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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Winners of the Michael Chabon + Chelsea Cain Giveaways!!!

Congratulations to Sabrina Williams (North Carolina), David Wettengel (MA), and Peggy Lipson (California) who were all randomly selected to win a copy of Michael Chabon’sGentlemen of the Road” thanks to Del Rey!!! “Gentlemen of the Road” came out yesterday so order your copy HERE and look out for my review of the book next week :)

Congratulations also to Dawn Miears (Oklahoma), Kevin Grey (Virginia), Debra Le (Texas), Theresa Lucas (California) and Jason Gallant who were all randomly selected to win a copy of Chelsea Cain’sHeartSick” thanks to St. Martin’s Press!!! For more information on “HeartSick” check out Fantasy Book Critic’s review HERE.

Happy Halloween!!!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Winners of the Clive Barker + Joe Hill Giveaways!!! A NEW Clive Barker CONTEST and more...

Congratulations to Vernieda Vergara (Virginia), Andrew Brininstool (Oregon), Darren Sullivan (California), Joy Girdner (Ohio) and Pierre-Oliver Gabriele (Canada) who were all randomly selected to win a copy of Clive Barker’s new novel “Mister B. Gone” (US Version) thanks to HarperCollins! Also, congratulations to Jane Hathaway (England), Michael Christiansen (Denmark) and Michael Scott (Canada) who were all randomly selected to win the international version of Mr. Barker’sMister B. Gone” thanks to HarperCollins UK! For everyone else, don’t feel too bad :D “Mister B. Gone” is out TODAY, which you can order HERE, and in conjunction with the release, a new Mister B. Gone website has launched HERE, which includes a GIVEAWAY for an original oil painting by Mr. Barker himself titled “The Man in the Copse”!!! Retail value is over $2500 and the giveaway ends December 15, 2007 (5:00 p.m. EST).

Congratulations also to Ashley Reeves (Kentucky), Kyle Gunn (Arkansas), Naomi Anderson (California), Joe Sherry (Minnesota) and Queenie Tirone (Canada) who were all randomly selected to win a copy of Joe Hill’s short story collection “20th Century Ghosts” (US Version)!!! This title is also currently available, so pick up a copy HERE.

In other news, just a reminder that the giveaways for Michael Chabon’sGentlemen of the Road” (Enter HERE) and Chelsea Cain’sHeartSick” (Enter HERE) end TOMORROW October 31, 2007 – 11:59AM PST while the giveaway for Wayne Barlowe’sGod’s Demon” (Enter HERE) expires on Thursday, November 1, 2007 – 11:59AM PST. Regarding the “God’s Demon” giveaway, TWO lucky winners will get a little bonus – copies personally autographed by Mr. Barlow!!! Also on Thursday, I’ll be starting the next wave of giveaways :D

Lastly, I received an email from Wizards of the Coast fantasy author Paul S. Kemp. Basically, in an experiment to achieve direct author-to-reader storytelling, Mr. Kemp is making his short story "One Thousand and One Words” available for free HERE. Of course, if you feel generous enough to contribute, then by all means do so. All of the details can be found HERE.
Monday, October 29, 2007

"The High King's Tomb" by Kristen Britain

Order “The High King’s TombHERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s
INTERVIEW with Kristen Britain

Way back in 1998 I tried out this fantasy called “Green Rider” thanks to the Science Fiction Book Club. Since it was a debut, I wasn’t sure what to expect from newcomer Kristen Britain, but I ended up having fun with the book and became a fan for good after reading its sequel “First Rider’s Call” (2003). Over four years later and Ms. Britain is finally back with the long-awaited third volume in her beloved Green Rider series, “The High King’s Tomb” (November 6, 2007). Because of the wait between the two books, I decided to reread “First Rider’s Call” before starting “The High King’s Tomb” and was again reminded what it was that I liked about Kristen Britain in the first place :)

For those who haven’t read either “Green Rider” or “First Rider’s Call”, I would describe Ms. Britain’s series as traditional epic fantasy with similarities to such authors as Kate Elliott, L.E. Modesitt Jr., Greg Keyes, Jennifer Roberson, David Eddings and David Farland. Based on that list, I wouldn’t put Kristen Britain on the same pedestal as George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan or Steven Erikson, but she’s definitely in that second to third tier. Of course, comparisons aren’t always that helpful, so what can readers expect from Ms. Britain? Well, aside from the hefty page counts, multiple narratives (ranging from main to side characters, and usually a villain or two) and intertwining plotlines, the author utilizes a number of familiar fantasy tropes. There’s the reluctant heroine who always gets in trouble, but manages to save the day; an ancient evil reawakening from a 1000-year slumber; a magical wall that is imprisoning the ancient evil; an elfin-like race; a medieval-influenced feudal system; messengers that personally serve the King; commoner/noble friction; falling in love with the wrong person and so on. In spite of these and other recognizable concepts though, I can’t help but like the series and apparently a lot of other readers feel the same way if you look at the author’s fanbase. So what’s the appeal? Part of it is the characters. Karigan and company are likable, engaging and fairly well-developed, and it’s evident that the author put a lot of love into them. It also has to do with the Green Riders them selves. Sure, a king’s messenger service with special abilities isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but I like how each individual Rider has a unique gift—invisibility, time travel, foretelling the weather, talking to animals, controlling fire, determining truth or falsehood in a person’s words, enhanced healing—and the way they interact with one another, and discovering more about the Riders’ mythos & storied heritage has been one of the series’ many highlights for me. Personally though, I think the appeal has a lot to do with the tone of the books. Despite the life & death situations that the characters constantly find themselves in, the series is definitely lighthearted in spirit. In fact, Ms. Britain injects a lot of humor into her books, and many times I was reminded of a family-friendly
, action-packed, swashbuckling adventure in the vein of Pirates of the Caribbean or some other Disney-made flick...

But what about “The High King’s Tomb”? How does it stack up compared to the first two books? Is it worth the wait? Before I answer that, let’s look at the actual book. First off, weighing in at 688 pages, “The High King’s Tomb” is the longest entry in the series. Secondly, while “First Rider’s Call” took place a couple of years after “Green Rider” and readers could probably get away with not having read the first book, “The High King’s Tomb” is more of a direct sequel and it’s definitely recommended that you read the other books first. In fact, “The High King’s Tomb” revisits a lot of territory from “Green Rider” with such familiar faces as Estral Andovian, the Berry sisters, Beryl Spencer, Arms Master Rendle, Timas Mirwell and Captain Immerez popping up, so fans of the first book should really enjoy this one :) Of the point-of-views, Karigan once again leads the way with Laren Mapstone & Alton D’yer helping out, and Beryl also getting some of the attention. Surprisingly, Lady Estora and Rider Dale Littlepage are given much more prominent roles while newcomers include the evil sorceress Grandmother and the Raven Mask gentlemen thief. As before, character development is solid, expanding the horizons of some of the cast, while ignoring others. My biggest complaint with the characterization is that a couple of the perspectives, most notably Laren and King Zachary, are sacrificed in favor of narratives that I didn’t find nearly as compelling such as Lady Estora and Dale Littlepage. Secondary characters are great though, especially the Berry sisters, Damian Frost, his wife, Merdigen and the other 'wizards'.

