Q&A with Brian Libby
1. Andiriel is a strong female lead. Is she based on or influenced by someone from your life?
No. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
2. Are any of your characters based on real people?
When I started writing the series I knew only two characters: Andiriel and Sandi. The rest appeared as I wrote, and sometimes surprised me as their personalities developed. When writing the Imperial diplomat, Lord Vardistana, I have in mind such figures as Otto von Bismarck, Cavour, Metternich, and Talleyrand. Otherwise the series is not a roman à clef.
3. How has your history background helped in your writing, specifically in the Mercenaries series?
I could not write the series were I not a historian (with a concentration in European military and diplomatic history). The New Empire is organized somewhat like the Holy Roman Empire;
I believe that diplomacy is handled more authentically than in many novels; military operations involve realistically small forces, logistics is as important as fighting, and engagements are usually described from the ‘operational’ level—i.e. the viewpoint of a major unit commander. Without historical knowledge I would not feel competent to write of such things.
4. You had originally listed Mercenaries as a trilogy but I saw on your blog you are publishing a fourth book, The Free Lands. What made you want to continue the story?
Actually I always intended a series of five or six books. But the first three volumes constitute a whole—there is a plot arc (which readers may not notice at first since there are no prophecies to be fulfilled or MacGuffins to find, but trust me, keep reading and you’ll see…) which reaches a definite conclusion at the end of Resolution. (Hence one reason for that title.)
The fourth volume is a stand-alone, set in a province remote from the areas seen in the first three, involving new characters (165, according to my list) but with some folks from the trilogy showing up. I know that many readers are wary of ‘series’ that never seem to get written, so I think it wise to call the first three a trilogy since it does not leave readers hanging. I foresee the fifth and sixth volumes, if they are written, as a duology (or is that a biology?).
5. What are some positives and negatives of being a self-published author?
The negatives, which far outweigh the positives, include:
a. Suspicion by potential readers that the book is badly-written, unworthy of attention; b. No editorial assistance; c. Author pays for publication instead of getting an advance; d. No publisher -supplied marketing; e. Great difficulty in getting any reviews or other publicity; f. Bookstores do not carry your books (except perhaps for local stores; I lost over $300 when the one here folded and never paid me for copies sold).
But there are some small advantages: a. The cover and title are what you want; b. No potential fights with editors; c. Speed—you do not wait two years for the book to appear; d. Author receives more money for each copy sold than with a trade-published book.
For a humorous look at the positives, read Counting My Blessings on my blog (April 23, 2012).
6. Why do you write?
The basic reason is well summed up by the title of my second volume (Gold and Glory). Also, I love the English language and enjoy trying to use it well, frustrating and humbling as that can be. Beyond that, I could quote Tolkien (“The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them”), and Handel, who, when a grandee described Messiah as “a noble entertainment,” replied “My lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wished to make them better.”
7. Are you an Elvis or Beatles man?
No. I am a Handel – Mozart – Verdi – Wagner (etc.) man. I also have a great interest in military marches and German folk songs, especially Soldaten- and Landsknechtslieder (“mercenary songs”—the tunes to several of which I use for the songs in my books).
8. What do you like to do for fun?
Well… um… writing is fun; so is reading, and classical music. I enjoy movies, especially older ones, occasional computer games, and cigars.
9. What are you reading right now?
The biography of a great man: Mahler (by Michael Kennedy ISBN 0-02-871367-2)
10. What the the most interesting thing on your desk?
The manuscript of The Free Lands, all 3 inches (675 pages) of it, which I am slowly editing.
The second most interesting thing on my desk is my motto: “Taking life seriously is the first step to unhappiness.” I hope readers will take a look at my blog—your questions were serious, so likewise my answers, but fiction I write with a lighter touch.