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Author Q&A: L.E. Modesitt

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Dragonmount is fortunate to have joining us this week, world famous author L.E. Modesitt. He is creator of The Recluse Saga and the Spellsong Series.

 

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He will be soon releasing a new book in the Imager Portfolio.

 

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Now he is here to answer question from YOU!

 

Please post your questions below and Mr. Modesitt will check in as he is able to answer them. So let's give Mr. Modesitt a warm Dragonmount welcome!

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I just wanted to say that I'm pleased to be here, and whatever the question you might have, I'll do my best to answer it -- and it doesn't have to be just on my fantasy series books.

 

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

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Thank you very much for appearing today Mr. Modesitt. I guess I'll begin.

 

Where did the you get the idea for using the magic system you have, with order and chaos and them being in balance? Taking it further, you write about some of the effects that the magic has on people and places. Why did you choose to focus on this to such an extent?

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I've just started a re-read of Fall of Angels, and one thing that has always struck me in that book is the name "Rationalists". As the decendants of the Rationalists are generally cast as the antagonists of the Recluce saga, and they're referred to as demons, it always struck me as an odd name. It doesn't conjur visions of a warlike people for me. I was wondering if you were ever planning to cover them, or their universe of origin, in more detail? Apologies if you already have, I haven't read any of the material that takes place BEFORE the Fall in the Recluce saga.

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You've actually raised two questions about the Saga of Recluce. The short answer for why I chose order and chaos as the opposite poles, if you will, for the magic system was that they're really an analogue in some ways to the construct of structured matter and entropy, and, at the same time, to static order and unfocused raw energy, in our universe. If you're interested in the very detailed explanation, I actually wrote an article about this for Black Gate magazine [issue 13], which has also been reprinted in the limited hardcover anniversary edition from Subterranean Press.

 

As for the issue about the far-reaching impact of magic, that's because of my view of what magic would be in any realistic human society. Human beings are tool-users. Anything that we can use in a practical fashion as a tool, we do. And all tool use has impacts that reverberate throughout the world. In any world where magic is workable, we'd work it as a tool, and there would be implications far beyond the immediate use. Another reason for my focus and concern about effects was that, especially at the time that I wrote The Magic of Recluce, far too many authors were ignoring the obvious costs and repercussions of magic use, and just concentrating on the "gee-whiz, that's neat" aspects. Thankfully, this has changed considerably [but not vanished]over the past 20 years.

 

 

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

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There's quite a bit more background about the descendants of the "Rationalists" in Magi'i of Cyador and its sequel Scion of Cyador, but those events take place on Recluce hundreds of years after the founding of Cyad. At present, I have no plans to write about any events that take place before the "Rationalists" land on the world of Recluce.

 

 

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

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Do you write when you get inspiration or do you write a certain amount of hours every day? When do you get your best ideas?

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Except when I'm traveling, or in case of various catastrophes,I write almost every day, usually from around nine in the morning until nine at night, with time out for dogs, preparing and eating meals, and various errands.

 

As a writer, I don't believe in waiting for inspiration. It's our task to create it.

 

 

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

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A couple of questions:

 

1. How much time do you like to spend on creating the environment for a book (world, characters, history, etc) before actually writing the book?

 

2. What is your favourite part of the writing process?

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It's hard to quantify exactly how much time I do spend on setting up a new book, or especially a new series, because I usually think about aspects of it, on and off, for some time before I even sit down to formally develop the background and the culture, but it does take several weeks at a bare minimum.

 

As for what I like most about the writing process... I can't really say I like one part more than any other -- but the hardest part is when I'm roughly three quarters through a new book and it feels as though I'll never finish it... and that it's terrible.

 

 

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

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When you reach that "mid-book slush" where you ar epushing towards the end, how do you deal with that? How do you push through that and write a satisfying ending?

 

Also, in the Imager Portfolio, you write in the 1st person POV. I have begun to see this more often in SF/F and wonder what drew you to 1st person POV as opposed to the "standard" 3rd person limited?

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I just push through it, knowing that it's just part of the process.

 

As for first person viewpoint, it's nothing new for me. Actually, my very first book was written in the first person, and that was more than 30 years ago. From an authorial point of view, I believe that an author should choose viewpoint based on the needs of the story. In the case of The Magic of Recluce, for example, the story would have been a total disaster if told in the third person, because Lerris would have come off as a totally spoiled brat, as opposed to a well-meaning, but clueless young man who was initially too immature for the position in which he found himself.

