David Gemmell Del Rey internet newsletter interview (1997)

Brian G Turner

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DRIN = Del Rey internet newsletter

Jon Shannow, the dark protagonist from WOLF IN SHADOW, is one of those intensely compelling characters who, from the moment you meet him, lives and breathes. And as his raconteur, David Gemmell, once discovered, Shannow is a character who refuses to stop living and breathing, regardless of what Fate (or the author) may have planned for him. Here he explains:

THE HERO WHO WOULD NOT DIE

There was no doubt in my mind about what happened to Jon Shannow when he rode into the mountains, wounded and alone. He was dying. And Jerusalem beckoned.

Yet once the novel was published, reader reaction was immediate. How long to the next Shannow story? The answer was simple: Thank you for your letter, and I am glad you enjoyed Jon Shannow’s tale, but he is dead. There will be no more adventures.

Isent just such a response to a fan in Liverpool. He knew better and wrote back immediately. “No he’s not! No way!”

It was a real shock–as if he knew something I didn’t. I showed the letter to one of my test readers. Her amused response was, “Hey, maybe he’s right. You don’t know everything, David: You’re only the author.”

From that moment I started wondering about Shannow. Could there have been some miracle on the mountain?

At around the same time I received a number of reviews for WOLF IN SHADOW. Some were very good, some were indifferent, but one was downright vile. One of the lines in it struck me particularly. “I dread to think of people who look up to men like Jon Shannow.” The writer was named Broome.

Twenty years of journalism had taught me not to overreact to criticism. A writer’s work is not his child. It is just a work. A work of love and of passion, but a work nonetheless.

Even so, I wanted to react in some way. All the characters in my novels are based on real people, and I thought it would be a neat response to use a character named Broome–a man passionately opposed to violence who would loathe the hero, but be drawn into his world. It was in my mind that he would be a cannon-fodder character, of little consequence, who would die early. But, as with so much in the magical world of creative writing, events did not–as you will see–turn out anything like I had planned.

It took only one more little nudge to push me into a second Shannow novel. I was driving home one night, listening to the radio, when the haunting lyric of a new song struck home like an arrow.

The singer was a brilliant new American artist named Tracy Chapman, and the song spoke of racism and riots, and the appalling violence that has sadly become commonplace in the impoverished inner cities of the USA. One line had immense power for me…
“Across the lines who would dare to go…”

I knew who would dare.

Igot home around 2 am and immediately switched on the word processor. I had no idea how to get around the apparent death of my hero in the first book, and did not wish to write a prequel novel. In the end I used the simplest device there is. I began with the words…

……..But he did not die…..

–Copyright 1997 by David Gemmell
 

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