„A year is a long time to wait for a book, but it’s a really short time to write a book“ – Interview with Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss’ debut novel „The Name of the Wind“ has review pages buzzing with praise – and deservedly so. It is a well-crafted and truly original piece of Fantasy, telling a magnificent story.

Phantastik-Couch.de: Pat, I assume only a few German speaking readers know you. Could you shortly introduce yourself?

Patrick Rothfuss: Hmmm. …I never know how to describe myself without sounding like a personals add. I’m 33, 5’ 10" a non-smoker. I like reading and long, romantic walks on the beach. …

I know six different martial arts, but none of them very well. I’ve done radio drama and improv comedy. I also teach at the local university. But, I’m not a stereotypical professor type though. I don’t smoke a pipe and wear a tweedy jacket. I’m more like a student who stayed at the university for so long that they gave him a job to keep him out of trouble.

Phantastik-Couch.de: Is your day job in any way connected with Fantasy or prose writing?

Patrick Rothfuss: Not really, except that I’d like to teach creative writing someday, if I got the chance. Right now I just teach Freshman English. I think it would be nice to share what I’ve learned about novel writing with interested students.

Phantastik-Couch.de: How did your family, friends and colleagues react to the success of your book? What were the comments you liked best?

Patrick Rothfuss: I don’t know if the book is really a success yet. It’s only been out a couple months. People do seem to be liking it lot though. Generally my favorite remarks always come from my readers. I’ve had people say my book made them laugh, or cry, or that it frightened them late at night.

My favorite response was years ago. I’d given a friend an early draft of the book to read. I came back to my house around 2:30 in the morning and found him sitting in the rain on my front porch. He wanted the second half of the book. I knew then that I had to be doing something right.

Phantastik-Couch.de: How much time do you spend on working at the next book of your Kingkiller trilogy?

Patrick Rothfuss: Um. …all of it?

Seriously though, I remember what it was like as a kid. I’d read a book by an author, love it, then have to wait in agony for them to get the next book out. I remember thinking to myself, why can’t they chain him to his desk or something. I need the next book!

But while a year is a long time to wait for a book, it’s a really short time to write a book. Or, in my case, to revise a book that’s pretty much already finished. I want to make sure it’s perfect before I let go of it. People are really looking forward to it, and I don’t want to let them down.

Phantastik-Couch.de: How long did it take you to write the first installment?

Patrick Rothfuss: To write the first draft of the trilogy took about seven years. Then it took me another seven years to revise, get an agent, revise more, get a publisher, revise yet more, and finally get the book into print. It’s a really ridiculously long process. I promise the second book won’t take 14 years to come out though. …

Phantastik-Couch.de: What made you write Fantasy and not SF or Horror?

Patrick Rothfuss: I don’t really see much difference between SF and Fantasy, but I know what you mean. …

Fantasy has always been close to my heart. It’s what I read growing up as a child, and what I read now for fun. I like using the element of the fantastic in my writing.

Phantastik-Couch.de: Now in your own words: What’s „The Name of the Wind“ about?

Patrick Rothfuss: Oh boy. I’m really bad at this question. Everyone asks it, and I’m no better at summarizing the book now than I was two years ago. You should really pull someone else’s summary for this. Here’s the problem. The book is about a lot of things. If I could have easily said those things in a 20-word blurb, I wouldn’t have needed to write the novel, I could have just written the blurb and saved everyone a lot of time.

Phantastik-Couch.de: At times I forgot that Kvothe lives and acts in a Fantasy world, so earthly is his striving – would you want to write books without a Fantasy setting?

Patrick Rothfuss: I could. But I don’t know if I'd really want to. I get quite enough of the real world in my daily life, why would I want to vacation there as well? But yeah, I could. I write about things that are important to me. I have a blog where I keep in touch with my fans. Sometimes on there I’ll just tell a little story about the things that happen in my everyday life. People seem to enjoy them well enough.

I think if you’re a storyteller, if you’re good at putting words together, people will enjoy reading most anything you like. But I don’t see myself leaving behind fantasy any time soon.

Phantastik-Couch.de: Where’s the connection between Patrick Rothfuss and traveling actors and string instruments?

Patrick Rothfuss: Would you believe that I can’t play an instrument to save my life? I wish I could, but I don’t seem to have the knack for it, or the requisite manual dexterity.

Phantastik-Couch.de: Pottermania has reached its absolute height last month – could Kvothe be a Harry Potter for adults?

Patrick Rothfuss: A few people have said that already. In fact, I think Hugo award winner David Levine used those exact words. Orson Scott Card also compared my book to Harry Potter, in a blog post he made on his website.

Phantastik-Couch.de: Next to fine characterization you obviously spent a lot of time with building a world. What inspired you?

Patrick Rothfuss: I wanted to make a world that seemed real, despite its fantastic elements. So much fantasy these days seems like a house of cards or a movie set. Like if you turned a corner and looked around, you’d see that the buildings were all made out of cardboard.

So many writers use the same fantasy props again and again. It’s like they're putting together their fantasy novels out of a kit, or from a recipe in a cookbook. Elves – check. Evil wizard – check. Dragon – check. Prophecy – check. Magic sword – check. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to tell a good story, and use some of the familiar fantasy themes, but make them fresh and new again. That was a big piece of my inspiration.

Phantastik-Couch.de: Any authors you would name your favorites or influential on your work?

Patrick Rothfuss: I love Neil Gaiman's stuff, and Terry Pratchett, of course. Orson Scott Card has yet to write a book that has disappointed me too. Currently, my favorite novel has to be The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle though. I read that about once a year and it’s just as good every time.

Phantastik-Couch.de: What are you reading at the moment?

Patrick Rothfuss: The first book of the Dresden Files: Storm Front. I’m only halfway through, but it’s pretty good so far …

Phantastik-Couch.de: Do you know any German language authors?

Patrick Rothfuss: I read Michael Ende a while back. The Neverending Story. I also read Hans Bemmann’s The Stone and The Flute years ago. Those are the only two I can think of right now.

Phantastik-Couch.de: Plans for the time after the Kingkiller Chronicles?

Patrick Rothfuss: I have plans for another series set in the same world, using many of the same characters. Or I also had the thought of writing a satirical urban fantasy set in the modern day.

Phantastik-Couch.de: Thanks for this interview, Pat!

Patrick Rothfuss: Thank you, sir. It’s been a pleasure.

This interview was conducted by Frank Dudley