David Gemmell Interview
by Steven Savile
Review by Steven Savile
Date: / Show Official Info /
SFRevu: David, Lord of the Silver Bow is a marked step in a new direction, or so it is being marketed by your publisher - a historical novel as opposed to a fantasy - how did your approach to this project differ from say a Drenai novel? Were you hesitant of writing Troy following the recent movie?
Gemmell: As you say Silver Bow is being marketed as a historical, despite the fact that its main characters are from one of the worlds' most famous fantasy stories. However, the research into Bronze Age Greece, and the attempt to create a historical base for the Trojan War probably makes the historical tag accurate. How did the approach differ? It didn't. I give all my novels the same amount of heart and passion. Lord of the Silver Bow has been tougher to write, but I've been helped enormously by my wife, Stella, with the research and some of the descriptive writing. As to the movie - I haven't seen it. Stella did, and quite enjoyed it.
SFRevu: I've been talking to a number of Gemmell fans, asking what one question they would like you to answer and almost to a man (or woman) they came back with a sequel question, so... for them: have you any plans to write a book centring around 'the two twins'?
Gemmell: The question of the Twins haunts me at every signing or talk. I cant say what the future holds, past completing the second and third Troy novels, Shield of Thunder and Fall of Kings. I am in my sixth decade. I smoke heavily, drink more alcohol than is considered good for me, and have a passion for chocolate and foods full of animal fats. In short, in health terms, I am a walking disaster waiting to happen. However, if luck and a powerful constitution hold up I may get round to the story of the Twins one day.
SFRevu: Would you care to give a few hints as to what the future holds after the Troy trilogy is done?
Gemmell: A good long rest, incorporating words like cruise, alcohol, sleep, sun, sand and fun. Two weeks later I'll start another book.
SFRevu: Ah well, you can't blame a guy for trying to wheedle out some top secret info! When I look at my bookshelves they are weighed down with Gemmell novels, Drenai, Jon Shannow, Athurian, Macedonian, tales of heroes waging war to save what they love. The sheer number of novels is daunting to a relatively new writer like myself, may I ask if you are still as motivated/driven to write as you were 20 years ago?
Gemmell: Probably more motivated. I love this job with a deep and perfect passion. I yearn to be better at it, and I struggle constantly to learn new tricks of the trade. I feel a great responsibility to my fans, to deliver the very best that I can.
SFRevu: That's gratifying to hear. Slightly different tack now, a question I have mercilessly stolen from my partner in crime, Alethea Kontis - which superhero would you most like to be?
Gemmell: I've never, as an adult, wanted to be anyone but me. I can't even visualize being anyone else. As a child I wanted to be Aragorn or Conan. My comic book heroes were Spiderman [because he got to date the gorgeous Gwen] and Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts. I longed to have those silver sideburns and that cool moustache.
SFRevu: I've read that you have an axe collection and use the weapons to choreograph your fight scenes - so I have to ask have you been buying in new weapons for Troy?
Gemmell: I don't have an axe collection. I have Snaga, and a long handled Spear and a Jackson axe I use for chopping winter logs. For Troy I bought a Corinthian helm, crafted by the amazing Bill Radford. I sit and look at it sometimes, lost in wonder at the man's skill. It is quite the most beautiful piece, crafted from a single sheet of bronze.
SFRevu: In this day and age of gadgets and google, how come there is no official David Gemmell website?
Gemmell: I don't have the time to service it. Several people have approached me to run an official site, but even though they'd set it up I'd still have to put time aside to say what I was doing and to answer queries. I don't have that kind of time. I work long hours, six days a week. The seventh day I spend talking about writing with an author pal.
SFRevu: I'm sidetracking myself here, but did you ever finish the Legend computer game? I must confess that Druss kept hitting me with his axe at random so I never actually managed it myself, but my failure was not for the want of trying!
Gemmell: Yeah, I finished it. Best bit was on side two as you tried to hold the walls. By the end there was only Druss left, and he was hacking away, and then the reinforcements arrived. Nice moment.
SFRevu: Indeed, it must be a wonderful experience when other people develop your work and ideas. Now, Stan Nicholls and Fangorn did two wonderful graphic novels based on your work - with writers like Tad Williams and George RR Martin now moving into the graphic novel arena are there any plans to adapt or create more original Gemmell graphic novels?
Gemmell: The graphic novel experience was not a good one, on several fronts. The publishers totally screwed the marketing, having done wonderfully well with the production quality. Working with a team was not always pleasant, and there were massive disappointments along the way. Would I do it again? Only if the artist was John Bolton. I think his work is awesome. John and I have talked about working together, but we both have so many commitments at present that such a project is probably years away.
SFRevu: With spending so much of your time creating stories for us to lose ourselves in, how do you relax? Which other writers do you most enjoy reading?
Gemmell: I don't get the chance to read for pleasure these days. Mostly publishers bombard me with new novels, looking for cover quotes. Occasionally I'll oblige, if the book hits me where I live. A few years back I remember being bowled over by Stephen Pressfield's novel, Gates of Fire. I now have a signed copy, which I treasure. Mostly these days I watch movies for relaxation. Last night I sat back with a good vodka and watched Bernard Hill exhorting the Rohirrim to 'Ride to ruin and the world's ending!' Brilliant!
SFRevu: Really can't argue with that one! So, final one, what is the best question you've ever been asked in an interview?
Gemmell: "In the novel Legend, which has a medieval setting, why does Druss order the archers to 'fire'. Surely fire comes from the days of matchlock rifles, where the full instruction is 'Take aim. Apply fire.'?"
SFRevu: Thanks for taking the time to field a fan-boy's questions, and good luck with Lord of the Silver Bow!
Move on to our reviews of Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow. This month's featured book was released in the UK and US at the same time and we have two reviews for you. Read the UK Review and the US Review.