the Little Red Reviewer

Interview with Steven Brust

Posted on: September 7, 2013

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.

Photo swiped from Wikipedia.

Photo swiped from Wikipedia.

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?

A: Tiassa




You can learn more about Steven Brust on his website, or follow him on twitter.

Brontosaurus approves of Andrea's Steven Brust collection.

Brontosaurus approves of Andrea’s Steven Brust collection.


14 Responses to "Interview with Steven Brust"

I just finished reading this out loud to my man as he folds the laundry. He has read nearly everything by Steven Brust and I have read some of his works. We both enjoy his Vlad Taltos books greatly.


one of the favorite interviews I’ve ever done, that’s for sure.

I was at one of my favorite bookstores earlier today, was a quite miffed the only Brust’s they had were ones I already owned. will have to search again for To Reign in Hell and Sethra Lavode, apparently.


Very cool. You didn’t ask: “Do you know readers obsessively buy your books repeatedly at used book stores? Some of us have a disturbing number of Jhereg’s?” LOL

Thanks for sharing!


Oh, so I should come over to your place because you’re hoarding the handful of Vlad Taltos novels I’m missing? LOL!

I did almost buy another copy of Taltos today. You know, because of Reasons.


What a lovely guy. This is another great interview. And, I was thinking – seeing as you’ve read so many of his books maybe you can answer ‘If you enjoy _________, _______ and _______, you’ll love The Incrementalists.’
Lynn 😀


I really liked Skyler White’s answer to that. was tres adorable.


yeah, I just went back and reread her answer – really pretty cool and actually very original!
Lynn 😀


Reblogged this on sarahremy and commented:
Love Steven Brust!


Well shoot. Once again you provide me with additions to my already-titanic “to-read” list. Don’t stop! 😀


i couldn’t stop if I tried. 🙂

and i won’t try.


I tried commenting the other day but it didn’t work out. 😦 Hope it does now.
Just wanted to say thank you for the interview, I’m a fan of Vlad Taltos and luckily haven’t yet read through all the books so there are some Taltos adventures in my near future… 😉


i’m sorry commenting wasn’t working so well the other day, happy that it worked today!

I keep reading my favorite Taltos novels over and over again, a part of me doesn’t want to catch up completely with the series. because I’d eventually run out Vlad books to read.

have you read the related books, Khaavren Romances, Paths of the Dead, any of those? I have a few, but haven’t dived in yet.


No, I haven’t but thanks for the recommendation. 🙂 I’ll give them a try (well, a place on my TBR pile at least). 😉


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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