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Robin Hobb's Infrequent and Off Topic Blog

Missed! And Yet to Come!

Sometimes I have too many lives.  Writer, gardener, grandparent, dog servant, cat feeder, housekeeper, maintenance person.  There are books and stories to write, apples to harvest, grapes to make into jam, rain gutters to clean, chickens to feed, and so many other tasks, most daily and some those 'once in a while' ones.


So I missed Voyagercon.  It was an online event, and I'd already chatted with Cari Thomas about her lovely debut book Threadneedle.  That was all recorded, so I was 'virtually' there.  But I did miss the opportunity to be online at the weekend and enjoy all the other offerings.  


You can still enjoy the conversation I had with Cari. Just click on the LINK to view it on YouTube. And if you enjoy urban fantasy and witchy teenagers and mysterious characters, pick up a copy of Threadneedle.  


Still to come will be my chat with Jay Kristoff at a Dymocks Chapter One event.  We'll be discussing his Empire of the Vampire, a book that has already claimed a spot on the best seller lists.  That will happen on 17, 6 PM for me in Western Washington of the US.  But it Australia, it will already be 7PM Saturday the 18th.  Here's the link to the FACEBOOK page where you can register to attend the event.  The illustrations in this book are so lush and lovely that I feel you must also visit the page of the Illustrator:  https://www.hgliterary.com/bonnie-mcallister  Go take a peek. 


I hope you can join us for Empire of the Vampire. And have a good time watching me tilt my head like a very attentive dog in the video of my chat with Cari Thomas.  I had no idea I was doing that!  Oh, the hazards of the Internet Age! 

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A Chat with Brian McClellan

Page Break with Brian McClellan

Recently I enjoyed a chat with Brian McClellan for his podcast Page Break.  If you'd like to listen in, visit Page Break


Click around when you get there.  You will find he has lots of interesting conversations with writers in our genre.

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Megan Lindholm to Receive World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award

A full moon frames a tree bare of leaves.
Award designed by Vincent Villafranca.  Image from Wikipedia

Since 1994, I have shared a computer keyboard and office space with Megan Lindholm.  Or perhaps it's more correct to say she has shared those with me, as her existence predates mine by over a score of years.  


As announced in Locus Magazine , this coming November Megan will be honored with the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award.  Alongside her, Howard Waldrop will likewise be honored for many years of astonishing and wonderful short stories in our genre.  


Megan was totally gobsmacked when she received advance notice of this via a phone call from Gordon Van Gelder.  I think she is still processing it, as she hasn't said too much about it.  After all, this award has been previously given to luminaries such as Fritz Leiber and Robert Bloch, Stephen King and Terry Brooks, Jack Vance, Theodore Sturgeon, and well, the list seems to match the backs of the books on my shelves.  These are people who have shaped fantasy into what it is today.  It's a bit shocking to think of adding Megan's name to that list. Although I do have her books on my shelves.


The award has been around since 1975.  All the World Fantasy Awards are voted on by members of the current and  the two year's previous World Fantasy Convention membership. The Lifetime Achievement award is the only one announced in advance.  For all the others, the suspense and the voting will continue util the convention in November.  


This year's World Fantasy Convention will be held in Montreal, Canada, the first weekend in November.  It's not too late to buy a membership and voting privileges.  You can register as an attending or supporting member. Some notable Honored Guests this year include Owl Goingback and Nisi Shawl. and John Picacio as Artist Guest of Honor.  I know that Megan is hoping to attend as well.  If she does, I will accompany her.  We will hope to see you there. 

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The Animal is tired

The animal is aging. Not surprising; I knew it would happen eventually, but I didn't make any provisions to deal with that eventuality.  Somehow the reality crept up on me. And now it must be dealt with, day after day. 


It is restless in the night, moaning about aches, unable to find a comfortable position for sleep.  It awakes me too early, muscles stiff and reluctant to move but unable to return to sleep. And if I let it sit still, it dozes off in the middle of the day.  Finding foods it can eat without upsetting its digestion has become a task as it rejects more and more foods but balks at the monotonous diet it can manage.  And despite restricting its food, it is putting on pounds, its middle thickening as the creature loses strength, loses flexibility.  


When it was young, I drove it hard.  I fed it whatever was to hand, or didn't feed it at all.  It slept only when I no longer needed its labor at the end of a long day. Day after day of steady work, night sleep sacrificed for more work; It didn't seem to mind.  It could run, it could climb, it could carry heavy loads.  It was never the loveliest of its kind, but it had endurance and strength beyond what some others  possessed.  It still does, but it pays more dearly when what I demand exceeds what I should expect of it.  It never had fast reflexes, and now it's even slower to react.  


The animal remembers every harsh thing I've done to it. I kept it too long in the cold, frostbiting its feet, and now every cold floor reminds it of what I did.   I have degenerated its joints to keep to a schedule.  Now its grip is fading.  I risked its eyesight by staring endlessly at a screen, and now the colors are fading out of its day. 


As our time together is winding slowy to a close, I wish I'd taken better care of it.  Better food, more exercise, more relaxation . . . but I also wonder if it would have made any difference.  I tell myself it still has useful years ahead of it, even if it can't do some of the things it once accomplished with ease.  I reflect, sheepishly, that it is the only animal I have ever treated this way.  Would I have fed a beloved dog stimulants to keep it working when it needed sleep? Never.  Would I have dosed a cat with a mild poisoning of alcohol to relax it among strangers?  Of course not. 


But this one animal received no mercy from me. And I regret that now.


And so we enter our 70th year together.  Me, and the animal I live inside. 


Be kind to animals. It's never too late to start. 



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Delays in Books Arriving are My Fault

You ordered a Hobb book from University Book Store and requested that I sign or dedicate it.  The book came out on March 2, and you still haven't received it!!!!  What is going on?


Me.  That is what is going on, or rather, what's not going on.  


The books are at the store, the store has invited me to come up and sign, but my March has been as unpredictable as only March can be.  I am doing my best to find a clear day to get up there, but the fates are conspiring against me.  We are down one vehicle, as our truck has been in the shop for weeks now for a mystery 'service engine soon' light on the dash.  Irregular work hours for my adult offpsring have meant that Fred and I have been scrambling to provide child care while keeping kids and adults within our 'pod' to minimize covid exposure. 


(Especially since neither Fred nor I have managed to schedule a Covid vaccination yet.  The vaccination sites are rather like playing Whack a Mole without a hammer.  The opportunities are announced, but by the time I click, they are gone!)


I did manage a day with Shawn, so if you ordered via The Signed Page or from Grim Oak Press, it's likely that your books are on the way.  Although we did have a nice stack of boxes of books waiting for me to sign!  I will get that day scheduled also.  


For now, if you ordered a signed Lindholm or Hobb book from University Book Store, and it hasn't arrived, please do not blame the store.  They can't ship signed books until I get up there to sign them! 


And if you don't mind a bit of a wait, you can still order signed books from either location.  I greatly appreciate your patience in these uncertain times.  

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Come ZOOM with me!

A blue dragon stirs to wakefulness was it receives a Skill touch
Waking the Dragon by Magali Villeneuve

With many thanks for Shawn Speakman of Grim Oak Press for making this happen!


On Saturday, February 27 at 1 PM (US west coast time) I will be attempting a Zoom session. (Yes, it fills me with dread, too!)  

The best part of this announcement is that I will not be alone.  If all goes well, I will be joined by Magali Villeneuve, the artist of the Illustrated edition of the Farseer Trilogy. (Assassin's Quest available for pre-order now, publication date March 2, 2021.) 


Also joining us will be Tommy Arnold, the illustrator for the Grim Oak edition of Wizard of the Pigeons, Megan Lindholm's urban fantasy.  Set in Seattle, it was first published in 1985.  This is the first time it has appeared in a lovely hardback edition, with illustrations! 


For more information, please visit the Robin Hobb Facebook page.  

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Assassin's Quest March 2021

A gorgeous dragon ripples to bright blue life.
A stone dragon ripples to life under his hands.  Art by Magali Villeneuve.

Well, I had hoped to show you a brief animation of this image from Assassin's Quest. But as I cannot seem to upload it to my website, I must, with great reluctance, send you to the Robin Hobb Facebook page for that treat, if you wish to see it animated.  Or, you can stay right here and enjoy every detail of the image as the artist created it.   


As many of you already know, Magali Villeneuve and I have been friends for years, so I was delighted when she agreed to do the illustrations for these editions of the Farseer Trilogy.  If you click on her name, you will be taken to an animated illustration of Verity at the Skill River, another image from a set of ten she has done for the Illustrated Edition of Assassin's Quest.


Assassin's Apprentice and Royal Assassin are already available.  Assassin's Quest, the concluding volume, will be available March 2, 2021 and can be preordered from Penguin Random House here:  https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/80901/assassins-quest-the-illustrated-edition-by-robin-hobb/



But, if you want it to be very special, as in, signed by me possibly with the inscription of your choice, order it from University Book Store in Seattle.  I'll be making a special trip up there to do a covert Covid signing, masked and distanced.  



