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By Hobbit (2005-12-11)
Hobbit: I’d agree with you there, as well as repeat my Mary Gentle reference.
Now that you are under a newly-published name, I guess it must be a new thrill to see your ‘real’ name (if that is what it is!) on a book cover.
DJM: Yes, it is. Although I miss being named after a beer!
Hobbit: LOL. About your personal style. I read a comment about you on the Internet that said something like Miller Lau – a very Scottish writer. I thought it was intriguing because I didn’t know what it meant. Any ideas yourself?
DJM: Hmm, I imagine that was because The Last Clansman is, at first glance anyway, traditionally Scottish (with a big ‘S’) I did try to bring actual Scottishness to the table. Someone commented that my characters were recognisably modern Scots in the Celtic inspired world, which surprisingly, hadn’t been done before (to my knowledge).
I also hope that it was because of the dialogue; I don’t just mean Malky’s dialect here, I mean the very natural easy rhythms of Scots narrative.
Hobbit: That now seems to make more sense to me now. OK, let’s get into influences.
You’ve named in the past books by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Terry Pratchett, Iain Banks and David Gemmell (who has written a lovely comment on the front of Swarmthief) as good places to start reading – any more to add to that list lately?
DJM: I would still point to those authors for anyone who is just beginning to read Fantasy (or SF) because the power of their work does not date. New authors come and go, but books like Mists of Avalon, Mort, The Bridge and Legend will always be classics of the genre. For me, they all share similar strengths – that of brilliant, naturalistic characterisation and dialogue.
Hobbit: So, if it had to be one, (as a reader and a writer): Plot or characterisation?
DJM: For me personally, characterisation every time - strong characters which the reader can care for, and empathize with, can rescue the most linear of plots. A great plot, which no one engages with, is just a waste of hard work.
Hobbit: I’m interested that you’ve mentioned The Bridge - ‘Iain Banks’ as a mainstream writer and not ‘Iain M Banks’ the SF writer, (though the same person) as an influence. Was that deliberate? Care to explain further?
DJM: I just seem to prefer Iain Banks to Iain ‘M’. For me personally, high-concept SF always feels a bit impersonal. I never empathise with any of the characters in the same way and sometimes I feel they lose out to the ‘big idea.’ I know many people enjoy that sense of grandeur that space opera has – but it’s just not for me.
Going back to what I said earlier about the natural easy rhythms of Scots narrative, it’s certainly something I admire in his work and probably why I prefer his ‘mainstream’ fiction.
Anyway, how could you not love Banks’s "mainstream" stuff?! Espedair Street is an all time favourite of mine.
And as for other authors, I can’t believe I didn’t mention Stephen King! I am a massive fan of his work. I find it really bizarre that he has been given so little respect from the literary world in the past. (Hey, but I won’t start on about literary snobbery because we’ll be here all day! It’s kinda a pet peeve!)
And (IMHO) his most powerful work is even not lauded enough by his fans – that is, Hearts in Atlantis. Anyone who has not read this book, I urge you to rush out and buy it! Forget the pale imitation that was the movie – it is the most poignant lament for the loss of innocence of the Vietnam generation I have ever read. As it says on many of SK’s books, "Words are his power." True.
Hobbit: Agreed. When he’s on a roll, he’s a very talented writer.
DJM: Also, another Stephen – Stephen Donaldson. The only writer to make me actually cry and feel bereaved (won’t say when, but I’m pretty sure many SFFWorlders will know whereof I speak [wink]) – apart from Hermann Hesse at the end of Narziss and Goldmund. (non-genre.)