Good Reading : July 2001
wordof mouth sciencefiction/fantasy Tad Williams substituted Rome. The House world is based in a sort of conceptual sense on dreams I’ve had, influenced by Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books, but also by a real place near where I grew up called the Winchester Mystery House. I plan to do something else with the House world someday – it actually predated Otherland as an idea, but I sort of threw most of what I had in the mental cupboards into the Otherland pot. All the books have been dedicated to your father, has anyone told him yet? I don’t think so. Dad just doesn’t read fiction, even mine. I am now planning to invite him to one of my local signings, make him stand up in front of people, and then I’ll read out all the dedications. I considered putting his email address in the last volume so people could write to him and make him feel silly, but I’m not all that certain he reads email, either... Who do you read? What is your ultimate desert island top five? Tad Williams, the author of Tailchaser’s Song, the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy (The Drgonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell and Green Angel Tower) and the Otherland series (City of Golden Shadow, River of Blue Fire, Mountain of Black Glass and Sea of Silver Light) recently found time between book tours of England and America to answer some of our questions. How long, conception to finish, has the Otherland story taken to tell? I first had the idea over ten years ago now – I remember mapping it out for my wife Deborah (who was still a publisher then, although no longer mine) in 1992, and I’d been thinking about it for a bit already at that point. The actual writing, as best I can remember, took approximately five years, but would have been a bit swifter if it weren’t for various alarums and excursions of daily life, such as having two kids and moving twice during that time. How Cervantes ever managed to write Don Quixote with all those kids around I don’t know. You’re a better man than I am, Miguel. If you were a member of the Grail Brotherhood, what would your virtual world be like? It would probably be a lot like the book – all of it. I like variety, so I’d probably make myself a bunch of different worlds, historical, fantastical, and some with 24 hour a day virtual childcare. It’s one of the problems I’ve always had with the usual idea of heaven. Playing the harp has got to get boring after a while, even (especially!) when everyone else is doing it too. And how many conversations can you actually have that begin, “Another nice day, eh?” before you go stark staring mad? Did you have a set list of fictional worlds you wanted your characters to visit, and were there any that you didn’t end up using? Was the House world (from the third book) your own creation? 32 No set list – I was influenced in part by not wanting to repeat myself too much (meaning with worlds that were too similar to others already visited.) For instance, in the last volume, readers will see a short section set in imperial Rome. That was originally Atlanta, Georgia about the time of the American Civil War, a la Gone With the Wind, but later on in the book I realised I was going to do a long section set in Dodge City, and I didn’t want two American 19th century simulations in the same book, so I I read a very wide variety of stuff – science fiction and fantasy is a fairly small percentage. I have to read a great deal of non- fiction for research, but I enjoy it, so it’s not a hardship. I read modern fiction, classics, other genres (like thrillers and mysteries). It’s almost easier for me to say who I don’t like than who I do, since any list would mainly be what I’ve read in the last few weeks. My desert island five would be tough. I suspect it would have to include some kind of complete Shakespeare (I know, that’s cheating), The Lord of the Rings, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, and perhaps a Bartlett’s Quotations for snacking on ideas, or a bible, since it’s the great legend-book of western culture, and I’ve never read it properly. When and where do you write? I used to write mostly at night, but the exigencies of parenthood – especially having to fit my writing schedule around our paid childcare – have forced me to a more regular daytime working pattern. My wife and I have a very nice office in our house with a view of the back yard, which includes a very high, redwood- covered hill that rises up starting about thirty feet from the windows and dominates everything. What’s next? I’m working on two projects now, my next novel – a single- volume fantasy called The War of the Flowers – and an online project, Shadowmarch. War starts out in the present, real world, but the main character is drawn into Faerie, which is no longer a rustic place, but a huge, dark, magical city, weirdly modern. The ruling families are named after flowers (Primrose House, Larkspur House) and a dynastic war is brewing – a War of the Flowers. Shadowmarch is going to be an epic-fantasy-in- instalments, not a novel to download, but an ongoing story (sort of like a TV show, I guess) available only on the internet. We’ll have art and background history of the world on the site (www.shadowmarch.com), a message board, and other things, and I’m hoping people will not simply read, but let me know which way they think the story should go. That project launches 1 June, 2001, but the site is already in place. After I finish War of the Flowers, I’m going to do a collection of stories set in Osten Ard (the location of my Memory, Sorrow and Thorn epic fantasy.) What question should I have asked? (And what is the answer?) What do you like about being a writer? Everything except hard disk crashes and having to fly in airplanes (or anything else that goes up in the air, but they seldom send me on book-signing trips by balloon or hang-glider).