Hello all! Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Robin Hobb (otherwise known as Megan Lindholm), a beloved science fiction and fantasy author, and a personal hero of mine. She is best known for the Realm of the Elderlings saga, a mega-series comprised of several sub-series, including the Farseer and Liveship Traders trilogies. A six-issue comic adaptation of the first entry in the Farseer trilogy, Assassin’s Apprentice, is currently being released by Dark Horse Comics. Well, without further ado, please enjoy this interview with one of the greatest sci-fantasy authors of our time.
ZC: First of all, congratulations on the Assassin’s Apprentice comic release! I know you’ve been involved with other comic adaptations of your work before, the French versions of Farseer and Liveship Traders. How did your experience differ this time? Was it strange going back to Fitz, particularly such a young Fitz, after so many years?
RH: Truth to tell, I did very little work for the French versions. I was
delighted to receive the finished products in the mail, and I was amazed
how, with my very limited knowledge of French, I could still clearly follow
the story from the illustrations.
For the Dark Horse ones, I was kept informed at every step, first with the
‘script’ and then with the pencils, then the pencils with the words put in,
and then the colored panels. But again, my role was mostly to admire the
work that other people were doing. Very seldom did I have to suggest a
change or correction.
It was altogether a very pleasant experience.
ZC: Something I think you’re particularly good at is writing…
unpleasant people, shall we say? I remember seeing a post on r/Fantasy
asking who peoples’ favorite fantasy jerks were, and I swear every comment
was “Kyle, Kyle, Kyle, Regal, Kyle, Hest, Kennit, Kyle, etc..” Do you have
any specific strategies when it comes to writing these guys?
RH: I love all my characters. Even my villains. To write a character
believably, in my opinion, the writer must put on the character like one
might put on a coat. And then, you have to share the character’s opinions.
I don’t think anyone goes around saying, “I’m the villain, and I want to do
evil things.” Even the worst person, in real life or fiction, feels
justified in what they are doing. When the writer invites the reader into
the mind of the ‘villain’ and shares those thoughts and feelings, it can be
more horrifying than simply presenting the villain as a bad guy.
ZC: I absolutely adore the way you use epigraphs. Excerpts from Fitz’s memoirs, Bee’s
Dream Journal, the Erek/Detozi conversations… What’s your process for coming
up with them?
RH: Necessity is the mother of invention. In the first Farseer trilogy, I was
writing from a very tight first-person point of view. So the reader would
only know what Fitz knew at the moment Fitz knew it. But sometimes, the
reader needed information that Fitz might have learned earlier in his life\
or didn’t know at all. So those little notes at the beginning of each
chapter was how I could convey that.
ZC: Side note, I remember listening to the Assassin’s Apprentice audiobook
shortly after I had read Liveship, and there was an epigraph talking about
Others’ Island, and I was like, “Sweet Eda, this woman really had her
worldbuilding planned out.”
RH: It’s all one world. All connected.
ZC: Speaking of worldbuilding, you were very much a trailblazer when it
comes to the connected-world-mega-series trend. It’s very easy to see the
line going from Realm of the Elderlings to the Cosmere, the First Law
series, and Malazan. Did you know from the beginning that your series/world
was going to be so interconnected, or was it a happy accident? When you did
know that Elderlings was going to be as sprawling as it ended up being, how
did you go about planning it?
RH: I think a lot of writing happens in a part of the brain that the writer
does not always have conscious awareness of. The world unfolds as it is
written. The map expands. But from the beginning, old events would affect
what is the ‘present’ in the story. And, of course, the events in the story
affect everything that comes afterward.
As far as multi-book/connected world, I’m hardly a trailblazer. Think
Tarzan, Conan, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Zelazny’s Amber . . . so many
wonderful worlds with multiple books about them. If you haven’t discovered
these, well, I envy you!
ZC: Would you rather be Skilled or Witted?
RH: Witted, definitely.
ZC: Any idea of what animal your Wit-partner would be?
RH: Presently, a Belgian Malinois named Ginger.
ZC: This might be a tough one, but if you had to pick a favorite of the
characters you’ve written, who would it be? I’m partial to Patience myself.
RH: As I mentioned before, I love all my characters. My favorite is always the
character I am writing at the moment. There are a lot of ‘minor’ characters
that I’m very fond of, such as Hands or Lacey. They all have lives that go
far beyond what is on the page. Each of them could be the main character in
a book. I wish I had time to write them all.
ZC: What can we expect from you next? I was thrilled to see you discussing a
new book on your blog/Twitter. Are you able to give us any information on
RH: Not at this time. I’m at a place where it would be easy to talk a book to
death. Or worse, announce I’m writing something and then have it stutter to
a halt. So nothing at this time but thanks for your interest.
A huge thank you to Robin Hobb for taking the time to speak with me. If you have any interest in the fantasy genre at all and haven’t read any of her books, you are doing yourself a MASSIVE disservice. Assassin’s Apprentice and Ship of Magic are both fantastic places to start, both of which are available wherever you get your books! You’re welcome 🙂