Wed
Mar 27 2013 1:00pm

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay interview Tor.comWelcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artist, and others!

Today we’re joined by Guy Gavriel Kay, World Fantasy Award winner and author of the upcoming novel River of Stars, out from Roc Tuesday, April 2.

Join us as we cover topics ranging from the Temple of Saturn to Shakespeare/Shatner slashfic, and more!

Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the internet.

When I was 18 years old, in a more innocent time, my first backpacking trip through Europe, I sneaked into the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum after nightfall and spent several hours in there avoiding the guards patrolling.

Describe your favorite place to read/write?

That has evolved. Early in my career I needed to be “away”... from responsibilities, commitments, distractions. The act of getting on a plane and going to Greece, New Zealand, Italy, or France somehow imposed a sense of duty and focus, and I got much more done than I would have at home. Now, I really do work best in my library/study, with the familiar view out the window, the trees changing through the seasons.

What’s your favorite method of procrastination?

Easy. Baseball, one way or another. Watching it, studying box scores, talking about it with friends, playing catch with my son, or—for seven months a year—fine tuning (and swearing at) my fantasy team of a given year. As many have noted, the peril for authors is that our work space is too easily our play space.

Do you have a favorite underrated/unknown/under-read author?

A great many genuinely outstanding authors are insufficiently known, in favor of lesser writers, but here I’m going to name the wonderful, prematurely deceased Donald Harington. Read The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks as your first. Unique, and a delight.

Bad news: You’re about to be marooned alone on a desert island—name the five things you would bring along.

Five extremely accomplished, well-read, exquisitely civilized survivalists with encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, film and therapeutic massage.

Do you have a favorite word/phrase/etymology?

I say “as it were” or “so to speak” too often, because puns and double entendres keep insinuating themselves into my consciousness as I’m talking.

Name your favorite monster from fiction, film, TV, or any other pop culture source.

Trick answer: Walter White in Breaking Bad, and we aren’t even at the end of his downward arc, as I type. Brilliantly acted and written, and he is a monster by now.

If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your (new/last/latest) book, who would it be?

Another easy one. Liu Fang is a truly gifted, world-famous player of the pipa and the guzheng, classical Chinese stringed instruments. The new book, River of Stars, is inspired by the Song Dynasty of the 12th century, and Fang, who has become a friend, shares my admiration for the female poet who inspired one of my protagonists. She’d be perfect. Have a look, have a listen: http://www.philmultic.com

Two roads diverge in a yellow wood: one leads toward a mysterious laboratory in which a mad scientist is currently ensconced. The other winds its way toward a tower inhabited by a powerful wizard. You could really use a snack, and it would be nice to have somewhere to crash for the night—which road do you choose?

Mad scientists know nothing of good food. The wizard, for sure.

Choose your preferred fictional vacation spot: Narnia or Middle Earth (or some other fictional realm)….

I’m going to cheat here. I never answer, because I can’t, which is my favorite among my own books. But I’ve often said I’d most enjoy being in Arbonne, from A Song For Arbonne. That’s partly an extension of the fact that it evokes Provence, and I’ve written there four times, so....

What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?

A fairly typical answer for my generation: Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov. André Norton. Then Tolkien, Eddison, Peake, Dunsany, Cabell....

What would your patronus/familiar be?

I’ll cheat again. Readers will get it. A bird reanimated with a human soul. I’d probably call her Linon.

Cast the main characters of your new/upcoming novel (in other words, choose your dream cast for a Hollywood adaptation of your book).

I genuinely can’t... fun as the game is. There is always low-grade flirtation/foreplay going on as to films of the books, and it would be wrong for me to name people if those we’re dealing with are linked to other talents. My L.A. agent would be unhappy, and since so many things out there make him unhappy, I really shouldn’t add to that.

If you were secretly going to write fanfic (or, even better, slashfic) about any two characters, who would they be?

William Shatner and William Shakespeare. Or has it been done?

List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.

1. I say of my readers, and have for years, riffing on Tennessee Williams, that “I have always relied on the intelligence of strangers.”

2. Writing is never, ever easy but I wake up every morning grateful for the gift of being able to do this.

3. I will never say what was under Alienor’s bed.


Guy Gavriel Kay is the recipient of the 2008 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel for Ysabel. River of Stars is his 14th novel.

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