New Robin Hobb Interview

Hi there!

It is with great pleasure that I learned that Robin had accepted my invitation for a another little chat prior to the release of Forest Mage. Hopefully this Q&A will help you wait for the second volume of The Soldier Son trilogy. As always, it was a delight to do this with her.

Many thanks to Robin Hobb for doing this. If you follow her newsgroup, you are aware that she was incredibly busy and was afflicted by back problems this last year. Hence, I consider it a privilege to have been granted this second interview with her.



For more info about Forest Mage: Canada, USA, Europe

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write THE SOLDIER SON trilogy in the first place?

My books usually are the result of several ideas colliding rather than a single idea sprouting up and taking root. I don’t always know all the roots they come from, but in this case I’m aware of at least two of them. One was a portrait in the lobby of a hotel that I stayed in while I was in London. And the other was when we were driving past a French cemetery, with a tall stone wall with iron points on the top. I wondered, “Are we keeping something out or keeping something in?”

- 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 don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this, to tell the truth. I write the stories that I want to tell, and I read the stories that appeal to me, and labels don’t influence me much in either writing or reading. The ‘greats’ of any genre transcend genre walls. Terry Pratchett is his own category. So is Stephen King. If you write well enough, the public doesn’t care what your roots are. They just want to read a good story. If I want to measure my popularity, then I’m more concerned about the people who walk into bookstores and libraries and walk out carrying one of my books than I am about a critical evaluation or review. I’m not disparaging critics and reviewers. They often have very good insights into books. I am saying that pleasing a critic or breaking out of a genre label isn’t high on my list of ambitions. Writing a book you can’t put down is. When I look at the bestseller lists, I see SF and fantasy holding down some very high positions. And many writers that hit that #1 spot have elements of fantasy or SF in them, even if the authors and reviewers don’t label them as such. So I don’t think that the tags matter all that much. I don’t think readers go into a store looking for a ‘respectable’ book. Fiction is more about enjoyment and interest.

- Characters often take a life of their own. Which of your characters do you find the most unpredictable to write about?

All of my characters are unpredictable. If they weren’t, writing about them would be far too boring. Just like the friends I choose in real life. If I could predict everything about my characters from the very beginning, then my readers probably could, too. I enjoy writing much more when I don’t know every little thing to start with. And I think readers enjoy books that can sometimes startle or surprise them.

- What made you choose to write an epic fantasy? Were there any perceived conventions you wanted to twist or break? Why do you think that epic fantasy has such a vast and fractured fanbase -- those who either rabidly support or denounce a particular author?

I wanted to tell a story, and my stories tend to be rather big and sprawling. I don’t think I made a conscious decision to tell an ‘epic’ story. As for questions about the readers supporting or denouncing a story . . . I’m afraid that doesn’t come into it for me. When I sit down in front of the keyboard and screen, I’m focused on the story, and writing it in a way that I enjoy. I do want others to read and enjoy the stories, but I don’t pay a great deal of attention to readers ‘supporting or denouncing’ a particular author. I’ll admit I go by Amazon and sometimes look at the reader reviews, but they don’t really have an impact on the creative process. For one thing, by the time those reviews are posted, it’s too late to tailor the book to those readers. They either liked it or they didn’t, and there’s nothing I can do to change it either way. It’s all in the past. Usually, they are talking about a book I wrote at least a year ago, even if it was published only a few days ago. So I don’t think there is much point in dwelling on it.

I don’t think I could write at all if I were focused on trying to please a particular set of readers. The story really dictates how it has to be told, I think. If I started bending, spindling and mutilating the story in an effort to make it appeal to a particular set of readers, I think I’d end up with a story I despised and one that no one else liked very much.

- Have the plotlines diverged much since you began writing your different series, or did you have the entire plot more or less figured out from the very beginning? Were any characters added or further fleshed out beyond your original intention? Have you made any changes to your initial plans during the course of the writing of those series?

No more so than usual. In writing any multi part story, there are changes that occur as the writing goes along. As characters develop, the writer sees better paths to tell the tale. For Soldier Son, the basic shape of the story is pretty much the same as when I started. The characters always take on greater depth during the writing; it would be a pretty bare story if they stayed as the stick figures that the outline gives. Part of the fun of writing is watching that happen.

- How would you like to be remembered as an author? What is the legacy you'll leave behind?

Hm. I don’t think I’ve given this a great deal of thought. Off the top of my head, I think the legacy I’ll leave behind will have a lot more to do with how I live my life and how I’ve influenced my children and grandchildren than it will with the books I write. I’m much too close to my own books to know if any of them will have any staying power past five or ten years, let alone past my life time. But I am almost certain that the values I give to my family will be passed down to later generations. I think of myself as a storyteller, and I think I can tell stories to this particular generation ofreaders. But whether my books will last into the future is really hard to say. I think our world is changing at a much faster rate than at any time in history, and I expect that rate of change to accelerate as the years go by. So it’s hard to tell if the stories I’m telling right now will have anything to say to readers 20 or 30 years from now. Only a tiny percentage of books have staying power. I’d have to be pretty egotistical to think that mine will make the cut.

- Do you already have plans for another fantasy series following the completion of THE SOLDIER SON trilogy? I remember you telling me that you had the idea which made you write THE TAWNY MAN while writing THE LIVESHIP TRADERS.

I have ideas, but nothing that I’m ready to talk about yet. There are always a queue of books and stories waiting to be told. The problem is deciding which one is most compelling and interesting at this time, and which ones need to stew a little longer. Sometimes the only way to find out is to try a chapter or two. And when I hit a wall and can’t tell what happens next, I know that the story needs to age a bit longer, or that perhaps there’s a piece of it that I haven’t discovered yet.

- As a writer, you have managed to surpass yourself with every new book since the publication of THE FARSEER trilogy. Is this a goal you set for yourself, to raise the bar higher for each new project?

Oh, that makes me smile. I think very many people would disagree with you! A lot of the feedback I get is from readers who want me to go back and write more about Fitz and The Fool rather than venture into new worlds, characters and stories. So I don’t think those readers would say I have ‘surpassed myself.’ But I also think that is very common, and not something for me to take too seriously.

I think every writer hopes that the new book will be better and stronger than the ones that have come before it. But I think that if a writer continues to challenge himself, he must expect that sometimes there will be failures, experiments that don’t succeed, or that he will venture into new territory where his readers may not wish to follow him. Obviously, I don’t think that a writer should flinch from trying new things and telling new stories. But I also don’t think a writer can expect the readers to be more thrilled with each new book. Some will want another helping of the same story the writer told last time. Others will be willing to try new things. And some will try the story, and either like it better or think the writer made a big mistake. All a writer can do is trying to tell a very good story every time.

- Is there a reason why you chose to join Eos/HarperCollins after spending so many years with Bantam Spectra?

Business, pure and simple. Writers (and editors) move around a lot during their careers. I began with Ace, went to Bantam, and now I’m with Harper Collins. Writers and editors look for projects that are mutually fulfilling and are a good fit. Sometimes the direction the editor takes diverges from where the author is going, or vice versa. And then people move on.

- SHAMAN'S CROSSING received some mixed reviews. Most of the criticism concerned the pace of the novel. Personally, I got the feeling that you were laying a lot of groundwork for the rest of the series and that THE SOLDIER SON could well be your most ambitious work to date. In retrospect, what are your thoughts pertaining to this?

I try not to pay too much attention to reviews. Most of the professional reviews I saw for Shaman’s Crossing were positive. Most of the readers ones on Amazon are negative. In this particular case, I think a lot of the reception has to do with reader expectations and hopes. Many readers had become comfortable in Fitz’s world and simply wanted to hear another story set there. And that wasn’t what they got. So they were disappointed. Other readers just didn’t like the book for their own individual reasons. The first book in a trilogy usually has to spend a lot of time setting up the world and the characters, and that can lead to a slower pace. I think that has been true of the first book in every trilogy I’ve written. We’ll see what people think of the second and third books.

- Last but not least, without giving anything away, what can you tell us about FOREST MAGE? What should we expect?

Oh, you know I don’t do spoilers! All I’ll say is that the story will continue to unfold, the characters will grow and change, the horizons of the story will expand--- in other words, it will be the second book of a trilogy.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (May 30th)

In hardcover:

Charlaine Harris' Definitely Dead maintains its position at number 12. This marks the novel's third week on the NYT bestseller list. For more info about it: Canada, USA, Europe

Nothing to report on paperback. . .

The Lies of Locke Lamora

No fantasy debut received this much hype on this side of the Atlantic Ocean since the release of Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule. Indeed, we've been hearing about Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora for months now. Rave reviews abound, generating the sort of buzz authors and editors can only fantasize about.

Unfortunately, too much hype can also raise expectations to a level where readers' disappointment becomes inevitable. Aware of that particular fact, I wished to remain purely objective when I began to read this novel. It's been hailed as the best debut ever, after all.

