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Interview with Jim Butcher
Quoted from Bitten by Books
, Wednesday April 29, 2009.
Interview with Jim Butcher
April 29, 2009
A big welcome to our readers today! Be sure to read to the end of the interview to find out how to WIN the fabulous prizes being offered up. The contest is open to readers worldwide. [THIS CONTEST IS LONG OVER]
NOTE: This is not a fixed time event, the post just goes live at 10:00 am CDT. You can stop by any time during the day or evening and leave your questions and comments all day, until Jim collapses or decides he has no more answers. LOL. However the CONTEST portion of this event runs for FIVE days and ends at 11:59 pm PDT 5/3/09.
PLEASE KEEP SPOILERS TO A MINIMUM. Not all of the readers today have read the most recent book or even all of the books in the series. Thank you!!
Welcome to Bitten by Books, we are excited to have you here today!
I would like to thank you taking the time to join us for the question and answer session with our readers. It has been very interesting to get to know more about you and what makes you tick as a writer! Readers, if you haven’t done so already please stop by and get your copy of Jim’s AWESOME release book 11 in the Dresden Files series and also a #1 NY Times best seller, Turn Coat.
BBB: What do you find the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of writing?
JB: Challenging: Clocks. I’ve never been real good with clocks. I think I might have been attacked by one as a child. But seriously: writing a good story is one thing. Trying to write it with a clock steadily ticking in the background is another thing entirely. Every time you finish a chapter, you have to question whether or not you’re going in a right direction for the story–and since time is such a critical issue, you know that there isn’t going to be time to make major repairs if you wander afield by several chapters. So, you watch each new piece of the story like a hawk, tempted to pounce on it immediately if it shows signs of going astray. It creates this sense of self-questioning and self-doubt that just isn’t there when there’s no time pressure.
Rewarding: People. When I go out on public appearances and so on, there are all these very friendly people around who say really nice things about me and my work. But even more than that, sometimes I get to hear how what I’ve done has made a difference in their lives. A soldier asked me to sign the manually-printed copy of three of my books, bound into a big old 3-ring binder, which he carried with him in his pack while in service in the Middle East. Another gave me one of his dogtags, confiding that my writing had been one of the things that helped him stay sane and positive over there. A man who had been teaching a martial arts class on the roof of the hotel building between the towers on 9/11 wrote me to tell me that in the aftermath, when he was counseling survivors to help them stay sane, the Dresden Files helped /him/ stay sane, giving him an escape when he desperately needed one.
When I get to hear stories like that, it does more to make me feel good about myself an my work than anything else in the world. It makes me think that maybe I’m doing more than writing dumb little wizard books for fun–that maybe I’m really doing some folks some Good.
I like that feeling.
BBB: What kind of research did you have to do to create the story world for The Dresden Files. How much of your research has actually been used throughout the life of the series?
JB: I raided my local bookstores and prowled their metaphysical sections. I read up on several systems of the practice of magic as embraced by various systems of faith who incorporate them into their belief. I read about magical practitioners in a historical perspective, throughout multiple centuries. I read books coming out against the practice of magic as well, and tried to gain a general understanding of the principles the various systems had in common. That’s how I built the basic magic of the Dresden Files–by taking those common elements and combining them into a polyglot whole, based upon a skeleton of Newtonian physics.
I wanted the magic o the Dresden Files to be simply a part of the story universe, a source of energy just like heat or electricity, and one which obeyed certain universal laws that governed its interaction with reality. I didn’t want Dresden to be a mystic, shamanistic wizard. I wanted him to be a plumber, a carpenter, an engineer. Only instead of working with water, wood, or physics, he was working with magic.
It’s all come in somewhere, though it’s hard for me to point out exactly what has gone where. I had the whole thing formed in my head when I started writing, and it just kind of started breathing on its own as the first story got rolling.
BBB: Was there a primary source you used for magic research initially? Obviously you have changed it to Harry’s brand of magic, but I assume you based it on some known practices.
JB: See above re: visiting many systems of faith. I can’t point at any one of them and say “oh, I based it all on Faery Wicca belief” or “this is pure Crowley” or “totally Kabbala over here.” I suppose it would be fair to say that I based Dresden’s magic on a model similar that to used by modern neo-pagan faiths, but there are so many of them, in such variety, that it really wouldn’t be saying all that much.
BBB: How do the images in the graphic novel of Welcome to the Jungle fit with what you imagined while writing it?
JB: Very closely. I mean, super close. I spent a lot of effort summarizing each image for poor Ardian, and then he had to produce it from my description–sometimes three or four times before I was happy with it. But as the story went on, we really seemed to hit some kind of common mental vibe. These days, I hardly ever have an issue with his work.
BBB: What do you feel are the benefits of the new electronic readers such as Kindle 2or Sony Digital Book Reader to the environment?
JB: Not knowing much of anything about environmental science, I’d say that my opinion is pretty much irrelevant. I suppose it all comes down to how much damage gets inflicted during the creation of the reader, its power supply, and the necessary supporting hardware when compared to the production of paper, ink, adhesives, etc, for the paper books.
