Fantasy Author Interview: David Pilling on Bail

Fantasy sequel The Path of SorrowI often get asked how David Pilling and I go about co-writing our fantasy novels, The World Apparent Tales. One of the things we do is we each take ownership of specific characters and write their whole story. This means we can really get into the mind of each character and ensure they speak with the same ‘voice’ throughout the story.

With that in mind, I asked David a few questions about his character Bail, a ruthless cut-throat who plays a prominent role in The Path of Sorrow. I’ve removed all the vile language and graphic death threats and posted David’s answers below:

What was your inspiration for the character of Bail?

He’s a sort of anti-Aragorn figure i.e. a mysterious, charismatic wanderer with a hidden past. The difference is there is nothing remotely heroic about him: he is vain, selfish, greedy and rather cowardly. Sometimes he will fight like a cornered rat, but only because he has to..I suppose there’s more than a hint of Harry Flashman in his makeup as well.

What would you think of him if you knew him?

I would think that he was an appalling man, if entertaining on occasion. We would probably end up blocking each other on Facebook, which is at least preferable to hitting each other with swords.

Bail appears on the surface to be interested solely in his own welfare. Is there any compassion there, deep down?

None, or very little. That is partly down to his nature, but also to his upbringing. Bail has been alone all his life, and had to fend for himself at every turn. It’s only natural he should think of himself first.

Do you think some people have a natural tendency towards good or evil, or is everyone a product of their environment?

I think everyone is different, and born with certain characteristics. It may be possible to change those characteristics to an extent as a person grows to adulthood. It very much depends on the person. Could anything have prevented Harold Shipman becoming a mass murderer for instance, or was the impulse to kill written into his DNA?

Bail seems to be so ruthless that he has more of a struggle justifying an act of compassion than one of total self preservation. Is it difficult writing a character who never engages emotionally with another character?

Not at all. That probably speaks volumes for my own character! I think there is too much emphasis on compassion and emotional engagement in fiction. These values are promoted in our lives, because this is the modern world and we are supposed to be a developing species. Bail exists in a horrifically brutal sub-medieval environment in which any display of weakness could lead to his violent demise. Wolves don’t deal in compassion.

Bail’s life seems to have been a constant struggle for survival, from one squalid, brutal episode to another. Is he destined for something better, or will he never escape his past?

I can’t really answer that without giving too much away! You’ll have to wait and see…he certainly has the ambition, nous and sheer willpower to better his lot in life.

Besides co-writing fantasy fiction with me, you are a successful historical fiction author. How much inspiration do you gain from history when writing fantasy characters and world building.

Quite a lot. Certain historical figures have influenced some of my characters in The World Apparent novels, as well as bits and pieces of historical wars and political events etc. I try not to make those influences too obvious, though.

What fantasy and/or historical works are you working on right now?

I’m currently writing the fourth book in the Leader of Battles series, my Arthurian saga. The latest tale is based on the legend of Tristan and Ysolde.

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You can read a similar interview with me on David’s blog. I’m answering questions about Captain Wade, a flamboyantly murderous pirate who terrorises the high seas of the World Apparent in The Path of Sorrow and will return in the third novel in the trilogy.

The first two novels in The World Apparent Tales are The Best Weapon, followed by The Path of Sorrow. Both are available on Amazon on paperback and kindle. David and I are currently working on the third.