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Entretien exclusif avec L.E. Modesitt, Jr !

Par Gillossen, le lundi 26 juin 2006 à 13:03:53

Interview with L.E. Modesitt, Jr, english version

You are a "big name" in North America, but your books have taken a very long time to be translated here in France. How do you explain that?

I'm not sure that I can. Several French publishers looked at them before Mnémos decided to translate The Magic of Recluce. In what I would call a "quiet way" [une facon sans accentuation?], the Recluce books are quite different from any other fantasies currently being published, and it might be that those French publishers did not wish to take a risk. Even in Great Britain, the British publishers waited five years after the initial U.S. publication before publishing The Magic of Recluce, and the Spanish edition was just published earlier this year. I'm just glad that Mnémos did.

By the way, have you been consulted about the French translation of your work?

No, I was not, but it appears some considerable care went into the translation.

The immensity and scale of the world of Recluce is impressive. Even for a methodical and orderly person as you must be, there must be some difficult passages to negotiate as the story is coming along.

When I'm working on a Recluce book, I have a scale map on the wall next to the computer, and I occasionally need to consult either notes or previous books or my outline of history of the world of Recluce. Even so, most of that world remains in my mind, and much of it seems to return when I start working on another book. I've just finished the fourteenth book [Natural Ordermage], and am beginning the fifteenth.

For an accomplished author as you are, what is the most straining thing, with this epic Fantasy?

The most difficult part of writing a "new" Recluce book is to show another aspect of the world, as well as to create a main character who displays different traits in his approach to life and its difficulties. Some readers have noted that most of my characters "learn" something new, and c'est si vrai... but I'd prefer not to write about characters who learn nothing. Even Camus's "L'Etranger" learns something, even if it is about the absurdity of life.

More specifically, how do you manage to balance intimate moments and titanic clashes?

Even when a great battle or clash does take place, and it does not in every Recluce book, I focus on the characters, not on the "titanic clash." I write about people, and how such events impact them and their relationships. In all my books, there is a romantic element, perhaps because of that part of my ancestry that's French and because I'm not interested in characters who cannot understand the romance of life and love.

Is The Saga of Recluce holding a particular place in your bibliography?

As time has passed since I wrote The Magic of Recluce, it's become increasingly clear that it holds a particular fascination for many readers, and, if I'm remembered at all as a writer, it will probably be because of the Recluce Saga.

With The Lord of the Rings directed by Peter Jackson, Fantasy seems to gain momentum in Hollywood. Many projects are on the tracks, or about to be. What could you say about Recluce? Would you be interested in being part of an adaptation? Or, as the Tolkien Estate with Lord of the Rings, would you rather keep a low profile?

Over the past few years, I've been approached about games and movies based on Recluce, but once those involved have studied Recluce, they come to believe that depicting it in any "Hollywood" fashion is not possible, perhaps because of its understated complexity.

How would you define your relation with fans? Can their expectations sometimes weigh you down?

My fans, for the most part, have been most reserved and thoughtful, and seem far more interested in what I write than whom I am, and for that I am very grateful. In the end, the words and the books that contain them are what matter.

What is your opinion about the fantasy genre? What are your favourite authors? Is there a sense of competition between you?

I realize that marketing requirements force most fantasy to be published as "genre" fiction, but, in practice, all fiction is in a sense fantasy, and so-called mainstream literary fiction is simply that branch of fiction with the most restrictive tropes and definitions. I personally like to write fantasy because it gives me a chance to explore themes and beliefs in a way that is not possible in mainstream fiction, or even in science fiction. I also still write a science fiction novel just about every year, and I like doing that because I can show the interplay of technology, belief, and culture.

I cannot say that I have favorite authors in the fantasy field. My most cherished authors are the poets, in particular W.B Yeats, T.S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, Frost, and Stevens -- and in French, Francois Villon. That traditionalism is probably at variance in some way with writing fantasy and science fiction, but for me, there's no contradiction... and no competition, just a shared sense of understanding about the importance of each word.

Are you influenced by book reviews, or do you seek to write something that satisfies you in the first place?

I do read book reviews, but generally the only impact they have is that, if a reviewer has clearly missed a point, and I'm working on a fantasy series, rather than one of my stand-alone SF books, I may explain that point in a future volume, assuming it's still relevant. One example of this occurred in the Spellsong Cycle books. A number of reader reviews and one standard reviewer complained that the spells/lyrics that Anna used were too simple. They missed the point that spells are tools, and all tools should be as simple as possible. We do not design hammers with swirls and flanges and unnecessary protrusions. When a spell is a tool, neither will the competent spellsinger use excessively poetic and vague language, and I had Anna explain that in a later book.

Is the internet an important tool in terms of communicating with your readers, do some research, etc?

The internet is more important to me personally as a tool for communicating with readers. There is actually a forum[ http://www.ibdof.com/viewforum.php?f=52 ] where I answer reader and fan questions as well as I can. I've found that, except for single isolated bits of information, a good library is still a better research source than the internet for me. It's also faster, but that's also because I do not have access to high speed internet or to the major online academic libraries.

Do you have any book recommendations for our readers, fantasy or otherwise?

Recommending books -- even including my own -- is almost as dangerous as listing one's love life, running for political office, or publicly announcing one's favorite child. I do have a "favorite books" shelf that is now approaching two shelves in length, as well as my well-thumbed poetry books, but space precludes my listing them all, and I wouldn't feel right in picking and choosing, because that would amount to an arbitrary selection.

Last but not least, is there anything you wish to share with your French fans?

I'm especially pleased to see some of my work in French, because I've a great fondness for both the French language and people. Every year, I kept asking Tor about possible French editions, and I actually approached several French publishers personally at World Fantasy Convention, trying to get them interested. I just hope that readers in France will consider and enjoy what I've written.

J'apprécie énormément mes lecteurs francophones, et j'espère qu'ils me pardonneront mes pauvres efforts en Français. Vous avez tous et toutes ma reconnaissance pour votre appui concernant mes oeuvres.

  1. Entretien avec L.E. Modesitt, Jr, version française
  2. Interview with L.E. Modesitt, Jr, english version

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