Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Interview: Brent Weeks

So as many of you know, I've been quite a fan of Brent Weeks.
Who is he you ask?

Why, he is the magician behind The Night Angel Trilogy and The Black Prism!
Haven't heard of them?
Gosh, you're a loser.

Now I've had a week to curate @twt_buku which is a twitter account for the bookworm society that rotates its users each week. This accounts aims to share new knowledge, books, and stuff related to books through the curating process. I tried to conduct an interview with Mr. Weeks during my week of curating but sadly, a few complications got in the way and it had to be (very) delayed. Not wanting to disappoint his fans (as well as myself) and seem like a total liar to Mr. Weeks, I asked if I could continue the interview and he agreed. Such a wonderful man.

Therefore, I shall present to you the interview I've personally conducted with Mr. Weeks through e-mail. Yes, this is all genuine and real, not made up. You can ask him yourself. Without further ado:


Hi Atika,
Below, I've answered your questions. Let me know when they are posted!

1. So Mr. Weeks, lets start off with some introduction. Tell us a bit about yourself if you please. It could be more than a bit.

I was born and raised in Montana and started writing seriously during college. After college I took a job as a teacher an didn't write much at all. Then I got married, and my wife supported me. So I was able to write full-time without having a day job at all. I also had no income, so that was the non-romantic part of the whole thing. After 5 years and almost 3 books, I finally got the big call from New York that someone wanted to buy my books. I live in Oregon with my wife Kristi and our daughter.

2. What/who inspired you to write your own book?

The tremendous sense of solace and connection that you can make, despite the span of ages between you and author was something I discovered in 7th grade when I was reading Edgar Allan Poe. As soon as I discovered that unique power of literature -- of finding someone else who thinks like you do, when maybe nobody in the real world does -- I wanted to do to be a writer.

3. Where did you get the idea of your first book(s)?

Before The Way of Shadows, I wrote another (sadly unpublishable) novel also set in Midcyru. I had a minor character in that novel who was scary but operated by a strict moral code. So that gave me my beginning: there's this little kid, trying simply to stay alive in the worst neighborhoods of an awful city...and then things just keep getting worse.
Now, I demand a certain level of psychological realism, so I knew parts of these novels were going to be dark. You know, if you tried to set Cinderella in Compton (a famously bad section of Los Angeles), at the end, she'd be at her wedding and her prince would get killed in a drive-by shooting. Anything less betrays at least the archetypical scary-place "Compton" we believe in. My feeling, though, is that even in Compton there are mothers who would do anything for their kids; there are kids who don't do drugs, and there are fathers who stick around. There's hope. So I really explored the other side of this killer: can you be a moral killer? What or who would instill a sense of morality into this street kid? How was that going to work out for him? It set up a lot of great tensions and gave me the first of my many deeply conflicted characters.

4. What was the first novel you've read? Any funny bits?

Though not the first novel I've read, certainly the one that drew me into fantasy: Tolkien sucked me into this world when I was young. I found it very irritating that he gave me this huge love for fantasy, and then only wrote four novels. I’d go read other fantasy, and most of it was sooo bad that I’d come back and reread the Lord of the Rings. Then Robert Jordan came along. My first novel, at age 13, was perilously close to plagiarizing him, and it took a long time to escape from his shadow. George R. R. Martin is another giant. He showed me that if you actually kill or maim a major character or two, the next time you put a major character in danger, readers worry. Readers worrying is a good thing. Writing children–especially smart ones–is a huge challenge because it’s so easy to make them precocious and precious, so I loved what Orson Scott Card has done. I believe he called his vision “relentlessly plain”: children are young, not stupid; innocent because of lack of exposure, not paragons of virtue.

5. Who is your favorite character from your own books?

I have to admit I love Durzo Blint. He's just so bad. I was reading an article the other day about characters who are strong, charming, relentless in their pursuit of their goals, and willing to use people to do it because they don't have the weakness of empathy. In fiction, they're often called heroes. Think James Bond. Psychology has another name for them: sociopaths. I wanted to create a strong, ruthless character who wasn't a sociopath. Blint is so strong and so conflicted he's fascinating to write. 

6. Would you ever consider bringing Elene back to life?

No, I don't think so!

7. If you could be a drafter, what colour(s) would you like to control? (The Prism doesn't count!)

If I could be a drafter in our world, I would likely choose orange. Being able to put up invisible signs around places that affected how people felt would be pretty darn powerful -- not to mention fun.

8. What was/is your proudest moment in your entire career as a writer? A certain book, a certain sentence from the book, your crazy yet lovable fans?

Strangely enough, it might have been before I was even published, and I finished the first draft of Shadow's Edge with a one-sentence twist that set the whole series on its head. I still had a lot of work to do after that, but that was a great moment for me.

