From the moment I finished reading “Moon Called” I was sure I had to ask Patricia Briggs to do an interview for my site. Lucky me, she agreed!
For several reasons it took quite a while till I was able to upload it. But now it’s here. Enjoy!
Interview with Patricia Briggs
You have a growing fanbase in Germany, I can tell you. And since you’ve seem to have a weak spot for Germany anyway (your lead character Mercy is a mechanic primarily specialised in german automobiles; your character Zee has lived in Germany) – any plans to visit us here some time soon for a book tour or just for fun?
When I was a child, my mother would read to us from the Brother’s Grimm fairytales. It started a fascination I never outgrew. And learning about Germanic folklore meant learning about Germanic history and culture. And castles. I love castles. I do plan on visiting Germany, but probably it won’t happen soon. Probably a couple of years from now when my teenage children are out of the house (which makes travel much cheaper).
Yes. I have a degree in German — which is pretty funny because I never could speak it very well, not even right out of college. When Moon Called came out in the US, I received a very courteous email from a gentleman in Hamburg who politely told me my German was terrible. The few phrases I’d gotten right, I had misspelled. I wrote him back and said, thank you — and would you like a job? From Iron Kissed on, Michael has been looking over most of my German phrases for me.
As to how I ended up with a degree in German — I started out school intending to get a degree in history (which I did). And that required two years of a foreign language. I already had a bit of Spanish, but I thought German would be more fun (I blame those Märchen.) All my life I’ve been an “A” student (top honors) and German humbled me. It didn’t help that I was the only person in my classes who wasn’t already fluent. I may not be wise, but I am stubborn. I’ll quit something I don’t like. But I won’t quit because I can’t do it. So I took more German — and loved it, even though I wasn’t very good at it. Eventually, I realized I was only a class away from completing the major. It seemed like a waste not to take that last class — so I did.
Is it weird to find facts of your personal biography on wikipedia?
Not as much as you’d think (grin).
My husband is a computer geek and found Wikipedia very early on. It wasn’t very big back then, but someone had put my name on it — for a lark, Mike put up a lot more. I think I’d written four books, maybe five. I’d forgotten about it mostly — and ran into it again a year or so ago. I was flattered that other people had kept it up
The third Mercy novel has recently been published in Germany, however your website says that you’re in contract for a total of seven Mery novels currently. Can you give your readers a teaser what we can await from Mercy within the next time?
The fourth book, titled Bone Crossed in the US deals with Mercy’s problems with Marsilia (the ruler of the vampires in the Tri-Cities) as well as a few nasty ghosts. This was a really fun book to write.
I’m also working on another series, that focuses on Samuel’s brother Charles. It begins with a novella called “Alpha and Omega” — which, I don’t think, has been released in German. It is available, in English, in an anthology called On the Prowl.
The first book in the series “Schatten des Wolfes” (US released as Cry Wolf) will be out in July 09 from Heyne. A lot of it takes place in a wilderness area in the middle of winter which is a dangerous place to be, even without villains hunting you. There are, of course, lots of werewolves, but also a witch and a few spirits (in the Native American sense — not really ghosts).
Urban fantasy seems to be kind of “the it thing” at the moment. How do you manage to come up with ideas that don’t feel worn-out?
Good storytelling is always about people first. And people are always fascinating. The urban fantasy comes in to flavor the story, but the story is about people — not about the urban fantasy. Robin McKinley wrote two versions of “Beauty and the Beast”: Beauty and Rose Daughter. So. Two books based on the same fairytale, both centered around roses, by the same author — and both felt entirely original.
Robin McKinley is a very good storyteller, and she centers her books around her characters.
Honestly, you have to tell us: What is your secret in creating such believable characters?!
The real answer is I write and cross my fingers. However, I’ve learned a few tricks over the years. Here’s a couple.
When I bring in a character, I ask myself a series of questions.
What does this person want in this scene? What do they want more than anything? Who or what would they kill for? Who do they love? What hurts them? What makes them happy? How do they talk? How old are they and does that affect their perspective? (Particularly important when dealing with unusually old characters).
There are moments, though, when magic happens
In real life, people do things “out of character” all the time — given the right motivation. If I can capture that moment and let readers understand why they do it, then the character becomes real. As a quick example: There is a businessman who is completely motivated by money. He never spends a penny he doesn’t have to — and he’s always rushing, because time is money. One day, on his way to an important meeting — not late, because he’s never late — but still in a hurry, he passes a blind musician playing on the corner and stops. He listens to the whole song, and when the musician is through, the lawyer tosses all the money he has with him into the guitar case — because the song was his grandmother’s favorite. And now he is no longer a standard character, but a person with a history and wants and desires.
Before you started writing urban fantasy with your Mercy Thompson-series you wrote high fantasy? Do you have any plans to write another high fantasy novel?
Absolutely. Between books I am revising my first book Masques (long out of print) and its not ever published sequel into one book — and that is more traditional fantasy.
I have another book for Ward (Dragon series) and probably for some of the characters out of the Raven books.
It’ll probably be a few years, though.
Is it true that it was the idea of your publisher that you’d give urban fantasy a try? If so was that a fact you’ve struggled with or did you embrace the idea from the early beginning on?
Yes. My editor, Anne Sowards, and I have always exchanged reading lists because we like the same kind of books. I’ve loved urban fantasy in all it’s incarnations — from Charles de Lindt to Mercedes Lackey (when it meant elves in the real world) to the latest vampire/werewolf craze
Could you imagine writing another Dragon- or Raven-book? Do you have plans to visit these familiar settings again?
