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Stella Gemmell Interview

drosdelnoch

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2006
Messages
131
Hi All,
Stella has kindly agreed to let me interview her at the end of the month, so I am taking some questions from fans to ask. Whilst I cant guarantee that they will get asked I will endeavour to get a good few done.

Likewise I will not be taking stupid or insulting questions so please dont waste the time writing them. Mail me the questions and I'll place them in my list.

Thanks

Gareth
 

Winters_Sorrow

Unreg. Mutant Moderator
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Feb 1, 2005
Messages
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Location
Newcastle, UK
I've PM'd some questions Gareth.
I still feel sad when I remember that DG is no longer sitting at his desk, writing terrific myths & tales :(
 

drosdelnoch

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2006
Messages
131
Just to let people know the interview is back, thanks to those who submitted questions and hope you enjoy it.

As usual the interview can be found at '+'

EDIT: The interview appears below:


1) Why did you decide to finish the third part in David's Troy Trilogy and how are you finding writing the novel?

Dave was always very conscious of his mortality, and one of his fears was that he would die during the writing of a book. In the past, I know, he'd discussed with Stan Nicholls the possibility of Stan finishing a book for him if it came to that. If he had died during the writing of one of the fantasies, a one-off novel, I think I'd have spoken nicely to Stan, or James Barclay - both good friends - and, if they had the time, maybe tried to reach an agreement with the publishers that one of them would complete the book for Dave.

Troy was different. I'd not only done the original research for the books, I'd also lived with the characters for over three years. Dave would talk about his books all the time while he was writing, we'd discussed them at length, and I'd read every word, every scene, several times. I felt I knew Helikaon and Odysseus and Andromache better than I knew my own family. And, for the first time in this trilogy, I'd started contributing scenes for the books myself, beginning with Lord of the Silver Bow when Gershom watches as the Xanthos sail into Blue Owl Bay.

I felt Fall of Kings had to be finished, and I was the best person to do it. I knew the main plot developments, the intended fate of each character and, unusually, Dave had already worked out a rough chapter plan for the rest of the book.

Nevertheless, as an untried writer as far as the publishers were concerned, I was still reluctant to suggest to Transworld that I finish it. When I finally plucked up courage and put it to Selina Walker, Dave's editor, she was pleased and said she had not suggested it to me thus far only because she thought it would be too hard for me emotionally. In fact, it's just what I needed emotionally - a project that would keep me meaningfully occupied, and still working with my wonderful Dave.

But I found the work very hard. There's a great difference between writing the odd scene to order - which, as a journalist, I found fairly easy - and writing off my own initiative. I had never written a battle scene before, for instance, and one of my first moves was to research Dave's own books to find out how to construct one. Nervously, I ran all the major fight scenes past James Barclay (so we all know who to blame for any mistakes!). It sounds like a cliche, but I would not have been able to manage without the unstinting support of all our friends, fellow writers, Selina, who's been at my side every step of the way, and Dave's agent Howard Morhaim. And from last July 28 until the present Transworld have vindicated what Dave always said about them - they're the best publishers a writer could possibly ask for.

Fall of Kings is finished now. I submitted the edited draft two weeks ago. Dave's fans were never backwards in coming forwards with their opinion, and I'll find out what they think in September.

2) During the writing of "Fall of Kings" which, if any scenes, have been particularly difficult to write?

Yes, well, battle scenes. When she heard I was finishing Fall of Kings, a friend of mine told me, 'But Stella, you don't know a broadsword from a broad bean!' which I thought was a bit unfair. But it is true that I'd read a thousand Gemmell battle scenes without ever really thinking about the craft involved. I'd just thought, I suppose, 'Well that's just one of the things Dave's good at.' It's not like that, of course. He was good at battle scenes, the best - in his early years because he loved writing them, and in his later years because he'd had so much experience. But every word was measured, and every move planned - as his friends know - in this office I'm sitting in, with the swords and daggers and axes, and handguns and rifles and, oh, one tomahawk and one crossbow. But it was a steep learning curve for me.

The scenes I found easiest were those involving the characters I'd originally created in Silver Bow - including Odysseus and Priam, both wonderful men to write. And Banokles who, although Dave created him and he was a Gemmell character through and through, just leaped off the page. A Rick's Bar character, as DG would say.

3) How do you feel the completed book will be received and how do you think you will feel upon completion of the novel?

I have put my heart and soul into Fall of Kings; it's the best I can make it. I know Dave is pleased with me, because he always loved a trier. It doesn't really matter to me what anyone else thinks.

4) You mentioned that you will be taking some time to rediscover yourself after completing Fall of Kings. What, if any future plans do you have in regard writing such as a biography based on David or some stories based in his worlds?

I have no plans for any future writing at this time. I'm going to take a while to live with myself and find out who I am without my husband. A biography is not something I would rule out, though. Biographies of authors write themselves, in part, because so much is already written down. Dave had an interesting life, he was an unusual man in so many ways, and I think there's a splendid book there, but not just yet. Maybe not for many years. I have no interest in writing anything based on his previous work. Dave's work is done. Let's leave it at that and cherish what he's left us.

5) A number of fans have been enquiring into the possibility of other products relating to David's creations. What if any products can be expected or is that something that you wish to steer clear of?

