Hi people, alongside Storytellers on Tour, I’m especially excited to present an interview, review and giveaway for A Ritual of Bone by the brilliant Lee Conley!
This was a book I really enjoyed – as I say in my review, Lee is an engineer of horror and suspense, sliding those dials at all the right moments. This guy knows what he’s doing!
To make things a little easier, you can read my review here (there are no spoilers so if you do plan to read both the interview and the review, do it in whatever order you prefer!)
The interview and giveaway details are just below. I think you’ll really enjoy Lee’s answers, it’s a cracking read and was a pleasure to take part in. Also be sure to check out the other great bloggers taking part in this tour:
Hi Lee! First off, I loved the book; a great blend of suspense, horror, action and intrigue.
Thank you, that means a lot. I’m really glad you enjoyed it.
I got plenty of Norse vibes from A Ritual of Bone – was that part of your inspiration for the setting?
There is certainly a Norse influence in The Dead Sagas. Even in the title, a Saga, I wanted it to be like a Norse Saga—chronicling the struggle against the risen dead. It’s not just Norse influence though, the other big cultural influence was Saxon England, which could also arguably also be Viking England as they shared these lands in the same period of history. It felt natural to overlap elements from Early Medieval/Dark Age Europe whilst creating Arnar. I wanted a dark foreboding landscape; I wanted hill forts, stone circles and dark forests. The Nordic paganism/Saxon feel seemed very fitting to that setting, so I went with it and in came the longships, the weapons and armour became axe, spear and shield with the sword being less common, warriors in fur and chainmail etc. I also am a big fan of that historical time period and those cultures anyway. The Viking warrior has been a formidable image for a thousand years, the mental image of having bad-ass Viking style warriors battling the undead was just too tempting to pass up.
You have a big interest in history, do you feel like that’s a common similarity amongst fantasy authors and did you have to do any of your own research into the historically-influenced side of things?
Most certainly, most authors I know have a huge interest in history. Most fantasy is set in a pseudo-historical setting so an interest in history goes with the territory I would say. I would also point out those same people usually have an interest in science which lends itself well to science fiction and futuristic settings, which is why fantasy and sci-fi often go hand in hand within the excellent genre of speculative fiction.
As far as research goes, yes I certainly had to do a lot of research. From the amount of oars on a longship based on archaeological finds, to the weapons and armour used in Dark Age Britain. A lot of the stuff I research are subjects I am quite interested in and have a fair bit of knowledge in anyway, but certain details found me down many a research rabbit hole. Research can be a lot of fun, and as someone who’s head is often in a history book anyway, I absolutely love research, and even if the things I’ve researched don’t get used its still good to learn about anyway and I just might find use for it somewhere else.
How did the idea for the story develop – did you build on the setting or did you already know you wanted to write about the undead before anything else?
I love zombie and horror films and I knew I wanted to do my own take on the undead. I wanted to pay homage to the slow stumbling hordes and also have nasty running monsters too. I knew it was going to be a fantasy setting, as that is my preferred genre to read. But to write a decent zombie story it would have to be a horror story. I knew I wanted to include both of these elements from the very beginning and it just came together as a horror fantasy from the offset.
When I began to write The Dead Sagas I also wanted to take the cinematic feel of those horror films I loved and roll that into book form, I wanted a reader to visualise, to feel the horror in the same way, and make them uneasy or think about something in the same way as they would when watching a scary film, and as I read fantasy pretty much 95% of the time, having a fantasy setting seemed an obvious choice.
The idea just kind of came to me and I developed it while writing. As mentioned earlier, I chose that Norse/Dark Age Britain vibe, and from that the culture and backdrop produced my characters and a number of situations I wanted to work in to the story. So in answer to the original question, I suppose the concept came first, then the setting was draped over the concept and all my characters and plot were all born out of that.
What makes good horror to you?
I think it is a rare thing that a book can scare you, a film, yeah, but less so a book, maybe it’s just me but I find it hard to find a scary book. So the first thing that makes a good horror would be that it’s scary or unsettling. In the horror I write I wanted to take the graphic nature of the zombie film genre and put that into written form. I also considered which things freak people out—that sense of being watched or being alone in a house at night when the mind wanders—and did my best to work it all in. The big thing that pervades all mediums of horror is that creeping sense of unease and dread. If a book or film can capture that, I would say they have made a good horror.
What would you say are your biggest influences in the world of horror?
Strangely my biggest horror influences don’t come from horror authors, other than a bit of Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft and the occasional random horror novel or short story, I don’t read that much horror. I am, however, a huge horror film fan! I love the zombie genre from George Romero to The Walking Dead. I love slow stumbling corpses to terrifying running zombies. Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead was also a huge influence on my work, I love the concept of an evil force or presence that can create the dead.
Book 2 of The Dead Sagas, A Ritual of Flesh is out now (congratulations by the way!) – have you planned how many books this saga will consist of in total?
Thank you. It’s looking like The Dead Sagas will be a four book series. I might be able to wrap the main series in one last mammoth book, but I think I will split it into two books. Now you may have noticed I said “main series”. Once I have created this world of mine (or destroyed it depending on your point of view) and finished the main story line, I have a few standalone novels planned in The Dead Sagas world, some slightly related to the main story (which basically tells how it all came to be), but it feels like there is so much scope for other stories and other characters to unfold in those dead infested lands. There are already a number of short stories in the works too, so there will likely be a bit more than the main four book series by the end.
You can find more about A Ritual of Flesh here!
A few more questions to get to know the person and the author!
For those that don’t know, Lee is a real life trained swordsman! Can you tell us a bit about that Lee?
