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Heroic Intentions
An Interview with David Gemmell

conducted by Sandy Auden

© Tony Evans
David Gemmell
David Gemmell
David Gemmell was born in London, England, in 1948. Expelled from school at 16 for organizing a gambling syndicate, he worked as a day labourer and a bouncer at night. He has also worked as a freelance journalist for the London Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, and Daily Express. His first novel, Legend, was published in 1984 and has remained in print ever since. He became a full-time writer in 1986.

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SF Site Review: Stormrider

The master of heroic fantasy, David Gemmell, has been honing his sword and flexing his formidable writing muscles once more. This time, in Stormrider, he brings the much loved Rigante series to a resounding conclusion.

Over the last eighteen years, Gemmell has brought us more than twenty five tales of courage and guts and, fortunately, he's found that his own personality has helped maintain the blistering pace. 'When I was young, I was arrested several times and once sent for reports,' he explains. 'The psychologist said I was a psychopath. I found this mildly alarming. He pointed out that it didn't have to be a bad thing. I can be utterly single minded and screen out everything in order to complete a task. That's why I've never missed a deadline. If I say a book will be ready by October, it will be ready by October.'

Gemmell's single mindedness also extends to his desire to improve his writing techniques. 'I use tough test readers who keep me on my toes' he says. 'They'll send back sections, criticise style and generally ensure the standard remains solid. I once had a test reader comeback to me and say: "Are you just writing for the money now? These four chapters are really crap." I rewrote them.'

Stormrider, his new release, exemplifies these standards. The sequel to Ravenheart, Stormrider finds the Rigante clansman in the north, free from the black-hearted Moidart's oppressive rule. In the Druagh mountains, the magic flourishes with each brilliant victory won by the outlaw leader known as Ravenheart. To the south, the land lies steeped in blood as civil war rips armies apart. As the destruction creeps north, Ravenheart waits, believing the hated Moidart armies will come, led by the brutal ruler's only son, Stormrider. Their meeting will be more pivotal than either had expected, for shattering secrets and the vengeance of an ancient evil will influence the destinies of them all.

'Originally Ravenheart was scheduled to complete the Rigante series,' says Gemmell, 'but the story began to run away with itself and I realised I would have to allow it to spread to two novels. It's one of the problems of not planning out a story in minute detail. I just put my fingers to the keys and type, then wait to see where the story will take me. Mostly -- even when I'm 30,000 words in -- I have no idea how the story will end.' He may have no idea about the ending, but Gemmell always weaves his trademark guts and gore into his books somewhere. Their inclusion is something he's insistent upon for very good reasons. 'I went to Disney World recently. All around me there were actors in cute, cuddly costumes. Down on a lake, beside a ride called Splash Mountain, was a mother duck with around eight ducklings. She caught my eye because she was chasing a tall, crane-like bird and flapping her wings furiously. As I looked I realised the crane had a duckling in its beak. The mother duck could do nothing about it, and the crane ate the duckling. Real life in Disney World. Nature, as they say, is red in tooth and claw. If you write about warriors you write about blood, violence and death. You can't have one without the other. Unless you want to sanitise the whole grisly business.'

Courage and heroism are two other themes that are always reflected in his work. They are timeless principles to include. 'The hero is just about the only worthwhile member of society. I'm not talking here about axe wielding warriors, but about people who take the tough path in life. The man [or woman] who witnesses an injustice and fights against it. The person who doesn't say: "Well, there's nothing I can do about it." The carers who sacrifice their independence to look after infirm relatives. The volunteers who risk their lives by working in the world's trouble spots. Acts of courage are always spiritually uplifting and inspirational. Self preservation is natural to us, and constantly seeks to make cowards of us all. Heroes remind us of what we can be if we find the courage.'

(This interview first appeared on Sci Fi Channel Europe.)

Copyright © 2005 by Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for The Third Alternative and Interzone magazines and a combination of all the above for The Alien Online. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.


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