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Friday, May 23, 2008

Interview with Greg Keyes

Official Greg Keyes Website
Order “The Hounds of Ash and other Tales of Fool Wolf
HERE
Order “The Born Queen
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Read An Excerpt from “The Born Queen
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Review Reviews of “The Born Queen” via
Andrew Wheeler, Blogcritics, Fantasy Book Critic, Fantasy Book News & Reviews, Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review + Leap in the Dark

Back on March 25, 2008, Del Rey published “The Born Queen”, the fourth and concluding volume in Greg Keyes’ excellent epic fantasy series The Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone. In support of the book’s release, I was hoping to interview Mr. Keyes, but because of the author’s situation, he was only taking phone interviews, an option that wasn’t available to me. Fortunately, contributing writer David Craddock was able to step in for me and thanks to publicist Diana Franco, the interview was arranged :) From there, David and Greg did the rest, and the interview turned out better than I hoped, covering everything from The Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone, Star Wars, Babylon 5 and Greg’s upcoming release “The Hounds of Ash and other Tales of Fool Wolf” (May/June 2008) to fantasy tropes/trends, the differences between science fiction & fantasy, writing tips, and a whole lot more. So whether you’re a long-time fan of Greg Keyes, or new to the author, I hope you’ll enjoy this little chat with Mr. Keyes:

Q: Let’s talk about your new book “The Born Queen” which completes The Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone series. Originally you sold the series as an outline and mentioned that you didn’t follow the blueprint very closely. So in what ways has “The Born Queen” deviated from your original outline?

Greg Keyes: I knew what my beginning and end points were; it was the way I got [to the end] that was really different. As I was writing the characters, they did things I didn't plan on, which, as
Terry Brooks once told me, sounds a bit schizophrenic. [Laughs] I think writers are a bit schizophrenic in that we build these characters in our heads, and then they start doing different things. For instance, Aspar was not originally an important character. He was kind of the guy who discovers the Briar King and all that before fading out near the end of the outline. As I started writing, I just noticed that Aspar was the character I really wanted to write about.

Q: It's always interesting when characters decide to mutiny, isn't it?

Greg Keyes: Yes, it really is!

Q: In a series like this, readers can be very vocal about how their favorite characters are handled or what they would like to see in a book, especially a concluding volume. Have the comments of fans had any bearing on the way you wrote “The Born Queen”?

Greg Keyes: I would say no. I tend to follow my instincts while I'm writing. That's one thing I've noticed about myself: I tend to think better when I'm writing than when I'm outlining. Outlining is more about plot, whereas writing is more about character.

Q: Do you like the way you wrapped up the series as a whole?

Greg Keyes: I do, yeah. I was very pleased with the way the series wrapped up. I think there are moments where I wished it was over, but that's the case with anything I've written. It's fun at times, and that's what carries me through it. I have those really nice moments and I get really excited, or I think of exactly the right phrase, that kind of thing. But really, writing is about just sitting down and doing it.

Q: The Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone series have often been described as 'George R.R. Martin-lite'. Do you think that's a fair comparison? Good? Bad?

Greg Keyes: I think it's fair in a way. It's hard for me to really comment because I've only ever read one of his books. At times I think I know what that means, and at others I don't. I don't mind being compared to other authors, because I'd do that if I were a reader trying to describe a book to another reader. Like, “Oh, yeah, this is kind of like Michael Moorcock, but crazier,” something like that. On the other hand it wasn't my plan to write a book like anyone else. If the implication is that I intended to do something and I failed to, then that would bother me, but I didn't.

Q: Even though your series embraces a number of fantasy clichés, you also make a concerted effort to twist usual conventions. What are your thoughts on fantasy tropes in general and how did you balance what stereotypes you wanted to twist and those that you embraced?

