The latest "Amber" book, Prince of Chaos, is Roger  Zclazny's  tenth.
Did he ever think he'd do so many? "I considered the possibitity of  doing
nine, initially. One of my first ideas was possibly tell  the  same  story
from a different viewpoint, using all nine  princes.That  was  a  sort  of
Lawrence Durrell 'Alcxandria Quartet' idea  I  had, but l  abandoned  thaf
fairly early. I was stuck with Corwin.The only thing that remained of that
early idea was the automobile accident  they  kept  redescribing  in  each
book, revealing a little bit more about it, or changing the interpretation
of what really happened. That was just a little hommage to that idea.
     "The 'Amber' books are  a  comment  on  the  nature  of  reality  and
people's  perceptions  of  it.  I  was  thinking  of  Lawrence   Durrell's
'Alexandria Quartet' when I began the first book. I liked that  particular
series just because of the way he retold the  same  story  from  different
characters' viewpoints. His was a more general comment on  the  fact  that
you can't know everything. He could as easily have written a fifth book or
sixth book and kept changing it. That spilled over into the Shadow  Worlds
and oceans on the different parallel worlds where things are just a little
bit different and eventually you  get  further  away  and  they're  a  lot
different. That was in the background.
     'I thought I finished after  five  books.  I  had  used  up  all  the
material I had in the back of my mind. So I decided when I  picked  it  up
again, I'd  kick  it  into  the  future  and  use  a  different  viewpoint
character. Again, I didn't plan on  it  being  five  books.  I  originally
signed to do three. One of the differences between  this  series  and  the
earlier one is that in the earlier one, I'd write a book and then  I'd  go
off and do some other books and stories, then come hack and write  another
volume. I did a few things  in  between  here,  but  this  was  much  more
compressed. I was pretty much doing one right after the other, compared to
the earlier series. So as much as I enjoyed them, I'm happy now to be free
to move on to some other stuff. I can take a vacation now.
     "After a while, if became something of  a  joke,  that  I  had  these
cliffhangers, so I started introducing them intentionally, just to make it
a running gag. Thcrc is something close to a wrap at the end of the  tenth
one. I brought it to a point where  it's  a  satisfactory  place  for  the
reader to say, 'OK, I'm gonna stop here for  a  while.'  But  I  could  go
farther, I do have a few other things I'd like to say....
     "There's a similarity, in a way, between the 'Amber' books and a book
I did called Roadmarks, where I played more with time than  space.  I  got
the idea for that book during an automobile drive. I was coming  up  l-25,
which is a nice modern highway in New Mexico, and just on a whim, I turned
off at random on a turn off I'd never taken before. I drove along  it  for
awhile, and I saw a road which was much less kept up. I turned  onto  that
one, and later on I hit a dirt road and I tried it, and pretty soon I came
to a place that wasn't on the map. It was just a little settlement.  There
were log cabins there, and horses pulling carts, and it looked  physically
as if I'd driven back into the l9th century. I started to think about  the
way the road kept changing, and I said,  'Gee,  that  would  be  neat,  to
consider time as a superhighway with different turnoffs.' I went back  and
started writing Roadmarks that same afternoon.
     "That notion of the unexpected turn taking you into a different  kind
of reality than you were in right beforc  you  made  it,  and  leading  to
something unexpected, is a similar thing to the  shadow  walks  or  shadow
rides that I had in the 'Amber' series. The original idea of  the  'Amber'
books had come to me in a strange  part  of  a  strange  town,  where  the
turnings kept taking me into unexpected places,  and  I  started  thinking
about shiftings of reality then. Only then I  was  thinking  in  terms  of
space - different  alignments  of  familiar  features,  until  you've  got
something very strange - whereas the highway business, I started  thinking
of time as if I were shifting backward through it  as  I  drove  along.  l
think the two are akin, even though the stories don't have  that  much  in
common."
     After  this  latest  extensive  boul  with  Amber,  he  returned   to
collaboration, working with Robert Sheckley. "We both have the same agent,
Kirby McCauley, and Kirby suggested our of  the  blue  that  it  might  be
interesting if we did something together.
     I had a few ideas already which I ran by Sheckley, and  we  ended  up
choosing the one we used for the forthcoming book, "Bring Me the  Head  of
Prince Charming". That was the only time we talked about it  face-to-face.
