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David Weber

e-interviewed by Hilary Williamson (September 2009)

David Weber's Honor Harrington books are New York Times bestsellers, and his novels have regularly been Main Selections of the Science Fiction Book Club. In addition to the Honor Harrington series, he has written many top-selling science fiction novels, including Mutineers' Moon, The Armageddon Inheritance, Heirs of Empire, and Path of the Fury.

Weber has also begun a top-selling epic SF adventure series in collaboration with John Ringo, with four novels so far: March Upcountry, March to the Sea, March to the Stars, and We Few. His novels of the adventures of the Bahzell - Oath of Swords, The War God's Own, and Wind Rider's Oath, another New York Times bestseller - have proven that Weber is equally a master of epic fantasy adventure.

His latest SF novel, By Heresies Distressed, is the third in an engrossing series in which an immortal Personality-Integrated Cybernetic Avatar (PICA) named Merlin guides the survival of a human colony on Safehold after the alien Gbaba had left mankind teetering on the brink of extinction. David Weber lives in South Carolina.

Q: Honor Harrington has attracted an enormous following (including my late father, who read every book). You mentioned in an interview that you like to make your leads 'responsibility-takers'; what else do you think accounts for Honor's appeal to readers of both sexes?

A: To be perfectly honest, I think that one reason Honor appeals to readers of both sexes is that while she's a woman in what is "traditionally" a male role, it's not a big thing (except, of course, on Grayson) to anyone in the books. One problem I've always had with "feminist" far-future science fiction is that I think it underrates and undersells women and what they're willing to put up with, on the one hand, and the IQs of men, on the other hand. If we're on the right path in 2009 where little things like the notion of sexual and racial equality are concerned, then I like to think that by the time we get 2,000 years down the road, we'll have gotten it more or less straightened out. I'm sure we'll find other things to be prejudiced about, and I'm willing to concede that there will be special cases in which we'll "backslide" (I produced one of them, and a rationale for it, in Grayson, for example), but those particular two issues ought to be pretty well settled. First, particularly where sexual equality is concerned, because men who have two brain cells to rub together already know that any effort to hang onto sexual inequality is (a) stupid, (b) irrational, (c) unsustainable, (d) stupid, (e) self-maiming, (f) morally wrong, (g) economically irrational, (h) intellectually hobbling to everyone, and, did I mention, (i) stupid. And, second, where sexual equality is concerned, because women aren't going to stand for it, and anyone who thinks women aren't going to make their position on this minor issue thoroughly clear should be confined somewhere in a nice, padded room where he can't injure himself. I think that near-future science fiction is a perfectly legitimate avenue for feminist fiction; I simply think (as I've said at more than one science fiction convention) that by the time we get to Honor Harrington's time, the question of whether or not women and men should be treated as equals will be a "done deal" which has been a "done deal" for so long that it will have all the burning fascination for the people of that time that Pharaoh's policy towards the Hittites has for people of our time.

Because no one questions whether or not a woman ought to be a military officer in Honor's time, in some ways that entire factor is taken out of the equation. As a result, Honor is freed to simply be a human being fulfilling the role that she fulfills, which frees readers to accept her entirely on her own terms. That is, I think that female readers see in her a female character meeting her duties and responsibilities as a woman without having to fight against gender-related barriers and obstacles, while male readers simply accept her as she is and probably think to themselves "gosh, I've known women with her personality." They probably haven't known too many female 6'2" starship commanders who are also martial artists, great noblewomen, and general all-around avatars of the war goddess, but they've known strong, capable, confident women. And I suspect that most of the male readers who are comfortable with Honor are comfortable with that sort of woman in their own lives.

I think there are other factors, as well, and I'll probably touch on some of them in your later questions, but I truly do think that the biggest single reason that Honor appeals to both male and female readers is that I don't really write about male or female characters; I write about human beings who happen to be male or female people.

Q: Many of your stories emphasize traditional virtues including honour, courage, discipline and sacrifice - do you think readers long for more of these real-world leaders?

