David Gemmell interview: March 2003

1) At times all authors have trouble coming up with with new ideas how do you combat this problem?

The only time I suffer from lack of ideas is when I quit smoking. It is more than irritating. Recently I quit for a month, and not only could I not write I didn’t even know how to write. I would sit and look at the screen, reading what I had written before quitting, and think: ‘Coo, that’s clever. Wonder how he did that.’ By the time I went – reluctantly – back to the Bensons they tasted like shit and stank the house out. But I was writing again.

2) After an unsuccessful book or a book that many fans thought was a let down such as Ironhands Daughter how do you bounce back?

Stories are living things, like people. Some you like, some you don’t. I figure that if I do my fans the courtesy of giving a novel every ounce of energy, passion and belief that I possess then they’ll forgive me if an individual tale doesn’t appeal to them. In my experience readers tend to go off authors when the writers start churning out poorly written, cliche ridden novels. As long as the author cares enough about his readers to give them the best he can they’ll stick by him/her.

3) White Wolf is sited as Book One of the Damned, how is the next part of novel going to keep the reader enthralled and how many books will there be?

I haven’t a clue. I am 20,000 words into White Wolf 2 – provisionally titled The Swords of Night and Day – and I am having big fun. How the story will pan out, and whether there will be another Skilgannon I just don’t know. That’s part of the joy of this job.

4) With the successful completion of White Wolf whats the next project that your working on?

After White Wolf 2 I am intending to write a big story loosely based on the Siege of Troy.

5) If you were given the funding to make one of your books into a film, with total control in your hands, which would it be?

Legend. It will always be my favourite and it has great cinematic qualities, in that the plot is centred on a giant fortress and a handful of heroes. However I wouldn’t want total control. Giving an author total control would probably spell disaster at the box office. Hells Bells, does anyone remember what happened when Stephen King was given total control?

6) When you’ve spent hard months working on a novel have you ever gone back and read your work and have you ever been able to enjoy it?

I don’t go back and re-read. I once had to proof read the US version of Legend. All I wanted to do was edit and re-write. There are so many klunky moments and clumsy sentences. It holds its place in people’s hearts because of the sheer energy, passion and love that went into it. But as a piece of writing it appals me.

7) Over the years you’ve written tales in the Drenai world centred around the Drenai as the key people, White Wolf appears to be based entirely in another culture with a couple of Drenai as the featuring characters, are there going to be any based on some of the other peoples such as the Chiatze or the Sathuli? If so, Who and when will we see it?

Beats me! I never know too far ahead what I am going to write. I only wrote White Wolf because I had an email from someone in marketing at Transworld with the address S.Kilgannon. I looked at it and thought: Skilgannon – that’s a cool name for a hero.

8) Pagan/Kataskicana is a memorable character, have you ever thought about writing a novel based around Pagan or even just around the Opal Coast?

I originally wrote Pagan as a character after a young fan of Legend said to me: ‘I love your books, mate. You know where its at.’ I asked him what he meant. He looked at me and smiled and said: ‘No spades in Legend.’ That was a watershed for me. Not until then did I realise what a responsibility an author has. As well as entertaining readers we need to raise awareness and battle the idiocies and evils of prejudice in all its forms.

9) In talks that you’ve previously given you’ve mentioned that all your books are based in the same world at different times, using the biblical phrase of not one stone shall be left upon another as a quote (Shannow Books) how do you keep track on the timelines and also which order do they appear in ie Drenai, Rigante, Ghost King, Shannow)?

With enormous difficulty. Happily I have a team of great test readers and fans, and my partner, Stella, keeps track of such things.

10) From what has been released about white wolf, to many it would appear that Skilgannon would have been worthy of a note in the annals of Drenai History and mentioned in other novels, what drew you to creating a whole new character, previously unmentioned in any book and then not only add him to the Druss chronology but make Druss a part of the novel?

I think there’s a flaw in this argument. Most British readers would know about Richard the Lionheart and Robin Hood, but how many British readers could name, say, five heroes from French history? Or Spanish history. Skilgannon made his name in the east, in the wars surrounding Naashan and the lands of the Angostin, far north near Kydor. Chroniclers of Drenai history would probably never have heard his name.

11) In the Rigante tales there is a very large portion of history missing, such as Bane’s return and the fall of Stone, in-between Midnight Falcon and Ravenheart. Why did you jump forward so far in the series history and do you think you will ever fill in these gaps with another book?

Maybe. I have a soft spot for Bane and it might be that in some future time I will get an idea for a story.

12) If you could re-write someone else’s novel in the same genre as yours, who’s would it be and why?

Oh yeah, does a free mine detector come with that question? You realise if I answered it it would come back to haunt me every time I attended a convention. However, I recently came across a section in a novel that I would love to have edited. I was re-reading Lord of the Rings – my all time favourite book as a child – and I came across the scene where Boromir is killed and Pippin and Merry are taken by the Orcs. With time of the essence and the Orcs disappearing over the horizon Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas take out a little quality time to prepare Boromir for burial. They then compose songs about him which they sing in a canoe. Only then do they take off to rescue their friends. Happily Peter Jackson cut this for the movie.

13) Where did you get your inspiration from for Legend?

Fear of death. I was being tested for cancer, and wrote the story to take my mind off the wait for tests.

14) When writing a book, do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you?

I just go with the flow. Sometimes it works beautifully, sometimes it has me tearing my hair out. I have no plan of action, no story boards. I jusy invent as I go until the story ends. Its more fun that way.

15) Does the theology in the novels represent your own views?

I believe in heroes, and the need for people to stand against evil. I don’t evangelise. I don’t want people saying: ‘Oh yeah, he’s coming from a Christian angle, or a Judaic angle. To use a line, though, from the Bible, I write for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Everyone needs to find their own route to spiritual enlightenment.