Gemmell Awards: Shortlisted!

Thank you to everyone who voted — Infernal is shortlisted for the Morningstar award, This is beyond thrilling and my tickets for Edge-Lit are booked (ever the optimist ?).

But this does call for another round of voting… so please please please go vote here.

There’s no registration required and it only takes a second.

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Conversation of Epicness +5

Late as usual, but if you’re following me on Twitter (@gergaroth) you might have seen me posting about this cracking event at Waterstones Piccadilly (the mothership!) tomorrow:

(Click for link!)

As an added bonus, there will be advance copies of the paperback of Infernal on sale!

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The David Gemmell Awards!


Infernal has been nominated for the Gemmell Awards! Both as a debut for the Morningstar Award and for the artwork on the Ravenheart Award ?

As a lifelong Gemmell fan, this is absolutely fantastic news and has kind of melted my brain. Legend rocked my world when I first read it- I finished it in a day, then read it again the next day. After that I went hunting for anything and everything with his name on it.

Years later, after we moved to the UK, I had the privilege of meeting him several times, and found him to be nicer and more genuine than I could have ever have hoped.

Man. So And now here I am.

*Please* vote! 


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How things are going

How is it February already? I mean, the run up to Christmas was manic and the holiday itself passed in something of a soft- edged food coma, but still. February. Yikes.

My last event was pre Christmas when I had the chance to do a reading and Q & A at the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club (find them on FB) in November. As the name suggests, it was a really chilled, fun event- I’ve been to quite a few of them and it’s all good, but this was my first time there as Author Mark.

Early in January I finished Fireborn, the first draft for the sequel to Infernal, and sent it off to my agent. It weighs in at about 155,000 words right now, which is about 30k more than Infernal ? It was quite an experience typing ‘the end’, knowing that Stratus’ story has now finally been told. I’m going to miss the big guy.

Speaking of Infernal, the paperback is out in June (by which time we should have some  official news on Fireborn!) with a cool new cover:

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Rob Boffard’s Rap Review of Infernal!

Written reviews are so 2001, aren’t they?

Fortunately, Rob Boffard has come to our rescue with his rap review of Infernal. Yes, I know.

I met Rob earlier this here at Goldsboro Books’ (always fantastic) Fantasy in the Court. It was the week of my launch, so I was running around a bit and so didn’t really get a chance to talk to him, but was assured by several other people that he ‘was a really cool guy’. I happily signed his copy of Infernal and that was that for several weeks until he posted an update that he was working on his review.

A little more time passed and then this gem was released (turn the sound up!) :-


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Review – The Dark Dictator

The final stop on the tour was over at The Dark Dictator for a beautifully gif’d review and giveaway.

“I’m so impressed by Mark’s debut. Lovers of Fantasy need to read this.”

You can read it here!


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Interview – Liz Loves Books

Together with the review, I also did an interview with Liz which, if you don’t fancy opening another tab, is copied right here:-


Today I am VERY happy to have a chat to Mark De Jager all about the brilliant Infernal – details on the book and a link to my original review follow but here is what he had to tell me and I’m hoping he’ll pop over to the blog again soon and chat some more about it. Infernal is one of those novels you could talk about a lot. Hmm. (Excellent in other words and you should not miss it)


RIGHT well Infernal was ok I suppose. OH WHO AM I KIDDING it was fantastic. So you know that VERY annoying question where do your ideas come from? – I’m not going to ask it. OK I am but really specifically. Stratus. The major reason Infernal is so annoyingly addictive so what set that off then? Are you slightly insane?

That depends on who you ask. Stratus is a character who’s been a passenger in my mind for a long time. His roots go back to a long running series of RPG campaigns a group of friends and myself played in high school. He was lost for a number of years when the reality of having to pay my own bills set in, but re-emerged a few years ago when I was helping my wife Liz brainstorm her first YA. We needed a name for a character, and his name just popped out. He didn’t make the cut for Banished, but he was back in my mind. When the idea for Infernal hit, I knew he was a perfect fit.

I’m always a little in awe of writers of Fantasy. My imaginative spider sense only really tingles when there is chocolate in the vicinity – so how do you go about building a world? One that is as vivid as it is in Infernal must take quite some planning yes? Not only the geographical sense of it but the inhabitants and their hierarchy and communities. A little insight please Mr De Jager – how many post it notes does it take to create the fantastical?

Again, this is where I owe my nerdy teenage self a massive debt of gratitude. I didn’t get anything resembling pocket money when I was growing up, so I could never afford those beautiful, shiny RPG accesories that I used to spend hours pawing in the local shop.

 Necessity is ever the mother of invention though, so I decided to make my own supplements. It started with maps of dungeons, which then became maps of the local area, and then of course I had to add notes about who lived in this town or that city, and it just became bigger and bigger. I remember more of that than I do anything I ever learned in school.

 When it comes to plotting, I’m a firm believer in doing it by hand. I have at least a dozen moleskine journals full of notes for Infernal alone, some of them tabbed, and some of them so cryptic I can no longer remember what past me meant. There are post it notes everywhere too; sometimes I get an idea for something, lines of dialogue or descriptions and so on at work and need to jot it down. If I don’t, I never remember them.

