Patrick Rothfuss e-interviewed by Hilary Williamson (April, 2006)
Patrick Rothfuss was born in Wisconsin where he grew up with a love of reading and writing. He took his undergraduate degree in English - with many forays along the way into other fields that interested him. He now teaches at the same university. On his website, he tells us that it took seven years to write 'a mammoth story centering around the life of a man named Kvothe.' The result was his magnificent fantasy debut, The Name of the Wind, which is receiving strong critical acclaim from top authors and reviewers alike.
The Name of the Wind introduces a relatively young, obviously powerful man, Kvothe, living as a humble innkeeper in a remote town in a land at war. There's a sense that dangers are approaching - and in fact some monsters do show up in this first book. Readers learn more about Kvothe as he, at first reluctantly, embarks on three days of storytelling to Chronicler, telling the truth behind the legend. Those three days map into the three books of the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy.
There's tragedy and horror, friendship and romance, learning and plenty of action in this thoroughly engrossing fantasy. The author tells us that 'He loves the world and the characters he has created, and he loves that people are getting the chance to meet them' - very good news for the host of fans who'll soon be knocking on his door, demanding more of this brilliant new series.
Q: Though its momentum pulls the reader quickly through the story, The Name of the Wind is quite a tome. Do you have the next two episodes of the trilogy mapped out, and do you expect they will be such wonderfully long reads?
A: Not just mapped out, they're finished for the most part. I've already written the entire trilogy.
And yeah, the second two books will be doorstop-sized as well.
Q: In answer to a question on your site, you say, 'It's my belief that you should never show your work to anyone in the publishing world until it shines like a diamond' and advise serious revision - which you obviously did yourself during your seven years of writing. But do you think that the years mattered too, that is that your own growing maturity helped make such a polished debut?
A: Heh. If you knew me, you wouldn't ask about my maturity. I'm older, but I don't know if I qualify as "mature" yet.
While I haven't really matured very much, it is true that I'm a better writer than I was seven years ago. However, most of the skills I've honed have to do more with the structure of writing, rather than the art of putting words together. Over the last several years I've gotten better at editing, revising, plotting, and actually sitting my ass down in the chair. That last one is perhaps the hardest writing skill to master.
The fundamentals of my writing were pretty strong when I started out. I knew how to write a good character and construct a good scene. The very first thing I wrote for the book is still largely intact and unedited in this first book. It begins, "My name is Kvothe." I wrote that page back in '93, fourteen years ago, and the editors and PR people thought it was strong enough to use as the marketing copy that they printed on the inside flap of the book.
But writing a good scene isn't enough for a novel. A novel is much more complicated. I had the raw material early on, but the craft I developed later on helped me turn my scenes into a cohesive, compelling story. There's so much more to a good novel than exciting characters, clever language, and a unique world. Interweaving different plot arcs and character motivations is very tricky, and it's easy to confuse or disappoint the reader. Those are the pieces of the craft that it took me years to learn.
Q: I love Kvothe's gypsy-like people, the nomadic Edema Ruh, who also reminded me of the traveling players in Rafael Sabatini's Scaramouche. Do Edema Ruh play a further role in the evolving story of Kvothe's life?
A: Absolutely. They are his people. They are the culture he was raised in. What's more, the Ruh are an important part of the world as a whole. We see more of them throughout the series.
Q: Music is a big part of your hero's life, something he craves as much (or more) than basic sustenance. Do you play any instrument, and how does music factor into your own life?
A: I know this is going to surprise a lot of people, but I don't play an instrument. Sorry.
A lot of people don't believe me when I say this. Kvothe loves music. It's a part of him as much as his blood and tongue and teeth. They assume that I have to be the same way.
People say, "I've been a musician for years, and you described exactly what it feels like to play. You described how I feel about music. How can you not be a musician?"
I also haven't ever been a magician, or a tinker, or a woman, or an old man, or a fae creature, or a forgotten god. But I write about all of those. That's what a writer does.
I partially blame the whole, "Write what you know" thing that so many writers have drilled into them. That's pure crap. Odds are the things you know, other people won't find that interesting. Do you want to read about my life as an undeclared college student in central Wisconsin? My riveting tale of working as a busboy? How I do my dishes? No, you really don't.
I say to you young writers out there: Write what you don't know. Imagine. Extrapolate. Guess. Dream a beautiful dream and take us into it. That's what being a fiction writer is all about.
Q: The scrael (monstrous spiders) at the beginning of The Name of the Wind hint at much more horrific and varied monsters in the wings. Is this the case and, if so, will they be introduced into the series gradually?
A: Yes. There are dark things in the world. Things that have been long hidden and are only now coming to light. And because of the nature of the world, people are learning about them very slowly.
We're living in the information age, so it's hard for us to truly understand how slowly information used to travel. 15 years ago there was no internet to speak of. 60 years ago there was no Television. 100 years ago there wasn't radio. 200 years ago there were no newspapers. That means that practically all your information about the outside world came from word of mouth. It was flawed, contradictory, and slow.
Nowadays if a something strange and horrifying appeared in the world, like the scrael, there would be youtube videos of it online in an hour. Everyone would know. Within a day there would be a government task force, and in two days homeland security would be issuing press releases as to the best way to kill them. But in a real pre-industrial world, the only information you have is hearsay and superstition. Someone might kill every man woman and child in a town twenty miles away and you might not hear about it for weeks ...
Q: Do you read much fantasy yourself and if so, which authors do you enjoy most?
A: I read a ton of fantasy. More than a ton. I spent the majority of my young life reading about a novel a day.
I like the big names that everyone else likes too. Gaiman and Pratchett and Beagle. There's a reason they're so popular. I like Patricia McKillip too, and Robin Hobb, and Gene Wolfe. I better stop there. I could go on for a week just listing author's names ...
Q: How far along are you in the second book (far I hope!) and can you tell us anything about it?
A: In the second book Kvothe will be traveling out into the world, attempting to make his fortune and build a reputation for himself. He's also looking for the answers to certain questions, if you've read the book, I'm sure you know what questions I'm talking about.
He ends up being drawn into various complicated situations. I detest spoilers, so I'll only speak in vague terms here. He learns more about magic, about romance, and about the hidden secrets of the world. He gets entangled in court politics and journeys into the Fae. We also learn more about why he's called Kvothe Kingkiller.Find out more about Patrick Rothfuss and his fantasy World, and read his Blog at PatrickRothfuss.com.
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