Mike Shackle Interview

Last year my reading got off to a tremendous and gritty start after discovering a brand new author, who has created one of my favourite series of all time. What makes the Last War series interesting is that they start with the baddies winning, and the story plays out with the characters trying to claw back what they have lost through complete desperation. Enjoy the interview below, with a glimpse into Mike journey to creating this series, his background and some little tid-bits on the series.

What originally piqued your interest in writing? Do you have any authors in particular that have inspired you?

I’ve always loved reading and have devoured books at a furious rate ever since I was very young. I was very lucky that both my mother and grandmother used to encourage me to read and they both would keep me well-supplied with books. My grandmother, in particular, got me into Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter and was very happy to sit and discuss Star Wars with me at great lengths.

I liked to write stories too but it was never a serious passion — just something I did for fun. And, as I got older, I was encouraged to think of more sensible ways to earn a living. After all, people like me didn’t write books.

 But, every now and then, little snippets of ideas would come to me. There was a vampire hunter, in particular, who would appear just before I drifted off to sleep, waving a sword around.

Then two things happened.

 First of all, someone I knew wrote a book. It wasn’t a great book but it got me thinking that maybe, just maybe, people like me could be authors after all. Secondly, I discovered The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett quite by accident. It blew me away. From there, I moved onto Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Patrick Rothfuss, GRRM … People who were writing books that I didn’t just enjoy — I loved them. And inspiration struck.

2. There are some dark moments within your novels – What would you say is your inspiration behind your writing?

And that vampire hunter who’d been niggling away at the back of my mind for so many years demanded that I at least try to write his tale …

I started writing WE ARE THE DEAD back in late 2016, after Brexit, after Trump, and I just felt like the bad guys had won. Worse, I couldn’t see any heroes coming to rescue us. Where was Aragon? Where was Superman? The heroes of fiction were missing in real life and that got me thinking — what if the bad guys won? After all, we’re so used to seeing the bad guys in fantasy being defeated by a group of plucky heroes when they try to take over the world. It seemed a fresh take to show what happened when the heroes died instead.

I then started looking at instances in real life when lands had been conquered and the very dark things that followed. Large parts of WE ARE THE DEAD are based on occupied France during World War 2 and I tried to be true to the real life horrors that came from that.

3. Is The Last War series your first attempt at writing a novel or do you have other tales lurking in notebooks somewhere? 

WE ARE THE DEAD was the fourth book I’d written and, to be honest, before I started it, I was pretty close to giving up writing. The previous books had got really good rejections from agents and I doubted I’d ever make that final step up. Writing takes up a huge chunk of time, especially as I have a very demanding day job and a young family, and the near misses were taking their toll on me.

However, I discovered a podcast called The Bestseller Experiment and listened to an interview with Joe Abercrombie. He said that the longer you danced naked in the rain, the better the chance you can get struck by lightening — i.e. don’t give up. It felt like he was talking directly to me.

I started WE ARE THE DEAD the next day.

4. The Last War series is very dark and gritty, the opposite of a fairy tale – when you first started crafting the series, was this the intention behind your idea?

I didn’t think I was writing a grimdark book at the time but I wanted it to feel true. As much as I love The Lord Of The Rings, I’d never wanted to write a tale like that.

The fact of the matter is that life isn’t a fairy tale. It’s dark and difficult at the best of times. Throw in a war and things get grim pretty fast.

I love all my characters, even the evil ones like Darus. In fact, I’ve just finished going over the page proofs of the last book and I was struck by how much I’m going to miss them all. They’ve lived inside my brain for 5 years now and I’m pretty proud of how they’ve all ended up. They’ve all gone through major arcs and transformations and yet still stayed true to who they are.

6. Your final book within this trilogy is out later this year – if you had to sum it up in a small number of words, what might they be?

This is the big one. It’s Sekanowari — the last war — and no one’s safe.

The next book is a brand new tale, in a brand new world. It’s been bubbling away at the back of my mind for a few years now and I’m really excited about it.

If you would like to purchase either books, check out the links below:

For a signed copy of the first in the series, We Are the Dead – check out Broken Binding

Our you can purchase either novel through Amazon.

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