Category Archives: Interviews

A (Slight Noisy) Audio Interview with Scott Lynch

After a weekend of stalking Scott Lynch, author of the Gentleman Bastards series back in April, he finally allowed me to corner him and ask him some questions in a noisy hallway. We spoke of The Thorn of Emberlain, and his plans for the future of his series, Super Secret Lynch #1, and zombies.

I attempted to clean the audio up a little bit, which may have caused some distortions. My apologies for that, but I hope you enjoy! Also.. I am so sorry for the 7-ish minute mark. I made a joke about doing what I did, and SJardine forced me to follow through with it.


 

For those of you unable to listen to the audio, /u/justamathnerd on reddit has provided a bit of a recap:

  • There are no major flashbacks in Thorn of Emberlain. He mentions that “since this is an even numbered book,” there won’t be flashbacks, even though he included some in Red Seas Under Red Skies. I assume that means that the next odd numbered book (the one after Thorn) will have flashbacks.
  • We’re gonna get some new “main” characters that will stick for the rest of the series, seemingly they’ll be the Spoilers So Far[1] since he describes them as Jean and Locke’s “opponents.” He talks about how there will be two concurrent stories, Jean and Locke’s as well as these new characters.
  • He can’t talk about his new project, but hopes to be able to by the end of 2015. He includes a cryptic hint: Hint[2] Who knows what that means? I’m sure people will come up with some interesting theories.
  • In response to whether there is going to be more magic or Eldren or clarification on any of that stuff, he said there will be more magic and clarification, but that “not every mystery will be revealed, and not every question will have an answer.” He says he’s a “big believer in leaving some things to the reader’s imagination and leaving some things unsolved.”
  • He hopes that Untitled Lynch #1 will be the first of a series of side-projects or standalones, but he would like the “central spine of [his] work to be the ongoing Gentleman Bastard sequence and related works, and maybe some other long fantasy series.” He likes long series, but he wants to dabble in off-shoots or projects that are unrelated as well.
  • The main Gentleman Bastard series is 7 books with some non-essential tie-ins (he has some novellas planned, so my guess is that’s what he means). The follow-up to that will be another 7 books set 20 years after the first. It will feature many of the same characters and many of the same type of situations, and will resolve the “grand story.” It will take us to the natural end of several characters’ lives, show off what happens and tie everything up.
  • He’s optimistic about speeding his pace up. He says he’s gotten it down to two years between books and wants to get it to one. He says if that was the pace, he could conceivably be done in 10 years, and jokes about how he’s “said this kind of thing before.” It sounds like he’s pretty happy with his output and pace which is all that matters, really.

 

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Audio Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal

Early in November, at the World Fantasy Convention, I interviewed a few authors. Below is my interview with Mary Robinette Kowal, my final one from that weekend. Mary spoke of everything from modeling naked, to impersonating Patrick Rothfuss, to zombie-Napoleon on a steam-powered wheelchair. With cannons. She also spoke of her writing, and her upcoming novel.

Take a listen, and I hope you enjoy!


Crimson Son by Russ Linton : Review

Crimson Son

His mother kidnapped, his superhero father absent, powerless Spencer Harrington faces a world of weaponized humans to prove himself and find the truth.

Nineteen-year-old Spencer is the son of the Crimson Mask, the world’s most powerful Augment. Since witnessing his mother’s abduction by a psychotic super villain two years ago, he’s been confined to his father’s arctic bunker. When the “Icehole” comes under attack from a rampaging robot, Spencer launches into his father’s dangerous world of weaponized human beings known as Augments.

With no superpowers of his own save a multi-tool, a quick wit and a boatload of emotional trauma, Spencer seeks to uncover his mother’s fate and confront his absentee superhero father. As he stumbles through a web of conspiracies and top secret facilities, he rallies a team of everyday people and cast-off Augments. But Spencer soon discovers that the Black  Beetle isn’t his only enemy, nor his worst.

Crimson Son by Russ Linton tells the story of  Spencer Harrington, the powerless nineteen year old son of the world’s most powerful Augment. To the world, the Crimson Mask is everything a superhero should be, but to Spencer he is the man who constantly fails his family. When the mechanized super-villain known as the Black Beetle abducts Spencer’s mother, Spencer finds himself confined by his father for over two years in an arctic bunker in an attempt to keep him safe. However, when the bunker comes under attack, Spencer finds himself enmeshed in his father’s world of rogue Augments, government conspiracies, and rampaging robots.

I really enjoyed this story, I’ve read a lot of superhero fiction over the last couples of years, and they all tend to be very similar to each other. It was an interesting change: to see a world of superheroes from the eyes of someone who has no powers of his own to speak of. Linton did an excellent job of capturing the voice of a nineteen year old boy who has essentially been in solitary confinement for two years, especially when it comes to his interactions with the women he runs into.

While I enjoyed Crimson Son from the beginning to the end, there was one issue that threw me out of the story. The story is primarily told in the first person, from the PoV of Spencer Harrington, but there are occasionally random chapters told in third, from the perspective from someone completely different. This on its own wouldn’t be an issue for me, but nothing warned me about it, and it took me a moment to mentally switch gears for those chapters. Other than that, those chapters were an interesting way to show what was going on elsewhere in the world.

I would definitely recommend that all fans of superhero fiction read this book. Russ Linton did an amazing job with his characterization. Spencer Harrington was someone who was very easy to empathize and fall in love with, just as the Black Beetle was a character I found myself loving to hate. I really hope this is not the end of Spencer’s story and that Russ Linton is a name I hear more of in the future.

I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.


Interview with Kenny Soward

Back at World Fantasy in November, I sat down with Kenny (Kennah) Soward, author of the GnomeSaga. We spoke of his upcoming projects, self-publishing, horse-sized ducks, zombies, and social media.

I highly encourage you to listen to the audio — lots of silliness and random discussions took place, but didn’t make it to the transcript below… and do ignore the fact that my voice completely changes near the very end of the audio.

Enjoy!

 

[K = Kenny, and R = Rebecca (me)]

R: Alright, so, I am here with Kenny Soward, author of the GnomeSaga. Can you tell us something about yourself that we might not know?

K: Yeah, I work in IT. That’s something a lot of people don’t know. I work with Linux OS support, so I’m familiar with mechanics and different things that enabled me to write those steampunky, (or “gnomepunky” as Joe likes to call them), items in Rough Magick/the GnomeSaga series.

R: Very cool.

For the readers unfamiliar with your novels, the Gnomesaga, could you tell us a tiny bit about them?

K: What I tell people that come up to me in bars is that it’s like Harry Potter on crack. It’s magic – your typical magic and epic fantasy, drawn from the eastern-European, you know the GRRM, Lord of the Rings, type stuff. But, with the gnomes as a character that’s never been covered by anybody, I don’t think. I’ve never seen any gnome books.

R: And is that why you chose gnomes?

K: Well, I started playing gnomes in D&D. Gnomes, and dwarves, and hobbits, because I felt sorry for them. No body else would play them, and I thought my personality was always very like… rock, solid. I was always a hard worker in school. I was never flashy, so I never wanted to play the big strong ogres. I was like: I want to play the dwarves. Those guys are solid, man, they’ve got their axes, and armour and stuff. And then I sort of evolved to EverQuest. I was fairly addicted to EverQuest for a while. I lost like 10 years of my life to that game.

One day, I got tired of my dwarf that I had. I was just tired of tanking constantly. So, I started this little gnome called Nikselpik. The smart-ass in me came out, and every time I ran into a zone, I would just shout crap to my guild members and I would get everybody laughing. They knew I wrote stories, so they said, “When are we going to read some Nikselpik stories?”, which made me think “Hm.. That might be interesting.”

R: So, I guess that’s the origin story of the GnomeSaga.

K: Yeah, kind of. I actually wrote the first draft of that in 2001 or 2002. It was a completely different book. So yeah, definitely origins.

R: And it’s being rereleased by Rangarok?

K: Yes, I recently selfpublished it in 2013; Ragnarok wasn’t around at the time. It was just Joe Martin helping me edit the book. We were just doing it for fun and to see what we could do. We were encouraged by David Dalglish, who’d put out numerous titles, and then get signed with Orbit.

So yeah, that’s sort of how it started, and as Ragnarok developed, we just sort of said: “You need titles, and I need a publisher, so let’s just see how it goes.” So we put it together for that.

R: And the last book in that is actually coming out soon, Cogweaver. Do you have any plans after that? [It’s actually Tinkermage that’s coming out soon (i.e. today). Cogweaver will be out February 2015.]

K: Actually, it was an interesting conversation. I had wanted to get into some other things, some China Meiville type stuff, some sort of weird fantasy. I love China Meiville’s stuff. Another favourite of mine is Caitlín Kiernan. I love going down that weird fantasy route. I had a talk with Joe, and he said: “Why do you need to do anything different? You can fit in a lot of idea with GnomeSaga, or with your world of Sullenor. So why don’t you just be the gnome guy? Run with that.” I thought about it, and there are so many stories I want to write… and yeah, I’m going to do that.

The next series is going to be called The Order of Scorpion, and it’s going to be a GnomeSaga three-book series. I’m going to start working on that in January.

R: Cool! Will Nikselpik and Nikselbella be making appearances in that?

K: Definitely Nikselpik, but I can’t really talking about Nikselbella, because that would be giving spoilers as to what happens to her. It’s definitely more the adventures of Nikselpik and his band of wizards and odds-and-ends.

R: Fun. Also, you worked on the Dead West series with Tim Marquitz and Joe Martin.

K: Yes.

R: Which would be a better introduction to your writing? You know, if gnomes seem a bit far-out to some people, would that be a good leeway into your writing at all?

K: If you like violence, yes. They’re extremely violent. There’s not a lot of the taboo subjects like.. The women characters are strong characters, in fact, half of the people who read my books are females. Even the Dead West series. Specifically because of Nina and the other female characters.

Nina can shoot a colt navy quite well.

R: Nothing wrong with a badass female character who can shoot.

K: Absolutely. So, an introduction? Maybe, if you can handle violence.

R: Alright, and if they can handle violence, I think they might be able to handle gnomes.

K: It’s hard to tell. I’m feeling out the horror/fantasy fans to see what they like. You really get surprised sometimes. You think people will like something, then you start hearing: “Yeah… I don’t like that in my books.” You know, certain levels of sex or romance.

R: Yeah, I was at a panel last night on “How graphic is your novel?” Some people want the gore, other people they don’t want it, but they like some horror.

K: I think mixing them is what gets you into a little bit of trouble. I think if people know the book they’re getting into is a gorey book, they’re excited about it, because it’s what they want at the time. But in your epic fantasy, people don’t always want very hardcore sex scenes, or necessarily different types of violence, and certainly not a misogynist feel to the book. You have to be careful.

For my books, I just love the straight-up epic fantasy. There’s some romance, but I don’t have a lot of sex scenes or anything like that. I don’t think people want that. I think they just want to read a nice, cool adventure, with some cool battles, and some cool magic, and cool characters.

R: Yep, epic battles, epic worlds and that kind of thing.

K: Yeah, absolutely.

R: What’s your writing process like? Are you more of a discovery writing, an outliner, or..?

K: I used to be a discovery writer until I overwrote Tinkermage by 30k words. I rewrote it, and I rewrote sections of it, and I just thought “I can’t do this again. This is crazy.” So, since the summer, I started to outline and I looked around at the way people do their outlines. Just a basic three-act outline with three blocks per act. I’ve been doing that, and I actually like it a lot.

People think it holds you back from the creativity, but I don’t think so. It’s like a metronome. It keeps you on pace, but you can always play around with the time-signature, so to speak. The middle of my last book that I did for Cogweaver, the middle was only supposed to be three chapters according to my outline, but it ended up being six chapters. I stuck to the idea that it should be a build-up though.

You don’t have to follow it all the way, but definitely I’m outlining for now. I might come back in a year and tell you that I’m full of crap.

R: Yeah, “Screw outlining!” I’ve recently started outlining as well, and I’m doing a 5-act structure type thing. I’ve totally veered way off track with that.

K: Well, at least you tried. Maybe somehow you can bring it back and land on your feet, so to speak.

R: That’s the plan, assuming I finish it.

So, you mentioned that you’re a huge fan of China Meiville, but do you have any other favourite authors?

K: There are so many authors to choose from. For example, right now I’m re-reading Swan Song by Robert McCammon, The book is from the 80’s, I think, or 90’s even. His stuff is amazing. Sometimes if I’m interested, I’ll look into a Stephen King book, if it looks good. He has his fingers on the pulse of America, he gets those characters distinctions so well. I love reading his stuff, and it’s fun.

Caitlín Kiernan is probably my favourite contemporary author, and China Mieville, of course. Neil Gaiman, I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane in one sitting. I just blew through it. So, of course Neil. And Neil and Caitlin are close. I know Neil supports Caitlín a lot, so I’m kind of into all the weird fantasy stuff. I like the idea of not necessarily having roles placed on you, and on the world, like Rail Sea by China Mieville. It blows my mind.

A lot of my peers – Jeff Salyards is really good, Teresa Frohock is awesome, I kind of put Teresa and Jeff into the same level. They’re both highly skilled and imaginative. Just really solid fantasy. I can’t wait to read Moses Siregard’s next book… If he ever finishes it. Moses.

R: Yes. Finish that.

K: So, I guess, being a writer now, I do tend to read more of my peers’ stuff, so that’s kind of a thing.

R: And do you have any advice for anybody who’s looking to go into self-publishing?

K: That’s a really good question. I still want to self-publish. Even though we put the GnomeSaga series through Ragnarok, I thought that the next thing I did would be self-published… But then I saw the print edition of Rough Magick, and I don’t think I could ever have done that. I couldn’t have pulled together the resources. I couldn’t have gotten Arman Akopian to do the cover. Joe pulled that together for me.

If you find a good publisher, and they know how to get the artist, the resources to do it right… It’s hard to deny going through a publisher. What I think I’m going to do, is that I’m going to take everything I learn off of these guys and gals, and maybe self-publish stand-alone works occasionally. I was actually talking to Kirk Dougal about this last night – just do the series through the publisher, the stuff that’s going to take a lot of work and promotion… but if you want to do something weird that no one is going to want, or if you’re not sure there’s a market for it… Go ahead and get your artist, and your editor, and put it out yourself. Plus, you’re getting direct sales, which is pretty cool.

R: Definitely, and a lot of publishers now seem to be going through the self-published content on Amazon… Authors such as Anthony Ryan, Michael J. Sullivan, and Hugh Howey have all been picked up by a traditional publisher at some point in time because of their self-published work.

K: Absolutely. It gives you a chance to be a professional. Before, you didn’t even have that opportunity because you were automatically told: “You can’t join our club.” But now you can force your way in by just being good, and professional, and consistent. I think publishers are smart to do that, to look at these folks who are doing this, and picking them up.

R: Zombie apocalypse survival plan.

K: Well, probably perish quickly, is going to be mine.

We would probably do okay, I think. I kind of laugh with my girlfriend about it, because we do own guns, and we shoot occasionally. So, as far as guns and stuff, we would be okay. As far as the important stuff, like food… We would be pretty bad off. We would have to go around and offer our services of protection in exchange for beans and such.

I think that’s probably our plan, because we’re horrible preppers. We have no stocks or anything. We would probably starve in like two days.

R: Just stock up on Twinkies!

K: They last forever. And I’ll eat anything… So if it’s old or whatever, I’ll still eat it.

R: Yes.. Penicillin! That grows on moldy bread.

K: There we go! I’ll be healthy.

R: I have a really weird question. I asked it to Mark Lawrence and his answer was boring.

K: Okay, well shoot.

R: If you were a talking box of cereal, and a horse-sized duck wanted to eat you… How would you convince it not to?

K: Holy shit. Actually, it’s kind of a mathematical question in a way. I would plead merciless. I would just plead for my life. I’d be just like “Look, I have no arms or legs. I can’t defend myself. So, I’m just going to plead to your conscience and hope you allow me to live.” Then I would try to convince them that the cereal over there was much tastier. And that’s how I would do it.

R: When I originally asked this to Mark, I had it as “a horse-sized mercenary duck”. His response was along the lines of: “Well, I’m a talking box of cereal. I’m paying that thing to not eat me.”

K: Well, if he’s a good cereal I mean… It’s like publishing, you never know who’s going to like you.

R: A talking box of cereal though.

K: Yeah, you would have endorsement deals. You know, Mark is always straight to the point. He’s very quotable. I always look at his stuff, and there’s like a quote every page, and every paragraph… and my stuff is not quotable really.

R: You just need to wait until people start getting Gnome Saga tattoos!

K: I am making little promotional coins and stuff. It’s important to promote yourself… I don’t rely on publicists, they’re great and stuff, but I’m not the kind of guy that’s just going to sit and go: “Promote me! Why don’t I have 10,000 sales yet?” I like getting involved. I’m going to start doing giveaways for collectors’ sets, like the Gnome Saga collectors’ set will have a coin, which you can make into a necklace, or you can put a chain through the loop… You can also use it as an iPad charm. Mugs… Just little things. Bookmarks.

I like fridge calendars too, and magnets too. I like magnets. My favourite is kind of like JAWS but it’s a little kitten, and it’s swimming to the surface and it saws PAWS.

[We continued talking about magnets for a while. If you’re really intrigued, it’s around the 18-19 minute mark. Otherwise, I’m not including it here. We also discussed the fact that I’m secretly famous. I had a paper nameplate from a mass-signing the night before.]

K: This whole weekend has been interesting, because even sitting at the signing table yesterday – and I’ve noticed that we haven’t gotten a lot of traffic. They’ve sold some stuff, but I haven’t personally sold a lot. You get a lot of interest though, and people have come by, and they’ve taken pictures of the book. Last night, there was a lot of that. It’s interesting, and I realize that there’s a lot of competition.

It makes you humble, and it makes you understand that it’s very competitive… You just have to be as nice as you can.

R: Big thing I think here, and at other conventions, is for new authors to make the connections, go to conventions and conferences in your area. Just meet people.

K: I’m a little older now, where maybe I was more ambitious before… I’m still ambitious, but, I really do want to know what people are up to. I’ll go through Facebook if I have 15 or 20 minutes, I kind of want to know what everybody is up to, so I will go, and I’ll ‘like’ something, or comment on it. Social media is such an interesting thing, because a lot of people look at it as “It’s just me, throwing my crap out there”, but really it’s supposed to be interactive. I always reply to people who comment and post on mine. It’s more fun that way, and I think it’s great.

I would never have known half the people, or half the things going on, if I hadn’t just involved myself. So, it’s an eye-opener for sure. I’m definitely a Facebook, Google+ person. I haven’t tried Ello yet.

R: Alright. And do you have any other comments to add to your readers? Beginning writers? Horse-sized mercenary ducks? Zombies?

K: It’s a horse-sized duck, right?

R: Yeah.

K: Saddle that thing up, and ride it man. If it can fly…

R: Don’t even ask where that came from.

