I was able to sit down this past week with R.A. Salvatore on Skype and interview him about his new release, “The Stone of Tymora” and ask him some other questions fans might be interested in reading. So why don’t you stay a while?
(Rob) – “Thanks for interviewing with us Mr. Salvatore, I guess I will get right into the questions. The Stone of Tymora starts off in Baldur’s Gate. I know that all the stories in Forgotten Realms have to match when it comes to history and places. What places were you given full freedom to design in this story?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “The first book in Stone of Tymora, the Stowaway, goes along side the Halfling’s Gem which I wrote in 1989. It’s just those events from a different perspective, and the biggest restrictions I had in this series were things I’ve already written, but when I’m writing in the realms they give me pretty free rein. I’m certainly bound by the geography and what edition I’m currently writing in. I’m also bound by the magic system to some extent. I can take poetic licence with it to try to make it fit the pro’s form of a novel as opposed to the mechanic’s form of a game. So you can take some poetic license in the type of spells they are casting but you are really bound by the magic system and the logic of it. You are bound by the geography of the world and you can’t blow up major cities unless they tell you to, then it’s fun.”
(Rob) – “So Drizzt is in this series, was there a reason why you decided to included him?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “Well it actually started with Wizards of the Coast, they wanted me to write some Drizzt books for their Mirror Stone book line which was a young adult book line. My argument was, really if you look at all the Drizzt books, they can work as young adult books. The Drizzt books can be read by 10 year olds, they’re designed that way from 10 to 110, that is my audience.
But they wanted something new and unfortunately I was really busy at the time. I was doing the Saga of the First king books for TOR, I was doing Drizzt books for Wizards, and I was working with 38 studios as well. But they had worked with my sons before, both of them, and they said “Would either of your sons want to write it with you?” so I talked to them. Brian was working at 38 studios at the time as a system designer, but Geno, who is a writer and that’s his calling, he said “I do have stories I want to tell”.
He told me the story of Maimun, and I thought ok can we make this a Drizzt book, because they wanted a Drizzt book, so we started to looking at when we would set it, The Halflings Gem came to mind and the stories worked together. So we outlined and we got to work. We wrote three books and they are, in my opinion and since my opinion matters the most on Drizzt because he’s my character, these books are canon to the Drizzt line now and if you read The Pirate King later on I actually wrote Maimun back in to the story because the character made sense along Captain Deudermont and some of the other characters that have been bouncing around the Drizzt books for years so I put him back in and he is part of the Drizzt story and legacy now with is awesome.”
(Rob) – “Asbeel is terrifying character, was there an inspiration to this character, perhaps a movie monster?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “It was mostly Geno, Asbeel the main Antagonist, it was mostly Geno’s addition to the story. It was mainly his story he wanted to tell and we said ok where can we put it in the Drizzt history, and if you read the events that move the story along in the Halfling’s Gem they can also move Geno’s story along beautifully. And it was almost creepy the way it worked together, it was like putting on a glove that fits really well. But Geno came up with Maimun and Joan he told their stories and he told Asbeel’s story as well. You know when you are doing a demonic monster like that, there are two things you need. You need the physical attributes to evoke terror and you also need something more, some more motivation, nobody wakes up in the morning and says ” I think I’ll be evil today” even a demon it has to have something more to it. It becomes a conglomeration of nightmares and dark thoughts all rolled together.”
(Rob) – “I believe we all have been afraid of monsters at one point or another. Are there any monsters that still give you the “Creeps” or anything you might be scared of still?”
(R.A.Salvatore) – “Oh sure! Are you kidding?! You see the thing….. well now it’s being ruined for me. Because the monster for me was vampires, but not the new sparkly kind. For me the scariest book I’ve ever read was Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. That book just freaked me out and I was in college at the time, I was doing martial arts training, I was weight lifting, I was a bouncer at night clubs, and I was crying like a little baby reading that book at night. It just scared the heck out of me. A good vampire movie I’ll still sit down and see. Now it’s either camp or romantic and neither of those vampires really appeal to me.”
(Rob) – “It is said that each author puts a little of themselves in each character they create for their books. What parts do you think you have in common with Drizzt. ”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “I think Drizzt is who I wish I had the courage to be. You know I’ve always maintained that the hero is the guy with the biggest heart not the biggest sword and that is who he is. That is easier said than done in real life because doing the right thing isn’t always doing the most enjoyable thing or the easiest thing.
