I have always enjoyed the Dresden Files novels written by Jim Butcher. They are a guilty pleasure of mine, particularly in their audiobook edition when read by James Marsters and I have reviewed several of them in Catalan in the previous incarnation of this blog. Thus, when his book The Furies of Calderon was published in Spanish as Las Furias de Alera under the Literatura Fantastica imprint by RBA and I had the chance to interview Butcher for the imprint’s blog I jumped at it. The translated version of the interview was published at Literatura Fantastica several weeks ago and RBA has been kind enough to let me publish the original interview in english, so that all of you can enjoy it.
I’m very happy to introduce… Jim Butcher!
Interviewing Jim Butcher
You have explained in several interviews the origin of the Codex Alera series, but most of our readers don’t know how you came with it. Could you explain what led you to write The Furies of Calderon?
The series was born out of a bet I made with a fellow unpublished writer in an online workshop. He bet me that some ideas were so tired and so overused that they simply could not be written into a good story. I thought that even the worst ideas can be made into enjoyable stories with enough originality and work on behalf of the writer. So he bet me that I couldn’t do it if he gave me a bad enough idea. I told him to give me /two/ bad ideas, and I would use them BOTH.
The two themes he challenged me to write with? Lost Roman Legion and Pokemon.
Did it take a lot of research to create the world depicted in Furies of Calderon?
Yes and no. I’ve always had an interest in history, and in the history of empires in particular. I’d been learning things about the Roman Empire for years and years, in my primary schooling and in college and after university on my own, and I incorporated what I knew as part of the background for Alera.
Did you need to carry out any special research in order to invent the Furies-based magic in the novel?
Well. I /did/ play a lot of Pokemon in the 90s. It was something me and my son did together. 🙂
One of the many differences between Furies of Calderon and the Dresden Files novels is that you shed first person narrative in favor of third person and shift between several points of views. Could you explain how that influenced your approach to writing the story?
It is /so/ much easier, in many ways, than writing in the first person. As a creator, writing in the third person gives you so many more options of how you want to tell your story, which means you have a great deal more freedom in terms of setting pace, establishing dramatic tone, and keeping the reader’s attention. Of course, the pitfall of that kind of freedom is the same as in everything else–you’re free to make really stupid mistakes, too. But all in all, I really enjoy the change of pace from the first-person Dresden Files.
As a reader, and comparing again with the Dresden Files (of which I’m a great fan), in the Furies of Calderon novel I got a greater impression of freedom and of enjoyment, though I may be imagining it. Could you explain your experience regarding the process of writing the series?
Oh, I love my work. If you don’t love your work, as a writer, I believe the reader knows it, and that it reduces their enjoyment of the writing. By the time I’m done with a Dresden Files book, I am heartily sick of Harry Dresden, and I’m delighted to shift to other characters and do new and different stories. By the time I was done with an Alera book, I was delighted to be back in the saddle with Dresden again. The change of pace between the two series helps to keep things fresh and fun.
By the time this interview is published Spanish readers will be about to find the first novel in the series, Furies of Calderon, in their bookshops’ shelves, with further volumes to appear in the following months. What can they expect from this series?
Oh, everything you’d expect from storytelling set in, essentially, the Roman Empire–legions, plots, treachery, deception, courage, loyalty, gruesome death, barbarians, super-powerful elemental entities, nine-foot werewolves, hideous alien bug-creatures… wait, I’m pretty sure we departed from the Roman Empire canon somewhere…
The first novel is one of the most thrilling adventures I have read in a long time and it hints to a great number of intriguing subjects that will be covered in further books. Did you have the whole arc planned when you wrote this first novel?
I did indeed! The novels follow the life, mainly of Tavi of Calderon, the one young man in all of Alera who is born without magic, without the use of any elemental furies. The original title of the world was “Shepherdboy’s Fury” to keep in theme with all the rest of the books, but my editors didn’t like that title.
Codex Alera is a finished series consisting in 6 novels. Is there any chance of your revisiting this world again in the future?
I have no plans for it, specifically, but it remains a possibility. It would be great fun to go back in a few centuries after the events of the first series, to see the long-term results of the characters’ actions on their world.
It’s easy to frame the Codex Alera series in a tradition of high fantasy including writers like George R.R. Martin or Brandon Sanderson. Could you tell us something about the kind of books and authors you enjoy the most reading?
My favorite books to read tend to be military SF and military fantasy, including such authors as John Ringo and David Weber. I also love Brandon Sanderson’s work, as well as John Scalzi, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert B. Parker, and Benedict Jacka.
This one is hardly unexpected: do you plan to write something else outside of the Dresden Files universe?
Absolutely. I’m currently about a third of the way through my first steampunk novel, an adventure series which is currently titled The Cinder Spires.
Thanks a lot for your time, Mr. Butcher. Would you like to address some words to your readers in Spain?
Over time, I’ve learned that fans of science fiction and fantasy are the same the world over. We love so many of the same movies, television shows, games and books–in many ways, when I meet fans from overseas, it feels like meeting extended family I’ve never encountered before. I hope that readers in Spain will simply settle down and enjoy my work. Some writers try to write something deep and meaningful and profound. That really isn’t me. I just want to write something for the reader to enjoy.