I own a Kindle 2 myself, though, and they are pretty freaking nifty. I last charged mine more than two weeks ago, I use it every day, and it still has better than half of its battery life remaining. I’ve got a bunch of my favorite re-reading books downloaded to it, and I occasionally even pick up a new one for the reader. I keep it in a courier-bag along with my phone, ID, etc, so it goes everywhere with me. I like knowing that I always have a library of favorite reads with me wherever I go.
BBB: What impact do electronic readers create on the bottom line for authors in the end? Do you feel they have a negative impact or positive, or no impact at all that you can see?
JB: Thus far, the impact has been minimal. There are a lot of folks using e-readers, sure, but they’re still a tiny minority compared to real-book readers. As far as protection of the electronic rights goes, my books have been readily available for illegal download on various file-sharing programs since 2000. They’re easy to steal, and have been for years. I don’t see that I’ve been horribly wounded by that fact–I’ve chosen to regard it as a PR investment. Sure, there are a lot of folks who might grab the pirated copy online, but I imagine that most of them are folks who would have trouble affording a book in any case. And if a few of them enjoy my work enough to then go out and grab physical copies to become regular readers, I count it as a win.
I’m not bothered by E-readers at all. I think that, by and large, anyone who can afford an E-reader probably isn’t going to have an issue with paying an author for his work.
BBB: With 11 books in the Harry Dresden series so far, We are interested to know how you keep track of characters and world-building details. If you need to know the eye color of a minor character you haven’t used for 2 books, what does you do? Is it all in Excel? Is your mind a steel trap?
No, seriously. Fans have built up a number of Dresden Files wiki-type databases. I can go there to dig up information when I need it. If wiki fails me, I’ll consult my notes from books past, or copies of the books themselves. And, of course, I rely upon the keen eyes an intellects of my beta readers to notice the small details I might have missed. They are inordinately helpful.
BBB: How much of Harry’s story do you have plotted in your head already?
JB: All of it, all the way through the big apocalyptic capstone trilogy at the end of the series.
BBB: Can you tell us what your next release (s) will be? And do you have stand alone titles forthcoming?
JB: Let’s see. Next out will be the last book of the Codex Alera, First Lord’s Fury, in December. Following that, I’ll be writing the twelfth Dresden File, “Changes,” for next April. Sometime next Summer, I believe, we’ll get the collected anthology of Dresden short stories, which doesn’t have a title yet, but which will include all the Dresden-universe shorts I’ve written.
After that, we’ll see. That’s plenty for my plate at the moment.
BBB: Any chance that Sci Fi might bring the Dresden series back to TV?
JB: None whatsoever.
BBB: Do you plan out Harry’s time and/or have specific ideas about what Harry does in the “off season” between adventures?
JB: Oh, always. I mean, I don’t chronicle his every waking moment, but I’ve always wanted to give the reader the impression that they’re essentially catching Dresden during his worst weekend of the year. Other things happen between books. I’ve written about some of them in short stories, and one of them in the comic book. During the rest of my own year, when I’m not writing Dresden, I’m sort of idly telling myself the story of what he’s up to while he’s waiting around for his life to go to hell again.
BBB: What or who is your greatest inspiration?
JB: My family. They’re a rock.
BBB: Who are some of your favorite UF characters by other authors?
JB: In no particular order:
Simon Green’s leading man, John Taylor
Laurell Hamilton’s assassin, Edward
Charlaine Harris’ norse vampire, Eric
Lily StCrow’s demon hunter, Jill Kismet
Caitlin Kittredge’s shifter detective, Luna Wilder
Dean Koontz’s genius golden retriever, Einstein
BBB: If you could shapeshift, what animal would you be? And why?
JB: Uh. A horse, maybe? I mean, girls like horses, right?
BBB: How do you juggle writing full time, and keep balance in your life?
JB: With a pure and focused determination to get my work done for the day so that I can go play video games, mostly.
I’ve found that if I can manage to get a moderate amount of work in every day, then it’s not nearly as hard on the rest of my life. If I wind up being too pressed and harried as the deadlines loom, that’s when things start to fall apart.
BBB: What is your all time favorite paranormal/urban fantasy book?
JB: Tough call. Maybe Darkfall, by Dean Koontz. Maybe War for the Oaks, by Emma Bull.
BBB: Is there a particular person who you look up to as a role model or mentor as far as personal growth? If so, who is it and why?
JB: My dad. I mean, he was my dad, right? He was an exceptionally decent, reliable, and self-sacrificial individual. He had the respect of anyone who knew him, and I can’t remember him ever letting me down. He died many years ago. I still miss him.
BBB: You are stranded on a desert island and can choose two things to have and endless supply of. Which would you choose beer or books?
JB: Books. I don’t drink.
BBB: What is your favorite quote of all time?
“A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.” — Mark Twain
Followed closely by:
“Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright.” — Aaron Sorkin
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Last edited by alansplace; 02-26-2013 at 12:39 PM.