Sunday, March 27, 2011

Author Interview: Brian Libby

Today we'll learn a little about Brian Libby, author of Storm Approaching: Part One of Mercenaries. Be sure to read my review of the book!

Jennifer Walker: Tell us what to expect in the next two Mercenaries books. Where is Andiriel headed?

Brian Libby: I hope readers find that Andiriel is headed someplace interesting. The trilogy does not have a central plot: there is no Maguffin that needs recovering or destroying, no prophecy that must be fulfilled, no Lord (dark, pale, or mocha) who must be vanquished. Soldiers of fortune seek whatever profitable work they can find; the title of the second volume, Gold and Glory, pretty well sums up what Andiriel and her companions hope for. But a storm is approaching, one that will transcend any small wars or local conflicts, and this becomes clearer as time goes on.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about other writing projects you have... past present and future.

Brian Libby: Past: And Gladly Teach, which came out in 2001, is a satirical novel about life at a fictional boarding school; it seeks both to amuse and to make a few points about education. Miscellanea is a small (70-page) collection of humorous essays on various topics, including education, movies (Star Wars 1-3 and Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy), and prescription medicines. Several of these essays are on my blog. I typed up my doctoral dissertation and three seminar papers and published them on Lulu (The United States Constabulary, 1946-1952).

Present: There is The Free lands, a stand-alone novel set in the Mercenary world, which I am now editing.

Future: I do not at this time have any other projects. Marketing books is at present my main occupation: I hope to improve sales rather than to write faster than folks can read. I plan to post more essays on my blog (

Jennifer Walker: Do you like to read? How much and what genre(s)?

Brian Libby: Why, yes, I do like to read. My reading is divided fairly evenly between history—primarily European military and diplomatic history, which is my academic field—and classic fiction, especially humor. I read almost no contemporary fiction.

Jennifer Walker: Most writers have to suffer through a day job to support their craft. What is yours?

Brian Libby: I teach European history at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a prep school in southern Minnesota. I was full time from 1978 to 1999, and then went part time, partly so as to have a chance to write extensively. But since I am a historian I cannot call this a “day job;” rather, writing is a hobby that I hope will become more of a profession.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your family. Are they supportive of your writing?

Brian Libby: Since my parents are deceased and I am an only child and a bachelor, there is no family. However, I am fortunate that, my friends and colleagues being teachers, I have always experienced interest in and support of my literary efforts.

Jennifer Walker: Do you have any hobbies outside of reading and writing?

Brian Libby: I am tempted to say ‘arithmetic,’ but seriously... I am very fond of music (particularly baroque and classical choral music), I sometimes play computer games, and I enjoy watching movies.

Jennifer Walker: What is your writing process like? Do you outline and do character sketches, etc. or just write and hope for the best?

Brian Libby: The latter. Part of the fun is finding out what happens. When I began Storm Approaching I knew only two of the characters: Andiriel and Sandi. Everyone else just appeared as I went on. Some major characters—e.g. Baron Gurlarga and Dagget—started out as secondary characters, or necessary placeholders. I did have a very general idea as to what sorts of things would happen, and of course as I got further along it became more specific, but I rarely outline or do character sketches. To people who do not write novels this probably sounds odd, but when one is absorbed in an extensive piece of writing, one’s subconscious mind generates ideas. (I do first drafts with a pen, then type them up on the computer. I am not overly fond of computers.)

Jennifer Walker: Who are some of your favorite authors? Do they influence your writing?

Brian Libby: It is difficult to pick only a few. Of course I admire great historians, e.g. Edward Gibbon, George F. Kennan, Shelby Foote. Novelists include Dostoevsky, Mark Twain, Anthony Powell, J.K. Huysmans, Evelyn Waugh, Herman Wouk, and S.J. Perelman. Tolkien and Lord Dunsany figure high in fantasy. The main influence of these men is to set a standard of great writing that I can at least strive to emulate.

Jennifer Walker: How did the idea and story line for Mercenaries come to you?

Brian Libby: In the middle 70’s I wrote a “trunk novel,”—courteously rejected by Lester del Rey himself—dealing with the efforts of a dethroned young king to regain his crown. I think the wish to write something more extensive involving politics and war stayed with me. About fifteen years ago I wrote “She was running as fast as she could, but it wasn’t fast enough” on a slip of paper, saying to myself that these words would be the opening lines of a novel. I don’t know why I wrote that, but I kept that slip of paper. (The opening line of Storm Approaching is different, though, after many edits.) I know I thought that a mercenary regiment would provide many opportunities for travel and various experiences in a novel.

Jennifer Walker: If you had to pick the last dessert you would ever eat, what would it be?

Brian Libby: Presumably a last dessert would not involve any concern for calories, so I think a nice big hot fudge sundae with lots of whipped cream would be just great; but I’d also like a “Royal Delight,” the delicacy described in some detail on p. 40 of Storm Approaching (a bonbon that is not a figment of my imagination: it’s a “Mozartkugel,” made by the Reber company in Germany. Like Andiriel and the Emperor Grellin IV, I am quite fond of chocolate.) (JW: I wondered if that's what it was!)

Thanks to Brian Libby for stoppy by A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent author, great teacher, and an even better man.