W. Marshall was born in Florida, but found his home when he moved to Colorado. He is a lover of movies, books, dogs, science fiction, fantasy, and military history.
His debut novel, The King’s Own, is a work of dark fiction that asks hard questions as it examines the life and labors of the protagonist.
The King’s Own are as feared as they are ruthless, doing all of those hard, and sometimes terrible, things necessary to ensure the safety of the realm. Owing allegiance to the King alone, they are his spies, his assassins, and his advisors. They exist to walk in the shadows, to enforce the King’s will, to change the course of entire wars, and to root out dissenters. They live without family, in service to the crown, unknown and unsung.
A young man conscripted to fight in a war far away from home. Blood and loss tempered with hope and a vow. Recruited into the King’s Own, he must learn quickly to do whatever it takes to serve the kingdom so that others can live their lives in relative peace and safety. But just how far will he go to keep his oath, especially when the King is murdered?
Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, The King’s Own. Can you tell readers what they can expect when they pick up this book?
Thank you! This has definitely been an exciting process. What I love most about the novel is that it’s not easily defined. Most might initially believe it’s a murder mystery, but that’s such a small part of it. It’s more of a bildungsroman or coming-of-age story, combined with how that translates into adulthood. We have this protagonist who we see in media res, searching for the killer of his King, then we flash back to see how he becomes the man he is. What was it that defined who he was? What is important to him, and how far will he go to defend those ideals? So we get to see not only what happens after the King is murdered, but also the story of the young man who grows into the King’s protector, right hand, and avenger.
Is there a story behind this book? How did you come to write it? Is The King’s Own a stand-alone novel, or will it be part of a series?
I had one very specific scene in mind that I had in my head for years. The whole book evolved out of that scene and concept. I don’t want to give anything away, as it is one of the critical plot points that happens late in the book. But it’s a revelation, and defined exactly who the main character was.
An interesting point is that I had intended this to be a stand-alone novel. As I was writing it, though, Samarra turned into a character who had her own story, so threads of her own tale began forming in my mind. At this point, The King’s Own will be a three-book series (I hesitate to call it a trilogy), but it could very well be open-ended.
I also had another name for the book in the beginning. I had called it The Kingsman. But then that movie came out, and I saw just too many similarities and didn’t want to be labelled a copycat. So with regret, I changed the name of the Order within the novel, as well as the title.
The main character in The King’s Own finds himself in many difficult situations. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
Luckily my life hasn’t been as traumatic as his! I’d have to say one of the hardest situations I was in was while I was in Afghanistan and my father passed away. He slipped into a coma, and despite my team rallying behind me to get me home within 48 hours, it was still too late. I had the support of my family and friends to draw on, thankfully, so despite being sent back to Afghanistan before I was mentally and emotionally ready, I was able to see it through.
Where did your love of storytelling come from?
I’ve loved creating stories as a means of escapism ever since I was a kid. In second grade, one of my friends introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons, and there was an entire fantasy world of dragons, elves, and magic. Of course, going to a Catholic school, this was not received very well. I began free-forming adventures with my friends over the years, all the way through high school and college. I still have a love of it to this day.
I think what I love about storytelling most is I can create a world and “live in it”. I can create any character with any personality, and can do anything. Not like real life, where we’re constrained by social norms and the limits of our physical reality. I can make a world where dragons are real, but at the same time, explore the depths of familial relationships, love, and the full range of human emotion.
What was the most enjoyable part about writing this book?
Without a doubt, it was putting the story into first-person, so the reader can know and see exactly what our protagonist knows and sees, and then putting it all in a very specific order via the flashback chapters. I really enjoyed that part, arranging it so truths are revealed at specific times that are hinted at, and then suddenly become clear.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
This novel is not my usual writing style! I normally write in third-person limited, a technique I saw mastered, in my opinion, by Robert Jordan. I’ve worked hard over the past *cough* twenty *cough* years to develop that style of writing, and here I go and toss it out the window for this novel. But it had to be done. This story simply couldn’t be told in third person. I had to fight my normal style of being extremely vivid with description and use a broad-strokes approach. A minimalist approach, if you will.
What remained the same is my love of character development. Characters have to be real. In this novel, I apply that as it would appear in real life. That is, those characters closest to the protagonist are the ones most fully-developed, as those are the ones he knows best. Why would I spend a dozen pages describing a tertiary character when our main character barely knows the other’s name?
What does your writing process look like? Do you have any strange writing habits?
I’m a scene writer. Scenes develop in my mind and the entire story unfolds around that. For example, the scene to which I alluded earlier. The entire story evolved from that one scene. Okay, how do we get there? Well, first we need to have this other development, and so on. The problem is I paint myself into corners sometimes. And since I have a strong distaste for deus ex machina style last-minute miraculous saves, I either have to rewrite, or come up with a viable answer. And those always come to me on a run. If I get stuck writing, I go for a run. I solved at least three issues like that while writing this novel. I really had no idea how I was going to reconcile the death of one character while the main character lived. Then I went for a run, and just like magic, I had the answer.
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
Wow, what a fun question! I’ll stick to perhaps the main three characters for now.
If he were still acting, I would love to see Sean Connery in the role of Commodus. We need a tough-yet-wise middle aged man for that role. Gerard Butler I think would be great. Just put some more gray in his hair and beard, and there’s the mentor. Bruce Willis or Denzel Washington would also be good choices.
For Samarra, we need to portray the strong, intelligent, and deadly apprentice. Someone whose obvious beauty is secondary to her strength of will, but also able to portray the vulnerable side of someone just learning how to be one of the King’s Own. Chloe Grace Moretz comes to mind, as does Anna Kendrick.
As for our protagonist? That one is perhaps the toughest, though after seeing American Sniper, I think Bradley Cooper could definitely pull it off.
Okay, one last mention. Scott Glenn or Tommy Lee Jones as The Old Man.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
I could write for pages about my favorite authors, even if were to just make it a list! Let me see if I can distill it a bit.
Robert Jordan showed me the importance of story depth, detail in writing, and character development, and then David Eddings taught me to “speed it up”. That is, make things happen at a faster pace. Tolkien instilled a love of fantasy at an early age, and Terry Goodkind showed me how to use a fantasy setting to tell stories about real themes and real issues.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I’m already working on Samarra’s story, so I’m excited about that. I also have threads of stories for a third in the series. Aside from The King’s Own novels, I’m slowly working on a sci-fi story about an unforeseen insurrection in an otherwise peaceful galaxy-spanning empire. I see that as a trilogy, but we’ll see how it turns out. Finally, I have a classic fantasy trilogy I have almost completely outlined, where the tone is lighter than The King’s Own. It’s more of a high-adventure saga, rather than the dark, gritty reality of my current novel.
To learn more about author W. Marshall and his upcoming novels, visit his website.
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and purchase The King’s Own on Amazon.