Ian Irvine was born in Bathurst, Australia, in 1950, and educated at the Chevalier College and the University of Sydney, where he took a PhD in marine science.
"After working as an environmental project manager, Ian set up his own consulting firm in 1986, carrying out studies for clients in Australia and overseas. He has worked in many countries in the Asia-Pacific region. An expert in marin pollution, Ian has developed some of Australia's national guidelines for the protection of the oceanic environment. The international success of Ian Irvine's debut fantasy series, The View from the Mirror, immediately established him as one of the favourite new authors in the fantasy genre. He is now a full-time writer and lives with his family in northern New South Wales, Australia."
Taken from Geomancer.
Ian and yours truly at WorldCon
An Interview with Ian
Since this section was rather bare, I e-mailed Ian and asked him if he would mind answering some questions for it. He graciously agreed, so up went a notice on the forums saying that I was looking for some questions. Skyscape and Myrician responded, and so together we came up with the following. A big thanks to Ian for taking time out of his schedule to answer them for us!
These first ones are based on your books:
All things considered, I think I'd still probably want to be old human, ie like us. The idea of virtual immortality isn't that appealing, though it would depend on my mood. For example, when wrestling with my wretched tax return, the idea of being lyrinx and simply biting the head off a tax assessor has a certain grim appeal ...
How did you first begin to 'create' the Three Worlds? (ie the geography/climate/planetary tilt etc)
It came about as a result of frustration with other well known fantasy novels I was reading at the time (the time being about 1976-77, so it isn't hard to guess which ones, they're still in print), where the maps for those worlds seemed to be an afterthought that didn't have a lot to do with the story. I felt as though I could do better, and I was studying earth sciences at the time so I set out to design a world from first principles, one that wasn't a mass of geographical cliches or a recipe book (take one pinch of arctic tundra, stir in a healthy measure of mid-latitude desert right next to it, for God's sake!! and so forth). It seemed that the people who mapped fantasyland had never been anywhere except Western Europe in the Middle Ages, and had no concept of geography either.
Your maps are detailed and take into account realistic properties of planets and their continents. Having read about your original map that was drawn on a very large scale, was the world building process a lengthly one and how did you go about creating places, natural landmarks and cities with their own people, cutlures and the sort. Was it a case of slowly coming up with ideas for certain places/cities etc...?
I started out small and kept making my maps bigger and bigger until they covered walls. It occupied a considerable part of my time in 1977, 78 and 1980 (I spent most of 79 travelling around Europe) and some time after that. I did some work on culture and history at that time, created the names of various characters and even wrote fragments of stories, but then, about 1982, I put it aside, being busy having kids and renovating a very daggy old Victorian house in Sydney, and didn't go back to it till 1987 when I started writing A Shadow on the Glass. A lot of the landmarks and cities were just names on the map, though. It wasn't until I was writing the story that I fleshed most of them out, and then because the characters were going there and the places needed to be described, or because the characters talked about them, in which case they were created unconsciously as I wrote eg, Tar Gaarn.
How many times did you re-draw the map of Santhenar until you were satisfied? Did you find it difficult to make it unique from maps in other fantasy series? Do you believe that a good fantasy story requires a map as a reference tool so a reader can be further immeresed in the world that has been created?
I re-drew Santhenar about seven or eight times over a period of a couple of years (the final versions are pretty detailed and took a couple of hundred hours each), and then later when I was writing the story I re-drew large parts of the map again. It wasn't difficult to make it different from other fantasy maps because (a) most of them aren't really based on geography, but on the well established matter of fantasy and/or European myth, folklore and history (esp. Tolkien) and (b) because, although there are many great fantasy novels that I've loved, and I've read tons of mythology, I've never wanted to write about that. I just make up my own, for good or for ill.
I don't think a good fantasy necessarily requires a map or, if it does, a reliable one there's something to be said for maps that aren't reliable, since the rest of the fantasy world often isn't but it does help the reader get around and keep track of what's going on.
Which character in any of your books is most like yourself, or which one do you relate to the most?
Probably the one I'm writing at the moment Nish. But that depends on my mood. A couple of years ago I might have said Karan , or Llian (who shares certain characteristics with me) but I've moved on since then. I really related to Tiaan a year or two ago, but since then she's headed in directions that have made me fall out of sympathy with her a little, while Nish and Irisis, and Scrutator Flydd, have grown in my direction. Funny how that happens. The author isn't always in complete control of his material.
