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  1. #1
    Shovelly Joe Moderator Jacquin's Avatar
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    INTERACTIVE - Questions for MW Stover

    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. #2
    Loveable Rogue Moderator juzzza's Avatar
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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. #3
    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. #4
    Shovelly Joe Moderator Jacquin's Avatar
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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. #5

    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. #6
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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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. #7

    *cough*

    Quote Originally Posted by GemQuest
    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?
    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. #8
    enslaved to my writing Abby's Avatar
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    critique groups

    Hi Matthew,

    I'm going to ask a rather silly question. If I recall correctly, you were part of a critique group called Milk of Medusa a few years ago (I was a member there briefly). What was your experience like in this group? You can feel free to ignore that question. But more seriously, do you still participate in critique groups? If not, why have you stopped? I'd like to know your general history with critique groups; if your experiences have been good or bad, and if you consider them the best way to strive for improvement. Also, do you tend to seek reader feedback?

    Please forgive my ignorance if this is all common knowledge; I'm not familiar with your writing.
    Thanks.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Abby
    Hi Matthew,

    I'm going to ask a rather silly question. If I recall correctly, you were part of a critique group called Milk of Medusa a few years ago (I was a member there briefly). What was your experience like in this group? You can feel free to ignore that question. But more seriously, do you still participate in critique groups? If not, why have you stopped? I'd like to know your general history with critique groups; if your experiences have been good or bad, and if you consider them the best way to strive for improvement. Also, do you tend to seek reader feedback?

    Please forgive my ignorance if this is all common knowledge; I'm not familiar with your writing.
    Thanks.
    Hi, Abby.

    I was never a member of MoM. I was (and am) a good friend of one of its founders, Bob Urell -- at least, I THINK he was one of its founders. Anyway, I gave him permission to post some writing advice I'd offered to the members of another online forum, and he did, because -- one can only assume -- he thought it was good advice.

    I do not participate in critique groups. The last time I did so was in roughly 1981, in an undergraduate writing class at Drake University. What I learned in critique groups was so valuable that it took me until 1995 to make my first sale.

    Nobody reads my work till it's done. And then it's only my editor. At which point I either get paid, or I fix it, or I decide it's unfixable and I write something else. Anyone is welcome to make whatever critiques of my work that might happen to please them . . . once it's in print.

    Critique groups work fine for other people. Lots of people use them, even pros. They don't work for me. I'm not interested in what people think is wrong with my work.

    One of the folks over at dead cities put it nicely:

    "When somebody tells you something's wrong with your story, they're probably right. When they tell you how to fix what's wrong with it, they're probably wrong."

  10. #10
    Registered User djutmose's Avatar
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    I have a question for Mr. Stover:

    Do you have any special approach to writing action/combat scenes? Any special preparation?

    In my own writing, I find that I have to do extensive choreographing both before and during the writing of action-intensive scenes to make them work. They are always tough. I wonder if you could suggest any shortcuts. Or is it this way for you also?

    Also, do you approach the action scenes for your Star Wars books any differently than you do those in your own work? Are there things that would work in action scenes a “pulp” universe like Star Wars that you wouldn’t try in your original, grittier novels?

    Thanks for your time and for being here for us aspiring writer types--Dean

  11. #11
    Mr. Stover:

    When you start writing a story, do you tell yourself, "This is going to be the first in a series of x number of books," do you just start writing and then break the story into different books, or do you just tell separate stories that connect somewhat?
    Last edited by Fitz; November 24th, 2004 at 10:52 AM.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by djutmose
    I have a question for Mr. Stover:

    Do you have any special approach to writing action/combat scenes? Any special preparation?

    In my own writing, I find that I have to do extensive choreographing both before and during the writing of action-intensive scenes to make them work. They are always tough. I wonder if you could suggest any shortcuts. Or is it this way for you also?

    Also, do you approach the action scenes for your Star Wars books any differently than you do those in your own work? Are there things that would work in action scenes a “pulp” universe like Star Wars that you wouldn’t try in your original, grittier novels?

    Thanks for your time and for being here for us aspiring writer types--Dean
    Uh, nope.

    My extensive preparation for combat scenes is really just my extensive preparation for combat. My hobby is full-contact martial arts, including boxing, savate, muay Thai (though I don't do that one full-contact, it's too dangerous for amateurs like me) and jujitsu. When I write a combat scene, I just try to place myself in the the character's positions, and do what they would most likely do, given their individual combinations of aggression, experience and training. As my own experience increases, my fights get more realistic. I don't choreograph things in advance because real fights are never choreographed affairs; they are brutal and very, very short, unless an extremely large number of people are involved. The longest one-on-one "duel" sequence I've ever written -- Caine vs. Berne at the climax of HEROES DIE -- comprises less than ten seconds actual fighting, interspersed with less than thirty seconds of manuvering (mostly Caine running away), because that's what serious fights, in my experience, are like. If I'm ever in a really long one that allows for extensive tactical choreography, then I might start writing them that way.

