BY RICH SHIVENER
In less than a decade, Patrick Rothfuss, 42, has risen to the ranks of the most celebrated authors in the fantasy genre. The Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy, following the adventures of young actor/musician-cum-legendary-wizard Kvothe in the Four Corners of Civilization, launched in 2007 with his debut novel, The Name of the Wind. The book was named to numerous high-profile “best of” lists, slowly but surely became a New York Times bestseller, and inspired a cultlike following among fantasy enthusiasts. Book 2, The Wise Man’s Fear, which picks up with Kvothe at “The University,” followed in 2011 and topped the Times’ hardcover fiction list, garnering praise from genre giant George R.R. Martin and a television option for the series by 20th Century Fox and New Regency Productions. While a release date has yet to be announced for the third Kingkiller novel, The Doors of Stone, fans speculate tirelessly on Ruthfuss’ popular blog and Twitter feed.
That’s a lot of pressure for an author new to the scene, but Rothfuss still finds time to pay that positive energy forward. In 2008, he founded Worldbuilders Inc., a nonprofit that has raised more than $3 million for Heifer International to help fight poverty and hunger. Worldbuilders hosts auctions and campaigns offering all sorts of ephemera for fantasy diehards—from signed books to posters to comics.
We caught up with Rothfuss by phone from his home in Wisconsin, poised to return to his writing and excited to spend time with his wife and two young sons after an intense tour that included dates in Germany. The July/August 2015 Writer’s Digest [ADD LINK http://www.writersdigestshop.com/writers-digest-july-august-2015-download] features our complete exclusive WD Interview with Patrick Rothfuss. Here, in these online exclusive outtakes, he talks more about how he frames the stories in his series, and what his next Worldbuilders campaign will be.
Your series uses both first- and third-person POV to reveal Kvothe’s journey. What does that rotation afford you in terms of writing?
I have a frame narrative that happens in third person, and then a narrative that happens in first person. You meet that person in the third-person frame, and you hear the story as he tells it in first person. That sounds complex in those arcane terms, but really it’s just as simple as The Princess Bride. You have the frame and then the story. In some ways, it’s one of the most natural storytelling forms.
What would you most like people to know about your Worldbuilders nonprofit?
Worldbuilders: I view it as place where readers and writers and publishers and gamers and people who love comics––pretty much geeks of all creeds and nations––are coming together to make the world a better place.
Why was it important for you to use your power for good, so to speak?
What happened was, I was writing my blog and people were reading it. One day I said, “Let’s have a photo contest,” just goofing off. Hundreds of people sent in photos, and I had no idea people were that excited. And I think when you realize that enthusiasm about your work, you can use it in a masturbatory way ... or you can try to do something worthwhile in the world. Admittedly, my first thought was that this contest was so much fun, and then I thought about what we could do next. How about we do something that maybe channels all of this excitement into something productive? Let’s do some good stuff while we're at it––let’s start a charity and see if people get on board with this. And people were even more enthusiastic. The community continues to delight me with this desire to make a positive change in the world.
You’ve been raising millions of dollars. What do you have planned with Worldbuilders in the coming months?
Last year, we tried something different with an [indiegogo .com] campaign. Folks would donate posters or signed books or limited edition things. I was hoping we would make $10,000–20,000, and we made $200,000. So we’re doing a campaign again in June, and we decided to have it overlap with my birthday. People find out about my birthday and try to send me things, but it would make me happy if they made the world a better place [instead].
For the complete WD Interview with Patrick Rothfuss, delving into fantasy genre world-building, sustaining a successful series, meeting the demands of an audience, and much more, check out the July/August 2015 Writer’s Digest right now, or download it instantly here.