I remember when I was in high school and I would see someone picking on someone else. And you know, I would not want to be the one picked on so I would step away and that is when i felt like I was failing. And Drizzt is kind of reminder of that for me, that you try not to fail, you try not to have regrets because you know what is in your Heart is right, it might not always be right but it is what you think is right.”
(Rob) – “What parts do you think your son has in common with Maimun?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “Oh too smart for his own good, to mature for his age. When Geno was that age he was like 13 going on 25. And that can be trouble or a problem for a lot of particularly intelligent young people in our society you know? When you are 6 years old and the poopy jokes are no longer funny. So that can be a problem for very smart individuals, and I went through it, my wife went through it, our kids went through it, and a lot of our friends went through it and I’m sure many people go through this where you feel like “I can’t wait to grow up because I will be around people who think like I think” and it’s really a tough citation to be in as a kid. I think most kids feel that way, some are better at hiding it than others and putting up with the garbage they have to put up with in Junior High and High school. But for Geno certainly Maimun is someone who is always asking “Why?” it wasn’t enough that things were what they were, he has to know why. “Why is that the thing we have to do now, Why does that make sense” and that is Geno, he has always been like that.
But I want to caution you something though, this is something I have to tell readers all the time. Never think you know an author because you’ve read the author’s books. Because the one thing that being an author is about is taking a very particular tiny sliver of yourself and you are examining it from all different angles. So what the reader is getting my be completely opposite of what you are thinking. Like when I’m writing Drizzt essays in the books, I try to put myself and see the world through his eyes because what he is seeing isn’t what I’m seeing and I’m the writer so I see everything that is going on behind the scenes but he doesn’t. So the mistakes he’s made is because of the information he doesn’t have and that is hard for me as the writer because I have that information. So if I’m writing the essays and the information is coming from me then Drizzt wouldn’t be making the mistakes he does in the essays. You see?”
(Rob) – “So for those who have read Stone of Tymora and have an increasing desire to read more about Drizzt, which books do you think they should start with?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “I always say Homeland, well…. I don’t always say Homeland, I’ve come to say Homeland more than The Crystal Shard. The Crystal Shard was the first one that was released and you can certainly start there, but you can also start with Homeland. It would be one of those two.”
(Rob) – “The Stone of Tymora was an excellent read and I recommend anyone pick up this book who wants to begin their journeys in Forgotten Realms and begin to learn how great the series is, and you and your son did a tremendous job creating such a great tale. Are there any plans in the future for you two to get together again for a series of books?”
(R.A. Salvatore) –“At this point we could do more if we wanted to, but right now we are doing comics together. Geno is more of a screen writer than a novelist, at least that is where his heart is, and comics really fit that beautifully. So, we did the Neverwinter Tales series that just came out with IDW that take place around the time of the Neverwinter books that I just wrote. We did the Neverwinter Tales comics, kind of side story on those books and now we are doing another set that we haven’t named yet but takes place with some other characters that we’ve met in the past with Drizzt. And we love working together on things like that so we will probably be doing comics for a while.
I don’t know if we will do another novel together because I think at this point if people wanted to read more Maimun, or if Geno had another Idea for a book, my suggestion to Wizards would be to let him write it, away from me. He has all the chops, he’s a writer, he doesn’t need me.”
(Rob) – “So Charon’s Claw is the newest book done by you specifically. It’s the third part of the Neverwinter series. Now this series is another in the line of Drizzt books and I know it’s coming to a close, I believe some fans are worried that with the spellplague and everything it is doing to Faerun that this might be the last time we see Drizzt, can you shed any light on this?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “Yeah, when I say Drizzt books I mean Forgotten Realms novels. Like I consider the Cleric Quintet Drizzt books even though he is not in them because these characters will intersect with him after the series. Quite a bit actually.