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Dymocks 101

Hi Australia!  This is a heads up that you have until February 1, 2021 to vote for Dymocks 101.  These are the 101 books that are displayed iN Dymock's Book Stores for 2021 as their top reads.   And readers choose them.  You can vote for up to ten books. 


Assassin's Apprentice is one of the nominees, but there are many fine books on the list.


And if you are especially lucky, you may win a Dymocks gift card worth $101!


Good luck!

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Here Comes 2021!

I wish all of us a Happier and healthier 2021!


I have bits of pieces of news to share.  


On January 7, I will be doing an Ask Me Anything over on Reddit Fantasy.  I hope to be mostly talking about the new edition of Wizard of the Pigeons from Grim Oak Press. The illustrations for ths 35th anniversary edition are by noted fantasy artist Tommy Arnold.   That's a Megan Lindholm book, of course, but I still hope that Robin Hobb fans will drop in to chat.  And maybe be willing to try a book by my Alter Ego. But as always, an Ask Me Anything truly means that you can ask me anything.


Coming up very soon, as in March, Del Rey will be publishing the third and final volulme of The Farseer Trilogy, in hardback.  This well designed hardback of Assassin's Quest perfectly matches the two previous volulmes,  with illustrations by Magali Villeneuve.  (If you missed it, scroll down to an interview with her just below this blog!)  It's available for pre-order now, from Amazon or your favorite independent book seller. Now, if you want it as a signed edition, with a personalized inscription, there are two sources.  One is The Signed Page.  If you visit there,you will see that it's not too late to order the previous two volumes of the Del REy editions, and Wizard of the Pigeons as well.  The Signed Page specializes in first editons that are signed and shipped to you in such a way as to arrive in perfect condition.  The other source to get Assassin's Fate or Wizard of the Pigeons as a signed book is University Book Store in Seattle.   When preording Assassin's Fate, mention in the Comments Section that you would like the book signed.  And if you want it personalized, please let me Emphasize:  Carefully type in EXACTLY what you want me to write in the book! It is so much appreciated when I don't have to guess!


Thanks for beiing a reader!


Robin Hobb

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Interview with Magali Villeneuve

Magali Villeneuve, Freelance Illustrator and Artist for The Illustrated Farseer Trilogy
Magali Villeneuve, Freelance Illustrator and Artist for The Illustrated Farseer Trilogy

If you visit this website at all, you are well aware of how delighted I was when Del Rey agreed to contract with Magali Villeneuve to illustrate their hardback editions of The Farseer Trilogy.  I had been introduced to Magali years before at Imaginales in Epinal, France and been very impressed with her art.  She is, of course, very well known for her art on Magic The Gathering cards.  


Over the course of illustrating the books, we've exchanged emails and discussed the appearnaces of the characters and the settings.  I'm pleased to say that our friendship has deepened, and I look forward to days when travel, and meeting distant friends face to face is possible again.


But in the meanwhile, I asked Magali if she would do an interview for this website, and he graciously agreed.  And here it is!





An Interview with Magali Villeneuve, Freelance Illustrator and Cover Artist




When did you first become interested in illustration? 

Did you begin drawing as a child?


Before I was 12, I wasn't really into drawing. I would doodle just like any kid, every now and then, but it wasn't my main interest. Everything changed in my 12th year, when I went to the movies and saw Disney's Beauty and the Beast. It's still a very vivid memory. I was immediately hooked, like something suddenly clicked. When I got back home, I immediately took a sheet of paper and started drawing the Beast (even back then, I wasn't really into « princesses » already!). To my whole family's surprise, the result was immediately beyond what a 12 years old was supposed to do, especially without practice. From this day, I never stopped drawing. 



Is there any illustrator who particularly inspired you?


Based on what I told previously, my first « idol » was Glen Keane, aka the Beast's (and so many more) Lead Animator. For many years my goal was to become a Disney animator myself, so my first role models really were the artists working in this industry. Glen Keane and Kathy Zielinski (Lead Animator for Claude Frollo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame for example), had the biggest influences on me at that time. I learned so much just by trying to copy their works. 


And then, growing up, I became interested in more classical things. To this day Pre-Raphaelites and the Caravaggisti are still my first inspiration sources. Of course, I love many illustrators past and present, but my inspirations really come from eclectic sources : fashion, sculpture, movies, music… I tend to think it's « safer » for an illustrator not to look too much at what's going on in the same field. This is what creates generations of artworks all looking more or less the same and lacking a little bit of soul. My main goal has always been to hopefully do something « personal » rather than trendy, no matter what. And even if I may not have the same impressive technical skills as some of my other fellow artists, at least I know my illustrations are recognizable, and I care about that. 


Did you receive formal training in art or are you self taught?


