Another World for Book Day

20-logo-right-downNothing makes world book day better than discovering a new fantasy world to live in for a while. As part of World Book Day’s 20th year, we are introducing you into a captivating world of adventure and fantasy.

The Woodland Realm Comes Alive

Heirs to the Kingdom (HTTK) is described by author, Robin John Morgan, was one of those ideas that grew into an obsession. What started as a side project to occupy the author as a mixture of hobby and simply something to help pass the time in his quiet hours as a single parent, raising his daughter alone, grew over a period of twenty years into a filing cabinet stuffed to the brim with notes, sketches and diagrams, of the many ideas he connected to what we now know as his central characters of Robbie and Runestone. In 2006 during a spring clean, he made the decision to sort through all of his material and rather than have a cabinet stuffed with paper, he thought it would make more sense to sort it out and transfer it all on to his computer.

bowmanfrontWhat followed was a year of copying down all his notes of what had become a fantasy existence for his two central characters who lived in the year of 2038 and beyond. Having completed the task of getting everything on the computer in a rough sequence, Robin decided to use his free time to slowly put it all into an order than would create a timeline, and show an alternative way of life in his make believe world, and Heirs to the Kingdom, the fantasy series of books was born.

What began back in 2007 as the writing of one continuous story, should find its completion this year with the final book of the series, after ten years of constant writing back to back books. His series of stories all based around his two characters and their friends and family is based around two central ideas. The first being his love of old tales from the past, which always state the hero will rise up again to return and save the day, and his second idea of what would happen if the world was struck with a catastrophic disaster that wiped out the larger percentage of the population? With nature back in charge and small groups rebuilding their communities the basic premise of the story is set, and into the mix his two teenage lead characters are placed.

HTTK begins on New Year’s Day 2038 in the snow, and as Robbie one of the central characters rises to his daily duties on the farm, he faced with the monotony of his dull life. What he thinks is a boring isolated town in the middle of nowhere is far from the truth, and as the story starts to unfold, we start to learn of sinister figure in the south, Mason Knox, who claims to be a descendant to the line of the one true King Arthur.  The country is recovering from the deadly virus that killed most of the population, and the survivors are slowly trying to rebuild from scratch a life based on what surrounds them in the wild natural world that has swept over the destroyed remains of the once era of Modern Man. But it appears our sinister figure in the south has the idea that he alone has the duty to rebuild the world back to his view of things, and so begins the separation of the people and a struggle to fight to protect the lives they have built.

carnacfrontThis is a series that develops into a full and fascinating struggle between two ideas of how the world should be, mixed with a blend of fantastic characters. When our lead hero’s companions reveal that they have some odd and mysterious powers, the story starts to twist and turn into an adventure of fantasy, built on the foundation of a very realistic way of living away from modern life as we know it, and what is seen as the Woodland realm really does come to life with some fantastic and very well thought out and insightful writing. This is without doubt a gripping adventure fantasy series that has all of the everyday aspects of life mixed with fantasy in a way that really does draw the reader into Robin’s make believe world. It feels very real and timeless, and has many moments that have you caught within pages unable to put the books down. It is thought provoking and emotional, as well as action packed with a thread of humour throughout its core that draws you deeper and deeper into this wonderfully written tale. 2017 should see the final part of this slice of life fantasy adventure story reach its final conclusion, and so now is the perfect time to get the first book and walk into a superb fantasy adventure and enjoy a year of thrills, tears, and laughter whilst fighting for survival.

These are all good reads with a high word count that makes for an immersive reading experience, they are written in an easy to follow style, which will draw you quickly into the story and captivate your imagination. The books are available now and entitled:

dunnottarfrontBook One – The Bowman of Loxley

Book Two – The Lost Sword of Carnac

Book Three – The Darkness of Dunnottar

Book Four – Queen of the Violet Isle

Book Five – Crystals of the Mirrored Waters

Book Six – Last Arrow of the Woodland Realm

Book Seven – The Bridge of Sequana.

Book Eight the final book in the series should be out later this year and will be entitled, The Ravens of Berengar.

Update with crumble at VCP.

Its been a very busy couple of years for VCP, their transformation back at the end of 2013, from just a promotion vehicle of Heirs to the Kingdom into a publishing company has taken a huge amount of work. Last month saw them produce their seventh book, which was a children’s book, and we took some time with Robin to chat about his experience’s this year now he has settled into his role as Editor and Writer.

Crumble's Adventures by Mike Beale. Illustrated by Maureen Fayle ISBN 978-1-910299-06-7

Crumble’s Adventures by Mike Beale. Illustrated by Maureen Fayle ISBN 978-1-910299-06-7

You have a new book out, and it is for children, which is something very different from the fantasy adventure books you write, how does that fit in with the VCP statement of looking for high quality Fiction?

He smiles. It is, and I feel it fits in very well, there is no rule that I am aware of that states Fantasy/Sci fi or Adventure genres are not for children as well. I actually think that using fiction is the very best way to expand the wonder of the world for children, I mean look at the classics such as Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland, I read them as a child, and still do today to my own children, so why not a tale of a little dog called Crumble, especially considering, that the story is based on the real life observations of the authors dog, with a lovely fantasy twist.

So how does a post apocalyptic writer go about selecting what is indeed a beautifully illustrated book about a small dog who appears to be homeless with no friends ?

To be honest it was a member of the family who recommended Mike to us, he contacted us and gave us an idea of what he had, and we asked him for samples of the work so that we could look at it. I think what caught my attention first was the artwork, as soon as I saw it, I felt a strong sense of my own experiences from childhood and the wonderfully illustrated pictures of that time. I then read through the sample few chapters we had, and I felt it fitted in well with my own personal view of what the story should reflect.

So you examined the manuscript and then from that you make the decision. You say your own personal view can you elaborate on that?

