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  1. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Holbrook
    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.
    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.

  2. #17
    Shovelly Joe Moderator Jacquin's Avatar
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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

  3. #18
    The Doctor... Sammie's Avatar
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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? )

  4. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Jacquin
    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
    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 by MWStover; November 20th, 2004 at 11:54 AM. Reason: the hell of it. got a problem with that?

  5. #20
    Shovelly Joe Moderator Jacquin's Avatar
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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...)

  6. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Jacquin
    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...)

    CBK will be, actually, what my friend Kevin Stein calls a "juxtapostupid novel."

    Hope that qualifies as an answer, because it's the best you'll get till the thing comes out. With luck, before the end of 2005.

  7. #22
    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.

  8. #23
    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."

  9. #24
    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

  10. #25
    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.

  11. #26
    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.

  12. #27
    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?

  13. #28
    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.

  14. #29
    The Doctor... Sammie's Avatar
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    Hi again

    Quote Originally Posted by MWStover
    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 . . .
    I really like this angle on the difference between scifi and fantasy (trying to work out which that makes Perdido St Station........Juxtapostupid, maybe ).

    Do you feel, therefore, (extrapolating this a bit further...) that a novel set in a conceivable 'future world', but in which that setting is not vital to the plot and/or the conflict is purely internal, does not fall into the category of science fiction? Certainly this is a feeling/impression that I have experienced in the past, without really being able to put my finger on what I meant.

    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.
    Serious question? I think it's simply a case of not having my 'suspension of disbelief-mode' switched on when I pick up a fantasy novel believing it's sci-fi. This meant I had some trouble accepting some of the resurrection/Deity-based moments. Which was a shame because BoT also contained some of my favorite 'Caine' moments......but as a whole I definitely preferred HD.

    Ooooh - also, do you object to the abreviation 'scifi'? (Where is Shehzad? He's not gonna be able to resist jumping in on that one )

    (Is that too many questions?! )

  15. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by GemQuest
    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?
    In my experience, there aren't so much styles of combat as there are styles of training; fighting style, in actual combat, has more to do with the psychology and experience of the fighter, and with the weapon(s) at hand. There are only so many different ways to throw a punch -- that is, to use the human fist as a weapon; some work better than others, yes, but they all work. Kendo is a fighting style dictated by the weapon, as are all the various European schools of fencing; at the opposite end of the scale you get something like the Filipino art kali, which can be used with anything from fist or open hand through knife or broken bottle to stick or club or medium-sized sword(s) -- but it won't work real well with a katana, a cavalry saber, or a Spanish rapier, let alone a claymore, a spear, or a greatsword . . .

    It's mostly just a matter of thinking about the logic of the weapon, and the logic of the situation. A guy holding a knife, no matter how good he is, will usually lose to a guy holding a chair (or a steel barstool -- those work really well) . . .

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