Interview with author Craig A. Munro on his journey to publish his dark fantasy debut
Craig A. Munro has been added to the list of new writers that have been published through Inkshares so far. His dark fantasy debut The Bones of the Past has just hit bookshelves and is ready for curious readers to pick up. While delving into this extensive new world of magic and demons, why not learn a bit more about the imaginative mind behind it?
Munro was born in Iran to Canadian expat parents shortly before the revolution, but with his parents traveling for work, he did not grow up there. Instead, he grew up in Sweden, Mexico, Canada, Spain, Saudi Arabia, France, and Hong Kong. “I’ve spent most of my life traveling, so I think that’s brought a lot to my writing,” Munro said. What a way to grow up and by traveling so much, Munro finds that he becomes easily bored and continues to travel and has even changed his profession many times over the years. However, even through all of his travels, one thing has remained a constant in Munro’s life: his love for books. “I’ve read religiously throughout [my travels]. I can’t even count the books I’ve read,” Munro said. “There was always this idea. I used to write little stories when I was a kid and it’s something I hadn’t really gone back to seriously. I had toyed with it over the years, but finally, in 2010, I admitted to my wife, that I’d been interested in writing a book. The next day, she presented me with a nice pen and a notebook and said she was eager to read it. Ever since then, she has been amazingly supportive and has made sure that I have the time I need to work on my writing.”
And thus the journey to create The Bones of the Past commenced. A story of great cities facing dark and distressing times and of the cities’ people who must find the strength and hope within themselves to survive through it. While Munro’s love for the medical studies helped to spark the name for his book, a song was what sparked the story’s initial idea. “When I first started writing what became The Bones of the Past, I was listening to this song called ‘The Forever People’ by a band called My Dying Bride,” Munro said. “I had this idea of turning the tables. It wasn’t an idea of a city that was besieged by undead or anything like that, but quite the opposite. It was a city of undead besieged by living people who were really trying to take power away from them. That is really where Sacral fell and I started by writing all that background and what happened in the distant past of The Bones of the Past. That’s where I really started writing, with the Dead King and his founding of that city and its fall, etc.”
While beginning to write, Munro knew he did not want to follow the usual fantasy trope for his story. He wanted to write stories that did not follow a formula, stories about real people and real logical progression and character development. Author Steven Erikson was a big influence in how he wrote The Bones of the Past. In his foreword in Gardens of the Moon, Erikson talked about how he went about writing his story. “[Erikson] said he just wanted to write something that was ambitious. Ambition in a book didn’t have to be a bad thing and just going all out and just doing something huge and that really stuck with me. I wanted to do something that was epic fantasy, but I wanted it really epic. I didn’t want barriers. The scale is something that really sparks my imagination. I don’t want to write about a small event that happens in a little town in a corner somewhere. What I wanted was world-spanning events that really shook the foundation of reality. That is just something I think is not explored enough and I find it so satisfying to dig into,” Munro said.
One of the first things readers will notice are the many characters they will be following throughout the book’s entirety. Names readers will come across include Nial, Salt, Maura, Carver, Skeg, and many, many others. Some of the names mentioned are inspired by real names. “I have traveled extensively and, at one point, I was working as an immigration officer. I have met people from all around the world in vast numbers. Based on those, I started doing a little digging and started playing on names. I changed them around and got results I liked the sound of,” Munro said. By playing with the names, Munro has designated certain names from certain countries to go along with certain cities. “In Sacral, the names have a lot of different forms. That is to speak to the variety of cultural backgrounds of the people who founded the city. Bialta has a little bit of that going on, as well, but with the members of the Night Guard I specify that they look like they’re from this area or their background is in a specific region. Bialta is not as cosmopolitan as Sacral would be.”
Munro has a particular fondness for two of his characters: Nial, the young girl who houses a demon within her, and Carver, a master in the magic of fleshcarving. “Carver is very satisfying and fun to write about. I enjoy the dark characters more in a lot of books that I read,” Munro said. “My background is in molecular biology, initially that is what I studied along with a couple years of med school. I’ve always been fascinated in those things that he’s fascinated in, so I really gave him a large part of my interests specifically with regards to the natural world. I’m playing on genetics and molecular biology and things like that in his magic and, without the aspects of the horrible immoral acts he commits, it’s sort of my interests totally unchained by morality.” As for Nial, she was one of the first characters Munro wrote after stepping away from the Dead King’s storyline. He had enjoyed writing the duality between Nial and the demon, Zuly, and admitted it was complicated writing some of the dialog between the two, but they were just fun to write. “I think they have a fantastic storyline and it’s only going to get better in book two. There’s some really cool things happening with them,” Munro said.
