Interview with Patrick Rothfuss

Hello and welcome to The Book Swede! How great it is to have you here, offering you even now cookies (or if you’re like Karen, and are too good for cookies … ice-cream). Hello and welcome!

A: Howdy.

Quite a few people of late have taken to living in caves. In case they’ve come out and finally discovered the Internet and your name, could you give us a little overview of the Kingkiller Chronicles?

A: Oh boy. Y’know. Of all the questions that I should be good at by now…. I should have this one down pat. But I don’t, I really, really suck at describing the book.

How about you do it. Then I’ll chime in with something witty afterward…

Youch, hoisted by my own petard, or something similar. Let me see… Hmm… There’s something decidedly wrong here, I was meant to be asking, you answering.

Kvothe kicks butt in an awesome fantasy novel made of lovely thick paper (and, in the UK edition, it has inside cover flaps which are bigger than usual, but look very cool) that smells nice, too. The story isn’t bad, but it’s the paper that really makes this book.

I couldn’t agree more. The ink helps too. They used nice, dark ink. I don’t think the book would have been nearly as good without the ink.

OK, that’s that bit dealt with 😉 Now… This question isn’t really related to books, but I thought I’d bring your life’s wisdom to bear on this long disputed subject: in a massive inter-special war, who would win – bird-kind or monkey-kind?! Any chance of a scene like this is Book 3 (which is called…)? 😉

A: Are we talking about modern birds and monkeys, or futuristic, mutated, or somehow weirded up versions of birds and monkeys?

I think a bit of both really. Just so long as the word “beak-flips” is included in your answer. I’m not sure whether to include weaponry into it, though? Could be fun, this definitely has its place in every respectable fantasy novel.

Hmmm…. It still comes down to the thumbs and brains vs. flight. I’ve got to with monkeys for the win.

I’ve recently heard that book two, A Wise Man’s Fear is “a novel”. I was unaware of this until very recently … is the same true of The Name of the Wind?! I truly hope not. I thought I was reading the autobiography of a (admittedly King-killing) man named Kvothe. True, it does sometimes have a little switch between first-person and third-person, but I thought these were merely psychotic episodes. Can you shed any light on the subject? And was I, in fact, correct?

A: There is a definite autobiographical tendency to the books. However, in the sake of full disclosure, that doesn’t necessarily preclude you having a psychotic episode as well. It could be both.

Good to know, or is it? Aaah, you know it makes no sense. When people send you books to sign (normally your own books, I’d imagine) you now encourage them to send you a little present. This guy sent you a load of swag: but what’s been the weirdest thing you’ve received so far?

A: I haven’t had anything that’s just been-above-the-board weird yet. Like a jar full of severed doll heads, or But there have been a lot of cool things. Someone sent me a quarter that had a bullet hole in it. That’s pretty cool. I got a cool children’s book about a Cowboy and an Octopus. (Called Cowboy and Octopus) and I really enjoyed that, too. A particularly cool group of fans actually made me a cloak full of little pockets, just like in the book. It was really surprisingly thoughtful….

It’s about time I asked you some authory-type questions!

A: Fair enough. Hit me.

Though this may sound a bit insulting (it’s not!) – if you could change one thing about The Name of the Wind now that’s it’s in print, what would it be?

A: Hmmm… a few typos slipped in. I’d love to go back and fix them. It’s impossible to catch all the little mistakes, but it’s still embarrassing. I’d like to weed out as many as possible.

Concerning the infamous “Fabio” artwork…
I’m actually rather fond of it. What say you?

A: The artwork is fantastic. Donato does such incredible painting. That said, a lot of people felt that that cover was too “romance-ish” for their taste. That’s the only problem I had with it. You never want to hear that people are avoiding your book based solely on a dislike of the cover.

But on the flip side, I’ve had a bunch of people say that the cover drew them in and made them pick up the book in the first place. Also, Kvothe is pretty hot on there. You can’t deny that…

Indeed, not. Now, Kvothe, main character of your books, has red hair. For centuries, in our world, red hair has been associated with magic, deities, the arcane, etc. In Britain however, while it had this, an element of something still remains today. While most have forgotten the reasons, children can be bullied over having red hair, insulted, etc. which is plainly ridiculous. I was wondering whether anything of that sort is experienced in America, or whether it’s a peculiarly English phenomenon and why you chose red hair for Kvothe?

