PW: Though Sir Apropos of Nothing is basically a satiric comedy, all the characters have tragic undertones. What inspired this balance?
PD: The comedy gives the audience a chance to laugh. The tragedy gives the story weight. If something is pure comedy, it will float right off the page. If it's pure tragedy, it will drag you down. I was attempting to meld the two to produce a story that would have the best of both worlds.
PW: Is there a little bit of Sir Apropos in you?
PD: Well, he's certainly cynical, and I think there's a cynic in most of us to some degree. Is he me? Oh God, Lord, I hope not. Apropos actually sprang into my mind fully formed while I was at a convention. I imagined a king's court and one knight or would-be knight, one after another, presenting themselves and saying things like, "I'm Sir Lancelot of the Lake." Then I pictured a young red-haired guy limping up and saying, "And I am Apropos of Nothing!" I liked the idea of somebody who literally has nothing trying to make something of himself, but doing it for purely cynical reasons.
PW: So Sir Apropos is an antihero rather than a hero?
PD: To my mind, he's very much an anti-hero. If he has any forebears, it would be characters like George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman or British TV's Edmund Black Adder. In a heroic fantasy, you always know that sooner or later the hero will triumph, the villain will fail, the minor characters will offer comedy relief or get killed off. Everyone has a role that's almost etched in stone. I wanted to do something that would stand those conventions on their ear.
PW: With a sequel reportedly in development, can we expect Sir Apropos to be as angry as he was in the first book and prone to even wilder misadventures?
PD: He'll still be watching out for number one. I guess you could almost say he's got a 21st-century attitude in an 11th-century environment. He looks at the world and says, "What's in it for me?" That's essentially the world we live in now. You begin to wonder if things like honor and integrity and unselfishness are a thing of the past. Apropos likes to think he's the most cynical bastard around, but it never even occurs to him that in many respects he's extremely honorable.
PW: Does Apropos believe there is no justice in the real world?
PD: He probably thinks there's a sublimely ironic fate at work. He thought he was going to have the last laugh. He thought he was going to be able to disrupt the natural order of things and then he discovered he was wrong. You know what he discovered? That what happens to you in life may not be fair and may not be just, but it's usually apropos.
PW: Of what?
PD: Nothing. It's just what happens to you.
PW: Currently, there's much talk about the need for people to think "outside of the box." Do you see this book as your own expression of breaking out of a box?
PD: To paraphrase Woody Allen, the career of a writer is like a shark. You have to keep moving or you die—and I refuse to be a dead shark.
PW: Toward the end of the novel Sir Apropos states, "I refuse to exist as a side issue to someone else's epic again." Could that be you talking about your own career, given all the tie-in work in different media you've done?
PD: I'm thunderstruck. You know, that may very well be true, but it never occurred to me. There may be more of me in him than I thought, which is actually kind of scary.