Damien Black is from London. He has worked as a journalist and musician for more than 15 years. Devil’s Night Dawning is his first novel.
Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
The Broken Stone Series took shape in my mind over a long period of time, starting in my teens when I was an RPG and fantasy fiction freak… I remember drawing a map of a fictional world in my mid twenties one day when I was high as a kite… I was surprised at the time, because by then I hadn’t read much fantasy for a while and was focused more on music and travelling. But I liked what I’d drawn so I kept it. Over the next few years I started to flesh out kingdoms, myths, religions and histories around that on and off. I worked at it as Tolkien did, creating the backdrop long before I sat down to write Devil’s Night Dawning. So this has been a long time coming, though now the fixtures are in place I am writing the sequel at a much faster rate. I always wanted to tell this story. The way I see it, it comes from God. This may sound funny, but writing is the closest I get to being a spiritual being.
What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
Fantasy is a genre like no other: it taps into humankind’s primordial need for myths and something greater to look up to. I honestly believe that for many of us this genre is a replacement for the rituals and belief practices that sustained our ancestors. We live in a godless age full of doubt; to my mind, fantasy fiction offers us some hope of a better world.
Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
That it is absolutely true to its own inner laws: the religions, superstitions, magic traditions and politics of nations in the Broken Stone all interlink, and when they don’t appear to make sense, that is because they are reflections of the inherent contradictions we find in human thought in our real world. So for instance Horskram and Adelko are monotheists who believe in One God (Reus) supported by angels and at war with demonkind led by the Devil (Abaddon). But pagan peoples, for example the barbarian tribes from the Frozen Wastes, believe in many gods. To Horskram and Adelko they are simply angels or demons being mistaken for gods, but to the Northlanders they are very much deities in their own right.
What character from your book fills you with hope?
There are several main characters but he is my true protagonist: an innocent lad from a humble background with huge amounts of undeveloped talent, who yearns for a life of adventure and gets more than he bargained for. He is a novice, a trainee monk belonging to a psychic order tasked with hunting down witches and fighting evil spirits. If he can retain his good character in the face of adversity, and not succumb to pride or anger, maybe that’s an example we can all learn to follow.
What character from your work frightens you, makes you feel dirty to write?
Andragorix, an evil warlock and arch enemy of the adept Horskram, who is Adelko’s mentor. I’m in the process of writing him for the sequel, and I really don’t know if I can leave in everything I’ve put in the first draft. He abuses children, drinks the blood of innocents, has sex with demons and basically rejoices in doing evil of all sorts. He’s a bit like Hitler in that he considers to be good what most sane people would think is bad – power for its own sake, domination over all people, treachery and violence. I may have to tone him down a bit for the sake of the readers – what do you reckon!?
When you are writing, tell me about the emotions that are running through you and what it takes to work alongside them.
It depends. When I’m really on fire, it feels absolutely divine; I’m not overly religious but it’s closest I get to God. When I’m not, it can feel like I’m trying to draw the sword from the stone… and I’m not Arthur.
How do you police your production? Do you have a word quota, or a page goal, maybe you work for a set amount of time? Do you place demands on yourself when you’re working? How do you meet those demands?
My work schedule is currently a work in progress in itself. I’m trying to write every day without fail. This month I did double the hours writing, promoting and blogging than for January – so it’s definitely heading in the right direction! I’ve managed to write quarter of a million words to the sequel to Devil’s Night Dawning in less than a year, so I’m upping my game as we speak!
Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds them back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?
I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression a few years ago. That can strike without warning at any time, and it’s really quite debilitating when it does. That being said, if Scott Lynch can handle it, I’m sure I can too: he’s a good example of strength in adversity. And also, writing in itself is great therapy for me – I focus on demonic possession and black magic a lot in my work. I’d say that’s a great metaphor for mental illness of all sorts.
If you could change any one thing about the writing industry, what would it be?
I don’t mind admitting my work was rejected by conventional agents before I decided to go it alone. You know what? I think they are just human beings with opinions, motivated by what will sell (as opposed to what’s good) and overworked – how can you really spot great writing if you are being bombarded with more than 100 scripts a week? In terms of change I’d say to all aspiring writers out there: do what Ben Galley, Michael J Sullivan and myself and many others are doing – do it yourself. As Ben has said, now more than ever is a great time to be an indie author. The traditional publishing industry’s days are numbered – they know it, we know it. Vive la revolution!
You’re going to go back and visit yourself when you first started writing, at whatever age it was, and you can give yourself one piece of advice. What would it be?
Don’t get into rock’n’roll! That’s what I did in my teens and while I had a lot of fun, it proved to be a huge distraction from writing! I learned to play guitar pretty well – I mean I can solo and fingerpick and play slide and write songs and do all the cool things I thought I’d never be able to do when I started – but damn, it SEDUCED me! I realized a couple of years back that if ever I was to realize my true ambition, I’d have to put the guitar down. I did that last year and so far I haven’t looked back!
What piece of art, that is not writing, moves you?
It’s the Devil’s work all right, but then he gets the best tunes doesn’t he?! Lucifer was the most beautiful and gifted of all the angels before his fall, so he was bound to create some beautiful things…
If you could live anywhere other than where you are, where would it be?
Well, I’ve lived in all sorts of places – Bangkok, Melbourne and Madrid to name the most interesting ones – but right now I’m liking London. It can be hard and cruel, but it offers all things to all people. There aren’t many places you can say that about. And let me tell you, the weather’s GREAT for writing… Raining again? Oh well, time to stay indoors, put the kettle on, and get some black down on white…!
You have a chance to hang out with any literary character for one day. Who would it be and what would you do?
Rorschach from Watchmen. Let’s hit the streets and go crack some heads. Er, I’ll just watch, OK? After all I’m only a wimpy writer…
For as long as he can remember, Damien Black has been blessed and cursed with a hallucinogenic imagination. His sleep is disturbed by strange dreams that he struggles to remember upon waking, glimpses of worlds where superstitions are reality and prayers might actually work.
The only cure he knows for this malady is writing, an auto-exorcism he performs on himself daily. Over the years, these scribblings have evolved into horror-strewn tales of fantasy fiction.
Devil’s Night Dawning is the inaugural chapter of the Broken Stone Series, and the sequel is due for release later this year. He hopes you will enjoy the journey with him!
Find Damien Black online: