Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Beagle speaks

The break from Wetsilver is in full effect. I haven't looked at the novel since last Thursday, and won't again for at least another week. Since then, I've done some editor-requested tweaks to one story, looked at the bigger rewrite project for Helix with a mix of consternation and dread, and done a heck of a lot of transcribing on the Peter S. Beagle interview.

I'm quickly rediscovering one of the main reasons I stopped doing interviews. Transcribing the interviews are tedious and time-consuming. I've spent several hours on this thing already, and I'm not yet halfway finished. And that doesn't even take editing into consideration. Here's an interesting exchange we had, pauses and verbal placeholders cleaned up for clarity's sake:
You've said elsewhere that you aren't a particularly huge fan of unicorns. Do you ever feel like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Has the unicorn become your own personal version of Sherlock Holmes?

It's not quite the same thing, although it's a legitimate question. One of my very favorite writers, James Stephens, got so tired of being known only for a very successful novel, The Crock of Gold--it overshadowed several other novels of his which were very good--that he just quit writing novels all together. He spent the last 25 years of his life writing poetry and broadcasting for the BBC, which I'm really sorry about, although he was a fine poet.

I know Conan Doyle came to hate Sherlock Holmes really acutely. He wrote historic fiction which he was very proud of, he wrote a lot of different stories set in different places. He wrote the Professor Challenger stories. And yet there was this goddamn Holmes that was all people wanted to hear about. Doyle really did make a serious effort to kill him off but he was pressured into bringing him back.

No, I don't feel like that about the unicorn at all. The Last Unicorn is dedicated to Robert Nathan, and Robert called me when he read the book. He said to me, "You're going to be stuck with this the way I'm stuck with Portrait of Jennie." Robert wrote close to 40 novels, and Portrait of Jennie is not the best one. But it was made into a movie with Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten about 10 years after he'd written it and it's still considered a minor classic. Nathan said, "There are times when I hate that book, because it overshadowed so much better stuff I did--and I know I did better stuff. You'll do better stuff than The Last Unicorn. Other times I think of all the wonderful things that have happened to me because of Portrait of Jennie, and I know I can't possibly hate it. You'll go back and forth with the unicorn forever. That's just the way it is. There'll be people that know it and don't know that you ever wrote everything else. That's how it is. It's undoubtedly better to be remembered for one book than not remembered at all.”

So, it's a mixed bag kind of thing. It's opened doors, and it's given me generations of readers that I never imagined having. It was a nightmare to write, as I've told audiences often, and there are books like The Innkeeper's Song that matter more to me in a personal sense. In a way, I think of The Innkeeper's Song as my first grown-up book, and that's a personal meaning. I don't know how else to explain it.

So, no overwhelming compulsion to write "This Day All Unicorns Die"?

No, no nothing like that. I do, however, belong to a small, informal group dedicated to writing stories that have no bloody elves in them! That's another matter. The word we use isn't "bloody" either!

I should finish the transcription in another day or so, depending on how much time I'm able to devote to it. It's a good interview, a really good interview, and I'm looking foward to seeing it in final form.

Now Playing: Martin Hummel and Karl-Ernst Schroder 17th Century German Lute Songs

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