This week we got to know Luke Courtney, a writer with a plethora of interests. From Warhammer and fantasy classics, to running, archaeology and palaeontology, Luke has no shortage of inspiration sources; it's no surprise he has so many projects on the go! We are looking forward to reading the fruits of his labour.
Who are you?
Who am I? My name is Luke Courtney, I’m 29 years old (30 in a few weeks time!). I live just outside London and, during the day, work in a little military museum in the city on Whitehall (the night time is normally when I write).
Besides writing, my other interests include reading, painting, running, archaeology and palaeontology (both of which have been big inspirations) and a bit of gaming.
What first inspired you to start writing?
I grew up in a house surrounded by books and stories; reading and writing were a huge part of my childhood, and I grew up on stories from Greek and Celtic mythology. I loved reading tales of knights and heroes rescuing princesses from monsters and fighting evil tyrants to save the world, and making up ones of my own.
That love carried on when I was in school, creative writing exercises were always a favourite of mine, but the real impetus for me to start writing properly came in 2010/2011: not long after I left university. One of my first jobs was working in a second-hand bookshop, and after handling and flicking through so many works of fiction, some better than others, I started thinking, surely I could write a story of my own and get it out there, and maybe get some readers as enthralled by my work as my favourite authors did to me.
What made you want to work with Rowanvale and be published?
I must confess I was a bit leery of self-publishing again after an initial bad experience, but with my efforts to get my writing out there by the traditional method hitting a brick wall, I decided to give it another crack.
I wanted to try working with a company based in the UK this time, and while doing research on my potential options, I heard a lot of good things about Rowanvale Books. They had promising reviews from writers who’d worked with them before, and the fact they did children’s books with illustrations was a big plus! (I can write stories, but I can’t illustrate them to save my life!)
When you're not writing, what are you reading?
My usual reading material tends to be science fiction and/or fantasy. A lot of what I read tends to come from Black Library (since I’m a big fan of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000; favourites include the Horus Heresy series, the Black Legion novels by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, the hilarious Ciaphas Cain books by Sandy Mitchell and the Fabius Bile series by Josh Reynolds), but any good fantasy or sci-fi story that can hook me, I will give a fair go, from Tolkien to Andrezj Sapkowski’s The Witcher novels.
I do like to branch out into different genres such as thrillers (like Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles novels and Christopher Farnsworth’s The President’s Vampire series), crime novels, and even historical fiction (I got introduced to Philippa Gregory’s novels by my girlfriend and borrowed one of Phillip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther books from my father and thoroughly enjoyed them!).
If it sounds like a gripping story that will keep me hooked from start to finish, I’ll happily read it!
What work are you most proud of?
My proudest work would be either:
Two-Horn, a children’s story I came up with on a whim one afternoon, allowing me to tick off a great ambition to write something involving dinosaurs (I’ve been a huge dinosaur geek since the age of 5!),
or Argent Blade, my completed second novel. An idea that I slowly built on over the years, jotting down ideas while at my day job; coming up with characters, creatures and events in the story, all inspired by the locales of London I saw every day, until one day I had a completed novel in my hands, one I’m determined to carry on with.
What's your best advice for handling writer's block?
Since I struggle frequently with writer’s block, my best advice is go do something else. Usually, when I hit a wall with writing, I find going for a bit of exercise, such as a long run or a swim, has a great effect on helping to clear my mind; often while I’ve been out running or in the pool, the wheels in my mind will start turning again and I’ll think of an idea or two to get the story flowing again.
What's one thing you always have with you when you're writing?
I always swear by having a pen and notepad on hand when I want to write.
I often find inspiration strikes at the most random moments (in my case, usually when I'm working at the museum), so I find it extremely useful to have something I can jot down an idea for a story, a character, an event or anything like that on, so I can come back to it later and build on it when I have more time.
What's the best part of being an independently published author?
Difficult to say, but I suppose, for me, the best part of being an independently published author is probably the freedom that comes with it, in that you don’t spend years trying to get a foot in the door with a literary agent or a publishing company, trying to get them to give your work a second glance.
What's next for you?
Oh, I have so many projects on the go at the moment!
At present, the bulk of my time and attention is devoted to a massive overhaul of my first novel, From The Ashes; Book I of the Phoenix Saga (the novel, which was first published by another company in 2014, has not aged well and I’m hoping this rewrite will help bring the story forward and make it a bit fresher and more appealing to audiences; I hope to publish this, with Rowanvale Books, in the not too distant future.
Once that is done, I’ll be working on the second Argent Blade novel (working title Plague Carrier) as I’m eager to carry on with the characters I created for that; the second book of the Phoenix Saga (one of four I have planned); and a new high fantasy novel I’ve been thinking on for a while that I’ve titled The Girl Who Sings To Dragons, based on the Irish myth of the Children of Lir (a favourite story of mine, though I intend this to have a happier ending than that did!), which would let me do something I’ve wanted to do for ages: write a story involving werewolves!
Fun fact: the protagonists of my novels tend to start out as werewolves, in the initial stages of my writing, only to change into something else. The protagonists of my Argent Blade novels went from being werewolves to vampires to the demon hunters they are in the completed story!