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By Hobbit (2006-01-24)
LEBBON: Big admission here—I don't read much fantasy. I read a little .... but it's not my usual fayre. Now, I think that's a healthy place to be for someone who's just written two fantasy novels, and it means that I approached much of the world-building with my own ideas pressing to be developed on the page, rather than conglomerations of other ideas I've read about. Of course there's always a background awareness, and thinking about it now I guess that a lot of the landscape of Noreela—the world where DUSK and DAWN are set—resembles my native Wales, with mountains, mines, valleys and lakes. But there's a lot more to it besides, and much of the landscapes and events in the novels are also influenced by my love of, and concern for nature. The basic jist of the novels is that magic has been withdrawn from humanity because of misuse, and the land is now winding down. In a way I guess this reflects my concern over the environment, although that's certainly not the main thrust of the novel. Another influence: My fiction often contains characters that are both good and bad—emphasising the idea that there's no dark or light, only different shades of grey—and that's an idea I enjoyed exploring deeper than ever in DUSK. One of my main characters is a thief who has been caught and punished. A criminal, but ultimately a good man.
LEBBON: You've got beer foam on your beard. That shows it's a good pint. No, don't rub it off! Now then, you've said that THE MYTH HUNTERS is probably more of a fantasy novel than anything you've ever written, although in novels from THE FERRYMAN to WILDWOOD ROAD there's always been that fantastical, other-worldly element. It seems to me that with THE VEIL you're actually constructing more of an alternate world than ever before, rather than simply dipping into an alternate reality in the other novels. Was this a fun thing for you to do? Was there a sense of creative freedom in doing this? And how 'alive' did that world feel for you?
GOLDEN: Nearly everything I've ever written I'd consider more dark fantasy than horror. Only THE FERRYMAN, PROWLERS, and THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN really seem to me to fall more on the horror side of the fence. (Though I'm not one of those writers who tries to escape the label. 'Horror Writer' is just about the finest job description I can imagine.) Novels like STRANGEWOOD and STRAIGHT ON 'TIL MORNING have ventured far afield from horror, but not so far that I couldn't still see horror in the rear-view mirror. With THE MYTH HUNTERS and the rest of THE VEIL trilogy, that's no longer true. Certainly this story is loaded with the horrific. There is a lot of very nasty, very unpleasant business, including demons in cherry trees and child mutilation murders. But this is fantasy as seen through my eyes. Like you, I don't read a lot of fantasy, but what I do read, I love. Charles de Lint. Tim Powers. Robert Holdstock. Neil Gaiman. You'll see the influence of every one of those writers in THE MYTH HUNTERS, and others as well. Yet I also think—and to finally get around to answering your question (that's what taking me to a pub will get you)—that the world of THE VEIL is unique, because it's uniquely me. It's been perhaps the hardest work of any fiction I've ever written, and yet also the most fun, and both of those things spring from the total creative freedom that comes when you've got a world where literally EVERYTHING is true, in some ways, and anything is possible. As to how "alive" the world felt . . . let's just say this: alive enough that characters NOT in the outline keep appearing in the story, writing themselves in, and completely altering it. One of the major, pivotal characters in the tale was not in the outline, and in the fourth or fifth chapter she literally just walks up and inserts herself in the story, and pretty soon forced me to jettison the entire structure of the various romantic entanglements that were in the outline, and create on the fly. And she's just one of numerous characters who have made themselves important to the story. Items that might have been a paragraph have stretched to chapters. I love this sort of thing in writing because if *I* don't know what's going to happen next, chances are pretty good the reader won't either.
GOLDEN: So, I'm off to buy the third round. Meanwhile, though, here's something to ponder, as it's something that readers are certainly going to be thinking about. Both DUSK and THE MYTH HUNTERS are definitely fantasy novels with seriously horrific elements. Is this just the way you're wired, unable to escape the darkness? What would you say to fantasy readers who don't like horror but might be intrigued by DUSK?
LEBBON: DUSK is a dark fantasy in which lots of horrific things happen. So is THE LORD OF THE RINGS. By the very nature of DUSK's story, lots of nasty things are going to happen, and there are lots of unpleasant people and creatures out for their own profit. It's a novel about conflict, and as a species we unfortunately know an awful lot about that I didn't set out to write an horrific novel but it turned out very dark indeed. But I like that. There aren't any cuddly dragons or fluffy faeries in DUSK, and I think it's more honest for that. But it is very definitely a fantasy novel, with a whole new world and a whole new set of rules. For me, the definition of a fantasy novel is more to do with setting than tone.
Copyright Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon