Interview with E.E. Knight
I was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin and grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota. Currently, I reside with my bellydancing librarian wife and toddler in Oak Park, Illinois - it's a suburb of Chicago mostly known for Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway. I've wanted to work with words and stories for almost as long as I can remember.
What are you reading right now?
Variously, a pulpish book about lawmen in the old west, the Folio edition of Tannahill's FOOD IN HISTORY, Margaret Thatcher's THE PATH TO POWER, the Ospery military guidebook on squad and platoon level tactics in WW2, and the 6th edition Warhammer 40k rulebook. These days I read more nonfiction than fiction. It used to be about 50/50 but now the ratio is more like 80/20.
What first sparked your interest in writing?
I wanted to tell stories similar to the ones I saw in movies or on TV. The first story I ever wrote as a tweenager was based on The Creature From the Black Lagoon. I think my mom has it in a drawer somewhere.
What do you love the most about writing? The least?
I've always been the sort of temperament that likes to sit in a corner, alone, working on a project. When I write, I can create dialogue for a natty little drawing-room scene without dealing with actors or an epic battle without having to go through an armada of special effects and CGI people. So I guess you could say the craft suits my personality. I suppose least is the sense that every project I do is something of a failure, it never lives up to the expectations I had of it when I wrote the first few paragraphs.
Tell us a little about your writing process.
I write on a laptop. I like to be on my own, but enjoy a little bit of business humming in the background. I don't know if minor distractions keep me from distracting myself or what, but I do like to have a little noise and motion, even if it's just street sounds coming through an open window. I generally try to do an entire scene in one sitting (or a couple if one of the scenes is just a few paragraphs). While I think of a novel in beginning-middle-end terms, when it comes time to sew the thing together I work patch by patch, with each scene a different patch. If I can do two thousand words of new material, I'm satisfied that I've put in a good day's work.
During down time I tend to think about the next couple of scenes. If I can get interested in some element of what I'm going to do during the next session, it makes getting that all-important first sentence down a lot easier.
What are your passions?
Playing with my kids, gaming, music, movies, cooking and food. I'd say "travel" but with small children in the family, long international flights are out for a while.
What inspires you?
The monthly mortgage statement. But seriously -- there's Visa as well.
If you don't mind me saying so, that's a little like asking "Why Renoir?" I can give the literary criticism answer about starting with a blank slate, the reader's experience in exploring my world and all that, but the warp and woof of it is that if you want to write about dragons (or vampires), you're doing fantasy. Even if your dragons (or vampires) wear fedoras, pack .45s, have a broken water cooler and want to find out why the millionaire sugar cane tycoon's daughter disappeared, it's still fantasy.
How was the AGE OF FIRE series born?
When a mommy idea and a daddy idea love each other very much. . .
I like animal adventure stories going back to, oh, CHARLOTTE’S WEB and THE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIONS I suppose. I wanted to do something with dragons, from their point of view. I became sick of seeing them as wish fulfillment vehicles playing second banana to their riders. I sat down and wrote to put dragons in a natural but fantasy-based word where a lot of their legendary behaviors, hoarding gold for instance, have a real world purpose (in my series it has to do with the health of their scales, heavy metals help them build strong scales just like adequate calcium helps your bones).
Your dragons feel so vivid. Did you research animal behavior for this series?
I started off with lizards, but they were a bit cold, so to speak. I ended up with large predatory birds, the raptors. For example, my dragon mating procedure is a romanticized version of eagle mating. I had no idea they did so much courting activity while airborne, locking talons and plunging toward earth. If they don't let go of each other so each can soar again, they crash and die. There's a lesson there, I think.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
The first sale is the hardest. I've found that you either have to love writing a great deal or need writing a great deal to make a career out of it. I'm a little of both. It's work, grinding work sometimes, but when you can touch a reader across time and space, well, the only word for it is magic.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?
I'm dreadfully shy. I get compliments when speaking to groups. Very few believe that it half kills me just to step out in front of an audience and start speaking. My ideal audience size is probably the number you can get around a little corner pub table. But public speaking is part of the life, so I pull up the big boy socks and make the best of it.