Reading

Author Interview – Richie Billing

Author Interview - Richie Billing Banner

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m from a city called Liverpool, well-known around the world for birthing The Beatles and Liverpool Football Club (and Everton too, though typically as the team I support they’re neither as good nor well known).

In past years I’ve worked as a lawyer—a job I gave up to pursue writing—and managed an Irish community centre. Now I manage a digital marketing company.

I’m a big NBA fan and follow the Boston Celtics. So most nights you can either find me watching hoops or tapping away at my keyboard. 

2. When and why did you start writing?

I think I started writing properly when I was about 23. I’d finished uni at 21, dipped in and out of semi-serious jobs, wrote a sitcom with a friend, and then just felt a bit lost. 

I wasn’t fulfilled in the things I was doing. And around the same time I rekindled my love of reading. I suppose in an effort to escape the void I turned to books—fantasy mostly—and in them found a bit of purpose. 

People have always said to me that they enjoyed my writing. Even law essays, which I found weird. And after we finished the sitcom I had no projects to do. So I decided to write something new, and given my renewed love for fantasy books, I began to think of ideas for my own. 

Around the same time I kept seeing magpies. Literally everywhere I turned I saw a magpie. Which got me thinking. And then came the idea for my first novel. The rest is history. 

3. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

No. In my younger days I flitted through desires of fantastical careers before settling on law. It didn’t turn out as I imagined and my life has since pivoted. But I’m so much happier doing what I love. Writing is a part of my life now. I can’t imagine what it would be like without it. 

4. Where do you draw inspiration from?

Mostly the world around me. The people I meet and see in the street. The things I read in the news and in books. Sometimes ideas just come to me while daydreaming. 

Most times they’ll come in fragments and you’ll either need to look for the other parts or wait patiently for them to come. Then it’s a matter of putting them together. 

I seek to instill a bit of purpose in my stories, particularly drawing upon real world issues. With Pariah’s Lament, I drew on issues to do with the migration and refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East, illustrating the inhumanities, helplessness and desperation. 

I also comment upon nuclear weapons—the unnecessary threat that hangs over us all, the foolishness of keeping them, and the temptation to wield them for ill purposes. 

5. What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most?

A lot of the time, writing almost feels like a problem solving exercise. A literary game, like a jigsaw. As an editor, I’m forever toying around with words, sentences and paragraphs, trying to find the perfect sequence. Weirdly I’ve come to enjoy this, mostly because of the tremendous satisfaction I feel when readers tell me they enjoyed the story. 

6. Can you tell us a little bit about your debut novel?

Let me give you the blurb:

“So often it’s the forgotten who possess the power to change the world.”

When an attempt is made on the life of Ashara, Keeper of Yurr, his young, hapless advisor Edvar must uncover and stop those behind it. With enemies in the capital city and the belligerent Tesh, Keeper of neighboring kingdom Karrabar stirring trouble in the Borderlands, can Edvar hold together Ashara’s brittle reign? 

The troubles ripple throughout Yurr, affecting an ancient race of people known as the Amast, who in their time of utmost need, turn to pariah Isy for salvation. Rejected by society, kith and kin, can Isy guide the Amast to safety during the greatest turmoil Yurr has known since the War of the Damned?

I’ve invested an awful lot of time and effort into this book and the only thing I want is for people to read and hopefully enjoy it. The reviews have so far blown me away, so if you love an underdog, action-packed stories and a touch of romance told in the style of GRRM and Joe Abercrombie, give Pariah’s Lament a glance. 

7. What’s one thing you wish you knew about writing or publishing before you started?

How important marketing is. When I began I appreciated that I wasn’t that good a writer so set out to improve. I didn’t understand that while I was doing that I could have been doing some simple things to build a following and readership. 

That said, if I hadn’t invested all that time I may not be where I am today. 

8. Who is your favourite author and why?

George RR Martin. Maybe an obvious choice, but I don’t care. Nobody has ever enraptured me so much. One night, struggling to sleep, I decided to read a bit of Storm of Swords. When next I checked the time it was 7am. It was like the best joint in the world and I couldn’t stop smoking it. 

So he may be a slow writer, but he’s a true master of the craft that possesses an insightful understanding of humanity. 

9. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Persevere. Never ever give up, even when it feels more appealing than rolling around with a bunch of puppies. The difference between writers and everyone else is that the writers didn’t give up. They stayed in the chair and worked through their problems and kept on going until they finished.

10. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

If you would like to check out Pariah’s Lament, please do go on and explore! Over on my website you can find the first chapter in both text and in 3D audio format. Plus when you join my community of readers, you can get the first 4 chapters delivered right to your inbox. 

If you just want more book and writing chat, there’s plenty to be had on my site, www.richiebilling.com. And I also have a writing group you may be interested in joining. Click here to do just that. 

Thanks for listening to my rambles!


About Richie Billing

Richie Billing writes fantasy fiction, historical fiction and stories of a darker nature. His short fiction has been published by, amongst others, Kzine, TANSTAAFL Press, Bewildering Stories, Liquid Imagination, The Magazine of History & Fiction, Aether and Ichor, and Far Horizons. 

