Lou Anders drew on a recent visit to Norway along with his adventures traveling across Europe in his teens and twenties to write Frostborn and Nightborn, combining those experiences with his love of globe-trotting adventure fiction and games (both tabletop and role- playing) However, he has yet to ride a wyvern. With the addition of characters Desstra and Tanthal, Anders hopes that his second book in the Thrones and Bones series will continue to appeal to boys and girls equally. Anders is the recipient of a Hugo Award for editing and a Chesley Award for art direction. He has published over five hundred articles and stories on science fiction and fantasy television and literature. A prolific speaker, Anders regularly attends writing conventions around the country. He and his family reside in Birmingham, Alabama. You can visit Anders online at louanders.com and ThronesandBones.com, on Facebook, on Tumblr, and on Twitter at @ThronesandBones and @LouAnders.
In the third of a three part interview, Lou Anders’ editor, Phoebe Yeh chats with him about writing Nightborn and being an author.
Phoebe Yeh: You visited Norway for the first time, just after you finished the first draft of Frostborn. How did seeing the country compare to doing the research?
Lou Anders: Seeing the country was incredible. Particularly standing atop Dalsnibba mountain above Geiranger, gazing down into the fjord and looking out and seeing a seemingly endless array of mountain peaks. No amount of research prepared me for that experience, nor for standing at the base of the Trollveggen and looking up!
While I was touring Norway, I was also working on your rewrites for the book and collaborating with cartographer Robert Lazzaretti on the map of Norrøngard. It was incredible to travel Norway by day, then return at night to email pictures of the landscape to my map maker and sit down to rewrite Frostborn. Surely, one of the most incredible experiences of my writing life!
That being said, I thought that I was going to have to rewrite my descriptions majorly, but when I reread the text, I found they were uncannily accurate in describing the Norwegian landscape. I realized later I had the hundred plus hours I’ve played of the Skyrim video game to thank, a Norse inspired fantasy game that I’m very fond of. By playing so much of the game, I’d unconsciously internalized the features of the landscape. I’m now a big believer in video gaming as a way to absorb the details of a particular (historically-based) setting.
Phoebe Yeh: As the former editorial and art director, you’ve worked with many, many fine writers such as Key Kenyon, Ian McDonald, Michael Moorcock, Mike Resnick, Justina Robson, and Robert Silverberg. What did you learn from working with authors?
Lou Anders: To begin with, I grew up reading the fantasy fiction of Michael Moorcock. Mike and I have worked together four times, in projects for three different publishers. I have edited a short story, a novella, and a novel by him, as well as reprinted one of his earlier works. And to have gone from reading his fiction as a teenager to working with him as an adult is truly amazing. Those who know his work know what Stormbringer is, but for those who don’t, any soul sucking dark blade you’ve ever encountered in fiction, cinema, or games derives from his famous sword. Mike and I were eating one night in a (not very good) Mexican restaurant in Bastrop, Texas, and after the bill comes, he says to me, “I’ve got Stormbringer in the boot of my car if you want to have a look.” I look at him and say, “You’ve got the what in the where?” and he replies, “Well, I didn’t think they’d appreciate me bringing a four and a half foot long broadsword into the restaurant.” It turns out that an armory made a very limited run of replicas of the sword to his exact specifications and he’d brought the prototype for me to see. So I stood under the moonlight in a parking lot in Texas, and I swung the runeblade of my youth round and round in the air, hacking and slashing and blocking imaginary foes, while its creator watched. And, yes, that was amazing! I don’t think I could ever enumerate all the ways that Mike’s towering imagination has influenced my own work, but on that night, or at least remembering that night, I learned to dare to dream and to believe those same dreams could one day be forged into reality.
I only worked with the great Gene Wolfe once. He wrote a short story for a grim and gritty sword & sorcery anthology I co-edited for Simon & Schuster. But his tale of an enormous woman bred to be a pawn in a game of living chess stayed with me. I know I was inspired by his gigantic female warrior when I first started thinking about the character of Thianna, and it was during the editing of that anthology that I made my first attempts at world building the continent of Katernia.
I should also give a shout out to K.V. Johansen, who writes lush, Tolkien-esque epic fantasy in non-Western settings. Her work is very different from mine, but she’s a genius and I love her writing. And to James Enge, quite possibly my favorite adult fantasy author these days, whose tales of Morlock Ambrosius are painful — they are so good. Enge takes all the old tropes and does things with them that you’ve never seen before, and his work can go from hysterical to poignant to absurdist to horrifying on a dime (a bit like Doctor Who in that respect). Justina Robson, too, for the way she pushes the fantasy tropes. And Jon Sprunk, for the way he pushes himself with each new project.
I’ll credit Joe Abercrombie with rekindling my love of fantasy to begin with. At the time The Blade Itself fell on my desk, I thought of myself as primarily a “science fiction guy” without a lot of interest in contemporary epic fantasy. His novel turned me around and in the wake of acquiring and publishing it, I ushered in a wave of gritty adult fantasy authors, like Tom Lloyd, Sam Sykes, and, eventually, Mark Smylie (which in turn lead to my desire to explore the resurgence of the sword & sorcery genre further in the above mentioned anthology).
Finally, I owe a huge debt to Mark Hodder, the Philip K. Dick award winning author of the Burton & Swinburne series. When I wrote my first manuscript (not Frostborn, but an urban fantasy that landed me an agent), he spent a great deal of time, elbow deep in my prose and helping me get from out of an editor’s brain into a writer’s!
Working with so many talented adult science fiction and fantasy authors was a tremendous experience. These days, I don’t work with other authors since I am a full time author myself, and the writers I read and meet are mostly in the children’s book field, but I do get to work with talented artists on creating the world of Thrones & Bones. And I know that all the people I’ve worked with, authors, editors, agents, and artists, have helped get me to the place I am now.