In Xanth, everyone has a talent.
When I was a boy, I was introduced to a world called Xanth and it took me away from the daily struggles of a middle school student. †I sometimes wonder if modern kids can relate to the power of a book to be able to transport you to another time and place but it has always done that for me and to travel to Xanth was always a great escape. †When I bought ‘On a pale horse’, my love and respect for Piers Anthony’s work was secured and I would anxiously wait for the next book to come out.
I was talking with my friend Marc and somehow we got on the topic of authors and I had mentioned Piers Anthony as I grew up with his work. †The next thing I know, Marc had contacted Mr. Anthony’s agent and had requested an interview to which was gracefully accepted. †Thanks to the internet, I learned more about my favourite author but still had a few questions to ask:
Itís incredible that the Xanth series is up to its 40th book, with Isis Orb being released this fall. Is this a story that has been in development for some time, or did it come from more recent inspirations?
Isis Orb was suggested by a ten year old girl. So no, it wasnít in development long. Now there are two more novels in the pipeline, 41. Ghost Writer in the Sky and 42. Fire Sail.
We look forward to you writing many more books in the future. With such a strong fan base, would you ever trust another writer to carry on the Xanth legacy?
Years ago Jody Lynn Nye wrote two choose your own ending Xanth novels, and showed she could really do it. I suspect other writers could too. But as long as Iím alive, Iíll do them myself.
Incarnations of Immortality was originally planned as being a single book, but instead spawned a series. Where did the idea for the first book, On a Pale Horse, come from? How did the series evolve?
For decades I was depressive, until finally they diagnosed it as low Thyroid. Now one Levothyroxin pill a day keeps me out of the dumps. But back when I wrote On a Pale Horse I was in the throes of it. I thought about death constantly. So I made something of it, hoping to help others see Death more positively. Then, having worked out my framework, I followed up on other Incarnations.
The first seven books in the Incarnations of Immortality series were released in a short timeframe, between 1983 and 1990. The last book, Under a Velvet Cloak, didnít follow until 2007. Why the delay?
I thought Incarnations of Immortality was finished. Then a fan sent a detailed summary of a new novel. So I wrote it, and sent him a copy of the text Ė and never heard from him again. Did I do it wrong? I may never know.
With over 160 books published, weíve seen some great cover art representing your stories. How much influence do you have on whatís ultimately published?
I have had little or no control over the art, though I once aspired to be an artist myself. So I canít take credit or blame.
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Of your many creations, which character most reflects your own personality and beliefs?
Of my early novels, Veg the vegetarian in Omnivore. But really I identify closely with all my characters, including the females, such as Aquilon in Omnivore. Remember, I was an aspiring artist. She was the artist I would have liked to have been.
Since your early beginnings as an author, your family has grown. Has writing ever taken away from your family time, or have you always been able to achieve a good balance between the two?
When our first surviving daughter was born, eleven years into our marriage (we lost three babies stillborn in the first decade) it cut my writing efficiency in half. It did not recover fully until she went off to college. Family has always come first. But had any of those first three children survived, I would not have been able to gamble on writing with its insecure income. I have never figured out how I feel about that.
†How have your inspirations changed throughout the years?
I get ideas constantly. I think my work has changed, but it may be because I donít like to tread in my own tracks. Even Xanth, critics to the contrary, is a different novel each time, not a rehash of prior ones.
Do you have any particular routines that you follow when writing? A certain keepsake on your desk, or perhaps familiar music playing in the background?
I have always written whenever Iíve had the time. Family matters, letters, and yes, interviews constantly cut into my writing time, but I handle it. I do play some computer games like Free Cell or Mahjongg to break the pattern, but thatís about it.
Your website contains resources to help aspiring authors. In your opinion, has the changing market made it more difficult for new writers to get published?
On the contrary, the Internet has made it easier for new writers to get published. It used to be that only one in a hundred could make it; now anyone can. I think thatís good, and I encourage it.
Have e-books generated new fans and sales, or is your audience more traditional? In this digital age, how do you feel online piracy affects book sales?
Ebooks are changing the face of publishing, and my novels are now more electronic than traditional. Thatís fine. All my work gets pirated; I hate that, but donít know how it affects sales.
Letís say you were starting your career in 2016. Would you consider self-publishing digitally and/or through one of the many self-printing services?
Itís a shame that none of your books have made the transition to film. Which of your † stories would you most like to see come to life, and how can fans help make this happen?
For 20 years movie makers have flirted with me, but never come through in the end. But there is currently a movie/TV option on Xanth, which means they are seriously thinking about it. If I could choose, I think Iíd have Balook made into a movie, or my novella Aliena. But movie makers are only interested in Xanth or Incarnations.
†Finally, do you have any plans for the future beyond the next few Xanth books?
I will be 82 in August 2016. I hope just to stay alive and reasonably healthy, and my wife of 60 years with me. Who knows what I will write?
Thank you Mr. Anthony for your time here and all of your writing. †We hope you stay in good health and continue to write many more amazing stories of Xanth and beyond!
The BuySci-Fi Team