As far as the story, “The High King’s Tomb” picks up from the end of “First Rider’s Call” when a great tragedy was averted. So unlike “First Rider’s Call” which jumped right into the action from the very beginning, “The High King’s Tomb” takes a while to get going—almost 300 pages actually—and in the early stages deals with a lot of trivial items such as King Zachary’s betrothal, Karigan’s feelings for someone she can’t be with, Lady Estral’s dilemma concerning the memory of F’ryan Coblebay, the Raven Mask, and an influx of new Riders answering the Call including the annoying Fergal Duff who Karigan ends up training. Fortunately, these mundane topics are offset by some enjoyable moments like revisiting Selium, the place where Karigan first met F’ryan Coblebay, and learning where the Riders’ unique horses originate from :) Of course more serious matters are also afoot including Alton trying to fix the breach in the D’yer Wall, Eletians parlaying with King Zachary, and the Second Empire’s latest scheme to overthrow the Sacoridians, which involves the future Sacor queen, a wizard’s journal and the High King’s tomb. Inevitably, Karigan eventually gets caught up in the thick of things and tries to save the day, but whether or not she succeeds depends on the intervention of a god… Like the other books, “The High King’s Tomb” comes to a good stopping point, wrapping up most of its immediate storylines while leaving a few subplots to be further developed in the next volume(s) and also introducing a couple of new ones. In other words, there’s plenty of story left to be told in the Green Rider series, but thankfully no major cliffhangers to drive readers crazy while we wait for the next installment :)

Of the three Green Rider books, I have to say that “The High King’s Tomb” was probably my least favorite. I just thought it took way too long for the book to get going, especially compared to “First Rider’s Call” which is my personal favorite, and even when it did finally take off, the story did not seem nearly as exciting as what Karigan and company faced in the other two books. That said, a lot of the elements that made the first two Rider novels so much fun are still present in “The High King’s Tomb” including Kristen Britain’s accessible writing, her charming characters, and some pretty entertaining sword-and-sorcery action. So, despite some disappointment, it felt really good to be reading another Green Rider novel and I already can’t wait for Ms. Britain’s next one…

BONUS REVIEW: Waiting for Kristen Britain's third entry into her Rider series titled "The High King's Tomb" was one of the hardest feats I was ever forced to accomplish. From book one; I fell in love with Britain's main character, Karigan. In "The High King's Tomb," Karigan's wry humor, frequent embarrassment, and unending loyalty are brought into focus once again. Everything a reader could ever want is also engaged in this book: magic, devious villains, swordfights, forbidden love, surprises, and (of course) horses. I enjoyed this book immensely and hope you will too!

Jacquelyn Desch—(One of “The High King’s Tomb” Giveaway Winners!)
Saturday, October 27, 2007

Del Rey's "Shadowbridge" GIVEAWAY and an Interview with Naomi Novik

The following material is being reprinted from the Del Rey Internet Newsletter. To subscribe to this free, monthly e-newsletter, visit http://www.delreybooks.com.

On December 26, 2007, Gregory Frost’s new fantasy novel Shadowbridge comes out and in support of the book’s release, Del Rey is giving away TEN ADVANCE copies!!! All Del Rey is asking in return is that the winners email their comments about the book, good or bad, to the publisher. To enter the drawing, please send your name + address in the body of an email HERE with the subject heading SHADOWBRIDGE
. Deadline is Friday, November 9th. Winners, chosen at random, will be notified by email. In sending your comments on the book, please tell Del Rey if you do not want them to publish the comments in a future DRIN.

“Sprung from a timeless dream, Shadowbridge is a world of linked spans arching high above glittering seas. It is a world of parading ghosts, inscrutable gods, and dangerous magic. Most of all, it is a world of stories.
No one knows those intertwining stories better than Leodora, a young shadow puppeteer who travels Shadowbridge collecting the tales and myths of each place she passes through, then retelling them in performances whose genius has begun to attract fame…and less welcome attention. Now, as the strands of a destiny she did not choose begin to tighten around her, Leodora is about to cross the most perilous bridge of all—the one leading from the past to the future…”
Official Gregory Frost Website
Order “ShadowbridgeHERE

Interview with Naomi Novik, author of Empire of Ivory:
Official Temeraire Website
Order “Empire of IvoryHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

Del Rey: First of all, congratulations on winning the 2007 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. It must have been an incredible experience not just to win but to be there in Japan to accept the honor.

Naomi Novik: It was amazing. Just the fact of getting nominated for the Campbell and the Hugo alone was fantastic, not to mention that it was a good excuse to go to Japan. You know, it's a cliche that it's an honor just to be nominated, but I profoundly felt that way. I was asked by an interviewer very early on, before His Majesty's Dragon came out, which I would rather have: a New York Times bestseller or a Hugo Award. Well, I didn't get a Hugo, but to me, the Campbell was just as much of an honor.

DR: And you didn't do too badly with the Times, either. Your latest book, Empire of Ivory, debuted at #15 on the Times list, I believe.

NN: Those two things both matter deeply to me as an indication that people are reading my work and connecting with it. It's extremely important to me as a writer that I feel I'm reaching people. I don't need to be making a fortune, but I do want to feel that I'm not writing into the ether. And of course what it also means is the freedom to keep going. That's the real reward, that I get to keep doing this.

DR: Empire of Ivory is the fourth book in the Temeraire series. Are you planning a definite conclusion for the series, or is it open-ended? And how far ahead do you plot things out?

NN: I definitely know in detail what's going to be happening a couple of books ahead of where I am. And then I have a general game plan where I know that the books end with the end of the Napoleonic wars, and the series has a definite arc to it.

DR: What year are we in now?

NN: Empire ends in August of 1807.

DR: You're not very explicit about exact dates in the books. Readers sort of have to infer what year it is by their own knowledge of history.

NN: Yes, I have a timeline myself, and you can pin things down pretty well by the placement of historical events like Trafalgar. But I generally don't want to nail things down too strongly. For one thing, travel in this time period was very different. A sea journey, the same journey, might take four months or eight months, depending on what time of year you did it, what kind of weather you ran into, what kind of ship you were on, whether you just had bad luck. And it was very much subject to the vagaries of the wind and the sea, and so I actually take the liberty of letting journeys sometimes take however much time is best for my story, my narrative, because I am aiming for an historical affect.

Read more…
Friday, October 26, 2007

"The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice" by Catherynne M. Valente

Official Orphan’s Tales Website
Order “In the Cities of Coin & SpiceHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s REVIEW of “In the Night Garden

Originally conceived as a novella, Catherynne M. Valente’sThe Orphan’s Tales” then grew into a four-book series with each part representing a certain season in the Garden, before being published as a duology by Bantam Spectra. Volume one, “In the Night Garden”, included The Book of the Steppe and The Book of the Sea, was released October 2006, won the 2006 Tiptree Award, is a 2007 World Fantasy Award finalist, and was reviewed by Fantasy Book Critic HERE. Volume two, “In the Cities of Coin & Spice”, includes The Book of the Storm and The Book of the Skald, is available October 30, 2007, and concludes “The Orphan’s Tales”.

Structured the same as its predecessor, “In the Cities of Coin and Spice” continues the tales of a nameless orphan girl living in the gardens of a Sultan’s palace as she relates to the Sultan’s boy the fantastical stories that are inscribed around her eyes in black ink. The stories themselves are compiled into two books—The Book of the Storm, The Book of the Skald—with each series of tales not only connected to one another through means both subtle and divine that come together at each book’s end, but also are related to the previous tales already told. Of the two books found “In the Cities of Coin and Spice”, I personally liked The Book of the Storm more with its tales of the Mourned City, a creature made entirely out of teeth bones, food being distilled from rocks and jewels (opals, pearls, lapis lazuli, diamonds, topaz), a machine that manufactures coins out of the bones of little boys & girls, and lizards born with markings (recipes, stories, equations, prophecies, laws, etc.) on their backs who can be bred together to create new markings. While The Book of the Skald wasn’t quite as compelling for me, it still had more than its share of wonders including an automaton made out of mechanical gears, a woman with violin bows as fingers, goldfish who can transform into dragons, talking shoes that teaches girls how to dance and so on. One notable difference about The Book of the Skald is that it’s the boy telling the stories, not the orphan girl because she is unable to read the markings, so for her, just as it is for the boy and for the readers, the outcome is unknown. Of course, the best thing about “In the Cities of Coin and Spice” is that readers finally get to find out who the orphan girl is, how she got the markings around her eyes, what they mean, how all of the tales fit together, and what the future holds for her. Truthfully, the ending wasn’t completely unexpected, but it was sweet and just as magical as the rest of the duology…

I’m not sure why, but I seemed to get a lot more from “In the Cities of Coin and Spice” than I did from “In the Night Garden”. For instance, I noticed how each individual tale is written just a little bit differently from the other. Sometimes it’s hard to see, but the variations are there and it’s quite impressive considering just how many ‘tales’ there are. Then there was the way the book appeals to your senses. While artist Michael Kaluta (Lucifer, The Books of Magic, Vampirella, Metropolis) once again provides a visual impact with the sketches included “In the Cities of Coin and Spice”; smell, taste and sound are just as important, and Ms. Valente does a masterful job of evoking all five senses, even touch, which in turn adds amazing depth & texture to the stories. Finally, I realized that part of what Ms. Valente has done with “The Orphan’s Tales”, is taken traditional fairy tale tropes and turned them on their head. So while the books feature a lot of recognizable creatures (djinn, unicorns, manticores, harpies, giants, basilisks, lamias, sirens, et cetera), story ideas (princes, quests, damsels in distress) and morals/themes, Ms. Valente explores them in ways never done before. What I found most impressive about the book however, was the same thing I liked about “In the Night Garden”—how all of the stories were connected and ended up fitting together into one stunning mosaic. As remarkable as it was to see this done “In the Night Garden”, it’s even more extraordinary now that I’ve completed the duology and can see the big picture. It’s a testament not only to the author’s genius for accomplishing such a feat, but also to her insanity for even undertaking such a project in the first place ;)

