Interview with Steven Erikson, May 2012.
Hello Steve. Thanks for taking part.
SFFWorld: The conclusion to the ten-part ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ (more if you include the novellas!), would make a lesser author want a break after creating an epic work spanning more than 9000 pages. What made you feel you wanted to write more Fantasy?
A: Oh, I took a break. About three weeks, in fact – the longest stint not writing since I began writing full-time. In hindsight I see that it was just the aftermath of completing the series. I needed to settle, take stock, and work myself clear – the series took a toll, and I realised I was living under immense pressure (without really being aware of it at the time), and the sudden absence of that was ... jarring.
As for returning to Fantasy, why not? I love writing it. In any case, I was committed to two more trilogies in the Malazan universe, as well as a number of novellas, so I knew I would be staying in that realm for a while longer.
SFFWorld: What was it that made you want to return to Malazan?
A: I don’t think in terms of a ‘return,’ to be honest, since in my mind I never left. The challenge was in looking at the new trilogy, and thinking about how I would make it different from the ten-book series, in terms of voice, style and so on. That took some mulling.
SFFWorld: Looking back, what are you most proud of when you look at the books now completed?
A: I suppose I am proud of completing what I set out to do, with not much in the way of delays. I don’t recall ever having writer’s block, so it was never a question of stalling, or getting distracted by some other project. The challenge was one of intent – in meeting my own expectations. It’s probably not a wise thing to say, but regardless of fan-response, I feel I did what I set out to do, as best I could.
SFFWorld: Forge of Darkness is a prequel. Did you always have the idea of a prequel in mind, or was it something that developed as an idea as you were writing the Book of the Fallen?
A: I think it began to take shape as an idea while I was writing Toll the Hounds, and accordingly I began laying the groundwork in that novel, via flashbacks. Histories hide behind other histories, and this Kharkanas trilogy is a layer pulled back, but even there it’s not structured as ‘this is precisely what happened back then.’ Rather, it is a tale deliberately reshaped by the narrator, for motives entirely his own. This detail allowed me to stay fresh in creating the tale, without being too tightly bound to any kind of objective reality.
SFFWorld: How does the new series connect to the old?
A: The events in this early period led to direct consequences in the ten-volume series, although time has blurred things considerably. A number of characters from the Book of the Fallen are present in the trilogy (younger, obviously), so readers familiar with the series will find some old friends. At the same time, readers new to my work should have little difficulty immersing themselves into the (pre-)Malazan world. Hopefully, the Kharkanas trilogy can provide a less intimidating gateway into the ten-book series.
SFFWorld: What do you think the new books offer the reader?
A: It depends on the reader. As noted above, fans of the Malazan Book of the Fallen will, one hopes, be pleased to see those familiar faces I mentioned earlier. New readers will, I think, find this a gentler introduction than was Gardens of the Moon. Of course, I could be wrong. There’s no telling with these things and to be honest, I try not to muse on it too much. For what it is worth, the story should prove interesting, and if it doesn’t, then my advance readers missed the boat, and more to the point, so did I!
SFFWorld: As a writer, is it harder or easier to write a prequel? The world’s there, but...
A: Well, you say the world’s there, but ... it isn’t that world. In many respects, it’s not even the Malazan world. It is the progenitor, the setting for a creation myth, and for all that many characters in the ten-volume series believe they have an accurate sense of those ancient times (even the ones who were there – imagine what happens to memory if you were to live tens of thousands of years), well, they aren’t quite as reliable as they might think they are.
Whether it’s harder or easier to write a prequel, I don’t really have an answer. Each work defines itself; it imposes its own demands, its own rules. Writing ‘Forge of Darkness’ was a real pleasure, and everything about it felt new, blessedly refreshed, and very much a work that reaffirmed my love of writing. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve done better, especially with the language, rhythm and tone.
SFFWorld: Forge of Darkness appears at the end of July. How far are you with the next book in the trilogy?
A: I am mapping out the second novel. I may have to step away for a short time, to work on something else, but the plan is to have Fall of Light done by this time next year, if not slightly sooner.