Page 1 of 2
By Patrick (2005-07-21)
What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?
Robin Hobb: Definitely characterization. I know and love my characters. For me, the story is really about how the events affect the characters rather than about the events themselves. As characterization is extremely important to me in the books I read, naturally itís a big element in the stories I write.
What would you say was the hardest part of the entire process involved in the writing of THE FARSEER, THE LIVESHIP TRADERS and THE TAWNY MAN? Where did you get the initial idea that drove you to create those series in the first place? What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write THE SOLDIER SON?
RH: Youíre cheating, Patrick! That was 3 questions, not one!
The hardest part of any writing project is the first draft. Getting the story fixed on paper is really difficult for me. With every sentence, you narrow an infinite number of possibilities down to a single track. So every scene represents a decision in how the story is going to unfold. If one of those decisions is wrong, it carries the story off in a direction that may not work for me as a storyteller. And then I have to back up and take another run at it. I always feel a great deal of relief when the first draft is done. After that, the task is to go back and make it pretty.
After writing three bestselling series, is there added pressure when it comes to writing a new project?
RH: The Ďbestsellerí tag doesnít figure into the writing equation on my end. After all, there are many different types of Ďbestseller listsí. A book may be a bestseller on one list and not even show up on another one. So that isnít something I dwell on. From the very beginning, writing has been about constructing the best possible book, telling the story in the way that I find most pleasing. I think if I ever sat down and said to myself, "I have to write something that a whole lot of people will want to read so I can sell lots of books," Iíd give myself the worst case of writerís block ever. Because I simply would have no idea what other people would want me to write. But when I think of all the stories I want to write, my reaction is to worry that Iíll never live long enough to write them all.
You have been acknowledged as one of the best writers in the genre? Where do you think you stand in the fantasy field?
RH: Up in the Northwest corner, just a bit south of Greg Bear. Seriously, I think it would be impossible for me to answer this. Itís based on someone elseís opinion of my work. Who said I was one of the best writers in the field, and when? What book were they talking about, and how much of the genre were they familiar with? If I started giving things like that weight, Iíd just make myself crazy. My day to day thoughts as a writer have a lot more to do with what scene I want to get written today and if I should go back into an earlier chapter and foreshadow something or if itís better to completely surprise the reader. Discussion of the varying merits of different writers is the province of reviewers and people who compile best seller lists. Status in the field is completely out of a writerís control, in my opinion. Itís entirely dependent on reader reaction to the work.
Is a World Fantasy Award something you covet?
RH: Not really. As I mentioned above, the focus is on the writing, not on sales or awards. Even if I seriously coveted a World Fantasy award, I donít think my books are likely to win one. I write trilogies and in many ways, they are not suitable candidates for this award because each book is only 1/3 of a story.
Iím not immune to the allure of a shiny trophy. Iíve won the Asimovís Reader award a couple of times, and ĎBones for Dulathí, my first short story published in a commercial venue, was in the anthology Amazons! and that did win a Best Anthology World Fantasy Award.
When I was a fairly new writer, I did long to win awards. I even went so far as to start thinking that I could write a story tailored for the purpose of winning nominations. Luckily, I came to my senses and realized that if I started doing that, it would no longer be my story. I think being mesmerized by award fantasies is a fairly common pitfall for beginning writers.
This is not to denigrate any of the awards. The lists of winners are a wonderful way to discover books and short stories that might have slipped past me.