A reader may think the most complicated part of writing The Bones of the Past would be writing the characters. In reality, putting the whole story together was the biggest challenge Munro faced. “I don’t write in a very coherent way. I sit down and stuff comes out. I write in vast quantities. I fill these notebooks wherever I happen to be at the time. I scrawl notes and, sometimes, it comes out so fast I don’t even have time to write down characters names and I don’t even know who the characters involved in a scene are,” Munro said. “It’s like assembling a giant puzzle. Some of the stuff I write goes nowhere and it goes into a folder of ideas that don’t fit in anything that I’m writing right now. But others are those missing pieces I need and they come to me in these little epiphanies where I notice these segments fit perfectly with each other and make a logical continuity for the story. Ultimately, it means I wrote most of Salt’s, Nial’s, and Carver’s storylines separately and they each had their own separate timelines, then bringing them together and making sure that it was coherent and that the timelines worked. That was really hard.”
The Bones of the Past was one of quite a few books published through Inkshares due to being a winner through one of the various contests they promote. Three books won The Sword & Laser Collection Contest: The Sequel, Munro’s novel taking third place. When the contest was active in December 2015/ January 2016, Munro heard about it from his brother. “I was just at the point where I was thinking of starting to send out query letters, but ultimately, when Patrick Shane Duncan was starting to fund Dracula vs. Hitler, Felicia Day was tweeting about it. That led to my brother hearing about it and suggesting it to me as an alternative,” Munro said. “It all went very fast. I set up an account on Inkshares and I had this intention of waiting four or five months and building a following because I had a very minimal number of friends on Facebook compared to what you need for crowdfunding and I had no Twitter account.” The contest was already halfway over by the time Munro found out about it, but one of his sisters mentioned his book on social media and it exploded across Facebook. He decided to submit his manuscript into the contest and was met with one of the most exhausting and rewarding experiences of his life.
His wife, his three siblings and their spouses, and a number of close friends from around the world jumped in to help Munro and started spreading the word about his book. “It was really an amazing experience that so many people came together to help. At the end of those three weeks, my book was third in the contest and I won the full publication package from Inkshares,” Munro said. After the contest, he said an equally amazing experience was putting the book together through Inkshares and Girl Friday Productions and that his developmental editor, Lindsay Graham Robinson, was fantastic. Robinson helped with the story, but what surprised Munro was that she truly understood where he wanted to go with his story. “I wasn’t sure people were going to get hooked on what I was writing. I guess all writers have that worry that people aren’t going to like their stuff and I was really expecting in this type of book that they were going to make me cut entire storylines and characters and all sorts of things. But it was the contrary: I was asked during the developmental edits to add,” Munro said. “It was fantastic that I didn’t have to cut anything because there is a purpose to everyone and everything in the book. None of it is trivial. There is an ultimate purpose to all of it because they’re all elements of the full story.”
The Bones of the Past is but the first in Munro’s The Books of Dust and Bone series. He didn’t want to call his series a trilogy, but rather a collection of stories that may include two trilogies and possibly a prequel and some novellas. “As of right now, I have a trilogy planned, but we’ll see. I think it will be nicely wrapped up in three books and that keeps the story arc short enough. I do have a problem with some series that go too long and sometimes lose steam and I’m trying to avoid that. I haven’t settled on a name for book three yet, but it’s already something I’m thinking about,” Munro said. Currently, the sequel The Tide of Madness is in draft form on Inkshares, but not much can be shared about it beyond the posted teaser. He learned a lot from Robinson on how to improve and put together his next story. “I want to use what I learned and make book two better than the first one. I have a lot of big ideas and really cool events happening in book two that really draw a lot of the storylines together. I think it’s going to be a very satisfying read, but with a few extra things thrown in to disrupt everything, of course. I’m really excited about what’s coming for The Tide of Madness. It’s going to be bigger and better than book one.”
Since winning the contest and receiving full publication early last year, Munro has been on one wild ride. With his debut now available to read, readers will find themselves lost in this new dark epic fantasy. “Yes, I’ve created a world that’s full of magic and all sorts of crazy things, but I’m trying to make it coherent and credible within the framework that I’ve established for it. I really think there’s a great chance of escapism in that and really just sparking other people’s imagination, as well. I didn’t want there to be limits on my story when I started out and I’ve imposed very few on myself. Anything is possible,” Munro said. “If I was going to publish my book, the goal was to have it up there with all the books I loved and get it on the shelves in the bookstores and really be able to share it. For it to come true, it’s amazing. It’s been a long road since 2010 when I started this and it’s even been a long process since January 2016 when Inkshares agreed to publish the book, but it’s so worth it.”
Originally published at rolloutreviews.com on June 6, 2017.