Author of The Look of a King
Today I am finding out more about British Fantasy author Tom Dumbrell, who is the author of his debut fantasy novel The Look of a King, which released on March 7th of this year. Welcome Tom. Congratulations on launching your debut novel, quite an accomplishment. Please tell us a little about your novels.
Tom: The Look of a King is my debut novel. It’s a fast-paced adventure that pays homage to classic fantasy while trying to provide the genre with an accessible, contemporary voice. It’s the first book in a trilogy and is a quick read at only 270 pages in length. The idea was to create a story full of twists and danger, and to deliver the plot through a cast of relatable characters.
Helen: It sound really intriguing, so I went to find it. I am about half way through so a book review will be coming soon! Tell us about the cover, what inspired the design?
Tom: The cover was something that came to mind very early in the writing process. It reflects the two main protagonists in my story, Augustus & Cyrus. I can’t say too much without betraying the plot, but the book explores the similarities (and differences) between the two boys and how their stories become intertwined. I am very fortunate to know a graphic designer who took my original concept for the cover and turn it into something that I am very proud of.
Helen: It is a lovely cover. What makes a king we wonder? I imagine that is why you named the book A Look of a King?
Tom: As with cover art, the title is one that makes far greater sense to those who have read the book. Not a very helpful answer, I know! “The Look of a King” is a direct quote from within the book and has a few different meanings. Loosely speaking however, the story explores what it means to be a king and behave like one. It’s a tough thing to find a title, but this was never in any doubt and I’m lucky that it has not already been used a thousand times!
Helen: What made you write this particular book?
Tom: It was a lifelong ambition of mine to write a book, however this particular project was enabled by unexpected redundancy April 2020. I worked (and work!) in the Travel Industry and the extra time and freedom enabled me to turn an idea into reality. Like most authors, I have plenty of unfinished projects, but ‘The Look of a King’ was an idea that came at just the right time, providing a sense of purpose and escapism when I needed it most.
Helen: A wonderful bonus from a terrible situation. I am glad you managed to find a silver lining from what must have been a difficult time. I think writing is a form of cathartic release, I know I began writing after a difficult time in my life. What was your inspiration to choose to write?
Tom: A desire to remain active and productive during redundancy, but also a love of books and in particular, a desire for more fantasy books that are not centred around magic systems and mythical creatures. I know that these are hugely popular, but not always to my tastes
Helen: You write fantasy. Who or what inspired you write in this genre?
Tom This series of books is my only work to date and is a work of fantasy albeit not a magical world. I’m told that it reads like Historical fiction. This is very much aligned with the type of books that I most enjoy reading, so perhaps no surprise! My wife is a huge reader but also a professional editor. Her feedback helped me to shape the story and start to realise the project as a reality – I would never have been able to complete it otherwise. From the perspective of authors – I would cite Pullman & Tolkien as my childhood inspiration, more recently Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and Chris Wooding to name but a few.
Helen: How do you come up with ideas for your books?
Tom: For ‘The Look of a King’ I literally woke up with a broad outline of 18-chapters which were then hand-written for reference before my wife/editor helped me to shape it into something more conclusive. When writing the sequels, I am now finding that the ideas are driven by the characters.
Helen: You’ve already said, The Look of a King is the first book in the series, tell us about your current work in progress.
Tom: I am currently writing the third and final book of the ‘Pillars of Peace’ trilogy (of which The Look of a King is book one). I am editing the second book concurrently ahead of an October release with one eye toward my next project!
Helen: So exciting, not long to wait for the next book then. Which type of character do you prefer to write, and who is your favourite character in your books?
Tom: For me personally, I find it easier to find a villain’s voice. I quite enjoy dialogue and find that you can really express your villainous character through those exchanges. My ‘hero’ is a fairly reluctant one, so the traits tended to be delivered through actions more than words.
Cyrus is my favourite character. He is one of the main protagonists and the one whose character and decision making most closely resembles mine. He is the character I was always destined to write; I think.
Helen: Cyrus has to overcome quite a lot. I bet he was a great character to write. Let’s talk about your writing process for a bit. Tell us about where you write.
