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Q. How important is the editing process to you as an author? Is it something you enjoy doing yourself, or do you rely upon an editor? Do you rewrite on the fly or do you complete a manuscript and then rewrite? Can you read your own books without wanting to edit all the time? In other words, after the books are complete are you satisfied with them?
RP: The editing process is one of many, each of which I find essential. I do perhaps 6 rewrites - which since each volume is 200 000 words, takes months!! Over the years I have been developing a system. Each book I write uses the latest 'version' of this system.
Working on my third book, I have spent the first few months producing a 'maquette' - a miniature version of the final book - in which I can more easily manage the characters, the plot and the many themes. When this process is completed to my satisfaction, I will write the book starting at the beginning and gradually working through to the end. Only when the first draft is finished will I begin the rewrites. In the past, because of the lack of the maquette, I have been forced to do major surgery: a painful and exhausting business.
Given enough time, I would eventually reach a point where I would consider the work complete. My publishers are all VERY tolerant, but I cannot presume on them that much. Besides, I want to finish the Stone Dance before I die. So, I get it to the point where, though not utterly perfect, I would have to look very closely to see the abrasions. This is when I hand it in. Even then, the editing goes on in parallel with the last couple of rewrites. After publication, I have a natural reluctance ever to look at the thing again. Unfortunately, this is a luxury I cannot allow myself because each successive book is part of a single, continuous tale. Thus I suffer, as I see with hindsight how I could have made it better...
Q. How much leeway do you allow yourself for twists and turns that come upon you during the creative process considering the lengths you go to in order to prepare before you actually write a chapter?
RP: The Stone Dance is like a Byzantine basilica. The columns, the arches, the great domes, all these structures have to be carefully planned before building begins. The mosaics of the pavements and walls, the guilding, the windows, the furniture and all the myriad decorative details - these occur to me during construction...
Q. You have published two books in your series and you are working on the third. What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a published author? What has been the most disconcerting?
RP: Rewarding - that I am left alone to do something that I want to do; that I know what it is that I am supposed to do, now and in the future; that when people ask me what it is I do, I can tell them and they understand and it does not bore them... well, not unless they trigger a rant about it all...
Disconcerting - that I had imagined that once my first book was published, everyone I knew would want to read it. Most did not. You get used to that. I imagined also that I would feel forever the warmth of the achievement. Instead, within a few weeks, I was nagged by regret at some of the obvious flaws there were in the book which now I could not change. Further, I became only too aware of the sea of books out there into which mine dropped making hardly a ripple.