? On writing? Marketing?

Although my passion is medieval fantasy I have dabbled and drabbled in many different genres. No one in my 3 writing groups writes in my chosen genre, which doesn't help, but nevertheless they are very supportive. I feel that the last two/three years have been my apprenticeship into writing and so I am now looking to change my direction. I will continue to write short stories, earn a few bob you know, but will concentrate more and more on what I love best. For if I continue with a scatter-gun approach my mind will be pulled in too many directions. And that is a double edged sword, for whilst I'll be pursing my passion to write, I'll constantly be looking at new projects. That approach has to change.

If I have more than one new tale on the go at any one time I always know what is coming. My mind will take over and ask annoying questions.

"What shall we do today then?"

"No! You can't finish that story, because you're behind on formatting the new novel."

"What's wrong with you? That tale is pathetic."

"Don't forget the writing club tonight. You haven't written a manuscript to take in for critique."

And finally.

"If all you want to do is write, who is going to read any of your work if you can't be bothered to promote it?"

I love writing but as a self-published author I must also learn to love the discipline. I am proud of my achievements so far, for who would have thought that I would design and build my own website, set up a blog, design (poorly) book covers, format several books, publish six books with one more novel coming shortly, have work published elsewhere, and have four videos (with the massive help of my son) on YouTube? I know I never believed I could achieve so much, yet, I now realise that all of that is just for starters. I need to do more to ensure that fantasy readers can see my work.

And if I can achieve so much, why not you? You have the talent, the brains to write a good story, and all you need is the drive and determination. I bet that few of you are worse with modern technology than I.

But me, I have made a decision.

Most of my time now will be used to write medieval/epic/heroic fantasy, whatever you prefer to call the genre, for that is my passion. Yet, there is one very important point to make.

I must Promote - Promote - Promote and I'll need a completely different set of skills to be successful. As always I will try my best. And if I do that then the voice in my head will be silenced, for a little while at least.

I hope that you have found this interesting and that you can relate to my actions. It's even better if I have helped in any way. So keep plugging away. You know you can do it.

May I wish the very best of luck to all you authors trying so hard to succeed in a massive writing world.

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

I know that when my sense of humour vanishes then I will surely be at death’s door. I do like a good giggle. Many lovely readers have commented on my short stories, quips and jokes, saying how much they laughed when reading them.

I’m also close to publishing a collection of short stories in paperback. Entitled ‘Chocolate Chunks From Crazy Crete’ it is, as the title suggests, a collection of zany tales. As one reviewer quoted, ‘It landed on my kindle on Monday and I haven’t stopped laughing yet.’ Comments like that make me feel really good for I do believe that laughter is the best medicine in the world.

However, when not one blogger, but two, compared my first novel, Evil Never Dies, to the late and greatest ever fantasy writer, David Gemmell, I had to pinch myself so many times that I bruised my arm. That is high praise indeed and made my day. Positive comments make all the hard work worthwhile and they will stay with me forever.

What tactics do you have when writing? (For example: outline or just write)

This is a question that so many of my writers’ friends disagree about.

One lady is steadfast in her belief and no one will change her attitude. Before writing one word, she will meticulously plan every chapter, every plot line and all the characters. Everything is beautifully pigeon-holed. Yuk!

Others partly plan. They make an outline, write a list of characters, think of a plot or two and start typing, allowing the characters to lead them. Okay!

I’m in the third group. I’d go nuts if I planned everything to the nth degree for my imagination would be stifled and I’d feel as If I was in prison with no means to write. I do make a short list of characters, their attributes, likes and dislikes etc. But these are minor details, for I want my fertile mind to lead me into infinity and way beyond that. I let my imagination sweep in and out like the tide on a beach, with me telling my characters what I want them to do between each wave. And as I write, the words tumble off the surf. To some, this method seems too wishy-washy, but, it works for me. Yippee!

It’s down to you though. Experiment – maybe with a short story – and you’ll soon work out what suits you best. There is no right and wrong, so you should work it out and stick to your chosen option. And if that doesn’t work, then revaluate and adapt. Just keep smiling.

Note: When I write my epic fantasy novels, I always start with a map. For how else could I gauge distances and know in which direction men and horses should travel? This tip is invaluable when writing any tale where long distances are involved. I never publish my maps, because they are for me, but also because they would be illegible to anyone else. Well, that’s my excuse anyway.

What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you?

I was in Ibiza with my girlfriend - later she became my wife – and we were having a great time. She was wearing an alluring dress and I couldn’t take my eyes off her cleavage. In one of the many discos they had a raised floor with a vast array of mirror balls and spotlights of differing colours way above. A shimmering ceiling full of twinkling stars added sparkle. Dancing away to the hedonistic beat time stood still – in my case literally. My beautiful young lady turned around and I had disappeared. After searching frantically she eventually found me at the back of the stage entangled in the curtains. I had fallen about four feet and was looking up at all those twinkling lights, stunned, thinking that I had journeyed to heaven. My wife cried with laughter. She tells me that I make her laugh every day - poor girl.

Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?

I thought you would never ask. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Heroes Never Fade is likely to be released in late March or early April 2017. It is the second novel in a trilogy of books about the Maxilla clan. Each one can be read as a standalone novel yet they follow on in sequence. I’m sorry, but reading a book to the end, and then finding out that the story continues with the next book, is annoying. Make it a standalone book and respect your readers, is my motto.

Here is a short blurb for Heroes Never Fade.

In the land of Cpin the queen has disappeared. Discontent is spreading and the threat of civil wars looms ever closer, for the Tormented King is marching towards the city.

Tarn’s young daughter, Lori, has been kidnapped. The mysterious Souls are involved and Tarn is summoned to their Isle. Others await him. Their options are limited – follow instruction or die.

War is inevitable but can the forces of the few oppose the host from Marathi?

And would any man trust the gods to prevent the slaughter.

If you like to read fast paced stories full of hardy warriors, feisty ladies and vile rulers, not forgetting the games played by, Titian, the God of War, and Jade, the Goddess of peace and harmony, look no farther.

What book have you read that has most influenced your life?

I have lost count of all the books that I have read, but there can only be one that influenced me so much. The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, is to me, the greatest epic fantasy tale ever told. The words are masterful, the plots amazing and the characters leap out from every page. This book made me rethink my attitude towards reading, for up until then, books were boring.

Many, many tributes have been made, about Tolkien’s work, but mine is probably different to the norm. His descriptive passages were long, yet his action scenes were written in such a way that the reader could use their own imagination.

Alas, too many books these days offer gratuitous description of sex and violence, over and over again. Others like this so I cannot condemn them, but if you think about it, where can the reader go? They are being blindly led and there is no room for them to wander inside their fertile mind and use it.

I don’t want to read page after page of blood and guts at every turn, for every action has consequences. I try very hard with my own books to guide my readers, to allow then to see both sides of any character. I show the horrors of war, as well as the loyalty and fears of all those involved. I believe that all men, and women, are flawed, for war brings out the best and the worst in even the gentlest of people.

Tolkien was the master, I a modest pupil, but my belief in using the vastness of your own imagination is unwavering.

Thanks for reading this and my special thanks go to Rachael for giving me the opportunity.

To support this author please follow them on social media and visit their website. Many thanks.

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