K: That would be my advice to writers, saddle that horse-sized duck, and ride it. Ride it as far as you can take, until you just get too old to type.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed our wacky, and hopefully interesting interview.

Tinkermage (Book 2 of GnomeSaga) was released TODAY. Go check it out!

tinker

Rough Magick on Amazon
Tinkermage on Amazon

If you’re not too sure about all this gnomish business, check out an excerpt from Rogue Magick here.


My interview with Robin Hobb

Two weeks ago at SFContario in Toronto, I had the chance to sit down with the lovely Robin Hobb, and to interview her.

We spoke of her previous and current novels, choosing between first and third-person for telling a story, 250 page limits for novels, the release of the next novel in The Fitz and the Fool trilogy, and more.

I hope you enjoy!

 

[Transcript: For convenience, R = Rebecca (me), and RH = Robin Hobb]

R: Hello, I am here with Robin Hobb!

For readers that are new to you, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing?

RH: I write fantasy epics, I guess you could say. It’s really hard to classify within fantasy exactly what you’re writing because it tends to wander. Previously, I wrote for children at the beginning of my children, then broke in writing novels as Megan Lindholm. But, when I moved into a different slice of fantasy, I took on another pseudonym, which is Robin Hobb.

R: Yeah, and I think that’s what most readers know you as now.

RH: Oh yes, absolutely. The Megan Lindholm books have been out of print for years and years now. So unless you’re an avid collector and are willing to hunt them down, you’re not going to find them.

R: Alright. I believe that you wrote a short story that came out recently as Megan Lindholm…?

RH: Yes. I’ve continued to write short stories as Megan Lindholm for some time. Mostly for the magazines, usually Asimov’s, and for some anthologies. But, I haven’t done a Megan Lindholm novel for years and year. I would like to, but there simply isn’t that many hours in the day.

R: Okay, and you last wrote about Fitz and the Fool in 2003, I think it was.

RH: That sounds about right.

R: Did you know you’d be coming back all these years later, or had you planned on ending it there?

RH: When I ended it, I think a lot of very astute readers picked up on all the clues that were left, that yes, there was more to come in the story. There’s even a phrase toward the end where I speak about how the minstrel pauses to catch his breath before he sweeps into the final chorus. I got a lot of emails about that saying, “Okay, when is this going to happen exactly?”

So some readers who were really reading every detail of the book would definitely have picked up that there was more to come. Chronologically, time had to pass, rather than write it out of order. The Rain Wilds Chronicles had to come in there too, and it’s time now to write the story.

R: And do you think you’ll be writing more after this trilogy?

RH: I’m so focussed on writing this trilogy that I haven’t allowed myself to look up and say, “Well, what would be after this?” I’ve got at least another year-and-a-half to two years, if you count all the copy editing and proofreading before these two books will be done. So, right now I’m not thinking about it. The danger for me, as a writer, is that when you hit the hard part of the book. that other idea that looks like it would be such a quick and easy story to write, always comes knocking at your door.

I’ll take a moment and open up a file, write a new note, and close the file. I can’t let myself be distracted. I’m not one of those writers who can work on several projects at once. I really need to focus on just one.

R: Alright, and I think many people would agree that the Fitz and Fool friendship is one of the better written ones out there. Characterization is definitely one of your strong points. What’s your process for creating your characters, and the writing process around that?

RH: I think a lot of character creation happens in a part of my brain that I don’t necessarily have conscious access to. With Fitz especially, it was like he stepped out into the spotlight on a darkened stage and started talking. As he spoke, the spotlight enlarged and I could see more and more of the world around him.

It always begins with a character for me. Many of the characters in the book have grown and changed. They really do seem to generate in a part of my mind that I do have conscious access to.

R: Okay, and are you more of a discovery writer or an outliner? Because I know the Fool was supposed to be a one line thing.

RH: It’s a combination. This is a comparison that I’ve used before, so readers might be familiar with it. But it’s like when you’re out in the woods, and you’re on a ridge… The valley below you is full of fog, and you can see the next ridge with the rock sticking up, and you know you have to get to it. When you look down through the fog, you can see maybe the top of a very big tree, or a large rock, or a place where there’s moving water, and you know, you have to hit those points before you get to the next ridge.

But everything in-between those points in enshrouded in mist. So, all of the adventures along the way aren’t necessarily spelled out to me, but I do know the ending point. I’ve known the ending point of this trilogy probably since I first started writing Assassin’s Apprentice, so it’s been a very long arc of knowing eventually where Fitz would end up.

R: Okay, yeah… That’s quite a long journey… It’s been a couple years.

RH: Oh, about twenty.

R: So, what were some of your biggest influences when you started getting into the industry; fantasy writing in general?

RH: There’s a lot of influences that aren’t fantasy, or that we no longer think of as fantasy. I read a lot of myths and legends and fairy tales when I was small. I read a lot of [Rudyard] Kipling. A lot of adventure stories, whether it’s Kidnapped, or Treasure Island, or Mysterious Island… A lot of adventure storytelling.

When I came to The Lord of the Rings, it was at the perfect time for me to read that, and it was the perfect time for me at that age, at that time. For me, it was a watershed event, it was life-changing. I had never read a story that was that long, that intricate, that detailed, that was a fantasy. Where the characters were taken seriously, and they had names, and you cared about what happened to them.

Up until then, what I had experienced were myths and legends – fairy tales where sometimes the prince or the princess don’t even have names. They’re simple the prince or the princess. So, to encounter these characters who all obviously had previous histories and lives outside the border of the book – to realize that that could be done with fantasy, was an amazing revelation to me. I think the next one that I read after that, which resonated that strongly with me were two works by Peter S. Beagle, A Fine and Private Place, which was the first novel he ever wrote, and The Last Unicorn.

But I really had a hard time for a number of years to find fantasy that took the story as seriously. There were a lot of ones that were full of pratfalls and silliness, and humour, which is fun but it lessens the impact that you feel if the character is hurt or disappointed.

It’s like the difference between Saturday morning cartoons and a movie. Tolkien was the one that made me realize what you could do with depth and breadth in fantasy.

R: And now we’ve also seen the fantasy genre expand a lot more, especially in the last few years. There just seems to be so much out there.

RH: It’s grown hugely. One of the odd things, when I started writing paperback fantasies, is that I was told that a paperback binding would not hold more than 250 pages. I was definitely —  like the Beatles’ song — a paperback writer. And so, no matter how much I might want to expand my story, I had to be able to tell it in that number of words and pages.

When you’re writing fantasy, where you have not only a plot, and character development, but you also have setting – it’s like this third element which mainstream writers don’t really have to deal with. If they say it’s a 1970s Chevrolet, that immediately comes to you with a whole lot of impact. Whereas if I want to describe that the horse and cart that they picked up is not going to get too far, I need to put in enough detail that the reader picks that up. So, I really admire the fantasy writers of the generation who wrote to that length and told such amazing stories where every sentence is freighted with character development, and setting, and plot all-in-one.

When Robert Jordan came along, and proved that yes, you could have a much bigger binding on a paperback, that kind of loosened the bonds for the rest of us. And we finally had the space in which to paint the world as well as tell you who is in it, and what they’re doing.

R: Yeah, I would say that him writing a 750-800 page novel would kind of break the 250 page barrier.

RH: When I first saw those in the shelf, there was nothing else on the shelf that was that size. It was ‘what is that thing?’

R: Building bricks. And, do you have any advice for beginning writers, or those seeking to get published for the first time?

RH: Those are two different animals. A beginning writer is someone who is realizing that they have that creative obsession that leads us to sit down and write on paper, and believe that somebody else is going to find what you wrote to be interesting.

They’re writers from the beginning. The thing to do is to sit down and write; to write every day, and to finish what you write. That’s the hardest part for a beginning writer. I don’t know how many footlockers you could fill with my spiral notebooks of unfinished books that I wrote all the way through my teens and early twenties. I think the hardest part is recognizing that you have to have an end to the story. Which means making those final decisions, and saying: “This is really what happened.”

Now, luckily, today with word processors it’s so much easier to change your mind than when you had to go back and rewrite the last 200 pages. You can cut and paste, you can take this piece, and toss that piece out… but, you have to make the commitment to finish what you write.

For people who are attempting to get published: I’m kind of a dinosaur. I came to publishing when it was ‘make sure that your typewriter ink ribbon was fresh so that you had nice black characters of white paper, and clean your keys before you start, and make sure you include a self-addressed stamped envelope so that the editor can send your story back if they decide not to publish it, so you don’t have to retype the whole thing… and always keep a carbon-copy.’

So, most of the things that I learned as a beginning writer are laughable now. I am not extremely familiar with self-publishing. I’ve seen some people become very successful at it. It’s a different pathway, it’s not a pathway to be sneered at just because it’s not traditional publishing. I am very happy living in traditional publishing. I have no reason to want to leave it, and strike out and publish my own work.

For me to give advice to writers that are seeking to become published, I think there’s a whole array of opportunities and decisions that are open to them that I never had to face. There was only one pathway, other than vanity publishing at the time. Which, who could afford that?

R: Even still, I think there are options to do that…

RH: But print-on-demand is very different from the old form of vanity publishing. You weren’t printing copies until they were actually ready to be sold. There’s just a lot of opportunities out there. They’d probably get better advice from a website.

R: Alright, I just figured I would ask.

When you’re writing, how do you decide whether a story should be told in first or third-person?

RH: I always prefer the first-person, if it can be told that way. For me, it’s the natural story telling voice. It’s the voice we use when we talk to our families in the evening, or when your mom is telling you about what things were when she was a kid, or when something goes wrong… It’s really “I did this,” and “I saw that”. It is the most intimate voice.

It brings the reader into the story, in a way. They might come kicking and screaming, but they can’t stay outside because they’re in the heroes head. The limits are, of course, that you can only tell the reader exactly what the hero knows. But, if the hero was going to be present at all of the key scenes, that’s my preferred voice.

I switch to third-person when I’m writing a story where the action is going to be taking place in different geographical locations, where they can’t possibly communicate across the distances, or where you wouldn’t want to have somebody telling someone else what happened today over a phone call; you want it to be very immediate. So then I carefully select the characters whom are going to be at those action points, and give each of them their own point-of-view. Then, my preference is to write a very tight point-of-view, where even though I’m saying: “She did this,” and, “he thought that”, in any given scene, you will only be with one character, in their mind, looking through their eyes. You will not have a conversation where I suddenly switch from my point-of-view, to your point-of-view, and then back.

It’s a personal preference. Some people do that and they do it very well, or they do the omniscient where they’re looking down in time, and they can tell you everything, and they can tell you that “meanwhile over the hill, the armies are massing.” But, I prefer the first-person first, and then a very tight third-person point-of-view.

R: Have you ever started writing a story with one of those, and then found out after you had started, that it had to be the other way?

RH: I think the most ill-advised and ambitious thing I did was to write in first-person present-tense, and I will never do that again. It was absolutely exhausting – that would be Cloven Hooves. But, there may come a point where you look at things and say: Well, now what am I going to do? Because what’s happening in the next room is going to have a huge effect. You then have to make a choice. I’ve never had to go back and rewrite a whole book to be in third-person, but I could imagine it happening. I just hope it never happens to me.

R: Hopefully not, that would be quite a lot of work.

RH: It’s a tremendous amount of work, and the amount of rewriting that writers do – writing is invisible work. Even a painter, sometimes you can stop and watch somebody paint, and realize what goes into that one painting that goes into the cover of a book, or is hung in a hotel wall… You can watch other artists at work, sculpting and all that. But if you watch a writer, all you’re going to see is someone typing. The nuances – the retyping, the erasing, the cut and paste, all the rest of it – it’s really invisible work. Sometimes it’s really hard to justify, “It took you 5 years to write that many pages?”

Well, it took me 5 years to write the pages that I’m going to share with the world, and to find out which ones they were.

R: Especially as well – when you mentioned invisible writing, made me think, the best books are the ones that drag you into the story, where you’re no longer seeing the words, but just the story.

RH: Stephen King says you fall into the hole on the page. That’s of course, what all of us try and do to you.

R: Fall down the rabbit hole…

I don’t think any of your books have been optioned for TV or movie, have they..?

RH: There have been options. An option is simply an agreement that they can try to develop it. The options usually have a time-clause in it: “You have the right for two years to see if you can get everything you need to get this into a movie.” A couple of times, various books have been optioned. It’s always happens though, that it doesn’t come to much.

The process of a story becoming a movie is a lot more complicated than people realize. I certainly didn’t understand it until one of my children went into film. All of the people that are involved – when you sit at the end of a movie, and you watch those credits scroll past, and scroll past, and scroll past, and you realize what a huge team it takes to make a movie. The person who options it has to get all those people on board. A good director, a producer who comes up with the money, and get the locations, and the actors, and agree on the script, and figure out what has to been changed, and what to leave in, and what do you leave out.

I’m happy for my books to be books. Would I want one to be a movie? I wash back and forth on that quite a bit. I personally don’t have the skills to oversee something like that. So, for me, it would be: Take the money, then open your hand and let it go, and realize that whatever is not that screen, be it big or small, is not going to be your book. It’s going to be somebody else’s experience of having your story. So, I go back and forth on it. It’s something that would be an interesting experience, and on any given day I’d probably give a different answer.

R: Alright, cause more and more we’re seeing TV shows and movies based off of series. So, it seems to be that it’s becoming more –

RH: I think a short story translates better to a movie than a novel does, simply because of the amount of information which can be conveyed in an hour and a half through visuals and dialogue. So much had to be left out of The Lord of the Rings, and so much had to be – in many ways to explain as you went along, things that were told not in dialogue, in books. I really enjoyed those movies, they’re tremendously beautiful, but at the same time, if you give me two hours to do something and it’s a choice between picking up a book, and watching a movie… I will probably find a warm spot, and a dog, and pick up a book.

R: And also, you recently did a reread of your books. What was the most surprising thing you came across?

RH: Oh… I would hit scenes that I did not remember writing at all, and scenes where I’d go, “Why did I put this in here, and what was the outcome?” I can tell you the main plot of everything, of course, but it was the little side excursions into relationships and things; the pieces that, for me, were really important to make the readers care about the characters, but I didn’t always remember each individual scene that I wrote. I would say that there were quite a few moments where I was saying, “Why did I put this in?” And then I’d reach a point, and say, “Oh yeah! It’s because this detail, 50 pages later, was going to be important.”

R: Okay… and my next question is slightly evil, but I was told to you ask you this.

Of all your characters, which one is your favourite?

RH: Oh, that’s like asking a parent, who your favourite child is.

R: Yes.

RH: I really am fond of Fitz and the Fool. I’ve known them now for 20 years, so they’re like old friends. But every character is my favourite when I’m writing that particular character, when I’m in that character’s skin, and experiencing that scene through the character. I think if there was any character that I found unpleasant or boring, it would be very very hard to write that character. So, even when it’s a character I don’t agree with, and I don’t like what they’re doing… I find them interesting enough, and intriguing enough, that I want to write from their point-of-view and follow their thought process.

I think you have to do that. If you don’t love every character; if you don’t love your villains, and agree with them when you’re wearing their skin, it’s really hard to make them convincing.

R: Mmhm. You can’t just say: That guy is bad, and he’s just bad because he’s dark and evil.

RH: And he’s going to conquer the world, nyahahaha, because he loves evil. You know, those stories were fine when I was 8-9, 11-12, and you just wanted to have the bad guy be the bad guy, and nothing more… because that’s so understandable.

As I’ve gotten older, I want my bad guys to have motivation, and to have existed before they became bad guys, and to even have parts of their lives where they’re actually pretty nice fellows.

R: And where they don’t just stand around for a chapter or so, explaining their evil plans before they do it.

RH: Exactly, exactly.

R: Do you know, by any chance, as to when we can look forward to seeing the next book in this trilogy?

RH: I have really been struggling. This morning I woke up and wrote some more. I think – and I’ve said this so many times in the past three months – I think there’s only three chapters left. I’ve been saying that since July, and it turned out there was a lot more than three chapters left; various scenes had to have underpinnings and bridgework put in. I’m writing frantically, and my editors have been extremely patient with me. As of right now, the next publication date is still August 2015. But because I am late, and it’s taking this huge publishing mechanism and throwing a monkey-wrench in it, and saying, “Oh yes, I was supposed to give you this to edit four months ago, and now I’m giving it to you – on top of all the other books which are being correctly turned in on time – So, why don’t you just give up on sleeping for a while? Do this work now, because I was late.”

It’s really a horrible thing to do to your publishers and your editors. So, I don’t know if the August 2015 publication date will hold. If it doesn’t, it’s entirely my fault.

R: Alright, yeah, it’s typically about a year.

RH: Yeah, it’s about a year. The manuscript goes in. It gets, in my case, two editors – one in the US and one in the UK, and they both contribute ideas and thoughts and say, “Well, this scene is slow,” or, “Can you explain more what happened here?” or, “You have been redundant here. Six mentions of this fact is too many, cut it down to four and put them where you think you need it, or cut it down to two and put it where we think it’s needed.”

But there’s that whole editing process, and so, it comes back to me, and I go through the whole thing, and I send it back to them… They then look through it all again – sometimes there’s a second or a third rewrite, where there’s now a bump here, or the action doesn’t flow here, so I need to do more work. Even after they are both happy with it, it then goes to the copy editor, who catches things like, “Well, he was a redhead on page 12, and in chapter 30 you’re talking about the wind blowing through his dark curls: make up your mind.” All of those fixes that make me look like a much better writer than I actually am. All of the consistency, all of the “two days passed for this character, while five passed for that one,” I better fix that… Even down to: “Well, you said it was a full moon five days ago, and now it’s a full moon again. You have to go fix that.” It’s all of those little details that copy editors are amazing people, and they catch all of those things.

Then after the copy edits, there’s the galleys, and reading the whole thing again for the typos that slipped by, or the places where a couple of paragraphs got flip-flopped, so it really takes that full year before a manuscript is ready to be a book.

R: Yeah, and there’s also with the galleys, the time for reviews to start show up.

RH: And sending out the ARCs for people to look at. Asking people if they’ll do a blurb, getting the cover art right… So many things.

R: Well hopefully you’ll be able to get it out for some time next year.

RH: I hope so. If it’s late, I’m the only person at fault. It’s not the publisher.

R: I think your fans will be likely to forgive you though.

RH: One hopes so.

R: Well, you do seem to have a tiny bit of a following.

I think that’s pretty much all I have, unless there’s anything else you’d like to add?

RH: Nope, that covers things nicely.

R: Alright, well thank you very much for your time, and I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.

RH: I had a good time, and it was lovely to meet you yesterday evening.


In Conversation With Tom Doherty

Entering the Tor/Forge office is more exciting than being a kid in a candy shop. Bookshelves line the walls, carrying the titles of Robert Jordan, David Drake, Orson Scott Card, Steven Erikson, Ian C. Esslemont, and dozens upon dozens of other familiar names and titles. The Tor office is a place where fantastical imaginations are brought to fruition.

