Guest Post by Scott Cole: A Conversation with John C. Wright

Monday , 5, December 2016 12 Comments

Despite it being written for the juvenile market I’m enjoying the Moth and Cobweb series and recommend it to both the lay reader and fantasy fan. In fact, I almost finished reading Swan Knight’s Son in one sitting. The storyline is simple: we follow a boy and his dog through many adventures as the boy fulfills his destiny in a hostile world. Despite this simplicity there is much to think about as we witness someone whose ethos is rooted in a spiritual age navigate the modern world.

Wright draws upon an amazing amount of material and populates his universe with characters and creatures taken from a variety of mythologies. I could list the various myths and novels that either influence or make a cameo appearance in Feast of the Elfs but despite filling pages I would still miss a lot. I recommend brushing up on your Arthurian mythology, even if it is just a quick review as Gil is affected by those events from long ago. Additionally, I suspect that a lot of the Elfs’ techniques used to fool the human race can be found in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. The end effect is a tale that prompts pleasant memories or discoveries of new myths and creatures I would like to know more about.

When I read Jeffro’s review I wasn’t surprised he mentioned Ruff, the dog in this tale. I enjoy the what Ruff brings to the tale, especially as I was apprehensive that he would be an irritating distraction to the story but Wright does a fine job building a charismatic character.

To rate Feast of the Elfs and the Moth and Cobweb series I’ll assign one to five stars based on the likelihood of reading the book again:

One star: Can’t finish the book.
Two stars: Finished the book but it was a chore.
Three stars: Finished the book; enjoyed it but probably won’t read again.
Four stars: Will definitely reread the book again.
Five stars: Just like The Hobbit and other classics will return to this book again and again throughout my life.

Four stars for both of the first two books and the series so far. I definitely want to reread this again to take notes on the many characters, creatures and stories I want to know more about and to discover many of the references and subtle plot points I missed the first time around.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing John Wright and sure you will enjoy the conversation below:

Scott Cole:   After reading both books my thought is the series is influenced by The Once and Future King and shares similarities with the Book of Revelations (i.e. descriptions of some of the beasts, especially at the first elf tournament), Shakespeare, Narnian anthropomorphism, and Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch along with a multiple mythological references.

Am I off with the above paragraph and are there other influences the reader should be aware of?

John C Wright: You are a little off, but not too far. Any similarity with Lukyanenko’s NIGHT WATCH is pure coincidence. Shakespeare I certainly steal from, but I don’t recall stealing anything from Narnia, aside from a mood. I am not a fan of T.S. White; I take my Arthuriana from Mallory and the Mabinogion and Tennyson’s IDYLLS OF THE KING. Alan Gardner’s WEIRDSTONE OF BRISINGAMEN is also an inspiration.

Since the book is called SWAN KNIGHT’S SON’S SQUIRE, expect to see the events of THE SWAN KNIGHT’S SON played out. Also, I decided to borrow the bad guys from G.K. Chesterton’s THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY, and to make Gil a member of the Last Crusade.

SC: What was the inspiration for the Moth and Cobweb series?

JCW: Once upon a time I asked my editor, Vox Day, what I could write that would reach a wider audience. He suggested writing something aimed at the juvenile market, and said that talking animals were always popular.  He also admired my short story ‘A Parliament of Beast and Birds’ which appeared in the anthology BOOK OF FEASTS AND SEASONS.

The mystery of where writers get their ideas is a perennial one, but the truth is that we have no more ideas than anyone else. The difference is that, unlike muggles, we write our ideas down and use them. Every writer I have ever met keeps a notebook in purse or pocket or in his smartphone where he jots down ideas.

So, I threw the idea of a talking animal into the pot and looked through my notebook of unused ideas to find what else might go into the stew. Usually a writer needs three ideas to get the ball rolling.

I had the germ of an idea that had been in the back of my mind for some years, a juvenile originally set in a mythical place called Uncanny Valley, Nevada, where four seniors in high school, cousins, each had to do an apprenticeship or internship over the summer with one or another of their mad uncles. Instead of the normal jobs, because some of their uncles were from beyond the fields we know, the kids end up being a squire to a knight, the sidekick to a superhero, a sorcerer’s apprentice, or something of the sort.

