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An Interview with Dominic Andrew, author of A Better Crown

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Dom is a former journalist and current detective who works in the child abuse department at a police force in northern England. He writes short stories and novels for fun (and when he can find the bloody time). Despite the numerous bylines from his press days he is most proud of the two short stories he has managed to get published. He began writing his debut novel A Better Crown when he was just 17, channeling his love for fantasy, adventure, and anti-heroes. The first draft was finally completed last year. He is currently working on a sequel to A Better Crown and desperately looking around for a literary agent so he can achieve his ultimate dream of getting his book published.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I don’t think there was ever one person, writer, or influence, that made me want to write, more a feeling I always had. I’ve loved books since the moment I could read, my parents were, and still are, ferocious readers, we eat books in my family, and I think that this atmosphere of book-lust meant I was always destined to write something. If I was to pinpoint a single moment it would be when I was around 17 and I had just finished reading a really terrible book with a god-awful ending. It was in the same sphere as “he woke up and it had all been a dream.” I can remember this strong feeling that I could do better, I could write better, and that I really wanted to channel my obsession with fantasy writing into my own book. I began writing what would become A Better Crown that day.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

As I said before, I love fantasy. My first real love for books came from my dad telling me to read The Hobbit. He described it as an “adventure” story but it was my first foray into fantasy and it completely captivated me. Since then it’s been healthy doses of Tolkien, Joe Abercrombie, Raymond E Fiest, Pratchett and a host of other influences that have kept me glued to the genre. I always knew if I was going to write a book it would be the sword-wielding, magic-riddled kind but it was my more recent love of dark fantasy, with the like of George RR Martin and especially Joe Abercrombie, that really inspired this book. I also have to thank Eoin Colfer who wrote my favourite childhood sci-fi series Artemis Fowl. Artemis is anti-hero through and through and he inspired me to set my books around characters you love to hate, and hate to love.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

Now there’s a question! I had some awful working titles before I settled on A Better Crown. They still make me wince now. Wrath of the GODS was definitely one, Shadow of the Four was another. They all sounded too manufactured and generic. I was actually in Edinburgh Cathedral when I stumbled upon the title I have now. I was looking at the tomb of Marquess Archibald Campbell which has this amazing white effigy lying over it. Archibald was executed in 1661 by Charles II for his supposed compliance in the deposition of Charles I, despite the fact that he had literally crowned Charles II at Scone in 1651. The quote on his tomb is a “screw you” to his executors but the words spoke to me. They read: “I set the crown on the King’s head, he hastens me to a better crown than his own.” The second I read it I knew I had my title.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Christ, now you’re asking. “Reign in Blood” by Slayer has to be on there for the bloodshed, “Swords of a Thousand Men” by Tenpole Tudor for all the battles, and then something by Adele for all the emotional bits in between.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

Great question. As expected I wolfed down a lot of fantasy while writing A Better Crown, I like to have a varied approach to the genre so I branched out into a lot of classic novels that aren’t as popular now. I read a lot of Glen Cook’s Black Company books, The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams, and Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy.

I actually also read a heap of non-fiction history books. I did history as a degree and still love to read up on the medieval period, particularly the Wars of the Roses, so I read a healthy dollop of books by Dan Jones, Claudia Gould, and Michael Jones, which all influenced my writing.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

That fantasy can be dynamic, articulate, and not just about dragons and wand-wielding. Fantasy is escapism, it’s about worlds beyond our reality but at its core it’s still about people and their dreams, their hopes, their fears. Ultimately, I want people to really empathize with my characters, to fall for them, to hate them, to love them, to mourn them, route for them. I want people to feel aggrieved by the twists and turns A Better Crown takes them on. I want the story to captivate them. But, above all, I just want my work to be enjoyed. I want people to curl up with my writing in their hands and get lost in a story I wrote. Even if it’s just for five minutes on any given day. I want them to know that my writing can take them away from their lives, their reality, their present. Because that’s what reading is all about.

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