I still find myself slightly shell-shocked by the entire experience. Never had I anticipated that this blog would lead me to interviewing Tom Doherty. Nevertheless, it has, and the questions and answers are all in the transcribed text below. If you’re interested though, there’s more to be found in the audio.

Enjoy!

[For convenience, R = Rebecca (me), and TD = Tom Doherty]

R: Hello, I’m here with Tom Doherty, publisher, president, and founder of Tor Books. Tom, I think it’s safe to say that most readers know who you are, or have at least heard of you. So, could you tell us something about yourself that we might not know?

TD: Well, you might not know that I started out looking for a job in publishing when I got out of the army. My dad was the vice-president of a floor covering company. I was looking for a job in editorial, and couldn’t find one, because I had majored in chemical engineering in college. In the army, I had read a lot and decided, ‘it might be fun to be in publishing’. That’s what I really loved.

My dad’s company put in a floor for a guy who was the vice-president of sales for Pocket Books. So, when I wasn’t having much success in finding a job in publishing, it happened that this guy came in to complain about his floor. My father wouldn’t normally have gone out to adjust a single floor, but he did. He adjusted it, and told Mory Solomon that he had a son that looking for a job in publishing. Mory said, “Send him around to Pocket Books.”

When I got there, Mory said, “We’re not hiring, but we just signed a deal with Select Magazines to distribute our books to magazine wholesalers around North America. They’re hiring, and I’ll send you over there with a recommendation.” So, I went over to Select Magazines, and they hired me to be a salesman out of Boston north. Just had a little piece of Massachusetts along the coast. Lynn, Salem, Gloucester, Newburyport… all had wholesalers in those days.

I worked for them for about 8-9 months. They took me out to a really nice dinner and laid me off. They had just lost a major client. They said, “Kid, we’re really sorry. You were doing a good job, but we just lost this major client and we can’t have two men in Boston anymore. We can only have one, and Bill Burks has been with us for 22 years, and you’ve been with us for 9 months.” So, I was out of a job in publishing, and I liked books better than magazines. I called up Mory Solomon, and I said, “Mory, did you like anything I did for you, representing you through Select Magazines?”, and he said “Yeah kid, but we don’t have anything comparable. But, if you’ll agree to be assistant local salesman — it’s kind of like stock boy, you fill the shelves at the airport. If you want to move yourself to Philadelphia, there’s a job there.”

Well, nobody else was offering me a job, and my wife had literally the week before, told me that she was pregnant with what would turn out to be my eldest child, my daughter Linda. So, I got a U-Haul trailer and moved to Philadelphia.

That’s how I started book publishing.

R: You’ve come a long way since then.

TD: Well, I did all the sales jobs at Simon & Schuster through their national sales manager, and I got a chance to learn a lot about science fiction and fantasy as national sales manager at S&S. Ballantine was still an independent line, and we distributed them. So, I was sales manager for Ian and Betty when they launched the first fantasy line that had ever been launched in this country.

I was their sales manager for Tolkien, which was the first huge fantasy bestseller.

They were such generous people with their time. They mentored me, and they taught me things that you wouldn’t normally learn in sales. So, when I had a chance to become a publisher, I had a background that included knowledge that you wouldn’t normally have gotten with the background that I theoretically had.

R: Yep, which is good. And it lead to a lot of this <I gestured to the plethora of books surrounding us>. You were the publisher for Ace Books, and now Tor.

TD: Sure, well actually, first I was publisher for Grosset & Dunlap, and we had a YA line called Tempo. I hired a really brilliant young woman, Harriet McDougal, to be my editor-in-chief at Tempo. We began publishing science fiction and fantasy in this young adult line. We did well enough, so that when Ace came under hard times, Grosset bought it for us to play with. So, she got to be editorial direction, and I got to be publisher of Grosset Ace for the paperbacks.

R: And then her husband went on the write the Wheel of Time series.

TD: He did. She found him because… well, what happened was that she got divorced, she had a 5-year-old and she inherited the home she grew up in, in Charleston, SC., and she thought that would be a good place to bring Will up. So she moved home to Charleston.

I didn’t want to lose her, so we began telecommuting before the word was even invented. She shopped at a bookstore when she was young, and she went back to shopping in that bookstore. Bookstore owner asked her what brought her back to Charleston, she said: “I’m opening an editorial office, and I’m going to do some of my own things, and I’m going to represent a New York publisher.” The bookstore owner said, “Well, I’ve got this great customer who’s just written a novel. Would you take a look at it?”

It was a book that we published as The Fallon Blood. Which was under the pen-name Reagan O’Neal, because Jim Rigney, who was Robert Jordan for fantasy, was Reagan O’Neal for historicals. So, we did that trilogy. Then he wanted to write a fantasy. He said his dream was to write a big epic fantasy.

R: And he did indeed.

TD: He sure did. He thought it was going to be one book. Of course, he had thought that the story of the American Revolution in the south was going to be one book too… But it turned into a trilogy.

So, we said to him, “Jim, this is never going to be just one book; what you described.” He came back with, “Well, maybe a trilogy.” So, I said, “Well, let’s make it a contract for six books.” He said, “That’s silly!”

It turned out to be fourteen.

R: Fourteen and a prequel… And had he continued on, it might have even ended up being longer.

TD: Well, it would have. He was planning a spin-off. You’ve read The Wheel of Time, right?

R: Yes.

TD: Well, he couldn’t imagine that Mat would just let his wife — you know, her mother was overthrown and assassinated, and his wife should be empress of the Seanchan. Mat couldn’t just let that go… So, Mat was going to go back with Tuon to straighten out things in Seanchan. He had planned that, and actually sold it to us. The trilogy spinoff, but he didn’t do enough work on it… And Harriet didn’t feel good about it going forward.

She was betwixt and between. She knew that he wanted to do it, and that he did sell it to us, but he hadn’t really done the kind of detailed outline like he had done for what turned out to be the last three books — which he had always been telling us was only going to be one. That was typical Jim.

We would love it if Harriett were to turn around and decide that we could do that, because it’s something that a lot of the fans want. They’d like it.

R: Yep, still I see posts about it on an almost daily basis: “So, about those outrigger novels…”

It would be great. Hint, hint.

TD: Yes. But Harriet was always a brilliant editor, and I think she had edited six of his books by the time that they got married.

R: You and she made a great choice with Brandon to continue that series.

TD: Yeah, I thought he was the perfect guy. It was Harriett’s real decision. I didn’t want to do anything that she didn’t love. It worked out perfectly.

R: I agree, and I think most other people do as well.

TD: Good.

R: And, I believe you guys have won the Locus Award every year since 1988 or so–

TD: I forget what the year was, but it’s been 27 years. 27 consecutive years. I have the plaques over there.

R: Yeah, I was noticing those. What does it feel like, knowing that you and your company have had such a great influence on this industry the years.

TD: It feels good, but it feels like… Like I said, the Ballantines really started it all off, the real emphases on fantasy in this country. There’s something maybe you can influence: I really want Betty Ballantine to get a Hugo, for all the things that she did. You know, she’s 95 year’s old. Judy-Lynn del Rey was given a Hugo, and she well deserved it. She did a brilliant job of carrying forward what Betty had started, but  remember, she got a line that had already been established, which had been called Ballantine up until that point.

She got a line that was established, and had things like Tolkien in it, and a lot of other major things. So, I would love to see Betty get some recognition.

R: Or something like the Lifetime Achievement Award.

TD: Exactly. But, I think that for editing, it would be great to give her a Hugo. One of those retroactive Hugos.

R: That would be good.

TD: I think she did get a Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award. She started the first science fiction line too.

R: I don’t quite think I’ve got the influence to make that happen.

TD: Hey, you do do things that influence people and I would just love to see her get — while she’s still with us, and able to appreciate it — get more recognition. A lot of people have forgotten her.

R: Which is a crime. We have an entire genre; hundreds upon hundreds of books to thank her for.

TD: Yep, exactly.

R: Another thing. With so many bookstores closing and the push for buying books online, are you guys at all worried about how — I know there’s still a huge market for it, but there’s not the ease of access for discovering new books.

TD: That is a worry. Discovery is the main worry. The internet is wonderful for things that you know about. If you fall in love with an author, you can get backlist that is too extensive for a bookstore to have stocked, and that would have had to been ordered anyway.

So, it’s great for finding deep backlists, and it’s great for accessibility on things that you already know you want… but it’s not good for discovery. There are too many trees in the forest.

R: Agreed, because you can just walk into a bookstore and see that one cover that catches your eye. You don’t get that on Amazon, or these other sites.

TD: And you know the mass-market system has kind of fallen apart. We used to look at surveys which would say: You’ve got bookstore readers from ‘impulse sale’. There were 100,000 retailers that had mass-market paperbacks, the person standing in a drugstore, waiting for a prescription… Buying from a wire-revolving rack; the person walking down the grocery aisle to get coffee, seeing a nice display of books and sampling one.

When they were pleased often enough, they began going to bookstores. Some people didn’t, some people just kept buying them in the impulse locations. But it also fed the bookstores, because they were happy with the entertainment and they wanted more of it. We’re losing that because the structure for that has broken down.

It’s broken down for a number of reasons. Mass-market paperback used to mainly be reprints of hardcover books a year after the hardcover book was published. It’s like anything else. If you buy a computer this year, next year it’ll be cheaper and maybe even better. If you buy women’s fashion this fall, it’ll be on a sale table next spring. People are used to waiting for the cheaper edition. With ebooks, they get instant gratification. Which, of course, in one place cuts into hardcovers, as they can get it cheaper already, but in another place, to the mass-market because they don’t have to wait for the cheap book.

So, we’ve got that problem. At the same time, we had a breakdown in the distribution system; there was a distribution system existing that had, in every town, book-truck drivers who sold only books to the retailers. They learned that you put different books in immigrant ghettos than you did in college situations, and a third kind by the military. They put the right books in the right spots.

What happened is the major chains forced an increase in discount, which caused the wholesalers to not to be able to afford two trucks running the same route: one for magazines, and one for books. So the distribution system was combined, which is a problem because books were pushed into a magazine bundle, and you don’t have book-truck drivers driving down the street with hundreds of titles, and able to put a different assortment at different stores. You have a much more limited assortment going everywhere. That’s not good. You should sell different books at different demographic areas.

We’re not getting them there anymore. So, between the instant gratification at a lower price, and the breakdown of the distribution system — I only get into this because it affects discovery. We lose huge numbers of places where people used to discover books.

R: Which is unfortunate, like Borders closing down a couple of years back, and independent bookstores seeming to close on a nearly daily basis.

TD: Yeah, well, I mean the other chains even worse than Borders for discovery were the Waldens, and Daltons, Crowns, and Lauriets… We lost several thousand mall stores.

I saw a focus study. This is an oversimplification of it, but essentially what it said: Did you miss the Walden that was in the shopping center? The answer was essentially: “Oh yeah, we’d come here to buy a sweater, or a pair of shoes, and we’d see the open and inviting display of books. We almost always had time to walk in. If we walked in, we almost always bought a book. Often we bought several.” When was the last time you bought a book? “Oh.. Yeah. We’ve got to go to a bookstore soon.”

If you don’t put books where people are… they don’t get in the car and drive 11 miles. Some of them will; they’ll drive to the Barnes & Noble now, or the big independent. So many of them won’t. They just won’t get around to making the special trip of any appreciable distance.

R: And it’s a shame, because there were a bunch of bookstores near me that I used to go to, but one by one I’ve been watching them disappear over the last 5-10 years.

TD: And you used to have chains like Waldon and Dalton, you had Classics, and Coles and Smith. All gone. How many impulse locations could have been handy, but are now gone?

R: And with that, we’re seeing the rise of ebooks more and more. Because, I guess, there is the convenience, the cheaper prices, and as you said — the instant gratification. But we’re losing something as well, because if you pick up a book, it’s got the weight to it, and there have been studies that state that you don’t retain as much when you read the ebooks.

TD: Yeah.

R: I think that’s a sad thing for the publishing industries.

TD: People will always will always want a good story.

R: Yes, definitely… and there have definitely been a lot of changes in the publishing industry over the past many years.. Besides for the ebooks, which has been the most surprising to you?

TD: Well, what I was just outlining — the breakdown of the mass-market distribution system, the physical breakdown, and it’s been the most damaging. Not being able to get the right book into the right store.

R: And… sorry, going back to ebooks, how do you think they’re going to affect the publishing industry in the long term? Do you think they’re going to plane out with physical books?

TD: I think it’ll level out, and I think that it’ll slowly gain market share. But you always do have the problem of discovery, and we haven’t worked out online how to best do that. I think, also, many people like a physical book, and I think that it’s a pretty darn efficient package.

R: It is. I will always choose a physical book.

TD: Me too.

R: Even though that means my luggage going home is overweight now…

Do you have any advice for people trying to get into the publishing industry in general, perhaps editorial? Publicity? I know a lot of jobs are also being done by freelancers now as well.

TD: Well, part of the thing about freelancers is there are an awful lot of people who want to work part-time. For example, we have a lot of people who don’t work full-time for us. Some of them were really fine editors who retired, but they would like to do a little bit. They just don’t want to work full-time; they don’t want to commute to an office. They may have one or two authors who want to work with them, and who they still want to work with. Well then, sure. If the author wants to work with them, if they want to work, and if they’re talented editors… Why wouldn’t we use them part-time? And I think, even at the very beginning we did that.

When I was starting the company, I knew a couple of editors who I thought were really fine editors. One of them had been retired, one of whom had been laid off; combination of companies coming together, mergers.. And I asked both of them if they’d like to edit for me. Both of them said yes, and neither one of them wanted to come into the office.

One of them actually became a ski instructor up in Killington; a guy by the name of Pat O’Connor. He had been the editor-and-chief of a couple companies. His number one author at the time was Andrew Greeley, who was a bestseller, and he said that he’d love to edit Andy. And Andy wanted to be edited by Pat.

Harriet McDougall, who I told you about — she didn’t want to come to a NY office. She was willing to work full-time, but she wanted to work in Charleston, SC., and we got Robert Jordan. You know, some of the things that people don’t remember about her, they just think Robert Jordan, but if you look at the acknowledgements in Ender’s Game, you’ll see the praise that Scott gives his editor, Harriet. She was responsible for many really great books in the early days.

R: She also edited the very first book you guys did, by Andre Norton.

TD: Yep, we had done Andre Norton together at Tempo. YA. I feel bad when people just remember her as Robert Jordan’s editor. She was the editor of many of our great early books. Beth Meacham had arthritis and wanted to live in Tucson, so she works out in there. I see no reason why any anyone has to come into the NY office.

R: Especially with the internet, there’s the ease of access.

TD: Well, we did it before the internet. We started telecommuting before they invented the word.

R: Yeah. Going back.. I know one of the ways for getting into publishing now is through internships and things. Do you have any other advice for people who want to get into this?

TD: Well, I think that what you need to do is look at the books in the bookstores. Become quite familiar with what a publisher does. Then, come to the publisher and say, “This is what you do, and this is what I care about. And I know what you do. I care enough to know. I didn’t come in because I wanted any old job. I came to you because I like what you do, and I want to be part of it.” And I think that impresses people. You try to learn about that particular thing that you really do want to be part of. It’s a win-win for both sides.

R: Alright, well, I know you do fantasy…

TD: <chuckles> Yes, yes we do.

R: So you guys, I imagine, get a lot of submissions pretty often. What do you guys look for when you’re trying to find the books that you’re going to publish?

TD: We have a lot of readers, and different editors like different things. If you’re an author, and you would like to be published by a publisher, you ought to look at the books from that publisher that you think are from the same market that your book is for. Then, you ought to look in the acknowledgements, because some of those books are going to acknowledge their editor. Then you ought to submit your book to that editor with a note saying why you think they might be interested. They’re much more likely to look at slush that way, than they are general slush.

If you’ve got an agent, so much the better. But, so many first-time authors can’t get an agent either. So, this is one of the ways to make your book a little more marketable.

R: Okay, thank you. And are there any books that you come across that still manage to surprise you?

TD: Sure. Always.

R: That’s good.

So, what would you say has been your proudest moment, working in the industry? After everything you’ve done through your illustrious career, has there been any one project that was just…

TD: I think it was really building this company. I think it has published a lot of things that people have loved and they continue to love. That I’ve been able to give a lot of dreams life. Things that are worth having been done.

R: As a reader, I definitely agree. You have done an amazing job.

TD: And I was lucky enough to start Tor, and I don’t know if you know, but I spun-off Baen. I’m still a partner with Baen. He wanted to do a different kind of thing, so we created a company for him to do it. He — They, it’s now Toni Weisskopf who’s running the company since Jim died. I think they do some things very well.

R: I think that’s pretty much all I’ve got, unless there’s anything else you’d like to add?

TD: Nope.

R: Alright, well, thank you very much for taking the time.

TD: You are entirely welcome.

R: It’s been an honour to meet you and talk to you. Thank you.


Q&A with Mark Lawrence

In which I ask Mark Lawrence, author of the The Broken Empire, and The Red Queen’s War, questions regarding horse-sized mercenary ducks, his writing process, and the future of his writing.

 


 

 

1) Typically, I start off interviews with “Tell us something about yourself that we might not know,” but.. instead, I’m going to ask: “If you were a box of cereal, and a horse-sized mercenary duck wanted to eat you.. How would you convince it not to?”

M: Well I guess the easiest out is to note the word ‘mercenary’ and to assume as a sentient box of cereal I would have made millions on chat shows. So I would just pay the mercenary not to eat me. Simples.

2) Once you’ve finished The Red Queen’s War, will you be writing more in that world, or go for something new? What are your plans for the future?

M: I tend not to have plans for the next page, so having plans for a future so distant is not something I do. It’s not a particularly distant future as it happens, since I’m 95,000 words into the third book of the trilogy, so I should be finished before the year’s out.

At the moment I feel like I’ve spent enough time in the Broken Empire. But who knows what will happen when I look at a blank page. I could return to my weird gunslinger fantasy, Gunlaw, and rework that. I could try some literary fiction. I could do some dystopian YA fiction and make billions… it’s always an exciting time when you put one project to bed.

3) For new readers, would you recommend they start with The Broken Empire? Or can they jump right into The Red Queen’s War?

M:If they think they’d enjoy The Broken Empire trilogy then new readers should pick up Prince of Thorns. If the book looks too dark and violent for their tastes then perhaps Prince of Fools would be the place to start. It certainly has more laughs in it! It’s been reviewed by plenty of people who haven’t read the first trilogy and they all really liked it.

4) Are you more of a discovery writer, or an out-liner? What’s your writing process like?

M: Generally I just start typing without a plan. And that’s the whole of my writing process. For my 6th book – the last book of The Red Queen’s War trilogy I had a go at planning, just writing a rough outline of events. I’ve stuck to it, mostly. The experience hasn’t seemed so different. Most of the excitement for me is on a page by page basis so whether I have a plan or not I’m still surprising and entertaining myself as I write.

5) You’re probably one of the most active authors on social media. You constantly run giveaways and contests, and take the time to respond and engage with your readers. How do you balance the time between that, your personal life, and writing? Is it difficult?