A second idea came not from my notebook but from my wife’s Harry Potter inspired role playing game. Like all the games we run, we made up our own rules. In her role playing game, she decided that in addition to buying character stats like strength or scholarship, dexterity and intelligence, you could also buy social stats like fortune, friends, fame, and family. So, for example, an orphan with a vast bank account would have a zero in family and high marks in fortune, whereas a poor boy from a large and supportive family would have the opposite.

One innovation in her rule system, which I had not seen used elsewhere, was that each player had a star he could use to mark one stat and only one he had purchased, and this carried a secret benefit revealed in the course of the game. So, for example, putting a star in scholarship gave the character total recall. Putting the star in family meant you were a member of the largest and most supportive extended family imaginable, the children of the seneschal of Titania, the Moths. This did not give you any magic powers, but it meant that you had uncles and cousins both in the human world and beyond, including royalty, famous scientists, mermaids, and so on. Indeed, my wife had umpired more than one game with these rules, so it became sort of a running joke that I always played a member of the Moth family. My first character was named Dusty Moth, and he was a cowboy from Utah, and an amateur alchemist, who had the blood of elves in his background.

The third idea came from the song ERLKOENIG or the medieval tale of TAM LIN, where a boy is being sold by the elfs to hell. I had noticed that elfs and fairy creatures from the days before Tolkien and Gary Gygax, and indeed from before Shakespeare’s MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, were actually quite spooky and frightening, not the pretty and twee tween girls of Disney’s Tinkerbell cartoons.

I noticed traces of the sulfurous scent of the inferno clinging even to such recent and childish works as DARBY O’GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE, a favorite film of mine, based on an older series of books, where the Leprechauns are terrified by the powers of a parish priest, whose blessings and exorcisms can shrivel them. Even in the lighthearted Disney version, as in the original books, the elfs are angelic beings who neither aided Satan during his rebellion, nor fought on the side of Heaven, and so were cast out of paradise, but not all the way to Hell. (This also is an echo of older and medieval tales and speculations. See THE DISCARDED IMAGE by C.S. Lewis for a good description of what he called the longaevi, the long-lived nonhuman beings that folk tales say live among us.)

I have nothing against the delicate, diminutive elves of Shakespeare nor against the noble immortals of Tolkien, and indeed no father with a daughter should be allowed to dislike Disney’s Tinkerbell. Nonetheless, I am long enough in the tooth to recall fantasy books written before Tolkien, when the mood and atmosphere was different, as in Poul Anderson’s THE BROKEN SWORD, and I wanted to try my hand at portraying it.

And I always wondered what had happened to the elfs of Otherworld since the long lost days of King Arthur.  They are not something human beings are supposed to meddle with. What if the elfs had not vanished from the world, but instead, having conquered it, were content to blind their human cattle so that we could no longer see and fight them?

Yet, as a theological speculation, one also wonders if the elfs are exiled permanently, as the demons are, or if some hope of redemption will ever be offered them.

Putting these several ideas together, additional ideas began to suggest themselves: what if Moth had intermarried both human and nonhuman wives for some ulterior motive? If humans could be saved by baptism, and elfs could not, what becomes of a half-breed?

Writers often find that a critical mass of ideas, having been reached, the creative fire is ignited, and the disparate elements begin to make themselves into the stew of their own accord. The story comes to life.

And, finally, a more poignant question asked itself: what would a boy who was suited only to be a knight, honest, valiant, upright and pure, were placed in the modern day?

SC:  Do you have the full story line developed or are Gil’s future adventures unknown?

JCW: The outline for all twelve books is written in extensive detail. Gilberec is the viewpoint character only for the first trilogy. The others concern his cousins, Yumiko Moth, Tomorrow Moth, and Matthias Moth. Yumiko is the sidekick to an avenging vigilante, Tom Moth is the intern to a mad inventor, and Matthias is a novice to an exorcist.

SC: Why “elfs” over “elves”?

JCW: I wanted to use the old pre-Tolkien spelling since I was using older pre-Tolkien elfs. I have heard that when another scholar wanted to correct Tolkien’s preferred spelling of “elves”, and told him to go look in the Oxford English Dictionary, Professor Tolkien, who had served on the editorial committee, replied briefly, “Sir, I wrote the Oxford English Dictionary.”

