|A Feisty Temperament|
An Interview with Raymond E. Feist
|conducted by Sandy Auden|
Fantasy author Raymond E. Feist has a habit of taking his characters and dropping them head first into a world of hurt,
just to see what they will do. Since his first novel, Magician, he's built on this reputation and delivered a steady supply
of High Fantasy ever since -- sometimes alone, sometimes with another author, as in the Empire series
with Janny Wurts. His novel, Talon of the Silver Hawk, sees a return to Midkemia, the setting that evolved
from a computer gaming world. It's these gaming roots that give Feist a pre-existing, logical universe to play in
and logic is something very important to him...
'For fantasy, my universe is pretty mundane,' Feist says. 'By that I mean most of my stories are about non-magic using people, who live in this improbable world. If you're "out there" in fantasy, say the sort of thing Terry Pratchett does, you can ignore certain things. But when you do a book like Rise of a Merchant Prince, which is about the economic underpinnings of warfare, then the society about which you're writing better have an internal logic that's consistent. If magicians are making loaves of bread fall from the sky to feed the troops, that's one thing. If someone's got to buy the wheat, make the flour, put it in sacks and transport it to the front, have ovens built of brick, then bake the bread for the army, that offers up an entirely different bunch of problems. I'm currently writing a story for Robert Silverberg's collection, Legends II, called "The Messenger." It's about a youngster who's simply carrying a message from the Earl of LaMut to his vassals telling them it's time to go home for the winter and all the things he runs afoul of. There would be no story if a magic spell were used or if enchanted carrier pigeons were employed, don't you see? So everything in my universe has to flow from a certain point of departure and the approach to every problem has to have a certain consistency, else I'll get mail from fans going "Are you daft!"'
Inheriting these pre-built universes is not as easy a job as you may think, as Feist reveals: 'I have to add all the detail. At least in the sense that if the history of Midkemia says, "And in that year, the armies of the Emerald Queen sacked Krondor," there's not a lot of detail there. I have to make all that stuff up, which is why I managed to get four novels out of that sentence. What I don't do is re-write the macro history. I already know there were five Riftwars, and what happened after the last one. Again, the details are mine, it's the time frame and general nature of the events that are already established in the gaming universe.' So does he enjoy all this world building? 'Any creative undertaking has certain rewards, even if it's just the sense of accomplishment at the end of the task. But it's work, and anyone who has discovered something that makes them back up and start over because of something they hadn't anticipated, realizes it can be quite a chore at times.'
And just to spice up the creation process even more, Feist also likes to stir in an extra author for some of his novels. 'When you're writing in a collaboration each pair of writers make different choices. With Janny Wurts, there was a lot more back and forth than with Bill Forstchen or Joel Rosenberg, for example. I wrote a lot more first draft with Janny, but I did more rewriting with Bill and Joel. The trick is to talk a lot before you jump in about what it is you want to do. Now, because it's my "sandbox" they have to play by my rules, but on the whole, there are few arguments and mostly just a lot of fun. It's great to peek inside another writer's head and see how they approach a task in contrast to how you'd do it. It also can be humbling as you often find yourself saying, "Damn, now why didn't I think of that?"'
(This interview first appeared on Sci Fi Channel Europe.)
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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