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An Interview With David Keck

by Chadwick Ginther - Tuesday, Mar 11, 2008 at 5:14pm

I recently had the pleasure of conducting a brief interview with fantasy author David Keck. David will be at our Grant Park location with his wife and fellow author Kate Brallier, March 22nd for a dual launch of In a Time of Treason, and The Boundless Deep.

Previously: The Boundless Deep By Kate Brallier

CG: David, you grew up in Winnipeg, studied in England and have taught in small town Canada, how did a prairie boy end up in New York City?

DK: How did I end up in New York? Well, I met a girl.

Back in 2001, a friend (who writes as Steven Erikson) convinced me to come along with him to a writer's convention in Montreal. There I met a great many wonderful people. There were writers and agents and editors from around the world. And one particular editor from New York City. A couple of years later, we were getting married in a chapel right across from the United Nations (Who'd a thunk it, eh?).

CG: What was your first break as a writer? Did you start with short fiction or was selling a novel always the goal?

DK: Like a lot of people, I started by writing short fiction, sending stories to magazines all over the English speaking world -- and collecting rejections in return for nearly every one of them. (Short fiction is a great way to learn. You can try nearly anything -- without costing yourself the next two years of your life). I met a lot of great writers hammering away at short fiction and figuring out how to tell a good story.

CG: Have you found it difficult as a new voice in a genre that is filled with series with both a long history and rabid fanbase?

DK: I think many fantasy (and science fiction) readers are fans of vast stories because they let you explore a wide, invented world, returning again and again to find new corners. The first step into a new fantasy is a tall one. When anything is possible, every assumption must be tested. In a new fantasy, you might find that up is down, whereas, in a series, the foundations have been laid.

Teachers have long noticed that a good addictive (and comfortable) series can draw in young and give them real practice. It's the same for everybody.

CG: What were the challenges you faced writing In a Time of Treason? Did you find it more or less difficult to complete the second book of a series vs. the first volume In the Eye of Heaven?

DK: In a Time of Treason is a wilder and more ferocious story--lots of good blood and thunder stuff. And this actually made the story a little easier to tell. There were challenges, however. There are any number of subplots knotting back and forth (most only partially understood by our hero) and I wanted to make certain that there were hints and foreshadows aplenty to reward alert readers...

CG: At your last reading here you said that as a teacher in New York you were used to hostile audiences, what role do you feel a good "performance" of your work adds to a reading?

DK: Haven't we all sat through a dull reading? (There's nothing worse than hearing a story you love anesthetised and blandly dissected -- worst of all if it's the author committing the crime). If I'm in the audience, I want the speaker to catch my attention and then really bring the story to life.

CG: George R.R. Martin once thanked someone for telling him to put dragons in his Song of Ice and Fire. Were you ever tempted to turn the world of your novels Errest the Old into a historical fiction tale?

DK: I've been asked about why I choose a fantasy setting -- and then become obsessed with constructing what feels like a very real historical backdrop. (Realistic fantasy smacks of the oxymoronic). But I love the wonderful and eerie world of folklore and legend every bit as much as I like clambering around the real castles and imagining what life might have been like.

Besides, I suspect that fantastic elements lose their impact if their context is too fanciful. As a kid, an impossible, silent stranger appeared in a gloomy corner of my bedroom one night. He just stood there--and nearly scared me to death. (As is happened, he was a box and a few old clothes). A silent standing figure wouldn't really rate a mention in a nightmare world. But in a child's bedroom? (Context is king).

CG: Errest the Old is a great combination of Christian analogues and old world folklore. Do you remember what sparked the genesis of your world?

DK: I've been reading history and old world folklore for a long time. I remember getting the once-a-month Time Life "Enchanted World" series one illustrated book a month for a few years as a teenager. They told old stories shot through with enough historicity to give you the ghost-story chill of authenticity. (One that I liked very much gave the blow-by-blow account of a heavily armoured knight in an exhausting battle). I suppose I'm still writing in something very like the enchanted world those books described. The world as we thought it was.

CG: You have sifted through a lot of mythology and folk tales to build your world. What is your favourite story from our world that has found purchase in Errest the Old?

DK: There are a lot of stories about ominous birds and I especially like old idea that crows, ravens, and eagles (creatures attracted to carrion) are drawn to battlefields -- but showing up before the fighting starts and looking over the poor soldiers like armoured morsels on a living buffet.

CG: Your readers get to experience the magic hidden in the corners of Errest as your protagonist Durand does. Will Durand come to understand the power and place of the Knights of Ash, Lady of the Bower, and the Patriarchs and Rooks?

DK: I hope that readers will learn more and more as they read, though some secrets will likely remain hidden as too much explanation kills magic pretty effectively. With a little luck, the most important facts will become clear (without my having to provide copious footnotes in some future edition).

CG: Do you have any plans beyond Durand Col, or will stories of Errest end with his tale?

DK: Durand's story will require three books, but, as you've likely guessed, the world is bigger than any individual -- I might leave Errest the Old behind and take my readers off across the continent. There are southern cities crammed with thieves and magic. There is a northern sea rimmed with ice and mist. Even an invented world is hard to explore in a book or two if there is interest enough to convince my publisher to fund the expeditions. I hope to write many more.

CG: And I can't wait to read them. Thanks David for taking the time to answer some of my questions.

Categories: Interview, SciFi & Fantasy, Winnipeg, Event News

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