Interview with Robert Priest, author of The Paper Sword

Interview with Robert Priest, author of The Paper Sword thumbnail

Interview with Robert Priest, author of The Paper Sword

Posted on August 11 by Robert Priest
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Today Robert Priest, author of The Paper Sword, book one in the Spell Crossed series, talks to us about his new book, the series overall, and which character is his favourite!

Tell us about your book.

Book 1, The Paper Sword, an invitation to a rebellion sealed by shaking hands with the man with the red hand. An illegal sword dance with the sword that is not a sword. Saving the girl from a flooding river and then being saved by her even more at the falls. A miniature locket library full of forbidden stories and a flight down the mountain, 2 wells at a pass and the choice you have to make, slingshot revenge and a long slide on a road without friction, falling houses a walled up glimpse of the great Kone itself and then something unpredictable–indescribable, but never to be forgotten. Dodging the eyes, slipping into the ancient spell crossed city of Ulde capital of the Phaer Isle and one-time beacon of the Phaer Culture. First sight of a crystal-faced Pathan. Last sight of her?



How did you come up with the idea for this work?

My mind was full of epic fantasy imagery because for years I had been writing poems for my children who were all into Dungeons & Dragons. It wasn't difficult to summon such imagery because books with magic in them had been my chosen arena for absorbing fiction as a child—sword and sorcery. Everything from E Nesbit to Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories.

Many of my stories begin in my brain as images. In this case the image was of a flying sword, magically compelled, leading an army into battle. As I often do, I felt the arrival of this image physically in my body in a luminous kind of way. But this one had a particularly awesome feel to it and that vision didn't go away. A little like the way a flash from the exterior world can hover over your vision for a while this flash from the interior world hovered over my mind’s eye—in a pleasant way. As though it were some kind of secular augury for me to figure. So, I just let it hang there so that it might–like one of those ‘magic’ seeds that you put in water and it expands into something marvelous—expand and morph and reverberate. There were things that I gleaned from the image instantly—for instance that it was an iteration of those stories where a tool or a weapon takes on a will of its own and becomes the enemy. Everything else arose over many years as I ran the idea through brain, fingers, keyboard and page in all sorts of versions. At first I thought it was going to be a simple 60 page children's story. But it wouldn't let me do that. That magical sword kept slicing away at the simple narrative wanting complexity, wanting people, a culture, a magical system. There was another strong image, some years later when the grid-like spellcrossed under-architecture of  the domain,  the biology and of the characters’ destinies likewise flashed into consciousness. After that if I ever felt lost in the story or I didn't know how to begin something I just summoned the image of that architecture—very much like a 3-D version of standard graph paper—to find out what the forces in the grid were up to at that moment in the story and in the characters lives. And I knew the X was key.

As a child I always posed myself this question: if you were writing in a spiral from the top of a cone to the bottom and you let your writing get progressively smaller—even infinitesimally smaller—as the cone approached its point—could you go on forever? Would your writing ever need to end. 

Tell us a little about the overarching theme of your work, and why you felt compelled to explore it.

I'm interested in intersections. I like those places where energies coming from different directions pass through a nexus. I suspect some of this is because I am often personally conflicted. A habit I may have picked up from the world we live in or maybe even a magical underlay to our own universe, a place where one must make choices. I love that moment of deciding or not. Of being led or not. And I know that in many ways every moment in every life is happening at the intersections of a million forces at once — and each one always affects all. Which I think is ultimately magical.

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

People of today. Romantic futurists. Youth in our time.  epic fantasy fans. I definitely wanted to write a book that I would love to read.



In your own work, which character are you most attached to and why?

I'm attached to the main character, Xemion. There were versions of the story that began in his childhood and in those days he was only a little like me but as soon as he meets Saheli and becomes completely oriented and motivated by his love for her and his desire to be with her then we start to have a lot in common. And of course I'm not the first writer to have felt the magical connection between writing and mage work. Xemion also has deep conflicting currents tugging away at him in all sorts of ways. He could be anything but he wants her. 



What is your new project?

I'm currently working on Missing Piece, the third book in the series. It happens 5 years after the end of book 2 when Tharfen, the youngest character in book 1 is 18. Because of her collision with Xemion in the frictionless roads of Shissiliil she is missing a piece of herself and no matter what she achieves she won't be happy till she gets it back.

Robert Priest

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014

Robert Priest

Robert Priest has written plays, songs, picture books, and poetry for young readers. His critically acclaimed fantasy novel Knights of the Endless Day was compared to the Narnia Chronicles. The first two novels in the Spell Crossed series are The Paper Sword and Second Kiss. He lives in Toronto.