A: I don't think there can be much question that readers -- and just about everyone else -- "long for more" of those qualities in real-world leaders. I think it's a pity, sometimes, that there actually are real-world leaders out there, in virtually every portion of the political spectrum, who possess those qualities, often in abundance, but who don't appear on our radar. Either they get swamped in the background noise of all the people around them who don't possess those qualities, or (and I think this happens very often) the fact that they do possess those qualities ends up denied or dismissed by those who disagree with them because of the bitterness of partisan and ideological strife. I know that it's often difficult in my own case to recognize those qualities in someone with whom I bitterly disagree politically, although I generally attempt to do that.

I think, though, that readers (and just about everyone else) long for and admire those qualities in anyone. It's not simply that they're disappointed because they look around and don't seem to see them in the leaders of the present-day political or religious or economic establishment. It's that these are the kind of people they'd like to be themselves, with whom they'd like to associate, who they admire. And I think readers want to be reminded that those qualities genuinely exist. I happen to believe they do. I've seen them. I've known people who died living up to them. I think the existence of those people should be celebrated and remembered, and so I embody those qualities in the literary characters I most like. I've never been drawn to characters who are so "flawed" that they spend their lives struggling against a fog of misery. I'm willing to acknowledge the fact that guilt can often be "empowering," and I've used that in quite a few characters myself, over the years. And I'm certainly willing to agree that a character forced to triumph over personal weaknesses can be extremely evocative, inspirational, and empathic. But the truth is that almost anyone is capable of courage and self-sacrifice under the right (or wrong) circumstances. Discipline and honor come harder, but as Robert Heinlein observed, your true "buck pacifist" is an extremely rare species. And it was also Heinlein who said "Greater love hath no man than a mother cat dying in defense of her kittens." I think both of those statements are true, and I've known people who would not have lifted a finger in their own defense because they believe violence is morally wrong yet would die where they stood, fighting with teeth and bare fingernails, to protect a child -- any child.

I think my characters celebrate that side of what it means to be truly responsible human beings. I think there are at least traces of those qualities in virtually everyone. Obviously, they're going to be stronger elements in some people's characters than in other people's, but I genuinely believe they're there. And I think readers -- or my readers, at least -- admire and empathize with those qualities. Yes, they'd like to see more of them in real life leaders, but even more than that, they'd like to see more of those qualities in the world around them in general and in their own lives in particular.

Q: You have consistently written very strong female characters, perhaps setting a trend that others now follow, from Honor herself to Nimue Alban and Sharleyan. Where do your models come from?

A: I don't know that any of my female characters have ever had a specific "model." They're composites of a great many people I've known, not all of them women. That said, I've known a lot of strong, confident, smart, capable women in my life. I'm married to one at the moment, and I was raised by another one, and I have a third one for a sister. And that doesn't even include people like my editor, friends, other writers I've met, etc. I would scarcely describe myself as a feminist. In fact, like quite a few men, I tend to find myself taking umbrage upon occasion when I run into someone who's ... strident, shall we say, about condemning the attitudes of "men" as if all men were one huge, undifferentiated mass. I rather doubt I'm completely without masculine compatriots where that's concerned. But something I learned a long, long time ago is that except in arm wrestling, height, and body mass (none of which, you will observe, are particularly critical to being a worthwhile, productive human being), that Y-chromosome doesn't seem to grant any inherent superiority. Mind you, I'm not too sure the mere possession of a double X-chromosome imparts any inherent superiority, either, you understand. The point, though, is that I vastly prefer strong, smart, competent, self-reliant women just as I vastly prefer strong, smart, competent, self-reliant men, and those are the sorts of lead characters I write about. And, while it's true that I do write about a lot of female protagonists with those characteristics, the books are pretty darn full of male characters who have those same characteristics.

