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Un entretien avec Brent Weeks - Salon du livre 2010

Par Aléthia, le mercredi 12 mai 2010 à 12:46:59

An interview with Brent Weeks - English version

You are now at the Paris Book Fair. How do you feel about meeting your French fans?
This is an amazing experience for me. I’ve never been to Paris. Never been to France at all, and the fans are lovely. They are wonderful, they are very generous with me because I can’t speak any French and so they’ve been very understanding. There is also something very humbling about people loving my work who I cannot speak with. I cannot speak with them myself, I wrote this book in English of course and if somebody on the other side of the world can fall in love with these characters and can really get something out of what I wrote is amazing. I love it!
Your Night Angel trilogy is now out in France and is considered a must-read by most fantasy fans. How would you describe this trilogy for those who are still hesitant?
I’m glad to hear that (laugh) I would actually say these books are for everyone. There is some darkness, especially at the beginning of the series, I like to think. It’s a world in which the bad guy sometimes wins. I think the hallmarks of my writings are fast-pace action, lots of surprises, and deep characters. But if it’s not for you, there a lot of great fantasy books out there and don’t feel bad about skipping my books but I think they are pretty good! (laugh)
In this trilogy, the world of Midcyru is quite complex and solidly built. Let me ask you some questions about the world you created. First of all, the political network and the Sa’Kague. Where did you get your inspiration for such an organization?
First, I wanted to imagine a city which was completely corrupt. In the West, we think we have a lot of corruption, but we don’t have nearly as much as is possible. I tried to imagine a city which is really run by bribery and when justice is not usually served. The Sa’kague is all about who you know, all about connections. If you know the right people, you don’t pay taxes, you don’t go to jail. How scary a world like that would be. And how especially, children have to go by on their own. They can only go by with the people they know, the people they trust and they love. So the bonds become much more important because the world is so much more dangerous. When we are in trouble, we would go to a gendarme or a policeman thinking that we will help us out. We have some safety things, they have not.
I didn’t want to write something about a thief guild, we’ve seen it in lots of fantasy novels, that’s a little boring to me. I wanted to be a little more like The Sopranos in a world where all the cops are corrupt. They will be very powerful, well-known and respected in this world and still be completely corrupt and horrible persons. That was just appealing to me because in this case, things are much more dangerous: characters are under threat at all times. And so that was a very long answer … (laugh)
In your books, the one in charge is not always the one wearing the crown. What about this duality of power?
Ok with spoilers here! The most obvious example is Mamma K. She came to power after seeing a lot of people getting killed. Especially with the magical abilities of the Wet Boys, things turn out to be very dangerous. Of course, anytime you have a crime network you’re dealing with killers. She was just smart enough to turn things so she could be rich, she could be safe but she is having a different type of arrogance than a lot of men would bring. Most of men would want to be seen being in power. To her, it is more important to be in control. So she would rather have someone act like he was in power because it’s simpler and so she can live for a long time. And that is one of her big secrets. It fits how she was. This is how she would structure things.
In the Night Angel trilogy, guild rats can be princes, love interests may shatter conventions. What about this will to mix destinies and social backgrounds?
I guess, looking at a hierarchical system is really interesting to me, as an American perhaps, for we have almost no hierarchies; we call it the Melting Pot. People don’t even know who their grandfather was or what he did, so we have very much a lack of structures. Seeing structures within the class system and see how in every society it breaks down at certain points. It’s always a little fluid. This guy is a merchant but he is really really rich. In the middle Ages, he would have ended buying a title! And a couple of generations after, they will all be denying it. I think it is a little more complicated than the way we use to think of it in fantasy novels. In fantasy novels, you are in class A and that is where you stay your whole life and of course you don’t mix with peasants. In my understanding, they always did. There was a certain mixture and it was important for them to do so, especially in a city where there is this amount of corruption. There is even more fluidity. With the way the story works, Azoth would not have been able to mix with royalties at those parties and stuff but I thought it gives us an interesting progression for him to see all the aspects of society by masquerading as a minor noble. Oh man, that was again a very long answer (laugh)
Mythology is part of the world of Midcyru. What about the mythological aspects of the Night Angel figure? Where did they come from?
I think that Durzo and Kylar are avatars of justice. I left a lot of unanswered questions about the mythology because that’s how a lot of history works. In our reality, was King Arthur real ? Maybe there was a guy named Arthur, and maybe he made some the things we think he did, but we don’t really know where the mythology ends and where reality begins. That’s really intriguing. So I wanted to leave some out of the intrigue in this world so the reader is getting curious. You want to know more. Who are these guys? Where do they come from? Durzo talks about the Night Angel. Have there been many? Who were the other guys first? Is Durzo tells the truth, who was the Night Angel before Durzo? That’s some things I don’t want to talk too much about because I hope I’ll come back to this world and write more about it. I think I will start 16 years after the end of the Angel Trilogy and tell the story forward but as I go forward I will keep unfolding what happened long long time ago which allows me to avoid that kind of slumps you get in certain books where you’re only going forward and then, the first book had a lot of richness and you lose the richness as you go along.
So I want to tell more about the Night Angel but in future books! (laugh)
You said in a previous interview that you thought about writing again about Midcyru but that you needed time. Are you still in this state of mind? If you should write again in this world, do you already know if it will be a follow-up or a sequel, or on which characters you may focus?
