Series: Xanth #38
Published by Premiere Digital Publishing on 1/6/2014
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Be careful what you wish for...
"I'm actually a smart girl who would make any man an excellent wife. But no man sees that. No man is interested in my mind or personality, just my whatevers. So here is my wish: I'm board stiff. I want Adventure, Excitement, and Romance.”
So begins Piers Anthony's 38th Xanth novel, in which Irrelevant Candy, looks at her reflection in the water of the shallow well and sees luxuriant midnight black hair to her breathtakingly slender waist, matching dark eyes in a lovely face. A torso coming yea-close to absolute perfection. She was man's desire. That was part of the problem.
And in the shallow magic of a wishing well, she asks her wish to be granted. Something happens. A sudden whirlwind surrounds her, lifting her up and ripping off her clothing. She is changing, somehow. Then she falls flat on the ground.
Literally. She has been transformed into a flat, stiff board with two knotholes for eyes.
Piers Anthony, author of over 100 books, author of the Xanth series, and author of more than 21 best-seller list novels, has just released his latest novel, Xanth: Board Stiff. Today we have an interview, and a giveaway.
Can you talk a little about what the book Board Stiff is about?
A young woman goes to a wishing well and wishes for adventure and romance. Instead, she finds herself turned into a stiff board, which is picked up by a handsome young man who uses it as a weapon and really values it. This is not quite the way she wanted their relationship.
And for those who have never read the Xanth series, can you describe it?
Xanth is humorous fantasy, where crazy things happen. The Land of Xanth looks just like the State of Florida, a peninsula, with magic added, So it has the Kiss Mee River instead of the Kissimmee, and Lake Ogre Chobee instead of Okeechobee. Every person in it has a magic talent.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
I needed a title starting with the letter B to complete the alphabet in Xanths, and a reader suggested Board Stiff. So I built on that. Is this a sensible way to make a story? Of course not! But this is Xanth.
What message do you want readers to get from reading the book?
Xanth isn’t much for messages; it’s mainly entertainment. But the fact is, the board maiden does get her wish granted, and being a board makes perfect sense, once she comes to understand what is going on. Life is like that; you may not like the hand you’re dealt, but you play it anyway, and it can turn out well.
How long did it take to write the book?
Xanth is generally fast, and I wrote it in about three months. Serious fiction takes longer.
Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write?
My favorite character in Board Stiff? That would be Astrid, who is a deadly basilisk in human form, but a nice person. She can’t help it if her gaze is lethal. She becomes the main character in the sequel, Five Portraits.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?
Generally I don’t outline, but I do summarize, working out individual scenes and the novel as a whole. Each chapter is like an individual story. One unexpected direction was the introduction of the basilisk as a friend, not an enemy. Indeed, friendship is a major theme in both of the two novels.
If you could go back and change anything in the novel, what would it be?
Over the course of writing 166 books, I have learned to do my best, then let a book go, like a child going away to college. I care, but I don’t interfere. If there turns out to be some awful mistake, then I’d want to fix it.
You’ve written a number of books. Which ones are your favorites, or are you most proud of?
I also do serious fiction, for which I am not much known. My major novels are the historical Tatham Mound about the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto’s exploration of America told from the perspective of the American Indians. Tarot, a fantastic exploration of religion, wherein God manifests personally on a colony planet, and the cleric Brother Paul is sent to ascertain whether this is real or fake. It is one literal hell of an adventure. Macroscope, science fiction wherein an interstellar signal is discovered, only it fries the brains of anyone who tunes in. What is going on here? Firefly, an exploration of sexuality. That got tacitly blacklisted; many stores wouldn’t put it on their shelves. And so on; I try many things.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I realized in college that I wanted to write. It was like a beacon turning on, and it has guided me ever since.
What are you favorite books and authors?
I have read so much, and am getting so old – 79 – that memories are fudging. There are so many good books! Maybe my favorite was Rationale of the Dirty Joke by G. Legman, a multi-volume study of dirty jokes with attendant discussion on why they appeal and what they mean. It is subtitled No Laughing Matter, and indeed this is a serious exploration of the darker side of human nature.
What are you working on next?
My next Xanth novel will be #40 Isis Orb, – I’ve already written #39 Five Portraits, mentioned above – suggested by a ten year old girl. As yet I have only a very general idea of its content.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
My advice is to keep writing, keep improving, and hope that eventually you get good enough. This takes time; from my decision to be a writer to my first commercial story sale was eight years. So an aspiring author needs to be patient and persistent. And lucky.
Giving away two copies of Xanth #38 Board Stiff. Winner can choose either eBook or print. Contest ends January 22, 2013. Prize provided by Premiere Digital Publishing. Winners will be notified by email and must respond within 48 hours. Print copies limited to residents of the United States.