It would be a pleasure. It was something I intended to mention in your research question so I’m glad you’ve brought it up. Yes, indeed, I am an avid swordsman, and actually an instructor of historical martial arts. I am an instructor and tournament fighter with Wolfshead Western Martial Arts in my current hometown of Lincoln, and I specialise in medieval longsword, amongst other things. I train in English longsword using the surviving historical texts and sources to piece together, now dead, techniques and bring the lost martial skill back to life. Interestingly there are not many of us studying English longsword due to the lack of sources, most people train in German or Italian longsword which have extensive sources to draw on. So to fill in the gaps in English I have studied various German and Italian sources also which has led to me becoming quite proficient in a number of styles. This is great in a fight as I can identify what style my opponent is using and counter it effectively with different styles, a method of fighting that has earned me a quite a number of medals (several golds too) in tournaments. I also train in and teach 18th-19th Century military sabre, backsword, sword and buckler and tomahawk & bowie knife techniques. It really is great fun and gives me an in-depth practical knowledge of weapons and combat which is a useful form of research for my writing, hopefully helping me to write exciting and realistic fight scenes in my work.
What is your idea of a perfect day or two off work?
Ah the precious free time, I remember that. If I were to get a day or two off, and I wasn’t spending the day off adventuring with my girls, I would be painting some miniatures, been a big Games Workshop and tabletop gamer since I was a kid, I love D&D, and I’ve got a bunch that needs painting, or I would be recording some crazy metal, music and playing guitar is my day job, which is great, but it’s not working on my creative projects usually. I record my music in my home studio (where I also write too) and take whatever time I can to lay down some tasty melodic groove metal. If not one of those hobbies, I would take a bit of time to play some games on my pc or console, I get so little time to game these days, I love strategy games, often turn based, and RPGs too with the occasional shooter to mix it up.
If you could spend 2 months writing anywhere on Earth, where would your ideal writing spot be?
Somewhere wild and remote, probably somewhere in the British Isles. Somewhere with history and an ancient feel, also somewhere not too far from the sea. West Scotland springs to mind, but also Dartmoor or Bodmin moor in the south west where I grew up. I would be happy in the right spot somewhere in the Pennines too. I would need high hills and rocky crags upon to find a perch with dark brooding forests in the valleys below. I need ancient stones and circles, the crashing sea against granite cliffs all within my reach. That’s why I live in England, that’s why I love these misty isles I call home. I cannot think of anywhere in the world I would rather live and write.
What is your go-to drink in the evening?
Whisky usually, I like a good single malt, ice but no water. I am also partial to spiced rum with a mixer. If we’re not talking alcohol, I am basically fuelled by coffee, with a little hot chocolate mix in it. Now, don’t talk to me about that being called a mocha, it’s not, it’s called a choffee and I invented it many years ago, when the world was still young. Mocha… *shakes head in disgust* it’s called a choffee!
Are you a morning or night person?
A bit of both really, my kids wake me up super early and my favourite time to write is also in the morning, but the way life is these days the only time I get to myself is later at night when everyone else goes to bed, I think the next book will most likely be written late at night so we’ll see how that goes.
Tell us an amazing book we should read, other than your own
I might have to tell you about a few! As far as my fellow indie contempories go there are a few worthy mentions. As you know I love my undead and two friends of mine have written an excellent take on undead monsters/necromancy. The first is my editor, she has written some amazing books, so definitely check out Alicia Wanstall-Burke’s Cordiac Saga. Also my good friend Michael Baker’s books are crazy good too. He is currently re-releasing his The Thousand Scars, part of his Counterbalance series, and I’ve beta’d his other upcoming series featuring the novel A Skeleton’s eye which is set in the same world, both very different and both excellent. As soon as their out I would very much recommend you check them out. Also one of the best indie series I have read is Dyrk Ashton’s Paternus books, if you like a fresh twist on urban fantasy with a huge dose of mythology. As far as traditionally published works go, two of my favourite series are John Gwynne’s books and also Steven Erikson’s Mazalan books, but I also wanted to mention The Dark Tower by Stephen King. Now we all know Stephen King, but his Dark Tower series is simply stunning so if you haven’t read them you should check them out.
Very best of luck with your books Lee, it’s been a pleasure!
Thank you Alex, indeed it has been an absolute pleasure, and thank you for your questions and for hosting me, and also thank you to anyone who is reading this, I hope you have found my ramblings interesting.
Lee and Storytellers on Tour have rather awesomely came together to offer a signed hardcover to the winner of this giveaway, and 5 copies of either an audiobook or ebook for the runners up. It’s a no brainer, right? Mmm Brainzzzzz….
Click here to enter! Giveaway ends Sunday 26th October.
Don’t forget the review!
And don’t forget to check out A Ritual of Flesh – Book Two of the Dead Sagas! Buy it Here!
Lee is a musician and writer in Lincolnshire, UK. He lives with his wife, Laura, and daughters, Luna and Anya, in the historic cathedral city of Lincoln. Alongside a lifetime of playing guitar
and immersing himself in the study of music and history, Lee is also a practitioner and instructor of historic martial arts and swordsmanship. After writing his successful advanced guitar
theory textbook The Guitar Teachers Grimoire, Lee turns his hand to writing fiction. Lee is now studying a degree in creative writing and working on his debut fantasy series The Dead Sagas
as well as also generally writing speculative fiction and horror.
Social media links
Twitter: @LongswordLee or https://twitter.com/LongswordLee
Instagram: @LeeConleyAuthor or https://www.instagram.com/leeconleyauthor/
Reddit: u/LeeConleyAuthor or https://www.reddit.com/user/LeeConleyAuthor
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