And to ascertain that readers will not rush to buy this one based on the wrong idea, here is what The Lies of Locke Lamora is not: A grand fantasy epic vast in scope, the likes of which Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin and Steven Erikson produce. There are no philosophical and spiritual dimensions such as can be found in the works of R. Scott Bakker. There is no subtle human touch such as can be glimpsed in books by Robin Hobb and L. E. Modesitt, jr.

What The Lies of Locke Lamora is, however, is one ripping good yarn! In an interview, Lynch claimed that he wanted the novel to be "kick-you-in-the-ass fun." Well, it certainly is just that! If you're looking for something that will move you and stir your soul, look elsewhere. This one is an imaginative and convoluted caper. And as such, this fun-filled ensemble of adventures and misadventures is sure to breathe new life into the genre.

The book is no worldbuilding galore. Far from it, actually. The action mostly takes place in a single city, Camorr. Yet one must give Scott Lynch credit for creating a living and breathing Venice-like locale. With flair and an unmistakable eye for details, the author's narrative evokes arresting imagery. Hence, although we haven't seen much in terms of worldbuilding, several things hint at more depth to this universe than what is perceptible at face value. Which bodes well for the upcoming volumes of the seven-book cycle that will be The Gentlemen Bastards.

The characterizations are above and beyond what is currently the norm in today's market. With Locke Lamora, Lynch has created an immediate superstar. As you keep turning those pages, it's pretty hard not to find him endearing. A roguish thief and con artist, Locke is the heart and soul of this tale. Having said that, the rest of the cast are interesting in their own right, especially the other members of the Gentlemen Bastards. Scott Lynch truly has the knack for characterizations. Thus, The Lies of Locke Lamora is definitely a character-driven novel.

I was a bit put off by the dialogues, I must admit. Written in contemporary fashion, there are obscenities and profanities at every turn. The "f" word finds a way to surface on nearly every page, or so it seems. Yet one must keep in mind the characters' background as members of Camorr's underworld. Still, I believe that it was a bit overdone. If one can look past that, however, Scott Lynch's prose is impressive. Honestly, it's far better than one can expect from most fantasy books, let alone a debut.

The pace is just perfect. A fan of the genre, Lynch knows how to keep readers turning those pages to see what happens next!

Mark this novel for the boys' club, though. Something tells me that female readers will not get into it as much as the men. Just a hunch, nothing I can put my finger on. . .

In my opinion, the biggest quality about The Lies of Locke Lamora is its accessibility. Since basically anyone can get a kick out of a well-executed caper, this book promises to find many disparate fans. Moreover, this is the sort of tale which can be enjoyed by people of all ages. As such, it will undoubtedly make a lot of noise in the weeks/months to come. The sequel, Red Seas under Red Skies will be released in January 2007, which should maintain a high level of interest among readers.

My advice to potential readers: Forget the hype. Don't buy this book thinking that it will awe you and blow your mind. Scott Lynch said he wanted to write something that would have people saying "oh cool!" as often as possible. And it's mission accomplished. This novel is a very entertaining read, to be sure.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is a complete joyride strewn with a remarkable number of corpses (he did mention George R. R. Martin as an inspiration, after all!). And if he keeps up the good work, Lynch will rapidly establish himself as one of the major players in the fantasy genre. I'm eager to sink my teeth into the sequel. . .

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe

This and that. . .

Well, there is a Canadian team in the Stanley Cup finals, so I'm a happy camper!;-)

I've been receiving emails asking me a number of questions, which made me realize that it was time for a little update. So here's the deal:

- The new Robin Hobb interview will go live on June 1st. Only a few more days to go!

- The extremely popular Robin Hobb contest is still going strong. HarperCollins UK asked me to wait till the end of June before drawing the name of the big winner. So there is still time for everyone to register.

- I'm currently reading Scott Lynch's eagerly awaited debut, The Lies of Locke Lamora. I will likely finish it tomorrow or the following day. So expect a book review in the coming days. Although some people went a little over the top with their praise pertaining to this novel, it is indeed a very good debut. For more info about this one: Canada, USA, Europe

- As soon as I'm done with the book, I will also have the pleasure to do an interview with Scott Lynch. So expect that Q&A in the near future.

- I've just received Ian Cameron Esslemont's answers to our follow-up questions. This second interview should be up and running in the next couple of days.:-)

- For all you German-speaking fantasy fans out there, a new Malazan website has seen the light:

- I've been the middleman for an interview done by with Jacqueline Carey. Once again, pretty interesting. The website will likely include the English version, which means that you can expect a link. The same thing goes for a Paul Kearney Q&A. It's too early to tell, but there will probably be another French/English interview with R. Scott Bakker in the near future, this time with

- If all goes well, there will be a contest for a copy of Terry Goodkind's Phantom next month. It certainly feels wonderful to finally have the chance to offer a novel on the triumph of the human spirit instead of the fantasy crap which is habitually up for grabs here!;-)

- Other contests to keep an eye on: I'll likely have a signed copy of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn in July. A couple of copies of Paul Kearney's The Stars We Steer By will probably be up for grabs as well. Later, I will have a UK hardcover edition of Naomi Novik's Throne of Jade for you guys to win. As always, I'm working on other contests to keep things interesting around here!

That's about it for now, folks!:-)

KUSHIEL'S SCION contest winners

Hi there,

The names of the winners have finally been drawn. And three lucky ladies will soon receive a signed copy of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Scion delivered right to their mailbox! The winners are:

Cheryl D. Rock, from Decatur, Illinois (Rhapsody on

Ashley Anne Gooder, from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Susan Anderson, from Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Many thanks to Warner Books for supporting another great contest! And thanks to all the participants!

Stay tuned for more!

Win a pair of Kitty novels!

Hi guys!

I read Carrie Vaughn's Kitty and the Midnight Hour last fall and was pleasantly surprised. The novel garnered some rave reviews soon afterward. If you wish to read my own book review, you will find it here. To put it simply, it's cool, it's hip, and it's quite entertaining. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe

The sequel, Kitty goes to Washington, will be released next month. I already have an ARC and will be reading it shortly. Hopefully it'll be as good as its predecessor. For more info about this novel: Canada, USA, Europe

And I'm happy to report that the good people at Warner Books have accepted to hook up five lucky winners with a set of both novels!:-)

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "KITTY." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy. Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (May 23rd)

Once again this week, nothing to report. . .

Black Powder War contest winners

Hi guys!

The names of our winners have been drawn. They will each receive a copy of Naomi Novik's Black Powder War delivered right to their mailbox! It doesn't get much better than this!

Many thanks to the good people at Del Rey Books for accepting to support this contest.

The winners are:

John D. Sill1, from Round Lake, Illinois, USA ( Jaxom 1974 over at Ran's ASOIAF message board)

Konrad Gaertner, from Richardson, Texas, USA (Robin Hobb's newsgroup)

Stay tuned for more!

Black Powder War

With Temeraire/His Majesty's Dragon, newcomer Naomi Novik came out of left field with what certainly appeared to be a winner. The quality of its sequel, Throne of Jade, demonstrated that the first volume was no fluke. Building on existing storylines, it showed that Novik's series possessed a lot more depth than its predecessor hinted at. And with Black Powder War, the author sets the bar even higher.

Some readers pointed out that this series didn't fill one with awe like works by authors such as George R. R. Martin, R. Scott Bakker and Steven Erikson. Be that as it may, in terms of entertainment this trilogy is definitely a breath of fresh air that enables it to stand out in the fantasy genre.

More and more, it's evident that Novik has an historian's eye for details. The backdrop of the tale remains the Napoleonic Wars. Bonaparte himself makes an appearance. The author's erudite knowledge of that historical period imbues her books with realism. And yet, as I mentioned in my review of His Majesty's Dragon, this is not your typical alternate history novel.

Although Laurence and Temeraire hold center stage once again, Black Powder War permits us to get better acquainted with other characters, both old and new. Granby, especially, comes to mind. Tharkay is also an interesting character, mostly because it's impossible to size him up. We get to see more of Lien, the albino dragon. Iskierka, a dragonet we meet near the end of the novel, shows a lot of potential.

Once more, it was a joyride to follow Temeraire's misadventures as Laurence and his crew must fly overland from China to Istanbul. Orders of capital import reach Laurence in Macao. Time being of the essence, a sea voyage cannot be considered. With the French doing their utmost to secure an alliance with China and with Napoléon terrorizing Continental Europe, Laurence is acutely aware that they have no time to lose. With the enigmatic Tharkay as their guide, they embark on a long sojourn. Along the way, feral dragons will land them in a heap of troubles, and they will soon discover that treachery is afoot within the Ottoman Empire. Somehow, they must find a way to return to England.