I am self-taught. For the longest time I thought it was a boulder I had to carry, with the feeling of never « being enough ». Not enough skill, not enough art culture, not enough potential, not enough theoretical knowledge… But after 15 years of ever-growing career as an illustrator, the least you can do for yourself is try to admit there may be a reason for people to keep hiring you (and not just because I'm a polite girl, you know!)

So today, despite the hardships being self-taught created on my way, I'm also aware it's one of my main strengths. As I didn't have the training, I worked even harder to at least have the « feeling ». THE one thing I hear or read the most about my illustrations is their emotional dimension. 


You've done a great deal of work in the fantasy field.  Have you worked in other areas that your followers may not know about?


I've done some pieces for kids/pre-teens literature in my country, but it didn't last long as it's really not my cup of tea. As a fun fact, one of my husband and I's first clients (my husband also is an illustrator), was a food wholesaler who needed monthly imagery for their special offers. And we still work for them, once a month, only out of pure loyalty's sake. So each month, I help create price sheets in the middle of my Magic the Gathering or Star Wars or whatever stuff. Loyalty is not easy to hold on to when opportunities keep growing, but it's still important to never forget who helped you make a living first. 



What was your first professional work? 


It was for a tiny publishing house that doesn't exist anymore. I was hired for cover illustration and layout work. They were the first to respond to the application emails I had sent toFrench publishing houses when I started as a pro.

This is a picture of probably the earliest work in my professional journey!  



Is there a particular piece of art that you are exceptionally proud of?


Asking for one is way too cruel given the hundreds of artworks I painted through the years… So I'd rather talk about more general sources of pride. First, I'm proud to contribute to helping women representations in Fantasy move forward : after decades of what I'd call « pointlessly sexy » and pretty-but-bland ladies, I'm more than happy to be part of the illustrators who try to change that.

I recently put up a non-exhaustive collection of some of the women/female characters I painted for Magic the Gathering. It may sound boring or like old news, but even today it actually is not : all genders can look beautiful AND strong AND believable without the systematic necessity to be half naked or over-sexualized. Let's leave that to the 80s Heroic fantasy artworks and let's move on to an era where everyone can relate to imaginary characters. I want my images to arouse more sophisticated reactions than « wow, she's a hottie warrior girl ».

By extension, in general I'm proud of the images where I had all the space I wanted to put a lot of feelings. 


I'm not mentioning them because I'm writing this for Robin's page, but some of my Farseer Trilogy pieces do stand amongst my biggest prides to date. And most especially 3 of them : Shrewd giving the pin to Fitz, and Chade holding Fitz in Book1, and then Burrich and Fitz at the end of Book2.


It's even hard to express how much of yourself you can pour into your art when you're particularly inspired, when your subject particularly speaks to you for deep, intimate reasons.

All those years, I've been so busy there was no room at all for personal work. These Farseer pieces were the closest thing to personal work I experienced in a long time. And given the reactions they provoked, I think it did shine through. So yes, I'm very proud of them. 



Do you have any advice for those with ambition to be illustrators?




First, very hard work is bound to take you somewhere, so be resilient and hold on.

Success doesn't really exist in the illustration field, there's never a moment you can say "I did it". At best, it's only milestones. The moment you start thinking you're a boss and influential in your area, you stop progressing and you become a very unpleasant and ugly-inside person. I've known many like that, it never ended well. 


Don't overestimate social networks, the number of likes, followers and so on. At the end of the day, the only thing that'll help you build a real career is how much you're going to work, all alone in your studio/bedroom/whatever, and how reliable you'll be for your clients, period. All the rest is only about trying to flatter your ego, in my opinion. 


And last, don't try to be anyone else, no matter how incredible the artists you admire are at what they do : take a close look within yourself, and find THE thing that really vibrates when you're taking your pencil. This is the thing you'll want to be hired for, this is the thing you'll be really good at and that will catch art directors' eye. Don't try to pretend you're an absolute chameleon, it will only cause frustration and pain. Being a professional illustrator is a never-ending race against the others and yourself. If you carry a weight that's not yours, you won't go far. 





And back to Robin again!  If you'd like to own the Illustrated Editions of The Farseer Trilogy, The first two volumes, Assassin's Apprentice and Royal Assassin  are already availble from Penguin Random House in the US and from Harper Voyager in the UK.  Assassin's Quest, the final volume, will soon follow from both publishing houses.


If you'd like your book signed and dedicated, copies can be ordered from The University Book Store in Seattle, Washington.  In the 'comments' section of your order, please state very clearly exactly what you'd like the dedication to say.


An important note.  If you are ordering from outside the US, please pre-order Assassin's Quest separately from the first two volumes as it is not published yet. 



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