A Conversation With Patrick Rothfuss

It was a little over a year ago when I first picked up a copy of Pat’s book, ‘Name of the Wind,’ the first book of his fantasy trilogy. At first, I was reluctant to give a new author a chance. I had been a long time fan of a number of writers, and had a pile of their works collecting dust on shelves, or hidden in bins. A new author, in my opinion, deserves a certain amount of time and patience that I was not sure I could afford at the time. However, not a week later I found myself longing for something to occupy my mind in a way that only a good storyteller could. Without delay I bought an e-book copy and downloaded it to my iPad. I began to dive into the new fantasy world that this new-to-me-author offered up.

It didn’t take very long, just three short pages, and I was hooked. The introduction is the thing that did it. This arty, perhaps a little wordy, narrative made me think, ‘Wow, this is the kind of book I’ve been waiting for.’ After I had read the book, fortune, so it seemed, smiled upon me. Patrick Rothfuss was going to be doing a book reading/signing at a near by Joseph Beth’s bookstore just outside of Cleveland. As soon as we heard, my other half and I, quickly made the necessary arrangements to be present.

When the day arrived, we climbed into my horribly beat up car and did our best to make the poor dented Chevy fly. Once we were inside, we anxiously awaited his arrival. A little while after we showed up, in walked a slightly scruffy man. His hair obviously wind-swept and curly, matched his almost bushy beard, and something about his sunglasses, that were black as night and twice as dark, screamed ‘RockStar.’ I never had seen a picture of Pat before, so when I looked over someone’s shoulder, and I caught a glimpse of the photo that adorned the jacket of her copy of his book, then I realized who it was I was looking at.

Did I expect him to be suave, and well dressed? Maybe. Had I built up the image of some tweed wearing, stuffy professor type whom can’t seem to take his hand of his glasses for more than twenty seconds for fear of facing some unseen consequence? Perhaps. However, this jolly looking man, outfitted a ‘Joss Whedon is my master’ t-shirt, was not even entered  as a possibility into the simulation parameters of my  little fantasy. As soon as he spoke, suddenly, no other visage would do.

The event went smoothly, and was much more informative and laid back than I ever dared hope. Afterwards, he very kindly signed our books, and I was lucky enough to be part of a funny moment where he and I compared our thick and broad hands, and he mock-screamed, ‘Meaty man-paws of the world unite!‘ A year later the new book came out, and I found he was going to be somewhat nearby once again. I wondered to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be great to interview him?’ After ten seconds, I decided I had nothing to lose. I went to his blog, and sent him and email. Sadly, my email went unread for some time, and my original plans to get to Dayton had hit a snag. Imagine my surprise, no, really, go ahead – I’ll wait. Imagine my surprise, when I groggily checked the time on my smart phone, there was an email from Pat. And so the long conversation began.

 

Jesse H. – First, thanks for taking time out of your week to work on an interview with me, Pat.

 

Patrick Rothfuss – No problem.

 

JH – Normally, Pat, I write reviews on different Tech products, usually something Apple-centric, so I hope you don’t mind if we start off with a few questions about the technology you use personally and professionally.

 

PR –  It’s all good. Hit me.

 

JH – Alright, being the head of iOS and Mac reviews here at The NeuFutur, I should probably get the silliest question out of the way first. Are you a Mac, or a PC, or other?

 

PR – PC. I’ve used Macs in the past, but I really haven’t had any reason to keep up with them since I played the Escape Velocity.

 

I will tell you though, my assistant has an iPad, and I’m beginning to eye it with envy in my heart.

 

JH –  We won’t hold it against you. Promoting your work, doing book signings, and other such things, I imagine you’re on the road a lot. Is there a go-to-device or piece of tech that you take with you?

 

PR – I have a little netbook I got as a Christmas present a couple years ago. It’s portable, but it isn’t much use for anything except checking e-mail. Trackpads irritate the hell out of me, and small keyboards are useless if I want to write.

 

You see, when I write I use a model-m IBM keyboard. One of the old-school clicky keyboards. The thing is actually made of iron. It weighs five times more than the netbook, but it has great key action, and I love the tactile feedback. I’ve been using this keyboard for years, and by now anything else feels flailing and useless to me.

 

JH – Being a bit of a gamer yourself, is there a current console you tend to game on?

 

PR – Not really. I do most of my gaming on PC. Console gaming has always been more of a social thing for me, and I haven’t had console gaming friends in town for years and years. Not since my college days.

 

Now that I think of it, I don’t think I’ve really played a console game enthusiastically since I played Ocarina of Time back in 1999.

 

JH: Great game, but I still shudder every time I hear Navi’s voice.

 

PR: Heh. I had a friend who had “Listen!” as a ringtone for a while. All the proper geeks in the room would flinch when it went off.

 

JH – Moving away from annoying sprites- Do you have an all time, desert island, top 5 games?

 

PR – I could pick three pretty easily:

 

1.   Portal 2. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but it’s on top of my to-be-played list.

 

2.   Sims 3. I haven’t actually played this one either, but I was really impressed with Sims 2. Those games have a ton of replayability, so it would be good for the island.

 

3.   W.O.W. Yet another game that I haven’t played. I’d like to…. But I avoid  MMORPG’s like the plague because I have an addictive streak in my personality. If I started W.O.W. I wouldn’t get anything else done, ever. But that wouldn’t be a problem on a desert island, would it?

 

JH – No, let’s just hope they have great broadband options though. How about this? Is there any new tech, real or rumored, coming down the pike in the next year or so that has you excited?

 

PR – I don’t know if it’s in the works or not, but I’d like to see a new piece of solid intuitive tech that will replace the mouse.

 

JH – Something that isn’t trackpads, because they annoy you right?

 

PR- Trackpads are great for people who don’t care how much of their lives they waste dicking around on their laptops. Don’t believe me? Find one serious gamer out there that plays a fps with a trackpad.

 

When I’m on the computer, I want something that will get the job done quickly and efficiently. The mouse is the best option for now, but I’m hoping we’ll get something better soon…

 

Don’t get me wrong. The mouse was groundbreaking when it came out, and it works pretty well for most things. But the tech is more than 40 years old at this point. It makes your wrist ache if you use it for an hour or two intensively. And I have to stop using my other main input device (the keyboard) to use it. These things are less than ideal. I think we’re overdue for a leap forward in interface tech.

 

JH – Alright, I think that’s enough to fill my Tech quota, and enough for me to be able to keep my non-paying tech review gig.

 

PR –  Heh. I know where you’re coming from. I wrote a humor column for my local paper for over ten years. Never got paid either.

 

JH – Feh. No. Of course not, but at least I occasionally get cool free swag.

 

PR – Now I’m jealous. All I ever got was death threats.

 

JH – Alright, let’s move on to some writing-themed questions. Do you have a routine or ritual you go through before starting a new body of work?

 

PR – My most elaborate preparation is making a strong cup of coffee before I sit down and start writing. In my opinion, too much ritual just complicates matters and wastes my time. I try to avoid it.

 

JH – Any bad habits you’d encourage other people to break, or not to get started on?

 

PR – Everyone’s brain works differently. If you’re an outliner, you should outline. If you’re an freestyler, you should do that instead. If it helps you to listen to music while you write, you should put on your headphones.

 

But I encourage people not to get bogged down in pointless rituals. You don’t need to listen to music. You don’t need a cup of coffee before you write. You don’t need to have a 4 hour block of time to get something done. Every time you convince yourself of something like that, you’re chaining yourself down, making it harder for yourself to write.

 

JH – I think I’ve heard the psych majors in my writing classes call that ‘Conditional Learning’. Is that what you mean? You end up not being able to make anything happen unless all the conditions are met?

 

PR – I think that might be state-dependent learning.

 

But I’m not talking about anything so complicated. I’m saying that if you build up rituals around your writing, it doesn’t do much other than use up your precious time. I’ve known people with elaborate pre-writing routines. First they drink a cup of tea and watch an episode of Fraiser. Then they listen to some Bach and play minesweeper until they win a game. Before you know it, your pre-writing ritual is three hours long.

 

That’s no good. Just sit down and write.