Well I must admit I do have a very broad range when it comes to what I read. The thing is, I feel that firstly the book has to be in one sense or another believable. Ok for me that was an easy task, I just gave it to my six year old daughter and asked her what she thought, it got her approval and she wanted the rest of it, so that was a good start. Once I got the full manuscript I read through it a few times, and in my mind I wanted it to hold within it a positive message, I feel many of the books for children today are a little light on ethics, so for my part, I am looking for something that gives children an idea about how we live and how to handle it. That is mainly because even in a work of fiction, I feel there should be good messages and truths of the world. Crumble had that, it has a few issues I liked such as dealing with loneliness, and how befriending someone can make a huge difference to their life, I also like the importance of a stable family, and that sometimes family are not always your relatives. Those messages told me this was a book that was very positive for children, and so I wanted to work with Mike.

So you had a good book and good illustrations, and as we know Mike Beale is a first time Author, which is a bit of VCP’s mantra is it not?

It is, I am not interested in famous or celebrity authors, they have the name and reputation to get the big boys on their side, in most cases the major publishers prioritise them above everyone else. I am interested in those looking for a start up, I want to help and promote new writers, I do feel especially as we have lost some very big name writers in the past five years in the fantasy genre, my part is to encourage and help the new writers that are trying to get a foothold. The market for writers is probably one of the most competitive, so its hard work, I like to think VCP are doing their bit to find some good quality writers who will move on to bigger things in the future. Mike Beale presented a good package and I do think that Crumble is a wonderful step up for children going from mainly picture books into something more structured towards reading for life, which is also another one of the reasons we wanted to do it.

So this really is what we adults would call a proper reading book, but it is aimed at six years and above?

Yes, it is laid out with each chapter clearly marked; I find a lot of the books that school gives to my daughter are still very basic and filled with bright pictures. I think I am a little old fashioned in my approach, because when I was six, I was given proper books to read and I do think it played a huge part in my love of reading. I think we do not have enough children reading, and it is something I feel strongly as a book producer and a parent that we need to try and get our children away from the TV or games consol and reading more. The layout of Crumble reflects that, it is in a larger print, but it still has the defined chapters with the illustrations carefully placed to flow with the text, and I know for sure my daughter and my son have both really enjoyed reading the format.

So You put out HTTK book five in February, and its now been six months, has all that time been spent working on Crumble with Mike?

Not all of it, we were busy earlier in the year promoting the fifth HTTK, I think we began working with Mike in May, I have also been pretty busy writing in between, as I do, as I am always making notes writing back stories and actually writing the series. So for me personally it’s been a very hectic year, but that is good because I hate it when things slow down, I like to stay on the keys as much as possible.

It must have been a different experience working with another writer; we all know how reclusive you can be, not to mention how you avoid writing forums etc… What has it been like for you.?

Chuckles a lot. I avoid forums for writers simply because I have my own set way of doing things, so at times I find they have far too many rules that get in the way of the creative bursts. I honestly believe that shutting yourself away and just focusing on what you want write is the only way to do it, on the few occasions I have stepped out into the world and been involved with these things they have filled my head with notions that were very unhelpful, so for me personally I avoid them.

Working with Mike was actually really fun and a complete eye-opener for me, because I suppose I got see how another writer who works alone with a few supporters to muck in, actually works. Our stuff is at opposing ends of the spectrum, as he writes for children, and my stuff is pretty complex and adult, so yes, for someone like me who loves nothing better than seeing how other people achieve things it was fascinating working with him, he is a really nice guy, and it was easy to see where such a lovely story came from, because he does have a very quiet and caring nature, which again I felt was beautifully reflected in Crumble.

You say your styles are opposite each other, is that not a problem when editing, surely you would phrase things differently?

To be honest no not really. Look we have a very relaxed and informal way of working, lets be honest I am never going to be all about business dinners and fancy presentations. The way I work is very casual and informal, and that creates the right environment for creativity. We did a lot of research into children’s literature to get a good idea of what was expected, long before Mike gave us the manuscript we were pretty much pulling apart the book world to find out as much as possible. Once we started working, we would look at what he gave us and then comb through it and look to try and add as many improvements as we could, it is the very same system we use for HTTK, the only difference being is it is with another writer.

We used the same approach with Ted on Wordsmith with the poetry book. We made suggestions, but at all times the decision lay with the author, which is a rule I set at the very start of VCP, as we want a company that treats Authors fairly, and to be honest we do a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure it. Mike felt comfy at all times, and questions he asked, we gave full answers to. At the end of the day we take it step by step, we gave him our thoughts on things we felt were important, he went off and looked at it, and then came back with his thoughts, after discussion we moved to the next stage and repeated the process until finally we arrived at the final manuscript everyone was happy with, and that was then published.

I look back to my own experiences of first publishing, and that is the greatest aid to ensuring I am taking into account all of the authors feelings, so with that in mind, every aspect of the formatting was given great consideration, it was a lot of work checking and placing each illustration and line of text to ensure it looked the very best it could, and would appeal to the smaller readership it was planned for. I would like to think for Mike it was a better experience than my first time.

So there is no time limit on producing the book?

No we take it step by step until we are all happy, I am never going to say hey in ten weeks you will have a book, I feel that approach which I know some publishers do, is a none starter, as it rules out the fine polishing process, and we are looking for high quality stories, that we can put into high quality print. We try to work to a very high standard, I demand it, and so we will work with an author until the manuscript is right, by the same chalk, I will refuse a book if I feel it does not sit well in our catalogue.

Crumble came out on August 31st, so what now are you taking a break before moving on again?

I did take a small holiday, I wanted to get the kids away as we had been working most of their school holiday, as we wanted the book in full circulation before the children went back to school, so we took a few days in Scarborough, which was wonderful and we relaxed and had a lot of fun. I do admit I never stop working, so while I was there I got some pictures that would serve well in HTTK, after all Scarborough is a main part of the earlier stories. I came back and started the final edit of Book six, which is the next thing we will working on for late Autumn release, and obviously I am doing a lot behind the scenes to give Crumble a good old push into the world of readers.

So Book six soon and then what, as you are almost at the end of HTTK, will you walk away forever and just write other stuff?

The next project is Kingdom six, I want that out as I know I have readers who really want it due to the cliff hanger ending of five, and I don’t want to disappoint them. As always we are looking for writers who fit our remit and so we are pushing that aspect of VCP, and behind the scenes I have a few things lined up for the end of HTTK, I think it is safe to say writing wise I have a constant stream of ideas, so whichever one gets my pulse racing fastest will be the new project when I finish the last HTTK book. Will I finish the series and say no more, I am not entirely certain, I have not given it a huge amount of thought as I am still writing it, but I must admit these characters have been a huge part of my life, in my house they are almost like family, so I cannot really say I am done with them yet, a break would be nice, I wanted to write the Bowman to prove I could write a book, I did it and it grew into a series, so maybe the next challenge is to write something completely different, after that I will have to see.

