Gregory Frost's Shadowbridge, just out from Del Rey, seems poised to intrigue both readers who like traditional fantasy and those who are into cross-genre or interstitial fiction, with its rich blend of interlocking stories set in an intricate fantasy world, combined with the mysteries of a possibly continent-spanning bridge. Frost has always been a meticulous and thoughtful writer, whose novels include Tain, Remscela, and, most recently, Fitcher's Brides. His short fiction was collected in a beautiful book from Golden Gryphon Press, Attack of the Jazz Giants & Other Stories. In addition to writing fiction, Frost is also a wonderful instructor who has taught at the Clarion Writers Workshop several times and, along with Rachel Pastan, is directing the writing workshop at Swarthmore College. (Guests of the workshop this spring will include Frost's former teacher at the University of Iowa, T. Coraghessan Boyle.)
Shadowbridge has received fulsome praise from several sources, including The San Diego Tribune, The Denver Post, The Kansas City Star, and Fantasy Magazine. Gary K. Wolfe at Locus Magazine, the "Billboard" of the SF/F industry, wrote in part, "For all its painterly beauty, Shadowbridge is a tough-minded novel that confronts some disturbing issues, and that is remarkably efficient in the telling...Frost could be on his way toward a masterpiece." However, it also received a scathing review from John Clute at SciFi Weekly. We talked candidly about that review, about Shadowbridge, and about teaching in an email conversation earlier this month. (For more information on Frost, visit his website and his blog.)
Amazon.com: Let's cut right to the chase. Shadowbridge, which has received fulsome praise from most reviewers, was recently ripped by critic John Clute, which was followed by a series of posts online in your defense. Your own response to the review, in an email to me, was: "One should never review books while suffering from hemorrhoids." Although this gives me an inkling of the answer to this question, I have to ask: How do you generally deal with negative reviews? And do you think the reading public has any idea of how a negative review can ruin a writer's day?
Gregory Frost: Humor tends to be my way of reacting--which, as a lot of humor does, emerges from pain. I find negative reviews very painful. I think if you give a damn at all about what you write, you’re going to feel the sting of a bad review. If I started my day by reading reviews and hit something like that, I probably would spend the rest of the day if not the week unable to work. Michael Swanwick put me on to the best solution some years back when he explained that he has his wife read the reviews and decide if he should see them.
I think now, with the internet, we get reviews posted on fly-by-night genre sites by people who don’t know the difference between critiquing a work in progress in a workshop environment and a review. I might go so far as to suggest that some of them have no business whatsoever reviewing anything that doesn’t involve crayons. That can hardly apply to John Clute, so the most I can say there is I have no idea how I pressed his buttons, but the book does exactly what I want it to do and I’m sorry he was expecting something entirely different...at least that’s how his review felt to me. He also seems to be beating up the publisher for greedily splitting this story in half, you know, to make more money with two books instead of the one, whereas that was entirely my decision and not theirs. It was two books as it was pitched to Del Rey. At one point in its creation, I thought it might even be a trilogy, but as the story evolved, I saw that wasn’t going to be the case and I was not about to pad the thing out to make three flabby books (what Gary K. Wolfe in his review called “brown-bag trilogies”--gotta say, I love that term). So once again I had a lean two-book work. John seems to have reacted as though if it had been a trilogy, then splitting the story would have been okay, but since it’s only two, that’s not okay. Well, tough.