In Insurrection, my first novel, with Steve White, "my" viewpoint characters were Fionna MacTaggart, Li Han, Ladislaus Skjorning, Oskar Deiter, Jason Windrider, and Magda Petrovna. There were additional characters who came (and mostly went; the body count in that series of novels is high), but those were my primary viewpoint characters. I don't think anyone would describe any of them as "weak," and if you'll notice, there is a pretty even split between male and female characters. The same thing is true in almost all of my books. Colin MacIntyre and Jiltanith come as a package, and so do Sean McIntyre and Sandy MacMahon. Alicia DeVries is counterpoised by characters like her grandfather and Ferhat Ben Belkassem. The point I'm trying to make here is not that I haven't built a lot of stories and series around female characters, but, again, that the way I see it, those characters actually pretty much just happen to be female. I think that using female characters as leads, especially in those "traditionally" male roles, clearly does allow me to examine different nuances in both their leadership styles and in the way in which characters around them perceive them, but I don't think their ... femaleness is really the critical factor in who they are from my perspective as a writer. At the same time, I'd also say that I do find it a bit more challenging to write a believable, consistent female character, which might be one reason I'm drawn to casting them in lead roles. To be honest, it's a question I've thought about quite a bit, over the years -- that is, the question of why I'm so drawn to writing stories about strong women -- without ever being able to come up with a definitive answer that really satisfies me.

Q: Arthurian legend seems to have been of interest to you for some time, from The Excalibur Alternative to the Safehold series; which sources do you prefer for the legends?

A: To be totally honest, I don't have a favorite "source" for the legend. I've been very drawn to several treatments and uses of the legend over the years, but I think that it's such a fundamental, bedrock element of Western storytelling that trying to isolate out a single "preferred source" would be futile. I'm not trying to dodge the question, I simply genuinely don't think it's one I could answer in any meaningful fashion. I've certainly been exposed to it enough, over the years, from silly Hollywood adaptations through Mallory through Stewart's Hollow Hills version to Jane Lindskold's borrowing of elements of the original myth in her novel Changer. With all of that input, exactly which parts of my "own" Arthurian legend came from where would be impossible for me to define.

Q: Many Arthurian legends run through the Safehold books. Why did you make Merlin (Lieutenant Commander Nimue Alban) a woman initially? Was this to tie in to the legendary link between Merlin and Nimue?

A: Actually, the decision to make the character female initially came down to a coin toss. I'm not kidding. That's really how I made the decision. Having said that, though, I had decided long before I reached into my pocket for the coin that whether the character started out male or female, there was going to be a point at which he/she had to reconfigure his/her PICA (Personality Integrated Cybernetic Avatar, or Really Cool Android Body, for those who haven't yet read the books) into the other sex. That particular decision was made in part because I saw it as part of the cost the "last defender of elfland" character I wanted was going to have to pay. That is, Merlin/Nimue is forever set apart by the very nature of Nimue's continued existence from the human beings she's trying to save. Potentially immortal, stronger, faster, quicker, tougher, with "magically" acute senses and the equivalent of the original Merlin's vast store of "arcane" knowledge denied to the humans about her. She's all of those things, but in the back of her brain there's always the question of whether or not she's "really" Nimue at all. Despite Maikel Staynair's assertion, does she have a soul? Is she really Nimue Alban, or simply software that thinks it is? The fact that Nimue has to give up her birth gender in order to become Merlin if she's going to be effective only emphasizes that alienness, that degree of separation from the people about her for whom she's come to care and whom she's learned to love. At the same time, though, there's also the fashion in which shifting her back and forth between genders allows me to emphasize a belief that what really matters are the human qualities men and women share and not the physical characteristics which divide them.

Once I knew the character was going to begin female and be forced to transition into a male persona, and given the fact that the PICA was going to have to be stored somewhere, and that Nimue was going to have to have been given at least a degree of technological "capital" with which to work, the Merlin-like aspects really sort of got up and hit me over the head with a hammer. It never occurred to me for a moment not to name Nimue Nimue, given the linkage between her and the "Merlin figure" who was going to have to intervene in the world to which she had awakened. Call me a softy, but I've always been most attracted to the notion that Nimue genuinely loved Merlin (and vice versa), and that may have played a factor in my thinking -- a sort of desire to reconcile the anger and betrayal other versions of the legend inject into their relationship. I'm not certain about that, but I expect most writers have at least a few "gray areas" in their own thinking when it comes to deciding why they did a specific thing in one of their stories.

