A conversation with Steven Brust about writing the Dragaera books

Steven Brust is the author of 18 books set in Dragaera and several other standalone volumes. I recently re-read all 18 Dragaera books: 12 Vlad books, 5 Paarfi books and Brokedown Palace, culminating with the new one, Iorich, and wrote about them here. I then interviewed Steven Brust in email about writing the series.

Jo: Do you see the Vlad books as episodes or as part of an ongoing narrative—what’s the shape of it going to look like when it’s a whole thing?

SKZB: Wait…that doesn’t feel like an either/or question. So I guess the answer is both. It wasn’t until I was working on Tacky that I admitted to myself that I was writing a series. At that time “fantasy series” had a sort of nasty odor, so I started thinking of what I could do so it wouldn’t smell so bad. I came up with several answers, many of which contradicted each other. For example, I wanted each story to stand on its own, and I also wanted each one to fit in as part of a larger whole. I wanted to never tell a story I didn’t feel like telling, and I wanted to make sure I told the whole saga. I wanted to use them as vehicles to challenge myself, and I wanted to use them to relax and have fun after doing something difficult. I wanted the whole series to feel like it was part of a larger plan, and I wanted to feel free to go off in unexpected directions if and when they occurred to me. So what we have, so far, is the result of a morass of contradictory intentions. Maybe it’s dialectical.

Jo: Which is “Tacky”—Teckla?

So do you have an idea of what the whole thing is going to look like? If so, did you always have one—or always from when you started thinking of it as a series?

SKZB: Yes, sorry. Tacky is Teckla.

I have some pretty clear ideas about where it’s going—if I don’t die or change my mind or something. Yeah, I guess from the start I had some pretty clear ideas on at least some of what was going to happen if I ended up writing the whole thing—which I was never sure I was going to do.

Um…did that answer the question?

Jo: That did answer the question. Are you more confident now that you’ll write the whole thing?

SKZB: Well, of the various possibilities, what was the most likely—that I’d get bored with the whole thing and stop—now seems like the least likely. If I’m still having fun with it at this point, I guess I’ll probably keep having fun. There’s still the issue of whether I’ll live long enough. But, that aside, I think there’s a good chance I’ll write it all.

Jo: Good!

I don’t want to ask you about specifics of how you’re going to end it or anything like that. It’s not that I don’t want to know, it’s that I want to find out as it unfolds.

In your mind, when you think about Dragaera, do you think of it as being science fiction or fantasy?

SKZB: Oh, yes. Absolutely.

Jo: Right…

Do you think the missing thing that Valabars put in their mushroom and barley soup might possibly be a tiny pinch of nutmeg?

SKZB: That would make perfect sense. Actually, that recipe was created for the book by my friend Jason Jones, who is a chef at Hugo’s Cellar in The Four Queens, Las Vegas. It was very, very good. I don’t know if there is nutmeg in it, but I wouldn’t be surprised. If you ever visit Hugo’s Cellar (and you have $200 to spend on a meal), feel free to ask Jason.

Jo: Do you think you might ever write something in another era of Dragaera history—for instance a Teckla Republic? And do you have any plans to write anything else in Dragaera that isn’t Vlad or Paarfi?

SKZB: Yes to the first part. I’m open to an idea like that if it happens to hit me. As to the second, yeah, I’ve had a sort of vague notion churning around for a while, and I might start it if it would crystallize. I’m sort of letting my backbrain work on it. Sometimes that works. Sometimes my backbrain just distracts me from, uh, what were we talking about?

Jo: Did you write Dragon that way to make it impossible to read the series in chronological order?

SKZB: Jo, I am a serious writer, attempting to explore the limits of my craft while expressing my observations on the human conditions by the interaction of form and content within the….

Um, yeah.

Jo: I knew it!

So I heard the next one was going to be Tiassa, is that right? Is there anything you want to hint about it mysteriously?

SKZB: For those who want to know if it is going to move backward: Yes.

For those who want to know if it is going to move forward: Yes.


Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

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