Book Editorial, Book Events, Books, Editorials, Events

SDCC14: Rulers of the Realm win at a most epic fantasy book panel

L to R: Abercrombie, Grossman, Gabaldon, Martin, Rothfuss
L to R: Abercrombie, Grossman, Gabaldon, Martin, Rothfuss

The second epic fantasy book panel Lytherus attended at San Diego Comic Con this year was titled Rulers of the Realm. This was the panel for fantasy book fandoms, to be sure!  The all-star lineup consisted of Joe Abercrombie (Half a King), Lev Grossman (Magicians Trilogy), Diana Gabaldon (Outlander), George R. R. Martin (Game of Thrones), and Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicle). The MC was Ali T. Kokman of Barnes & Noble, and he was a lively host to this lively panel.

Ali started out talking about how every story needs characters and setting. However, these panelists up the ante with theirs. He wanted to know: what’s their approach to world-building? Joe kicked it off, saying his approach is similar to others: he makes stuff up. He suggested you do a lot of “research”, as in read stuff. He likes a lot of historical non-fiction to provide authenticity. Diana decided to write historical fiction because she’s a historical researcher. There’s lots more to steal with real history (this got a good laugh). George said he does the same, and just throws out what he doesn’t want. Lev starts with normal and then defiles and degrades every part (ha!).  Pat added to these ideas, saying that he’s written things he thought he made up and then fans send links asking if those comparisons were deliberate. “I’m clever, I take credit for accidents” (lots of laughing with this one!). He also is a huge advocate for writing what you know, and that half of deciding what to do is deciding what not to do; basically his reaction to what pisses him off is his book.

For the second question Ali wanted to know what, aside from movies, assists with writing. Joe said maps are good. George added that writers need to be careful however, because then you need to fill them in. And don’t even get him started on the world map. Lots of chuckles were had as he regaled the audience with his personal story regarding this, and how he had the hardest time naming mountains. Pat likes special paper and colored pencils. He also asks lots of questions. Lev got a lot of laughs when he said has a passive-aggressive relationship with maps, as his wife’s ex-boyfriend creates them. Diana took a different approach, saying that she needs a kernel: an idea, a sentence, and her process is to develop off of that. She then describes how she got a scene in one of her books and describes the thistle goblet and cold winter afternoon (it was amazing to see her train of thought and how one led right to the next). George brought it back to maps, talking about Tolkien’s maps, how we get this detailed map of the Shire, and then once they leave you realize just how small it really is. Tolkien pulled the rug out, in a sense.

epic2At this point Pat brought up an interesting thought. He said the main question you should be asking yourself is why am I doing a map? You should think about what purpose it serves. Tolkien did languages, for example, because he was a huge language guy.Everyone is a geek for something, you should revel in your geekery because that’s what will be the most interesting. Pat then provided his personal example of geekery: currency. It’s really prevalent in his books, because he’s really interested in it.

The next question was about writing. Ali wanted to know who is their first reader? Diana said she writes for herself, so technically she’s her first reader, but her husband of 42 years will read, as she trusts him. She said it’s good to have a first reader you trust, but make sure you know what you trust them for. Joe echoed this, also saying he writes for himself, and if the people like it, awesome. He said you should cover your own interests; as soon as you write “out”, you’re doomed. Lev said his wife reads for him, she’s way smarter than he is. But he said also he writes for himself, he’s an asshole and will be tough on himself. He’s a grumpy reader, so he’s tough. George added to the general idea, saying he’s known writers writing the trends vs. the stories they lose themselves in, and it doesn’t work. And Pat’s right, you need to write your obsessions. George loves heraldry and food. Pat added that you hope your interests will catch on. He then said his first reader situation is really different than most. He had 2-300 beta readers for his first book. It’s good to have smart people read your book over writers, but he wants general people. Other people know lots of things about everything else beyond writing. It’s part of his therapy (ha!), he’s obsessive about getting feedback. Joe said he couldn’t do more than two readers at a time. The current book had four editors and that was a lot for him. But Lev said that he has around twenty-five beta readers because of reading about Pat’s way of doing things on his blog. Diana said you should always ask the experts. For example, if you cut a leg off, find out how to amputate a leg, etc.

