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Drosdelnoch Interview (2003)

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 6 months ago

Hi A/all,

Thought I'd post the interview now I have a couple of days to sort things out. Anyway here it is :


1) Since the release of House of Chains the fans have had a large amount of background information on the world added. How have you found the response to the novel?


I admit I wasn't sure how readers would respond to House of Chains. I knew I was taking a risk with the structure, starting with a single POV for the first section, then by having Tavore and her army backtracking along a now legendary route, and finally with an avoidance of an all-out battle between the Malazan forces and the rebels, but in my mind I had good reasons for writing it the way I did. On the one hand I needed to close the loop, while at the same time starting a few new ones. I think there's a finite amount of information a reader can carry, which is probably why trilogies became a popular convention in the genre in the first place. And let's face it, the questions were piling up. By making the setting a familiar one, an author has more leeway to explore complexities of character and history and culture and all that stuff. By running with mostly familiar characters, background gaps can be filled. The challenge is to keep it interesting. So, back to your question, the honest answer is, I'm still not sure. House of Chains certainly seems to have polarised readers somewhat -- I've noted threads gauging the hate meter on Felisin, as well as Karsa Orlong, and it seems pretty split. I recall one thread touching on use of metaphor and symbols and riffs on character and place names, and that was cool.


2) The forthcoming novel, Midnight Tides is set on an entirely never before seen continent, since you have a whole new cast coming forth do you find that it is a necessary break from the main characters that have appeared in the earlier novels or do you yearn to get back to "old friends"?


The necessity in my mind with breaking from established characters has more to do with the overall series arc than with anything else. As with Karsa, I needed to bring other areas up to speed, or, rather, up to date so things proceed apace. In a way, the ten book arc mirrors those found in each novel (and each section, and often, each chapter) -- the notion of convergence, which is usually central to my plotting style. So, as in each novel, I jump around in terms of setting and character, keeping everyone and everything on pace so we all arrive at the ending ... at the ending. Same with the series. In Midnight Tides, I've jumped. Besides, I felt I had a good story, one that interested me, and I wanted to get to it.


3) With the huge cast appearing in the series how do you think that you keep the characters fresh and have you found that any seem to do something that is against their beliefs and had to go back and rewrite the situation?


I usually give characters all the lead they want. I know, it all sounds somewhere between mystical and outright pretentious, but characters really do seem to assert a will of their own at times, often guiding me into unexpected places -- not in terms of setting, but in terms of theme. It takes me a few days of preliminary thinking about a particular character to get a sense of their obsessions. Keeping characters fresh is another matter, and if they're not intrinsically interesting then it's virtually impossible, nor do uninteresting characters belong in a book. I try to pare out the dull ones.


4) You mentioned previously that you have to enjoy writing the characters and that you have certain favourites, who is your current favourite and why would they appeal to people who enjoy your work?


The current favorites are the ones I've just written about in Midnight Tides. Which, as Martha says, is a good thing. Having just finished the first draft of the novel, if I look back on it I'd have to say Tehol Beddict, Bugg, Udinaas and Seren Pedac. Names that mean nothing to anyone at the moment, of course. Tehol and Bugg for the sheer ease of writing them, Udinaas for both his helplessness and his determination, and Seren Pedac for her mystery. I'm not sure about their appeal to others, I never am. We'll see, I suppose.


5) Your other novels seem to follow characters of all types from theives to military men, magicians to heroes. Each character seems to be shades of grey as opposed to black and white why is this and is there going to be a character who is the epitomy of evil working their way through the world?


You know what, I don't think there will be. There's sick people, tortured people and pathetic people, but evil as a pure thing doesn't interest me at all. I don't even know if it exists. Without doubt there are evil acts. People do evil things, and seem to do them from a place devoid of humanity, to the disgust of everyone else. There's outright acts of evil, and there's subtle evil -- the world (our world) seems full of both and everything in between. To balance it (or not), there's some good, out there, somewhere. It's a very depressing thing, at times, to look back on human history and see so much institutional evil, in particular genocide, which seems to start at the very beginning (the Old Testament is filled with such absolute slaughter) and proceeds onward through one civilisation after another. And we're all living with that legacy. Here in North America it was genocide against Native Americans, and since I am living in the city with the largest urban Native population anywhere in the continent, the reminders of that are all around me.


In the Malazan series, I set out for writing characters who were one and all shades of grey. Principally because that's where the genre seemed weakest, where so often writers took the easy way out and so avoided complexity and, to my mind, all that is interesting about reality. If I tried the old good versus evil thing I'd get bored, very fast.


6) In House of Chains we see that there are a number of Dragons entrapped or flying free within the "paths" are they central as to why the paths remain or is there another reason for why they are there?


That's one of those damn-near subterranean subplots, alas. Their story is coming.


7) With the Crippled God arriving and utilising his own "house" in the Deck of Dragons how do you envision he is going to manipulate the deck in his own favour?


Well, I expect he'll do his best to manipulate all that he can, anyway he can. He's a very unhappy god.


8) With the release of Midnight Tides your half way through the "cycle" of the Malazan Book(s) of the Fallen how if granted hind sight would you change your work? Or rather what would you have done differently?


