Part 10: This conversation is in ten parts.
EH: How do you keep all this information straight in your head? It’s mind boggling the amount of detail you have put into LOME!
OD: Eric, you have to remember, I’ve been working on, thinking about, revising and tweaking this mythology since 1978! That’s more than thirty-five years! I know this story so well, inside and out. Now, to be honest, I also keep files and files of lists, ideas, concepts, etc. in order to keep everything absolutely accurate in my writing. I have Word Lists that contain every word that is invented or not overly familiar; I have a Trow Word list; a Geography Word list; a Characters Word list, and so on.
I keep detailed notes on Ideas and Concepts—where I might get an idea from what I read or hear or see and when it comes to me and becomes incorporated into the mythology.
I’ll give you a quick example of a new concept/idea that I only recently added to the geography of Moel Eyris: Salt marshes.
I knew that I wanted there to be a Fenland (the Fens) that will be an eerie place where ‘Broken Men’ can hide and not be found for whatever reason. I wanted this place to be a place of mystery and danger. In the summer and autumn of 2014 John and I spent time on Cape Cod and in Provincetown. We walked across the Breakwater and hiked through the salt marshes. I was completely captivated by the salt marshes and the tidal flow in and out of them and how easy it was to hide amongst the tall grasses. So, I knew I had to include salt marshes in the story.
When I began thinking about the salt marshes and the Fens it became obvious that this region had to be a natural dividing line between the northern skeelings and the southern skeelings. And this area could act as a natural protective barrier to Eynhallow.
Of course, it also meant that I would have to draw and design yet one more FINAL Myvyrrian Map for the story/mythology. This I have done and it works perfectly!
EH: Do you have any idea when you will finish the writing for LOME?
OD: The first book has a number of chapters and the Prologue already written. I got sidetracked by a new novel, Wythe’s End, that I wrote eighteen (out of twenty-eight) chapters for. Wythe’s End just came to me in a flash as a reaction to having to draw too many goslings and too many bear cubs over and over and over. I needed to do something completely different to save my sanity! The interesting thing is that in writing the chapters for Wythe’s End I learned a great deal as to what I want to do with the writing for the five books in LOME.
EH: You realize you’re borderline schizophrenic, right?
OD: I know! It’s scary at times! There’s one thing about writing that makes it easier for me than illustrating. I am a fast, super fast, typist. The actual mechanics of writing, the tapping away at the keyboard, goes very quickly. In that I don’t have to think about the physical act of writing my mind is free to just think the story. When I write I only think about the writing and it simply flows. I don’t worry about making mistakes, those can always be fixed later. I don’t worry about sequence. I just let the story flow out of my fingers and into the computer.
Now, before you think I’m making writing sound like something that just comes and there’s no thought behind it. I have to say that most often I lay in bed at night thinking about a scene or a chapter and writing it out in my mind. I do this night after night, week after week, sometimes month after month. And then when I sit down to write it all out, it just comes. All the thinking has already been done. At this point it’s simply a matter of furiously typing as fast as my fingers will go and get the words into the computer before I forget them.
EH: What is your greatest worry in regard to getting all this writing finished?
OD: Well, I think it’s obvious. My greatest worry is that I will die before I do get all the writing finished! But, on a happier note, I only have a handful of picture books to finish this year and then I am a FREE man! I can concentrate on what I call my ‘larger writing’ to my heart’s content.
Honestly, I think it would only take three to six months to finish writing the first book in LOME. And, I could easily finish writing Wythe’s End in two months. Writing really does come much more easily to me than illustrating.
But, I won’t allow myself to finish the writing until I finish the last outstanding picture book contract. I am heavily bogged down by guilt until I get those picture books finished.
EH: Olivier, thank you so much for taking the time to explain all this to me. I truly appreciate it more than you know. There is so much more I am dying to ask you. But, it sounds like I’ll have to wait until the books come out. Good luck in finishing this magnum opus of yours!