For the last question Ali asked them what’s the toughest thing with writing? Diana said inertia. The longer you wait, the harder to get back into it. When stuck, write anyway. Joe said with a laugh that with the first and last sentence he’s awesome. Otherwise he thinks he sucks. But he said don’t get down on yourself.

There were some great audience questions, but one of them referenced Jane Austin and wanted to know their understanding of love and how they explore healthy and unhealthy relationships. Pat got a lot of laughs when he said that he’s explored a lot of unhealthy relationships. He said to make a lot of mistakes early on, as we learn through failure. Without mistakes we don’t have motivation to evolve, so get out there and do crazy stuff. Lev said you can’t hold back, that fantasy is raw. Be very honest, which can be painful. Diana said Lev’s dead right, honesty is important. So is picking the right person (ha!).

One of the best things about this panel was the authors all listed books they’ve really enjoyed recently. Here’s the list:

Joe:  Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer.

Lev: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer

Diana: Phil Rickman’s crime novels, Pandaemonium by Chris Brookmyre

George: Classic fantasy like Jack Vance, Tolkien, and straight historical fiction like George MacDonald Fraser

Pat: Declare by Tim Powers

Lots of great info to chew on from this panel, especially if you’re a writer. These are some of the best, and it was great to hear what they had to say about their craft and the worlds they create. And be sure to check out some of their book recommendations!

Book Editorial, Book Events, Books, Editorials, Events

SDCC14: Best-selling fantasy authors talk “End of a series … or not?”

L to R: Hart, Flewelling, Grossman, Taylor, Mayberry, Winters, Cole, and Bardugo
L to R: Hart, Flewelling, Grossman, Taylor, Mayberry, Winters, Cole, and Bardugo

One of the panels I was most looking forward to at San Diego Comic Con this year was the one titled “End of a Series … or not?” Moderated by Maryelizabeth Hart from Mysterious Galaxy book store the panel consisted of Lynn Flewelling (Nightrunner series), Lev Grossman (The Magicians series), Laini Taylor (The Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy), Jon Maberry (the Rot and Ruinseries), Ben Winters (The Last Policeman Trilogy), Kresley Cole (Immortals After Dark Series), and Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy).

The first question up: what decides if a series is finite or not- is that pre-planned? Do you destroy the world or leave the story open-ended? Lynn started us off, saying she has a seven book series and one that’s three. She said it’s painful to end a series. Her big series books are more episody vs main overall arcs. But her gut told her it was time. Lev said that stories have structures. He wanted to write about magicians after their education, the unknown parts. For example, what is magic for if no one is threatening the world? Once his characters figured that out, he stopped.

Laini spent five years planning, out of fear, vs. spontaneous writing. But even half way through book two she had no idea about the end. Some things are still open, she said, but she wanted to finish the main story arc. For Jon the ending point was about character growth. He wanted to tell the story until he liked the main character (who started out the opposite). It took him four books for that to happen. Ben got a laugh, because part of his series is about an asteroid colliding with the earth, so he knew it was a trilogy and where it ended—anything past that would have been BS, so he had to stop. Still, he needed to keep the character doing work.

LMZ_8687wKresley has a fifteen book series that isn’t done yet, which has had a continuously pending apocalypse (Leigh’s disgruntlement over this got a lot of laughs). She had the beginning and the end plotted out, but the stuff in the middle she said she’ll keep going with until people don’t want to keep reading. Leigh likes shorter series; she could have gone longer, but decided three was enough. Sometimes limits make things hard, however, because you have to work within those parameters (she wants a sky fortress and a secret island).

The next question was about sustainability. What keeps readers engaged? Leigh said that authors have two choices for character: a character that has everything and you take from them, or they have nothing and you take more. Also, story is always king over world building. Kresley likes to introduce secondary characters like a villain or godmother and switch up expectations. In Ben’s first book in the series the character was young in a lot of ways and had to grow up. What makes people stick is that the characters are still growing. Jon mentioned how we always enter a story with a limited world view. For example, his main character in the Rot and Ruin books is angry all the time, and why he’s mad is part of his limited world view. But once exposed to a larger world view it changed his life. World view isn’t entirely the character’s fault, but as there’s more exposure the view adjusts. Laini said she likes a tight narrative where certain questions are answered. Also, if the writing is beautiful, the reader wants to sink into it.