Once a year or so we'd go up to Forbidden Planet for a book signing and Dave would cringe at some of the products on sale. (Although I must quickly add that he had a lot of time for 'the Planet' and his friends there. And I am the proud possessor of a beeping Star Trek communicator. And for two consecutive Christmases I gave Dave the swords Sting and Glamdring.) I guess there are products and products. At the top end of the scale Simon Fearnham at Raven Armoury made a wonderful Snaga for Dave, which is my prize possession, and which everyone who comes to this house gets to see. Simon is now working on the Swords of Night and Day.

But any product needs judging on its merits. Action figures of Star Trek or Star Wars characters work because we all know what they look like. But everyone has his or her own vision of Druss or Skilgannon or Bane, and any figurine is going to disappoint a sizeable majority of potential buyers. By the by, the French publishers Bragelonne have produced some wonderful small-scale versions of Snaga which Dave was very pleased with.

6) Which of David's books is your own personal favourite?

Legend. I can't say anything very original about why Legend was my favourite Gemmell. It was his first book, the one that remained closest to his heart. Although his technique improved and this themes became more sophisticated over the years, Legend was what Dave was all about. Read it, and you know everything about the man. I open a copy now and read a page or two, and Dave is instantly there, with his integrity, his loyalty, his cool insight into the inner darkness good men try to overcome, and his love for the man (or woman) who was prepared to go that extra mile, extra yard, for a principle.

7) David often mentioned that many of his characters were based on real people, ie Druss was based on his Step Father Bill, Which, if any of David's characters were based upon yourself?

That'll have to remain between Dave and me. No one else knows and no one will ever guess!

8) White Knight, Black Swan is seen as a Holy Grail novel by many fans, what is the likelihood of a reprint and when do you feel it should be released?

White Knight, Black Swan is rather a curiosity. It was written at a very particular time and place, the 1960s/70s when Dave was a young man in west London, and got involved in some dodgy doings with some very dodgy blokes. Its hero Bimbo is a archetypal Gemmell character, strong, honest, good-hearted, gallant towards women and with very old-fashioned moral principles. I haven't read the book for many years, but I feel it might be a little dated now. As a one-off it would not appeal to publishers who like series, or at least books which might lead on to other books.

9) With Legend being David's first published novel, is there any likelihood of a leather bound edition of the novel, such as the one planned originally by Orbit for the 20th Anniversary of the novels printing?

I've no idea. Obviously 2009 would be an ideal opportunity for a 25th anniversary Legend. I'd like to see it, and I'll suggest it to the publishers. People might have seen the Bragelonne 20th anniversary Legend. They also did a 20th birthday Waylander, which I received a couple of weeks ago. The boys at Bragelonne have always been terrific supporters of DG's work.

10) David never made it a secret how much he hated conducting research. How easy was it for you to immerse yourself into the ancient world?

I loved it! Dave originally asked me to do the research for Lion of Macedon, and it was a revelation to me how much I enjoyed it. We both became experts on the times, and I totally fell for Philip of Macedon, Alexander's father, who is a fascinating person (far more interesting than his psychotic son).

So I was thrilled to take on the late Bronze Age. The Trojan War was in about 1250BC and, being a thousand years before Alexander, much less is known of the times, which is both a bad and a good thing - bad because it's hard to find out just how the people lived, good because the writer is far freer to use his imagination. We've felt free to play fast and loose with history - for example, biremes like the Xanthos were probably not invented in the late Bronze Age, and the rams on them certainly weren't. Dave's view was, though, that Khalkeus was a genius, a Leonardo, ahead of his time, and was quite capable of building a bireme. The secret, of course, following the demise of the Xanthos, would have been lost for several hundred years...

Our touchstone was always Homer's Iliad, which is a wonderful read. I was surprised at some similarities between his battle scenes and Dave's. This might sound bizarre, but, for anyone who's interested, take a look at the death of Simoeisios in book 4 - not in the structure or the language, but in the compassion shown for a bit-part player who appears for just one paragraph to be killed by a hero. I thought Dave was the only writer who could pull that off so well.

11) With David having written 70-80,000 words for Fall of Kings, how did you go about writing the novel? IE was it a case of adapting to David's style or did you rewrite the novel from scratch so that it all flowed.

I just looked to see how far he'd got and carried on writing the next page. Dave's work was barely touched, except for light editing by me and Selina, and a couple of changes I had to make when I realised later on that I couldn't justify what he'd written earlier. For instance, I took out one three-page scene of Dave's introducing a character I realised I wasn't going to have the time or space to deal with properly. So no, if there was any adapting to be done, I've tried to adapt as far as possible to his style. Which is how it should be.

12) What do you think about David’s fans reaction to his passing?

I'm being totally honest when I say the support of fans was enormously helpful to me in the first few days and weeks. I'd check the website several times a day and each time I read all the heartfelt tributes I felt I was being supported by a family of friends from all over the world. Dave always said he had an exceptionally fine bunch of fans, and they proved it in spades last summer.

13) Over the years there's been a few of rumours about the possibility of a Gemmell film. Which of David's novels if you have the choice, would you like to see as a film and why?

It would have to be Legend. Film-makers now have the facilities to do justice to the scale of the siege and of Dros Delnoch.

And, in answer to an unasked question, Dave always thought Brian Blessed would make a fine Druss, or Sean Connery, of course, though he's getting on a bit now. We also both liked Vladimir Kulich, the leader in The 13th Warrior - in my opinion the most Gemmell-like of films.
 

Brian G Turner

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I've also tracked down the Stella Gemmell interview that drosdelnoch carried out, and reposted it in his last post on this thread, after rescuing it via archive.org.
 
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