David Keck Interview

From the number of people who have read my post pertaining to David Keck's In the Eye of Heaven on numerous message boards out there, I thought it would be nice to ask him a few questions. That way, everyone could get to know this new author whose book will be released next week.

He seems to be a pretty nice guy. Then again, he is Canadian!;-)

- For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, give us a taste of the story that is IN THE EYE OF HEAVEN.

In the Eye of Heaven is really the story of a tournament knight. It starts with our hero, Durand, as a young man who's just thrown away fourteen years of his life training for a future he'll never have: a quiet life as lord of a few plowmen. He finds himself kicked out and wandering the roads in a time when winter is freezing the ditches and the wilds are full of spirits.

Durand's fight to carve out a place for himself happens against a backdrop of civil war and unrest. And he crashes right into the whole mess from the very start. There's been war on the borders -- and whispering around the throne has the whole kingdom on edge. Worse, the land itself shudders along with its people. There are signs in the Heavens and long-banished spirits stirring in the wastelands.

By the end of this first novel, Durand finds himself drawn right into the heart of the fight for power. And, though he's a decent man, his every step snarls him in knots of betrayal that test him, heart and soul.

- What author makes you shake your head in admiration?

Lately, I have really enjoyed the work of writers like Patrick O'Brian and Steven Pressfield. Although they are both writers of historical fiction, each is capable of snatching the reader up and carrying him off to another world every bit as real and unpredictable as the one in which we live. O'Brian, especially, leaves me sitting with my jaw in my hands. The man is a master of his material and never cuts his reader an inch of slack. If a pair of sailors are talking, they never wink to the reader and explain the knots. It's a real magic trick that he doesn't leave the reader behind.

- You have an unbelievable eye for details. Where those that knowledge of the Middle Ages comes from?

I probably got hooked on the medieval when my mum read me bedtime stories. (We had a few thick very thick books with taped bindings that were a generation older than I was). Since then, I've looted libraries and bookstores for more. And, when I could afford it, traveled. By now, I'm sure I've climbed around a hundred old forts, tombs, and stone circles -- and some can really conjure up a sense of another place and time.

This last summer, my wife and I drove around northern Scotland. There was a day when we climbed towering hill with hawks turning and swooping over our heads only to clamber down a neolithic tomb. These things are still out there. How can you help but tell!

- Steven Erikson told me that your debut novel went through a number of versions. What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write IN THE EYE OF HEAVEN in the first place?

In the Eye of Heaven began like a mystery, I suppose: at the end. I wrote a short story quite a long time ago starring an ageing knight who felt that he was in the wrong fairy tale. Scarred and stooped and grizzled, he went off to rescue a duke's daughter in return for half her father's lands. She'd been snatched by some ogre from the mountains -- and our reluctant hero wasn't sure she'd be happy for the rescue.

That may still be the end -- or nearly.

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy Award? Why, exactly?

A long time ago a writer friend of mine told me that I should start selling out. I've never been entirely sure that I wasn't -- or that I knew how. When I'm working on a story, I can only leave in what I can stand. I can only smile at what makes me smile. If I was hunting bestsellers, I'm sure I'd never get one. If I went prowling for awards, God knows what I'd wind up with.

- Honestly, do you believe that the fantasy genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

I have spent time defending fantasy. Mozart and Shakespeare had a good line in medieval fantasy, after all. Still, I find that fighting about the whole thing doesn't gain a person very much. Some readers have very little time for anything that steps away from realism: the gnomes, the starships, the magic swords. For many people, these things are packed away with the old toys when they're trying to appear grown up. Hopefully, good writing (and maybe a few good movies) will draw readers back. And, personally, I can think of no better place to wrestle with demons than a good fantasy.

- Will there be a promo tour this spring? If so, what cities are currently on the itinerary?

My first little promotional tour is to my home town: Winnipeg. The Canadian distributor is flying me to Winnipeg. They've arranged some interviews (including a spot on CBC radio and my first bit of TV), and it should be a good chance to see old friends and breathe the clear, prairie air.

- Any foreign sales to report thus far?

So far, the Germans and the Russians have bought the rights to publish In the Eye of Heaven in Europe. It's entirely possible that more offers will come to the table as the book rolls out.

- What extensive research did the writing of the IN THE EYE OF HEAVEN entail?

I read books of folklore and social history all the time. There is always a stack of the things on every flat surface wherever I've been. (You can't imagine). And there's nothing like getting out to see the real thing. I like little better than finding lost nooks and crannies in an old castle I read about long ago.

But the search gets sillier. Once upon a time, a friend of mine was taking a course in the Canadian novel. He showed me a novel written about the First World War. While the author, title and plot have all escaped me, I still have good notes on what it was like to live with lice crunching in the seams of your uniform. And I had much the same reaction to Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes. First hand accounts of fleas! Magic!

Oh. And a good book of battlefield archeology is important if you're going to know which bones to break.

- What made you choose to write an epic fantasy? Were there any perceived conventions you wanted to twist or break?

Like so many, I started my love affair with fantasy reading Tolkien. To me, that's the genre I think of when I get to work. But I can't write like that man. I'm from a different time and a different nation. I suppose it's all about what makes a person cringe and what makes him smile. I love thickets full of clammy devils and the heartstopping thrill of medieval dentistry. But I flinch at an elf who's a dab hand with a longbow. Conventions and cliches: it's all in the smiles and cringes.

Many thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions. I wish you continued success with your writing career and best of luck with the upcoming release of IN THE EYE OF HEAVEN.

Thanks for giving me a chance to say hello!

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