Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Austin Grossman

Robert Thompson of Fantasy Book Critic interviewed Austin Grossman, author of Soon I Will Be Invincible. Here is the introduction and the first couple exchanges from the interview:

2007 has been a good year for book releases. I’ve had the pleasure of reading fantastic offerings from established authors, personal favorites and talented up-and-comers. One novel though that really took me by surprise was “Soon I Will Be Invincible”, a fun, humorous and intelligent glimpse into the world of superheroes and supervillains. The mastermind behind this excellent debut is Austin Grossman, a videogame designer (Deus Ex, System Shock, Thief, Clive Barker’s Undying) who talks about the inspiration behind “Soon I Will Be Invincible”, the gaming industry, Chip Kidd and much more in the following Q&A. So, much thanks to Mr. Grossman for his time and effort in doing the interview, and especially for writing one of the most enjoyable books of the year…

Q: For starters, I read that you felt ‘stifled’ as a storyteller when working in the videogame industry, so you took a few years off to pursue a Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of California, Berkeley and started writing a novel, the recently released “Soon I Will Be Invincible”. Obviously with your videogame background, which includes Thief: Deadly Shadows, Clive Barker's Undying, Deus Ex, System Shock, Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds, etc. you had plenty of material to draw from, but instead you chose to write about superheroes/villains. Why?

Austin: In retrospect I think “stifled” is surely the wrong word – for what was such a rich experience – but yes, working collaboratively in a medium with so many formal storytelling constraints meant exercising a lot of discipline.

But yes, left to my own devices I still picked superheroes – why? Maybe because I'm constitutionally incapable of writing a “straight” story. Maybe because it's the genre where the marvelous and the everyday live closest together – you can write about impossible things happening to recognizably normal people and it fits, which is a lovely tension to be able to exploit in a novel.

Q: It’s safe to say that artistic ability runs in the family as you have a twin brother, Lev Grossman who is also a novelist/writer, and a sister Bathsheba who is a sculptor. Regarding your novel, how important was it to have your family’s support and experience, specifically your brother’s as a writer?

Austin: I suppose I'll never have the experience of being the only writer in a family – I should mention that my mother is a novel and short story writer, and my father is a poet. In the end I didn't get a huge amount of practical advice from them, but what they mainly gave me is something to write against – voices to hear my own voice in contrast to. I tried to write the things they'd never ever think of writing. A writer once told me, “You know you're really writing your best when you look at the page and think, 'My family can never see this” – no less true when there are writers in the family.

Practically speaking my brother Lev helped see the thing to publication – he saw it in its early stages and told me it was worth finishing in the first place, which helped enormously; and he introduced me to his agent, who encouraged me and helped me find my agent. So I was enormously lucky in having someone to show the book.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue