Q: How did you come up with the idea for the Runelords series?
A: I’d thought for a long time about what kind of book to write.I wanted the book to be accessible. I wanted the reader to beginthe book feeling that this was something that he or she had seenbefore, and then have it gradually begin to grow into somethingso different that he or she realized she’d never seen anythinglike it before.
There are several ways to do that. For example, I could havestarted by having characters from our world move to a fantasyworld. But I decided that one thing that I wanted was a goodmagic system. I considered and rejected a dozen systems of thecourse of a year. I knew that I wanted the series to be abouteconomics–about the price that people pay to gain and holdpower.
I was in Scotland with a friend, Hugo Award nominee Shayne Bell,driving along the southern shore of Lake Innessfree, admiring thescenery, when Shayne asked, “Can you imagine what this placelooked like a thousand years ago.”
I was trying to imagine it as the Romans might have seen it, withits gloaming forests and fierce wolves, when I had thestrangest… hallucination. I suddenly found myself standing ina thicket near the lake, and a man was riding toward me over ahill, wearing a suit of mail. In the thicket behind me, a youngwoman whispered in a terrified voice, “Shhh . . .. don’t move. Arunelord is coming.”
Immediately the knight topped the hill, and I saw that he wasriding a creature that had once been a horse, but which was nowso twisted and powerful that it seemed to me to be a force ofnature. It had scars from strange runes branded cruelly on itsneck, and immediately I realized what a runelord was, and why theman riding toward me was more powerful and terrifying thananything I’d ever imagined. Running from him would not be anoption, or fighting him. I merely stood and hoped that he wouldpass me by.
At that point, the strange vision ended. It didn’t seemparticularly strange to have a full-sensory hallucination.Instead, I was thrilled to finally understand the magic system Ihad been struggling to create. (The subconscious mind oftenprovides such insights, but seldom does it do so in such aconspicuous manner.)
I immediately began outlining the magic system for the novels,and got started.
Q: What’s your own explanation to the success of the Runelordsseries?
A: That’s hard to express in a few short words. I’ve spenttwenty-five years studying stories and people, trying to figureout why people read and how tales work. I’m still learning.
Basically, though, I think that the books work in part becauseGaborn, Iome, and my other characters are basically decentpeople. Even the villains are more . . . misdirected than evil.Even when my characters can’t act in a decent manner manner, evenwhen they make mistakes, I would hope that the reader sympathizeswith them and wishes that they could do better.
Then, of course, there is the world itself. No book can reallyencapsulate our world–the political systems, the way peoplethink and talk, the way that the trees move in the wind, and thestrange surprises that life hands you. But in the Runelords, Itry to capture is as fully as possible.
And of course there is the originality. By the end of the firstbook, the reader will recognize that he’s never been anyplacelike this before. The ride keeps getting wilder.
Q: Can you give us a sneak preview into the next book in theseries?
A: In WIZARDBORN, young skyrider Averan discovers that she is awizardess, and the Earth Warden Binnesman takes her as hisapprentice. But Gaborn has other designs. Of all mankind,Averan is the first who has ever been able to see into the mindof a reaver, to learn their thoughts and designs. The reavers,it turns out, are more cunning and dangerous than anyone hadimagined, so Gaborn seeks to lure Averan into leading him intothe underworld, into the lair of the fell mage who leads them, inhopes that he can defeat her.
Beyond that, Raj Ahten discovers that the reavers are attackinghis own seat of power in Kartish, and must go to face them, evenas Binnesman’s curse works against him.
Samples of the novel are available at my website atwww.runelords.com
Q: What do you see as the most challenging aspects of writing anovel?
For some novelists, each novel is harder than the last. Inessence, when one book turns out good, we want to make the nextone better. So instead of just rewriting the last, duplicatingour success, we must raise the bar.
I want each novel to be different, to have some new virtues thatthe previous novel didn’t. So right now I feel that I’m raisingthe bars very high indeed.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A: I’ve been involved with a number of writing contests, andcurrently teach creative writing of science fiction and fantasyat a university.
When I speak at conventions, I’m always amazed at how many peoplewill cram into a panel on “How to submit a novel,” or “How to geta good agent.” Hundreds might show up. But only a few come topanels that actually talk about how to write–how tocharacterize, and plot, and describe scenes.
That seems bizarre. If you want to get into this business, learnhow to write. Practice it. Have fun with it. Then beginsubmitting when you feel comfortable doing so.
Q: When you’re not writing, what do you like to do to relax?
A: Seriously, I don’t relax–ever. I plan to do that when I’mdead. I sometimes go fishing or camping, but when I do, Iusually take my portable computer. I also enjoy movies, but I’malways critiquing the plots. I take long walks, but I thinkabout my work when I do.
Q: What has the Internet meant for you as an author?
A: As an author, it allows me to keep in touch with my fansbetter than ever before. I currently have a file of severalhundred letters from fans asking “When is book three coming out?”Knowing that all of these folks are so eager to read the nextbook has really been a tremendous inspiration. Sometimes when Iget up in the morning and open the day’s e-mail, I’ll find threeor four of those requests. Afterward, I always get down to theoffice a half hour earlier than I otherwise would.