As some of you are aware, earlier this month I attended the World Fantasy Convention here in Toronto and had the opportunity to meet some great people, and interview a few authors. My other interviews have all been posted at this point.
Patrick Rothfuss, best-selling author of the Kingkiller Chronicles (The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear, and the forthcoming The Doors of Stone), was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time and answer some of my questions.
So, without further ado, here’s my last (but not least), interview from the convention.
For convenience, P = Patrick Rothfuss and R = Rebecca (myself).
R: Thank you, Pat, for doing this… So, you’re a popular guy, and pretty recognizable, with the beard and hair and all. But is it odd having people recognize you when you go places?
P: When it’s at a convention, it’s not that odd. Because I know they’ve read my book, or seen an episode of Story Board. [Watch the latest episode of Story Board HERE].
A weird thing did happen to me recently when I was at a book store. Someone looked at me and said “You’re Patrick Rothfuss!” then he said “I haven’t read your books, but I saw you on Story Board. I listen to these podcasts that you’re on.” I was surprised because typically if someone recognizes me, it’s from my books. This guy recognized me for other things that I do for fun. That was a little odd.
R: That’s probably going to take a bit of getting used to.
P: Yeah, but I think that was a little bit of an anomaly. Most people know me from my books and my blog.
R: So yeah, you have your much-anticipated conclusion to the Kingkiller Chronicles, now what are you going to do after that? What’s next for you?
P: I actually have a novel that I stumbled into, I was trying to write a novella that I promised someone years ago, and it got longer and longer until I realized that it’s really going to be a short novel. So that will be coming out eventually, after I finish it and polish it up.
I also have some ideas for some short stories that could be a lot of fun to write. Some urban fantasy, some sex and violence and all that kind of stuff.
R: About sex, I noticed a lot of people commented on that in your second book…
P. Yeah, some people especially are strange about sex. And you are from Toronto?
P: Now, out of curiosity… In America, we have a real problem with sex. You know, it’s weird. Are people like that up here?
R: I would have to say that it varies from community to community. Most people I know are just like “Yeah, sex… whatever, that’s cool.”
P: Okay, I do have to ask, have you read the second book?
R: Yes, I have.
P: Okay, so what was your opinion about the sex?
R: Well, with how you spoke of Felurian, it’s really just what fitted with what you wrote of her in the past. And it wasn’t overdone… Like, it could have been like the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones.
P: <Laughter!> Right, yeah. Nothing approaching that. And the rest of it in the book? Did you find it at all off-putting?
R: I was completely fine with it. But at the same time, I can understand that if it was a younger reader they might not be so comfortable with reading that, and their parents may not be fine with it either…
P: Right, although, given that, I start thinking, at what point are they considered young readers? A sixteen-year-old is going to run into worse language, violence, and sex like on network television than in my book.
It’s weird. People get unfairly twitchy about sex. And truthfully, Kvothe kills like 30 people in this book. Some of them horrifically. And not one person has ever said: “This is really horrible.” If they said that, I’d have to say, “Yeah, it really is.” It lets you know that he’s not all sunshine and moonlight, fluffy bunnies and confetti. There’s some dark stuff to this character.
But nobody says that. Ever. No one has ever emailed me, or in a conversation or interview has said “This is a little dark, y’know, with all the killing, ” but he has healthy, enthusiastic consensual sex with a couple of women and people have a spasm. I mean, how is that horrible?
R: It isn’t… Like sex is perfectly natural, and then you have killing which is illegal and horrible.
R: But they’re just like “Ah, that’s alright. It’s just killing… Sex, though? Hell no.”
P: Yeah. It’s okay that you killed those folks, Kvothe. We’ll give you a pass on that. But watch out with the tongue kissing, because that’s evil.
R: Ah yes, it’s dangerous stuff.
P: Yes, it’s dangerous. Lord knows what would happen if we kissed people instead of killing them.
R: I don’t suppose you know at all about the release date of book 3?
P: There is no pub date. As soon as we do have something, I will blow a trumpet and announce it on the blog.
R: Alright, cause I have a post on anticipated fantasy novels of 2013, and I was hesitant about adding it on there.
P: I would be surprised if it came out in 2013. I would have to rush things, and I really don’t want to rush.
R: Yeah, it’s better to take the time it needs to make it the story it should be.
P: I really want it to be perfect.
R: Makes sense, I just thought I’d ask! Also – I don’t suppose there are any hints or anything I can tell my readers?
P: <Deep ominous voice> Everyone dies! <Laughs> No, I don’t go in for spoilers.
R: I had to ask… So, what do you find to be the most challenging thing about being a writer?