I also relate a lot to Irith Hardey, a character who appears briefly in the first of my eco-thrillers, The Last Albatross, and then is the chief character in the second, Terminator Gene and the third, which I'm just finishing now, The Life Lottery. There's a bit of my scientific work and preoccupations gone into these books, and she personifies that to a degree.
What was the driving force that allowed you to complete the first four books in the three worlds series - and were they your first attempt at writing, or is there a whole heap of older work hidden away in some dark corner?
The driving force was a frustrated creative urge. I'd become increasingly dissatisfied with my scientific work, even though it was lucrative and took me to interesting places all over the world. So I decided to start writing and see if I could do it, which I'd been thinking about doing for years (since a year or two after creating my first map, as it happens).
A Shadow on the Glass was my first book, and The View from the Mirror my first series. Some writers learn their craft by writing book after book which they then discard. I did it by rewriting A Shadow on the Glass over and over again until it was as good as I could do, putting it aside while I worked on the other three books, then doing some more drafts. And so forth. Writing is a craft which is as long in the learning as brain surgery, and requires as much hard work.
Right, here are some general questions about yourself:
I can't imagine collaborating with another writer, and wouldn't be so presumptuous as to suggest it to writers whose work I really admire, so I'll simply say that I've recently enjoyed the the work of writers such as:
What cause do you most believe in?
The protection of what remains of the world's environment.
Who was your childhood hero?
I rather suspect it was Biggles, actually (no matter how embarrassing it may be to make such an admission).
If you were to live anywhere in the world other than Australia, where would it be?
British Columbia weirdly, I like the climate (to say nothing of the mountains and snow). And I wouldn't mind living in London again (spent a few months there 20-odd years ago), but only for a year or so. Too many people and not enough space.
Where is the most interesting place you have visited on your travels?
That's an impossible question, since I've travelled rather a lot. I loved Britain, and Europe generally, for the history that's around every corner. Of course, there's history around every corner in Australia, too, since the aboriginal people have lived here for 50,000 years, but because little of that is written history, or constructed, it's not nearly as accessible. The US for its scenery, which is different every place you go, and Canada for the Canadian Rockies alone, one of the great sights of my life. And South Korea, a country I've been many times, for the sheer spirit of its people in the face of adversity. (The people of Mauritius share that characteristic in some respects). And the swamp forests of Sumatra, for being so different. And the nations of the South Pacific, such as Western Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji, for their attitude to life.
Do you like to write in complete silence, or with lots of noise/music/people around?
The house is empty during the day so I put the radio on Classic FM and listen to whatever's on, unless it's an interview or something really distracting, in which case I turn it off and go with silence. My house is in the country so silence here means silence.
(We're going to start getting down to the REAL you now)
Mac, for the past 17 years, and I'm not planning to go over to the dark side.
Coke or Pepsi?
Neither, unless I need to replace fluids and there's nothing else, in which case it's diet coke.
Star Trek or The Next Generation?
Neither. I'm not a TV person; not really, apart from the odd comedy or thriller.
Huge lumps of grilled beef with English mustard; hot curry; my home made black and bitter kumquat marmalade; Asian food; Middle Eastern food. Red wine. Stout. Hot chillies. Port.
Well, all my shirts are blue.
Depends. I was big on Patrick O'Brian at one stage. Oh, you mean SF/fantasy author?
In addition to those listed earlier, I've really enjoyed
Book, written by yourself?
That's probably the last one I've finished, Scrutator, which will be published here in October (and in the UK next March, but titled Alchymist). I think it's the best thing I've done so far, and certainly gave me enough trouble.
Book, not written by yourself?
I don't have a favourite book, but the most recent book I've really enjoyed was Max Barry's Jennifer Government.
Can I say Daria? If not, I've really enjoyed Spooks.
Big Brother series? (Just kidding!)
I should think so!!! Never watched it. Nor Friends, Sex in the City, the Sopranos, West Wing ...
And to finish the thing up, what's your opinion on ...
Well, I've always had a hankering to be an astronomer (lacked the maths, sadly) so I follow every development with keen interest.
It's been a pretty dismal failure so far, and a recent article in Scientific American suggests that it may not be technically possible to clone humans. Probably a good thing, though I dare say if someone I knew needed the products of therapeutic cloning to survive I might think differently.
Star Wars Episode 1?
How could they spend all that money and make a movie in which there's not a single character to identify with? And I won't even mention Jar Jar Binks!
I gather he's the best known Australian in the world. I haven't watched his show either, but I hear he's a decent bloke and good luck to him.
Eating fans who ask too many question?
Hey, without fans, a writer's got nothing, so ask away to your heart's content.