ABOUT THE AUTHOR: R.A. Salvatore was born in Massachusetts in 1959. His love affair with fantasy, and with literature in general, began during his sophomore year of college when he was given a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings as a Christmas gift. He promptly changed his major from computer science to journalism. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communications in 1981, then returned for the degree he always cherished, the Bachelor of Arts in English. He began writing seriously in 1982, penning the manuscript that would become Echoes of the Fourth Magic. His first published novel was The Crystal Shard from TSR in 1988 and he is still best known as the creator of the dark elf Drizzt, one of fantasy's most beloved characters.You can find out more about R.A. Salvatore at his website, get details on his book store tour dates here and even download a sample chapter of the The Ghost King here (zip file).
I have five copies of The Ghost King to giveaway to some lucky winners. Details at the end of the post where you can also find a list of the other participating Blog Tour stops for more interviews and opportunities to win a copy. Thanks to the folks at Wizards of the Coast for sponsoring the giveaway!
SFG: For readers new to the Forgotten Realms universe and Dungeons and Dragons, what particular book or part of the series would be the ideal starting point and could you tell us something about it. Is familiarity with D&D a requirement?
The Legend of Drizzt books are broken up into trilogies and quartets simply to make things easier to keep straight. What I’m doing here is following a group of characters along this adventurous road and detailing their newest dilemma. There are storylines that wind all the way through the series, of course, but each book stands alone. That said, I always tell new readers to start with either The Crystal Shard (that was my first published book in the series) or Homeland (which is the chronological beginning of Drizzt’s life). And no, you don’t have to be a D&D player, or a gamer at all, to enjoy the series. I expect that nearly half of my readers aren’t game players.
SFG: The Ghost King is the conclusion to the Transitions trilogy. Can you give us some spoiler-free highlights?
The Realms have changed and the journey moves forward. In a way, I’ve set up the inevitable outcomes of these relationships in my previous novels, and in fact, The Lone Drow was all about Drizzt coming to terms with the realities of his elven heritage and what that meant when dealing with people of the other races.
Of all the rather dramatic changes in the series, I think the one who comes out of it the most affected is Drizzt himself. His idealism will be put to the test in ways he never imagined – or even if he did imagine them, in ways he was not prepared to handle.
SFG: What are the challenges of writing novels based on a gaming universe?
The biggest challenge is that the game is a moving target. I started writing in 1st Edition, through 2nd, through 3rd, through 3.5 and now into 4th. Many of the changes through those editions have been subtle and so I can quietly incorporate them without blowing up the logic in the previous works, but sometimes the changes are much more dramatic and as an author, I’m faced with the decision of either to pretend what I wrote didn’t really happen that way, ignore the changes altogether, or, hopefully, create some clever bridge to explain the change. It can be trying, I admit.
But you have to understand that the benefits of working in a shared gaming world aren’t minor, either, and I think they more than offset the tribulations. Would the drow culture of the Realms be nearly as rich if I hadn’t had the old Gygax modules at my fingertips? Nope. Would Longsaddle have been so much fun had it not been for the initial work done on the crazy place by Ed Greenwood? Nope. Or the additional pieces done by Jeff Grubb? Nope. So in working in this environment, you’re always given a plethora of creative talent upon whose shoulders you can stand, and that’s no small thing. My editor, Phil Athans, knows the Realms as well as anyone, and he’s always got ideas to help me fill in the outline holes. And Rich Baker, designer/writer, and I have a strange relationship. We don’t interact that often, but get the two of us in a room discussing the Realms and you wouldn’t believe the back-and-forth of creative energy. We play off each other, almost as if it’s a competition, and I’ll tell you, doing that with (against) Rich is like playing Bobby Fischer in chess. He makes me bring my A-game!
SFG: You’ve written for a diversity of mediums including computer games, movie novelizations and graphic novels. Do you have a preferred medium? What were some of your favourite projects in each?
My least favorite are the novelizations, creatively speaking, because I feel like a mechanic on somebody else’s race car. I’m too respectful of other writers’ work to dramatically change anything, and most times, you’re not allowed to do that anyway. One of the curses of being a writer is that you read everything like an editor. So maybe I wouldn’t have done this scene or that scene the way George Lucas decided to do it in the movie. Bully for me – it’s still his movie, not mine.