His debut novel, Pariah’s Lament, will be published by Of Metal and Magic Publishing on 17th March 2021. He co-hosts the podcast The Fantasy Writers’ Toolshed, a venture inspired by the requests of readers of his critically-acclaimed book, A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook

Most nights you can find him up into the wee hours scribbling away or watching the NBA. Find out more at www.richiebilling.com.

Personal Reflection

What I Want To Do In Life

Some things I want to do before I die.

Publish a book.

For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of becoming an author. I’m nowhere near publication right now, but check back with me in several years, okay?

Interview a celebrity.

I’ve been thinking about interviews lately for some reason. Also, I use the word “celebrity” loosely. Anyone successful. Author, athlete, actor, etc. Anyone cooler than me essentially.

Run a marathon.

As a kid, my endurance wasn’t that bad. During track events, I chose the longer distances. Then again, I remember going to a track meet at another school and not wanting to do the race. I didn’t come in last at least. In my high school fitness class, we had to run 5K at the end of the semester. I survived. Somehow.

Host a party.

Social anxiety means people and parties aren’t my thing. I didn’t go to formals. I didn’t go to prom. So for me, hosting a party will be quite a challenge.

Start a book club.

First, I need to find strangers who like to read. Then I have to get them to be my friend. That’s not an easy task because I seem to scare normal humans away. Let’s not get into my pettiness or the fact I burn bridges like people burn matches. Maybe I’m better off starting a virtual book club.

Knit a scarf.

If you’re willing to teach me how to sew, I’m willing to learn. I can teach you how not to sing in return. Sounds like a fair trade if you ask me.

Writing

I Want To Write Full-Time

For the longest time, I imagined I’d have a regular 9-to-5 job, unrelated to writing while I wrote on the side during my own time. But these days I want to write full-time.

I’ve never considered myself to be a journalist. Despite some people seeing me as one, I don’t. I haven’t dabbled in journalism. I feel like I’m not that passionate about it. Even though I considered doing an undergraduate degree in journalism, I’m glad I didn’t. I love making up stories too much.

I’ve been thinking that instead of chasing a perfect career, I’d choose a preferred lifestyle. Rather than aiming to be an author, I should strive to create a life where I can write.

I need to be flexible and open-minded. Having an all or nothing mindset isn’t ideal. Besides if I never become an author, it’s not the end of the world. I’d be happy having a career that enables me to write.

I’ve also been thinking that a lot of people obsess over the highlights of a career, yet overlook the less glamorous aspects of a job.

Pursuing writing as a profession means dealing with criticism and rejection. Half the battle is being able to endure the bad.

All this to say, I still have no idea what I’ll be doing after I graduate. I just want to write.

Reading

Would You Rather: Bookish Edition

Would you rather only read the first book or the last book in a series? The first. I don’t want to be completely lost

Would you rather never go to a bookstore or a library ever again? Bookstores. I love libraries too much. I can always buy books online.

Would you rather live in a fictional world or have fictional characters live in your world? I want to live in a fictional world. That’d be fun.

Would you rather buy every book or borrow every book? I love buying books. My bank account doesn’t however.

Would you rather read out loud or listen to someone read to you? Read out loud. I don’t do it often enough.

Would you rather always bring a book with you or never be able to? Always bring a book. Ebooks make this much easier.

Would you rather throw a book into a fire or into water? Water. I don’t have what it takes to burn a book.

Would you rather eat dinner with your favourite author or favourite character? I’ll pick the brain of an author any day.

Would you rather spoil a book for someone else or have someone spoil a book for you? I can’t stand spoilers. So I’m going to spoil a book or ten for someone else. Sorry not sorry.

Would you rather have to recommend books you hate or be recommended books you hate? Be recommended books I hate. What an awful life either way.

Would you rather only read at home or on the go? I’m such a homebody. I do a lot of reading at home. I’ll survive doing other things on the go.

Writing

On Becoming A Writer

Growing up, I dreamt of being a writer. Not just any writer but an author, a novelist.

I’d love to publish a book one day. Truth be told, I haven’t exactly been working on a novel. I can’t even remember the last time I finished writing one.

I know I’m still young. I have a long way to go. As of right now, I want to pursue other goals and dreams. So I put my creative writing on hold a bit over the summer.

Even if I don’t end up becoming a novelist, I still want a career that allows me to be creative.

I never imagined taking a break from writing would be so hard. I don’t know how other authors manage to write book after book. It’s such a grind.

Even though I joke about being old, I’m relatively young. Some days, I feel young and inexperienced.

I have many years ahead of me. I’ll make mistakes. I’ll fail. But I have to learn. I need to grow.

I can’t see myself doing a lot of things my whole life. But I can see myself writing, whatever form it might be.

Every now and then, everyone deserves a break. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings.

I’m a different writer today. I’m not the same writer I was once upon a time, and that’s a good thing.

When I look back on my life, I want to have no regrets. In order for that to happen, I need to be willing to try new things.

I’m not sure what kind of a writer I’ll be when all is said and done. But I will do everything possible to make myself proud.

