We just LOVED Royal Bastards so much so that we had to discover more about the author responsible for bringing the world of Tillandra into existence! What a treat we had when his response came back to us and we learnt of his witty, humble and inventive character!
- How did the idea for Royal Bastards come about? (A common question but one I feel must be asked!)
Like pretty much everything I’ve written, Royal Bastards was the combination of two separate ideas. First, I wanted to write a story about a disparate group of teens forced to go on the run, like if The Breakfast Club got framed for murder. I also really wanted to write a YA Game of Thrones, something that captures that series’ politics and violence and intrigue, but framed explicitly in teen terms. Then I realized: these two ideas were the same story! It was like a light going off, and I had a first chapter written by the end of that day.
- Were there any personal reasons behind the storyline of the novel?
Royal Bastards is, thematically, about a point in adolescence that I have a lot of strong memories of, the moment when you realise your parents aren’t the heroes you’ve worshipped as a child, when you’re first torn between the world you were raised in and the challenging ones you’re still discovering.
- I noticed on your biography that you are colour-blind and tone-deaf, can I ask if this affected your writing of Royal Bastards in any way? If so, how did you overcome those obstacles? Additionally, what latent superpowers do you think you possess as a result of your condition?!
Heh! Well, the only effect of being tone-deaf means avoiding karaoke, but color-blindness does bring some unique challenges. One of the consequences of being color-blind is that you learn from a very early age to distrust your own perception, and to rely on others for information. I do think that shaped my worldview and my writing; I think a lot of villainy, both fictional and real, comes from being too certain of your own righteousness, too unwilling to see outside your perspective.
As for superpowers, the only ones I have are never getting cold and being really good at nicknames. You can fight crime with that, right?
- As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal and why?
When I was in college, my friends and I all designed Game of Thrones-style house sigils for ourselves. Mine was a penguin with an axe in each hand, and the motto fight not flight. So… double-axe penguin.
- Did you have to do any research for Royal Bastards? If so, how did you go about finding it and why did you need it?
I tend to write by the seat of my pants, winging my way towards an ending, so I am shockingly embarrassingly bad at research. Most of what I do happens after the fact, as a way of verifying that what I’ve written makes sense; I’ll write a scene where a character travels a hundred miles on horseback, then sheepishly look up how fast horses actually travel.
- Why a female protagonist and not a male one?
You know, when I conceived of the story, it was always with a female protagonist; a male one didn’t even occur to me. I think in part, it’s because when you think of stories of bastards, the default is male, whether Jon Snow or Ramsay Bolton. I was drawn to the idea of a female bastard, and how her story would play out.
- What’s the most difficult thing about writing about characters from the opposite sex?
I can’t say any part of it was too difficult; characters are characters, so it’s just a matter of understanding their wants, fears, and motivations. That said, when it came to writing some of the more, ahem, intimate scenes, I definitely had to read some romance novels for research.
- People talk about writer’s block but have you ever experienced reader’s block before?
Absolutely. Between writing, working, and being a father to a 2-year-old, it’s really hard to find time to read, and I’ve gone long spells where I just can’t find the energy to crack a book. It’s a real bummer.
- What authors have influenced your writing? Why do you think that is?
I think the authors that have most influenced me are the ones who manage to merge the deep world-building and rollicking action of fantasy with the wry, the personal, the deeply human. I think some of the biggest influences on Royal Bastards are Scott Lynch, Leigh Bardugo, and George R. R. Martin, because of the way they stretched the boundaries of fantasy while finding original stories to tell.
- What do you want readers to take away with them after reading Royal Bastards?
Besides a burning desire to buy the sequel? I hope they come away with some thoughts on what I’d call the book’s main themes: the power of diversity, the danger of ideology, and the vital importance of independence.
- Can we expect more from Tilla in the future?
Yes! Royal Bastards is the first book in a trilogy, so you can expect to see more of her soon!
- Finally, is there anything that you’d like to shout out to your fans?
OMG I HAVE FANS! HIIIIIIIIIIIII!
- There’s one scene in particular that stands out to me. When Tilla decides to oppose the game playing and scheming that is a frequent practice of those surrounding her, I wonder if there was a reason why Tilla turned her back on this common way of doing things. Was it just because she’s a strong minded and rebellious teenager or was it to make a point about other characters in the genre that normally fall into this process to achieve their goals?
Hmmm, interesting question! There’s definitely a bit of rebellious teenager in there, but I do think it touches on some of the book’s bigger ideas. By rejecting ‘playing the game’, Tilla is more broadly rejecting the way of thinking of both her father and the Volaris, the way of thinking that puts ideology and nationalism first, and sees the humans caught in the middle as pawns. It’s short-sighted, in its own way, but I think it’s also noble; I wonder how much better the world would be if more of us kept our teenage rebellion alive, and didn’t settle into patterns and routines that perpetuated greater injustices.
Keep a look out for our QUIZ coming up next and find out which royal ‘bastard’ you most suit.
(£16.99, h/b, 352pp, 9781484767658)
Post by Sarah