Lev wrote The Magicians as a stand-alone, because he wasn’t convinced it would be published. But he had to send his characters back into that world. He wanted to know what happened next. Lynn said she also wrote a stand-alone that became two books, and then her editor asked her if she wanted it to be more. She invested so much, and there was more to tell. She writes for herself, as writing is hard, so she needs to love it.

The floor was opened up after this, and some of the questions were about legit cliffhangers (needs not to be done like a cheap-shot, but can be done) and prequels (hard sometimes if the ending is already known). The panel was funny and engaged, and the audience asked great thought-provoking questions that spurred interesting discussion.

I’m so glad I made it to this panel. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the different angles the authors came from regarding series, and though there is no one right way it was wonderful to get some insight into what helps make a series successful.

Book Events, Books, Events

Author Guest Post: Lev Grossman (‘The Magician King) Sets Us Straight — 20 Things Characters Should Do More Often!

Lev Grossman is the New York Times best-selling author of The Magicians and The Magician King, so he knows a thing or two about writing fantasy novels. He’s here to set us straight: TWENTY THINGS CHARACTERS IN FANTASY NOVELS SHOULD DO MORE OFTEN BUT DON’T

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F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that the rich are different from you and me. That may or may not be true. But fantasy characters are definitely different from you and me. They don’t seem to have quite the same … travails as we do. This has always bothered me — I’ve always thought they should act more like people in real life. With that in mind, I’ve made a list of things they should do more often.

This is not a comprehensive list, by a long chalk. And it’s not a list of things that fantasy characters never do. I can think of a few counter-examples. But it’s a start.

1. Forget things, for no reason. [“Jesus, I told you we were gonna need the Netherhelm of Binding to seal the Fellgate.” “I know, that’s what’s so weird! I put it on this morning. I could swear it. Or did I? Now I don’t even know.” “Well I guess we’ll just have to seal the Fellgate tomorrow.” “Well I guess so.”]

2. Pee.

3. Read other fantasy novels. [“This is just like the time in The Wheel of Time when they get lost in the Ways? And they can hear that black wind thing that eats everything whispering at them? Remember that?” “Shut up! Shut up! It creeps me out just thinking about that thing.”]

4. Worry about the economy.

5. Meet a woman who’s not a witch, a healer or a princess and not remark upon how extraordinary it is that she’s not a witch or a healer or a princess.

6. Meet a non-white person and not subsequently discover they’re from the Burning Lands Far to the South or something like that.

7. Suffer chafing issues

8. Change diapers.

9. Meet an orphan whose parents just turn out to be just as random and ordinary as his or her adoptive parents.

10. Drink non-alcoholic beverages.

11. Meet an orc who actually isn’t an asshole.

12. Hear ominous noises that then turn out to be nothing. [“That totally sounded like the howling of a lost soul trapped for all eternity inside a massive cursed ruby. Turned out it was just Dan’s lost-soul-in-ruby ringtone! We gotta make him change that.”]

13. Die of natural causes

14. Make accurate change at a bar rather than just fling down a handful of gold coins and walk away.

15. Sneeze at an awkward moment.

16. Have guard duty and not bicker with the other person who has guard duty.

17. Meet a dwarf who’s actually pretty good with a bow.

18. Meet a brusque yet kindly old man who doesn’t actually know anything more about what’s going on than anybody else does.

19. Discover a magic portal to a world that is pretty much the same deal as the world they came from.

20. Get eaten by a dragon. Come on, if dragons were real they would eat _everybody_.

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Thanks Lev! Interested in more? You can check him out at levgrossman.com, or follow him on twitter at @leverus.

Book Interviews, Books, Interviews

Behind the Pages — Lytherus Exclusive: Ten Questions with Lev Grossman (‘The Magician King’)

It wouldn’t be Lev Grossman week without an exclusive Lytherus interview! Lev was kind enough to sit down and answer our questions about writing his Magicians world, balancing life between fiction and non-fiction, the parallels of Fillory and Narnia, and more This is a great interview, and I really hope you enjoy it.

Without further ado, take it away Lev!

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1: You’ve been a professional writer for a while now. Was writing a book series the natural next step, or is this something you’ve always had tucked away? What about The Magicians series in particular – how did the idea come to you?

