Ken Šols je trenutno ono što je pre nekoliko godina bio Brendon Sanderson. Izvanredan (relativno) mlad pisac, koji tek sada postaje poznat široj publici. Na "Bukspejsu" možete da pročitate moje prikaze prva dva njegova romana u serijalu Psalms of Isac. Treći roman trebalo bi ubrzo da se pojavi za Tor, kao i dve zbirke priča za drugog izdavača. Ken je bio veoma ljubazan, pa je za "Bukspejs" dao ovaj opširan intervju. Uživajte.
NF: It seems to me that the best way to start a conversation with an author is to ask him about his favorite works and role-models. So, what made you want to write? Do you have a favorite book? Can you point at some book and say "This one changed my life"?
KS: I've had a lot of influences and they've all been pretty life-changing in their own way. Initially, I came to love Story via television -- TV shows like Speed Racer, Star Blazers, Marine Boy, Thundarr the Barbarian, Land of the Lost, Land of the Giants, Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Time Tunnel, Space 1999 and UFO. Tons more.
In the second grade, I discovered books and comic books and devoured all I could find. My biggest influence as a kid was probably Ray Bradbury and my favorite of his books is Something Wicked This Way Comes. Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising and Tolkien's The Hobbit are also early favorites. But for awhile my favorites were Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Louis L'Amour, Stephen King, Ian Fleming and a pantheon of others.
In later years, I added role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons to my list of places to find Story and I also had a deep love of movies -- Star Wars being the biggest life changer for me, though Planet of the Apes, Silent Running, Logan's Run and The Wrath of Khan were all influences, too.
I decided I wanted to be a writer when I read Bradbury's essay "How to Keep and Feed a Muse" when I was twelve or thirteen.
NF: Another frequent question is: How did you got published? Was it hard? What does it mean to be a published author in this economy? Did it make your life easier?
KS: Well, I was published the same way most people are. I wrote, revised what I wrote and submitted the work to paying markets. Initially, I started with short stories and broke in through magazines and anthologies. I also participated in (and won) the Writers of the Future contest, which I highly recommend. I had been published as a short story writer for nearly a decade before my first novel came out.
It was definitely hard work -- it took a level of stubborn tenacity along with a willingness to learn my craft by practicing. I think getting published is typically hard work for anyone, regardless of the economy.
It enriched my life and certainly the books have augmented my family's revenue but I wouldn't say it necessarily made my life easier. In some ways, the extra workload made my life harder. But it's very satisfying to tell stories people love, I get to meet some amazingly talented writers and hang out with them, I get to travel a little to promote the work and right now, the extra revenue is helping me take care of my baby girls.
NF: I am infamous for not reading short stories. But then I ran into "The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics" by Daniel Abraham. Some time after I've read your second novel, Tor put on its website your short story "A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon". Once again, I was forced to reconsider my attitude towards stories. I've enjoyed it a great dead. My question is: Do you think that short stories are important to authors as a way to build up experience that will serve them in writing novels? What about market for stories? Does it exist outside anthologies? Does it exist for the stories that are happening outside universes established in novels?
KS: I'm glad you enjoyed "A Weeping Czar...."
In my case, I absolutely believe writing short stories is where I learned what I needed to learn in order to tackle something longer. By spending a decade on short fiction, when I did finally tackle a novel, I wrote one that was actually publishable straight out of the gate. That wouldn't have happened without all those years learning to tell a story in a smaller box. But do I think it's a prescription for all writers? Not necessarily. Some writers are more comfortable in the long form and struggle writing anything short. My heroes all came to publishing via short fiction so I wanted the same path for myself.
Also, my series was born out of a short story that appeared in Realms of Fantasy. So for me, short fiction is like a Research and Development Department for future novels.
The markets will always be there, I suspect, both in anthologies, magazines, websites, collections. But short stories are not terribly lucrative and rarely stay in print for long. More readers are interested in novels.
My short fiction is fairly wide-ranging and I like that. I have stories that fall more under SF, some more under fantasy or magic realism. I've taken a turn at some alternate and/or secret histories as well as playing with mythology and characters from literature.
NF: Do you yourself read short stories or do you prefer longer form?
KS: I like both and lean more towards short fiction these days only because of time constraints. But I also read a lot of non-fiction.
NF: I greatly enjoyed your novels - second more than the first. They felt very different than most of the fantasy out there. For one, you have made it known almost from the start that the world of Psalms of Isac is in fact our own world, after several technological and magical world wars. That's the approach made famous by Terry Brooks and Michael Moorcock among others. Were you influenced by Shanara series in any way?
KS: I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the books and I'm also glad that my second novel is better than my first -- it means I'm growing as a writer, I think.