We worked it our in  general  then.  It's  a  medieval  fantasy,  somewhat
humorous in nature. Heaven and Hell have this contest, once every thousand
years, at the turning of the millennium.  The  side  that  wins  is  given
control of human destiny for the next thousand years. Our  story  involves
the putting together of Hell's entry for the contest: the Prince  Charming
story, which is done in a somewhat unusual fashion. Beyond that,  I  don't
want to spoil the plot."
     He will do another  collaboration  with  Sheckly  "fairly  soon.  The
working title for this one is The Shadow of Faust. As for my  own  writing
right now, I'm still kicking around a couple of  ideas.  Simultaneous,  or
parallel in course, with the next book with Bob Sheckley, l'll be  working
on a book of my own. I just don't know which one it will be yet."
     Zelazny has hecn involved in collaborative novels for  more  than  20
years, bcginning with a book he did with Philip K. Dick. "Phil had done an
immense amount of writing over about a three-year period, and had  started
this book, Deus Irae. He had a general outline, and he'd written the first
50 pages and gotten blocked. Finally it came to the point where  Doubleday
asked him whether he'd mind if they brought in somebody else  to  work  on
it. They showed it to Ted White, and he had  it  for  several  months  and
decided he couldn't do it, but he  hadn't  given  the  manuscript  or  the
outline back yet. I happened to be in town, and had  dinner  over  at  his
place. He showed the manuscript to me, and I rather liked it. So he called
Phil and he called Doubleday. I was working for Doubleday  anyway  at  the
time.
     "That was '68. A few months later, I came out for  Baycon,  and  that
was the first time I met Phil. We decided that I would have to continue it
right from the point where he'd left it. I changed my  style  -  I  didn't
want it to seem too discontinuous, so I aimed for something sort  of  like
Phil but not quite. I sent him a chunk, and he liked  them,  and  said  he
thought he might be able to continue writing himself from that  point.  He
look it from where I'd stopped, and he wrote the  next  section.  It  just
went back and forth that way, until we finished the thing.  This  went  on
for several years. There was no rush, until Doubleday finally  did  notice
this old contract outstanding and called Phil and said, 'Hey, when are you
going to give us the book?' Phil needed the money, and said we were  close
to the end. I finished the book in something like three days. He wanted  a
few changes. The last four pages were his, as a sort of wrap. Then we sent
the whole thing off to Doubleday. There wasn't a complete overall rewrite.
     "I still don't do that much rewriting. I do a lot of the  composition
in my head, and when I do it at the keys, the sentences are pretty much in
the order they appear in the book. I wrote  "Doorways  In  the  Sand"  and
"Jack of Shadows" first draft, no rewrite."
     He has also done some collaborations vnth Fred Saberhagen. "The first
book we did together, "Coils", was my idea. I did a general outline of the
story, and Fred then took my outline and elaborated  on  it,  producing  a
big, chapter-by-chapter breakdown. He  does  wonderful  outlines.  He  can
knock out an outline that runs like 60 or 70 pages - which I won't do.
     My own material, I tend to do most of my outlining in  my  head,  and
just jot a few notes. Fred is much more meticulous.  But  I  like  working
with an outline like that. The more recent book, "Black Throne",  was  his
idea. Fred's a big Poe fan - gives a party on his birthday every year. For
"The Black Throne", first he got me to read all of Poe, and  the  critical
biographies and so forth, so I was pretty well immersed in the material.
     "Collaborations are fun. I learn a  lot.  I  like  seeing  how  other
writers operate. That first book with Fred. I was  really  surprised  that
his approach to writing a book was what it was.  I  learned  a  lot  about
outlining from him. Even though I don't do it on paper, I can do it in  my
head, using some of the devices he has. Working with Phil Dick, I got some
practice in learning to  assimilate  another  person's  style.  It's  nice
looking at something from another writer's point of view. It's a  learning
experience. I've been learning things from Bob Sheckley too. Fvery now and
then it's nice to stop and just look over what you've been writing and the
way you've been writing it and sort of reassess  it,  and  see  if  you've
fallen into bad habits or there's something you'd like to get  better  at.
One way of reexamining your own work is to work with somebody else. It's a
learning experience. I don't want to get into a rul."

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