Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Interviewing the Dead - Lee Battersby
Today's guest is Lee Battersby, author of The Corpse-Rat King and The Marching Dead.
How long were the Marius don Hellespont books gestating in your head before you put pen to paper?
The first book took me a year to write, in two bursts, but the opening of the novel had probably been kicking about for two years before that. I’d been at a dinner party with Dave Luckett, a good friend and fantastic author, and we’d been discussing what we disliked in fantasy novels. Somewhere along the line the idea was floated that great fantasy novels never started in the aftermath of a battle. Which sounded like a challenge :)
I had the first half-page sitting in my folder for a fair while before I managed to add to it, and after that I cranked out 50-odd thousand words before I hit a problem point I couldn’t solve and came to a halt. Then, when Angry Robot announced their open submission period, it was incentive to push on and finish the manuscript.
How did you hook up with Angry Robot?
In March of 2011, the publisher conducted an open submissions month for unagented authors. I was amongst the 990-odd authors who submitted manuscripts, and was fortunate enough to be one of the 3 new authors picked up through that process. It seems that Angry Robot liked doing things the hard way, as they’ve conducted another Open Month since then, so it’s nice to work for a company that doesn’t learn its lesson the first time :)
How much are like you is Marius?
There are definitely elements of myself in the character. I have a tendency to slip into misanthropy, especially when I’m having a dark day, and I certainly have little faith in the essential nobility of man. I’m not an outright cheat, liar, thief and the like, but that’s the point where the character gets pushed to extremes to fit the page. I’ve felt like an outsider most of my life—still do, for the most part—and that feeling of rootlessness and unhappiness is very much at the heart of Marius’ behavioral patterns. But there’s some good in there, too, I think: his interactions with the young Billinor in the second book stem very much from my relationship with my youngest son, and it’s probably telling that the kids he interacts with are the ones with whom he’s absolutely straight.
Might we see a third Marius book in the future?
My contract with Angry Robot contained a clause giving them the option of requesting a pitch for a third book, which they exercised. My pitch is with them at the moment, and if they decide to pick it up then there will be at least one further adventure.
Who would you cast in a Corpse Rat King/Marching Dead TV series?
With the exception of Captain Bomthe in the first novel I never had a ‘celebrity’ face in mind when I wrote the characters—Bomthe is very much based on Bill Nighy in ‘stiff’ mode—but someone like Patterson Joseph would fit Marius to a tee. I’d settle for a cameo for myself….
What are you reading now?
The books I read in April were China Meiville’s “Embassytown”; Lavie Tidhar’s “The Bookman; “A Father’s Story: One Man’s Anguish at Confronting the Evil in his Son” by Lionel Dahmer, which is his biography of his son Jeffrey; and Joe Abercrombie’s “Before They Are Hanged”. I’ve just started the follow-up, “Last Argument of Kings”.
What is your favourite book of all time?
Oh, man. Love these easy questions…..
Best book I’ve read in recent days was Joe Abercrombie’s “Red Country”, which set me to reading the rest of his series. Of all time? Damn. No matter what I put here, I’m going to read this in print and think “But what about…?” so how about….. “The Book of the New Sun” by Gene Wolfe?
Is there a particular book that made you want to be a writer?
The first story I ever read that made me sit back and say “Wow! I want to do that!” was called ‘It Could by You’, by a somewhat forgotten Australian author named Frank Roberts. It was first published in F&SF, I think, in the mid-60s, but I discovered it in an anthology called “SF Stories for Boys” in the late 70s, when I was 8. I still have the book, and the story is still as amazing as it was when I first read it. It’s a good old-fashioned, 1960s social SF story, but the sting in its tale is as nasty as nasty can be, and it just blew my 8 year old mind away. And I discovered the Goon Show at around the same time, so I was pretty much banjaxed for normality from that point on. After that, everything else was just icing on an already twisted cake.
What is your favourite dirty joke of all time?
Q: How do you make a nun pregnant?
A: Fuck her.
Any non-Marius books in the works?
I have the pitch for a trilogy with my agent at the moment: I’ve written the first novel, called “Naraveen’s Land” and plotted out books 2 and 3. And I’ve finished the first draft of a novel called “Father Muerte & the Divine”, based upon a character who features in several short stories I’ve written over the years. That’s stewing nicely, waiting to be line-edited into some semblance of coherence. And I’m just finishing off the first draft of a children’s book called “Magwitch and Bugrat”, which might just be the saddest thing I’ve ever written. So you never know: if they all find homes that could be me pretty much set up for the next three or four years.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
Read, get outside, go to the theatre, fuck, eat well, hit the beach, fall in love, go on road trips, pet tigers, see museums, watch movies, get into at least one fist fight, drink, speak in public, swim, get as much and as wide and as high and as deep a life into as you possible can: you might be able to describe the world without ever leaving the safety of your desk, but what’s the fucking point of that?