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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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Jan 21st, 2003
Not quite a couple, only nine days, and it more than makes up for it. It's fun. I've had a couple of crowds of over 600, and several from 500 to 300, so believe me, I get a lot of company on the road.
No, not really. There are three short novels that I'm going to do. They're prequels in a way, and they cover specific incidents that I think are interesting, not considering the major characters really.
One of them will be an expansion of the novella, "New Spring", which appeared in the collection called Legends. I wrote that at 35,000 words after a great deal of compressing, and I had to drop several storylines to get it down to that length. So, I'd like to do it the way I'd done it originally, at 70,000 words perhaps. There are two others of that sort that would be shortish, but no, I won't write any more in this universe when I reach the end...unless I come up with something stunning, otherwise I'd just be running over the same ground again, and I don't want to do that. I want to do something different.
At that point I was reading anything I could get my hands on. You see I was reading what I found on my parents bookshelves. Later, when I got a library card, I was disgusted to find I was supposed to go to something called the "children's section".
The only books I found there that I enjoyed were the "Freddy the Pig" books, and some juvenile Heinlein. Those books fascinated me and I loved them. For the rest, there was nothing in the children's section that I wanted to pay attention to, and I wanted to get books like I'd been reading at home. So, I'd go into the adult's section of the library and snag books off the adult shelves. I'd take them to a reading room and I'd put the books that I wanted to keep on a shelf where they didn't seem to be bothered, and I'd leave the ones that I didn't find interesting on the table where they would get put back.
Thus I went through life never reading any children's books, until I was married. The first time my wife got sick she wanted me to read her children's books...so I did.
Oh yes. She was the founding editorial director of Tom Doherty associates, which publishes TOR books. Before that she had been promoted to Vice President, and celebrated that by resigning to set up her own imprint which was distributed by Grosset and Dunlap. My first novel to be published was published by her imprint.
When that book was done I began to miss her...so we began dating.
Then I asked her to marry me...but I very got Neanderthal and got cold feet. She was my publisher and my editor and how could I marry her? So I hurriedly sold some things elsewhere and then it was all right. She's still my editor. She's cut back now, and I'm the only author she edits. We used to spend a week a month in New York so she could do editorial work, and she decided she didn't want to do that anymore but she still edited people. Then a couple of years ago she cut that because of the tours for my books, and I want her to come with me, 'cause I'd go stone crazy spending a month on the road alone in hotels every night.
Yes. they have to be able to do express laundry and have 24-hour room service because I often don't get to eat until I get back to the hotel at one in the morning and I wanted to be able to get my favorite comfort food, Spaghetti Bolognese, which is really just spaghetti with a very simple tomato meat sauce.
Anyway, she gave up her last writers, she was editing Father Andrew Greeley and Mike and Cathy Greer, and I'd started to sell books in translation and my European publishers started asking me to come to do tours in Sweden and Norway and Holland and Russia and Great Britain. So she decided it wouldn't be fair to the authors to go incommunicado on them for a month at a time.
No, not really. It's so quick after the books. The last five books it's been two months between me handing in the manuscripts and me being on tour.
I just have time to catch my breath after stopping writing and to go outside blinking a little because I'm unused to being in the daylight. Last year I figured out that I took five days off all year. The rest of the time I wrote. Two of those were days to go fishing, and there was a wedding, and I can't remember what the fifth one was...
Yes, Regan O'Neal is my name for Historical Fiction. The first thing I ever wrote was Fantasy, at least I thought it was. It will never be published now because I'm a better writer now. I wrote this thing and I sent it to DAW books because I heard that DAW published first novels. So I sent it to DAW and got back a letter from Donald Wolheim that was exceedingly laudatory, and obviously he had written it at home and typed it himself because he had scratched out words and made changes in pen and his signature was cramped...and he made me an offer.
And I asked for some changes in the contract. Nothing very big. I asked for some changes in subsidiary rights that I never expected to be exercised because I wanted to establish that I wasn't going to accept just anything that was offered. But I didn't know enough about the industry to know if I was being offered a minuscule advance or a fairly good advance.
Yes. And I found out that he didn't like beginning writers to ask for changes. He thought that beginning writers should accept what was offered. So the result of my asking for the changes was that I got a letter back saying, "Dear Sir, in view of your contract demands we are withdrawing our offer. Sincerely, Donald A. Wolheim."
