What inspired the premise for your story?
At first I just wanted to try writing something according to fantasy tropes, as a kind of writing exercise in genre tradition. So all I knew was that I would be starting with an uneducated, unassuming young hero, whose life would be transformed by some event or other—in this case, his introduction to a large, horned skirmisher-mage and an undead king. Of course, I couldn’t stick to the tropes entirely, in the end. It’s all been played about with, shifted, subverted. More fun that way.
Why is the setting to your story so important?
Well, at first it really wasn’t. I just had a blank canvas in mind; generic countryside, pre-crossbow time period. But these things have an organic life of their own—you start with just a village and a mountain and by the time you’ve finished the book you’ve got a landscape that feels varied and real and that makes itself important. The city, for instance. Nagyevo could have been a standard issue capital city, mixed stone and timber, walled defensively and so on. Which it is. But it’s the people and the politics and the culture that change it. The tavernas where people drink, illicit coffee-houses, philosophy conventions, the austere Observatory where the magi govern from… It’s important because you can’t have a hidden-identity, superhero type plot set somewhere rural. And some of my favourite chapters come from that section of the book.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
When I was fifteen and I realized that the story I’d been working on for fun had hit 100,000 words and that I could already see the sequels in my mind’s eye.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
Well, first I self-published. That took me a few months; that can be a very quick process if you’ve got everything in place. With my publisher, Booktrope, the repub of Gravedigger took closer to six months—but for that additional time I gained a fantastic professional editor, the awesome book cover, and loads more. Well worth the wait.
What have you learned about the publishing industry since you’ve signed that first contract?
That it’s full of people who work very hard and that you need to work just as hard yourself. Effort-wise, there’s really nothing separating self-published authors from published ones—you’re still going to have to put in the time and attention to detail, albeit with the help of professionals. And you’re still expected to help sell your work, too. It’s pretty much the same, even in very large publishing houses.
What genres do you normally write in?
Fantasy, science-fantasy and alternative historical fantasy (historical fiction set in an alternate timeline.)
Is there a genre you haven’t written in that one day you’d like to tackle?
Historical fiction (without the fantasy, which would be hard for me) or maybe horror. I know some horror writers. They’re off-their-rockers insane, but good people and badass with it.
What was the first book you ever published?
That would be this one, Gravedigger! That was self-published then. I did the cover and everything. After that, I published the first book that I ever wrote (heavily revised from when I finished it as a sixteen year old) which is called Land Rising. Then Osric Fingerbone and the Boy Murderer, my alt Victorian dark fantasy novel. It’s possibly my favourite. Both of those are still available on Amazon in their self-published forms, but they will eventually be replaced by proper republished editions through Booktrope. Making those older ones even rarer. Collectors’ editions! Hint.
What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done when it came to a storyline in your book?
Depends how you define crazy. I guess making the undead morally ambiguous, using what is basically a sentient zombie as one of my main characters? That’s kind of crazy. And then there’s what happens at the end of the book…
Date of Publication: 31st October 2015
Number of pages: 304
Word Count: 115,747
Cover Artist: Amalia Chitulescu
Dead or alive. Good or evil. Hero or fugitive.
Valo needs a specific solution to a grave problem. The human Claimfold and prigon Torzsi draw apart. War is promised in the West. Worst of all, the magi of Nagyevo are meddling with the dead.
Perin is an apprentice Gravedigger: uneducated, unwanted, unsure. He may be the answer Valo needs, if he doesn't get killed before he works out what's going on. But of course there's the chance that fate hasn't called him after all. The gods are nameless and silent and the best laid plans have a way of going badly wrong.
Enter the spade and sorcery world of Valo.
Gravedigger subverts the expectations of that oldest of foes in fantasy, the dead that walk, in a fast-paced adventure through a world of culture, intrigue, magic and blood.
About the Author:
Michael-Israel Jarvis was born in Cambridge, brought up in Bishop's Stortford and moved to Great Yarmouth in his teens. He got his degree in Creative Writing at the University of Northampton and returned to Great Yarmouth with his wife, Katie.
Michael-Israel writes principally for Young Adults, which is what he intends to be until he's very, very old. Further explorations of the genres he prefers to write in throw up fantasy, adventure, coming of age stories and more. If possible, he prefers to write in a way that bends the distinction between different genres. Why shouldn't the superhero trope take place within a fantasy novel? And however serious a book is, shouldn't humour weave its way in?
Michael-Israel chose to go the route of Independent Publishing after observing the increase in sales of eBooks and a move towards indie expression in general culture. In early 2015, after self-publishing three books through Amazon, Michael-Israel was accepted by Booktrope Publishing, an international publishing company with a unique model.
Booktrope offered the expertise and structure he needed (much like a traditional publisher) but also offered a system with far more creative control and better royalties, as well as a system of cooperation at the heart of the professional team. This was the perfect middle ground that Michael-Israel had been dreaming of, and he was delighted to sign with them to republish his previously independent work.
"Gravedigger" republished on 31st October 2015, with both "Osric Fingerbone and the Boy Murderer" and "Land Rising" to be republished within the following months.
Sequels to all will follow.
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