Today we have an interview with Jody Lynn Nye, author of the recently released Myth-Quoted! Myth-Quoted is the newest book in the fantasy/comedy Myth-Adventures series that was begun many years ago by Robert Asprin. This series has always been good for a laugh and light moment – even through many trials surrounding their creation – and Nye’s take on it continues to entertain and expand its universe. As a long-time fan of the series I was very happy to be able to chat with her about all things Myth!
Fantasy Cafe: First of all, thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Jody. I know you’ve been working on the Myth Adventures books for quite a while, but based on some of the responses to our recent giveaway of Myth-Quoted it seems that some fans were still under the impression the series ended when Robert Asprin passed away in 2008. Could you please give a quick review of how you started co-authoring the series and ultimately took the reins to keep it going for those who might have mythed it? (I’ve really very sorry; I promise I won’t do that again…)
Jody Lynn Nye: Thanks for letting me sit in with you! I’m not surprised by the feedback you have been getting. I think most people would assume that a series would die with its creator, but look around at what’s happening in other genres as well as in SF. Even such classics as Gone with the Wind and Peter Pan have had sequels (Scarlett and Peter Pan in Scarlet, in fact.) not by their original writers. The difference is that I began to work with Bob long before his passing.
Like most people who read Another Fine Myth and the others, I fell in love with the characters and the world. A fantasy epic that was full of puns and didn’t take itself seriously? I was in college when the first one appeared. I read it, and was hooked. Thereafter, I kept a close eye on the very small collection of fantasy books in our local bookstore for each new one. I would never have thought I’d end up meeting Robert Asprin, let alone working with him on his best-known series. I know how lucky I have been.
We wrote eight books together. The first happened because Bob came down with a bad case of writer’s block following the announcement that he had made the New York Times Bestseller List.(Not your everyday reaction, but Bob was not your everyday guy.) My husband, Bill Fawcett, an author himself and a book packager, was one of Bob’s best friends. He felt the two of us would work well together, and that talking out a new book might help break the dam and let the words flow again. (He also sold the project to Baen Books.) That was the origin of our first book together, License Invoked. It had nothing to do with Myth or any of Bob’s other universes, or any of mine. It was a stand-alone, a humorous contemporary fantasy about spies, magic and rock ‘n’ roll. Bob came up to our house for a week to work on the book. Bill sat with us for a while when we started outlining, to make sure we wouldn’t kill each other, then went back to his office to play computer games. That was the extent of Bill’s input. Bob and I spent the next few days hammering together an outline. We marked in the margin who would write what section, with the idea that Bob would review the final manuscript before it went in. Bob went home to New Orleans, and we began writing.
Once Bob got going, he saw how well we worked together. When he finished with the last two Myth books on the original Donning-Starblaze contract, he said he wanted to write further Myth books with me. Bob felt that I respected the series well enough to trust me with it. I was thrilled but wary. I know how deeply his fans feel about the books. He felt that I understood the characters and the raison d’etre. I believe that I do, and I have the gift of being a good literary mimic, so you’ll find it difficult to determine who, in a collaboration with me, wrote what. That’s important, especially when the lead author has such a distinct literary voice. Thus Myth-Alliances came into being.
We had a ball coming up with each plot. Every year at DragonCon in Atlanta, we would sit together, usually in the Hyatt restaurant. I would type on my laptop, and the two of us would cackle over ideas. When we really got rolling, we’d be spouting ideas faster than I could get them down. I noticed fans walking by, dying to stop and ask us what we were talking about.
When Bob passed away, we were under way on Myth-Fortunes. There was never a thought that I wouldn’t finish it, of course. Under the circumstances, the timing of the book’s plot (the ultimate pyramid scheme, to sell tombs to people in an Egypt-like dimension, with Aahz thinking a little about his own mortality) was sadly ironic. It absolutely flattened me when Bob died. We were to meet up in person at MarCon the very next day. Bill and I had to cancel our appearance. I couldn’t possibly go and be funny so soon after losing such a dear friend. I did finish the book. I even got it in early.
The publisher approached me to continue with not only with the Myth-Adventures, but Dragons, the series Bob began a couple of years before his passing. I’ve now written two more Dragons books (Dragons Deal and the upcoming Dragons Run) and am working on the next Myth book.
FC: In a series that has now been running for thirty-five years, how do you manage the balance between stasis and change? Do you ever have the temptation to not mess with what has worked, just pretend you’re writing a sitcom and hit the big red reset button at the end of every book? Or is significant change necessary for the series to survive? I notice you were sowing some seeds of potential change throughout Myth-Quoted…
JLN: Stasis was never a feature of the Myth books. Bob had Skeeve growing up very slowly, but mature he has, from a greedy wanna-be thief to a philanthropic leader, though still young. Neither of us is in a hurry to put him into a permanent relationship. Skeeve will always be Grasshopper to Aahz’s Master Po.
