Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Jacey Bedford Interview - The Amber Crown

Photo Content from Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford is a British writer of science fiction and historical fantasy. She is published by DAW in the USA. Her Psi-Tech and Rowankind trilogies are out now. Her new book, The Amber Crown, is out in January 2022. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic, and have been translated into Estonian, Galician, Catalan and Polish. In another life she was a singer with vocal trio, Artisan, and once sang live on BBC Radio4 accompanied by the Doctor (Who?) playing spoons.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I started writing my first novel (longhand) when I was 15 or 16. The world will be glad I never got beyond Chapter Six. It was a future dystopia and the characters were thinly disguised versions of my favourite pop groups. Eat your heart out, Hunger Games!

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why?
That's easy. It's Lois McMaster Bujold's Curse of Chalion, written 20-some years ago. It's got a marvelous hero, Cazaril, who is all the better for not knowing he's a hero. He simply does what he believes to be right, no matter how much it costs him personally.

And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
That's more difficult. It's either Modesty Blaise, the first novel in the series by Peter O'Donnell, which I read in my twenties, or it's The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick – the fictionalized story of William Marshall, First Earl of Pembroke, who survived the rule of three kings (Henry II, Richard I, John) and became one of the most powerful men in the country as regent for the young King Henry III

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
I didn't so much get distracted from writing The Amber Crown as get a couple of book deals (for the Psi-Tech trilogy and the Rowankind trilogy) that forced me to stick it on a back burner while I wrote like mad. It was always something I wanted to go back to, so when I got the opportunity, I did. By that time I think I'd learned to be a better writer, so that's a bonus.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
We tell stories to rationalize the world around us and to take ourselves to new worlds and have new experiences. Whether we are a storyteller or a story consumer, stories help to educate us and guide our moral compass – whether we realise it at the time or not. And besides… they're fun.

Can you tell us when you started THE AMBER CROWN, how that came about?
What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
I usually start a new book with a scene. With The Amber Crown my first scene is still almost exactly as I wrote it just a little more than ten years ago. Valdas is in a tavern with his favourite whore on he knee, getting steadily, happily drunk when the Didelis bell tolls for the death of the king – that's the king he's supposed to protect with his life. Oops. I had to keep writing to find out what happened next. I started off with five viewpoint characters, but that was untenable, so I quickly whittled it down to three, Valdas himself, Mirza, a Bakaishan witch-healer, and Lind, the assassin. What surprised me about Lind was that I was able to write him sympathetically. He was actually the character who changed most throughout the story. He has a brutal backstory and a redemption arc.

Greatest thing you learned in school.
That I don't like doing what people in authority tell me I should do, and I'll get bolshy about it if I have to.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from THE AMBER CROWN
My favourite scene is a big reveal, so I can't show you that here or I'd have to shoot you. It comes about two thirds into the book. But this extract is towards the end of the first scene so I'm not giving too much away. The king is dead. Valdas is in the whorehouse trying to sober up. He's planning to head back to the castle because it's his duty, even though he knows that he's been accused of the king's murder and he's likely to die. Aniela says…

"You're a noble soul, Valdas. I'd be halfway to the coast on a fast horse by now."

For the briefest moment he considered it, saw what might come next—a change of name, a sword for hire, moving on and on again until he reached somewhere he might not be recognised, maybe even where he didn't speak the language. Far from his men, his brothers in arms. Gah, no. His duty lay here, grim though it might be.

He'd faced death in action many times before being promoted to the palace, but the thought of being tied upside down by his ankles to a stout wooden frame while the executioner placed a ripsaw between his legs to cleave him in two, live and screaming, turned his bowels to acid. It was a rare punishment, reserved for traitors and king-killers.

"What are you thinking, lover?" Aniela asked.

"How much I hate carpentry!"

"Oh, for God's sake run. I can't bear to think—"

He hugged her to him. "Sweet Aniela, let's go now, while I still have the courage for it. I didn't kill the king. Surely the truth's still good currency in Zavonia. If I return of my own accord it's a damn good point in my favour."

It wouldn't make any difference to his ultimate fate, but it might make a difference to the manner of his death, and to the fate of his men.

Perkunas, god of warriors, please let it be quick and dignified, not upside down on a frame with my ballocks under a saw blade.

Meet the Characters
Valdas Zalecki: Before the first scene, in which his world crumbles, Valdas is the head of the High Guard and responsible for the safety of the king. Before that he was a captain in the Winged Hussars, first across the line in the Battle of Tevshenna. He's in his early 30s, tall and imposing with a drooping moustache that's very fashionable amongst the Hussaria – though once he's on the run he shaves it off.

Mirza: She's in her early twenties, strong minded and determined. She has tumbledown dark curls. From one side she's very pretty but a dark red birthmark mars the other side, running from cheekbone down to her collar bone. The Bakaishan men regard this as her witchmark and they believe that if they bed her their kok will fall off and their stones wither. Needless to say she's still a virgin.

Lind: He had a first name once but he hasn't used it in years. He's in his late twenties. He was a pretty boy with golden curls and a face like an angel. This won him an apprenticeship with a swordsmith, and what led to years of childhood abuse. Though he took his revenge, it's left Lind with more hangups that an average closet. He hates being touched – by anybody. He's taken up the trade of assassin and he's very good at his job, especially at disguising himself to get close to his victims.