Greg Keyes: That's actually not something I planned to do. What I do is pick these character types that aren't necessarily fantasy stereotypes, but archetypes rooted in myth. I just start writing them as people and try to imagine what it would be like to actually inhabit that role. I like to think of my characters in general as more important than my plot. If I follow my outline, I believe my characters will start as stereotypes and end as stereotypes, no matter my intentions. Then I stop thinking about them as characters and become stereotypes.

Q: Cliffhangers are an integral part of your work, and they're often used to end almost every chapter of your books. How do you avoid having them become a gimmick?

Greg Keyes: I don't know! It's just something I've done in almost all of my books. In fact, I was writing some books on Babylon 5 a couple of years ago. I got about halfway through one of the books and something just didn't feel right about it. I realized, “Wait a minute - I'm not switching chapters between different characters.”

I think I do it because I like that kind of writing myself. You know, you read a chapter about one guy and think, “I don't care about him, I want to know what happened to the other guy!” But then you get attached to the current character, which means you don't want to leave him when his chapter ends and swings back to the first guy.

I would say that a lot of that probably comes more from movies than other literature. I'm heavily influenced by movies. In fact, that question about stereotypes and characters...you look at Ang Lee's early work, where he would take a typical story and put an odd twist into it. I know some people are annoyed by that switching chapters thing, but a lot of the things I watched and read growing up were like that, and I liked it. It's also a way of keeping things fresh for me as well.

Q: Contrary to many entries in the epic fantasy genre, time passes quickly in your books. What led to this technique?

Greg Keyes: Sometimes, a couple of days will occupy a large chunk of the book, and then a month will pass. I think that I like a faster pace. To a larger extent, a lot of things that influenced me growing up moved really quickly. You see that influence in my work, and I just kind of like to move things along, not getting bogged down for too long.

Q: In your eyes, how has the fantasy genre evolved since you first wrote the Children of the Changeling duology and based on current trends, what might the future hold?

Greg Keyes: That's a good question. I'd been an avid fantasy reader all of my life; I actually started reading science fiction when I was really young. I'd never read fantasy until I was around 13, and it was accidental. I picked up The Return of the King that had a wacky 1960s cover and I thought it was sci-fi. By the time I realized it wasn't, I was already interested in it even though it was obviously the third Lord of the Rings book.

When I knuckled down to start writing, which was the early 80s, I quit reading as much; in fact I almost quit reading entirely. I was married, had two jobs, and was trying to write. When I wrote “The Waterborn”, I was completely unaware of what kind of fantasy was selling and what wasn't. Just completely out of touch with the market. I thought I was writing a normal sort of fantasy but the critical reaction proclaimed that it was very different; I didn't think it was different at all. I guess it was!

I'd written a few books previously that were never published. It was set in 1350 and took place in the United States. The characters were Native Americans. It was a fantasy, but it was kind of a strange one. What happened was, one publisher was interested in it and led me on for about a year. They finally said that they didn't know how to sell it. I said to myself, “What if I take some of those ideas, but give the guy a sword, make the girl a princess, and put the guy on a horse?” I sold it in a month.

I'm not completely aware of what the market is doing because I don't pay a lot of attention to it. Partly because I've been writing The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone for a long time, so my concentration has been on them. I started writing them in '99, I think. One thing I'm doing now is taking some time to see what's currently out there.

Q: So do you do a lot of reading while you're writing?

Greg Keyes: I almost don't read [any fantasy] at all. And that's a shame because I do like the genre, but I find that when I'm writing books like The Age of Unreason [series], where there's a lot of research involved—like what shoes people wore during the Eighteenth Century, there's just tons and tons of research... I like that. I have an academic background and I enjoy that kind of reading.

When I'm writing stuff like The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone I tend to turn back to stuff from the mythic past, like Beowulf and that kind of thing, just to reground myself and all that. I could probably count on one hand the number of fantasy novels I've read in the past 10 years. Right now I'm re-reading some favorites just to remind myself what I loved about [the genre] to start with.