If I’m able to create my own characters and take them to places that test the limits of their physical and emotional endurance, to places that maybe, just maybe, will bring them an epiphany, then I’m happy, and that can be in a world of my own making or in a shared world like Forgotten Realms. I don’t have a preference. It could even be in a computer game world. I remember when I started playing Everquest all those years ago. My first thought was that I could write a thousand books set in that incredible world.
SFG: This is the 20th anniversary of Forgotten Realms and Drizzt, your popular dark elf character. Looking back over the last 20 years, what is your fondest memory or special moment that you could share with us?
There have been so many. The scene in The Halfling’s Gem when I thought I had killed Catti-brie – that one just blew me away. I had to stop typing and take a walk; it was the first time the real power of these character came clear to me, and by that, I mean their power over me! An interesting dynamic, let me tell you.
The Legacy stands out in my mind because of the intense pressure associated with the project. I got a call from TSR – I was right in the middle of writing the Cleric Quintet. They had good news and bad news. The good news was that Waldenbooks wanted a hardcover from them, wanted it to be by me and wanted it to feature Drizzt. Jumping from paperback to hardcover is an important step for a self-employed author, so of course I was thrilled (even though it meant putting the Cleric Quintet on hold for a bit).
The bad news? I had to write the book in six weeks. Yikes, talk about pressure. But I did it, and I remained thrilled at the results.
More recently, the stories ranging from The Thousand Orcs to The Orc King gave me a chance to really look into the heart and soul of Drizzt, where he had to ask himself why he did what he did, and even more frightening to him, was he courageous enough to take a great chance? There are a lot of important feelings in those books, ones I’ve had to resolve in myself post 9-11, and all the anger and the fear accompanying that awful day.
SFG: What do you like to read? What are some of the books sitting on your to be read shelf?
I’ve been a fantasy fan since 1978, but the problem I’ve got now, one that many writers secretly share, is that I read everything like an editor. Instead of just sitting back and enjoying what an author is giving to me, I find myself nitpicking over stupid things. The other problem is that if I’m reading a book while I’m writing a book, the other author’s voice intrudes, and since I always seem to be writing another book…
I name this as the biggest reason I’m slowing down a bit, at least for a little while. I desperately want to re-read The Hobbit, and I have to take my time and see how Terry Brooks pulled off his Knight of the Word meets Shannara storylines. After that, I’m going to finish Greg Keyes’ Briar King (again) and finally get to the sequels, and I want to see what Matt Stover is up to, and what Troy Denning is doing in the Star Wars universe.
Other than that, I read mostly political books. The world is a complicated place, votes mean something, and I like to know what’s going on. That, and I always love to have a good political argument.
A big thanks to R.A. Salvatore for taking the time to answer our questions. All the best with the tour! And now time for details about the giveaway.
For a chance to win one of the five copies of The Ghost King, leave a comment about Dungeons and Dragons or Forgotten Realms. Anything goes - favourite books, stories, characters, games or anecdotes.
- Open to Canada and the U.S.
- Remember to leave a way to contact you.
- Blog, tweet, post, etc., about the guest spot and contest for an extra entry.
- Giveaway ends Sunday, October 25 at 11:59 PM EST.
Elitist Book Reviews
Sci-Fi Fan Letter
Suvudu (7:00 to 8:00 p.m. EST)
Fantasy Book Critic
ABOUT THE BOOK:
THE GHOST KING
. . . shook its head wildly, and Guenhwyvar went flying away. Then the beast swung its head back into the room with battering ram force at Drizzt, a blow that would have killed him had it hit him squarely.
But no one ever hit . . .
. . . squarely.
As the head swung in, Drizzt dived over sideways, just ahead of it. Still, the sheer weight of the glancing blow had him rolling in an attempt to absorb the force, until he ran out of room, coming up hard into the wrecked chamber’s side wall, a burst of embers flying up behind him.
Stung and a bit dazed, but hardly down, Drizzt rushed back at the beast. . . .