9. If you could be in the shoes of another writer for a day, who would it be?

I wouldn't mind being J.K. Rowling just long enough for a wire transfer to go through. ;)

10. Do you think fantasy books are overrated these days?

No, I think that strangely enough, fantasy is still laboring against some of the same biases that J.R.R. Tolkien fought 70 years ago when he published an essay defending fantasy, called "On Fairy Stories". It seems to me people are still somewhat reticent to be seen reading fantasy, and every big story that breaks through and becomes part of the popular culture is still seen as a one-off. So readers will say, "I don't read fantasy, but I loved J.K. Rowling." "I don't read fantasy, but I love George R.R. Martin."

11. Would you write a biography one day? If so, where in the timeline of your life would you write about?

I doubt I'll ever write an autobiography. I already think I won't have enough time to write all the novels I hope to.

12. In your books, you've used a few foreign words such as Malay (Kopi) and Japanese (Kage). Are these intentional or otherwise? If they are intentional, do you speak these languages or do research or just go for it?

"Kage" was an unintentional borrowing -- I was trying to create a word that sounded Japanese and "shadowy" and I didn't realize that I'd done better than I meant to! I don't know, maybe I absorbed some Japanese subconsciously. Kopi was actually on purpose, but I didn't think anyone would catch it. I just liked the sound of the word. I guess I under-estimated how connected the global culture is these days!
That said, I do sometimes do research on names from other cultures to incorporate that into my worlds. For example, in The Lightbringer Series, I researched Berber/Amazigh names (a people group in North Africa). Because the series is set in an alternate Mediterranean Sea area, using a North African culture as an influence was natural.

13. (R18 Question) How do you write the smexy scenes without cringing or giggling? Or do you (cringe and/or giggle)?

I can write them without embarrassment because they're in my books for good reason. I don't write romance scenes to titillate or to arouse or to shock and offend. When they're in my books, they're there because something vital to the story happens in that scene. If a reader can skim or skip a romance scene in a book, then that scene doesn't need to be there at all for the plot. And I try to write in such a way that there aren't any scenes at all that aren't vital to the plot. 

14. Would you consider collaborating with a non-fiction writer? What do you think of non-fiction?

Though I really enjoy reading non-fiction, I don't think I'll ever collaborate with another writer. My style of writing is just too independent; and I think it's safe to say that I'll be writing fiction for the foreseeable future.

15. What is your favorite book genre?

Fantasy is my first love, but like most writers my reading habits are broad. I love reading history because it breaks you free of some of your own culture’s preconceptions while staying within the bounds of human psychology. If you read something too outlandish in a fantasy novel, you think, meh, that would never happen. But if you read something totally outlandish in history, you think, HOW did that happen? How did people accept that? It’s also fun because you find places where other novelists have ‘borrowed’. I was reading about the Borgias in 16th century Italy and it slapped me in the face—Pope Alexander VII was The Godfather, complete with his dysfunctional kids. I checked into it, and Mario Puzo readily admits it. I also dabble with mysteries and whatever’s on the best-seller rack, and I’m a recovering literature major.

16. Do you ever get writer's block?

I think writer's block hits when you have either a lack of confidence in yourself, or in the story. Inspiration is a beautiful thing, and it's awesome when you sit down to write and everything comes easily... but writing is work. If it were easy, more people would do it, and more people would do it well. 

17. Would you ever come to Malaysia and meet your fans here?

I would love to come to Malaysia someday! I don't have any plans to do so at the moment, but if I ever have a chance to visit, I'd certainly try to schedule some book signings. 

18. Did you ever imagine you would become a writer one day?

I think I always wanted to be a writer, but didn't believe it would really happen, from the time I was very young. Books opened a new world to me, and that was more meaningful than I can describe. In high school and college, I tried to convince myself that I could do other things and still be happy, but I was wrong. I feel unbelievably fortunate and blessed to be able to pursue my passion as a career.

19. Were there any complications during your road to become a writer?

Yes -- writing full-time for five years while living on just my wife's income, hoping that we'd get published, was not easy. So unless your spouse thinks being poor is romantic and is tremendously patient, unbelievably supportive, and basically unconcerned about owning any luxury items, this is a recipe for disaster. For us, it worked, but it was hard.

20. Thank you for answering these questions Mr. Weeks. Any last words? Sentences? Perhaps a sneak peek of your next book?

Man, watch out for that execution sequence about a quarter of the way in. It's a rough one. I'm writing it right now! ;)

And there you have it. Phew, can you even imagine the amount of nervousness I had while asking him said questions? Thank you to Mr. Brent Weeks for answering all the questions with such enthusiasm (I assume) and we wish you well in your career and life, also hoping to see you someday.

That's it for now, this is Atika, signing off with my favorite quote from The Night Angel Trilogy:

"Relationships are ropes.
Love is a noose." - Durzo Blint

Link to my review on Brent Weeks's Night Angel Trilogy:

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