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Interview de Sarah Ash aux Utopiales 2009

Par Linaka, le lundi 30 novembre 2009 à 13:21:22

L'interview en anglais

Are you glad to be back in France ?
Yes, I'm very glad – I'm always glad to be back in France, because I regard it as my spiritual home ! Particularly because when I was a child I longed to come here, and I first came when I was fourteen, on a French exchange. It was wonderful for me to see all the places that I'd read and dreamed about, and also I think I had a vision that it might be a little bit like in the works of Dumas, but of course it wasn't ! (laughs) Not really.
But it was very exciting, and so it's always a big pleasure to be back. Un grand plaisir, oui !
What's your opinion about the debate you have just attended ? What was it like ?
It was very interesting – a difficult subject. Un désir d'éternité... The panel deviated from the subject quite soon, which was not a bad thing, because we discussed some other aspects of fantasy that were more interesting in a way. It's very hard to link a desire for eternity to the reality of fantasy fiction. I think it was too vague, and too non-specific – but the other panelists had some very interesting ideas, so I enjoyed hearing what they had to say. It's always revealing to hear other authors talking about their writing. So I liked that, yes.
What do you think of the welcome made to your latest two published books in France, the Tears of Artamon prequels ?
I haven't had very much response to them, except for on your good site – thank you, Elbakin ! Particularly not to the second one, La Fuite dans les Ténèbres, so in some ways I'm in the dark as to how well or not they have been received.
When I was writing them, my American editor decided that she wanted me to put a lot of what happened in the first three books into the second of the two prequels. Which was quite difficult, because I had hoped not to have to do that ! (laughs) And some critics have not liked that, but it was a decision that she took, because she thought that people who hadn't read the other three might be lost. So, I understand why she made that decision but it hasn't pleased everybody !
Nevertheless, I'm very pleased that they have been translated into French. And I'd like to put in a word here for Colette Carrière, my excellent translator – she's done a very good job again.
So anybody with any feedback, please contact me on the website (laughs) en français ou en anglais, and I will respond to the questions !
About the French editions of your novels : your front covers are always made by Didier Graffet, a well-known French illustrator. Did you work with him on these covers, did you meet him ? What do you think of his covers ?
I love his covers, and I met him at the Salon du Livre in 2007, when he had just finished the cover for book three of Artamon. So I saw the original artwork, which was amazing. But we haven't really discussed a lot – I mean it was a pleasure to meet him, and to see a lot of his other artworks. We've also got his artbook, with the lovely Jules Verne pictures, and Arthurian legends illustrations.
For the first book, the first of the prequels, it was my editor, Stéphane Marsan, who asked me for some suggestions for what might go on the cover, and Didier chose one of those to make the pictures.
During the second round of the Elbakin.net Tournoi (tournament), your character Linnaius will have to face Gargamel – in about three weeks. Do you think he'll be able to defeat this opponent – and lots of others ?
Ouh, Gargamel... it's really difficult ! (laughs) When I saw it was Gargamel, my heart sank ! One of my friends said : Oh, that will be a really difficult one because Gargamel will have lots of fans !
But I think that Linnaius is crafty and being a magus, he has a lot of tricks up his sleeve ! Which, I hope, he will use (laughs). Nevertheless, this is gonna be a tough call. I hope he makes it through, but I'm not sure.
We're rooting for you, Linnaius !
(It’s all over now… sob… 25/11/09)
What's coming up in 2010 in your writing ?
That's a difficult question to answer, because I'm working on the project, but I can't say anything about it at the moment, I'm so sorry ! It's all new and... when I can say something, I promise that Elbakin will be the first to hear about it !
Can you tell us if it's still fantasy, or... ?
Yes, it's fantasy. It's set in a very different setting, a different world, very different people, different challenges. I'm very excited about it. The one clue I can give is that it's related to my love of manga, but that's all I can say. My fingers are crossed !
You recently opened a blog on your official website. What does this new interactivity with your readers represent for you ?
It's something I've been meaning to do for a long time. I did have a blog when the website first opened, but I wasn't very good at doing it ! Now I’ve had a lot more experience with other websites that I contribute to, so even though it's early days, I do hope people will come and talk and comment on the blog. And I'll be more than happy to answer questions, and just generally chat, really. Somebody asked me just last week whether I would have a forum, and I'm not sure, because I think I'd need somebody to moderate for me.
So at the moment it's : Please, drop by and comment, and say hello, and I promise I will say hello back !
People talk about it more and more : what's your opinion about electronical books – Amazon's Kindle, Sony's Ereader, Barnes & Noble's Nook ?
Yes, I was just looking at a Kindle the other day, and a Sony reader. I'm not sure that for me it's the answer yet, but I am very interested to see the way it will go. I was a little worried by the story about the Kindle and the edition of George Orwell that people bought, that suddenly disappeared from their readers without warning. There was a copyright problem, I think.
But there are some exciting development : mangas in e-books, mangas to i-phones as well, for example. I heard that one publisher, Penguin (?) may be doing electronic editions of classic texts, with links and illustrations, annotations to websites connections... That side I find very promising.
So, even if I don't think we’re there yet, I suspect that in a while it will be a useful addition to – but not a replacement for – the book.
What if, in a few years, books were as much hacked as music is ? What would the writer job become ?