The truth is, all I’ve ever wanted to do is write fiction. Reviewing, journalism, all that stuff – those things happened more or less by accident. After I left graduate school I worked for Time Inc. as a web producer for a few years, and after a while it became apparent to everybody that I was a better writer than I was a Web producer (which isn’t saying much), and a lot of older writers at Time were retiring, so they gave me a chance. I was writing fiction that whole time, I just didn’t have much success before The Magicians.

The idea for The Magicians came from a few different things converging, which I think is true of most novels. I’d had the basic idea ages ago, in the 1990’s. I got it from reading A Wizard of Earthsea – I liked the school of magic on Roke so much, I wanted to build a magic school of my own. And then I had a dream about the Beast, and I wrote that down. But I didn’t get serious about writing it until 2004, when fate began to hit me over the head with the idea. I started reading Susanna Clarke. I started reading my brother’s fiction. I started realizing that maybe you really could do what I wanted to try to do — maybe it really was possible. Then my daughter was born, and I had a mid-life crisis. I wanted her to be proud of me. I thought, if not now, when? So I started writing and didn’t stop till it was done.

2: My favorite part of these books is the realness of the characters. I feel that so often in fantasy that even though there are great character struggles, they aren’t always 100% relatable. But Quentin’s various personal trials are absolutely the opposite of that, and I really think you nailed day to day human issues.  Take us through developing these flawed, sometimes tortured characters caught between what is real and what is fantastic.

I wanted my characters to talk the way real people talk. I wanted them to use American slang and call each other ‘dude.’ I wanted them to be sarcastic. I wanted them to read fantasy novels, which I think most fantasy characters would do if they lived in the real world. (It’s absurd that Hermione Granger hasn’t read Narnia, for example.) I wanted them to go to the bathroom and drink too much and get depressed and do all that other stuff that fantasy characters don’t usually do, but real people do.

And real people are complicated and neurotic. Who else but a seriously neurotic person would even try to become a magician? I began to think about who really would, and then characters started coming out of the woodwork.

3: Adding on to the previous question, when you set out to write this series, was it about the fantasy first, the adventure and newness of a foreign land, or was it about these beautifully tormented people trying to find their way in the world?

Oh, it was about fantasy first. I wanted to take my 17-year-old self and grant him his dearest wish, which was to be a magician and find a portal out of this world.

The people came later. I figured my 17-year-old self should meet some interesting people along the way — people who were cooler than him, and who would make fun of him in interesting ways. And they did. And my editor pushed me very hard on the characters, I spent an extra year just working on them. She’s not a fantasy person, she couldn’t care less about the magic. She wanted the people to feel real.

4: I want to talk a little bit about developing your world. I’ve seen both lovers and haters of the homage you paid to some of the classic stories, particularly Lewis. I enjoyed the parallels, but I was truly amazed atthe detail you put into Fillory. I’m sure you expected people to notice the similarities, so was Fillory intended as a tongue-in-cheek play on these other worlds? How hard was it to develop all the complexities within Fillory? (I hope this question is okay to ask. I figured this was a topic of curiosity and debate, and words from the author are always interesting in these situations)

It’s OK to ask! What I wanted to write was a book that deliberately played off of Narnia the way same way Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead played off of Hamlet, and Wide Sargasso Sea played off Jane Eyre, and the Hours played off Mrs. Dalloway. It’s not secret or even especially subtle — if I was going to do it I wanted to be up front about it. I wanted to have a conversation with C.S. Lewis — to pay him homage, but also to call him on his bullshit, and generally try to shake Narnia and see what rattled. How does the economy work? Where do you go when you die? What would really happen to children caught in a war there? I wanted to ask the questions that Lewis chose not to ask.

But Fillory couldn’t just be a pale shadow of Narnia. It hadto stand up in its own right, it had to have substance, and for that it needed detail detail detail. I overloaded it with detail at first, to the point where it bogged down, and I had to trim it back. It all came very easily. I suppose if I’ve been preparing for anything my whole life, it’s for the construction of a magical otherworld.

5: Without giving too much away for those who haven’t read The Magician King, let’s talk about Julia’s amazing tale in book two. The depth and insight into her was sometimes sad, sometimes disturbing, and quite poignant. Tell us a little bit about the process of bringing her from a secondary character to one of the main ones in this book, and of her journey.

