“Authors Talk Editing” with Fantasy Writer Nick Eames”

Our “Authors Talk Editing” series focuses on Kingston and area writers, but when Nick Eames agreed to speak to us at our March meeting, he’d just relocated to Victoria, BC. That still worked for us, though, particularly since this series had never featured a fantasy writer before. Nick was an energetic and engaging speaker, a successful writer with a humble personality.

Nick is the author of Kings of the Wyld, published in 2017, and Bloody Rose, which came out the next year. He’s now working on the third book in his Heartwyld trilogy. He first started writing in high school, and even though he received encouragement from Ed Greenwood, the Canadian fantasy writer and original creator of the Forgotten Realms game world (he said that Nick “had the fire of a good storyteller”), Nick put his writing aside for a few years.

He attended college and took theatre arts, but gave up his fledgling acting career to pursue his writing. He was heavily influenced by Canadian fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay; his books made Nick decide to devote his time to writing in the hope of creating something that might affect someone the way Kay’s work affected him. Scott Lynch and Joe Abercrombie are more recent influences, particularly their fast-paced, dramatic stories laced with a sense of humour.

The Books

Nick’s overriding idea was to write a series in which mercenary bands act, and are treated like, rock stars. The rock band of the 1970s is the metaphor for the mercenary band. In Kings of the Wyld, the members of the legendary band Saga have been retired for 20 years; they’re middle-aged now, with wives and children. But one band member’s daughter, Rose, is trapped in a faraway city, so the main character decides that he and the other band members must come out of retirement to rescue her, even though everyone agrees that it’s a seemingly impossible mission.

The book has many allusions to rock music and rock bands. The main character’s nickname is Slowhand, a reference to Eric Clapton. Another character is Moog, named after the famous synthesizer. The weapons assigned to each of the main characters align with their assigned role in a metaphorical rock band – one wields a pair of “drumstick” knives, and another uses an axe, which is slang for guitar.

Kings of the Wyld is full of dialogue, it’s often funny, and many of the paragraphs are short; all this moves the plot along at a fairly fast pace. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are no long, gloomy descriptions of an eerie, ominous environment, which seem to often be the case in other fantasy fiction. And while the story is infused with humour, there is a poignancy to it that infuses the characters with humanity and makes them realistic and relatable.

There are several female characters, and while they don’t feature prominently, they’re all strong, loved by their men, and, in some cases, mercenaries themselves. Bloody Rose features Rose, having been rescued by the mercenaries of the band Saga, fighting her own battles.

After writing the first manuscript, Nick sent it out to numerous agents. For some time, it wasn’t accepted, although one agent almost took it on. Luckily, a second agent stepped in and sold the manuscript to Orbit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group in New York. Kings of the Wyld has been translated into 10 languages and has sold approximately 400,000 copies. Besides its print edition, there are e-book, Kindle, audiobook, and book-track editions, the latter of which adds a musical soundtrack to the audiobook.

In addition, a Vancouver production company has bought the television rights to the book and is shopping it around. It sounds like the book and the trilogy have an auspicious future.

The Editing Process

What sort of editing process did each manuscript go through? Nick would read it through several times, honing and editing each time. Then he would send it to two beta readers for review. Kings of the Wyld received a lot of very positive comments from its American editor, some of which Nick had already thought about and incorporated into the manuscript while it was being edited. A British editor had been assigned to edit the UK edition and had very little to add to the process.

Both his agent and his US editor gave advice about achieving a better balance between being funny and being poignant, and Nick listened. He was a very easygoing author. He had originally wanted the book to be called The Band, but his editors advised otherwise, and he agreed. The second book in the series, Bloody Rose, received no structural edit at all; it was accepted as submitted. It may be that Nick’s theatre arts training helped with writing his manuscripts: theatre is a collaborative process, as is producing a book.

Both books were copy edited, of course. This process would have included reading the text against the map of the Heartwyld, the forest that the band has to navigate to rescue Rose, to ensure that place names and other geographical elements were consistent. One thing Nick argued for and wasn’t overridden on was, amazingly, using Canadian spelling in the US edition. Both he and his brother proofread the final proofs.

Nick has had an excellent relationship with his editors, and he’s accepted most of their edits and suggestions on both books. He’s good friends with his first American editor and likes to be able to get along with whomever is editing his books. He enjoys getting input on his manuscripts and is open to critique. He sounds like an editor’s dream!

Nick is working on the third book in the Heartwyld trilogy, and he’s co-writing a comic book too, which he says is much easier. We wish Nick the best of luck in his writing career!

Upcoming Meetings

We hope you’ll join us for these next meetings:

Tuesday, April 19, 7:00–8:30 p.m. – “Editing Academic Research Grants”, presented by Letitia Henville. Letitia (she/her) is an award-winning instructor and academic editor. She will describe the grants landscape, written and unwritten rules for proposals, her top three tips, and your next steps if you’d like to break into this rewarding niche. You can send questions ahead of time to Letitia on Twitter @shortishard or through her website at shortishard.com/contact.

Tuesday, May 17, 7:00–8:30 p.m. – Clarke Mackey is back, by popular demand! We enjoyed his presentation on film editing in October 2020 and are delighted that he’ll join us again to present on editing film and television scripts. Clarke is an emeritus professor in the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University.

Tuesday, June 21, 7:00–8:30 p.m. – We’re hoping to meet in person for our June social. Stay tuned for details!

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