Q: Of all the characters in the Safehold story, I still like Merlin best, though she had less of the spotlight in the latest episode, By Heresies Distressed. Will Merlin Athrawes ever become as vulnerable as the legendary Merlin was in his later years? Can a PICA be vulnerable?

A: Certainly a PICA can be vulnerable. As to whether or not Merlin will ever become vulnerable, and especially as to whether or not he'll become vulnerable "as the legendary Merlin was in his later years," that's something I'd prefer not to go into at this point. In one sense, of course, Merlin is already deeply vulnerable. He knows that anyone he allows himself to love will eventually die and leave him behind. That's one reason he's so deeply protective about those people -- the reason he sees the "objectivity" Nimue really has to preserve, in many ways, if she's going to accomplish her mission, slipping away from him. From every possible perspective, he couldn't allow Sharleyan to be assassinated in By Heresies Distressed if there was any way he could possibly prevent it without compromising that incredibly, transcendently important original mission of Nimue's. But he didn't really make the decision based on how important she was. That factored into his thinking, but the decisive factor was how important she was to him. In effect, he decided -- and this time he had more time to think about it than he did when the krakens attacked the boatload of children in the first novel -- that he was prepared to risk compromising that critical mission of his in order to save her life.

Q: Is Cayleb your Arthur, is that character yet to come, or am I looking for too much of Camelot in Safehold?

A: In answering questions on Baen's Bar, on the Baen Books website, I've been known to use the phrase "Tum-Te-Tum-Te-Tum" when certain sorts of questions are asked. This might be a case in which that response is properly called for. One thing which should be borne in mind, however, is that I'm quite fond of using historical models as launch pads and then going off in entirely separate directions. When that happens, I'm just as happy if readers allow themselves to be distracted by the historical model I'm waving around in my left hand at the outset so that they don't realize where I'm going with my right hand and the change in course comes as a surprise to them when they hit it. I'm not saying that's what I'm doing here. I'm simply pointing out that it's something I've done in the past.

Q: Will Safehold's people ever get off the planet and encounter the alien Gbaba?

A: Do you really expect me to answer that question? {G}

I will say that eventually I intend to resolve the human-Gbaba conflict. When, where, how, and even (to some extent) why that finally happens, however, is currently classified information.

Q: You make Merlin a catalyst for a lot of reinventing of inventions on Safehold - to do this, did you research the history of inventions and look at alternatives that didn't make it?

A: Most of what Merlin's been a catalyst in "reinventing" so far hasn't required a lot of research on my part. It's come out of areas where I already have a good bit of background knowledge because of my lifelong interest in history, and particularly in military and diplomatic history. That doesn't mean I haven't done a fair amount of research around the edges, trying to make sure I don't get a given detail wrong. Some of what I'm having them do -- and I think more of this will become apparent in the fourth book, upon which I'm currently working -- will include going down some "wrong" pathways or discovering that something they've already done isn't really the optimum arrangement or technique. Many of the alternatives that "didn't work out" historically, though, were simply road stops along the way to better techniques or inventions. That is, it wasn't so much that the initial technique or invention were wrong as that still better and more efficient alternatives came along later. Merlin is helping to shortstop some of those "wrong" roadside stops. And one thing I think probably needs emphasizing is that Merlin needs Safeholdians to come up with new ideas and new innovations. He needs to re-instill the mindset that leads to that kind of thinking, which is why he's so prone to throw out suggestions and then let someone like Ehdwyrd Howsmyn or Baron Seamount get on with developing a practical response to the suggestion. In some cases, he's had to be more explicit because a given capability or technology was absolutely essential in a relatively short time frame and there wasn't time to go through that process. Overall, though, he's willing to forgo simply leapfrogging "his" Safeholdians to a position of such advantage that victory is guaranteed because he has to get all Safeholdians swung around into that new mindset.

Q: Innovation on Safehold seems very much linked to warfare, though in a good cause - has conflict always driven technological development?