I've read a couple things lately that I like. But when publishers send me things for quotes, I usually can't get through them. I don't know if that's an artifact of what I'm being sent or what, but I've read a couple in the past couple of years, and I did get through them and like them.

It's just a time management issue. I keep promising myself I'm going to read this or that, but I just haven't gotten to. For instance, I've always planned to read Robert Jordan's stuff, but I just haven't had time. Like I said with Martin, it's nothing about not liking the books, I just don't have time to read them.

Q: That's actually a relief to hear. If you don't mind a tangent, I'm a writer myself and just submitted a series for publication. I'm very proud of it, but what with working, dealing with “real life” stuff and other matters, I sometimes don't have the time to devote to writing that I'd like. Did you experience anything like that? If so, how did you alleviate it? Did you create a writing schedule or anything?

Greg Keyes: When I was trying to get published, the first thing I did was write short stories. This was in my early 20s, and I got married when I was 24. I wrote the shorts and sent them off. They got rejected, but they always came back with good advice from editors. Of course at the time I thought I was a genius and they were idiots. Basically it just made me angry, so I'd shove stories into a drawer and forget about them after the first rejection. I eventually concluded that I can't write short stories, but I can write novels.

At the time, when I really got started, I was working a full-time job during the week and at nighttime. I would take my typewriter to the night job because all I really had to do was stay awake. So at first I wrote all weekend, then at night. Later on I started graduate school and decided that I wanted to write a book that year. During the three summer months, I quit the day job and my wife took over the earning. She believed in me, and I wrote eight hours a day, just like a nine-to-five job.

Now things are considerably different. I'm lazier, a little less willing to sit down for eight hours. Well, I can't; I'm at home all day with a two-and-a-half year-old. What I did was have a nanny come in for about three hours a day so I would have writing time, but I wasn't willing to quit watching her grow up. Now I write when I can. I write when the nanny's here and on weekends.

I think it does really help if you say, “I'm going to write at this time,” and you set that time that you're going to do it every day. Even if all you end up doing is staring at a blank screen, or you do what I did, which was writing eight pages that you threw away. At least you're in the process.

I think what makes writers different from everyone else is, even though everyone has stories to tell, writers need the ability to sit down and do it. Make yourself do it when the sun's shining and there are other things you could be doing. You just need to sit down to do it. It really helps to find a schedule, because otherwise you say, “Well, I could be writing right now, but I'm tired.” You're doing it, so you realize it's not always fun.

Q: No, sometimes it really is work.

Greg Keyes: Yep.

Q: Getting back on track... Besides traditional fantasy, you’ve also written The Age of Unreason tetralogy which mixes steampunk influences with history. Personally, this series sounds like it would be a lot of fun to research & write. What did you like most about writing The Age of Unreason?

Greg Keyes: Its starting point was a real place in time. Every time I write a book I feel like there are certain people watching over my shoulder. Like if I write a Star Wars book, all those fans are looking over my shoulder to make sure I don't use the wrong color of light saber or whatever. When I wrote The Age of Unreason I felt like I constantly had these imaginary history professors—who would probably never even read the books—looking over my shoulder, and I felt kind of accountable to real history.

I did some traveling for it, went to London and actually found the place where... well, there's a scene where Benjamin Franklin's in London looking for Isaac Newton, and he goes into this particular coffee house that's a real place and actually still exists. It's a pub now, not a coffee house. The funny thing was, I couldn't find it on a modern map but I found it on a Nineteenth Century map. I went in and read a plaque outside proclaiming that folks such as Newton had indeed hung out there. I went in and got a beer and I told the waitress about her establishment's historical significance. She said, “No, I think it's been this way for a long time.” I said, “But 300 years ago, it was different.” Then she called another guy in to discuss the matter and I said, “You know there's a plaque right outside with all of this information, right?”

