An Interview with Steven K. BrustTuesday, Jul 08, 2008 at 9:21am
Jhereg. His mix of comedy, grittiness, and tiny wise-ass dragons attracted my attention almost immediately, and I haven't been disappointed since.emerged on the fantasy scene 25 years ago with the appearance of
July marks the arrival of the latest Vlad Taltos novel, Jhegaala, the eleventh in the planned nineteen books about Vlad and his annoying familiar. Steve has had some health problems recently (which I've previously discussed here), and I think I can speak for all his fans when I say that we hope this is behind him and he has many productive years ahead. After watching the blog Steve shares with some close friends for the last few months (recently relocated to his Dream Cafe site), I've taken the opportunity to presume on his writing time for an interview.
Jhegaala. This is a bit of a deviation, as Vlad begins by setting out to leave the empire behind him in search of his roots. Is that an event you'd been looking forward to, or did you approach it with some trepidation?: Steven, thanks for agreeing to chat with me. I'd like to get right to what everyone is waiting for:
No, I can't say I approached it with trepidation. If I had, I wouldn't have written it -- my whole approach is always to tell the next story I feel like telling. It had some challenges, but that's part of the fun.
Will we be seeing more of this side of the mountains and of the Easterners in general?
I honestly don't know. I know the next book, but beyond that, well, it's just a question of telling the story that wants to be told.
As an unabashed Trotskyist in possibly the world's least sympathetic nation, you've brought a bit of an outsider's perspective to society. Have you any comments on that?
That's a tough one. Of course, my beliefs and my upbringing have a huge affect on what I write, but it isn't always easy to identify the details. One thing is that it has given me the conviction that most people do not understand the workings of their own world as well as they think they do, and that runs through my work. Another is that, in order to avoid proselytizing, I'm forced to examine questions that fall outside of the areas that I am convinced (rightly or wrongly) that I understand.
Do you have any feelings about having passed over the Vlad hump, with fewer novels in front of you than behind?
Um. No, not really; I've never really thought of it in terms of, "I need to write X Vlad novels." I've been ready to drop the series at any point if I got tired of it. I still am.
Is the Vlad Taltos saga complete in your mind, and have you recorded enough to satisfy your fans if you are assassinated by the Jhereg, or IRS?
I know bits and pieces of his future, but I haven't recorded it anywhere. So maybe you should hire me a bodyguard. Hee hee.
You've hinted elsewhere that while you are done with the Khaavren romances, we might still see more of Paarfi's work. Is that a specific idea that is building in your head, or are you simply keeping your options open at this time?
Just keeping my options open. Paarfi is fun to write, but so far nothing has jumped up and grabbed me that wants his voice. Something might at any time, however.
I'd like to move away from your work now, to you and writing in general. When and why did you begin writing?
Lord of Light made me feel. Ever since high school I would get the writing itch, which would hit me a couple of times a year and last for a couple of weeks. Gradually, it started happening more often and lasting longer. It was in 1980 that I kicked over into just really needing to write constantly.I wanted to make other people feel the way Zelazny's
Do you manage to make a living with your writing, or do you have to supplement that income? If so, what do you do for supplemental income?
So far, except for massive hospital bills, I've managed to make a living at it. I hope this continues.
Could you share a bit about the writing process, and how it works for you?
I think you'll have to be more specific with that one; sorry.
Has writing always been fairly smooth for you, or are there particular aspects of the process that you find more difficult than others?
It's always a mix of easy parts and hard parts. The annoying thing is that, after the book is done, I can never tell from reading the thing which were which.
Do you write to any sort of time or word-count schedule?
No, I write to a structure. I like to establish the shape of the book early, and then that dictates how it will come together. As for time, like many (most?) writers, it goes faster as I get further into it.
Do you ever experience "writers’ block" and if so do you have any favorite technique for getting past it?
Certainly I've had the experience of not knowing what the next sentence is, but I've never had writers' block as I understand the term. I'll be fine if I never do.
Many genre writers feel restricted by the categorizations. Have you found the genre labels restrictive in what you want to accomplish?
Not so far. I've never had a publisher try to convince me not to write something I didn't feel like writing, and I've never consciously worried about genre restrictions. If they do restrict me, it isn't at a level I'm aware of.
You occasionally seem to like standing point of view on its ear. I don't recall which book, but there is a point where we are reading what happened to Vlad, as told by Cawti to someone else as it was told to her by yet another person who was told it by Vlad after the fact. Have I got that right, and was it as fun, and confusing, to write as it was to read?
One of the really fun things about this stuff is finding the most effective way to tell the story. When its confusing, that just increases the challenge to make it fun rather than irritating for the reader.
To Reign in Hell, you were surprised to learn that Satan was going to win. Do your characters often do that to, or for, you, or was that an anomaly?You've mentioned elsewhere that, while writing
Oh, they'll do it from time to time. It just means that there are aspects of the story that I'm not aware of at a conscious level, and when they clash with those I'm conscious of, there is a conflict that needs to be resolved. I generally trust my subconscious in such situations.
Could you share a few of the high points in your life that you feel have helped make you who you are, both personally and professionally?
