Posts Tagged ‘Interview’

An unpublished interview with Eoin Colfer, from the never finished final issue of Death Ray. This piece comes from 2009, and was written when Colfer had completed his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy sequel.

It’s a brave man who’d attempt a sequel to one of the best-loved humorous book sequences of all time. Step forward Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl author, and possessor of the best in Irish pluck.

Best known as the (highly successful) author of the Artemis Fowl series, concerning the adventures of a youthful criminal mastermind (lately reformed) and his dealings with technologically-advanced fairies, Eoin Colfer is a firm favourite of kids worldwide. His novels, humorous affairs with a touch of darkness, have been compared to Douglas Adams, so it’s perhaps natural that his agent and Adams’ agent should hit upon asking the writer to pen a sixth book in the Hitchhikers series, an idea Adams’ widow and daughter were both keen on, being big fans. Colfer, however, was less than enthusiastic at first.

“Originally I said this is craziness, and what’s more, nobody should do it, not just me, but not anybody. But my agent said think about it. I thought about it, and I started to have a few ideas and I thought, you know, I could have a blast with this, it could really rejuvenate me as regards enjoying writing, because I had been feeling a little, not jaded, but not as enthusiastic as I normally am. A bit wrung out after 10 years and twenty books. I was a little bit knackered, I think is the medical term!”

Feeling invigorated at the prospect of a challenge, Colfer said yes, but only on condition that the deal could be done quickly…

“It can take months to get contracts for these things sorted out. But I knew there’d be a big reaction to this. I wrote it really quickly, in about six months, so it was a weird experience to go into someone else’s universe. I just wanted to get it over with quickly, because I reckon the brown stuff is going to hit the air disperser and I just wanted to put my head down and weather it. There’s so much outside interest, there are a lot of fans, and the Hitchhikers books mean a lot to them. I want to try and win them over without crawling to them, because I don’t want to be craven, you see.”

By that he means that fans should not expect his take on The Salmon of Doubt – Colfer was offered notes culled from the fertile archeological grounds of Adams’ hard drive, but declined them. He also wrote in his own style, and did not try to imitate the man.

“A lot of people try to write like Douglas Adams when they’re doing intros to his books or an article about him,” he explains, “and I really wanted to avoid doing that because it rarely works. I think Neil Gaiman did it once, just a few lines in the intro to his book Don’t Panic!, but he’s the only guy that I’ve seen who could do it, and then he didn’t do it for the whole book, just a little fond thing at the start. Other than that, forget it, Douglas Adams’ is the master, just leave it alone, so.”

Colfer puts his own reticence to try and ape Adams’ style down to their vastly differing backgrounds.

“I think my style is probably similar but diluted. Douglas had a way of doing this zany prose that was a lot to do with where he went to school, with footlights in the 1960s, the 70s, where there was this very much kind of upper class British humour, laced with social consciousness and absurdity that I don’t have. I mean, I’m a lower middle-class Irish country boy, so it would be ridiculous for me to try and pretend that I had these years of going to Cambridge. Douglas did all these things, he wrote for Monty Python, he jammed with Pink Floyd… There are four or five things you should not mess with in English entertainment culture, and that would be Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Pink Floyd, Douglas Adams, and Tony Hancock. You don’t mess with them because they have transcended their medium to become a part of people’s lives, and it doesn’t really matter in a way what they are any more, because they’re a memory for people. If I try to ape Douglas at all I’d just be totally shooting myself in the foot, and the series as well. So I just thought I’d bring something of myself to it, with the odd little nod, one or two sentences here or there, like Neil Gaiman did, just a little taste hopefully to show my respect for the original. I imagined Simon Jones or John Cleese reading what I was writing out loud, if it sounded right, then I knew I was on the right track, and I kept doing that until I got into it.”

Colfer says that it was not a big leap from YA fiction to HHTG. They’re ostensibly adult books, but he says most people discover as teenagers, and that he’d always written his novels to that kind of level, although writing in Adams’ milieu meant that he no longer had to hold back when the odd bout of swearing or explicit topic came up. What he did find challenging, however, is thinking about how the fans might react to his trespass of some of SF’s holiest ground.

