David Gemmell
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Interview par Stan Nicholls (1989?)

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White Square Interview par Stan Nicholls (1989?)

Message par Dark schneider le Jeu 21 Fév - 19:53

you start to write fiction?

I was being tested for cancer, and it was a particularly ghastly time. There I was, losing weight, pissing blood - I knew something had to be wrong. Believe me, the prospect of death really clarifies the mind.

My wife said to me, 'Look, why
don't you do something to take your mind off it?' So, I wrote - in two weeks
- a book called The Siege Dros Delnoch. I just powered this book out, writing
eight hours a day. I didn't realise quite what it was at the time, but if
you think of Legend, which it later became, you'll know that the enemy were
the Nadir. My conscious mind hadn't told me that means the point of greatest
hopelessness. The fortress was me and the Nadir were the cancer.

When I finished I left the ending
open, so that if I went to hospital and they said 'sorry, you've got cancer
and there's fuck all we can do about it', the fortress would go. If it wasn't
cancer, or there was anything they could do about it, the fortress would survive.
It gave me something to hook on to. Anyway, obviously I'm still here, because
it turned out to be an old injury from when I was beaten up badly as a journalist
years ago; it damaged one of my kidneys. An infection had caused blood to
leak from the kidney. So I forgot the book for some time - because in fact
it wasn't that good.

In 1980, a friend read the manuscript
and said 'It's full of clichés, but it's very pacey, and if you spent time
on it you could have a good book here'. I thought I'd start again. It took
about a year, and that was Legend. It was accepted by Century Hutchinson late
in '82.

what, influences your writing?

read fantasy. I used to, a long time ago. I read Tolkien, Howard's Conan books;
Lin Carter, all of Moorcock - those writers of the early Seventies.

I stopped reading them when I
began writing. You get frightened of becoming some sort of sponge; I'm terrified
I'll write a scene and it's in fact from someone else. I've got a problem
now with my new book, which comes out next June. It's called The
Knights of Dark Renown
, a title I'm very pleased with. Recently, someone
asked me what I was working on, and I said The
Knights of Dark Renown
. He said 'I've read that'. It turns out to be the
name of an historical novel published around 1955. If I can get that from
my mind thinking I've created it . . . I expect I saw the book a long time
ago and it lodged in my mind. When I found out, I wanted to change it, but
I think the publishers will stick with it.

you choose to write heroic fiction in particular?

had asked me ten years ago what kind of writer I was going to be I would have
said historical novelist. I'm fascinated by history, but most of the things
which intrigue me about it end badly.

One of my great heroes is William
Wallace, who was Scottish. In the 13th century you had Norman rule in England
and Scotland and the Scottish invading England. The Normans rarely got killed
because they were all knights and were taken for ransom. The people who got
butchered were the serfs. Along came Wallace - who was a sort of low-born
knight-and he revolutionised warfare. He got a lot of peasants and transformed
them into an infantry army, smashing the English all the way back to Stirling.
The Scottish nobles, realising the English were about to take a thrashing
and they would have a new order in Scotland, betrayed him. He was taken to
London, hanged, boiled and quartered. End of story.

If I wrote about William Wallace
he would exist in a world where he isn't betrayed, or if he is he survives
and wins. With that in mind, I thought the only thing to do was find a path
with fantasy.

STAN NICHOLLS: Your characters
have a life of their own?

the only book where I knew the feel of the plot because I'd written it as
The Siege of Dros Delnoch. Every other book I've written starts with a character
- I don't start with a plot. I say 'he's an interesting character, I'll sit
him on a horse and ride him out of a forest'. I'm very flexible.