M: I don’t find it difficult. It’s probably because as the sole carer for a very disabled child (my youngest daughter, 10), and having a day-job when she’s at school, and having writing to do at night … I really don’t have the opportunity for much of a personal life!

6) What are your thoughts on The Broken Empire Trilogy hypothetically being adapted for the big (or small) screen?

I’m all for it. I would enjoy the $$$ and it would be interesting to see what they did with it. There have been several approaches from significant figures in Hollywood but I’m told the boot-to-film game involves a lot of dancing around, false starts, and in most cases leads nowhere. Studios like to have a lot of options and keep lots of irons in the fire.

7) Who’s your favourite author?

For fantasy it would be a toss up between JRR Tolkien and GRR Martin – sorry to anyone hoping to discover a new author!

8) What are you currently reading?

The Name of the Wind

Thanks a bunch, Mark! 


 

Mark Lawrence’s newest novel, Prince of Fools, was released June 3rd.

18191460 POF UK

Check it out on:
Amazon [US], [CA], [UK]
Goodreads

Liar’s Key (Book 2 of The Red Queen’s War) is set to be released June of next year.


My interview with Patricia Briggs

First off — I would like to apologize. I conducted this interview back in April, the same weekend as the Steven Erikson one. I’ve been out of the country, and haven’t really had the time to sit down and prepare this.

Back at Ad Astra in Toronto, I had the chance to chat with the lovely Patricia Briggs, where she spoke of convincing her husband that she was a serial killer, her future projects and imaginary friends, research, coyotes and a myriad of other topics.

I hope you enjoy the listen!

One thing that I’ve noticed from the stats of previous interviews I’ve posted, is that the audio gets listened to much more than the transcripts get read. That being said, unless it’s requested, I won’t be posting the transcripts.

[Note — I don’t mind making up the transcripts, but it does take a couple hours. If it’s something people want, I’m perfectly happy doing it. Just that if it’s not necessary.. I won’t.]


Interview with Steven Erikson

Last weekend at Ad Astra, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Steven Erikson, author of the Malazan series. We talked about his future publications, Malazan, art, his favourite novel and more. It’s fairly lengthy, but I suppose that’s rather appropriate!

As I did with the interview I did last year at Ad Astra, I’m also providing the audio recording to the interview I did with Mr. Erikson. If you can forgive both my awkwardness and the background noise, I encourage you to take a listen! There’s a bit more in there than there is in the transcript — just some of the small off-topic remarks and such like that.

 

 

[As per usual, R = Myself, and S = Steven Erikson]

R: Hello, I’m here with Steven Erikson, author of the Malazan series.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

S: I used to be an archaeologist, working for about 20 seasons in the field in central Canada, mostly, as well as Central America (and the States). I was in a Masters program for archaeology when I dropped out to take a writing program at the University of Victoria. From there, I went onto a writing program at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Curiously, I think I learned more in the undergraduate at University of Victoria than I did in Iowa. But Iowa gave me two more years in which to write, which was great.

I was not writing fantasy – the closest thing I came to writing in terms of fantasy would be what they call magic realism. Beyond that, I’ve been writing full time for about 15 years, and by last count, I had 22 books published.

R: Very nice.

So, has your experience as an archaeologist at all influenced your writing?

S: Massively, yes. The Malazan world is actually co-created between myself and Ian C. Esslemont, or Cam as I know him. We were both archaeologists, and we met on a project in north-west Ontario. We became close friends, and ended up sharing a flat in Victoria, and we gamed a lot. In the gaming, we started to build this secondary world, this Malazan world, and its history. We did that for years.

We played through a lot of characters, and it certainly gave some depth to the world we were creating. As archaeologists and anthropologists we were both interested in a kind of realistic portrayal of this other world, so the geography, geology, history, cultures, everything’s based on what we knew about the dynamics of social evolution.

R: Very interesting.

And you wrote your magic realism under your real name, so why ‘Erikson’?

S: My second book was published when I was in the UK, and it’s been re-released under Erikson, it’s This River Awakens. At the time though, it was published under Steve Lundin. And then I signed for publishing Gardens of the Moon with a different publisher, and the publishers of the original book, This River Awakens, contacted my agent and said “Well, we don’t want the same name for this genre versus contemporary fiction”, so I had to come up with a pseudonym.

R: Alright

S: Which I did, which was my mother’s maiden name.

R: That works.

So, it was Gollancz that approached you right?

S: You mean for the original book?

R: Yes.

S: No, I’d written Gardens of the Moon eight years previously, and I could not find a publisher. I’d tried, I sent it (without an agent) from Canada to New York to Del Rey, Tor, and a number of others. It would sit there for 12-18 months, and then it’d come back to me.

So I shelved it, and went back to contemporary fiction. But then, when I was living in the UK, I sort of polished it up, and got it to my agent. He started marketing it, and Bantam UK picked it up. It was after that, when I was finishing the second book, that I had one of my first conventions I ever went to, my Bantam editor could not come. So I was left on my own, basically, at the convention… So the people at Gollancz kind of took me up under their wing and took me out for Chinese, or whatever it was. In the course of that evening, I was asked when Bantam was publishing the second book. So I said “Well, I don’t know, they haven’t signed it yet.” That’s when the rival bid came in, pretty much the next day.

R: That’s sweet.

S: Yeah, but I stayed with Bantam… They matched the bid. That signed me up for nine years and nine books.

R: Alright.

You were part of a writing group, I believe…

S: Very early on, yeah.

R: Have any of them had any success? Who was in it?

S: Two have had fair success. Ian Ross, who is one of them, he’s known throughout Canada… and David Keck has published his first two books through Tor of his fantasy series, and I think he’s hoping to finish the third and final one this summer.

R: Ah, alright.

Now, I’ve mostly been trying to steer away from Malazan questions—but there are a couple—because I know you’re pretty much inundated by those questions all the time… but what are your thoughts on it ever being adapted to the small or big screen?

S: It’s a huge series, with a lot of characters… and I actually think it’s probably impossible. It’s unlike, for example, Game of Thrones which is kind of inwardly focused on a particular group of characters, which is a very manageable approach to a storyline… mine just sprawls. It sprawls across continents, multiple cities, it’s absolutely massive.

The only time I thought it could actually make it, would be to turn every novel into a trilogy of films, and then film like crazy and produce (and release) ten films a year, for three years. That would do it… In terms of television, it would be a challenge.

R: Alright, I was just wondering, because a couple of your works were optioned, weren’t they, at one point?

S: No not really, I’ve had screenplays optioned, and rights sold… Not really any of the Malazan stuff.

R: Ahh, okay.

What are you planning on writing in the future? I know you’ve got your Kharkanas trilogy, what else is there for you?

S: I’m presently writing the second book of the Kharkanas trilogy, and it is just taking longer than any of the other books I’ve ever written. Stephen Donaldson talks of not ‘writer’s block’, but of ‘life block’. It’s basically other things in your life getting in the way of the actual writing process. When I sit down and write, it comes out just fine, but I’ve had so many other unexpected barriers to actually sitting down to write. I’m hoping to get it done by the end of this summer though.

If my agent or my editor hears this, he’s going to be screaming and tearing his hair out. It is running late, but it’s just what it does. And, I did take a break from it because I felt I needed it. So, I wrote a 75,000 word science fiction spoof called Willful Child, which is coming out in November. [Read the first chapter here] I had so much fun with that, I’m certainly planning on more volumes in that.

R: So that’s more humour based?

S: Oh yeah. I’m paying homage to Star Trek specifically. Especially The Original Series. I had a lot of fun with it.

R: Does sound like it could be a fun one.

Do you think the second Kharkanas book will end up being postponed? Or do you still think it’ll be on target for the 2015 release date?

S: I hope we can get it out for the 2015 release date.

R: Alright.

Also, would you suggest that readers, who haven’t read any of your Malazan, start with that?

S: It’s hard to say, I mean, I was hoping that with the first one, Forge of Darkness, that somebody new to my writing would be able to step in. I don’t know how many people have done that. Most of my readers, from what I can understand, are coming from the Malazan series. So, it’s hard to say. I mean, it’s written so that you could just step in, if you wanted to.

R: Ah, cause yeah, your writing is known for being intimidating, and for being hard to get into. So, I’m guessing it could also just be people who haven’t started reading your writing yet, may be a bit wary..

S: Maybe. It might be… But my sense is that a lot of people waited for me to finish the series, and they’re buying the Malazan series now, because it is done.

I don’t blame them. I mean, there are a lot of writers out there who have begun series but for whatever reason have not, or could not finish… and that’s hard for a reader, because you invest so much into it. So, I’m relieved that I could finish the series more or less on time. Now it’s there for anyone to pick up and read.

R: Yeah, and with the trilogy it’s also easier to just wait for it to be done and pick it up then.

S: I think that’s what’s going to happen. Have you read Forge of Darkness?

R: Yep.

S: It’s a very different style, wasn’t it?

R: Quite.

S: And I am signed for three more after that, which will return us to the Malazan world, and the story of Karsa Orlong.

R: Well, that answers my two next questions.

S: Yep. Three books, picking up where we left off with Karsa, more or less. And of course, Cam has signed for (I think) three books to do the early empire stuff.

R: Alright, so you’re not at all finished with that universe or anything.

S: No, I don’t think so. Though, I could never do another ten book series. Even three books may end up proving more of a challenge than I expect. It’s a world that still has room for exploration.

R: Definitely. When you create a vast world like that, I think there’s always going to be more room for exploration.

Do you have any new publications coming out under Steve Lundin?

S: No, I’ve pretty much stopped that. Most of the stuff I’d written under that name has now been reissued under Steven Erikson.

R: Alright… and your Warren’s magic system, what was the process of creating that? Or the inspiration for that? It’s very different.

S: It was a very organic creation between Cam and myself through the gaming systems. We started out very early on doing D&D, and we abandoned it and picked it up on GURPS (the Generic Universal RolePlaying System), Steve Jackson’s system, which we found much more flexible. Using their magic system as it stood, worked fine in the games, but we actually wanted to create more options. So we thought of the notions of rather than having four elements, have multiple elements. Some of those elements would be light, shadow, darkness, life and death… So all of these became the aspect of Warren’s that the characters could draw from, in terms of building up a list of spells.

It was generated out of the need of gaming, more than anything else. It also suited very well in what we were doing when we finally sat down to write in that world. It seemed to be a very good system. And the other thing was to just use it, and don’t explain it. That keeps the mystery.

R: Yeah, and I feel like that does make it a bit more real. Like, you don’t explain why light’s work, when you turn on a light switch… It’s just there, it’s part of the culture, and everything.

Alright.. and the ‘evil’ question. What is your favourite book?

S: Probably Grendel which is written by John Gardner, primarily for what it did for me when I first read it. Because I was in the University of Victoria. I was struggling with all the demands it placed on writing and how you actually find your voice, and how you find your way through it, and how you manage language. I was having a hard time with that.

Well, my instructor, Jack Hodgins, directed me towards John Gardner’s writing, and his non-fiction, what he called “moral fiction”, which moved in opposition to William Gass’s position. Where Gass would say that you have no responsibility towards your characters, and that they can do whatever they want; there’s no moral or ethical framework with which to create a story.

It was John Gardner who said it was actually the other way around, and that you have an immense responsibility toward your characters, and towards your story, and by extension to that, the audience. I really took to that.

One of his books deconstructed the opening of Grendel, in terms of use of language, and sentence patterns, sentence rhythms, cadence, and reading that was an utter revelation to me. Because, it showed me what was possible with the language. That you could actually frame a sentence… if you have a sentence describing an awkward thought, you can frame it awkwardly, which I really like. Once I realized that you’re free to do these things and that you can mess with language to that extent, it just set me on my way basically.

The novel then just holds that place for me in my heart. This is where my eyes opened, it’s my book of revelations.

R: Definitely sounds good. It’s a good reason.

S: Have you read it?

R: Nope, I’ll look it up later though.

S: It’s a short book that’s utterly brilliant.

R: Alright, I’m always looking for more book recommendations. Especially since I’ve got a long flight coming up in a few days.

S: Oh, right! Well, it’s basically Beowulf from the point of view of the monster. It’s the monster’s voice. It’s Grendel’s voice.

R: Fantastic.

You know, I’m used to a more “How could you ask that question?” response to that question, ‘what’s your favourite book’. Most don’t like it at all.

S: Really? Interesting.

I mean, we grow up with certain books that for whatever reason, they reach us at the right time. For a lot of fantasy fans, that would have been Tolkien in their teens, or Jordan, or anything along those lines. Those become our gateway drugs. And it’s funny because if you go back, when I first started reading, really. It was Burroughs’ Tarzan, and John Carter of Mars, and mostly I actually bought books originally because of the covers which were painted by Frank Frazetta. Phenomenal art. I started as an illustrator, so I was interested in the art rather than the content.

I was of that age though, 12 or 13, that I got caught up in the romantic adventures that Burroughs was writing really took me. But you go back to it, it’s very difficult to read now. And I was talking with a podcast for Gary Wolfe and Ian MacDonald, and we were talking just about this… about going back to the early works that inspired us. It occurred to me, that when we go back and read these things, we’re actually (and we’re often disappointed by what we’re reading) because what inspired us when we were 13 or 14, now we get to see the bones of the construction of the story or whatever. But what I think what we strive to go back towards, and the reason for rereading all of it, involves a nostalgia for a sense for wonder and discovery. So that’s what we keep trying to find again, and when new books arrive and we go into the bookstore, you’re hoping to capture that sense of discovery all over again in a new book.

Because going back, as much as you’ve read something that’s familiar from when you were 13 or 14, you can capture it, but it’s a very nostalgic sense. But I think that’s what drives us to buy new books again and again. It’s that sense of discovery.

R: Yeah, because even if it’s the same basic plot line, and everything it’s still.. a new book, a new world, and anything can happen.

Do you have any favourite authors? Other than Gardner?

S: Well, Glen Cook definitely… He was a huge inspiration for me. Stephen Donaldson was probably the biggest because I came to it in my late teens, early twenties… the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and suddenly it was as if, with that series, fantasy had grown up. It was no longer straddling YA sort of approach to the genre. With Donaldson, it really grew up. So those two definitely were huge inspirations for me.

R: And did you attend any conventions before you became an author?

S: One, David Keck, myself and Ian Ross – that little writing group, we did the World Fantasy Awards Con when it was in Winnipeg. We published a little chapbook, in that, there’s actually a scene from Gardens of the Moon. It’s a very early scene, on the rooftops.

R: Cool. Have you noticed your experience at conventions changing as you’ve become more well known, or just gotten more experience going to them?

S: I suppose. Once you start arriving as a guest of honour, everything changes. But I’ve been going to the WFC for many years, just as a writer. I don’t think that’s changed in a huge respect. It’s just you now meet writers and you can sit and chat with them. It’s great fun.

R: Authors do tend to be good people, from what I’ve noticed.

S: We certainly try. It’s important to pay attention – and it goes back to what Gardner said about respecting your audiences… You do have to respect your audience. If you don’t, it shows. It shows in the stories you write, and that can burn you in the long run.

R: You’ve been inundated by questions for years now, but are there any questions you’ve been wanting to have been asked, or topics you’ve been wanting to explore in interviews, but haven’t been asked about?

S: I don’t think so. I mean, I do like Q&A’s and stuff after I’ve done a reading, and when people want to talk about the process of writing. I’ve written on that on a site called lifeasahuman.com. All about the process and mechanics of writing.

Workshops and programs for writing, they’re not to create talent, it’s what you bring to it. Your proclivities. It’s all about craft. Once you sort of understand the terminology for narrative structure, then that’s when you can come to realize the potential of what you can do with your story. So, I like those kind of questions, deconstructive questions, on the language that you can use.

R: Alright. I figured those would be among the main questions that you’d always be asked.. The process of writing, outlining and everything.

S: Outlining, yes. But I’ve never really had in a Q&A someone reading back a line I’d written, and have them say “How did you put that together?”

R: Well then! Let’s see….

S: Obviously find an evocative line..

R: Not just “Quick Ben entered the room beyond.”?

S: No.

R: You’ve got great imagery, so it’s like, how to choose one?

S: Well, I’m very cinematic because I started as an illustrator. But I found that most of my artwork had an inherent narrative of some form. So I had a thought, well, maybe I’ll go into comic books. Back then though, comic books and comic book art was hard. You needed the equipment. There was stuff out there that I just couldn’t get a hold of, and couldn’t afford even if I wanted to. So that sort of got me into just writing it instead of illustrating it.

The creative process though is exactly the same, it’s very visual. I become a camera, and I’ll sit on someone’s shoulder or whatever and enter into any scene. It’s not a question of relaying every detail we see in a room. Those details you choose have to serve the story. Not only the details you choose, but the details you choose not to mention serve the story. Because by choosing certain details in a room, you’re actually putting a lot of emphasis on them, so they need to serve more than one function generally.

R: Are comic books something you’ve considered going back to, or ever thought of, now that it’s a bit more accessible and there’s more ways to do it?

S: No. Illustrating, drawing, painting… I think it’s similar to writing in the sense that if you get out of practise, you get out of practise. I’d basically have to stop writing. They come out of the same creative well. If I’m painting, for example, I’m not writing. And when I’m writing, I’m certainly not painting.

So, I’d have to go back and spend 2-3 years becoming familiar with drawing and illustrating in and of it self. Again, it’s not something I’ve really thought of doing, I’m having too much fun with writing.

R: Going back to your imagery, I do like this sentence… “Her laughter had been the final punctuation to all his dreams.” It’s a beautiful sentence.

S: Hm.. What can I say to that one? Well, so much of what I’m sort of obsessed with in a sense is point of view. By anchoring the point of view to a specific character, you’re closing a lot of doors, but you’re also creating a situation whereby you can actually tell and show far less than you would have to if your point of view was an omniscient one. Then you start playing games like “What does this character know?” and “What does the character believe?” And if you stay close to it, you realize that every point of view is an unreliable source of narration.

Once you’ve created all these characters with their own points of view, that’s how you build your world. With each character though, it’s a limited and sometimes erroneous view of the world. I mentioned last night in a panel that it’s as if you’ve got this invisible rock, and in order to give it shape, you slap clay on it. And that’s what all these points of view are. Underneath all that, your rock remains invisible. That’s the world itself. All I’m doing is slapping clay on it from various angles, points of views, and thickness. In terms of sensibility and sensitivity of the characters, and that’s what creates that world. I think the effect it has is to actually make the world seem bigger and much more filled with detail. Even though you don’t have to provide all that detail. You echo it, you create connotation rather than the denotation.

R: Yeah, because everyone has a different perspective on the world, different view points…

S: Of course, with that close point of view, you sit on their shoulder, you can dip into their heads and then slip back out. So long as you’re consistent, and you do a one point of view per character kind of thing.

R: You close doors, but open windows, kinda thing.

S: In a way, yeah.

R: So, are your next three, that are going to be set in this universe… are they going to be much the same style, where you either love it, or can’t get through it?

