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Todd McCaffrey
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Todd McCaffrey   Todd McCaffrey is the New York Times bestselling author of several Dragonriders of Pern novels, including Dragoonsblood and Dragonheart. A few years ago he began collaborating with his mother, Anne McCaffrey, and has since continued the Dragonriders of Pern novels, which have sold over 18 million copies worldwide.

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This episode originally aired on 01/21/2010 with the following authors:
Note: The following interview has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show. Please excuse any typos, spelling and gramatical errors.

Interview with Todd McCaffrey

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Bonus Question(s) that Didn't Air on the Live Radio Show

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Matthew Peterson: Let me ask you just a quick bonus question here. Now you did share one memory. What’s a fun memory that you have of your mother, Anne McCaffrey.

Todd McCaffrey: Mmmm. There are so many interesting stories. One of my favorite tales to tell was when I was in college in the states for a year. And to earn extra money I was a security guard at the gym, checking student IDs to make sure they were college students and allowed in. And I was re-reading Dragonquest, and I had spotted a couple of typos in it, you know.

I had the book there and somebody comes on in and he says, “Oh, you’re reading that Anne McCaffrey book!”

I said, “Yeah.”

“So, what do you think?”

“Well, it’s okay, but there are a couple of mistakes in it.”

He says, “Oh, well, why don’t you go write the author and tell her.”

I said, “Well, no, I’m going to be seeing her next weekend.”


Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Todd McCaffrey: And I said, “Yeah, well, she’s my mother.”

And he looks at me and he says, “I find that hard to believe” and walks on.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Todd McCaffrey: That’s kind of one of our favorite little stories.

Matthew Peterson: That’s funny.

Todd McCaffrey: Yeah.

Matthew Peterson: Well, let me ask you one more question. What’s one of the best things about being an author?

Todd McCaffrey: One of the best things about being an author . . .

Matthew Peterson: Or I could ask you what’s one of the worst things. [laughs]

Todd McCaffrey: Well, the best thing about being an author is you get to see your characters grow and do amazing things. You know, the other side about being an author is that books should change you. Every book you read should cause you to think maybe differently or just be happier the way you are, but they change you. Good books change you a lot. As a writer, the book has to change you even more than it would change your reader.

It’s a journey. And so one of the great fun parts about writing is taking this journey. The way I write, I don’t necessarily know where the journey’s going to end. I may have a good idea where I want it to go, but that doesn’t mean it happens. I supposed the other great thing about writing is when your characters stand up and say, “No, I’m not going to do that.”

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Todd McCaffrey: When they become so alive that they take on their own, really their own, personality on the page.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Like when your mom called you up and was crying and she couldn’t kill the dragon.

Todd McCaffrey: Like when my mom called me up and was crying, but also in the original outline for Dragonskin, Master Zist was supposed to die.

Matthew Peterson: Ahh.

Todd McCaffrey: And he didn’t. He just flat out refused to die. It’s kind of like, “I’m not dying.”

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Todd McCaffrey: And it was quite a surprise.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Todd McCaffrey: And that happens a lot. There’s the first draft and then there’s the second and the third and then there’s when the editor wants notes and revisions and then there’s the copy editor questions. So, by the time the novel’s actually printed and out there, as a writer you’ve been through it at least three or four times.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Todd McCaffrey: And not necessarily to say that the glamour wears off, but at some point you’re kind of ready for it to be done and be able to move on to the next one.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, exactly.

Todd McCaffrey: Yeah. [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: I know what you’re talking about. [laughs]

Todd McCaffrey: Yeah. Stephen King in his book on writing says, “Yeah, it gets to a point where I just absolutely hate this novel.”

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Todd McCaffrey: You know? Yeah.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. My Dad... I’ll just say this real quick. My first book [Paraworld Zero] came out 2008, and my publisher basically went bankrupt.

Todd McCaffrey: Ohhh!

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. It was a sad story. It did pretty well just right at the very get go, but almost instantly my publisher ran out of money and . . . so anyway, I’ve written the second book and I’m just in the process of looking for a new agent and a new publisher and my dad’s like, “Well, maybe you could re-write your first book.” [laughs] And I’m like, “Oh, you know how much time I spent on that first book? I just want to move on to the next one.” But every time I see him, he’s always saying, “Maybe you could re-write that first book . . .” [laughs]

Todd McCaffrey: Well, I mean, the other answer is the journey answer. “The first book was a journey, and I’ve been through that journey. I don’t need to go back down that road anymore.”

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Todd McCaffrey: You know, it’s time to move on.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Especially ‘cause there’s so many ideas out there. There’s so many things that you could be writing and doing.

Todd McCaffrey: There are indeed.

Matthew Peterson: Eventually, you have to let go and move on.

Todd McCaffrey: Well partly you have to let go and partly it’s just... I mean, revision is far more difficult than writing in many respects. Well, I think it is. There’s only so many times you can plow the same field without planting a crop.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah. [laughs]

Todd McCaffrey: On the other hand, I actually had a short story... I had a similar circumstance with a short story. I wrote something for Liftport: The Space Elevator, an anthology edited by Bill Fawcett. And I wrote a short story for that, which I was really pleased with. And that went in with Meisha Merlin and unfortunately Meisha Merlin went out of business.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, yeah, they did.

Todd McCaffrey: And I had read that story once at a Los Angeles Science Fiction Society meeting and it was fairly well-received, except Larry Niven spotted one flaw with it. And he says, “You had me all the way until you did this.”

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Todd McCaffrey: And David Gerrold said, “Well, you know, you can always fix it.”

And I said, “Well, yeah, I suppose, but it’s already published.”

Well, seeing as Meisha Merlin went out of print, I actually thought, “Well you know what? Maybe I can actually sell this again.” And Eric Flint wanted it for Baen’s Universe. So I sold it to him.

Matthew Peterson: Ahh.

Todd McCaffrey: So you can sell things twice.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Todd McCaffrey: I sold them the revised version, actually. It was like a one-word change or something like that, but it was enough to... You know, when you throw off Larry Niven out of the story, it’s not as good. [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Yeah, exactly.

Extra Material That was Cut from the Show Because of Time Constraints

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