So The Last Threshold is coming out in March, and that’s the sequel to Charon’s Claw and starting next summer, it has been announced now, that Wizards is doing the great changes in Dungeons and Dragons are coming to the Forgotten Realms. And the way the Authors decided, and we actually got the choice on this we all met up at Wizards and had a great summit, the way we’ve decided to explain the changes is through a 6 book series call The Sundering. And I’m doing the first book in the series and Ed Greenwood is doing the last book in the series. I’ll be writing, at least after The Last Threshold, at least 5 more Forgotten Realms novels. I won’t tell you who is in them, we’ll see some new people I’m sure. And just leave it at that because I don’t really know, I do know somethings that I won’t really tell you, but other things I don’t really know how things are really going to go with characters. It’s a brutal world and we’ll leave it at that. ”
(Rob) – “So those who have read most of your books know that the Charon’s Claw is the name of the sword that Artemis Entreri aquires and uses in his battles against Drizzt. This sword has some amazing abilities, what inspired you to design it?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “Oh I love magical weapons and items of great magical power. One of my favorite scenes in The Crystal Shard is when Brunis creates Ageis Fang, Wulfgar’s Hammer. I love that scene and these weapons become characters all their own. So, for Entreri having a sword like the Charon’s Claw it ups the dangerousness of an already dangerous person. And at the time of course he and Drizzt weren’t working together or anything like that. It creates a bigger threat to my main character with this sword. I didn’t know where the sword was going to go, like the characters I create, the sentient weapons and there aren’t many like Charon’s claw and Kazadehi is another one. They kind of take on a life of their own and tell me things and reveal things to me as we go. So when i created Charon’s Claw I knew it was bad I knew it added a new dimension, a physical dimension to the fights, because it could trail ash, so the wielder can put up opaque walls between himself and his opponent. Which a guy like Entreri can really exploit. And I knew it had a withering cut that could kill you with one hit because it would fester, and it was a soul stealer and I knew the wielder would be in constant battle with this weapon because it would be so powerful. If you went back to first edition Dungeons and Dragons it talks about the battles of wills between sentient weapons and its wielder. So I knew it had all these possibilities to add flavor to battle scenes and add flavor to Entreri. I didn’t know about how bad this sword was or its origins and the fact it was another Iz blade and all these other things that kept coming up as we were going along and the sword really took on its own dimension and took over its own store, which is what you want characters to do. But when the sword did it I was more than happy to chase it.”
(Rob) – “All your stories have been so original and many include the same characters, how do you come up with so many different interesting stories without seeming to come off as repetitive?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “Well I hope I don’t come off repetitive. It’s hard especially when you talk about things like fight scenes. I mean there are only so many ways you can describe whirling scimitars. That is when you use geography, twists, and perspective to your favor.
What I’ve been doing and I only realized this a couple of years ago when I was putting the short stories together for the anthology that we did and it took from all my Forgotten Realms stories and I had to write a kind of annotation for each of them and what I was thinking and why I wrote the story. And when I put that together I had an epiphany cause every time I read one of the stories it put me back in the time and place I was when I was writing the stories. So what I realized was I’m on a journey with these characters, and not just these characters but all the characters I write about. They are part of my own life’s journey and as I gained different perspectives and as I asked my self different questions about what the point of all this is I try to put my characters in the same positions so that they can find the same answers. They are like my personal journal, my sounding board for the questions that bother me and that’s the progression of the stories. And maybe some of the citations are similar they might be fighting orcs again in this book or what ever but the perspectives of the characters is always moving in that forward direction which keeps it fresh for me and I hope for the readers.”
(Rob) – “So if you had to choose between any book you’ve ever written, what would be your favorite book and why?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “Mortalis. Demon wars was supposed to be two trilogies, the story of the hero and the story of the fall out of the hero’s actions. Was the second trilogy and when I started writing the fourth book I realized I needed a seventh book, I needed a bridge book between the two trilogies and that book was Mortalis.
And Mortalis was about grief, it was about dealing with loss, and I wrote that book when my brother was dying of cancer. And he was my best friend in the world, that book was my catharsis that got me through it. I’ve gotten the best compliments from people about that book who have gone through similar situations. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written so that remains my favorite. My favorite dark elf book is Homeland because I created the city and structure of the Drow. And it was a magical experience for me, I had an absolute blast and I feel like I nailed it.
If I had to name another favorite book of mine it’s the Highway man. Because he is such a cool and distinct hero, he’s not what you would expect, ever, and that keeps me on my toes. Yeah, Mortalis, Homeland, and the Highway man definitely.”
