In 1992, Thomas was born in the town of Bridgwater, UK. At the age of just 3 he decided he wanted to live with his father, Anthony ‘Tony’ Lay, in the village of Street. This move proved to be the foundation of his ambitious, full-of-life personality. Tony was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 47 and passed away just two months later when Thomas was only 14. Although this loss weighed extremely heavily on Thomas, his determined mindset pushed him forwards, now propelled by a further desire to make his father proud.
Aside from writing, Thomas is an old school nerd and loves to play video games. His other hobbies include playing the guitar and cooking.
Thomas, thank you for agreeing to this interview. After years of work, you have released your debut novel, The Age of Reckoning. Tell us a bit about the story, the characters, and the world of Naeisus.
It’s an honour! Yes, the world of Naeisus has been ten years in the making and it’s finally come to fruition with this release! The war of the shards is central to Naeisus. Six crystal shards of immense power that when combined form the Yultah Crystal. The possessor of this crystal may shape the world as they see fit. Of course, each of the five unique races has a very different idea of what is ‘ideal’. King Areth III of Man is sick and tired of the war and doesn’t wish for his children to grow up in such a world and so he embarks on a journey to unite the races and bring peace to Naeisus. The other races don’t share his ideals, unfortunately, so he encounters a lot of resistance, even within his own city walls. His main antagonist is Captain Levana of the Forsaken. I absolutely adore her as a character. She is brutal, psychopathic, cocky, badass, and charming. Honestly, there is so much to this world crammed into this first volume that it’s difficult to sum up! I’ve been told that I break the mold of fantasy, creating a story that is both alluring and fast-paced with plenty of action and very few (if any) “idle” scenes that common in the genre for the goal of world building.
You have given credit to your father for your ambitious personality and the pursuance of your passion for writing. Knowing that you have worn your father’s ring for twelve years since his passing, I would not be surprised if you included some hidden nuggets in your novel to keep his memory alive. Would you be willing to share what elements of your father are found in your story?
Many of us have a strong bond with one or both of our parents so I imagine a lot of people will understand the influence a father can have. Even now I meet strangers who knew him and they’ll share an anecdote or two and end it with “he was one in a million. Such a lovely, amazing man.” And every time my heart is filled with pride. My dad wasn’t particularly ambitious, but he did make it his life goal to make everyone around him happy, no matter what. He’d bend over backwards to help strangers as I’d witnessed many times. He was an amazing parent to me too, keeping strict boundaries but also showering me with care and affection. I’ve immortalized his ring in the book as the ring of King Areth III. Also, many of the King’s traits are directly inspired from my dad such as his parenting and his good nature. That’s not the say the King is based on him, he’s far more ambitious than my dad was!
Early readers have praised your work with sentiments such as “gripping”, “fascinating”, and “gory”. What principles of the fantasy genre were you insistent on including in your story to give it an epic feel? What aspects do you hope resonates with your readers?
For me, a great epic/dark fantasy has a few core elements. A unique world, non-human races, tangible characters, and an enticing plot. Building my world was probably the stage that took me the longest. I had to ensure the rules were consistent, believable, and interesting. You can’t build a house without foundations, right? Build from the ground up and keep it consistent; that’s the key. Next came the characters and this was the bit I found most difficult. For characters to be relatable, they need to have both positive and negative traits. Let’s take Levana for example. She’s assertive, confident, intelligent, and highly ranked in the Forsaken, however, she is also rash, rude, cocky, and judgmental. Again, I made it my aim to keep these traits consistent throughout. Creating the unique races was a lot of fun. I drew inspiration from many places from video games, to movies, to other books, to urban legend to create four other races each with their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Wolven evolved from forest-dwelling hounds. They are still in the earlier stages still with a fairly primitive way of living and communicating, but they are intelligent enough to hold their own standing in Naeisus. They are strong and fast, and fight with the pack mentality you’d expect from wolves. This is their downfall though, if you divide the pack, they become easily confused and lose their communication ability. I really hope these aspects, the depth of the character and races, are what stays with my readers.
What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
Hands down the most useful thing I’ve learnt is how to turn a “telling” phrase into a “showing” phrase. My awesome editor, Emma T, taught me how to spot “telling” sentences easily by looking for buzz words like ‘was’ and ‘were’, and then how to change the order of words to turn it into a showing sentence. These sentences are much easier to read and keep the reader immersed in the story. For example; “The tower was tall and grey.” is telling (the word ‘was’ gives it away! I learned how to change it to something like; “The ashen tower scratched the sky.” See the difference? As for least useful… I’m not sure. I can’t think of any lesson that isn’t in some way useful in its own right. If it’s a bad lesson or bad advice, you can still learn to not do that, right? I always try to put a positive spin on everything (another trait from my dad!) so even if something is considered not useful or destructive, I’ll always try to take away some positive from it, as I’ve said, perhaps learning to not do the thing.
Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.
My writing process is very intuitive, I let the characters guide the story. I set out a very rough guide for how I want the story to go, literally bullet pointing events in the order I’d like them to happen. Then I put on my ‘first draft cap’ and figuratively vomit words onto the page. I write the story ignoring all spelling, grammar, description, etc. I try not to get bogged down with details, I just let the story happen. Then I go through the first edit and flesh it out. Add detail, correct plot issues, sometimes introduce whole new characters, and just mold it into a rough approximation of a final story. Then it’s time for my beta readers to comb it and tell me what works and what doesn’t. Anything that needs fixing, clarifying, adding, or removing. These guys are brutally honest with me and I’m so thankful for that honesty. Once I address all of their suggestions I go through another edit for spelling, grammar, style, and a kind of final look over the arc of the story. Then it’s over to a professional editor for three or four more rounds of edits and then on to publication. It’s a long and arduous process but it’s absolutely essential if you want your story to be the best it can possibly be.
What can we expect from you in 2019? Anything else you would like to add?
So I’m currently halfway through the first edit of Volume II so that’s exciting! I’ve had to cut my writing down a little as I’m preparing to study an English degree, but that isn’t going to stop me from working hard on my titles. I have an episodic comedy in the works, and also a horror/sci-fi/romance, although I wouldn’t expect these to be done any time soon. Naeisus is my number one priority right now and is getting almost all of my attention. Once The Age of Reckoning Volume II is completed, I’ll be working hard on Volume III for sure.
It has been a pleasure, Thomas! Please tell us where fans can find you online or in the upcoming year at events.
Thanks, Joshua! The pleasure has been all mine! Anyone who is interested in immersing themselves in the world of Naeisus can go to my website: www.naeisus.com – All of my social media links and Amazon links can be found there. If you do read, please let me know your thoughts on social media and via a review on Amazon or Goodreads – I’d be grateful to hear!