The biggest secret I've found
in writing is using real people. In Legend
- and I have to be careful here - I wanted a character who was a nice guy,
not very clever, who could always be relied upon to do the wrong thing. Someone
a bit wet. So I pictured a particular friend. It was much more real, more

It was the same with [the character]
Druss. There's a scene in Legend where
I had a real problem. What I wanted was the traitor to do something despicable.
So I thought - poison the well! I wondered how we find out about this, apart
from everybody dying. So I hit on the idea of the [telepathic] Thirty broadcasting
to Druss - 'Hey, Druss, the well is poisoned'. No problem. They get through,
and what does he do? Instead of saying, 'Who's there?' he screams, 'Get out
of my head!' - and starts smashing the place up. I'm typing it, thinking,
'Listen, you stupid old sod, listen!' It didn't work and I had to find another
way around it.


finish a book do you put it aside to mature or does it go straight in the

DAVID GEMMELL:It goes straight
out. I've got a superb editor- Liza Reeves - and I can totally rely on her
when she gets the manuscript to tell me exactIy what needs doing. For instance,
I was deeply unhappy Wolf in Shadow At the time I'd just lost my job my mother
was very ill and subsequentIy died. Everything seemed to be going wrong. All
this effected the writing of Wolf in Shadow.

The main character, Jon
became increasingly depressive and the book took some spectacuIarly
wrong turns, which I just couId not see. Liza returned it with a list of possible
revisions. The book was originally sort of science fiction, and she suggested
cutting the SF element and finding some magic. Suddenly everything channelled
the right way. I rewrote the second half in three weeks. It was easy. That
was the first of my books to be sold to the States, which it never wouId have
had it not been for Lisa Reeves. I always put her name, and my copyeditoir
in the acknowledgements. I think it's nice that people realise something like
Wolf in Shadow, Legend
or Ghost King is a team effort.

a distinction between writer and storyteller, describing yourself as a storyteller...

that's why I'll never get writer's block. People keep telling me about the
great writers in the genre. Geoff Ryman. He will work and work, draft after
draft. I asked him why he didn't produce more? He tried to explain. He said
he had a scene with a man going into a room, and what were the first impressions
he had? Were there a lot of people in it? What about the size of it? He was
going on about this room, and I thought 'who gives a fuck?

'When it comes down to it, I couldn't
care less. Get in the room! Make something happen! I'm not knockiug Geoff.
I've spoken to people who admire his stuff - and I can't comment because I
haven't read it - and they say he's a tremendous writer. But it's not for
me. I tell stories. There are probably only three or four stories in the world,
but if I live to be 90, I'll find variations on them. Geoff is essentially
an actor. He gives a performance, there on the page. He knows when it's right,
when he's given a great performance. I applaud that. But if he turns out four
books in 12 years, he can't make a career in writing. Maybe in two hundred
years nobody will know David Gemmell and there will be university courses
on Geoff Ryman. But then I don't care about two hundred years time.


STAN NICHOLLS: Your characters
are interesting because they are uncertain about themselves - ordinary people
doing extraordinary things. where do they come from?

all from life. In Legend, Rek was based
on me - frightened of the dark, not wanting to get involved in any sort of
violence. I grew up in a very violent area. I've got something like a hundred-twenty
stitches on my body from fighting as a kid. I've been hit with broken bottles,
had knives run down my fingers, I've got wounds and scars.

Rek was also a natural poseur.
He was more interested in whether his cloak was draped over his saddle correctly
than getting involved in any problems. That was me.

A lot of other characters were
based on some tough men I knew where I grew up. My stepfather -and that's
who I mean when I refer to my father - is very much like Druss in Legend.
He's a natural man of action, and has a direct way of dealing with problems.
He's got hands like bananas, his signet ring could go over my thumb. A real
West London strong man. All my characters are real people dealing with unusual
situations - that's where the drama lies. There's nothing more boring than
a character with massive muscles, a brilliant brain, and who never loses.
You know from page one he'll kill 75 wizards, a couple of armies, several
dragons, a few werebeasts . . . and end up crowned king of Lemuria or somewhere.


a bit different. It was done rather well. There was a pace and vitality about
Howard's work that carried you through. Most of the imitators don't have that.
The finest fantasy I've read is Lord of The Rings. I very much like Fritz
Leiber - Fafhd and the Gray Mouser are two of my favourite characters in fiction.
If you write fantasy you have to establish credibility very early on. You
do that by giving the hero - Druss for example - a bad knee and a bad back.
Someone else has toothache, or doubts and fears. All the things a reader can
identify with. Then, when you bring in your dragons, werebeasts, and sorcerers,
they are more acceptable.We've already established their world is a very real
place. Look at the Marvel Conan comics. Lovely comics. But Conan will ride
through through artic blizzards with his arms bare. That's not real.


