Interview with Piers Anthony


This was such a great read that I had to ask Mr. Anthony for an interview, luckily enough he said yes! He has had quite the interesting life and one hell of a career! I cannot wait to check out another of his books. Take it away Piers, and if you get a chance check out my review of On a Pale Horse.


Tell us a little about yourself and your background? (Where are you from, where you grew up, when did you start writing?)

 I was born in Oxford, England, as my parents both graduated from there. When I was four, my sister and I joined our parents in Spain, where they were doing relief work, feeding the hungry children after the Spanish Civil War. Then in 1940 my father was arrested – it seems the new dictator didn’t trust pacifist Quakers giving free food to children – and kicked out of the country. I had my sixth birthday on the boat, with a cake made of sawdust because sugar was scarce then. So all my schooling was in America, and later I joined the US Army – I didn’t have a choice – and was naturalized American. In those days there was the draft. Had I not served, I would have gone to prison. I majored in Creative Writing in college, and was writing in my free time. Then came the deal with my wife: she had suffered her third miscarriage, so was free by that misfortune to go to work and earn our living so I could stay home and write full time. In that trial year I made my first two story sales. Later I went to writing permanently, and my career shows how it was.


I have always been fascinated with the personification of various Incarnations, as you label them in On a Pale Horse, such as Death, Fate, Time, and War. I love thinking these things are real, and I always find it interesting to see them as real beings interacting with us mere mortals. Where did you come up with this idea for a story and why did you decide to use these particular characters?

I was depressive as many writers are, and thought about death a lot, not by choice. The one person who thought about death more was my father. So I decided to write a novel about Death, but not as a horror. Rather death is necessary, if unkind. I try to have protagonists – that is, viewpoint characters – as ordinary folk that readers can identify with. How could I ever do that with Death? Then I got the idea that was to define the series: I made Death an office, that an ordinary Joe could step into. After that I went on to Time, Fate, War, Nature, Evil, Good, and Night. (Which also covers Question Four.)


I must confess that I have not read any other of your works, but I can tell that you have one of the most awesomely powerful imaginations that I have seen when it comes to storytelling. Sure, I have read some weirder stories that have any number of bizarre aspects in them, but this novel is one of the few that I have read, that while it stretches the realm of possibility it flows together so elegantly that it seems real and believable. How did you manage to intertwine so many different aspects into such a great and exciting story? What is your secret?

My readers love my fiction, but I have never been quite sure why. I want to know, so I can make sure to keep doing it. So far I think it’s that I am a competent writer who identifies with ordinary folk. Maybe my perspective was helped by my own stupidity. I took three years to make it through first grade. When I finally caught on to what it was all about, I moved well. In my day Dyslexia did not exist, only stupid students. I never forgot what it was like to be baffled by what everyone else understood so readily. I saw how it was in retrospect, when my daughter, with similar symptoms, was diagnosed dyslexic and learning disabled. I fought the school system throughout to make sure it didn’t do to her what it had done to me.


The world you have created in this story is amazing. While reading there was always something new thrown in with each turn of the page, it seemed that nothing was out of the realm of possibility. There are dragons, flying carpets, magic, God, and last but not least Satan. Was there ever a time while writing this story where you had to cut something out as being too unbelievable, or just too out there? Where did you draw the line, or did you at all?

The editor wanted to cut out the long author’s notes. I finally had to leave that publisher. But I did not have to cut out anything by my own decision. It’s not a matter of drawing a line, but of telling the story the way it needs to be told.


Despite being Death, Zane has a good heart. The reader gets that sense throughout the story especially when he is interacting with his clients. There are some great moments and conversations that he has with his clients that add some real depth to the story in terms of meaning of life as well as some philosophizing. While most of the book is fun, at times it does get serious and has some very meaningful deep thoughts. Why did you decide to include these moments in the story?

How could I not include them? Death was and is important to me, and I wanted to cover any relevant aspect. One early review panned the novel as being too predictable; that review never picked up on the philosophy. That is its real point. I appreciate that you did pick up on it.


I have read that On a Pale Horse inspired a television show Dead like Me. Can you talk a little about this and I also saw where there might be or movie in the works or there was some talk about that at one time. Is that still a possibility?

No, because I had no connection to that show. It may be that just as what I read elsewhere inspired me, so also have my works inspired others.


This book is the first on in the Incarnations of Immorality Series. I always ask this question to authors who have written series, and you have written quite a few successful ones. How do you do it? How do you churn out so many pages of not only interesting but suspenseful and exciting pages dealing with the same characters? I think this is one of the most underrated talents in the writing world. 

I have an analogy: I’m a vegetarian and don’t fish, but a writer is like a fisherman. First he must hook a fish (reader), then keep the line taut so that the fish does not slip the hook and escape. The writer must keep the story taut, to hold the reader. So I try to do that, always.


I did not realize that this title was over 30 years old! Did you ever think that your career would be this successful or that some of your older titles would still be as popular are they are today?

No, my success outstripped my early expectations.


As I said you have written quite a few series and other books. Which was your favorite and why?

Geodyssey, because it’s the most ambitious, covering the global history of mankind for the past eight million years. My best straight Fantasy series is ChroMagic, beginning with Key to Havoc.


Do you have any specific goals? Maybe something that you set for yourself, either words per day, or how many pieces you would like to complete each year? What drives you to keep pushing forward especially when that cursor on the computer screen never seems to move?

I just love to write. I am most alive when in a story I am crafting.


Who was your biggest influence that pushed you to want to be a writer?

This was negative, unfortunately, I was interested in higher math, but was required to take languages instead. I wanted to be an artist, but concluded I wasn’t good enough. What finally offered was writing – and that was like a light turning on. It has remained on for over sixty years.


Can you talk about any new projects you are working on? What does 2017 hold for Piers Anthony?

I am gearing up to write Xanth #43 Jest Right. I love Xanth; I just don’t want to be limited to it. I am also writing novellas, finding that a comfortable length as I age.


As an aspiring writer, can you offer any advice to me or anyone else out there? What do you attribute your success or perhaps failures to along your journey? What has helped you the most to become successful?

Keep trying and improving. For me, luck was a huge factor.


Is there anything else you would like to add? (Please include any links you would like posted Facebook, twitter, website, and I will make sure people know where to find and buy your books?)

My home site is I have a monthly blog-type column there, and I maintain a survey of electronic publishers that new writers may find useful. I am trying to help the world, in my limited fashion.


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