A little while ago we held a contest giving away a copy of The Turtle Moves!, by Lawrence Watt-Evans. All you had to do to win was leave a question for Mr. Watt-Evans.
Now, due to the magic of the internets, the questions have been sent and answers have been received! And so, without further ado, here are the answers to everything you wanted to know:
SF Signal Reader: If you got the chance to write a Discworld book, and you had to pick one or another of the running threads — the City Watch books, the Nanny Ogg books, the Death books, and so forth — which one would you pick, and why?
Lawrence Watt-Evans: Well, first off, I’d rather see Terry Pratchett write them — I like reading them. But that said, if I were offered an opportunity to write one I wouldn’t turn it down, and I think it’d be a toss-up between the Watch and the witches of Lancre. The witches would be more fun, but I think I could do a better job with the Watch.
SFSR: My earliest encounter with Mr. Watt-Evans were his Lords of Dus Tales, especially the novel The Lure of the Basilisk and a short story that appeared in a gaming magazine and featured characters for the Steve Jackson designed “The Fantasy Trip”. Did the series come out of a game campaign that Mr. Watt-Evans participated in or vice versa (and, if a second question isn’t pushing the boundary too much…will he ever return to that series?)
LWE: No, I began working on that series before I discovered gaming — the Lords of Dus got its start in February 1974, and I was introduced to D&D and its kin late in 1975. No connection there.
Ethshar’s magic incorporated some ideas I came up with when I was designing a campaign, though.
As for whether I’ll ever go back to the setting of the Lords of Dus, I have no plans to do so, but I’m not ruling it out, either.
SFSR: For a newcomer to Discworld, which book should they read first?
LWE: If I really had to just pick one, I’d say Guards! Guards! But in some cases, if I knew a particular reader’s tastes, I might suggest Wyrd Sisters instead, especially if that reader’s less of a fantasy fan.
SFSR: Considering that you seem to have quite a dedicated corps of fans, it seems odd that no publishers would pick up your Ethshar novels. Can you tell us your reasoning behind branching out to self-publish / subscription-publish? Why not simply find another publisher?
LWE: Publishers are reluctant to pick up a series another publisher has dropped; it’s got an obvious implication that you’re settling for their leftovers and aren’t as good as they are. In this instance, that was even more the case because I was still at Tor — they were happy to publish my work as long as it wasn’t Ethshar, because the two Ethshar novels they published only sold about 80% what my other novels did for them. I didn’t want to leave, as I like working with Tor, so dropping the Ethshar series was the lesser evil.
So the only publishers that would consider picking up the series were publishers who didn’t mind saying they were a few steps below Tor on the industry food chain, and who were willing to risk taking on a “failed” series. Those publishers couldn’t pay me enough up front to justify writing the books.
To be honest, though, I didn’t originally intend to self-publish. I intended to demonstrate that it wouldn’t work. Some of my fans were saying they’d pay me to continue the series, so I gave them the chance to prove it. I thought the first serial would last four or five chapters, then die from lack of interest; I was astonished when it wound up bringing in enough money to keep going all the way through.
SFSR: On your website and in the book you list an appendix and appendix 2. How useful did you find these online fan sites and information in compiling this guide to Discworld? How hard was it to separate the opinions of the fans from the your own from the pertinent information useful for the book?
LWE: The fan sites were very useful at first in showing me what had already been done, so I didn’t need to repeat it. Beyond that, though, I drew almost entirely on the original sources, Pratchett’s own work, and didn’t use much from anywhere else.
As for separating fannish opinion from my own, that was never a problem at all; my ego is quite large and strong enough to hold its own.
SFSR: Which of your books did you have the most fun writing?
LWE: Dragon Weather. I think it’s also probably my best novel. This may or may not be a coincidence. That it was fun to write is almost certainly why it’s my longest novel, though.
SFSR: Which Discworld character/book is your favorite and why?
LWE: Samuel Vimes, though it’s close — Susan Sto Helit, Tiffany Aching, Havelock Vetinari, Esmerelda Weatherwax, and Gytha Ogg are all in the running. Vimes is such a fascinating compound of pragmatism and idealism, despair and determination, that I love reading about him. His absolute conviction that the world should be fair, even when he knows it isn’t, even when it’s biased in his favor, is magnificent.
I’d like to thank Lawrence Watt-Evans for taking the time to answer our question. I hope everyone enjoyed the responses!