INTERVIEW: David Farland, author of “Feeding the Feral Children”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

It is a “classic” kind of story about a young man who has a run-in with a powerful sorcerer.

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

I was working in China working on a movie script for a big fantasy adventure trilogy when I began working on this. I wanted a different kind of wizardry in the story, and considered setting this in the American West, with Sioux Indians. I’d just been nominated for a major award for a historical novel that I had researched heavily, but then I realized, “Hey, I’ve been researching ancient China night and day for months. How about if I set it on the Silk Road 2300 years ago?”  So for me the setting came first, and I got to thinking about how to do a variation on a Chinese opera called Butterflies, about two star-crossed lovers. It all fell into place from there.

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

Actually, it was just fun.  I had to do a lot of research, but I enjoy that.

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

I think that every parent at one point in his or her life will look at the sacrifices he has made for his children and wonder if it was worth it. In this story, I’m dealing with a young man who loses everything to the younger generation.

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

I’ve made several trips to China, and have been to the region around Urumqi (on China’s far western border) on a couple of occasions. So I did a lot of reading, visiting museums, research on clothing and weapons, and this sort of thing. I was once in a storm when the Yellow Wind blew out of the Gobi, and that was one of the eeriest moments of my life, watching the whole sun get blotted out by ocher-colored dust. It was surreal, ethereal, as if you were in a dust storm on Mars.

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers—or you yourself—write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

I think that each of us goes through a time in life–at puberty–when we really do gain some “magical” powers. We get stronger, wiser, faster. We suddenly have the urge and ability to procreate. So on a symbolic level, stories about wizardry touch upon our shared experience of what it is like to suddenly gain strange new powers. At the same time, these stories play upon some of our wildest fantasies.

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

I enjoy stories where the wizards have powers but also have sharp limitations.  I like stories where the magic makes sense, almost like a science, but where there is still something magical and undefinable about the system. I hope that my own Runelords books give an example of that, especially as you delve into Gaborn and Binnesman, but I think that Brandon Sanderson has done a nice job of it with his Mistborn series, too.