Last night I had the pleasure of attending an interview of Guy Gavriel Kay.
After a brutal rush hour commute, bum directions from google, and a library that had switched locations, yet retained the same address, (with the minor adjustment of a N.E. to a S.E.) I arrived ten minutes late for the event.
Being a bit late wasn't too bad. I still got a great seat, as the room was not that full, and got to hear the majority of the interview.
When I arrived Kay was discussing his Tolkien related work on the The Silmarillion. He stated that one of the major roles he played in that work was, aside from editing, to shift the presentation of the material away from being presented in a textbook format towards the more novelized format that it became.
Kay also spoke about his new novel Under Heaven and the process of writing it. Kay is not an author who scripts things out or works from an outline. He said that he begins by finding a setting that he wants to write in, and then moves on to discovering a theme that is worth writing about in that given setting. Only after he has found those first two things does he start to populate that setting with characters. Kay mentioned that during the opening scene of Under Heaven he knew very little about his main character, and only learned more about him as he wrote more of the story.
Another valued tid-bit that I took away from the interview was his advice to aspiring, or practicing writers. Kay said that a good way to write is have: "interesting things happening to interesting people, written in an interesting way". Sounds really simple, but the more I thought about it, really, how many times have a read a book that had all those qualities? A good number of books came to mind, some of them written by Kay, but there were a lot more that failed to meet that standard.
My humbling moment of the night came during the signing session. I was literally the only person in the room without a copy of Under Heaven in hand for him to sign. (I rarely can afford the price of hardbacks.) Despite that lack, I wanted to say a thank you to the man for providing me with lots of entertainment through the years, so I stood in line, and when I got to the front, I froze, and all the words I had prepared in my mind ahead of time vanished. I stammered an awkward thanks, but Kay, being the classy guy that he is, thanked me for being a reader and gave me a thumbs up! Pretty cool.