Ultimate Fantasy Books Q&A with Sentinel author Joshua Winning

Question: What have you published recently?
My debut novel, Sentinel, which is a contemporary dark fantasy set in Cambridge. It’s the first instalment in The Sentinel Trilogy. It feels weird to finally have it out there as I’ve been whittling away at it for over a decade. The feedback’s been fantastic, though, and I can’t wait to get the second book in the trilogy out there. Hopefully it won’t take quite as long this time, though.

I’m also a film journalist, and the last thing I had published in that respect was a review of CGI animation Epic – which I thought was worth mentioning as it’s fantasy, too. Though I thought the animation was stunning, the story sadly left a little to be desired.

Question: How, and when, did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve always written, so it was just sort of a no-brainer. I don’t think I ever actually ‘decided’ to become a writer per se, I just sort of stumbled blindly forward attempting to do what I love.

If you look back at the path that led me to where I am today – I studied film and communication at university, then qualified as a journalist in a post-grad course – it really looks like I meant to become a writer, but it wasn’t quite as simple as that. There was a lot of time rolling around in-between where I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. In that time, though, I couldn’t stop writing – I kept going back to Sentinel. Luckily, I seem to have ended up in the right place!

Question: Where can we find your published writing?
As a journalist I write for a number of film outlets, including Total Film and movieScope magazines. You can read most of my stuff online at joshuawinning.com

If you’re interested in checking out Sentinel, just head on over to thesentineltrilogy.com

Question: What is a typical day like for you as a writer?
It really varies, but in general I get up at 8am and head to the gym, which stops me from developing cabin fever throughout the day (I work from home).

Then I head home and plug myself into my laptop while knocking back coffee and herbal tea by the bucketload. Most evenings I go to film screenings for review. Sometimes I’m also privileged enough to head out on movie and TV sets, which obviously upsets the daily routine, but is obviously worth it!

Question: What are your favorite characters that you have created? Tell us about them
The characters are the only reason that I write fiction. My favourites really depend on the day, but I’m particularly enamored of Malika, who’s a mysterious servant to an ancient demon. She’s sort of a contemporary femme fatale – wily, gorgeous, sultry, intelligent. She knows exactly how to get what she wants and most people fall for her enchantments. The only catch – she’s evil.

I’m also really fond of Sam Wilkins, who’s a 71-year-old demon hunter. He’s seen it all but he’s not jaded and bitter. He still has hope that everything will come out right in the end, and I love that. He’s the polar opposite of Sentinel’s lead character, 15-year-old Nicholas Hallow, who is fresh to the world and still not sure how the heck it actually works. They create a fascinating dichotomy – for me, anyway.

Question: Do you find you “mentally edit” other writers’ works as you read them? Does doing this help you or bother you?
Oh God yes! The sign of a good writer is when my ‘mental edit’ switch is flicked off and I just dissolve into the world the writer is creating. There’s nothing more frustrating than reading a book that needs a damn good edit (I’m sure we’re all guilty of that).

That said, really good writing can be equally distracting. Sometimes a gorgeous sentence construction or a genuinely unique observation can yank you out of the story by the sheer power of its brilliance. Song Of Achilles did that a lot – I had to tell myself off for sitting and seething in jealousy over the magnificence of the writing. What a book.

Question: What music do you listen to, while writing?
I find that film scores can be useful sometimes. If I’m looking to write something really creepy I’ll shove on a horror movie score (I Know What You Did Last Summer is a good one). That usually gets me in a suitably scary mood. The same goes for if I want to write something perky – in that case I’ll pop on the Wall-E music, which is the definition of bubbly.

For some reason, and this is something of a secret, I find 30 Seconds To Mars quite inspiring. They use lots of crunchy beats and zingy guitars that just get me pumped up.

Question: What do you eat while writing?
Nothing, but sometimes a good, strong coffee helps get the synapses firing.

Five for Fun:

What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink?
I’m big on herbal tea. And green tea. Otherwise plain water does me. How boring is that?

What is your favourite cartoon character?
I’m not sure if this counts, but Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit absolutely terrified me as a kid (and still does). He’s a hybrid human-cartoon and he’s just about the scariest movie character ever. If only somebody had told me as a kid that it was just Doc Brown on a bad day, I’d have been fine.

What is your favourite movie of all time?
My usual fall-back on this question is Labyrinth. I just can’t get enough of it. It’s my favourite fairytale – and it has David Bowie music. It doesn’t get much better than that.

What do you like to do for fun or just to relax?
What’s this ‘relax’ thing you’re referring to? When I was younger, my dad always said that there weren’t enough hours in the day, and that’s still true. Though writing isn’t always relaxing, I just can’t stop doing it. Even when I attempt to sit and read, my mind’s buzzing with ideas. It’s a real problem. But I can live with it.

Question: Where can we find you on the web?
My websites are joshuawinning.com and thesentineltrilogy.com, or you can find me on facebook at Facebook.com/SentinelTrilogy. Then there’s Twitter: @JoshWinning and @SentinelTrilogy

This interview originally appeared at Ultimate Fantasy Books.

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