Cover Artist: Tiferet Design
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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Matthew Lang back again to tell us what’s going on in his literary life and fill us in on Dragonslayer. Welcome, Matthew.
Catching up with Matthew Lang – Where are my golems?
It’s been a bit over the year since we sat down with Matthew and his novella, Better with Bacon, and he talked a bit about his writing processes, his characters and his future plans. Now he’s back with a new book, Dragonslayer and we decided to catch up and see what’s been happening since we last spoke.
Last time you were here you talked about finishing up your Golem story. Your current book is called Dragonslayer. Did something happen to the golems? Are there golem dragons? Or do the golems slay the dragons?
Ha! No, the golems don’t slay the dragons, but now I’ve got plot bunnies. The golem story is actually a different story that’s under consideration at a few publishers. Dragonslayer was on the backburner last year, but well, it got published first. The golems are hopefully coming at some point though. There may also be more dragons.
You also talked about experimenting with writing a dating simulation game. Did that happen to?
I just started toying with it again, actually. I was looking at doing something with Bushrangers in Australia, but the amount of research that would require made me try something…simpler. At least until I work out what I can do in Twine or RenPy. Honestly, I’ve written less than 3000 words there just to try to work out how to branch stories out and bring them back in to make something manageable. It’s an entirely different to a novel, but I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to bring you all a different way to experience a gay romance.
You say you had Dragonslayer on the backburner last year. What made you put it aside?
It had been sitting with Voyager for a while to see if they wanted it, but it had been a few years and I couldn’t get hold of anyone there. I was pitching the golem story and DSP weren’t looking for Urban fantasy stories, but they were looking for fantasy and well… now they’re publishing Dragonslayer. I did take some time to go over it again though. Most of it stood up, but I think my writing’s matured over the last few years and some of it needed refining.
Based on the blurb—and cover—Dragonslayer has a modern man as a protagonist in a medieval fantasy world and plot. Why did you make that choice?
Oh wow. Um. This is going to sound pretentious, but I wanted to interrogate the ‘rescue the princess’ narrative and other fantasy story tropes, and the best way I could think of to do it was to bring in a character outside of fantasy society with modern ideals who wouldn’t accept everything at face value. Of course, I didn’t think of it in those terms. I just wanted to see how a modern gay man would react to a rescue the princess quest. As in an actual female royal princess. I’m only really able to be pretentious with the benefit of hindsight. Or lots of pre-planning.
If you want the full story, that was actually something I talked about on the first stop of this blog tour over at MM Good Book Reviews, so people can check that out if they haven’t already.
Do you usually write to answer questions like that? To explore and explain how people react?
I guess? I mean, that’s what stories are at the end of the day, isn’t it? Take a specific person, put them in a specific place under specific circumstances and see how they react. And maybe it’ll be entertaining, maybe it’ll be emotionally resonant, maybe we’ll learn something. The best writing, I think, does all three. I just find that writing let’s me question things society considers normal. For Better with Bacon I wanted to look at bisexuality, bi-erasure and to lesser degrees the way romance as a genre dwells heavily in miscommunication or poor communication and wanted to see what would happen if my characters were actually able to adult. Turns out it’s a much shorter story when everyone can adult, but that’s okay. For Dragonslayer I wanted to look at things like damselling of princesses, and in a sense I wanted to write a story where dragons were scary again. There’s a long standing trend that I’ve noticed where we as a culture take scary things and make them our friends. We make them cute. We make them not scary. Maybe it’s a way to live with the fear – we imagine that we could befriend it. Tame it. Harness its power. I wanted to write a story where the monster was a monster, and being afraid was survival.
Are there any scenes that didn’t make it into the story?
Absolutely. I think I’ve redrafted Dragonslayer more times than any other story I’ve written. My initial draft was written when I was watching lot of Man Vs. Wild and I made Adam far too competent because I thought it would be great to show him doing cool survival stuff. Not necessarily straining elephant poo though a sock for drinking water, but you know, hunting and building shelters and all that. Turns out having a competent, survival wise and combat ready hero made for a very dull story. It wasn’t quite Gary-Stuish but him being too competent and having time to plan at the beginning meant he didn’t get much of a character arc originally. I threw out that draft after about 60,000 words of going absolutely nowhere. There were entire chapters in the Caverns of Aergon—the place where Princess Esmeralda is from—and we don’t see inside of them in the finished book. It just wasn’t needed.
We did some spying on your new bio on the DSP Publications site, and it mentions people being able to have their own adventures in the world of Twitterlight—which is the setting for Dragonslayer. What does that mean, exactly?
Ah, well. I’m a gamer nerd, as I think I mentioned last time. And since Dragonslayer was sitting on the backburner for ages and I wasn’t sure if I was going to pitch it elsewhere, I started using it as a setting to run some games of Dungeons and Dragons for some of my friends. Since Dragonslayer now coming out as a book, I’m probably going to release a version of the world for other people to play their own games in. I like the idea of there being an explicitly queer friendly and inclusive setting for people to inhabit while they play a game, and I’ve created one almost by accident. I don’t know if people know much about D&D, but it’s essentially collaborative storytelling. I find it’s a great way to challenge yourself as a storyteller, and I like to think it’s made me a better writer. I’ll have more of that on my website when it’s ready. The nice thing, I suppose, is that my friends really seem to like the world of Dragonslayer and most of the pre-ordered the book to scour for world lore. Even the straight guys. I hope I don’t scar them for life with all the mansex.