S: I think they will fall back to the 10 book style. Because what I’m doing with the Kharkanas trilogy is quite self-contained. It’s a bit more Shakespearean. There’s an intensity to the language, a poetic bias to it. Which is well suited to what I’m doing right now, but would not be suited to Karsa Orlong. It’s a bit more headlong.

R: Ah, yeah, there’s a bit of a steep learning curve for when you’re getting into the series. I remember when I first picked Gardens of the Moon up, and I read the introduction.

S: It’s a perennial question. In a sense, Gardens of the Moon is a kind of instruction manual as well on how to read me, and how to immerse yourself in the world. I guess in that respect, it’s the litmus test for the reader. You either stay with it, or you don’t. Might as well find out in the first book, rather than five books later.

R: Yeah… That would be a bit tough, getting five books then…

S: It’s important for me that people are prepared… you know, if I’m going to reach out, I want to take their hand and guide them through this. We’ll come out the other side, and that’s a promise because I finished the series. I expected there would be people stopping half way, or part way through or whatever… but it’s a loss for me, in the sense that I could not keep hold of that reader.

R: It’s inevitable to happen though, with any series… But you know, if people do stick through it to the end, it is worth it.

S: I hope so!

R: Well, as a reader and reviewer, I do say it’s worth it.

And… Veering way off topic from what we’ve been talking about for the past 10 minutes or so.. What are your thoughts on the digital revolution, ebooks, and e-piracy and all that?

S: The e-piracy is always going to be frustrating for an author, because, from what I understand… writers these days, who can make a living at writing is down to about 1-2%. And yet, the desire for original material is bigger than ever. So, those who feel entitled to just pick up whatever they want and pay nothing for it are shooting themselves in the foot, because they’re going to run out of their writers.

It’s a tough one. It’s one area that we really need to… I don’t know how you’d fix it, to be perfectly honest. Because the notion of the value you place on things in our society, our civilization, is a bit skewed to begin with. The fact that we pay bankers enormous amounts of money, but not child care workers, just tells you how skewed the whole thing is. So how do you fight that sense of entitlement? I don’t know.

As for ebooks in general, I have a Kindle, but I’ve never actually used it. I think I have some books on there, but the hardcovers, or actual physical books to hold in my hand is wonderful.

R: Alright, and one last question… The audiobooks, what did you think of the pronunciations and such?

S: Well, it was a bit strange because they switched readers I think at House of Chains, and the original reader never contacted me regarding pronunciation. So he set up his standard. The new reader, they got in touch with me very early on, so we’ve had to decide whether we’re going to hold on to some of convention set up by the first reader, and we’ve had to do that in some areas..

But all new characters, and new terminology now is now properly pronounced from my position. The irony is of course, is that some of Cam’s pronunciations are different from mine. He’s left-handed though, that’s my excuse. I’ve had fans tell me that I’m pronouncing things wrong. So, it just is how it is.

R: Yeah, that’s one thing I’ve noticed in general in fantasy. Names in general tend to be a point of contention for pronunciation.

Anyways, I think that’s it. So, thank you very much! It was a pleasure and I hope you enjoyed yourself.

S: Yep, I was losing my voice but I knew that was coming.

I hope you guys enjoyed reading! Thank you again to Mr. Erikson for taking the time to answer these questions.

 


Interview with Ian Irvine

A few weeks back I had the pleasure of interviewing Ian Irvine; author of the Three Worlds Cycle and The Tainted Realm series among others. He was very interesting to talk with,  and I hope that you guys enjoy as much as I did!

For convenience,  I = Ian Irvine, and R = Rebecca, (me).

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R: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I: Sure. I never had any intention of being an author, though I always loved books. I wanted to be a scientist, and I studied the sciences in university – mainly geology and chemistry. It was only in my early 20s that I started to really read fantasy, and it wasn’t for another 15 years, when I was in my mid-30s, that I seriously started writing. That was a long time ago – 1987, to be precise.

Other than that, I’ve been married for 37 years, I have four grown-up children and I live in the country a few hundred km north of Sydney. I’ve been working for 30 years as an environmental scientist specialising in marine pollution issues, and I have a little consulting company set up for that. I write pretty much full-time, but I still do a few months of consulting every year.

R: That leads nicely into my next question; how has being a scientist influenced your writing?

I: That’s a good question. Well, writers write out of their background, whether it’s from their family life, their work, life experiences, interests, passions or beliefs – or all of them. As a scientist, I’ve had different work experiences to draw from compared to a lot of other writers. Tolkien, for example, was primarily interested in the languages, and many fantasy writers have a passion for ancient or medieval history.

It’s these experiences, and a writer’s background, which colour how and what they write. In my writing, I often use scientific ideas and images, though I would point out that I do so within a fantasy framework – I’m not writing science fiction disguised as fantasy.

It also relates to world-building. Many writers are not trying to create genuinely original worlds, but prefer to draw heavily on ancient or medieval history of some particular nation or area, or on mythology or fairy tales, as a basis for their fantasy worlds.. With my background in the sciences, particularly geology and biology, I felt that I had the necessary background to create different and plausible new worlds, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing so. Though it has to be said, these days I do less world-building than I used to.

Personally I never wanted to create fantasy that was strongly based on our own world – I didn’t want my stories to be based on or inspired by Celtic history or myth or any other known source.

I wanted to take readers to places they wouldn’t go, or see, or read about, anywhere else. Now, they’re not all necessarily created from my imagination, but it’s more that those places just don’t exist in our world. It’d difficult, and certainly presents a lot of challenges, but I think that that’s something that’s important to do – to challenge yourself as a writer.

A lot of writers just write what they’re comfortable with, and there’s nothing wrong with that – a lot of them are more successful than I am. However I don’t want to let my fans down. I don’t want them to pick up one of my books and be bitterly disappointed by it – or feel that I’m writing the same story over and over – I want my latest stories to be just as fresh and creative as the early ones were.

It’s a lot of work, that.
R: Well, you know I’m going to have to ask about the next series you’ll be working on…

I: I finished The View From the Mirror series back in early 1999 and the third and fourth books of the quartet were published that year. And a year later, I promised fans that I would one day write a sequel series to it, possibly called The Fate of the Children, because the ending of the series, though complete in every way, also raises a teasing question as to what will happen next –

The Well of Echoes trilogy. At the end of The Way Between the Worlds, Karan’s friend Maigraith wanted to mate one of her children with one of Karan’s, so as to form a new and better human species… and this was utterly abhorrent to Karan. She would never agree to it.

Subsequently, in The Well of Echoes quartet, which is set 205 years later, we discover that both Karan’s and Llian’s reputations have been destroyed and that (spoiler alert!) they were pursued relentlessly by the Numinator, who turns out to be Maigraith. We also come to realise that not all of the terrible things that have been said about Karan and Llian are true, but we don’t find out what happened to her, Llian, or their the children. What happened behind all of that? How much of it is true? What happened? Over the past 13 years, the most frequently asked question I’ve received is, “When are you going to write the sequel”.

The answer, is: “I’m writing it now.” I finished the final edits for Justice three weeks ago, 1st week of July, and I’ve also checked the proofs, revised the maps and glossary and all the other bits and bobs that make up the final book. So now I’m free – all my writing commitments are complete, and I plan to devote myself to the sequel pretty much full time for the next three years. But the first book won’t appear for some time, so I’ve promised fans that I’ll make some short stories, and perhaps a novella or two, available in the meantime, just to give people the feel of the world.

The series will be a trilogy, I reckon, and first book will begin about seven years after the end of The View from the Mirror. At this stage I’m not sure how many years the trilogy will cover. People who have read my later Three Worlds books know that they span a considerable time, and I haven’t worked out the details yet.

However, returning to that story is a formidable challenge. It’s rare for a sequel series to be as good as the original. So, it’s daunting to try and make it as good as it the original quartet was, and yet, totally different. Daunting, but exciting, too.

R: Great! I look forward to it.

I: I’m very excited about it – and about working with some favourite old characters again.

R: Do you think you’ll have any difficulty switching back to that style?

I: Yes, definitely. I started A Shadow on the Glass back in 1987, which was quite a long time ago, and that was 11 years before it got published. I’m not the same person I was back then. I’m a more accomplished writer – though I don’t know if I’m a much better storyteller. We’ll see. The View From The Mirror was also written in a more elevated, High Fantasy style, and I don’t write that way anymore.

Why not, you may ask? After each fantasy series, I always write something completely different to recharge my creative batteries, and every new series I write requires a different style. For instance my Eco-Thriller trilogy, Human Rites, which begins with The Last Albatross, was set in our own world in the near future, and the first book had a first-person narrator; it required a very different style. After that, I wrote a dozen children’s books in three series, and with every series, my writing changed to suit the needs of the story and the audience. For instance, my series of 4 chapter books, The Sorcerer’s Tower, could only be 10,000 words each (one of my big fantasy novels is 200,000 words) and the audience was 7-10 year olds.

R: Yeah, you’ve written 28 novels since A Shadow on the Glass.

I: That’s right – Justice, which is published in October 2013 in Australia, and June 2014 in the US and UK, will be the 29th. They add up to 4.1 million words, which is a lot because I’m not a fast typist, and I go through many drafts in writing. Still, I love being a writer; I never have any trouble going to the office to work, and I’m always looking for new things to write about.

The 1st book in my new Three Worlds series, which doesn’t have a title yet, will be my 30th novel. As I mentioned, I was going to call it “The Fate of the Children”, but unfortunately one of the books in The Song of the Tears trilogy was called “The Fate of the Fallen” in the UK so I have to think of a new title.

R: Could you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you outline, or are you a discovery writer?

I: I used to be a discovery writer; I was very much so for A Shadow on the Glass and the four or five books after that. There was very little planning involved. I had created the worlds long before, and done a lot of world-building and development of thousands of years of history and already drawn most of the maps that you can see in the books, but very little plotting. I found it very difficult to plot, never having written a book before. So I made the stories up as they went along. I started off with the main characters (Karan and Llian) being in a heap of trouble, and only got them out of one difficulty to land them in a bigger one, and I kept doing that to the end of the book.

With those early books, I didn’t find outlines to be helpful, but as I’ve written more and more, I’ve begun to do more planning really. And there’s a good reason for this: because I’ve written so many big books,, I’ve used up an awful lot of story ideas, characters, settings, and plots and, like all other writers, the more one writes, the more one tends to repeat oneself. By doing a very detailed story outline I can analyse the plot and the characters and change or twist things to avoid repetition.

For instance with my latest book, Justice, the final book of the Tainted Realm trilogy, I did a scene-by-scene breakdown, which ended up being 60 pages long. And it was fantastically useful! It had a solid structure, and I didn’t end up going down any blind alleys that I wasn’t supposed to.

R: That certainly sounds handy, and like a lot of work. I wanted to ask you a question about your writing; in your novels, there’s distinctly a lack of “Good vs. Evil”. I know you’ve talked about this before, but would you mind going over it again?

I: Certainly. When I started out 20+ years ago, mostly in the 70s and 80s, the struggle of good vs evil predominated in fantasy, for instance in the stories by Terry Brooks, Raymond E. Feist, Tad Williams, Stephen Donaldson and others. As it did in The Lord of the Rings which had influenced so may fantasy writers. While I enjoyed these writers’ work, I also felt that focusing most of fantasy on one theme was stereotyping the genre, which was a shame. Fantasy is the broadest of all genres and there are hundreds of themes that could be used other than good vs evil.

When I thought about it, I regarded The View From the Mirror as a Darwinian fantasy, because it’s not about good or evil or right or wrong, but rather about the struggle for existence between four different human species, each of which has as much right to live as the others.

Tali, the female hero from The Tainted Realm, is a basically good person who often does bad things in her quest for justice. As an 8-year-old girl she saw her mother murdered, and she swore on her mother’s body to gain justice for her, and . Now, at the age of 18, that oath is the most powerful force in her life. But in order to gain justice, she has used many people, including her friends, and it has lead to some terrible consequences. Her moral dilemma becomes more acute as the story progresses. Can she overcome her desperate urge for justice, or will it turn into a lust for vengeance that will destroy her?

There’s nothing wrong with tales about good vs evil, of course. People read fantasy to have their moral values reaffirmed, or as an escape when their lives feel out of control. In fantasy, sometimes the complexities of life are simplified, and it helps people to feel good after the hero triumphs. They wouldn’t get that release if the bad people win, and you would lose readers if they did. So, I won’t deny that those stories do have a purpose.

R: Alright, thank you… And what was your inspiration to write fantasy?

I: I discovered fantasy in my 20’s while I was at university, and over the next few years I read almost all there was. This was back in the early 70’s when there wasn’t a huge amount of fantasy available, and it was possible to could read almost everything that had been written in the genre – unlike today, when there are many hundreds of fantasy novels published every year. I read everything that was to my taste fairly quickly, and soon discovered that there wasn’t much vast and truly epic fantasy around, and it was around that time I decided to have a go at writing it myself, one day when I had the time.

Though, it wasn’t until the mid-80s, after a long gestation period, that I actually sat down to seriously write.

R: And if you could meet any of those characters in person, which one would it be?

I: Xervish Flydd, the scrutator who first appears in Geomancer, and is present through the next six books of the Three Worlds saga.. He’s a fascinating character: brilliant, dominating, sometimes cruel, sometimes kind, and always interesting. I never designed or planned him. He simply appeared on the page, fully formed, and I never had to ask myself what he was going to say.

Karen would also be nice to meet in person, she’s one of my favourites, and the first character I created in detail. She was influential on my life, too, given that I spent 12 years with her, writing and revising, over and over. Actually, I think I’d like to meet most of my characters.

R: Yeah, I imagine Karen and Llian would be fun to meet.. Also, what are your thoughts on the digitalization of the publishing industry?

I: It’s exciting, challenging and threatening at the same time. It’s a rapidly changing world and I don’t think anyone can predict what the world of publishing will look like in ten or fifteen years time. Until recently, the big multinational book publishers controlled the industry, yet in a few years control has steadily ebbed towards the big online resellers like Amazon and Apple which now control 70% of the ebook market. Mass market paperbacks are dying, and bookshops are rapidly disappearing. In a few years time, I reckon that most books will only be published as ebooks and only big name authors will be published in print – the economics simply won’t be there. Which is sad.

The other confounding factor is the staggering rise in self-publishing. 10 years ago there were about a quarter of a million book titles published a year in printed form, in English, and there still are. But now we have to add to that more than 2 million ebook titles, most of them self published. And because ebooks never go out of print, the number is going to grow massively every year, which means that every year the average sales per book has to get smaller – ie, it will become ever harder for authors to make a living.

It also means that every year there’s more competition for an author to be recognized, and it may be that in the future the people who sell the most books not the great storytellers, but those who are the best at marketing themselves.

The digital future is exciting, challenging, threatening, worrying, though there’s also more opportunities to get books out. A lot of authors are starting to think about if they’re best served by publishers, or should they go the route of self-published, and just spend more money on an editor? They’d be able to sell at a lower price, but also get a bigger cut from the royalties. Interesting times.

R: Definitely, we’ll just have to see how it’s going to play out over the next pile of years.

I: It’s going to be an interesting ride.

R: Yup, and I only have a couple more questions yet. These ones are fun ones though… What is your favourite book, or author?

I: I don’t have a favourite one. If you had asked me two decades ago, I would have said the Lord of the Rings. And Jack Vance’s books. I also quite like Tad Williams and Lois McMaster Bujold – her fantasy works more than her SF.

I don’t read a huge amount of fantasy anymore, I’ve read so much that a lot of it is just really familiar. As well, I think a lot of authors, myself included, find it harder to read in the genre they write in as time goes on. I find I’m reading more thrillers, and crime fiction than I do fantasy.

My favourite crime author at the moment is C.J. Sansom, whose protagonist is a hunchbacked lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, during Henry VIII’s reign. The first novel in that series is called Dissolution

My favourites will undoubtedly be different in a year or two, depending all on what I’m reading at the time.

R: Great, I’ll have to take a look into their writings, I’ve never read anything by either of them.

And, my last question: If you could be any flavour of ice cream, what flavour would you be?

I: I would be chocolate ice cream with Grand Marnier liqueur topping.

R: Awesome! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, I appreciate it!

I: You’re welcome, thank you too.

 


Guest Post and Author Interview: Tracy Smith, author of Cedar Hollow

author photo

Author bio:
I grew up in Southern California, but as a teenager moved with my family to a small town in Arkansas. It was there that I met my husband, who had also recently moved to the state. Fate brought us both to that same small town and into each other’s lives and it is where we remain today raising our two children and living out our happily ever after. As you can probably tell I’m a hopeless romantic.
I began my writing career in 2009 with the publication of my first novel Love’s Fate, which quickly grew into a romantic series. Since that first day that I sat down to write I haven’t been able to stop. Writing is my passion and has become a necessary part of my life. My new release, Cedar Hollow, is a romantic suspense novel.
Cedar Hollow blurb:
Cassidy St. Claire still wasn’t sure what she’d been hoping to find when she began the search for her birth parents, but all she’d uncovered was a bunch of death certificates and one ailing great-uncle who’d finally kicked the bucket last week. Since Cassidy is the last surviving member of the family that means his estate, a small seaside bed and breakfast in New Hampshire, has been left to her. An odd stipulation in his Will requires that she appear in person to inherit the property. Cassidy isn’t very hopeful that this weekend trip will lead to anything more than a momentary distraction from her busy life, and an excuse to take her convertible for a long drive up the coast.
She certainly isn’t prepared for Mr. Tall Handsome and Brooding; Ben Riley has been running the bed and breakfast for the last several years, and he is definitely less than welcoming. His instant dislike for her is staggering, but his penetrating green eyes burn with a dangerous mixture of hostility and attraction.
Within days of her arrival an attempt is made on her life and then another. Suddenly Cassidy finds herself trying to unravel the mysteries of the past, while outrunning the dangers of the present and finally turning to the strong, protective arms of Ben Riley and a future she’d never imagined.
Interview 

ARamone: Do you have any projects you’re working on right now?

Tracy Smith: I’ve actually just started working on a new manuscript. It’s still in the very early stages.

A: (If yes) Can you tell us a bit about it?

T: I don’t usually sit down to write with a full outline in mind, instead I might have a character profile, a setting, possibly a “meet cute” and I just start writing allowing the story to reveal itself to me as I go. It may not be traditional, but that’s my style. So far my lead character has left behind a shattered life to take refuge at a southern plantation home where she will be staying as a summer caretaker. Enter sexy gardener ;).

A: What was your favourite part to write? Why?

T: The early stages of writing a story are the most exhilarating for me, as I get to know my characters and watch the story unfold. For me writing is a lot like reading, I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next. It’s a very creative and exciting process.

A: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What’s been the best compliment?

T: The hardest part for me has been the process of trying to get picked up by a traditional publishing house. It’s a very daunting and sometimes discouraging task. I’ve yet to have a really awful review, the biggest criticism I think I’ve received is the suggestion that I use an editor. I took that suggestion to heart and stopped trying to edit my own work :). The best compliment that I’ve received in reviews is when a reader comments that they couldn’t put the book down. For me that’s the highest compliment.