That is an ongoing problem, but maybe not all bad, as with the problem of university dissertations where people have borrowed learned work and put it into their theses. There is a dilemma in distinguishing between conscious and unconscious borrowing.
But, to be honest, I haven't got my head around it yet. I will have to think about it – I know we will have to read a six-page document from Google before January the 7th (which I think is the beginning of things changing) and Google buying rights to everybody's content.
But then what about fanfiction ? Where does fanfiction begin and the author's work end ? Defining original content is going to be a thorny problem. Whose intellectual rights are whose ? We shall see.
I know you love the animes – did you see the latest Miyazaki, Ponyo on a Cliff ? What are your favourite animes these days ? : Sadly, I have not seen the new one yet : it hasn't come out in England ! As usual in France, you're ahead of us. I believe there was a showing this weekend in London - we've just had one of our anime conventions - so I missed it ! But it hasn't yet been released for screen !
We have the soundtrack at home (laughs) that's a start, but I'm looking forward to seeing it – although it's quite different, I understand, from some of the others. Is that right ? It's more young in tone.
Yes, the general vibe is quite like Totoro, very young characters...
Oh, yes ? I like the recommendation ! I like all the Miyazaki films – I think the one that I like best is still Spirited Away, although it's very difficult to pick a favourite, because so many are so good. And I love Totoro, and Kiki, and I could go on.
Last year I reviewed The Girl who Leapt Through Time - I can't recall the Japanese title – a science-fiction anime which I also loved. It was the first time I had seen it ; again, I think in the UK we were behind everybody else ! It's shameful ! (laughs) Things are getting a little better though. That was another anime that really stood out for me. I thought that was quite special.
Are you still attached to fantasy as a genre ?
Oh yes, very much ! As I say, I don't think there is any other genre which I would find right to express my ideas. Although I find it fascinating to see how it's evolving, and changing at the moment, and absorbing other influences. At the moment in England, as in France, we have an excess of vampires - not that I can complain, because I suppose I have a ‘vampire’ as well in my books ! (The Drakhaoul.)
But that sort of dark side of fantasy seems particularly popular with young readers at the moment. The urban fantasy has been immensely popular with us – I believe it's called bit-lit here. But also it's nice to see writers of traditional fantasy (yet with a twist) or a new point of view, coming through, reworking old ideas in a new way, like Robert Redick, who's here at the moment. His books look really interesting, although I haven't read any yet.
I should mention my friend Alison Sinclair, a Canadian writer, who's written acclaimed science-fiction so far. She's just published the first of her first fantasy trilogy, Darkborn. It’s a very interesting take on the (traditional) fantasy (opposites) of dark and light. It's still a bit science-fiction, I tease her about that (laughs) ! But it's nice to see these new slants on traditional themes.
I read in your latest interview (on Elbakin.net) that you are also an Alexandre Dumas fan. Could you, one day, decide to mix Dumas and the fantasy – to write in the genre of the historical fantasy ?
I did, actually, once upon a time, but nobody wanted to buy it ! (laughs) I did this in the late 1980's. In England they didn't care at all !
Of course, since then, other people have got in there – I'm thinking of the wonderful Les Lames du Cardinal, of Pierre Pevel. I saw that and thought : Oh, no ! He's done it ! (laughs)
But I think I have, nevertheless, slipped elements of Dumas into my books. Songspinners, my second fantasy novel, has quite a strong Dumas influence in it. Particularly in the on-off relationship between the Countess Fiammis (well, she's the villainess really, who is up to no good) and Acir Korentan. Acir is a man who's very conflicted in his desire to serve the Commanderie in Bel'Esstar. He’s sent to arrest the protagonist whom he then actually grows to like and to respect.
So, the conflict of loyalties was a Dumas-type relationship ; that's something that I drew on from his novels that I had loved reading.
Ursula K.LeGuin is now 80 years old. Do you think you'll still be a writer when you are 80 years old ? Is feminism an important message to be conveyed in your own works ?
Good question, very good question. I would love to continue to write as long as I can, and I really do respect as well as love the works of Ursula Le Guin. I was reading her essays on writing fantasy before I came to Utopiales, or re-reading I should say because they date from the 1970's. And a lot of what she said then is still true now, though then she was fighting the cause for fantasy to be accepted as a genre in a literary sense, and science-fiction as well.
And I think that she is much more of a feminist, given the age that she was when feminism was starting, when I was just a teenager ! The feminists fought battles for the recognition of women, then we inherited what they fought for. Although if J.K.Rowling had to have initials (rather than being called Joanna Rowling) so that her books wouldn't put boy readers off, maybe the battle hasn't been won, I don't know.
But I wouldn't call myself a feminist writer, I don't have any sort of political agenda in that field. I just like writing about people and their problems, really, and how they solve them. But whether they're men or women, or whatever society they find themselves in, I just look for the situations which intrigue me, and which can be given a fantasy dimension. Fantasy sometimes helps to heighten those conflicts between men and women, or men and men and women and women (laughs). It's just a character building, character developing theme.
What can we wish for you in the next few weeks and for 2010 ?
For me ? Oh, well, I have to say : the birth of a second grandchild, in November or December – that's exciting. (Ruby Eve was born ten days ago !)
From a professional point of view, I'm hoping for some good news about my next project ! All my fingers are crossed on that one, because I would love to get the green light for it to be all systems go !
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