Alright! As promised here is the second, and meatier, portion of my interview with Patrick Rothfuss, author extraordinaire and the man behind this year’s biggest fantasy debut, The Name of the Wind. If you haven’t already read it, make sure to check out Part One of the Patrick Rothfuss interview!
Q: Much of Kvothe’s story revolves around a certain female character who puts him through his own little piece of hell (and a little piece of heaven, too), was this woman inspired by a real life counterpart?
A: Oh yes. Definitely yes. But over the years she has developed into her own person.
Q: “The Four Corners of Civilization” has been created with a lot of depth, there are little things in the novel which subtly add to the depth of the world without overwhelming the reader, such as one-off mentions of random coins in Kvothe’s purse. Would you consider yourself a strong world builder? Or is it just one of the necessary evils in the fantasy genre as it is today?
A: I love worldbuilding. It’s as much fun for me as writing itself. It’s like a hobby of mine.
I think I have two things working in my favor as a worldbuilder. One, I’ve got a solid grounding in history, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, etc etc. That means I actually have a good idea about how societies change and evolve. I know how a lot of them have actually functioned through the years. I can put together a culture that’s cool and different, while still being logically consistent, so that it feels real. So many fantasy worlds are either implausible, cookie-cutter, or both. Mine aren’t.
The second thing that helps me do a good job is that I don’t feel the need to explain everything about the world to my reader. I’m not writing a history text on the Four Corners. I’m telling a story that’s set there. The setting belongs in the background for the most part, and it’s easy for fantasy authors to forget that. That’s one of the unfortunate parts of Tolkien’s legacy, in my opinion. Read the first hundred pages of the Fellowship of the Ring and you start to get pissed, “Shut up about the Shire’s museums! Isn’t the world supposed to be in peril or something?”
Don’t get me wrong, I grew up reading Tolkien, and I love him. But I love him in the way that you love that rambly old grandfather. You have to sit through some pretty off-topic stuff before he starts telling his cool old war stories.
Q: Will we see more of “The Four Corners of Civilization” in further books? Or does the University continue to be a central setting for the rest of Kvothe’s story?
A: Both. The university is central, and Kvothe likes it there. It’s more of a home to him than anything else that he has in the world. In some ways he’d like nothing better than to stay and learn everything he can…
But his life is more complicated than that. For one thing, education doesn’t come cheap, and Kvothe doesn’t have the means to support himself indefinitely at the University. Perhaps more importantly, he’s smart enough to realize that many of the things he wants to know can’t be found in books.
So in book two Kvothe goes abroad to seek his fortune. He heads to Vintas and learns something of the political situation there.
Hmmmm…. I don’t think I’ll say any more than that. I’m not big on spoilers….
Q: Well, then, perhaps you can answer this question (spoiler-free, of course!): one of the things I enjoyed the most about The Name of the Wind was that the story and plot did not rely on the heavy action scenes and big army battles that so many Fantasy novels use as their crutch. This was a breath of fresh air, but can we expect to see the swashbuckling ramp up as Kvothe travels out into the wide world over the course of the next two books?
A: Yes. It’s fair to say that there is more action in the next couple books. It wouldn’t be realistic to have twelve year old Kvothe doing much swashbuckling. But sixteen year old Kvothe? Yeah. It’s safe to say that he’ll be buckling a little swash.
Q: Rumor has it that you turned down another publishing house offering you more money and instead signed with DAW Books. What was it about DAW that drew you to their publishing house?
A: Actually, we turned down two other publishers before we took DAW’s offer.
I went with DAW for a lot of reasons. Both of the other publishers had good things going for them. But Betsy Wollheim at DAW was really, really enthusiastic about my book. Geeky excited. Catgirl at an anime convention excited. You can’t buy that.
Frequently, an author gets “orphaned” at a publisher. What this means is that an editor buys their book, then ends up getting fired, promoted, or transferred to a different job somewhere else. It sucks for the author because suddenly the person who liked your book enough to buy it isn’t around to help you edit and promote it.
I knew that would never happen with DAW, because Betsy owns the company. She’s the President and CEO. She can’t leave. Furthermore, nobody can tell her, “No.” She’s the boss. I didn’t have to worry about getting my opinion slapped down by anyone but her.
Also, everyone I talked to told me that DAW was incredibly faithful to their authors, supporting them in the long term and helping them build their careers. I wanted that.
And I’ve been very happy with them. Every day I’m glad I went with them. The other publishers probably would have been great, and I liked the editors a lot. But things at DAW have been really idyllic.
Q: It sounds like things are falling into place nicely for you and DAW, as you mentioned earlier with the increased print run. How have you found your life has changed since entering into the publishing world? I imagine with your newfound fame it’s all champagne, private jets and nights of debauchery by now.
Heh. You’d think that wouldn’t you?
Truth is, my life is anything but rockstar. I have a mound of credit card debt, and I just had to sift through my change jar and pick out quarters so I could fill up my gas tank. I’m still living my familiar student lifestyle.
You want to know how lean I live? A friend of mine just moved, and when she left town she gave me a box of ramen. I normally go for the Maruchen ramen. Chicken flavor. It costs about a dime a pack. That’s my staple. But this ramen was, like, super fancy. It had the usual a flavor packet and noodles, but it also had ANOTHER packet with some dried seaweed and little radish bits and stuff. It was seriously high class.
That’s the level of my success and debauchery right now. A windfall box of ramen drastically improves my lifestyle. If this first book sells well, hopefully things will get a little better. I’ve even heard rumors of ramen with THREE little packets of stuff.
But between you and me, I think that’s just faerie tale nonsense.
Q: So, with the second and third books in the Kingkiller Chronicles done, where do you go now? What do you have planned to come after the trilogy is published?
When I created my world, I was careful to make it big enough to hold all sorts of stories, not just this one that centers around Kvothe. So I think it’s safe to say that will be more novels set in this world in the future, featuring some of the same characters.
I’ve also had an idea for a modern-day faerie tale that I think would make a great stand-alone novel. The idea’s been running around in my head for years now, so it should be ripe by the time the trilogy is finished.
And just a month or two ago, someone who dug up a copy of my anthology of satirical humor columns suggested to me that I could write humorous urban fantasy in a college setting. I think that would be fun, too.
Q: Sounds like you have a lot of good things in the pipeline! I notice you mention a stand-alone novel and I also seem to remember hearing that you originally wrote “The Name of the Wind” as a stand alone, before realizing how big it really was. What appeals to you about the stand-alone format?
Stand alone books are nice because they have everything all in one tidy little package. Neverwhere was awesome because you get action, adventure, character development, the exploration of a strange world, PLUS resolution of all the problems and mysteries at the end. No lines no waiting. That’s very satisfying.
Multi-volume stories are satisfying too, just in a different way.
Q: Well, Patrick, any final words before we wrap this thing up?
In the interest of full disclosure, I feel the need to mention that I have said one untrue thing in this interview. Just one, though. Everything else is the truth.
Q: So, it’s safe to say you either are a rock star… or you do have a favourite Cher song?
No. Those are both true. The lie I told is somewhere else….
Q: Well, I suppose I’ll have to leave it up to my readers to figure that one out. This also seems like the perfect place for a cliffhanger ending! So, with that I’d like to thank you and wish you luck with “The Name of the Wind” and everything that follows after it. If your first novel is any indication, we’ll be seeing a lot of you in the future!
Thank you, Aidan. You are a gentleman and a scholar.