The OF Blog: July 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006

Interview with KJ Bishop

Below you can find an interview with KJ Bishop, an author who wrote the novel The Etched City. I hope these questions will help you understand her better, and if not yet, make you interested in her works.

Tell us a bit about yourself - how did you become the person and the writer that you are today?

That's rather hard to answer. Wishing to be not just one person; to wriggle out of the confines of one flesh, one gender, one set of social circumstances, the thoughts of one mind only. A lifelong desire to shapeshift. I did this all my life, but it manifested in writing comparatively late.

Who were some of the authors you were reading growing up and what influence, if any, did they have on your decision to write the types of stories that you write?

As a kid I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, but it wasn't until I was in my 20s that I read things that made me want to write--M. John Harrison's 'Viriconium' stories, Jeffrey Ford's 'The Physiognomy', and a bunch of decadent 19th century books that I got into at university. Those books opened my eyes to the wider possibilities of fantasy. And Michael Moorcock - I hugely admire his work, especially the way he marries mature ideas with adventurous stories.

What is the story behind the writing of The Etched City and are there many, if any, differences between the Prime edition and the Bantom reissue a couple years later?

The differences between the two editions are all small stuff – words here and there, a couple of paragraphs; the Bantam edition had some extra copy editing.
The book grew organically out of a pile of other things. I'd been writing bits and pieces about Gwynn, but the book didn't get legs until Raule appeared in my head. But even then, it was my third or fourth attempt at writing something about her. (Originally she was a somewhat different woman, called Odile, who still lives in my head and should have a book of her own one day.) She brought the Copper Country with her and guided me into the novel - then sort of wandered off, leaving me to deal with the sordid complications of Gwynn's life!

How did you come up with the characters of Gwynn and the Rev and is there any chance of us seeing them in other works of yours?

Gwynn was in my mind for a long time. I think he started out as a cross between David Bowie, Alice Cooper, and Richard E. Grant as Withnail. He went through a lot of cosmetic changes before he became the character in the book, but he's always been basically the same guy at heart. In fact, I don't think I did come up with him; he came up with himself – probably thousands of years before I was born.
The Rev also pretty much came up with himself, although physically he somewhat resembles the priest at my old school, who was a former wrestler and had a rough-around-the-edges look.

Seeing them again? Never say never. Both of them are still in my mind, and I think they were a good sort of odd couple. Maybe one day I'll do a sort of 'Closing Time' featuring Gwynn as the feral old rake he's probably doomed to become.

What are you working on at this moment and is there a chance you could tell us a little bit about what to expect form you in the coming years?

I've learned not to talk about it - talking about current work always seems to jinx it. But I hope I'll do a lot of different things, both fantasy and mainstream.

You've worked as a graphic design artist in addition to being a writer. To what degree is there a synergy between those two fields?

I don't do commercial art anymore, but I still draw for my own pleasure. Sometimes things draw themselves, and some of them give me ideas for my writing. My drawing-brain seems to go places my writing-brain doesn't, and vice versa.

Your website states that you are currently living in Thailand where you are teaching English. Has your experience in Bangkok influenced your perceptions of the world and perhaps infiltrated into your fictional writing?

Thailand's a very interesting place. Although it's becoming a more secular country, there's still plenty of belief in gods, spirits and magic. And Bangkok is a kind of cheerfully decadent place - at least, expat life here is a bit that way. I don't think it has so much influenced my perceptions of the world as provided me with a physical environment that gets along rather well with my imagination.

There's an adage that states that no writer is writing in a vacuum. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement in regards to your own writing?

In my case it's completely true. I'm like a sponge. I'm aware that I soak things up and use them - sometimes changing them, sometimes not. I don't think anyone does anything in a vacuum - and I don't know how anyone could imagine that any artist could work in a vacuum. The Author has been dead for quite a while now. I've always felt that my ideas, and characters, come from somewhere outside myself. That may or may not be true, but the feeling certainly precludes any sense of being in a vacuum.

The last question 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?

I would own a hundred monkeys, give them a hundred typewriters, and let them go for it. I would name them all William Shakespeare. I would own seven midgets to look after the monkeys, and I would name them Wrathful, Horny, Greedy Guts, Jealous, Vain, Lazy, and Capitalist.

Well, that is it for now. I hope you enjoyed reading this interview.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Interview with Laurell K. Hamilton

Dear Laurell K. Hamilton,

Thank you for accepting to do this interview for - other fantasy section, and being so kind to answer these questions for us.

