INTERACTIVE - Questions for MW Stover

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Jacquin, Nov 5, 2004.

  1. Jacquin

    Jacquin Shovelly Joe

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    Once again fortune smiles on us.

    Best Selling author Matthew Woodring Stover has kindly agreed to answer people's questions regarding his work.

    Please follow the guidelines that Gemquest laid down in RAS's Q&A thread and I'm sure we'll all get along fine.


    I'd like to start the ball rolling.

    One of the things that stood out the most to me with your work was the quality of the fight scenes. Could you tell us a little about your martial arts background and how it influenced the way you write?

    J
     
  2. juzzza

    juzzza Loveable Rogue

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    Awesome.

    When you are done there Matt (I think we are allowed to fire two at a time?), you are one of the new, exciting writers who many believe will take fantasy forward away from the epic series style works (nothing wrong with epics), what do you think of others leading the revolution like China? Who are you enjoying?

    Thanks
     
  3. MWStover

    MWStover Registered User

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    Okay.

    At least I've finally found my way here . . .



    Listen: no time to answer questions right now (I'm off to WindyCon), but I'll try to get back with answers ASAP, maybe even later tonight, if I'm sufficiently sober.
     
  4. Jacquin

    Jacquin Shovelly Joe

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    No rush at all, we're just grateful you can spare us the time.

    Enjoy Windy and have a beer (or five) for me!

    J
     
  5. MWStover

    MWStover Registered User

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    First answers

    My martial arts background didn't bring anything to my work; it was my work that brought me to martial arts.

    This is the literal truth: I was seventeen years old, and I had this idea about a character I wanted to write -- his name was Caine. I was a big Bruce Lee fan, having been mesmerized, as a child, by Kato on the old GREEN HORNET TV show. But I had read lots and lots of fantasy novels where the heroes met the villains In a Mighty Clash Of Swords, and then the villain falls . . .

    I wanted to write something that would feel REAL. So I enrolled in the only martial arts class that was available to me at the time, as a freshman at Drake University: tae kwon do. And I joined the fencing club (eventually becoming vice president). And I made friends with a guy who had learned English quarterstaff from some SCA guys at Cornell College. And basically, I have gone on to learn as much as I can about as many different kinds of fighting as are available -- right now, I'm becoming a terrific shot with a 1911 and am about to enroll in an Urban Combat Shotgun competition league . . . because when I write it, I want it to feel REAL.

    And because it's a hell of a lot of fun.

    As for who I'm reading in the field, I'm afraid my current favorite is a guy doing classic Epic stuff, because he's doing it better than anybody has in a long, long time: Greg Keyes. THE BRIAR KING kept me up late, turning pages.

    The other fantasist I particularly enjoy is Graham Joyce. THE TOOTH FAIRY is dynamite.

    I'm not too up on China Miéville. I read PSS, and while I admire his imagination -- I particularly liked the concept of "crisis energy" -- I wasn't too impressed with the book's construction, and I'm not overly enthralled with his world-view. I mean, sure, okay, the guy's a socialist, so he can't really allow himself to have heroes, because to a socialist, progress only comes through collective action, right? I, on the other hand, think that all you get through collective action is a Republican Congress . . .

    But he can certainly write, and I do intend to read THE SCAR. I just haven't gotten around to it yet, that's all.

    When I read for pleasure, I usually read classics.

    I should also point out that there is no "leading away from the epic" going on in fantasy. Non-epic -- and non-heroic -- fantasy has always been out there, and always will be. And is usually among the best of the genre.

    Have you guys forgotten Gene Wolfe? How about Jonathan Carroll?

    Can anybody say Ray Bradbury?
     
  6. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    Do you think that anyone has written anything in the last twenty years in fantasy that will continue to be read twenty years from now? And if so, why? What is it that makes Tolkien so enduring?
     
  7. MWStover

    MWStover Registered User

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    *cough*

    Other than mine?





    Did you miss those three names in that post above?







    I'm staying out of the Tolkien thing. Been there, done that. Sorry.
     
  8. Gary Wassner

    Gary Wassner GemQuest

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    Actually, I read those three names. But you merely said you enjoyed them. I can't read your mind. Do you also think they will endure over time?
     
  9. MWStover

    MWStover Registered User

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    What?

    You CAN'T read my mind? What's wrong with you?

    Have you fallen to the Dark Side?


    Seriously, though:

    Yes.

    In fact, they already have: many of their most important works were published twenty years and more ago, and are still being read today. I have no reason to suspect that they will fade in the next twenty.

    Well, except for Jonathan Carroll, who I threw in just to make myself sound hip.

    Mostly I mean Gene Wolfe and Ray Bradbury, who I guarantee will still be read a hundred years from now, not just twenty.
     