 

JH –  Good advice. Ok, here’s one on my list, and I’m going to just come out and say it now; I hate Twilight. Movie was kinda ok, but I felt bad that I didn’t read the book, thinking it might be better – I was so disgusted I gave up after seventy-five pages.

 

PR – I haven’t read it either. Or seen the movie. From what I’ve heard, it’s not going to be my cup of tea….

 

JH – As I’m told being over the tweener age bracket and male puts us both at a disadvantage. What is your take on this recent wave of young-adult books that are all centered around Vampires, werewolves, and disturbingly, zombies everything?

 

PR – It’s just a fad. They come and go. (Pat shrugs) It doesn’t bother me one way or the other, though. There’s good stuff that’s vampire-centered, Buffy the Vampire Slayer being the shining example, of course. Some of my current favorite books have vampires and zombies. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books, for example.

 

JH – I agree. I personally just feel it’s being totally over saturated into pop culture now, it’s one of the reasons I like your books. Fearlessly not following the fad.

 

PR: Heh. You’re giving me too much credit. I was fearlessly not knowing what was going on while I was writing it…

 

JH –  Any advice you would give a new author to get himself noticed?

 

PR – Write something good. Anything else is just pointless attention-whoring.

 

JH –  Ok, one more writing question. With two best sellers in the fantasy genre, a mock-children’s book, and a published collection of your works from your days on the college newspaper under your belt, are there any other genres or types of work you would like to break into?

 

PR – I’d like to try writing stories for video games.

 

We have amazing technology these days. Using that technology, we can make beautiful games. But pretty only goes so far. How about some good dialogue? Some good characters? How about a well-constructed story underpinning the gameplay? Without these things, most games feel kinda pointless and shallow.

 

I wrote a blog on the subject a while back. I got a friend to illustrate a comic that shows how ridiculous some game mechanics are….

Ars Ludi (The Art of the Game)

 

JH – Well, here at the neufutur, we have sort of an unofficial motto about reviews, which would be ‘If you can do something with it, and assign a rating system to it, we’ll review it.’ With that in mind, I’m sure some of our readers would love to hear some random human interest questions that have nothing to do with my tech corner, and nothing to do with writing. So, how about you fill out this questionnaire while I attempt to beat your high score on Dig Dug here.

 

PR – Bring it. I am the Dig Dug master.

 

 

JH –  Less talking – more scribbling.

 

 

a. Favorite book?

 

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle.

 

b. Favorite drink (alcoholic or non)?

 

Orange Dream Machine from Jamba Juice.

 

c. Favorite food?

 

Burrito. Chipotle burrito.

 

d. Favorite band? Or Music Artist?

 

Bare Naked Ladies.

 

e.  Your next big goal in life?

 

I would like to eat an entire wedding cake.

 

PR –  There you go.

 

And so the two meaty-handed writers, button mashed well into the night. The next morning, when the sun rose over the hills, and the shrill call of their female counter parts found their sleeping ears, Jesse quickly realized, as he was running for his life, he  had forgotten to finish his interview. Fortunately, this transcript was found next to his body when the investigators arrived at the scene of his grizzly demise.

 

==================================================================

 

For additional reading check out Pat’s blog and official website at www.patrickrothfuss.com

 

and be sure to check out his blog about his desire to make games safe for intelligent people everywhere at

http://blog.patrickrothfuss.com/2011/01/ars-ludi-the-art-of-the-game/

2 thoughts on “A Conversation With Patrick Rothfuss”

  1. Had I built up the image of some tweed wearing, stuffy professor type whom can’t seem to take his hand of his glasses for more than twenty seconds for fear of facing some unseen consequence?

    Not trying to be a jerk or anything, but it seems like it’s worth noting that I think you mean “who” instead of “whom.” Feel free to delete this comment as desired.

  2. I really enjoyed this article. It was candid and offered an outside perspective of PR that I haven’t seen before (i.e, PR’s blog, I am constantly checking for new posts). This article shows how cool PR can be, which I like to see because it reinforces my own opinions. After reading PR’s blog for so long, years, I feel as though I am buying books from a friend. Or maybe from a friend of a friend.

    Me gusta.

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