Our bookseller Mike
got the chance to ask one of his favorite authors five questions. Of course he couldn't stop at just five...
To find out more about Dan Simmons and to see a list of his books, click here
1. Being one of the few novelists whose work spans the genres of Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Suspense, and Historical Fiction, is there a favorite among them that you enjoy writing?
As a constant reader, I find myself having cravings for different kinds of books to read at specific times. For instance, I may have an absolute need to read or re-read something important and beautifully written, which sends me to my personal library and such favorites as Proust's In Search of Lost Time
or Saul Bellow's Humboldt's Gift
or Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow
, Joyce's Ulysses
, or John Fowles's Daniel Martin
or a Nabokov novel (probably one less widely known than Lolita
) or one of the major Tolstoy novels. At these times I also tend to graze on high-quality short stories from the likes of John Updike, James Joyce, John Cheever, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others.
At other times, especially if I'm battling illness for any length of time, I may be reading the serious stuff part of the time but shift my primary focus to digging out something wonderful such as Richard Stark's (aka Donald Westlake) Parker-the-thief novels. I've also re-read O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series --one incredible history-based novel of friendship across 20 volumes -- six or seven times.
I mention these books specifically because, for me at least, the desire to write a new novel includes the same hunger for diversity that leads serious readers to such a wide variety of novels. I also made a decision, right when I started publishing my fiction in 1982 (and novels in 1985), to write whatever kind of book my curiosity and sense of personal challenge led me to. Only that, I knew, would make a year or more of that constant research and work on one thing worthwhile to me.
The real miracle, in my eyes, after I leave certain genres behind and search for these new and more difficult challenges, is how willing many of my readers have been to follow me into new genres and forms of fiction. Authors appreciate an intelligent reader's loyalty perhaps more than anything else. Plus, it's always a pleasant surprise when I find a critical-mass of new readers who'll take the risk or reading me for the first time (hardcovers are expensive
) in-genre, out-of-genre, and in whatever new self-invented "genres" where I find myself writing.