Interview with Brian Staveley
To mark the launch of my debut, When the Heavens Fall, I’m asking five different questions to each of five different authors this week. Yesterday I spoke to Mark Lawrence, and next to stare at me with a mixture of suspicion and dread is Brian Staveley, author of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. Book two in the series, The Providence of Fire, is out now.
Hi Brian, and thanks for dropping in.
1. I always like to break the ice with an easy question. So what’s the one thing about yourself that you’d least like the rest of the world to know? (Don’t worry, we can keep a secret.)
I have a really hard time working – really working, ass in the chair, fingers on the keyboard – for more than two hours at a stretch. This feels preposterously lazy. I try all sorts of things to trick myself into squeezing out an extra hour of focus – turning off the internet, taping insults to the top of my computer screen, etc. My roommate years ago came home to find a sign on the wall to our apt that read: WRITE THE FUCKING BOOK YOU PIECE OF SH!T. Nothing seems to work. Even when I put in a twelve-hour day, that probably boils down to no more than seven or eight hours of real work. Luckily, I’m able to focus and write quickly during those hours. Still, I’ve always been in awe of people who can get it done hour after hour after hour, stopping only to put more coffee in the cup.
It’s lucky your roommate didn’t see that sign and think it was aimed at them.
2. Which of the characters in The Emperor’s Blades was the most fun to write?
I’ve had a great time with the characters who have a sense of humor. Epic fantasy can be so deadly serious – the fate of humanity is always hanging in the balance; there are all these ancient prophecies; people keep dying in horrible ways… My books include all of that stuff, but it’s a relief when someone – one of the characters in the world – looks around and says, “Hey! Why are all you assholes getting so worked up?”
3. I loved the giant birds that the Kettral fly into battle on. Are we going to be seeing more of them in book two?
Absolutely! And I’ve just finished up the concluding volume, The Last Mortal Bond. No spoilers here, but it’s packed with Kettral. Would be a shame, after all, to introduce a giant-hawk-mounted elite fighting force in the first book and then forget all about it. Those birds aren’t cheap to feed, either. If they’re eating one sheep a day, they’ve got to pull their weight…
Sheep? I was kind of hoping there were giant squirrels out there somewhere that they fed on!
4. Now that you’ve finished the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne series, are your thoughts already turning to what comes next? Would you like to write more in the same world, or do something completely different?
I’m almost certainly going to write more in the same world. Stories, even the shortest, are never entirely hermetic. When the characters walk off-stage, they don’t evaporate. Towns that our protagonists pass through in the middle of the night are still there the next morning, even if the reader isn’t reading about them; the inhabitants have their own struggles, their own victories and tragedies. When you write a story the size of most epic trilogies, there are hundreds of these threads, probably thousands. I’d love to explore some of the physical locations that are barely mentioned in this tale, and I’m hoping to devote entire novels to some of the secondary or tertiary characters in this series.
5. What sort of things do you want readers to take away from your books? What do you want them to feel when they finish the last page, aside from a pressing urge to pick up your next book?
I think a writer’s on pretty shaky ground when he tries to tell readers what to make of his books. My take is just my take, and it’s clear to me, from talking to hundreds of readers over the last few years, that these books are alive in different ways for each person who opens the cover. That said, it might be worth mentioning that I write the prologue to each book last, after the whole thing, including most of the editing, is finished. That’s because I’m hoping, with each prologue, to offer a sort of lens through which to look at the rest of the novel, or a key that might unlock certain scenes.
And now a bonus sixth question just for you! You kindly provided a quote for my debut, When the Heavens Fall, that appeared on the front cover of the US edition. Could you please explain to our readers, in no less than TEN THOUSAND WORDS, why you think they should rush out and buy the book right now?
Okay, you don’t really have to answer that one.
Thanks again for the interview!