*tuts* that Jack Croxall, he gets everywhere! He’s only released a full trilogy – how unambitious is that? Thankfully, I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of his latest book Torn. It is the final instalment in the Tethers trilogy, and I was eager to see where Jack would finish things. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book, as well as the series as a whole, devouring each page and in fact reading three quarters of the book in the same day! Here is a snippet of my review on goodreads:
” … you could say that Torn is Jack Croxall’s most compelling novel to date, with fantasy in abundance, heart-wrenching moments where you urge the brilliant gang on, as well as entertaining bouts of rifle fire and sword fights bringing us to a successful conclusion. Torn, and indeed the Tethers trilogy as a whole, is a teenage fantasy lover’s perfect companion in that all three books stands up to the heavyweights of the genre – Pullman, Colfer, Paolini – and you know what, manages to topple some of the best.”
Desperate to destroy the stones before they can fulfil their dark promise, Karl and Esther race northwards. But they are not alone in their charge. Enemies both old and new jostle to reach the stones first, perhaps some already have.
Torn is the third book of The Tethers Trilogy.
Having just released your final instalment of the trilogy, can you fill us in on what readers can expect from Torn?
No problem, Dan! I think readers can expect a lot of new challenges for Karl and Esther, and a return to one of the trilogy’s most important themes. There are a few sneaky surprises in there as well.
How did you feel when you (metaphorically) wrote The End? Do you wish you could continue the series, or are you happy with the outcome of the three books?
I’m absolutely thrilled with how the trilogy has worked out, I just about managed to say everything I wanted to, and, perhaps strangely, I feel happy for the main characters; it feels like they have their own lives now and I’ll never be interfering with or torturing them again!
Torn takes our heroes up into the highlands of Scotland, so very different from the rural Shraye in which Karl and Esther are used to. Did you have to do much research for the setting?
Actually, not that much. The trilogy visits so many of the places I used to go when I was growing up, and the Scottish countryside hasn’t really changed all that much from the Victorian days. I did do some research of course, but it was mostly into what transport would have been like. Once I got everyone in Scotland, I felt a lot more confident in just work from my own experiences!
With the Cormorant in Tethers, the Theresa in Unwoven and the Leviathan and more in Torn, you sure love your boats! In my opinion, they really added to the atmosphere of the times. What was your thought process behind the inclusion of boats and ships in your trilogy?
Thanks Dan, I’ve just done a little count in my head and I think there are at least six boats with major appearances throughout the entire trilogy. That is certainly a lot of boats! I just love the romance of boats though; you get in one and go wherever you please (or at least you could hundreds of years ago), that’s why I think they appear so much, as well as how synonymous they are with swashbuckling of course!
Torn is a more mature novel, with death and loss interwoven into the storyline, behind the conspiracies and adventure. Did you find yourself cutting back on the grislier scenes to match your readership?
I did think about that quite a lot actually, Dan. There are some gruesome bits, there can be no denying it. And the violence probably gets more severe throughout the trilogy as a whole. But I decided to keep almost all of the grizzly bits in Torn because, with so much more at stake, it felt like much more horrible things would inevitably happen.
The parallel between the ending of Tethers and Torn is uncanny. Shona is a character who seems to take the burdens on herself, always for the greater good. She’s almost the most important character in the entire series. Did you always have that in mind when constructing her?
I’m so glad you asked that, Dan! Yes, Shona is pivotal to the series as a whole. Her character is interwoven with a recurring theme throughout the Trilogy, the nature of fate. It’s Shona that inadvertently gets Karl and Esther involved with the stones, and Shona that is battling so hard to steer events in a certain direction. You could argue that the whole series is about Shona trying to alter fate, and the endings in question are a definite result of that notion!
I wasn’t surprised to see your love of all things ‘Zombie’ get a nod or two in here. What do you think the reaction will be? Talk to us about where your love of that particular genre came from.
