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RAFO's interview with Jim Butcher Rebekah Send a noteboard - 09/06/2010 02:18:55 PM
Here are the responses from Jim Butcher for the questions we pulled together as a board. I think it's fun.


What are the challenges of writing a supernatural thriller set in a real and well-known city, like Chicago?

Mostly the problem is all that darned reality, complicated by all those readers who can see it. Without THOSE people, who do things like gently pointing out to idiot writers that Wrigley Field does not have a parking lot, it would be ever so much simpler.

As it is, I often rely upon actual residents of Chicago who are fans to fact-check me or else provide specific facts for me to incorporate into the story. I still don't get it perfect, but I'm less ignorant than I used to be.

How do you keep a character like Harry Dresden fresh and growing as a character after so many novels? What are the difficulties?

I think that mostly I've been very well served by outlining the entire overstory of the Dresden books from the very beginning. Developing a character is all about pacing. If you know the milestones along the way, you can do that more readily than you otherwise could.

I am also greatly aided by the fact that I'm more or less a dummy about most of life. Dresden's life and personality is strongly informed by my own experiences. As life happens to me and I get a little less foolish with each lesson, it gives me a bit more perspective on Harry as a character.

After so much time, does Harry’s character intrude into your thoughts every now and again? Do you have your own dark Dresden ego riding around in your brain?

Nah, I think Harry more or less wants nothing to do with me. :) I mean, look how much his life sucks every time I come nosing around.

As for having my own dark Dresden ego? I'm pretty sure that my Jim-ego uses up all the (rather limited) space between my ears. There wouldn't be much room (or oxygen) left over for another.

All the wizards in The Dresden Files seem to have their own personal motif and way of channelling energy. What's the oddest and/or most entertaining motif you've come up with?

My favorite is probably from an unpublished short story I wrote, set in the Dresden Files universe, but during the Battle of the Bulge. The Nazis had a sorcerer operating out of an old monastery, and the White Council dispatched the Belgian wizard, Klaus the Toymaker. Klaus's magic is all based around using children's toys as focii. My favorite moment was when he killed a couple of SS-summoned demons with a windup wooden duck.

Will we ever see mythological beings from active religions other than the Abrahamic religions, such as Hinduism or Shinto? (I know we have Mouse but he is from Buddhism which isn't polytheist and doesn't actually refer to gods in their theology.)

You already have! Mentions of Rakshashas in India and of the Hindu gods in general appear several times in the series, but both friend- and enemy-figures from diverse beliefs have already appeared on stage. The loa and the kenku have been featured in the story, as has a skinwalker of the Blessing Way of the Navajo, Odin (and company) of the Asatru religion, figures such as Mab and Titania, who spring from Wiccan beliefs, and the bassarids of the Greek mythos.

This is a late nineties, new millennial trend, I think. But Dresden embodies the magical/non-mundane human who by virtue of his non-mundaneness nominally belongs to and is ruled by a community of similar beings with similar powers. Harry is constrained and directed by these people, who ostensibly ought to share the bonds of community with him. Harry instead turns to others, mundane humans, other-magical peoples, others-who-are-outcasts, for help. Is magic, in and of itself, so unurbane that we can't be insular and unlonely at the same time?

Nah. :)

But the story of misfits from their repsective societies banding together is hardly a recent development, in either storytelling or pop culture. Whether they're called the Merry Men, the Dirty Dozen, the Seven Samurai, the Bad News Bears, the Slayerettes or the X-Men, the gang of geeks and misfits who find each other and form their own society is a long-running theme.

As far as Dresden's associations go, he's not exactly friendless among his fellow Wizards of the White Council. Many of them have indirectly come to his aid or directly assisted him in his cases. He's a bad-boy hero to the youngest generation of wizardry. Granted, he doesn't like most of the Council, but he does tend to judge them on an individual basis rather than categorically. His dislike stems from a bad first impression and a general loathing of the results of the Council's policies.

He's not much of a conformist.

Which was cooler... hearing that your work would be made into a TV show, or seeing it as a fully produced graphic novel?

Oh, graphic novel all the way. I was directly involved with that project, and got to work with the artist to create Dresden's story world. When the graphic novels came out, I was bouncing happily. I may even have done a Snoopy dance.

How is “urban fantasy” defined, and how do you react to those people who criticise that subgenre as being too full of magical detectives or paranormal romances?

I have never liked the term "urban fantasy." It was appropriate to several books, like War of the Oaks and Finder by Emma Bull, where the magic and story were very wrapped up in the particular urban scene in which they were set. But then that label got splattered onto other books for lack of a more accurate one. I much prefer the term "contemporary fantasy," to cover books which are generally set in a world much like our own, with the addition of multiple elements of fantasy.

No genre is ever too full of talented, engaging writers. They do tend to rise and fall in popularity over time, but I regard that as the collective sales power of talented writers who happen to have begun working in the genre, rather than basing it upon the fluctuations in society's literary palate at large.