A: I wouldn't say conflict has always driven technological development. For example, there wasn't a whole bunch of "technological development" involved in equipping the Egyptian Empire's armies over the course of its entire lifetime. In fact, I'd say that historically the expense of mankind has been that improvements in military technology result from (and, I think, generally lag behind) advances in the technological capabilities of the societies from whence the militaries in question spring. I'm not trying to set that down as a hard and fast rule, but I suspect we'd find that bronze weapons were adopted only after bronze-working became possible, rather than that bronze-working became possible because of militarily-driven "research" into metallurgy.

By the same token, even after the introduction of gunpowder, fundamental changes in military technology tended to occur in fits and starts. The introduction of the stirrup, for example, revolutionized cavalry tactics, but people had been riding horses for thousands of years before anyone thought of it, and changes in cavalry tactics after the introduction of the stirrup tended to be gradual and incremental until other inventions radically changed the survivability of cavalry on the battlefield -- a process which took centuries. The introduction of the English (or Welsh) longbow onto the Continent in the Hundred Years War drove the French to innovate in terms of artillery because they needed a counter, but, again, developments in both tactics and technology were gradual and incremental.

I think we're inclined today to see military needs pressurizing technological development because of all of the money invested in research and development by various present day militaries. In fact, though, I think that what happens is that conflict in a technological society tends to focus efforts in short, intense bursts. As Samuel Johnson said, a man who knows he's to be hanged in two weeks finds that his thoughts have been wonderfully concentrated. The same thing is true with a nation finds itself facing potential defeat on the field of battle. Faced by an opponent who's actually shooting at you, you develop a very strong interest in being able to shoot back at him at least as well. In a technological society, that means developing new weapons of your own which, hopefully, will outclass his and, at a minimum, prevent him from outclassing you. Given the concentrated resources a nationstate can throw at a problem, it's not too surprising, I think, that huge quantities of basic and applied research result from perceived threats to the ongoing existence of the nationstate in question. By and large, though, militaries tend to evaluate their capabilities in terms of those perceived threats (that is, in terms of the capabilities of opposing militaries), and if the perceived threat is not radically and rapidly increasing because of developments the other side is making, then the historical tendency has actually been for the military to be conservative, moving to maintain the status quo it understands rather than radically unbalancing it in pursuit of an advantage it doesn't really need under the current conditions.

What I think has changed, especially since World War I, is the military's fundamental appreciation of the world around it. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the military's fundamental appreciations, its motivators, haven't qualitatively changed, but that the world around it most definitely has. Warfare has inevitably become the province of technology in a technological world, and in some areas military R&D has driven the rate of advancement. In most areas, though, I think it's fair to say that the military -- as has historically been the case -- is still playing catchup with the general advance of technology. Civilian developments tend to follow a scattergun approach. They flow and morph in an unanticipated directions, and the rate of change owes as much to the vast diversity of objectives, interests, and viewpoints of countless researchers and developers, all of them operating either as individuals or in (relatively) small groups. (I'm not trying to minimize the role of major research centers in this; I'm simply saying that even the biggest research center tends to represent a relatively small percentage of everyone doing research in any particular area.) Military research, on the other hand, tends to be tightly directed and controlled along a limited number of avenues. It can be driven rapidly ahead along those avenues because of the imposed discipline and the financial resources which can be made available to the effort, but it suffers from "tunnel vision" in the truest sense of the word. Its very focus prevents the sort of serendipity that can send civilian R&D off in so many directions at once.

All of which is a somewhat long-winded way of saying that conflict has a tendency to drive technological development only in periods in which technology would be developing and advancing anyway, but that in such periods, conflict both intensifies and accelerates that development.

Q: You take a thorough look at the evils of fundamentalism and the misuse of power in the Church of God Awaiting; how much are you influenced by your own history?

A: First, I'd like to differentiate between "fundamentalism" and "intolerant, close-minded fundamentalist." Just to set what I'm going to say in context, I should probably mention that I'm a Methodist lay speaker. (If any of my fellow Methodists think they saw a hint of Wesley's Quadrilateral in Grayson's theology, I can only say that I am shocked -- shocked! -- that they should think anything of the sort.)

Having said that, I'd say I'm pretty heavily influenced by my own history, and by my reading of history in general. By academic training, I'm a military and diplomatic historian with a fairly strong minor in religious history. Mind you, it's been some time since my shadow ever darkened the doorway of the groves of academia, but that's where my original training was directed. I've seen enough cases in my own personal experiences, and, even more, in the experiences of other people around me, to recognize the personal damage intolerance and overly doctrinaire thinking can inflict. As a historian, and as a Christian in my own right, I'm also acutely aware of the ways in which religion can become an incredibly destructive force. I think anyone who looks at history with a modicum of intellectual honesty has to recognize that inescapable potential for destructiveness, if only because of how many times we've seen the potential realized.

At the same time, also as a Christian in my own right and as a historian, I can see the huge beneficial consequences of religion. I think a very strong argument can be made for the emergence of the Western belief in the importance and value of the individual from the development of religious thought and the impact of religion and religious groups on Western society generally. Please do note that I'm not saying religion has had only beneficial consequences. I'm simply saying that denying those benign consequences and their enormous beneficial impact is as foolish as denying the destructive consequences religion has also inflicted.

My own belief, for what it's worth, is that God would not have given human beings a critical faculty if He didn't expect them to use it. Put another way, as I believe I had Maikel Staynair reflect in the Safehold books, one cannot truly believe in something unless one is free to disbelieve in it. One cannot display true courage if one is immune to fear. One cannot truly live a life of virtue if one cannot be tempted into something else. Or, as my Graysons would put it, we grow as human beings (and, in my own case, as a Christian) by rising to the challenge of the tests God and the universe send us. And that belief structure, that approach to the world about me and my own soul, means I cannot accept something simply because someone tells me that's the way it is. Like anyone, I'm prone to take the word of someone I like or admire, especially if it's in an area to which I haven't given previously a great deal of critical thought, or one in which I lack expertise. But what I'm supposed to be doing is exercising that critical faculty to learn about that thing I haven't previously considered and test the validity of what I'm told about it.

It's my judgment, for what it's worth, that any system which actively discourages the use of that critical faculty, the growth of an individual's understanding and comprehension, is evil, and I use that term advisedly. In fact, I use it in virtually every sense of the word; morally, ethically, theologically, you name it, the denial of individual freedom of conscience and freedom of thought is evil. If there truly is a God who doesn't want me to stretch and expand my mind in an effort to more fully understand Him and His work, then that God is too small and is not the God I've always worshiped. None of which means that the "fundamentals" of Christianity (to take my own religion as an example) as contained in the scripture are unimportant. They are very important, the heart and soul of what I believe. But it does mean that it's wrong to uncritically accept someone else's interpretation of what those fundamentals mean, how they're to be applied in my own life, the extent to which I have any "right" to enforce them upon someone else against his will. Moreover, although my own faith, coupled with the exercise of my own free thought, convinces me that my religion is correct -- which, by implication, automatically suggests that everyone else's religion is incorrect -- it behooves me to recall always my own imperfection. That is, no matter how strongly I may believe that, it's still possible I'm wrong. Or (as is far more likely in my own judgment) that what I see and am able to grasp and to understand (however imperfectly) and internalize is almost certainly only a part of a far greater whole. By definition, I am finite, and that means my understanding and my comprehension are finite. And that, in turn, says to me that it would be not simply morally but religiously wrong for me to insist that everyone else is wrong and that they must conform to my beliefs. I personally believe that I have no right to constrain another's thinking or another's faith even if it am totally, honestly, and absolutely convinced that doing so is for that other person's "own good."

Despite the fact that we know that the Church of God Awaiting's basic doctrine and theology is wrong -- that it's part of a huge, deliberately fabricated, coercive lie -- it isn't really the fundamentalism per se of the Church of God Awaiting that's evil. It's the Church's rejection of freedom of conscience and freedom of thought. And it's the authoritarianism growing out of that denial of freedom of conscience and freedom of thought, the concentration of power in the keeper of men's consciences, which leads (inevitably, I think) to the corruption and decadence of the men exercising that power. The sheer, coercive sweep of the Church's authority is so vast that no matter how benign its original creators might have been, no matter how high the purpose for which the Church was created could have been, it must inevitably become a thing of evil. In fact, it can become a thing of evil long before the corruption and decadence set in at the summit. I see no way, short of direct, continuous, and ongoing divine intervention, that any other outcome could truly be possible, because human beings are human beings.