SC: Maybe Tolkien is responsible for single handily changing the spelling from elfs to elves!

I’ll avoid going down a rabbit hole but couldn’t resist looking into the Oxford English Dictionary anecdote. No doubt Tolkien had a great influence changing the plural to elves but I couldn’t find a smoking gun online. Seems Tolkien was assigned to the W section and many of his words (e.g., hobbit and orc) were incorporated into future editions.

JCW: I think I read the anecdote in a book by Walter Hooper, but I would not swear to it.

SC: When the horse Celingalad tells Gil that “noro lim, noro lim” should be used for “giddyup” you are paying homage to Glorfindel racing to the Ford of Bruien.

JCW: Yes. There are several little in-jokes like that throughout the books.

SC: Additionally, I came across at least one use of “elves” in Feast of the Elfs.  Was this an editing oversight or intentional?

JCW: It’s a typo. I make many. Call Castalia House immediately.

SC: The human world is scientifically advanced but the elfs stay in the Age of Chivalry. Is this by choice?  A clue may be when Celingalad tells Gil “elfs build nothing” but the fall from grace predated the medieval age so there obviously was some advancement from those pre-historical times.  Guessing you are waiting to reveal the reason later in the series?

JCW: Ah… your questions are based on an odd assumption which, frankly, never occurred to me.

In my background the elfs conquered the human race after the Catholic Church lost its power and influence, since only Christian faith has to power to cast elfs and their evils back into the Pit. As the Black Spell of the Elfs gained more and more hold over the minds and imaginations of men, the humans became worldly, cowardly, unchivalrous, greedy, and foolish, and so the institutions and customs of the Middle Ages were dismantled, and the uglier and more ignoble institutions and customs took sway.

These modern systems of thought are meant to keep modern men in the supine and pliant posture of cattle, bovine in their indifference, bullish in their arrogance, distracted, worldly, and easily damned to Hell.

The Middle Ages was actually the period in human history where the most innovations in all the science, arts, and scholarship were made most rapidly, and legal and social institutions where most perfectly suited to real human needs and the limits of human psychology. I will not bore you with a list of the accomplishments, but I will mention in passing such things as the university system, the printing press, the windmill, the stirrup, Gothic architecture, the cannon, canon law, musical notation, and perspectival drawing, and the elimination of slavery and of divorce throughout Europe. (It is notable that slavery returned during later ages.)

The United States Constitution with its checks and balances and its system of federalism is one of the few very successful modern attempts to return to the limited government of the Feudal period. The Constitution has more in common with the Magna Charter or the charters of medieval cities than with the legal theory of the absolute monarchs or unlimited parliaments of the Reformation or the so-called Enlightenment.

So, yes, it is by choice, but it is the choice of the elfs, not ours.

Now, the elfs make nothing because they are damned. They are imitating and impersonating human ways and laws which they themselves do not understand and could not create.  In prehistorical times, they retained a clearer memory of the heaven from which they fell, and had even more dignity, freedom, and honor than they retain at present.

As for scientific progress, the elfs have no need of it. A woman who can fly to the moon wearing a swan cape does not need a rocketship.

(Nonetheless, there are scientists among the elfs, or, at least, superscientists among the Twilight Folk. The hero of the third trilogy MAD INVENTOR’S INTERN, is one such.)

SC: You mentioned Gil’s cousin, Yumiko Moth appearing later in the series and will introduce Japanese and Hindu mythology into the storyline. Earlier you mentioned that the elfs finally gained power over humanity when the Catholic church lost power. Were there Buddhist and Hindu saints that kept the elfs at bay for a time?

JCW: Certainly not. The elfs conquered in those lands with no resistance. The otherworldly detachment sought by the Buddhists, in my book, is the sin of Sloth, that is, indifference to heavenly things. The nirvana in which the ego is quenched is no different from the land of the Lotos-eaters. The caste system of India and the inhuman Mandarin system of the Far East are examples of what humans ruled by elfs are like: the leaders arrogate divine titles to themselves, and the slave classes are desolate in hopeless misery, life and life trapped in endless reincarnations forever.

