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By Patrick (2005-12-21)
Dear Mr. Bakker,
Let me start by thanking you for being gracious enough to take some precious time off your indubitably busy schedule to answer these questions. But with the imminent release of The Thousandfold Thought, know that your fans are extremely excited about this chance to hear from you in person.
Given the complexity of many of your characterizations, is there a character that you particularly enjoy/enjoyed writing? Why is that? By the same token, is there a character that you absolutely don't like writing about? For what reason?
Scott Bakker: There’s no one I really dislike writing - it’s more a matter of each posing their own peculiar challenges at particular points. Kellhus is typically the most difficult, simply because it’s hard to convincingly portray someone that damn smart. Others, like Cnaiur, oscillate between extreme difficulty and writing themselves. I had expected he would be the most difficult (after Kellhus of course) to write in The Thousandfold Thought, but thanks to the Melvins and Lustmord, he ended up writing himself. Conphas is easily my favourite. Sometimes I laugh my ass off while writing his sections.
What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?
SB: This question is hard because I still feel I have so much to learn. I think my strength is that I set explicit challenges for myself - extreme challenges in some cases. For every scene, I always ask myself what I want my words to do. Most times I fall short of my goals, sometimes I satisfy them, and every once in awhile - like the scene I call ‘Esmenet’s Song’ in The Thousandfold Thought - I sit back and think, ‘There’s no way I wrote that...’
What author makes you shake your head in admiration? Many fantasy authors don't read much inside the genre. Is it the case with you?
SB: I used to read everything, years and years ago, but the deeper I wandered into university, the more and more I became addicted to ‘primary texts.’ I lost the ability to read for pleasure’s sake, but I think I’m on the slow road to recovery. In the genre, I probably admire George R R Martin the most, not only for his story-telling skills, but because his books made me realize that my little hobby - writing complex fantasy - could very well strike a chord with readers. Reading him was a revelation of sorts. Most recently, I finished Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, which, meta-fictional wanking and meta-wanking aside, is nothing short of brilliant.
Many purists, epic fantasy aficionados, and critics now consider you one of the best fantasy authors in the world. Is there added pressure when it comes down to writing a new addition to the series?
SB: Finding it. Difficult. To breathe...
This is crazy. Are you serious?
Well first off, you should know that I don’t write fantasy - only hacks write fantasy. My books are about the triumph of the human spirit which just happen to have everything you would find in The Wheel of Time...
Look. See the damage you’ve done?
Seriously though, I have found myself freaking out on occasion. I wouldn’t say I’m the most psychologically robust person in the world. I feel like an imposter answering questions like this, and I get chilled by the shadow of the giant shoe some part of me knows is about to drop. I’ve suffered a few instances of depersonalization and derealization... The jargon helps.
But when a story ‘clicks’ for me - I’m not sure how else to explain it - the old priorities reassert themselves, or so it seems. The big temptation, I think, when you start garnering critical acclaim, is to start writing for your critics, which can have disastrous consequences. You write for your readers. It’s not as simple as that, but it’s where I hang my hat.