I still enjoy the challenge of creating. Sometimes I struggle, but it’s worth every second.

Writing has taught me a lot about myself as well. It’s a journey of self-discovery. I’m still discovering new things about myself every day.

I don’t need to have all the answers. I just need to be curious enough to ask questions.

Ultimately, I want to tell the stories I want to tell.

Reading

Get To Know The Reader

Why do you love books?

What’s there not to love?

Why do you read?

To escape from the real world. Fictional ones are better anyway

What’s your favourite genre?

Anything suspenseful. Crime. Mystery. Thriller.

What’s your least favourite genre? 

Romance. At times, it’s a bit repetitive.

When do you read?

I tend to read in the morning or afternoon. Natural light all the way.

Where do you read?

In my room, in my bed.

Do you have a favourite author?

I can’t choose one. But I like David Baldacci, Pierce Brown, Sarah J. Maas, and Jodi Picoult.

Do you have a reading routine?

Kind of. I wash my hands before reading since I’m a bona fide germaphobe. I update my Goodreads status after (if I remember).

Writing

A 2018 Writing Q&A

Why do you write?

Because I hate just about everything else.

How often do you write?

Every single day. I barely sleep, I hardly study, and I rarely socialize.

What’s the easiest part?

Writing the first draft.

What’s the hardest part?

Editing terrible first drafts.

What’s your writing routine like?

I’ll wash my hands because I’m a germaphobe. Then I start writing until I’m done.

What did you accomplish in 2017?

Next to nothing. I got to attend a magazine launch for the first time. I hope it’s not my last.

What are you currently working on?

I’m writing stories that are too long but also too short at the same time. Send help.

What are your goals for 2018?

I’d like to submit my work to as many places as possible. I know that’s not specific. Give me a break. Vague is my middle name after all.

What are you looking forward to?

I received some exciting news the other day. Nothing is completely confirmed or finalized just yet. Any day now I’m going to do cartwheels until my wrists fall off. I’ll keep you updated.

What’s your dream?

To be a published author. To make a living doing what I love. I just want to work with words. Is that too much to ask for? Probably.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself trying to write the next bestseller while squinting at a screen.

Any last words?

Thank you for coming along with me on this wonderful and woeful journey. I hope you experience even more rejections than I do.

Reading

Plan Your Perfect Author Panel

Not long ago, I watched an author panel about genre blending. It got me thinking how awesome it’d be if I could gather all my favourite authors in the same room and listen to them talk about writing.

Here’s how I imagine my perfect panel:

Who would be there?

Pierce Brown, Stephen King, Sarah J. Maas, and Jodi Picoult. They’re my favourite storytellers as of right now.

Why these authors in particular?

In general, I love all of their work.

I enjoyed Brown’s Red Rising series, even though it shattered my already broken heart. So now I’m eagerly awaiting Iron Gold. In fact, IG is the first book I ever preordered. Also, Brown was in the genre blending panel, and his comments were spot on. The video is on YouTube for anyone interested.

King is king. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. This won’t be the last time, my friends. For some reason, I have this irrational fear I won’t like one of his novels. He still continues to surpass any and all expectations of mine. Carrie has a special place in my heart. The film adaption was not as good as the book but it wasn’t bad either.

I didn’t think I would like Throne of Glass by Maas as much as I did. The hype surrounding the books almost made me pass on it. I’m glad I didn’t.

Fortunately, I found and fell in love with House Rules. Then I proceeded to read all the Picoult novels I could get my hands on. Nineteen Minutes and The Pact stand out in my memory still to this day.

What will the panel be about?

To start, I’d want them to talk about their writing journey.

I even have questions prepared. When did you start writing? What made you become a writer? Why do you write? What’s a typical day in your life like? Where do you work? How do you write? What’s the easiest thing about your job? What is the hardest?

I’m a curious writer myself, so I like listening to other writers share their life stories.

Of course, if I could only ask one question, I’d have them answer this: what’s one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring writers?

Where would the panel take place? 

I wish more book events and conferences were held in the wonderful country of Canada. As much as I love the United States and hope to visit the United Kingdom one day, I can’t book a plane ticket without losing an arm or a leg. Probably both.

So, for obvious reasons, I’d want the panel to be held at a location near me. That way I could actually attend and keep all my limbs. In my dreams, I want to go to a Canadian book conference. Preferably downtown Toronto in a large building with awesome views of the skyline. Bonus points if it’s close to a hotel for those flying in from other countries with their two arms and legs.

When would the panel take place?

A weekend in the summer would be ideal. Or during autumn when the temperature is cool but not chilly. Then again, the panel will be inside an air conditioned room. But I’m all for having fun events take place outdoors. Beggars can’t be choosers, but planners can be picky, right?

Who should moderate?

I’m not sure. Perhaps another writer. Maybe an agent or an editor. I don’t have anyone specific in mind.

I want to hear all about your dream author panel. Let me know in a comment down below or create your own blog post and get carried away like me. I won’t judge.

Thanks to Eventbrite for inspiring this post. They are a self-service ticketing platform that helps people find and plan events like book conferences or author panels.

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