Thursday 30 July 2015


For today's author interview, I am delighted to welcome to my humble blog one of the recent stars of independently-published historical fiction, Steven A. McKay. He is the bestselling author of the Forest Lord series of novels, staring with Wolf's Head. He has risen meteorically in the historical fiction scene over the last couple of years, so it is great to be able to ask him some questions and find out a bit more about the man behind the successful books.

When is your next release coming out? Tell us a little about that.

The next one is book three in my series about Robin Hood. It's called Rise of the Wolf and is out on 31st July 2015, which is just about two years since I published the first one, Wolf's Head. As always, I've tried to keep elements of the original, well-known legend but thrown in some twists of my own so I hope my readers enjoy it as much as the others.

Tell us about the book you are writing at the moment.

I'll be starting the fourth and final Robin Hood book very soon but right now I'm working on a novella featuring Friar Tuck. It's set at Christmas time, just after the events in Rise of the Wolf and, well, it's just fun writing these novellas. I take them as seriously as my full-length novels – I hire the same editor and cover designers for example – but, since they only focus on one storyline without any major sub-plots it's easier to write them.

Have there been any surprises for you while writing it?

Just the cover design. Normally it takes a while for me come up with an idea which I then sketch out and pass to the designers to work into something lovely. For this novella though the idea came to me in a flash of inspiration. It'll be quite different to my other cover designs and I can't wait to see it!

What writer or book has had the biggest influence on your work?

Probably Bernard Cornwell, but I know everyone you've spoken to previously has given the same answer (Matthew: Yes, until Carol McGrath, who had a different answer), so I'll try and mix it up a bit and give David Gemmell a mention. He's not with us any more which is a real shame as he knew better than anyone how to create an entertaining hero. If you need some pointers on how to write a fight-scene try reading one of Gemmell's novels. They can be quite samey and even a little one-dimensional but he managed to create some truly legendary characters, Skilgannon being my favourite.

In your novella, Knight of the Cross, you stray out of the purely historical fiction genre, adding elements of horror and fantasy. Have you considered writing a complete series in these styles?

Nah, not a full series of horror-style novels. I enjoy reading HP Lovecraft and I loved writing Knight of the Cross but it was just a one-off. I like how readers were surprised by it but it's out of my system now. The Friar Tuck novella has some minor supernatural elements but...well, I'll let you find out for yourself when it comes out this Christmas.

As for fantasy, like I said, David Gemmell's books are a big influence on me as is Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones – that kind of heroic fantasy is really appealing thanks to the freedom it offers. I might think about doing something like that one day, who knows?

What do you enjoy more, playing the guitar, or writing?

I love playing guitar and I'm pretty good at it's never made me any money! So if I had to pick one hobby it would probably be writing. If you'd asked me that ten years ago I'm sure I'd have said guitar but nowadays I spend way more time writing.

I'm the sort of person that flits from one hobby to another, throwing everything into each one but ultimately becoming bored with most of them. I tried railway modelling, for example, then astronomy, then Tae Kwon-Do but...I always get fed up. The two things that I've never become bored with are playing guitar and writing. I hope to still be jamming Slayer songs and writing historical fiction when I'm in my 70's!

What are the best and worst things about being a writer?

The best thing is being able to create and see your ideas come to life not only for yourself but for other people too. Knowing I've brought to life the Robin Hood legend for so many people is amazing, I find it hard to believe when I sit down and let it sink in!

The worst thing is not having enough time to do everything I'd like. Since I work a full-time job and have two small children I can't devote that much of my free-time to writing and it means things can get stressful at times. I have lots of ideas for stories and marketing and the like and I'm very driven to do as much as I can so it can be hard sometimes when I feel like I've not had a chance to finish everything I'd planned in time.

Have you ever thought about who you would like to play Robin (or any other character) in a movie or TV version of your books?

I have but I don't really watch much TV or movies (see the last point about free time!) so I have don't really know of any actors young enough to play Robin. I was contacted by one of the biggest film producers in Hollywood (they actually had the zip code of Beverly Hills 90210) about the rights to my second book The Wolf and the Raven. At that point I did start to wonder who could play my characters. Ultimately it's never come to anything, even after I sent some signed copies of the books to them (cost me a bloody fortune that!) but one of my readers started a page on the “If List” website. People can go and pick who they'd like to play each person in the book, it's a bit of fun, take a look and suggest your favourites.

