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A Conversation With L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Last week I had the opportunity to meet and interview L.E. Modesitt, Jr. He’s written more than fifty-five books, starting off with science fiction and then entering the fantasy genre and now at home in both. We got a chance to talk about his origins, his many occupations before becoming a full-time author, his works both past and future. Here’s a sampling:

LEM: “You are a novelist trying to cram novels into short stories. Go write a novel.” And I did.

WW: So when you took his advice and wrote the novel. Indeed, if you were a novelist, trying to find six pounds into one pound bag, so to speak…Did you find it was liberating to have that room to stretch out or was it easy to get into or…what was the transition like?

LEM: (pause) It was harder than hell. Because short stories, short fiction really has to almost turn on a dime. It’s one of the reasons why it’s hard to write. At least why it’s hard for me to write. I still do it. Novels, on the other hand…for the first three or four…oh, probably the first ten novels I wrote, what I got back from the editors was always, “You’re being too cryptic. You need to expand this.” And that makes sense, given where I’d come from [as a poet], because basically poetry is trying to say the most with the least number of words, short stories are trying to say a bit more but still trying to keep it very condensed, whereas with a novel, your reader wants to know pretty much everything.


WW: What is your particular approach [to worldbuilding]?

LEM: …I have a general concept of what I’m gonna do, how I want to do it. But what I tend to outline is, in essence, the structure of the society, the culture, the magic system, the political institutions, the religious institutions, and of course, my map. Every fantasy universe I’ve done, I’ve had the map. Now some of those haven’t shown up until later in the books, but I’ve had them from the beginning. And I draw them to scale, because I got really irritated when I was a reader when I discovered that in certain fantasy books, somebody was making a journey on horseback and it was three days in this book and it was eight days in this book, and the weather didn’t change…and I thought, “Wait a second here.” So if I make it to scale, I can always keep myself fairly on track.


You can also hear his opinion of writer’s block, his encounter with a gentleman named James, and his concerns for our technological future by clicking to listen above or downloading the full podcast/interview. It was great fun talking to him.

His latest book, Scholar was released just last week and is available from Amazon. For more about his Imager series (which Scholar is a part of), his other sci-fi and fantasy series, and more about the man himself, his official site is here.

Thanks to Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, Georgia for hosting the event. You can find out more about them here.

Special thanks as well to Wolven for helping to setup the whole shebang.