Note: The following interview, which aired on 10/15/2009, has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show.
Interview with Piers Anthony
Matthew Peterson: My next guest is Piers Anthony. Most known for the Xanth Novels. I remember when I was younger--Iíll just preface this interview, when I was younger, about 10 years old, my brothers were reading the Xanth Novels and I remember those covers. And years later, actually just a few months ago, I saw those covers again and remembered them, started reading them and never realized how interesting they were and I wish I would have picked them up when my brothers were reading them. But I have Piers Anthony on today. Thanks for being on the show Piers.
Piers Anthony: Youíre welcome.
Matthew Peterson: You have a lot of novels in the Xanth Series, you also have some other seriesĖIncarnations of ImmortalityĖbut the Xanth Series are your most popular ones, I think.
Piers Anthony: Yes.
Matthew Peterson: You started back in 1977 with A Spell for Chameleon.
Piers Anthony: Yes.
Matthew Peterson: Did you have any idea back then, how popular this series would become?
Piers Anthony: No idea at all. The only reason I wrote it, because I wanted to work with the editor of Del Ray. Iíd seen his editing in magazines and he was a fantasy editor, so I wrote a fantasy novel. I had no idea what I was starting, and I donít think he did either.
Matthew Peterson: Well, I had no idea what the books were like and I pick them up. I just remembered those covers, I picked Ďem up, started reading, and all of a sudden the book starts talking about the main character sowing wild oats. And I was like, literally, sowing, you know, digging and planting wild oats, and I was like, ďOh this is a pun!"
Piers Anthony: It was literal.
Matthew Peterson: Yep. And then I had a totally different perception of the books and I continued reading them. Just finished Nightmare actually a couple days ago. So, Iím still kind of a baby in [Xanth].
Piers Anthony: When I wrote Nightmare, my big worry was that people wouldnít identify with a non-human protagonist.
Matthew Peterson: Uh huh.
Piers Anthony: No trouble.
Matthew Peterson: Oh, I loved it. I loved it. It was really good. I really enjoyed the way that you did put lot of puns. Because thatís different. We donít get that as much in fantasy nowadays. But I also enjoyed that you do have the mystery, and the characters are very endearing.
Piers Anthony: Yes. The act of puns started because I just couldnít take fantasy seriously. And so the jokes started coming in. Now I can take it seriously, but then I was relatively new to fantasy and you know, it seemed frivolous and that was my attitude.
Matthew Peterson: Well, how do you come up with all these puns? I can imagine doing it for a few books, but continuing on . . . I think your next book, Jumper Cable?
Piers Anthony: My next one to be published.
Matthew Peterson: Yeah, the next to be published, I mean thatís your 33rd book in the Xanth Series.
Piers Anthony: Iíve already written the 34th one and Iím about to write the 35th one.
Matthew Peterson: Oh wow! How do you come up with all of these interesting puns and different takes and humor?
Piers Anthony: Well, to answer the first one, Iíd used up humor that I had on my own, but then readers started sending in their suggestions and now my problem is they send in more suggestions that I can use and I have to be very choosy and tell a lot of people, ďno". And even so I could use 100 or 150 or even 200 in a given novel and thereís still more piling in.
Matthew Peterson: Yeah.
Piers Anthony: So, where do I get my ideas? In that respect, from my readers.
Matthew Peterson: From the readers. Thatís ideal because thatís what they want. Theyíre giving you what they want.
Piers Anthony: Yes.
Matthew Peterson: Thatís good. One of the things, for people who arenít familiar with the Xanth Series, thereís some humor in there, but itís set in a strange land, called Xanth, which happens to be very similar to the area of Florida.
Piers Anthony: Yes, itís like Florida with magic.
Matthew Peterson: Yeah. And you happen to live in Florida, so you know a little bit more of the landmarks of Xanth.
Piers Anthony: Yes, and they translate freely. We live near the Wit Macuchi River, itís an Indian name, Macuchi and that become the ďwith a cookie river". I do that all over the place. In Florida, elsewhere thereís Make Whales, and that becomes pun-ish in many ways. Thereís the Kissimmee, in Florida, you know on the other side of the state, that becomes Kiss Me.
