Piers Anthony: An Ogre and a Penguin

Can you find Tux?
Can you find Tux?

Piers Anthony is one of my favorite authors.  I got the notion to interview him about a month ago.  Since this is a technology site and Piers is a fiction novelist, the was only one way to make that possible.  Exploit his use of Linux!

Seriously though, Piers Anthony is an amazing writer.  I have read 15 of his novels and have not even begun to crack the surface of his body of work.

Piers produces content using Libre Office.  Before that he was using Open Office, and even further back than that he was using Star Office!

During the interview we will cover Piers history with computers, his favorites, and how he stays productive.  You will also see the word ‘fucking’ over 10 times.  We will talk about upcoming novels, and if you read through, you may find some hints at the future of Xanth!

On Linux and Computing

The Powerbase: You do your writing from a Linux computer, but it wasn’t always that way.  When did you make the transition from typewriter to computer?  What sort of impact has it made on your productivity?

Piers:: I was satisfied with an Olympia office typewriter but then they stopped making them. So I shifted to computer. This increased my productivity, because I no longer had to handwrite the first draft, type the second draft, and retype the submission draft. I merely typed the first draft, then revised onscreen.

The Powerbase: What sort of computers have you used over the years, and which computer/operating system did you enjoy the most?

Piers: I computerized in 1984, and have used four operating systems (CPM, DOS, Windows, Linux) and eight word processors. I enjoy the present one the most: Fedora on Linux, LibreOffice. It’s the software rather than the hardware that makes the difference.

The Powerbase: What was the catalyst that steered you towards Linux, or was it curiosity that took you there?

Piers: Windows and Word were powerful, but required me to do things their way. So I moved to open source on principle. Now I have to do things the open source way, so maybe I have merely changed masters, but I prefer it.


The Powerbase: What Linux distribution did you first become productive with, and what word processor were you using?

Piers: I moved to Linux and OpenOffice in about 2000.

The Powerbase: Which Xanth novel was the first to be written in a Linux environment?  What word processor did you use?

Piers: I lose track. It may have been Up in a Heaval, with OpenOffice.

The Powerbase: You have been having trouble with your printer in Linux.  Still happening?  Why do you think printing in Windows just works but printing in Linux, and other tasks, can be a challenge?

Piers: Yes, I can’t print in Linux on my current system. All systems now are designed for Windows, and non-Windows systems have to take their chances.

The Powerbase: What Linux distribution are you using now, and how did you make that choice?

Piers: Fedora. My geek recommended it.

The Powerbase: Is creative writing the only task that you perform on a computer?  Many people spend all day and all night on a computer, using it as a means for fulfillment, letting life pass them by.  How do you like to spend your time away from the computer?

Piers: I write novels and stories, my HiPiers columns, and letters. I also play card games for stress-relief between times. Away from the computer I eat, sleep, make meals, do chores – in short, routine dull life.

On Digital Distribution and DRM

The Powerbase: eBooks have finally gained significant traction in the market.  As a consumer of eBooks, I can appreciate this proliferation.  What impact do you think this will have on the market 10 years from now?  What will become of paper books?

Piers: E-readers and E-books will dominate. Traditional print books will be a minor share of the market.

The Powerbase: Major players like Amazon and Barnes & Noble now offer a means for authors to publish directly to their respective services, eliminating the need for major publishers all together.  This allows the author to split profits with the provider while keeping the lions share.  Many authors simply commission the artwork for their novels, investing in only that and of course the time it takes to produce the content.  Do you, or do you ever plan to self-publish your content without using a 3rd party to broker your work?  Do authors still need the backing of major publishing houses for publicity or do you feel this seriously diminishes the need for them?

Piers: I am doing it now. I still use an agent and a publishing service, for convenience, but it is essentially self publishing. Authors no longer really need traditional publishers.

The Powerbase: Personally, I own more of your novels digitally than I do in paper form.  Are your digital sales out-performing your trade paperback and hardcover sales?

Piers: I believe they are. If not now, soon.

The Powerbase: eBooks provided by major book-sellers are currently sold with DRM (Digital-Rights- Management) attached to them, preventing freedom of use.  When I say it prevents freedom of use, I mean to say that if I own a Kindle and purchase a copy of Eroma, I cannot later buy a Kobo reader that has more of the features I want, and enjoy this book again with it.  In the early to mid-2000s, this is how digital music was being sold and it only promoted more piracy.  What are your thoughts on this?

