If you’re a fan of creative, gritty, and dark fantasy books and have not yet read Blackwing from Ed McDonald, you are missing out. Blackwing was the first in McDonald’s Raven’s Mark series. The second book, Ravencry, is available on August 21, 2018.  In advance of it’s release, I had the opportunity to ask Ed about the Misery, ravens, and geek loves. 

What are your top 5 Geek Loves?

I am a big geek at heart. Obviously I’m a pretty keen reader – I love Robin Hobb, David Gemmell, Kate Elliott, and J.V. Jones in particular. I used to be a pretty keen gamer (I worked on World of Warcraft for a few years as a Game Master) but these days I limit myself to watching StarCraft 2 streams. Probably my most geeky pursuit is my swordsmanship though – I train, translate, interpret and study historical martial arts from surviving documents that go back as far as the 13th century… It’s niche but I love it.

What inspired you to create the Raven’s Mark series and the world Ryhalt Galharrow lives in? 

I didn’t have any specific inspiration at the very beginning other than that I had an idea about who Galharrow was and wanted to tell his story – everything else evolved organically during the writing process. The final book ended up *very* different to what I had originally intended, and I always say that the best ideas come to me when I’m mid-sentence, writing about something else. One example might be the ‘phos’ magic, which functions a bit like electricity. I was writing about the characters arriving at the city and I had been past this pub in London that had a big red neon sign, and I wanted to put a sign in that was similar to it. From including that, the whole magic system then evolved. I enjoy writing like that – it feels like exploring.

And more specifically, what gave you the idea of the tattoo bursting from the skin to be a live creature delivering a message? And of the Misery? It’s so rich and visceral!

The tattoo didn’t actually exist in the earliest drafts. I needed a way for Galharrow’s boss to be able to get in contact with him, but it needed to be a one-way process, and I wanted it to be something that couldn’t happen every 5 minutes (if he effectively had a cell phone that wouldn’t have been fun). But I love ravens and crows and I don’t miss a chance to write about them. As for the Misery, that’s actually kind of an idea that I’ve had kicking around for a long time. I’ve always liked the concept of the land itself trying to destroy you. I like stories set on frontiers as well – I think that’s where the best action happens, so I wanted a frontier setting that felt unique and different.

Do you have an affinity for Ravens (like I do)? Why or why not?

Oh, totally! Ravens and crows exist in the mythology of every culture in the world – they’re so successful, smart, and ruthless in getting what they want. As carrion birds they’re also closely tied to death, and they make excellent harbingers for dark things.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading? Do you have a favorite author, series, book?

At the moment I’m actually reading Lee Child’s books (the Jack Reacher series) and similar thrillers. Since I started writing professionally I’ve found that reading fantasy often feels like working as I find it hard to turn off my critical brain. But I’m blitzing through thrillers right now and loving them.

What’s your favorite thing about writing? Is there a “best” part of the process?

There are a couple of things that I really enjoy. One is when I look back at something that I’ve written and think “Oh wow, I’d forgotten this completely, and it’s good!” and surprise myself. The other is when someone tells me about a bit that they enjoyed and I think “Yes! That was exactly the point of it and it worked for you!”

What’s next for you? Anything outside of the Raven’s Mark series you can tell us about? Or when is the next Raven’s Mark book?

I’ve just finished the draft of the third book in the Raven’s Mark series (CROWFALL) and it will be out in summer 2019. I am working on a couple of other projects at the moment and hoping that at least one of them might come to something – but I have to keep those under my hat for now.

About Ed McDonald

Ed McDonald studied ancient history at the University of Birmingham and holds an MA in medieval history from the University of London. He is a keen martial artist and specializes in the Italian longsword. Ed can be found online at edmcdonaldwriting.com, as a regular Redditor and contributor to https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasywriters/ and on Twitter @EdMcDonaldTFK

About Ravencry

Ravencry (Ace Trade Paperback Original) is the second book in the Raven’s Mark series, continuing the story that began with the award-winning epic fantasy Blackwing (Ace, October 2017). Fans all over the world have been eager to find out what’s in store for their favorite bounty hunter, Ryalt Galharrow, and revisit his post-apocalyptic frontier world.

Ryhalt Galharrow is a blackwing–a bounty hunter who seeks out and turns over any man, woman, or child who has been compromised by the immortals known as the Deep Kings. Four years have passed since he helped drive the Deep Kings back across the Misery. But new and darker forces are rising against the republic…