Interview: Deborah Miller on the David Gemmell Legend Award

SFX talks to fantasy author Deborah Miller about the new fantasy literature award being set up in the name of late epic fantasy master David Gemmell

The novels of the late author David Gemmell rank among some of SFX's favourite works of fantasy fiction, so it was with great interest that we heard of a plan to set up a literary award in his name. The inaugural David Gemmell Legend Award will be presented next year. Administrating it is none other than writer Deborah Miller (who also writes as Miller Lau) and she took time out to chat with us about how the award has come about and what the future holds:

SFX: What is the David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy?
Deborah Miller:
"It’s a new, annual award to celebrate genre Fantasy and the late David Gemmell’s immense contribution to that genre."

SFX: Why have you set it up?
Miller:
"Most importantly, we wanted to commemorate David, but as we discussed the idea, the realisation of how under-lauded our genre truly is began to hit home. I’m talking about Fantasy with a big ‘F’ here – commercial, loved and bought by millions of readers worldwide. It seems we are a somewhat guilty pleasure!"

SFX: Who's involved and how have you done about making this become a reality?
Miller:
"There’s a team of us beavering away at this. Stan Nicholls is our Chair, and I’m the Awards Administrator. We also have our Treasurer, Christine Harrison, our Event Liaison, Mike Rennie, Website Manager, Gareth Wilson… and a core of about ten other people who are doing various things but don’t have a formalised ‘title’ – including Fantasy authors such as James Barclay, Davey Stone and Ian Graham, and prominent fans such as Gareth and Tony Evans."

"I should particularly mention Gareth because he and I have been working together quite intensely to get all the nominations up onto the site as they come in from the publishers. It’s quite a task, as we give each book a dedicated page, add it to our shop and set up a forum thread so people can discuss them. We think the forums will be buzzing once the poll is open for votes. We also send the authors a nice message telling them they are on the long-list – which they seem to like!"

"Stan has referred to me as 'Looney Dictator' because – as often happens with such an organic enterprise – someone has to keep pulling on all the wonderful resources and expertise the team bring to the project. (I think he meant the term affectionately!)"

SFX: What is it about the work of David Gemmell that you think is so inspiring?
Miller:
"David’s work resonates with people so strongly; it becomes part of their lives. We set up a forum discussion just to get things going on the site, asking people what their favourite Gemmell book is, and there are some marvellous anecdotes in there about how David’s stories helped people through hard times in their lives, or inspired them, or even formed a bond across generations, as one reader and his father read each book as they were released."

"David’s ability to move people in such a way with his novels is the mark of a true, natural master storyteller, and there are fewer of those around than we realise. We should cherish them in our culture but instead we tend to over-look them, because they somehow make their great gift look effortless and easy. I hope the award will perhaps redress this in some way."

SFX: What's your personal connection with David Gemmell?
Miller:
"David taught me on a week's residential novel writing course, twice. He was an amazing, inspirational (and yet, no-nonsense!) teacher and I would not be the writer I am today without his mentorship. I think it was in the early '90s we first met. In the years after we kept in touch and I’d catch up with him for drinks and a chat whenever he was doing a signing or convention that I could get to – he was generous to a fault with his advice and his time… not just for me either, but actually, for a whole generation of British Fantasy authors."

SFX: Are David Gemmell's family, friends and fans all behind this?
Miller:
"Yes, indeed. We are lucky to have David’s biggest and most active fans on the site. The whole enterprise would not have gone ahead at all without the blessing of Stella Gemmell – we all felt that was key – so we waited until the time felt right to ask her permission and she happily assented. Also, in the last couple of weeks, David’s daughter has joined the site and is really happy about it all. Plus lots of his friends from the Hastings area. His professional colleagues are of course delighted too."

SFX: How much response have you been getting already?
Miller:
"Overwhelming. In truth, it is taking over my life at the moment; but I don’t really mind, especially in this inaugural year when we are learning as we go. Currently, we have 60 nominations on the long-list from 17 major genre publishers around the world. We are closing nominations at the end of November to give us time to set-up and test the poll before the reading public mercilessly whittles down the list to just five!"

"Oh, I should take this opportunity to clarify: during November, if anyone – any reader – feels strongly that someone has been missed off the long-list, they can come and let us know in the forums. And if there is strong support for a book, we will add it to the long-list as a READERS CHOICE. However, it must be properly eligible according to the criteria."

SFX: What do you think about the state of the market at the moment?
Miller:
"All the evidence points to it being very healthy. When we started out, a few people suggested that we would hardly receive any nominations because (in their opinion) our criteria narrowed the Fantasy field so much – but in fact, there is so much great Fantasy which is, at its core, ‘Traditional,’ ‘Heroic’, ‘Epic’ or ‘High’ (although personally, I’m not sure what that last means!) we have an embarrassment of riches. And that’s only the area the award has chose to focus on; there’s loads of equally great, supernatural, urban, science fantasy and so on out there."

SFX: What sort of future do you see for the award?
Miller:
"Assuming we all have the energy to continue, we’ll probably introduce a few new categories. Personally, I’d very much like to see a young adult category. Fantasy is unique in its appeal to younger readers and probably is responsible for producing more committed adult readers than any other genre. But that’s all up for debate and discussion amongst the committee and the readers – nothing happens without the goodwill to take it forward."

SFX: How can our readers find out more?
Miller:
"Just go to the website for all the information: www.GemmellAward.com . Note that you don’t have to sign up – you can still view all the information - but it is FREE to do so and will keep you in the loop when the poll opens and allow you to join the debates which are just beginning in the forums!"

SFX: Thanks Deborah!

To find out more about the new David Gemmell Legend Award, to discuss his incredible work on the forums, or get information about the long-list, head over to the official site here . (To read more about Deborah Miller, you can visit her site here .)

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