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Patrick Rothfuss: Worldbuilder

Patrick Rothfuss was born near Madison WI and attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for nine years, studying ‘‘whatever classes seemed interesting’’ and graduating with a BA in English. As an undergrad he wrote humorous advice column ‘‘Your College Survival Guide’’ for the campus paper The Pointer. He went to Washington State University for his MA, and returned to Stevens Point to teach, though he has since become a full-time writer. While in college he began writing The Song of Flame and Thunder, a huge epic fantasy that was split into three volumes and renamed The Kingkiller Chronicle (to avoid confusion with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series).

The first novel in the trilogy, The Name of the Wind, appeared in 2007 to great acclaim. It won the 2007 Quill Award in the SF/Fantasy category. Second book The Wise Man’s Fear will appear in spring 2011, to be followed by a third volume.

A story set in the same world, ‘‘The Road to Levenshir’’, was a Writers of the Future quarterly winner in 2002. Rothfuss has also recently published twisted picture book The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle (2010), illustrated by Nate Taylor.

Rothfuss runs the Worldbuilders fundraiser, and has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity Heifer International since 2008. He lives in Stevens Point WI with Sarah Tompkins and their son, born 2009.

Patrick Rothfuss – Official Website

Excerpts from the interview:

“People talk about the trunk novel, writing 10 novels before the 11th or 12th gets published. For me it was just the one book. I worked on this one book for the same amount of time that other writers worked on 11. (In my head I always think of it as ‘‘The Book,’’ like it’s the Platonic form of the book.) So really, I sort of wrote 11 books too – it was just 11 serious different drafts of this same story, constantly refining it.

‘‘I’m at the far end of the spectrum in terms of obsessive revision. My one big book eventually became the three-volume Kingkiller Chronicle that begins with The Name of the Wind.

‘‘In 2002, I pretended a piece of the second volume was a short story and snuck it into the Writers of the Future Contest. (At that point, I’d been getting rejections for about two years from all different agents.) I’d submitted a few other times before that, but this one won. So I went to the awards ceremony. They put you up for a week let you do a workshop with Tim Powers. Tim was brilliant – he explained how the publishing world works. It was just a lifesaver. A lot of the advice I give these days is what Tim Powers taught us then: how to move smoothly through the publishing world.”


“‘A couple of hundred years ago, literary fiction realized, ‘To write tragedy, we don’t need a king!’ Fantasy is just now starting to make that same realization, because we’re a newer genre. We don’t need a goblin army. We don’t need The End of the World. Not that those things are bad. I’ve seen them done well, but unless they’re handled with skill, they become cheap props (even worse, cheap, overused props). Just the story of a man’s life – a person’s life – is fascinating if you tell it the right way.”


“‘Fantasy readers are smart. I hate reading a novel that treats me like I’m an idiot. But what irritates me even more is these YA novels that are just squeaky-clean. It’s the mental equivalent of junk food. Kids don’t get smart if you don’t stretch them and challenge them. Kids understand violence, they understand sex. You want to give a child a book that is literally enriching to their mind, that challenges them with concepts, that stretches them with unfamiliar beliefs. And the earlier you get that, the broader your mind becomes. Dickens said when he read The Arabian Nights, ‘Through reading these stories, my mind became habituated to the vast.’ Fucking A! That’s it. That’s why we are in the business of fantasy.”


“‘I have an idea for an urban fantasy series that makes fun of urban fantasy. Whenever any genre takes itself too seriously, it becomes ripe for mocking. (The old superheroes used to take themselves way too seriously, so now we have superhero parody all over the place.) It would be set in a college town with a section of this college where all the paranormal people send their kids to get an education, knowing they’ll be among people who understand. Like the vampire and the girl that fell in love with the vampire eventually have a kid that is screwed up, but this socially maladaptive freak of nature has to go to college somewhere.”


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Comment from Snall
Time August 30, 2010 at 4:04 am

This: “Just the story of a man’s life – a person’s life – is fascinating if you tell it the right way.””

And this: “Dickens said when he read The Arabian Nights, ‘Through reading these stories, my mind became habituated to the vast.’ Fucking A! That’s it. ”

Damn straight.

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