With River of Stars (Canada, USA, Europe) being released in a few short weeks, the folks at SF Signal have an interview with Guy Gavriel Kay!
Here's a teaser:
Your new book, River of Stars, will be out in April and takes place four centuries after Under Heaven. Will you tell us a bit about the research you did for these novels, which take place in ancient China?
Well, small caveat, but an important one. As always in my work, it is not ‘in ancient China’ it is in a setting meant to evoke ancient China (the Song Dynasty this time). I do this ‘quarter turn to the fantastic’ for many reasons, and can be quite startlingly boring on the subject. For those with a tolerance for pain, there are essays and speeches over at brightweavings.com in the ‘GGK’s Words’ section. The research for each novel is, put simply, my favorite part of any book. I am just learning things, reading, travel sometimes, corresponding with experts in a time and place. And in the early stages I have no duties, no responsibilities yet. Eventually the nagging voice becomes really assertive and I know I have to shift gears and begin to produce something from that year or two of preparation. But by now it is clear (to me) that my creativity flows best when grounded in a lot of detail. Indeed, I believe that grounding has to be so secure that the vast majority of the research does not enter the book except subliminally, or does so very quietly … or else you get what I hate as a reader, which is the ‘info dump’ meant to show off that the author did a bit of background stuff! Quite a bit of fantasy features characters that are very black and white, with nothing in between, no gray. Your stories feature very gray characters much of the time and challenge the reader to judge for themselves the “right” and “wrong” of their actions. Do you personally find it to be more challenging to write “gray” characters? Was this a conscious choice on your part when you started writing or was it a more organic process? I honestly think we write the books we’d like to read if someone else wrote them. Since I tend to be bored by the absence of subtlety or nuance, I suppose I am always trying to achieve that in my work. It is for the reader, obviously, to decide if a) they like this idea and b) I succeed. So it isn’t so much ‘conscious’ or ‘organic’ as a matter of my own aesthetic, I guess. I have been teased that I’ve never met a seocndary character I didn’t like … and there’s truth to that. I often find that through the peripheral figures I can achieve my strongest effects, whether of character, emotion, or shaping depth to a setting for the reader.