My only disappointment is that Black Powder War is by no means the end of the trilogy, not even an end. The book ends with a cliffhanger of a sort. Which means that I must now wait for the fourth volume to see what happens next. Quite vexing, actually!;-)

Kudos to Naomi Novik for breathing new life in the much-overused dragon concept, which in itself if laudable. Moreover, she did it with the skills of a veteran writer and unmistakable panache to boot!

Kudos also to Del Rey Books for releasing the three volumes of this trilogy in so short a span of time. For once, readers can have their cake and eat it too!

For the sole reason that it's a welcome change from the multitude of dark and gritty fantasy epics, I encourage everyone to give Naomi Novik a shot. You won't be disappointed. I haven't had this much fun reading fantasy books in quite some time!

The final verdict: 8/10

For more information about this novel: Canada, USA, Europe

Midnight Tides

Well, what else can I say? Another Malazan epic, and another novel standing on a far higher plane than most "good" fantasy books/series out there.

I was a bit taken aback when I discovered that Midnight Tides was not part of the main sequence, at least not in terms of the series' timeline. Steven Erikson goes back a few years into the past -- exactly how many remains uncertain. This story arc recounts the tale of the rise of the Emperor of the Tise Edur, the Deliverer of Midnight Tides, which was alluded to in Memories of Ice. And it's kind of neat to witness how Trull Sengar ended up in dire straits at the beginning of House of Chains.

The flashback scene that marks the start of the novel was great. I love the way Erikson goes back into time like that. Catching a glimpse of the struggle of the Tiste Edur and the Tiste Andii against the K'Chain Che'Malle was a wonderful experience. It goes to prove just how much depth Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont injected in their creation when they devised the Malazan universe.

As has been the case since Gardens of the Moon, the worldbuilding is unrivaled. The author has demonstrated how brilliant he is by successfully dividing the two main storylines on two distinct continents, Genabackis and Seven Cities. Quon Tali will definitely see some action before long, but it's on the distant continent of Lether that the narrative of this book occurs. The kingdom of Lether, where capitalism reigns, takes center stage in this tale. Indeed, at times the characters' viewpoints are more or less an essay on the rise and fall of capitalism. I found Erikson's revelations on the Tiste Edur society and culture to be fascinating.

Although a sweeping drama and a riveting epic, Midnight Tides remains a character-driven novel. I have no idea how Erikson does it, but yet again he introduces us to another lively cast of characters. In addition, he shows that he is not afraid to kill any of them. It's also interesting to see the Crippled God taking a more active role. The unexpected presence of members of the Crimson Guard made for a fun read. Perhaps because this book is more or less self-contained, most characters appear to have an important role to play before the coming of the Seventh Closure. I'm very curious to see how/when Seren Pedac, Shurq, Kettle, Corlo, Iron Bars, Rhulad Sengar and Silchas Ruin will reappear later on in the series.

Once more, the convoluted storylines form an intricate tapestry. And yet, they represent a single thread in the overall scheme that continues to blow my mind. There is more humor in this one, and I often found myself smiling as I turned the pages. Especially as the narrative centers on Tehol Beddict and his manservant Bugg.

Unlike Terry Goodkind, who wrote novels that had very little to do with the main plotlines and were just milking his popularity, Steven Erikson stepped away from his principal story arcs to focus on a distant war whose events will have dramatic repercussions on the rest of the world and beyond. Baffling me, as always, is how easy Erikson somehow makes it all look.

Hard to put down. . .

The final verdict: 9/10

For more information about this book: Canada, Europe

Kushiel's Scion book review

Hi there!

Well, Jake (of the fame), my partner in crime for the Jacqueline Carey interview, has just posted his review of the much-anticipated Kushiel's Scion.

You can find it here. It will give all you eager fans something to sink your teeth into until the novel is released!;-)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (May 16th)

Nothing to report this week. . .:-(

More Jacqueline Carey!

Here is an essay that Jacqueline Carey wrote about the transition between the first Kushiel trilogy and the forthcoming Kushiel's Scion. Read the essay here.


Win a free copy of Scott Lynch's THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA

Hey there!

This is likely the most anticipated fantasy novel of the year. To all ends and purposes, Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora appears to be a "can't miss" hit. I'll be reviewing it soon and I can't wait to see what the hype about this debut is all about.

The great people at Bantam Dell have agreed to support another contest, this one for a copy of The Lies of Locke Lamora. All you have to do is register. The lucky winner will get the book delivered to his mailbox the week of its release.

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "LIES." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy. Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

For those you didn't know, there are three additional contests running at the moment. If you wish to win a signed copy of Robin Hobb's Shaman's Crossing, as well as signed bookplates of Forest Mage, just follow the same instructions but the header should read "FOREST MAGE." Those who would like to get their hands on a copy of Naomi Novik's Black Powder War, do the same thing, with a "WAR" header. Last but not least, for a signed copy of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Scion, your header should be "SCION."

And before I go, I kindly remind you to participate to the Southern Comfort Challenge by clicking on the ads over the Google search bar. Scroll down below for the details concerning the Southern Comfort Challenge!;-) We have amassed all of 1,32$US thus far, which means that the day I'll savor a nice Southern Comfort/7-Up are a ways away! And they said you could make thousands of dollars with this thing!!! So click away, all of you!;-)

Good luck to all the participants!

Stay tuned for more contest news. . .

New Jacqueline Carey Interview

Hi guys!

This Q&A has generated a lot of interest among you, so here it is! Many thanks to Jacqueline for being gracious enough to take some time off her busy schedule with her new novel on the way to chat with Jake and I!:-)

Last I heard, Jake was nearly done with his ARC of Kushiel's Scion, so I should soon have a link to his book review. Meanwhile, sink your teeth into this interview!

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

Versatility. I love all aspects of the writing process -- character development, plotting, world-building and handling language. I think it allows me to write with the depth and richness I crave as a reader, while still telling a compelling story.

- The world of your Kushiel novels is clearly modeled off of our own. What were some of the primary difficulties in building such a setting for your story? What were some of the benefits?

Research, research, research! Writing alternate historical fantasy, I’m not held to a standard of unrelenting accuracy, but there is a high standard of plausibility. I may be picking and choosing among different cultures, nations and histories – cafeteria-style world-building, one of my readers dubbed it – but I have to weave all of it together into a plausible whole that aficionados of history will enjoy rather than disparage. On the upside, it means there’s a wealth of great material out there for me to draw on to find the perfect details to bring my world to life.

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write KUSHIEL'S SCION in the first place?

I’d had the idea since I first conceived the overall arc of the previous book in the series, Kushiel’s Avatar. Imriel, who’s a boy when it ends, is a character with so much baggage and dramatic potential. I thought it would be fascinating to continue his story, to see how he overcomes the trauma of the past and wrestles with unwanted desires and unfulfilled yearnings.

- What are some of the challenges to coming back to a world, and a set of characters, with a new series?

For me, the primary challenge was making the transition to a different protagonist’s mind and looking at a very familiar world through a new set of eyes. It’s a big switch, especially since I was going from the POV of an adult woman to an adolescent boy. I very much wanted Imriel’s voice to be authentic and his own.

- Characters often take a life of their own. Which of your characters do you find the most unpredictable to write about?

I know that’s true for many writers, but I’m a stern taskmistress. There’s not a lot of wiggle room in my plots, so I keep my characters on a tight leash. That said, Imriel’s villainous mother, Melisande Shahrizai, is always especially fun to write because she unsettles everyone around her without losing her composure.

- From when Kushiel’s Dart was first published until now, have you noticed any change in the popular reception to your books in terms to some of your themes and content?

Not to my books specifically, but in the five years since Dart was released, the subgenre of paranormal romance has grown tremendously and gotten more adventurous. Elements that were unusual and subversive in my work, like the strain of dark eroticism, are a lot more commonplace now.

- How do you approach writing about Politics in a fantasy setting? Is there a place for current politics or social issues in your writing?

Oh, absolutely! Everything I’ve written since Avatar has been against the backdrop of war out there in the real world. The Sundering duology came out of my desire to question the implicit acceptance of dualism that’s prevalent in epic fantasy. In my own way, I was writing about the need to “win hearts and minds” before America’s invasion of Iraq turned it into a media catchphrase. At one point, Kushiel’s Scion ponders the question of whether it’s necessary to destroy a thing in order to save it.I think it’s important not to write pedantically, but rather let the issues emerge organically from the story itself. Once an author climbs onto a soapbox, s/he often ceases to entertain. And I don’t always have the answers. Sometimes it’s enough to ask the questions.

- What made you choose to write in the fantasy genre? Were there any perceived conventions you wanted to twist or break?

I’ve loved fantasy since I was little. The first book to really make me think was Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander, from the Prydain Chronicles. The protagonist Taran tries his hand at a multitude of skills – shepherd, weaver, smith – and finds he has a knack for all of them, except the one craft he falls in love with: pottery. He finds the thing that makes his heart soar, and he’s denied it. At ten years old, that was a “Whoa!” moment for me. You don’t always get what you want in life, you don’t always get your heart’s desire. The fact that a children’s fantasy novel could teach me a profound life lesson got me hooked.