Your Journey to Publication
I've always written, but I didn't let anyone read my outpourings for the longest time – even my best beloved. Then in 1998 I got the opportunity, via a friend, to submit a story to an anthology, Warrior Princesses edited by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. That sale qualified me to go to Milford, the critique week for published SF writers. I came home encouraged to submit more, and I started to sell more short stories. I didn't sell my first novel (to DAW) until 2014, so my overnight success took sixteen years. I always wanted to be traditionally published, so DAW is a really good fit for me. I think I surprised my family and friends, but selling a novel (and then six more) finally justified all that time at my keyboard.

Writing Behind the Scenes
Just as you might expect I spend hours in front of a computer screen. I have an office at home and I often arrive at my desk in a morning before I hit the kitchen for my first cup of coffee. I have a day job as well, booking UK gigs for folk musicians. That's a job I do in front of the computer, too. I try and split my time, but I'm often snatching time from one job for the other. When I get on a roll I can write 10,000 words in a day, but I can't keep that up for long before needing a little lie down in a darkened room. If I'm working on a first draft I sometimes pace myself alongside NaNoWriMo to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

  • 1. The background setting is an analogue of the Baltic States in the 1600s, but I've mucked around with history.
  • 2. Valdas loves women, all shapes and sizes, as long as they're warm and willing. The willing bit is important. He likes what's in their heads as well as what's between their legs.
  • 3. Valdas has never initiated an affair with anyone inside the palace because he doesn't want to complicate his job.
  • 4. Mirza has had to struggle for her place as the Bakaishan band's witch-healer, so she's really pissed off when the spirit of Valdas's dead king calls in a favour and sends her off with Valdas on a quest.
  • 5. Valdas doesn't believe in magic, but Mirza knows magic is real. She can walk the spirit world. Lind recognizes magic is real, but he doesn't have to like it.
  • 6. Lind is overwhelmed and in awe of the concept of motherhood.
  • 7. Aniela, Valdas's favourite whore, knows that pox is a big killer or prostitutes, so she won't 'work' without a condom (in those days made of sheep gut).
  • 8. Trader Valentin, whorehouse owner, is probably an agent of the crown of Sverija.
  • 9. The Winged Hussars are real, but I transplanted them from Poland to Zavonia. These guys rode into battle with a pair of six foot wings strapped to their backs in order to terrify the enemy. Look them up if you don't believe me.
  • 10. Sawing is a grim method of execution that was still sometimes used in Medieval Europe, as it had been in the ancient world. Don't look up death by sawing in Wikipedia unless you have a strong stomach.
What is the first job you have had?
First job in the holidays between school and college was working in a factory canteen. It was pretty grim. My first real post-college job was as a librarian. That was not so grim.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
These days it's usually, I hope no one has beaten me into the bathroom.

Have you ever stood up for someone you hardly knew?
I have. It's a long story involving a performing group of Zulus (traditional African songs and dances) brought over to the UK by an unscrupulous manager who didn't pay them or feed them properly. I helped them to get away from him and become an independent company. I'm still their agent, but they manage themselves – and very well, too.

First Love?
I'm still married to him.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
The Zulu thing. I'd be the grizzled granny at the gate with the shotgun, keeping out the bad guys.

Most horrifying dream you have ever had?
I'm sure I have dreams, but I can't hold on to them when I wake up. Two seconds and they've gone, horrifying or not. Perhaps that's just as well.

In this new epic fantasy, three societal outcasts must work together to fulfill the orders of a dead king's ghost or risk their nation falling to a tyrant

The king is dead, his queen is missing. On the amber coast, the usurper king is driving Zavonia to the brink of war. A dangerous magical power is rising up in Biela Miasto, and the only people who can set things right are a failed bodyguard, a Landstrider witch, and the assassin who set off the whole sorry chain of events.

Valdas, Captain of the High Guard, has not only failed in his duty to protect the king, but he's been accused of the murder, and he's on the run. He's sworn to seek justice, but his king sets him another task from beyond the grave. Valdas doesn't believe in magic, which is unfortunate as it turns out.

Mirza is the healer-witch of a Landstrider band, valued and feared in equal measure for her witchmark, her scolding tongue, and her ability to walk the spirit world. When she's given a task by Valdas' dead king, she believes that the journey she must take is one she can never return from.

Lind is the clever assassin. Yes, someone paid him to kill the king, but who is to blame, the weapon or the power behind it? Lind must face his traumatic past if he's to have a future.

Can these three discover the real villain, find the queen, and set the rightful king on the throne before the country is overcome?
You can purchase The Amber Crown at the following Retailers:

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.


  1. I love the cover. The colors and graphics are amazing.

  2. Yes, I've stood up to people I've barely known, and proud to do it.

  3. I don't recall. Thanks for the chance!

  4. I'm not sure that I've done that in the past. It is a goal of mine though. Thanks.

  5. I tried to help a woman in a bar once when her boyfriend(husband?) was abusing her. She actually did not want my help and told me to butt out. Oh well.

  6. No, I don't believe I have. Unless it's a very serious situation, I just try to mind my own business.

  7. For sure, maybe a couple times in elementary school.

  8. Yes, when I was a kid and others were bullying someone. I can rememeber doing that twice.

  9. Yes I have many times in my life its just who i am

  10. "Have you ever stood up for someone you hardly knew?" Probably not.