Brent Weeks needs little introduction. Since releasing The Night Angel Trilogy just two years ago, Weeks has become one of the most popular new writers of Epic Fantasy. His tale of wetboys and guild rats put him on the map, but Weeks is back with The Black Prism, the first volume in The Lightbringer Series, and he’s ready to prove that the success of The Night Angel Trilogy was no fluke.
Brent and I sat down (err… traded emails) and chatted about everything from Matchlock-Fantasy to the difference between bloggers and casual readers, magic systems to Mary Robinette Kowal, plot twists to building Fantasy worlds, and, of course, his latest novel.
Brent’s a cool dude, and this was one of the easiest and most enjoyable interview’s I’ve conducted. This guy gets what it takes to be a writer in the 21st century. But, let’s let Brent do the talking, yeah?
Welcome, Brent! Thanks for taking the time to drop by A Dribble of Ink.
Delighted to be here, Aidan. Thanks for inviting me to your, um, office.
The Black Prism has several point-of-view characters, but mainly jumps between Gavin Guile and Kip – one a young boy caught in a political hurricane, the other is the most powerful man in the world, and a veteran of countless battles, political, religious and physical. Was it difficult for you to jump between these two very different characters? What does the contrast between them add to The Black Prism?
No, it wasn’t difficult. There are plenty of things about writing that are hard, but for me getting into different characters’ shoes isn’t one of them. It’s actually one of the most fun parts of what I do–and there are a bunch of reasons, structurally and artistically, why I chose characters who were so very different from each other. I try to give myself new challenges with every book I write–harder challenges, so that I keep developing my skills. Something that’s hard in fiction is to take a character at the top of the world and make you care about him. That’s Gavin Guile. He’s not only powerful, he’s rich, he’s intelligent, he’s handsome, he’s universally respected, he gets whatever he wants without it seeming like he works for it–pretty much everything that would make you want to hate a guy. At the very least, a character in that position is hard to identify with, even if you admire him.
Compare that with the typical fantasy hero: a guy who comes from nothing and grows in power until he can face the Big Bad credibly. That typical underdog story–which is Spiderman, Harry Potter, Harry Dresden, and ten thousand others not done so well–has some big advantages with an audience. It’s easy to root for an underdog and to identify with him, because we’ve all been there. There’s a triumph we feel as he or she triumphs–we’ve been there with them through the thin, and they are us, so when they finally get the payoff, we’re getting it too. It’s a powerful tool in any writer’s arsenal–and I decided to forgo it this time.
So if I’ve got a main character who’s intriguing at first, but is going to take you a while to really fall in love with, I’ve put a hurdle in readers’ way. Being the nice storyteller I am, I thought I’d help them over the hurdle. That help is Kip–who is a ways away from being a stereotypical boy-out-to-save-the-world himself. He’s a fat mixed-race kid with a smart mouth and a single mom; he’s got a crush on a girl who doesn’t like him back, and he doesn’t like himself all that much. To balance that, he’s funny and he underestimates himself constantly: he’s braver, smarter, and better than he thinks he is.
One is the vastly privileged insider, and the other is naïve, young outsider. Their differences bring different perspective to the world itself and the problems their world faces.