Page 2 of 4
By Patrick (2005-02-21)What role does magic play in both series? How does magic work in both universes?
DC: Magic is a crucial element of both series, in that, without the use of magic, the people I create could not achieve what they need to in order to prevail. But magic has to have its limits and it has to carry a cost or else it will take over a series or a book. In the LonTobyn books, mages are dependent on the psychic bonds they form with their familiars, which are usually hawks or owls. Well, that means that their magic taxes not only the mage, but also the bird. So they can only use so much power before both mage and familiar are exhausted. And also, birds of prey only live so long, and so mages go through periods of time when they are without a familiar -- it's called being unbound. These are times of uncertainty for a mage, when they can't do all the things they're used to doing and when their death would mean eternal unrest (thanks to an ancient curse that figures prominently in the story). For the Qirsi in my Winds of the Forelands books, the magic carries an even more direct cost. Their magic is sort of psionic, i.e., based in mind power. An act of magic is, in effect, as simple as forming a thought. But the Qirsi live short lives, and every act of magic shortens the life of the sorcerer even more. As I put it in one passage, using magic is like bleeding one's life away.
How long did it take you to write the LonTobyn Chronicle? What would you say was the hardest part of the entire process? Where did you get the initial idea that drove you to write the series in the first place?
DC: The LonTobyn books were the product of about five years work, but in part they took that long because my life kept on intruding on my art. During that time, my wife and I built our house and had our first child. I also lost both my parents during the writing of the series, which set me back several months. That was undoubtedly the hardest part. Dealing with first one of them being sick and then the other -- it was really hard to focus on fantasy stories when the realities of my life were so dark and sad. But the last thing they would have wanted was for me to give up on my dream because of them, and in many respects the emotions of that period made me a better, stronger person, and, by extension, I suppose, a better artist as well. The idea for the LonTobyn books had been percolating in my head for literally a dozen years. I guess the characters came first -- Jaryd, Baden, the evil mage (whose name I won't reveal!) and his pursuit of immortality. Later, I had an epiphany about the magic system I wanted to create, and from there the rest of the plot line came pretty quickly.
The LonTobyn Chronicle won the William L. Crawford Award, which goes to the best first fantasy series. What does winning this award mean to you?
DC: It was a wonderful honor. I was once an academic -- I have a Ph.D. in history -- and though I chose a different career path, I have an enormous amount of respect for the academic process -- the pursuit of knowledge, the give and take of ideas. The Crawford is awarded by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA), an academic group devoted to the study of fantasy art, literature, and cinema. To be recognized in this way by experts in the field was incredibly humbling.
Do you believe that being an historian brings a different perspective to your novels?
DC: I think that my historical background gives me an understanding of human social, economic, political, and cultural development that has been invaluable as I develop the worlds in which I set my books. And actually, my degree is in environmental history and much of my scholarly work focused on the interplay between human activity on the one hand and natural forces and settings on the other -- climate, land and water formations, wildlife, etc. Again, having some understanding of this interplay is incredibly helpful in building worlds, making maps, creating societies, etc. That said, my degree was in modern American environmental history, so when it came time to write about medieval castles and weaponry, I had to do research like anyone else!