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Un entretien avec Django Wexler

Par Alice, le mercredi 21 mai 2014 à 13:00:00

L'entretien en anglais

What was the impulse behind The Thousand Names?
Several things cames together for this series. For a while I'd wanted to do a military series, one with some historical accuracy to it instead of the vague warfare you often find in fantasy. When I read George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, I really liked what he did there, brining the traditional knights-and-castles setting back towards its historical roots and grounding it a little more, so I decided I wanted to do something similar.
Since he'd done that setting (basically 13th century England) so well, I wanted to do something different. Around then one of my wargaming friends lent me David Chandler's The Campaigns of Napoleon, and I got really interested in that period. It seemed like it would make a good setting for a fantasy, so I took that as my starting point.
Was there a specific reason behind your use of an eastern background?
In the very earliest version, the book (not yet called The Thousand Names) was supposed to be a a fictionalized version of the career of Napoleon, and the setting of the first book was going to be the invasion of Egypt in 1798. Since then, it has changed almost completely, and the plot no longer resembles anything historical, but I kept the vaguely Egypt-inspired setting through all the various drafts. Specifically, the broad concept was something like an Egypt where the Arab Conquest never happened, so the culture was closer to a direct descendent of Classical Egypt.
You have clearly said that your novel is not an historical novel. Does that give you more freedom to work with?
It helps in a couple of ways. Real life tends to be inconvenient when it comes to dramatic appropriateness, and actual facts can get in the way of a good story. In particular, if you want to write about the fate of nations and great battles, the real people involved are usually pretty well-documented and you can't mess with their lives very much. Another problem is that in actual history, the same few people are rarely present at all the interesting times and places -- the protagonists of a novel lead much more exciting lives than is realistically possible.
I like fantasy based on history, rather than a strict historical setting, because it keeps me grounded in reality but allows me to tweak the setting to put the focus of the story where I want it. So I can leave some things out, or insert new elements, because it works for the story, whether or not the history quite matches up. Having a fantasy world where the different groups don't line up neatly with real-world countries, religions, etc, also helps keep people from assigning automatic "good guys" and "bad guys" based on historical prejudices.
How is born your relationship with/your interest for the fantasy genre?
I honestly don't know, I've liked fantasy as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I spent a lot of time in the local library, and by the time I was fourteen or so I'd read everything on their science fiction and fantasy shelf. I played (and still play) fantasy role-playing games, and I like to watch science fiction and fantasy movies and TV shows. It never occured to me that I would write anything else.
What is your favourite aspect of writing?
That's a really hard question! Writing a draft can be a lot of fun when things are flowing well, finishing a scene or a chapter and thinking, "Yeah, that went well!" is a great feeling. My absolute favorite, though, has to be getting other people to read it and seeing their reactions. I love hearing from people about how the story made them feel, which characters they liked, and so on.
With Brian McClellan and a few other authors, your books are sorted as « Flintlock Fantasy ». What do you think about that? Is that a real trend?
I think it's part of a broader trend. What's happening is that people are moving away from the idea that all fantasy has to be set in the same world, the Tolkien/D&D/King Arthur world with knights and stone castles and elves, dwarves, orcs, and so on. There are some great stories set there, obviously, but I think authors are beginning to explore a little bit more in what they use as the basis for their world design. That can be both in time (Brian and I are both writing in the pseudo-1800s) or in space. (Elizabeth Bear's Range of Ghosts or Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon both use very non-European settings.)
I, personally, love this trend. I look forward to seeing more, not just "flintlock fantasy" but fantasy based on all kinds of different time periods and places. There's an enormous amount of history out there full of interesting stuff!
You have also recently written a book for younger readers, The Forbidden Library. Do you work differently with that type of readers in mind?