A: What would you like your readers to know about Cedar Hollow or you in general?

T: One of my favorite parts of writing Cedar Hollow was creating the backstory. I had to sketch out a history for this family and give depth to characters who are no longer alive in this particular chapter. So much of that family history did not make it into the final book, it’s only referenced or mentioned when it directly relates to the current plot. But developing those characters was integral to my overall understanding of the family dynamic and helped in creating the mystery that haunts the main characters of Cedar Hollow. I’ve considered actually publishing a prequel to the story, so much of it is already written.

A: Which of your characters would you like to meet in person? Or, are there any that you’d never want to meet?

T: All of them! I love each and every one of my characters. I’ve spent so much time with them, learning who they are. They each hold a place in my heart.

A: E-reader or print book?

T: I finally bought a Kindle last year. Before that I was a regular at the local buy/sell/trade used book store. At first I didn’t think I would like an e-reader, but the convenience of being able to shop and purchase a book and start reading it instantly has hooked me.

A: Ever killed off a character and then later regreted it?

T: As I mentioned before I began Cedar Hollow with the premise that all of Cassidy’s family was deceased. But then as I wrote the story and crafted the mystery that haunts her I had to develop those other characters outside the pages of the novel, and began to feel sad that they had met such tragic ends. With the idea of publishing a prequel my only hesitation is that I know it can’t really have a happy ending.

A: What inspired you to start writing? Are there any authors that you get inspiration from?

T: It all started with an idea about formatting. I thought that it would be interesting to read a book written from two different perspectives telling the same story. This idea slowly grew over the course of several weeks as I imagined what the story would be about if I were to write it. Of course it would be a love story, perhaps the story of how two people met. The story began to develop as I went about my daily life; work, kids, etc. It began to consume my thoughts, to the point that whole chapters were written in my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Finally one Saturday while the kids played I decided to sit down at my computer and just put my thoughts into words. I wasn’t honestly sure how far I would get, but thought at least I could stop obsessing about it. Once I started I couldn’t stop. The story flowed from me, my fingers could barely type fast enough. Three months later I had written a full book. I was just as surprised as anyone else.

This is how Love’s Fate was born. It is the story of how fate drew two people together time and again because they were destined to meet. It is written in alternating first person perspectives, allowing you to experience each encounter from both characters POV.

Through this process I not only fell in love with writing, but also with the characters I’d created. I couldn’t let them go, and Love’s Fate became the first in a romantic series with two follow up titles Love’s Destiny and Love’s Chance. All three books in the Love Trilogy hold to the same alternating perspective format.

Cedar Hollow has been my first new project as a writer. New characters, new format. I went with the traditional third person narrative for this new book, and I’m very happy with it. My Love Trilogy needed to be written that way, but with Cedar Hollow I enjoyed the freedom of being able to break out of that mold.

With each book I feel I’ve learned and grown as an author, and I’ve definitely found my true passion. I love to write.

A: Finally, if you could be any flavour of ice cream, what would you be?

T: Pralines and Cream. It’s rich, sweet and a little bit nutty :)


Interview with Zachary Jernigan

Me

A few days back I had the opportunity to interview the author of No Return, Zachary Jernigan. We discussed all manner of things from writing and inspiration, to criticism, zombies and ice cream! Enjoy, and do be prepared — general silliness ensued.

For convenience, Z = Zachary Jernigan, and R = Rebecca (me).

R: Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know? 

Z: I have an eating addiction. BOOM — way to start this interview off on a rollicking note.

No, but in all seriousness, I’ve dealt with it for years. I fixate on food in a very Obsessive-Compulsive way (though I suppose that isn’t unusual for a person who’s been dealing with OCD since he was eleven). My day doesn’t feel full unless I’ve eaten a huge evening meal. It’s very likely a genetic trait, as my mother worried over food as a child just as I did, and also deals with similar issues.

I do laugh about it when I can, because it has produced some unusual events. For instance, in my early twenties — and I say this with more shame than pride, but still smiling at the memory — I once ate over 80 chicken wings at an informal eating contest. And that was nowhere near enough to make me full, but then again I was in my prime. Now 80 chicken wings would kill me.

R: Chicken wing awesomeness. I think I’d love to be able to eat that much, simply because of how delicious they are. I can eat like… 15-20 at most.

I believe I’ve seen you post about this a few times over on Facebook,.. But what are your plans regarding writing a sequel to No Return?

Z: Well, it’s a bit of a complex answer that will hopefully come clear in the end.

In my contract for NO RETURN, Night Shade Books has an option on the second book in the “series.” (NO RETURN was originally envisioned as a standalone that would nonetheless be continued and “completed” in a second book.) What this means is that NSB has the right of first refusal on the sequel. In general, this is both a good and a bad thing, though mostly good from my standpoint. Unfortunately, what soon became clear is that Night Shade was closer to insolvency than I thought, so the issue of my sequel became more complex.

I had no idea if they would be around to buy my second book even if they were interested. Potentially — if NSB went into bankruptcy — I might not even be able to write and sell a sequel on my own. I sort of let my worry over these issues cripple me for a while. I was very unproductive, and that’s saying something for a guy who refuses to tie his shoes because it’s too much work.

When Skyhorse/Start decided to try and buy NSB’s assets, I began to feel a little bit of hope. Now that the deal has actually closed, I have a great deal to be excited about. Sure, it could still not work out in my — or my fellow authors’ — favor, but it’s potentially a huge step in the right direction. Skyhorse/Start seem very intent on becoming a genre publisher of stature, and I think they’d be wise to invest on projects that have already begun. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’d be a good investment. My reviews have been incisive and detailed, but overall pretty favorable (for which I’m immensely grateful), and I think a sequel can build on that headway.

So… We’ll see if a contract is forthcoming. I hope so, as I’m ready to begin writing the sequel.

R: That makes sense; I can see why you didn’t want to jump into the second when it was still a mess with NSB. I do hope you’re able to, and that you do write a sequel. Or at the very least, that we can look forward to reading more novels from you in the future.

Which leads quite nicely into my next question…Do you have any other projects that you’re currently working on? (And will Space Unicorns be involved?)

Z: At the moment, I’ve got two short stories I’m working on for anthologies I’ve agreed to appear in.

(For whatever reason, a few people now want me to write stories for them. In the most recent example, the editors have even included my name on the cover — before they’ve even seen my story! This seems unwise, bordering on insane. I could indeed produce a story that has nothing to do with the theme and has space unicorns running around doing nothing in particular! In fact, hell, that sounds good…)

I also have a novel-in-progress that is not very in-progress at the moment. I really like it, and I’ve successfully used it as part of a proposal to one of my favorite publishers, and if they bite I’ll probably write it, but…

Wow. That all sounds like the exact opposite of what I should be saying. I should be saying that of course I’m working like mad on another novel, and I have every confidence that it will be picked up and go on to win every award that— But I prefer being honest. I’m new at all of this, and rather gun-shy a lot of the time. I’m moving at a pace that will produce work I’m proud of, but oftentimes it seems too slow.

R: What was the main driving-force behind writing No Return? Your biggest inspirations?

Z: My main driving force was desperation, honestly. In the summer of 2010, I was not in a good place. I’d just spent a disastrous semester of grad school (I was in the Stonecoast MFA Creative Writing program) disappointing my mentor, James Patrick Kelly, with crappy rewrites of already crappy stories. I felt really low, entirely unsuited to be in the program with so many awesome and hardworking writers. I so desperately needed to get some of my story ideas out, but I was flailing away, struggling with my lack of motivation and fear.

One day, tired and angry, I just said, “Screw it. I’m writing a novel with all the cool crap I can think of crammed into it.” I’d never written a novel before, but somehow I did it. (I say “somehow” because, looking back on it, I’m kind of amazed that whiny dude ever managed to sit down for six months straight and write. Apparently, someone put something in that guy’s water, because I remember him and he was a lazy idiot.)

I guess reaching a point of complete self-disgust can be useful.

My biggest inspiration, undoubtedly, is my desire to create a reading experience similar to those that changed my life. I remember, vividly, reading Roger Zelazny for the first time — or James Tiptree, Jr., or Cordwainer Smith, or Joanna Russ or Samuel Delany or Sean Stewart. The sense of vastness, of new vistas and untold myth, floored me as a young reader. With NO RETURN I wanted to build a world that felt vast and panoramic, full of myths and cultures, that might, just might, catch someone’s imagination in the way mine had been caught.

I don’t kid myself that I achieved my goal fore even a fraction of readers out there — Hey, I’m competing against the best! — but the possibility of occasionally hitting the mark for someone is what spurred me on.

R:  Those are great inspirational factors to have, they are each fantastic authors… and I do think you succeeded with making the world vast and panoramic. I do not think it’s a stretch to say that your name can and will be put alongside those in the future, should you keep writing. You have the talent. 

Describe No Return in 10 words or less!

Z: Well, thank you! That means a lot to me, Rebecca.Old world, crazy magic, crazier sex, alchemical astronauts, ANGRY GOD.

R: Were there any characters/scenes you enjoyed writing more than others? What were they? Or perhaps, which ones did you not like writing? 

Z:  Certainly! I really loved writing Churls. She was — and is! — without qualification my favorite character in the book. She’s just… Well, she’s not an emotionally wounded and arrogant nut like Vedas, a constructed man dealing with daddy issues like Berun, or just simply an awful person like Ebn or Pol. Sure, she’s got issues of her own, but they’re the kind that all of us could deal with (other than being haunted, I guess). She is the most self-assured and plainspoken, and undoubtedly the one you’d most want to go on a bender with.

Her scenes with Berun were the easiest and most enjoyable scenes to write. I’m not a person who’s blown away by his own imagination or skill — most of the time, I read what I’ve just written and want to tear my hair out (that is, if I had hair) — and so it was a nice change to be happy with something for a change. Honestly, I think the two characters just fit together, complementing each other’s traits. In truth, I think they’re kind of cute. When they’re together in a scene, it’s as close as the book comes to a buddy movie.

As for scenes I didn’t like writing — um, can I just say “all of them?” Probably not. It probably wouldn’t even be true. Writing is a struggle, not something I actually enjoy while I’m doing it, but I’d be lying is I claimed it never had its moments.

I can make one unqualified comment, however: Vedas was awful to write. All of his chapters were horrible for me. Because he’s the character who most closely mirrors me (not physically, of course, but emotionally), I had a difficult time getting him to feel at all right. Paradoxically, I find that the closer something is to reflecting reality, the harder it is to make it feel authentic.

R:  I loved Churls. She has her flaws, she’s not perfect or anything, but over-all she’s a well-rounded and strong character. I believe I may have mentioned this in my review, if not, I should go back and change that.. But I do for the most part, like how you’ve written the females in your novel. Using Churls as an example, she wasn’t just the token bad-ass, “super hot” female character. You know the ones that are sometimes just thrown into the story for the sake of being there? Yeah, she wasn’t one of those. 

Back in March you made a post on Facebook regarding your novel, and wanting people to take bit more of a sexism/feminist perspective on it for you, and getting more reviews that touched up on those topics — especially because at that point all but a few of your reviews have been from guys. Is that still something you’re worried about, now that you’ve gotten a few more reviews on it?

Z:  Wow. Great question. Yes, I do continue to be worried about that. There’s so much ugliness that we carry as human beings, and so much of that ugliness is buried below conscious level. I’ve tried very hard to unlearn the privileged — and thus bigoted in a very particular way — perspective I’ve inherited, but it’s an ongoing process. And while I hate the thought of being called out for a mistake I wasn’t entirely aware of making, it’s necessary that I be called out if I’ve written something problematic and hurtful.

Even when I’m a failure at being humble, I believe in the virtue of humility. I might be very, very wrong in my portrayal of women (and other peoples who are marginalized every day in the real world), and so I view it as my responsibility to not be arrogant and defensive in the face of criticism on that count. I want to keep getting better at writing people. To do that, I must have some courage in addition to humility: I must not be fearful of the ugliness I carry around with me.

I’ve been lucky to have, thus far, passed without major accusations of sexism in NO RETURN. I’m happy with that, and yet I do wonder if people are being too forgiving of me. The genre of science fiction and fantasy, while immensely innovative on so many levels, is still on average a bit adolescent in its treatment of gender. The whole mass of us, readers and writers, need to set a higher standard — a standard that is all too often not being met.

I’d like, entitled white American male that I am, to have a hand in asserting this priority.

R:  It’s definitely an admirable goal, and a higher standard definitely needs to be set; rather than keeping with the tradition gender roles which have been fairly static, not only in the fantasy genre, but in writing as a whole.

So, Jeroun is a pretty fascinating and dynamic world. Could you give us some insight into the creation of it all, and how the world, elders, and constructs came about? Or was it just part of the aforementioned “all the cool crap” you could think of, being crammed into it? 

Z: Thanks! Unfortunately, this is a question I don’t really know how to answer. It’s a great question, of course (I’ve asked it of many authors), and Lord knows I’d like to be able to answer it well, but I’ve never been all that good at coming up with explanations as to how ideas pop into my head. It’s not really rational, what happens when I start brainstorming. I just think… “Gee. That sounds neat.”

Which is a really, really stupid answer, I know. it’s kind of like saying, “…and then the cat just appeared out of nowhere. Now he’s mine, and I feed him nothing but organic chicken bits because I love him.” Okay, it’s not really like saying that exactly, but I hope the point is clear. I don’t like it when a “creative type” appears to be channeling a mystic. Ideas don’t just pop into existence like a little ghost whispering in your ear. They come from somewhere.

My answer, given that fact? I’m just remixing stuff from everywhere. Jeroun is a lot like a lot of other old, kind of worn-out planets. I hope I threw in enough other elements garnered from a long time of reading sff literature to really entice the reader, of course, but to me it’s so clear that I’m standing on the shoulder of giants that it’s tough to look at what I’m doing as creative. It’s more like stealing.

Not that stealing isn’t fun…

R: What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the greatest compliment?

Z: The toughest criticism came from my ex-mentor and good friend, the author David Anthony Durham. Now, I’ve always been kind of intimidated by the guy. He’s a great writer and often a hard-to-read person. It’s tough to know, basically, if he likes you. Don’t get me wrong — he’s the nicest guy in the world and I think he’s amazing, but he is… Well, he’s David, not Dave. Don’t call him Dave. Anyway, one night at a residency for my MFA program, he gave me the devastating (and true) appraisal that he didn’t know if I had it in me to be a professional author. Not because I wasn’t talented — he kindly told me I was — but because I didn’t know what I wanted. He said that this would limit me, and keep me from committing to anything.

He was right, and it killed me to hear it. In my darker moments — which are not all that rare, honestly — I still think he’s right.

The greatest compliment is harder. I’ve been so, so, so lucky to have so, so, so many awesome people in my life — people who support me so much I hardly feel like I’m doing any of the accomplishing. (Despite how that may sound, it’s a very good feeling, knowing you have so much to be grateful for.) Honestly, whenever anyone reads my book and reviews it with an attempt at objectivity, weighing its positives and negatives together — whenever someone really looks deep at my work and makes the effort to put their thoughts down in an organized, classy way — that is the greatest compliment. That kind of effort in response to something I wrote just stuns me.

R: Perhaps once you find out what exactly it is that you want, that self-limitation will dissipate though? Anyways, in the event of a zombie apocalypse; what is your survival plan? 

Z: My survival plan is to just go on a killing spree (though they’re technically undead, so…). Not to be ultra-violent or anything, but I think I’d like to put a baseball bat into a zombie’s head. I mean, I’m not violent — at all; last fight I was in was in high school — but I’d like the excuse to go a little mad. I don’t care about guns, but the up close and personal? Swords, bats, hammers: that sounds like fun.

Basically, though, it’s not a survival plan. It’s just a fantasy of killing zombies. I’d probably die pretty quickly, but at least I’d have some fun on the way out!

R: Where did you get your giant teddy bear? I swear that things look cuddly as hell. 

teddyyy

Z: Ha! Actually, I borrowed it from my mom. She got it from my dad for Valentine’s Day. It is AMAZINGLY cuddly. Since discovering how cuddly it is, I’ve forsaken human companionship. It’s kinda gross, me and that bear.

R: Who is your favourite author, and what are your favourite novels? 

Z: Oy vey, that question. Honestly, I have no idea who my favorite author is. There are too many to choose from, and so many of them have works I don’t like to balance out the ones I do. But favorite novels? That’s easy. Resurrection Man, by Sean Stewart. Creatures of Light and Darkness, by Roger Zelazny. Flesh and Gold, by Phyllis Gotlieb. Agyar, by Steven Brust. Aaaaaaaannnnnnnnnd… a bunch of Discworld books.

R: Ha. I do love asking that question, the reactions are always entertaining.
Okay, so…  I swear I’m not stealing this question from Nick and his interview with you over on SFSignal, I’ve asked it to a billion other people.. (and his was slightly different) but if you could be any flavour of ice cream, what flavour would you be? 

Z: Thief!

Well… I answered Nick’s question with “coffee, with Heath bar pieces,” but my opinion on this changes. Today I’m going with French Vanilla with Reese’s Pieces and chocolate swirls.

R: Unless there’s anything else you’d like to add, that’s all I have! Thank you for the wonderful interview. It’s been a pleasure. 

Z: Oh, it was so fun! Thank you immesnsely, Rebecca!

Thank you again to Zachary for the enjoyable interview! I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did!

I recommend taking a look at his novel, No Return!

Unidentified Funny Objects – Crowdfunding Anthologies

With the increased popularity in crowdfunding, opportunities have opened up for independent publishers to pursue writing projects that previously had been unfeasible. Today I’m going to go into detail about a project called U.F.O. (Unidentified Funny Objects). This project is fascinating to me because it merges several genres that so rarely seem to coincide: fantasy, sci-fi and the game changer, comedy!

For an individual who has never really read much comedy, this is rather intriguing for me. It offers a chance to read great fantasy stories that I am used to and love, only with a comedic twist. We’ve enlisted Alex Shvartsman to tell us a little about his anthology and what makes it work.

Alex was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding UFO2; his current campaign.

What made you decide to create this anthology? It’s a rather unique anthology in today’s market.

A: That’s just it — there is nothing else like it, despite the ample evidence that readers enjoy such fare. There are precious few pro-paying markets that are publishing humorous SF/F. This was frustrating to me as a writer who primarily pens funny stories, and I set out to fill the niche.

So this is the second volume in the U.F.O. series. I understand the first one was a Kickstarter funded project as well. What have you learned from the process and how have you improved since last time around?

A: One of the tough lessons I learned from the first time around is that crowdfunding is hard work. You have to constantly put your project out there, seeking out new audiences and reminding the people who might be interested but haven’t pledged yet that you’re out there. I spend over an hour a day working on various aspects of the Kickstarter campaign: writing updates, contacting bloggers and reviewers who might be amenable to promoting it, and communicating with readers through e-mail and social media. And that’s just during the campaign — the really hard work comes afterward.

