Well, here is the follow-up interview with Esslemont. And yes, he does answer the GRRM question!:-) I hope you enjoy this Q&A as much as the first one!
Many thanks to Cameron for taking the time to do this a second time around, and to Steven Erikson for helping me put it together in the first place.
Once again: Many thanks to interested Malaz readers and fantasy genre fans in general for your submitted questions!
1- Getting published has been a veritable uphill battle for both Steven and yourself. How rewarding is it to finally get that "big" book deal with Transworld? How sweet is it to have the opportunity to have your own Malazan novels published alongside Steven's, from the same publisher?
“Big”? Well, professionally and personally definitely big, yes. Not so big financially. (Steve’s contract, now that was big!). To me it’s so amazing that I frankly can’t believe it yet. And probably won’t until I see it. As to being at Transworld; it really wasn’t an issue in that it wouldn’t have made sense to be anywhere else (in terms of the big publishing houses). Still, it’s a big leap for me and for Transworld. One of the individuals involved in the negotiations said that he had to pick himself up off the floor when they made the offer – this whole deal was not a sure thing.
2- In the same vein, how much of an influence do you think Steven had in Transworld's decision? I'm sure he was championing your works with unflagging enthusiasm.
Steve’s support has been the really amazing thing out of all of this. He never gave up on seeing Malaz in print (and wouldn’t let me give up on my half either). As to his influence, well, I’m sure he has some influence there at Transworld, but really, being a hard-nose kind of a guy I have to think it was the sales numbers that had the influence -- both Steve’s and those from Knives to date. And for that the thanks to go you readers who dared to take the chance on an unknown, and to be welcoming as well. You made it possible.
3- Now that NIGHT OF KNIVES will be a mass market release, will you be doing a rewrite of the novel, making it some sort of "author's preferred edition?"
Oh man, I’m up to my neck in Return and you’re asking for a rewrite of Knives? Eventually, perhaps, I would be happy to turn to that project, but right now let me finish Return. Overall, I have to say that I’m actually quite happy with the way Knives turned out. Very little structural editing was done on the MS. For a first novel that’s something.
4- Regarding RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD, what's the current progress report on the book? In the last interview, you mentioned that you were rewriting it from the ground up, which seems to imply that you are a long way from completion. And yet, one of Steven's comments seemed to imply that you were progressing nicely.
I am currently revising it “from the ground up” and it’s progressing. I have less than a year now to deliver to Transworld and the clock is ticking. Steve had warned me about the pressure and I’m starting to feel it already. And it’s hard to hit the keyboard when it all still feels so unreal – good thing I enjoy writing in the stuff so damn much.
5- NIGHT OF KNIVES was not a full-length novel. It's been said that RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD would be much longer. As things stand right now, how long do you figure the book will be? It's been said that it would potentially be as long as Steven's Malazan volumes. Is that so?
Not a full-length novel? Whoa. Look back on your notes from Intro Lit100. As a sharp eye on the Malaz forum noted: it’s a novel if it’s over 40 – 50 thousand words. Anything less is a novella. Return will be much longer, closer to Gardens length, I think. Anyway, all this talk about length makes me uncomfortable. I’d prefer to discuss quality of story over sheer mass.
6- Now that you have signed with Transworld, I'm convinced that you have a timetable, no matter how tentative is turns out to be. With that in mind, when can readers expect RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD to be released?
Transworld would be the real source for any information on release dates. I presume ’07 for Knives and ‘08 for Return but don’t quote me on it. As for after that, how well Return does will then determine where things go. If the sales numbers are good then Transworld ought to make the offer for further Malaz novels.
7- That book deal probably lifted a huge weight from your shoulders. You mentioned in the past that you did not wish to reveal too much about the forthcoming Malazan books, because you were uncertain if you'd have the opportunity to write them and get them published. Now that both NIGHT OF KNIVES and RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD will indeed be published for certain, which story arc would you like to tackle next?
Funny how getting what you wish for actually adds a huge weight to your shoulders! I believe I talked about the titles in the first section of this Q&A, but the next work Steve and I projected for my sequence would be about the Malazan campaign in the Korel subcontinent and would pick up after Return.
8- In our last interview, you said that you believed we had already seen Fisher Kel Tath in one of Steven's books. Which character did you think he was?