Many bumps and swipes from branches later, the group finally emerged at the top of a cliff, next to a thundering waterfall. The break in the vegetation was so sudden that Adam reared back, tugging at the reins frantically as the lizard thundered toward the brink, causing Zoul to turn and chirp at him quizzically. At the sound, the others reined in just ahead.
“Come, we’re nearly there,” Darius said, raising his voice to be heard over the sound of the waterfall cascading over the edge of the precipice.
“Nearly where? It’s a sheer drop!” Adam objected, forcing himself to relax his death grip on the reins long enough to rub the sweat from his eyes, leaving a muddy smear across his forehead.
“We have a waystation at the foot of the cliff,” Darius said patiently. “It’s used by our scouts, so there will be supplies there.”
“And we’re going to what? Walk straight off the cliff?”
“Not off. Over,” Xavier said, urging his mount forward. “Just hold on tight and make sure you’re clipped in.”
With that, the magister leaned low over his lizard’s back and disappeared over the edge of the cliff, the others in tow.
“Did they just…? They didn’t just…? But that’s….”
“They’re cave lizards,” Duin said, his voice low and strangely gentle. “Look at Zoul’s feet. He will not fall, and if you do not panic, you will not fall either. And if you do not panic, I will not fall with you.”
Adam glanced down at the great lizard’s feet and noticed for the first time that they were sprawled like outspread hands and, instead of claws, ended in bulbous toes more reminiscent of a frog’s than a lizard’s. Pausing to check that he was still securely fastened into his saddle, Adam took a deep, steadying breath.
“Hold on tight, all right?” he said.
“As if my life depends on it,” Duin replied gravely.
“It sort of does, you know.”
“Yes, I know.”
Adam laughed at that, a short sharp laugh, tinged with hysteria at the edges. “This is crazy. I can’t believe I’m seriously about to ride off the edge of a cliff.”
“Not off, over,” Duin repeated. “Or down, to be more precise.”
“I don’t know how you can be so calm about this.”
Adam felt the furred man shrug. “It was a normal part of growing up,” Duin said. “I rode a hatchling up and down the cavern walls for hours on end when I was younger—before I was cast into the light, I mean.”
“Cast into…. You mean here, the surface?”
Duin nodded. “Yes. Trust me, we will be fine.”
Some of the furred man’s calm must have rubbed off on him, because Adam’s legs trembled only slightly as he squeezed his knees gently, urging Zoul into a slow walk that took them step by reptilian step closer to the edge. For a moment, Adam saw only the lack of ground that was fast approaching, and then the view opened up, with the red of the sky and the sun hanging over the horizon in the exact same place it had been when they started their trek. Below them, a sea of never-ending foliage stretched out to meet the dusk, the wending curves of the river disappearing into the mass of green. Strange bellowing cries rang out from the forest below, and small flights of the rhomboid fliers were flitting through the foliage. Then the pressure of Duin’s body on his reminded him that gravity would soon be coming into play, and he dropped down so he was nearly flat against Zoul’s back.
“That view was beautiful,” he murmured as Duin’s grip on his belt firmed and the man’s body pressed more closely against his own.
“It was? I… suppose it was. I never thought of it that way before.”
“Maybe you just see it too often,” Adam suggested.
“No,” Duin said slowly. “I do not think I ever have. When I look at the land, I see ambush sites, hunting grounds, places to forage, and cover where I can travel without being seen. I have never stopped just to look at the view.”
“Helping me see it.”
Adam smiled tightly. “Keep me alive long enough to keep seeing it and I’ll consider us even.”
Thanks for reading and sticking it out this far down the post! As part of the launch celebration, I’m giving away an ebook from my backlist here. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below and tell me about a monster or creature that used to be scary, but has now become softer, fuzzier, and friendlier. Bonus points if you think it’s one that could use a reinvention as its original scary self! One random commenter will win a book here—and I’ll be over at Love Bytes tomorrow, the 27th of September with another chance to win.
A Twitterlight Story
Kill the dragon, marry the princess, and rule the kingdom. It’s a fantasy come true… if you’re straight.
Adam is a chemistry student and martial artist, active in his local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism. But none of that prepares him to be the savior of a faraway land locked in perpetual dusk.
In a world of shape-shifters, necromancy, and religious politics, Adam is fated to slay the golden dragon, Khalivibra, and defeat its mind-controlling sorcery to help Princess Esmeralda of Aergon retake her city. Tradition dictates he’ll rule by her side—but Adam is much more interested in Duin, a warrior who changes to beast form in the light of the sun… or fire.
Adam hopes he and Duin might end up together when their ordeal ends. But first, the reluctant hero, the spell-casting heir to the throne, the beast-shifting object of Adam’s desire, a six-legged cave lizard, and any allies they can gather must do the impossible… and live to celebrate their victory.
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About the Author
Matthew Lang likes being on the run. Sometimes for health, but more often to see another country or culture. Preferably in person, but more frequently in his mind’s eye through the written word. Matthew likes his men hot and spunky, his focaccia more Italian than British, and his vampires to combust when exposed to sunlight. His nurses say that rumours of him escaping his straightjacket are absolute nonsense and he definitely hasn’t been let loose amongst the population of Melbourne, Australia, no matter what the internet says.
Connect with Matthew: Twitter | Facebook | Website
Follow the Tour!
18th September MM Good Book Reviews – The Origin of Stories
20th September Sue Brown Stories – Why Fantasy?
25th September Nicki J Markus – The Offering
26th September Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words – Catch up with Matthew Lang
27th September Love Bytes – How to Cook Tarantula in 7 easy steps
28th September My Fiction Nook – The Winged Traveller Guide to Aer Goragon
1st October DSP Blog – Do Haerunwoln Have Pouches?