Creating a crowd-funded project is a little bit like being a CEO of a publicly traded company. You make the decisions, but you are responsible to your shareholders. And while Kickstarter backers can’t fire me, they can certainly choose not to support my future projects if they are not happy with what their money helped create.

What type of comedy really works for you as a reader? Is there any particular style that is predominantly present in this collection?

A: I like a wide variety of styles, but am especially partial to sarcasm. An engaging character with a great voice who is approaching the world with several extra-large grains of salt will win me over, every time.

Having said that,I set out to collect a wide variety of styles for UFO. What works for me may not be funny to you, and vice versa. So I am looking for great stories with humor elements, something a reader can enjoy even if they don’t find it particularly funny. Based on the feedback I got, this worked for the first book. I don’t know anyone who loved every single story in it, but everyone I talked to enjoyed the majority of the content, and had a few favorites, which were different stories for each reader.

Without giving away too much, can you tell us a bit about one of the stories?

A: I’m very fond of the story by Ken Liu that will appear in UFO2, titled “The MSG Golem.” It it, God starts talking to a little Chinese girl who is vacationing on an interstellar cruise-ship. He instructs her to build a mini-golem and have it chase down the rats that are infesting the spaceship. This story manages to question the sensitive subjects of cultural identity and religion in a way that is wickedly funny but not offensive. The first time I read it was on a subway and I must’ve scared some of my fellow commuters by snorting/laughing into my Kindle.

Will these stories appeal to someone who loves comedy but doesn’t really read the fantasy genre all too much?

A: The goal is to offer something that will appeal to everyone. I want each story to surprise and delight the reader. A variety of voices, genres, and styles to keep things fresh and interesting. I happen to think it will appeal to anyone who enjoys humorous stories, but I’m biased!

I appreciate you taking the time to step away from your current Kickstarter campaign to talk with us today. I along with the team of Arched Doorway wish you and your anthology all of the best!

After having learned a little about this great project, I would like to encourage readers to checkout a crowdfunding site and consider being apart of these great opportunities to create something that is entirely new. I’ve always been a strong advocate of quality work given a new twist, and these types of projects are great sources for a breath of fresh air.

UFO successfully funded their first anthology, and now are on the way to doing so with UFO2. The first of the below links will take you to the campaign page.

Some projects I am currently aware of that I would strongly recommend you give a look and consider backing:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/776571295/unidentified-funny-objects-2-anthology-of-humorous – A great guy and friend of mine and the man behind U.F.O.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1891800025/the-awakened-an-epic-fantasy-anthology?ref=category – An interesting fantasy anthology — Take a look!

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/neverland-s-library-anthology/x/2810126 – My own crowdfunding campaign for an anthology I’m co-editing, Neverland’s Library. (Expect a post about it in the next week or two; awesome things are happening with it — Tad Williams is writing the intro!)


My Interview with Jim Butcher

Last weekend at Ad Astra, a convention here in Toronto, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Jim Butcher, bestselling author of The Dresden Files and Codex AleraWe talked about all manner of things from talking cats, epically epic epic fantasy epics, and zombie t-rex’s.

Now, I’ve done something slightly different with this interview. Attached below is the audio recording for this interview (with some minor edits to it, but it’s largely untouched). I encourage you to take a listen (and ignore how awkward I sound). There are a couple off-topic moments on there which didn’t make it into the transcript, but I think it’ll be much more fun to have a listen than to read. Let me know your thoughts!

—-
Anyways, as per usual: J = Jim Butcher and = Myself (Rebecca).

R: I’m here with Jim Butcher, bestselling author of The Dresden Files. Jim, can you tell us something about yourself that we might not know?

J: Hm.. That you might not know.. The people at both of the Burger Kings near my house know who I am by sight and will say “Hey Jim, how’s it going?” and “How’s the next book coming along?” whenever I go there. That’s how often I’m at Burger King.

R: Alright, that’s certainly interesting. Now, you have The Dresden Files which was adapted into a TV series, which you weren’t a huge fan of, or there were some issues there… How would you have envisioned it if HBO or someone else had the rights for it, or if you had made it into an anime?

J: As an anime I think it’d be great; in my head it’s an animated thing anyways. But if HBO was going to do it? I don’t know, I wonder what would happen if HBO did it. I would probably just sit back and smile regardless of what happened.

It would be really neat for something with a bit more production value to take over on something like that. That would be completely awesome. That was one of the big problems with the SyFy series was the budget was low enough that it was difficult to get enough actual magic magic into the show.

R: Yeah, I noticed that… And this next question is one that another fan asked me to ask you, but will we ever see Faith from the Restoration of Faith short story in a mainstream Dresden Files book?

J: Yes, we will, but not until the big ending. Faith was the first character and more or less the first client of Dresden’s that I ever wrote in that first little short story. So she will show up again to kick off the big apocalyptic trilogy at the end.

R: Alright, and can you tell us a bit about this next novel?

J: The next novel is called Skin Game. In it, we find out that Mab has various debts which she has incurred over the years and Mab is very keen on getting her debts paid, and when one of the people she owes shows up and asks for a favour, she loans him Harry Dresden in order to help him. So Harry is going to find himself, by command of Queen Mab, assisting Nicodemus Archleon in a heist. They’re going on a bank job, and they’re going to knock over the vault of Hades — the Lord of the Underworld.

Harry is going to be very far out of his element because he’s going to be working with this crew of nasties that Nicodemus has recruited and having to survive that situation, and it’s going to make him look so good to the White Council and everyone else that he’s running around with this crew.

R: Of course!

J: Yeah, cause that’s his life… So that’s going to be our general plot, we’ll have to see what happens from there. I have a general idea of the mayhem that’s going to work out, but I’ll have to get to the nuts and bolts of it as I write, and I haven’t opened it up yet.

R: Yeah, though you’re expected to have the first two chapters in a few weeks, I think?

J: I have to have the first two chapters done by the end of April so that they can go into the back of the paperback of Cold Days.

R: Good luck with that! Now, this is going to be the 15th book, how has your outline process changed since the first one? And how do you keep readers interested, and keep coming up with ideas for these books?

J: When I first outlined the series, I outlined 20 books and I said: “Here’s the kind of plots that I want to have … here are the kind of bad guys that are going to be showing up … the kind of big events that are going to be happening…” And I’ve still got the outline at home which is something I wrote as a class project long ago, and now, as we’ve gone on the books have done very well. I see no reason to fix it if it isn’t broken, so I’m still using those outlines. Which is just stuff I came up with a while back, and basically it’s just fun, like: “I want to have Dresden in prison in this story!” or “I want him in an insane asylum with no magic”. You know, and these are things that I’m hoping to have happen as the series goes on.

R: It is certainly interesting, because they’re each all unique while they have the same feel.

J: Yeah, and that’s kind of the point. It’s one of those things you have to do as a writer; if I just wrote the same thing over and over and over again, I’d shortly grow sick of Harry and throw him over Reichenbach Falls. Instead I try to throw these slightly different stories and try and give it a bit of a twist every time.

R: And is there a main source of inspiration you got for all of these ideas?

J: I give Harry the beatings of Indiana Jones… as far as the main source of the ideas, it was pretty much just ‘Monster of the Week’: what kind of monster do I want to deal with this week? Book 1: Evil wizards; we have good wizards, and so we’ll have evil ones and that’ll be the first bad guy. The next bad guy? Werewolves, and the next one ghosts, then I want to do fairies, then I want to get into demonic evil guys, cause I’ve come up with these Knights of the Coin and so on, and then more vampires in Book 6, and I want zombies in book seven, and that was kind of how far as the outlines went for a long time. Then, the challenge was to take those outlines and these fun things I wanted to have the character do, and work those into the story in such a way that they’d be a good time for the reader as well.

R: Definitely, and it’s interesting… It’s always just like “Okay, he’s already dealt with so much, what’s going to be thrown at him next?”

J: Yeah, and there’s no upper limit to how much crap I can dump on Harry Dresden, the poor guy. I mean, generally anything that can make his day more miserable needs to get written in and then I get to think of a way to make it even worse, or at least even more insulting as it happens.

R: Delightful… Challenge your rage at him much?

J: Oh it’s not my rage! I love the character, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be doing this.

R: Now, what’s your opinion on the transformation of books into the digital age where e-piracy is becoming of a thing, and people can just download a book, and upload it elsewhere for free?

J: Well, I actually tracked three different sites which were major torrent sites, to see how many people grabbed the torrent for The Dresden Files. As it turns out, about ten times as many people steal the book as buy the book, and after asking around the industry, they’re like “Yeah, that’s pretty normal”.

For a long time that bugged me, but at the point I’m kind of at now is that a lot of people who steal the book wouldn’t have paid for it anyways. And if some of those people read the books and are like “Oh, hey man, these are really good; I need to go get some more of these.” or “I need to actually pay for these.” then I’ve picked up customers I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I like to think of it as involuntary promotional copies that are going out over the internet, and try not to let it stress me out too much. It’s not something that I want to do, or want to encourage, or that I think is good, but I can’t do anything about it anyway so I might as well not give myself ulcers worrying about it.

R: Alright, cause I know some authors who actively go “Oh yes, here’s a free copy of my book.”

J: Right, well, that’s something I’ve never had a problem doing. I’ve occasionally gotten a fan letter from someone who’s serving over seas – especially if they’re actually in service, and I’d say “Hey, dude, here’s the next book. It’s already finished, it won’t be out for eight months but here you go.” and I have no problem doing stuff like that.

R: Yeah, it’s always nice when authors actually do that, you know?

J: Yeah, or sometimes I’ll get word that people are sick, and maybe too sick to be able to be around when the next book comes around, and I’ll be like “No, I will give you this book, here you go.” It’s not a big deal, and doing stuff like that… I mean, when you’re just trying to be kind to people, that doesn’t cost you; that pays in the long run.

R: Yeah.

J: And it’s much more Machiavellian to do it that way. “I’m going to be nice, and then they will owe me!”

R: Indeed! And it’s good, you’re harbouring good will with the readers, and you seem like the kind of guy who, enjoys spending time with fans.

J: Exactly, they’re real people. At the end of the day, my readers are my patrons. Artists have always had to have patrons to be able to do what they do, and it used to be that you had one particular lord that you had to please, and then you’d be alright. Instead, I’ve got a couple hundred thousand patrons that I make sure I try to take care of. As long as I do that, I’ve got the support of all of these readers which is a fantastic thing.

That’s why I try to pay attention to them, and sometimes ask: “What would you like to see more of in the books?” and put that in there, on account of: I want to keep eating.

R: Yeah, eating, paying rent, bills… Kinda important… Burger King.

J: Yes.. Shakespeare’s gotta eat.

R: They’d miss you if you weren’t there!

J: They’ probably would, “We haven’t seen you in a while, Jim, what happened? We were worried that you’d decided to start eating healthy!”

R: Oh dear, the thought!

J: Yeah.

R: So… Epic epic fantasy epic? Anything you’re willing to say or share about that?

J: I’ve always wanted to write an epic epic fantasy epic. When I started off I wanted to be an epic fantasy writer; that’s what I wanted to do. So, I’ve got this in mind – this epic epic fantasy epic that I want to write one day. It’s humans, elves, hobbits and dwarves, although it might not look like that, really, it’s a Tolkienesque kind of epic, or at least, it starts off that shape.

I want to write that when I’m good enough; it’s not something that I’m ready to do yet, so instead I’ve just been running roleplaying campaigns in it for the past many years. Which is great, because I’ll pick another part of the world and I’ll have some vague idea of what it looks like. Then I’ll start running the campaign there, and of course if you’ve got player characters they never do what you expect them to do – they never do the smart thing. They do the thing that seems appropriate to them based on what they know. So then I feel like I’m frantically running ahead of them with a load of lumber, canvas and paint, building these sets six feet in front of them just before they open the door. It’s a good creative exercise which has helped me get this world established in my brain.

But yeah, I do want to write a big ol’ Martinesque huge fantasy one of these days. I don’t know when, but I’m going to do it. My epic epic fantasy epic.

R: Yeah, I wasn’t sure I got all the “epics” in there.

J: I thought about calling it an epic epic epic fantasy epic, but that seemed a bit over the top.

R: An epically epic epic fantasy epic?

J: Epically epic? Well I don’t know if I could be epically epic, I mean, I’ll be happy to just be moderate epic… but you can’t call it a moderate epic fantasy epic, it doesn’t work.

R: No, and you’ve always got to exaggerate.

J: It’s one of the first laws of writing.

R: Exactly!

Now, you did recently sign an agreement for a steampunk trilogy… Is there anything you can say about The Cinder Spires?

J: The Cinder Spires has gotten a better response from my readers than anything that I’ve done recently, just in terms of them thinking it’s something cool. These are my beta readers, from the beta asylum, which I call the asylum because you have to be a bit crazy to be there, because I’m just a bear for cliffhanging chapters, and sometimes they’ll have to wait a couple of weeks between them. So, there’s something wrong with those people, but there they are.

They think it’s pretty great, it’s kind of “Hornblower” meets “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, it’s very focused on the characters, with very strong influence from Firefly I think.

R: Awesome.

J: Yeah, if you’re going to steal from somewhere, you know, pick a good spot. But yeah, we start off with a disaffected ship captain who used to be part of the navy buy got drummed out of it for being an up-right honourable guy, who’s now running his own ship. We’ve got some other characters who are scattered around who are being drawn together by the lord of the spire.

Everyone lives in these enormous spires that spire for miles above the ground below; the surface is this deadly place you don’t want to go. The lord of Spire Albion, which is where the story begins, is assembling what is essentially a team for critical missions. That’s what this first story is, it’s him drawing this team together, and dispatching them as this war is beginning with a neighbouring spire of jerks.

So that’s kind of where we get going. One of the team members is the daughter of one of the young noble houses, and one of them is her cousin who is warriorborn. They don’t know quite how it happened but a certain percentage of the popular seems to be born with what seems like genetic modification to be faster and stronger and better and cooler. As well, there are cats in the Spires who talk and who are just the most arrogant, annoying little bullies.

R: Well, yes… They’re cats.

J: They’re cats, exactly, but these cats can talk, and they have opposable thumbs and matches. So, these are cats who are along the lines of: “I see that you enjoy having no rodents in your warehouse. Perhaps you would continue to enjoy having no rodents in your warehouse. Perhaps there will be a bowl of cream sitting out for me… or it might all catch on fire.” You never know what’s going to happen, but one of the characters actually has a close relationship with a cat and can speak cat. The cats speak their own language, they probably could speak the human language, but why would they? They’re cats. Why would they stoop to that? They understand humans, perfectly, except for when they don’t… and that can all happen within the same morning. They can choose who to ignore and who not to. The cats are horrible.

Then we’ve got these wizard figures. All the technology is based around these crystals that can channel various forms of energy, steampower and a kind of Frankensteinian electricity. They’re engineers who can do all kinds of cool stuff, but they’re also these figures called etherealists who work with the crystals. The etherealists are all completely nuts, I mean, over-the-top hair on fire nuts. Except for the ones that aren’t, and those are the ones you really have to worry about, because there’s something really wrong with them.

You know, the guy who’s sort of dribbling and walking in circles in the corner, who’s an etherealist? Okay, he’s probably not a threat. The one who’s inviting you to high tea? Forget it, you don’t even want to go near that one.

R: Here be danger.

J: Exactly; you know they’re crazy, the question is: how? And if you can see they’re crazy, they’re less dangerous.

But yeah, that’s sort of them getting this team together and figuring out how they’re going to get things done. I’m having a great deal of fun with the book, it’s been a tremendous good time for me, so my beta readers have been tortured extra. Which I think is good for readers.

R: Of course, especially beta readers, they deserve it. This sounds like it’s going to have quite a bit of a different feel compared to Dresden.

J: Very much so. It’s going to be closer to Alera than anything else… Multiple character viewpoints, so it’ll have much more of that feel.

R: Alright, sounds interesting!

J: I hope so!

R: Now, how has your writing process changed? You said you already had the outline done for The Dresden Files, but over the years have you found that your writing process has since that first one compared to your latest novel?

J: I use outlines a lot more — when I’m being smart — to get things laid out ahead of time, and avoid those long stretches of “Why isn’t this chapter working?”. It’s really handy if you have an outline, it helps avoid that.

I don’t drink coke so much anymore; the caffeine and sugar were doing bad things to me and eventually started catching up. So, there’s less coke. Other than that, it hasn’t really changed.

There’s TV, I work at night, I don’t know why that’s when the magic happens, sometime between 11PM and dawn. There’s always a bad movie on in the background that I keep track of. So that I don’t have to look up except for the parts that I really like, and otherwise I can be focused on the work. For this particular book in The Cinder Spires, it’s been Star Trek 2 because it’s as Napoleonic as I could get in terms of ship-to-ship combat stuff.

R: I approve.

J: Yeah, I only have to look up for “I don’t like to lose” and “KHAANNNNNN!”

R: Yeah, best parts really… Only reasons to actually watch it.

J: That and Spock’s death scene, which is one of the better character death scenes ever done. If you’re going to kill a character, that’s a good way to go; that was very well executed.

R: Now, out of all your stories from The Dresden Files, Codex Alera, or anything else, which one was your favourite to write?

J: Specific favourite book is going to be a toss-up between Dead Beat and Cursor‘s Fury. Cursor’s Fury was a lot of fun for me to write, and it was where the Alera books finally took off for me, in terms of “Oh! This is all happening easily in my imagination.”

Dead Beat: Zombie T-Rex. I’d been writing like five years to write the zombie t-rex scene, and when I finally got to it, it was like “Finally, yes! I’ve been putting this off for so long!”

R: Every book needs a bit more zombie t-rex. There’s a disturbing lack of them.

J: Yeah, there is, and I don’t see why it isn’t happening more often.

R: We’ll have to change that.

Now, which was your least favourite to write?

J: My least favourite book to write? Ghost Story was really hard because it was so different from the other Dresden books. Not that it wasn’t fun, but it didn’t feel as natural as the other books. The Spider-Man book was really difficult to write because the time constraints were so strict. I think I had about thirty days to write that thing. That was a pretty serious challenge.

But that was the year that I wrote three novels and a comic book, the comic book wound up being like 124 pages which was ridiculous.

R: You wrote that in thirty days?

J: Well, not all of that, just the Spider-Man book had to be done in thirty days, and it was over Christmas too, so that made me so popular with my family.

R: Oh yes, of course.

So, you’re a bit of a geek

J: Yeah, a little bit.

R: I’m not sure if you attended conventions before you were an author, but how has your experience changed so far, now that you’re on the “other side”?

J: The only place that’s really different is when I come to a con. If I go out gaming, it’s still the same. If I go out LARPing, LARPing is still pretty much the same stuff. I’m not really famous anywhere except for conventions and sometimes at bookstores. I think I’ve been recognized in public once, ever.

So really, the only place that’s different is conventions… Coming to cons is cool, because everyone laughs at my jokes, which is a nice change of pace. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same experience.

