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By Patrick (2007-01-15)
Q: It seems that you derive as much inspiration from the extensive research associated with the creation of each new work as from the actual writing process. Do you believe that the old adage "the journey is more important than the destination" applies to you when the time comes to write a new tale?
I think there must BE a journey, for the writer at least as much as for the reader. The sense of a writer discovering what a given book is, or wants to be is - I have always believed - a major element of what the reader, in turn, finds compelling. Craft and art and patience play their roles, but research is a part of craft, for me. It is also, honestly, the fun part ...when I'm researching a book I am relaxed and even excited ... all I'm doing is learning stuff, no responsibilities! The danger for me is of yielding to 'grad student syndrome' ... the temptation to read just ONE more book or article, email ONE more person with a query ... instead of starting the writing.
Q: You have been writing novels for over two decades. What has changed the most in the fantasy genre since you began your career?
This one is a slam-dunk: undoubtedly the emerging dominance of the YA fantasy, post Rowling, post Pullman, post Snickett, and the more general emergence in a huge way of YA as a literary phenomenon. When I grew up there were children's books (which were often read to you, including something like The Hobbit, or Narnia) and then by 12 you were, if a reader, reading ANY book. It has been said the Victorians invented childhood in the 'modern' sense. I think the Baby Boomers invented the categorization and simplification of pre-teen and even teen literature. I hear this from librarians all the time, and they aren't all that happy about it. Fantasy is NOT responsible for this, but it has certainly surfed that YA wave.
Q: What advice would you give a younger Guy Gavriel Kay concerning his writing career? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?
It is hard to address this, actually, as the market has changed so much from when I started. And a lot turns on what the younger writer wants to achieve. Given how you've phrased the question, I'd caution against a too-narrow focus on trends and tastes within any genre ... if the writer's ambitious in a real way, he or she needs to shoot at a harder target. If the interest is purely commercial, finding a niche, rather than the sort of thing I did with TIGANA (and then even more with ARBONNE) in shifting away from a high fantasy start is not a 'smart' move ... but it felt essential from a creative perspective not to start cloning myself early.
Q: In light of the current market, are you tempted to write one of those enormous fantasy epics which continue to be the most successful series at the moment?
Q: How would you like to be remembered as an author? What is the legacy you'll leave behind?
Legacy-assessment is really for others and, by definition, needs time and perspective. We know with certainty that some major titles of this year or last will be out of print in five years, and some books that are minor right now will get shelf life, perhaps because the writer achieves something major in a few years and pulls up their backlist. My hope is that I've made a contribution to the expanding of the horizons of fantasy, the perception of what it is capable of doing, the blurring of boundaries defining genre and mainstream art. I dream of the books staying around, lasting, being in bookstores (or maybe eBooks!) and enjoyed when my grandchildren's children learn to read.