As much as I would love to continue gushing about how magnificent “In the Cities of Coin and Spice” and “In the Night Garden” are, Catherynne M. Valente'sThe Orphan’s Tales” is just one of those rare adventures that needs to be experienced firsthand in order to fully appreciate. Trust me. Its one thing to read about something as unique as “The Orphan’s Tales”, but it’s quite another when you’re actually reading it yourself. So do yourself a favor, pick up both of the books, read them back-to-back if you can, and prepare yourself for one of the most imaginative and delightful journeys that you can find in literature today. Truly a new classic…
Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Interview with Kristen Britain

Official Kristen Britain Website
Order “The High King’s TombHERE
(Photo Credit: Diana Whiting Natural Eye Photography)

Despite a bibliography that only includes two novels—Green Rider (1998), First Rider’s Call (2003)—and various short fiction, fantasy author Kristen Britain has developed a considerable and loyal fanbase over the years. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of anticipation for “The High King’s Tomb”, the long-awaited third volume in the Green Rider series. In support of the book’s pending release (November 6, 2007), I have for you an interview with Ms. Britain which talks about the new book, the future of the series, why there’s such a long wait between releases, cover art, and much more! Much thanks goes out to Kristina at Penguin for setting up the Q&A, and especially to Ms. Britain for her participation and wonderful answers :)

Q: For someone who hasn’t read one of your novels, how would you describe the type of fantasy that you write?

Kristen: Fun! But if you’re looking for a “handle” as used by publishers, I guess I’d call it traditional adventure fantasy. Lots of magic and danger in a pre-industrial setting with pretty scenery. And we must not forget the horses. I love horses, so I had to include them.

Q: “The High King’s Tomb”, the sequel to “Green Rider” and “First Rider’s Call” is coming out this November. What can readers expect with the new Karigan adventure?

Kristen: Readers can expect Karigan and friends to get into a whole new heap of trouble. Karigan gets to wear some clothes that are not green, we meet a new adversary, there are horse chases, and a return to some places not seen since Green Rider. We’ll meet new friends and enemies, as well as see some of the old.

Q: Karigan is obviously the star of the show, but you do a pretty good job with the supporting characters. Which ones have surprised you the most and who should readers pay attention to in “The High King’s Tomb”?

Kristen: The characters who surprise me are literally the ones who surprise me. They’re the ones I did not plan on, who walk on stage and demand attention. In TOMB, there is a character named Amberhill. He wasn’t even supposed to have a name. He was just supposed to be an anonymous, minor walk-on character who caused some trouble to advance the plot, and then disappear. He had a different agenda, however, and turned out to be more interesting and significant than I intended. Surprises of this sort are really gifts, whether it’s a new character I wasn’t expecting, or a plot point I didn’t think of before that reveals itself as I’m writing. I must admit, however, one cannot allow every minor character to become important. Then you end up with a really bloated, beyond-epic fantasy monster on your hands! Minor characters do have their place.

Q: Does “The High King’s Tomb” complete the Rider series and if not, what are your plans for future installments?

Kristen: TOMB does not complete the series, and I can’t put a number on how many installments there may or may not be. I will let the needs of the story dictate its own length (and of course the willingness of my publisher to continue with the series). Currently I’m working under contract on the fourth book. Whether or not that completes the series remains to be seen. Heh heh heh…

Q: So was Green Rider conceived as a series from the very beginning and how have the story & its characters evolved from your initial ideas?

Kristen: It was not. I wrote Green Rider thinking it could be a series, but I was not going to assume anyone would want to publish the one novel, much less a continuing series. So, I wrote it as a complete story.

I think it’s only natural that story and characters evolve as time goes on. If the characters didn’t grow and change, and if the story and world did not deepen, you’d end up with a cartoon.

Q: I agree! Now, you have a couple of short stories appearing in upcoming anthologies including next year’s “Misspelled” (DAW Books) edited by Julie Czerneda. What can you tell us about these stories, what do you like about writing short fiction, and what’s the biggest different between the two?

Kristen: Thanks for asking. What I like about writing short stories is that they are sort of a creative vacation for my brain. The stories I wrote for “Misspelled”, and for John Marco’s forthcoming anthology, “Imaginary Friends” (Fall 2008), are off-beat and rather different from the Green Rider books, and therefore I got to access a different part of my brain. It’s also nice because short stories are compact and complete within themselves, which is very much in contrast to a series of novels!

My true love, however, is novel writing. I enjoy delving into the lives of characters and exploring their world. It’s like imaginary travel! Only a novel can really allow that amount of depth.

Q: It took almost five years before your first sequel was published (August 2003) and now a little over four years will have passed by the time your second sequel is released. In the FAQ on your website, there’s an answer for why it takes so long for your books to come out, but it focuses more on the actual publishing process. Obviously every writer approaches their writing differently, so could you describe your methods for us a little bit and perhaps explain the long delays between your books?

Kristen: How long do you have? Only kidding.

I think the FAQ pretty well explains the delays, but here is a little more depth on the matter. I will admit I am a slow writer, and fantasy novels, including mine, can be rather long, especially if there is a large cast of characters and a whole world to build and sustain. One evening during a session of the writing group I belong to, the other members were talking about some literary novel one or two of them had read. It came in at all of 60,000 words. I made the flip comment, “That’s hardly a book.” One of the members was slightly offended, for the novel she had just turned in to her publisher came to 80,000 words. My comment arose from the fact that I had recently revised and turned in TOMB at over 210,000 words. You could fit a few literary novels into my one novel. So there is length. That’s a lot of content to take care of and make right, and doing so takes time.

I presented a first draft of TOMB to my editor in the fall of 2005. When we met to discuss it, I had a list of things needing to be fixed, and she had her own suggestions. It then took me until mid-July of 2006 to finish up those revisions and turn them in. During that time, I added thousands of words – whole chapters and scenes (almost a new short novel of material in itself!). I was also delayed by two months by illness that knocked me right off my feet. After I handed the revisions in, I waited months and months to hear my editor’s thoughts on them. Ten and a half months of anxious waiting to be precise. She scheduled the book for November 2007. So despite the fact I had turned in the revisions in July ’06, she decided the appropriate time to bring the book out would be over a year later. Scheduling is important. First, a publisher has a whole line-up of other books to contend with, and one does not want to bring them out all at once. Second, some books will do better during certain months than others. Perhaps you can now see how publishers can extend the waiting period.

I will add that since writers are human, there are also other obstacles preventing them from finishing books sooner. I mentioned illness, but when I wrote the first two books, I was also contending with a full time day job and, like so many people, some personal problems, deaths in the family, etc. Not to mention someone has to excavate the kitty litter and mow the lawn, and writing professionally isn’t just about writing. There are numerous administrative tasks to take care of as well. Unfortunately the cat and dog are resistant to becoming secretaries. They can’t type, and they’d much rather sleep and eat.

What it all boils down to is that writers are not immune to real life!

Q: Well that’s some reality check! So every writer has their good days and their bad. What helps you to persevere through the bad ones and to keep writing?

Kristen: My pets, my friends, the natural beauty around me, and my love of writing. Without my love of writing, it would all be pointless.

Q: Even though you’ve only written three novels and various short fiction, you’ve been around since the late 90s. What changes have you seen take place both within and without the publishing industry that has been positive for the fantasy genre? What about negative changes?

Kristen: I’m no expert, but it seems to me publishing overall has taken a hit since 2001, and fantasy has not been immune. It’s a wild time, and publishing has been affected by everything from world politics/terrorism/war and the economy, to emerging technology. People have all kinds of new ways to use their time other than reading. Gaming and computer technology just get more and more incredible, and I think currently a lot of writers and publishers are asking themselves how the written word can fit in and remain relevant with all these new distractions. It’s a time of uncertainty, yet one of new possibilities. It’ll be interesting to see what is down the road for the fantasy genre, and books in general. On a personal level, it’s all beyond me; out of my hands. All I can do is continue the work I love, try to create the best stories I can, and hope for the best. I do believe that technologies will come and go, but the desire for stories won’t.

