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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Interview with R.A. Salvator: Blog Tour Stop Seven (Interviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit R.A. Salvatore's Website Here

Today Fantasy Book Critic is the seventh and last stop of a blog tour by New York Times bestselling author R.A. Salvatore. Salvatore is promoting the last book in the Transistions trilogy, Ghost King, which is set in the Forgotten Realms universe.

A big thank you goes out to the nice folks at Wizards of the West Coast for helping in organizing this blog tour.


FBC: Has a character or plot line ever taken an unexpected twist that you didn't see coming or seemed to take a life of its own? If so what was it?

Oh, that happens all the time – too many times through 50 books for me to begin to list them here. Every book surprises me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I knew everything, I’d be bored writing the book!

The best example of this happened with Brother Francis in Mortalis. Francis was a minor character, a fill-in who showed up when I needed him. And all of a sudden in this fourth DemonWars book, the guy had a relevant plotline – a very relevant and critical plotline. When it was finished, I realized that I had told as complete a story of Francis as I had done with any other character I’ve ever written. Beginning, middle and end, with more growth than I ever realized – it was all there.

I find myself being surprised by all the twists and turns of The Ghost King, too. The Forgotten Realms moves forward at a breakneck pace, with major implications for many of my characters, but I’m finding that their stories aren’t wrapping up as neatly as I had expected. Not at all.

FBC: Have you ever had a specific plot line or story idea set in your head that you thought would work out, only to sit down to write and find out that it didn't seem to flow or want to work for you?

Absolutely. You have to understand that I think of an outline as a telephone pole, a straight line from beginning, through the middle, to the end. But when I write the book, that pole becomes more like a wide-spreading elm, with branches growing in all kinds of crazy directions. Maybe it will grow straight and I’ll wind up where I expected, or maybe not. More often, not. If I finish a series and go back and look at the original outline, I usually laugh out loud, because I’m never where I expected to be.

And that’s the fun of writing.

Drizzt first made his debut of sorts in 1988. What do you feel makes him stand out as a character that he is just as popular, if not more popular, as he was 20+ years ago?

Drizzt is a classic outcast, misunderstood hero. Who doesn’t feel that way at some point in his or her life? I’ve gotten so many letters and e-mails from people who found Drizzt in a dark place, and walked with him through their valleys. It’s amazing to me, and more than a bit overwhelming.

The other thing about Drizzt is that, unlike many supposed heroes in today’s storytelling, he’s a hero not because he carries the biggest gun (or scimitar), but because he carries the biggest heart. Drizzt knows right from wrong and doesn’t justify his behavior if it goes against that which he knows is right. He doesn’t play semantic games to make excuses for bad behavior; he demands of himself that he does that which is right and just. I know that’s corny, but the truth of it is, we want more people like that. We want to be like that.

We want to believe that we can be like that.

What is your approach to writing? Do you sit and let the ideas flow at will or do you plan in detail the events that will happen?

The former, and much more so as I go along. I have faith that my stories will play themselves out correctly, that my characters will tell me what’s happening next and it will work out. I find my outlines getting smaller, but my writing process growing more intense, as all the implications of on-the-spot story twists play out in my head. I’ve written enough books now to catch most of the potential problems or implications for surprises that crop up in the writing, but every now and then, I have to scramble back and make sure that I’ve properly led up to the surprising event.

Has there been a character that was particularly challenging to write, maybe he was a complete opposite of your personality and made it hard to draw up his character? If so what character was it and what challenges did you face?

Every now and then I encounter a character I really do not understand. Jarlaxle falls into this category. I was writing him for years before I really got to know him. He always surprised me, and not just with his magical gadgets; I just couldn’t figure out what he would do or why he would do it. That’s often the problem with writing drow elves – you can’t just think of what they’re doing, but why they’re saying they’re doing what they’re doing, and why they’re really doing what they’re doing (and the true motivations of why they’re saying they’re doing what they’re doing), and on and on and on. Put that confusing loop on steroids, have its cells split a few dozen times then throw them all in a blender. The result would be Jarlaxle.

I think I finally figured him out in The Ghost King. Then again, he’s probably just putting me off balance so he can win the next round.

Damn drow.


Artemis Grey said...

Great interview! And great questions!

As someone who was weaned on (and still reads) Forgotten Realms and now writes fantasy, it's both exciting and relieving to find that I don't deviate from plot lines, or suddenly discover that supporting characters are taking the reins simply because I'm still perfecting my own writing skills. It's nice to know that the big boys do it too and that it's alright.

I'm also tickled to learn that it took so long for you to get to know (theoretically) Jarlaxle. One of my characters does the same thing to me. My beta readers always ask me 'why' on matters concerning him, and all I can say in return is "I don't know, he hasn't told me yet. I'm wheedling as we speak."

A long life, and endless ink and paper to you Mr. Salvatore! :D

Anonymous said...

Well, thanks for the kind words. best of luck with the writing!



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