Excerpts from the interview:
“Years ago I read an interview with a forensic pathologist who said he had never gone into a bad crime scene, where he had to clean the blood off the walls and whatnot, in any place where there were a lot of books. It occurs to me that because books give us escape even though we may be physically trapped wherever we are, they give a 'time out' space. People who don't have this have to stay in the pressure cooker as the pressure goes higher and higher, until they finally explode into violence expressed either externally or internally in stress illnesses. Books give readers a place to go. This is good for your health and potentially good for the health of the people around you as well. In that sense, I think reading can be a form of self-medication.
“Both historical fantasy and futuristic science fiction have the appeal of being very far away from here, that escapist element. Of course the more you read about history, the less you want to go live there, but it still has that romanticism -- not in the sense of sexual romance but in the sense of exotic places. 'Escapist' is one of those terms that gets used with a sneer, but I'm getting to be more and more of the opinion that it has a value in its own right that isn't being properly appreciated.”
“I do research partly to make it believable, partly to get ideas. In the book about the mad princes there were plot ideas, there were characters inherent -- all kinds of things jumped on their horse and galloped off in all directions! In another big thick book about the Christianization of Europe, there was a paragraph about a Viking in 1100 who brought a live polar bear from Greenland to Norway in his boat as a gift to the king. You couldn't make up something like that. And once you've got that, a thousand questions immediately come: How big was the bear? How big was the boat? How long was the voyage? Why is he doing this? So I knew a version of this guy with the bear had to go into The Hallowed Hunt. The fundamental question of history is 'What were these people thinking?' History gives you ideas, things you never would have imagined with this sort of bland picture you get of it from more cursory reading.
“It's all in the footnotes, all in the details: the diaries and the stuff that gets down to the way people actually lived it, not general economic theories of the forces at work. In building a world, you want those telling details that hold more than they appear to hold. Every object you put into a story tells you something about the background, potentially. If you have a character wearing a nylon jacket, it's implied that you have a petrochemical industry around there somewhere. (You can't use any metaphors from a technology that doesn't exist in that world.) But that kind of thoughtful attention to what all your details imply can allow you to get more bang for your buck, more information than appears on the page.”
“I'm not one of those control-freak writers who feel that everybody has to read the book precisely as I intended. I know perfectly well they're going to take this text and turn it into something in their heads that is at most 50% my contribution. It's kind of interesting to see the different things they'll do with it. They startle you sometimes, like the guy who came up and informed me that his favorite authors were me and Kierkegaard!”
“Of course the first question from fans is always 'When are you going to write another Miles book?' Well, Miles Vorkosigan is still in limbo. He hasn't gone away but he hasn't requested to be let out at this time. There's nothing sadder for a writer than to have their first book be everyone's favorite. It's like 'What about the rest of my career?' But I'm getting a coterie of people who like the Chalion books too, or even best. For me the Miles universe still sits there. The Chalion universe kind of wants to be a closed series of five books, one for each of the five gods. I've been talking about this for a couple of years now and I've done three of the five books, so the pattern has this drive to be completed; that's another option. The setting I'm working on now has lots of possibilities beyond what I'm going to get to in the scope of this story. And then again there's the possibility of something completely different that I haven't thought or done before.”