Q: Out of everything that makes up a fantasy tale—the plot, characters, worldbuilding, the magic system, etc., what do you feel are the most important and why?

Kristen: I write about people, about their fears, loves, and the trouble they get into. I love the worldbuilding and other elements of fantasy, but for me, the stories are really about the people. Therefore, for me, the characters are the primary element. I can relate to a story better, hang with it, if I care about the characters.

Q: In fantasy literature, cover art is a bit of an issue, especially how important it is in selling a book, how fantasy covers are considered generic, the difference between international & stateside covers, et cetera. You’re book covers, the first two of which were provided by Keith Parkinson who sadly passed away in 2005, tend to be more traditional. How did you decide on artist Donato Giancola, what did you think of his cover for “The High King’s Tomb”, why have your international/domestic covers basically remained the same, and what are your thoughts on the subject as a whole?

Kristen: I love all my covers, none of which I consider generic, especially since many covers are being created with computer graphics these days. So they may be traditional, but they stand out from the computer graphics style of covers. I must say that I love the traditional style – it’s part of the fantasy reading experience for me. One must keep in mind that I was influenced at a time when the Brothers Hildebrandt were doing all the Tolkien calendars. The art became part of the storytelling.

I was extremely saddened by the premature passing of Keith Parkinson. He was not only an amazing artist, but a generous and humorous human being. I never met him in person, but all my dealings with him were positive and fun. If you look at the cover he did for Green Rider, you see his storytelling ability in the art: A young woman, looking rather frantic, rides at a gallop. Her horse is starting to disappear. This hints at danger for this character, and magic. Because she’s looking over her shoulder, it invites the potential reader to turn the book over to see what she sees. Very crafty! There are all the nice author blurbs there (hardcover), but the story also continues. A mysterious man in gray is following the young woman on a horse of his own. He is riding slowly and deliberately, nocking arrow to bow. Will he chase her? Will he aim the arrow at her and try to kill her? Hopefully all this storytelling on the cover will further invite the potential reader to look inside and read the inner flaps, and go onward to the actual novel. Besides the storytelling, Keith depicted the natural landscape so beautifully, and that in itself stands out from much of what is on the shelves.


Donato is also an amazing artist and a true gentleman. I love the art for TOMB! That horse! The architecture! Wow! After Keith passed, I hoped that the artist who followed would be able to carry on in his spirit, in other words, not changing the look of the series too drastically. I always admired Donato’s work, just as I admired Keith’s, and so when the time came to discuss the topic of artist with my editor, Donato was the first name I mentioned. Ultimately it was up to my editor to decide who would take the reins, but she’d already worked with Donato on other covers for other authors, and agreed he was a good choice for the series.

Q: It’s alluded that there’s a certain lack of respect from writers (non-speculative fiction) towards authors of genre fiction. Have you had to deal with any such problems and what are your thoughts on the subject?

Kristen: I suppose there is snobbery out there from category to category. I am in a writing group with literary writers – two published novelists, a poet/essayist, and a soon-to-be published novelist. There was a bit of a learning curve for them to understand the genre, but they’ve come around beautifully, and I think they’ve a little more respect for commercial fiction now. Good writing and good stories should be universal across all categories of fiction. That said, there will always be personal preference in what one reads/writes, and there is no wrong or right to it. And where there are human beings, there will always be those who are of the opinion that one thing is superior to another. It makes the world go around.

Q: In the past year, two of fantasy’s great authors passed away in Robert Jordan and Lloyd Alexander, the latter of which I believe was an early influence of yours. Is there anything you would like to say?

Kristen: We also lost Madeline L’Engle. It’s been a very sad year. Lloyd Alexander was indeed an early influence. When I was a teen, I read and re-read the Prydain series many times. I not only loved the story and the characters, but the gentle humor in Lloyd Alexander’s writing. My sympathy goes out to the families and friends of the authors we lost, as well as to the readers who loved their work. To our great fortune, all three left behind an incredible body of work, which we can go back to again and again.

Q: Thank you for mentioning Ms. L’Engle. What’s been in your reading pile lately?

Kristen: Recently I was sick and simultaneously attempting to work a day job, so most of my reading consisted of magazines – about all I could manage. Now that I’m better, I’ve just completed Julie Czerneda’sReap the Wild Wind”, and am anxiously awaiting the next installment.

Q: Well I’m very happy that you’re feeling better :) So what about new writers? Is there anyone you’d like to plug?

Kristen: The most recent new writer I’ve read is Patrick Rothfuss. His debut novel, “The Name of the Wind”, came out to strong reviews in the spring. I think he’ll be someone to watch. He’s also a very congenial fellow in person.

Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to say to your audience?

Kristen: I would like to thank them for giving my stuff a shot whether they liked it or not, and for those who’ve stuck with me, a big thank you for their patience. It’s a joy to me to know there are people out there who read and like my work, and are willing to stick with me through the years.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Joe Abercrombie GIVEAWAY, News, et cetera

Well, I’m pretty late with this, but over at Joe Abercrombie’s BLOG, the author is giving away THREE Bound Proofs of “Last Argument of Kings”, the concluding volume in The First Law Trilogy. Sounds pretty good to me and it’s really easy to enter. Just go HERE to read the rules and remember that the competition ends at the end of the month :D If you’re not familiar with Mr. Abercrombie, check out an interview that I did with him not too long ago HERE and you can read my review of “The Blade Itself”, the first book in the trilogy, HERE.

In other news, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist has an early look at the new book from Richard K. Morgan HERE. It’s called “The Steel Remains” and tackles fantasy. One of my favorite authors, I’ve been anticipating this book ever since I heard he was working on a fantasy series, so I can’t wait for this :). Over at Fantasybookspot, they’re trying out a new feature: audio interviews! First up, Alex Bledsoe, author of “The Sword-Edged Blonde”. Check out the mp3 HERE. Jay Tomio will also be reviewing “The Sword-Edged Blonde” in the near future, so keep checking out The Bodhisattva for that! There's an awesome interview with Clive Barker HERE at IGN, which talks about his upcoming projects for literature, film, television, video games and DVDs. A Dribble of Ink has another great interview, this time with Daniel Abraham. So read that HERE and pick up one of his books if you haven’t already. Finally, The Fantasy Review is a daddy!!! (Must really be baby season ;)
Monday, October 22, 2007

"Mister B. Gone" by Clive Barker

Order "Mister B. Gone" HERE (UK) + HERE (US)

Thanks to the movies Hellraiser, Lord of Illusions, and Candyman I was introduced to Clive Barker, but it was his writing that made me a hardcore fan. “Imajica”, “Weaveworld”, “Books of Blood”, “The Great and Secret Show”, “Everville”; all personal favorites of mine and great examples of Mr. Barker’s wild imagination and unique talents. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I last read a Clive Barker book (2001’s Coldheart Canyon) so when I heard about “Mister B. Gone” I couldn’t have been more excited, especially after reading the press release: “A propulsive frightfest layered with psychological nuances, textured characterizations, philosophical reflections and theological meditations, Mister B. Gone is the Clive Barker original his millions of fans worldwide have been awaiting, one packed with subtle scares and heart-stopping terrors from cover to cover”. Let’s just say the description is not a hundered percent accurate...

