Tim Powers: Interview With a Secret Historian

‘“In my own first drafts, when I re-read them, it always seems like a bunch of people in street clothes holding scripts, standing on a bare stage, looking at tape marks on the floor and reading from the script very haltingly. And you think ok, well, that’s the first rehearsal. We’re going to get sets, we’re going to get costumes, there will be real drinks in the glasses, this isn’t the finished production.’

Oh my gosh, it’s nice to hear that someone else’s first draft looks like this. Sometimes I worry that all I have at the end is a bunch of talking heads, and the advice to cut X% of your novel just doesn’t work. I end up having to add more detail rather than cut out words.

I also love his advice of using Youtube videos to explore sensations or locations you haven’t been to yourself. I actually can’t believe this hadn’t occurred to me before. I also love his method of coming up with novel ideas.

Definitely worth the read, and apparently I need to read more of Powers’ books!

Like I Was Saying

Tim Powers with sword (left). A day in the life of a science fiction/fantasy writer.

Tim Powers’ novels start with real historical events and imagine occult forces behind the scenes. On Stranger Tides is an adventure story about magic among 18th Century pirates (and was the basis for the Pirates of the Caribbean movie of the same name). Last Call casts gangster Bugsy Siegel as the mythic Fisher King in 20th Century Las Vegas. And Declare connects British Cold War traitor Kim Philby with Noah’s Ark.

Powers writes a rare combination: Densely researched and rich novels that are also fast, exciting reads.

Tim Powers (Photo: Roberta F) Tim Powers (Photo: Roberta F)

I interviewed Powers in February. Our conversation, like his books, was rich, entertaining, and fast, and it’s taken me this long to beat the transcript into an article

I kicked off the discussion by describing Powers’ novels as “secret histories.” But Powers said…

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