“People are very emotional about Hitchhiker, I know I am because it was a big part of my youth, and when something becomes a big part of your teen years it just stays with you. I don’t want people to have this great fondness for it and then suddenly, bang, here comes this guy and it’s all glib one-liners and it doesn’t mean anything, I think it the reviews so far have said exactly what I’ve wanted, they’ve said it’s not Douglas Adams writing, because he’s gone. It’s not somebody trying to copy Douglas Adams but it’s a funny book, and it’s a nice addition to the shelf. And that’s the best I can do. But I’m, I’m very worried about tours. I’m not worried about the US tour, but the UK tour is going to be tough, because you have to face Douglas’s real fans, the guys who love him. I’ve met a lot of them now and they’ve been very nice, so maybe I’m being worried without foundation, but I think they are going to ask me hard questions, and they’re right to do that. There’s a lot of guys who are going to say, listen, I don’t agree with the idea of this book, and so I’m not going to read it, and I would say, fair enough but I don’t accept it’s a horrible book unless you read it. I was at Comicon, San Diego, a couple of weeks ago, and this guy came up to the stall and he took a proof and he said ‘I’m going to read this before I hate it,’ and I said ‘Thank you very much.’ He was kind of funny, but he kind of encapsulated I suppose what I was afraid of.”

Colfer says there might be further sequels, but that he will not be writing them, once as a tribute is enough, he says, any more than that and it would look like he was trying to take over, something he’s really keen to avoid, and he doesn’t not want people to think he took up the pen simply for the cash, either. “It’s definitely not a financial thing, I am very well paid for what I do, and I would have been better off writing another of my own books. I turned down an earlier opportunity to write a sequel book, in fact, because then I wasn’t established and it would have looked too much like I was jumping on a bandwagon. The main reason I did it, I suppose if I’m honest was that Douglas’ agent said that he wanted, and Jane, his widow, wanted Hitchhikers to be introduced to a new generation, and that I could probably do it for them. It’s hard to say no to that.”

Terry Pratchett had a big influence on me; reading his work was one of the prods that poked me in the direction of the career I now have, so I’m going to join my voice to that of the rest of the world and mourn his passing.

I remember first being exposed to Sir Terry’s work by reading an excerpt back in the 1980s in White Dwarf. The scene was the one featuring the gnome in moleskin trousers (The Light Fantastic, I think. Aficionados may know better, please set me right if it was The Colour of Magic). I picked up his first two Discworld books on the back of that, and for several years read everything he wrote. Eventually I moved on, simply because I wanted to experience other authors’ voices and worlds. But years after, when I read some of his later books, I was delighted to see that they retained their quality and wit. He did not seem to grow tired or jaded with Discworld, it was an engine of endless creativity and satire, and in that it seemed to be as much a source of delight to him as it was to his readers. (more…)

An interview, with me

Posted: January 24, 2015 in Interviews

Hello. A brief public service announcement. There’s an interview with me on Manuscript’s Don’t Burn, conducted by Steve Kozeniewski, where I talk a bit more about The Rise of the Horned Rat, and writing in general. Check it out. That is all.

A couple of weeks ago I did an interview with Geoff and Carl at the wargaming podcast The Independent Characters. It was heaps of fun, and went up on the net earlier this week. I talk mostly about Baneblade, but within that cover my work process, what it’s like writing for The Black Library, where my ideas come from and other writing-craft related topics. Be aware, there are spoilers.

Local journalism… I dunno. I really shouldn’t throw stones, and it would be wrong to adopt the glossy, international magazine attitude to our colleagues in the local press (it’s not a nice one), and I have screwed up myself more than once in print, but… They got my name wrong, said I have three books out this year in one part of the article and then four elsewhere, (truth: three already, four in 2013), the story implies this is my first published short story, when it’s actually my first for Interzone, and states my mother read me The Hobbit, when I actually read it myself. All actual facts I told the nice lady. I think I got them right. I think I did. Yeah.

Still, it’s good to have the publicity, and I have some sympathy for journalists being under pressure and all… But come on! Spell the name correctly, at least, eh? Sheesh. There’s no “y” in the middle, no “y” I tell you [cue noises of Hulk-style roaring and things breaking in the background].

It’s not as bad as the time I was in the paper as a kid, and they called me Amy Haley. I cried about that (I WAS EIGHT, in case anyone thinks I should grow a pair. I had some, they just hadn’t dropped), as I knew everyone would rip the piss for weeks at school. They did. Great. Now I’m having flashbacks.

Sci-fi fan has first story printed in magazine | This is Somerset.

This is an interview with the author Gregory Maguire who wrote the novel Wicked, which was turned into a wildly successful musical of the same name. From Death Ray 05, published in 2007.

Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is an American writer with a passionate interest in children’s literature, being co-founder of a charity dedicated to furthering reading among the young.

