10 Questions with Fred Saberhagen

Fred Saberhagen, creator of The Berserkers, recently took time to answer the Fantasy Section interview questions. Special thanks to Fred's wife Joan, who got me in touch with Fred and relayed the questions to him and the answers back to me.

1. How do you come up with the ideas for your stories? In other words, how do the muses work for you?

Actually ideas are everywhere. It's the paperwork, that is, sitting down and thinking them into a coherent story, trying to find just the right words, that can and usually does get to be labor.

2. Do you have a special routine when you're writing, or can you just sit down at a computer and start typing?

It varies. I've never been able to put in long, long, uninterrupted sessions the way some people do. I tend to get up at least every hour or so and walk around the house, Maybe I put in about six hours a day of real effort.

3. Who are your literary influences?

There are probably a lot. The first that comes to mind is the late A. B. Guthrie, Jr. who wrote no fantasy, as far as i know, but about the American West. Anyone who wants to write action and narrative should get his novel The Big Sky, and live with it for a while.

4. Generally how long does it take you to write an average novel? How many different revisions do you usually go through?

Oddly enough, having a fast computer doesn't seem to speed things up. Now it seems to take me almost a year. My process of writing is to do a very short version first, maybe only ten pages, and then continously expand and revise, trying to make the total length grow by four or five pages a day. Only towards the end of this process are any of the chapters in fully readable condition, a state of affairs that used to alarm my wife. But Joan's got used to it.

5. How do you deal with writers-block?

I suspect that writer's block afflicts mainly people who have some stable and ample source of income outside of writing. So far it hasn't been a problem.

6. Out of everything you've written, which would you say is your favorite; which gives you the most satisfaction of a job-well-done?

This probably depends on my mood. The Berserkers have been with me for about forty years, and we're not done yet. Then the Swords had quite a run. I really wish more people could have read my VEILS OF AZLAROC, where I set out to create the wildest world I could imagine, and I think did a pretty good job of it. The same goes for MERLIN'S BONES, my Arthurian effort.

7. Do you have a favorite character that you've created?

I suppose my most impressive characters tend to be inhuman, the Berserkers again, or marginally so, like my version of Dracula. Of course neither is "favorite" in the sense that I'd want to live with the real thing.

8. What do you think makes a good fantasy author?

The same tools that make any writer good, plus a cheerful willingness to suspend belief.

9. Can you tell us what you're currently working on and when you expect it will be available in bookstores?

Sure. BERSERKER PRIME (how did Earthly people first encounter them?) will be out from Tor in hardcover in the fall of '03, and i'm working on ROGUE BERSERKER for Baen. (New title, Jim.) Also have finished a short story for Father Greeley's anthology of Irish fantasy, due out St Patrick's Day of '04.

10. Random quote or piece of advice you'd like to share to end this with?

"I tried to be a philosopher, but cheerfulness kept breaking in."--Anonymous

Always say "thanks" to the interviewer. Thank you.

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