Way back when I didn’t know epic fantasy from high fantasy, or an orc from a soulsword, my husband gave me a book and said something along the lines of “This is weird, but you might like it. It’s fantasy, but it hasn’t got any orcs or quests or stuff. It’s about a guy who is an assassin, but he doesn’t like, like it. It’s just his job, and he doesn’t nejoy being so good at it, and there’s some cool magic. It’s by that same guy who wrote that book you really liked, The Sun, The Moon and The Stars“. This was like eight or ten years ago, but it really did go something like that. My memory for these kinds of things is awful.
That book was The Book of Jhereg, and I have been a huge fan of Steven Brust ever since. I have yet to find another author whose voice affects me so strongly. I haven’t read everything he’s written, but I am working on it. A little while ago Steven tweeted that he’d be interested in being interviewed about his upcoming novel, The Incrementalists, co-written with Skyler White. After all the big-name famous bloggers chimed in, I quietly raised my hand. One day I’ll realize my favorite authors are just regular people. But until that day, they can stay up on their pedestal and remain superheroes. Before I say anything too much more embarrassing, let’s get to the interview, shall we?
Feeling lost? Go check out my interview with Skyler White, my review of The Incrementalists, or if you have some time on your hands check out all my Steven Brust reviews. You might notice I asked both authors some of the same questions. that was on purpose.
Q: I’ve been a huge fan of yours for years. I’m nuts for Vlad Taltos, nearly ended a friendship because she thought Greg from The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars was an asshole, and I pretty much follow you around twitter. But everyone else reading this might not be like that, so would you introduce yourself, and tell everyone a little bit about yourself?
A: This is tough for a Minnesotan; we get really uncomfortable talking about ourselves. Um. I’ll do my best. I’ve been writing for 30 years, full time for about 26 of them. I’m an amateur musician and poker player. Politically, I consider myself a Red. I’m not an incrementalist.
Q: How did the idea for The Incrementalists come about?
A: I was involved in a sort of complex shared world open source creative commons multi-media project a while ago. Being that far over my head (I understand almost nothing about any of those things), I went out asking for advice. One of the people I asked–because one always asks him–was Tappan King. In the course of the conversation, he mentioned the idea of a secret society operating through all of history and dedicated to making things a little better.
The idea stayed with me long after the collapse of the other project. I was hanging out with Skyler talking about writing process and writer tools and tricks and How To Do It Gooder and stuff, and she mentioned how much she missed the collaboration that is inherent in theater. I remembered what a joy it had been to write with Megan and Emma, so I mentioned Tappan’s idea. We drank whiskey.
Q: What’s your favorite scene in the book?
A: I like the popcorn scene because it makes me giggle, but I think my favorite is probably the climactic Ren scene about ritual and uninsulated wire and dragons.
Q: My new favorite interview not-question is a fill in the blanks: If you enjoy _________, _______ and _______, you’ll love The Incrementalists.
A: Oh, man. I’m sorry. I just can’t. It’s that Minnesota thing again; I’m incapable of saying anyone will love something of mine, no matter how much it’s qualified. I can’t do it.
Q: The Incrementalists isn’t the first book you’ve written with another author, you did The Gypsy with Megan Lindholm (who many people may know as Robin Hobb), and Freedom and Necessity with Emma Bull. How do you identify projects that are best done with a partner?
Good question. I don’t think there’s anything consistent. The Gypsy came about because I’d written a scene, had no idea where things went from there, and realized that parts of it reminded me of Wizard of the Pigeons, so I asked Megan about it. The second was Emma’s idea–she dropped the first letter off at my front door. And this one was, well, like I said before. There’s another project I’m currently collaborating on, this one with Will Shetterly, and I can only say that, after starting it, something in it reminded me of Will and I realized it could be tons of fun to try to
hit his curve balls.
Q: Personally, I love first person perspective, which is what you nearly always write in. What’s the draw to writing in 1st person?
A: In brief: Point of view solves everything, and first person solves point of view.
Q: You did a wonderful interview with Fran Wilde last year, when Tiassa came out. You mentioned that Vlad Taltos, at least when it comes to food, is a surrogate “you”. In The Incrementalists, is Phil a surrogate “you” in any way?
A: Hmmm. In some ways, but not all that much. When it comes to politics, at least, Oskar is much more of a surragate me. On the other hand, Phil looks like I wish I looked, and, hmm, it’s complicated. I’ll just say there are bits and pieces; I’m not sure I understand much more than that myself.
Q: To readers new to your fiction, which of your novels do you recommend they start with?
A: Jhereg, because it was my first novel, if they don’t like it, I can say, “Well, geez, it was only a first novel.”
Q: I have a very long list of reasons why I love your writing. But one thing that always strikes me in your books is the relationships. You write the most effective relationships, they just punch me in the gut every time. Not really a question, I just wanted to say that.
A: I just want to say thank you. :-) I guess relationships between and among people are a thing I notice–or, rather, small interactions that reveal relationships–to make up for all the things I’m oblivious to. There are a lot of things I’m oblivious to.
Q: If you were a Dragaeran, which house would you be in?