First off, I’m not sure I would describe “Mister B. Gone” as a 'frightfest'. Sure, the main character is a demon from the Ninth Circle of Hell, and there’s some evisceration, bathing in infants’ blood and a plethora of other ghastly moments. At the same time however, fantasy elements are prominently in play—yet another slant on the war between Heaven & Hell—and there's also plenty of wry humor. In fact, “Mister B. Gone” doesn’t take itself too seriously and its playfulness actually diminishes the book’s more gruesome moments. Just to give you an example, demon Jakabok Botch, the book’s narrator, has a family—his bastard father Pappy Gatmuss, his whore Momma, and his younger sister Charyat; goes to a school in the Ninth Circle to learn the Agonies, and is captured by humans in the World Above by a trap that uses ‘shanks of raw meat & cans of beer’ as bait ;) Of course the most telling manner of the book’s more flippant nature is the way Jakabok, or Mister B. as he’s sometimes called, is written. In short, Jakabok is the “Mister B. Gone” book and throughout the entire novel he’s talking directly to you the reader, in hopes that you will be persuaded to burn the book. Along the way, he’ll try to Threaten you, Appeal to your compassionate side, Seduce you with gifts, regale you with such memories as The Bonfire, The Bait, Killing Pappy, My First Love (yes, apparently demons can love :), What Happened on Joshua’s Field, Meeting Quitoon, How He Saved My Life; and even tell you the story of how he became the book in the first place, which takes place in Mainz, Germany in 1439 and involves goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg, an invention that marks the End of the World, angels, demons and a shocking Secret. In essence, Jakabok is quite the amusing little demon, due mainly to a personality that is snarky & whimsical and he's actually quite likeable. Being afraid of Mister B. though is a whole different story ;)

I’ll be honest. “Mister B. Gone” wasn’t the book I was expecting. I was really hoping for a return to Clive Barker’s early days when he wrote some of the most creatively disturbing horror I’ve ever read, but instead we get a book that is much more humorous than it is scary. Just because it wasn’t what I was hoping for though doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book. It’s Clive Barker for goodness sake! So once I got over my initial disappointment, “Mister B. Gone” turned out to be a pretty fun little pick-me-up that features the author’s vintage prose, idiosyncrasies and imagination which plays around with the concept of demons, Christianity, good vs. evil, love, and so on. The only real problem I had with the book is that because it’s so short—256 pages—some of the themes and secondary plots weren’t fleshed out that well, specifically the relationship between Jakabok and fellow demon Quitoon. Basically, the two end up traveling together for over a century and developing a special bond which comes into play in the later stages of the story. Since we don’t get to see that development, the subplot loses a lot of its impact. Personally, I think if Mr. Barker had spent more time recounting the two demons’ adventures together as they sought out new inventions and terrorized humanity, those moments would probably have been my favorite in the whole book :) As it stands, “Mister B. Gone” is not the Clive Barker original that I’ve been waiting for, and I think other readers will agree with me, but it is a nice Halloween treat and a pretty good diversion until the real Clive Barker book that we’ve been anticipating comes out—“The Scarlet Gospels” (TBA 2008?) featuring Pinhead (Hellraiser films, The Hellbound Heart) and detective Harry D'Amour (The Last Illusion, The Great & Secret Show, The Lost Souls, Everville). Until then, let Mister B. convince you otherwise...
Friday, October 19, 2007

"Echelon" + "Empyre" by Josh Conviser

Order “EmpyreHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

Dubbed by the author as “spy-fi” (a cross between spy fiction and science fiction), Josh Conviser’sEchelon” and its sequel “Empyre” have been on my radar for a while now. After all, I have a soft spot for James Bond, I’ve really been getting into Jason Bourne lately, and I’m a huge fan of cyberpunk. So, based on the blurbs and other info that I’ve seen, Mr. Conviser’s books sounded like something I would really enjoy. Thus, in anticipation of “Empyre’sOctober 30, 2007 release, I purchased a copy of “Echelon” and decided to read the books back-to-back and review them collectively. While I’ll try my hardest to avoid spoiling anything, I am only human and I apologize in advance for any slipups ;)

Starting out with “Echeleon”, what we have is a future Earth—somewhere around 2100—that has enjoyed a century of peace thanks to Echelon, a clandestine organization that controls all data flow, preventing dangerous ideas from being fully realized. Additionally, Echelon steals technological concepts, combining them into new, even greater creations and then uses them for their own purposes such as the nanotechnology-like drones that bring our hero Ryan Laing back to life. Joining Laing, an Echelon field operative, are data-flow analyst Sarah Peters—doubles as a bassist in the screamo-poetry band Agamemnon’s Mitten, and weapons expert & super-hack Dave Madda, while the surrounding cast is rounded out by ‘cowboy seafarer’ Tex, Christopher Turing—the godfather of Echelon, and Echelon’s inspector general Jason Sachs. After introductions are made and the futuristic world established, the plot kicks in with Laing uncovering a conspiracy involving Turing. Without giving anything major away, Echelon basically goes offline, chaos ensues, and a large part of the book deals with Ryan, Sarah & Dave seeking out the Key which will make Echelon operational again. Woven into that are plenty of espionage-like moments, cathartic action sequences, a few double-crosses, blossoming love and some intriguing moral dilemmas...

If you didn’t know, Josh Conviser started out in Hollywood before writing his debut novel “Echelon” and is currently an executive consultant on HBO’s television series Rome, has a film being developed for Fox, and recently wrote the script for a modern day adaptation of Dante's Inferno set in Las Vegas. Understandably, Josh’s writing is infused with certain cinematic qualities, not all of them for the good however. On the plus side, Mr. Conviser really knows how to get the party started as the beginning of “Echelon” is quite gripping, the action throughout is over-the-top but fun, and the story moves along in a brisk, if not at times, haphazard manner. Where the book falters is with its clichéd characters and their weak development, a predictable romance between Ryan & Sarah, a tendency to overuse flashbacks that don’t fit seamlessly into the flow of the story, and the occasional moment of confusion where it seems like a piece is missing. My biggest disappointment however, was the lackluster spy elements. For a book that is described as ‘spy-fi”, the intrigue and mystery are sorely lacking. Basically, most of the big secrets are revealed way too early, the traitors are too obvious (aside from one surprise towards the end), and the conspiracy is oversimplified. Fortunately, the science fiction aspects in “Echelon” pick up a lot of the slack. While many of the concepts are familiar to anyone who follows any type of SF—nanotechnology, virtual reality & futuristic motorbikes are the most recognizable—Mr. Conviser does a good job adding his own spin on things and even introduces some entertaining ideas like interrogation methods using a form of sensory deprivation and an entire nation under quarantine where anyone can enter, but no one can leave. The one thing I didn’t like though was the origin of the Key, which seemed just a bit out of place with the rest of the novel. As a final analysis, I would say “Echelon” starts out with a bang, but because the writing & execution are weaker than the concept, the book ends on a whimper…literally.

Which brings me to its sequel “Empyre”. While I was a little frustrated with “Echelon”, the book did show a lot of potential and since it was Mr. Conviser’s first novel, I thought there was plenty of opportunity for improvement. Thankfully my feelings were more than justified as “Empyre” is a much stronger novel than its predecessor in almost every regard. Before getting into that though, let’s look at the story first. Five years have passed since the end of the first book. Echelon is no more and for the first time in a century, the world is free. But freedom comes at a hefty price—a world full of fear, anger, distrust & chaos. Hoping to fill the vacuum left by Echelon is EMPYRE, a terrorist organization featuring the collaborative efforts of the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency, etc. whose primary goal is establishing America as the dominant world power. Of course there’s much more to EMPYRE than meets the eye as it stands at the center of a conspiracy even more frightening and disastrous than the one Echelon was a part of. Once again swept up into these world events are returning faces Ryan Laing, Sarah Peters and Dave Madda, as well as a couple of new ones, who discover that you can’t escape the past if you want to change the future…

As I mentioned before, “Empyre” is a highly superior book compared to “Echelon” and the first thing I noticed was how much more accomplished the writing was. The plotting was much tighter, the pacing more fluid, the characters better defined and more complex, especially Sarah who goes through some major changes both physically—augmented with enhanced perception, armored body shell, skin camouflage, a hawkeye, etc.—and emotionally. Mr. Conviser also fixed his flashback problems, exposition was improved, and the actual story was much more thought-provoking & satisfying dealing with such issues as singularity—“the acceleration of technological progress to the point where we can no longer predict our future based on the past”, terrorism, privacy issues, transhumanism—“the impact of technology on humanity”, Ryan & Sarah’s dynamic love/hate relationship, man vs. machine debates, bioweapons and various other relevant topics. In fact, “Empyre” seemed to take itself much more seriously than “Echelon” and in turn, was a much more intense and affecting read. Unfortunately, some of the same issues that plagued the first book are still shortcomings in “Empyre”. Intrigue remains a weak spot with Mr. Conviser once again showing his hand too early, while making it easy for the reader to figure out things ahead of time. There’s too much unnecessary banter, especially considering the seriousness of the book. New characters aren’t balanced out well—Mr. Conviser does a pretty good job of introducing newcomers like Frank Savakis and Zachary Taylor, but as the book progresses, there's hardly any growth. And the beginning is stronger than the rest of the novel though Josh does a much better job of closing out “Empyre” than he did with “Echelon”. On a personal note, I thought the little Da Vinci Code-like scenario with Ryan trying to crack a cipher was a bit cliche, and I felt the ‘shocking’ revelations regarding Alfred Krueger would have been much more effective if he had been established in the first book, but as a whole, none of the issues I had with “Empyre” were nearly as problematic as they were in “Echelon”.

