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Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Simon Kewin about his life, what inspires his writing, and the latest book in his Office Of The Witchfinder General series, The Seven Succubi.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m originally from the Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish Sea, although I’ve lived in the UK for many years.
I’m primarily a writer of fantasy and science fiction – although I’m not really too interested in categories. I’ve had over 100 short stories published and I’ve produced about 10 novels to date.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I’m one of those people who has always wanted to write books. I could never understand why you wouldn’t want to!
When did you take a step to start writing?
When I was about 30. I think it took me about that length of time to decide that I somehow had the “right” to do it; that I could call myself a writer.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
The first novel – the first part of a fantasy trilogy called Hedge Witch – took about three years to complete.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
About a year. I had some ideas for it much earlier as it’s part of a series and there are certain story-arcs that I wanted to develop, but the actual book took about a year to write and edit.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write The Seven Succubi?
It’s the second volume in my Office of the Witchfinder General books. I loved writing the first one, and while that’s a complete story, I’d left certain story-arcs open to develop in later books. I also wanted to play with my characters some more!
What were your biggest challenges with writing The Seven Succubi?
It was written during lockdown, meaning that it was basically impossible to visit places to do research. The internet helped a lot.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
I’ve always loved urban fantasy; the idea of the uncanny and the magical seeping into our mundane world, and I wanted a protagonist who learns along with the reader all about the threats and dangers we face from the ineffable.
Danesh starts out as an Acolyte in the Office – the first rung – and slowly the veils are lifted. He’s young, resourceful, witty and basically runs on black coffee – some of which (alas, not all), I would apply to myself…
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
He – or she – is inspired by various things: people in the news, people I’ve known, people I’ve worked for. Also, of course, anatagonists in other works of fiction. Antagonosts are a lot of fun to write.
What is the inciting incident of your book?
A certain powerful sorcerer from the first book makes a return, unleashing a series of attacks on the controlling council of the Office of the Witchfinder General.
What is the main conflict of your book?
The controlling council of the Office of the Witchfinder General are under attack by demonic forces. Seven succubi, one for each member, are sent to discredit and destroy the operations of the Office. Danesh, my protagonsit, tries to find out who is behind the attacks – attacks that are very much a threat to him, too.
Did you plot your book in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I generally adopt something of a hybrid approach: I get my start and my ending, maybe a few stepping-stones along the way, then I just set off.
For me, if I plot everything out rigidly, the writing can become a little boring. Plus, my characters have a habit of heading off in unexpected directions…
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did your book need?
The book was edited by my wonderful editor at Elsewhen Press.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Start writing. Keep going until you reach the end. Repeat.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’m currently 10-15 thousand words into about 4 separate novels. At some point, one will emerge from the pack as the one I complete next, but they’ll all get done at some point. Some of them are science fiction, others fantasy. There’s very definitely a third Office of the Witchfinder General book being worked on…
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
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