A Conversation with R.A. Salvatore
How did you come up with the idea for The Ancient and The Saga of the First King series?
The idea of DemonWars was to first write a large scope series outlining the world itself - the magic system, the church and social structures, the races, the monsters – then go back and tell more personal stories within that framework. I’m exploring the history of the world with this newest series. When did the main kingdom, Honce, transition from feudalism to a united kingdom? How painful was that transition, and what heroes emerged to allow it? In other words, I’m telling the DemonWars’ “Arthur” story here.
The storyline involves the character from an earlier work of yours, The Highwayman. How are these two novels related?
The Ancient picks up right where The Highwayman left off. In that first book, I created a character who has surprised me at every turn. He’s a complicated fellow, and I want to explore his psyche as he makes some personal transitions. In The Highwayman, I found the main character to be deeply flawed – not necessarily through any fault of his own, given the extreme circumstances of his climb to notoriety. Now comes the real test for him, however. He has developed these skills, these powers, so how will he use them?
Should readers start with The Highwayman?
Nearly all of my series are designed so that you can jump in anywhere. For the original seven DemonWars novels, I strongly suggest that the reader read them in order. But you can read The Highwayman without having read those, and you can read The Ancient without having read any of the previous DemonWars novels. I’m betting that if you read The Ancient, you’ll want to go back and read The Highwayman, and if you find the world intriguing, you’ll go from there to the DemonWars series that started it all.
What’s next in the Saga? Any sneak peaks at future installments?
Since I’m outlining it right now, no. Well, I will say that I’m hoping to name it The Dame (I say “hoping” because I’m sure I’ll be fighting with editors and marketing folks on the title, as always!) and it will involve the whole of Honce, from the current warring lairds to the rise of a new player.
The Saga of the First King is scheduled to include four books. Is there any chance that there might be more?
Actually, it’s three books, the fourth being the re-release of The Highwayman. After that, I am fairly confident I’ll want to remain in the DemonWars setting, but who knows? If someone had told me in 1988 that I’d still be writing about Drizzt Do’Urden well into the 21st century, I’d have laughed at him. Now I just shrug and let the writing take me where it wants me to go, and that’s in no small part up to the readers.
Will there be any other new books and/or series that involve worlds or characters from previous series?
More Dark Elf books, to be sure. Those, DemonWars, and my work with 38 Studios seem to be keeping me quite busy of late, but there are other ones out there I’d like to pick up again, like Crimson Shadow (I miss Oliver!) and Spearwielders. And while there are some other stories I want to tell, I doubt I’ll create another fantasy world. But again, who knows?
You mentioned that you are involved with a new gaming company, 38 Studios. Any chance of The Ancient storyline being developed for this format?
There’s always a chance of that, but right now, 38 has a laser focus on the one big thing we’re trying to do very, very well. I’d tell you more, but….I won’t tell you more!
What are you currently working on?
I just finished The Pirate King, the next Drizzt book, coming out in September. I’m also consulting on the SPOOKS comics (the first issue blew off the shelves) and working on one other project that hasn’t been announced. I’m very excited about that one, because I’m working with one of my sons. In a few years, I expect to hear readers telling me that he’s the better writer. That will be one of the proudest and happiest days of my life.
R. A. Salvatore’s, The Ancient (0-7653-1789-3; $25.95 / $28.95 CAN) was released from Tor on March 4. For more information on the Saga of the First King series and to enter for a chance to win a book club call-in from the author, visit: www.sagaofthefirstking.com. Plus, be sure to check out Salvatore's video interview here.
A Note from the Talented Mr. Lubar
Hidden Talents hit the shelves in 1999. True Talents showed up a mere eight years later. While this gap might suggest that I write with a quill, or the tip of a chewed finger, there’s a better explanation for my sloth. I never planned to write a sequel. Yet, somehow, I ended up writing two of them. Let me explain.
For a long time, I resisted the idea of a sequel. I felt I’d told the whole story. But people kept asking, “What did the guys do with their talents after they left middle school?” In 2003, curiosity finally overcame inertia, so I hit the keyboard. The book took the obvious path, following the main character through his first year in high school. Parts of it were pretty good. That’s not surprising. If you write for a living, even your worst efforts will produce a handful of glitter amidst the manure. But, as a whole, I wasn’t happy with the book.
I was also far too aware that Hidden Talents had lots of fans. I could feel a legion of readers looking over my shoulder with high, and specific, expectations. This is not a productive situation.
The book was scheduled for 2004. The deadline slipped past me. In November of 2004, I had a long talk with my new editor, Susan Chang, who’d been a delight to work with on my story collection, Invasion of the Road Weenies. Inspired by this, and confident that Susan wouldn’t let me dig too deep a hole for myself without tossing me some sort of ladder, or at least a sandwich and a beer, I decided to start from scratch. But I still didn’t know what story to tell.
Whenever I was asked which of the characters was my favorite, I picked telekinetic Eddie “Trash” Thalmeyer. (If I was feeling particularly evil that day, I’d add, “Because he has the power to stop your heart.”) I realized it was his story I needed to write. A long time ago, while listening to music that was way too loud and way too modern, I’d banged out a single dizzying scene—no more than a page or two—of a creature escaping from a research lab. It was just an exercise. (Exercises are a great way to avoid doing real work.) But when I stumbled across that scene while scanning through my files (another great way to avoid work), I knew it was the seed for Trash’s story. What if Trash woke up in a research lab? In short, it was The Bourne Identity meets Carrie (without the icky shower scene). It was too tasty an idea to resist. I tossed the original paragraph but kept the concept.
