I’ve mentioned before how much I love reading, and it’s a part of my life that I always try to include on the blog in one way or another. Today, I am happy to have as the weekly interview my second ever with an author – the incredibly talented Patrick Rothfuss.
In the last few years I rediscovered my love of fantasy novels, and Pat has been one of my favorite authors not just in the fantasy genre, but overall. His Kingkiller Chronicles series (2/3 books released so far) have been such a joy to read, and it’s clear that Pat is someone who has poured immense amounts of time, energy and talent into his work. Through this interview process, I also discovered that Pat is humble, very funny, and down to earth (with a wee bit of a potty mouth…well don’t we all?) His latest book, The Wise Man’s Fear, hit #1 on the New York Times Fiction Bestseller List when it was released, and it is well deserved. Enjoy meeting Pat!
How did it feel to see The Wise Man’s Fear as #1 on the NYT Bestselling list?
That’s actually a tricky question to answer.
I won’t deny that it was cool. It was. And it was flattering. And it’s nice for my career, because now I’m “#1 NYT Bestselling author Patrick Rothfuss” no matter what else happens.
But did I jump up and down like a contestant on The Price is Right when I got the news? No. Not really. It’s fair to say that a lot of other people were more excited it than I was. My family and my editor were really giddy.
My reaction was kinda similar to when The Name of the Wind hit the list in 2008.
Truth is, for me the really cool parts of being an author don’t have anything to do with getting onto a bestseller list.
Is there a pressure on popular authors that their next books have to hit #1 when they come out?
I imagine that a lot of folks feel that pressure. The desire to get on top and then stay there.
For me though, it’s more important that people like the book and that it sells well enough so that the publisher feels justified in putting up with me. Those two things don’t directly correlate to hitting #1 on the Times.
What would you like to achieve in the next five years that would fulfill your most ambitious dreams?
Wildest dreams, huh?
In that case, in five years time I’d be working on the second season of the hit television show based on my books. It would be written and directed by Joss Whedon, and I would be a piece of the writing team.
We would also be best friends and hang out in a tree fort in my back yard.
I have to ask you about your photo on your Wikipedia page. What is going on there?
[Pat goes to look on Wikipedia.]
Oh. That’s from when I went to Gen Con dressed up as a garden gnome.
Can you share some books/movies/TV shows that you like that people would probably be surprised to hear about?
Probably not that would surprise people. My favorites include all the geek classics. Everything Joss Whedon. Battlestar Galactica. Princess Bride. Tolkien and LeGuin.
Most folks who read my books wouldn’t be surprised that I like to read Chaucer and Shakespeare. A lot of Medieval drama, religious texts, and poetry too.
What *would* probably surprise people is how much I read. (Probably about 200-300 books a year) Or how little I watch TV. (Probably less than fifteen minutes a day on average over the last couple years.)
In a recent interview with the LA Times, you referenced that you were tiring of too many “dragons and dwarves” in fantasy. What are some characters you think there should be more of instead?
It’s not that I’m tiring of it. I’m tired of it. I’ve been tired of it for fifteen years.
Now I’m not saying I hate all of it. Or that none of it is good. But if you’re going to follow in those, well-worn fantasy ruts, you better be doing something really clever, because otherwise how will you hope to differentiate yourself from the thousand other books that are just like yours with the exception of some slightly different cover art?
As for what we need more of? Strong, realistic female characters are in short supply. The genre is better of than it was 15 years ago, but we could still do with more of those.
How has your yearly experience at ComicCon changed since your first trek there since 2009? And I’ve always wondered this…do you get lots of crazy fans, groupies, etc? I’m sure you do!
Nothing too crazy yet. But I do get invited to better parties these days. Last year I got to attend Wootstock and ride a mechanical bull among other things.
Since I do write a lot about fashion and clothes on the blog – what do you like to see a girl wear?
Well, this probably isn’t going to make me any friends on this particular blog, but I really couldn’t care less about clothing. It’s pretty much invisible to me.
I don’t mean that in an x-ray specs kinda way. I mean that not only could I not care less what someone is wearing, but 99 times out of 100, I won’t even notice it.
The only time I ever really notice clothes are when someone is wearing something really impractical or ridiculous. Like when I see a woman wearing stilletto heels or a dress she can barely move around in.
When I see something like that, I usually think, “Wow. That must hurt.” Or “She’d be really pretty if she didn’t have to mince around like a geisha walking on hot knives.”
What is going on with your hair? (And I ask that in the nicest possible way!)
The hair reflects my general fashion philosophy. Stated briefly, it goes like this: I could really give a fuck.
If you want the slightly longer version: The truth is that I really have better things to do with my time than preen myself for other people’s viewing pleasure. I cut my hair when it gets long enough to irritate me, or when I’m going to make some sort of important public appearance. Same for my beard. Generally speaking, that means I trim up about every six to eight months or so.
You seem very secure and confident with yourself, and your choices. Were you always this way, and if not, what happened to make you change?
I don’t really think you can point at one piece of a person’s life and say, “There. That’s where it all changed for me.”
But still, I can give you an example.
It was back in 5th grade. I wasn’t one of the cool kids, but I wanted to be. All the cool kids were listening to the song “Karma Chameleon.” It was all they could talk about. When I said I’d never heard about it, they mocked me.
So I went home and spent all night listening to the radio until they played that song. Then I recorded it. Then I listened to it until I knew all the words.
Then I went to school the next day and nonchalantly mentioned that the song was really good. All the cool kids looked at me like I’d just said I liked to eat roadkill. That song was stupid, they said. Nobody cares about it, they said.
At that point, I began to develop my theory of advanced sociologial iconoclasm. Here’s the heart of it: I don’t really give a fuck what anyone else thinks I should be doing. Trying to keep up with the cool kids, no matter how you define ‘cool,’ is the surest way I know to waste your life and make yourself miserable in the process.
I love the term you used – “Geek Glitterati” – to describe those famous in the “geek” world. Do you consider yourself a member?
Oh no. I’m not pretty enough, and I don’t care enough about my appearance.
For example, a couple months ago I got invited to a big award ceremony honoring Gene Woolf. It was a very flattering invitation, as a lot of A-list authors were going to be there.
But as I was looking through the website, I saw that the dinner/event was going to be a semi-formal thing. Which meant that I’d have to wear a jacket or something. And that means I’d have to go out and BUY a jacket.
And that was the point at which I stopped caring. It would have been fun to go, but not if I have to wear some sort of costume as the price of admittance.
If it had been straight up formal, that would have been a different issue. I love wearing a tux.
Can you share a piece of advice you’d give to any aspiring writer/artist/general successful person?
I can actually link you to a post on my blog where I answered a piece of fanmail where someone asked me that exact question.
*Note from Katherine – please read that blog entry! I loved it 🙂
For any fantasy/scifi/etc novice – what are the 2-3 books/movies/tv shows that you’d say they would absolutely have to experience?
Books: Stardust, Nation, Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Movies: Princess Bride/Princess Mononoke/The Incredibles.
Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I imagine the fact that I only own one pair of pants would shock a few of your readers.
Finally – How about the best pieces of advice that you’ve ever received?
“Don’t eat that.”
I adored Pat’s advice about living somewhere cheap, and making the sacrifices needed to achieve your ultimate goals. Such a true statement and sentiment – yet few people can make those tradeoffs. Pat’s last piece of advice is also particularly timely since I’ve consumed multiple boxes of mochi since returning from Japan.
It’s a rare event for me to be able to interview someone whose works I admire so much – especially when they are as busy as Pat is. Thank you again Pat for taking the time to share your thoughts with us today – and for more about Pat and his blog, please check out his site, here!