Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Interview with Chris Willrich, author of The Scroll of Years (A Gaunt and Bone Novel) - September 11, 2013

Please welcome Chris Willrich to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Scroll of Years (A Gaunt and Bone Novel) will be published on September 24, 2013 by Pyr. You may read Chris' 2013 DAC Guest Blog here.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Chris:  Thanks very much! It’s good to be here.

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Chris:  I was a compulsive daydreamer as a kid. Helpful (and maybe a trifle worried) adults tried to channel this in productive ways. My parents always pushed books my way, and by the time I hit middle school they weren't censoring what I read. At the same school a teacher looked at one of my assignments and suggested I might make a good writer. It was the kind of well-timed comment that can really shape a kid’s life. My first attempt was a couple of paragraphs of Star Trek fan fiction, but I ran out of steam fast. It was harder than it looked. I got a lot more serious after high school, but it took a long time to get my work into publishable shape.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Chris:  I don’t have a consistent work space. I’ll be all over the house or at one of a half-dozen coffeehouses. I do pick favorite spots for long stretches -- right now my usual “office” is one end of a couch, beside a window and a bookshelf, the kids’ toys at my feet. I might trip over Thomas the Tank Engine when I get up.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Chris:  Pantser all the way. Although for a project for Paizo, publisher of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, I did have to learn to work from a detailed outline. That was an interesting challenge, and I see some advantages to it. But my natural style is to make up the bulk of a story as I go along.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

For the most part, stories don’t come to life for me until I commit words to paper. Characters don’t clarify for me until I write dialogue; plot developments are hard to think through until I’m blocking out a scene.

TQ:  Describe The Scroll of Years in 140 characters or less.

Chris:  Gaunt and Bone, lovers and rogues, hope to retire and start a family. But first they must flee the West for a mysterious land in the East.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Scroll of Years?

Chris:  An old interest in writing an Asian-themed fantasy collided with wanting to find a place for my serial magazine heroes Gaunt and Bone to flee to. The pieces seemed to fit.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Scroll of Years?

Chris:  I delved into materials I’d kept from college classes on China, and some notes I took when my late mother-in-law, a first-generation immigrant, told stories from her childhood. Some specific research I did was to look again at two books by Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China and God’s Chinese Son. With the first book I looked at early chapters about the Ming Dynasty, because I was searching for a kind of baseline for my imaginary setting, and Spence’s description of that milieu was very absorbing. With the second book I reread early chapters on 19th Century China, specifically sections about bandit gangs and foreign traders. As you can see by these two examples, whatever’s historical about my setting is an anachronistic patchwork.

Other works I looked at were translations of the 9th Century poetry attributed to Hanshan (“Cold Mountain”) and the classic Tao Te Ching (Pinyin Dao De Jing), because the philosophy of these works informs the attitudes of several characters in the story. Michael Sullivan's The Arts of China was handy for visual references.

None of the above should give anyone the idea I’m some kind of authority on Chinese history. But hopefully I haven’t been a complete idiot in how I’ve used my sources.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Chris:  Gaunt and Bone tie for easiest characters, since I’d written several short works about them already. The hardest character was probably an important government official of Qiangguo, my imaginary country. He’s mainly an adversary, but he’s not really a villain; there are genuine villains in the story, and they were much easier to write. Rather, he has an authoritarian point of view that I'm personally not very sympathetic to. Yet in his own mind he is waging a lonely, quite possibly doomed, battle against barbarism, while trying to cling to a sense of honor.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Scroll of Years?

Chris:  Luckily my personal favorite comes fairly early, because it introduces a character who became my favorite. It involves two young people of Qiangguo confronting an embodiment of the Nian, a monster you’re supposed to be scaring off during the Lunar New Year. My characters don’t literally believe in the Nian, so running into an incarnation of it is kind of like discovering the trick-or-treaters at your door really are mummies and vampires.

TQ:  What's next? /this is where you share whatever you'd like to share/

Chris:  I’m hard at work on a sequel to The Scroll of Years, titled The Silk Map. It sends Gaunt and Bone along their world's analog of the historical "Silk Road."

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Chris:  Thanks for having me!

The Scroll of Years

The Scroll of Years
A Gaunt and Bone Novel
Pyr, September 24, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 270 pages

It's Brent Weeks meets China Mieville in this wildly imaginative fantasy debut featuring high action, elegant writing, and sword and sorcery with a Chinese flare.

Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone are a romantic couple and partners in crime. Persimmon is a poet from a well-to-do family, who found herself looking for adventure, while Imago is a thief in his ninth decade who is double-cursed, and his body has not aged in nearly seventy years. Together, their services and wanderlust have taken them into places better left unseen, and against odds best not spoken about. Now, they find themselves looking to get away, to the edge of the world, with Persimmon pregnant with their child, and the most feared duo of assassins hot on their trail. However, all is never what it seems, and a sordid adventure-complete with magic scrolls, gangs of thieves, and dragons both eastern and western-is at hand.

About Chris

Photo by Richard McCowen
Chris Willrich (Mountain View, CA) is a science fiction and fantasy writer best known for his sword-and-sorcery tales of Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone. Until recently he was a children's librarian for the Santa Clara County Library System, in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work has appeared in Asimov's, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Black Gate, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Flashing Swords, The Mythic Circle, and Strange Horizons.

Website  ~  Twitter @WillrichChris  ~  Facebook 


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