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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Interview w/ David Bryan Russell

David Bryan Russell is the author of Enchanters, which I reviewed here. Appreciation goes to Mr. Russell for agreeing to do this interview. Here goes:

First, can you tell us a bit about yourself? What drew you into authorhood, and why fantasy?

I refer to myself as a 'professional dreamer.' My creative journey began in early childhood, inspired by adventure stories and mythology, especially the Norse sagas. I began writing around age 12, and concurrently started drawing about the same time. The visual arts eventually dominated my creative output, but my interest in literature never flagged.

Regarding my preference for fantasy...well, the colourful Norse sagas lit the initial fire, followed by the body of fantasy literature that fortuitously began to re-emerge in the popular press during my late adolescence. In any case, I have always found the genre full of depth and meaning. In a sense, fantasy constantly seeks to re-imagine the spirit world, and in the process can provide insights to humankind's most perplexing issues.

What have been some of your influences as a writer?

I've mentioned mythology and fantasy literature, to which I should add the imaginative output of such diverse artists as Caravaggio, Rubens, Jack Kirby, Frank Frazetta, NC Wyeth, Gaugin, Lautrec, and select Pre-Raphaelites, all of whom were excellent visual storytellers.

What are some of your favorite books, whether fantasy or otherwise? abbreviated list must include The Three Musketeers, Huckleberry Finn, David Copperfield, Wind in the Willows, The Time Machine, Treasure Island, Walden, Women in Love, The Jungle, The Grapes of Wrath, 1984, Invisible Man: A Novel, Fritz Lieber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, The Martian Chronicles, and the following books by Jack Vance: Tschai, Demon Princes, Durdane, and Dying Earth series, and Emphyrio.

Could you tell everyone a bit about your novel, Enchanters?

It's a contemporary fantasy adventure, powered by love. I enjoyed writing the book, which allowed me to distill a number of concepts about magic, and of humanity's relationship to the natural world.

It’s clear from Enchanters that you have a vested interest in the state of the environment.

True. This forms part of the motivation of the principal character, but Enchanters is no environmental polemic.

What drew you to translate this into the world of fiction?

It seemed logical for the character, and the hidden world of magic to which she belongs.

Enchanters is a curious novel that tackles the issue of human pollution from a unique angle. What prompted you to create this side world, where the Enchanters exist as a sort of oppositional force to humanity’s lesser qualities?

I would not view the Enchanters as oppositional; in fact, it's clearly stated that they were once bound quite closely to humans. However, circumstances altered over time.

In essence, Enchanters charts the personal journey of Glys Erlendsen into a heretofore unseen world, one in which the goals of humanity and those of the Enchanters are often at odds. How she deals with these dilemmas provides the basis of the adventure.

Set in Norway , Enchanters seems relatively steeped in regional folklore. What about the country's mythology that so fascinates you?

As I mentioned, Norwegian cosmology stirred my imagination from an early age. The country is almost unique in Europe, in the sense that it never accepted the Christian concept of duality--that is, the existence of an absolute right, and absolute wrong. In simplistic Christian terms, god on one hand, the devil on the other. This flexible thinking--despite the brutal aspects of the Viking period--allowed for the eventual development of a rather egalitarian culture. Most importantly, however, Norwegians successfully held onto their beliefs in the spirit world, and to this day recognise the presence of fairies, elves, trolls, and other magical beings. In part because of these beliefs, Norwegians have an intense reverence for the natural world. I observed these singular traits during my first visit to Norway in 2002, and thereafter decided to set the Enchanters storyline in the country.

Do you see fantasy as a great genre through which to examine the human condition as you have in Enchanters?

Beyond question it is a supple medium for the exploration of the deeper issues of life. Alas, few authors recognise this potential.

What drew you to publish with a small press, and how has your experience been with them?

As you have observed, Enchanters is a unique novel. I felt that a small press would be more likely to recognise its potential than a globalist publishing house, where editorial departments routinely favour non-original (and non-controversial) material.

What are some advantages, in your opinion, of being published with a small press?

Personal attention, editorial and marketing support, and (most importantly) the gift of time to develop one's ideas.

What other projects do you have coming up, and can you tell us a little about them?

The sequel to Enchanters, entitled A Shining Realm, will be released in Fall 2010. I am also currently outlining a new series of fantasy novels set in a fully-imagined world.

What unusual piece of writing advice would you give to budding writers?

Ignore contemporary trends, and develop the most original work you can manage. Be mindful that most writers are seeking to emulate film and television writing, which is inappropriate for the development of potent fantasy literature. Study the great books of the past, and of the present, especially those outside of one's preferred genres.

Now for a random question: If you could be the King (or Queen) of any country during medieval times, which country and why?

I presume you refer to the European medieval period...It's an odd question, since the era was miserable for rich and poor alike, primarily due to the cultural death grip of the region's vile religious institutions. In any case, I myself am quite egalitarian, and would thus never consider occupying a position of life and death over my fellow human beings.

And there you go!

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