How did you come to the idea to write books about vampires? Why vampires?

I've loved vampires since I was a little girl. Why vampires and not some other monster? Not sure but my two favorites have always been vampires and werewolves. I guess I prefer monster that can eat you, or at least drink you. One of my earliest completed stories, at fifteen, had vampires in it.

What do you like the most about your books?

That 15 books into the Anita series and I'm still learning new things about my characters and my world.

Are any of your characters' personalities taken from people you know?

Not really. Sometimes a gesture, or some small thing will get incorporated, but I; I’ve never based anyone’s personality on people I know.
Anita, being my fist attempt at first person narration was close to my own personality in some ways. Part of that was accidental and part was to make the writing easier. Our personalities have diverged as our life experience has diverged over the years.

What part do you have in the Dabel's Adaptations of the Anita Blake book? How much of the sexuality will make it into the comics?

We see everything, from concept, script, sketches, etc. If something doesn't work we send it back and they try to get it closer. They've been wonderful.
What most people tend to forget is that there is no actual sex until book five. So it's not really a hard issue right now.

You are one of the few writes that write sex so vividly, yet still make it part and parcel of the plot/storyline - not just titillation. Will you continue to push the boundaries of sexual explicitness in your books?

If the plot or characters demand it, yes.

I see some similarities between Anita and Merry. Like both being not so tall, both being tough girls, both being (some sort) of detectives. Was that intended or just coincidence?

Well, I've never been tall and when you choreograph fight scenes or sex scenes, it's just easier if you have about the same size as the character you’re writing about. Why is it so strange that my female characters are tough? I had no idea there was an alternative to it. Frankly, I worked very hard that Merry isn't a clone of Anita, but for the short and strong personality.

How much research do you put into each novel? Which book took the most research?

For factual things, I like three different sources. So a good bibliography in a book is a must on a research book. I will often look for those books they list. It is easier to get someone to believe in the fantastical elements if you have your factual elements correct.
I have been told by people in New York that I do more research for my fiction than most people do for their nonfiction. So, though I don't write hard science, I do a lot of research. I have a degree in biology, which probably influences the amount of detail I want. For instance, in Caress Of Twilight I needed to give one of my minor-major characters moth wings. I researched for a week for Eurpeon silk moths. There aren't many of them. There are even fewer that have ever flown over Britain. The only one I could find at present day just wasn't quite spectacular enough for me.
Here is one of Hamilton's rules of writing. You can fudge the facts, if you know the facts first. So I ended up combining about four different moths; one for the shape of the hind wing, another for the eyespots, a third for the outer wing coloring, and a fourth for some added color. Here's a little known fact. Due to one moth in Europe, they now theorize that moths and butterflies may have been brighter colored before the industrial revolution. As the pollution darkened buildings and the surrounding trees, the brighter colored insects were eaten faster, and didn't get to breed as much, survival of the fittest at work. So, my brighter moth wings may be more accurate than we'll ever know. I know these wings are not on a present day living moth, so I can combine living moths to make my own design. I did the research, covered my desk with pictures of the different moths and created, like Dr. Frankenstein, the moth of my dreams that better matched what I needed.

I know, I know my zombies are not right. I do know that zombies are not shambling, rotting corpses as portrayed in the Anita books. That is a Hollywood invention, but it was just too fun not to use. Again, I did my research and then broke the rules.

When you started writing Anita Blake books did you have some sort of ending in mind? How much of the story line did you know?

I started with about 15 plots sketched out, but other books have spawned new ideas, so at book fifteen, I’m not even half way through those first plot ideas. Some of the original ideas are actually abandoned because Anita and her world have changed since the original notes.

Do Merry and Anita live in the same world? If they do, is it possible for them to meet?

No, they are separate worlds. Besides, both are first person narrative. So it would be impossible to write.

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

It is illegal to own other human beings. So midgets are out. And they prefer to be called little people.
Monkeys are incredibly time consuming as pets and are often uncontrollable once they reach sexual maturity. Many of them end up at zoos, or rescues or even destroyed. Many zoos will not take ex-pets because of their lack of normal monkey socialization. Not to mention health and behavioral problems.
If you wanted a light hearted answer you're talking to the wrong girl. I have a degree in biology and support several rescue groups and contribute to the St Louis Zoo. I don't actually contribute to any rescue groups that specialize in monkeys, but maybe I should look in to it.

Thank you for your time, and patience, Laurell. I wish you the best of luck with your work.
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