In celebration of the David Gemmell Award long-lists being published, Gollancz is thrilled to be running a series of interviews-in-sixty-seconds with as many long-listed authors as we can get our hands on. Today we’re conversing with Robert V. S. Redick, author of the gripping The Chathrand Voyage Quartet which set sail with The Red Wolf Conspiracy, paused for an adventure with The Rats and the Ruling Sea, battled its way along The River of Shadows(which is shortlisted for the David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Novel) and whose voyage will come to an end this year in the much-anticipated The Night of the Swarm. We caught up with him, and took a moment to ask a few questions . . .
Congratulations on being long-listed for the David Gemmell Awards! Can you tell us, in a few words, why any readers who are new to your work should rush out and read it?
Because (I hope) you’ll find them an irresistible pleasure. I set out to write the most entertaining, intelligent, generous and inventive epic I possibly could. And as I come to the end of the fourth and final book, I honestly feel as though I’ve done just that.
The Chathrand Voyage Quartet begins with two somewhat naïve characters and follows them to hell and back. More plainly, it’s the story of a great circumnavigation of the world of Alifros, aboard a colossal sailing ship, in a time when that world is balanced over the abyss of global war. While the pace is usually breakneck, the story is complex, morally murky, dark and light by turns. Like real life. While my two young protagonists anchor the story, they share the stage with some 30 others important characters, many of them non-human. Across the four-book tale, these travellers befriend, love, screw, marry, betray, redeem, curse, kill and occasionally resurrect one another, all the while transporting a cargo that will transform, or eradicate, life as we know it.
My books are hybrids of a sort. They’ve been called literary adventures and intellectual thrillers. Labels aside, my goal from the start has been to write the kind of book I dreamed of reading. That was highest bar I could set for myself, and the only one that’s mattered to me.
Who was your first favourite author?
After Dr. Seuss, you mean? Wait for it . . . Tolkien. Followed shortly by Susan Cooper, Bradbury, Asimov and le Guin. That about covers fourth and fifth grade.
Who would you cite as your influences?
Tolkien and le Guin were formative. Later I’d have to name Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Conrad, Chekhov, García Marquéz, Melville, Phillip K. Dick, Italo Calvino, Cormac McCarthy, Julio Cortazar, John Fowles, Michael Ondaatje, J.M. Coetzee, Mikhail Bulgakov, Yeats and (veering to film) Terry Gilliam and Ingmar Bergman.
Do you think authors have a responsibility to do more than tell an entertaining story?
I just can’t seem to jam the words ‘author’ and ‘responsibility’ into a single sentence without producing a howler. Let me come in through the back door, then. Entertainment is our sina qua non: failing that, we accomplish nothing, because our books will lie unread. But a certain percentage of authors are also human beings, and some of the latter wish secretly to be good. They have no clear responsibility either, but they do accept a challenge: to write books of consequence, or as I put it elsewhere, books with souls, not just pretty faces. A consequential book provides no answers (shun those like the plague!) but it should provoke questions, inspire thought, offer a whole new slant on the familiar world. If that sounds like homework, look again: a good fantasy can do all that and take you for the ride of your life.
Is there a storytelling tradition you see your work as part of?
Yes: the Western-High-Seas Epic-Fantasy-Language-Driven-Psychic-Realism-Semi-Epistolary-Metafictional-Adventure-Journey-as-Search-for-Self-Post-Enlightment-Tradition.
If your novel were to be arrested for a crime of passion, what crime would it be and why (society may not be to blame!)?
Incitement to unnatural acts of love. Although I hasten to point out that liaisons between consenting humans, ixchel, dlömu and selk are perfectly legal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which is why I live here.
Robert V.S. Redick worked most recently for the anti-poverty organization Oxfam. His epic fantasy series, The Chathrand Voyage Quartet, begins with The Red Wolf Conspiracy and concludes with The Night of the Swarm (October 2012). Red Wolf was a finalist for the 2008 Locus Award for Best First Novel, and was one of the top ten science fiction and fantasy releases of the year in the SFX magazine poll. Book II, The Ruling Sea, was rated the #1 fantasy novel of 2009 by Fantasy Book Critic. Redick has also worked as an international development researcher in Argentina, baker, horse handler and drama critic. He lives in Florence, Massachusetts.
You can vote for The River of Shadows, or any of the novels long-listed for the Legend Award for Best Novel, here. You can also vote for Edward Miller’s stunning artwork, as the Best Art of the year, here.