Thanks to Shawn Speakman (a good friend of mine, a terrific author and the man behind The Signed Page) I had the chance to meet one of Fantasy’s biggest authors, Steven Erikson. In fact, I didn’t only meet him, I spent an afternoon with him and Shawn and we had a good chance to talk about everything from Fantasy, to windy islands, to K.J. Parker’s latest trilogy (The Engineer Trilogy, it’s really good apparently!), to my own writing career, and even Pat from Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist (Nothing but good things, Pat. I promise!).
It’s obviously a pretty rare chance to sit down with a published author and be able to shoot the shit for a couple of hours. It’s an even rarer chance to do so with an author who many will argue is the finest in the genre at the moment.
What struck me most about Erikson was his willingness to speak to me as an equal. From the moment we shook hands I could tell that it didn’t cross his mind that I was a young, unpublished fellow with a fledgling blog; instead he listened openly to everything I had to say, was more than willing to speak about the craft of writing and give tips and suggestions when needed.
I’ve met several prolific authors in my time, but I’ve never had the chance to sit down so casually with one and converse so freely. I can already feel the affect that my encounter with Erikson has affected my vision of writing, my approach to writing my own material and my perception of the dedication an author should show towards their craft. It’s clear that Erikson takes his writing seriously. He is confident about his work, but never cocky. He has a vision for his story, but is willing to let his characters show him the true path. He is willing to share the wealth of information he has accrued in his years and author.
He stressed to me how important it is for a writer to not only write, but also to read. To read not only within the genre they are writing, but also everything else. It is from these works that a writer will pull their inspiration, their knowledge and on top of everything else it can help remind you why you fell in love with the written word in the first place. And it’s obvious from seeing his bookshelves that he is very well read; his library of books is enough to make anyone jealous! He enjoys reading and is more than willing to extol the virtues of some of his favourite authors (he really likes Stephen R. Donaldson!)
We also talked at length about the importance of work-shopping you writing. Get people to read it! Get them to tell you what works, what doesn’t and how they think it would work better. Listen to them, but always remember that you are the author, you are the one in control of your story. If 20 people read your novel and 2 of them actually give good advice then it is time well spent and can help you immensely.
Alas, Malazan fans, we did not speak too heavily about specifics of his own novels, so I have no spoilers about Toll the Hounds, his next novel; I can however tell you that he’s happy with the novel; it is almost finished; and he’s pretty confident that he’s crafted an ending that will knock his fan’s socks off. I also saw the notebook he works out of; it was a thrill to see where all the secrets of the Malazan universe are held and I’m sure there are many fans out there that would love to get their hands on it! I got a glimpse at a map he had hand drawn himself, which was interesting considering I’m abysmal when it comes to drawing my own maps. Oh yeah, we also spoke a little about the… erm, disappointing US cover of The Bonehunters.
Steven was kind enough to give me copies of his two novellas, Blood Follows and The Healthy Dead, so be on the lookout for reviews of those shortly. I’m always a fan of a lean novel and am eager to see how Erikson, one of the predominant writers of doorstopper Fantasy, handles a story told in only 100 or so pages.
In the past I would have considered myself a casual fan of Steven Erikson. I enjoyed his novels, but didn’t rush to the bookstore to buy the latest one. I thought his stories just weren’t for me. Since meeting the man, however, and learning more about his approach to writing, his ideas of how a story should be told, and his dedication to the craft, I finally get him and his novels. I understand now what he is trying to do and it is truly a magnificent and ambitious undertaking. My opinion of his work was shattered and replaced by nothing but the highest respect, understanding and eagerness. I now count myself firmly among his fans and his work and you can expect to see much more regarding the man and his novels here at A Dribble of Ink. I was ignorant before; I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
I’ve fixed that mistake now and only wish I could have come to the conclusion sooner!
So, I’ve gushed about my experiences with the man, but what’s in this for you? Well, a couple of things. First off, Steve and I are in talks about putting together an interview with not only himself but also Ian Cameron Esslemont (the co-creator of the Malazan Universe and author in his own right, check out Night of Knives) and I want to get you guys involved. Steve has a huge fan base and I know you’re all dying to ask him some questions.
I’ll go through them all and pick out some of the best to be included in the interview. Just a couple of tips, though:
- Stay away from “Read-and-find-out” type of questions. Steven and I aren’t interested in spoiling his next novel for you.
- Any questions related to trying to send him your manuscript or anything like that will be ignored.
- Be creative! Check out other interviews with him and try to think of questions that haven’t been posed before!
On top of this, Erikson fans can expect a nice surprise being announced here in the next couple of days, so be sure to keep an eye our for that!
As you can probably tell, my time with Steven Erikson was a big moment for me as a writer, as a fan and as a person. If I took nothing but the advice away from the meeting I would be in a better place as a writer. But I gained much more than just advice; I gained confidence, I gained knowledge and most importantly I gained friendship. Many thanks go out to Steve and his wife for being such generous and kindhearted people and for taking the the time out of their day to entertain two aspiring writers.