As the idea grabbed hold, I switched from ink to testosterone and let the guys go wild. I had the pleasure of tossing my characters into a meat grinder. Stuff exploded. Blood spilled. (Hardly any of it my own.) Bad men did hideous things. Young men retaliated. Best of all, I had fun. I tried my best to forget about expectations, comparisons, and all that baggage, and just write the sort of book I love to read. If you decide to join me, I think you’ll enjoy the ride. What’s that? A third book? Check back with me around 2015.
True Talents (0-7653-4856-X; $5.99 / $6.99 CAN) by David Lubar was released from Starscape in March 2008.
Space Vulture. A thrilling ray-gun blast from the past.
In what might be the oddest literary pairing ever, Gary K. Wolf, award-winning science fiction author and screenwriter, best known for creating Roger Rabbit, and John J. Myers, Catholic Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey have teamed up to write Space Vulture, an action/adventure science fiction novel.
Gary Wolf explains how the book came about:
I grew up in the fly speck farm town of Earlville, Illinois, population 1,406. There were only 25 kids in my school class. Lucky for me, one of them was John Myers. John was, and still is, my best friend.
There wasn’t a whole lot for kids to do in Earlville. You had to pretty much make your own fun. For John and me, fun was reading. John’s tastes tended toward fact, mine toward fiction. He read true-life historical adventures. I went for stories like Treasure Island, Ivanhoe, and Robin Hood.
In 1953, when we were in the seventh grade, John brought me a book he had just finished. “You’ve got to read this,” he told me. “You’re going to love it. It’s science, and it’s fiction! It’s Science Fiction.” That book was Anthony Gilmore’s Space Hawk.
John was right. I read Space Hawk, and I loved it just as much as he had. That book grabbed us by our youthful throats and never let us go. Because of our almost magical experience with Space Hawk, John and I both sought out and read books by other writers in this, to us, new and exotic genre. We discovered a whole brave new world of speculating giants, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Phillip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, William Tenn. Two farm-town boys, both hooked on wondrous postulations of life in the future. Imaginary worlds. Incredible machines. Astounding creatures. Science AND fiction. Science Fiction.
I’m not exaggerating when I say Space Hawk changed my life. I grew to love Science Fiction so much that in later years, I wrote and published Science Fiction stories and novels of my own. Without Space Hawk I would never have created Roger Rabbit.
A few years ago John and I both re-read Space Hawk. We fully expected to experience again our youthful reading pleasure. It didn’t happen. We weren’t nearly as enthralled this time as we had been as boys. The book was obviously several short stories loosely knitted together. The plotting was shaky and the characters less than fully formed.
I told John we ought to collaborate on a science fiction novel of our own. A story that was more like the one we remembered rather than the one we actually read. To my great joy, John said, “Let’s do it.”
Space Vulture is not a retelling of Space Hawk but rather a complete reimagining of it. We crafted a brand new story, the kind of story that would have enthralled and intrigued us when we were young. In our fast-paced novel of high adventure, heroic Interstellar Marshal Victor Corsaire and cowardly con man Gil Terry join forces with a beautiful and courageous widow and her two young sons to battle the cruel and merciless Space Vulture, the most villainous marauder in the cosmos.
I like our science fiction novel as well as that first one I ever read.
I hope you do, too.
Space Vulture (A Tor hardcover; 0-765-31852-0, $24.95) by Gary Wolf and Archbishop John J. Myers will be available in March.
The Story Behind Truancy
by Isamu Fukui
The roots of Truancy can be traced back six years, to the summer of 2002, when I was twelve years old. At a neighborhood Barnes & Noble, I had happened across the notes and drafts for J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, as published in The Return of the Shadow. Out of curiosity I opened the volume and got my first glimpse into the mind of an author. What I saw left a deep impression upon me – for the first time I was not merely looking at a story, but at the fabric and thread from which it had been almost magically woven. Until that point I had never had much interest in writing, but by the time I had closed the book I had told myself “I want to be able to do that.”
In the two years that followed, I took up writing as a hobby, accomplishing little of note. I dabbled in fanfiction for my favorite universes, and got a couple hundred pages into a failed attempt at a fantasy novel. I entered a few contests, with pieces that I wasn’t particularly fond of, though some of the judges at Scholastic disagreed and gave me a National Gold Award for a fantasy entry. Throughout this time I viewed my writing only as a means of escaping the trials of everyday life.
But by the age of fifteen, things had changed. My last few years in school had not been happy ones, and I had accumulated a laundry list of problems I had with education. Realizing that I might forever be condemned to obscurity and unhappiness if things were to continue as they were, I began to see my writing as a means of empowerment. Instead of escaping my problems, I would confront them.
So it was that I gathered up all my grievances with school and, driven by desperation and fueled by my own personal experiences, sat down to write a book that I was determined to finish.
I always find it impossible to do creative writing during the school year, and so I realized that I would have to write the entire book during the summer vacation after my freshman year of high school. Knowing that I was working with a time limit, I managed to complete the first draft of Truancy in one month, using a self-imposed quota of one chapter per day. Each morning I would wake up, revise the chapter I’d written the day before, write a new one, and then repeat the process the next day. The only time I ever took a break was when I worked so hard that I became sick – and I was up and writing again the next day.
The hard-earned result was nothing less than the finest work I’d ever written. Looking back on it now, I’m not sure that I could ever write so well, at that pace, again. The desperation, enthusiasm, and thrill involved in the creation of Truancy is difficult to fully describe in words. It was difficult and taxing at times, but I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in my life.
Truancy (0-7653-1767-2; $16.95 / $18.95 CAN) by Isamu Fukui was released from Tor Teen on March 4. Visit the Truancy website at: www.thetruancy.com.