Author Interview with Steven McKay
When a frightened young outlaw joins a gang of violent criminals their names – against a backdrop of death, dishonour, brotherhood, and love – will become legend. ENGLAND 1321 AD After viciously assaulting a corrupt but powerful clergyman Robin Hood flees the only home he has ever known in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Becoming a member of a notorious band of outlaws, Hood and his new companions – including John Little and Will Scaflock – hide out in the great forests of Barnsdale, fighting for their very existence as the law hunts them down like animals. When they are betrayed, and their harsh lives become even more unbearable, the band of friends seeks bloody vengeance. Meanwhile, the country is in turmoil, as many of the powerful lords strive to undermine King Edward II’s rule until, inevitably, rebellion becomes a reality and the increasingly deadly yeoman outlaw from Wakefield finds his fate bound up with that of a Hospitaller Knight… “Wolf’s Head” brings the brutality, injustice and intensity of life in medieval England vividly to life, and marks the beginning of a thrilling new historical fiction series in the style of Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow.
Stephanie: Hello, Steven! I am delighted to be chatting with you again about your book, Wolf’s Head and I would also like to say congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. First, I would like to ask you how you discovered indieBRAG?
Steven:I think it was actually you that suggested I put the book forward. I hadn’t really thought of anything like that – literary award type things – until that point. I still don’t really, because I’m so busy, but I’m really proud to have my B.R.A.G. Medallion. Hopefully the sequel, The Wolf and the Raven is good enough to win the award too – it’s getting even better reviews than Wolf’s Head so that’s a good start! I don’t know if indieBRAG looks at novellas too – I hope so, as my brand new one, Knight of the Cross, is due to be released on September 19th!
Stephanie: That’s right, Steven! How could I forget that?! Lol. And I’m so glad you submitted your book!
Please tell you audience a little about your story and what sets it apart from other Robin Hood stories.
Steven: I’ve set my series in the 14th century which is, as far as I know, unheard of when it comes to Robin Hood. When I began to research the legend though I found plenty of evidence to suggest the REAL Robin probably lived in that time period, rather than earlier, as everyone else suggests. It was good to realise I had a new angle to explore because it’s a legend that’s been written about a lot over the years.
Other than that, I’ve written it in a modern style. The action might be medieval but my readers aren’t so I use language people can identify with. It’s an old legend, and a familiar kind of story, but I’d like to think I’ve brought enough new elements to the table to make it fresh and interesting.
Stephanie: What were some of the political & religious unrest going on in England in 1321 besides the Lords strive to undermine the King- that your characters were up against?
Steven: I don’t think there was much religious unrest, other than the fact some of the clergy were obscenely wealthy and often corrupt. If you were a downtrodden yeoman, or an outlaw, it must have rankled to see some fat rich priest going around in expensive clothes while your family was starving. There had actually been a famine in England just a few years before 1321 and the Scots were raiding the northern towns so much of the political unrest stemmed from that. The common people were unhappy with the King so, if you add all that together, Robin Hood and his mates had plenty of reason to be angry.
Stephanie: How did Robin meet Sir Richard-at-Lee and Stephen?
Steven: I stuck to the original, well-known legend for the most part. Sir Richard is passing through the forest and the outlaws stop him, to rob him basically although it doesn’t end up like that. I thought it would be a nice twist to make him a Hospitaller Knight and Stephen, his grumpy sergeant-at-arms followed on from that. They’re a couple of great characters and they bring a nice new dynamic to the outlaw group. You can find out more about them in the new novella Knight of the Cross which follows Sir Richard as he goes up against ancient evil in Rhodes…
Stephanie: What are the weapons or weapon they use in fights?
Steven: The usual favourites: longsword, daggers and, of course, the longbow. These are hard men though and they’re comfortable using whatever’s at hand to win!
Stephanie: Does Robin have a love interest in your story?
Steven: Again, when I researched the legend I found there was a man called Robert Hood who lived in Yorkshire and was married to a girl called Matilda. I didn’t want to just repeat everything that had been done before so I was happy to use Matilda rather than ‘Maid Marian’. Robin’s had a thing for her for years and she’s actually the reason our young hero is outlawed as you’ll see when you read the book..!
Stephanie: What is some of the promoting you have done for this book and any advice you can give to beginner writers on promoting would be great!
Steven: I tried to find book bloggers who would review my book, hoping some of them would like it and get the word out there. Thankfully, I managed to get a few to review it – it’s harder than you might think because these people have LOADS of books to get through and it’s hard for them find the time to fit in another from some unknown indie writer. But all you can do is try, so send emails out to whoever you can find and just hope they’ll a) take a look and b) enjoy your work. Other than that, I’ve been lucky enough to be interviewed for local and national newspapers and Amazon took me down to London to be part of their stand at the big Book Fair this year which was truly the experience of a lifetime. It was amazing!
Once your book is out there I recommend trying some ads to let people know it’s available. If no one knows it’s out there, no one can buy it! Try places like Bookbub, Goodreads and Facebook – they’ve all worked to some extent for me.
Stephanie: What are some of the positive things readers have said about your book?
Some of them have said my version of the Robin Hood legend is now the one they’ll always think is the “real” one, so that’s been fantastic. It’s always great when people say they enjoy your writing style or what you’ve done with the characters but I think the best is when people say I’ve inspired them to really get into writing their own stuff. I’m a working class man who’s managed to sell a few books and it proves that anyone can do it, as long as you’re able to tell a good tale!
Steven: Who long did it take you to write your story and how many drafts did it take to get to where you wanted it to be?
Steven: Wolf’s Head took about two to three years, including all the research I had to do around the Robin Hood legend and the whole medieval setting. I’m able to work a bit faster now – The Wolf and the Raven only took about a year – because I have the foundation down. In terms of drafts, I’m quite lucky in that I don’t really need to do major redrafts. Wolf’s Head was done in two major drafts – it originally had a fantasy element with a magical old wise-woman and much less of the historical stuff, but my editor suggested I change that so I revised it accordingly. I haven’t had to do a really major redraft of any of my three books so far though, thankfully.
Stephanie: How do you find time to write?
Steven: It can be hard, particularly just now when we have an 11 month old baby boy crawling around the place! I’m lucky that I get a couple of evenings free to myself when my wife takes the kids out and I do most of my writing then, while fitting in things like this and other promotional stuff whenever I get a spare minute.
Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?
Steven: All three of my books are available exclusively from Amazon – either for Kindle, or as paperbacks or, in the case of Wolf’s Head, as an audiobook. Amazon have been very good to me and, while some people might not like how they work or whatever, I don’t have a bad word to say about them, far from it. So I’m happy to continue to put my work out there in partnership with Amazon for as long as I can. Publishers and agents didn’t give me an opportunity to get Wolf’s Head out there, Amazon did, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.
Steven A. McKay was born in 1977, near Glasgow in Scotland. He lives in Old Kilpatrick with his wife and two young children.
His second book, The Wolf and the Raven was released on April 7th, at the London Book Fair where he was part of the Amazon stand. His début novel, Wolf’s Head, was also released the same day as an audiobook.
Wolf’s Head is a Kindle top 20 best-seller and The Wolf and the Raven was the “War” chart number 1.
He plays lead guitar and sings in a heavy metal band when they can find the time to meet up.
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Steven McKay, who is the author of, Wolf’s Head, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Wolf’s Head, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.