- By Skimble
Scott Lynch is the bestselling author of “The Lies of Locke Lamorra” and “Red Seas Under Red Skies”.
Given my audience I suspect no further introduction is necessary, but just in case:
Lies was published in 2006 to critical acclaim and follows the life of one Locke Lamorra; Gentleman Bastard, con-man, and thief; and his allies as they get involved in a complicated web of crime and intrigue. Red Seas followed in 2007 and took Locke to sea for another fantastic adventure.
If by some misbegotten chance you haven’t read either these books then I for one thoroughly recommend them. Not only are the two books already written a breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre but the Gentlemen Bastards series is scheduled to total 7 books in all and promises to be quite a ride!
I recently caught up with Scott Lynch by e-mail and he graciously agreed to answer a few questions.
Locke pretty much fits the archetype of the Magnificent Bastard (and in fact is cited as a literary example on the TVTropes page that defines the term – http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MagnificentBastard). Who are some other literary or real Magnificent Bastards that you admire?
Edmund Dantes from “The Count of Monte Cristo”, most definitely. All the schemers in Dumas’s Musketeers books, too. G.R.R. Martin has his share. The Stainless Steel Rat. The Continental Op. All sorts of tricky, multi-faceted characters from various shows over the years… Bester from “Babylon 5″, Garak from “Deep Space 9″, Francis Urqhardt from “House of Cards” and its sequels.
What is your opinion of tabletop roleplaying games? Have you ever played? How would you feel about the setting of the “Gentlemen Bastards” books being used as the basis for a roleplaying game?
Hee hee. “Have I ever played.” Ah, you kids. The first games I ever bought were “Call of Cthulhu” and “Cyberpunk 2020″, back at the tender age of fifteen. All through high school I played a lot of “Star Wars” and “Vampire: The Masquerade” with my friends… after that the occasional “GURPS” game, some more White Wolf here and there, and a lot of LARPs. I certainly have no objection to Locke’s world being used as the basis for a game (or just as a gaming world), but I’m not sure if anybody will ever want to do it.
A lot of the complexity in writing “The Lies of Locke Lamorra” and “Red Seas Under Red Skies” must have come from designing the cons run by Locke and his associates. Did these spring entirely from your imagination or did you base them on cons used in the real world? If the latter, what research did you undertake?
Much of what Locke and co. do is taken directly from case studies and books on con games, most obviously the classic “The Big Con” by David W. Maurer. It’s about seventy years old now, and describes a culture of cons that has largely passed, but some things about this style of crime remain a constant. It’s not just about tricking and outwitting your victim, it’s about getting them emotionally involved in the idea that they’re pulling a fast one on someone else.
The Don Salvara game in “The Lies of Locke Lamora” is a pretty obvious variant of what we call the “Spanish Prisoner” con, with the stocks of liquor in Emberlain standing in for the imprisoned, beautiful young woman in the classic version of the scheme. Hell, the bog-standard Nigerian e-mail scam (“Large sums of money are locked away because of bureaucratic technicalities in a foreign land. If you send us operating funds now, we’ll split the huge windfall with you, honest.”) is a Spanish Prisoner variant.
The complex nature of the cons, the nefarious schemes in the background and the way the narrative jumps around in the timeline must make it fairly complicated to keep track of what’s going on in a “Gentlemen Bastards” novel as you’re writing it. How do you cope with this in your writing process?
Copious notes and lots of diagrams! I figure if I draw everything out for comparison so a child of five could attempt to understand it, I’m much less likely to leave a gaping plot hole.
How would you feel about “The Lies of Locke Lamorra” being optioned for a film or TV series?
Well, “The Lies Of Locke Lamorra” was optioned a few years ago, but nothing much has yet come of that. If it ever happens again, I’m all in favor of it. If I had magic godlike powers to command an adaptation that was artistically satisfying, now, that’s a bit different… I have my doubts about a big-screen adaptation, but I think the material could very effectively be adapted as a miniseries by an entity like HBO or as an animated series.
What, in your opinion, are the worst and best adaptations of a book (or comic book) to film in the recent past and why?
