What can be said about Gene Wolfe? One of the true living legends of the fantasy genre, and an incredibly generous man as well. I have had the greatest honour of interviewing one of the authors who inspired me enough to think that maybe, one day, I may be able to write. Reading his Solar Cycle series over the years set me to dreaming of far off lands.
One day I hope to write as well as Gene Wolfe, but until then I will have to just read the interview and his books over and over again.
A little anecdote before the interview though. My daughter asked me to ask Gene if he had any grand children. So I typed up an email with the honest expectation of not receiving a reply as the interview had been completed. I even said something similar to my daughter ie he’s a busy man etc. But within a couple of days, I had had two replies from Gene. The first telling me the names of his grand children and then a photo of one of them (the one closest to my daughter’s age). I almost cried!
So, here’s an interview with a most wonderful human being and a most celebrated author, Gene Wolfe.
In what fresh genre would I like to write?
Something along the line of Roger Rabbit, perhaps. The problem with that idea is that I’d instantly run afoul of copyright laws.
From where do my ideas come?
From my subconscious. I’ll grope around and think of five or six notions, realize I’ve already written at least two of them, and finally settle on one for any of a dozen reasons. After that, its very like planting a seed. The seed is small and not particularly attractive, but plant it, water it, and it may do surprising things.
Do I have a title from the start?
Sometimes, and sometimes I only think I do. Most often I have none, but a title volunteers as I write. I wrote that bit about the torturer traditionally positioning himself so that his shadow fell on his victim, and later realized that I had given myself a title for the book. THE LAND ACROSS went more the other way; I started with the time, and carved the book to fit.
Do you see the future of fantasy and science fiction as bright? If so, which authors are driving it?
Yes, SF and fantasy have bright futures, both of them. But as for which authors are driving them now, I can’t keep up well enough to say. Neil Gaiman, certainly. For the rest, ask Gary Wolfe.
What themes are being overused?
I’m not conscious of any themes being overused. On that I might be wrong; but a good writer can usually see untouched possibilities in something that now seems done to death.
Are movies of books ruining the book?
No, of course not. Movies CAN’T ruin a book. They can only fail to achieve in a new medium what the book achieved in print.
Do you see ebooks threatening traditional publishing?
No, again. First, let’s stop worrying about what ebooks may do. Ebooks are here. They have arrived. They have supplemented traditional publishing, not destroyed it.
Do you prefer to read established authors or debut authors? How do you choose which ones to read?
I don’t prefer either established authors or debuting authors. I want to know what the book is about and whether it is well-written and interesting. A lot of people are influenced by the author’s gender, reading only male of only female writers. You will never convince me that’s not silly. Herding the established authors into one pen and the fresh faces into another isn’t quite so silly, but still silly enough for the comedy club.
Can I get an autographed book? (lol)
Certainly you can get an autographed book. Give me a mailing address. Remember, I get to choose which book it is.
What is it about fantasy that appeals to you?
The appeal of fantasy color and novelty. The old Judy Garland film had it right. This “real” world is black and white, and the people don’t sing and dance nearly enough. Sure, the animals talk, but we rarely listen.
Do you have a group of people that you show a new story to? How much impact can they have on the whole story?
No, I have no group to whom I show my stories. When I finish one, I send it to the agency. Vaughne Hansen reads it. If she finds something she thinks should be changed, I usually change it, but that happens only occasionally.
Do you set yourself a word limit for each book?
No, again. I set no word limit on a book. Occasionally my editor does, but not often. Most recently there was word limit on THE BEST OF GENE WOLFE. I hewed to it, but the agency insisted on adding another story. We did, and my editor made no objection. The UK publisher added yet another plus an introduction, and retitled his edition THE VERY BEST OF GENE WOLFE.
Do you have a target each day?
My target for today was two pages. So yes, sometimes I do. Often I can’t meet it.
Do you write constantly or have breaks between books?
I have a break between books if I haven’t already decided what I want to do next. This time there was a long break between THE LAND ACROSS and A BORROWED MAN. My life was hectic. It must be quieting down now, because I’m writing again.
Do you have characters running around your head? Do they dictate events and their histories to you?
Of course I have characters in my head. That’s where they come from. I control the story, whether the coin comes up heads or tails, for example. Does the flight get there? Is it diverted to Saint Paul? Does it crash? The characters react. When they would act, they do that – does he run back into the burning plane to pull out the child? That depends on him. But if I don’t want him to, I can break his leg.
After so many books, how do you keep them unique?
I’m very glad you think each book unique. It’s imperative that I not bore myself. Some writers write the same plot over and over; but that would drive me crazy.
What is your biggest (self-imposed) time waster?
Right now, my biggest time-waster is Facebook.
Do you remember the first time you saw your book in a shop?
Sorry, but I don’t remember the first time I saw my book in a shop. I don’t go to bookstores to look for my own books, although I sometimes buy one of my own books from a dealer at a con. That’s almost always because I want to give it to somebody.
Do you read other people’s writing?
Yes, of course I read other people’s books and stories. Much less than I want to, because I don’t have the time and no longer have the eyesight. I’m going to have a cataract operation this winter. Things may improve after that. I hope so.
Would you read mine?
Whether I’d read yours would depend on how long it is and why you want me to read it. You’d probably be wiser to send it to someone who might buy it, if I may say so.
Gene Wolfe’s Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Gene-Wolfe/e/B000APBL0I/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1346121103&sr=8-2-ent