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Interview:Peter Dickinson on “Troll Blood”

- Tell us a little about “Troll Blood.”

Twenty plus years ago my wife, Robin McKinley, was asked to write a short illustratable story about a mermaid.  She had no ideas so since we were living then in a small English village, we walked down to the village pub to see if we could dream up some kind of a plot over supper.  By the time we’d finished eating we’d come up with half a dozen possibilities, and before we got home we had a grandiose plan to write a sequence of four collections of stories about the mythical creatures if the four elements, each of us contributing three stories per book.  It took longer than we expected as our stories kept (particularly in Robin’s case) turning into full-length novels.  The Water volume took us seven years, and Fire another seven. Then PEGASUS, which she’d started for the Air volume, expanded into a sequel; and .  when it showed signs of becoming a trilogy we decided to bite the bullet and let me publish my Earth and Air stories as a single separate volume, which will be coming out under the auspices of Small Beer Press later this year.  By then TROLL BLOOD must have been sitting in my bottom drawer for several years.

- What was the inspiration for this story, and how did you come to write it?

        I don’t like the word “inspiration”.  Of the fifty-odd books I’ve written I don’t think more than half a dozen began with any kind of “Wow!” moment.  Usually I’ve had a vague feeling that there might be a book there and have sat down at my desk at the regular time of day and written an experimental page or two, and with luck other pages have followed naturally.  I probably did that with TROLL BLOOD — needing to write a story about trolls — there aren’t a lot of usable earth creatures — that phrase slipping into my mind — someone with troll blood in his/her veins — how did it get there? — and we’re off!

- What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?

Read some books.  I don’t remember which ones.  Most of the apparently scholarly stuff about the burnt manuscript I made up.

- Some authors say that their stories are personal to them.  If that’s true for you in this case, then how so?

I don’t understand this question.  I can’t imagine any worthwhile writer being happy about the idea that somebody else could have written one of his/her stories.

- Would you say “Troll Blood” is typical of the kind of story that you write?

Well, I’ve written a good deal of fantasy of various kinds, but a lot of other stuff as well. 

- What are you working on now?

Nothing new.  I’m almost eighty-five and the wells are empty. I’m  currently getting my pre-digital books into a form in which they can be published on-line. 

“Troll Blood” appears in the Sept./Oct. 2012 issue of F&SF.

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