Q: “Newton’s Cannon”, the first volume in The Age of Unreason tetralogy, actually won the prestigious Le Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Award. How did you feel about this honor?

Greg Keyes: I got an email from my French publisher about two weeks after 9/11. The offer was, “We're telling you know because we're afraid you won't come. You've won the Le Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Award. We'll fly you into France to receive the award but we understand that you might be daunted by flying right now.” I replied, “Bring me over.” I found it really interesting. It was my first time to a French convention. It's a really different thing going on over there. First of all there are translators running around everywhere, and people get so out there with what they're talking about. They'll start with a topic that seems reasonable but eventually becomes a discussion about crazy things. It's really interesting and fun.

I was really honored to win the award. I'd been sort of snubbed by the French for my first couple of books; they didn't even publish them. Then I went and wrote a book that had Louis XIV and boom, published. It was great.

Q: You also wrote tie-in novels for Star Wars and Babylon 5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing books in already established universes opposed to original fiction?

Greg Keyes: I've often compared it to writing a haiku. A haiku has pre-established rules that you have to follow, but that doesn't mean you can't write a good haiku. Sometimes constraints and boundaries can force you to do things you've never done before. It can make you a better writer - or a worse writer.

Writing for Babylon 5... there had been novels written before, but only one was thought of as good by J.M.S. [
J. Michael Straczynski]. He told me to forget about the other ones and start from scratch. If I had a question, there were people I could call that would get the answer for me. I even got to go watch them film an episode. I was creating the back story of Babylon 5 for the most part, and that was really interesting, and relatively free. There were boundaries, but they were pretty loose.

With Star Wars, the boundaries were tighter, but not too much more so. I had a lot of creative latitude with that. The relationship wasn't as close; I worked through my editor. There's also a group of readers they trust to tell them, “Yeah, this is Star Wars.” They're real fans who can see beyond surface attributes and will tell you that it feels like Star Wars. There were more drafts of the Star Wars books, both of the outlines and the actual books because I was hearing from more people: my editor, the reader group, authors who had written books before me, authors who had written books after.... It was a very communal effort. It was very different from anything I'd ever done, because writing is largely solitary - that wasn't. But I enjoyed the experience.

Q: What are you currently working on at the moment?

Greg Keyes: Right now I'm trying to figure out what I want to write next. I finished Thorn and Bone and got to thinking, “What now?” I wasn't really sure. I was just approached to write some Elder Scrolls, though, and it's great because my research is to play Oblivion [Elder Scrolls IV]. [Laughs]

Another thing that happened with Thorn and Bone that dragged things out a bit was that I took on Star Wars projects. They're from the same publisher, so I was able to push my books back in order to tackle Star Wars. But I didn't particularly like writing that way. I always felt I was slighting somebody. So I'm back to taking on one project at a time.

Q: In May/June 2008,
EDGE is releasing your new short story collection “The Hounds of Ash and other Tales of Fool Wolf”. Can you tell us more about this book?

Greg Keyes: If you read those stories, I think you'll see the influences from Jack Vance and Michael Moorcock, my early influences. It's about a character I created for Dragon Magazine, actually. A guy named Dave Gross, who used to be the editor of Dragon, came to a book signing of mine in Seattle. He loved “The Waterborn” and had brought a copy with him. He opened it up to a map that says, “Giant.” He said, “I want to know what's there. I'll pay you to write a short story.”I told you earlier that I couldn't write short stories. What I really hadn't understood was how tough the short story market was, especially back then. So I wrote a series of stories about this character. The world was the same one as in “The Waterborn”, but none of the same characters. It was a labor of love; I really loved writing them. One thing about the market I know is those sorts of stories, like the collections they published in the 70s and 80s, stories that string together to form a larger story...almost nobody publishes those anymore.

Q: Looking back, what have been the biggest improvements that you’ve made as a writer since you were first published?

Greg Keyes: My early writing, when I look back at it, had some kinks. Rather than starting the story, I told you about where the story would take place. I was a controlling narrator, which didn't leave enough to the imagination. That was stuff I never really published. I think I've gotten better at writing characters. My descriptions have become simpler; I used to think of the craziest way to describe something rather than doing it naturally. My voice has become more consistent.

Q: In what areas would you like to improve?

Greg Keyes: I tend to avoid writing about mass warfare because I don't know how to do it. At some point while working on “The Born Queen”, I thought, “You know, I have to go read some books about medieval warfare.” So I stopped and I read, and I read...and I read. I've fenced, and I've done martial arts, but writing about war, about how to make it interesting...I'm always bored by that in books. It takes a great writer to make me interested in a big fight. It's something I shy away from because I'm afraid I can't do it that well. Anything I shy away from, I'd like to be able to do. I might still choose not to do it, but I want to be able to know that I could have done it.

Q: Are you more comfortable with short stories now?

Greg Keyes: I am, but they're still harder to write. With a short story, you can't waste words; you can't waste time with anything. Short stories are something I loved reading while growing up, and that's probably another influence on the pace of my stories. Short stories...well, they're brief. They're less forgiving than a novel, just like a poem is harder to write than a short story.

Q: Since you've written both sci-fi and fantasy, what do you feel distinguishes the two?

Greg Keyes: I guess there's always been kind of a gray area between them. At the extremes, they're certainly different. I think science fiction is mostly, classically defined as extrapolating from technology — if such-and-such a thing were invented, how would it change the world? The people? It's about science, and it's about some extrapolation from known science. So for instance, I might argue that Star Wars is not science fiction; it's fantasy. It has some sci-fi elements, but it's not about science; it's about people.

I think, ultimately, science fiction is literature that doesn't predict the future, but it helps us imagine it. If you grew up reading science fiction...there's no book that predicted it accurately, but there are some that knocked around what might be. But those who grew up reading sci-fi aren't all that surprised by [scientific and technological developments], whereas those that didn't are like, “What's going on?” [Laughs] I think science fiction is a game we play with our brains that imagines what can be.

Fantasy, ultimately, at its most basic form, is deciding what we're going to bring from our past. You know, what part of our mythic past is still relevant? If you look at literature before the 20th century, it's mostly fantastic, including Shakespeare. Magic, elves, gods, devils, they all figure very prominently in what's going on with [fantasy's] unseen forces. For some reason in the 20th century, outside of fantasy, people decided that stuff wasn't relevant.

I think there are kinds of fantasy [literature] that isn't realized as such. It's just that it gets marketed differently, so people feel different about it. For example, take the novel “Like Water for Chocolate”. It's not the kind of fantasy I write, but it's a fantasy.

What is a hero? I've noticed that every time somebody makes a movie about Beowulf, he's never like he actually is in the epic. People are a little uncomfortable with the way he was in the epic. In the new movie, Beowulf turns out to be a little crooked. Have you seen the newest movie?

Q: No, I haven't. I've heard there were lots of differences. I love the epic, though. It's one of the stories that got me into fantasy.

Greg Keyes: Yeah, see, I love the epic, too, and I'm really confounded as to why someone can't make a movie that stays closer to the original epic. Maybe even have the actors speak Old English and subtitle it. Every time they do it [a movie], they have to find some sort of modern take on it, and I don't think it needs that. But that's just me.

I mean, I don't know about you, but reading fantasy, when I was in high school, is part of what kept my moral compass straight. It's a very moral genre. It makes you ask questions about right and wrong, courage and a lack of courage.

Q: I agree. People looking for superficialities see it as a genre where men carry swords and wizards throw fireballs at dragons. But if written well, it's about people, and their lives and situations.

Greg Keyes: Yeah, I think it really is. I'm not sure what my idea of what a hero would be without fantasy. One thing that I do, that I really enjoyed doing in Thorn and Bone, is to write characters who don't always have swords, but still have tremendous courage. Courage isn't something predicated by strength or the ability to fight; it's having the guts to stand up for what you ought to.

