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Un entretien exclusif avec Chris Evans !

Par Linaka, le jeudi 31 décembre 2009 à 14:45:00

L'interview en anglais

Could you introduce yourself to our readers in a few words ?
I was born in Canada and now live in New York City. When I’m not writing I work full time as an editor of military history, current affairs, and conflict books. Before I came to New York I was a military historian which I guess is pretty evident in my books. I enjoy running in Central Park and acting as tour guide when friends and relatives visit the city.
How were the Iron Elves born ?
I remember wondering if there wasn’t more to fantasy than the medieval, northern European setting that predominated most novels, and thinking that maybe that would be my path. If I had to pick a precise moment I’d say it was the afternoon I successfully defended my Masters thesis. That was in 1998. I went straight home, opened up a new document on my computer and started writing my first novel. Right then and there I more or less knew I wasn’t going to pursue a PhD and instead focus on commercial writing instead of more scholarly pursuits. It was scary and exhilarating. As it turns out, that novel remains in my to revise pile, but it served as the launching pad for the Iron Elves and the idea of a main character who would be the least elf-like elf that ever walked in a forest.
You are a diligent blogger : is the web an important tool in terms of communicating with your readers, do some research, etc ?
I enjoy the interaction with readers that comes with blogging. I’ve already met a lot of fascinating people from around the world that I never would have otherwise, and it gives me a chance to update them on the books, where I am in writing the next one, the pub date in someone's country and so on. And for research the internet is brilliant. I find it a great starting point that helps me narrow down my search so that I can then go to the library and find some primary sources to study.
Do you think your job as an editor has affected your writing ?
Absolutely. It slows me down at times. The tendency to want to edit as I write is always there, and I am in a pitched battle with myself to keep the editor in me at bay so the writer can just create. I remind myself that there’ll be time enough to edit, revise, and otherwise rewrite later. It’d be nice to say that being an editor makes me a better writer, but alas, that’s not entirely the case. You know how they say a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, well, it’s not that different for editors who write. If you think you can edit yourself you’re probably fooling yourself. You need other eyes to give you a different perspective.
And what is your favourite aspect of writing by the way ?
I love the creative process, and I especially enjoy finding the humor in things. And I love the power that comes from creating an entire world. I think the French will understand this better than anyone, but it’s easy to feel a bit like Napoleon before a battle. Everything is possible and all that victory requires is that you use your brain and your courage and have a vision.
Are you influenced by book reviews, or do you seek to write something that satisfies you in the first place ?
Book reviews...that way lies maddness ! Just kidding, but in answer to your question, no, I’m not really influenced by book reviews. I appreciate it when something I’ve written really connects with a reader, and I’m open to constructive criticism, but to try and write based on reviewer comments would be like driving blindfolded while taking direction from someone in the backseat. I write for myself and the story I have in my head.
Why did you choose a fantasy setting for your first book ?
I grew up reading fantasy and have remained a fan, and that includes the now ancient tropes of elves and dwarves. The other big driving force is my interest in history and military history in particular. I wanted to create an epic that was told, in part, from the perspective of the ordinary soldier. Armies abound in many fantasies, but they’re often relegated to the background. My interest was to bring that to the fore.
Elves, dwarves, evil sorceress, magic... How do you twist these heroïc fantasy clichés ?
When I embarked on the Iron Elves I wanted to try my hand at evolving the traditional European medieval setting to something more like the time of Napoleon. I’d always wanted to see what would happen to the core of Tolkien’s world if you moved it forward in time, and the Iron Elves gave me a chance to explore that.
The main character, Major Konowa Swift Dragon, is an elf, but an elf who has never felt comfortable in nature. That idea of being a fish out of water fascinated me. Konowa has had to fight his whole life against perceptions of who and what he should be, and it’s made him a very angry elf.
What is your take on the fantasy genre these days ? Do you think that your past as a non-fantasy author alters your perception of the genre ?
I’m not sure is the most honest answer I can give you. It’s not that I’m not interested, I am, but I publish over thirty books a year as an editor, research and write at least one book a year myself, run, and try to have a social life. That doesn’t leave me as much time as I would like to engage with other fantasy authors, reviewers, and bloggers, travel to conventions, and most frustratingly, read all the new books coming out I hear so much about. I do appreciate and admire the true masters – Tolkein and Rowling. Then there’s another favorite of mine, Terry Pratchett, and though he’s rarely mentioned in this context, the great Rudyard Kipling.

I guess my background in non-fantasy does alter my perception. I work a lot with combat veterans, historians, and journalists and that comes out in my writing. When I do read for pleasure I read across all genres – fiction and nonfiction – and enjoy them all for differing reasons. And when you boil it all down, I’m just not a huge fan of the whole genre labeling system anyway. Peel away the labels and what you have is really just refined tribalism fueled by bookstore shelving categories. So if I have a view on the state of fantasy today it’s more a hope that it stays vibrant and entertaining.

What issues were you exploring and do you think that you have succeeded thus far ?
When I set out to write the Iron Elves series I wanted to create a big, entertaining fantasy adventure that explored an entire world in real peril, but experienced primarily through the common, and not so common, soldier’s perspective. I also wanted to delve into imperialism and colonialism in a fantasy setting. When it comes to the characters, I looked to tap into people not content with the world as they find it, or their place in it. Judging from the emails I receive from readers and the foreign translations that are underway (like the one here in France I’m happy to say) I’d say I’m making progress, but there’s still a lot more I want to achieve with the story before it’s done.
Do you have any book recommendations for our readers, fantasy or otherwise ?
I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett’s Disc World series and Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series. For a book that explores the experience of the soldier there is none better than George MacDonald Fraser’s Quartered Safe Out Here. The poems of Rudyard Kipling are another brilliant resource, and I highly recommend The Things They Carried by Timothy O’Brien. A couple others that are truly superb are Barbara Tuchmann’s The Guns of August about the opening month of the First World War and The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara which is a fictional account of the battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War. While only Pratchett’s work is fantasy, the others are incredible, especially in exploring the experience of the soldier, the camraderie that comes from sharing traumatic experiences, and truly exceptional story telling.
Do you have any plans for books outside the Iron Elves realm ?
I do. Two series are in the works now. One takes a lot of the fantasy elements we all know well and evolves them even further in time than the Iron Elves. There will be a strong military history component again and a focus on the individuals who have to face the enemy on the field of battle, but with even more twists than I have in this series, and a greater development of personal relationships.
Could you elaborate a bit about your battlefield tours in Europe ? I know that you are a military historian.
I went on my first of many tours to Normandy on a scholarship back in the 90s. It changed my life. Truly, those few weeks in the summer in the Normandy countryside brought everything into focus for me. One of the most important and difficult moments was when I stayed at the Abbaye d’Ardenne just outside of Caen. On June 7, 1944, a group of Canadian soldiers were murdered by the Germans there. As I traveled around I found there were places like that all over Normandy where French civilians had been murdered and it really brought home just how horrific war is. At the same time, I often traveled with veterans who had many fond memories, and even witnessed a few reunions between Allied flyers shot down and the civilians who risked their lives to hide them.
Last but not least, is there anything you wish to share with your future French readers ?
Only that I appreciate the opportunity to talk them and thank you for making it possible. I feel particularly close to France and especially Normandy after visiting many times. It’s a real honor for me to know my novels are being translated into French. It’s made me realize that it’s high time I got back to France for another visit !
  1. L'interview en français
  2. L'interview en anglais

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