INTERVIEW: Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb (a/k/a Megan Lindholm) is the author of The Realm of the Elderlings epic fantasy series, which is comprised of several subseries, including The Farseer Trilogy, The Liveship Traders, The Tawny Man, and The Rain Wilds Chronicles. Her most recently published book is City of Dragons, the third volume of The Rain Wilds Chronicles, published in February 2012. Her recent publications include The Inheritance and Other Stories, incorporating shorter pieces of fiction published under both of her pseudonyms. Blood of Dragons is the concluding volume of The Rain Wilds Chronicles. It will be published in March of 2013. Robin Hobb currently resides in Tacoma, Washington.

Tell us a bit about your story, “Homecoming.” What’s it about?

“Homecoming” tells the tale of how the first settlers ventured into the Rain Wilds. It explains how they came to be there, and why they settled and built homes in such an inhospitable place. Chronologically, it is the very first story that takes place in the realm of the Elderlings.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

It’s a soup of all the sorts of things I’ve always loved in tales: ancient and mysterious abandoned cities, pioneering folk, disgrace turned to triumph, and people taking skills in one area and employing them in another.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

It was easy. I loved writing this story. It was so much fun to write that it’s probably immoral for me to get money for doing it. But, too late now, you already cut that check!

Most authors say all their stories are personal. If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

The heroine is the sort of character I admire. She steps out of the place she has been put in all her life, and carves a new niche for herself as life demands of her. Personal, as in reflecting my own life? Not so much, I don’t think. But I really enjoyed writing her. She is a friend I would like to have.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

As I was returning to a setting I had used before, I had done most of my research already. I enjoyed creating plants and creatures for this sort of a ecological setting, and visualizing the geological events that had created it.

What is the appeal of epic fantasy? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write it? Why do you think readers/viewers love it so much?

Sometimes it feels like our lives are all too little to matter. In good epic fantasy, we discover that all great changes begin with small acts, be they acts of heroism or selfishness. One man can make a difference in the great big world. And that, I think, is what moves us in epic tales.

What are some of your favorite examples of epic fantasy (in any media), and what makes them your favorites?

Lord of the Rings. It still speaks to me as strongly as it did when I first read it. Dune, I know, is SF, and yet it has that sweep of story that carries me away. And one of my old favorites would be She by H. Rider Haggard!