11 October 2006

Author Answers with Charles de Lint

This week’s featured author is one of the pioneers of urban fantasy, Charles de Lint.
In his books (and there are many) de Lint frequently places fantasy elements in city settings and has done such things as update the Jack the Giant Killer fairy tale to take place in Ottawa.
His latest book is "Widdershins," one in his long-running Newford series.

For more on de Lint, check out his website.

WN: What's your writing process like from when you first had an idea to getting the novel published?

DE LINT: That's perhaps a more complicated question that you might realize you're asking. For one thing there is no one set answer because each book and story has a different history, from start to finish. The constant is that I work on my writing every day. No matter what else is going on, time is set aside at some point during the day to work on whatever my ongoing project might be. As for the rest...

The creative process is as much being a sponge as it is creating. Everything I experience and imagine goes into the mix, and when I get an idea, or a piece of dialogue, or a character comes visiting...if it doesn't fit into the current project, I write it down and stash it away. So...sometimes the concept for the next project appears full-blown and it's just a matter of doing whatever research is necessary and then sitting down to write it. Other times elements are more nebulous and then I'll go through all those odd bits and pieces of story and character sketches to see which, if any, might jump start the new project.

I don't write with an outline or a specific end in mind. I know the feeling I want to leave with my readers, but not the details of how we'll all get there. So every day it's a matter of my sitting down and discovering the story myself. It's like reading a book, only much slower. It's only when I get to the end that the real hard work begins. That's when I take the rough shape and turn it into something publishable.

WN: You continue to return to characters in the Newford series ... what's intriguing to you as an author about them that makes them still compelling to write about?

DELINT: My characters are like friends, so I suppose it's a matter of while it's always nice to make new friends, you don't want to abandon your old ones. The last few novels (The Onion Girl, Spirits in the Wires, and Widdershins) have focused pretty much on the core cast of the Newford stories, but they're the exceptions, rather than the rule. I much prefer to keep those characters in the background and focus on the stories of new ones. This way I get to keep up on the gossip of what's happening in the lives of the old characters, but still explore new territories of character.

WN: You use a lot of music in your books, how do songs/music influence your writing?

DELINT: I think whenever you exercise your creative muscles, you gain new insights into all the various mediums in which you might work. I play and write a lot of music. I also do some painting, and learn songs and tunes written by other people. How this impacts my writing, I can't exactly say, but I do know that it makes a difference. Visual art helps me see details and connections I might not have noticed otherwise. Music certainly invests my prose with rhythms suitable to the tempo of what's happening in the story.

WN: You are sometimes called one of the pioneers of urban fantasy ... how do you make sure that the mythological or fantastical elements of your stories make sense and are believable in urban settings?

DELINT: Thank you for thinking that the fantasy elements make sense and are believable in contemporary settings. As to the mechanics of that, the first thing is to make sure that the real world, contemporary setting is as realistically depicted as possible--and that includes the characters. Then, when you begin to slip in the magic, it's a matter of making sure that the reactions are believable. I tend to write my characters from inside their heads--inhabiting them like actors immersing themselves in their roles while the cameras are running. One of my main reasons for using fantasy elements in what are often really just mainstream stories is that I'm fascinated by how the revelations of other beings or other worlds will affect and change a character. Of course, it's also just plain fun to have, oh say, a herd of buffalo men running down a busy city street.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?

DELINT: That's a tough question. My favourite book remains The Wind in the Willows, but the most influential? I can't pinpoint one specific book. If pressed, I suppose it would be the poetry of Robin Williamson which spans numerous poetry collections and music albums.

WN: What is your favorite word and why?

DELINT: Us--because it's inclusive and alludes to how we're all connected.

WN: If you got stuck on a desert island with one of your characters, who would you want to be stranded with and why?

DELINT: It would have to be Jilly Coppercorn because she'd certainly keep me amused with her conversations, and she's made it her life work to see the best in any situation.

WN: What piece of advice helped you out the most as a writer?

DELINT: Finish what you start.

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