Peter Schwotzer: First off, I would like to say what an honor it is to be able to ask you a few questions, Robert. You have been a favorite writer of mine for quite a few years (I will save us both the pain of saying exactly how many), and have and continue to bring me hours of enjoyment with your books.
Robert McCammon: Thank you very much!
PS: “It was hell’s season, and the air smelled of burning children.” The first sentence obviously from “Gone South,” which I feel is one of your best books and severely underrated. I knew once I read that first sentence it was going to be good. How do you feel about your older books, looking back at them through your eyes of today compared to when you wrote them?
RM: I look back on them and think now what I would have done differently or better. I think I’ve become a better writer now than I was then, so I think…well, I might have done this or that differently, but it’s all hindsight and therefore unrealistic. I’m not going to go back and change anything, because I think I’ve always done the best I could do at the time. Sometimes I do go back and read passages and I think, “Well…that was pretty good. Yeah, that was very good,” and then I read something that makes me cringe and I put the book down and keep going forward. But my purpose is always to get better, which is a lifelong challenge.
PS: On the subject of your older works, this is for me personally. Is “They Thirst” ever going to be reissued in any format? I let a girlfriend at the time borrow it and well, never saw it again. It was and still is one of my favorite vampire novels.
RM: I’d like for it to be reissued, but the rights belong to Pocket Books. So it’s up to them to reissue it. I’d like for it to happen, of course!
PS: How tough was it coming back into mainstream publishing after your hiatus and did you think that you in fact were done writing during that time?
RM: Very tough. I would say…brutal. I’m pleased to be now with Subterranean Press, as they’re doing very beautiful editions of my work. One thing I’ve realized is that many people don’t realize I’ve been back and writing for ten years, as my visibility is still fairly low. I did think I was done writing, but I was “called” back. I have a lot to do ahead, and even after ten years it’s still a rebuilding process.
PS: What do you think of what is going on currently in the publishing industry right now with the proliferation of digital, e-readers and self-publishing?
RM: I think it’s an area of confusion right now, but I do think there are great things ahead for digital media. I think it’s an area that’s really going to explode in the next few years in terms of “how” to produce and display the content. Many of my earlier works are in ebook form with Open Road Media, and it’s been interesting to me—being an “old-school” pub guy—seeing those take shape and go out into the marketplace.
PS: I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was when I first heard you had a new book coming out with “Speaks The Nightbird.” I bought this on September 23, 2002, from Amazon and fell in love with it immediately. This, I can imagine has been a vast undertaking, as your details of the time period in all the books is meticulous and brings that time period to life for me. Did you always intend this to be a long series or did it jus grow into what it is today, and is there an end in site?
RM: It was going to be a stand-alone book. Then I started thinking more about Matthew and what I could do with him. I enjoy that particular period of history also, and I didn’t want to leave it. So I put the idea of the series together and started off. It’s going to be ten books in all, with a story arc that pulls everything together. The research has been…shall we say…demanding, but I’ve learned a LOT about the period. Firstly, that it wasn’t the boring and staid era that the history books teach. And also I wanted to make the series appealing to a modern audience, of course, and to be small “time machines” that would take you away from the modern era and immerse you in a place that some would consider as strange as another world.
PS: Was it tough to get “Speaks The Nightbird” published and once it was published was it any easier or more difficult to get the rest of the series published?
RM: Yes, very tough. My experiences trying to get Speaks the Nightbird published led to my leaving publishing for a while. It was a very, very discouraging experience. I found that many people did not have the same view of what makes a good and interesting book that I did…in other words, they didn’t trust my talent to be able to tell the story and draw readers in.
PS: In Matthew’s latest adventure and your newest book, “The Providence Rider” you really started to bring everything together, and kicked things up a notch. I find it is a toss up for me between “The Providence Rider” and “Speaks The Nightbird” as my favorites so far in the series. Matthew finally gets to meet the infamous Professor Fell, and you introduce a few new and exciting characters, that I am looking forward to reading about in future tales. Has writing this series become stale at all to you or like your fans, you are eagerly awaiting the next adventure?
RM: I’m the Number One fan of this series! No, it’s not stale to me at all. I get very excited plotting the Matthew books and figuring out how they connect to each other. I enjoy the challenge of writing them and I enjoy the characters, who have really come to be alive for me. They’re like real people who I sometimes can feel standing near me as I write. I enjoy the atmosphere, the research…everything. So…I always look forward to doing the next Matthew book, and in fact I’m working on the next one right now.
PS: How has this interview/blog tour been going for “The Providence Rider”? It seems like a great way to get your fans involved and get the word out about how great a book this is.
RM: It’s been very good so far. As I said, many fans don’t realize I’m back, so any way to let them know is good. And I appreciate your doing this interview with me and helping get the word out not only about The Providence Rider but about the entire series.
PS: During this time you have also published “The Five,” which, again I thought was fabulous. I can’t live without music, (rock and roll to be exact), used to play and was immediately drawn into the story by the realism. How tough was the research for this to “get it right”?
RM: I talked to a lot of people in the music business to get the details right. I wanted to understand the feeling of getting up on stage and being “raw” night after night, so to speak. And I think I can relate to that, and also the fact of paying your dues over and over again, because I think that’s what I’ve done in my career. I have paid a LOT of dues, and am still paying them. Also I can relate to the idea that there are powerful people over you who have not a clue about the force or presence of your work. True in the music business and true in the publishing business. But the bottom line is you have to believe in yourself and your craft, in good times and in bad times. If you lose that belief in yourself and your ability to create and “speak” to people through your work, you are lost.
PS: Thank you so much Robert for taking the time to answer my questions and I hope that you continue to write for many years to come.
RM: Thank you for doing the interview!
The next stops on Mr. McCammon’s Providence Rider Blog Tour:
June 12- The Big Idea at Whatever: http://whatever.scalzi.com/
June 13: On Favorite Literary Villains at Criminal Element: http://www.criminalelement.com/
June 14: Book Notes at largehearted boy: http://blog.largeheartedboy.com/