Jesus. This question could take six hours to answer. I’m extremely fond of the first two X-Men films and “The Dark Knight”, which got so much right about Batman and the Joker it brings a tear to my eye. “The Prestige” was a great adaptation of a book I love; more vicious than the book, by far, but otherwise pretty damn good. “No Country for Old Men” was superb. As for the worst, well… take your pick. “Catwoman”, “Ghost Rider”, dear god… the most recent “Superman” remake bored me into a coma. So much wasted screentime, so many interesting questions un-asked. The adaptation of “The Golden Compass” was staggeringly mediocre, with so many wasted moments… and the cast. Argh. Who hires Christopher Lee and Derek Jacobi to be in a film for thirty fucking seconds? Give them character names, give them lines, give them screen time, you idiots. I also have a special hate-on reserved for “Minority Report”, which is one of the most brutal punches ever delivered straight to the balls of logic in cinematic history.
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?
In British Chucking Units (BCUs) or the more standard metric measurement CMC/h (Cubic Meters Chucked / hour)?
How does it make you feel when fans complain about the time taken for “ Republic of Thieves” to be finished and published or pester you for updates?
Well, first, it’s always flattering to be remembered, and to be reminded that people are really looking forward to the third book. Second, some people do need to be politely swatted a bit and reminded that it’s not like assembling a radio– it doesn’t always work according to a strict timetable. Third, I’ve recently come out in the open about the fact that I’m in treatment for serious depression, and that my marriage ended, and that has brought me a pretty gobsmacking wave of supportive mail and messages. Frankly, my family and emotional messes did derail a lot of things for a couple of years. The good news is that I am producing again, perhaps not as rapidly as I did before, but a damn sight better than when I was in denial about the severity of my depression.
What’s the most amazing thing for you about becoming a published (and popular!) author?
It’s still amazing holding a new edition of a book I’ve written in my hands. It’s impossible to believe, even after four years and so many international sales and various editions. The really brutal phase of my emotional trouble, to be frank, almost ruined my career, and now that time and therapy are helping me be functional again, I’m feeling a sort of dazed wonderment that this is my job. It’s sort of like waking up after a bad dream.
As an aspiring author myself I’ve found that losing heart in the premise or what’s written so far can result in a project failing before it’s really started. Do you have any tips for maintaining confidence in the work and finding ways to keep writing through any temporary slumps in enthusiasm?
I guess you’ve just got to sustain the solipsistic, egotistical notion that there’s an audience out there that desperately wants to read your stuff. Even in the absence of all evidence to that effect. Also, don’t shit yourself about not being able to Iron Man/Woman your way through twelve hours of typing per day, seven days a week, like Blah Blah Famous Author always claims in their back cover bio sketches. Take a day off, have a beer, recharge your batteries. Days off don’t kill your ambition… it’s weeks off that you want to avoid.
On a related note, it’s easy to be demoralised when reading the work of published authors, especially when it’s a début novel of such quality as “The Lies of Locke Lamorra”. Do you ever feel that way when reading works by authors you admire?
I can tell you, with absolute honesty, that the confidence problem never goes away, ever. You never reach a point (unless you’re a psychotic egotist, rather than the milder form of maniac that most authors are) where you feel ready to totally dismiss criticism and accept your own work as adequate, let alone excellent. I can tie my brain up in knots reading the work of authors I love and the criticism of the field’s brightest scholars… seriously, you can find yourself very easily quaking in your boots, feeling like a pretender, wondering how you ever got up the nerve to match your feeble pea of an intellect against the titans already out there.
Every author I’m friendly with has reported, at one time or another, being haunted by the awful “dear god, who am I kidding, I’m an impostor” feeling. It’s part of the territory, it’s mostly illusion, but it never goes away, so you really might as well shove your worries aside and just do your damnedest.
How many draft versions did “The Lies of Locke Lamorra” go through before it reached its final state?
It went through several ridiculous and comical little starts between 2000 and 2004, when I had only a half-assed notion of how to write a book and no real outline of a plot. The bits that were finished were good enough to actually sell in 2004; after that things went through about three more drafts, all told, before the final result was squeezed out of the rock I use for a brain.
I don’t want to take up too much of your time so that’s all for now! Thank you very much for agreeing to answer my questions. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?
Thanks for a more entertaining set of interview questions than usual. Cheers!