David Gemmell interview: Oct 2002

[This interview also appeared on lycos.co.uk/punchbag/]

1)Recently you had a quote appear on the debut novel of Ian Graham (Monument) How were you persuaded to review Ian’s work and why did you give this quote?

I first met Ian at a writer’s workshop in Norfolk. Having seen samples of his work I realised immediately he had a rare talent and I urged him to write a novel. The first draft of Monument had some magnificent sections, but was like a bag of pearls without a string. He reworked it. Some years later I was able to introduce him to Tim Holman, the sf/fantasy editor at Orbit. Tim also saw Ian’s potential and commissioned him to write Monument. When it was finished I asked for a copy of the galley proofs to be sent to me, so that I could offer an author quote.

2)What do you do to relax?

I write. I play computer games. I watch movies.

3)How have your hobbies assisted you in your work?

I’m not sure they have. But then its difficult to assess. There is no output without input, so I guess watching movies gives me a feel for what kind of storytelling appeals to modern audiences.

4)You’ve mentioned previously how you hate being interviewed by people who don’t know anything about your work, when you consider the wide range of things possible in the Science-Fiction/Fantasy genre. How would you personally define your work against other authors?

I don’t try to define it. My style was influenced by Louis Lamour, Tolkien, Henry Kuttner, Fritz Leiber and Robert E Howard. I like the spartan style of story telling, keeping descriptive prose to a minimum, and making the reader work a little. I rarely read now – though I’ve just started Dawnthief by James Barclay, which I’m enjoying immensely.

5)When you’re in a book shop do you ever have a peak to see who’s browsing your work and if so how often are you recognised?

The short answer is no. Occasionally I see someone pick up a book of mine. If they walk with it to the cash desk I usually ask them if they want me to sign it. I love the looks of surprise on their faces.

6)If someone was to enter a shop where you were, how would you persuade them to consider one of your novels over someone else (not assuming that the Doorman in you comes out) and how would you persuade them that your work is different to other authors?

I wouldn’t. Most authors work bloody hard to finish a novel. They deserve an even playing field when it comes to the shelves.

7)With White Wolf being rumoured to contain the first published map of the Drenai world did you initially have a rough design for your world or just make it up as you went along? In addition to this is there any truth in the rumour and have you based it upon any fan’s map that’s available?

I made it up as I went along. And yes, the map we are using for White Wolf was created by Dale Rippke, an American reader.

8)Out of the characters that appear in your work do you have a singular favourite and please explain your answer?

Druss the Legend. He was the first of my super heroes, if you like. I love the old man to pieces. Actually, having just written that, I now realise that Druss at his oldest is only five years older than me. Damn! When I created him I was just 27. He seemed ancient then. Before much longer he’s going to seem young and carefree. Where the Hell does the time go?

9)Upon completion of your debut novel what did you do, if anything, to celebrate?

Damned if I can remember. Probably got drunk on vodka. I did a lot of vodka back in the Eighties.

10)What, if anything, do you do to put yourself in the mood to write?

I switch on the computer. I am always in the mood to write.

11)How do you feel that people have responded to your work?

It’s a good feeling. I have always believed that story tellers have a duty to inspire people to be the best they can be. One of my fans wrote to me once telling me that he’d just finished a book of mine and was out walking his dog when he saw two men attacking a woman. Instinctively he charged in and the men ran away. He said he didn’t think he would have reacted in quite that way if he hadnt just finished reading a book about heroes.

12)How do you view feedback to your work and how do you react to negative input?

There’s always going to be negative input. There will always be people who think an author’s work is crap, or juvenile, or right/left wing. You just have to shrug and ignore it. People take great delight in knocking Jeffrey Archer’s work. I thought Kane and Abel was a great piece of story telling, fast paced, well characterised and utterly compelling. When Wuthering Heights was first published reviewers slammed it. In the end the only judgement worth a damn is whether a book appeals on a wide level. Because if it doesn’t it goes out of print. Then nobody reads it.

13)You mentioned in your last book tour (Stormrider) about being knocked back a few times with your work but kept plugging away until you finally made it. How did you go about dealing with not only the criticism but also go about getting yourself published in the first place?

Louis Lamour once said writing was like gold mining. You have to dig through a million tons of dirt before you hit the yellow stuff. That’s true. I quit quite a few times back in the early days. I wrote my first novel when I was 21. I didn’t publish until I was 35. Which shows the amount of dirt I had to dig through.

14)What advice would you give to debut novelists to encourage them?

Anyone who needs constant encouragement just isn’t going to make it. You need stamina, self belief, and a dogged obstinacy. It also helps to have a thick skin and an ego that makes Everest look like a pimple on a sheep’s bum.