So VCP is still working towards it goals, has your idea of it changed about where you want it in the future?

I have always wanted it to be a publisher of quality, which will never change. I am looking for new writers who I can work with, and again I hope over time VCP will grow to be a publisher people can say produces good quality reads. We are still a tiny company and have a ways to go, and I am enjoying the journey. I believe in evolution and I think that will always be our way to go, we will learn and expand as we need to, and hopefully create something that will bring joy to the readers of the world, be them little or large. We have had to incorporate and get use to a lot of new technology in order to do this and we are growing each day with more and more competence, we set a plan at the start and so we are following it, and to date we are on target, we have print pretty much running very smoothly, and so we are now looking at digital, as we want to take our authors onto every platform, we have been busy with that behind the scenes, and will start with digital platforms once we are satisfied we have the right level of quality control on the books, that is not that far away now.

You had a lot of nervous moments at the very end of 2013, how are you feeling now?

For me personally it was a huge leap of faith, I knew I had done the research and could in theory do it, but ending my contracts with my other publisher and going solo was a scary moment, especially as it killed my income for six months. I am a lot happier now we are moving forward and doing ok, we have seven books out and an eighth on the way so it’s a big case of so far so good. I have really enjoyed it, and I have also had the joy of seeing two new authors step out into the world, and that has been a really rewarding aspect of all this. Ted has done really well with Wordsmith and I think Mike has started very well, and I hope will see some success, as I think Crumble deserves it. I still feel the most positive thing is getting the word out that reading is wonderful and enhances your life, and I know we have convinced a few more to do it more, so considering December 2013 and now, I am very happy with the way it has all gone.

So What are you up to now?

At the moment I am preparing book six, as I said I want that out soon, but I am also looking at the night of HTTK thing, we have been asked quite a few times to do it, and it is entirely my fault, as the experience of the launch night in Bolton was so bad, it did put me off promoting locally and doing public events. Currently and  in between Promoting Crumble and getting out the next book, I am looking at ways that could be possible. I have a lot of ideas, but because readers of HTTK are pretty scattered and I have done less promotion at home, I am not that sure of the numbers, so I am looking at a small event with a view to expanding it should it be successful. I must admit I do like the idea of meeting the readers and talking to them, it is during those kind of conversations you learn a lot about peoples experiences of the books.

It sounds like a pretty exciting idea, what kind of things do you have in mind?

Well we have had a few suggestions from people who would like to see some readings and ask questions, so I think that would be the model to build it round, you know a sort of introduction, and then maybe some guest readers etc… I am sure I can sort something out where I can do some signings of books, and that sort of thing, I have a long list of ideas, it would be nice to bring Louis and Jacy in on it to chat to people about their artwork and stuff, it could be quite interesting, as I say at the moment we are only really looking at it.

It does sound like a great idea and so I will look out for it, and it is looking very positive for Robin and VCP. Book Six of Heirs to the Kingdom will be hitting the book sales stands soon and we do hope that VCP and its authors do well. Crumble’s Adventures by Mike Beale is available now from all online stores, or from your local book shop, as well as all the other VCP published books on the VCP website.

Crumble’s Adventures by Mike Beale illustrated by Maureen Fayle

Crumble's Adventures

Crumble’s Adventures

ISBN 978-1-910299-06-7

Submitted for VCP by Jo Lane.

Robin John Morgan talks Crystals and Mirrored Waters.

Heirs to the Kingdom Book Five, Crystals of the Mirrored Waters by Robin john Morgan

Heirs to the Kingdom Book Five, Crystals of the Mirrored Waters by Robin john Morgan

With the release of the new Heirs to the Kingdom instalment today, we took a little time a few weeks ago to talk with its Author Robin John Morgan.

This is the fifth book in the series entitled “Crystals of the Mirrored Waters” and as we discovered is a very important marker in the series, of which we still do not know how many books there actually going to be.

The question most people want to be answered, and if you have read the fourth book you will know if you have. Robbie the lead character leans into an unidentified young boy and lifts a golden dragon on a chain from his shirt, and turns back and questions Ally “You Knew?” For us avid readers, it just about blew our minds, as we want to know who the King that will rule is. Book five will reveal all and Robin smiles.

“Its in there, you will have to read it to find out though.”

It has been a topic of debate for some time, as many of the readers have put forward their theories and we can now state clearly (Having read an advanced copy) we have all been hopelessly wrong. Obviously we are aware of spoilers and so are being very careful of any of the detail within the book, but what we can say is that the start of this book is very different from the first four, and it does take a very different approach as it introduces the reader back into the story, which is something we did want to ask Robin about.

“Yes it is  very different, I wanted to take some time just to fill in the blanks, and in a way come back round in a circle. Book five is an important stage within HTTK as I feel that with the arrival of a new king it wraps up one very important aspect of the story. During the writing process, which compared to the last four was a much longer intense affair, I wanted to take this particular moment to fill in the gaps and in a way paint a wider picture of events from the past. If you think about it, back in 2006 I placed all the notes I had in order, and then from about June 2007 until May 2008 I wrote the first rough drafts of the first four books back to back. Those first four were really written at fever pitch as I wanted to prove to myself I could do it, but once I had completed them, I then sat back and added more notes to help me edit the books and shape them to a closer match to the versions of the books I have published. I mean there have been many changes and additions since then, but the story has remained relatively unchanged from those earlier writing days, which I also will add was at a particularly difficult period, with five my life circumstances had changed a great deal, and I had the time to take much longer in the planning and writing, and that also let me work much deeper inside the story.”

The start of Crystals of the Mirrored Waters is somewhat reflective, and in a way almost historical.”