 

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

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Which part of your stories do you usually find come the easiest? Meaning, character's, setting, actual plot of what the whole story will be about, what seems to flow easiest for you? And which are harder?

 

When you first get the idea to start a new work do you start building off the same point. Do you think of a world and create a story around it, or think of a character and create plot for them? Or does it change with each new idea for a story?

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That part which is the most difficult tends to vary book by book, although describing the actual setting [as opposed to the structural backdrop of culture, geography,government,magic system]is never as difficult as other aspects. Dialogue usually is less of a problem. but that's likely because it rests on all the harder aspects, which have to come before.

 

Where books come from for me depends more on the kind of book. With fantasy novels, a great amount of the genesis arises from thinking about the interplay between culture, economics, and the magic system... and how characters can find themselves in trouble. With my science fiction, usually the plot and cahracters come from the overall situation I'm thinking about... but I can't tell you from where those situations come, except from a wide, wide range of reading and processing by my subconscious, prodded by sharp mental questions of my own.

 

Call it a fusion of a trusted intuition with more information than is likely good for a sane mind.

 

 

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

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When did you know that writing was more than just a hobby for you? Was it difficult to make the switch from hobby to career?

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Writing was NEVER a hobby for me. I started out writing poetry in high school, got some of it published in small literary magazines in my twenties, then moved to writing short stories and finally novels over a twenty-year period. From high school on, writing was what I wanted to do. What was difficult was getting established enough as a writer to move from the well-paid day job [and it was] to a self-sustaining writer. The first two years after I did so[and that was after having already published something like nine novels, all of which earned out]resulted in something like a forty percent income cut.

 

But I persevered, and one of the things that still drives me is that I never want to go back to work for anyone else again.

 

 

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

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Do you ever grow attached to the characters you are writing, and have trouble putting them in difficult situations?

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Not since an early novel, when my then-teenaged son informed me that I needed to abuse my characters more... I do grow attached to them, but I enjoy figuring out how they can plausibly and practically surmount such difficulties.

 

 

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

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Hi there, and wonderful to see you on DM :)

 

What is your preferred method of writing? Ie using a desktop, laptop, or old style pen and paper? Do you carry something around to take notes on for when ideas strike you at odd times? DO ideas strike you at odd times?

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Hello, and welcome.

 

A persistent area of debate among WoT fans is around the treatment of gender issues in Jordan's books. Gender was a key component of your earlier Recluse novels, but seems to have become less important over time. Why is that? Have you simply said what you wanted to say on the matter, or is there another reason it has faded into the background?

 

Thanks.

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I love the Recluce saga and have read it a number of times. When it comes to stories I have read I always come up with the same questions. I love behind the scene things and what I wonder for you is, were there any scenes or moments that you wanted so badly to include but just couldn't find a way to make them work? Were there any unexpected occurrences that you wrote that surprised even you because it was just the logical course the character should have taken? Or are you more methodical with your writing and your characters go exactly where you want them to. I promise, last question and it has nothing to do with writing. For an amusing light hearted read what would you recommend?

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Hi there, and wonderful to see you on DM :)

 

What is your preferred method of writing? Ie using a desktop, laptop, or old style pen and paper? Do you carry something around to take notes on for when ideas strike you at odd times? DO ideas strike you at odd times?

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My preferred method of writing is on computer, usually a desktop. I started out writing with a typewriter because my penmanship is lousy, and I get writer's cramp after a few hundred words, if not sooner.

 

Ideas do strike me at odd times, but I can usually remember them long enough to get back to where I can jot down notes [and those I do jot down at times with a pen].

 

 

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

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I really love the Imager books, but must admit that the Recluce tales are my favourite books. Do you think you will write more of them?

I read the Forever Hero saga last month for the first time, and the first thing I noticed was that your style of writing was completely different to the Recluce and Imager novels. Was this a conscious thing or not?

Edited by Crangill

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Thanks for joining us, Mr. Modesitt. One thing that caught my attention in your Recluse novels was the third-person present tense you wrote in; not many writers use it and it was jarring at first, then kind of captivating. How did you hit on that, and what made you use it?

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