For the most part, “Echelon” & “Empyre” live up to their promise of ‘spy-fi’ even if the books are skimpy on the spy side of things. Personally, I was reminded of the futuristic vision of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson; the violence, profanity, sex and overall edginess evoked Richard K. Morgan—in particular, his novel “Black Man/Thirteen” felt similar in tone to “Empyre”; theme-wise, I saw a lot of Joel Shepherd’s Cassandra Kresnov series and especially John Twelve Hawks (The Traveler, The Dark River)—heck there’s even a panopticon and free runners in “Empyre!”, and I would throw James Rollins’ Sigma Force novels into the mix because of their Hollywood-style action and more adventure-oriented spy elements. A pretty varied and impressive bunch, but not totally without merit I think :)

Overall, I enjoyed both of Josh Conviser’s novels. “Echelon”, while flawed, read quickly and was fun in a summer popcorn movie kind of way—lots of flash and bang, but lacking in spirit and ultimately forgettable. “Empyre” meanwhile, is a sophisticated, intelligent and provocative sci-fi thriller that will resonate much deeper with readers. Between the two, “Empyre” is easily the better novel, so if you’re having difficulties with “Echelon” I urge you to persevere because the effort is absolutely worth it when reading the sequel. On the other hand, if you liked “Echelon” then I need say no more since I’m pretty sure that you’ll love “Empyre”. For myself, I was completely stunned by how much of a leap forward Mr. Conviser made between the two books and I can’t wait to see what Josh does with his next one. Whether it’s a sequel to “Empyre”, which I’m confident there will be one, or a new project, I’m onboard one hundred percent…
Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dinner with Drizzt: An Interview with R.A. Salvatore

Dinner with Drizzt: An interview with R.A. Salvatore
By: David Craddock

For one as versed in the idiosyncrasies of fantasy creatures such as elves, dwarves, and orcs, it never fails to astonish many of R.A. "Bob" Salvatore's most diehard fans that the renowned author does not read much within his core genre. "I try to read the first book of a major series, but it's so hard," Salvatore explained as I sat down to dinner with Mr. Drzzt Do'Urden himself, his wife Diane, and my fiancé. "I'm writing 12 months a year at this time, and even when I say I'm not going to write, I am."

Another reason, and perhaps a far more personal one, is that Salvatore strives to be his one and only influence. "If I'm reading ... other fantasy books, they creep into my work, and I can't have that." He paused, smiled, and then added, "I'm planning on re-reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I'm done with my current book tour." Tolkien's venerable masterpiece inspired Salvatore to write years ago. That timeless work, he reasoned, has influenced him from the beginning of his career, so he sees no reason to shy away from it.

Fair enough.

Though he's busy crafting his projects at any given date and time, Salvatore admits that at present, he does not adhere to any static schedules, though he'd like for this habit to change. "I'm not nearly as disciplined as I was because the kids aren't around anymore. My schedule used to go with the kids'. We'd [Salvatore and his wife] get them up and off to school, we'd have a cup of coffee, then I'd write until I had to go to their hockey game or whatever in the afternoon. But now, I'm finding that, for health reasons, so I don't get consumed by the business, I have to get on a schedule so the writing doesn't consume me."

Until he's gotten a fair bit of work done, Salvatore says that he "can't enjoy anything. We'll go for a walk, and I'll say, 'I should be home writing.' We go out for ice cream, and I say, 'I should be home writing.' When I'm not on a schedule, I feel guilty about it the entire day."

I smile as Diane Salvatore, waiting until her husband dips his head to take another bite of food, rolled her eyes at me and nodded agreement.

For any writer, reading is the hammer to writing's nails. "I don't set aside time to read," Salvatore said, "but I read a lot on the Internet, I read political books, magazines, but I don't read as much fiction as I used to because, again, it seeps into my writing."

Salvatore paused, sighed, and then confessed that, "as a writer, you can't be a reader without also being an editor. I can't just read something someone's given me without thinking, 'This is what I would have done instead.' It just ruins books for me. The times when I do read are times when I'm giving a quote on a book."

While Salvatore attempts to dissuade any peer influence on his work, he understands that his fans sometimes want to have their own say about their favorite characters. "With a long running series," Salvatore said, "people have their own interests in those characters, [and] they take propriety over that series. They're thinking, 'What are you doing, messing with MY friends?'"

Yes, Salvatore understands that his paychecks do, essentially, come from his readers, but he remains firm in planting a blockade between them and his creations. "The characters will follow the course I tell them to, and they will change to fit the way I'm feeling," Salvatore says. "Whether it's Drizzt, or the Highway Man... those characters are saying what I want them to, I'm in control of them. There are things I can accomplish in a Drizzt book, and there are things I can accomplish in a Demon Wars book, and I know the parameters, the boundaries, for each."

Could it be said, then, that Salvatore grasps the "Write for yourself" mantra as almost holy doctrine? "Absolutely," Salvatore said. "With Drizzt, it's been 20 years. As long as I'm having fun with the characters, and as long as people want to read it, and as long as the publisher wants me to write it, I'll keep writing it. So far, all of those criteria have been met. I do it because I love it, I love the characters. I do it because I found a voice through those characters."

20 years of incredible adventures with Drizzt, Bruenor, Catti-brie, Regis, and Wulfgar continues, most notably with the release of the first book in Salvatore's Transitions trilogy, The Orc King. With the aforementioned now available in bookstores, Salvatore stated that work on the remaining books is proceeding smoothly. "I'm blasting through the second book [The Pirate King] right now, on airplanes across the country as I travel for my current book tour [for The Orc King]. It's about a quarter of the way done already, in terms of actual word count, but I've got the book plotted from beginning to end. I expect to be turning it in around the first of the year."

"Plotted from beginning to end?" An interesting phraseology, and certainly not one to be overlooked. "When I say 'plotted out,' I mean that in general terms," Salvatore explains. "The characters are surprising me at every turn. I know the first act, the second act, and the third act; I know the beginning, the middle, and the end--but the end might change, and that's okay. Because all of that's already there, the hardest parts of the book to write are the beginning and the end when you know where you're going."

With the beginning and end of The Pirate King relatively in place, Salvatore says that he'll "be hitting autopilot very soon on this book for the middle part, because I know everything I need to accomplish. Now, when I'm done accomplishing all that, I might look at the book and say, 'Wait, it's not going in the direction I thought,' and that's okay. I just let it guide me."

With as much time as he spends in the Forgotten Realms, fans might be surprised that Salvatore has a land even dearer to his heart: Corona, the backdrop for his DemonWars books. "I was with Del Rey for the [DemonWars] seven book series," Salvatore says. "In the mid 90s, when I broke apart from TSR for awhile, Owen Lock over at Del Rey contacted me and said, 'We want you to come over here and take as much time as you need to write the best book you can write.' That was music to my ears. I got to actually sit down and take all these ideas that had been bouncing around in my head since I'd first decided that I wanted to write a fantasy book, only now, I had the skills to actually do it--I think. And that world, which is my Forgotten Realms, my Middle-earth, my Shannara--that world is Corona."

To Salvatore, his time at Del Rey seemed to end before it had really begun. "Betsy Mitchell took over. There were several publishers there, but Betsy had come from Warner, and she had published my Crimson Shadow books [over at Warner]. I thought I was done. I was planning to go back, but then tried to slow down. I had too many books to write, and I thought I wanted a break. Of course, as soon as I slowed down, I started to go faster. An opportunity came up when Bertelsmann bought Random House, and they sold off one of their warehouses to Gilbert Perlman, and I knew Gilbert very well because he'd been running the Random House Juvenile Merchandise division, the division who used to distribute TSR."

Gilbert, Salvatore elaborated, "wanted me to come over and write a book for him at this company he started, called CDS. It was a distribution company, but they wanted to do some publishing. They were really trying to change the entire structure of the way authors make money writing books. I'd seen the world change, and I thought that was an important step to try. And, I love working with Gilbert, anyway. So I went over and did The Highwayman, which was originally for CDS Books."

