Do you have a writing routine?
Not really. In truth, I’m always writing. Sometimes on the computer, sometimes on random scraps of paper, sometimes in my head whilst pulling weeds or washing the dishes. I think that continuity, the constant percolation of ideas, is more important than being sat at my desk at 9am every day, churning out a thousand words, then clocking off. I can’t work like that. Yes, it’s my job, but I lack the discipline to be able to switch in and out of writing mode to a schedule. As a result, it’s not uncommon for me to do nothing one day apart from a little light editing, and the next day stay up well into the small hours typing furiously to keep up with the words pouring out of me.
So how long does it take you to write the first draft of a book?
There’s no such thing, for me. Or at least, not in the sense that most writers seem to refer to a first draft. I just write, moulding the story as I go. I can’t fix my eyes on the finish line and just bash through, then start again at the beginning with the finessing. It’s a very organic process for me, so a given manuscript is at any one point first draft, final draft, and all the points in between, all at the same time.
Let me add, though, that when I think I am finished, I do sit down and do a final edit, from page one, just to make sure!
Not big on planning, huh?
No. I have an idea of where the story’s going, beginning and end and some key points in between, but mostly it evolves. Occasionally in directions I didn’t expect. I put that down to a normal side-effect of having natural, credible characters. Put them together, get them sparking off each other, and occasionally they will come up with something far more interesting to do than obey the author. The swines.
Do you consider your characters to be real people?
Of course. I have to. Otherwise I’m listening to voices in my head and there’s a special name for people like that.
What about your influences?
Ha! Far too many to list. I’ve loved epic adventure and mythology since I was very small. Ivanhoe, the twelve labours of Hercules, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Beowulf. Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence had a profound impact on me as a kid, as did Alan Garner’s The Stone Quartet. Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy. More recently, I’m a fan of Robert Holdstock, Tad Williams (especially Memory, Sorrow and Thorn), Pat Rothfuss and Joe Abercrombie.
Would you like to see The Wild Hunt made into movies?
Well, I’m waiting on a phone call from Peter Jackson…
Seriously? Yes and no. Yes because I’d love to see if a director could match on film the scope of the story in my head. Yes because I’ve been told I write very visually, and I do “see” the story unfolding like a movie being projected onto the back of my eyeballs – I even see scene changes on paper like scene changes in a film. And no because I don’t want to see a director not match on film the scope of the story in my head.
If someone could decant my brain, squeeze the story out of it and turn it into a movie that exactly matched my vision, I would be ecstatic, but that’s not going to happen, is it?
So I shouldn’t ask you who you think should play Gair in the film of Songs of the Earth then?
Probably not. Besides, I wouldn’t have a clue. It would have to be someone young enough to pass for 22, but not a pretty-boy. Gair’s not a pretty-boy.
Since we’re on the subject of characters, do you have any favourites?
I will always be deeply fond of Aysha. She was the one who could say to your face all the smart comebacks us mere mortals never think of until fifteen minutes after the argument’s been lost. Gair too, obviously – I want to say sorry to him for all the shit I’ve put him through. And Savin, for his wardrobe. There’s something about a man in a deep purple silk shirt…