It would be odd, to say to least, to write a book where the worshippers of Kali, or men who burned widows on pyres, were depicted as having the holiness needed to repel the powers of hell.

SC: Were there other religions or cultures that provided a bulwark against the elfs?

JCW: Yes and no. I am following the idea of Justyn Martyr, the patron saint of philosophers, who holds that pagan gods are fallen angels in disguise, seeking to be worshiped by men for the same reason the Pharaoh, the Emperor of China, and the Caesars of Rome sought divine honors. In the East, one is as likely to find a shrine erected to the glory of a devil like Kali or Onigamisama as to a kindly being like Kwan-yin.

Mohamedanism, in this background, is treated as an adulterated offshoot or heresy of Christianity, and an uncompromising foe of Christ and His Church. The text does not say whether or not this heresy retains enough of its roots to seal genii into brass jars with the seal of Solomon: I have yet to hear from the muse on that point. Since the Mohammedan rite of excorcism, or ruqya, also has prayers to Allah as part of the rite, my own theological inclinations would be to say nothing prevents the God of Abraham from answering favorably. If Emeth the Calomine from C.S. Lewis’ THE LAST BATTLE can pray to Tash and have Aslan answer, I assume this is a lawful theological speculation to include in an adventure novel.
However, in this background, the apotropaic rites and rituals of pagan religions do not take their force from a divine source. However, the elfs and imps, Nephilim and other beings are bound by rules which some magicians, witch-doctors and medicine men know, and there are certain signs and symbols used in pagan rites which prove to have authority over the elfs.

A Shinto purification ritual, for example, might have power over an elf from Japan, in the same way the Egyptian Book of Going Forth by Day would have power over a shabti or mummy or the like.

However, in this make-believe background, as in real life, all non-divine promises of power have a steep price, and betray the magician in the long run, sometimes in the short run. The reader will notice that magic in this book is not like the D&D magic of Gary Gygax, or even like the Dying Earth magic of Jack Vance. Those are alternative technologies, and no sin nor stain adheres to the technician to employs them. Even the simple matter of calling up a ghost to predict the future for you is a matter of mortal peril, and immortal.

SC: You mentioned earlier that the elfs imitate and impersonate human ways and laws so I’m guessing they also follow the overall cultures in their area, for example, elfs in and around Japan living by the Samurai code instead of European chivalry?

JCW: Yes. Elements from the Kojiki, the ‘Accounts of Ancient Matters’ is in the background in the second trilogy. One main character, for example, is the granddaughter of Kasumehime-no-Mikoto, who is the daughter of Susa-no-O the impetuous storm god of Japan. Yakanshiryoku Moth is a Tengu, a raven spirit.

SC: Why do you think the medieval period still holds the popular imagination?

JCW: Because, while it had its drawbacks, the Medieval period is superior to our modern world with its holocausts of Jews and holocausts of unborn babies, its buildings that look like inhuman concrete cubes, its modern art of piss and rubbish, its wars without chivalry and politics without honor, its atomized and faceless masses, and the endless and ignoble whining of the perpetually aggravated. The popular imagination seeks an oasis in the arid desolation of modernity.

There are only three possible worlds. Either the world is larger than you think, or just the same size, or smaller than you think.

The medievals lived in a world which, like Hamlet, they knew was larger than what was dreamed of by their philosophy, full of mystery, wonder, and miracle.

The sober men of the Eighteenth Century lived in a world the same size as their minds, where they imagined the machinery of the cosmos was understood and known. There were no miracles, but everything made sense.

The moderns live in a smaller world than their minds. They have reduced everything to nothing. There are no miracles and nothing makes sense.

Modern men are told they are machinelike beings, naked apes controlled by environment and genetics and subconscious traumas, children of the blind collisions of atoms in a cosmos that is meaningless, hopeless, and empty. History is controlled by economic forces beyond understanding, and fate is entropy leading to the heat death of the universe. Love is nothing but chemicals in the groin, and thought it nothing but electrical spams in the brain. There is no truth, no beauty, no point to life, and death is final.

