OMG, it’s October already? Who else thinks this year is just whipping by? Next thing you know, Christmas decorations will be in all the stores. Oh, wait. Never mind. ANYWAY. It’s October, and here to usher in the month (alright, alright, I know it started a few days ago, but we don’t need to be nit-picky do we?) is a brand spanking new Featured Author.
Come and say Hello! to Max Gladstone, whose debut urban fantasy novel Three Parts Dead was just released – yesterday.
Max has taught in southern Anhui, wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat, and been thrown from a horse in Mongolia. Max graduated from Yale University, where he studied Chinese.
Alright, I know you guys are anxious to meet Max, so here’s the Q&A he so very kindly did for me. And you.
drey: Hello Max, and welcome to drey’s library. I’m excited to have you visiting this month!
MG: I’m excited to be here!
drey: In 10 sentences: Who is Max Gladstone?
MG: 10 sentences? That’s a lot of space!
Max Gladstone is the pen name of a cloud of sentient nanomachines floating in the Kuiper Belt. We’ve been watching your planet for some time now, and decided to try our hand at this “fiction” thing. Seriously, though, I’m the author of Three Parts Dead, a fantasy novel that just came out on October 2, 2012. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and this is my first published novel. I’ve lived in Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, Connecticut, and various areas of China. I used to have a ponytail and a beard, but I look surprisingly normal these days. I speak Chinese, I was the editor for a Boston-based research firm, and I’m now a full-time novelist. (Let’s see how that goes.)
For fun when I’m not writing, I try to stab people with an epee, though most of the time they’re wearing protective equipment and have an epee of their own so they don’t end up as bad off as it sounds.
drey: Ha ha! I’m pretty sure there’s absolutely no mention of nanomachines on your “About” page…
You’ve “taught in southern Anhui, wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat, and been thrown from a horse in Mongolia.” I am totally envious! How did you go from all that, plus learning Chinese, to writing?
MG: I’ve always been writing, since before I could read actually, so I was writing while I was doing all the rest. Travel helps me write—I find that it reveals new parts of the world, and new parts of myself. Not that anyone needs travel to write; it just helps me see the world from a different point of view.
drey: How did you wreck that bicycle in Angkor Wat, anyway?
MG: I wrecked it by being stupid. I’d been riding around the perimeter of the temple, looking for the ticket office. Some huts and villages press up right against the temple; I pedaled past an old man sweeping out his lawn, raising dust clouds in sunlight streaming through leaves. A few minutes later, I saw the ticket office across the road, and, still thinking about the dust and light, I turned left without looking and cut off a motorcycle that had been about to pass me on the left. I flew off the bike. My glasses skittered across the asphalt. Miraculously, no one was hurt; the motorcycle needed a little body work, which I paid for. Pretty dumb stunt on my part, all things considered. I think I put that on my bio out of penance.
drey: Dead gods, necromancy, and magic as law, oh my. Tell us (more!) about Three Parts Dead.
MG: Three Parts Dead takes place several decades after the God Wars—a climactic confrontation between gods and upstart human necromancers, or Craftsmen, who figured out how to control the natural world with magic independent of the gods. In some parts of the world the gods won; in others, they lost. In the decades since, Craftsmen and gods (and the gods’ worshippers) have developed an uneasy symbiosis, working with (and sometimes in spite of) one another.
The main characters of Three Parts Dead are trying to navigate this new world, in which faith can be an addiction as much as a comfort, and independence comes with strings attached. Tara, my main character, is determined to leave behind her rural home and become a powerful Craftswoman, but isn’t quite prepared for the sacrifices that path requires; Abelard, a priest of a dead God, has to confront the content of his own faith; Cat, his friend, is wrestling with her own need for justice. The mystery they investigate forces them to face the compromises they’ve made to live their lives.
drey: Where did you get the inspiration for Three Parts Dead? How long did it take to tell the story?
MG: The inspiration for Three Parts Dead came in part from the public reaction to the economic chaos of September 2008, a time when I was fresh returned from China, looking for work, and as a result incredibly sensitive to the fear in the air as the stock market dove. I was amazed by the terror and uncertainty generated by the death of immaterial beings, and the amount of power that was brought to bear to save them. That piece of inspiration combined with a few other ideas and swelled into a story. The book took about seven months to write, and another three to revise.
drey: Could you share your road to publication? Was it fabulously easy, or a complete nightmare that you’re relieved is over?
