The latest release from DMR Books is The Road to Infinity, a picaresque fantasy novel in the style of Jack Vance. I thought the public would want to know more about the man who wrote it, so without further ado, here’s my Q&A session with Gael DeRoane.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your background as a writer.
Greetings to all devotees of the Sword & Sorcery and Fantasy genres, and steadfast supporters of DMR Books! I, Gael DeRoane, salute you, and hope you will find pleasure in The Road to Infinity! BTW, Gael DeRoane is a pen name.
Why do you use a pen name?
I’ve grown tired of my given name. I think Gael DeRoane looks good on a book cover. Also, I like the idea of assuming a new identity for creating a body of work distinct from—and, I hope, superior to—the scribblings of the writer I was before becoming Gael. You can find some of Gael’s work on the Internet, and in particular at the Page & Spine archives page.
Tell us a bit about your new novel, The Road to Infinity.
It's primarily the story of a quest. There's not a lot of swordplay, but plenty of sorcery.
Is it suitable for children?
There are some adult situations throughout, but no erotica or profanity. Violence occurs, but not with the graphic intensity savored by Game of Thrones admirers. I am confident that a precocious ten-year-old can read the book without being traumatized.
Isaac Asimov wrote a nonfiction book with the same title. Is there any connection between that book and yours?
None whatsoever. Although I’ve read a couple of Asimov’s non-fiction books, I was unaware that he had written one with the same title I chose for my book.
I believe The Road to Infinity is your first foray into the world of fantasy fiction. What was the impetus for trying a new genre?
I have always wanted to write a book similar to Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth series. I discovered The Dying Earth in my adolescence, and never read Fantasy the same way again. I loved JV’s mandarin style, dry wit, and genius for invention. I hope that RTI is a fitting homage to this wonderful writer.
You mention mandarin style, which is another way of saying fancy writing. How would you respond to people who think fancy writing is a bad thing?
I would agree that sometimes it is. And there's no guarantee that I have succeeded in writing aesthetically pleasing sentences that are not overcooked. In time, readers will provide the answer. Ian Fleming pointed out that mannered prose can distract the reader from every writer's goal—to have one turn the page. Knowing this, I did try to keep my flourishes to a minimum. Someone else (it may have been Faulkner) said, "Kill your darlings." The early drafts of RTI are littered with gaudily attired corpses.
Would you care to be more specific about aspects of The Dying Earth that you find so inspiring? What are your opinions on other works by Vance, such as his Lyonesse series?
There is so much in that series to admire! First, the language. A phrase comes to mind: “manifold tittering lubricities” in describing the depravity of the demon Blikdak, whose gigantic face protrudes through the wall of the Museum of Man. And here’s a description of a participant at a Black Sabbath: “…a middleaged witch of squat naked body…large features pumping in ceaseless idiotic motion.” This language may not be to everyone’s taste, but it makes me smile. But the pleasure is in more than language. JV’s characters are vivid, their emotions resonant with the reader’s. T’sais, who suffers because a flaw in her brain causes her to see beauty as evil, and evil as a horror more intense than a normal brain can conceive, finds justice, peace, and love at the close of her chapter. I have not read the entire Lyonesse series, which failed to hold my interest, but I devoured the Planet of Adventure series and wished there had been more of it.
Name one newer and one older book you have read and enjoyed recently. (“Newer” meaning from the past year or so, and “older” meaning written before 1980.)
A few days ago I finished reading Subterranean Kerouac, a fascinating biography of the author of On the Road. It’s an older book but was new to me. Kerouac was big-hearted and felt the pain of “all sentient beings, who are tortured by existence.” I see his deep compassion as a touchstone for artists who try to express and interpret the human condition. Actually, for Kerouac that included the non-human condition. He was a lover of animals, and once said, “The bull dies too big a death for the cowards in the seats.” I couldn’t agree more.
Nabokov’s Pnin is probably the work of fiction dearest to my heart. In a different vein, Conan Doyle’s The Lost World is a book from my childhood that I re-read every few years with great enjoyment. In fact, his epigraph for the book is one I wanted to use for RTI, but could not because the publication process had already begun. Here is the epigraph, which I hope to place at the beginning of RTI’s sequel:
I have wrought my simple plan,
If I give one hour of joy,
To the boy who's half a man,
Or the man who's half a boy.
Regarding newer books (within the past year) that I have read, there are not many. One that stands out is Born to be Posthumous, a biography of Edward Gorey. My inability to embrace contemporary fiction is a flaw, but I’m probably too old to fix it.
Any final words?
Well, let’s see. I have written a children’s book called Arvin the Wayfaring Spider. Terrie Wolf, of AKA Literary Management has taken it on and is trying to find it a home. That’s about it, except that I would like to thank—in advance—all who buy a copy of RTI. And thanks also to Dave Ritzlin for believing in the book!
Thank you, Gael, for answering my questions and writing such an amazing book! To order The Road to Infinity, click here.