Books

Pierce Brown: Nerd at heart

Red Rising author Pierce Brown doesn't look it, but he's a massive nerd and will probably beat you in a nerd-off. 

GIST: What do you like to talk about when you’re talking to other writers?

PIERCE BROWN: Kind of a really nerdy thing; it’s finding out what their process is like. Not even the process of writing or what their daily routine is — because as a writer you constantly feel like you have this monkey on your back, this pressure to create or to work, but you really have no schedule except your own — so it’s fun to see how people use that schedule so you could compare. It’s a little competitive. You see who has work, who wakes up early and writes longer. It’s kinda fun to see behind the curtain on all this other authors. It usually boils down to experiences, what their daily routine is like, what their experience is with certain bookstores and what their like when they doing tours.

What are your thoughts on book tours?

So Mark (Danielewski — They traveled to Manila together recently for National Book Store. — Ed.) and I were talking in the car, just talking about favorite tour and what’s the hard thing about tours. We both agreed on airports. Going to airports on tours drains the life out of us. You know how it is. We do it like 16 times in a row in a course of 18 days, and it drains you . We love interacting with readers and bookstore owners, but we don’t get to talk about the stuff we want to talk about, it’s not that interesting.

“We were on a glacier, all strapped in ropes together so we wont fall, my legs were burning and I wanted to be lower our gravity. And I thought… Mars is 1/3 lower our gravity…”

About Red Rising. The concept came to you while you were backpacking with friends. How much of a nerd do you have to be for something like that to happen?

Colossal, colossal. Oh my god! This is my life. We moved eight times when I was a kid. We lived in eight states.  And growing up in all these different places, you didnt have friends in every new place. So the most fun that I had as a kid was digging holes in the backyard, building forts and living in the woods. So I’d take my stories with me in my head, I’d be thinking about Star Wars or Party Boys or Lord of the Rings while I’m out with myself. So you’re basically recycling these stories out and you’re wondering what’s happening with Frodo in your head. So I still have that muscle in my brain that functions this way so that I create stories while I’m hiking or doing whatever.

It’s sometimes good a lot of times it can be a problem especially when someone’s talking to me and I’m getting information and I’m thinking, Hmm… what spaceship could be coming to me right now? I came up with Red Rising because I was reading this great play the Antigone, in which Sophicles and this young woman, 2500 years ago, defy power in her city. I thought it would be beautiful to move that idea in the future, as we were hiking in a glacier.  It was night time, the stars were bright. That’s how it happened. We were on a glacier, all strapped in ropes together so we wont fall, my legs were burning and I wanted to be lower our gravity. And I thought… Mars is 1/3 lower our gravity. (Laughs)

When an idea occurs to you do you write it down immediately?

I set it aside for a little bit. If the idea is worth keeping, it will percolate and eventually I’ll write it down. I have entire books that I want to write but have written down nothing. If I have a little part of a story, I’ll write that down so I won’t forget, but overall I won’t write down a story or idea until feel like I have to write it. I think of worlds like a fish bowl, and that’s a fish bowl of worlds in my brain.

Where do you even begin creating an entire new universe?

It begins with a character. It comes with a song so I could get the emotional resonance, the tonal qualities, and I’ll attach it to a character and explore his arc a little or see where I want it to grow into. Or I think of a map. You know, I love maps. I loved drawing maps as a kid. Looking at maps and having the place manifest in your brain makes it easier to think of what could happen in that place… and so that’s where Red Rising came from. I started thinking of Antigone, of course, thinking about this young girl who defied power. I started thinking about who she’d be married to, who’s this guy she’ll be with in the end, and I thought of this guy as a main character, and I thought of his story and who he was and wondered why his love would be filled with guilt. The world started sprouting from that. From our planet to Mars. It really began from a seed of a character, and all things I’ve written began from maps or something like that.

“I think of worlds like a fish bowl, and that’s a fish bowl of worlds in my brain.”

How old were you when you read Lord of the Rings?

Probably 10. Did not understand it much, then I read the Hobbit. Came back to it at 13 or 14.

Any TV shows you’re currently watching?

Obsessive Game Of Thrones fan. Handmaid’s Tale. I really like Fargo and Stranger Things. But the only one that influences my work is Game Of  Thrones.

Are you writing anything right now?

Yeah! Yeah! I’m writing the Iron Gold which is the sequel to Red Rising series, three more books in that series coming up in the years afterwards. Iron Gold comes out January. It all follows the same characters of Red Rising but with a several additional ones. You’ll be seeing points of views, not just from Darrow’s perspective, but through other characters. I’m gonna be writing three more in that series then I’ll probably be moving on to fantasies and other fish bowls in my brain right now.

When you’re writing, do you shut everything out?

When I’m writing well, I get seduced by the silence. I really fall into the work. But I feel that the difficulty sometimes is how busy your life can become. We have family. We have friends. We have relationships. It’s sometimes hard to balance them, but ifinding those moments of willingness to shut off everyone else is when you get to create. Creation to me is done in solitary confinement. It’s finding that separate peace.

“I think children should distrust adults more. Just because they are older does not mean they know what’s going on.”

How has your life changed since Red Rising?

Not too much. I have a dog now! I was a lone single man back then. I live by myself now — which is a bit different — because I can finally afford to. Before, I was juggling around a lot of jobs. I feel like that’s the biggest change. Friends-level wise, same friends enjoy same thing. But now I feel like I have to be constantly creating, but I admit I’ve been consumed by that too back then. I think the biggest change is that I get to make money out of telling stories. Before, when I was dreaming of doing it, I was working in so many jobs and work-writing small hours in the morning , and there was this constant fear that I would never be able to publish a book. Now it’s knowing that when I write something I get to share it with you, that’s the fun. Storytelling began by siting around the campfire, telling stories to kids, medicine-men and tribes sharing tales and morales of their ancestors. And being able to create and make such a living out of it such an awesome feeling.

What book would you recommend to a 10-year-old?

Maybe Ender’s Game (by James Frey).  I mean, Harry Potter of course. Ender’s Game, when you read it as a child it’s dark material. I really feel like there are such mature themes and the whole concept of it is distrusting adults. I think children should distrust adults more. Just because they are older does not mean they know what’s going on. I think Ender’s Game taught me to think more for myself. You have to think independently. And I feel as though, there is a natural inclination for adults as parents to want their kids to just obey, but I feel like this does not create the best citizen. I feel like we should be constantly questioning, because that is the foundation of how thought evolves. They’ve done their thing, they’ve learned how to live their own way. you don’t want to replicate that! You wanna find out for yourself. More independence as a child opens the doors and can help you create more things that have not been created yet.

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown comes out in January 2018. Red Rising is available at National Book Store branches nationwide.

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