Q: It's a great message, and I think fantasy is a great genre with which to relay that message.

Greg Keyes: Exactly, I agree.

Q: You've demonstrated a lot of diversity in your writing. Are there any other genres in which you'd like to write?

Greg Keyes: I don't have any compelling interest in writing in other genres. I like reading other genres, which I didn't do growing up. I read science fiction and fantasy, and that was pretty much it. When I was a kid, [sci-fi and fantasy] are what I wanted to write, and they're still what I want to write. I've been asked a similar question about screenplays — they pay a lot of money, but I have no interest in writing them. That doesn't mean I won't one day, but as of right now, I'd really have to be pulled to write a screenplay. I love movies, but I want to write books, science fiction and fantasy books.

I've been knocking that very question around because there are a couple things I could write that wouldn't be fantasy, or that would at least have very tame fantasy elements. I think they're good stories, but I just can't get that excited about them. Historical fiction comes to mind, and I did something close to that with The Age of Unreason. In fact I believe anyone who writes historical fiction actually wrote historical fantasy, because you're imagining things you can't possibly know. You can't possibly know what people said in a bedchamber, or what their motives were for doing something. You can make a guess at it, but you'll never really know. So even though you're writing about something that might have happened in one sense, it certainly didn't happen the way you're writing it, not exactly.

Beyond that, I don't know. With fantasy, I can write about people I know in very subtle ways, but I don't want to embarrass them or give them illusions of grandeur. I really don't want to write about myself.

Q: What would you say if someone wanted to convert one of your books or series into a screenplay?

Greg Keyes: The quick answer is, I'd like that. There's a lot of money in it, but also because I like movies and I'd be very interested to see how the movie turned out. I'm always very interested to see what my covers look like. I'm very interested to see how somebody interpreted my characters in my painting, or in any other medium. I would be really interested to see how someone interpreted one of my books as a movie.

Now, the fact is, most movies I've seen made from books I like kind of worried me. Either I didn't like them at all, or I had to separate myself from the book. I think that's what it [enjoying a book-to-movie adaptation] requires: you need to really separate yourself, because they're two different mediums. I think I'd have to take that attitude if someone made a movie from one of my books.

I made the horrible mistake of going to see Troy. About a month before I saw it, I'd just finished reading The Iliad again. Iliad is amazing and terrifying. So I walked out of Troy and said, “I hate it.” But then I thought, “Maybe I'm not being fair. Maybe I can just step back from the whole idea of it being The Iliad.”

So I watched it again...and I hate it again.

Q: [Laughs]

Greg Keyes: I think the main thing that was missing in Troy was that The Iliad is about a bunch of guys who have been on a beach for 10 years. These guys [in Troy] just show up, and in three days, it's over. There are fundamental differences there, and Troy just wasn't as interesting to me. But I have seen movies based on books that I really like, so again, as long as I can think of them as their own thing...

I think it's even harder as an author. Very few authors get the control that
J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter, for example. I think the same thing recently happened with one of Terry Brooks series and he's already had to kind of step back from it.

Q: That worries me! I'm a big Shannara fan.

Greg Keyes: Yeah, I think it was Shannara. It would almost have to be. I went on tour with him a couple of years ago and asked him a lot about this movie. And I don't know where it is in terms of production because I haven't talked to him in awhile. I imagine you could find out on his website. [Laughs]

Q: [Laughs] Yeah, that's probably true. But you know, I do think that if they're done correctly, now is a good time for more fantasy literature-to-cinema. Even though it happened before Lord of the Rings, that was so successful that everyone's suddenly jumping on the bandwagon, kind of like with superhero movies.