  10. Spears&Buckler

    Spears&Buckler MJ Dusseault

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    Greetings, Matt. Good to see you at SFF World. I understand that you had been ill recently (Hope that situation has cleared up for you!), and it was somewhat serious. Would a scenario like that which has impacted your life so much find its way into your work? And if so, how often do you feel that that happens in speculative fiction these days? Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2004
  11. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

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    As a Fantasy writer, competing for not just the attention of readers who have enjoyed the genre for some time and readers who are making initial forays into the genre, how does "fighting" for the attention of people looking to be entertained through story, when society today does not generally read as much as we here would like them to. For example, and this may be considered a second question...with the Fantasy genre taking a strong hold in video gaming, films, and increasingly, of late, graphic novels, do you see these other media as:
    **Competition?
    **Potential arenas for your work to be translated into?
    **Different media in which your stories can be told?

    Or is this getting ahead of the bare essentials of "writing good stories?"

    I ask because encouraging people, in general, but specifically younger than myself, or close to my age (in-laws, cousins, friends) to read is not always a successfull endeavor when the things I mention above [video gaming, films, and graphic novels] surround us more prevalently than books. (Don't get me wrong, I enjoy all three, as well)

    and btw, thanks very much for participating!
     
  12. MWStover

    MWStover Registered User

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    Hey

    Hey, S&B --

    Yes, I have been somewhat ill for quite some time; it's a chronic condition, currently (fingers crossed) under control with meds and lifestyle. And yes, it found its way into my work. A great deal of BLADE OF TYSHALLE is about finding an answer to helplessness -- I have no doubt that theme came through so strongly because I was desperately ill the whole time I was writing it, and no one could tell me what was wrong with me (which is not too surprising, since my condition was first described in medical literature in adult males in 1999 . . .).

    The point is, really, that everything in my life ends up in my work. Fantasy is a vehicle for truth; everything in fantasy -- good fantasy, anyway -- is a metaphor for truths people have to deal with in our world every day. So I use everything I know -- everything I've learned, everything I've experienced -- to tell as much metaphorical truth as I can.

    Writing's too hard as it is. I sure as hell wouldn't want to try it with half my honesty tied behind my back.

    Fitz --

    I see other media as potential sources of income, if I can just find people willing to buy my stories and adapt them. It's too much work to try and market them myself.

    I don't see them as competition. They all use different parts of the brain. If you read, you'll still read, no matter how much fun HALO 2 is.

    You just have to remember that universal literacy was the Holy Grail of the American Century. Readers are leaders, sure -- but most people will always be followers, and that's just the way it is.
     
  13. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

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    I did see this, especially with Hari's condition as it was. Maybe that is why the ending of BoT gave me the biggest grin, of any ending I have ever read. Not that I was grinning at your pain, mind you.


    It seems that, video games especially, have been tapping established and respect FSF writers to pen novels in their universe(s), with Eric Nylund doing HALO stuff and EE Knight doing some TOMB RAIDER stuff.

    Aside from Star Wars, which is probably the biggest media property, and the Flash Gordon mess, have any others tapped you to pen something in their "universe?"
     
  14. Susan Boulton

    Susan Boulton Edited for submission

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    May I ask has your illness changed your perception of your previous works? Do they now seem naïve in your eyes in some way? Has the black and white become even greyer?

    Has it drawn you to only express the helplessness? Or can you now see the simple things you dismissed as mundane as meaningful, more precious? Have these found there way into your work in greater or lesser amounts.

    Writers are often drawn to describe the unusual, yet it is, I believe, the mundane background in a work that gives it texture. Do you spurn this and reach even more for the fantastical?

    Sorry don’t mean to intrude, but in the last twelve months I have gone from able bodied to handicapped. I have found the roller coaster ride I have been on has affected every part of my life and lead me to re-think a lot of what I have put down on paper during the past six years.
     
  15. JRMurdock

    JRMurdock Where have I been?

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    I've got a couple simple questions

    1) What was your first 'published' work? (meaning what was the first writing you wre paid for)

    2) How long did it take you to get 'published' and how long before your first book deal?

    3) How has your perception of writing changed since you first 'put pen to paper'?

    And Thanks for answering all of our questions.

    J.R.
     
  16. MWStover

    MWStover Registered User

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    I'm sorry for your situation. I have a feeling, though, from the tone of your question, that you haven't actually read much of my previous work.

    Nothing in my work was ever a question of "black and white." In fact, my first novel, IRON DAWN, was set in 1140 BC for the specific reason that the Manichaean struggle of Good vs. Evil was (basically) invented about six hundred years after that -- in other words, I wanted to write an epic fantasy in which the Grand Conflict of Good and Evil had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

    And no, none of my earlier work strikes me as naive, even now; a handicap or an illness is an obstacle -- an additional struggle added to the daily struggle of existence. Since what I try to depict, in my own metaphoric terms, is the struggle of existence, my illness only points up, to my eyes, that I was trying to do the right thing all along.

