The OF Blog: An interview with Stephen R. Donaldson

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

An interview with Stephen R. Donaldson

Here is an interview I did with Stephen R. Donaldson. It was a pleasure working with Stephen, and I hope that it will be a pleasure for you to read it.

Are you thinking of doing something outside of the genre realm? Like a straight prose or even some poetry?

I don't plan my work in that fashion. I wait for ideas to come to me. And I don't "judge" them at all, or try to fit them into any particular genre. I try to write whatever my ideas ask me to write. (Consider my four "crime" novels, or the poetry on my web site.)

When you are writing, how important is the actual prose? Some folks seem to really focus on plot, world building or character development and seem to not prioritize prose. For others, prose is extremely important. Some come down in the middle, poor prose can kill a decent story, but good prose cannot lift up something dross. While writing, how much do you focus on the craft? Is it something that you come back and edit later?

I live for and through language. I see and feel with language. For me, "import" on every level is about language. Other writers have different (and equally valid) approaches; but for me a story fails if its prose doesn't "rise to the occasion" of its characters and plot.

In my first drafts, my over-riding priority is simply to get the story on paper. But I rewrite extensively and often. That's when I hone the crude forged metal of my prose into something that I hope will have a cutting edge.

Have you ever had any trouble with fundamentalists who object to their portrayal in the first and second Chronicles?

Very, very rarely. In general, those people don't read (so they don't know how they've been portrayed). They "demonize" an author when that author has become hugely popular among children (e.g. J. K. Rowling). Other than that, they live in ignorance.

Was it a conscious decision to have the importance of free will as the central theme of many of your books (The Ravers, The Zone Implant, Two of the Stories in Reave the Just), or did that just sort of slip in by accident?

I don't do it deliberately, but that doesn't mean it happens "by accident". It's an unconscious expression of who I am (or who I was when I wrote the particular story in question).

What, if any, connection is there between The Land and Middle Earth? There are some similarities between the two, is The Land homage to Middle Earth or is Middle Earth a model for what the Land is?

Tolkien's work made what I do possible. In that sense, "Lord of the Rings" is an inspiring model for "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant." But Middle Earth itself was never a model for the Land (except in the sense that Tolkien showed me what could be done within the bounds of epic fantasy). Looking back, I can see "echoes" of Middle Earth in the Land. But then, I can see "echoes" of *lots* of things in the Land (Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" leaps to mind).

Thomas Covenant is an anti-hero. While you are not the first to write such a main character, it seems fair to say no one else was doing it in the time period when you first wrote. What authors do you think you read that influenced you to pursue writing a fantasy novel with this type of character? Are there other authors today you think are writing this type of character well?

I never know what to say in response to such questions because I don't think of Covenant as "an anti-hero": I think of him as the most important kind of hero there is, a *human* hero. I learned more about his character by reading "The Ambassador" (Henry James) than I did from any fantasy I've read (with this disclaimer: I'm a *very* slow reader, so there are many contemporary writers of fantasy whose work I haven't had time to read). However, I suppose I should mention Tennyson's "Idylls of the King," since it provided the foundation for much of what I've done with Covenant--and it is certainly fantasy.

What do you think your next move will be once Covenant is finally finished?

I have no idea. I never try to make those decisions in advance. However, short stories seem likely.

Who can drink more beer, Covenant or Avery?

Please. Everyone knows that the people in the Land drink springwine, not beer--or, if they're very lucky, diamondraught.

If you were to own several monkeys and/or midgets, how many would you own, and what would you name them?

Sleazy, Gropey, Dumpy, Rashful, Non-Sequiter, Aloysius, and Doc.

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites