Nov 29 2010 10:33am

Open Call for Questions for Ian Cameron Esslemont

Ian Cameron EsslemontNow that our reread of Night of Knives by Ian Cameron Esslemont has concluded, we’re putting up an open call for questions! Put the question in the comments here and we’ll compile them all, weed out any repetitions, then send them along to Cam for his answers. So start the questions coming; the sooner the better.

In the meantime, the Malazan Reread of the Fallen continues onward with Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson!

Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
One point of discussion that would be interesting to have some light shed upon is--"Just how dead were Kel and Dancer before entering the Deadhouse?"
Were they just kind of wounded?
or, were they not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead? (and then completed the walk in shadow night semi-ghost form)?
Rob Munnelly
2. RobMRobM
I also just noted something from Deadhouse Gates - one character is described as being someone whose father watched Kel and Dan ascend by going into the Deadhouse. I had not recognized that on earlier readthroughs. Who is the father being referred to?

Steven Halter
3. stevenhalter
Now that you have three novels under your belt, what lessons about the craft of writing have you learned as you've gone along?
Marc Rikmenspoel
4. Marc Rikmenspoel
When was the first draft of Night of Knives written? And the same for Return of the Crimson Guard. I've heard those were first written 20 years ago or so, and then re-written in the past few years. Is Stonewielder newly written for the first time in the past few years?
Maggie K
5. SneakyVerin
Thank you for a great read...I really enjoyed this book.

I am very curious about Oleg, and the story between he and Kellanved. Is this story going to be told somewhere in the series? If it has, and I just haven't gotten that far yet, please excuse me, but I found it something I was wondering about when I finished this book.
Mieneke van der Salm
6. Mieneke
Hi Cam,
I was wondering how hard it was to keep the characters that crossover into Steven's books on the right line personality-wise. To me that would seem the hardest. Did you have to pay a lot of attention to them not developing quirks that would fit in your story, but would be a continuity conflict with Steven's books?
Steven Halter
7. stevenhalter
Are Temper's "curved longswords" double edged and cruciform or single edged? I'm picturing a double edged blade myself, but I've seen speculation otherwise. Thanks.
Robin Lemley
8. Robin55077
Hello Cam and thank you for your additions to this great series!

My question is two-part:

First, what were some of the difficulties you found once you started writing into a series that already existed by Steven? Obviously there were advantages as well, but it seems that you may have encountered some difficulties that you maybe hadn't expected ahead of time? I am just curious about that and how you dealt with them?

Second, and yes, perhaps outside the realm here, but is your wife planning on publishing anything else? Anything new in the works?

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions for us. It is such a treat!
Robin Lemley
9. Robin55077
Cam, I have another question I just have to ask.....Why did you tell us early in the book that Temper filed "false papers" to join the guard in Malaz City, but not have him use an alias? I am assuming that you probably read the posts so I won't go over it all again here, but just wondering about why there was no alias. I still haven't been able to figure that out.

Marc Rikmenspoel
10. Karsa
Hello -- thanks yet again for taking our questions!
In Memories of Ice, one of the characters says

"Artanthos...Silverfox quietly murmured. 'He's not used that name in a long time. Nor is he as he appears"

When I first read it, I of course had no idea what it meant. but after readying NoK, we know exactly who it is...and that changes the payoff a bit when it is revealed in the MoI...and if I was really paying attention, there would be no surprise for me who Artan is if I had paid closer attention to MoI, is this something you worry about as your timelines cross over -- the unintentional (or intentional?) spoilers that come because the timelines aren't contiguous and the order you read the books in between the two series isn't set?
Marc Rikmenspoel
11. alt146
Hoorah, another question thread. Could an admin type person put a link to this under the NoK section of the main reread page please?

I haven't seen any interviews with Cam, so I am going to start with the boring question of who are your favourite malazan characters and scenes?

Slightly more meatier question - when you wrote Night of Knives, you were obviously targetting a fan-base established by Steve who are familiar with the Malazan world and its history. If you had been able to get a book out before or around Gardens of the Moon, would you still have chosen to cover the same subject? Or would we have seen a vastly different Return of the Crimson Guard as your debut?

Steve has stated before the malazan series is essentially a dialogue between you and him - which would make it a fundamentally different experience for you to have read the books. For the majority of us, entry into the series involved a lot of confusion, eventual understanding and recognition of the myriad clues and hints we missed the first time round. You on the other hand would almost be in reread mode from the first book. The question buried in all this is has Steve ever managed to catch you off guard, or shock and amaze you the way he routinely does all of us? How often in the series have you felt there was something in the books meant primarily for you (an obscure reference to a particularly fun night or campaign etc) rather than for the benefit of regular readers?

So far your novels have dealt primarily with people and places introduced to us by Steve - especially the supporting cast. Do you have plans for a Midnight Tides-esque introduction of your own only loosely related story arcs, locations and characters? My apologies if Stonewielder is that book, I'm still waiting for stock to hit our shores and have avoided reviews and the like for fear of spoilers.
Sydo Zandstra
12. Fiddler
Ian, at this moment I have no questions. I need to reread RotCG first (doing a first reading of Stonewielder now, and I like it so far).

So I'm taking a raincheck on this one. I'm still interested in your answers to others' questions though :)
Marc Rikmenspoel
13. billcap
Hi Cam,
Thanks for helping us with this project! I had a few questions.

1) One of my favorite scenes is the off-stage confrontation between Laseen and Dancer/Kel. I was wondering if you’d always planned for that to happen off-stage and if so, why and if not, what changed your mind? And what concerns you may have had, if any, about having such a prominent scene in the series happening off-stage.

2) another favorite aspect was the opposing pov: one world-weary and experienced and one youthful and eager. I assume that decision came very early and was curious as to how directly it informed your writing throughout, in terms of apportioning plot events, dialogue, etc.

3) I thought the brevity of the book sometimes worked against the reading experience, with some scenes feeling a bit rushed and while I rarely complain about a book being too short, I would have liked NoK to have another 50-100 pages for the reader to work with. I was just curious as to whether you wrote roughly to this length or wrote quite a bit more than cut it down a lot, as some authors do.

thanks again!
Chris Lough
14. TorChris
@11. Good suggestion, alt146. It's been added in now.
Karen Martin
15. ksh1elds555
Hi Cam, I feel like it is a great honor to be able to interact with you and Steven and ask questions about this amazing series. Thank you thank you thank you! I have a quick question...I really loved the Stormriders as portrayed in NoK. They come across as dark and mysterious and full of some natural power, but are never fully understood(at least I don't). I have just read up through Bonehunters... have not read RotCG or beyond yet. I would love to read more about the Stormriders and perhaps also the soldiers who man the StormWall. One of these is a pretty prominent soldier in the Bonehunters. Any chance we might see more of them in a future novel/novella/short story? Thanks again!
Sydo Zandstra
16. Fiddler

I am not Cam, but I can answer your questions. Hope you don't mind it's me doing the answering :)

RotCG deals with what happens in the Malazan Empire after everything that happens in tBH. Erikson is shifting his focus away from that continent after this book. Cam fills it in (and quite well I think). So no Stormriders there.

Stonewielder does deal with this stuff, since it's based on Korelri. (at least as far as I have read it), and there are scenes actually happening on the Stormwall.

HTH :)
Chris Hawks
17. SaltManZ
ksh1elds555 @15: The Stormriders do feature briefly in RotCG (with some mentions in SE's DoD as well) but the Stormwall and the continent of Korel figure prominently in ICE's latest novel, Stonewielder.
Karen Martin
18. ksh1elds555
Thanks for the replies! Now I have even more to look forward to with RotCG and Stonewielder! I am reading Reaper's Gale at the moment, will be trying to also reread Deadhouse Gates on the schedule posted. Then I will read RotCG. On the Malazan Empire website, the recommended order was Reaper's Gale, then RotCG. On this reread site, I noticed it was the reverse. I don't know if it matters terribly so I'll just stick with my plan since I'm about 100 pages into RG already.
Chris Hawks
19. SaltManZ
@18: The important thing is that you read RotCG after TB but before TtH. It doesn't really matter if you read RG or RotCG first, beyond whether you want to break up the TB->RG pairing, or the RG->TtH pairing.
Sydo Zandstra
20. Fiddler
I do have a question after all.

I noticed that in RotCG and Stonewielder (or should we call that 'SW' from now?) you are using the same kind of quotes at the start of a chapter as Steven does in his Malazan books. But in NoK you didn't.

Are you planning on adding some in the future, if that possibility presents itself? Since in this book we are witness to a few very big events, I think the story would benefit from them.
21. Abalieno
I have some if still in time.

- The first is similar to @4 up there. I read that Night of Knives had a very long gestation before being finally published and also RotCG existed in a form or another for a long while but it required an almost complete rewrite. Stonewielder instead should have been a relatively "recent" effort that had to be started and wrapped up in 2/3 years. Is this correct? How is your approach to writing changed in the meantime? According to readers reactions Stonewielder is a solid book and it seems everyone agrees it's at least an improvement over the previous two, so how are you dealing with the shorter timeframe and keep nudging the quality up?

- Question connected to the previous. Recently Scott Bakker "complained" that the sales of his latest books aren't satisfying enough to guarantee him the economical stability to remain a full-time writer. How is the situation for you? Writing full time now or are you keeping side activities to balance it out? How is this affecting your writing and how are you planning things for the next few books already announced?

- Two aspects of NoK. The first is about Fisherman's death. It seemed passive and innatural, as if the character himself wasn't entirely "human". When his attempt with the boat fails he doesn't show fear, doesn't try to escape etc... I have interpreted this as if was a personfication of a natural force, so having a purpose but having to make way quietly when the time comes. Was that the intent? The other aspect is about the flashbacks. They show details but don't seem to add much to them. The betrayal is the description of what happens, but not why. We see a war, then we see also Laseen's betrayal, but these scenes seemed for me lacking a real "conflict" because we aren't aware of causes and motivations, the heart of the conflict, so it is all shown, but not "felt". It is somewhat impersonal and just declared. Because of these aspects I think NoK was a bit disappointing not because of the writing style, but on the level of ideas, which is the aspect where I expected you to shine. I think you could have played more with hints about what moved behind those scenes and stimulate suspicion, speculation and curiosity. So I'd like to know your approach to those scenes and how you wanted to use them, beside those aspects that echo with what Temper does directly in NoK.

- A plot point and pet peeve of mine, if you want to answer: The outlawing of magic in Malaz done by Laseen in the days preceding the events in NoK seems to be the main cause (along with the Shadow Moon) for the attack of the Stormriders. But it's not clear to me *why* Laseen made that choice (considering that she should be aware of the risk). She doesn't seem to accomplish anything of value with it, so it's like a big screw up with no advantages. It may as well be interpreted like that, just another mistake on her part, but considering the big risk in NoK and all that it triggers indirectly in GotM (the adjunct and Tattersail being involved in those magic purges) it's a bit disappointing that all this starts from an action that doesn't seem to have a very solid motivation. So I'm wondering what was the original idea behind that magic prohibition.

- Plot again: it was commented in the reread that Temper's "disguise" didn't seem so convincing. It seems likely that a paranoid character like Laseen wouldn't close an eye to one of Dassem's Sword, so what I'd have expected is her to send Claws after everyone who was still alive. In fact she seems to go quite far trying to purge possible threats like remaining Talons and so on. So we questioned the plausibility of Temper "hiding" right in Malaz and not even changing his name. Even if hiding in plain sight may be a good strategy, the part that is less convincing is about Laseen being unaware of Temper's presence and not actively hunting possible threats in that timeframe. The question would be your perspective on this ;)

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