    Fitz --

    I've been appproached to write a variety of other media tie-ins, that I've turned down because I don't like the franchises, or the timing was wrong, or the money just wasn't there. I won't get into specifics. Suffice it to say that Star Wars is likely to remain my only tie-in work for some time to come.

    maus --

    My first published work was IRON DAWN (Penguin/Roc, May 1997), which answers two of your questions. The third is unanswerable, since I started writing as soon as I could read; I can't say what my 'perception of writing' was back then. It was just something I did.

    Now it's something I do for money.
     
  17. Jacquin

    Jacquin Shovelly Joe

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    Ok, I'll bite at that last line.

    Do you exclusively make a living from your writing? If so is it a good liviing? If not what else do you do for money?

    Also on the same theme, assuming royalties are a big part of your living do you have any plans to get your Caine books more readily available in Europe?

    Oh, please feel free to tell me not to be so nosey if you want...

    J
     
  18. Sammie

    Sammie The Doctor...

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    Hi there! First off I just want to say thanks very much for agreeing to take part in this thread - it's much appreciated!

    Secondly - I have two questions, I hope that's not too greedy.....

    1...
    Most people I talk to feel that 'Heroes Die' is a fantasy novel, however I very much percieved it as Science Fiction (which I preferred......to write a good story and make it feasible is always more impressive to me than a good story in a fantasy-setting). However, I was then quite disappointed when I read Blade of Tyshalle to find that it is very much fantasy.....I always find it a bit jolting to find myself reading fantasy when I was expecting science fiction, if that makes sense..... So anyway- I was wondering whether you originally conceived/now see Heroes Die as fantasy, or science fiction?!

    2...
    I very much enjoyed your StarWars novel, 'Traitor'......(especially your take on the light-dark sides of the force), but I felt that as a novel it also rater emphasised the (generally) pretty poor standard of most of the StarWars novels. Were you at all concerned that writing 'Traitor' would get you 'tarred with the same brush', as it were? (Or am I insulting your supreme self-confidence? ;))
     
  19. MWStover

    MWStover Registered User

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    Were I a healthy single man, I could live fairly comfortably on what I make -- but comfortably, for me, simply means a warm dry bed, a bathroom, and a kitchen. Material goods mean little to me.

    As it is, however, I still -- as I have these twenty-some years -- tend bar. I've found a place where I rarely am required to work more than twenty to twenty-five hours a week, that will still provide full health and prescription drug benefits for my wife and me. That's worth a LOT of money. And it gets me out of the house.

    To the best of my knowlege, HEROES DIE is currently available only in France and Russia; however, my agent has a new "Europe guy" to coordinate activities in the EU. I'm hoping when CAINE BLACK KNIFE comes out he may be able to sell all three as a package in some of the other markets over there -- Germany in particular (they tend to pay very well).


    Sammie --

    HD is indeed SF -- hard SF at that, and was always intended to be. The central conflict is an external problem, set up by a speculative extention of current societal trends, solved by creative application of the central speculative technologies of the novel (the "thoughmitter/simichair" and the "Winston transfer").

    BLADE OF TYSHALLE is epic fantasy, and was always intended to be. The central conflict there is internal, a test of character, one might even say mythological (for all four of the protagonists, not to mention several minor characters): they must face their own mortality, pass through it -- in a couple of cases literally -- and either return to life with a deeper understanding and appreciation (as Campbell would put it, at-one-ment) of the truth of themselves, or fade away into darkness . . .

    Why is that a problem? When magick works like science, and science works like magick, the only distinction between SF and fantasy is the focus of the story.

    As, in my never-humble opinion, the first two volumes of the Acts of Caine rather elegantly show.


    As for TRAITOR . . .

    It's like this:

    I have always maintained that a skilled writer can take ANY tropes, ANY elements, and make something interesting, exciting, possibly even moving and thought-provoking out of them. I'm not trying to show anybody up, you understand. That's not what it's about.

    It's about saying to roughly half a million Star Wars fans, "Hey! YOU there! My name is Matthew Woodring Stover! You hear me? MATTHEW! WOODRING! STOVER!"

    So when I write Star Wars, I give it everything I have. I'm not worried about being "that Star Wars guy." I'm just hoping that no Harry Potter book is released any time near 02 April 2005, so that CAINE BLACK KNIFE might just get to come out with a line under my name that says "New York Times #1 Bestselling Author."
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2004
  20. Jacquin

    Jacquin Shovelly Joe

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    Ok, so if HD was Science Fiction and BoT was Epic Fantasy, what can we expect from Caine Black Knife? I am somewhat worried after you brought up Harry Potter that you'll be branching out into children's literature... ;)

    J

    (Though Hogwarts would be a lot more entertaining if they all had knives...)