The OF Blog: Interview with Dan Simmons

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Interview with Dan Simmons

Welcome to, we are glad for having you with us.

Please tell us a bit about your new book, The Terror.

The Terror is a fictional tale based on the actual historical events surrounding the tragic Sir John Franklin Expedition. In 1845, Sir John and two ships - HMS Erebus and HMS Terror - along with 126 men made an attempt to find and force the Northwest Passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans above Canada. They disappeared completely. In the next 30 years, England and other nations mounted what is - to this day - the largest search-and-rescue operation in history. A few skeletal remains were found, but the real mystery of what happened to the two icebreaker ships and their crews has not been satisfactorily explained.
My novel is an historical-suspense tale with horror overtones. Besides the terrible ice and weather of the Arctic, something is stalking the survivors of the Erebus and Terror.

What are your goals for the future?

I don't set a lot of specific goals. Rather like the sailing captains of yore, I never say "I'm going to . . ." some specific destination. I merely record in my log that I'm "bound for."

In the immediate future I simply look forward to continuing writing and to having the opportunity to write and publish more books like THE TERROR for wider mainstream audiences. I've just begun a novel about the dark and strange last few years of Charles Dickens.

Which of your characters is most like you?

That's not for the author to say, even if we might have an opinion. But as Henry James said, the author is present in "every page of every book from which he sought so assiduously to eliminate himself."

What were some of your favorite books as a kid, and which books influence you the most at the present?

There are too many books that were important to me as a kid, and which affect me now, to list in a small space. As with all of us readers, some books caught my imagination more than others and certain books and novels were very important to me at various stages of my life.

Where Adventures in Space with Rip Foster might have been a seminal work for me when I was 10 and Proust's In Search of Lost Time might have been when I was 40, it's all a continuum.

Why fantasy?

Even though I've won the World Fantasy Award, I don't consider myself as having ever written fantasy per se. I simply enjoy using the tropes and protocols of various forms - sometimes genres - of imaginative fiction.

What are some of your research methods and how large part do they play in your writing process?

I don't call most of my reading in preparation for writing a novel as "research" - I tend to associate that word with scientists and real scholars - but I do read very widely and sometimes deeply in preparation for the majority of my novels. Some books, such as The Crook Factory about Hemingway's year of playing spy in Cuba or The Terror based on actual people and events in the 1840's require a huge amount of reading and note-taking. As I mentioned, I'm currently working on a novel I'm calling The Great Oven -- or perhaps Drood -- about the last five years of Charles Dicken's life, and once again Im experiencing that sense of being totally immersed in another time and place - and in other people's minds - as I read scores of books, biographies, and sources in preparation.

Do you read your own books?

Only to proofread and revise them.

What is your favorite of all the books you have written and why?

I don't have a single favorite any more than most parents choose one of their children as a favorite, but I resonate to certain lesser known titles - Phases of Gravity, The Hollow Man, and my novella "The Great Lover."

Recently a movie studio has been producing truly execrable scripts in an attempt to adapt my first novel, The Song of Kali, and their attempts at vandalism, of dumbing the tragic tale down, reducing it to formula, and slapping on a totally idiotic happy ending, remind me of how important that book was to me. And how difficult it was to write.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you want for you and why?

A beautiful brunette, a full-sized inflatable Zodiac raft, and a 75-horsepower Johnson outboard motor.

If you were given the One Ring, what would be the first thing you would do?

Sorry. I refuse to sharecrop in other writers' universes. I'd have to refuse the gift.

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

The last time I checked, it was illegal to own midgets or any other kind of human being. And monkeys have never appealed to me that much, although I find it ironic that aviator Charles Lindbergh - who is buried in perhaps the most beautifully sited cemetery on earth on the far reaches of Maui near Hana - has the graves and headstones of various chimpanzees and one orangutan as his closest graveside neighbors. (They were the pets of the owner of Pan American Airlines at the time - the friend who brought Lindbergh to Maui in the first place and who sold him the property for the pilot's own home along the coast.)

Thank you for being so kind to answer these questions for us. We wish you the best of luck with your future work.

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