Mitriel Faywood’s genre-defying debut novel, A Gamble of Gods, releases on November 11, 2022. A Gamble of Gods is a highly entertaining and immersive experience, achieving a perfect balance between heart-pounding action and buoyant levity. The cinematic scope is complemented by the warmth and personality of the characters; it feels simultaneously like a personal story and a panoramic adventure. Read our complete review of A Gamble of Gods here.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mitriel Faywood about her newly published novel, her literary and cinematic inspirations, her beta reading for Mark Lawrence, and more.
GdM: A Gamble of Gods features a unique blend of science fiction and fantasy where the sci-fi elements particularly come to the forefront. What was your inspiration for this multi-genre spanning worldbuilding?
MF: My plan was to have my three protagonists originate from different worlds. We start the story with Kristian, who’s from a futuristic world; hence the sci-fi elements appear early on, and later, through the way Kristian thinks, certain items he carries and a side character that accompanies him remain very much part of the story. I still think that overall the book leans toward fantasy more, however, with adventure and romance each also taking up a smaller slice of the whole. And why the multi-genre worldbuilding? I guess I wanted to explore something less traditional. To take a path less travelled.
MF: I’m old enough to have enjoyed the Mission Impossible tv-series as a child. Yes, there was such a thing once upon a time and while I don’t think the series aged particularly well, at least I don’t enjoy them the same way now when I re-watch a few episodes, back then it was magic. I love some of the more recent movies of the franchise, too, Fallout being my favourite, but I miss the teamwork which was a characteristic of the tv series. Everyone bringing something important to the table in equal measure. I wanted to try and create something like that in a fantasy setting. Kristian’s mentor in the book, James, while a slightly different character from the leader of the team in Mission Impossible, Jim Phelps, was a nod towards that childhood hero of mine.
Then Star Wars, obviously, I couldn’t deny it even if I wanted to. Classics of adventure entertainment, such as the Indiana Jones movies, The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Mummy, and a bunch of romantic comedies.
GdM: A Gamble of Gods features three dynamic main characters, each with a unique narrative voice. Did the characters’ voices come naturally to you based on their personalities? Could you tell us about your rationale for choosing first-person narration for each of these characters?
MF: One reason was that I really enjoyed The Help by Kathryn Stockett some years back, who also used this technique, and I was hoping to do the same in my book. The other, that I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could create three unique voices carrying this story.
You see, I haven’t really written many stories before. You often read about other authors who started writing novellas, books at a very early age. I never had that urge. I had the talent which I used when it was needed for school assignments, I wrote a few articles, some poems, but beyond that, I didn’t really bother, to tell the truth. I always loved stories, but I didn’t want to become an author. It was the way Mark Lawrence’s writing inspired me much later that made me reconsider that decision.
I wrote a Conor Drew short story eight years ago, which was my first ever short story, and the reception was so flattering, I thought I should perhaps try writing a book next. Which is a considerably more difficult deed than it sounds, especially when you’re writing in your second language and your expectations of yourself are pretty high. I didn’t know if I could do it. So I wanted to challenge myself in every possible way to see for myself what I’m capable of. Like a singer testing their vocal range: how dark I can go, how fast, how violent, how twisty, how funny, how intriguing. Genre? Let’s just try everything I enjoy! Multiple first person? Bring it on!
After that short story, Conor’s voice came to me naturally and confidently as I was writing the book. With the other two I struggled more. How do you write an ultimately good protagonist without making him boring? I even researched that a little before finally getting somewhere with Kristian’s character that I considered good enough. Selena was the hardest and went through the most re-writes. In my admittedly limited fantasy reading experience, we traditionally have heroines needing to be saved and more recently, strong, kick-ass female characters, but often very little in between the two. I wanted a character that we can watch grow through the series and I also wanted Selena to have some humour to her that was different to Conor’s. It was surprisingly difficult to find a balance where she had those characteristics but didn’t come across as too naïve and silly to start with. The contrast of having two strong and confident male characters already in the story made this even trickier.
GdM: There are plenty of Easter eggs hidden in A Gamble of Gods. What is your favorite hidden reference that readers may have missed?
MF: Readers familiar with Mark Lawrence’s books might recognize one described in the story. There’s also a brief scene inspired by an iconic one in Grease.