I believe I was thinking back to the many times Steve and I had talked through full arc, the various characters, the events. I remember Fisher very vividly from those sessions – that was my comment about how it was all so real to me (and Steve too, I think) that the entire sequence actually feels as if it’s already written and in print. At least we have heard from Fisher, in the epigrams.
9- You claimed that your last Malazan novel would act as a sort of epilogue to Steven's tenth volume in THE MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLEN. In our previous interview, it was revealed that you felt you might even have to split it in two different project: one to compliment Steven's last book, and another which would be the epilogue. Now that you are both under contract with Transworld, will there be any attempt to make those projects coincide for a final Malazan climax down the line?
If Steve and I can work out the details on a closer integration then it might be possible. My instincts are that simply the sheer number of stories involved would mean that neither of us could do justice to all in any one novel. After that the final “epilogue” would always still stand on its own as originally worked out.
10- Your not knowing the true title of George R. R. Martin's A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series has irked a vast number of his fans, and so did singling him out in one of your answers in the last interview. The consensus among Martin's fans is that you can't possibly have read the series and make such claims. Just to put the matter to rest, have you read the series, and if so what do you think about it?
Thank you for the chance to respond to this flame-up. Firstly, have I read Martin’s series? Yes, with great pleasure -- overall. That I “singled him out” (so to speak) by actually mentioning him simply demonstrates that I think he is worth mentioning. That I think he’s worth mentioning should indicate a lot about my regard for him as a writer, overall, in the genre – someone whose contribution is significant enough that it cannot be ignored. In my opinion he is an excellent writer, one of the most talented in the genre, and as an avid reader of fantasy I welcome that. However (here it comes), the Latin saying is: “There is no disputing matters of taste.” Of course there are elements of his series, A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, that are not to my taste. This should be true for any reader of any series or author. I raised one of those elements (chivalric panoply and conventions) previously as an example. I may have been too peremptory and if so I apologize for that.
11- When asked about the characters you had both created, Steven replied, «Let's see. I could be wrong here and there. Cam was Whiskeyjack, Hedge, Trotts, Coll, Murillio, Turban Orr, Simtal, Vorcan, Draconus, Osserc, the Emperor, Dassem Ultor, Rhulad, Fear, Trull (different names for those three), Envy, Baruk, the Seguleh, Kallor, Prince K'azz, Cowl, all of the Crimson Guard with exceptions noted below, Leoman of the Flails, possibly Kalam, the Crippled God, the Queen of Dreams (second time round), and a number of others whom none of you have met yet.»
Perusing this list, one realizes that you are behind a number of characters that play/have played a very important role in the series thus far. I know you have said that you and Steven leave the door open to let the other use the characters as you guys see fit. Having said that, as the creator of Whiskeyjack, the Emperor, Dassem Ultor, Envy, etc, were there any instances in which Steven used one of your characters in a way that surprised you? Or made you smile and realize that even you could not have done it better?
His characterizations and treatments almost always surprise and make me smile and know I could not have done it better. He has told me that when he was doing Whiskeyjack he was striving to do him as I did him and that may be true, but I tell you, he, and Lady Envy, and others really came alive in his hands. In the bigger picture, neither of us would want to see Malaz divided up into his or mine – I believe the sum of it is so much more than our separate contributions. What I suspect in regards to the above list is that he was simply trying to reassure Malaz readers that our creative work really is collaborative and shared. Take Malaz Island itself, Steve created it, but I set my entire first work in it. We share it.
12- Are you an avid reader of the fantasy genre? If so, which authors make you shake your head in admiration?
I remain an avid fan and reader of the genre, but lately I have to say that I’ve been reading much less than I used to. I just simply read much less now than I used to, period. There isn’t the time anymore. So, I pick and choose much more selectively than before. I have read George R. R. Martin, as I confess above. I read Paul Kearney, Iain M. Banks (hey, as far as I’m concerned, it’s fantasy), Gene Wolfe, and Neal Stephenson (Oh, and I also read that SE guy). Each of these authors provide moments that make me shake my head in wonder. Right now, to feed Return, I’m reading outside the genre (but not that far if you think about it – which is part of the point) Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down, which was amazing and chilling (and that Steve had turned me on to) and I’m rereading Michael Herr’s Dispatches.