P: Juggling the time for writing with the time I want spend doing other things. I run my charity, and I love it and I think it does some good in the world, but it takes a lot of time…
Conventions that take a lot of time, but I like meeting my fans. Short stories take time, and there’s my son… You know, I want to hang out with my son and play with him, and that takes time… and together it’s too much time. So where do I get the extra time? Do I stop sleeping? Stop playing with my son? What do I do? Go to fewer conventions? It’s my job, in some ways to go to these conventions. So that’s the hardest part.
R: And can you tell us a little bit about your charity?
(Note: Pat’s Worldbuilders’ charity ended January 21st. If you didn’t get a chance to participate; there is always next year!)
P: I talk about it at no small length online, it will probably be live by the time you post this interview. [Please check out Pat’s post about the Worldbuilders’ Charity: http://blog.patrickrothfuss.com/2012/11/worldbuilders-2012/ ]
Here’s how it works. People donate books. Authors, publishers, bookstores and fans, then we use the books as donation incentives to get people to donate to Heifer International
We also run a lot of auctions. My agent is doing a critique for 100 pages of a novel. So you win the auction for that, you get a real professional piece of advice about a section of your unpublished manuscript. Some authors are offering tuckerizations like cameo appearances in their upcoming books. Ernie Cline and Mary Robinette Kowal are doing that – you come in, you bid on it and you have a chance of being part of their books.
I’m doing one too for Book 3.
R: Oh, that’s awesome!
P: So, we’ll probably do one auction, and one will go into the general lottery – where anyone can win that one. All you have to do is pitch in $10 for Worldbuilders and you have a chance.
R: I think that’s definitely something I’m going to have to do.
P: Well, if you kick in $20 you have twice as many chances. And Worldbuilders will also match a portion of all donations made, so your $10, $20 actually works for more than that. And there’s a bunch of other stuff.
There are a ton of great authors involved, too. Neil Gaiman has donated some books; there’s a limited first edition copy of Stardust, like it’s actually earlier than first edition, it’s an ARC copy in a slip case, numbered and signed by Neil. That’s going into the general lottery.
R: Okay, That’s really cool. I think I will have to participate in that. And a bit of a topic change, but you’ve mentioned in the past that you don’t believe in writer’s block. So, what about times when you have trouble transitioning words from your mind to the page?
P: Sometimes it’s hard to write, that’s undeniable. But I think to call it writer’s block is a little unfair. No matter what your job is, some days you wake up and it’s hard to do your job. If you’re a teacher, sometimes the thought of getting up in front of your class is exhausting, or in customer service the thought of being polite to someone is just tough. If you do manual labour, sometimes you’re tired, hung over or whatever… or sometimes you pull a muscle, and it’s not just hard, you almost have an impediment from you doing your job.
But nobody calls that “construction workers block.” It’s not treated as some sort of mythic affliction.
Similarly, a writer can pull a muscle in their head. You can have traumatic events, have someone die, you go through a break-up, or someone cuts you off in traffic and it just pisses you off. That can effectively get your head into such a place that writing is extremely difficult. Part of being a professional writer is learning to manage those elements of your life so that you can still be a productive writer.
R: Alright, thank you! Let’s see… Who are your favourite authors?
P: Neil Gaiman, obviously… Terry Pratchett is brilliant. I really enjoy Brandon Sanderson. I love the Dresden Files, the Jim Butcher books, and I just picked up Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey… Blew me out of the water. I can’t believe it’s taken me a couple years to find that book – it’s so much fun, and he’s written like four of them.
I also just read Myke Cole’s first book Control Point, it’s military fantasy, and that’s not my cup of tea, but it’s not *just* military. It has really interesting characters, an interesting world and magic, and it’s great. I love it. It’s not a book you have to be into military stuff to enjoy. It’s just a great book.
R: Yeah, I got Sandman Slim in the big bag of books we got. I’ll be sure to read it. Now, speaking of fantasy, are there any books you’d recommend as a starter book for readers new to the genre?
P: Stardust, maybe Neverwhere for Neil Gaiman is probably where I’d start people.
R: Thanks, because I know there are some readers of my blog who don’t really read much fantasy, and I think knowing a book that would be a good introduction to the genre would be beneficial.. I do reviews, and I’m always reviewing fantasy.. But having something where they can be like “Oh! So this a good one to start with…” and actually get them more into the genre is something I feel would be a good thing. And similarly, is there any advice you can give to aspiring authors?
P: My best advice is the advice that people will find the least satisfying. Live somewhere cheap.. If you’re working full-time job just to pay your rent, you’ll be exhausted and won’t have much time to write. I live in Central Wisconsin, which means I was able to work short hours at crap jobs which gave me enough time to work on my books.
