Author Interview: Lennard Gillman

I was approached recently by Adrienne Charlton of AM Publishing after a recent collaboration rebranding book covers for Vicky Adin, to help with a fantasy cover design for New Zealand author Lennard Gillman.  

Accipitri and the battle for Heliosa by Lennard Gillman, cover designer Kura Carpenter
Accipitri and the battle for Heliosa - Lennard Gillman

Accipitri and the battle for Heliosa is Lennard Gillman’s debut novel, and today I'm interviewing him about the novel and his journey into self-publishing.

Hello and Welcome, Len,

  • Please tell us a little bit about yourself:
I have climbed in many parts of the world, camped on beaches, mountain tops, Arctic glaciers in Baffin Island and the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. I am Head of Science at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and a Professor of Biogeography. My work as a scientist has taken me to the hot deserts of Namibia and Australia and to the Dry Valleys of Antarctica where I have flown drones to map protected areas. I also have a keen interest in conservation and sustainable development. I have worked as a conservation manager in the past and I am on the AUT Sustainability Task Force. I live in Laingholm on the fringe of the Waitakere Ranges, southwest of Auckland and have three wonderful children and a beautiful partner.

  • What is your novel Accipitri and the Battle for Heliosa about?
It is about a boy (Ferobellus) and a girl (Tess) struggling against a harsh mountainous wilderness and a king who wants to annihilate a neighbouring kingdom. It is also about the development of relationships and respect among people with different behaviours and abilities. Tess is strong-willed, resourceful, and an expert archer while Ferobellus is fit and skilled at surviving in the wilderness, but they both have their weaknesses. It is set in a fictional land in the southern hemisphere approximately 1000 years in the past. The genre is low fantasy because of its fictional setting but it is nonetheless grounded in reality. The novel brings together medieval European and African cultures in a landscape that draws on a prehumen New Zealand.

  • What sort/age of readers would most enjoy it?
Eight to thirteen year-old boys and girls, although adults appear to enjoy it too.

  • I believe Accipitri and the Battle for Heliosa is set in a pre-industrial age, did you do a lot of research into earlier civilisations, or prefer to make things up?
Yes, I did do a fair amount of research but I also had the freedom to create unique cultures and an entirely unique continent. The landscapes and situations, such as the 3000-foot descent down a vertical granite escarpment, are derived from my personal experience in the mountains and so it should be possible for people to enact them. I would like to challenge a couple of modern climbers to repeat the feats of Tess and Ferobellus on a similar rock face using the equipment described in the story.

  • What type of magic/technological is there which is unique to your world?
My story is different because there are no magical powers or unrealistic abilities. The technology is of the middle ages and faithful to the reality of that time. It is the mixture of cultures and the setting that makes my world unique.

  • Where did the idea for the story come from?
I invented the overall plot and then got inside the heads of my characters and acted it out.

  • Which character do you most identify with and why?
I think I identify equally with most of the main characters but I like Tess best because she is the most complex and conflicted character.

  • Why did you decide to venture into self-publishing?
Just for fun. I find fiction relaxing and a nice contrast to scientific writing.

  • What tips would you give to others considering self-publishing that you wished you knew when you started?
I don’t think I have any pearls of wisdom other than to get a good editor and artist for the cover – I could not have done it without Adrienne Charlton and Kura Carpenter.

  • Where can we buy your books?
Email: NZ$19.50 plus postage.