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Imaginales 2012 : un entretien avec Naomi Novik

Par Ramaloce, le mercredi 4 juillet 2012 à 15:15:35

An interview with Naomi Novik, english version

You have chosen to set your story in real events, why didn’t used an imaginary world for your characters?
I really love grounding stories in the real world, I feel that grounding stories in real details helps a lot to let the reader believe in them and so for me, setting in the real world, in a real period makes it easier in a way for the reader to say “alright I believe that it is happening, to suspend to this belief to say “yes of course there were dragons in the Napoleonic wars” and really believe that for the duration of the time they’re spending between the covers.
Why did you choose the napoleon war?
I’m a huge Napoleon fan. I read a biography of Napoleon when I was around 10 years old for the first time, and just founded a real exciting compelling story. And I kept that interest for a long time. I’m also a big fan of the language of the period in English, in Jane Austen, in also Patrick O’Brian novels, I think he did a beautiful job, capturing the voice of that period and I think that it is such a pleasure to write that language in that period that’s part of why I choose that period.
Was it for the reader to be transported in this period?
Yes, exactly. It is to try to make you feel, while you’re reading it, you’re transported to that time’s period, that you’re almost reading a real history. That’s what I like for the reader to sort of be able to feel like they’re reading a story of the actual history of that time
In the future, will you write a book on a different historical period?
Yes, very likely. I have written some short stories already that are set in different period. I’ve written a Temeraire story set in ancient Rome, and I’m working right now on another series that will be set in several different time periods “time-travelling story” and one another series that is going to be set on modern days with magic, a sort of urban fantasy kind of story.
Why did you choose dragons and not dwarves or Elves?
I thought that dragons in napoleonic wars specifically were very interesting because there was not an air force in the napoleonic wars and I thought that dragons were a natural way to bring a completely new dimension of war into this period. So for instance, dragons in my books have crews in a way that ships have crews and were used very much like it, and I try to make use of them in a way that make sense with the wars of the time, with tactics that Napoleon used, that British navy used, and I try to make that make sense, and it works, I think, quite well. There is sort of natural ways to use dragons like that.
What was the challenge to add dragons in the aerial force ? Was it difficult?
The thing is that I don’t keep events the same, I change them somewhat, but it’s difficult, but fun, what I think it is fun and not just difficult, is really trying to… having a crew make sense on a dragon, trying to figure out where would you put everyone on a dragon, how many people could you fit on a dragon. You know what kind of different classes of Dragons, you know like different ships like the first-rate ships like the HMS Victory that were huge and there were the sixth-rate ships, frigates, that were small and fast. Similarly I have different category of dragons, I try to come up with different types of dragons, different breadth of dragons and giving to them all different characteristics. It is both a challenge and fun.
Your dragons think a lot like human being. Why are your dragons like that, and not Smaug-like dragons, not talkative dragons?
Because I feel it is more fun, it creates more opportunities for conflict. If you have dragons and humans having different priorities and different desires, that’s a huge part of the conflicts between my two main characters, between Lawrence and Temeraire, very frequently their desires, theirs intuitions about the world conflict with one another. They have to resolve that and I feel that any relationship… you know there is books like Pern books which I adore where the dragons and riders are bounded by a sort of permanent bound, it cannot be broken basically by anything… and to what I wanted to do in Temeraire books, I wanted the bound be something more like a human marriage really where you have characters that are choosing all the time to stay together, you know a marriage of true minds but that’s not easy. Real relationship are frequently hard, you don’t have all the time people that think all the time alike, and I feel that making my dragons into real people instead of just actual weapons allow me to bring a lot more opportunities for conflicts and fun and tension.
Your dragons have a lot of human characteristics, what is the strongest thing that make them dragons for you?
Especially for the larger dragons, I tend to write most about the combat dragons, the big difference is that they don’t feel fear the same way that people do. That’s kind of an underpinning much of my thought about dragonmind sets, it doesn’t occur to a dragon to be afraid because, you know Temeraire is 10 or 20 tons. There is nothing in the natural world that is going actually to hurting him, another dragon could hurt him, of his size, but otherwise nothing. They’re top predators unlike us where we used to be afraid of our natural environment, when you think about it evolutionary and so that is one key part and also for them, they are much more conflicts between one and another, they are much more rules and status, there is a kind of hierarchy, just based on strength but also on other accomplishment based on how much treasure they have, which for dragons could be composed of different things, for some dragons it is gold and jewels and for some dragons, and for example in my most recent book, the dragons of the Incas, they value most the number of people that they have in their clans, and so people become their treasure partly because they have been so decimated by diseases, the dragons have become extremely jealous and clutching, and over-protective in an interesting way and how that affects their society makes quite fun to play with.
Your characters travel all around the world. Why didn’t you keep them in the same place, in England?