Personally, I'd love to see Jason Statham in it. He's an inspiration to balding men everywhere!

What is the best book you've read in the last twelve months?

Not yours, if that's what you're expecting. (Matthew: How rude!) Ha, no, to be fair, if you're talking about NEW books I've read in the last year then I would probably say your Serpent Sword was close behind Andrew Latham's The Holy Lance. (Matthew: OK, I'll give you that! I actually interviewed Andrew Latham recently.) I read them both around the same time and really enjoyed them, just liked the setting more in Andrew's novel. Top of the pile was A Day of Fire, which was written by a group of authors including Ben Kane. I thought it would be a mess of different styles and ideas but I was wrong, it was a fantastic read. Actually had tears in my eyes at the end!

What is the most exciting experience you've had as a result of writing?

Easily, easily, being taken down to London by Amazon for the London Book Fair in 2014. Put up in a fancy hotel, taken out for a posh dinner with all the head-folk from KDP and Createspace, and meeting some truly inspirational authors like Mel Sherratt who I did a panel with on one of the days. Coming from my background as a meter reader in Glasgow to being on a stage in front of an audience of other writers and talking about my experiences and was surreal. I'll never forget that week it was amazing. People can say what they like about Amazon, but they've been so good to me and I'm really grateful for it.

When you finish The Forest Lord, Robin Hood series, what have you got planned? Another series? What era? The same genre?

I'll be sticking with historical fiction, yes, but I'm planning on going back further in time. I don't want to say too much about it but I always fancied writing about the Romans and I like writing about Britain so...I have some ideas and I'm quite excited about them but nothing is set in stone and I might decide to do something completely different! Rest assured that whatever I do will be a little different to what other people are doing...

What is your opinion of the surge in independent publishing of recent years? How do you think the face of the publishing industry will change in the next five years?

I think it's great, obviously. I couldn't find an agent or a publisher so I'd have been knackered without the likes of Amazon's KDP and the opportunity to self-publish. Looking at it from a reader's point of view, rather than as a writer, it's also great. Right now I'm reading a book about the band Slayer, which the author published himself. It only cost me a few quid and, although it's not that well-written and a little messy in its layout, it's still a book I'm enjoying a lot that would never have been available without the rise of ebooks and indie publishing.

Sure, there's some crap out there, but I've also read hardbacks by famous authors that were complete garbage.

You have been extremely successful for a self-published writer. If a traditional publisher offered you a deal, would you jump at the chance? Or would you consider the possibility that remaining self-published could be a better option for you?

Yes, I probably would jump at the chance of a traditional publishing deal. It's still a dream of mine to see my work in hardback on the shelves of Waterstones and the like. However, I think I'm in a good position now, with a good idea of how self-publishing works, that I would be able to look for a deal that was good for me, rather than just signing over all my rights and naively expecting to become a millionaire overnight.

Ultimately I'm very happy doing things myself but I would really like to find an agent to sell my foreign rights and, perhaps, movie rights too. I was approached by a foreign publisher about Wolf's Head, but, like the film producers, they never followed it up. It got me thinking though. I'd like to explore every market I possibly can. I've got ebooks, paperbacks and audiobooks out and doing well, so what can I do next?

And now the quick-fire questions:

Tea or coffee?
Tea. Ceylon or Earl Grey with milk and sweeteners please. I do like a cappuccino though.

Burger or hot dog?
Cheeseburger, with just a bit of lettuce and tomato on it. No sauce or relish or any of that nonsense.

Villain or hero?

Beer or wine?
Beer. When I was writing Knight of the Cross I discovered Franziskaner wheat beer, that stuff's great. The label has a picture of a fat friar on it so I was drawn to it immediately!

Wine's alright too, I don't mind a bit of Blue Nun now and then...

Happy ending or tragedy?
Happy ending with an element of tragedy! Life's hard enough without books being all depressing, there has to be something in the ending to make you feel uplifted.

In the car, audio-book or music?
Almost always music -Jethro Tull or really heavy metal. But on a long journey I love audiobooks (especially my own, check them out, they're great, honest!)

Here is a link to Steven A. McKay's audio books.

Thanks a lot for spending the time talking to me today, Steven. It has been a pleasure as always. Best of luck with The Rise of the Wolf.

To keep in touch with Steven A. McKay's writing and new releases, check out Steven's:





  1. I loved this. Checking out his books now!

    1. Great! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. :-)