Today my special guest is Aussie author Aidan R. Walsh! I met Aidan years ago at my very first Conflux event in Canberra. That Conflux was only the second convention I had ever been to, so I knew next to no-one. But I shouldn’t have feared because I met a lovely bunch of authors that trip, and Aidan was one of them. I remember him telling me about the novel he was working on at the time, involving sailing ships in a fantasy setting. I thought it sounded cool, so when I found out a few months ago that he was finally about to release it, I jumped at the chance to read it. I was in the mood for a sailing ship adventure and this didn’t disappoint. So let’s introduce Aidan and get chatting!
Aidan R Walsh is a prize winning fantasy author. Aidan has loved fantasy and science fiction for as long as he can remember. His tastes have broadened with age, but fantasy has remained particularly deep in his blood. If a religion could convince Aidan that Middle Earth was heaven, he’d sign up immediately. Aidan lives in Newcastle, Australia with his wife, three children, two dogs and a cat.
Welcome Aidan! So tell me, how did you come to be a writer? Was it always something you were interested in or did you fall into it?
I don’t know I ever had a choice! I grew up in an old farmhouse where every flat surface is piled with groaning towers of books. Novels have brought so much happiness into my own life I’ve always thought that if I can write something that even one person enjoys as much as I’ve enjoyed my favourites, then that is something pretty special to have achieved.
What were your favourite books/films growing up? What kick-started your creativity?
For films I went for the 80s and 90s favourites like: the Die Hards, Aliens’, Star Wars’, Back to the Futures and the Terminators. I also enjoyed a weird side dish of old British war movies – The Dam Busters, The Battle of Britain and The Cruel Sea – that kind of thing. To add some Polish spice my brothers and I also had a copy of With Fire and Sword we watched so many times we wore out the VHS… Since leaving school my favourite movie has probably been Children of Men.
With books I read anything I could get my hands on. I spent more than two hours a day on the school bus, so I crunched through a few novels a week. Growing up I liked people like: David Eddings, David Gemmell, Raymond E. Feist, Robin Hobb, Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen and Paul Brickhill.
Your debut novel, The Game Bird, was recently released. Congratulations! I really enjoyed reading it. Can you tell readers a little bit about it?
Thank you! Very glad you enjoyed it. I call The Game Bird a swashbuckling black powder fantasy, wrapped around a spine of darkness and romance. It’s got sailing ships, sea monsters, romance, half-daemon assassins and bloody sword fights. It’s a bit like a story by Georgette Heyer and Patrick O’Brian that came by way of George R. R. Martin and David Eddings.
What inspired you to write this particular story?
A heap of things actually! I’ve always loved the Regency Period in general and Nelson’s Navy in particular. I also think it is a time amazingly well suited to a fantasy story, so I was dead keen to try a fantasy novel in both the period and a naval setting. I mean fantasy is perfectly suited to a period that turns out scenes like this.
The germ of the idea for the story sprung from daydreaming about hunting a sea monster. From there the characters just captured me. I enjoyed writing a male character who was strong and competent and badly flawed (and a bit of an idiot at times), but ultimately optimistic and not a Brooding-Hard Hearted-Cynical-Fantasy-Anti-Hero.©
More than anything though I was inspired by Sophia. She was an absolute blast to write. I don’t want to be too spoilery – but she just flew off the “pen”.
I was impressed with your knowledge of all things sailing and sailing ships in the novel. Was this the result of a lot of research or something else?
I’m sure I made plenty of mistakes, but thank you. Glad it works!
I’ve never actually even been on a sailing ship underway *hangs head in shame*, so I did a LOT of research. I read dozens of non-fiction works and a lot of historical letters and diaries. But extra special mentions need to go to:
Seamanship in the Age of Sail: An Account of the Shiphandling of the Sailing Man-of-War 1600-1860, based on Contemporary Sources by John Harland. This book is beyond impressive. It actually boggles my little mind. It is basically a training primer for anyone who wants to sail a square-rigged ship. It’s so bloody comprehensive it even includes a bloody section on fire fighting at sea! If you are a lubber like me and want to write about ships – just buy this. Yesterday.
The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy by N. A. M. Rodger. Not only is this a superb account of the Georgian Navy, it also includes a first-rates wealth of information on the wider British society of the period.
Are there any plans to continue this story?
Yes! My health is a bit iffy and I don’t want to leave readers hanging midway through a classical series, so – again without being too spoilery – I’d like to do more self contained stories in this “world”. Each with its own conflict and resolution, but advancing a wider plot or arc.
If you weren’t a writer, what would your dream job be? Do you have a secret passion that we don’t know about?
Writer is my dream job! But if I couldn’t be a writer I would have liked to be an infantry officer or museum curator (just so I could shout “It belongs in a museum!”).
What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when starting your writing career? What do you know now, that you wished you knew then?
To answer both questions in one, I wish someone had pushed me to start writing earlier. I stuffed around a lot with courses, outlines, maps, world-building and self-doubt, and courses, outlines, maps, world-building and self-doubt, but nothing was either as helpful or as fun as sitting down and smashing out my first attempt at a complete novel.
What can we expect from you next?
Hopefully more books! Like an idiot I have two projects on the go. Both are in the same “world”. One is another nautical one and the other is a set ashore and is a kind of gothic horror / mystery type thing.
Sounds great! Thanks for joining me today, Aidan!
Readers, if you’d like to find out more about Aidan and his books, here’s were you can find him online:
Website #1 for Aidan’s main author website.
Website # 2 for Aidan’s slowly expanding encyclopaedia on The Game Bird’s world.
And if you’d like to start reading The Game Bird, you can grab it here!