This interview was originally posted at SentientOnline on the 20th September 2009
I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, Scott Lynch! Author of the stunning series ‘The Gentleman Bastard Sequence’ which currently has two books available, ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’, and ‘Red Seas Under Red Skies’, and has fans all over the world eagerly awaiting ‘The Republic of Thieves’.
Q: Can we start with a mini-biography as to who you are and what you write?
I was born in Minnesota in 1978. I’m a geek-child of the 80s. Gamer, fantasy and science fiction reader, part-time firefighter. There are many writers out there creating subtle, respectable, dainty little works of pseudo-fantasy where nobody uses harsh language and nobody gets their head chopped off and things do not explode. I am not one of those writers.
Q: You’ve reached quite a lot of success and a high level of praise for the first two books, which must be exciting for you. What are some of the best things that have come from publishing the Gentleman Bastard Sequence, and what are some of the worst?
Well, publication is its own reward. Talk about your dream jobs… an enthusiastic audience responding so vividly to what I write, it’s just pure heaven. Most writers are egotists, whether they realize it or not, and we want to be centers of attention… at least some of the time. The fact that people really enjoy my work is gratifying as hell. As for the worst parts? Eh, there really are no “worst” parts.
Occasionally I get to see someone on the internet writing crazy nonsense or outright lies about me, but, y’know, that’s life. Every once in a while you get someone who just shows up out of the blue spewing random bullshit about your sales or calling you a plagiarist or whatever… every author gets that, sooner or later, in variable quantities. Mostly you just laugh it off. Otherwise you start devoting valuable hours of your life to stalking crazy people on the internet, and when you do that the crazy people have already won.
Of course, that’s a very easy thing to say and a goddamn hard thing to practice when you find yourself presented with yet another crazy asshole begging for a response. Many better writers than myself have buckled to that pressure. I’m sure I’ll have the chance to buckle in the future!
Q: When the editing process comes about most authors find that they have to cut many scenes from their manuscript. Can you tell us one scene you had to cut from The Lies of Locke Lamora that you would have loved to keep in?
From TLoLL? Nope, not really. Pretty much everything I wanted to be there made it in… there were perhaps a scene or two I could have added to clarify certain things, but they were simply not written, rather than cut after the fact.
There was a bit in RSURS, in which a brother-and-sister duo of priests, one a divine of the gods of thieves and the other a divine of the god of the sea, deliver a public sermon in the middle of Port Prodigal, the pirate settlement. I wrote them as the sort of extremely outgoing wackaloons you tend to see at the traditional public speaking areas in, say, London… eccentrics who are so well-known that everyone just sort of goes about their business while the nutters are spewing their hellfire and brimstone. And that, sadly, was just background flavor and had to get tossed for space reasons.
Q: Regarding the brother-and-sister duo of priests . . . will we ever get to see that? Will you post it on your website someday?
I’m sure I will, just not sure when.
Q: Did you have any influences when it came to the creation of the Gentleman Bastards? It’s widely spoken about how unique they all are, can you tell us how you managed such a high level of, (bluntly, in my most eloquent of fangirly terms), awesome?
It’s pretty impossible to write a set of fantasy thieves, if you’ve actually done your genre homework, without referencing Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Those guys are a tough act to follow… while they ranged far and wide in their adventures and were much more tongue-in-cheek than the Lamora books (though it is often a cynical and subtly sinister sort of tongue-in-cheek), they set the standard. They stole a guy’s *house*, for crying out loud. Poor dude literally came home one night in Lankhmar and his house was gone.
Then there’s Harry Harrison’s *Stainless Steel Rat* books, which do occasionally go off the deep end of silliness, but at their heart and at their best they’re all about a slick con artist up against the odds. I read most of those as a teenager and adored them. Then you have virtually every decent heist, caper, or con artist film ever shot, at least prior to 2005… a lot of weird and wesome fantasy or quasi-fantasy films like *Vidocq* and *The Brotherhood of the Wolf,* the more recent film version of *The Count of Monte Cristo* with Guy Pearce and Jim Caviziel, *The Sting* (but god, not its atrocious sequel), *The Grifters,* and crime films like *Goodfellas* and *Carlito’s Way* and *Gangs of New York* (also a fascinating book by Herbert Asbury). One of the high-concept nuggets I threw at my editor beck in 2005 or thereabouts was that I wanted to write sword and sorcery fantasy equivalents to good Brian de Palma films… how’s that for pretentious?
So, ah, I suppose if you put all of that in a blender, you come up with a decent summary of my most obvious influences.