    Writing combat in Star Wars differs only in that Jedi have different resources to call upon in combat, which changes the way the fighting flows. Again, I put myself in the characters' place, and try to use their resources in the way that feels the most realistic, given my experience with my own resources. It takes a bit more of a leap of the imagination, but the principle is the same.

    TEC --

    I never write anything with an eye to a series. HEROES DIE was supposed to be a one-shot. Del Rey liked it enough that they paid me the same amount again for a sequel. So I wrote BLADE OF TYSHALLE. Then I spent some time doing Star Wars, after which I discovered that I had an idea for a really kick-ass follow-up to BLADE OF TYSHALLE. Del Rey bought it. I'm working on it right now; it's called CAINE BLACK KNIFE. They have also bought the next Overworld novel that I write, whether it features Caine or not; originally, I had conceived CBK as Book One of a two-fer, with the second being called DEAD MAN'S HEART. I am no longer convinced it will work out that way; I believe it will indeed feature Caine . . . but I dunno. I have to wait and see.

    Each book is its own thing, and each book is the Most Important Novel I Will Ever Write -- until it's done. I will never, under any circumstances, tweak my current story to make way for a story I want to tell down the road; I don't work that way. It's part of the reason why I don't work in really long series. So, yeah, here's the Acts of Caine -- but it could end with any book, because as a series it's biographical, rather than novelistic, if you see the distinction.

    I'm not saying there is no Grand Plan; my subconscious -- or whatever part of the Universal Mind it is that might handle the plotting of the Acts of Caine -- doesn't always let me in on its long-term designs. I'm just saying that if there is a Grand Plan, nobody's told me what it is, yet.

  13. #13
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    I'd like to ask a follow up to your last answer, if you don't mind. You said,
    I just try to place myself in the the character's positions, and do what they would most likely do, given their individual combinations of aggression, experience and training. and that explains why everything is so realistic and flows so naturally. I am not a fighter myself, but I have taught yoga since I was 17 and I practice it just about everyday. In my books, my combat scenes always invoke my understanding of balance and focus and flexibility, as well as breathing and self-control. What knowledge do you call upon when your characters confront a different type of adversary? Do you research other styles of combat then?

  14. #14
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jacquin
    (Though Hogwarts would be a lot more entertaining if they all had knives...)
    Jac; I think there is a sword in there somewhere.... sure of it... unless I dreamed it.



    Quote Originally Posted by MWStover
    I never write anything with an eye to a series. HEROES DIE was supposed to be a one-shot. Del Rey liked it enough that they paid me the same amount again for a sequel. So I wrote BLADE OF TYSHALLE. Then I spent some time doing Star Wars, after which I discovered that I had an idea for a really kick-ass follow-up to BLADE OF TYSHALLE. Del Rey bought it. I'm working on it right now; it's called CAINE BLACK KNIFE. They have also bought the next Overworld novel that I write, whether it features Caine or not; originally, I had conceived CBK as Book One of a two-fer, with the second being called DEAD MAN'S HEART. I am no longer convinced it will work out that way; I believe it will indeed feature Caine . . . but I dunno. I have to wait and see.

    Each book is its own thing, and each book is the Most Important Novel I Will Ever Write -- until it's done. I will never, under any circumstances, tweak my current story to make way for a story I want to tell down the road; I don't work that way. It's part of the reason why I don't work in really long series. So, yeah, here's the Acts of Caine -- but it could end with any book, because as a series it's biographical, rather than novelistic, if you see the distinction.

    I'm not saying there is no Grand Plan; my subconscious -- or whatever part of the Universal Mind it is that might handle the plotting of the Acts of Caine -- doesn't always let me in on its long-term designs. I'm just saying that if there is a Grand Plan, nobody's told me what it is, yet.
    You don't know how that has made me shout in relief! I have been recently asked by some one in the business "Do you have a sequel or is this part of a series?" I had to reluctantly admit, I had ideas, thoughts and rough outlines, some four years old, I might add, but a sequel waiting in the wings, no.

    The story I had written was a one off idea, something that was written in total naivety about the industry and the so called "rules" concerning submissions...

    To know that a published author of some standing, does not have the "master plan," we, want to be writer's are told so many times we have to have, does my heart good.

    My thanks as well for answering my previous question.

    Now for another;

    Do you believe such things as this question and answer session is in an author's best interest. The individual contact with readers brought about by the internet, is it a boon or a horror.

    Does it make you more wary of what you write on message boards? Do you try and guard your image, or create an image you wish to show readers? Or do you accept that some day some obsure post will come back and bite you in the bum and don't lose sleep over it.

    Thanks.

  15. #15
    Filthy Assistants! Moderator kater's Avatar
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    Its actually my fault, the question was worded poorly. I meant if you don't plan 'a book' ahead - as in plan the book after the one your writing, like I said crap wording
    So I'll try again if you don't object - did you have an idea that the Caine/Hari Michaelson dichotomy would found the basis for BOT after finishing HD or did it just come to you like the idea for Black Knife has? Also I guess thats jumping a question which would be - what was the idea behind BOT at its inception?

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