I know that there will be another Dragon Book.
And I’m pretty sure that there will be another Raven book. I’m six books out from that, though (grin).
You’re a beloved NYT-bestseller novelist and award-winning author, however I’ve read online that sales of your first published novel – “Masques” – were abysmal. I could imagine this might have been a really difficult experience. May I ask you if you’ve doubted your calling to be an author at any time?
I doubt it every time I stare at the blank screen of my computer and try to think of words to put on it (grin).
But I don’t remember ever really having the urge to quit.
There’s something fascinating about taking a few threads of story, putting them on paper and adding to them and rearranging them until you have a book. I think if I had never sold another book, I would still be writing — though probably more slowly.
However, by the time we figured out just how bad the number for Masques were, the second book, Steal the Dragon, had already come out. And, helped by a terrific cover by Royo, it did okay right from the first.
What gave you the strength to believe in you and your work and to continue with writing?
I think the secret to being a writer is to enjoy the writing and not worry so much about the publishing. In the end, it shouldn’t matter if everyone else, or if anyone else likes it. If it’s the story you wanted to tell and it works for you, then it doesn’t matter if it gets published or not.
What I’m trying to say is that it wasn’t so much belief in my abilities as a writer as the desire to tell stories and organize them on paper in such a way that I couldn’t in my head that kept me writing.
And the understanding that we aren’t stuck, we learn, we grow, we get better. I am a much better writer now than I was when I wrote Masques.
And I try, in every book, to increase my skill as a writer.
How do you realize that an idea is worth to be spun into a novel plot?
There are people to whom plotting comes naturally.
I am not among them.
The first inkling I have that an idea is worth building a plot around is after I am a couple of hundred pages into the book.
The first few books I wrote, I probably threw away as many pages as I kept. It’s not quite that bad anymore because experience does count for something. But still it is a feeling, rather than anything concrete.
I’ve found I do better if I take my main character and, in the first scene, give them a problem to solve and work out from that.
What do you like best while creating a new novel and/or setting - and what do you loathe?
I love the first fifty pages of a novel, where all the characters get introduced. I hate writing the middle, when I know how it ends, but am still trying to figure out how it gets there.
But my favorite part of writing is the first edit, where I take all these scenes and I tune them up and add just the right touch to make the story come alive.
What’s your favorite protagonist so far? And who’s the toughest one to write about?
I don’t have any one favorite.
Mercy has a very strong voice that carries me over some rough scenes. I’ve never had a problem with getting her character right, not from the first page of Moon Called.
Seraph (from the Raven books) was the biggest stretch for me. It took a long time for me to understand what made her tick and get it down on paper just right.
Quite a few urban fantasies have been adapted for television within the last few years, although with different success. Any chance to watch Mercy Thompson onscreen some time soon?
Funny you should ask. I have just signed a contract with 50 Cannon, a production company headed by Mike Nichols, who directed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. They aren’t filming yet, but they spent a lot of time (a year and a half of negotiations) and a fair bit of money to get the ball rolling.
I’m relatively optimistic that there will eventually be a movie based on Moon Called.
Does your publisher ask or even demand that you make rapid changes on your books? Have you ever had to make dramatic changes? Did you have any troubles with them because of your gay characters?
I have the world’s best editor. She lets me write the books as I want to write them — and then helps me refine them so the story is better. She has never demanded a content change that I recall, and most of her suggestions are terrific.
No one has ever given me trouble about my gay characters
Can you remember what your first story (or novel) was about? And how did you realise you have a talent for writing?
It took a long time to decide I was a writer. I think it was my fourth book (The Hob’s Bargain). For good or ill, the book did exactly what I wanted it to do.
Some days I am a better writer than others — and I am better at editing my manuscripts than I am at writing the first draft.
Tell us the truth: Did you ever write fanfiction?
No, I never have.
I have too many of my own stories to tell.
You know, I just have to ask: Are you a Buffy the Vampire Slayer and/or Joss Whedon-fan?
Joss Whedon is the best.
Buffy, Angel, Firefly: If he makes it, I will watch.
I do not know if you find time yourself for reading, but what kind of books do you like? Which authors can you recommend? And how do you choose a book in the bookstore?
I read all the time. I have to. If I don’t I can’t write.
I like anything that is character based (I am very easy to please). I have maybe a hundred authors who are automatic buys for me — and there isn’t room to list them all.
Outside of science fiction/fantasy, favorite authors include Dick Francis, Nora Roberts, Louis L’Amour, Georgette Heyer.
I read a lot of romance — Linda Howard, Jayne Anne Krenz, Katie MacAllister, J. R. Ward, Nalini Singh, Eileen Wilks.
In SF/F there are a lot of very talented writers. Less well-known authors or newcomers: Sarah Monette, Rob Thurman, Anne Aguirre, Mark Ferarri , Jane Fancher (who writes these Huge books — and when you are done, you feel like whining because there is no more).
Old Favorites: Jim Butcher, Lois McMaster Bujold (who cannot write a bad book), Andre Norton, Laurell K. Hamilton, Lynn Viehl, Winn Spencer.
In a bookstore, I look first for favorite authors, then at books that are new this month. If there is nothing (or I have more time) I explore the stacks and pick up whatever catches my eye. I read the back and if it sounds interesting I read a few pages from the middle to see if I like the writing. Then I read the last page to make sure it ends well.
Thank you very much for doing that interview!
All the best both for your work and your private life!
Patricias Website can be found here!