“Yeah I think that is the point, and is the reason why this is such an important book in the series as a whole. Before this book we know that there has been a struggle to rebuild back to the point where the story begins in Loxley with book one, and since that point there has been a lot of references to past events. Look to the past is a huge theme in the earlier books and it is at the start of the fifth book that I think the process of reflection is key to the future, and so I felt that had to be a very important starting point in fully understand the past and the present of Heirs to the Kingdom. I also had so much more time, as I had finally finished with my horticultural business and could focus on just writing this story, that alone had a huge impact on my approach to this book and those that will follow, in a strange way this story is a reflection of my own life, especially some of the more emotive aspects, and those first five chapters do reflect that.”

So really the book is almost a history of the story and your own life running hand in hand? (He laughs)

“I think there is no doubt; I mean those first four were written in all the spare moments of what was a fight with the local authorities as I felt myself losing everything I had ever worked for slipping away, and it was intense and frustrating and heart breaking. I do smile at it now as at that time I did feel like Robbie facing those overwhelming odds and I was riddled with doubts as I fought my hardest, to be honest I think I would have preferred a sword or longbow and taken on the local council one by one in combat, it would have felt a lot easier.”

So you get to five, and life is calmer and more relaxed, and is that why it took much longer to write this particular book?”

“It is and it isn’t. (He laughs at me) It was nice to be able to work in a more focused way, I think I just took a huge deep breath and let myself calm down a little. I was quite ill when I final closed down and made what was a hard decision to quite horticulture, it had been my life for over 30 years, and walking away felt like a huge emotional pull, and for months it was hard to focus on writing, I guess I did a lot of soul searching and looking back at my own life, it was a process of reflection and in many ways a time of healing for me. I needed to make that first important step forward, so I looked to the roots of this story and did a lot of writing of small bits to give me a background to the story, and I soon found some of it was based very much in my own past and my early years growing up in the woodland.”

So that explains the dedication. This book is dedicated to your brothers, and does refer to those times you had together as children.

“I know most readers do not really understand why authors dedicate books, but for the author it is an extremely important aspect of the book, for me personally it was important that I made five a tribute to my three brothers. Some of it is the past, as we were all very close and at that time, and when we all ran wild in the woodland it was for me a deeply special and important time in my life, and they were a large part of it. But you also have to understand that five is a very important aspect of this story, five members create a circle of power, and each family creates a circle of its strongest five, which is where the tables around Runestone play a vital role in Heirs to the Kingdom. I suppose the symbolism for me is what is important, my love of this very special place we grew up in, is the foundation of whom I have become, and that moment from my own past was shared with my brothers. It is the reason I love the wild so much, it is the very heart of where this story came from, and so I could not write this turning point which looks to the past in order to shape the future of Heirs to the Kingdom, without including my brothers who are still one of my strongest circles of power. We were pretty poor as kids and yet we overcame so much, my eldest brother has a force of stamina that I am in awe of, my next eldest brother against all the odds has achieved so much to be proud of considering his starting point in life, and my youngest brother who has the craziest sense of fun, has brought a huge amount of laughter and joy to so many people in his lifetime, and I find them inspirational and have taken elements of each of them into my writing, which has indeed made the charters of this story much more interesting to read. As I said the readers probably won’t see any of this, but I hope my brothers can, and that is why it was so important to me that the fifth book was for them.”

I think up until this moment I have never really considered the dedication in a book before, and maybe I will think about others in the future when I read. So we finally have the new book and we will all soon know who the new king will be, so I have to ask even though I am uncertain of getting an accurate answer, tell us what can we expect from Crystals of the Mirrored Waters?

Heirs to the Kingdom by Robin John Morgan

Heirs to the Kingdom by Robin John Morgan

 “That is the million dollar question isn’t it? I feel the desire to shout “Plot Twist!” OK, Book one through four imply a lot of what has happened, and in that much they ask a lot of questions, so my first priority was to address those.

I think the question of Why was the death Red, who started it, and why a virus, and how was it certain people survived are all relevant questions which I need to answer, and so I have. I think another important question is why is the line of Arthur so relevant when obviously the Lox household are quite capable of uniting the country alone? But the biggest untied threads that run right through the whole series have to be, who did what and why? These are questions the books have asked, and through book five you will gain a lot of insight as to the goings on behind the scenes, but saying that, I know it will lead the readers to ask yet more questions, and that will be explained in a later book. What happened in the past is a guide to the future, so there is more detail on those past events as they run side by side with current events. There are moments within the earlier books which may not have felt very relevant, but actually those moments will become very important as other books come out.

I suppose the biggest and most important thing in book five is the change of emphasis, you know, the books are named Heirs to the Kingdom, and we have pretty much worked out who all the heirs are… or have we? From five onward the story has to change, otherwise it would become stagnant and the emphasis has to move away from the search, to the actual destinies of each and everyone within the tale, and that starts here.”

Why do I suddenly feel you have answered my question by simply posing even more?

“That’s Heirs to the Kingdom. Look I write this story primarily for myself, but I can assure you nothing is written that does mean something, and that is who I am, and that will be the case whatever I write in the future, am I going to give away the plot, obviously not? The rear cover mentions a few hints and nothing more, but if you read it carefully you may pick out a few things, such as a new realm and a new enemy that is very dark and devious. Book five will test everyone, including the reader and I hope you find yourself in situations you never expected. Harry is in there getting himself in trouble, Jett and Jade are as usual up to their tricks and Robbie and Runestone will be tested, but you all know that as this is their story and it is slowly unfolding. I will say I try very hard to surprise myself in hope of surprising the reader, and this book took two years of carefully planning to get to the final scenario, which I hope leaves the reader breathless. I feel this is a gritty and good paced story, but I will leave it to readers to decide, I certainly think they will really enjoy it.”

So to end, I feel I must ask what I consider the most important question I can ask. Considering how involved she is with all of this adventure, what does your wife think of it?”

“Ask Her? (Giggles) I do believe she loves it???”

Heirs to the Kingdom Book Five : Crystals of the Mirrored Waters by Robin John Morgan, (ISBN 978-1-910299-05-0) is out today (28th February 2015) and will be available worldwide via all online book retailers and via your local bookstore, published via Violet Circle Publishing. All of Robins books are available and you can get full details on them via violetcirclepublishing.co.uk or heirstothekingdom.com

New Heirs to the Kingdom

Spring is here, and the leaves of all the trees are slowly opening as our world wakes up from the long weary sleep of Winter. The time is almost upon us, as soon will be time to walk with the leaves above our heads, which for those of you who are in the know can only mean one thing. The new Revised Editions of Heirs to the Kingdom are going into production and are almost ready to print.

