David Gemmel interview: August 2004

1) You’ve mentioned that when you wrote Legend originally you foresaw yourself more as Regnak The Wander, Earl of Bronze, now your coming close to Druss’s age, how has the perception changed and are you worried about the portent surrounding the death of Druss (The one where he knew that he would die in his 60th year)?

Portents don’t worry me. Everybody dies sometimes, and death doesn’t scare me. I did think about all this recently when I bought my new house, and named it Dros Delnoch. It is a beautiful place, overlooking a valley, and has four oast towers and a central converted barn. It looks like a fortress, which is why I gave it the name. I said to my wife, Stella, that it might be tempting fate to call it Dros Delnoch, since I am closing on 60 at a rapid rate. She said: ‘Just stay away from the gates around your birthday.’ Good advice, I think.

2) Legend is often sited, by many fans, as their favourite Gemmell novel, why do you think that this is?

Hard to say. It is my favourite. It is certainly the most romantic of all my novels, both in central love story, and the high heroism of the contenders. I guess it was written by a young man, full of ideals and beliefs, who approached the craft of story telling with a wild, barbaric gusto. I look back on that young man with great fondness.

3) You’ve mentioned previously that you’ve wanted to see Waylander done as a Graphic novel, John Bolton has said that he is interested in the project so are we likely to see it happen (or am I going to have to adapt the novel first, lol), if so do you have a project date yet and why was this your particular choice?

No news yet on the graphic novel front. John is very busy, and he is the only British artist I would want to work with.

4) With some authors buying objects as a reminder of their novels (such as Stan Nichols) have you done that and what are you looking forward to getting for the first Troy novel?

Already got it. I bought a Bill Radford sculpted bronze helm. It is the most beautiful piece I ever saw, shaped from a single sheet of bronze. Just looking at it fills me with the need to complete the story.

5) What attracted you to the story of Troy seeing as its been recreated so many times in so many different formats?

I have always nursed a secret yen to write a novel about Troy. I loved the stories when my mother read them to me as a child. Troy was a natural for me when I decided to take a break from pure fantasy and immerse myself in a historical period. Sure it has been done a lot. Some of the tales have been magnificent, some tawdry. I have enjoyed them all. I wanted to find Hektor and Achilles for myself, and to sail the Great Green with Odysseus. I wanted to see a story unfold that offered me the chance to renew my love affair with ancient Greece.

7) With Troy being glossed over in Ghost King and the mention of the Feragh’s interaction, how are you going to be able to avoid the pitfalls such as Culain’s slaying of Achilles and how much tampering can we expect from them? Also with the Feragh possibly making an appearance can we expect the Sipstrassi (those magic gold stones) to also appear or are you trying to steer clear of them?

I am just finished the fifth draft of the first novel, so I don’t have to worry yet about whether Culain will make an appearance. I have always said that all of my novels were linked. That remains true of all the fantasies. Troy is not a fantasy. I may use Culain, or I may try something different. That’s the beauty of this job. It depends on what my creative instincts tell me as I move along.

8) Why write a trilogy around Troy and what are you doing to prevent a rework of a tale that already exists?

The story is way too big for a single novel. The first book deals with only a few of the heroes who will come together in the War at Troy. I wanted the story to have an epic feel, and for the readers to be able to identify with the people on all sides of the conflict. As to a reworking…I cant completely get away from that, since I am using characters created by Homer, and existent only in Homeric legend. There is no other source for Achilles, Odysseus, Priam, Paris and Helen. My version of it, though, will be very different. I hope that my story will talk to readers in the modern day. The attitudes and views expressed by my heroes are not intended to reflect bronze age life, but the problems we face here and now.

9) With so much history for you to delve into in not only the Drenai world but also the Rigante can we hope to see perhaps another Bane novel arrive such as crushing the might of Stone (mentioned in Ravenheart/Stormrider) to make an appearance or are their tales just “whispering” at the moment?

Bane was a favourite, and I may return to him one day. I loved the Rigante and all they stood for. One of the annoying aspects of constant editing and revision is that with Stormrider I lost a really important section, dealing with the nature of being Rigante. I had to cut it at the end and it broke my heart. Some time I’d like to write a story that reinstates it.

10) How have you approached writing Troy, did you approach it in the same way as you did with Lion of Macedon and Dark Prince basing a certain amount on facts or has that hatred of research made an appearance just making it easier to write a fantasy based on some truth?

Nope. All research. Times, places, distances, currents, weather patterns, methods of boatbuilding…. you name it. Despite the fact that I am writing a book about current attitudes I still wanted the basic research to be right. Therefore I needed to know about bronze weapons and armour, methods of transactions in the absence of coinage, and the geographical setups of the ancient kingdoms. The editing has been harder this time, knowing what to cut and what to expand to create a sense of narrative drive and pace.

12) With so many covers for Legend over the years, do you have a favourite and why is it?

My favourite is the black cover with the guy standing in front of a line of skulls. I love it because it replaced a truly dreadful cover with a giant armoured hamster, with an axe stuck in his leg, kneeling before two trick circus horses who could only stand up by leaning against one another.

13) A large number of authors are now exploring the Graphic novel world, (such as GRR Martin) you’ve already ventured into this with the Legend and Wolf in Shadow both appearing, have you had any other offers to serialise other novels, if so which ones and what do you think about the prospect of having a large number of characters making an appearance? Does this also through into the mix that dreaded standard contract clause that states the characters become the property of another “owner”?

No problems with copyright. Just time really. I want to work with John Bolton, who I think is the best around, and he is – as you would expect from the best around – up to his ears in work. I’d like to do either Waylander or Echoes of the Great Song.

14) With Raven Armoury currently designing the Swords of Night and Day, what influenced you to agree to the concept of this and why the change of them from katana’s (as portrayed by John Bolton) to Scimitars?

I agreed to the concept because I love Raven’s work. The original swords of Night and Day were not katanas, but that was the simplest way to portray them on the covers. If they are completed by Raven I think they will be exquisite.