No winds of change blow faster than those of the business world. "CDS got bought by Perseus, Gilbert left, and everyone else I was working with, they left," Salvatore said. "So I thought, 'Well, I'm done. I'll just go do my Drizzt books,' and then Tom Doherty called me. I talked to CDS and Perseus, and they granted me back the rights to Highwayman, so I'm writing The Ancient, with the same lead character, and that will be out in March, and I'm going on from there."

Working with Tor, and more specifically, Tom Doherty, is a long-time goal which Salvatore is ecstatic to have achieved. "Tom, when he called me, he said, 'I really like your books, and I want you working for me.' I thought, 'Oh, here we go,' because everyone always says that. They never read your books, they just say they read your books. But Tom, he came up to Boston, and when he was discussing what he liked about my books, I realized that he ... got what I do."

At Tor, Doherty's word is law, and that is a rule Salvatore appreciates. "I love working with Tor because I'm working with a publisher who doesn't have to answer to bureaucracy. Tom Doherty makes a decision, and that's the decision, and I love that. He's a reasonable guy, he's sharp, and he's proven that, time and time again. Robert Jordan? Tor. Terry Goodkind? Tor. When he [Tom Doherty] talks, you listen if you're smart. It's been a pleasure working with him, and I'm so happy to be back in the world of Corona, that I created with DemonWars."

At this juncture, our party of four paused to pore over the dessert menu. While the others pontificated selections of chocolate and cheesecake, I had other concerns, which I raised immediately after our respective orders were placed. Though Corona is Salvatore's, does working with a certain publisher mandate that the world he created is only his to a degree?

"I have the space to move around," Salvatore confirmed. "They'll find a space for me to hide if I need to hide from what's going on elsewhere, but that's not even it. From the beginning of becoming a writer, I've had this vision of a fantasy world that I wanted [to create]. I did a little of it with the Crimson Shadow books that I wrote for Warner, but I had had the time to really develop the world that I wanted."

With Corona, Salvatore finally had the chance to flesh out the machinations of his imagination--but why with Tor? Why not with Del Rey, the publisher that gave Salvatore the chance to give birth to Corona and its inhabitants?

"It's nothing against Del Rey," Salvatore says. "I still have some dear friends there. Betsy [Mitchell] and I have known each other for, what, it's gotta be 18 years now? It's funny, because [my wife Diane and I] went to ComicCon last year in San Diego. We were there with Wizards [of the Coast], but when we got to my hotel room, some friends from Del Rey were there, and I ended up having dinner with the guys from Del Rey almost every night. I still love everybody there."

And, as mentioned, the opportunity to work with publishing legend Tom Doherty was too lucrative a chance to pass up. "I really wanted to work with Tom Doherty before he decides, "Enough is enough," and retires. He's one of the giants in the science fiction and fantasy fields, someone I'd never worked with. And, it [going to Tor] gave me the opportunity to work with Mary Kirchoff again. Mary's my dear friend, the one who pulled me out of the slush pile [in 1987], so what can I say? I really wanted to work with Tor, and with Tom. And he came to me. That was the biggest thing. I mean, Tom Doherty asking me to come work with him--I don't take that lightly. This guy's been around the business since the 50s, and... I'm happy with him."

Salvatore assured me that a return to Del Rey is not outside the realm of possibility. "I'm not saying I wouldn't go back to Del Rey. There was no falling out or anything like that."

After our waiter arrived and distributed our desserts--I'll admit to snitching more than a few bites of my fiance's chocolate and caramel-covered dish--Salvatore took a bite of his, chewed, swallowed, and then said, "I've been really lucky in that, in all my years of working, I've only had one situation that wasn't great in this business."

The 'situation' in question was one Salvatore had alluded to earlier in the evening: a rather ugly split that occurred between the author and publisher TSR during the mid 1990s. Trouble between the two parties had been rumbling deep in the Underdark for quite some time, but the final straw manifested itself as the death of one of Salvatore's protagonists in his dark elf books: Wulfgar.

"I'd get letters saying, 'I'm glad you killed Wulfgar. That took guts, don't you dare bring him back.' Others would say, 'Wulfgar was my favorite character, you'd better bring him back!' I was like, 'Oh boy, what'd I do here?' I was on the fence for a long time about [killing the character]. Again, while I'm writing these books, the characters surprise me, page after page. With Wulfgar, I was never quite sure whether he'd ever re-appear, or if he was dead and gone. I knew that they [TSR] were going to get someone else to write dark elf books, and I knew that if I didn't bring him back, someone else ... would. So, since I was on the fence anyway, I decided that, in the last book I wrote, I would bring Wulfgar back, and I'd give Bruenor back his eye, and I'd make everything nice and neat so no one else could come in and tamper with things."

Despite the ugly break-up, Salvatore maintains his stance that it was not his falling out with TSR that led to Wulfgar's resurrection, but his own indecision about the character's death in the first place.

"I wouldn't have done it, even if someone else would've come along and brought Wulfgar back, if I wouldn't have been so on the fence about doing it in the first place. Three years later, because there was still something nagging at me, something saying, "Maybe he's not dead," that was kind of like flipping the coin. When I wrote Passage to Dawn, I knew in my heart and soul that that would be the last book I would write for TSR. After Wizards bought TSR, I got a call saying they wanted me back--but I told them no. I said, ‘If anyone else writes those books, I won't touch the characters ever again; they're dead to me.'"

At long last, Salvatore and Wizards of the Coast reconciled, and Wulfgar's creator was able to continue his story. "I'm really glad I brought Wulfgar back. When I was writing Spine of the World, I came to appreciate making something of what Wulfgar had gone through. When I wrote that book, I sent it to my editor and I said, 'Half the people are going to love this book, and the other half are going to hate it. It is what it is, and there's nothing I can do about it.'"

Even though Wulfgar is once again a citizen of the Forgotten Realm's mortal plane, the initial death was difficult to write, as is the case for any of his characters. "They're not just words to you as a writer," Salvatore says, "just like they're not just words to readers. When I wrote Mortalis [the fourth book of DemonWars], it was during the darkest time of my life. I was watching my best friend, my brother, die of cancer while I was writing that book. I have a character in that book, who was very minor, and all the sudden it hits me about three-quarters through the book: this character has really taken over. I've given him as complete a story as I've ever written about any character in my life. I've absolutely fallen for the guy as a character, and it hurt like hell to kill him."

Difficult though it may be, the death of a character, minor or major, is something Salvatore sees as a necessity in good storytelling. "I pull a lot of fast ones to make readers think a character is dead when they're not. That's part of the drama, bringing them to the edge of destruction, of despair, but I've never miraculously reversed anything. Even with Wulfgar, I left myself an out from the beginning, because I wasn't sure. Did he die, or was he taken away? I'd already sent the precedent that certain extra planar creatures can take other creatures to their plane, just as Guenhwyvar did with Regis in The Crystal Shard."

Fear not, for Salvatore sees no reason to become bloodthirsty. "Characters have died in the books, and characters will continue to die in the books, but that doesn't mean I have to get bloodthirsty. If you read my DemonWars books ... you have to be careful if you get too attached; people are gone all the time. With the Drizzt books, I don't think the readers really want someone to die. Although, if the story in a Drizzt book dictates that somebody has to go, then somebody has to go--permanently. Nobody's off limits."

Returning Wulfgar to the land of the living is an act of fantasy that Salvatore fervently, desperately wishes could be performed on a character arguably even more popular than the storyteller's beloved barbarian. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Bob Salvatore was commissioned to write a Star Wars books in the popular New Jedi Order series. Like most honors, this one did not come without a price.

"When I signed up to do Vector Prime, I'd wanted to work with Shelley Shapiro, the editor, for a long time. She's a celebrated editor, and for good reason: she's a fantastic person, and a fantastic friend. She called me in August of '98 and asked me if I could come in and do a book for them, and they needed it done fast. I agreed to do it, but called Wizards of the Coast first and said, 'Look, they want me to do this Star Wars book, so I'm going to need an extension on the [next] Drizzt book.' Wizards agreed, saying, 'We think it'll be great for you. It's Star Wars, so have a blast.'

It was at about that point, Salvatore said, that the sky began to fall. "I signed the contract, got the advance check, put it in the bank. They'd given me what they wanted, showing me the A to Z story arc for the New Jedi Order series, and they told me, 'Take this from A to B.' I got to work putting together this story, and I had to involve a cast of millions, all the characters from the movies, everyone from the main books. I came up with the story, and I had to give them a victory, and introduce a new enemy being developed for the New Jedi Order.