STAN NICHOLLS: Rek overcame
his doubts about himself. In that respect is he you, too?

when I was young I was forced into violent situations. My father made me box.
He took me to a club and said, 'There you go. Train'. I learned to fight,
but I never liked or enjoyed it. Although actually I was rather good because
I've got ape arms - a reach two inches longer than Mohammed Ah. Like Rek,
I loathe violence, would do anything to get away from it. I was brought up
by my mother until the age of six, and was very much a bookish sort of lad;
like Thuro in Ghost King.Then a man
came into my family who was very strong, powerful, direct. He didn't force
me into anything, except the boxing. All he said was 'Son, you've got to learn
that a fist in the mouth isn't as bad as hiding behind walls or running away'.The
other thing about Rek is that he was changed by his lover, Virac, who was
based on an Amazonian lady I used to work with. The essence of Virae is my
wife. For me, Val's a rock. There's me floating around here, there and everywhere,
but I've got that rock I can always come back to. That's what got Rek through
Legend. It's what's helped me though life
till now.

tend to be resolved by direct action in your books. Does this reflect your
personal philosophy?

much. Problems that come up I tend to headbutt, go straight at and kick out
of the way. It's the only way in which I'm political. I feel strongly that
we are educated from day one to an attitude that says if a problem comes up
there's always somebody else there to sort it out. I'm very much against that.
We've lost the concept of eviI. If somebody does something bad to somebody
else, it's not his fault. It's hard to encapsulate this because I don't want
to come over as a right-winger.

STAN NICHOLLS: But it sounds
a bit Thatcherite...

DAVID GEMMELL: May my tongue
go black and fall out, but . . . yeah. I campaigned for Harold Wilson, I went
around carrying banners. I'm from a socialist family, socialist all the way
through, but on that point - the 'dependence culture' - I stick in the Thatcher
camp. Exactly as with the Falklands. My view is that the task force had to
be sent. It was direct action and it sorted things out. I get angry when I
hear prats talking about sinking the Belgrano. Sinking it meant keeping the
Argentine fleet in port and they didn't come out and take us on.


any element of conscious political allegory in your books?

the most bizarre conversations about this. PeopIe say they see the hidden
left-wing messages, and others detect right-wing thinking. It's all things
to all men. You could easily argue Legend is about the old, corrupt civilisation
and the new fresh barbarians. Like us, slowly sinking in to decay. But it
wasn't written that way. As a journalist I dealt with politicians - now cabinet
ministers some of them - and never met one you could sit down with and just
know they were honest. You can watch their brains work. There is always something
else going on behind everything they say, and it's self-interest.

Actually, I love Reagan. I was
delighted when he got elected. The one thing the president of the United States
does not need is to be intelligent. It's desperately dangerous. Jimmy Carter
proved that. As soon as you get a president or Russian premier who tries to
see both sides of a question there's the danger of war. The world's safe because
the Russians know Reagan's not very bright. They know he could press the button,
aud that's a man they can deal with. Vote for the dummy every time. I've had
a great deal of fun watching Ronnie. Apart from John Wayne being president,
I think Reagan's probably it.

STAN NICHOLLS: Which seems
a good point to ask you what you meant when you once said you wanted to be
the John Wayne of fantasy.

nothing to do with his politics. One of the things which made Wayne such an
enduring force in movies was that he never considered himself to be a great
actor. As far as he was concerned he was a journeyman and tried to learn from
every part he played. He was always aiming to be something.What I meant about
wanting to be the John Wayne of fantasy was that as long as I can hold on
to the idea that writing is a learning process, and I can improve, then the
chances are when I'm 70 I'll still be writing books people want to read. I've
met authors who have disappointed me as human beings immensely . . . by being
arrogant, pompous; and I think, my God, don't let me become like this. And
would I know? Because they obviously don't. It's not that I want to be Duke
[as Wayne's friends called him], wandering through a fantasy world. What I
want is to maintain that ideal he had, to keep the learning process open,
not to get too overblown.


be fair, then, to see Legend, on one level, as being based on the Alamo?