Many tracks in that question! I don’t like writing prequel. Some people asked me to write a prequel about Durzo but the challenges about writing a prequel are …. mainly you know how it ends. It works but it is much harder to do, it is a very hard story telling style. Durzo is gonna end up like this bitter guy. You know how the character is going to end up, how he is going to be internally, so where lay the interest? If you want to see a spectacular failure making a prequel, look at the Star Wars movies! No offense to George Lucas but they were disaster! He had the story, the tragic fall of Darth Vador, he could have made a great story out of it as we knew he was going to fall but didn’t know how. There was a dramatic tension to that question. He completely botched it but it’s a very difficult thing to do well. It’s much more easier to take Luke Skywalker and say “he goes out, what’s gonna happen to him next”. That’s easier dramatically because we don’t know, we’re curious so we follow on with the story. So that’s it! Probably no prequel for me, because I think the challenges are too hard. But I have to decide where I want to start. I have the history of the world for the next eighteen years or whatever pretty well defined in my mind. I know at least generally what happens. But I don’t know where the best point to start telling the story is. I still have a few years to sort it out. Either I want to start a few years later, because Logan has been foretold that his reign would last 2 years or 18, so you know that something is gonna happen to Logan, or I want to start 16 years later. I have to decide how much I want to tell in the forward motion and how much I want to explain what happened.
Say you take Logan, and he has become really bitter. He was not bitter when you left him, right? So people would wonder what happened to him. So you would tell the story both backward and forward. I know the characters, I know what’s going to happen, but I still haven’t decided at what point to pick up their story: what’s most intriguing? What will be more satisfying for the fans and I want to have the skills to do well. Because there are different telling stories styles that fit different writers. I want to take a step away from the world of Midcyru for a few years because the story I want to tell next I don’t think I’m at the level of practice in my skills to tell it the way I want to. So I will write different kind of stories and then maybe I can come back to this with something really new, different, to the story outline that is already in my head.
So the characters are already in your head. Do you keep them only in your head or do you take notes?
The first book I wrote, which was not published, was the story set in Midcyru 16 years later. I wrote this story and it had some structural flaws. The story was good but the structure did not work. I messed with it. I worked on it for five years and then I decided that the skeleton was messed up. So whatever you tried with the muscles and the skin, it was not gonna work. So that ‘s story I’ve already told so I know these characters really well, so yes I’ve written a lot of things down, I’ve taken a lot of notes, and as I have worked on it for five years it is more a matter of pushing the characters out of my head so I can think about my other books rather than forgetting them! (laugh)
I wanted to ask you a question about the figure of the Wolf but you said you wouldn’t talk about the mythology! (laugh)
Yeah! I do intend to tell more about the wolf. He becomes a little more central. The mystery about the Wolf, the hunter, is going to be very important.
What are you future projects? What can expect your French readers?
The work I’m working on right now is called The Black … I believe it’s going to be a trilogy. Still fantasy but I’m going to make different assumptions about how things work. It will be set in a very Mediterranean kind of setting, so lots of different interesting cultures. I love to explore how various cultures interact with each other. The technology is set about 1600. You’ve got rudimentary firearms, you’ve got magic and you’ve got swords all together, so it’s all the things I love mixed together! I didn’t want to start with a character that was very powerful but there is a lot of magic in this world. To be honest, the more magic you have, the more it screws things up. Sometimes, when you get to the end of a book, voilà (French in the text) the guy does some magic he has never shown before, a kind of deus ex machina that will fix things with magic. It feels like cheating. It’s fun to have magic but the more magic you have in the world, the more you’re different from our world and the more problems you create like: why don’t they use magic to refrigerate their meat? Or, why don’t they use magic to light their campfires or when they are cold at night, why don’t they use their fire magic to get warm. As they read, readers see where you messed up and you make yourself look like an idiot!
I’ll use an example here. Take J.K. Rowling. I love her books, she set on a very difficult task starting her series as children’s books and ending it as young adult novels. She wrote different genres with the same characters and this transitioning is a really difficult writing challenge. In one of the books, Hermione has a time-turner, she can be in two places at once. At the end of the book, she realizes the problems it could create and destroys it but if Dumbledore had this time turner, why didn’t he use it to fix the problems he had. J.K. Rowling realized that this amulet destroyed the logic of her world, so she destroyed it but it was too late. You messed the whole book with this time-turner! She’s talented so people forgave her but I’m not J.K. Rowling and people won’t forgive me such a mistake so… (laugh) Once again a very long answer for a short question! So to sum up. This new book will be set around 1600. Lots of magic. Characters with big secrets. The tone is different because the story telling is different to match the characters. The characters are more educated. But I hope you will enjoy the deep characters, the surprises, the fast action … it will be out in late August in English and I hope that very soon there will be a release in French.
I heard you were a gamer but what about music? Do you write in music?
I do listen to music as I write. I listen to all kind of music depending on where I am on the story. Usually I like listening to stuff with a lot of energy, really up tempo stuff, a little bit of what I call Chick Rage Music you know like Pink!, she’s always angry about something (laugh) I listen to just whatever it is that inspires me!
  1. Un entretien avec Brent Weeks - version française
  2. An interview with Brent Weeks - English version

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