Q: The Eldren. Could you tell us more about them? Who they are, what might have happened to them, what/who they are based off . . . anything you could tell us would be fantastic as they’ve been quite mysterious in the books so far…
Ha! No. Sorry. What you see in the books is what you get. No blathering outside the pages from me on this subject. Some things may eventually be explained, others will just be mysteries forever.
Q: Some of your readers want to know… is the sexual tension between Locke and Jean intended, especially in Red Seas Under Red Skies where it was most noticeable?
Hmmmmm. Tricky! Is it intended in the sense that Locke and Jean are supposed to be canonically bisexual or even closeted homesexuals? Mmmm… not really. Locke and Jean, in my mind, are officially canonically heterosexual. BUT, and this is a big BUT, it’s not just my story… it’s the reader’s story too. It’s your imagination parsing my words and constructing your own idealized version of them, and for some people that idealized version just isn’t going to stop, romatically or sexually, where I might think it does.
So do I deliberately provide what I hope are emotionally interesting scenes in which the two of them are in close proximity, or exposing themselves emotionally to one another, knowing that some readers might wish to seize on and highlight the potential romantic tension? Absolutely. *Positively.* Whatever you imagine these characters doing… whatever relationships you imagine them having… well, those imaginings are legitimate. They are part of the pleasure you take in reading about these characters, part of your personal reading experience.
I mean, it’s not your business to tell me what I should or should not write about (nobody is entitled to the enshrinement of their favorite ’ship unless they actually write the books in question); neither is it my business to tell you what you may or may not fantasize about. I take a pretty dim view of authors who delude themselves into thinking that the audience is somehow required to adhere to One True Vision of the characters they write. Tell me how the hell you’re supposed to enforce that sort of bullshit…
Q: How do you plan your stories? Some authors have story boards, some have little index cards or a dozen A5 sized books… When writing a seven book series, it must be tough to keep it all in order, how do you do it?
Well, the first advice I’d give to anyone trying to do this is to build a single concordance, a single story bible, and update it as you go along, with every fact, every name, every date, every place. I did not do a fantastic job of organizing my concordance at first, and had to spend a painful amount of time while writing RSURS in properly assembling it so that double-checking important details could be a matter of minutes rather than hours.
As for planning and outlining, I write fairly detailed outlines, which then of course get altered pretty substantially, because as the work goes on new and unforeseen solutions (as well as new and equally interesting complications) tend to arise. The most important thing, I think, when outlining is to give yourself a reminder of what each scene and each chapter is doing there… what its FUNCTION is, and what it does for the story or tells the reader. That’s much more important than obsessing over the minutiae of the plot, which really should be a lot more malleable.
Q: Some authors sit themselves down and don’t allow themselves to get up from their chair until they’d sat there for x amount of hours, or done x amount of words. Can you tell us how do you write?
I used to quite frequently plop myself down and write until exhaustion (or until my pager went off for an accident or a fire), but lately I have been trying to skew back to a more rigorously-maintained habit of eight hours a day, five or six days a week. For the maintenance of domestic tranquility. I look at the forty-hour work week as a sort of ideal goal… writing is a job like any other. In fairness to myself, I expect and demand enough undisturbed time each week to get it done… and in fairness to my family, I need to devote enough time to work around the house, to looking after our pets, and to simply unwinding with my better half.
Q: Do you have any writing rituals? Certain authors listen to certain kinds of music, others done a special writing hat…do you have any quirks such as these?
I build soundtracks for each book, and mood soundtracks depending on how I’m feeling about what I’m writing… I’ve got action scene soundtracks, romantic scene soundtracks, lyric-less mood music soundtracks… way too many to count.
Writerly quirks? Well, I’m totally a batshit Captain Insane-O about my fingernails… gotta keep the damn things trimmed. A fraction of a milimeter too long and ARGH MY CONCENTRATION IS DISRUPTED HULK SMASH. Okay, maybe not that bad, but I cut the damn things a lot. And I can’t write with bare feet… I need to have socks on. Or I slowly go mad. MADDDDDDDD.
Q: Regarding your writing playlists, will you ever make one/some/all available on your website? Some fans love seeing what music influenced the writing, and so forth.
Yes, I will eventually make those playlists public as well.
Q: Is there anything else you wish to share with your fans?
*The Republic of Thieves* is coming. I appreciate the intense level of devotion people feel to series that they enjoy, and the worries they have when anything interrupts the smooth flow of books. It’s coming, and I’m sorry I don’t talk about it in seventeen updates per day, but that’s just the way it has to be for now.
Thank you so much, Scott. This has been great, perhaps once TRoT is out Shades of Sentience could interview you again?
Sure, whenever you like!
Cheers and best wishes–