You seem to thrive on taking worn-out clichés (vampires, the police officer the Hero deals with, demonic possession, wizards, elementals, etc) and putting your own unique twist on them. Is there any concept or trope you think might be really interesting to explore, but you can't think how/haven't wanted to fit them into your existing series?

There are too many of them to list. :) I try to pick the best of them for the Dresden books, but I'm certain I'll use other elements I come across in other stories in the future.

Most characters in both of your series grow and change over time. Did you plan these changes or did they just happen?

A little bit of both. I knew where the characters would begin, and what they would ultimately grow into. But the actual page-to-page growth of all the characters is something that has happened very naturally for me, and is built on the foundation of the characters, their personalities, their desires and their fears.

The Codex Alera is very different in scope and feel from The Dresden Files. How difficult was it to keep the two apart in your mind when writing, and did they ever collide?

Nah, it was easy to keep them separate. I wrote Alera in the Spring/Summer and Dresden in Fall and Winter. The Codex was written from multiple viewpoint characters while the Dresden books are told from the point of view of a single character. The Codex is about the sweeping events of a nation happening over the course of months and years - Dresden books generally take place over a long weekend, at most. In my head, they're totally different animals.

How easy was it was it to keep balance between the action and “court intrigue” scenes throughout The Codex Alera? Did any scenes give you particular difficulty?

Most of them give me difficulty, it feels like sometimes. :) But it's the scenes of a big convocation of a lot of characters, such as meetings of the White Council or assemblies of the Aleran Senate that really drive me bonkers. They're very hard to create without killing the pace of the book!

Who would win in a fight: Harry Dresden or Gaius Sextus (let’s assume it takes place in Carna)?

Gaius Sextus, nine times out of ten. He's more savvy, more treacherous, more experienced and more ruthless than Dresden. If Gaius had his way, it would never even come to a fight. Dresden would get swallowed by the earth while he was sleeping or eating breakfast or something.

What can you tell us about your future plans and projects?

I'm working on book 13 of the Dresden Files, GHOST STORY, right now! Next will come a fantasy project I'll be writing with a partner, my friend Cam Banks. Once it finds a home, I'll be able to give a few more details.

Which other authors do you read? (And specifically: have you read any Dick Francis?)

Whip Hand is one of my favorite books. :) Sid is a fantastic protagonist.

I also love to read Robert Parker, Lilith Saintcrow, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Naomi Novik, EE Knight, and John Scalzi. There are always others, but those are the writers who leap to mind at the moment.

What do you consider the most undervalued book?

What, like in history? I'm so underinformed to make a call like that.

If you mean "of the books I've written" I'd say it was probably The Darkest Hours, a Spider-Man novel I wrote for Marvel. I was seriously proud of that one.

If you could be any element on the periodic table, which would you be and why?

The so-called "noble" gasses! Down with the aristocracy!

What would you name the three monkey butlers we're sending you for Christmas this year?*

They'd best be winged monkeys, or I'll have to name them Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. My guard dog is fierce and mighty.

Thank you very much for giving up your time to answer our questions. And all the best for your next project. We look forward to reading it!

I'm sorry it took so long for me to get back to you. :) If you think any of these answers need expansion or clarification, please let me know!


*This probably won't happen.

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. - Groucho Marx
This message last edited by Rebekah on 09/06/2010 at 02:27:25 PM
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RAFO's interview with Jim Butcher - 09/06/2010 02:18:55 PM 5505 Views
Thank you for this. Great interview! - 09/06/2010 03:23:03 PM 1079 Views
Oh, do! - 09/06/2010 03:24:26 PM 1053 Views
Great interview. Thank you Jim and Rebekah. - 09/06/2010 03:35:30 PM 1040 Views
- 09/06/2010 03:36:38 PM 1077 Views
I've never read his books, but it's a fun interview all the same. Good job! - 09/06/2010 04:01:51 PM 1110 Views
We did it as a board, so I can't take the credit. - 12/06/2010 12:23:26 PM 1034 Views
I'm gutted I was so busy at work and then away on holiday when this was happening - 09/06/2010 06:39:43 PM 954 Views
I can ask that as a follow up, if you like. - 09/06/2010 06:41:04 PM 1178 Views
Awsome! Thanks! - 09/06/2010 07:47:37 PM 1056 Views
I'd kind of love to have the graphic novel versions. - 12/06/2010 12:24:12 PM 1068 Views
Here's where a Twitter account would help - 09/06/2010 08:16:30 PM 1066 Views
Definitely. - 12/06/2010 12:24:55 PM 940 Views
That was fun. - 10/06/2010 03:00:35 AM 994 Views
Indeed. - 12/06/2010 12:26:04 PM 1025 Views
Awesome interview! - 10/06/2010 03:05:27 AM 937 Views
Yup. - 12/06/2010 12:26:44 PM 1079 Views
Cool! Nice *NM* - 10/06/2010 04:37:51 PM 778 Views
*NM* - 12/06/2010 12:28:04 PM 540 Views

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