Infernal also has somewhat of a road trip vibe about it and of course is a personal journey of discovery for Stratus as he attempts to find out his origins –  at the heart of all of that, the relationships he develops along the way. How did you want the group dynamic to work and did it end up exactly as you envisioned it or did things change? I have to say I’m particularly interested in the Lucien/Stratus friendship. Erm is friendship the right word?

The relationship between Stratus and Tatyana has been an important element of the story from the first draft all the way through, so I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had the opportunity to see it evolve. It hasn’t always been easy; they’re both strong personalities, which inevitably sent some writing sessions off on a wholly unexpected tangent. Days like those were actually good though, because even though its all ‘off screen’, it made them that much more real for me.

 The friendship between Lucien and Stratus was the curveball. It’s a fragile thing. Lucien’s been thrust into a role he’s never wanted, and Stratus is still trying to understand the rules of interacting with men in ways that doesn’t involve teeth or swords, so there was plenty of scope for things to go awry. They’re both coming at it with honest intentions though, and it’s that mutual, if occasionally grudging, respect that’s the glue keeping them together.

Now there are some pretty stunning and beautifully placed revelations as you head through the story (yes I’m thinking of one in particular, the one that had me swearing on a bus) so the question on that is – HOW DO YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF leaving me with book trauma – and can you, without giving anything away, give us a small tiny hint about what might be next for our gang? I’m sure you can you know. She says. Sternly.

Well, elephant in the room notwithstanding, the war has caught up with them and, despite his mostly noble intentions, Stratus’ actions are going to have consequences he can’t run from. They’ll be getting up close and personal with the reality of the Worm Lord’s hidden agenda, and it’s not going to be pretty. 

 Tell us a little about the journey to get here – you wrote the book (how long did that take?) and then – how was the submission process? It can be challenging, were you one of the lucky ones or did you suffer rejection too? And what advice would you give to the next author in waiting.

The first draft took me about a year, and even though I was pretty happy with it, I didn’t look at it again for at least a month so could catch up on my reading. After that, when I went back to read it I had some perspective and could read it more objectively, without my brain whitewashing the typos and glaring omissions. I read it, had some friends read it again, made notes, read their notes, fixed things and generally worked on getting it into the best shape I could. Perhaps two months later I had the first draft in the best shape I could get it and began to think about levelling up and submitting it to a selection of agents.

 About a month after sending it out I received an email from DHH requesting the full manuscript, which I sent on.  A nervewracking fortnight thereafter I sat down with them over a coffee and accepted their offer of representation. Talking to Real People about my characters was surreal!

 A re-write and a few more edits ensued before it was ready to be submitted to publishers, so from the beginning to where we are now is well over two years.

 Advice wise, the most important thing is to write. Don’t wait. Develop a routine, and stick to it. Even if you stare at the screen for an hour and barely write a single sentence, do it. Form the habit. And read!

Tell us about you in 6 easy soundbites

  • Tea, Coffee, Other

Coffee! Tea has its place and time, but coffee is nectar.

  • If you could be anyone in the world just for a day who would you be and why? (Living or dead)

Ooh, that’s a tough one. I’d say Francis Drake, for the opportunity to live in a world of limitless possibilities and to stand on a ship’s prow and cross the line where the maps end.

  • Manic Friday nights or Lazy Sunday afternoons?

Lazy Sundays! Sunday lunch is an institution.

  • One movie you watch repeatedly

Highlander. And, more recently, Dredd.

  • A book you’ve read that was a BOOM book for you

Legend by David Gemmell. I re-read it every year and still get chills.

  • One person in your real life who inspires you

My wife, Liz. She’s a writing machine and absolutely passionate about the whole indsutry. Of course, she’ll probably kill me when she sees this.

Thanks so much!

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Review – Liz Loves Books

The penultimate stop on the blog tour was over at the very aptly named Liz Loves Books. I met Liz at the launch of Beth Lewis‘ phenomenal Wolf Road, where she had me sign her proof of Infernal… the first book I ever signed.

Liz is a voracious reader and reviewer so I knew her BS detector would be top notch, which did nothing for my nerves. Up to that point I hadn’t realised how much of a ‘deer in the headlights’ moment being asked to sign something could be..

As it turned out, she *really* liked Infernal, even if she hasn’t yet forgiven me for the ending.


“As for the story well, SO originally vivid, the author managing to give you all the standards you need and expect from great fantasy but throwing in a few extras just for good measure –  at turns surprising and delightful and OOH magic. Did I say there was magic? Lots of wicked magic, sorcery and evil shenanigans. And things. Just beautiful.”

You can read her review here 🙂



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Review – Fantasy Book Review

The fifth stop on the blog tour (and yes, I realise this was in August, but bear with me) was over at Fantasy Book Review, where Jo posted this review of Infernal.

“It’s fast-paced, easy to read, enthralling and in places amusing.”

I can live with that..!


