Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Guest Author - R.A. Salvatore (Blog Tour and Giveaway)

Today is the third stop on R.A. Salvatore's seven stop blog tour for The Ghost King, the conclusion to the Transitions trilogy, part of the Forgotten Realms fantasy universe, and I am excited to welcome the New York Times Best Selling author here for an interview (and contest for our readers).
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.

  1. Open to Canada and the U.S.
  2. Remember to leave a way to contact you.
  3. Blog, tweet, post, etc., about the guest spot and contest for an extra entry.
  4. Giveaway ends Sunday, October 25 at 11:59 PM EST.
The exclusive, seven-part interview series with R.A. Salvatore continues throughout the week. Be sure to check out these other stops on the blog tour:

Monday, 10.12.09

Tuesday, 10.13.09

Thursday, 10.15.09
Elitist Book Reviews

Friday, 10.16.09
Sci-Fi Fan Letter

Suvudu (7:00 to 8:00 p.m. EST)

Saturday, 10.17.09
Fantasy Book Critic

. . . 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. . . .


  1. I've played Dungeon and Dragons RPGs (table-top and on-line) for a long time and I've read some Forgotten Realm books, including R. A. Salvatore's earlier Drizzt books. I'm crossing my fingers to win a copy of The Ghost King.

    Many thanks!

    jmbookreader at gmail dot com

  2. I love R.A. Salvatore's work. It's a pity the competition is not open to Europe. I would have loved to read and review it.

    Thanks for sharing the interview!

  3. My husband used to play D&D, back when we were in high school. He used the Drizzt books to bring me into the fantasy realm because up until then I had avoided it. Previous attempts to interest me had failed because fantasy never held my interest. I couldn't invest myself in the characters which meant I couldn't care about the plot...until R.A. Salvatore. I have read each and every book, with Drizzt being one of my all time favorite fictional characters. In fact, every so often I will pull out my Salvatore books and re-visit the world. I'm looking forward to reading The Ghost King.

  4. i'm really psyched to read this.

  5. I used to play D & D online but never read any books
    wadesherry@hotmail dot com

  6. D&D wasn't my first rpg, but it is one of the best. And although I'm not into them as much now as I was then, Salvatore's books are still just damned good fantasy.

  7. My son loves these books and has read many different series (he's anxiously awaiting the next Wheel of Time book). I would love to win this for him.

  8. I love ready Forgotten Realms books. The world is rich and familiar.

  9. My son loves these books. His favorite character is Drizzt.

  10. I would love to read this please enter me
    reneetaylor at sympatico dot ca

  11. I really love the work of Salvatore, particularly his Drizzt sequence. My favorite series so far has been Icewind Dale and the Hunter's Blade.

    simard dot joel at gmail dot com

  12. Sounds very interesting.

  13. Thanks for the interest, and thanks for the kind words. I love that "my son" or "my daughter" loves these books - my booksignings are starting to feel like Aerosmith or Fleetwood Mac concerts.

    Dad (mid-40's) with his son, who Dad introduced to the books more than a decade before, with his granddaughter who's 9 and just starting the tale.

    That just warms my heart.

    Bob Salvatore

  14. My nephew loved his Dungeons and Dragons, this would make a nice gift

  15. Your post is a good read. It's definitely interesting to get some insight into Salvatore's latest trilogy since Transitions is really shaking things up.

    Both my wife and I are huge fans, having read all his Drizzt and Demonwars novels. In fact, I read the entire first two novels in this latest series, The Orc King and The Pirate King, out loud during a couple of really long roadtrips we had this summer. Helped make the journey from Ottawa to Labrador a wee bit more entertaining for both of us.

  16. Good read! My hubby loves to read Salvatore's stuff. He's currently reading the Drizzet series from the Forgotten Realms, it'd be so cool to win this book!

    Thanks for the chance!


  17. I have never read the books nor have I ever played D&D but, my husband love all things Salvatore. I would love to win him this book!!


  18. Thanks for this post. Bob Salvatore is my all time favorite author. I can hardly wait to read The Ghost King.

  19. my son loves the Drizzet series i dont know that much about it but after reading your review i think i may read them myself, would love to win this for my son and me too
    roswello athotmail dot com

    roswello athotmail dot com

  21. Count me in please. I love R.A. Salvatore's novels; especially the ones featuring Drizzt. He's definitely one of my favourite characters.

    kiris089 at gmail dot com

  22. Interesting interview! Salvatore's first few Drizzt novels were among the first fantasy I read, many years ago. I reread them a couple of years back after a gap of ten years, and it was just like I was reading them for the first time. I fell in love with the series all over again; they're my favourite fun reads.

  23. Ah, those days playing with our scaled down D&D set when the boys were younger... playing when they brought friends home to play... playing on a Sunday afternoon. Brings back many happy memories.

    sdeeth at msn dot com

  24. I've never read any of the books, but they look right up my alley. I love this sort of thing. Thanks for the chance


  25. I've never read any of these books but a group of people in my photography class in HS convinced me to play the game with them a few times.

