Interview with Patrick Rothfuss
The following is a 15 minute interview with Patrick Rothfuss focused on his upcoming novella, The Slow Regard of Silent things. I’ve uploaded the audio – *CRINGE* – and transcribed the entire thing (as best I can) for people who’d prefer to give it a read.
As you will know, Patrick Rothfuss doesn’t make it to the UK very often, so Gollancz had to absolutely jam pack his schedule (many thanks to his press team who managed to squeeze us in!). This meant that I wanted to really focus my questions on this upcoming novella, it’s characters, composure and the effect it will have on the series going forwards. We also got to talk a bit about cooking (you’ll see), audiobooks and illustrations too.
I hope you enjoy it!
So, The Slow Regard of Silent Things. Where does it sit in the grand scheme of The Kingkiller Chronicles timeline?
It does exist, actually, in time in Wise Man’s Fear. Like, the time frame that everything happens in is in Wise Man’s Fear. It isn’t explicitly placed anywhere, but a careful reader will easily be able to work out where it sits.
And Auri is the focus of the novella, from what we’ve heard?
What reasons do you have for choosing Auri as this focus?
Well, actually, I didn’t sit down to write a novella. I was trying to write a story for an anthology of George R.R. Martin’s, Rogues. I expected there to be a lot of traditional rogues in there; a lot of swashbuckling, a lot of conmen, rough and rugged types and a lot of James Bond type characters too. So, I go, ‘maybe I could tell a story about Auri as more of a trickster type character in more of a trickster kind of story’. So, I started writing it and it didn’t turn into a trickster type story… Instead it got longer and longer and stranger and stranger until eventually I was like, it’s just not going to work for this anthology… In the end I wrote a different story for that anthology, about Bas – who is perfect as a rogue – which left me with this other ‘thing’ which I just kind of developed out of the original story idea. Eventually I showed it to my publisher and she said ‘yeah – let’s print it’.
Am I right in saying that Auri wasn’t such a big character in the original draft of the Kingkiller books, or perhaps not even in it at all?
So what was it that you thought Auri brought to the novels – tone, more so than her role in the story – that prompted you to introduce her?
Well…. that’s a good question, but it’s assuming that when I put together a book I do it like assembling lego, you know? As if I’m going I’ve got this bit and this bit so I need this bit to support those two… but it’s not like that at all.
It’s more like. Well, honestly, it’s a little bit like – if we are going to go with weird analogies – it’s a little bit like cooking.
Do you cook at all?
No, no. I don’t cook.
Like…. at all?
Well, I could do a little bit. Like Spaghetti Bolognese or something…
So, when you are doing it, how do you know how much salt to put in it?
Ah, OK. That’s true. I see what you mean: as you are going along?
Yes. As you go along. That’s exactly it. No one ever taught you how much salt you need, well I guess you could use a recipe, but even so as you go along making it you will taste it and be like hmmm, you know? Then, the more you cook you learn about different things like herbs and how to cook meats differently or how to sauté, but at no point does anyone say ‘now, this is where you put in three punches of Oregano’. It’s just that you learn that Oregano tastes a certain way and sometimes it just belongs in what you are doing.
Ok, I see. So, lets say that I tasted my Spaghetti Bolognese and added some salt until I was happy with it, afterwards I can say that originally it wasn’t salty enough. On reflection, what do you think was missing from the Kingkiller books that Auri added?
Well, in some ways – and I can’t say I added her in to to this, but once I saw her doing it I realised it was something she could do very well – she… Ok, so, you know, in the books people help out Kvothe a lot because he is in a bad way, often gets into trouble, is broke and just… yes, [Pat laughs sympathetically] he’s a mess emotionally. He is constantly struggling and he has friends who help him – which is nice. But, Auri is somebody who Kvothe helps. It’s interesting in that regard in that if we see other people helping Kvothe we think ‘aww, they are good friends’. But, if we see kvothe helping other people – when he is already poor and already in so much trouble – especially when he is going out of his way and if we like this other person and feel sympathy for them, it shows that Kvothe really isn’t in this for himself. It really gives us a chance to see a much gentler, sweeter side of Kvothe you don’t really see when he is forced to be a tough problem solving, duke it out, never back down student. We see [with his interactions with Auri] that even when he is poor he will go out of his way to make sure she has food. And, [Pat laughs sympathetically again], even though his clothes are constantly ragged and falling off his body he makes a point of buying Auri a new dress because she needs somethings. That’s not all that Auri brings in, but it’s one of the nice things.
In terms of the story, I haven’t heard a massive amount about it, which I guess has been on purpose, but can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect?
I can tell you what you shouldn’t expect. And, that is, don’t expect this to be a continuation of Kvothe’s story, you know? For the people who have read the Bas story in Rogues, in that story you get a little piece of Bas’s life, the camera is on him. In Kvothe’s story Bas kind of wonders in and wonders out. In the Bas story you you see what Bas is doing when Kvothe is off doing something else and it is the same with this one, where it is truly Auri’s story. It’s not Kvothe’s story.