It is almost time to sneak off to a quiet remote green space and walk once again in the Woodland Realm, as the first three in the captivating series of books come back into print via Violet Circle Publishing, the new home of HTTK.

So what is and is not new? We had a quiet chat with the Author Robin John Morgan to find out just what why the new editions, and what is in store for the readers, and he told us this.

Why the new Editions? Ok well firstly, I think when I first set out in 2007 to publish the books, I was pretty inexperienced and had some very big expectations of what exactly happens during the whole publishing process and that has very much showed.

I have not been happy with the books for a while, so when we switched publishers I took the chance to take the time out and go right the way through the books from line one, and do a new edit on all three of the previously published books. I have felt for some time that certain parts of the story that were cut in the first editions really should have been left in, and so my first task was to add them back and then focus on smoothing out a few parts of the story I always thought were rough and needing a slight tweak. I guess in the long term I am never going to be completely happy, as I always think there is something I can improve, but I have solemnly promised this is it and I have taken a lot of time to get the books back to the way I want them to be and I am very happy with the way they are now.

Nothing in the story has changed, so for those who own the first editions, do not worry you have not missed out, if anything you will now have something a little more collectable. I have added mainly detail and background description, just to fill out some areas I have always thought lacked a little and disturbed the flow of the story, so I am hoping for those who read these editions they will find them smoother and a more improved and flowing read.

The size of the books are different from the first editions, in so much as they are a tiny bit larger, but the main reason for that was I wanted to try and reduce the price, and with a few more words per page, it has dropped the page count and the cost which means it can be sold for less, which is good for everyone. It’s a new set so we have brought in clearer more fluid sleeves that will match as a series and give the books a more recognisable design, it probably does not matter that much to the readers, but I really enjoyed looking at all the new ways in which HTTK could be packaged, and I love the new more identifiable design which I think relates on a much simpler level to the story.

The interiors are crisper and more fluid, and I am delighted with them, I have had a huge hang up especially about book one since it was first published, as I was not happy with the font size and layout, so I feel overjoyed that I have been able to fix that with the new revised editions, all in all its been a wonderful experience to sit back and read through from the first page and do each book back to back once again. It probably sounds daft, but as I am much further on with the series of books than these first three, it is easy to forget some of the detail and fun in the first three, and to be honest I have surprised myself and had a huge amount of enjoyment revisiting them, I think it has helped me one hundred percent as I continue to work on the latest in the series.

The best news is that after almost two years of problems setbacks and delays, I can finally get the fourth book out shortly after the new revised editions hit the shelves, and that is simply fantastic, as I loved writing book four and still hold it as one of my personal bests in the series and I hope those who have become wonderful fans of the series that have built up along the way will really enjoy it too.

So there we have it, it will not be much longer and there will be three revised and a brand new edition to fill up your Summer with some wonderful reading time. Keep your eyes on violetcirclepublishing.co.uk for the announcement soon.

Talking Pictures, a chat with HTTK illustrator Louis M Slater

Sharing a joke whilst Promoting HTTK.

With book three of the Heirs to the Kingdom series by Robin John Morgan in production, we took a look at the cover of the book, and thought it would be good to have a chat with the artist Louis M Slater, to see if he could shed more light on the HTTK project.
Louis was an out of work artist who came across Robin whilst working on the markets of Hyde and Denton, back in 2005, and he became one of a very small group who were given the chance to read the very first full drafts of the Bowman of Loxley. Since that time he has been very involved with the author and his work, and has played a contributing role not just as illustrator, but also as one of the early readers group. Louis was also employed in late 2006 and 07 by Robin in the final days of Denton Markets based shop, and witnessed the struggle Robin had to save his business, so with that in mind we thought who better to shed a little more light on this new and reclusive writer.
From the comfort of his home we ask. What was it like to read that very first draft in the Heirs to the kingdom series?
It was pretty exciting, I have always been a lover of fantasy and mythology. I grew up reading books by Tolkein and C.S. Lewis as well as reading the Greek Tragedies, so from an early age I have been enthralled by the myths and legends in particular the ones that surround British history. This series has touched on a lot of fond memories from those early times of reading in my youth.”
Robin has said that he talked to you in great depth about the book at the time, and it was your understanding and love of the story that convinced him you were the right man for the job of illustrating the front cover, what did it feel like when he suggested you draw a picture of his main character for his book?
He gives a wide smile and laughs, “Yeah, there were a few in-depth discussions back then. Rob was originally talking to another artist about the cover art, I was just a member of the readers group sharing my thoughts on the book, but I do find when I am reading, it gives me inspiration, so I set out my sketch pad and sketched an initial idea of a bowman, it was not so much the main character at the time, just a general picture of how I saw a bowman. I was sketching on the market, and Rob saw it and was quite impressed with the attention to detail, so we just started how I came about the image. It was during our discussions that Rob realised as he put it ‘ I wasn’t reading the books, I was living the adventure.’ It was shortly after that he offered me a chance to submit a picture against another artist, to be honest I still cannot believe I won it.” Louis turns and points to a bookcase on the wall with a smile, and points to a neat row of books stood apart from the regular books, next to a large ceramic figure of a wizard. “I have my copies on display, its nice to see them every day, I am lucky as people have made some really nice comments about them.”
The Bowman of Loxley cover was Louis very first commission as an illustrator, and it is very obvious it is something he is immensely proud of, with this being his very first commission and realising he had the job at the time, I asked him about the process. How did you come up with that very first cover, and what was it like creating the artwork?
“Robin discussed the basic design and we sketched out rough possibilities which was a bowman looking over a ledge. It was Rob’s idea of what would portray the story best, obviously without giving too much of the story away. I took his ideas and sketched out a few possible scenarios, the idea back then was to create a wrap around sleeve for a hardback which we could add the text too at a later date. I couldn’t help thinking there was something missing from the main picture, On the last day in Rob’s shop, we pinned the picture to the wall and took a step back to look at it. I think we stared at it for hours before it clicked, I grabbed a pen and started to doodle all over the picture in blue biro, (He laughs) Rob went a little squeaky, asking what I was doing, its what we now call a Rafe moment, which you possibly understand better when you have read the third book. It needed Rune, I explained while I scribbled her in, Robbie would always have her with him, as the whole undercurrent of the story is about love and devotion between them, and the world of the woodsmen and that woodland around them, and Knox and old modern life. It was that understanding that the rest of the picture flowed smoothly, I took elements of the first ten chapters, so as not to reveal too much, but checking in with Rob as it progressed to ensure I was working within the guidelines, although I did have a relatively free hand and I tried to incorporate the themes of the book. (He lowers his voice) Have you spotted the rabbit? Robin has the original framed on his wall. I was very surprised when Rob asked to use one of the sketches for the rear cover, sadly because he took a different publishing route, the hard back was for the time being put on hold, so he only used a section of the picture for the front, but it still looks the part.”