But yeah, I do like to overturn conventions. In The Sundering, I rewrote epic fantasy as high tragedy. In the first Kushiel trilogy, I took all the heroine-as-victim tropes and tried to turn them inside out.

- In past interviews, which question that you were asked surprised you the most? Why?

The one that comes to mind is “Would you consider Phèdre to be a Christ-like figure, especially in terms of being a ‘pain-bearer’?” It surprised me because I’d never considered it; and yet one could make an argument for it. Some parallels – themes of faith, sacrifice and redemption – are certainly there to be drawn. But I was so wholly immersed in my own mythos, it never occurred to me.

- If you could offer a word of advice to first time readers of your novels, what would it be?

This may sound odd, but I’d say, “Don’t work too hard.” Especially if they start with Kushiel’s Dart. It’s heavy with intrigue and it has an intricate plot and a huge cast of characters. Some twists I set up don’t play out for hundreds of pages. I’ve heard from readers who found it daunting at first that once they stopped worrying about keeping everything straight and just focused on the protagonist’s journey, it began to flow and everything fell into place. I think the second trilogy, Imriel’s story, is actually more accessible.

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

Show me the money! Seriously, peer accolades are a wonderful affirmation and I’d be delighted to win a WFA award, but this is my livelihood, too. And while I’m honored whenever a fellow writer admires my work, none of them have ever moved me to tears. My fans have. I’ve heard from abuse survivors who found self-acceptance in Phèdre’s story; from a mother who found a few hours of respite reading beside the hospital bed of a seriously ill child; from a lonely military husband stationed in the Middle East who felt closer to his wife reading my books; from a young woman who told me they helped get her through the grief of her mother’s death.Being able to do what I love for a living is a huge gift, but having people share these stories, whether they found something resonant in my work or just a much-needed escape from a harsh reality, makes it all the more worthwhile. It’s humbling. And more sales means more readers. So yes, for reasons pragmatic and personal, I’ll take the bestseller.

- Have there been any challenges, external, to writing a fantasy series with strong, intelligent, sexually realized female lead character? Has this, in your opinion, affected your readership?

No, I was fortunate, I think the timing was good and the climate was right for it. A lot of girls who grew up reading fantasy are now adults eager for books with strong female characters, books that reflect the whole of human experience including, yes, sex. As are a lot of men, for that matter.

- 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 hope so. I think the fantasy genre’s growing and expanding in all different directions, and so is its readership and its perception in popular culture. But when I look into my Magic 8-Ball, I get “Reply hazy, try again.”

- What author makes you shake your head in admiration? Many fantasy authors don't read much inside the genre. Is it the case with you?

I try to keep up with the genre, although I read widely outside it, too.

I admire Guy Gavriel Kay, and he’s the writer I recommend most to my own readers. There are a lot of fantasy authors I read for pleasure and to keep tabs on what’s happening in the industry, but when it comes down to the ones who make me shiver, it’s often books I read in my early teens. Richard Adams’ Shardik bowled me over with its world-building and religious themes that were at once fantastic and familiar. Patricia McKillip’s Riddle-Master trilogy showed me what lyrical writing could be. My all-time favorite is probably John Crowley’s Little, Big, which to me is seamless and perfect.

I think it gets harder to reclaim that effortless sense of wonder as one gets older. I also think the desire to do so is a large part of what drives me to write.

- Without giving too much away, give us a taste of the story that is KUSHIEL'S SCION."

Angst! Sex! Adventure! Intrigue! Philosophy!

Anyone interested in learning more can check out this link ( for a synopsis and this one ( to read the first chapter.

My 300th post and the Southern Comfort Challenge!


This is the 300th post of this blog! Who would have thought!?! Certainly not me, not with this blog's modest beginnings. But thise place surely took on a life of its own, and it has now reached proportions that never fail to amaze me. I mean, 45,736 visitors from 101 different countries have perused 76,696 pages since the counter has been added to the site in February 2005. That's a lot of people! And I would like to thank you all for stopping by and making the Hotlist what it is today!:-)

You must have seen the new Google stuff following the header. Funny, but they've been there since January 2005, but I never could activate them properly. That done, I wish for them to remain as inconspicuous as humanly possible. I don't expect to make much money from them, in any event. But I've decided to set up a little challenge. I want to see how long it will take me to earn enough to buy a bottle of Southern Comfort! And I need your help in this worthwhile endeavor! Every time you visit the site, please take a moment to click on an ad or two. I'm probably making peanuts for each click, so I want to see how many weeks/months it will take for the blog to generate enough to purchase a bottle of the sweet elixir known as Southern Comfort!;-)

News Update

- Jacqueline Carey just sent me her answers to the interview questions Jake and I came up with. Expect to see the full Q&A on the blog in the coming days!:-) I know a lot of people are eager to read it.

Jake's book review of Kushiel's Scion (Canada, USA, Europe) should soon be available. Remember, there is an ongoing contest to win 3 signed copies of the novel. Just scroll down for more details. . .

- Robin Hobb contacted me that she was pressed for time, but she would get me the answers to our second interview together before the deadline we set. Which means that you can expect to see this Q&A in the next couple of weeks. The Forest Mage contest is still going strong, so feel free to register if you haven't already! Scroll down for more details. . . The book will be released on time (Canada, USA, Europe).

- I will be reading Scott Lynch's much anticipated debut, The Lies of Locke Lamora, in the next few weeks. Some critics have hailed this novel as the best fantasy debut ever. So I'm curious to see what the hype is all about. As soon as I've finished the book, I have an interview scheduled with Lynch. Should make for an interesting Q&A! In addition, I will have a copy of the US edition of his debut up for grabs in the coming weeks!

- Speaking of contests, I will most likely have a copy of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn and Terry Goodkind's Phantom up for grabs next month.

- I am currently reading Steven Erikson's Midnight Tides, another fantastic addition to the Malazan saga. This series is definitely addictive!

- Tomorrow I'll begin Naomi Novik's Black Powder War at work (Canada, USA, Europe). This trilogy is excellent, and I encourage you all to give it a shot!

That's about it for now, I believe. Many thanks again to everyone for helping make this blog such a success story thus far!:-)

And please remember the Southern Comfort challenge!!!;-)

Tracy and Laura Hickman interview

To coincide with the release of the final volume of The Bronze Canticles trilogy, Mystic Empire, I had the opportunity to interview the authors. Since I was introduced to the fantasy genre by the original Dragonlance novels, I have to admit that it was a bit of a thrill for me!


Let me begin by thanking you both for taking some time off your indubitably busy writing schedule to answer our questions. It is with great pleasure that I welcome this opportunity to do this Q&A.

- For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with your work, without giving too much away, give us a taste of THE BRONZE CANTICLES.

(TRH) Thrice Upon a Time, there were three worlds ... actually, three incarnations of the same world! Each has its own history, societies and races developing on independent lines and, until recently, completely unaware of the existence of each other. Now, through newly emerging magical forces, they are coming to discover that their worlds will be in collision; one world will rule, one will submit and the third will die ... but which world will fulfill which destiny? And, more importantly, how do these global events affect the lives of the individuals who live in them? I think the thing I like most about the series is how it explores life and its most personal level in the face of global issues.

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write the series in the first place?

Tracy and I went hiking one day in a canyon near our home. We live in the desert south-west of the United States – a place of stark and powerful beauty. If you’ve ever see one of those American Western films with the towering red rock bluffs and cliffs then you have some idea of where we live. We were following a stream and came to an ancient, toppled tree whose roots were exposed. The knots and gnarls of those roots reminded us both of a passage to another world – and the concept just grew from there.

In the same vein, what generated the idea behind the sundered universe of THE DEATH GATE CYCLE?

Interestingly while both ideas appear to have similar themes, they are fundamentally different. The worlds of the Bronze Canticles were never ‘sundered’ as the Death Gate worlds: being separate incarnations was their original state. Death Gates world started as a single world and was broken into its classical component parts. However, both do deal with multiple incarnations of a setting in the same space. The idea for Death Gate, however, came as a result of my musings on the troubles in Northern Ireland. The question of a war being conducted for so long and so bitterly that people no longer remembered what the original conflict was about struck me as central to Death Gate.

- Throughout all your series and novels, are there characters that you particularly enjoy/enjoyed writing? Why is that? By the same token, are there characters that you absolutely don't/didn't enjoy writing about? For what reason?

Laura always sensed that I enjoyed writing about Dwynwyn in our Bronze Canticles series. As for me, I think I could write about the goblins in that series any day!

