Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guest Post: Michael Sullivan on Friendships vs. Romance

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!).


Great post :)

*waits for the tea Simcha promised*

I liked how great these two were together, true buddies. Awesome chemistry

Blodeuedd: I got impatient waiting for you so I drank it all myself, and ate the cookies too. They were good. ;)

That's a fantastic and thoughtful question to ask, Simcha! I'm reading a book right now about a friendship between two girls and one boy and inevitably, romance ensues. Why is a romance inescapable in such a situation? Why can't they remain friends? Maybe I'm delving into When Harry Met Sally territory here. Do you think male friendships are more prominently featured in the fantasy genre, perhaps because of the ubiquitous "quest" storyline?

Oh Simcha great idea for a post! And Michael wonderful post! :) Always learning something new. I love that Royce and Hadrian where based of Butch Cassidy & Sundance kid. Cool! :)

So glad to hear you've been enjoying these Simcha. ;) hee hee...

Oh Simcha you are evil! *sulks in the corner*

Stephanie: That's actually my second part of this question, though it didn't really fit in here, but as rare as the focus is on friendships in SFF, strong female friendships are practically non-existent. I can't think of a single SFF book that I've read in which the main relationship is a strong friendship between two women. I wonder why that is. This is a subject that I have been thinking about a lot lately and really want to explore in more depth.

Melissa: Thank you :) I've actually never seen Butch Cassidy & The Sundance kid but now I really want to. Maybe I'll make some time to do so this weekend.

Blodeuedd: I know. Especially since I don't even like tea. Hehe.

I love the friendship aspect of fantasy reads. I also love the love interest part and I'm glad the series won't be devoid of it. Oh I'm thinking I am going to put this one my wishlist!

Thanks Simcha for this guest post.

I love how he related the platonic relationship to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (My hubby likes to watch old westerns,occasionally I let him :o] )

Developing a relationship over time makes it all that much more special when the intimacy bond is formed, IMHO.

There are some books that are shorter or where a quicker romance is sometimes appropriate but I do understand why they do it.

A lot of readers love to hate the 'insta-love' but yet they still love the books that feature the 'undeniable' draw of the characters or the 'star-crossed' lovers. It's hard to form a lasting friendship that forms into L.O.V.E. in 254 pages :o]

I noticed lately that some of the books are making 'life long pals' into boyfriend-girlfriend. That kinda avoids the whole issue...in a way, LOL!

Okay, I've said way to much!

That was a fantastic interview and I really enjoyed it!
Thanks, Simcha!

Kristi: That's true about developing relationship over time and it makes me wonder why in so many series the romances are consummated in the first book. But I really think that there is so much that can be explored with the theme of friendship and it doesn't have the limitations that romances do. Because with most romances, once they are resolved they are longer interesting to read about.

These are interesting indeed. They have books on romance, fiction and adventure. It makes a good spring read.

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