Q: How many books do you plan for the Safehold series, or do you have no definite end in sight?

A: I have a definite end in sight, but I really can't tell you how many books it's going to take me to get there. That's sort of the way it works with me. {G}

Q: With so many books, series and worlds (both fantasy and SF) and so many characters developed in each one, how do you keep track of them all?

A: By assigning each of them to a different one of my multiple personalities. {G}

Honestly, I don't know that I really have a technique which would work for anyone else. I do a lot of heavy lifting when I first set out to create a literary universe, which usually involves some fairly extensive essays about things like technology, religion, politics, economics, etc. From that starting point, I can integrate characters into the general "tech bible" as I go along. Obviously, I do a complete cast of characters for each book as I write it, and in a series, I integrate the new characters into an on going character list for the entire series. I do a thumbnail sketch of the character at the time I create him or her, and as things about the character change, I go back and insert those changes into the thumbnail. (I hope it's obvious here that I'm not talking about doing this for every single character; I only try to keep track of the ones who are recurring characters.) I'm inclined to doubt that most of my writing techniques would work nearly so well in a pre-electronic age, if only because I'm so constantly updating files and calling them up to use them for reference while I write. Trying to shuffle through that much hard copy, or to make so many updates and alterations on index cards or sheets of paper in a filing cabinet somewhere, would be a nightmarish chore.

The most important thing, though, about keeping track of the important characters and their relationships, is how thoroughly I internalize them when I write about them. To me, most of the viewpoint characters in my books become their own individuals, people I "know" who are not a part of anyone else. For the most part, I don't really think about how they would approach a situation or another individual or a decision. Because I know them, their reactions and their thoughts grow far too naturally for me to take any credit for having "thought my way through them." Quite often, I discover that it takes me a while, looking back, to figure out why a character did something, yet I usually find that whatever it is they did is completely consistent with who they are.

Q: Now that so many books come out in audio as well as paper (and e-book) formats, I've wondered how much influence authors have on the audio narration, that is number and selection of narrators. Do you have any?

A: I haven't had any influence at all on selecting the number of narrators or who's going to narrate any individual book. To be honest, I haven't really asked for it, but even if I were inclined to, I think that in most cases those choices are legitimately the province of the publisher. If I thought someone was going to use a narrator whose work I hated or who I thought was just simply "totally wrong" for a given book, I'd certainly say so, and I think most publishers would definitely take a strongly expressed opinion of the author into consideration. Where I have had a considerable amount of input, at least in the case of the Honorverse books, has been with the narrators themselves. That is, in answering questions about dialects, the pronunciation of specific names, and things like that. I would imagine that for most writers, however, audio books are a completely separate area. I also think that the skill set which goes into the production of an audio book is sufficiently different from that which goes into initially writing the story that I'm probably not really the best judge of how to do it most effectively.

Q: What are your current projects and what should fans look for on the shelves next?

A: At the moment, I'm working on A Mighty Fortress, the fourth Safehold novel, which is scheduled for April 2010, I think. Eric Flint and I have just finished up and handed in Torch of Freedom, in the Honorverse, which is scheduled (believe it or not) for November of 2009, and Mission of Honor, my next solo Honorverse novel, is essentially complete now. I'm going to have to do a little tweaking in light of some of the events in Torch of Freedom, which precedes it chronologically, but Mission is already finished from the perspective of story line and is scheduled for July 2010.

How things are going to work out after that is more than I can tell you at this point. My life, I'm afraid, is insufficiently well organized, despite all my beloved wife Sharon can do, for me to be any more specific than that.

Find out more about David Weber and all his novels, read his essays and various interviews, find downloadables relating to his books, and chat in different forums, by visiting
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