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

The structure of story is our specialty. We firmly believe that without a solid foundation in story structure much of the rest of a tale’s telling is just so much chrome. You need the strong frame to make a story really work.

- What authors makes you shake your head in admiration?

Ray Bradbury – his prose is poetry.

(TRH) Stephen King. I don’t always like what he writes but I LOVE the way he writes it. His book ‘On Writing’ is, I think, the best on its subject available today.

- If you could go back in time, what advice would you give the younger Tracy Hickman concerning his writing career?

You know, I wouldn’t change a thing. Life has its ups and downs – and sometimes those downs can be pretty horrific – but on reflection everything that has happened in my life has lead me to where I am today: and I wouldn’t want it any other way. As for other writers, however, I would advise first – don’t quit the day job. Second – everyone has ideas, it’s the people who do something about them that make a difference. No one can write your story for you – start writing. Third – you have not yet written your best work. Your first efforts will be terrible and clumsy, just like your first steps as a child – but also just as important for you to learn from. Get over the idea of the perfect book. Fourth, nothing is ever wasted. And fifth: drive, craft and discipline can get you through a lot.

- Is a World Fantasy Award something you covet?

You know, we never think about awards. We both write for the love of it and for our readers.

- How does working with your wife Laura differ from working with Margaret Weis?

Every partnership is unique: they have their different strengths and ways of making it work. The important thing, however, is to put the integrity of the work first – before egos. If you are asking ‘what is best for the book’ and stop asking ‘what is best for me’ in a collaboration, you’ll have much better success both with the book and the collaboration.

- How does it feel to have the possibility to share your books with people from around the globe, in different languages?

The Russian language translation was the first to license our Bronze Canticles. We were both thrilled. We believe that modern fantasy has its ancestral roots in world mythology and therefore speaks to and connects the global audience in ways that other literary forms do not.

- 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 think that depends upon who one credits as granting such recognition. I’ve had numerous students over the years write to me, telling me that their assignment was to do a report on an author of literature but that their teacher told them that what I write isn’t ‘legitimate literature.’ I’m always curious as to what they mean by ‘legitimate literature’ and by what standard they are using to make that determination. From what I have seen thus far, I’m not certain that I crave the ‘respect’ of the academic community as I once might have done.

(LCH) The whole question of legitimacy doesn’t make sense – mythology is the most ancient of literary forms. Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ I would think of as legitimate and yet it is every bit as much a fantasy as anything written today.

- Characters often take a life of their own. Which of your characters (and God knows there have been many!) did you find the most unpredictable to write about?

Lord Soth from our Dragonlance series! Every time that character made an appearance in one of our books he would try to run off with the story. We practically had to beat him off the page with a stick.

- How would you like to be remembered as an author?

That’s an interesting question. When I think about being remembered I think only of our progeny; I’d like my grandchildren to know how much I love the arts.

(TRH) Fame in terms of the world is such a fleeting thing. When I think about being remembered, I think about those wonderful, sincere people who have come up to us and shared how our books somehow changed their lives. When a huge, bearded and long haired man in a leather motorcycle jacket stands speechless in front of you, grip your book with both massive hands as tears roll down his cheeks struggling to tell you how your books saved his life – that’s when you remember why you write and are grateful that God gave you the opportunity and talent.

- After what can only be called an illustrious and prolific career, what motivates you to keep on writing?

When Robert Frost was asked that same question, he answered ‘the money.’ That helps, of course, but there has to be a daily blissful drive – the kind of drive that when you hear the doorbell ring at noon, you look up in alarm from your keyboard, realize that you’re still in your PJ’s and that you’ve literally been in another world since 6 am! That’s love.

(TRH) There’s a joy that comes in creating something worthwhile – the act of creation itself is alluring.

- How strong is the temptation to return to the worlds of your previous series? You have already done so in the past. Do you have any plans to do so now?

The great thing about going back to a previous setting is that you don’t have to spend as much time explaining the world to the reader – you can assume much of the setting and get about telling the story of the book. The problem is that there are so many new and fascinating worlds for us to explore that we keep moving into new ones.

- In light of the current market, are you tempted to write one of those enormous fantasy epics which continue to be the most successful series at the moment? To a certain extent, you and Margaret opened the door with the success of THE DEATH GATE CYCLE.

Well, in our Bronze Canticles we have three books in print now – and for us that represents only a third of the story we would like to tell. We’ve always seen this complete story as a trilogy of trilogies. Ah, so many worlds and so little time!

- After producing all those bestsellers and selling millions of copies worldwide, is there added pressure when it comes to writing new series/novels, knowing that the expectations will always be high?

No matter what you do, you will always be compared to your previous works. When Bronze Canticles came out, there were a lot of people who wanted to compare it to Dragonlance – even though they are very different worlds and very different stories basically. I don’t know if one can address audience expectations; it may be a better place to write the best story you know how on a subject that you dearly love. Bronze Canticles is a good example of that: everyone expected it to be a ‘typical trilogy’ of books – but each of these books is a self-contained and complete story with many years separating different characters in the same world. It was new and different but everyone keeps trying to hammer our square peg into their preconceived round hole. I think it better to not worry about high expectations and concentrate on making the best story and book you know how with the craft you have.

- DRAGONS OF AUTUMN TWILIGHT was first published in 1984. How does it feel to see it still in print and on bookstores' shelves after more than 20 years?

Fabulous! It means that we are still sharing our stories with more and more people!

- Readers from the 80s hold you and a number of other authors in high esteem. But the "new" generation of fantasy readers doesn’t always consider your novels with the same regard. Admittedly, the fantasy market has changed dramatically since the emergence of writers such as Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, George R. R. Martin, Terry Goodkind, and many others. But do you feel that this "new" generation gives your books and those of Raymond E. Feist, Terry Brooks, etc, the respect they deserve? Because without such authors to pave the way, there is no Jordan, Martin, Erikson, etc.

I didn’t know I was such a venerable old sage! (Please don’t tell my wife – she still is under the impression that I am perpetually twenty-six years old.) Truthfully, I don’t think that respect is ‘deserved’ – I think it is earned with every book, every day.

- After creating a number of fantasy universes, what part of world building do you enjoy the most?

I love weaving the story into the society of the books. But, for Tracy, that has got to be the maps!

(TRH) I love maps. I have an eight foot cork board above my writing desk just to pin up huge maps I create on my computer for the books we write.

- In recent years, although you have continued to work together, you and Margaret have also devoted a lot of time to your personal projects. After collaborating for so many years, is that just a natural progression for you both?

I think that times change and that we all have to change with them; relationships also grow and we have to grow with them. Change and growth are what keeps us alive – and that includes exploring new avenues of creation. Laura and I do a monthly podcast now because it’s a new direction and channel by which we can communicate with our audience. We are also exploring the idea of and making our works available in new ways. Laura wants a new professional microphone of her own for Mother’s Day.

- What can you tell us of your future projects? I know there is a new Dragonlance series on the way. . .

Yes, Margaret and I are doing the ‘Dark Chronicles’ – those parts of the original Dragonlance Chronicles which we removed for space considerations. It’s been a delight going back to that world in an age when our heroes were just ‘making their bones’ and were not so sure of themselves. The first book in that series, ‘Dragons of the Dwarven Depths’ is scheduled to be out in hardback this summer. Of course, the third book in our Bronze Canticles series by Laura and I has just come out this spring. We are now working up proposals for our next books, including a series by Laura.

(LCH) Yes, I’ve been working up a proposal for a book series as well – one that I’ve wanted to write for a long time. But we’re also exploring new things, as Tracy said. We have a podcast called ‘DragonHearth’ which is available to anyone on the internet. You can search for us online at DragonHearth or in the podcast section of iTunes ... or just visit the website at to link up and listen to our voyages across the sea of possibilities. I also have a couple of podcasts of my own that I’d like to create. We will also be releasing one of Tracy’s early books in audio through in the very near future. So, I guess being creative can take up a LOT of one’s time!

Many thanks again for doing this! I wish you continued success in your career, and may the release of MYSTIC EMPIRE bring even more readers into the fold.

George R. R. Martin collectibles

Have you ever wondered how much that first print hardcover edition of A Game of Thrones is actually worth among collectors? If so, William has written an interesting article on the subject.

Find more about it here.

I never knew my GRRM books could be that valuable! Especially that US ARC of AGoT!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (May 9th)

In hardcover:

Raymond E. Feist's Flight of the Nighthawks maintains its position, finishing its third week on the NYT bestseller list at number 34.

Nothing to report in paperback. . .

NIGHT OF KNIVES contest winners

Hi there!

Just wanted to let you know that the names of the winners have been drawn this morning! Many thanks again to PS Publishing for accepting to support this contest. And thanks to Ian Cameron Esslemont for helping me put this one together!

Here are the lucky winners!

For the first prize, the slipcase edition of the book:

Frank Schaffer, from Detroit, USA.