Because I very much wanted to start in the culture of western Europe where I had decided history was going to be very much the same, dragons were going to be sort of an isolated part, so that most people, you know the average person will not actually seeing a dragon in a daily basis, you might see a dragon going on overhead like an airplane, but you will not experience them in your daily life. And I wanted to start there because that’s the closest part of our world, so it meant that I could have Lawrence explain to the reader by his own experience when he finally move inside this world of dragons, the world of the aviators that’s let the reader come into this world smoothly. I didn’t think that was one way that dragons and humans will live together and so I very much with part of the goal they are moving all around the world, is for instance they go to China and discover society where Dragons and humans coexist as equals, where cities are built so that dragons could walk down the street and going to a market, and people don’t deny them and that’s obviously much more different for the reader own experience, so I didn’t want the first thing we see in this universe, I wanted that for the next, and from then on, It is very much about the pleasure showing a new dragon culture and exploring different kind of relationship people have, as well as following the Napoleonic wars which the changes that felt will happen to the wars with dragons is that, already almost in history become the first world war, there were battles fought in Egypt, in Indian Ocean, there were political struggles going on in the colonies, and by adding dragons to the mix in a way I was able to break the world, just a little bit smaller that causes the conflict to actually envelope more parts of the world. And I think that it’s something that is going to happening in the 8th and 9th books I’m working on right now. We finally are going to see the central Napoleonic wars becoming a global war and that’s something that I’m very glad to write.
Do you travel as much as Temeraire and Lawrence do?
Not anymore ! I have tried very much. I try when I can to actually go and visit some of the main locations where I set the books but I had a baby last year who is still very small, so I don’t leave her for very long.
Thank you!
The 6th in Australia, the 7th in South America, I guess the 8th will start in Russia?
Yes ! I think you know I can safely say they’re going to visit several different places and locate… some of them deliberately and some of them NOT so deliberately. But Russia, you know of course, 1812 is the year of the book, so that’s the year Napoleon went there so…
The 4 first books are written from Lawrence’s point of view, in the 5th it is Temeraire and Lawrence, why didn’t you add Temeraire’s pov before?
Partly, I felt that Lawrence was actually going through more changes, I think that’s more by the 5th book, I realize that I really needed Temeraire’s pov, that Temeraire was moving into being a sort of a power on his own. The 5th book is when Temeraire starts really working with others dragons and engaging them on a different level and Temeraire becomes older, in the first book Temeraire is born essentially. By the 5th book, I really needed Temeraire’s pov, especially because Temeraire and Lawrence start to be separated, and I really wanted to show what was happening to Temeraire, to show the distinction between the dragon experiences and the person experiences.
In the 6th, why it’s so much Temeraire pov in this book?
I think the 6th book is a lot about the dragons, the main quest is driven by Temeraire, you know in previous books, quest are largely been driven by Lawrence’s cause, the British causes in the war. In the 6th book they have been transported to Australia for treason and at that point, Lawrence is dealing with the after effect of that, the treason and the invasion of Britain but at that point, Temeraire, without spoiling to much about that book, a dragon’s egg is stolen while Temeraire is in a position of guardianship, and Temeraire's intensity to go after that egg is what drives the plot, so that’s why there is a lot of his point of view there.
In the 6th book, the characters are walking through a desert, literally and figuratively, do you think the 6th is a transition book for a new start with the 7th?
I would say it is more the 6th is a kind of an interlude, in a way it is a transition because the series as a whole is a set of threes -- I write each book in 3 parts, and the series as a whole will be 9 books. I feel that the 3 first books are one story, the second three books kind of telling another story and the 6th book is kind of the completion of the narrative of Lawrence choosing to commit treason to save the dragons, so it is really a sort of conclusion that wrap up, and then by the end of the 6th book, Lawrence has really come to a point to the decision where he realize he has to move forward more sort of an independent agent, that he and Temeraire have a certain kind of power on their own, that they just don’t function as part of a larger society, they have a certain kind of obligation to step up, and basically to operate with more independence. So I do feel the 6th book was a deep breath before the 7th/8th/9th books that are a sort of rollercoaster ! we’re coming to the completion, to the final climax of the series.
In the 7th, action is more dense, there is a lot of events, the rhythm is faster, did you work on it differently than with the others books?
I don’t know ! Not consciously, not deliberately. Each time I sit down to write a book I’m pretty much thinking what’s going to be fun, what’s going to be the next exciting piece to have happen. In the 7th book, I knew certain things, certain key parts of the plot that were very important to me that I knew were going to happen, and I was very excited about the Inca culture which I was thinking about since the first book. I had a throwaway line about Inca in the first book and I have been waiting until I could return to it. It is not deliberate, but it worked that way partly because we are coming to the giant conflagration, the climax of the wars, there is a lot that has to happen before we get there.
Still in the 7th book, the story is not about Temeraire only but also Iskierka, a secondary character, the world is becoming more rich…is it deliberate?
I feel there is many secondary characters that the readers know at this point, and feel close to, even if they’re not pov, they are main protagonists and that gave me much more tools to play with as a writer. I think it’s something that naturally happens because you know when the book go on, I know the character more, they all have their own life and Iskierka is very good on demanding a bigger share of the story.
In the 7th book, it is Temeraire’s and Lawrence’s pov, they described the same events, the same scenes, was it a way to add more details in the story?
Not deliberately again ! I’m kind of writing as I feel it and I do like to show the same scenes from Temeraire’s and Lawrence’s pov because that highlight the differences between dragons and people and sort of remind the readers that neither of them are completely trustworthy narrator, neither of them is omniscient, when one of them speaks, the other one understand something else from another POV.
You thanked NK Jemisin at the end of your book, did she gave you advice for this 7th book?
She is a great writer, I beta read for her and she beta read the most recent book and she gave me some great feedback. I have a wonderful crew of beta readers, who will come out with books as their time permits. I love her books, and we start chatting on the internet, so that’s very cool. I love her recent trilogy so I totally recommend that !
And one final question, do you have fresh news from Peter Jackson?
No No, when there will be news, it will be broadcast pretty widely!
  1. L'entretien en français
  2. An interview with Naomi Novik, english version

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