The OF Blog: November 2006

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Interview with Tobias S. Buckell

Did you always want to be a writer, or did you experiment with other jobs?

I've always wanted to be a writer, but it's not automatic that you can make a living doing something like that. Until recently I did tech support to pay the bills. Now I'm a freelance writer and blogger as well as author.

Aside from writing, what occupies your time?

As I mentioned above, I've gotten into blogging and freelancing. Writing about random interesting subjects is a lot of fun. I still read a great deal, and with the recent purchase of an Xbox 360, I've been spending some time playing video games if I can find the spare time. I really enjoy the Call of Duty series.

Why should we read fiction? Why is literature important?

Fiction does a lot of things. I really enjoy fiction, particularly genre fiction, because I find fiction to be somewhat subversive if done right. In the guise of 'just telling a tale' writers are given a longer lead to explore humanity before people's preconceptions and existing psychological baggage halts the process. Fiction allows us to live another persons life. Walking in someone else's shoes is the best way to learn about the world, grow our empathy, and become better people.

That said, I don't we SHOULD read fiction as a forceful declarative statement. I don't like the hint of 'good for you' type insistence when some people say things like that. You SHOULD take cod liver oil as well, but that doesn't mean its fun. A lot of literature can be fun, and forgetting that might happen if people think we should be reading fiction for x and y reason. I fundamentally think reading literature is fun, and that's why people might opt to do it. Education, empathy, insight, personal growth, all those are just bonuses!

Do you know what you are going to write ahead of time?

I usually plan ahead, enough so that I don't hit any roadblocks and have some outline set up for myself to follow. But I also leave myself enough room in the outline to play around as I see fit, and I also give myself permission to change big enough elements if a cool enough idea comes along.

How do you get your ideas?

Research. It sounds so dull, but it's not research like high school or college where you sit and read boring texts. Research is flipping through books about stuff you're psyched about, then finding something further you need information about, and then getting so obsessed about finding that little fact, you happily flip through the dry and dusty texts to snag that info, and feel completely fired up when you get that fact. Once I get enough cool ideas and things I feel I can't not use, I begin assembling them and wondering if they might all fit together.

Which of your characters is the most like you and why?

Now there's an interesting question I don't think I've been asked. My characters have adventures the likes of which I don't think I've ever really seen. I think Jerome, though, the young kid in Crystal Rain who's life gets swept away by the invasion that comes through his town is the closest. He isn't a great hero, or adventurer, just someone whose life is getting turned upside down by external events and trying to keep his head down.

Which is the most different and why?

I think Pepper is the most different character. He's a bit of a psychopath in the name of what he thinks is good. That's what makes him my favorite to write and play around with.

Have you had any significant disappointments?

My writing career so far has just been a journey of awesome things, and everything keeps happening faster than I expected. I sold my first short story to an SF magazine when I was 19, and I won a quarter of the Writers of the Future contest, which I'd wanted to do since I was 15. I keep expecting something horrible to happen any second.

Would you ever consider getting involved in the movie business?

If LA came knocking I wouldn't turn anything down!

What advice do you have for other writers?

The biggest part of the word writer is the word write. Writers must write and write often. Like a musician practicing scales, or a painter learning how to mix colors, we have to practice our craft over and over again.

And the last question in this interview is the traditional question of the OF:
If you were to own several monkeys and/or midgets, how many would you own, and what would you name them?

Well, if I could have an infinite number of monkeys working on typewriters in my basement, theoretically as well as producing Shakespeare, they'd also write my next novel for me, and I could beat my deadline and turn the next novel in early.

That would be nice, but I don't think I'd be able to name them all. I'd have to call them Monkey #1, #2, #3 and so on...

Thank you for your time and patience, Mr. Buckell. We wish you the best of luck with your work.
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