Now, there can be debate which world one thinks is the one that best fits the real world, but there can be no debate about which world is the only one fit for a man to dwell in.

SC: Generally, I agree and like your mention of the three possible worlds. A thought experiment based on your answer: I was wondering if I had the choice to live in the medieval age but had to live as a serf (villain); would the spiritual benefits outweigh the material benefits of the modern age? One can argue that someone with a debt burden (mortgage, student loans, car payments) is not truly free but an advantage of modern times is that we still have the choice of assuming these debts and are not born into them.

JCW: Well, are we talking about why stories tend to be set in the Middle Ages, or are we talking about where it is best to live?

As a setting for a story, a society devoted to a high and noble goal is innately more dramatic than one with no such goal: it is the difference between a tale set on a ship with a destination fighting the adverse seas to reach it, and a tale set on a drifting raft that flows with the tide. (Not that there is anything against drifting tales. They can be good in other ways. They are simply not as dramatic.)

In the Middle Ages, the state as well as the church had a vision of summum bonum the greatest good. This was a vision transcendent of merely political considerations, toward which all men from king to peasant were subject. This is very different from the modern conception of society as being a mechanism for securing rights and prosperity. A man was part of society then, and society was meant for a higher purpose. It is the difference between living in a house and sojourning in a hotel. Houses are innately more dramatic than hotels: no one dies in loving defense of his hotel room.

As a place to live, the answer depends mostly on what one wants out of life.

Certainly to be the rich and privileged child of the United States is superior even to being the Emperor of Byzantium. For one thing, we can get an aspirin for a headache and the Emperor cannot.

Now, if you want to compare the highest of the modern age with the lowest of the past, this is a slanted comparison.

Let us compare low with low: The life of a serf in the middle ages was superior in every respect to the life of a Russian kulak under communism. For one thing, the serf could not be put off his land: it was his by right. He participated in colorful festivities involving the whole village, and had more days off work than a modern American. The kulak could be starved in myriads under government orders, and newspapers in the West would not even report the famine to be real.

Or compare high with high. The Premier of China has no one to restrict and restrain him, and so his chances of serving his term without damning himself to hell is minute. In the medieval period, even an emperor could be humbled to repentance, and be forced to walk barefoot in the snow seeking forgiveness. Tyranny was harder to fall into for the high; the fate of having your life destroyed and being a forgotten statistic was harder to fall into for the low.

There were more frequent wars in the Middle Ages, indeed it was an age when Europe tottered on destruction, caught between the jaws of Northern Vikings and Southern Jihad. But the concept of “total war” was not present, and civilizing influences and restraints were. The death toll from modern scientific weapons or modern efficient mass-slaughters was not there.

SC: What essential part of the Christian faith was lost leaving humans defenseless against the machinations of the elfs?

JCW: In my book, the elfs are allies (or slaves) of hell, and any power that opposes hell opposes them.

The progress of the elfs taking over is measured by how rapidly common people stopped believing in them. Whenever an elf becomes invisible, he become invulnerable. No one can defend against an unseen foe.

The crucial date in my make-believe history, the point when the Black Spell was cast, was 1881, when Czar Alexandria, Garfield, and Haymarket Rally were all attacked by anarchists (who were Cobwebs, or agents of the Cobwebs). But the deterioration began with the skepticism, first of theologians and philosophers, and later of common people, that eroded belief in the supernatural. Men like Voltaire and Edward Gibbon, knowingly or not, were agents of the Elfs.

The fairies became more difficult to see after 1881, the last glimpse being about 1917, when the Cottingly Fairies were photographed by Frances Griffiths and Elise Wright (whom I hope is a relation of mine).

SC:  Not sure if you game but if you do, what role playing game would most suit the Moth and Cobweb universe?

JCW: I game extensively and obsessively. For a poor man, it is the best entertainment, because all it costs is a little imagination, and a pencil and some paper. Extravagant people also use dice and miniatures, but not I.

Here are the rules for my wife’s Roanoke Academy game from her series of books. This is where the Moth family originally came from.  To be a Moth, put your star in family.

SC: Could you expand on how the game is run, cost, etc.? I believe the game uses a pre-set universe and you and your wife run campaigns but the last sentence of the rules page states that whoever wants to run a campaign contact you first. For those interested how much does it cost and how many players can play at once?

