Several months ago, I announced that author Glen Cook would be joining us to answer your questions about his book, and September’s fantasy Book of the Month Club selection, The Black Company. So several of you read the book, took part in the discussion, and posted comments for Glen. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. “What the hell is going on?!”I’m sure more than a few of you asked. “Did Mallozzi lie to us? Is he blowing us off like the time he promised us a musical episode? Or that puppy for Christmas? Or to drop by and say hi the next time he was in town?!”
Well, I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. I’m still working on that musical episode (or should I say movie musical?), you will be getting that puppy for Christmas, and I have every intention of dropping by the next time I’m in town so please make sure to have some vanilla ice cream on hand if you’re planning on serving pie otherwise I won‘t eat it. As for author Glen Cook – he was experiencing some computer issues and was incommunicado for a while. Eventually, he got those computer issues resolved, received the questions, and started working on them – only to suffer another computer-related issue halfway through his responses that caused him to lose everything he had written (See! It’s not just you. It occasionally happens to professional writers as well.). To his credit, rather than throw up his hands in surrender and make me answer the questions for him, Glen demonstrated the stalwart determination of one of a Black Company’s veteran by starting over, answering your questions, and then celebrating by pillaging the tiny hamlet of Jefferson City.
So, a huge thanks to Glen for persevering. And another big thank you to everyone who lost faith in me yet, nevertheless, still returned to this blog in order to check in for possible SGA movie spoilers, take me to task for my creative decisions, and find out what I had for lunch (a tarragon chicken sandwich on flatbread). Today, I finally turn this blog over to author Glen Cook. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about how I spent an hour this afternoon wandering through Vancouver’s seediest neighborhood in search of my car. Lotsa laughs.
Over to Glen…
KaziWren writes: “1. Why did you choose not to include more details about the Dominator and the Lady as their rule was the harbinger of the darker times the story is set in?
2. You seemed to put distance between the reader and the Rebel. By simply naming them that way (eg. the Rebel) I never felt connected to them or their cause. Did you want that? To keep the reader entrenched with the company?
Thank you for your time. I am reading the second book now. “
GC: 1) The time of the Domination in the Black Company world is as remote as is the Elizabethan Age in our. That time was a harbinger of the modern Anglo-Saxon world but does not need more than cursory review in anything set in modern times.
2) There is no reason to connect with the Rebel. They are the Enemy. The Company is the protagonist.
Thornyrose writes: “A few questions for Mr. Cook. First, what was your MOS, and you final rank in the navy before you rejoined the civilian world? How much influence did your military experience play on your developing the Black Company novels? When you did the Black Company, did you at the time see it as a starting point for a series of novels, or is it something you just kept coming back to? If you did see it as a series, how far ahead had you outlined the story arcs when first doing Black Company? Finally, under what conditions do you prefer to work when writing? thank you very much for your time and participation in Mr. Mallozzi’s blog, and thank you also for a great reading experience.”
GC: I was a Quartermaster in the Navy. 2nd Class, OKed for 1st Class if I’d shipped over. My military experience had a great deal of influence on my writing. Black Company began as a series of novelettes, grew into a trilogy, and kept on growing. It continues to grow. I am doing a novelette now for an anthology and will, should I survive long enough, write more novels. The conditions question I do not understand.
TimR writes: “Is it true that some of the characters depicted in this book were modeled on people you knew? If so, how much of Croaker is you (and vice versa?)
GC: In the early books many of the lesser characters were based on people I knew. Croaker does have a lot of me in him.
Terry writes: “To Glen Cook: You’ve written a few series over the years. Do you have a world that you prefer to write in? Do you get bored with your characters the further in you get? If you do get bored or annoyed with them, how do you adjust your approach to them? Have you ever looked at your older books and thought about what you would have done differently in them?”
GC: The world I find easiest is that of the Garrett novels.
I don’t get bored. I do get frustrated and pessimistic about works as a whole. By the time I finish a book I am convinced that it is utter crap.
Yes, sometimes I see things but they’re just inconsistencies or mistakes. I’m content, otherwise.
Glochidiagirl writes: “Questions for Mr. Cook:
1) Did you have a story line for the entire Black Company series in mind when you started writing, or did you “make it up as you went along”?
2) I’ve read that you based the character of Croaker on yourself. How much similarity is there between you?
3) There has been a lot made about the fact that the Black Company series is so dark and gritty. Are you more interested in “less than perfect” characters or would you ever write noble-hero-on-a-noble-quest-to-save-the-world type book?
4) What make a book interesting to you?”
GC: 1) I am an intuitive type of writer. I make it up as I go. For me there would be a lot less excitement if I knew the story before I started
2) Croaker is thinner and smarter. I own my own home and have a bank account. Our outlooks on the universe are pretty close
3) I don’t feel that my stuff—barring maybe Shadows Linger—is all that dark. No noble heroes for me. They don’t exist, and never have.
4) Best answer: I know it when I see it.
Antisocialbutterflie writes: “Q: I saw Croaker’s fantasies of the Lady as a means of validating his actions. Do you find that this sort of romanticizing is common among soldiers? Was this something you found yourself doing while you were in the service?”
GC: No and no to both queries.
SometimeReader writes: “For author Glen Cook: 1. What is it about dark characters that most appeals to you? Do you find that they allow you a freedom in writing that a more traditional hero would not? 2. The use of magic as presented in The Black Company was very different from what we’ve seen in traditional fantasy. Was this a reaction to traditional tropes? As Joe pointed out, Goblin and One-Eye were a far cry from Gandalf. They were loose cannons and the last thing you wanted to do was get caught in the crossfire of their rivalry. 3. How hard was it to find a publisher for The Black Company? Did the fact that the book strayed so far from convention help or hinder its publication?
GC: 1) I don’t see my characters as dark. I see them as people. Traditional heroes don’t happen till the original has been dead a long time and subsequent generations have remodeled them for the needs of their time
2) Funny. I never thought of Black Company as being that different. It must be, though, because people have been telling me so for twenty-some years
3) It was not a hard sell, though the editor who bought it did, initially, reject it because she didn’t like anybody in it. She came back and asked if she could have it two months later because she couldn’t get those people out of her head.
Kellyk writes: “1. I read somewhere that when you first started writing, you were holding down a fulltime job at the time on an assembly line. You would write in your head while you worked the line, then quickly jotted down your thoughts on papers during short breaks, then resumed working the line and writing in your head. How does your approach to writing differ today?
2. Some readers have commented on the lack of backstory elements in The Black Company. There are a lot of unanswered questions. Is this because you approached this as the first book in a longer series and intended to fill in the backstory in later volumes?
3. You have a very unique militaristic approach to fantasy. Are there any authors that you feel influenced your work?”
GC: 1) I’m retired now and my kids are gone so I waste a lot more time. I still do first drafts by hand. The two books I’ve tried to do from scratch on computer turned out incoherent and had to be rebuilt almost from the ground up.
2) What lack of back story? What is missing that you need to know? The characters know who they are and where they came from. And most are the kinds of guys who would lie to you if you asked.
3) Authors who have had a serious impact on me are Tolkien, Jack Vance, Fritz Leiber, John D. and Ross MacDonald, Talbot Mundy, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and, amongt the still living, Robert B. Parker. But I read constantly, across a wide spectrum, and everything influences me somehow.
Three apples fell from the tree, one for the listener, one for the teller, and one for the audience unseen.