Matthew Peterson: [Laughs] Well thereís a lot of magic, of course, in the series. The interesting thing about the series is that everybody who lives in Xanth has a magical talent. But youíve kind of changed, not necessarily the rules, but broadened out the rules as the series goes on and you find that sometimes people might have a different quality or can use different spells through magical words, or magical objects.
Piers Anthony: Yes, thereís a lot of incidental magic around, in addition to the talents that people have and usually talents donít repeat, each person has a different talent. But the key there is that talents can still be very similar so that it might be hard to distinguish one from another.
Matthew Peterson: Yeah, I thought that was very interesting. I already mentioned the covers. Those covers were so memorable for me, as a child. I have to tell you, I love those covers, especially the very first ones with the . . .
Piers Anthony: Well, that Darrell Sweet number and Michael Whelan. Whelanís considered about the top fantasy artist in the world and he was doing covers for them.
Matthew Peterson: That is great. Another thing I wanted to ask you about is the audio books. I noticed that you do have audio books, quite a few of them, but I couldnít find them readily available, like on Amazon, or audible.com, is there a reason for that? Are the rights tied up somewhere?
Piers Anthony: Thereís a reason, frustrates me as much as the readers. The audio companies, theyíre publishers and publishers are choosy. And theyíre just . . . Iím trying to get Xanth into audio and apparently they donít think thereís a market. So, theyíre not taking them. The ones they do take, do very well. But trying to get through to them . . . Iíve written a letter once, I couldnít even get an answer. They do what they choose to do and who knows what their basis is.
Matthew Peterson: I listened to some of the audio of the first book and the narrator was just amazing with it. So, Iím surprised that they donít think that thereís a market.
Piers Anthony: What Iím recommending to some people now is this new Amazon Kindle has a speaking feature, you can turn it on, and itíll read it out loud. And they say if you are blind, and there isnít an audio on the book you want, try it on Kindle. Itís not perfect, they do make mistakes, you know, itís a machine reading it, but itís a lot better than nothing.
Matthew Peterson: Yeah, thatís a good idea. And then also, is there a movie? Is there any animation in the works with the Xanth Series?
Piers Anthony: On the Xanth Series, for four years there was. Warner Pictures had an option, they were paying handsomely for it, year by year. And then apparently they ran afoul with the credit crunch and that option came due. And so instead of making a movie, they were firing hundreds of people and canceled the movie. Itís too bad, I really had a lot of hope in it. My hope is that if the economy improves, theyíll come back to it and be able to raise the money to make the movie. And then they will.
Matthew Peterson: That would be great.
Piers Anthony: Hope that happens while Iím still alive.
Matthew Peterson: Yeah, that would be great. Well, Iíve been speaking with Piers Anthony. Very, very pleased to be able to speak with you, especially after Iíve been just reading your books this month. Thank you so much for being on the show, Piers.
Piers Anthony: Okay.
Matthew Peterson: Well guys, I hope you enjoyed the first episode of The Author Hour. I really want to emphasize that right after every episode airs, Iím going to post tons of bonus questions on my website that didnít make it onto the show. So, you really need to go to my website at www.TheAuthorHour.com Itís kind of like deleted scenes from a movie. Plus Iíll have some more info about the guests and links to places where you can buy their books. Iíve got over 50 best selling and award-winning authors lined up this season, so I hope you stick around and tell your friends about the show. Next weekís going to be a great one. Iíve got a super star line-up with Diana Gabaldon, Meg Cabot, Shannon Hale and Kristin Cashore. You donít want to miss that one. Iíll see you next week. Bye bye.
About the Show: The Author Hour: Your Guide to Fantastic Fiction is a free online radio show hosted by Matthew Peterson. Previous guests include Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, Christopher Paolini, Meg Cabot, Terry Pratchett, R. L. Stine, and dozens more. Interviews are archived and transcribed. The site includes bonus material that didn't air on the live show. http://TheAuthorHour.com
About the Host: Matthew Peterson, the host of The Author Hour: Your Guide to Fantastic Fiction, is the bestselling and award-winning author of Paraworld Zero, the first book in a children's science fantasy series called Parallel Worlds. Mr. Peterson has spoken to millions of people through TV, radio and newspaper, and he has given numerous presentations at schools, libraries and conventions throughout the U.S. He lives in Arizona with his wife, five boys and their giant African tortoise. http://ParaWorlds.com
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