He is primarily known for penning revisionist fantasies, often based upon well-known fairy tales. However, his most famous works take their inspiration from a more recent source. Maguire has taken L Frank Baum’s famed series of novels, borrowed his world and put his own stamp firmly upon it, often adding his own characters into crucial points of the stories, or looking at Baum’s own characters from alternative points of view. The first book, Wicked, centres on Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and portrays her as a passionate rebel rather than as a hook-nosed harridan with a nasty allergy to water. It has been adapted into a musical that has enjoyed great success both Stateside and in London town.

Guy Haley: You are very passionate about literature for children. Why do you think that is important that children read?

Gregory Maguire:  I heard a report this week that said at the age of 10, only 43% of American kids read for pleasure. At the age of 15, that has dropped to 19%. When I hear statistics like these, I fear for the loss of certain skills that imaginative reading enhances; apprehension of subtlety, ambiguity, tolerance for differences, willingness to suspend judgment until the last page (or even beyond). I think reading for children, even more than reading for adults, is central to the survival of a literate citizenry. That is why I still write for children, even though my income is much richer and stronger when I publish for adults.

GM: Tell us a bit about your organisation, the CLNE.

GH:I helped found an educational charity called “Children’s Literature New England” 21 years ago. For two decades we met (four times in the UK) and considered topics of literary interest as they are dealt with in books for children: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”; “Swords and ploughshares”; and “The Fairytale belongs to the poor.” Writers and artists such as Philip Pullman, Quentin Blake, Maurice Sendak, Ursula K Le Guin, Philippa Pearce,  Jill Paton Walsh, Penelope Lively, Peter Dickinson, Susan Cooper, Russell Hoban, John Rowe Townsend, Alan Garner, and many others collaborated with us to consider these literary themes as expressed in books for the young. This is built on the notion that children’s literature is no less an art form than novels for older readers.

GH: Why do you choose to use the “toolbox of the fantastical” to tell your tales? Do you think that fantasy is more effective at bringing messages to children (and adults) than stories with a contemporary setting?

GM: I am afraid that as a Luddite, someone who doesn’t have an iPod, a cellphone, a play station, or a digital camera, I cannot convincingly portray our increasingly technological contemporary world with any verisimilitude. So writing stories that take place in the past or in a fantastical setting makes me much more comfortable.

That said, I also think that the kind of relaxation that once must go through in order to tolerate a “magic” story might just make one more tolerant of larger themes, too, and I care deeply about the themes of my stories – more than about the plots, characters, settings, or the mechanics of magic.

GH: Some of your greatest successes have been with stories set in Oz. Why have you chosen to use L Frank Baum’s world?

GM:  Oz – unlike Middle-earth or Wonderland – is an imperfectly realized magic land. I admire much of what L Frank Baum did, but it is what he failed to do, or did less well, that allows me license to parachute into his magic kingdom and see if I can make any more sense of its history or politics than he did. Basically, I took a land of fabulous incongruity and I tried to superimpose an orderly civilisation upon it, with its own history, religions, cultural conflicts, etc – to be an anthropologist of Oz.

GH: Do you ever feel awkward, playing in the sandbox of such a renowned man?

GM: He is conveniently dead, so I am seldom embarrassed at dinner parties.

GH: You also use fairytale a lot, especially in revisionist fantasies for adults. This seems quite popular in film and literature at the moment. Why do you think that is?

GM: As we become something of a post-literate society – or perhaps I should say that as our shared literacy becomes more audiovisual and less textual – the fairy tales, like the parables, remain conveniently portable and functional vessels of story that, because we get them young – and frequently – may in fact be the final shared narrative that most people in the west can agree that they share in common.

GH: How do you feel about the success of the musical Wicked? Are musicals as valid an art form as literature in your mind?

GM: I love the musical Wicked and am buying tickets today to see it for the 26th time. It is a different art form than the novel and as such made some changes to the plot, which do not bother me. The basic theme of the story is the same as in the novel I wrote – which is that we should beware demonising our enemies, or seeing the world in absolute moral tones of black and white.

GH: You say that you enjoy English novels. Why is that?

GM: I believe the English write more delicious prose, by and large. I also grew up in a time when English writers for children were very easy to find in the libraries in the US I loved CS Lewis at the age of 10, also the books about Mary Poppins, Paddington Bear, and Tom’s Midnight Garden.

There are exceptions. Among my favorite US writers living and working today are Jess Walters, Ron Hansen, and Daniel Handler.

GH:Who are your major influences?

GM: As to the Wicked cycle, I would say TH White’s The Once and Future King, Grahame Greene as to a spooky tone and sinister atmosphere, and perhaps Ursula Le Guin as to someone who took and takes fantasy writing with utmost seriousness.

Did you know?

Gregory Maguire is married to painter Andy Newman.