Another cool Q & A with Steve for you as we prepare for The Crippled God’s release. 🙂
SF Bokhandeln is a Swedish bookstore chain –here’s their website– and they used their website and Facebook Page to ask their customers and fans to submit questions for Steven to answer; the Q & A will be printed in their consumer magazine at the end of the month and will also get coverage on their Facebook Page. They’re even giving away 3 signed copies of The Crippled God. 🙂
I’ve been given the go-ahead to post the Q & A for your enjoyment! (Thanks to Angela Thomson at Random House Struik!)
Do you have any plans to turn The Malazan Book of the Fallen into a role playing game?
Not personally: my publishing schedule is far too busy for that. That said, I am amenable to the idea.
You seem to be able to write one novel each year, and still maintain an extreme high quality on your writing. How do you manage that?
Thanks for the complement on writing quality. With respect to writing a novel a year, I seem to have stumbled onto a system that works for me. Four hours a day, five or six days a week, for eight to nine months usually results in a finished book. Each day, I begin by editing what I wrote the previous day, before starting a new section. This helps me maintain momentum and continuity. These days, however, I’m looking at eighteen months between novels. Getting old, I guess.
What are you planning to write next, now that The Malazan Book of the Fallen is finished?
I am signed to two more trilogies, in addition to five or so novellas. At the moment I am writing the first novel in the Kharkanas trilogy, which returns us to the formative period underlying The Malazan Book of the Fallen: specifically, the story surrounding the Tiste Andii and their neighbours.
Will we meet Kalam Mekhar again?
That depends on when you last met him, doesn’t it?
Who is your favourite character?
Alas, I can’t really play favourites. I enjoy my time with all the characters I write, even when they’re going through hell. I know, sounds perverse, if not sadistic. The thing with characters is that they bring pressure to bear on a writer – to get them right, to treat them with dignity, even though they are only fictional creations when on the page. In my head, they have to be alive (unless, of course, they’re undead).
“Erikson” is a common Swedish name – do you have Swedish ancestry?
‘Erikson’ is my mother’s maiden name. My actual last name is Lundin, which of course isn’t Swedish at all. (joke) Both my parents were Swedish and I have been back to visit relatives in recent years, in Uppsala and Stockholm.
It´s not uncommon for your characters to die all of a sudden. Have you ever been emotionally upset when you had to finish off some of them?
Although deaths may appear with shocking suddenness on the page, you can be sure that I have been thinking about those moments for months, even years beforehand. Accordingly, I write characters towards an inevitability that a reader might only see should they go back and re-read the series. For the death scenes themselves, if I do not feel any emotion, neither will my readers, so I do my best to achieve a kind of authenticity when writing those scenes.
Which volume in the Malazan Book of the Fallen is your personal favourite?
It depends on how I measure them, and the answer changes accordingly. Deadhouse Gates feels like a compact (!), complete work, where I did what I set out to do, which was to immerse myself (and the readers) as deeply into the Malazan world as I could. House of Chains satisfies me on other levels, in particular the opening part following a single character over multiple chapters, and the novel’s anti-ending, which I knew would throw many readers. Midnight Tides pretty much wrote itself, and for that reason, I appreciate it for its effortlessness. Toll the Hounds is perhaps my most complex novel, and on that basis I rank it as the novel for which I am proudest. That said, I think the conclusion of the series ain’t so bad, either.
How do you create your fictive characters? Do you occasionally glance at real persons in your surroundings, and incorporate traits from them?
Not consciously, but a writer always observes and takes mental notes on body language, physical traits, mannerisms, patterns of speech, relationships, and so on. It all feeds into a stew with plenty of flavours. In practical terms, characters generally arrive (for me) as names first; sometimes that name describes something about the character, in a Dickensian fashion; while at other times that name runs counter to the character’s traits. Two examples would be Antsy for a nervous, agitated, paranoid character; and Tiny Chanter, for the biggest and nastiest of the Chanter brothers. Obviously, some characters arrive with names that have no earthly correlation, and there I find that the ones that sound right in my head often do so because they trigger some related (or not-so-related) image or emotion in me. In still other instances, I use names to resonate with historical, earthly personages, though usually when I do that I disguise that resonance so that only I am aware of it. Finally, some names I invent and keep only because I like the look and sound of them.
How much of the plot is planned in advance, and how much grow “organically” when writing the novels?
I think there needs to be plenty of both in a novel. If it is all planned down to every last detail, chances are that novel will never be written, because it will mean that the creator has already done all the fun stuff – the creative bit – leaving the writing itself a chore. And should that writer actually slog through the ordeal of writing lifeless stuff, well, the finished product will be unreadable.
For myself, I held to broad arcs through the series, and knew where the end of each novel would be, but I left plenty of scope for invention on the fly, and a good many threads were spontaneous creations which I then had to work hard at entwining into the whole. A writer needs room in which to be surprised by their own creation, and to then feel free enough to follow unknown and unexpected paths in the narrative.
Cheers, Steven Erikson
As you can see, no really new info but it’s great to hear conformation once again that there’ll be more novels in the Malazan world, and I also enjoyed reading about Steven’s writing process – I’m nowhere near emulating that kind of focus myself just yet! 😉
To pre-order your copies here are the links you’ll need: Amazon US (paperback & hardcover), Amazon UK (hardcover), and here for South Africa (Kalahari.net hardcover). There are different release dates for the US, UK and SA, so make sure of those details at the links.
To get more info about Steven and his work, check out his official website here, and also check out Malazan Empire – a great community of fans of the work of both Steven and Ian Cameron Esslemont. 🙂