JCW: Your mistake is understandable. We are not running an online game. The rules are offered free of charge for anyone who wants to run a game using those rules. The line asking you to contact her is meant only for moderators who want to know some of the in-game secrets which the players, at gamestart, should not know.

SC. I’d say Gil’s Sorcery attributes are strong for scholastic aptitude, good for innate magic and perception and body. My guess at his social attributes are:

Fame: 0
Fortune: 3
Family: 10 (use star)
Familiar: At least 5 (must use more All Purpose points to get the dog to 5 and above)
Friends: More will be revealed in the book but at least an 8.

JCW: Gil is actually superhumanly strong, so his body is 12. He is a poor scholar. His Fame is 4, because everyone in the elf world has heard of his mother, Ygraine of the Reeds. His fortune is 3. His family is a 10 with a star, because he is a Moth.

Here is a conundrum. If I were moderating, I would say Ruff is not a familiar, but a friend, who works for Alberec’s espionage service, so that is at least a 4 or 5. A familiar is an animal who goes into the spirit world for you to fetch things or act as a conduit for magic: Gil uses no magic, and has no familiar. But if my wife were moderating, she says Ruff is a familiar, because he never leaves Gil’s side. Since Ruff can use magic, such don elf gloves, mask scents, or dye hair, he would cost 10. So the ruling on nonhuman friends is a judgment call for the moderator.

Gil also spent more points on magic items than anyone is allowed: he has a magic sword, magic armor, magic horse, magic boat, magic eyesight, magic tongue, magic hair, magic girlfriend. His perception is 10 (since he can hear whether someone is lying or not, and see through illusions) but his innate magic score is basically zero.

Now, I seem to have gone over the point limit: but he also has a dread destiny and at least five points of enemies.

SC: I enjoy Ruff’s character, especially when he provides comedic relief. If I attempted to incorporate humor into a novel I know it would be difficult. Are there particular subjects, characters or genres that you find especially enjoyable or difficult to write?

JCW: There are no boring subjects on which to write, only boring writers. I try not to be one of those. Female characters are more difficult to write than male characters, at least for me, since it is difficult to write about someone smarter than oneself. Nonetheless, I greatly enjoy writing female characters because, despite what modern men say, they do not think like us. Modern science is beginning to catch up with ancient wisdom on that point. As for genres, I have never attempted anything outside speculative fiction and have no desire to do so.

SC: What are your favorite tales, myths, pantheons etc., you use when creating your fantasy worlds?

JCW: I like all the pantheons. Classical figures are my favorite since I am most familiar with them, but in this book I made extensive use of Arthurian mythology, in the next I throw in Japanese and Hindu myths. I steal ideas from everywhere. Like all great artists, I am a kleptomaniac. My hope is that the reader enjoyed many of the same books I did in youth, and wants to see material of similar mood and flavor.

SC: Any recommended reading that will help the reader enjoy the Moth and Cobweb series?

JCW: I suggest reading, in addition to the books mentioned above, the reading the books and authors listed in Appendix N of Gary Gygax’s AD&D, as well as any or all of the books of the Ballatine Adult Fantasy series.

SC: Unless I missed it in the first two books it seems the Cobweb family have yet to make an appearance?   There was some mention of them towards the end of Feast.

JCW: The Yeti who abducted Gil’s mother is a Cobweb. The Cobwebs are hunting Gil to kill him in the snows outside the feasthall, which is why he cannot leave. There are other mentions of the Cobwebs in the final book of the trilogy, but, they are not the main adversary in Gil’s story.

SC: When can we expect the third book of the series?

JCW: It comes out later this year, next month, in fact. [Editor’s note: it’s out!!!]

SC. That’s a pleasant surprise. At the beginning of this Q&A you mentioned you already have an extensive outline in place. Feast of the Elfs was released less than three weeks ago! For this series what is your writing system? The third book must have been completed and submitted for editing not too long ago.

JCW: I am writing to an outline, twelve books (four trilogies) of 50 to 65 thousand words each. Each trilogy will be combined into a single volume for hardback and paperback sales. I can produce a short novel of this size about once every four to six months, depending on other projects.