Sometimes people are nervous to meet me, which seems strange because I know I’m just as big of a nerd as I always was. It’s like these guys don’t know; they never saw me sword fighting with boffer weapons up and down the hallways of conventions when I was eighteen. So that’s sometimes sort of strange. I’m the last person in the world you need to be nervous around; I’ve done far more embarrassing things around you. But you just try to be nice around folks, smile and nod a lot, and they’ll offer to buy you dinner. Sometimes it’s dinner number three, but I’ll get some fries or something like that.

As far as the actual experience being different? Not too much, really.

R: Just more of a sore wrist?

J: Yeah, after about three hours I had to go back to the hotel room and pack it in ice or it’d be swollen up tomorrow and I wouldn’t be able to sign. But really, what a great problem to have.

R: Ah yeah.. Like “Oh.. Too popular”

J: Yes, it’s awful! But I mean, I feel like I’m just as awkward as I always was. I guess I can kind of go into “Author Mode” a little bit easier where I’m doing the talk in front of people, doing the jokes and the one-liners, and that’s fun. That’s not really something I do because it’s fun for me, I like making people laugh, and that’s a good thing; to be able to put a smile on somebody’s face… That’s worth doing.

R: And do you have any advice for anyone who wants to get into writing?

J: Yeah, go by my Livejournal at http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/. There are all kinds of articles that are geared towards beginning writers which is the stuff that my teacher taught me when I was bound and determined to prove to her how wrong she was about writing, and as a result, wrote the first book of The Dresden Files. There’s a lot of interesting stuff there.

The main thing though, is that you just have to write and ignore when people walk up to you at your family holiday gatherings and say, “When are you going to get a real job?” Oh man. I had a cousin and that was his favourite thing to say for like twelve years. Finally when I got my second series sold, and started being able to support the family on the writing, you know, I decided not to get a ‘real’ job. I’m just going to keep this job.

R: I think you’ve made a good choice.

J: Yeah, I was pleased with it, and man… It took so long for that pay-off, but it was so worth it when I finally got it. I think that’s the thing I would tell beginning writers: Everything you go through to become a writer – it all seems horribly hard when it’s happening to you, and when you can’t get somebody to read your book, and you’re getting nothing but rejection letters and it just seems awful… Once you’ve finally gotten in though – and getting in is just a matter of time and practice, you look back at it, and it’s like “Oh, that was more than worth it.”

The rejection process is one of those you kind of transcend and look back at it and go, “Why did I make such a big deal out of that?” But anyways… Write, write, write. That’s my first advice to newbie writers. Keep writing; don’t stop.

R: Alright, thank you, and I think that’s it… Thank you!

J: No problem!


An Interview with Miles Cameron — Author of The Red Knight

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Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting with fantasy author Miles Cameron, and his daughter, Victoria. We discussed a wide variety of topics ranging from history, LARPing and reenacting, his future novels, and reversing a zombie apocalypse.

For convenience, M = Miles Cameron,  V = Victoria, and R = Rebecca (myself).

R: I’m here with Miles Cameron, author of The Red Knight, the first book in The Traitor’s Son Cycle. Miles, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

M: I’m a new Canadian from a foreign country called The United States of America. I’ve been a Canadian since 2009, I was in the military there, and I’ve been a writer since 1986, I love to write, I have a wife and a child, Victoria.. I’m a passionate historian; I believe in history the way a lot of people believe in religion, and I love to tell stories.

R: Your love for history definitely comes through clearly in your writing.
This one’s a bit of a specific question, but bears… It’s rather interesting to have narrative from a bear’s perspective, will there be more like that in the future? (Lions and tigers and bears..)

M: So, there’s supposed to be five of these [books], now I’ve only sold three. I just threatened my English editor with ending it with “And everyone died of the plague.”

V: — If he only lets him do three.

M: Because it’s a very complicated story, and this is actually the simplest part of it. In fact, in a way this isn’t the story, this is more like the introduction like “Here are some people, an amazing thing is about to happen to them.” The bears, and the irks, and the boglins, they are just as right and good, or wrong and evil as the people. In book two, you will meet an irk who is also a knight and is a heroic character the rest of the time, and you will begin to see the wild side, I gave some glimpses of it, but while Thorn is not good – he would not be good even if he was living in the world of men – there are going to be bad people, and good wild characters right through the end of the series.

I don’t think I’m giving away the whole game to say that what this is really all about is the character who is now the Red Knight becoming the pivot point which will allow the Wild and the people to live together. They will kill each other for a while, but that’s partly because my beloved Greek philosopher Heraclitus says “Through strife people come to peace.” And I don’t think I’m wrecking my story by saying that over five books this is what’s going to happen. It’s not going to happen in an afternoon, and not all the good guys are going to be on the “good” side.

Do you ever notice that very good people believe stupid things?

R: Yes, and those beliefs can lead them to do stupid things, though that just means they’re misguided, not bad people.

M: Yeah, and I’m going to try to catch that too, like, I want my world to work like the real world. In our world, some of the most heroic people have sadly represented some of the most horrible biases. Think of Robert E. Lee and slavery. Robert E. Lee was probably morally the best of all the generals in the American Civil War. The side he was fighting for was without a doubt, loathsome. There’s humanity for you. Anyways, so yes, there will be more bears. In fact, Blueberry, the little baby bear who escapes alive…

V: That’s my teddy-bear.

M: .. is one of her stuffed animals, so I couldn’t kill Blueberry bear.

R: That is so adorable.

M: Most of the archers have the names of stray cats we have known and fed such as Long-paw, and Bad Tom. They’re all real stray cats, with a lot of character which I tried to put into the archers. So, I was deeply offended – not only as a writer, but for those bad-ass stray cats when one reviewer said that the archers had no character.

R: Alright, thank you… That’s certainly interesting. Also, book two is titled The Fell Sword?

M: Yes, and it’s done.

R: And Tournament of Fools, book three, is what you’re currently working on, right?

M: Actually, I’m not writing Tournament of Fools until August, I’m giving a tournament in August, a real-life tournament, because my passion is various forms of martial arts. This is how I get inspiration, and stuff will happen there. The stuff from there that will make it into the book won’t be the fights, it’ll be things people do when they’re drunk, or what happens around the camp-fire.

All those funny little things that happen that the mercenaries do to each other are things that friends of mine have done. I try to write what I see, and the best way to write about a tournament is to have a tournament. So, after August I’ll be writing Tournament of Fools.

R: Okay, so you’ve stated that The Red Knight does not take place in our world, though there are obvious European influences – Jean de Vrailley being a French name and things such as that. But what were your main inspirations or parallels you drew from when writing this novel?

M: So Hermeticism – part of hermeticism that we still have with us today is astrology and alchemy, also the theory of the million spheres. Have you read any of Michael Moorcock?

R: Yes, I have.

M: So, Michael Moorcock played with the same meme. If you imagine that instead of living in our universe where we comfortably have rocket ships and stars, and you imagine that they were right, and you have planet-centric bubbles with maybe some star systems, and maybe no star systems – a bubble of reality, and then there’s another bubble, and another… but they’re not universes, they’re all connected in a Roger Zelazny-ish kind of way. Usually through the use of hermetical magic, but they’re the gateways.

Remember, this is how everyone thought the universe worked through about 1500, even Galileo still kind of thought there were going to be all of these connected bubbles. This [The Red Knight] is definitely not our world, but I would say that the most casual reader should understand that this world has been in contact with our world.

R: Yeah, with the European influences.

M: And if you wait long enough, a major character in book two is the Muslim character from the Arthurian tales, because this is deliberately Arthurian. In the Arthurian tales, there is a Muslin knight.

R: Yes.

[[The background noise kind of over-powered the next bit, so the next little bit isn’t exactly verbatim, it’s simply what I could hear/understand. Also – ignore my spelling for some of the names.]]

M: So he will be appearing, and where’s he coming from? From Ifrika — from Africa! So we’ll have Daar es Salaam and Islāmic culture, and they’ll believe just as strongly as the Christians believe in Christianity, and all their magic works too. In fact, Harmodius’ teacher is Ali Rashid – the great, in our world, philosopher who Thomas Aquinas and the Jewish philosopher Maimonides both thought of as the greatest mind of their generation.

So, sure it’s Arthurian, sure it’s influenced by all the martial arts I’ve ever done, but this book was actually born when discovering that the man who rebuilt Judaism – by the 11th century, a lot of being a Jew had become cultural and not religious. Along came a guy – he was not the last Rabbi left in the west, but he’s sometimes described that way, a lot of rabbi’s had been killed off by the Arabs of Kordogo, and it was like they had killed everyone, but left Albert Einstein alive.

He was a ruthless philosopher, and he looked into the abyss and said “We’re not really about magical spells, we’re really about thinking about how the universe would work and why there’s good and evil.” Modern Judaism is more modelled around him than Moses. He rebuilt it in a very intellectual and rational way, and he took out a whole lot of spirit worship and stuff like that, which people are delightfully rediscovering. I say all this purely as a historian, and not to offend anyone. What totally fascinated me is that he was a student of this Muslin philosopher, Ali Rashid, who is still the most-taught Islamic philosopher in Islamic universities.

I’m telling this long story because Maimonides, Ali Rashid and Thomas Aquinas lived in one generation and exchanged letters with each other. I was sitting up at my cottage, and thinking “If this were a fantasy universe, and they were all magic users, what would they discover, and where would that could?” If they’d all come honest to the beliefs in a good and evil, black and white universe, and one day through sheer intellectual prowess came to the decision that the universe was far more complicated than they’d thought, like most of us do, where would that have left the world? Not just Europe – but I had to start somewhere.

My first option was to write this from the point of view of Harmodius or Ali Rashid, since my Maimonides equivalent has been dead for twenty years when my novel starts, but that meant I would have to show everything – it’d be like having Gandalf as the main character.

R: Which would be interesting to a degree.

M: But not as much fun, and if you could get into Harmodius’ head all the time, you’d already know all five books from the start, there’d be no discovery. I think – as a reader, it’s the discovery that we like.

R: Show, don’t tell.

M: Maybe that was too long-winded, but that’s the under-pinning, and the other is that if you have a million spheres, and they all interconnect, they don’t have to interconnect in a neat way – this world [[in The Red Knight]] is a nexus world which allows many other spheres to connect through this world. So all of these things, which don’t appear to belong together like people, irks, dragons, and wyverns – if this world goes on for 6,000 more years and has modern technology, and archeologists, they’re going to be desperately confused as they won’t find Australopithecus because people did not come from here.

Neither did wyverns, what happens – because it’s a strategic nexus, generations of people try to take it over – and this has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years, waves of magical armies with heroes and villains, and they roll through – and the peasants till the fields, and then it’s another wave. This is about that cycle being broken.

Is that big and complicated enough?

R: Hm… Yes, I think so.

You’ve already told us a bit about the sequel, and you’ve hinted about it – which kind of answered my next question, but is there anything else you can say about it?

M: Sure, do you recall the character Ser Alcaeus?

R: Yes, I do.

M: He’s from a place called the Morea, which is over the mountains to the east. It’s sort of like the old Roman Empire, and it’s also like 14th century Greece, and a made-up fantasy place I made up. Almost all of book two happens there, but it’s a very big world, and people who think it’s going to be very standard fantasy-fair are going to be either going to be crushed or delighted.

We’re leaving for Eastern-Europe now, and more Native Americans and more bears.

I wanted every reader, regardless of age, to immediately identify that the “other side” was nuanced, and not orcs. If I had called the Golden Bears, “orcs” you would have had a completely different thought process. Bears, however have a chance at cute and cuddly.

R: Right, you’re not going to go and try to cuddle an orc.
This one is not so much about your writing, but is there any advice you can give to young people who are interested in getting into LARPing or reenactments?

M: Tonnes, I could be here for hours.

People reenact or LARP for very different reasons. So, my advice to people who are doing this for the first time is to try and decide what you want out of it before you spend money. I’ll give an example:

No matter how historical you are, any kind of recreation or reenactment involves an element of fantasy. Your fantasy. You’re pretending to be someone you’re not. At least, I am. It’s important to look that dead in the eye and decide what it is you want to be. So, over forty-years of reenacting, I’ve come further away from the fantasy and more interested in who they were, than who I want to be.

I know where I started though. I started playing dress-up D&D, and that’s fine. But it’s good to look that in the eye, and say “It’s not so much I want to be a revolutionary war soldier”, but that “I want to be a knight, or a dragon”, and then it’s just a matter of how much you want to put into it. I’m a 50-year-old man who wears his hair long so that I can be an 18th century British officer on weekends and have the right hair style. It’s a matter of commitment.

Which I think is something young people understand perfectly well because I see them with tattoos and piercings all the time, which represent a social infringement. They know perfectly well they’re going to pay. Just like all of us medieval reenactors will all of our bizarre medieval or 18th century hairstyles. We know when we go for the job interview, we look odd. That’s the price you pay for doing it well.

R: I think that holds true for a lot of different passions that people may have, if they fall outside the social norm. I attend conventions on a fairly regular basis, and there’s always someone who gives me an odd look for that, or makes some sort of comment.

M: It makes perfect sense, and one of my favourite reenactors used to say long before this was popular, he’d say it’s a lifestyle choice. You can make it as much of a lifestyle that you want – one of the reasons I love martial arts so much is that you can be in a very different head space here in Downtown Toronto without putting on a lot of funny clothes, or going someplace else.

So, decide what you want out of LARPing or reenacting, because every possible thing is out there, for the person who wants to put the time in. There are so many different flavours of what people want to do, you can be an archer, you can be a courtesan – it is amazing what a good reenactment society can do.

R: And do you have any advice for people who want to go into writing?

M: About once a day, someone usually closer to your age asks me how to get into writing. I’m going to assume the entire target audience I’m addressing can write.

Here’s the thing:

You have to have something to write about. Go travel around the world, join the Canadian equivalent of the Peace Corp., or join the military… and in four years, you’ll have something to write about.

Just as easily, you can go be a cook in a mining camp, or go so Saudi Arabia and work on a construction project, or dig wells in Africa. Just… go. Get out of the comfort of a major cosmopolitan life like you have in Toronto, New York, or LA… It’s great here, yes, but it lacks in life experiences. You can live the easiest possible life here. You should go somewhere where people live real, and difficult lives. Help a few of them, and you will have stuff to write about forever.

One of the things I dislike in a lot of novels is that I feel that the writer has not seen either good or evil. Just the mediocrity most of us indulge in from day-to-day. I find that out there, where life is harder, those edges are sharper. The really good people show up a lot more starkly against the background, and it’s really hard to be evil on the streets of Toronto… but on the other hand it’s also hard to be good. It’s easy to just go along with it.

That being said, I’m assuming anyone reading this can write. Because the other thing I would say is that writing is exactly like swordsmanship – you should practise every day.

People often ask me how much I write… and quite frankly, I write 20 pages a day, it’s a job. It’s like work, only more fun.

R: Hm… I have a silly question.

M: Awesome, I love those.

R: Is there a question you’ve always wanted to be asked during an interview, but have never been asked?

M: Yes, but it’s probably not very fun… Because I’ve been desperately waiting for someone to ask why there’s Christianity in The Red Knight, but I’ve already told you. There’s nothing else really, because I’ve done a lot of interviews, but I love being asked my 10 favourite books.

R: Alrighty, if you could write a collaborative story with any other author, which would it be?

M: C.S. Friedman – I’d love to write with her, Lois McMaster Bujold because I think she loves the middle ages for exactly the same reasons I do, and I love Neal Stephenson’s stuff… The person I would really just love to collaborate with may be passing out our world in the immediate future, and that’s Iain Banks.

R: Alright, good to know. What’s your zombie apocalypse survival plan?

M: Where do I start?

R: Half an hour north of Toronto.

M: Where are the zombies?

R: Wherever the closest graveyard to you.

M: My first warning?

R: Something typical… Undead dude lurching up the street moaning “Brainnns”.

M: Well, if I’m half an hour north of the city, I’m probably near my father-in-law’s house, so I would go there. Which would give me access to some arsenal, and one of the things most people don’t really spend enough time imagining, is simply avoiding the zombies.

Because, fighting is stupid. You don’t want to fight if you don’t have to. I would try to evade the zombies for as long as possible, and if given the opportunity, perform some very simple experiments to see if they could smell, what they could taste, so I could get a good idea of how to not be around them. Assuming they’re living off of human brains – I’m not a zombie fan, so there are probably facts I don’t know – then I’m going to assume that I’m safest being in the deep wilderness, where there are two things that zombies can’t abide:

  • No graveyards
  • No people

So, I am left with the difficulty of probably rescuing my wife and child and assembling my “we’ve planned this for 20-years” combat team, but we have our own fall-back plan. So I assume everyone will meet me.

There are some flaws in the zombie plan. For instance, the armoured knight in head-to-toe plate armour, I don’t think that zombies are going to pose a very big threat to a man in plate armour. I wonder if this isn’t just a technology a problem whereby we’re so evolved with our firearms, we simply don’t have a large contamination-elimination crew of people in plate armour. Honestly, if they can’t get at any part of your body, what are they going to do? Chew threw your plate armour?

V: With no brains and probably no teeth?

M: I haven’t watched enough zombie apocalypse movies, but I have a feeling they don’t have much interest in horses, only people.

V: You could just go to the farm down by King city and grab some horses.

M: But 40 people on horses in plate armour? You now have a way of dealing with an enormous number of zombies. So then it’s time to set-up the combat team to eliminate the zombies and let people go back to their lives.

But don’t forget the intelligence gathering phase, the part of the zombie-apocalypse story that always falls down for me is “Why are there zombies?” So I’d want to spend some time figuring that out.

V: And why would they all come up at the same time too? That’s what bothers me. Can they communicate with each other underground?

M: It seems to me that zombie stories are set up to allow the hero to use whatever weapon he wants to decimate the ranks of zombies, whereas in the old days of fantasy, the undead often turned out to be your old friends. So there was that horrible moment, which does sometime happen in zombie moves too. I would want to understand as much as possible before moving on – that the nice person who tries to understand is always eaten first.

V: You know, I’d just run for my life. I wouldn’t really pay attention to anything that’s happening with me.

R: That’s a good answer, and you should probably try to stick close to your dad.

V: Especially if I was near King City, I’d just run straight into the forest. I’m only one small child, I don’t think they’d really bother chasing me.

M: Remember the basic rule for all combat scenarios: You do not have to be faster than the bear, you only have to be faster than someone else.

R: Alright, I think that’s everything… Thanks! Unless there’s anything else you’d like to add?

M: Nope, it’s been fun.

R: Actually, sorry… One last question: What are your 10 favourite novels?

M:

  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
  • Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
  • The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  • When True Night Falls by C.S. Friedman
  • The Culture Series by Iain Banks
  • Black Company Series by Glen Cook

R: Alright, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview, it’s been a pleasure!

—–

Miles is quite an interesting person to chat with, an he has a great taste in bakery/cafes. It was a pleasure getting to know both him and his daughter.

I recommend reading his novel, The Red Knight. You can find my review for it here.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I did!


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