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Un entretien avec Daniel Hanover

Par Alice, le lundi 9 décembre 2013 à 16:00:00

English version

What was the impulse behind The Dagger and the Coin? What is the biggest difference with your previous works?
The Dagger & the Coin is built as a chance for me to try to engage with the strengths of epic fantasy and also use the form as a way to revisit and reinterpret a whole list of my favorite things. With my previous work, The Long Price Quartet, I wanted to do something really new and different with the expectations of the genre. With The Dagger and the Coin, I wanted to do something more familliar exceptionally well.
The financial world – for instance - is rarely featured in the fantasy genre. What did pique your interest about that?
I came to economics late in life through Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolo books, Tim Park's history of the Medici bank, and some popular economics books. What I found was fascinating: a passionate – and often wrong-headed – interest in how people work, a deep considération of deceit and information control, and a parallel history of the world different from the traditional view of history as wars and the gaps between them. It was like falling down a rabbit hole and waking up in Wonderland.
What issues were you exploring here and do you think that you have succeeded thus far?
The issue at the core of The Dagger & the Coin is the danger of certainty and the redeeming power of doubt. As to whether I've succeeded, that's not something I can say. Certainly I feel I've made my argument about them in a way that entertained me and told a story I enjoyed along the way, but whether it speaks to other people is the real standard, and the readers are the ones who can say.
Do you like to play with fantasy tropes? Some of your characters, like Dawson or Geder, can throw the readers off balance.
I think fantasy tropes, like any cliche, are there because they work. They risk a kind of overuse, but if they can be kept fresh and interesting, they are tremdously powerful, and become moreso by the weight of other littérature they carry with them. Dawson, for example, has the rôle of a fairly standard fantasy nobleman who clings to honor and chivalry and his sense of what is right. He's very much an Eddard Stark-like man that way, but his values aren't modern at all. He's actually based on Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen, who wrote A Diary of a Man in Despair. Reck-Malleczewen was a passionate anti-Nazi not because he was a believer in freedom and egalitarianism, but because he was a royalist and the Nazis were lower class. He called them "the révolution of the house painters." The idea of taking someone so desperately on the wrong side of history that he lapped himself and became heroic again was a fascinating idea for me, and fit well with the idea of a nobleman invested in a static social order placed in a story about change.
Compared to your previous works, does this new series hold a special place in your heart?
Every story has a special place in my heart. These books certainly have theirs.

They've given me the place to tell a very differnt, very long story that gets to be fun. The moments in thèse books that work best for me leave me happy whenever I reread them. However they do in the marketplace, that's a sign for me that I've done what I set out to do.

How is born your relationship with/your interest for the fantasy genre?
I read a great deal of fantasy when I was growing up, but as a career choice, it was as much chance as anything. I'd actually written a fair number of other genres and forms, but this was what found a market first, and so it's what I engaged and became identified with.
You are currently working on the fourth book of your saga. What is your favourite aspect of writing?
I'm one of those rare and Lucky people who really enjoy the procès of writing itself. I have many friends and colleagues who very much enjoy having written. I find the end of a project less relieving than vaguely sad, and I'm always pleased to have the next thing to start on.
You have written a lot of short stories. What do you like the most about short fiction?
Short fiction has a whole different range of stories that it supports. There are utterly brilliant short stories that would have made terrible novels, and vice versa. I think there's a sharpness to short fiction plots that I love.
The Game of Thrones comic book adaptation, The Expanse (with Ty Franck), your other novels or short stories… You must be very organized to manage to do everything!
Before I became a full-time writer, I spent almost a decade working in IT. There is nothing like tech support to keep me focused on not having to do tech support anymore.
You are a diligent blogger: is the web an important tool in terms of communicating with your readers, do some research, etc?
The web is a brilliant tool for research. It makes things that would have consumed weeks take hours. As for social media as a bridge between writers and readers, I honestly don't know ow effective it is. I do it as much as I enjoy doing it, but I can't say it's helped or hurt me professionally, and there are certainly a fair number of venues where author's involving themselves is seen as in intrusion, more's the pity.
What is your take on the fantasy genre these days?
I think fantasy is going through a place of real darkness. Whether we're talking about work that explicitly engages with the expectation of noir like Joe Abercrombie's work or projects that take their power from a deep sorrow like A Song of Ice and Fire, there's been an impulse –not in the writers so much as the reading public – to value the dark and gritty "realism". I use quotes because of course reality isn't as unrelivedly grim and violent as it is in those works. It's an aesthetic movement within the genre, and at least in the United States, I think it is a reaction to décades of war that have very little outlet for real discussion. I think epic fantasty has become a place to express disillusionment with the very idea of a good war in an environment where that opinion is both very common and unspoken.
Here on Elbakin.net, we recently had a podcast about novels based on Star Wars, Forgotten Realms and all… What is your opinion about licensed novels and what does it mean for you to work in the Star Wars universe with Honor among Thieves?
I'm quite fond of the licensed novels. I grew up reading Star Trek novels by first-class writers like Vonda McIntyre and John M. Ford. They're particularly comforting because the contract with the reader is already explicit. When Ty and I wrote in the Star Wars universe, we were writing a Star Wars story. It's a very safe, very comfortable space for the writer and the reader. I know there are some people who think all writing is better when it's edgy and confrontational, but I think they may understate the value of comfort and escape.
George R.R. Martin recommends The Dagger and The Coin. You have worked with him in the past. How could you define your relationship?
There's a part in Douglas Addams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe where ex-galatic président Zaphod Beeblebrox's therpaist is interviewed and his big quote is "Well, Zaphod's just this guy,y'know?" George is just this guy, y'know? He was my teacher at the Clarion West workshop, we wrote a novella and then a novel together, we've played in some of the same rôle playing games, we have lunch now and then. I often feel like there are two people, George RR Martin demigod of the fantasy genre and then George who I have lunch with sometimes and bitch about stuff. He's smart, he's funny, we disagree about politics and art, and I enjoy his company.
An Expanse TV show is currently in developpment. Could we hope the same for The Dagger and the Coin ?
There is always hope, but I doubt the Dagger and the Coin would be easily translated to film. It's a very written project.
Last but not least, is there anything you wish to share with your French readers?
Only that I hope they enjoy the books as much as I have.
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