Recently I had the great good fortune to walk with wolves and Robin Hobb and Jane Johnson. We talked a little, about writing and birds, feathers and wolves, Alaska and books. Robin found a jay’s feather that I want to incorporate into my next book, and Jane found a wide buzzard feather which will be in there too.
Months ago I was sent a manuscript. Fool’s Assassin. Not only was I to find cover images for this new book, but also rework the backlist, the story of Fitz and the Fool. I spent hours in the pages with Fitz, Nighteyes, Beloved, Molly. Reading again was like meeting old friends. Finding new clothes for the books to wear was hard, but with help I did it. And then there was the new book.
I have to say I was scared. In the intervening years I had wandered the Rainwilds with Robin Hobb, a place that I love. Now here I was again, back at Fitz’s door and not knowing what could happen next. Would it be all I hoped for? It wasn’t. It was all and more and just the best and I forgot that I was supposed to be looking for images within the book and when at last I came up for air I just was astonished. All and more. Beautifully paced, elegantly constructed, oh yes, all of that. But what I love so much about this woman’s writing is that the craft doesn’t show.No, that’s wrong. It does. But what is the most important to Robin Hobb is the story. The honest integrity of the story. And she has such courage. Now it is published I need to read it again, just for the pure enjoyment of the tale.
I struggled with the cover, but had fantastic help from all at Harper Voyager, and the design team did the most wonderful job on the finishing of it. The endpapers are still my favourite bit ( thanks Natasha).
It’s great to see the book getting coverage, popping up in twitter, plastered over the underground in London.
At the moment I am re-reading The Liveships series in order to work new covers. Again I am swept along by the story, loving being back in Bingtown, with Althea and Brashen and Malta ( maddening Malta) This has got me thinking. I first met Fitz in The Liveships as a face carved in wizardwood. Someone had suggested that I might enjoy reading the Liveships series so I bought the books and half way through coincidence threw me, Jane Johnson and Robin Hobb together as I was commissioned to work on the cover art. ( I am reading the hardback versions, bought second hand with covers by John Howe)
So, a question. Where did you first meet Fitz? I asked the question the other day on twitter. But now I ask again here. And I asked Robin too, where did she first meet Fitz? This is what she said,
“I suspect I’m too late to tell you when I met Fitz. I don’t think I could come up with a coherent answer anyway. I first started writing him when my younger son was about 14 or 15. And he had lots of his friends hanging about the house, and there was a lot of young male angst and random aggression and wild laughter and all that teenage boy stuff going on. Lots and lots of eating. And I think that Fitz emerged at that time, but I can’t point to any one moment, I don’t believe.”
I asked Jane Johnson, Robin’s UK editor and she said,
“In the first draft manuscript of ASSASSIN’S APPRENTICE when it was sent to me by her agent, still under the Lindholm name. Loved him at once (how could you not?) and moved heaven and earth to buy the series and get it properly supported in-house. A Tube advertising campaign for a debut hardback in 1995 – that was a first! But it did the trick.”
I watched a short film clip of Robin talking about writing the books, with Fitz and the Fool there in the room telling their stories.
I still have postcards of the old gold leaf covers. If you leave a comment below and share I will pick out a comment and random on 24th September and send a pile of postcards and a notebook to that person. The answer doesn’t have to be the book in which you met him. It can be to do with where you were, what you were doing, your age, anything, but I want to know, because I am curious, where did you first meet Fitz?
(Warning to those who have not read these books: many of the comments contain spoilers. Advice for those who have not read these books: do.)