Seeds are always being sown. Bob has had an extended story arc before. The readers will see more as I reveal them. I think readers are comfortable with the basic status quo: the partners will always be there for one another. Beyond that, with every plot line comes challenges that they need to meet in different ways. As in Myth-Quoted, where Skeeve is worried about losing Aahz. But he’s been worried about that before. I’ll cover other things as they become important to the characters.
FC: It seems that the timing of Myth-Quoted is nicely appropriate after the election season we just survived. Is it tough to parody something that in the real world has already gone so far down the path of self-parody as politics? Or does the target just get that much bigger?
JLN: Strangely enough, that plot line was supposed to precede Myth-Fortunes and another book, which will one day appear. What with one thing and another, each book has come out at the right time. Fate’s a funny thing. Delaying Myth-Quoted only gave me another entire election season’s worth of outrage and absurdity from which to glean. I doubt I could ever run out of things to ridicule in politics.
FC: It must be nice to have the freedom to hop your characters to another dimension any time you feel like giving them something new to do. Are there any fun dimensions that have ended up on the cutting room floor, or places you’ve thought they should visit that they’ve never quite made it to?
JLN: Dimensions are so much fun to design! One of my favorite things about Myth was to learn that “demon” was short for “dimensional traveler.” A few dimensions turned out not to be worth writing about. A few are due for a reappearance, and that will happen, Crom willin’ and the publisher says yes.
FC: Other than some cameos, you seem to work with a tighter cast within each book in your take on the Myth universe when compared to the earlier books. Is there a particular reason you wanted to focus in more on subgroups of characters for each book? Or am I just imagining this?
JLN: When Skeeve ousted himself from M.Y.T.H., Inc., he voluntarily limited contact with the others. That was part of the story arc from Myth-Alliances onward. Until all of them were reunited in Myth-Chief, the stories used only a few of the partners. Unless the story takes place in the Bazaar, many of the other characters are on different missions. I like mixing up the groups to get a different dynamic.
FC: Maybe this is getting a little philosophical, but I’ve always wondered: You have a multiverse here where magic and technology theoretically exist side-by-side (depending on the dimension, of course). Where do you draw the line between the two? I’m sure that in a humorous fantasy series like this magic fits a whimsical style better, but is it possible to do technological whimsy in a multiverse like Myth? Or does it just not work the same way as an author or reader?
JLN: The fun of doing an all-technological dimension is that magik doesn’t work there, or only works a little. That may be why the people in it developed technology, to make up for the lack. The presence or absence of force lines (the source of magik) largely determines which way a dimension will develop. (Kobol is an all-techno dimension.) But there are exceptions. Perv is strong in both magik and technology. Sure, we can do techno-whimsy. This is Myth. Trust us.
FC: Myth Adventures hasn’t always been purely whimsical either, though. While still staying firmly in the range of comedy, several of the books from just before you joined as a co-author hit some heavier topics like alcoholism, parenthood, and feelings of betrayal among friends. Since transitioning out of that period you’ve still had some occasional undercurrents show up in your books, but would you ever want to bring those elements back into the story in a more forceful way? I hear “dark” and “gritty” are in right now, even for humor…
JLN: The mark of how real characters feel is if they experience things that other, real beings do. Skeeve ran away from home after his mother died. Aahz walked away from almost every relationship he had on Perv. Bunny has felt her intelligence was unappreciated because of her gender. Very adult situations will crop up in the characters’ lives because they are adults, in spite of the brightly-colored, funny situations. Many things that happen to them are literally life and death, but they get out of them in humorous ways. I hear “dark” and “gritty” are in, but I never bothered to make an appointment to see them.
FC: Since we’re discussing the Myth books, I have to ask you about the other Asprin-originated series that is now under your stewardship. I read that there is a new Dragon book coming out this year, is that right? And what about future Myth books for that matter, I assume from the events in Myth-Quoted that at least one more is on the way?
JLN: Yup. As I mentioned before, I have already published one Dragons book, and another is on its way out. I have a wonderful plot for the one after that, but it’s not under contract yet…. I am writing the next Myth book now.
FC: As an aside, I just wanted to let you know (if it somehow wasn’t already apparent…) that I’m a long-time fan of the series and of RLA in general; from middle school through college I literally read and re-read the early Myth books until the covers fell off, at which point I of course bought new ones and started again. I really appreciate that you’ve taken on the characters and universe so people like me can get new adventures from old friends. I think they’re doing well under new management, as it were, and am now a fan of you and your take on them in your own right. So, thanks, and I hope they keep coming!
JLN: Thank you so much for your faith in me. I will always do my best to make sure that readers of new Myth-Adventures will feel the same pleasure reading them as they did reading the old ones. I’ll keep writing them as long as I can. I have lots more ideas and plots.