The darkness unfolds.

The Darkness Unfolds, by Louis M Slater, comissioned artwork for the Darkness Of Dunnottar by Robin John Morgan.

You have since gone on to provide all the covers for the books, Robin has said he can be very specific in what he wants, and your range of drawings is quite a wide spectrum from surreal to portrait pictures. How hard is it to actually work to the principles of the author, knowing you have other ideas about the book and how it should look.
“The best way to look at it is, we all build pictures in our minds as we read, and those images can be very diverse, for example my view is personal and very different from everyone else’s. Robin as the creator of these stories has the defining view on how the characters look; you can see that from the depth of his descriptions. I offer suggestions from my personal views, some he is willing to work in, and others are left out, I think the best way of looking at is, we both have the books in mind and want the artwork to reflect the story rather than interpret it. He (Robin) does take an interest in my artwork, and always gives me good feedback on the range of styles, I have always loved surrealism, and Salvador Dali is one of my personal favourites along with the works of H R Giger, who designed the Alien concepts. I am quite open and broad in my view, liking Frank Frazetta, Alan Lee, John Howe, Van Gogh, and Goya the list goes on, it would be nice if one day I could be in their league.”
We know Robin has had sketches done by other artists, yet he has returned again to use your artwork on the cover of the new book The Darkness of Dunnottar. This is one of your favourite books in the series, it must be a good feeling knowing he feels so confident in your understanding of the books, to the point where he has selected your artwork again?
Yes it does feel good, a bit of a confidence boost really. The Darkness of Dunnottar was an amazing read; I do tend to favour the darker sides of stories, although there is generally a much deeper emotion to this book. I know everybody loves a happy ending, but without the darker struggle it’s just an ending. (He starts to laugh.) Scary, see has me talking in riddles now. With Dunnottar, I was the first of the proof readers to read it, I threw in a few of my thoughts, some of which did make it into the re-write one of which does play a big part in the story, obviously at the moment I cannot tell you, but Rob got really excited and in many ways that has also added to my love of this book. The artwork for this book was great fun, Rob gave me a free hand and I did choose a surreal concept for it, which I do think helps enhance the darker feel to the story. I really wasn’t very sure he would go for it at first it is very different from everything we have done before. I got a call congratulating me on making the front and rear cover, as he has taken two shots from the one piece of artwork, I got to say I cannot wait to see it up there on the self with the others.”
Since that time on the markets you have become very good friends, both of you have appeared together a great deal in promoting the books, and you probably know him better than most. He is a little reclusive, so how would you describe Robin the person, and the way he approaches his writing?
“Rob is great fun to work with, yet very professional, but really great fun, we do try to meet up as often as possible. I think the best way to describe it is its like taking your inner child on a play date. (He starts to laugh) He never leaves things to chance, every plan is backed up, and every experience is carefully noted and stored for future reference. All the promotional events are carefully planned to run smoothly, not that they always do, but its not from lack of effort (He gives a sly smile as if remembering some past moment) We attended the book launch at a historic pub, not exactly counting on the Juke Box being accidentally left on. There was poor Rob trying to read out extracts from book one, surround by his displays when Led Zeppelin starts booming in the next room. It was amusing watching him, a hugely dedicated fan of the band, trying his best to read and not to sing along.
At the moment I am preparing prints for my own LMS stand at the Medieval Market in Bolton, alongside the HTTK stand. This will be my second year when we both don our costumes. It’s a really good laugh; my fiancée and I will be joining Rob and his family to promote the books and also my own artwork. I love it, it’s a good way to talk with the fans and discuss the best and least favourite parts of the books. Robin likes honest feedback and meeting the fans at these events for him is very rewarding, you must remember for most parts, he is actually a very private person but he loves sharing the enjoyment of the books with the readers.
We do have a great friendship and share much of the same humour, which is great, because we have pulled quite a few all nighters preparing for the books ( copious amounts of coffee has been consumed) and we have travelled around a few times looking up historical facts, last year we tried to visit the grave of Robin Hood.”
You have since set up your own Facebook page and we believe you are currently working on building your own website to present your artwork to the world, what are your future plans, taking into account that you will be working throughout the whole of the HTTK project with Robin, what comes next for you?
“My wedding, I am getting married next summer, so that will be taking up a fair amount of my life. On the art side I will be aiming to finish off my new website (louismslater.com) and I am updating my illustrator page on Facebook. (www.facebook.com/louismslater) I will also be continuing to build up my portfolio and adding some pieces in colour, I am setting up a studio with the help of my fiancée, so there will be lots of work going on behind the scenes. I would love to break into the gaming industry as a concept artist, or maybe the film industry, and possible extend out into advertising. On the HTTK front, I know Rob would like to look into fully illustrated copies of the books which I would love to play a part in, and he has a few other ventures, so I am sure to be very busy. (Big Smile) I do still have commission work, I am available for portrait work and concept art. I am also working on a few designs for a tattooist in Wales. I always have something keeping my pencil busy.”

Eyes and the Tower

The new third book in the series of Heirs to the kingdom, The darkness of Dunnottar.