I do love zombies and zombie-like creatures, any story/game/film that has something to do with them in fact! I think it’s because we’re all afraid of death, and zombies embody that fear. I love seeing intelligent characters confronted with them, and to read all the amazing takes on the concept out there. I think my Z love actually came from videogames, a medium which I know you agree communicates some great stories.
Did anything change during your writing process for the last instalment of the series?
Just the speed of it really, I knew exactly what I wanted to happen, so I was able to get words down at a much faster rate.
Out of all the characters you’ve created in the trilogy, apart from Karl and Esther, who is your favourite and why?
I think Harland is probably my favourite of the supporting cast. He’s one of those rare people that will actually listen carefully to what younger people have to say, and he’s totally kick-ass too! I made sure that his influence is felt right through the trilogy, right to the final passage in fact.
How do you go about naming your characters? Do they come to you instantly? Take Ailig for example, the broad Scotsman.
I cannot express just how important I think naming a character is. A name should be a significant part of their character, and it should embody part of, if not all, of their personality and background. Some of the names in Tethers came very easily, like Karl Scheffer, which never changed, but some were a lot harder to get right. I spent hours searching through lists of popular names and surnames on the internet. Thankfully, there are scrupulous records of the most popular baby names for a given year and for given countries. I think my favourite names from the trilogy are Omorose, Laurent Dufor, Abigail Trilby (who is an extremely minor character annoyingly!) and, as you mentioned before, Ailig Dunn. There are a few I think I got wrong but I won’t mention those!
Esther seems to be unanimously well-loved. Did you ever think she would be as well received as she has been, especially after her internal troubles from Unwoven, where she became distant and mean?
I think Esther’s feistiness and compassion are the traits of hers which readers enjoy, but I put the poor girl through so much it’s no wonder she got a bit angry in Unwoven! I think it’s good to see that side of her though, and I hope people see that she tries hard to come back, especially once she realises how much Karl cares for her.
I have to ask, how do you feel about the criticisms of the last two novels in terms of length? Is there a specific reason for their being considerably shorter than Tethers?
I completely understand the criticisms Dan, they’re absolutely valid as part two and three are indeed much shorter than part one! I just decided to write until I was done, I realised pretty early in that I was heading for a lower word count, but, as I’d said pretty much all I wanted to, I just accepted it – possibly a mistake but I’m happy with the outcome!
Do you have any plans to release the trilogy as a whole book, or at least every individual book in the physical format?
There are currently no plans to release any of the books in paperback, but that could well change one day. Maybe a reprint/rerelease in future, but the series seems to have found an audience in the eBook market (and I’m immensely thankful for this), so that’s where Tethers feels most at home for now.
What would you say you’ve learnt over the course of writing a trilogy? It is so different from writing a standalone?
Hmm, difficult question. I think one important thing I’ve learned is how to stick to a proper story arc, where as I used to be a bit decedent and prone to going off on ridiculous tangents. Being forced to finish a trilogy and tie up loose ends has taught me how to do that! It’s definitely something I’m carrying over to my standalone work.
What’s next for you?
I’m having a little break at the moment, and then it’s on with the next book, Wye. Wye is a full length YA novel set in an end of civilisation England. I’m very excited about it because I think – at least writing wise – it’s the best thing I’ve ever come up with. I’m also working on a little surprise which will hopefully manifest itself sometime next year.
With having published the Tethers trilogy yourself, I think it is safe to say that you are a huge supporter of Indie authors. Would you consider traditional publishing?
Absolutely. Self-publishing has honestly changed my life and, quite frankly, got me through a very difficult time (I was struggling with my health). I was never adamant that I’d hit publish and the next week Tethers would have made me millions, but it was a much-needed adventure and experience that I’m keen to repeat, most likely with my little surprise next year! As for traditional publishing, I’m actually going to try and go through that process with Wye (easier said than done of course) but with all I’ve learned from the indie scene, I know I can give it a damn good shot.
Thanks so much for having me Dan!!
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