A: I imagine that you guys have that as a cultural holdover from the Celts, who pretty much kicked the hell out of everyone in pre-history Europe. They were right in your neighbourhood. You’re probably carrying around a race-memory grudge from several thousand years ago because some red-haired maniac knocked you down and ate your lunch. Metaphorically speaking of course.

There are only faint echoes of that other something here in the US. We have the little-used expression “I’m going to beat you like a redheaded stepchild.” But over here in the US, red hair is mostly mythic. Plus sexy. Plus exotic.

Ahem. How have your pupils and fellow teachers reacted to your author-dom and The Name of the Wind, itself? It would be kinda awesome if one of them quoted Kvothe back at you … or something…!

A: Most of my fellow teachers are only dimly aware that I exist. Which is how I like it for the most part. If I stay under the radar I have comfortable anonymity and relative freedom in how I run my classes. Those that do know me don’t seem to be aware how well the book as been doing, the awards and nominations. *Shrug* I can’t blame them. Generally speaking nothing gets noticed by literature scholars until the author’s been dead for twenty years. I’d rather be alive than famous.

Most of the student don’t know that I’ve written a book either. It’s only been out for less than a year over here, so that’s not terribly surprising. But in every class I have two or three students who mention it to me. And a lot of my former students have stopped by to congratulate me and get copies signed. That’s a nice feeling. Any time a former student stops by your office carrying anything other than a knife, it’s a nice feeling.

What was the initial inspiration that drove you to write these books?

A: Hmmmm. “Initial” is hard. I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember.

A lot of the reasons I wrote these books the way I did is because I was sick of a lot of the cliché fantasy conventions. Too many dragons and goblin armies and elves with bows. It was all seeming so samey to me, so I decided to see if I could tell a different sort of story, one that left a lot of those conventions behind.

Which characters have changed the most from your original idea of them to how they’ve appeared on the page? I got it totally wrong last time I tried to guess an author’s response, but Denna …?

A: Denna hasn’t changed so much as she has evolved. She started as the unattainable love interest, but that ended up being another cliché that I wanted to avoid.

However, when I brought her into the spotlight she showed elements of her personality that weren’t visible before. She had a lot more facets than you could see when she was at a distance, but she was still the same fundamental character….

No, I have to say that most of my characters haven’t changed much from their original conception, they just grow. They’re like seeds. A seed doesn’t change into something new, it just becomes a more fully realised version of itself. Does that even make any sense?

That said, some of the seedling characters have ended up developing into things far and away more interesting than I could ever have hoped for. Auri was one of those. She is a pure delight to write. I never expected her to be so much fun.

Makes perfect sense, and Auri is very cool! From all the names Kvothe has (something that fantasy is quite fond of) it seems like you sat down and wrote out a whole list of variations on the same theme, but then made them you’re own, subverting and twisting, etc. Was this the case, at all?

A: Hmmm…. I can’t think of an answer to this one. Can you ask it in a different way?

What, you’re dissing my questions, now?! I was in my musical mind there, with variations and themes, makes no sense in the real world. What I meant to ask was can you in fact play a musical instrument anywhere as near as good as Kvothe can?!

I can’t play any sort of instrument even halfway decently. I can’t even read music. I’ve got a pretty good singing voice though…

You’ve said that after this trilogy you still have more books planned in Kvothe’s world. Is there anything planned outside of it? Fancy turning your hand to science-fiction…?

A: I don’t think you’ll see me in Sci-fi for a while, though someone recently called my book science-fantasy because the main system of magic people use is was regimented and logical.

I do have an idea for a book-length modern day faerie tale. And another idea for a series of humorous urban fantasy novels set in a college. I think I’d have a lot of fun writing those.

I also have a not-for-children-children’s book coming out next year. That’s going to be cool seeing it in print. I’ll be posting more news on that at my website once we have the papers signed.

Thank you for taking time out of being eaten by a grue to take part in this Q&A! Really hoping The Name of the Wind goes OK for you, over here in the UK; it deserves every success. [Of course, it’s now December so you know it’s done very well, but I have to maintain the illusion of living in the past.]

A: Wow. Extra points for the Zork reference. I knew you were my sort of guy.



Interview by Chris, The Book Swede

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