Page 2 of 5
By Patrick (2007-08-21)
Q: Since this was your fantasy debut, could you tell us a bit more about the road that saw this one go from manuscript form to published novel?
Well, it started off as a short story in Asimov's called "A Lesson Half-Learned" which I thought was a complete piece. Nice story, punchy ending, bow, and get off the stage. But people -- notably my agent -- thought there was more in it. I sketched out this idea for a series that traced one man's life through individual stories set at different times.
I was thinking of my grandmother, actually. She was born in the 1920s. When you look at the things she lived through -- the depression, the second world war, the invention of television and the ubiquity of the telephone, McCarthyism, the formation of Israel, the Vietnam war -- the scale and scope of that life really dwarfs what we do in "epic" fantasy. My grandmother lives alone and can go pretty much as far as her oxygen tanks will take her. She's lost a husband and a son. She's lived in half a dozen different cities. She was a spitfire as a kid. She's been alive when women died because they couldn't get legal abortions. She's worn white gloves to social occasions. She's seen three children married. She's sent her newly married daughter to live in Columbia. She's gone to meet the train that brought her husband home from war. She knows more secrets about this family than I ever will. Tell me she hasn't been through more than Elric. G'head. I wanted to try to capture a little bit of that. One life in which the whole world changes, because it always does. It's huge and its personal and it's like that for everyone, all the time.
I wrote the first book and ran it through my critique group. They hated it. Every time I brought a few chapters, they said the same thing. They didn't know what was going on, and they didn't like my protagonist. So I saw it through pretty much to the end, then threw it out, deleted the old files in a kind of burn-your-boats way, and wrote the story that I remembered having written before. That draft was much better. It's the one that sold.
Tor picked it up, and I worked it through with Jim Frenkel over there. We got very lucky with the cover art, we got very lucky with the blurbs. Jacqueline Carey, for instance, isn't someone I know, so when she said nice things about the book, it was because she thought 'em. And then it came out. But by then I was working on An Autumn War and my own life had changed so much since I'd written it, it felt weirdly nostalgic to see it again.
Q: Will you be touring to promote A Betrayal in Winter this summer/fall? If so, are there any specific dates that have been confirmed as of yet?
I've got a signing in Albuquerque on September 8th, and I'm going to the Mountains and Plains booksellers convention in September, MileHi Con in October (both of those are in Denver), and the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs in November. Beyond those, nothing's set.
Q: What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write the Long Price Quartet in the first place?
Honestly? That it was Sunday night and I had to have a manuscript to turn in by Tuesday morning. The short story that started it all was something I wrote at Clarion West. We had Connie Willis as our second week instructor, and we met her over dinner Sunday night. She said to start with someone getting hit in the head, I had this vague notion about the Neutral Angels in Dante's inferno, and I had read a Walter Jon Williams story in which people used mudras to modify the meaning of their spoken words. 11pm on Sunday, 7000 word manuscript by Tuesday morning. Go.
Q: What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?
I'm pretty good at making the "bad guy" sympathetic, which is a huge blessing. There's nothing better for building tension in a story than not being quite sure which side you *want* to win, because then every advance anyone makes is a setback for someone else. I'm told the descriptive passages are pretty good too. It's hard for me to tell with that, though. I see what I see and I try to evoke it. Apparently it works more than it doesn't.