It is hard not to ask about the new book, this is stated as being a favourite of Louis, and considering Robin has said that there is a darker side to this book, we asked Louis if he could shed a little more light on the book, and tell us why everyone should buy a copy and read it.
He bites his lip. “That is a hard one, (Pause for thought) I wish I could describe in detail all the exciting twists and turns that happen in Dunnottar, But I think it would spoil it. What I can say is that so far in this tale, by comparison, Robbie and his friends have had it easy. There have been many trials in which they have been able to overcome as they faced a few heartaches, but in book three we will see that all change. The Knox forces who have been a little quiet will explode back into the story. There will be new friends and enemies along the way and a lot of surprises and secrets will be revealed, and in Robin’s own style, with every answer will come yet more questions. A great deal of past and future events will hang on a knife edge, and history will certainly come alive, I am getting excited just thinking about it again.
The tempo in book three will have you galloping towards book four with the fury of a thousand horses as everything you thought you knew as well as the characters will change as they have everything to lose and yet more to gain. The future hangs on a balance with a major hurdle that appears both impossible to fathom and impossible to overcome. There is anger, with as much love, and there will be tears, This really is a must have book all I will add is wait until you travel North and get a taste of what the Knox Empire can really do.”
He does look extremely excited about it, and it has to be said it feels very catching, we asked if he would give us just a little more, and he began laughing at us.
“Yeah watch out for Harry, he has survived a lot to date, but I am not sure he can handle much more before his karma finally snaps.”
Currently 51% of readers of HTTK are female, who say this is very much a female read, yet 49% are male claiming it’s a great fantasy adventure for males, we asked Louis what it was that made him like the books so much.
“I think its because these books connect on so many levels. Initially it is an adventure story, much like the ones I read as a boy, but its more grown up as if it has aged with you if you get what I mean? There is the romantic undercurrent that flows throughout the whole story, and it has its dashing hero’s, but the characters have both strong female and male lead roles that have a destiny thrust up on them, which does relate well to a teenage fan base. Strong environmental themes backed up with carefully researched history and folklore appeals to a more adult theme, and on top of that the books are a progression upon the tales all of us grew up with and so therefore feel very familiar. So the books have mass appeal to such a wide range of people that there really is something for everyone.
I think it’s a masterpiece and wish him the best, and hope you all enjoy the stories and find the magic and wonder that has captivated quite a few of us to date, but don’t ask me, have a read and then let me know what you think?”
Louis is obviously a very big fan of the books, and it shows not only in his artwork, but also in the passion with which he has talked to us today about the stories. Book three in the series Heirs to the Kingdom will be released shortly, entitled ‘The Darkness of Dunnottar,’ which will feature the artwork of this up and coming illustrator on the front and back covers. We can only wish Louis the very best for his future, and thank him for allowing us into his home to talk with him. All of us at VCP are working hard to prepare for the books release and we will give you the latest updates as they happen.
If you have not read the books yet, then you still have time to catch up, and get book one ‘The Bowman of Loxley,’ and book two, ‘The lost sword of Carnac’ from all major online suppliers, or order it in from your local bookshop. As Louis said Robin will be attending the Bolton Medieval Market held at Churchgate in Bolton Lancs. UK, on October 16th from 10am until 5pm. Louis will be there with the rest of the HTTK promotions team, so if you want more insight, or an autographed copy this is your chance to grab both Author and Illustrator. Once again thanks for such wonderful hospitality, it made for an very interesting interview and a very enjoyable day.

Edited and prepared for this site by Corinne Morgan.

Robin John Morgan talks about his third book.

The Darkness of Dunnottar, Heirs to the kingdom part three.