To Reign in Hell was a high I still haven't entirely gotten over. And then there was the Winnipeg Folk Festival where Boiled in Lead was doing a main stage show and there were thirty thousand people dancing to a song I'd written; that was amazing.Well, selling your first novel is always going to be amazing experience. And having write an introduction to
: Steven doesn’t realize it yet, but having visited a Canadian event and being willing to talk about it in a positive fashion practically makes him a Canadian. At least, it means we’ll be bragging about his attendance far into the future.
Do you do much traveling to promote your work, and when you do, do you generally find that invigorating, or is it a tiring process?
I don't do any kind of promoting as such; I'm not good at it and I don't enjoy it. I do go to SF conventions when I can afford it, but that's just because they're fun.
Do you manage to read very much yourself, and what are you reading now, for fun, and/or research?
Rakossy by , and it's probably about time to reread .I'm doing some anthropological research for a future project, and reading
Are there any new authors that you have found particularly interesting?
Little Brother, is wonderful. The newest fantasy writer I've gotten excited about is . The people I'm living with, and , are doing some very exciting work, and it's really cool to be there early to watch the process as it develops.I don't think counts as new, but his latest book,
Dream Cafe Weblog he shares with Kit and Reesa.With that, we'll let Steve return to his writing. I want to thank Steve for taking the time to respond to my questions. I suspect many of us are looking forward to new things, as well as more of Vlad. And for the readers out there, if you're interested in contributing to Steve's medical bills, bodyguard fund, or just want to find out what's happening in his life this week, I suggest looking him up on the
|Categories: Interview, Authors, SciFi & Fantasy|
$27.25 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $24.53
From bestselling fantasy author Steven Brust comes this paranormal novel of immortality--and its price...
Born over a century ago, Agyar was once a frivolous young man, before he found unwanted immortality in a woman's blood-red lips. Now he goes from woman to woman, and decade to decade, finding himself at last in an Midwestern college town, where he must choose between the seductions of salvation--and of destruction.
$17.50 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $15.75
The Book of Jhereg and The Book of Taltos collected the first five novels of Steven Brust's highly imaginative fantasy series that Locus praised as "entertaining and worth reading." The Book of Athyra features books six and seven in the series--Athyra and Orca.
Vlad Taltos is a sorcerer and assassin without peer--as deadly at spell casting as he is with sword wielding. Accompanying him on his journeys are two leathery-winged jhereg who share a telepathic link with Vlad--and triple his chances against even the most powerful of enemies...
In Athyra, Vlad finds he's ready to retire himself and his jhereg companions, but the biggest hitters of the House of the Jhereg have something else in mind. In Orca, Vlad must repay a debt to a boy who saved his life--even if it means breaking a financial scandal big enough to bring down the House of the Orca, and possibly the entire Empire...
$18.00 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $16.20
The first three fantastical adventures of assassin Vlad Taltos--now in one volume.
A welcome addition to any fantasy fan's library, The Book of Jhereg follows the antics of the wise-cracking Vlad Taltos and his dragon-like companion through their first three adventures--Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla.
There are many ways for a young man with quick wits and a quick sword to advance in the world. Vlad Taltos chose the route of assassin. From his rookie days to his selfless feats of heroism, the dauntless Vlad will hold readers spellbound--and The Book of Jhereg will take its place among the classic compilations in fantasy.
$19.50 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $17.55
Steven Brust's first three novels featuring assassin Vlad Taltos and his jhereg companion were collected in one volume as The Book of Jhereg. The Book of Taltos continues the adventure with books four and five in the series--Taltos and Phoenix.Vlad Taltos is an assassin unlike no other. Not only is he quick with a sword, but he also possesses a gift for witchcraft conjuring. The latest addition to his already formidable arsenal is a leathery-winged jhereg who shares a telepathic link with Vlad--making him twice as deadly...The adventures chronicled in Taltos and Phoenix find Vlad accepting a job in the Land of the Dead, but a living human being cannot walk the paths of the dead and return, alive, to the land of men. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), the Demon Goddess is willing to rescue him--if Vlad is willing to grant her a favor in return...
$35.25 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $31.73
Brokedown Palace is a stand-alone fantasy in the world of Steven Brust's bestselling Vlad Taltos novels.
Once upon a time...far to the East of the Dragaeran Empire, four brothers ruled in Fenario:
King Laszlo, a good man--though perhaps a little mad; Prince Andor, a clever man--though perhaps a little shallow; Prince Vilmos, a strong man--though perhaps a little stupid; and Prince Miklos, the youngest brother, perhaps a little--no, a lot-stubborn.
Once upon a time there were four brothers--and a goddess, a wizard, an enigmatic talking stallion, a very hungry dragon--and a crumbling, broken-down palace with hungry jhereg circling overhead. And then...
$29.99 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $26.99
Steven Brust's Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille is a time-traveling, science fiction thriller and a rollicking, fun read.
Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille serves the best matzoh ball soup in the Galaxy, and hires some of the best musicians you'll ever hear. It's a great place to visit, but it tends to move around--just one step ahead of whatever mysterious conspiracy is reducing whole worlds to radioactive ash. And Cowboy Feng's may be humanity's last hope for survival.