You should also invest on an reliable power supply for your computer, if the power flickers and you lose the last 4 hours of your writing, it’s infuriating. You should back-up your files regularly, you should read a lot – including things outside your genre. It gives your work a breadth it wouldn’t possess otherwise.
You should have a lot of good experiences in your life. Sitting at home all the time reading and writing is not awful, but go hiking, have disastrous relationships, go to the sort of parties that people end up kissing each other.. Because you know, those are useful experiences. They will lead to you being a more experienced human being, and the more you experience in life, the more you have to draw from in your writing.
I’m not saying go hiking then write a story about it. I’m saying that if you go hiking, you’re able to draw from that very small experience and hopefully extrapolate what it’d be like to be a member of the roman legion, walking 20 miles in a day with your heavy pack and armour. But if you’ve never walked a mile, you can’t draw from that experience. If you’ve never carried a pack you can’t draw from that experience. You can’t write a relationship book if you’ve never had a relationship. You can’t write about people fighting if you’ve never had an argument. So diversify your experiences. You can’t help but be a better writer.
R: Though, obviously it has its limits… You can’t practise magic and call forth lightning… But the motions, doing something exhilarating… if you don’t know what the feeling feels like, you can’t write about it.
P: Yeah, and even though you might not be able to do magic, maybe you know what it’s like to bluff someone in a game of cards, give a back-rub, read a story and feel incredibly excited and alive. Those are the emotions you can draw from, and relate to things in your books. You don’t have to kill someone with a sword to know what regret is.
You know, It’s probably a good idea to not experience certain things just to write about them.
R: I can’t imagine police or anyone would be happy if you killed someone with a sword, and your reasoning was “I’m a writer?”
P: “Pat Rothfuss told me to.” No, that is not acceptable… I did not actually say that.
R: Aw… Way to ruin my fun. Also, one last thing… What’s your opinion on the transition from book to movie?
P: Different medium are required for different types of stories. The best you can really hope for is a good adaptation. And if you get that you’ll be lucky.. If you look at the best movies made out of books, they typically diverge pretty wildly. Like Fight Club is a great movie, and it’s a great book and they’re related, but they’re not a direct one-to-one.
Harry Potter on the other hand stays pretty faithful to the books, and they’re good, but I don’t think they’re *great* movies. They’re not great unto themselves.
It’s dangerous, and I’m not eager at the thought of my stuff being put onto the screen.. It’s an exciting thought, it would be cool, but my books are not movie-shaped, so it makes me anxious – the thought of someone trying to put it into a Hollywood movie. It could be a disaster.
R: How about a TV series?
P: TV Series might be a little bit better, but again the writing and story is very important, it’d have to character driven, and most fantasy is action-driven. There’s not a lot of people that could pull off that good character-centred story. I would let Joss Whedon do it… I trust him, and maybe a few others, but it’s really dangerous.. I would much rather wait for the right time/place, rather than just trying to cash out.
R: Especially because Hollywood goes for the well-known, but there aren’t many that suit Kvothe, and they don’t tend to cast unknowns…
Alright, and one last question! If you were a flavour of ice cream, what flavour would you be?
P: Someone told me they asked a group of 5th graders this question, and it started out simple. Though, as it went through the room, people started being more and more experimental… Like lightning flavour ice cream, and once the kids saw that you could do something like that, it went crazy…
And by the time they got to the last kid he was just like “Death and thunder flavour ice cream!”
So that’s what I’m going to go with. I’m Death and Thunder ice cream.
R: I imagine that might be quite a bit different than Death by Chocolate Ice cream. It would be interesting… Anyways, Thank you Pat!
P: Thanks for having me.
I included a few links in this post to Pat’s charity/fundraiser.. And I do urge you to check them out. As he mentioned, there are many great benefits and potential prizes for donating, and it does support a good cause.
Heifer International is working to end both hunger and poverty, working with communities and caring for the Earth. I do recommend checking out their website and finding out more about them [http://www.heifer.org/]
As well, the WorldBuilders team page for donating can be found here.
It was great to meet Patrick, he’s an absolutely fantastic guy, and interesting to chat with. If you get the chance to meet him, I recommend trying to get one of his hugs!
- 10 Things Kvothe Absolutely Needs to Do in Day 3 of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles Books (io9.com)
- Fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss raises more than $1 million for Heifer International (denverpost.com)
- Patrick Rothfuss: The Start of My Journey To Becoming a Published Author (tor.com)
- Neverland’s Library Fantasy Anthology: Call for Submissions (wordpress.com)
- Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss Duel Through Book Signatures (tor.com)