I looked at the two letters and I didn't know why I'd gotten the second, as I hadn't demanded anything. It was actually a very diffident letter, and I had ended by saying, "If any of these requests seem out of line, please let me know." Thus throwing away everything, but I knew that I had no real knowledge of publishing.
So, I decided to ignore the second letter because the first letter said; you can write.
That novel that I thought of as a Fantasy was later bought by Jim Baen while he was at Ace as a Science Fiction novel. You may know that Jim doesn't think very highly of fantasy, so he bought it as SF while DAW had bought it as Fantasy. Then Susan Allison came in to replace him when he went to TOR and she didn't like it, so I got the rights back and it's sat on the shelf all this time.
Its title was Warriors of the Altaii, and you will never see it, or know anything about it. I have not destroyed the manuscript, because it has powerful juju...but in my will I have provisions to have that manuscript burned. But until then I'm afraid to get rid of the juju that resides in it.
In a way that novel led to me meeting my wife, and it led to me getting my first novel published. Because she knew about that manuscript, when Tom Doherty got the rights to do the Conan novels, he needed the first one very fast so that it would come out the same time the movie came out. And he knew that I had once written a 98,000 word novel in 13 days.
So he thought I could write something fast, and he was right, and I liked it. It was fun writing something completely over the top, full of purple prose, and in a weak moment I agreed to do five more and the novelization of the second Conan movie.
I've decided that those things were very good discipline for me. I had to work with a character and a world that had already been created and yet find a way to say something new about the character and the world. That was a very good exercise.
Yes, it seems to me that the SF you like, as do I, so often the "ta-pocketa-pocketa" if you remember the old Walter Mitty movie, the ta-pocketa-pocketa takes over and the characters are just there to see that it happens at the right time. The best SF goes much beyond that and there certainly a lot of flaws in a lot of Fantasy as well, but perhaps that's the reason I decided to go with Fantasy instead of SF.
Also, SF has absorbed something from mainstream literature, and that is something I think of as a moral ambivalence, which is the erroneous application of situational ethics. There really isn't anything that's right or wrong, there is no good or evil, it all depends on the circumstances.
And the technology is very often much more important than the issues, it seems to me.
I say this as someone who likes Neil Stephenson. I like Greg Bear. I reread Heinlein periodically...I love Science Fiction.
I wish we didn't have to do it, but I think it's the best chance we have for making some sort of turnaround in the Arab world. That means forcing a settlement to the Palestinian question. Iraq, before Saddam took over was the most secular and educated nation, and it is the one that has the best chance, despite the difficulties, of moving into something we would recognize as democracy.
If that could be done, it might mitigate, to a great extent, a lot of the street hatred of the west. It really is hatred. We let women think, we let them drive cars, we let them get jobs...we tolerate Jews...we do all of these things that are nasty...and we are nasty ourselves. There's a great deal of hatred that stems from something that we in the US haven't seen since the Civil War, and possibly not even then. It's something that the Western World really hasn't seen in the last three of four hundred years.
It's a hate of the other, because they are the other...and not like me, therefore we will kill them.
Yes, by merely being here we threaten them. An expert was asked after 9/11 what we could do to wipe out these people's hatred of us...and he paused a moment and then answered, "We could move off the planet."
It's something we need to be concerned about. You may say, why do we care if a third world nation has a few A-Bombs, but you know, the Soviet Union was a third world nation. Once the wall came down, we realized we were looking at a Third World Nation...that had held the world in the Cold War for all that time simply because they had nuclear weapons.
I don't even want to think about a world in which North Korea and Saddam Hussein have nuclear weapons. Both of those governments have people which would be quite willing to use these things.
No, but let me give you an example of why. When I first thought I might have what would become the Wheel of Time ready, the character of Rand, who is about 19 years old, and his father Tam, were one character. A man who had run away from home as a boy of thirteen or fourteen, and in that sort of world that you can get if you've grown up on a farm. He began to work with horses among soldiers and then he became a soldier, and having spent twenty years of his life as a soldier, he's tired, and decides he wants to go home.
So a man in his middle thirties returns home to his village, and discovers that the place he returns to is not the place he left, and that he is not the young man who ran away, and on top of that the world and phrophecy were hard on his heels. It would have been a very different story than the one I wound up writing. I decided that I wanted to split them because I wanted the major characters to be Candides. I wanted them to look at fresh eyes...I wanted everything to be new.