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SWS: What have been your major influences over the years?

GEMMELL: There have been three basic influences which have shaped the
work. As a child I read The Lord of the Rings,and wrote to Tolkien. 
He sent me a letter which I treasured for years. Secondly, I became 
hooked on the works of Louis L'Amour. I found his storytelling to be 
compulsive and his characterizations--especially in the earlier 
novels-- wholly compelling. He had a knack of introducing a character
with, say, two sentences of description, which left you feeling you'd
known the man all your life. A friend of mine calls such characters 
"men from Rick's pub." They walk out of the bar and on to the page, 
arriving complete. No real effort is needed by the author to flesh 
them out. L'Amour's talent in this area was majestic. The third major
influence was Stan Lee at Marvel Comics. I've never met him or spoken
to him, but I love that man. The growth of Marvel in the sixties was 
a revelation. Heroes and villains became interchangeable. Both sets 
had faults, both hadheroic qualities. The effect was mind-blowing.

SWS: How have your influences affected your approach to the craft of 
fantasy novels and to characterization?

GEMMELL: When I began to write my own stories, I realized they were 
being fueled by what I had gained from these three sources: Tolkien 
gave me a love of fantasy, L'Amour taught me that characterization 
was vital, and Stan Lee made me realize that the lines between heroes 
and villains should always be blurred.

I based all my characters on people I have known, and I have been 
lucky in my life to have met a great many interesting people. I was 
born in West London, in a violent area, and many of the people I grew up with were criminals. Some were
merely thieves, others men of violence. I know the breed. But whatever
else, they were also men of contrasts. Life is never simple. We take 
a young man and train him for war. We teach him to kill without mercy.
When he comes home he is a hero. But if, once home, he uses the skills
he has been taught, he is considered a villain and a danger to 
society. There is a grand nonsense here. I once interviewed a man who
ran a protection racket. I asked him how he justified his occupation.
He smiled at me and said, "I'm no different to the government, son. 
They tell you to give a percentage of your earnings to them, otherwise
they'll put you in prison. What's that if it's not a protection 

A hero in a fantasy novel does not have to be nice, or kind, or
caring, or--God forbid--politically correct. What he needs is courage 
and a willingness to fight evil regardless of the cost to himself. 
His own prejudices are largely irrelevant.

SWS: What are your current projects in the various media?

GEMMELL: Del Rey has acquired twelve of my books, and I am currently 
continuing the Drenai and Stones of Power series. I am also involved 
in scripting a television drama series, based on a thriller I wrote 
under the name Ross Harding. My agents are also negotiating film 
rights for my first novel, LEGEND.

SWS: What have you learned about the different media by virtue of 
working in more than one?

GEMMELL: Writing for television is a wholly different discipline. Ten
pages of description can be encapsulated in a single scene, and twenty
lines of dialogue can be put over by a good actor, virtually with the
raising of an eyebrow. The other great thing about television work is 
that it is far more of a team effort. Writing novels is a solitary 
business. Television is about creative tensions merging together to 
create a dynamic story. It's much more exciting, though ultimately 
less rewarding for the ego.

SWS: Given your diverse background, what areas do you still want to 

GEMMELL: That is the most difficult question. I have always been 
highly competitive, and rarely satisfied with any achievement. I am 
a workaholic who produces around a quarter of a million words a year.
I don't really have an ultimate goal. I just want to be the best I 
can be. On the other side of the coin, I received a letter from a 
reader who told me that, after reading one of my stories, he was out 
walking his dog when he saw two men attacking a woman. He ran in and 
fought them off. He told me he was sure he wouldn't have pitched in 
so readily if he had not just read a story of heroes. "By heavens," I
thought, "life can't get much better than that."

--copyright  1995 by David Gemmell