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My Q & A with the mighty Foyles

The fourth stop on the launch tour was a Q & A over at the fantastic Foyles, where I got to talk about the magic of Infernal and revisit why Stratus is no man’s hero.

I really enjoyed this one, so here it is:-

Questions & Answers

Infernal is a dark, magic-filled fantasy novel.  How did you set about creating its world, and were there any inspirations from your own real world experiences?

The world is one I’ve had in mind for a long time. It started off as a homemade backdrop for my Dungeons and Dragons group, and steadily evolved from there. Back then I was still living in South Africa and hadn’t done much travelling, but I was a fervent moviegoer and classic movies like ConanExcalibur and Clash of the Titans all had a big influence on the tone I was shooting for; discovering Lord of the Rings also meant that every map I tried to draw was a hamfisted knock-off of Middle Earth.

Even though the games died away as the reality of paying bills set in, the setting never really faded. Who knows where I’d be now if I’d put as much effort and attention into my schoolwork as I did my games!

It kept evolving as my horizons broadened and I got to travel to places I’d only ever read about, but it was always there as my go-to setting for the various projects I attempted over the years.

I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of magic, flowing in tendrils between characters. Did you have the whole system of magic worked out in your head before you started writing?

Thanks! The answer is both yes and no. I had the idea for it, and I knew it was going to be an integral part of the story, so Iabelling it ‘magic’ and leaving it at that was never going to be an option. The idea of the Songlines was an amalgam of a number of influences, but the key element was that it is an elemental force, as much part of the world and everything in it as the sun, wind and rain. Every living thing carries an echo of it inside them, making them capable of connecting and becoming part of something greater, but at same time creating a vulnerability that someone with the right tools can exploit.

Mankind unsurprisingly covets its power and has found ways to bind and manipulate it, but that’s like trying to tell the wind which way to blow. You can funnel it, but you can’t really control it. As ever, though, a little knowledge can be dangerous, and when you combine that with the right level of arrogance and ambition, you create a monster. Or, in this case, necromancers.

Stratus is an intriguing character, and learning about him as he learns about himself is a great aspect of the story. Has the character been with you for a long time?

Yes, albeit in various guises. He first saw the light of day as a villain in a Dungeons and Dragons game, but he survived the final battle and I liked him too much not to let him return to haunt the players over many more adventures. To make him more believable, I had to know more about him, and ended up writing a bit of a biography for him.

That turned into me writing pages and pages of what was essentially terrible fan fiction, and I eventually retired him from the game because I was worried they were finally going to kill him! He kept showing up even after the regular games faded away; I named and styled a lot of game characters after him.

When I first sat down to write down the idea for Infernal, I knew it was going to be about Stratus. The very first draft was a lot broader in scope, but it gave me a good foundation to bring the focus in on him and explore what he did and didn’t know and how it was going to fit together. In addition to his fractured memories and anger management issues, there’s also a lot of everyday human stuff that he has simply never encountered up close before. It was hard work, but also fun.

I see Stratus is described as an anti-hero; is that what he is to you, anti-hero rather than (entirely unconventional) hero?

My understanding of what being a hero entails makes him an anti hero to me. He’s selfish, arrogant and not particularly bothered about the idea of human genocide. Everything he does is aimed at getting him what he wants and, on the face of it, he’s not someone you’d want to spend a lot of time around. No one’s going to be erecting a statue of him any time soon.

It made writing him a challenge, particularly in first person perspective, but even though he’s prone to violence with scant regard for the aftermath, he does all of this without any real malice. It’s a small but important distinction, that and his quiet wonder at discovering his first tentative friendship with the one human he actually has a reason to kill were something I enjoyed exploring.

You put Stratus through some serious physical punishment through the course of the book. Did you ever feel guilty about this at all?!

Not really! He’s been through far worse than being bludgeoned, shot, stabbed, cut, bitten, electrocuted and set alight.

Actually, you may have a point.

Your wife, Liz de Jager, is also an author. What’s it like being a household of writers?

Quiet but chaotic! I think we’re quite lucky in that we can bounce ideas off each other, and talk about things with someone who understands the process. There’s also the bonus of not having to rationalise why you’ve been staring at your laptop for an hour without having written a single word, or why you’re googling battlefield injuries and how many pigs it takes to eat a body.

The housework suffers a bit, especially if we’re both trying to hit a deadline for something, and the constant backlog of stuff we’ve put off watching or doing means it’s far too easy to say no to social invitations, but these things have a way of working themselves out. These days we make a conscious effort to get out of the house on weekends, either to catch a movie or even just to go to a cafe on the high street for an hour and talk about things that have no bearing on work or writing. It’s important to find a balance.

Infernal ends on a huge revelatory bombshell! Will we see more of Stratus, and if so, how long will we have to wait?

It certainly does, and it was an exciting one to write. Spoilers are always a danger, but the journey to that point is the real story. I’m currently working on the next part of his story, which will pick up right where Infernal ends, and I’m looking to have the first draft wrapped up in the next few months.

Cool, eh?

Here’s the link to it on their website (where you can also order it directly).

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