Excerpts from the interviews:
“My first real fandom, in the sense of finding a community, was Star Trek: the Next Generation. In my sophomore year at college we would get together in the dorm whenever it was showing and all watch together. That was also the year I first got online, back when the text was white on black! The very first online mailing lists were (as you might expect) all about Star Trek. We were the ones who wanted to be in that future, the first opportunity we could get.
“I saw the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and walked out thinking, 'OK. Interesting characters....' Then I picked up the first of the original Patrick O'Brian novels, and read all 20 of them in two weeks! I've been a Jane Austen fan since the age of ten, and I've reread Pride and Prejudice at least 30 times because it's the book you can always find in any English-language bookstore when you're on vacation somewhere. What I love about her is that Regency-period flavor. I love historical fiction, particularly that era, but getting interested in the naval adventure really opened up a new world of action and adventure and excitement, with a more swashbuckling energy in that period I already loved. I thought that would be a lot of fun to play with, and shortly thereafter I sat down and began to write Temeraire.
“I finished the first draft in two months. I tend to work in spurts, because when the iron is hot that's when I want to strike. I'll write the first drafts in that intense burst, then go back to rewrite very sensibly. I'm perfectly happy to rip out large chunks and throw them on the cutting room floor once I'm revising. But at first I'm really focused on the moment, so I dislike being interrupted and having to do other things. Later I'll take a break and spend a month or so doing nothing at all -- except cleaning my apartment and taking care of everything I neglected in the meantime!
“After I sold the book, the first question Betsy Mitchell, my editor at Del Rey, asked was whether I had ideas for more books. She described a marketing technique they'd used in different genres, thrillers and romance, by bringing out three mass-market books in quick succession. It's a really great way to get more shelf space and attention from the bookstores, and it feeds on itself so you get more attention from readers -- they don't have time to forget you before the next book comes out. That plan sounded like a great idea to me.
“Del Rey didn't have a slot to publish the first book before 2006 anyway, so the question was, could I write two more books within that time frame? The third book, Black Powder War, was handed to production in December 2005.”
“My editors, my agent, and I all sat down and discussed titles. I even ran a contest on my LiveJournal. For the first book we were all happy with Temeraire, but then the marketing folks in the US said, 'Hang on -- the people at Target and Walmart are saying, "What the heck does Temeraire mean?"' In retrospect, that made a lot of sense. They asked me to come up with another title, and His Majesty's Dragon was one of the suggestions from the contest that I'd liked a lot. I like Temeraire more, but it helps if you already know what it means (that it's a ship from the Napoleonic Wars). The American title still gives you the flavor of the period, and hints at the way dragons are seen in that world.”
“The relationship between people and dragons differs in various parts of the world, and it's very different in China. In book three we meet dragons along the Silk Road and some feral dragons in the mountains, and later on we'll meet dragons in other parts of the world as well. Africa is the next stop -- I was there doing research this past summer. I started in Capetown, South Africa (the entry point to the continent for Laurence and his crew), and from there to Victoria Falls. The Falls have cut these enormous gorges in the rock, and you can envision dragons having hollowed out homes in the hillsides. (I've put up lots of photographs from the trip on my website.) Then I spent a week on safari in Botswana.
“I still do a ton of my research online. A lot of people make fun of Wikipedia, but I think it's a monumental human achievement and enormously useful. One of the difficulties of delving into a field that you've just gotten curious about, if you don't have the first clue, is figuring out what to search for: what terms to look up, and what the key works are. Wikipedia may get some facts wrong, and obviously articles can be emotionally slanted because it's so unedited, but it's unparalleled for giving you a quick lead on something. The readers' comments on Amazon can also be useful, especially the lowest-rated books' angry ones like 'This book is terrible -- you should read book X instead.' I knew nothing about Napoleonic campaigns or sailing terminology, and that's how I found the books I got my research from.”
“I'm a huge fan of many genre books from way back. When I was a kid, The Wizard of Earthsea was published as YA and so were Robin McKinley's books. Dune and Ender's Game are two of my other all-time favorites, along with Tolkien and Austen. I should mention Sherlock Holmes too -- I have written Sherlock Holmes fan fiction as well as Star Trek. I definitely want to branch out beyond the Temeraire books, after I finish the three more I'm contracted for. I want to write an urban fantasy set in New York (that's probably my next project), and I have some hard-SF ideas I want to play with.”