Alamo had a big effect on me when I first read about it. unfortunately I now
know the truth about the Alamo. The Alamo was commanded by William Travis,
a fairly self important individual, Jim Bowie was quite ill and had financial
reasons for joining the rebellion he had a lot of money riding in Tcxas; and
Davy Crockett was a failed politician hoping to revive his career. The Alamo
is a consistent story of cock-up after cock-up. Nobody there expected to die.
I'm not saying they weren't very brave men. But the whole thing was mismanaged
to the point of ineptness. There is even one version that says Davy Crockett
was discovered hiding under a pile of women's clothing, and tried to bribe
his way out. They took him away and shot him. I don't like to believe that,
but it's the reality of life, so perhaps I shouldn't have studied the Alamo.
Legend is the Alamo spirit - or what should have been that spirit.

very into elite groups in your books, like The Thirty and The Dragon. Are
they just good plot devices?

want to get too psychological but, in my childhood, I belonged to no gangs
and had no friends. Which made for some very lonely times; particularly if
one of those gangs was looking for you. I dreamed of having lots of friends.
So in some ways the elite groups stem from that.

I've interviewed SAS men, men
from elite regiments, and you'll find them at 60, 70 and 80 still attending
reunions and dreaming of the days when they were part of that group. Just
being invited to join is a big boost. I'm fascinated by that discipline and

your elites seem to have mythical basis. Is there a religious motif here?

DAVID GEMMELL: You're absolutely
right. All of my books have a religious basis. They're essentially Christian
books. I'm a Christian and have certain strong views about Christianity. For
instance Serbitar, of The Thirty, says 'Why was I made the leader?' Of course
he was made leader, because he had the biggest distance to travel. The Bible
says 'He who would be first shall be last'.

write different books if you weren't a Christian?

There is a writer - George G Gillman - who wrote the Edge westerns. Edge is
a man who can roll a cigarette with one hand while raping a woman and cutting
the throats of several Mexican soldiers. The books are mindless savagery.
If I wasn't a Christian, and thought there was some profit in it, I could
write similar books. Christianity stops me doing that. I think I would be
promoting the cause of evil.

STAN NICHOLLS: Do you always
see yourself as writing fantasy?

DAVID GEMMELL: I'm writing
thrillers at the moment, just to get back into what you might call the real
world. But when I look at them I think I'm writing thrillers that are really
fantasies. The heroes aren't much different and what happens doesn't bear
too much relation to real life. I'm interested in the good guys winning, whatever
the odds, and people seem to find that more acceptable in a fantasy setting.
In the main I think I'll stick with fantasy for the rest of my life. I really
enjoy it.

(pas eu le temps de la lire celle-là)
edit : désolé pour la mise en forme, ça marche pas bien les copié/collé, je mettrais de l'ordre plus tard)
Dark schneider
Unificateur des Nadirs

Date d'inscription : 19/01/2009

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White Square Re: Interview par Stan Nicholls (1989?)

Message par Sieben le Jeu 21 Fév - 21:03

Excellente interview ! Merci Dark. J'en ai appris d'avantage maintenant sur Gemmell. J'avais oublié qu'il avait exercé le métier de journaliste. Intéressant le contexte dans lequel il a écrit Légende.
Navarque de la flotte macédonienne

Date d'inscription : 12/02/2013

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White Square Re: Interview par Stan Nicholls (1989?)

Message par Steve Gemmell le Mar 5 Avr - 21:59

Je crois pas trop m'avancer en disant qu'il a fait un bon choix en décidant d'écrire de la fantaisie jusqu'à la fin de sa vie...
Steve Gemmell

Date d'inscription : 05/04/2016

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White Square Re: Interview par Stan Nicholls (1989?)

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