Locus Online



Gregory Frost: True Stories
posted 26 September 2008
Gregory Frost was born in Des Moines, IA. He majored in art at Drake University for three years before attending the undergraduate writing program at the University of Iowa, graduating with a BA in 1976. He attended Clarion in 1975, and has returned to teach at the workshop several times.

His first SF story "In the Sunken Museum" appeared in 1981. Notable stories include Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award finalist "How Meersh the Bedeviler Lost His Toes" (1999) and Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and Tiptree finalist "Madonna of the Maquiladora" (2002). Story collection Attack of the Jazz Giants and Other Stories appeared in 2005.

Frost's first novel Lyrec (1984) was a quest fantasy through parallel worlds. The Tain series -- Tain (1986) and Remscela (1988) -- are Celtic fantasies about the hero Cú Chulainn. He ventured into SF with The Pure Cold Light (1993), and retold the traditional fairy tale "Fitcher's Bird" in Fitcher's Brides (2002).

Frost's fantasy world of Shadowbridge -- first explored in "How Meersh the Bedeviler Lost His Toes" -- is the setting for his new duology: Shadowbridge (2008) and Lord Tophet (2008).

Photo by Liza Groen Trombi

Official site: Gregory Frost home page
Excerpts from the interview:

“I've been a science fiction reader from way back when. I went to art school because I thought, growing up, that I wanted to be a comic book illustrator. I'd been writing -- well, 'writing' is not the right word. I'd been stealing characters from all the other comic books that ever existed, obscure superheroes going back to the 1940s, and drawing my own comic books.

“Around the middle of my second year in art college, I took a short story writing class at night. I basically started writing short stories and stopped painting. That, and my apartment burned down one day while I was in class, and destroyed three years of artwork. The weird thing was, I had a short story I'd typed on this crappy little Royal typewriter, and the fire blew out a window and went up and over the table. Every piece of artwork was gone, and this stupid short story was lying unharmed on the table. So I looked at the sky and yelled, 'OK, I get it -- don't set anything else on fire!'”


“The first two Shadowbridge books (Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet) are, in a sense, about the power of stories. I kicked the idea around in a very generalized form for a number of years. Then I was having a discussion with Michael Swanwick over a glass of wine one night. When he asked, 'What are you working on?', I said 'I've got this idea for a book.' He listened ever so patiently while I described it. Then there was this long pause, and Swanwick said, 'If you don't write that, I'm going to steal it.' Because of which, I immediately went out and wrote the short story 'How Meersh the Bedeviller Lost His Toes', which was the first thing that came out of that world.

“I tend to be a fairly visual writer. Years of art training, and that sort of thing, have made me fairly visual: I tend to sketch the characters while I'm writing the book. And I think there are two kinds of character. There's one that springs fully formed, and you know who they are and you go with it. But the kind I run into most of the time (especially in my short stories) is the one where I have no idea who they are, and the process of writing the story is a process of discovery, the process of discovering the characters.

Shadowbridge didn't so much change as evolve while I was writing it. It came more into focus. The biggest influences were The One Thousand and One Nights (the obvious one) and something called The Ocean of the Streams of Story, which is like the Indian continent's equivalent of The Arabian Nights -- this huge epic of tales within tales within tales.”


“Del Rey discussed an interest at a point where I had finished Shadowbridge with a cliff-hanger ending and hadn't started the second part, so it became two books sort of by kismet. The first has this conscious spiral effect where it just keeps folding back in on itself. The second much less so, and structurally they almost feel like two different stories. The second half is much more propulsive.

“If I'd written it as a trilogy, nobody would blink that there were multiple volumes. But you write a duology, or something that doesn't conform (that's me!), and everybody immediately goes, 'Why didn't you make it just one book?' I didn't want to. Sorry! They're not really huge, long books, and if you're looking for that epic 700-page doorstop, I didn't write that.

“This is effectively a two-book novel, a complete story in two volumes. There's a third book planned which deals with the Library...”


“For me the process of writing a story is discovering what I think about something, discovering who the character is, what the character thinks and the character's response to the situation. You have to know what your story's really about, which isn't necessarily what it looks to be or seems to be about. Everything comes down to storytelling. Ultimately, Shadowbridge is a very long story in which people are telling stories and searching for stories. And knowing the true story is the ultimate power over the world.”

© 2008 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.