Monday 16 June 2008

R. Scott Bakker Interview

The Darkness that Comes Before
The Warrior - Prophet

The Thousandfold Thought


Pitch your latest novel.

My latest novel, Neuropath, is a technothriller that explores all the crazy things being discovered in consciousness research.

You are not what you think you are—and that’s a fact.

What are your favourite three books?

For social reasons, Cordelia Fine’s A Mind of its Own: How the Brain Distorts and Deceives. For aesthetic reasons, Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. And for nostalgic reasons, The Lord of the Rings.

What character is most like you?

All of them are bits and pieces of me, even the bastards. But for some weird reason my favourite is Conphas from The Prince of Nothing. He just cracked me up too many times for me not to love him.

If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

Hell no! They have real problems. I bawl like a baby if my pop goes flat.

If you could live in your fantasy/sf world, would you? Would you live in somebody else's?

I would love to live in Hyboria, that is, if I could be Conan. Who wouldn’t want to be Conan? But then, that whole stinky loincloth thing might wear on my nerves after a while...

What was the first novel that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?

The Darkness that Comes Before, which took approximately 20 years from conception to publication.

What was the hardest scene for you to write?

All the Kellhus scenes in The Prince of Nothing were exceedingly difficult. The scene at the end of The Darkness that Comes Before, where he lays the groundwork for his subsequent domination of the Holy War and all its principals—now that was a challenge, as much because of my inexperience as for its complexity, I think.

What is the strangest question you have ever been asked by a fan?

If I would give a seminar to occultists on the breakthroughs I had made in the metaphysics of magic.

What was the most fun book signing, convention, etc. you've attended and why?

It would have to be the World Fantasy Convention in Madison. It was there I had my first chance to meet my long time e-friend and fellow author, Gary Wassner. A whole crew of us held court in the hotel bar and laughed and partied all weekend long. Awesome.

If you still have one, what's your day job? If you don't, how long did it take before you could support yourself only on your writing?

I was actually a student when I was first published. After just a couple of years I was able to start writing full time.

What is your university degree in?

I have a HBA in English Language and Literature, a MA in Theory and Criticism, and I’m was ABD in my Philosophy PhD program, that is, until Vanderbilt University kicked me out.

Do you think it is easier to write fantasy or science fiction?

Science fiction is definitely easier, at least when it’s near future. In fantasy you have to build all your meanings from the ground up. You can’t simply write “New York” and count on the countless associations readers already have regarding that name.

When and where do you write?

At the crack of dawn, then at different times through the day. In my office. At the kitchen table. On the porch as much as possible when the weather permits. And at the café down the street. Whenever distractions seem to be getting the best of me, I pick up and relocate.

What's the best/worst thing about writing?

The best thing, obviously, is that you get to make a living pursuing your passion. The worst thing, not so obviously, is that you get to make a living pursuing your passion. In the real world you implicitly rely on external motivators to get you going, things like a glaring boss or acute embarrassment at an committee meeting. In the writing world, all your motivators are internal. A whole different ballgame. Trust me, there’s a reason why writers tend to be so neurotic!

What is something you didn't know about the publishing industry before you had your fist book published?

That it’s still old-fashioned in so many ways. That there’s still plenty of people willing to take risks, and to publish works not because they will make money, but because they deserve to be published.

Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Keep your day job. Getting to the point where you can make a living writing fiction is a statistical long-shot. You need determination, sure. Talent, maybe. But without luck, you’re not going to go anywhere. I was exceedingly lucky.

Any tips against writers block?

You know how you always seem to remember the name of that actor or director several hours after you were wracking your brain? Most of the brain’s creative work goes on behind the scenes of awareness. The key is to get all that unconscious machinery working for you, not against you, and the best way to accomplish that, I’ve found, is to just sit in front of the damn computer, hour after hour, day after day, without succumbing to distractions (I have no web access on the laptop I use for writing). Put yourself in places/situations where there’s nothing else to do but write. Your unconscious will start towing the line soon enough.

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