Yikes. I really don't know. I haven't thought much about it. Catch all the inconsistencies the first time through, I suppose. It was a bit of an accident that Deadhouse Gates immediately followed Gardens -- I'd originally planned for Memories of Ice to be the second novel, and I had almost three hundred pages of it written before Gardens was even published. But I lost those three hundred pages. So, in grief I turned to Deadhouse Gates. Hind sight? I think it turned out for the better. I am satisfied with the sequence. Memories as the second in the series would have been a mistake, because it would have set a precedent I didn't want, whereas Deadhouse, jumping away as it did from Gardens, set the right precedent.


9) In addition to this do you forsee too many complications arising from the earlier novels or is there going to be a neat way to tie everything up in the final edition of the series?


Hmm. Things will get tied up. Others won't. I'm not a tidy person. Following Midnight Tides, the stories get linear, or, rather, more linear than they have been, and the central arc becomes ever more dominant. And that central arc is what gets detonated in the tenth book. Having reached the halfway point, I don't know how much more complicated I can make the series. Not without all our brains exploding.


10) With the release of the success of the novella do you forsee the use of these to explain events around other characters or are they just a way to develop possible future expanses into the series?


The novellas about Bauchelain and Korbal Broach won't directly impact on the series in any way. At least, I don't plan on them doing so. They're my pressure valves. So nice after finishing a quarter million word novel.


11) You've also mentioned in earlier interviews that you have roleplayed for a number of years. Was this used to playtest the world so you could develop and overcome the flaws or do you see the series becoming a roleplay world in its own right?


I don't think conscious playtesting was ever involved. Rather, it was an act of familiarising oneself with the fantasy world, fleshing it out, and having fun. All the maps, character lists, and some memorable events have all served me well in writing the Malazan world. But the roleplaying was in very much a novelistic style, very character-based.


12) Has anyone approached you in order to produce a roleplay system and when if at all is it possibly coming out?


No, I have not been approached regarding a system or a game. If I ever am, I will do some hard thinking on it before deciding one way or the other.


13) Being affiliated with a message board and every so often checking the responses how do you forsee the fans input in the future development of your novels? How would you say that this has helped or hindered your work?


The readership response has certainly helped. As I've said before, they don't miss nuthin. Which is great. It's a complicated relationship, the one between a writer and his or her readers. Traditionally, it's been the lot of many writers to run screaming from all contact with their fans. And sometimes with legitimate concerns -- they're under enough pressure as it is, etc. Witness Stephen King. And sometimes there's this notion that purity of vision can only be maintained in isolation, blah blah. And then there's the inevitable disappointment with this beards thing (I hastily point out, I had a beard long ago but that's because I was working as an archaeologist and we all had beards, even the women, but I've since gotten rid of it with no regrets -- who needs hair, anyway?). We're mostly old farts, you see, and lousy company to boot.


Regarding input in the future development of my novels, well, the readers help me in tagging details and issues that need dealing with at some point in the series, and their predictions are always entertaining and often enlightening. The spats are curious, too. A while back I went on the site and tossed out a question (you may recall) and received some terrific responses, giving me a shot in the arm when I needed it. Mitigated by the collective critical capacities of the group, of course, which keeps my feet on the ground. So, it's good. Don't change.


14) Each character has many attributes that develop a kinship with the reader, how do you come up with them and do they more or less flow from thier initial concept or is it a case of they develop as the plot does? IE are they fully formed when they arrive or just a shell that needs filling?


A bit of both, I think. Choices are thrown at them, the way they're thrown at all of us every day, and I sit back (somewhat) and watch them muddle through as best they can. Granted, I know when they're made terrible mistakes, but then again, don't we all? I don't know if this is where the kinship comes from. It's fascinating to see who goes for whom, reader to character, that is. Fiddler, for example. Reluctant, mostly irresponsible when given a choice, footsore, often miserable, and deep-down lonely as hell. Not nearly as often on the page as one might think, yet he appears to be one of the most popular among the lot. Or, Anomander Rake -- shows up, usually kills stuff, then leaves. A couple conversations and that's about it. All right, there's more to 'em than that. Even so, it's weird and it's great and yeah, I guess there's something about them. Even for me. When I get ready to write Anomander Rake, I swear the atmosphere changes inside and out. Same for Karsa Orlong. And, with someone like Fiddler, it's the comfort of long familiarity and plenty of affection. Seeps through? Could be. Kruppe arrives and I want to grab him by the lapels and shake him, but he slips away, every time. It's different with each and every character. They just hit different. It's that way with me and, I suppose, something similar happens to the reader. How much of that is my manipulation? Check out the love/hate/understand-but-hate/pity discussions concerning Felisin. They're amazing to read (for me). Whatever happened there, it worked. When I think of how much the readers carried over (about her) from Deadhouse Gates, I am stunned. And relieved, because without all that House of Chains would never have worked insofar as it did. Now, all I need to do is come up with a few dozen more characters you can all love/hate.


Thanks for the Q&A opportunity, Gareth.


Take care,



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