In terms of what happens in the story… I don’t like to talk about that at all, because you only get the true new experience of reading a book once and I don’t want to ruin that for people.
The things I have heard about this story are comments about its uniqueness in plot, but even more so in style. Could you tell us a bit about why you felt the need to use such a unique style and whether it is in the first person?
Well, that I can say: it is in the third person. Which, you know, it was good for me to learn more about. Now, I didn’t deliberately set out to make this a strange story, but as I was telling it the only sensible way of doing it was to leave out certain things that normally a story has and that posed some problems. I learned a lot trying to work around those problems. Erm, again though, assuming I did those things deliberately: you’re giving me much more credit than I deserve [laughs]. A lot of the time I just do things and then have to figure them out. I don’t plan everything elaborately out of the gate.
You say you wrote this in the third person, do you think it would have been tough to write her in the first person then? Because she is such an otherworldly character.
It was tricky to write it this way, it would have been tricky to write it in first person as well. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s… it’s too much of a what if to even speculate about. I will say that I did not at any point think ‘oh, I should try this in first person’, no, never thought that. At one point I started writing it in present tense and that was a… MESS. I mean, in the scene it was OK. I wrote an entire scene in present tense. But everything else was in past tense or in past tense/present tense/past tense. And I was like, ‘hm, maybe I should just leave that’, and then people read it and they were like ‘noooooooo’. So then I had to change a wholeeee scene out of present tense and that was a nightmare, that cost me weeks.
Do you know yet if there is going to be an audio version?
Actually, before I ask that question, I notice we’ve been pronouncing Auri differently.
Yeah, honestly, I can go back and forth on Auri or Auri, you know? I can do either one almost depending on my mood.
So, yes, sorry… Audio books.
Well, in the US, I’m narrated the audiobook, which was my very first time doing it, and that was hardddd. Oh, and this book, the print version anyway, will have illustrations too. Which is another cool thing which we are trying out.
I don’t actually know if in the UK they are going to use my version of the audio or do their own. Part of me kind of hopes they do their own and then you have a pro reading it and me reading it. I guess I’m pretty good, because I know the story better than anyone, but I’m not a professional narrator, so… we’ll see.
So what is it like when you hear a pro reading your story, as a writer?
I can’t do it. I can’t listen to someone else read my stuff. I started with – it’s Nick Podehl in the US and everyone loves him, and I’ve got Rupert Degas here in the UK; I picked them out because I love them as narrators – but I can’t listen to them. It’s like… listening to your voice on a recording and you are like ‘oh – oh – no’, that’s what it feels like for me to hear other people reading my work.
You mentioned there are illustrations, which I’m very excited about. What do you think the illustrations add to the novella? Are they a treat for readers or are they required in this novella?
I certainly don’t think they are ‘required’… It occurred to me that – I’d been working a lot with my friend Nathan Taylor – and, yes, it occurred to me that we had the opportunity to put some illustrations in here. Just to, just to try it out and add a little bit. And, so we took a run at it. It was an entirely new experience for me because I was essentially doing a form of art direction. And, it turned out pretty well. Some of the stuff is really wonderful. We had to be very careful depicting Auri, because we don’t want to show her too much; she is very mysterious. And, if I just show you all of her it just wouldn’t be right. And the same with the Underthing. The Underthing is a mystery too, so I wanted to show you some things to give you this kind of visual treat without effectively taking away your opportunity to imigine what these things are like. That was a fine line to walk.
Now that you’ve got this novella, with its pictures and new story, does that effect how you edit book 3? I mean, I know you’ve completed the story, but does it effect the changes?
Well, I certainly haven’t finished it. I’ve written a draft all the way to the end. But, the thing that I did with… Well, you know what, ‘will it change some things in book 3?’ Absolutely. Not only did I learn things about writing that are going to be very useful, but I’ve learned a lot about Auri that I didn’t know before, I learned a lot about the Underthing I didn’t know before and I learned a bit about Alchemy I didn’t know before – because I hadn’t developed them, specifically. So, yes, it will changes elements as I continue to work on, revise and improve book 3.
And with that, my friends over at Gollancz signalled it was time for Pat to meet the next journalist with a notepad full of questions and after a photo and a quick goodbye I left Gollancz towers having met another one of my genre heroes. I have to say that having met Pat he is every bit as friendly, charismatic and intelligent as I’d imagine. Most of all though, I can tell he truly loves his story and his characters. I hope you have time to listen to the recording and here just how much love is in his voice when he discusses Kvothe and his struggles.
Finally, if you are as curious about this novella as we are, then you can get a sneak peak beyond the cover by listening to Pat’s very early reading here:
The novella is set for release right at the end of October 2014 and is a pretty hefty 30,000 words.