I am not sure what you mean by a system. I am not sure I have a system. To write, I sit down; face the blank paper fearlessly, like a man, without whimpering. I resist the impulse to read my email or answer odd questions (present company excepted). I write the beginning, then the middle, then the end. When all the blank paper is filled up with a good story, I stop. Whenever I get stuck, I assume the muse is trying to tell me something, and so I throw away ten to twelve pages of material and start again from that point. The editor makes suggestions: I cut and rewrite as he suggests, unless (and this is rare) the suggestions are unambiguously rotten ideas.

SC: Beyond your unused ideas notebook, do you still put pen (or pencil) to paper or mostly use the keyboard? I ask as it is interesting that the means of writing has changed but we still use and readily understand terms such as “blank paper” and “throwing away pages of material”.

JCW: I meant that as an expression. I never use real paper. I carry a pen at all times against the unlikely chance (which has happened from time to time) of meeting my one of my two fans, and discovering he wants me to autograph a book.

SC: Thank you for your time and good answers. I’ll end it here as I cannot wait for the rest of the series and need you back writing.

JCW: I will send you an advanced copy if you get impatient. That is one privilege any reader who interviews me gets. SWAN KNIGHT’S SON’S SWORD, the last of the first trilogy is finished, and so is DAUGHTER OF DANGER, the first of the second.

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  • Tim McDonald says:

    “Those are alternative technologies, and no sin nor stain adheres to the technician to employs them. Even the simple matter of calling up a ghost to predict the future for you is a matter of mortal peril, and immortal.”

    I suspect what John said was “immoral” and it was transcribed as immortal. John could confirm for certain.

    • Russell says:

      I interpreted it as “immortal peril” referring to peril to one’s soul – which is in keeping with the Catholic doctrine he’s referencing.

      • bob k. mando says:

        yes, “mortal peril, and immoral peril” would make no sense.

        frankly, i suspect that this is a reference to the Witch of Endor and Saul’s consultation of her.

        • Criticas says:

          But “mortal peril, and (an) immoral (act)” makes sense, and highlights that the act is not only dangerous, but wrong.

  • Vlad James says:

    As an advanced reader, I have loved the trilogy, and think the 2nd entry “Feast of the Elfs”, is a modern-day classic of the genre.

    There are many other series that I wonder whether Mr. Wright is aware of or drew inspiration from. For instance, reading the first book, I got a slight “The Castle in the Attic” vibe.

    Overall, a fine, illuminating interview.

  • icewater says:

    I wonder what are his reasons for disliking T.S. White. I tried to read “The Once and Future King” ages ago, as a teen. I abandoned it pretty early, I remember being pretty disappointed at how it turned out to be comical and filled with anachronisms that were jarring to me even back then, instead of being the sort of medieval fantasy I expected. But I was unable to see beyond surface back then, and the book is held in pretty high esteem among the readers from what I can tell.

    • Anthony says:

      I consider “The Ill-Made Knight” the second greatest fantasy novel ever written and a work of almost unparalleled brilliance, but “The Sword in the Stone” left me cold.

    • Anthony says:

      It’s also important to recognize that White’s anachronisms are all very much intentional. White’s official in-text explanation is that he is using modern terms to make it more understandable to folks reading it today, but the literary reason – I think – is that by using anachronisms and making it clear they’re intentional creates a sense of slight unreality about the world.

      TOaFK is clearly set in the middle ages, but it’s not pinned down to a more specific era the way, say, The Pendragon Cycle is. It’s a magical, idealized middle ages, represented most clearly by Camelot, and when Mordred, Lancelot, and Guinevere destroy it the whole era is dragged back into the realm of history – hence the arrival of Thomas Malory at the end of the story.

  • SciVo says:

    I would probably consider Ruff a symbiote — like George in LOST AND FOUND by Alan Dean Foster — and price him somewhere between a friend and a familiar.

  • Andrew says:

    The Moth series is awesome. I love it. Incredible.

    I love how he introduced a beautiful, almost mythologized Catholicism into. So many things like the calendar are forgotten and foreign to us that they seem like a “made up” fantasy world. Mr. Wright did an amazing job with this series.

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