GdM: In a world of self-serious fiction, A Gamble of Gods unabashedly embraces fun. I laughed so hard at one scene in your book that I nearly fell off my treadmill. What are your views on the role of entertainment in literature? Do you find that entertainment is also an effective means to make a serious point?
MF: I think that an upbeat story is more difficult to write well than a serious one, and perhaps that’s part of the reason why it’s less often done, especially in the SFF genre. Readers enjoy drama and want to be captured, moved by a plot where the stakes are high and the tension has them keep turning the pages. Too much fun can dampen that and make people lose interest in the story. You need to balance it just right with elements that carry a certain gravitas. But if done well, the contrast can increase the effect of both, just like a relieved laugh after a shock or an unexpected darker turn of a storyline can.
GdM: Before publishing A Gamble of Gods, you were already well-known to the grimdark community for your work with Mark Lawrence. Could you tell us about how you met Mark and how you started working with him?
MF: It was completely by chance. Somehow I picked up Prince of Thorns as an audiobook in 2013. I didn’t know much about it, and had I been aware that the main character was inspired by Alex in A Clockwork Orange, we would not be having this conversation right now. As it was, it didn’t impress me straight away. I started it three times in an attempt to get into it. It wasn’t the brutality that made it hard for me. The beginning just didn’t hook me for some reason. By chapter five I was in absolute awe of the writing. I finished King of Thorns straight after and then went online searching for a fan site to find out when the third audiobook would be out. The UK narrator of the series, Joe Jameson, worked so perfectly for me as Jorg. I couldn’t imagine finishing the story without him.
There was no fan site back then. All I found was the author himself, who seemed very active on social media, so I messaged my thanks to him for writing these books. I was totally floored when he actually responded. I started taking part in his giveaways, I started blogging myself, and before I knew it, I was part of an online community. I went to see him at BristolCon that autumn, bringing a cake with me that didn’t just have Jorg on it as imagined by the late Kimberly Kincaid, but was coffee-walnut-rum flavoured and made by a Hungarian master pastry chef, who has a patisserie in West Byfleet, Surrey.
The next spring, I received two ARCs of Prince of Fools, one from Mark and one from his publisher, and I came up with the idea of a flash-fiction contest where Mark and five other authors would be the judges and one of these ARCs would be the prize. This was followed by many more contests, giveaways, and interviews I did for years to come on a Mark Lawrence unofficial website I put together myself (ThatThornGuy.com). At the same time, I was a keen reader of everything Mark wrote, and one day he approached me, asking for feedback on a Broken Empire short story. It was Bad Seed. This was followed by several other short stories and then The Wheel of Osheim. And then four more trilogies so far, and a standalone novel. His current WIP, with the working title of Silent Running, is actually also a humorous, entertaining story.
GdM: I especially enjoyed reading Conor Drew’s chapters in A Gamble of Gods, whose humor reminds me of that of Jalan Kendeth from Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War trilogy. Was Jalan an influence in developing Conor as a character?
MF: They definitely share a kind of humour that might be a little too honest at times, no holding back for these guys! But apart from that, Jalan wasn’t really an influence as far as character work. Conor is closer to a mix of Indiana Jones and Sinbad from Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas animated film. I wanted someone who was cheeky, confident, a bit of a daredevil, a little selfish, but who also had a heart.
GdM: Who are some of your literary influences beyond Mark Lawrence?
MF: As a writer, I’m a sucker for good writing. Many genre readers read for the story or for the worldbuilding. I get bored of a description longer than three lines if it doesn’t serve some additional purpose (advances the plot, captures us with beauty or humour, makes us understand a character better etc.). Some of the books I particularly enjoyed in recent years and definitely inspired my writing style to some degree are the Greatcoats series by Sebastien De Castell and the Low Town trilogy by Daniel Polansky.
GdM: A Gamble of Gods is Book One in your series, The Order of the Dragon. What’s next for our friends in Book Two?
MF:The second book will be set in a city-state inspired by medieval Venice and the plot will centre around the disappearance of a painter with secret magical abilities. Its working title is Old Scores and I’m aiming for an action-packed, twisty plot with crime syndicates, assassins, and backstabbing members of aristocracy.