This time on the blog, I’m interviewing the tall, the talented, and the tolerably amusing David (Dave) Wragg.
You know him and love him from The Articles of Faith duology, being The Black Hawks and The Righteous, and he’s back with Book 1 of Tales of the Plains, entitled The Hunters.
What can you tell us about the new book, then?
The new book is called THE HUNTERS, and it’s out in July. It’s a sort of fantasy western, about Ree, a middle-aged horse farmer with a shady past who’s just trying to settle down in the far back of beyond, and her profoundly undownwardly-settling niece Javani. One day, a caravan arrives in their remote mining town, bringing with it a whole bunch of killers with an unsavoury interest in a white-haired woman and a girl in her care, and their challenge becomes to keep themselves alive long enough to discover who’s after them and why, and just maybe do something about it. Needless to say, there may be a few things Ree hasn’t told her niece…
Ooh, intriguing. And can you dig into the series some more?
The series is called Tales of the Plains, and it’s a trilogy. It’s set in the same world as my first series, Articles of Faith, about 13 years later, in the wild, untamed lands to the north. There’s very much a Wild West vibe to the place, albeit with a mid-13th century Persian vibe. There will be chases across deserts, mine collapses, explosions and duels to the death, and that’s just the first book.
Do I need to have read your first series before reading this one?
Not at all – this is a new starting point with new characters in a new location, and no prior reading is required.
There are a few easter eggs here and there, of course, and some throwback references scattered about. People familiar with the first series should find themselves rewarded!
What can fans of The Black Hawks & The Righteous look forward to?
Plenty of what (I hope) they loved about the first series – mercenaries, insults, shenanigans, excessive swearing, the occasional savage and unexpected death, and some pure fun. The central dynamic between Ree and Javani is … strained, shall we say, and there are plenty of other colourful characters with their own vicious and vigorously expressed opinions along the way. Come for the professional killers, stay for the rich vocabulary of exasperation.
And what’s different this time?
I’m aiming to keep the scale a little smaller this time around – less of the Fate Of The Kingdom, sweeping battles and political chaos, more of the intimate stakes of a family just trying to work itself out under stressful circumstances. With plenty of life-and-death drama, of course. The stories are more condensed, too, each taking place over a few days or so, but that certainly doesn’t mean less happens.
There’s also less of the shades-of-grey moral ambiguity that permeated Articles. After the last few years, I’m keen to tell some more old-fashioned tales of goodies and baddies, although they may not always be who you think.
…and what about cliffhangers?
No cliffhangers this time, promise. I always thought of Articles as a single story split across two books; this time around, each of the three stories is self-contained, their primary plots resolved by the end of the book. That’s not to say you’d necessarily read them out of order, given the overarching storylines, but there should be fewer complaints about abrupt endings this time!
Where did the idea come from?
It’s hard to say too much without treading into spoiler territory, but the germ of The Hunters came from a door left open in The Righteous, and another question of What If. I also have a soft spot for Westerns, which have had something of a(nother) renaissance over the last few years, and am tickled by how neatly the Serican Expanse that appeared (on the horizon) in The Righteous fitted so neatly as a setting. The events of that book have had massive repercussions for the area and wider region, and it’s been really fun to explore some of the questions inevitably thrown up.
What are your goals for the new series? What are these questions you’re looking to explore?
Part of it is a continuation of Articles, from the other side of the coin – if that series was about a lost son searching for a father figure, The Hunters has strong themes of searching for lost mothers, and how we label our family ties. Beyond that, there are wider questions of law and justice – if the frontier-land is a blank slate of constitution, can we do better that right by might? And if so, how?
What are you most proud of in the new books?
Without question the character dynamics. Ree and Javani are incredibly real to me, their relationship has been one of the most natural I’ve ever written. I’m about the same age as Ree, but I can remember (a bit) about being Javani’s age (she goes from 12 to 15 over the course of the series), and so many of their antics almost write themselves (this is an expression; infuriatingly I still have to do all the typing).
I’m also very happy with the setting, the political landscape and the powers that move within it on both the wider and smaller scales. I suspect the storytelling is better, too – it’s been many years since I wrote The Black Hawks now, and I like to hope I’ve got a little better at this.
Famously, Articles of Faith wasn’t a trilogy, although some people expected a third book. Is there a degree of unfinished business in the new series?
I always intended Articles to be two books and done, but over the course of editing The Righteous we made … certain changes to aspects of the ending to keep the door open for sequels. I worry that some of those changes muddied the waters by creating the expectation that there would be more books directly following on, which (currently) is not the case. To that end, I’ve tried to sweep up a few of the looser ends into the new series, and tie them off in the background here and there. As I said earlier, Tales of the Plains stands apart, and can be enjoyed without ever going near the first series, but for people who wanted a little more “hey, whatever happened to…?”, I hope they’ll pick up some closure along the way.
On that note, will we see any familiar faces from Articles again?
I’ll be honest, yes, you will, but they won’t always be using the same names, and they won’t always be familiar to the characters encountering them. I’ll leave it up to the reader to make the connections as they go. It’s been 13-odd years, too, so they’ll probably have lost at least an ear or finger here and there.
There was a big delay between The Black Hawks & The Righteous, and again between The Righteous & The Hunters – what’s been going on?
Sadly, the bulk of that was covid-related, and a knock-on from covid disruption. Publishing timelines are long, and we’re still dealing with the ripples of 2020-22 (and will be for some time, I suspect). I turned in the manuscript for The Righteous in September 2019, a few weeks before The Black Hawks even hit the shelves, but we weren’t able to get it to publication until June 2021. Things have been a little smoother with The Hunters, and I’m optimistic we’ll be able to hit a release a year for the next 3 years (dangerous words…)
What are you working on now, and what will be coming next?
The manuscript for book 2 of Tales is already with my editor, so edits on that will be coming my way at some point over the next few months. In the meantime, I’m about to write the very first words of book 3, after spending the last 2 and half months putting together the outline. This time next year, that book should be ready to go to the editor, and then I’ll finally be clear to start writing all that My Little Pony fan-fiction* I’ve been putting off.
*this is a joke, My Little Pony is perfect already
The Hunters is out in hardback, ebook and audio on 20th July. You can preorder it at http://lnk.to/TheHuntersHB, or add it on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/95570525-the-hunters.
David Wragg is the author of the Articles of Faith series and the Tales of the Plains trilogy. He lives in Hertfordshire, UK, with his family and an increasing number of animals.
Find Dave at his website https://www.davewragg.com/ or on socials at https://bio.link/davewragg. Pick up Dave’s first series, Articles of Faith, at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B088NLVWT6.