(Rob) – “What is your favorite book or story of all time that you didn’t write?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “Hobbit, gotta be the Hobbit and Peter Jackson better get it right. The Hobbit changed my life, I was a math major at college when I read it. And I love reading, I had forgotten how much because of all those reading experiences you typically get in a school class room. But the Hobbit reignited my love of reading and writing and just took me away on an incredible journey that I will never forget. I’m going sailing for a week just to unwind and that is the book I’m taking with me.
Another book is A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller, loved that book, but the Hobbit definitely.”
(Rob) – “You have stated multiple times that you love gaming and video games. What is your favorite video game?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “My favorite video game of all time still is Everquest. I was so addicted to Everquest for so many years I just lost myself in that wonderful world that they created. I’m currently now back to World of Warcraft because of the new release and I really wanted to see it. I just started the other day obviously, but I haven’t been gaming as much lately because there has been too much going on in my life, my personal life and my writing and book tours and stuff, So I haven’t been gaming as much lately as I usually do but winter is coming and I’ll be taking care of that soon. But my favorite remains EverQuest as an MMO.
My favorite single player game of all time is probably Command and Conquer. The first Command and Conquer, I really love that game. I think my new favorite game was going to be Reckoning 2 if they ever made it but that fell apart.”
(Rob) – “We know that you love to play Dungeons and Dragons, what is your favorite character you’ve ever created for D&D? Have any of your characters inspired a character in one of your books? Which one?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “Three, my first one was a Barbarian, not an actual barbarian, it was before barbarians were in the game, he was a fighter named Belexis Backivar. And Belexis was a character from my Echo’s of the Fourth Magic book the chronicles of Ynis Aielle, the first book I ever wrote. When we were playing which was back in my college days we were playing a couple of days a week. And sometimes it would start at 11 o’clock on saturday go all the way through sunday, just incredible gaming time back in the 80’s. And if you rolled a fighter and you had higher than an 90 strength and you wanted to be a Backivar you could, that was the rule in our game. So we made a whole family over the course of a number of games, several different players. But Belexis was my most powerful character after several years of playing him, he had attained 27th level and had gauntlets of ogre power, and a girdle of storm giant strength, and a hammer of thunderbolts and a ring of spell turning and rode a nightmare. He was awesome and I had a blast with him.
Generally when I play I play monks. I’ve had several monk characters that I’ve come to love. But one time when I probably put more effort in playing than ever I did a wizard name Freelick. And I got that name from a movie, I don’t remember what movie it was. But I named him Freelick and I wrote out all his spells and I had this whole binder and we were playing a great module from Judges Guild called Black Tower. And there were Glyphs all over the place and my friend Bob’s cleric were arguing about how we were going to get past that glyph and we couldn’t dispel it. And our Rogue, Danny’s character, got bored so he climbed under it and set it off and even though I saved I was at negative 40. So I was dead, and I had this thick book of Freelick and it had all his components and his familiar, I had everything detailed it was like I had written a book about this guy in this binder and I just threw it across the room and said “Now What?””
“The only character I’ve ever made, thinking it was going to be in a book, was my highway halfling Oliver DeBurrows from the Crimson Shadow books. Oliver is kind of a combination between Indigo Montoya from the Princess bride and the little french guy on the wall from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. So I wanted to see if I could make a character annoying enough to fit enough for the role I had envisioned for the book. And I knew it worked because about 6 weeks after we started playing Oliver was killed horribly, and everybody stood up and cheered. That’s when I knew that Oliver had to be in the books. So Oliver is my soul D&D character who made it to the books.”
(Rob) – “Have you ever heard of the Unpaid Gamers?”
(R.A. Salvatore) – “Uh, no actually I haven’t, but I wouldn’t, I don’t poke around the internet all that much when I’m writing and I’ve been writing so much lately.”
We wanted to thank R.A. Salvatore for his time for our interview and we also want to thank Wizards of the Coast for letting us schedule an interview with him for our site.
For our fans there is actually more to this interview that wasn’t included, the audio will be posted soon for anyone who wants to get a more in-depth listento some of the things R.A. Salvatore and I talked about.