Today, I’m delighted to introduce a captivating conversation with fantasy author R.E. Sanders.
From humble beginnings inspired by the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and Michael Moorcock, Sanders has crafted a unique blend of intricate world-building, deeply rooted in historical and cultural influences.
With his novel ‘A Path of Blades’ serving as a vibrant showcase of his storytelling prowess, Sanders dives deep into the realms of internal conflict and human resilience.
In this interview, Sanders reveals his creative process, his love for a good ‘what if’ question in world-building, and even his preference for dragons over unicorns.
From mythical creatures to tackling real-world issues, Sanders explores it all.
So whether you’re an ardent fan or new to his works, buckle up for an exciting journey into the mind of this fantasy luminary.
What inspired you to start writing in the fantasy genre?
My inspiration to write is driven by my love of reading. As a child and then a teenager I read voraciously and the defining moment was when I took my dad’s battered copy of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring‘ down from the shelf. The huge scope of the world and the stories blew my mind, and led me to read more fantasy; Eddings, Gemmel, brooks, Morwood, Moorcock, Jordan and others. It sparked my imagination and soon I began to create my own worlds where the grand, dramatic stories I wanted to tell could take place.
How do you approach world-building in your stories?
I start with broad, culture-defining questions, sometimes in a ‘what if’ kind of way (like, ‘what if there had been no Roman empire…what would medieval Europe look like?’). The ideas that flow from this lead me to more detailed questions about society, history and organisation. Answering these start to build nations and continents as concepts. I put a lot of focus on history, to the extent that for many of my fantasy countries I’ve written legends, myths and historical texts as backstory. The last level of detail is to imagine myself arriving in the particular location and picturing the details that stand out; the differences that make that place rich, interesting and unique. I want it all to feel real.
Can you walk us through your writing process?
For, ‘A Path of Blades’ the seed was sown by an earlier novella (Tann’s Last Stand). At the conclusion of that story I felt that two of the characters (Ingvar Omarsson and Ammie Cowl) left a lot of unanswered questions about their backstory. A Path of Blades was the tale I told myself to fill in the detail on that story. Once I had the basic outline I just started writing! The tale flowed and the characters developed as I wrote more, sometimes just as I had planned but other times with unexpected turns! I tend to outline loosely and write quite freely within that – I like the sense of overall direction alongside a freedom to be spontaneous and creative.
Would you survive in your own fantasy world?
Tricky! It would depend where and when! Danger ebbs and flows in the world, so I think if I was around during the events of A Path of Blades I’d have a good chance. However, I’m working on a series in the same world where the stakes are about to be raised for everyone. No-one will be safe.
What themes do you explore in your work?
Although I write fantasy I try to confront real-world issues as I write. A Path of Blades asks questions about how people deal with internal conflicts; duty against morality, friendship against family, peace against action.
What do you consider to be your biggest influences as a writer?
I draw inspiration from everything that inspires me; culture, history, landscape and the natural world. I can no longer watch TV documentaries without a notepad nearby! Specific influences are other fantasy authors like I’ve mentioned, but also historical fiction authors such as Cornwell and Iggulden. I also aspire to be able to tell a story with the drama, flair and excitement of a Marvel movie, but I’m not sure it’s very cool to admit that!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve had to research for your stories?
I did a bit of reading about grave digging. But who hasn’t done that?
What do you hope readers take away from your stories?
I like to think there is a thread of hope that runs through my stories. The characters go through dark times, but they come out the other side changed, but not broken. They lose much but they learn what is really important. Relationships fail but some are strengthened.
Would you rather have a pet dragon or a unicorn, why?
I’d have a pet dragon because it would be much more practical for trips out the the beach for a barbecue.
If you could have any magical ability, what would it be?
In A Wheel of Time, Rand Al’Thor learns how to make gateways in the air to travel instantly anywhere in the world. I can’t help think I could make good use of that. Reducing my carbon emissions, if nothing else.
If you were stuck on a deserted island with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
My stories include a Dwarf character called Klay Garrant. He can make a fire literally anywhere and always has a supply of food. I think he’d be the best bet.
What would you name your pet dragon?
Fluffles, Destroyer of Worlds.
Where is the best place to start reading your work?
A Path of Blades is a good example of my style and a small window on the world that I will gradually reveal in my subsequent books.
Rob is a fantasy author based in the UK. A degree in archaeology and a fascination with British history has led him to create a world of his own in which to spin tales and create adventures.
Find Rob online