Hello everyone! I’m so excited to be interviewing the author of The Sword in The Street. I’ve been chatting with Connor for a while now so it’s great to be able to have him on the blog today!
Hi Connor! Thanks for being on my blog today, it’s great to have you! Can you start us off by telling us a bit about your book, The Sword in the Street?
Thank you for having me! The Sword in the Street is a queer, Dickensian fantasy book involving an impoverished swordsman named John Chronicle, and his autistic boyfriend Edwin. John fights duels for the nobility in this world, while Edwin goes to a university and sort of learns this philosophy-fueled magic. The book explores their attempts to get out poverty, and the ways that poverty and masculinity, and violence can intersect. Especially when it turns out they both have different lengths they’re willing to go to escape it.
I love that you’ve got Achillean representation in your book. Edwin and John don’t always have the easiest time maintaining a healthy relationship. Do you think it’s important to have more representation of conflict within relationships?
I think conflict in relationships is huge. There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. People can’t always see eye-to-eye, and sometimes you fight, and you have to do your best to make things right afterwards. That’s why the book starts when it does. I wanted to start everything after the two have been in this relationship for a few years, after things have sort of settled down and you don’t even notice their patterns of behavior anymore. How do you shake up that routine? I don’t see that sort of depiction a lot, at least for something aimed at people who are early into adulthood.
You’ve said your book explores themes of poverty, masculinity, and violence. Why was this something you wanted to focus on?
A couple of reasons. The first was that I felt conversations about men were often focused on very narrow ideas of what it means to be a man, and the ways in which traditional ideals of masculinity can sneak up on you, even if you don’t feel very powerful or strong or tough or controlling. The second was that I felt that many of the systems that drive men to act in these ways get somewhat neglected. Too often I felt the conversation stops at “Men are told to be tough and strong and protective” and there’s not a lot of interrogation about who is doing the telling, or what the things they’re being told really mean or look like in practice. It’s very difficult, I think, to fully let go of some of these behaviors when you’re stuck inside the systems that perpetuate them, regardless of how you feel about it. So I wanted to explore how that feels and put people inside that headspace, since I don’t see it explored very often. The shorter version of that is: I think hatred is a failure of imagination. So I wanted to get inside the heads of people it would be very easy for others to hate, and figure out how to empathize with them.
Who was your favourite character to write in The Sword in the Street, and why?
Aubrey was without a doubt my favorite character. Which was incredible because she didn’t exist as we know her until very nearly the final draft. I think I went through around four of five distinct drafts, and Aubrey was originally a background character who became more of a presence around draft three, in which she gained a whole arc exploring her tendency to hurt herself. It can be very draining to be in John and Edwin’s heads, and she was one of the only characters who would actually talk to others in a way that would get things through to them. Aubrey really became the heart of the story, in her way.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process? What did you find most difficult, and what was the most fun?
My writing process is infuriating in that it often involves up to a year of failing to finish anything before I land on an idea interesting enough that I’ll wade through the rivers of shit that are my early drafts just to figure out what I’m really trying to say.I usually can finish all my first drafts in a month. There’s a week to outline every chapter. And then another week to add a rough sketch of how every scene within that chapter will go. And then the last two weeks are actually writing it. My outlines tend to be 30K words and then my first drafts are twice that. And everything that comes after is an attempt to figure out what I’ve been getting at the whole time, and fold every element in the story in on that point, which often makes it longer because I need the random shit I just spent two weeks putting down to now have a thematic reason to be there. That often involved jettisoning up to 2/3rds of a first draft and following the actual theme to a better conclusion. But for all the overcomplication, the most fun part is when I finally get to the point where everything is coming together. The third or fourth drafts are especially fun because at that point I know exactly what I need to do to get to where I want to go, and I don’t have to worry nearly as much about if I’m doing the right thing.
I’ve always got to know what authors are reading! Are there any authors you would say inspired your writing? What are your favourite books, and what are you reading at the moment?
So J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin were the foundational influences, as I’m sure they were for a lot of people my age. Though the authors that shaped this book in particular were Robin Hobb and Ann Petry, among others. And explicating K.S. Villoso’s Bitch Queen series became something of a guiding light that got me through a round of unanticipated revisions I hadn’t expected that I would be doing. That series is up there with Robin Hobb’s in a masterclass on character work. Right now I just finished Fortune’s Fool by Angela Boord, who turned the genre on its head in ways I’d only ever seen done by Hobb and K.S. Villoso before, so that was a delight. And now I’m reading the fantastic Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar. It’s a gaslamp fantasy that’s like if you took the themes and motifs of something like Hadestown and folded them into a fantastical Victorian murder mystery with lots of romance. The prose is as exacting as its characters are messy.
Are you able to tell us what you’re working on next?
If luck holds and I can figure out what I’m doing, book two of this series should be a novel from the point of view of one of the side characters, Savannah Mordant. It takes place over the course of a week, which intersects with chapter thirty-seven of The Sword in the Street. That said, I’m in the middle of draft two on that one, which is sort of my valley of despair, and I’m still waiting to see if I’m able to climb back out.
Do you have a message for my readers? What are you hoping they’ll take away from The Sword in The Street?
I’m hoping the big takeaway is something akin to “Hatred is a failure of imagination” or “There’s no such thing as easy, simple answers.”
And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this interview, and if you’re interested please check out The Sword in The Street.
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