Posts Categorized: Interview

Daniel Abraham, author of THE DRAGON'S PATHWhen I first interviewed Daniel Abraham in 2007, he was relatively unknown. He’d just published his second novel, A Betrayal in Winter, and his series, The Long Price Quartet, was just beginning to gather some steam among critics and early bloggers. Since then, he’s gone on to become one of the most quietly prolific novelists in the genre (ten novels + myriad short stories in four years) and has been claimed by many (myself included) as being one of the most important young voices writing today.

The Long Price Quartet has always had a small (and dedicated) following, but The Dragon’s Path, the first volume of a new series called The Dagger & The Coin, looks to have the broad appeal to transfer his critical success to a broader audience among fans of George R.R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Terry Brooks and Brandon Sanderson.

He’s one of my favourite authors, so it’s an absolute honour to present Mr. Daniel Abraham.

The Interview

Daniel! Welcome back to A Dribble of Ink! It’s been a few years since we last worked together on an interview!

    It has. Hope the world’s been treating you gently in the meantime.

How’s life as a writer changed since then?

   Actually things have shifted around a lot. I’m doing a lot of projects right now. I’ve got an urban fantasy series I’m writing as MLN Hanover and I’ve got a gig co-authoring a space opera series with Ty Frank as James Corey, and there’s the comic book adaptation of A Game of Thrones. So in that sense, everything’s going pretty well.

   Also, I think I’ve sort of learned how to write books, which is nice.
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Anthony Huso, author of the THE LAST PAGE and BLACK BOTTLE2010 served up several solid debut novels. From Blake Charlton’s fun, throwback-to-the-90s Spellwright (REVIEW), to N.K. Jemisin’s out-of-left-field The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (REVIEW), it was a good time to be discovering some of the genre’s new, young authors. Topping that heap, though, was Anthony Huso’s The Last Page. I’ll let my review do the talking:

The Last Page‘s influences are clear, but many. Huso weaves aspects of Epic Fantasy (in the form of magic books, invading armies and motley assassins), Steampunk (zeppelins, guns and tanks), Lovecraftian Horror (some truly frightening beasts and angry, universe crumpling gods), Urban Fantasy, heavy doses of Mievilleesque New Weird and even a light dalliance with Military Fantasy. With a quilt-like structure (each square built from one sub-genre), Huso’s story and world could easily have become a convoluted, cannibalistic mess, but, instead, he handles it with the aplomb and skill of a veteran writer. The weird world of Stonehold could stand beside the work of contemporaries like Mieville or Newton and never miss a beat.

It’s was a no-brainer that I’d get in touch with Anthony and pick his mind about his debut novel, poetic prose, language and his work in the videogame industry. He didn’t let me down.

The Interview

Anthony, welcome to A Dribble of Ink! I’ve written a little bio of you above, but why don’t you start things off by telling us something about Anthony Huso that we won’t find in any authorized biography?

   When I sit in a restaurant, I line up my wallet, cell phone and keys in a nice row. The OCD is getting worse, generally, with age but it’s balanced out by the fact that my kids leave popsicle wrappers on the coffee table — which forces me to cope with reality.

The Last Page, at its heart, is a love story between Caliph Howl and Sena Iilool and the struggles of their relationship around the roadblocks put in place by their own personal agendas. At the same time, Sena plays a very adversarial and antagonistic role in Caliph’s life as High King. Was it hard to juggle these two sides o the relationship? Which was more important to the story?

   It wasn’t easy. I think if it had been easy, it wouldn’t have been interesting to write. I like to watch people in public and notice how they interact. Relationships are fascinating. So you’re right, this is a story that revolves around a relationship, though I wouldn’t classify it as a proper romance. As for which side is more important, I think you can’t have the story without both sides, clearly. Now, that said, I found in writing it that whenever there was less of Sena in the text, the book didn’t go as well. I think this is really Sena’s story, even more than Caliph’s.
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Brandon Sanderson, author of TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT and THE WAY OF KINGSThe last time I interviewed Brandon Sanderson, he’d just released his third novel, The Well of Ascension and was putting his teeth to the grindstone and trying to establish himself in the Fantasy genre. Boy how things can change in just a few years.

