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Author Topic: Author Q & A  (Read 8458 times)

Offline Douglas Hulick

Author Q & A
« on: December 26, 2011, 06:50:41 AM »
Okay, so assuming people are done reading, does anyone have any questions about the book, the process, characters, etc.? I won't give any spoilers or things that may lead to them, but I'm happy to chat as time permits. :)

ETA: Since I'm in the final stretch of "Sworn in Steel", I will likely be answering things here once per day (or thereabouts), until things are off to my editor. So please don't be put off if it seems to take me a bit to get back to your question.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2011, 10:05:06 PM by Douglas Hulick »

Offline AnneLyle

Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2011, 07:20:15 AM »
OK, I'll get the ball rolling. I think this will be spoiler-friendly... :)

I know you're an aficionado of the rapier, so the Renaissance-esque setting is a given, but what made you decide to write a story about organised crime rather than more conventional swashbuckling heroes?
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Offline Nighteyes

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Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2011, 10:59:59 AM »
How much were you influenced by mafia novels/ films to write this book?  I found myself as thinking of you as a bastard love child of a female fantasy writer like LeGuin and Mario Puzo.
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Offline AnneLyle

Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2011, 12:25:24 PM »
Hmm, not enough gender-bending and philosophy for LeGuin - I'd suggest Barbara Hambly, who does a nice line in strong female characters :)
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Shack

Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2011, 02:29:31 AM »
Did you find writing in the first person constricting in any way? Will you be sticking to this style for the rest of the series or switching to third-person so you can explore more POVs?

(Loved the book by the way!)

Offline Douglas Hulick

Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2011, 03:32:47 AM »
OK, I'll get the ball rolling. I think this will be spoiler-friendly... :)

I know you're an aficionado of the rapier, so the Renaissance-esque setting is a given, but what made you decide to write a story about organised crime rather than more conventional swashbuckling heroes?

Thanks for kicking things off, Anne.  :)

I think it was a few things that combined to steer the book in the direction of criminals and their organizations.

I've always liked the clever rogue. I was the guy in high school and college who either played the thief in his D&D game, or ended up with the scheming (pick your class here). Ditto caper & crime movies, etc. ("The Usual Suspects" is one of my favorite movies). So in some sense, there was a predilection for the archetype, I think.

That's not to say I don't love a good swashbuckle (the 1973 & 74 "Three Musketeers" & "Four Musketeers" w/ Oliver Reed & Co., screenplay by George MacDonald Fraser, are two of my other all-time favorites; and I adore Dumas' work), but there's an element to the criminal that you don't always get with the swash--a darkness and complexity that seems more at home there. There are of course exceptions on both sides of the divide, but it seems to fit more naturally with the one than the other. You get to dance more with the darkness if you're hip deep in crime, IMO, and that appeals.

I'm also big fan of noir, both in films and detective fiction. First person narration is my preferred voice when writing, and this fits wonderfully with noir--especially the narrative style of, say, Chandler and Hammett. I loved old B&W P.I. movies, and I think the tendency to use voice-over first person to handle some of the exposition left a permanent mark on me. And since noir tends to deal with shades of gray (not to mention crime), I don't think it's much of a leap from there to Drothe.

Now, while the first two may have been enough on their own, I also managed to stumble upon a dictionary of thieves' cant when I was in college. With this in my hands, it was hard not to want to write about crime and criminals, if for no other reason than to put that wonderful resource to use. So, added all together, it only made sense for me to start out with crime and criminals. :)


Offline Douglas Hulick

Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2011, 03:42:35 AM »
How much were you influenced by mafia novels/ films to write this book?  I found myself as thinking of you as a bastard love child of a female fantasy writer like LeGuin and Mario Puzo.

This is a tricky one to answer. I was aware of mob and gangster movies well before I started writing(see above), but I wasn't heavily into them. I've never seen The Godfather all the way through, let alone the other two movies, and never read the books. I like mysteries and detective fiction, but most of the ones I pick up don't tend to deal with organized crime. I never read books on the mafia or the like until I was already writing AT, although I did read books on medieval crime and criminal culture (mainly in relation to academia, though). I did read fiction with crime and syndicates in it: Steven Brust's stuff comes to mind, as does George Alec Effinger series about Marid Audran (who had a definite influence on the development of Drothe).

However, that's not to say that I didn't keep track of things I saw in movies, true crime shows, TV, and so on. I took a long time writing the first book, so there were plenty of opportunities to soak things in. And, the further I got into the book, the more I picked up books on related subjects. But I'd have to say the initial influence was incidental, and only grew as the book grew.

Offline Douglas Hulick

Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2011, 04:04:51 AM »
Did you find writing in the first person constricting in any way? Will you be sticking to this style for the rest of the series or switching to third-person so you can explore more POVs?

(Loved the book by the way!)

Thanks. :)

Like I said above, first person seems to be the natural voice for me. I was writing a tongue-in-cheek P.I. character in first person on college intranet boards over twenty years ago, so it's not a sudden flash in the pan. I've done third person, though, and I like it as well. And I won't say that there weren't times it would have been easier to do some things in third rather than first. But Drothe demanded first person.

