Farrell moonlights as a professor and musician and I’m very happy that he has taken the time to answer Questions Five.
1. Trips to Ireland and France have inspired the books that you have become best known for – what sort of book would a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee inspire?
SLF: I’ve been to Gatlinburg, I must confess. Heck, several of my ancestors are of Appalachian background (Kentucky, mostly). While the Great Smoky Mountains around that town might inspire someone to a compelling story of Appalachian struggle, or perhaps a thrilling, politically-charged novel about the evils of mountaintop-removal mining, Gatlinburg itself screams “Tourist Trap!” I could not get out of that town fast enough -- mostly because of the gridlocked traffic down the main street.
Gatlinburg might inspire a dystopian novel where the entire Earth has been turned into one gigantic souvenir shop for galactic travelers. There, Bobby Curmudgeon is a lowly clerk, selling tickets for the submarine tour of New York City (now largely underwater since global warming raised the sea levels), and dreaming of quitting his job and going Out: a futile dream since the Great Corporation which now owns the Earth and operates all the concessions only pays minimum wage to its workers...
Somehow, I have the feeling I’m not Gatlinburg’s target audience.
2. Name one thing a pretentious literature professor will hate about A Magic of Twilight.
SLF: Well, it’s fantasy. All genre fiction, especially fantasy, is crap. By definition. Unless it’s “magic realism.” Then it’s OK. (I hasten to add that this is what your pretentious literature professor would say, not me...)
The semi-humorous thing here is that I am an English professor. I teach Creative Writing at a local university -- and believe me, I’m well aware of the general attitude of literature professors toward the type of fiction I like to read and write. I was at a conference once where one colleague from another university came up and asked if I’d written anything myself. I told him that, yes, I’d written published some novels and several short stories. He was very interested then, and asked if he might have read any of them. “Not unless you read science fiction and fantasy,” I told him.
His whole demeanor changed at that point. “Oh,” he said in a voice dripping with disappointment. “I once had a friend who wrote a novel -- a real novel; you know, with genuine literary merit. He couldn’t get it published. Then he wrote a mystery, and the novel sold well and since then he hasn’t written anything except that mystery garbage.”
“Yeah,” I told him, “it’s terrible to actually make money from what you write, and have people actually read it.”
At that point he sniffed and walked away. Didn’t come to my reading later that afternoon, either...
3. Please describe one reason A Magic of Twilight would inspire a reader to strip naked and run screaming into the desert?
SLF: “So many viewpoints! So many viewpoints!”
Well, I don’t know that the number of viewpoint characters would make anyone strip naked even if they did run screaming into the desert. I wrote some of it naked, though, I’m pretty sure. Heck, I’m writing this naked right now. You can tell because the cats are pointing at me and laughing.
And I suppose it would depend on how close you were to a desert at the moment. From where I am, it’s a long run to the closest desert.
4. What other peculiar qualities of A Magic of Twilight should readers be aware of?
SLF: I’m a strong believer in ‘gray’ characters: very few people (in my experience) are either pure saints or entirely evil people. Even the best person has faults; even the worst person has sympathetic qualities. So don’t come looking for “good” vs. “evil” black-and-white conflicts here. You won’t find them. Instead, I think you’ll find an assortment of very interesting, twisted, and realistic characters.
And I do use ‘foreign’ terms and titles now and again. Hey, these people don’t speak English, after all. So expect to have to learn a few new words every once in a while. But you’ll figure it out -- you’re all smart readers or you wouldn’t be reading this kind of stuff!
5. Why should A Magic of Twilight be the next book that everyone reads?
SLF: Because if you don’t, you’ll be responsible for my being unable to pay my bills, and my wife and children will starve.
Seriously, Twilight’s received some great reviews. Kirkus said it had “Considerable charm and appeal...“ Publishers Weekly claimed it was a “...rich and complex story. “ Charlene Brusso at Black Gate contends you’ll be”...happily blown away by the gorgeously detailed setting and intriguing characters. Then there's the tangled knot, knitted up of at least seven different kinds of treachery. All told, this is a fantasy novel to settle down with for a nice, long time...” Drew Bittner of SFRevu said “The craft of world-building has rarely been put on display so ingeniously."
And George RR Martin called it “...a delicious mélange of politics, war, sorcery, and religion in a richly imagined world peopled with a varied cast of haughty lords, scheming courtiers, beggars, priests, heretics, zealots, spies, assassins, torturers, tarts, and seductresses.” How can you resist that?
Actually, I think it’s a pretty good book myself. I would hope you’d enjoy it -- so head off to your local bookseller and grab a copy!
And thanks for the chance to pop in and answer a few questions, Ken! It was a blast!