MG: A bit of both. The agent hunt was a bear, frankly. The book doesn’t fit easily into any one category (outside of maybe ‘fantasy’), and I think that made finding an agent more difficult—though another way to say it would be that it made sure I found the right agent. I sent about thirty, thirty-five queries over the course of a year, and received a lot of interest, but no offers.
Then, on a whim, I submitted a log line — a one sentence summary of the book — to a mystery agent contest run by the folks over at Operation Awesome. That caught the attention of Weronika Janczuk, my brilliant agent, who asked me to send her the manuscript; she liked it, but asked for a few revisions, which I provided. She offered representation in March, and we’d sold the first two books by May. That last part was easy (for me, anyway), but the agent search was grueling and I’m relieved I don’t have to do it again for the foreseeable future.
drey: What is the best advice you’ve received in regards to writing? What’s the worst?
MG: The best advice I received was not given as writing advice. My father told me, when I was a kid learning to play the violin, that I should practice every day, even if only for fifteen minutes. That advice didn’t take for the violin, but it did for writing. Writing’s always worth fifteen minutes of your day — and sometimes those first 15 minutes will become something more.
I don’t know if I’ve ever received any truly horrible advice when writing. The worst I could think of giving is the opposite of the best: write only when the spirit moves you. If you do that, you’ll end up with a lot of quarter-done manuscript, because the ‘right’ scene never showed up at your pen. Talk about Screwtape Letter advice! If you force work, yeah, maybe you’ll have to edit it (or destroy it entirely) later on — but tempo and momentum are powerful forces for inviting a muse.
drey: Your favorite literary characters face off in the ring, UFC-style. Who are they, and who wins?
MG: Let’s choose three: dragon-fighting princess Aerin from Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown, Sam (fake Buddha — or is he — and religious revolutionary) from Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, and chessmaster / romancer / swashbuckler / Scotsman / master of all trades Francis Crawford of Lymond from Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles.
I honestly have no idea who would win. Aerin might be the best fighter, but then, Sam and Lymond are both war heroes in their own right. Lymond and Sam are basically tied at intrigue and strategy — Lymond outwits everyone in Europe at one time or another, and Sam invented an entire religion for use in his religion. Then again, while Aerin is no great shakes at intrigue, she’s never let it get in her way… and she has magic on her side. Except Sam’s electrodirection power could probably shut down Aerin’s magic, but then it would be useless against Lymond, and Lymond is definitely the better fighter of the two of them.
Verdict: beats the heck out of me. Plus, they’d probably all really like one another if they met in person. But I’d still love to see this go down CBUB-style.
drey: Oh my. I’m so going to have to check out all three, as I’ve never read them. Thanks for adding to the TBR pile!
What are you looking forward to next?
MG: I’m always looking forward to the next book. I’ve delivered two more to Tor already, and I’m working feverishly on my fourth, which will take us to new realms of Craft and conflict.
drey: Oh, my favorite words – “more books”!
And finally, have you ever:
- Wanted to be on a reality TV show?
Nope. My reality is weird enough without someone editing it together, thanks.
- Been stuck on a deserted island?
Almost, once. When I was thirteen, kayaking in the Everglades, I needed to paddle against fifteen knot winds and tide to get back from the island where I’d eaten lunch to the island where I’d camped. Several hours of hard rowing, but we eventually made it!
- Had a spitting competition with a camel?
A llama once spit in my face. No problems with camels so far, though.
- Gushed about a book or movie, and later recanted?
I must admit, I was pretty excited about Attack of the Clones after the midnight release. That opinion’s since changed, though I still think the quality of the prequel trilogy tends to rise as the numbers get higher…
- Swore like a sailor? Or worse?
Thank you for swinging by, Max! I’m excited – my copy of Three Parts Dead was on the doorstep yesterday, I can’t wait to read it!
You lucky, lucky ducks! Tor has generously provided TWO copies of Three Parts Dead for a giveaway. This one’s open to US and Canada residents, fill out the form below before October 31st to enter. Good luck!