Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blake Charlton Answers Questions Five

Blake Charlton is another one of those debut authors getting a bit of buzz this year. His first book, Spellwright (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound) has just been released by Tor to a fair amount of positive acclaim, including a bit of my own. He’s been beating the ground over on Twitter to get his name out and has an amusing (and informative) blog. Blake also has an interesting background for newbie epic fantasy writer – he went to college at Yale, worked a few odd jobs and is now in medical school at Stanford, where he also teaches creative writing to a bunch of would-be doctors. And he’s done all this while being dyslexic, which is a big inspiration for Spellwright.

Thanks again to Blake for taking the time to amuse himself with
Questions Five.

Blake, after reading many of the interviews and other posts on
your blog, I’m lead to the conclusion that you must speak with yourself quite often. How has the tendency of talking with yourself (or possibly imaginary friends) influenced your life and fiction?

BC: You know, it’s funny you mention that. The self dialogue has been popular on my blog. But I hardly ever talk to myself anymore. I mean, like, there was that one stretch of time, all those years ago, when I found the One Ring at the bottom of a river…and it poisoned my mind over five hundred years before I lost it to a cheerfully fellow found of riddles who—judging by his stature and the hair on his feet and similar findings I later discovered on his young cousin—was probably coping with a rare familial endocrine condition. But after the so called “Crack of Doom” incident on the great volcano of Orodruin, I don’t talk to myself hardly at all. Well, ‘hardly’ means I do, but just a little. Which is to say, no I don’t, but maybe yes I do. Because really your question presupposes a definitive modality of the verb “speak.’ Which only encourages a dizzying intellect. And commits one of the classic blunders typified in getting involved in a land war in Asia. But also includes trusting a Sicilian when death is on the line. So, clearly, the answer to your question is no but also yes.

What’s your favorite hair style (note: should actually contain hair)?

BC: David Bowie. You might think that’d be a person, not a particular hairstyle, but you’d be WRONG: he’s a hair philosophy. Hair is generally frightening stuff, unbecoming of an adult male, and collecting Lovecraftian nests of bits of soap and belly button lint in bathtub drains across the world. However, if you must exude the strange flouncy, proteinaceous stuff from your head, you should try to be David Bowie and go for flair. Let’s all take a moment to remember him in Labyrinth and his album Ziggy Stardust and suddenly you see the light.

If Spellwright were a fortune cookie, what would its fortune be?

BC: If Spellwright were a fortune cookie, once you broke it open, small firecrackers would go off, a gargoyle made out of silvery sentence with antlers would dance around you, and the incandescent words of the fortune would float up out of said cookie and it would read:

Into all occasions, put much thought and consideration, but when the time is right, party!
And then the exclamation point would shoot away to strike a tiny gong to let you know a small piece of wisdom just came to you in cookie form.

How would you interpret this fortune if it were your own?

BC: I’d take it to mean that intellectual pursuits are well and good, deep heavy emotional consideration is well and good, but some of the best parts of life happen when you don’t take yourself or anything too serious and you go out and have fun.

Why should Spellwright be the next thing that everyone reads?

BC: Let’s go back and smell the rose that is “when the time is right, party!”

Spellwright is different from a lot that’s out there now in that its primary goal is to have a lot of butt-kicking classic fantasy fun. A lot of people think that can’t be done well anymore, or has been done to death. I’m looking to prove otherwise. So, the book’s not a doorstop of an epic that’s about amoral characters spilling physiologically dubious amounts of blood out of the sympathetic characters. (Although, I do love reading a quality little-magic-lots-of-bloodshed fantasy.) Rather, Spellwright is reviving the classic fantasy model with sympathetic protagonists struggling with disability, a fast-paced quest, a murder mystery, and a crowd-pleasing mega-watt magic system.

Bonus question for inclusion in The SFF Literary Pub Crawl:

Please recommend a favorite pub or similar establishment – it doesn’t have to be local to you, but that is encouraged and if you can’t limit to just one, recommend more, but try to keep it to 3 or less. And don’t forget to say why it’s so great.

Antonio’s Nut House in Palo Alto: closest thing you’re going to get to a dive bar anywhere near Stanford University. So…not very divvy, but still it makes a respectable attempt. The place is covered with pool tables, stools, knick-knacks, neon signs, and strange Americana. The jukebox alternately rocks out Jonny Cash and Dr. Dre. A Mexican restaurant shares one side of the bar and you can get good enchiladas until around 11pm. The floor’s covered with peanut shells because they’re free on the house. You just have to fish them out of a barrel that’s in a cage with a giant gorilla suite. The gorilla used to be automated to move when someone came near, but too many of the non-regulars would freak out and jump away from the gorilla and into a pool game. Best part is the crowd, which is about one third town locals, one third Stanford grad students, and one third bar hopping types (some bikers) from up and down the peninsula. Sometimes a glut of undergrads will take it over, and that’s kind of a drag (unless you are one, I suppose.) But normally conversation topics range from quantum physics to football to Desperate Housewives to beer. Actually, everyone’s always talking about beer. I like the high geek ratio and that everyone in the place is pretty different and that they mix with each other, especially around the pool tables and dart boards.


Jamie Gibbs said...

A cool Q&A session, I like the style of 'Questions Five'.

What I find most interesting about Charlton is that he's both a mefical student and a fantasy author (I wish to do the same thing, but exchanging medicine for Egyptology) and I admire his determination to want to do both.

Also, I love the inclusion of author recommended pubs. Fantastic!

Another Daydreamer said...

Before reading this Q&A I thought I better take a look at Charlton's blog. Now everything makes sense. ;)

Okay, back to reading Spellwright. :)

Myshkin said...

He had me at David Bowie.

ediFanoB said...

One more great Q & A session.
Well done.
I can tell you read SPELLWRIGHT.I did it and loved it. And as I wrote in my review
"Spellwright is a must read because it is the first book where magic donkey farts are performed!" :)


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