"I put everything together and sent them my outline. I was on a conference call with LucasFilm and Del Rey, and they said, 'Wow, we really like this, we think you definitely get it--but didn't anybody tell you?'

"I said, 'Tell me what?'
"They said, 'Well, you have to kill Chewbacca.'
"I said, 'Whoa, where can I return the check?' They convinced me that they were doing it for the right reasons, and they convinced me that they were doing this to show the Star Wars fans that they were serious. So, I did it. I gave them a death worthy of Chewbacca, but in retrospect, if I could take anything back in my writing career, that would be it. Not because of all the death threats, but because to this day, I'm still not sure if we should have done that."

Despite having that one regret, Bob Salvatore insists on looking forward to ever-expanding horizons. Having recently branched out into the realm of video games, Salvatore happily announces that 38 Studios, founded by Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, is doing quite well.

"We're making a MMORPG [Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game]," Salvatore confides, "and we're talking about a process that's going to take us three or four years. Right now, we're really focusing on a sort of pre-production phase. I believe that when you're creating a world for people to exist in, the consistency, the logic, the "sameness"--everything has to make sense in the world."

Currently, the game is still firmly rooted in planning stages. "You have all these different races populating different cultures in the world, and their relationships have to make sense. You can't just say, 'Well, what happens if this king hates this king? Let's write a quest about that!' You want to look deeper than that so the quests will naturally evolve from the world's history. The pre-production phase of building this world is creating this rich history from what we know we have in the world. I don't know what we're going to use for middleware, if we're even going to have middleware; what we're going to use for an engine; or what we're going to do with X, Y, or Z."

Due to not having much concrete information--at least, information he's willing to divulge--Salvatore says that saying too much about the project right now "would be dumb, because you can't create buzz about something years before it shows up. Also, it wouldn't be honest, because this process is going to change so many times over the next few months. When I look back at the original work that I did for the world--and we're just a few months in now--so much of that work has become invalid, because we've gone different places."

Despite being eager for things to really get rolling, Salvatore [Executive Creator of Worlds] feels lucky to be surrounded by the talented people that was brought on board at 38 Studios including Spawn creator Todd McFarlane and video game industry leader Brett Close. "The video games are great because I get to work with these really young, brilliant designers and artists. I plant the seeds and they're the ones fertilizing them, watering them. I come in every week for meetings and these guys show me what they've been up to, and I can't help but think, 'Wow, this is just too cool.' So I'm sort of the mentor figure at this point. After creating the threads, the basis for this world, they're taking those threads and creating tapestries with theme, in terms of both design and art. It's an incredible experience."

With such a passion for gaming that dates back to the origination of TSR's Dungeons & Dragons game, Salvatore isn't surprised to see technology pushing video games as the "next big thing" in storytelling. In fact, that is a venture he fully supports.

"The potential is there for that, the way movies are storytelling. I do believe that there'll be a lot better storytelling, especially if you're doing huge, persistent worlds, like an MMORPG. I think so, absolutely. Some of the storylines in games like EverQuest II and World of WarCraft are amazing, but again, in those games--and not to disparage them in any way--but the fact that we're doing things differently, building the story before we really get going, gives us the opportunity to make those stories really fit together in a way that hasn't been done before."

Though a devout gamer, this writer has some doubts as to the far-reaching ability of the electronic game. Earlier in the evening at a book signing, an older fan fanatically waved a copy of The Highwayman through the air, stating to Salvatore that she'd read it numerous times. Easily in her late 70s, could this older woman be the sort of market that video game developers like 38 Studios are striving to reach? Could video games ever have the accessibility of, say, a book or a film?

"I predict that within ten years, more people will be playing video games than watching television. I don't see how you can't get to that point. You're seeing interactive T.V. more and more. Knowing how much fun video games are, things like Second Life where the whole gimmick is creating a world for yourself, I firmly believe that we're standing on the edge of this gigantic wave that's going to change the way people are entertained. And I think within that, there are other things as well. Educationally, societal... I think the Internet is shrinking the world, because if you're in my guild, or you're on my arena team, I won't go to war with you (except in game). I see the Internet as this transformative power. If the mainstream media is failing, the Internet will pick up the pieces. I believe in the power of gaming. 'World domination through gaming,' that's the motto for 38 Studios."

Along a similar vein of graphical storytelling via video games is Salvatore's venture to see many of his works adapted into graphic novels. "I think it's really, really cool to see my books being translated into that format, and to watch the work involved in Andrew Dabb's storyboarding, and then having some of the artists that [publisher] Devil's Due has been putting on these things.... They're taking these images and putting them on such beautiful storyboards. I think it's expanding the audience, and I think it's giving the readers something else to enjoy. I don't know what the percentages are. I'd bet that many people picking up the Drizzt graphic novels are also Drizzt [novel] readers. I'm more concerned with other creative people expanding on something I've done. That's what warms me."

With so many successful business avenues, it might seem a bit macabre to wonder what would happen to Drizzt, the world of Corona, or 38 Studios should Salvatore suddenly pass away. Unfortunately, the recent death of James "Robert Jordan" Rigney, Jr., which saw the author's Wheel of Time series go unfinished, leads one to wonder if Salvatore--or any other authors--has any plans for his creative ventures should the worst come to pass.

"I'm training my kids to take over. [laughs] No, I'm not going to do a hypothetical about me dying; I'm going to be around for a long time."

"That's right," his wife Diane says, leaning over to rub her husband's shoulders.

Not having the chance to get to know James Rigney is another of Salvatore's regrets. "I'd only met Jim once. We were on a panel together years ago, and didn't even really have the chance to say hello. But, when I read his blog post that announced his disease to his fans, I thought, 'Wow, what a set. That's intestinal fortitude.' He manned up, and I was impressed. I went over to his blog, and I posted, 'From all the people at RASalvatore.com, our well wishes. Fight this, and finish that series.' A lot of my fans are Jordan fans as well. The overlap between all of us is substantial.

"That was during June of [2006], and I didn't think anything of it. Now, I'm working for Tor, which is Jordan's home, so Tom Doherty would give me updates on how Jim was doing. All the sudden, I got an email from Jim last fall, thanking me for the blog post. We only sent a few emails back and forth, because he was spending what little time he had left at his computer, trying to finish his project. He and I had mutual friends, and they would all tell me, 'You have to get to talking with this guy, he's wonderful.'

"I always seemed to follow him on tour, or he followed me. Usually, Terry Brooks is right before me, and then when I go out, it's me, Robert Jordan, and George Martin. We bounced through the same stores. We swapped media escorts all the time, but we never got to talk to each other. It's a huge loss for the fantasy genre."

The hour had drawn close to midnight, and Bob Salvatore had another day of touring ahead of him. As we settled the bill--I can't remember the exact details, but I'm sure he insisted--and made our way out of the restaurant, I got the opportunity to hear a few last thoughts on one of Salvatore's favorite subjects: fantasy literature.

"The one thing I think people should recognize more about the fantasy genre is that, there are so many levels to it, about why people read fantasy books. Some people read fantasy for no other reason than to forget about a bad day at work. Escapism is a great tactic, if used in moderation. Someone may pick up a Drizzt book because they don't want to think about something bad going on at work. A kid might read a book because he can identify with the heroes and feel empowered by them.

"I wish people, writers in the genre, would appreciate the fact that there are many reasons people have to read a book. First and foremost, I look at my job as an entertainer. If a guy in Baghdad's reading my books to forget about what he had to do that day, that's good. If a kid's reading my books and feeling empowered by them, that's great--but the only one that can make that sort of determination is the reader."

Is it safe to say that Salvatore considers fantasy to be what many pretentious critics refer to as "real literature?" Of course. "It always has been," Salvatore says. "Genre literature is literature, and I think that that word, 'literature,' is used as a bludgeon, because people spend so much time trying to prove that they're better than other people. C.S. Lewis said that the only one who can determine the relationship between a book and a reader, is the reader. I don't know what that word 'literature' means, and I don't think the people who wield that word know either. It is what it is, we do what we do, and no one should ask us to apologize for that."

My sincerest thanks goes out to Mr. Salvatore and his wife for their generosity in agreeing to the interview (and dinner!), to David and his fiancé for taking the time to ask the author such wonderful questions (and for transcribing what must have been a lengthy discussion ;) and especially to Sara Easterly on behalf of Wizards of the Coast
for making it all happen. Readers, I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did :D
--Robert--

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