Tom: I’m not one for moving around, and UK weather rarely permits outdoor work, so more often than not, I am at the same desk that I use for the day job. It’s probably not the most inspiring space and is often shared with my three dogs but it’s a permanent set up where everything works and I can focus on the important stuff, the writing!
Helen: Yes, I am quite jealous of those writers string out over an amazing view, with the sea in the distance! Though maybe I would spend more time staring at the view instead of writing, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all! So you’re concentrating on your writing. Music or silence? Pantser or planner?
Tom: 100% no music! I need silent conditions for my art! 😛 Book One and Two were definitely planned, so that I had a beginning, middle and end checkpoint for each chapter. Book Three I am writing with a little more freedom and it has created some nice surprises albeit I expect a larger job on pacing etc in the editing process, to reverse engineer that planning process.
Helen: I’m the opposite. I always listen to music! Which do you prefer, writing or editing?
Tom: Writing. I admire the editing process, but I am someone who wants to finish a task and move on. My wife is my editor as well, so that creates a fair bit of healthy tension at home!
Helen: Even though we fantasy writers build our own worlds, I find it quite surprising how much research is still required. Do you find yourself spending a lot of time on research?
Tom: Writing in a fantasy world does give you a bit of freedom to make things up as you go – however, my book offers a setting that is similar to Medieval Europe, so there are certain words and technologies that contribute to the aesthetic or detract from it. Most of my research is done on the go and is usually: When was this word/object first used? Or specifics about period clothing, weapons, fighting techniques. Oh, and a whole lot of Google searches for synonyms!
Helen: Thank goodness for google! It is often said a writer should write every day. Do you find it difficult to write everyday?
Tom: At the start I was very hard on myself, forcing it at every possible opportunity. Over time, I’ve learned that inspiration tends to come when you least expect it and that reading is, in itself, an important part of the process. With this current book, I am just trying to read as much as I can and write when I know I have something to say!
Helen: I agree reading is important to all writers. What are you reading at the moment? Do you have a favourite author?
Tom: My favourite book is The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. It’s dark, gritty and has the most unique characters that I have ever read. A perfect book for me!
My current read is Valour by John Gwynne. A purchase inspired by legions of fans on Instagram. It’s a fantasy epic with multiple POV which is a great read while contributing plenty to my own writing! I’ve also been trying to read some classics. I loved Great Gatsby and Around the world in 80 days, in particular. These books are beloved for a reason and I enjoy seeing the evolution of writing styles over time.
Helen: What is the most useful piece of advice you’ve been given as a debut author?
Tom: That’s a tough one. I had literally no background in writing so everything that I hear and learn has value. Perhaps the biggest hurdle at the start was understanding POV. Once I understood which characters I was following; their voices, limitations etc, it made a massive contribution to the way that the story was formed and delivered
Helen: It’s been such fun chatting with you today, thank you for joining me. Congratulations again on the release of The Look of the King and good luck with the next book. Just to close us out, can you tell us what advice you would give other authors?
Tom: Read about writing. There are some amazing craft books out there. Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’, Philip Pullman’s ‘Daemon Voices’ and anything from Ursula le Guin in particular, for fantasy. It’s also really healthy to listen to authors speaking about their processes and to understand that everyone is different. Ultimately, stick at it and you’ll find your way. If one person enjoys your work, it will all be worthwhile – especially if that person is you!
About the Author:
Tom was born in 1987 in Chelmsford, Essex. As a boy, he fell in love with the fantasy worlds of video games and those written by the likes of J.R.R Tolkien and Philip Pullman.
Despite an early passion for storytelling, Tom obtained a BA in Tourism Management before a varied career in the travel industry, bringing to life another of his passions. When he is not working, Tom is an avid fan of his beloved Ipswich Town. He also writes and performs music and enjoys long walks with his wife and dogs.
Tom currently lives in Colchester, Essex, and The Look of a King is his first novel, written during the 2020 pandemic with huge influence and editing support from his wife, Breana.
You can find more about Tom via:
You can order Tom’s first novel from Amazon:
Book One: The Look of a King
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