For the trade paperback edition of the book:

Alan Smith, from Durham, UK (Murrin on,, and just about everywhere else!)

Steven Wollacott, from Cirencester, UK (Sergeant Fiddler on

(Legolas on

Joerg Bours, from Adliswil, Switzerland (Karsa Orlong on

Sébastien Papineau, from Terrebonne, Québec, Canada

City of Saints and Madmen

I've been hearing a lot about Jeff Vandermeer lately. So why did I wait this long to give City of Saints and Madmen a shot? Simply because the buzz originated from sources that are notoriously outside the "mainstream" crowd. Very often, this means that we are dealing with a work which is not inherently accessible to the typical fantasy reader.

Reading City of Saints and Madmen is in many ways like visiting Tate Modern in London. Indeed, it's relatively impossible to decide whether what is found within each to be the expressions of unbelievably talented or deeply disturbed minds. Vandermeer certainly appears to enjoy walking the very fine line between the brilliant and the bizarre.

This novel is by far the oddest book I've read in years. And as such, it is not for everyone. The format may put off a number of readers. As a mosaic novel, City of Saints and Madmen is comprised of novellas and short stories. And although characters and events contained in one may appear or be alluded to in another, the book doesn't form a coherent whole. Speaking for myself, that was a bit of a problem. It seems the author doesn't want the reader to get comfortable. Which, ultimately, results in a somewhat constant disorientation.

In addition, Vandermeer's novellas and short stories are not consistent in tone and quality. For instance, while The Strange Case of X, The Cage and Learning to Leave the Flesh all show signs of brilliance, others such as King Squid border on the ridiculous. I mean, over 80 pages pertaining to squid lore and other information! As times good and at times totally absurd, the novel has its ups and downs.

One thing about Jeff Vandermeer is that he is a gifted writer. His terrific prose creates a living and breathing imagery. His style, at times almost lyrical, jumps off the page. And is dark sense of humor imbues each tale with a unique flavor.

City of Saints and Madmen is not for the average fantasy fan. But for jaded readers who have been around for a long time, Vandermeer's latest could be something special to sink your teeth into. Way too weird to ever be accessible to the masses, this author could nonetheless acquire a cult following. Only time will tell. . .

The final verdict: 7/10

For more information about this book: Canada, USA, Europe

New Ian Cameron Esslemont Interview

I know all you Malazan fans out there have been waiting for this one for a couple of weeks now!;-) So without further ado, here is a very interesting Q&A with the man who co-created the Malazan universe with Steven Erikson.

In case you were not informed, the Night of Knives contest is still running. Just scroll down for all the details.:-)

When he emailed me his answers, ICE asked me if I had any follow-up questions. We are both aware that such an interview opens the door for many more questions. Hence, since I always try to get the fans involved, we'll do another round of questions in the near future. Feel free to leave your question in the comment section. As usual, the best ones will be selected to comprise the next Q&A. And please, nothing that will get us an automatic RAFO answer. . .



Dear Cameron,

Let me begin by thanking you for taking some time off your busy schedule to answer our questions. With rumors pertaining to the publication of RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD and the imminent release of NIGHT OF KNIVES in trade paperback, Malazan fans are eager to hear from you.

1- Although surprising, there are many Malazan fans who are not aware that you are the co-creator of that universe. For readers not yet familiar with your work, without giving too much away, can you give us a taste of the story that is NIGHT OF KNIVES?

Dear Patrick and all those good enough to have contributed to this Q&A opportunity:

Great to see all these questions - to my mind this translates into a lot of interest out there. All very welcome! For question #1, I most certainly do not find it surprising that there are many Malaz fans out there who are not aware of my contribution - yet. Malaz first saw the light of day with the publication of Gardens under Steve’s name. Believe me, I would have loved to have my name appear on there somewhere at that time, but it just wasn’t in the cards for a lot of plain mundane reasons plus some very real publication considerations - think about it, what chance would yet another new fantasy novel introducing yet another new fantasy world have if it was burdened by a header such as:

In a World Created by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont,
from a screenplay written by Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont,
comes a novel written by Steven Erikson …

Not likely to fly off the shelves, I imagine. Gardens set the precedent that the various books would simply have one name on the title pages; no sense tricking up an already risky undertaking.

For those who not yet familiar with Night of Knives, I would suggest reviews and discussions on the Malaz site, PS Publishing’s website, or other reviews such as the one at sfcrowsnest. However, for those don’t want to bother opening a new browser window I’ll give a little spiel (all those familiar with Knives can jump ahead).

The novel takes place all in one night, the night that the Imperial regent, Surly, assassinates the Emperor, Kellanved and his cohort bodyguard/enforcer, Dancer. It is also - coincidentally? - a “convergence” when realms overlap. In this case, the realm of Shadow. This convergence, together with other factors, draws an attack by a race that inhabits the waters in the straits between the island of Malaz and the southern continent of Korel, or Fist, as it is sometimes known. The story is told through two main characters: Kiska, a young girl who dreams of escaping what she sees as an empty life in an island backwater; and Temper, a grizzled veteran anxious to avoid all imperial attention, who has sought out the island of Malaz precisely because it is a backwater. However, as both discover, even an obscure imperial corner can hold its surprises.

2- There seemed to be a few grammatical errors and such which made there way through the editing process in the previous version of NIGHT OF KNIVES which put some people off. Have these errors been fixed for the new trade paperback edition?

Not sure what I can say here - every book has its various proofing oversights and editing mistakes, etc. I might point out that some books have become famous (or infamous) precisely because of them. As to whether there have been any editing changes between editions - not to my knowledge. The new edition is a done deal, probably with the same exact text as far as I know.

3- You have said that you and Steven keep the dialogue going on events, characters, sub-plots, etc, as he keep writing additional volumes of the Malazan series. How exactly do you guys work together? Do you read the different drafts of the story, and then send Steven feedback? Or do you play a more "active" role?

The very “active” role of side-by-side creation is in the past. We established the canvas back then: where and when everything fit together in the big picture. Now we’re filling in all the white space between. Currently we exchange letters and emails in which we discuss what we happen to be working on, field questions, ask for “okays” on doing certain things. What’s best is when we happen to be in the same place - then we can sit down all afternoon or evening to walk through entire narratives in which we clarify sequences, exchange opinions on the treatment of various moments, etc. Usually, as we found originally, our instincts are pretty much in alignment. For example, the last time I was in Winnipeg, we spent a lot of time talking about Bonehunters, especially the set piece of the siege of Y’Ghatan. Most recently, I sent him a few scenes-in-progress from Return of the Crimson Guard.

4- As co-creators of the Malazan universe, was there ever a plan for you and Steven to actually write the series together, much like authors such as Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman have collaborated over the years? Or did you both have your own stories to tell, and thus elected to go your separate ways?

Steve and I co-wrote a number of screenplays - long ago. We used a single pad of yellow legal notepaper that we passed back and forth across the table in coffeeshops, taking turns writing dialogue and scenes, etc. It was very rewarding creatively, reacting to what he came up with then passing the pad back for his reaction - like a great game of chess, only we were both winners. We found we could co-write screenplays in that manner but we both knew it wouldn’t work for novel writing so we didn’t even attempt it. Now, we both do have our “own stories to tell” but they are still woven together in that - if the plan can be kept to - they still cross and merge in various ways and at various moments.

5- You guys initially wrote GARDENS OF THE MOON as a screenplay. Just out of curiosity, how different was it from what was published?

Yes, if I remember correctly, Gardens was written out as described above. And, if memory serves, the novel followed very closely to what we had in the screenplay (a copy of it remains buried somewhere in my notes, and Steve might still have a copy too).

6- How far along are you with RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD and when might we see it published? Where will the majority of the action in RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD take place? Quon Tali? Assail? Korelri?

A first finished draft of Return was done before any of the novels ever saw publication - a good warning to those of you toiling away on your own projects: never throw anything away! Steve read it, of course, as we exchanged everything. He handed it back beautifully packaged in a cardboard mailing box with its title penned on it and he told me “send it out.” I never did; it went into a drawer. I’m not certain why, perhaps I didn’t think I was yet a good enough writer (perhaps I’m still not, it’s no longer for me to say, others will judge now). In any case, it all has to be completely rewritten pretty much from the ground up with entire new characters, etc, to bring it into alignment with what has now been established. I’m not certain how far I’m through it at this point in that I’ve no idea how long it’s going to take to get to the end. I can say that the majority of the action will take place on the home continent of the empire, Quon Tali.

7- This from another interview you did: «Ah, here I can be unequivocal in saying that, yes, I (and Steve) both believe that Malaz is vastly different from the general popular fantasy series of the genre. We deliberately set out to achieve this goal of convention challenge, contravention, and reversal. It is deliberately anti-heroic in a genre heretofore reserved for heroic indulgences all this because we have faith in the intelligence anddiscrimination of genre readers to recognize when they are not being talked (or written) down to. In many ways the entire series is an extended critical study of the genre itself how it works, why it works how far can it be pushed to evolve?»