$39.99 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $35.99
It is 1849. Across Europe, the high tide of revolution has crested, leaving recrimination and betrayal in its wake. From the high councils of Prussia to the corridors of Parliament, the powers-that-be breathe sighs of relief. But the powers-that-be are hardly unified among themselves. Far from it . . .
On the south coast of England, London man-about-town James Cobham comes to himself in a country inn, with no idea how he got there. Corresponding with his brother, he discovers he has been presumed drowned in a boating accident. Together they decide that he should stay put for the moment, while they investigate what may have transpired. For James Cobham is a wanted man--wanted by conspiring factions of the government and the Chartists alike, and also targeted by a magical conspiracy inside his own family.
And so the adventure of Freedom and Necessity begins... leading the reader through every corner of mid-nineteenth-century Britain, from the parlors of the elite to the dens of the underclass. Steven Brust and Emma Bull have crafted a masterful mix of fantasy and historical fiction. Not since Wilkie Collins or Conan Doyle has there been such a profusion of guns, swordfights, family intrigues, women disguised as men, occult societies, philosophical discussions, and, of course, passionate romance.
$29.99 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $26.99
Cigany is the gypsy, stalking the city in a cloud of magic.
Stepovich is the seasoned cop, who keeps finding dead bodies in the gypsy's wake.
The Fair Lady is Queen of the Underworld, drawing them both into her murderous web...until only the gypsy's broken memories stand between Stepovich's beloved city and the Lady's dark designs.
Part crime novel, part magic, Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm's The Gypsy is "a powerful and memorable fantasy" (Publishers Weekly).
$35.25 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $31.73
Set in the same world as Stephen Brust's beloved Vlad Taltos books, The Phoenix Guards is a fantasy rewrite of The Three Musketeers--a swashbuckling tale of adventure.
A thousand years before the birth of Vlad Taltos, the Dragaeran Empire is a hotbed of intrigue, sorcery, intrigue, wild adventure, and intrigue. For those who would be heroes, it is a delightful time to be alive--and an easy place to die.
Khaavren of the House of Tiassa is a son of landless nobility, possessor of a good sword and "tolerably well-acquainted with its use." Along with three loyal friends, he enthusiastically seeks out danger and excitement. But in a realm renowned for repartee and betrayals, where power is as mutable as magic, a young man like Khaavren, newly come from the countryside, had best be wary. His life depends on it. And so does the future of Draegara.
The Khaavren Romances, set in the world of Vlad Taltos's Dragaera:
1. The Phoenix Guards
2. Five Hundred Years After
3. The Paths of the Dead (The Viscount of Adrilankha, Vol. 1)
4. The Lord of Castle Black (The Viscount of Adrilankha, Vol. 2)
5. Sethra Lavode (The Viscount of Adrilankha, Vol. 3)
The Baron of Magister Valley [standalone]
$24.50 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $22.05
Once upon a time there was a kingdom that lived in darkness, for the sun, the moon and the stars were hidden in a box, and that box was hidden in a sow's belly, and that sow was hidden in a troll's cave, and that cave was hidden at the end of the world.
Once upon a time there was a studio of artists who feared they were doomed to obscurity, for though they worked and they worked, no one was interested in the paintings that stood in racks along their studio walls.
Steven Brust's fantasy novel The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars is a tale of two quests, of two young men who are reaching for the moon. And the sun. And the stars.
$29.99 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $26.99
The time is the Beginning. The place is Heaven. The story is the Revolt of the Angels--a war of magic, corruption and intrigue that could destroy the universe.
To Reign in Hell was Stephen Brust's second novel, and it's a thrilling retelling of the revolt of the angels, through the lens of epic fantasy.
$11.99 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $10.79
Tiassa is the New York Times bestselling thirteenth novel in Steven Brust's most enduringly popular series in modern adventure fantasy, Vlad Taltos.
Once, Vlad Taltos knew his trade: he killed people for a living. That skill got him his foothold in House Jhereg, running the rackets for a chunk of urban Adrilankha. Later, things happened that left Vlad a changed man, on the run from the Jhereg and frequently involved in the affairs of Dragonlords, Empresses, and even Jenoine. Far more involved than the average human.
Meanwhile, in the very distant past, one of the gods fashioned an artifact--a silver figurine of a tiassa, a winged panther-like animal. To Devera the Wanderer, it's a pretty toy to play with. To Vlad, it's a handy prop for a con he's running. To the Empire, it's a tool to be used against the Jenoine. And to the Jhereg, it's a trap to kill Vlad.
As it happens, however, the silver tiassa has its own agenda.
Tiassa tells a story that threads its way through more than ten years of the remarkable life of Vlad Taltos--and, to the delight of longtime fans, brings him together with Khaavren from The Phoenix Guards and its sequels. Khaavren may be Vlad's best friend--or his most terrible enemy.
$22.99 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $20.69
Marcus, a.k.a "w1n5t0n," is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works-and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school's intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they're mercilessly interrogated for days.
When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.