One of the hardest thing for me in 1st person is the world building. Here you have a secondary world with a narrator who is already intimately familiar with it since he grew up there. What need has he to tell you about how anything works? In a real world setting, this is a bit easier, since we all share a good number of common reference points; but when you have a new world with magic (which the narrator doesn't even understand or use), religion, politics, and so on? It gets tricky. That's part of the reason I made Drothe interested in history (the other part being that I'm interested in history, and like to make it up). I figured if I had a character who wanted to know how things had come to be in his world, that would give me an excuse to build some context for the reader while still staying true to the narrator's voice and character. Plus, if you talk about how something was, it also gives you an excuse to talk about how something is. :)

Another tricky bit is relaying things that are happening off stage. A lot of what comes about in AT is the result of other people doing things that effect Drothe. In 1st P, the only way the narrator (and the reader) learns about these things is either by them happening to him, or learning about them in some way (people telling him; figuring it out; overhearing someone; etc.). In 3rd P, I could have just cut away to something, rather they trying to figure out how to get Drothe here or there or decide how he was going to survive something else. However, the up side of this is that the main character's life is never boring, which, if you do it right, helps lead to a fast-paced story.

As for other narrators: I'm toying with the idea. The three contracted books are largely Drothe's in my head, but I'd like to do some things from a different POV in this world as well. Drothe won't be the only narrator in Book 3, but I'm not about to say who else will be sharing the spotlight. If the series goes beyond three books, I will definitely be developing other protagonists, although I can't say whether they will be in 1st or 3rd POV at this point.

Offline AnneLyle

Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2011, 08:11:14 AM »
Great answers, Doug! You know I hadn't thought about the Effinger books in years, but now you mention them I see the connection.

Good luck with SIS, and don't worry about getting back to us quickly - I'm sure everyone here is keen for you to hand it in on time so we can read it!
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Offline Nighteyes

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Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2011, 08:36:58 AM »
That's interesting as I haven't read much crime novels from the perspective of the thief (more usually from the detective POV, i.e. Holmes), with the exception of mafia based books, and barely watched any film noirs - so that's why I compared it to the mafia style books of Mario Puzo etc.... though the gangster films of the UK is another comparison (Italian Job, Lock Stock, Layer Cake, Sexy Beast etc or even a Yank comparison, Ocean's 11.)

So if your book was to be filmed, what actors would you populate it with?  Dodgy cockneys like Ray Winstone, Michael Caine and the cast of your average Guy Ritchie movie, or Italian Americans: James Godafini, Steve Buscemi, Joe Pesci, Ray Liota etc, or an entirely different cast?
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Offline xiagan

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Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2011, 06:39:03 PM »
One of the hardest thing for me in 1st person is the world building. Here you have a secondary world with a narrator who is already intimately familiar with it since he grew up there. What need has he to tell you about how anything works? In a real world setting, this is a bit easier, since we all share a good number of common reference points; but when you have a new world with magic (which the narrator doesn't even understand or use), religion, politics, and so on? It gets tricky. That's part of the reason I made Drothe interested in history (the other part being that I'm interested in history, and like to make it up). I figured if I had a character who wanted to know how things had come to be in his world, that would give me an excuse to build some context for the reader while still staying true to the narrator's voice and character. Plus, if you talk about how something was, it also gives you an excuse to talk about how something is. :)
[...]
Another tricky bit is relaying things that are happening off stage. A lot of what comes about in AT is the result of other people doing things that effect Drothe. In 1st P, the only way the narrator (and the reader) learns about these things is either by them happening to him, or learning about them in some way (people telling him; figuring it out; overhearing someone; etc.). In 3rd P, I could have just cut away to something, rather they trying to figure out how to get Drothe here or there or decide how he was going to survive something else. However, the up side of this is that the main character's life is never boring, which, if you do it right, helps lead to a fast-paced story.
That was very nicely done! :)
I'm writing a novel in first person atm too and sometimes it's cursed hard to get some important stuff to the reader with only one pair of eyes to see/tell it through. If your character doesn't understand something, your reader won't understand it either - but who wants an omniscient or smart-alecky character? ;) Especially things like scheming behind your characters back are hard to do...
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Offline AnneLyle

Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2012, 04:04:04 AM »
The UK and US covers of "Among Thieves" and "Sworn in Steel" are quite different in style:



Which one best fits your mental image of Drothe?
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Funky Scarecrow

Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2012, 03:15:17 PM »
Isn't that Mitchell from Being Human on the US covers? :P
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Offline AnneLyle

Re: Author Q & A
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2012, 05:12:15 PM »
I have to say that the UK "Sworn in Steel" is much, much sexier than the "Among Thieves" one. Anyone would think there was rivalry between Tor and Angry Robot, pushing Larry Rostant to produce his best "hot guy with sword" work for them...

Also, I notice that Drothe has swapped his rapier for a bastard sword. Learning a new skill, eh, Doug? ;)
« Last Edit: January 11, 2012, 05:13:49 PM by AnneLyle »
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!