I didn't really know how to do it very differently, to be honest, so I just wrote close to the way I always do. (I left out the swearing, sex, and gore, basically.) The narrative structure is a little simpler -- just one perspective, no complicated time jumps -- and the book is shorter, but otherwise not much is changed. I've always believed in trusting the intelligence of kids, and writing "down" to them seemed like a bad idea.
What is your take on the fantasy genre these days?
I can obviously only speak to the way things are in the US, but overall I'm pretty happy with it. I think the genre is expanding, in the sense that the stories are covering more ground and not all clustering around the same familiar tropes. There's quite a few super-star authors, but also a very healthy crop of new talent, which feels like a really good sign. Overall, I think we're actually in a bit of a golden age for fantasy -- we should all read as much as we can to enjoy it!
Could you tell us a few words about The Shadow Throne and what’s next for you?
In The Shadow Throne, Marcus, Winter, and Janus return to Vordan to try and deal with the chaos there as the king lies dying. There's a new point of view character, Princess Raesinia, who I think people will like -- she's very much not the sort of princess you might expect! It was a lot of fun to get to add more detail to Vordan, and also to gradually work in more of the character's backstories now that they've come home.
Both The Shadow Campaigns and The Forbidden Library are planned to be five-book series in total, so writing them is basically what I'm up to for the next few years! I'm currently editing the second Forbidden Library book, and then I'm back to working on Shadow Campaigns #3.
You seem to like a lot your secondary characters, as Fitz for example. Is that important in order to create a real setting?
Yes, absolutely! Obviously the main characters get a lot of attention, but the secondary characters need to be more than cardboard cutouts. It's also a good place to have fun with some characters who are a little over-the-top compared to the protagonists; "Give 'Em Hell", for example, or Janus' manservant Augustin.
I thought that The Thousand Names was your first novel, but I was wrong! Memories of Empire was even translated in french. What is the biggest difference between novels like this and The Thousand Names?
I had two novels published through Medallion Press, a small publisher, called Memories of Empire and Shinigami. I believe the French translations were by a Quebec press, though I'm not certain -- they didn't actually talk to me at all when they did it, and I only found out much later!
Both of the early novels are standalones, and they definitely have some of the same themes as The Thousand Names. The biggest difference, aside from the fact that I just have a bit more experience writing, is that I got seriously in to the study of history in between writing the two, so I think The Thousand Names feels a lot more grounded in reality. Shinigami is also, in retrospect, an incredibly dark piece, which makes me wonder what I was thinking when I wrote it!
Is the internet an important tool in terms of communicating with your readers, do some research, etc?
Absolutely. I love Twitter -- I have made any number of friends there among writers, reviewers, industry people, and fans. Book review sites like GoodReads have also been useful. I've done a number of Q&A sessions for book groups there, which is always really satisfying. I also spend some time on Reddit, particularly the r/fantasy subreddit, which is the home of quite a number of dedicated fans.
For research, I still prefer actual books, but the internet is invaluable for knowing where to start. A very underused resource, I think, is Wikipedia's "Sources" section -- I often use the Wikipedia article to get an overview, then check their sources to get a feeling for what the "major" books on the subject are and track those down. Those usually have their own bibliographies, and so on.
Serious question here : does every fantasy author need to have one cat or even more?
Yes. At least one. (But really, everyone needs a cat.)
Do you have any book recommendations for our readers, fantasy or otherwise?
This is a little bit difficult, since I don't really know what's been translated into French. Recently I've been really enjoying Max Gladstone's series, starting with Three Parts Dead, and Felix Gilman's new book The Revolutions. I'm also finally getting around to Scott Lynch's The Republic of Thieves, which is excellent.
Last but not least, is there anything you wish to share with your French readers?
I hope you enjoy the book, and eventually the rest of the series! French readers are in an interesting position because it's (mostly) your history that I've shamelessly looted, I hope you'll forgive me for that.
Because my French is minimal at best, I'm particularly indebted to the translators, both those who translate my writing and all those past who worked on the various histories and memoirs I used in my research. Thanks, guys!
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