New Guy Gavriel Kay interview

With Guy Gavriel Kay's A Brightness Long Ago (Canada, USA, Europe) about to be published, I had the chance to have a little chat with the author.


- With its pub date just around the corner, what can you tell us about your newest novel, A BRIGHTNESS LONG AGO?

I never work out good soundbites or elevator pitches for the books, I dislike reducing them that way. But this one is inspired by 15th century Italy, specifically the lifelong enmity between two of the greatest military commanders of their day, but filtering that tension through the lives and perceptions of a number of other people who come into contact with them.

- I once asked you what came first when considering your next novel: themes you wished to explore, a setting you're interested in, or characters you wanted to write about? You replied that in general setting precedes theme (which grows out of learning about time and place), then character, and from this process a narrative emerges. But this isn’t set in stone for you, and different books have had different arcs of emergence.


I think setting came first here, it takes place before Children of Earth and Sky (though it is a standalone) as I realized there were more things I wanted to explore in this time and place. The themes (especially memory, and the issue of how much control we have over our lives and how much ‘randomness’ comes into them) emerged.

- When CHILDREN OF EARTH AND SKY was released, were you already aware that you'd be returning to that same part of the world in your next book? If not, how/when did it dawn upon you that it would be the case?

Not at all. I never know what the next book is. With the Sarantium pair, it was in my mind as a diptych from the start, so I don’t see Lord of Emperors as a ’next book’ I pushed straight on into it. This time, as always, there were many things, many settings, that interested me, but my reading and note taking gradually circled down to this one.

- According to George R. R. Martin, most authors are either architects or gardeners. Which type of writer are you?

A single malt whisky distiller in the Highlands. (Joke, but, actually…)

Everyone has their own metaphors, their way of framing creativity, I don’t personally see it as falling into any neat dichotomy. As between these two, I’d be more an architect because the shape of a novel matters a lot to me (as a reader, too). It is one reason (among others) I don’t write multi-volume, in fact.

- Speaking of Martin and Game of Thrones, in late 2017 it was announced that Boat Rocker Studio’s Temple Street secured television rights to The Fionavar Tapestry. There has also been some interest for THE LIONS OF AL-RASSAN. Is there any progress report you can to share with your fans?

This is, as people have probably learned by now with many projects, a long game. But the people involved at Boat Rocker are seriously smart and experienced, and I have a lot of confidence in them. There are also other projects based on my work being explored, but it is too soon to share anything. As a general note for people, one thing GoT on television did was create a very high level of expectation for budgets, production values. That puts a strain on many possible projects. Have a look at what is being budgeted for the Tolkien adaptation...

- In an interview back in 2014, you said: “I’m still proud of the Fionavar Tapestry. The fact I don’t write the same way is as much as anything else the fact a man in his 50s doesn’t write the way a man in his 20s does – or he shouldn’t. We shouldn’t be interested in the same things, we shouldn’t be artistically frozen in amber at the point that we were when we first appeared on the scene. We should evolve. And that’s what it is for me.”

So what interests a more mature and hopefully wiser Guy Gavriel Kay nowadays?

I‘ll agree with that ‘hopefully’ as to wiser, Pat! Readers of this book will see, I suspect, what is engaging me, and has been for a few years (because I live with a book for years). I’m fascinated by how we examine and remember the past — our own and our culture’s, or the world’s — and shape narratives we need or want from that. We tell ourselves stories, and they are immensely important. That whole subject of storytelling, that a novel you read is a story being told to you by someone …

- All your works since your first trilogy have been described as “history with a quarter-turn to the fantastic.” Are there any plans to ever return to your roots and write a bona fide fantasy book/series, or has this train left the station a long time ago?

No train, no station! Never know what might come up next, or next after that, or ...

- Will you be touring during the course of the spring/summer to promote A BRIGHTNESS LONG AGO? If so, are there any specific dates that have been confirmed as of yet?

American stops so far in Seattle on the 17th of May (University Bookstore), and San Francisco on the 18th (Borderlands) in the afternoon, then the evening of the 19th at a fun gig called SF In SF (which will include the great Simon Vance, who does the audiobook of this one, and has done many of mine in the past).

- Anything else you wish to share with your fans?

I always say this, but I always mean it: I am immensely grateful for the gift my readers give me, of being able to take the time to write the books I want to write. It really is a blessing.

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