Piers: In the early days of records and record players, each type handled only its own. So you had 78 rpm speed records, 33 rpm speed records, and others. Only when you could play any record on any machine did it really become popular. That needs to happen with E-publishing. Special interests will fight it, but eventually common sense should prevail.

The Powerbase: Have you ever read an eBook yourself?  If so, which one.  What device did you read it on?

Piers: I read E-books all the time. I also read E-manuscripts. Right now I’m using a Sony reader. When a better reader for my purpose appears, which should be soon, I’ll use it.

Fun Stuff

The Powerbase: I know from reading How Precious Was That While that you love dirty jokes.  Can you tell us one?  We don’t censor here so please don’t hold back.

Piers: My favorite is not very dirty, but makes a point. I’ll tell it somewhat compressed:

A trucker came into a restaurant and asked the waitress for a cuppa coffee and a fucking donut. Outraged, the management had him put on trial. When the judge asked for his side of it, he said he got up when the fucking alarm clock went off, fell out of the fucking bed, and was already fucking late. He piled into the fucking truck, and boing! A fucking flat tire. Changed the fucking thing, drove on, needed a fucking break, saw this nice fucking little restaurant, went in, and the sweet fucking waitress asked “What’ll you fucking have?” and he replied “Gimme a cuppa coffee and a donut.” At which point the waitress jumped up crying “That’s a fucking lie!” and the judge banged his gavel and said “Quiet, or I’ll clear the fucking courtroom!”

The Powerbase: What books do you have in the pipeline?  Will there be anything new published in 2011 or will we need to wait for 2012?

Piers: I am constantly writing and publishing. I think 5 books appeared in 2011, and others are in the pipeline. Xanth #35 Well-Tempered Clavicle is being published now, #36 Luck of the Draw is slated for 2012, and I just wrote #37 Esrever Doom (that’s Mood Reverse spelled backward) which should appear in 2013. Last month the horror-shocker The Sopaths was published. I am also processing a steady flow of older novels, doing them electronically.

The Powerbase: I want to see a Xanth movie, and now seems like the perfect time.  There are no real limits to movie effects in a two-dimensional sense anymore so I feel like now would be the perfect time.  Will you try and sell A Spell For Chameleon to a studio through your own efforts, or are you just hoping for interest to arise again and something be put in motion?

Piers: We are in negotiation for both a Xanth TV series and Letters to Jenny adapted for TV. I’d love to have a Xanth movie, but I don’t have $100 million to finance it. A simplified-language edition of A Spell for Chameleon should be published next year; maybe that will be intelligible for a movie mogul.

The Powerbase: What genre do you get the most fulfilment from, as far as writing is concerned?  Fantasy, children’s, erotica…?

Piers: It was historical fiction, but the market faded and I had to end the Geodyssey series. I think I enjoyed writing the sexy fantasy ChroMagic series the most. I also like the erotic stories in my Relationships series. But each book is its own venue; I like what works best, and don’t always know what that will be.

The Powerbase: Your determination to succeed at what you love and your determination to maintain yourself at your age is amazing to me.  Your lifestyle is what has inspired me to build this website and attempt to make a career out of writing despite pressures in my life to take a more traditional path.  Some of the readers here at The Powerbase may want to take the easy way out, and when I say that I mean, they may try to be successful at what people expect them to be successful at despite what they would rather be doing.  What would you say to them?

Piers: Each person must go to hell in his own fashion. Refusing the easy money and doing what you love is fine as long as you don’t mind starving. My wife went to work to enable me to try to write full time, and in time that paid off, but it was a considerable gamble. But it is not always either-or; sometimes you can earn a living the conventional way, and follow your dream in spare time.

P.S. – The Side Hill Hoofer is in Xanth #37.

That P.S. was for me. Last year I mentioned to Piers how I thought it would be interesting to revisit the Side Hill Hoofer and make a possible side story from its genetic complications. Well, he remembered and it’s in the book! Can’t wait to read it.

Xanth fan?  Linux user?  Sound off in the comments below.

Want to learn more about Piers and his work?

Here are some links to get you started.

Hi Piers

The Piers Anthony Blog 


Or follow him on twitter.  Yes, there is a 77 year old man on Twitter.


Thanks for reading!  See you next time.

About Dean Howell

Aside from being a huge Sega fan, Dean is an LPIC certified Linux professional with over a decade experience. In addition to spending his free time burning through the classics from Sega and evangelizing open source, he's also the editor-in-cheif of The Powerbase.