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Interview with Russell Kirkpatrick

Interviewer: Simon Litten


This interview was conducted in conjunction with the launch of the third and last volume in the Husk trilogy Beyond the Wall of Time, and it took place over Queen’s Birthday weekend at Conscription, the 30th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention for New Zealand.

Simon: Russell, first off thank you this interview.

Russell: My pleasure.

S: Is this the last word for this world?

R: Never say never. There is a possible story around Arathé, but creatively I don’t want to revisit the world of the three continents.

S: Does this world have a name?

R: No. I call it the world of the three continents, but the inhabitants don’t have a name for it; they just live there. If they do have a name for where they live it’s their village or country.

S: Was it hard to say goodbye to this world?

R: Easy to say goodbye to the world but the characters were hard to let go.

S: Why was that?

R: Stella started out as the love interest of Leith, but became the central character of the six books. I didn’t know what was going to happen to her and the ending until I wrote the last chapter.

S: And the ending to Beyond the Wall of Time?

R: I had an ending in mind, but knew it wouldn’t survive me getting it there. I was desperately trying to develop my characters as I wrote, so when they got to the ending I had in mind they were no longer suitable for that ending.

The first series was so meticulously plotted, which made the story very linear. With the second series I tried a different approach and learnt to trust myself as a writer.

I see as one of my own personal strengths the ability to see the big picture. I drew on that strength in writing the second series. I learnt to write unusual things into the story without any idea where they were going, then remembered to hook back to them at a later stage.

S: Why did you write the second trilogy?

R: Hummed and ha-ed about that. The first trilogy was very black and white, and written in terms of good versus evil. I felt the story was unfinished and very one sided. I wanted to write something that showed that the evil of the first trilogy wasn’t, it was simply a utilitarian perspective of someone who had lived 2,000 years.

S: What was the basic idea for this trilogy?

R: How do you kill an immortal? So everything in the story, and especially in the third book, was centred round that question – which led to me subverting some of the standard concepts for fantasy.

S: Do you have any future projects?

R: Am currently working on two. My first love is SF, always has been, which is very distinct from fantasy. Would love to write an enormous space opera, but am currently writing a near future techno-thriller (for want of a better description).

And because the world is short of epic fantasy: and because there are too many trees and not enough maps…

I wanted a different world to play in. I am now writing to surprise myself and keep me interested. So this is a standard epic fantasy, but don’t know how it’s going to play out as I keep slipping in surprises as I go. I want the reader to go "what the hell?"

S: Given your profession and love of cartography, does the latest fantasy have a map?

R: No, and I am deliberately writing without one – which is one of the tricks I am employing to help me develop my craft as a writer; and also to keep me interested.

S: So will this be another battle of good versus evil?

R: It’s a myth that modern epic fantasy is about good versus evil. I suggest you read Joe Abercrombie, Steven Erikson, and George RR Martin for the current fashions in fantasy writing. The good versus evil gambit is now being played out in paranormal romances.

S: How do you find world building?

R: It’s enormous fun though have to avoid smart-alecky things. That said need to make the culture come alive be that with cock fighting, bear baiting or other means. I find it distracting that some SF writers reference pop culture items of the twentieth century in their far futures; I believe this says more about the writers than their story.

S: Finally, as a writer what do you care about?

R: I used to care about having a book with my name on the cover. Now it’s about entertaining the readers while I enjoy writing the story.

S: Russell thank you very much for your time.

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