Do you feel that this might explain why most Malazan fans appear to be well-read fantasy aficionados, who enjoy the series exactly because it is unlike everything else on the market today? By the same token, could this also explain why the "mainstream" readers have not yet caught on?

Ah, an invitation to pontificate! With this question I’m not quite sure what you mean by “mainstream.” Do you mean readers of mainstream epic fantasy such as that of Terry Goodkind, Raymond E. Feist, Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, etc, etc? If so, it’s hard to say. Much of the traditional attraction of the genre (that is, of the last seventy years or so) has been the simple escapism of good guys rewarded and bad guys punished together with the “Pleasure Principle” of well-established expectations met seamlessly and on time. Maintream fantasy keeps to this safe uncomplicated niche (why rock the boat?). What we are attempting in Malaz is to see how far these conventions can be challenged by the importation of more complicated concerns such as moral ambiguity, explorations of character, and the big question, what does it mean to be “human”?

8- You and Steven have mapped out his 10 Malazan novels, which means that you basically know everything that will take place. Regardless of that fact, name a couple of scenes in which Steven still managed to blow your mind.

Everything Steve writes frankly manages to blow my mind - even when I “know” what will happen. Knowing the outcome is not important; Malaz is more about the ride than the destination. It’s the journey, the art of the unfolding that is important. And neither of us yet knows “entirely” what will happen anyway, we’re both still inventing/sculpting the details, the execution of it all (so to speak). If I were pressed to choose anything, I would have to single out his characters. Iskaral Pust for example. How does Steve do it? How does one scare up anything so original from ground that has been plowed so thoroughly as epic fantasy has? Amazing - and scary for my own work. A very high bar to work next to.

9- In the same vein as the previous question: Were there any scenes that you both thought would make readers' jaw drop, and in the end the response was not what you guys expected?

Speaking partially for Steve here I can say that, yeah, that happens all the time. Writer’s expectations for various scenes, or characters, are rarely squarely met. Kruppe, for example. How can anyone not like Kruppe? What I can say for my own work so far is that I have been very gratified by the reactions to some scenes that worried me, Temper’s flashbacks, for example.

10- Will the Malazan Enyclopedia be a joint project between yourself and Steven?

For a time Steve and I exchanged notes on an Encyclopedia Malazica. Now, I’m much more happy to be able to continue writing the fiction! The encyclopedia will have to wait. Who knows, perhaps one will be built on-line. It could be tackled as an on-going project. In fact, I’ve just found out about one now being assembled Wikipedia-style.

11- 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.

No, never. (Just joking). Time, that’s all that’s needed. Once enough time has passed since a fantasy work’s début it suddenly becomes safe for critics and scholars to treat it “seriously”. This is true for other genre work as well, such as detective or mystery. Thinking about it though, that is not absolute. J.K. Rowling’s work has met with immediate “serious” treatment - there are even conventions supporting “serious” panels and paper presentations. But it’s formally children’s literature so it possesses that extra layering of protection, or dissociation, for any critic or scholar who might dare to handle it professionally.

12- Have the plotlines diverged much since Steven began writing the series, or did you two have the entire plot more or less figured out from the very beginning? Were any characters added or further fleshed out beyond your original intention? Have you made any changes to your initial plans during the course of the writing of the series?

It’s true that Steve and I sketched out roughly where everything went but that skeleton is nothing compared to the flesh and blood of what is being realized. Of course new characters and events appear in every book and of course neither he nor I foresaw any of how it would in fact “look.” The “feel,” I think, is what we had down pretty firm - I maintain again that Malaz is mostly about its feel -- it’s a mood, a tone, and an atmosphere … Malaz is fantasy noir.

13- Are you surprised by what little support fantasy writers receive from the Canadian media? Steven Erikson and R. Scott Bakker rank among the best fantasy authors out there, yet both Canucks appear to get very little recognition in their own country.

I am not in the least surprised by the lack of support, or even recognition, that genre writers receive (or rather fail to receive) in Canada. To be brutally brief, the Canadian arts industry shares the national hang-up, that of a massive inferiority complex, which manifests itself as an equally massive superiority complex. To compensate, the arts industry (a crown corporation), embraces and supports only that which it perceives as the “high” art pursuits - Literature, capital L, in the case of writing. Thus anything that smacks of less than the highest artistic pursuit in writing, such as detective fiction, mystery writing, science fiction, in short, “genre” writing, is avoided like the proverbial plaugue of crass low-browism that has been traditional in literary criticism to dismiss it as. There is room for hope that eyes may be opened though; Dickens used to be dismissed as low-brow entertainment for the crude undiscerning masses.

14- Is there any particular piece of worldbuilding that you are especially proud of?

That is tantamount to asking which element of Malaz am I the most proud. Well, of course I have to answer that I get a kick out of it all. If I had to answer with anything I would say that if Malaz were an artifact picked up from a field or found on a beach, it would have great patina - it’s the creation of that patina of which I am most proud.

15- I think I read somewhere that you will be dealing more with the History of the Malazan Empire while Steven dealt with the present. I felt NIGHT OF KNIVES confirmed this, but now i understand RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD will be set after THE BONEHUNTERS. Can you confirm what aspects of the Malazan world you will be dealing with.

Well, Knives does sit in the past in that it deals with Kellanved’s assassination. Technically, it doesn’t in that many of the novels deal with events that reach back tens of thousands of years, even hundreds. The projected novels all deal with post-Kellanved times so in this sense they extend the mapping out of Malazan empire events. Depending upon how things go, further novels could germinate and those could deal with events extending very far back into the past indeed.

16- We're given to understand that the Deck of Dragons is your *baby*. Will there ever be a full unveiling of the entire Deck, or is that unlikely given it's amorphic nature?

The deck is currently being explored for development. How that will go is out of my hands. What you give as “amorphic” I identify as its strength in that it was conceived of as eminently contingent, that is, it’s all about responding in a creative way to any set of preconditions. Yet a core “arcana” can be delineated, together with peripherals. It’s a question of how much to include and where the focus for application should rest.

17- Although you are not under contract to write them yet, what can you tell us of the remaining Malazan novels that you and Steven mapped out all those years ago? You did not really think that we would be letting you off the hook so easily, right!?! A brief synopsis -- without spilling the beans, of course! Tentative titles? Progress report, if any of them are being written as we speak. Know that your answers will inject new blood and keep the message boards occupied for months! In addition to this, here are a few specific questions from various Malazan fans. . .

As Steve has hinted, future novels past Return are planned to deal with the Korel campaigns, a return to Darujhistan, and, finally, the mysteries of the Assail continent. As this point things are so tentative I’m reluctant to go any further and risk painting myself into a corner.

18- According to Steven, Fisher Kel Tath's story is fairly integral to one of your planned books. What little can you tell us about it?

Fisher would be a very challenging character to do justice to; he has a very strong “voice.” If I could pull it off to my satisfaction then I would go ahead and use him as planned. I was certain that we had seen him, but Steve writes in an interview that we haven’t yet - that’s a measure of how “real” all of it is for he and I. However, nothing’s set in stone. Other characters can always push their way forward as things evolve - at least that’s been my experience in writing these stories. New voices come out of nowhere and take hold. I think that’s a good thing.

19- Will reading your work be essential for understanding Steven's novels, and vice versa will reading Steven's work be essential for understanding your novels?

Our goal is that all of the novels should “stand alone” (as much as possible). Reading one alone should satisfy all the immediate story demands. Of course so much more wealth and depth opens up once the reader becomes familiar with more of the world - especially its history. So, essential only from the point of view of grasping the entirety of what the world has to offer.

20-Do you intend to use characters from Steven's books, and if so will they play major roles?

Steve and I swap characters as freely as we wish. We use those whose “appearance” makes the most sense continuity-wise, and such, but the short answer is that none of them are reserved for either of us. It’s all open territory - I would love to see him to run with what I’ve done, and I hope he feels the same.

21- In a previous interview, you claimed that, in addition to NIGHT OF KNIVES, you had 5 Malazan novels planned. Is that right? RETURN OF THE CRIMSON GUARD was already written and you were rewriting it. How far along are the others?

Five novels in total including Knives. Sorry for any confusion. All that has pretty much been covered above. Nothing beyond Return has been written out yet though all the main anchoring events have been set out by Steve and I.

22- Are any of your other planned novels set in the 'past' relative to the timeline of Steven's series?

No, actually none of them are. Not sure where this rumour came from, maybe from general talk in that I’ve always expressed interest in those past events. Wishful thinking on my part perhaps! Who knows though, with enough interest …

23- You have said that three of the remaining four Malazan novels you have planned 'use the Malaz Empire as the route of entry into the world'...which, taken opposite Steven's comment that the remaining books of his series will take place outside the Empire, causes me to wonder if those three novels might serve as the Malazan POV, concurrent with the remainder of Steven's series - wholly, partly, or just a bit?

