Those of you who read my review of Ken Scholes' powerful collection Long Walks, Last Flights & Other Journeys know just how highly I thought of it. Therefore, you can easily understand why I was more than just a little excited about getting the opportunity to ask Ken some questions.
Ken, thank you for the interview!
First off, I want to congratulate you on an incredible collection, Long Walks, Last Flights & Other Strange Journeys. You are a master of the short form. Do you have any more short stories coming out soon? Plans for any future collections?
Thank you, Luke. I'm so glad you enjoy my short fiction. It's a form I love to write in and it's where I've practiced my skills the most over the years. There are still stories in my inventory that will appear here and there but lately all of my writing effort has been going into The Psalms of Isaak, my five volume series with Tor. Still, in the gaps between books I hope to generate more short stories.
And yes, there are plans for a second collection possibly as soon as 2010. I'm putting together the table of contents now and it will include some of the pieces that have come out since then, including "A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon" from Tor.com and "Grail-Diving in Shangrilla with the World's Last Mime" from Subterranean Online along with other stories that have shown up over the last year or so and a few earlier pieces that didn't make it into the first collection.
The breadth of your topics is vast, to say the least, covering historical figures such as Hitler, Hodgson, and Lewis, venues such as Hell, nursing homes, and Japan, and managing to work in folktales and cultural references. How much research do you have to do for most of your works?
The research largely depends on the topic of the story. For the stories with roots in history, literature or mythology, I do end up spending some time becoming familiar. And sometimes I do the research as I'm actually writing. When Sean Wallace asked for a Japanese fantasy, I spent about four evenings researching and writing "Hibakusha Dreaming in the Shadowy Land of Death." It probably went the fastest of my research-heavy tales. I needed to spend time looking at Japanese folklore, conditions in post-war Tokyo and a bit about Ed Deming but I was able to do it on the fly. With "Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk" I saturated myself with A.A. Milne for a few weeks before attempting the story. In "The Man With Great Despair Behind His Eyes" I spent a good deal of time both in the Lewis and Clark journals, biographies of Lewis and what little we know of the D.B. Cooper case. With "Into the Blank Where Life is Hurled," I skimmed several Houdini biographies along with several of Hodgson's novels.
I enjoy research though I don't write as many stories that require it these days. Still, I'll hope to go back and tackle more once I'm more established as a writer with my series.
Your have a new novel out from Tor entitled Lamentation. Can you tell us a little bit about it? How about the series, Psalms of Isaak, in general?
Happy to talk about it. Lamentation is based on the short story "Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise," a story that did pretty well in the world when it came out in the August 2006 issue of Realms of Fantasy. It was my first pro-level publication after winning Writers of the Future and after I saw the art they commissioned Allen Douglas to create for it, I realized there was much more to Isaak and Rudolfo's story than meets the eye. I conceived of four interconnected short stories that would tell the larger story of who destroyed Windwir and why. When the second story was rejected for not standing alone quite as well as it could have, I was encouraged by my friends, family and even the editor at Realms of Fantasy to finally go and write a novel. Lamentation uses the first and second short stories as bookends and fills in the gap between. It follows the lives of four people as they witness the destruction of Windwir and are changed by it. The five volume series continues that exploration with action, intrigue, war, and plots within plots as the characters unravel the mystery and are transformed by the circumstances. The first book has received a good deal of critical acclaim and generated a lot of nice fan mail. Canticle, the second volume, is due out in October. I'm working on the third volume, Antiphon, and am nearly finished.
Finally, what can we expect in the future from Ken Scholes?
Well, I reckon more of the same. I'll always come back to short fiction because I enjoy it so much. And I'm learning to love the novel form, now, too. So certainly more of those. But I've also always had my eye on other forms of storytelling because so many of those forms influenced me as a writer. I'd like to dabble more in screenwriting at some point -- I have a collaboration there that is slowly coming together around one of my short stories. And comic books are high on my list as well. Of course, until I'm able to go full time and pour more energy into the writing, I'm pretty limited. I'm hoping the work I'm doing with The Psalms of Isaak will create a foundation that will let me diversify a bit and explore other forms of storytelling while at the same time staying firmly rooted in novels.