Julia did that herself. I’ve never had much control over her. I knew she’d been up to something in the first book, something serious that mostly happened offstage. I asked her what it was, and she told me. I thought it would take a chapter, but instead it took half the book.

I feel a very close connection to Julia, maybe even closer than I do with Quentin. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like I was shut out of things, and stuck on the outside. Probably everybody has.

6: For fans of the books, what can we expect from the third (and final? Is it the last?) book in the series? Any little hints or tidbits you’d like to share?

It begins back at Brakebills. Not from Quentin’s point of view, or anybody’s point of view that you’d recognize. I wanted to circle back to where it all started, but from a totally different perspective. Other than that … it’s hard to say much without giving it away. It’s a big book, with higher stakes and lots of drama. Right now I’m planning for it to be the last book in this world, so I’m trying to wrap up everything, close all the loops.No more cliffhangers.

7: I ask this question of all my authors: with novels, do you outline and plan, or just write, having a vague idea of where you’re going?

Outline outline outline, plan plan plan. I can improvise — and usually my best work happens that way — but only when I’ve got a firm framework to work in.

8: I’m sure you get this question a lot, but tell us a little bit about how you balance all the different writing irons in your fire. Is it hard to make the jump from non-fiction to fiction on a regular basis?

To be honest it’s a relief, going from non-fiction to fiction and back again. They draw on different sides of my brain. I find that while I’m emptying one reservoir, the other one is filling up, and when one is empty I’m ready to switch to the other.

The big problem is time. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to run two careers at the same time, and be a decent husband and father too…I get pretty stretched. Somebody once said that books are written with time stolen from other people, and I find that to be painfully true.

9: What things are on your reading bookshelf at the moment?

At this exact moment my bookshelf’s pretty bare. I’m rereading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which is as good as everybody says, and more. Oh, and I’m rereading Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy. That’s pure pleasure.

10: What wonderful writing things can we look forward to in the future (what are you working on now?)?

Just the new Magicians book. And, ah, something secret that I can’t talk about yet. I hope it’s wonderful. It’s a post-Magicians novel — it’s different and yet not. That’s pretty clear, right?

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Thanks Lev! Interested in more? You can check him out at levgrossman.com, or follow him on twitter at @leverus.

Book Events, Book News, Books, Events, News

It’s Lev Grossman Week on Lytherus!

All this week we’re going to be featuring New York Times bestselling author Lev Grossman.  What goodies will we have for you?

  • A review of The Magician King
  • An exclusive interview with the author
  • a guest blog post from Lev
  • THREE chances to win a set of Lev’s books (both The Magicians and The Magician King)!  Be sure to follow us on twitter and/or facebook to have the chance to enter.
Stay tuned for more, and be sure to check back daily!
Book News, News, TV, TV News

Fox to Make TV Show Based on Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians” and Written By “X-Men: First Class” Writers!

The Magicians has been hailed as Harry Potter for grown-ups, and it definitely deserves the title, as it is fun, witty, and magical. Fox apparently feels the same way, as they have just bought the rights to turn the popular book into a television drama.

To be written by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, who haveThor and X-Men: First Class in their arsenals (among other awesome stuff), the pilot is all that is planned at the moment, so there’s always a chance it won’t come to fruition as a full-blown show, but here’s hoping!

Here’s more details from deadline.com:

Fox has preemptively bought Magicians, a drama series adaptation of Lev Grossman’s popular fantasy novel, with a script commitment plus penalty. It will be written by X-Men: First Class and Thorco-writers Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz and produced by Michael London (Milk), Shawn Levy and Michael Adelstein. Based on Grossman’s book, which is described as Harry Potter for grown-ups, the one-hour drama follows a group of 20-somethings in New York who study magic and have access to a magical world. London had optioned the novel, which was published in 2009, while 21 Laps/Adelstein had a deal with Miller and Stentz, who have extensive TV background having worked on such series as Fringe and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. All joined forces on the series project, which will be executive produced by Miller, Stentz, London, Levy, Adelstein and Becky Clements. Following the success of The Magicians, Grossman wrote a sequel, The Magician King, which was published in August.

We here at Lytherus are big fans of Grossman’s work, so expect a review of The Magician King soon. And there is an exclusive interview in the works, so stay tuned. I think some questions about this show are in order!