Sort of. Knives and Return obviously deal with the empire, as will the narrative set in Korel. That’s three of the five. But after that, if I do get to visit Darujhistan, the empire would be there but it wouldn’t be the dominant plot line. Same for the last.

24- The fourth remaining planned novel, in your own words «more of an epilogue to many of the main story threads in which remaining questions are answered (and surprising revelations are made, of course!)» Will reading that epilogue be necessary to "understand" how The Malazan Book of the Fallen ended?

The goal is for that last one to compliment Steve’s tenth. It will mostly be an epilogue. Hopefully, however, we’ll manage it so that there will be opportunity to cast light on some of the theaters of action in the final crux. It would offer a “fuller” understanding of many of the plot lines, etc. Structurally, it might be the most difficult one for me to pull off. I might have to float the possibility of breaking it into two separate projects: one to compliment Steve’s tenth, the second to focus on the epilogue story entirely.

25- And finally, NIGHT OF KNIVES is the living proof that the internet can provide a lot of exposure for a book. Do you feel that most publishers don't yet understand the full potential of this tool, in terms of exploiting the wealth of fantasy-related websites, message boards, and blogs?

Yes, I do feel that way. If copyright and piracy problems are ever solved it would be an interesting world if we reached books-on-demand. But until that time the internet does provide a great place for fans to meet to hammer out issues of relevance. This is of course especially true for fans of SF and fantasy who tend to be more tech-savvy. As far as publisher’s attention goes, it’s true that Malaz and gritty military-fantasy are still not mainstream fantasy. Last I heard even Glen Cook still has his day-job. We’re still banging on doors out there.

That’s about all for now. Many thanks for the opportunity to talk about Malaz. Always a pleasure.

Yours, Cameron.

Once again, thank you for being gracious enough to accept my invitation for this "little" Q&A. We wish you the best of luck with the re-release of NIGHT OF KNIVES and continued success in your writing endeavors.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (May 2nd)

In hardcover:

Raymond E. Feist's Flight of the Nighthawks is down 8 positions, ending its second week on the bestseller list at number 34.

Nothing to report in paperback. . .

Win a free signed copy of Jacqueline Carey's KUSHIEL'S SCION

Hello again!:-)

Two contests in a single day! Now where else will you find that!?!

The good people at Hachette Book Group USA have let me know that 3 lucky winners will get their hands on a free copy of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Scion, signed by the author.

The rules are the same as usual. I have admit that I'm perplexed by the fact that a vast number of people are unable to follow what I consider to be terribly simple rules. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "SCION." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy. Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

For more info on the book: Canada, USA, Europe

Finally! The much-anticipated George R. R. Martin!

Hi there!

Well, the time has come. May 2nd (it's past midnight in the UK!), the day many GRRM fans have been eagerly awaiting for!;-) It also happens to be my own birthday! Go figure. . .

First of all, let me thank Voyager Books for setting the whole thing up. Without their aid and enthusiasm, this Q&A would never have seen the light. Many thanks also to George R. R. Martin for taking the time to answer our questions. Perhaps he was not as loquacious as many would have liked, but I'm persuaded that we all want A Dance with Dragons to be finished ASAP. So I'll take shorter answers to the questions so that we can all get our hands on the next volume sooner!

And last but not least, many thanks to all those fans who submitted their questions. Unfortunately, not all of them could make the final cut. But most of the questions submitted deserved to be part of the interview. Who knows!?! Perhaps we'll have the chance to chat with GRRM again in the future!




1- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

Characters. Mind you, I don't discount the importance of style and plot and the other ingredients of fiction, but for me, the people will always be the heart of the matter. I want my characters to be as real to my readers as the guy next door... but more interesting.

2- Now that many purists and aficionados consider you one of the best fantasy authors in the world and now that you have hit number 1 on the NYT bestseller list, is there added pressure when it comes down to writing a new addition to the series?

Sure. Some of the reviews have been very flattering, but the series is not finished yet. The end needs to be as strong as the beginning.

3- What would you say was the hardest part of the entire process involved in the writing of the A Song of Ice and Fire? Each new addition reveals yet more depth to a series which has shown just how rich and complex it truly is.

The hardest part is keeping it all straight. I do have notes, of course, but not as many as you might think. Most of it is in my head... somewhere...

4- Is a World Fantasy Award something you covet?

"Covet?" No. I've won a World Fantasy Award, as it happens, for my werewolf novella "The Skin Trade." If I were to win another for A Song of Ice and Fire, I'm sure that I'd be very pleased... but in general, I do not attach as much importance to juried awards like the WFA as to do the Hugo, a popular award with a much broader base.

5- What extensive research did the writing of the A song of Ice and Fire entail?

I've filled up several bookcases with books about medieval history. Feasts and fools and tournaments, warfare and women, various popular histories of the Hundred Years War, the Crusades, the Albigensian Crusade, the Wars of the Roses, etc. You can't read too much. You never know what information you may need.

6- 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.

There's still resistance, but it seems to me that J.R.R. Tolkien is finally being accepted into the canon, however grudgingly, and that creates hope for the rest of us. In the end, though, only time will tell. Will today's bestselling fantasies still be read twenty years from now? Fifty? One hundred?

7- Have the plotlines diverged much since you began writing the series, or did you have the entire plot more or less figured out from the very beginning? Were any characters added or further fleshed out beyond your original intention? Have you made any changes to your initial plans during the course of the writing of the series?

I won't say the plotlines have diverged, but the process of getting from here to there has taken more time and more pages than I initially estimated... perhaps because I found the places and people I encountered along the way so interesting. The secondary and tertiary characters are largely to blame, the spearcarriers who keep insisting that they're human too, when all I want them to do is stand there and be quiet and hold that spear. Yes, some of my initial plans have changed along the way. If they hadn't, I would just be connecting the dots, and that would drive me mad. Some writers are architects and some are gardeners, and I am in the second camp. The tale takes on a life of its own in the writing.

8- Is a series like A Song of Ice and Fire something you've always yearned to write, or was it something you came up with in the latter part of your writing career?

I've always loved fantasy, since I first encountered Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien in my high school days. I was writing sword & sorcery even in my fanzine days in the 60s, along with SF and horror and superhero yarns. Truth is, I like all the flavors of fantastic fiction, and for me it has never been a big deal to move from one genre to another.

9- How would you like to be remembered as an author? What is the legacy you'll leave behind?

Hell, all writers dream of immortality, of being remembered beside Homer and Shakespeare and Dickens in the storytellers' pantheon. That's a determination that only posterity can make, however, and there's no point in dwelling on it. All you can do is try to write the best books that you possibly can, one page at a time.

10- Do you already have plans for another fantasy series following the completion of A Song of Ice and Fire?

I don't know what I will do after Ice and Fire. Maybe fantasy, maybe SF, maybe horror... maybe something new entirely. I still have volumes to write and years to go, after all, and there's no telling where I will be by the time the series is complete, or what I will feel like writing.

11- What is your involvement with the ASOIAF roleplaying game supplements? Are Guardians of Order getting additional new information from you for the supplements?

I did provide GoO with some material from my notes, yes... as I did with Fantasy Flight. In each case, however, I warned them that nothing is actually canon until it appears in the books. I reserve the right to change my mind, and I do not want to tie my own hands because of something in one of the games.

For the most part, my role in the game development has been that of a consultant. I'd like to be more involved, but I just don't have the time.

12- Is there any particular piece of worldbuilding that you are especially proud of?

I like the Wall. So far as I know, it's unique in fantasy.

13- I read an interview in which you said once that you didn't enjoy writing as much as you enjoyed "having written."

Writing is hard.

14- When and where will the next "Dunk & Egg" story be published? Does it have a title yet?

Not as yet. The story is three-quarters done, but I haven't found a title I really like. I'm not sure when I will finish the novella at this juncture, and less sure where it will be published, now that the LEGENDS anthologies are defunct. (I have had plenty of offers, mind you, just haven't made up my mind)

15- If you have read their works, I'm curious to know your thoughts about fellow authors such as Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Steven Erikson and R. Scott Bakker.

I prefer not to comment about other authors, except when I review a specific book for my website, or from time to time when blurbing a new writer. I do believe in giving talented newcomers a leg up wherever possible. This is a tough game, and a lot of very fine writers do not have the readership that they deserve. Robert A. Heinlein once said that you can never pay back the people who helped you when you started, you can only pay forward.

16- And last but not least, as you no doubt expected, what is the current progress report with A DANCE WITH DRAGONS? Anything you wish to share with your readers, just to whet their appetite?

If their appetites were any more whetted, they'd tear me to shreds. Can't you hear that gnashing of teeth?