Actually, to be honest, I've not made it known that it's our world though readers are certainly speculating. I drop more hints as the series progresses as to what's really going on. I enjoyed Shanara but haven't read beyond the first book. I'm also a big fan of the Elric series.
NF: You have presented the world and main characters only in broad strokes, leaving to the reader a lot of blanks to fill. In my review of your novels I compared your prose to a kind of fantasy haiku. Was that intentional? Did you wanted to somehow stand aside from the complicated world building of Martin, Jordan and Erikson? Or was it just that the story lead you to that kind of writing?
KS: It was definitely intentional. I wanted to tell a story that would be more accessible to people outside the genre and liked Elmore Leonard's advice about leaving everything out that isn't story. So I kept the wordcount lower than traditional fantasies and used short scenes and several POV characters to keep readers moving forward at a quick pace, never in any one character's head too long. I do leave a lot to the reader's imagination and don't spend a lot of time on explaining the intricacies of the world. I try to keep the focus on the characters. I've seen some criticism from fans of more traditional work for the brevity of the scenes and the scarcity of detail but I've also gotten some nice letters and reviews praising this approach. I'm going to stay fairly true to that approach at least through this series. Afterwards, I may tackle a more robust, more traditional epic fantasy.
NF: About that, when you write, do you plan ahead or do you just let it go and follow the story as it unfolds?
KS: It's a combination of both. I usually have the sense of the bones of a story when I sit down to write it but exactly how the meat and muscle hang from those bones develops organically as I write. And sometimes, those bones change as I'm moving forward. I don't typically outline or work from notes. I just sit and think and write, sit and think and write.
NF: Now, it may be just my imagination, but the world of Psalms of Isac reminds me terribly of Balkans. Insane mixture of oriental and western motifs - from Rudolfo's nomadic Gypsies to the quasi-Roman Catholic-like Androfrancine Order - it all reminds me of the invisible border between East and West that runs a few miles from the place that I am sitting right now. My question is: Most anglo-american writers seem to be inspired by Nordic mythology or by Far East - when they are writing fantasy, at least. How did you come to a decision to create a world that is so mixed up? What was your inspiration? How does inspiration work, anyway? Do you read, go to the museum, surf the internet to mine for ideas?
KS: Well, I'm a history major and it seemed that a composite of humanity's various cultures and societies would be a good starting place, but again, I didn't spend a lot of energy or time creating the Named Lands. I largely pulled from that background instinctively.
As to inspiration -- I draw it in from all around me. Sometimes books, sometimes movies, sometimes history, sometimes experience. It all goes into my subconscious and it's rarely an intentional process. Everything I take in sort of bubbles below the surface and then shows up when I need it. I never struggle to find ideas...they're all around me. The tricky part is spinning them from nebulous amalgamation of ideas into a finished novel.
NF: Most people here think that the author's life is filled with kind of lazy glamour. You work at home, have a lot money, go on conventions, tours, signings... Is that true? You will soon have three books in print. Is that enough for you to live on comfortably? Did the economic downturn had any impact on publishing industry?
KS: I think the economic downturn definitely impacted my hardcover sales. Paperback sales are too early to tell. But I was a relatively unknown author releasing a debut novel that was first in a series and in the midst of a terrible time in the economy. I'm certain all of these things have been factors. Still, the books aren't selling poorly and this year, Lamentation is coming out in France, Spain, Russia and Germany.
I suppose some authors' lives are filled with cash and glamour. In a few months, I'll have three novels out with Tor and two of them will be in paperback. I'll also have two short story collections out with Fairwood Press. I'm not anywhere close to being able to live comfortably on the revenue generated so far. I have a dayjob that keeps my bills paid. Someday, sales willing, I'll be able to live off the writing but that day is a ways off.
I do get out for a short tour each time a book comes out and those are a lot of fun, though they wear me out. I also get out to a few conventions each year but that's been cut back quite a bit with the birth of my twin daughters.
My normal routine right now is to get up around 3am, ride my exercise bike for about twenty-five minutes while I look over email and news, then drink coffee and write until it's time to get ready for my dayjob. I leave for work at 6am; I get home at 5pm. And then, I'm back to work for another hour or two on more writing before grabbing an hour with my family and going to bed around 8pm to start it over.
NF: Do you have any advice for the young writers who want to get published? Anything you wish to add?
KS: Absolutely! Write a lot. Finish what you write. Revise as best you can and send it to market. Then get on to the next writing project. Make friends who are ahead of you and behind you on the learning curve and learn in a community. Take advantage of conventions and of contests like Writers of the Future. Be persistent. Set performance goals you can reach (like writing one short story per month or writing so many words per morning) and then reach them.
Thanks for having me on, Ivan. I hope you continue to enjoy the series!