Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Posted by Simcha 6:14 AM, under | 11 comments
I'm pleased to welcome Michael Sullivan today to SFF Chat, as part of his blog tour for the release of the first book in his Riyria Revelations series, Theft of Swords.
Michael's story is a really interesting one, from how he got started on the road to self-publishing, with help from his wife (who even started her own publishing company), to how his novels gained in popularity, eventually being bought by Orbit publications. I was looking forward to getting the chance to interview Michael myself, but the problem was that he has already done so many interesting interviews and blog posts that I couldn't come up with any new questions to ask him. Well, I did have one question for Michael, which was on a subject I had been thinking quite a lot about lately, and which tied in very well to his books.
One of the things I really enjoyed about The Crown Conspiracy (the first book in the original series) is the deep friendship between the book's two protagonists, Royce and Hadrian. Shortly before reading The Crown Conspiracy I had read another book in which the friendship between the hero and his friend was also the main relationship in the story. These two books got me thinking about how unusual it is to find a fantasy book that focuses on a friendship rather than a romance, and how refreshing this was. So I decided to ask Michael about his thoughts on friendships in fantasy and why he chose to focus on this kind of relationship in his own books.
Michael Sullivan on
Friendships vs. Romance in Fantasy
Hello, my name is Michael J. Sullivan and I’m the author of The Riyria Revelations which was originally a six-book epic fantasy that is now hitting the street as a trilogy (2 books in each volume) published by Orbit. My wife and Simcha have been corresponding about the possibility of an interview or a guest post and during through that conversation Simcha brought up a very good topic. While we may do an interview later down the line as schedules permit, I’d like to answer the question raised.
I love questions that make me think about my motivations. As a writer I take in influences from all kinds of sources, digest them, and am never 100% sure why one thing emerges rather than another. For the record there is romance in the series—but it occurs late (Books 4 – 6 to be exact). Two things come to mind…the first is that I wanted the relationships to develop over time (I hate when to people fall instantly in love just because they happen to be around each other for an extended period of time). And the other is I wanted the reader to get to really know the people before introducing the love interest to any huge extent.
Okay, now that the disclaimer has been made, let’s get back to the topic at hand…friendship. There is no doubt that Royce and Hadrian are the best of friends. Their loyalty to one another has no bounds. Upon first meeting I think people get a sense of just how much they respect one another, but as the series progresses you’ll learn aspects from their past that helps to explain how those bonds formed.
If I were to determine my biggest influence on Royce and Hadrian it would probably be Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. When it came out in 1969, the country had been going through some really tough times: Vietnam, race riots, assassinations of some of our best and brightest—and a lot of the books and movies reflect a dark and brooding atmosphere. Butch and Sundance was the first movie I had seen for a long time which really celebrated a close connection between two men, and they were cool, and fun, and now that I think about it, they also operated outside the law.
Because they spend their time doing less than admirable things it’s important to show that they’re not all bad. That there are reasons that they got to where they are, and under it all there is a desire to strive to be better people. Using a duo allows me to explore situations from very different perspectives. I like playing the idealism of Hadrian against the backdrop of Royce’s cynicism.
As for why this isn’t done more often…I don’t know. The “buddy-picture” is a pretty popular trope in films. Usually involving cops or thieves, but now that I think about it, it doesn’t come up often in fantasy writing. There is of course Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, but I did not know about these books when I started writing Riyria. What I was influenced by was the friendships of the hobbits from Lord of the Rings (not only Frodo and Sam, but Merry and Pip as well). Once again we see that willingness to walk through fire (literarily) for a friend so it is a theme that I’m obviously drawn to. It could be that without the passion of sexual tension the bonds between friends are forged at a deeper level.
So there you have it…I don’t think I have all the answers but these are some of the things that influenced me when writing the series. Royce and Hadrian have very defined voices in my head and in general I find them just great people to hang out with. My hope is that others will spend a little time with them (I have a free short featuring them called The Viscount and the Witch) and after doing so hopefully some will follow Hadrian and Royce’s exploits into The Riyria Revelations. After all you do have to eventually get to the romance…friendship is indeed an important bond, but nothing compares to finding the love of your life. I count myself to be one of the fortunate few who have done just that and it is through her love and support that all things are possible.
Aww, that's sweet. And now I think I'll have to ask Michael about Robin's own influences on the romantic parts of the book (once I get there, of course).
Well thanks so much Michael for stopping by and sharing your thoughts about friendship in fantasy and I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the series (especially since it's now available through The Book Depository!).