Wednesday, October 02, 2013
Ian Tregillis
By OFW Editor: Michael Keyton
Published: July 20, 2013

Accomplishment: Ian Tregillis attended the University of Minnesota, where he received a Ph.D. in physics for his research on radio galaxies and quasars. He attended the Clarion Writers’ Workshop in 2005. Soon after, he joined the Critical Mass writing group, where he spent several years working alongside a very accomplished collection of writers including Walter Jon Williams, Daniel Abraham, S. M. Stirling, Melinda Snodgrass, and George R. R. Martin. His first novel, BITTER SEEDS, was published in the United States in 2010 and will be published, along with two further novels, THE COLDEST WAR and NECESSARY EVIL by Orbit in the UK and British Commonwealth towards the end of 2012. His short fiction has appeared in Apex Magazine,, and in Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume Five.

Has a book every made you angry. If so, which one?

Every time I read Steven Gould's novel REFLEX (the sequel to JUMPER), I have very
troubled dreams. Some of the characters in that book make me incredibly angry.
(And yet I keep rereading it!)

Which author makes you jealous and why?

Oh, gosh. Just one? I don't know if "jealous" is the right word, exactly,
but there are a number of authors whose talent I admire greatly, and whose
work I try to study.

For instance, I devour everything by Tim Powers because I think he does magic
better than anybody else, full stop. His take on the fantastical is so unique and
yet so convincing -- his superpower is Complete Narrative
Authority. When he tells me magic works a certain way, I automatically believe it. And yet, if I try
to explain that same thing to somebody else, it never makes sense.

Another writer whose work I try to study is Elizabeth Bear. Her characters
move through their environments with an intellectual sensuality that I wish I could
emulate. I also admire what a prolific and diverse writer she is.

I've also spent a lot of time thinking about the work of the late, great Roger Zelazny.
I absolutely adore his mastery of the first-person voice. And he had a particular way of
crafting stories that were surprising at every level. His sentence-level craft is always
unexpected and yet carefully constructed.

Along similar lines, I have become a huge admirer of the writing of Raymond Chandler.
His descriptions are utterly unique yet somehow perfect.

Elmore Leonard listed ten rules, one of which is: 'Try to leave out the
part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel.'
What rule or piece of advice would you add to the list, and if you know
his ten rules, which one would you break?

It's funny that you should mention that famous piece of wisdom from
Elmore Leonard. I first heard this when I was a student at the Clarion
workshop (back in 2005), but recently I've been thinking about it more
and more. When writing, I sometimes find myself wondering just how
much of a scene I can skip. I think readers can tell when the author was
just slogging through a scene or chapter. So when I find myself getting
bogged down, I try to analyze the problem and look for a more interesting
way to attack the piece. If I'm not having fun writing it, I doubt others
will have fun reading

The piece of advice I'd add to the list is this: "Confusing the reader is
rarely an effective hook. If the reader gets confused, you're on the
verge of losing them (or it could be too late). Make your characters
and their circumstances so interesting that you can give it all to the
reader up-front but they'll still stick around for more."

Is there a well trodden meme you’re tired of reading?

Well, this isn't a meme, but I do get tired when tension is derived
from very flimsy circumstances. For instance, tension between characters
that derives from a simple lack of communication. If the problem could
be resolved by people simply sitting down and taking five minutes to explain
what they know, or what they think they know, then it's not a credible problem
and not a credible source of tension.

Basically, any kind of plot that relies on people acting completely out
of character, or which has them doing things that any real person in the
same circumstances would never do. (These are sometimes called
first- and second-order stupidity plots.)

Will we still be reading fairy tales in a hundred years time?

Oh, I think so. We might not call them fairy tales, but we'll still have stories
that fulfill the same role. Perhaps they'll be stories of engineers and AIs
rather than seamstresses and wizards, but they'll still draw from the same
roots of our psychology. They don't necessarily have to involve literal
fairies to be fairy tales, and they don't have to be quaint to be timeless.

Which four books do you wish you had written?

I would say that I wish I had it in me to write books of equal stature, brilliance, and
staying power as these. I couldn't have written any of these because they
are so fundamentally linked to their authors' talent, style, outlook, and oeuvre!

DECLARE by Tim Powers. This novel is a masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned. And
even though it won the World Fantasy Award way back when, I still think it's criminally
underrated. It's one of those books that I will babble about at length to anybody willing to
listen. (And sometimes even if they're not so interested.)

THE LATHE OF HEAVEN by Ursula K. LeGuin. This might have been one of the first works
of fantasy (though I use that term loosely) to which I was exposed, and it continues to astound
me. Another masterpiece. Dreamy, deep, delightful.

LORD OF LIGHT by Roger Zelazny. This is on the list for the sheer virtuosity of the prose and
voice. When I read this, it struck me like a lightning bolt.

The JUMPER series by Steven Gould
(JUMPER, REFLEX, and IMPULSE). I've reread
the first book in this series many times, and the sequel nearly as many. The progression of
the series is simply brilliant. REFLEX may be the most perfect sequel I've ever read, and
the new addition to the series, IMPULSE, takes things in a completely unexpected direction.
(Okay, so I cheated a little bit by naming a series.)

Are you ever afraid that one day you will stop enjoying writing?

As a matter of fact, yes I do. Not necessarily because I see signs of myself not enjoying it,
but because I tend to always be on the lookout for long-term problems. (Don't ask me why.
I don't know why I do it. It's just how I'm wired, I guess.) And if I stopped enjoying writing,
well, that would make life pretty difficult if I still had contracts to fulfill!

But it hasn't happened yet. I always keep an eye on how
I'm feeling, and I try to make sure that no matter what I'm working on, I find a way to have fun with it. I frequently remind myself that I got into writing for sheer enjoyment, and that I've been lucky to stumble along as far
as I have. It can't be a carnival every single day, especially when it's late at night and I haven't yet produced
my pages for the day. But the overall journey is very fun indeed.

Every writer has a weakness, what is yours?

I find it very difficult to multitask. I do not switch mental gears very easily. So, I tend to focus on one
particular project or task until it is finished, rather than flitting between multiple efforts as time and
circumstances dictate. In some ways it can be good, because it means I get very involved in whatever
I'm doing. On the other hand, though, it can be a big problem. It means it's difficult for me to switch
between my day job and writing in the evening, or between a novel I'm writing and a short story that's
been on the back burner for months. It also means that I rarely find or make the time for online interactions
and self-promotion -- two things that are a necessary part of the writer's job these days.

So, while I pour as much effort as possible into my writing, I neglect so many other things to the extent
that it's probably deleterious to my career! I should spend more time online, building relationships and
networks. And I should be more versatile in my writing time, so that I could produce more work.

Sheri had that understanding look on her face, relief, too, that the guy didn't chew bugs. Normally she'd do the schmooze. Sheri Lamour was synonymous with Schmooze; a blouse button undone and a smile that said more, she made men feel good and other dames wondering where they had gone wrong. Today she looked wan. She threw three books at me and ran to somewhere more private. I checked my shirt buttons, but laid on the smile. Ian Tregillis had laid his soul bare on the Rack and left behind three books. The guy had grace, something Elspeth Carapace lacked.

Bitter Seeds
The Coldest War
A Necessary Evil

Login/Register to leave a comment, or Login using or
Post Comments
No Comment Found.