    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  26. I love the D&D and Forgotten Realms books and games - probably the games most of all since I consider myself to be a gamer. I am a big fan of RPG games like Baldurs Gate and Champions of Norrath.

    P.S. I hope I win a copy!

  27. I used to play Dungeons and Dragons with my cousin when we were teenagers - and yet somehow I've never read any one of the novels from the series. I've read a few other Salvatore books, and would love to give this one a try.

  28. Shawna Lewis

    I love Drizzt the Dark Elf he just kicks A**!!! Thanks for this chance to win one of these amazing books from one of my favorite Authors.

  29. Shawna L

    I tweeted

    I posted on Facebook

    I posted this on my Blogs sidebar

  30. i remember reading the first of his books when they originally came out, i'd love to see what the characters are up to now

  31. I remember watching Dungeons and Dragons Saturday mornings as a kid, truly the highlight of my entire week. lol

    deidre_durance at hotmail dot com

  32. this sounds just wonderful thanks minsthins at optonline dot net

  33. I am looking forward to reading this next installment since reading The Pirate King.

  34. I never read any book by R.A but would love to try one.

    kalynnick AT yahoo DOT com

  35. For some reason, I have never read one of his books, but would like to start with this one!

    clynsg at

  36. I enjoyed the interview and would love to win your book.

    seriousreader at live dot com

  37. I really enjoyed the interview. This was a neat thing that was done, with the 7 part interview. And Bob is a great guy. Thanks for the opportunity to win his book.

  38. I started reading Salvatore when I was in 6th grade, just days after I put down Tolkien's trilogy. As a pre-teen, the Lord of the Rings series had been a little too complex and too alike to a history book for me to truly get anything out of it. The tales of Drizzt and the companions, however, were something I could connect with, be it the epic adventures, the entertaining battles, or the constant introspection and strive to become a better person of Drizzt. These stories helped transform me from a child to a teen, and from a teen finally into an adult. So, at this point I would like to thank R.A. Salvatore, as he has truly, through his writing, changed my life, and the Forgotten Realms, for being such an awesome setting for the creative imagination of authors everywhere. I plan on reading the Ghost King when I get the time and money, because as of now, I am the stereotypical poor college student and the libraries only have non-fiction literature. Thanks Again.

  39. I've never read any Salvatore, but I really should... I did play D&D back in the day.

    Thanks for sharing and the opportunity (email in profile)

  40. I have never played D&D but I got in to reading your books because my daughter loved them. Now we are both totally fans. I can hardly wait for each new one to come out.
    Debby Creager

  41. I really was never into the Dungeon & Dragons thing but was well aware of the game. Mr. Salvatore is a new author to me so I'm not familiar with the Forgotten Realm books. This post, however, peaked my interest in this author & his books. I love fantasy like the Lord of the Rings & these books look like they would be just as interesting.

    Thanks ~ megalon22{at}yahoo{dot}com

  42. I still have my first edition Dungeons and Dragons game set. I was a member of the Dungeons and Dragons club at my high school and used to collect and paint the metal figures. I've been a fan of fantasy ever since. Thank you for the chance to win.

  43. I have not read his worker as of yet. the sample chapter sounds good. thankyou for the giveaway, crossing my fingers

  44. I have not read R.A. Salvatore's work yet but My Brother in Law loves all his books. I would love to win this for him!!


  45. I've always loved Tasslehoff Burrfoot. So much so, when we got our Siamese cat we named him Tasselhoff BurrPaw.

  46. I used to play dungeons and dragons as a little girl, with my older brother and his friends. Recently my stepkids talked about being interested in playing. So I bought the books to get started.We have just finished making our characters, which was a lot of fun. We have a half orc barbarian, an elf druid, human cleric, and a halfling rouge.

  47. My teenage son is a HUGE dungeons & dragons and RA Salvatore fan. We own about a zillion of those big hardcover books that cost a fortune. Thanks.

  48. Galen really likes these books!

  49. Having not played D&D, this book would be a real education for me.


  50. my teenage son would enjoy this

  51. I loved looking at the books at Toys R Us when I was a kid

  52. My bro loves the Drizzt series and I would love to win this for him.

    I blogged about your giveaway here:

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  53. I have the board game dungeon and dragons and still play it sometimes con5459(at)gmail(dot)com

  54. I have played Dungeons and Dragons so this book sounds interesting

  55. My husband liked Dungeons and Dragons when he was younger. Thank you


  56. Thanks for the interesting interview. This sounds really good.


  57. I don't have a favorite, but my husband loves R.A. Salvatore and would be thrilled if I won.

  58. I love reading the books. Drizzt the Dark Elf is my favorite character.

  59. I love playing Dungeons and Dragons computer games!


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