Q: Can you tell us a bit about your current projects?
A: I’m plotting the fourth book in the Isles series. My working title is Mistress of the Catacombs, but I’m expecting that to change. I recently turned in a novelet for a Sprague de Camp festschrift that Harry Turtledove’s editing for Baen Books, and Lt Leary, Commanding, my sequel to With the Lightnings, is due out shortly from Baen.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the experience of writing the books in the Lord of the Isle series?
A: I’ve always loved fantasy–it was Robert E Howard’s work as much as anything that inspired me as a teenager to try writing. My first novel, The Dragon Lord, was a heroic fantasy; but my military SF became so successful that I wound up doing mostly SF for the next fifteen years. A few years agoI discussed with Tom Doherty of Tor the possibility of me doing heroic fantasy again. It wasn’t what I was known for, but Tor had several successful series in the genre.
Tom agreed, and I wrote Lord of the Isles. It was wonderful to come back to fantasy (not that I want to write only fantasy, let me emphasize.)
Q: What are you usually inspired by when writing a book?
A: Usually a historical incident inspires me. In the case of my most recent novel, Lt Leary, Commanding, it was an event in the 2nd century BC in which a hostage from the Syrian court slipped out of Rome and intrigued his way to the throne.
Q: How much research do you put into your novels?
A: Well, a lot of research; but that’s also my pleasure reading. At the moment, for example, I’m reading both Polybius and Athenaeus and jotting down notes to use either in the current fantasy or some later project.
Q: What do you see as the most challenging aspects of writing a novel?
A: The work of writing. 200,000 words (the length of each volume of the Isles series) or even the 100K+ that my recent SF novels have run, takes along time. I’m completely exhausted by the time I’m done.
Q: Do you find that fantasy writing is ignored compared to science fiction, or taken less seriously?
A: Hmm; by whom? If you mean by critics, I don’t pay a lot of attention to reviews. Certainly the sales of my fantasies have been very gratifying.
Q: What has the Internet meant for you as an author?A: Well, not a lot. My recent website is the work of a friend. It’s let me get in touch with more people at a comfortably safe distance. I guess that’s good.