On December 22nd I published new interviews with Paul Levinson, Nicholas Andrews, and Steve LeBel.
Steve LeBel went beyond what I asked for and included copious illustrations along his answers. Unfortunately, as his was roughly the 80th interview I had shared on my site, my site hit it's content limit before I could upload all of his images.
I've extended www.noahmullette-gillman.com onto a second Google site, one specifically for my new interviews, so it should be a long time before we run into this problem again.
In the meanwhile, please enjoy the full and illustrated Steve LeBel interview.
For more information on me, Noah K. Mullette-Gillman, please click here.
If you haven't already, please go ahead and read my interviews with Paul Levinson and Nicholas Andrews, which were published alongside the original version of this interview.
NOAH K. MULLETTE-GILLMAN: Steve, thank you so much for joining us. I'm about a hundred pages into reading your book The Universe Builders and enjoying it immensely. Would you please tell our readers about it?
STEVE LEBEL: It is a humorous fantasy about a young god who just graduated from God School. He has studied all his life to become a Universe Builder. His dream comes true.
Thrilled by the opportunity to demonstrate his skill, Bernie is unaware that Billy, a school rival, plans to sabotage his world in a vicious attempt to get him fired.
His friends rally to help him with the mounting problems. If Bernie fails, it will cost him everything he cares about.
One of my reviewers described it as “a fascinating tale of good vs. evil and a young hero on a journey of self-discovery in an original, humorous, fantastic wrapper.”
I like that.
For a quick overview, check the book trailer: http://youtu.be/KwQBdRTTQR8
NOAH K. MULLETTE-GILLMAN: Tell us about Bernie and Billy.
STEVE LEBEL: Bernie is a young god who grew up in the woods (the poor side of God Town). His father is the most famous universe builder of the modern age, but as his fame grew, he abandoned Bernie and his mom. Bernie’s wants more than anything to somehow win the approval of his father by demonstrating his skill as a builder.
Billy is the school bully. He singled out and picked on Bernie
from the very beginning. An unfortunate incident that resulted in a fight
between Bernie and Billy left Billy with a nasty scar on his face. He vowed
revenge and has spent years exacting revenge whenever he could.
Because of all Bernie’s problems, he lacks self-confidence. Although, interestingly, he has developed a strong sense of values that often put him at odds with the ‘normal’ thinking of the gods.
NOAH K. MULLETTE-GILLMAN: How does one create a universe?
The gods need immense willpower to begin the idea of creating something as vast as a sun or planet or more. They must have powerful visualization skills, because they must know exactly what it is they are trying to do. Third, they have great concentration, which is what makes their creations solid and real. And, of course, a little Universe Putty doesn’t hurt.
To be completely accurate, I should explain that they have had extensive training in all branches of science in order to make their creations work. That is why they study Creation Science when they are in God School.
NOAH K. MULLETTE-GILLMAN: What is a shimmer and what is a cloud? I found myself thinking about the multi-part Egyptian concept of a soul as I read about these in The Universe Builders.
STEVE LEBEL: All of the gods have a shimmer. It is something unique to them and one of the reasons they know they are special. You can think of it as a clearly visible aura with one additional element – the color of the shimmer changes depending on what the god is feeling.
The cloud is something quite different. Do you remember the Peanuts character Pigpen with the little dust cloud that followed him everywhere? Or, better yet, do you remember the Li’l Abner comics and Joe Btfsplk who was the world’s worst jinx and had a perpetually dark rain cloud over his head? The god’s clouds are like Joe’s except they are invisible, and they are either lawful or chaotic. For most gods, the forces of law and chaos are evenly matched, so their cloud is never heard from. For our poor hero, however, his cloud is extremely chaotic, which means it often does things when he least expects it. And, of course, it seldom listens to him.
NOAH K. MULLETTE-GILLMAN: As I read this book, I keep getting flashes of some of my favorite hobbies as a kid: The video games Civilization and Populous, the old Dungeons and Dragons Immortals boxed set. It also makes me think of one of my favorite stories of all time, Alejandro Jodorowsky's Les Technoperes/ The Technopriests. Am I anywhere close to your influences?
STEVE LEBEL: Eerily close. I played Dungeons and Dragons for many years. And I played Civilization and Populous as well. I love the idea of magic. What is more amazing than the power to create? I have had a lot of influences, and I would be remiss not to mention Terry Pratchett’s Disk World, beginning with The Color of Magic. He has a quality of whimsy I have tried to emulate in my writing.
NOAH K. MULLETTE-GILLMAN: It SEEMS to be the case that this is your first book, but I don't believe it. I say that, first of all because it's good - and no one's first book is. But also because, to my eyes this story appears to be one long intricate metaphor for the, specifically, authors' creative process. The man who wrote this book has copious experience writing books. So, where are they all hiding?
STEVE LEBEL:Thank you. That is very flattering.
I think you’ve hit on something here. There are a lot of parallels between creating a novel and creating a universe. And I flirted shamelessly with the parallels. Some of my best stuff, unfortunately, is sitting on my editor’s floor. She declared it as ‘backstory’ and banished it to some unknown dimension. She told me it’s for the best - people want to know about building universes, not about building books.
And of course, my mind doesn’t stop there…
NOAH K. MULLETTE-GILLMAN: What are you working on now?
STEVE LEBEL: I’m working on another story for The Universe Builder. If you read my reviews, you will see that virtually everyone is telling me they want and expect more stories from the God World. Although it does seem to be taking a little longer than I had hoped...
NOAH K. MULLETTE-GILLMAN: Is there a pattern to your travels around the world?
STEVE LEBEL: Yes, actually there is. I’m fascinated by anything that smacks of mystery and magic. I am drawn to them wherever they are. If I haven’t been there yet, it’s only because they are still coming up on my list.
I have a ‘dirt collection’ next to me. Inside each of ninety little
spice jars is a sample of dirt from a place I visited. They include the Great
Pyramids, Stonehenge, the Coliseum, the Acropolis, Camelot, Atlantis, Buddha’s
Tomb, the Palace of the Minotaur, the Alhambra, the Blue Mosque, and more. I even
have dirt from the Magic Kingdom in Disney World.
NOAH K. MULLETTE-GILLMAN: You mention in your biography that you played Dungeons and Dragons for fifteen years. Why did you stop?
STEVE LEBEL: We began playing when the first game was published in 1977. We ‘morphed’ into the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons when it came out. We collected and painted over 2,000 lead figures for our characters and the monsters. Naturally, we had a large playing board for our campaigns. As the DM, I wrote computer programs to generate characters and even coordinate when to introduce wandering monsters. It was five years before we played with anyone I hadn’t taught to play. Then we discovered tournaments and conferences.
Why did we quit? The rules that evolved in later versions made the game more mechanical and rule-centered to me. I tried never to let the rules get in the way of the game. The more I played with new people and new rules, the more it became (for me) too much about the rules and not enough about the game.
NOAH K. MULLETTE-GILLMAN: How is a raven like a writing desk?
STEVE LEBEL: My goodness. I didn’t know there would be a quiz. Can I ask Bernie? He knows everything…