The latest addition to the Heirs to the Kingdom series of books, by Robin John Morgan, has gone into production, and the slightly delayed Darkness of Dunnottar should be on the bookshelves by mid to late October.
The book was initially planned for release in June, but Robin had to suspend the release when plagued with set back after set back, so with the book at the publisher, we grabbed a chance to have a few quick words with the author.
Its not been the best of years, for Robin, who delayed the book as he wanted to expand and add another chapter, which was followed with delay’s on the artwork, and finally just to make things worse, his home was broken into and robbed of some vital IT equipment, which he used for promoting HTTK, and also contained all the formats for the web site.
Feeling a little more relaxed as the book was despatched to the publisher, we asked about the year to date. “ How are things going now?”
He smiles. “Its better, it has been a hard and at times very emotional year. It has felt a little like taking one step forwards, just to be knocked ten steps back, its been very frustrating as I have invested a lot of time and effort in building up the momentum for HTTK, and I think its slipped a lot because of the delays.”
Robin who uses self publishing company UKUnpublished, promotes most of his work via his small team, with many authors taking the same route, we asked about the difficulties that entailed. He appears very relaxed about it all. “Its not easy, as there are thousands of new books out there, but in a way I prefer it. I like the idea of being very involved with it all, It was difficult when we lost the computer, because it had two years worth of work on it, luckily none of the books were on it, but although it was a little panicked at moments, its been good to rebuild all the website and reformat much of the promotional stuff. It has given me the chance to look at everything we have done, and make many new improvements. We have lost a lot of the followers on Facebook and some of the other social sites, which is disappointing, but that is now up to us to try and get them and few more back as we build the momentum up again.”
It feels like a lot of work, and one has to wonder if it would not just be easier to let a publishing company handle all the work. We enquired about it, considering he has two published works out there, would it not be a lot easier to approach a traditional publisher?
“I suppose I could sit back and wait for the royalties to arrive, but the problem there is getting a mainstream publisher to sit up and notice. It’s a lot harder for authors now, the whole industry is changing and publishers at the moment are even more cautious than they were three years ago when I was looking for a deal. I also think there is the question of loyalty, after all UKUnpublished took me on and produced the first two books. I think at the moment considering my relationship with UKU, I would possibly only move if I was to take the promotions side of my work further and consider becoming my own publisher.”
Is that a future possibility? “I have looked at it and as I gain more insight to the publishing world, I do think at some point in the future it could be possible. I must admit I do like the idea of being in complete control, and shaping my own future, there is a part of me that has always been a bit of a maverick, so yes I think it is a direction I will one day take. For now UKU is a new company, and I was their third author, I have enjoyed being a part of something new, and it’s been nice to see how the company has grown in the last two years. The good thing about UKU is I have the freedom of editorial control and obviously I retain all the rights to my work, I never liked the idea of giving up all the rights to a publisher, and I think even though it is a harder route to take, it was the best decision for me as a person.”
Self Publishing was once seen as a lower standard in the publishing industry, and there are still many who refer to it as “Vanity Publishing,” we asked about Robin’s thoughts on how much the industry is changing.
“I find the term Vanity very amusing, if it is vain to publish your own work, then surely is equally as vain to ask a publisher to do it for you. I tend to dismiss those who use the term, and I do find them to be overtly snobbish. The world is changing daily as we evolve from traditional ways of doing things to a more modernised approach. Self Publishing is very rewarding, and a hell of a lot easier because of the new technology that is available. I think in the past the traditional publishers had it all there own way, and dictated terms to the authors, who to be honest have always had the rough end of the deal. In today’s environment it is easier for the author to take more control and have a bigger say in the work they do. If you really look at it, I have invested over 15 years of my life planning and researching the HTTK story, if I was to use a traditional publisher they would cut large sections of it out, and pay me around £0.50 a book, whilst demanding ownership of all the rights and taking the lions share of the profits. It’s the only business in the world where the actual creator of a product gets so little in return for their efforts. I much prefer the Self Publishing route as at least I have a real chance to earn an income from my writing if it is successful, and I get to retain editorial control to present the work as I feel it should be presented, and keep ownership of the rights. It is commonly agreed that if Tolkein submitted his work today, it would be considerably edited down into sound bites and a lot of the depth would be lost, that is of course if it was even accepted. I kind of like the Tolkein approach of letting the reader decide what is and isn’t relevant. If a book has good appeal then people will talk and it will sell, I will wait and see what people talk about.”
The third book in the series is due for release, and life for Robin is getting back to normal, so we asked what he had planned next, and was he going to give any insights to the Darkness of Dunnottar? He gave a smile. “I think people will enjoy this one. This is a series of books, but at the end of the day it is one story, saying that, I have wanted each book to have a different feel and take twists and turns that maybe the reader will not expect. Dunnottar does feel very different, and obviously will take a new twist. There is a slightly darker and sinister feel to the book, hence the title, but Harry is still in there creating havoc with Jade and Jett, so there is a good supply of humour to carry them through. I must admit I really enjoyed going through it again as I did the final edit, you have to remember I wrote this at the very end of 2007, so its been a while since I read it and to be honest I think its better than I remembered it being. I think if you enjoyed the first two, then yes, you will really enjoy this one. In regard to what’s next, I am continuing to write the rest of the series as well as some other stuff that I am interested in. I want to spend the next month getting stuff ready for the website so when the book is released the site will reflect the new stuff, and as always myself and Rin will be pushing like mad to up the promotion and get the word out, its still going to be a while to take the book more mainstream, we have a lot of people out there to try and convince that this series is worth a read.”

The Heirs to the Kingdom website is quite a wide ranging site of information on the story, and has grown considerably since it was first set up, we asked Robin what else he had in store for it?
“Its not an easy question to answer really. The whole idea behind the site was to fill in the blanks, as a lot was edited out of the books to ensure they flowed. I think the site reflects pretty well my true Aquarian nature, as there are very basic facts, but also there is a lot depth if you want to go hunting for extra facts. Its bright and colourful, and there are pages written from the characters point of view, I suppose there is something for everyone on it, and it changes regularly as I look it most days and try to find ways of making it simpler and more user friendly. The best way of looking at it I think is to see it as an interactive HTTK companion, you can log on to see what I am up to, or you can probe into the hidden depths of HTTK and learn more of the background to make future books more fun to enjoy.”
Robin has said in the past that he would publish the whole of the HTTK series and then consider what he would do next, so with a third book going on to the shelves, we asked as to how big the series is going to be, and had he any insights to his future as a writer?
“Writing is without doubt a better way of life than Horticulture, but if I am really honest I have to say that at the moment writing looks very bleak as a future for anyone. The public do not see how many hours are invested in writing a book, I mean I worked from dawn until late evening in horticulture, yet writing takes up even more hours, and pays a hell of a lot less. Its irrelevant who you publish with, the book industry is now changing so rapidly and at the moment publishers are not taking on writers, if anything they are cutting them from their lists. Royalties are dropping as larger companies discount more and more, and at the end of the day it’s the writers who get the least share of the pie. A lot of writers at the moment are seriously looking at going it alone in order to make a living out of the industry, digital books are growing fast, but they are now discounted so heavily that once the publisher has took his cut, there really is very little left for the author. I am watching the markets carefully, and where there is a large part of me saying that making books cheaper is good for reading which it is, its not good for those who write them, and I have a family to support. At the moment I cannot see me putting anymore books out after HTTK, I need to use the time for earning enough to support my family, and sadly that will not happen as a writer. I think I will always write books, but as a source of income, I have little chance of a future, unless the industry becomes fairer and to be honest that will involve publishers cutting their margins and paying more to the author, lets face it that will never happen.”
Its feels like a sad state of affairs, but Robin smiles. “Its not the end of the world, that’s in 2012.” He laughs. “I have written a few more instalments of HTTK so I have a year or two before making any decisions. What matters to me at the moment is I do the very best I can to make HTTK a series of books that is as great a read as possible, I think I am improving with each page and that is a good thing, I am not worried about fame. I have never wanted to be famous, I will be happy knowing that there are a few people with a complete set of books on their shelves, who love the woodland realm as much as I do.”
Finally the question everyone wants to know is when will the new book be out?
“I have to wait for the publisher to let me know, as soon as we have the ISBN and a release date we will have it on all the sites we are on. I am hoping to get it out for about mid October, as I have a few things planned, so it will be nice to have the new book on display, but for the moment I am waiting for confirmation.”
For now we must wait just a little while longer, but at least we know that Heirs to the Kingdom Part Three: The Darkness of Dunnottar is not very far away. We will update this site as soon as we know, and once again we thank Robin for his time and giving us an update on his progress. For now as you prepare you can always read the first two books again Book One: The Bowman of Loxley (ISBN 9781849440035) and Book Two: The Lost Sword of Carnac (9781849440165) can be obtained from all the usual online sources, or ordered via your local bookshop.