|Robert Asprin and Eric Del Carlo (Continued)|
Robert Asprin: First of all, I'm not currently editing anything. I haven't done that since the Thieves World series, eight to ten years ago. As far as the current work, No Quarter, we're doing two main characters with two alternating viewpoints. Occasionally, we split a chapter. The springboard is that we work off each other. The fact that we have different writing styles is part of the characterization. Between you and me, I think that may be one of the things that will help with the collaboration, because there are things Eric thinks I'm moving too quickly on, and there are things I think he's dragging out. When it gets to the editor they can arbitrate.
I figure if an editor feels the book needs an extremely heavy edit, then he or she doesn't really like it. Some of the cosmetic stuff, the pacing, I'm more than willing to listen to an editor on. But there's also the chance that the editor basically doesn't like the book. They don't like the idea or the way it's written. If that's the case, maybe you should take the book to another publishing house and an editor who is excited about it the way it is.
Crescent Blues: Exactly how did you work the collaboration?
Robert Asprin: We started filling it out over dinner. OK, here's the basic story. What direction are we taking it in? What are we seeing for the next couple of scenes or chapters?
Eric Del Carlo: Essentially, a very rough outline.
Robert Asprin: One of us starts out. The other one takes the next chapter, and it goes from there. The story starts shaping itself. After x-number of chapters, we'll sit down again and go: "OK, we're going to need an element here. I see a couple of ways you could pull this in. Do you want to do it through your character or through mine?" Then we'll discuss it.
Something that is very unusual for me -- we worked without an outline. We were developing it as we led, letting the story flow through the characters and the investigation. Normally, I outline very tightly, because I hate doing rewrites, especially for humor. Trying to rewrite humor is a real drag.
It's interesting that instead of having to get tighter and more restricted for a collaboration, strangely enough, from the beginning, we've actually been more confident that we could handle this.
Eric Del Carlo: We trade off chapters, but it's not always boy/girl. Sometimes he'll take two in a row, but we don't really meddle in each other's material.
Robert Asprin: I saw that one coming.
Eric Del Carlo: I'm right-handed. I don't want to talk about it.
But we really didn't take each other's material and say: "This is a bad sentence." Sometimes we would say: "This could use an element." But I didn't take my stuff, give it to Bob and let him edit it; and I didn't edit his. Our writing styles are so different, that we really didn't want them melded.
Robert Asprin: It works better that way. Most of the commentary related to inconsistency of the lay-out. Or you've got a scene set at 10 o'clock; can you move it a bit later, because my scene is over at the pool table when so-and-so gets off work, and it would really clash.
New Orleans life is such a night life. The thing that comes up very often is that our day essentially doesn't start until midnight or 2 in the morning.
One of the things that drew me to the Quarter is that they keep the same kind of hours I do. A lot of the bars and the supermarkets are open 24 hours a day. A lot of times I won't head out before 11 or midnight, because the people I want to talk to aren't there. They're working the restaurants or whatever. The only time I see 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning is if I'm still up for it, and that happens on at least a semi-regular basis.
Eric Del Carlo: At least once or twice.
Robert Asprin: I sleep until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and I usually don't start crashing until somewhere between 5 and 8 in the morning.
Crescent Blues: You don't sound like a Louisiana native, though. How did you come to live in New Orleans?
Robert Asprin: I was born in San Francisco. Where does "Bone" come from?
Eric Del Carlo: This is a perfect example of the fact that I based Bone rather more closely on myself than Bob based Maestro on him. Bone is a native San Franciscan. He left San Francisco, because he could no longer afford to live there. The line from the book -- if I could be allowed to quote it -- would be: "San Francisco had rejected Bone like a bad kidney."
The housing market just went bananas with Silicon Valley. If you're going to try to work for a living -- or be a writer --
Robert Asprin: That's not working for a living.
Eric Del Carlo: It's just disastrous. I had actually lived in New Orleans in the mid-90s for a little over a year, and I liked it quite a bit. I ended up back in San Francisco for various reasons, but New Orleans was the best place that I had lived. So when I decided I was going to make one more move and that was it, I came down with a gal who I married two years ago. And am still married to. First and only marriage, thank you.
Crescent Blues: Speaking of New Orlean brings us back to inspiration. What writers inspired you? This question is for both of you. Also, Bob, I understand you were once very active in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Are you still part of it? Eric, do you share that particular interest?
Robert Asprin: I was very active in the Society for Creative Anachronism for about eight years in the late '70s and early '80s, and haven't really been back since. Coincidentally, that was right about the time that the writing started to take off, and one only has so much time and money. Writing was paying me, and riding across the country to play Yng the Nauseating didn't.
As for who you're influences are, that's one of the things people always like to ask: who are your favorite writers? Invariably it turns out to be who you've been reading in the last couple of weeks, and two hours or two days later you go, "Oh my God!" [Asprin smacks his forehead.] "I forgot to mention so-and-so."
One of the writers I always keep coming back to is Edgar Rice Burroughs. He may not be considered high literature, but he's an incredibly entertaining author. His stuff is still in print and still making money. I would love to be this generation's Edgar Rice Burroughs. As a writer, I view myself as an entertainer. It's not so much to "comment on the human condition." (But it's hard to write without commenting on the human condition.)
The other major influence would probably be my dad, who came from the Philippines. I'm old enough where we actually didn't have TV until I was in junior high, and he would keep us amused over the dinner table with tales of his life in the Philippines. So I was raised very much on the oral storytelling tradition.
Humor is a family trait. I always loved getting on panels where they ask how do you do your research? The other writers say things like, "Well, I work for NASA, and all I do is read scientific journals," or "I strap on chain mail and read tracts about William the Conqueror." I watch Tiny Toons and the Marx Brothers, and [Bob] Hope and [Bing] Crosby road movies.
That's literally what I'm often doing, particularly when I'm switching back and forth between No Quarter and Myth. It takes a different mind frame, a different voice. It does take a while for me to switch back, particularly to the Guido/Nunzio/Damon Runyon-esque, pseudo-gangster speech pattern.
Crescent Blues: Will you be doing more Myth books?
Robert Asprin: Myth-Ion Improbable, the eleventh book in the Myth series, is premiering this week (the week of Sept. 3), and I did a reading from Something Mythic, the twelfth, Saturday (Sept. 1). I hope Something Mythic will be done by the end of the year and out by the end of summer next year.
Crescent Blues: Myth-Ion Improbable was your first Myth book after a long absence from the series. What was the biggest challenge you faced returning to that world after such a long absence, and what was the greatest joy?
Robert Asprin: The reason I was gone from Myth for so long was a series of unpleasant events in my life that became very closely associated with the Myth series. Once I got clear of those events and would sit down and try to write Myth, it almost felt like there was a force field over the keyboard. All the side issues of family, health, whatever would be right back in my head again.
So the first thing was trying to cleanse that off my back. A lot of that cleansing happened last year when I finally settled with the IRS after a five-year brawl. Then it was trying to get back into the mood, the speech pattern. There is a particular light touch to the Myth series, which I only partially caught in the tenth book, Sweet Myth-Tery of Life, because that was when some of the stuff started. That book still looks to me a bit more bitter than funny.
The new book, Myth-Ion Improbable, actually occurs between the third and fourth books in the series. After a seven to nine year lay-off, it happened that the story which would've come up next in the cycle is probably the most complex of the Myth stories I tried to tackle. It's not only multi-viewpoint, it is happening simultaneously with events in Sweet Myth-Tery of Life. Things criss-cross between the novels -- shared themes from different viewpoints. It is an extremely complex story to tell. Plus, I was trying to get back into that nice, light voice.
I struggled with it quite a bit. Finally, someone suggested I was trying to take on a double-headed serpent. Why didn't I go ahead and grab one of the other ideas that I'd had earlier and never gotten around to, and do up a pre-quel just to get back the voice and rhythm -- which is basically what I did in Myth-Ion Improbable. Now I'm hitting Something Mythic [the twelfth book in the Myth series] with a bit of momentum and a bit more confidence.
Crescent Blues: Back to you, Eric. Who were your influences?
Eric Del Carlo: My answer is a little more mundane, because I do have authors who have influenced me. Having come up writing short stories, Harlan Ellison is almost certainly my favorite short story writer. I don't always enjoy his stories, and I'm often infuriated by his stories, but I'm never unimpressed. What I've read of Harlan's work shows just how far the boundaries can be pushed, that there are a lot of rules that don't have to be obeyed as long as you know the rules. You can't play the guitar until you know your chords.
One of the wonderful things about this convention is that I got to meet Harlan, just in passing, butů When I hooked up with Bob, one of the deals was, all right, OK, we'll write together as long as one day I get to meet Harlan Ellison. That's the deal. So Bob's paid off, and now he's got me for life.
Crescent Blues: And the contract was signed in blood in true French Quarter tradition.
Robert Asprin: And it only cost him 20 points off the money split.
Crescent Blues: I'm sorry, even Harlan Ellison's not worth it.
Robert Asprin: I'm kidding. I'm kidding.
Eric Del Carlo: Bob's got my soul, but it was only taking up space anyway.
Robert Asprin: We're kidding on that. One of the things I insisted upon when we went into this project was that we are full partners, going fifty-fifty, both on the money and on the say of what's going on with the books.
Crescent Blues: Anything else you'd like to add?
Robert Asprin: [After a long silence.] That's a good question, but it's like having a "Z" in Scrabble and no way to use it.
Jean Marie Ward