Fantasy novelist Gregory S. Close reveals “the easiest thing about writing,” shares his thoughts on coffee vs. tea! (Also, he talks about his novel and why he became a writer and stuff.)
Thomas Weaver (that’s me) interviews Gregory S. Close, author of In Siege of Daylight.
TW: Who is your intended audience? People who always read fantasy? People who usually don’t read fantasy but would like the kind you write?
GSC: Ironically, I was not aiming for lovers of big fat fantasy books, because when I started writing the first real draft I thought that we had enough of those types of books and I was frustrated by some of the BIG EPICS of the 90s. I thought that maybe they could be a little more economical in their storytelling. I was certainly going to be. Then I wrote this beast. Oh well.
I think I was assuming it was geared for those who generally read fantasy, but I wasn’t trying to exclude casual fantasy readers. I assumed that the kind of people who might like it would be people like me. I like adventure and good characters and a deep, believable world (at least believable within context of magic etc.) so that’s what I tried to write.
TW: What were you like at school? Good student? Bored genius? Problem child?
GSC: I was more or less a geek, or nerd, or some similar label for a being living on the periphery of accepted social norms. I liked to quote Monty Python and Star Wars (a lot), and I didn’t dress cool or like the cool music of the day.
TW: Were you good at English?
GSC: I was gooderer than some people. I received a lot of positive encouragement from English teachers throughout the years. I came to understand that I could turn a pretty good phrase here and there, and possessed a decent vocabulary, but I’ll admit to going through various stages of frustration, indignation, condesencion (and finally, acceptance) for the mechanics of it all.
TW: Which writers inspire you? Are there different writers who inspire you in different ways? One for worldbuilding, one for voice and characterization, one for plot/theme?
GSC: Tolkien and Lewis inspired me first, like many in my generation. But Asimov was the first writer that I read fanatically on my own. I haven’t read Asimov in a couple of decades, probably, but I loved him. Post-Asimov, I was influenced by Stephen R. Donaldson (cranky hero, lovely Land), Julian May (multiple POV, fantasy as science fiction), Ursula K. Le Guin (magic!), Lynn Abbey (what – a girl warrior?), Zelazny (multiple realities), George R. R. Martin (plotting/pacing/butchery), Rowling (because fantasy can be whimsical and serious all at once, you don’t have to choose) and I have recently discovered (because I didn’t read enough for a decade) Gaiman and Tad Williams. Gaiman and Williams are something special.
TW: If you can, please give us an insight into your main character.
GSC: That’s a tough one, mostly just because I have to pick a “main” character for a novel with a dozen POV characters (all of them think they are the main character, of course). I’ll go with Calvraign, as his overall arc is the conjoining narrative thread that binds the rest together, more or less.
Calvraign (don’t pronounce the ‘g’) is in many ways the wide-eyed farm boy archetype, but he’s also a very educated wide-eyed farm boy, decent with a sword and fond of sweets. I wanted him to have the likeable qualities of a Luke Skywalker type without all the whining about power converters.
TW: How much research do you do? What kinds of research? Do you think there is such thing as too much research? Why or why not?
GSC: I wrote a good chunk of the book with minimal research and quickly realized that Advanced Dungeons & Dragons did not an expert on feudal society make. Having lived in Ireland, I had a good historical background to build on, but I read a lot of books on topics that ranged from politics to day-to-day life, the construction and administration of castles, the life-cycle of a knight, swordsmanship, horses, tournaments and a great biography of William Marshal (instrumental in fleshing out Osrith). Also, lots and lots of reading about folklore from around the world. Adding tiny bits of folklore (that may or may not actually add to the overall story) really helped flesh out the world the characters lived in.
Oh yes, there is definitely such a thing as too much research! Simple test: if you are spending all of your time researching and never actually writing, then you are missing the point. The STORY should always be paramount. The research just helps with details that will suspend disbelief of the reader so that the STORY may be enjoyed.
TW: Would you ever consider writing a novel in collaboration with someone? Why or why not?
GSC: I’m not philosophically opposed to it, but practically I’m not sure I’d be a good collaborator. I really like the interaction with people discussing things in the book (before, during and after writing) but when it comes to actually getting the words on the page I retreat into netherwhere with my characters. I’m not sure I’d share them well!
TW: Where do your ideas come from? Yay — every author’s most favorite question ever! …Not. But seriously, if you know where your ideas come from, can you tell us a little about that?
GSC: Some ideas come from reading something in the news, or a non-fiction book or article and just putting a spin on it. Or imagining a different take on an established trope or character. But some ideas really come out of nowhere. I have no clue how some of this stuff is generated, it just pops out. It’s actually kind of creepy.
When we moved to Ireland I was about 10. I was deemed too old to begin learning Gaelic, but they had no other place to put me. So, during Gaelic class I would sit and read a fantasy book, while soaking in Gaelic words, phrases and cadence. Most of my ideas came from here, I’m sure, if not most of my screwed up phonetically challenged nomenclature!
TW: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you? (The infamous ‘planner vs. pantser’ controversy.)
GSC: Both. I try to outline the plot in broad terms and fill in what detailed bits I can. Then I create each character I write from the ground up, sort of like an old-school D&D character, complete with a history (much of which is never told or even hinted at) that explains their behavior, motivation and foibles. Then it all goes to crap as the characters and the story evolves. I want to be disciplined enough not to wander aimlessly, but creatively open enough to see how new directions might provide a better story.