author interview with R. Scott Bakker
Hi Scott, welcome over to thebookplank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us!
BP: First off, can you tell us a bit more as to who Richard Scott Bakker is, what are your likes/dislikes and hobbies?
SB: I’m a white male gen-X-er with a working class, rural background. I dislike greed, pettiness, status judgments, and canned aspiration. I’m a knowledge junkie, especially when it comes to politics, science, and technology. My hobbies are cognitive science and consciousness research.
BP: You have been writing for quite a time now when and where did you first decide to pick up the pen and start writing?
SB: I’ve always been writing—for as long as I can remember. The funny thing is, I’m a statistics guy as well, and though I had dreamed of being a writer as a child, I set that aspiration aside as soon as I learned the odds against earning enough to survive, and decided to become an academic instead (I-know-I-know). I continued writing fiction—I really had no choice—but without any intention of becoming a fiction writer. When I went to Vanderbilt University to do a Philosophy PhD, I inadvertently made a few well-connected, American friends. One of them asked if he could take my hobby manuscript with him to New York where he would be partying with an old roommate, who happened to be a literary agent at the prestigious Dunow Agency. Thus my astonishing answer to your question: I decided to become a writer in the course of signing my first three book deal.
BP: The first book in the Aspect-Emperor saga picked up after your first trilogy, what gave you the idea to write another trilogy?
SB: The original idea, over thirty years ago now, was to write a trilogy entitled The Second Apocalypse, consisting of The Prince of Nothing, The Aspect-Emperor, and the ‘book that shall not be named.’ The Prince of Nothing turned into a trilogy, and The Aspect-Emperor turned out to be a tetrology. This story is quite big.
BP: The Great Ordeal is your 6th book so far, how do you manage to keep readers glued to the pages?
SB: Overall, I think it has to do with the dimensions of the canvas I paint, providing layered histories, literary traditions, even a philosophical canon, so that you not only have schools of sorcery, you have schools of metaphysical speculation on the nature of sorcery. Otherwise my books are noted for their rich prose, challenging themes, mad plot complications, and iconic characterizations. I’m pretty sure I provide epic fantasy readers with a ride unlike any they have taken.
BP: The Great Ordeal was published on the 29th of September, if you would have to sell the books with a single sentence, how would it go?
SB: With a quote from The Darkness that Comes Before: If you are the movement of your soul, and the cause of that movement precedes you, then how could you ever call your thoughts your own?
BP: If you look back on writing the Aspect-Emperor saga, what did you find the hardest parts to write?
SB: The title character, the Aspect-Emperor himself, simply because his superhuman intellect requires that my measly human intellect rewrite his scenes over and over again, throwing away the stupid from the last rewrite, and adding a nugget of intelligence here and there, until at long last, he comes off as convincing.
BP: Besides the hardest part, which part came to you the easiest?
SB: Nothing is easy in these books. The big reason why I’ve never lost interest in writing them—after more than a million words, no less—is the way they endlessly challenge me to be a better writer. This is why, I think, those readers who open themselves to the kind of dark, gritty immersion I offer, find them so rewarding.
BP: Which character, scene or chapter did you enjoy writing about the most?
SB: The final Momemn chapter, where little Kelmomas secretly shadows the White-Luck Warrior through the imperial palace and the earthquake strikes. I’ve actually gone back to the sequence several times now while working on The Unholy Consult, just to remind myself what it was I was up to... the kind of narrative sweet-spot I had found.
BP: if you would be given the chance to rewrite any of the scenes in The Great Ordeal before publication, would you do it’? If yes, what and why?
SB: I would rewrite everything. I’m one of those writers, I think.
BP: if you look back on book one and fast forward to book six, would you have approached things differently in the beginning that could have given a different impact on your story? Would you perhaps not have killed of a certain character or made him do a different action?
SB: If I had to do it all over I would have taken a page from Tolkien and focussed on my innocent character—Kellhus—to the exclusion of the others The Darkness that Comes Before. Like Middle-earth, the Three Seas are a politically complex, historically deep place. Beginning with Kellhus would have levelled the learning curve I think, simply because it would have allowed readers to gradually internalize the world with him.
BP: Which authors and which stories are your source of inspiration?
SB: The Second Apocalypse is the product of ramming an adolescent love affair with Tolkien, Howard, and Herbert through the Bible, Nietzsche, and Cormac McCarthy.
BP: And last but not least, can you give us a sneak peek of what the Aspect-Emperor saga is so far and what will be instore for us in The Great Ordeal?
SB: The imperial capital is besieged, and the Aspect-Emperor stands poised to make the final march on Golgotterath. In The Great Ordeal, we learn just how much we must die before we can hope to save ourselves.
BP: Thank you very much for your time Scott and good luck with writing your next book!