Now, he’s the guy holding the reins of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and carries all the weight of its finale on his shoulders. Luckily, if there’s anything Sanderson’s known for, it’s being able to write some of the best conclusions in the genre.

What’s more amazing is that he’s not only managed to publish two Wheel of Time novels in two years, he’s also published a 1,000 page novel, The Way of Kings, from a new Fantasy series called The Stormlight Archive. The dude’s prolific and the quality never seems to dip. So, enjoy the interview, and thank him for staying up into the deep parts of the night, just hours before one of the most important novels of his career is launched, to complete an interview with silly old me. Few gentlemen still exist in the world, but Brandon Sanderson’s certainly among their number.

The Interview

Brandon, welcome back to A Dribble of Ink. It’s been a while and *a lot* has changed since we last chatted back in 2007!

   Ha! Yeah, you could say that. It’s been a busy few years.

It’s been one year since The Gathering Storm was first published. How much did feedback from fans and critics affect you while writing Towers of Midnight?

   The relationship between artist and critic/fan is a curious one in this regard. On one hand, I do think feedback is important, particularly on a project like this (where, as I’ve stated, I feel that the project rightly belongs more to the fans than it does to me.) However, a writer must keep their artistic integrity. Allowing yourself to get pulled in too many directions by fan requests can be a disaster for an artist. Basically, you can’t try to please everyone–if you do, you risk ending up with either a completely schizophrenic project, or one that is so bland it lacks emotional depth or power.

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson   So, like I said, fine line. I looked at fan responses on TGS very cautiously and carefully, trying to keep in the same mindset that I use when getting feedback from my critique group. Basically, that mindset is this: “I will do what I feel is best for the story, regardless of what other people think. Even if I’m the only one who feels that way. But if someone raises a complaint that either strikes a cord within me, or which gains a lot of support from others, I WILL look into it and try to approach it objectively.”

   That’s a mouthful. Basically, what it means is keeping an open mind for ideas that will make the story a better version of what I wany it to be. On TGS, there were two basic areas I felt fans were right about that I could and should fix. The first had to do with some voice issues in Mat’s narrative. (I’ve spoken of that elsewhere.) The second had to do with continuity errors. I am not nearly as good at dealing with those as Robert Jordan was–I know he made mistakes, but I felt I made more. So for this project, I enlisted the help of some very detail-oriented members of the fan community as beta readers in an attempt to keep myself honest and catch mistakes before they went to press.

   There are things in this book, like in any book I’ve written, that I fully suspect will draw complaints. In some cases, I know exactly what they are–and I did them that way because I felt it was best for the story and the best way to remain true to Robert Jordan’s vision. It’s the ones that I DON’T expect, but which ring true, that I want to find and correct.
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Brent Weeks, author of THE BLACK PRISM – Photo by Travis Johnson PhotographyBrent 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?

The Interview

 

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.
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Jeff Vandermeer, World Fantasy Award Nominated author of FinchJeff Vandermeer needs little introduction. Between his fiction (he’s just been nominated for another World Fantasy Award), his work on various anthologies or his popular blog, Ecstatic Days, it’s hard to miss Vandermeer’s presence when you step into the online Speculative Fiction community. With the recent release of The Third Bear, a collection of short fiction from Tachyon Publications, Jeff and I decided it would be a great time to sit down and talk about his latest project, the online reviewing sphere, sticks, awards, writing and, just maybe, what other projects he’s got up his sleeve.

It’s a long one, but Jeff pushes me around a little, so grab some popcorn, get comfy and enjoy.

The Interview

Jeff! Welcome to A Dribble of Ink and thanks for dropping by! Any opening words to set the mood?

    “I will smack your head from your body and pull your arteries out through your neck bones.” Oh, sorry, that was the third bear saying hi.

*gulp* The tone has been suitably set, I think.

    Behave yourself, sir.

Your most recent project is a short fiction collection called The Third Bear, recently released by Tachyon Publications. What can The Third Bear, and the stories it contains, tell us, right now, about you as a writer, both professionally and creatively?

The Third Bear by Jeff Vandermeer

    I’ve spent a great deal of effort not explaining anything about the stories in the collection—no story notes, no introduction, just a sparse afterword. It’s not really up to me to say what it tells readers about me or my fiction. For me, it was just important to have a tight, complex collection that entertained but also didn’t compromise.
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