Greg Keyes: Yeah. Unfortunately, whenever that happens, there's a tendency for Hollywood to say, “We don't need a book. What do we need? Just a guy with a sword.” Then they just get some guy to write it and it sucks. I've always thought I should write something that would make a good movie, but I find it hard to think that way when I start writing.

Q: You mentioned covers. How much control do you have over what appears on the front and back of your work?

Greg Keyes: Not much. That's actually why I made that comparison. Early on, with my first few novels, I was asked for suggestions, for what I thought was a good scene. They'd run preliminary sketches and stuff by me, but I don't think that if I ever said no, they'd pay much attention. Those decisions are really made in marketing.

The only times I've had a strong say in my covers were with “A Calculus of Angels” and “The Empire of Unreason”. And that's because my editor had just gotten fired, and the editor usually never puts the artist and the author in direct contact. My suspicion for that is because authors have such clear ideas in their mind of what things should look like, they might stymie the creative efforts of the artist.

The first cover of any of my books I ever saw was the British cover of “The Waterborn”. When I first saw it I was just stunned. In fact I'm looking at it now; it hangs on the wall in my office. The second cover I ever saw actually wasn't on the book. It was a court scene from “The Waterborn”, and at some point it got to marketing and they said, “Mmm...no. Start again.” So there are two covers for that book, one which was never published.

More recently, the process has been even different in that they'll start the cover before I've even finished the book. So they're more concept covers. Once I see the cover I'll try to come up with a scene that sort of resembles the cover, but again, that's market-driven. They're trying to decide what kinds of covers are selling, and that's always been the case. I remember with “The Waterborn”, the cover had to be blue, because blue is selling! Blue is good!

It's all taken very seriously, and I don't know much about it, so I try not to get involved. I've been rather pleased with my covers.

Q: So you just write the book and let the marketing and artist folks do their things?

Greg Keyes: Pretty much! It's always fun to see the covers, and it's really interesting to see how things are interpreted. But I'm not too involved with it, and that doesn't bother me too much.

Q: In closing, last year was tough for writers of speculative fiction. Several authors passed away including Robert Jordan, Madeline L’Engle, Lloyd Alexander, Leigh Eddings, Fred Saberhagen, Jack Williamson, Alice Borchardt, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. while Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Did any of this affect you as a writer?

Greg Keyes: Well, probably not...not in a big way. For one thing I didn't know any of those guys personally. And that might sound cold, but I'm obviously more affected by the deaths of people I know personally. For instance, the death that affected me most last year was Jamie Bishop, son of science fiction author Michael Bishop. He was one of the guys shot at Virginia Tech. Jamie and I were very close in college, he was a great friend. I'd just talked to his dad a couple of weeks before.

But in terms of the genre, one death that really had an affect on me was Roger Zelazny's. That's when I tried to quit smoking. I don't think he died of lung cancer; it was liver disease or something. But it had an affect on me, and it just stunned me that he was taken so early.

Like I said, I've never read anything by Robert Jordan, not because I didn't want to, but because I just haven't gotten around to it. But these guys, especially
Terry Brooks, he created the concept of a best-selling fantasy novel. Jordan maintained that concept, and guys like him. Those writers, like Jordan and Leigh Eddings were great for all of us, but I don't think their deaths have changed anything for me in any major way.

4 comments:

SQT said...

I just finally got around to reading "The Briar King" and I can't believe I waited so long. Keyes is a fabulous writer. I think it's unfair to call him "Martin lite" too. Just because his books don't double as a doorstop doesn't mean they're lightweight.

Robert said...

Theresa, I'm glad you enjoyed "The Briar King" so much :) You're in for a good time with the rest of the series! While I can see the GRRM comparisons, it is an unfair label because Keyes writes a different brand of epic fantasy...

Larry said...

I enjoyed the interview, but near the very end, I feel the pedantic need to point out it's most certainly Roger Zelazny the one whose death affected Keyes the most.

Robert said...

Larry you're most definitely right :) So thanks for catching that!

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