This week I have a NY Times Best Selling author R.A. Salvatore, the creator of one of the most popular and read characters in Fantasy, everyone’s favorite Dark Elf, Drizzt Do’Urden.
Bob Salvatore’s publishing career started with The Crystal Shard, and since than he has written 16 full-length novels chronicling the adventures of Drizzt and his companions.
His latest story-arc, recently completed and entitled The Hunter’s Blade trilogy, begins a short hiatus from his core characters as Salvatore currently is at work penning the highly anticipated Promise of the Witch King, which features mega fan favorites Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle (my personal favorite character by RAS).
Aside from his well documented work in Forgotten Realms, Salvatore has a creator owned line in the Corona setting that he kicked off with his Demonwars series. Salvatore followed up with another Corona novel, The Highwayman, and the next installment in Salvatore’s setting is forthcoming, penned by James Lowder titled Brotherhood of the Lost. Salvatore has recently expanded into other creative outlets with his contributions to the story of the PS2 and X-Box game Demon Stone, which was nominated for multiple industry awards. Also recently released is the final installment in a series Salvatore aided in the plotting of and contributed the prologues to, Resurrection, Book 6 of the War of the Spider Queen series, written by Paul S. Kemp. Needless to say, Salvatore has been and is a busy man, and I, and everyone here is ecstatic that he took some time for our seven question feature.
Jay — What can you tell us about Promise of the Witch King. Specifically regarding any differences, and whether it’s more, less, or indifferent in regards to writing about characters featured in a full length novel that are decidedly more on the “gray” scale as far as alignment?
R.A. Salvatore — This new book continues the story in The Servant of the Shard and in the short stories which followed. It is different, not only in terms of “gray” characters and their reactions to companions/enemies/friends alike, but in terms of scope. This book is something that’s been curiously lacking in a D&D world; it’s a dungeon crawl. A delicious and destructive romp whose primary climax occurs within the context of a singular structure.
I don’t know if I could get away with this with Drizzt and the gang, but Entreri and Jarlaxle are just so much fun together that a single encounter in a single room can elicit the most amazing exchanges with sword and word.
Jay — In various interviews and just by reading the series we know that Demonwars and the world of Corona is your baby. Corona fans are eagerly awaiting James Lowder’s Brotherhood of the Lost in that setting, and are wondering what else you have planned for Corona, and when will you be returning to that setting? Do you have any idea on any specifics of that project?
R.A. Salvatore — As of now, I have nothing planned for Corona, other than Jim’s book. The Highwayman did very well, though, and if the trend of its sales continues through the paperback, it will push my hand to continue. Please don’t take that the wrong way. I’m not talking financial here. The thing is, if I do a Drizzt book, I reach 3–5 times the people I’ll reach with anything else. That makes Drizzt quite compelling.
At this point, I can only shrug and say “Who Knows?”. I love Demonwars, but I’m determined to cut back. for now at least, on my writing. If it can only be one a year, at this time, the one will be a Drizzt book.
Jay — So that squashes any rumors. We have not seen the last of Drizzt have we?
R.A. Salvatore — See above. Of course not. I left at least three stories wide open at the end of The Two Swords. Both the journey to retrieve Elfain’s body and Wulfgar’s determination, determination to get his child back will be told in short stories (they are a part of my contract, after all), and Bruenor’s Gauntlegrym fantasies will be explored in the next novel-length installment, I think.
That said I do not agree with some who say that The Two Swords didn’t resolve things, it did.
SPOILERS!!!!!!! (can you hide this?)
Obould won. It’s a Damned if-you-do, Damned if-you-don’t situation. If Drizzt had just killed him, it would have been a tighter resolution, and then the criticism would have filled my e-mail regarding predictability, or it’s “why do the good guys always win?”
They didn’t. Not this time. Not this time. The region about Mithral Hall has changed; the orcs have claimed a kingdom.
Will it hold? I’m not telling.
Jay — Another question I see asked numerous times amongst your fans is regarding a character from your Crimson Shadow trilogy. So this is for the fans, will we ever see Oliver DeBurrows again?
R.A. Salvatore — I haven’t planned that far ahead. I almost re-signed with Warner for another book two years ago, but I went for CDS and The Highwayman instead. I love Oliver and think he’s one of my best characters. I also expect that we might soon see a compendium edition of Crimson Shadow from Warner, since the Ace the Spearwielders Tale compendium has done quite well.
Jay — You are always noted, (I have been guilty of it) for being one of the best describers of duels and fight scenes in the genre; the term “revolutionary” has even be used. This is such a common, no doubt you are mindful of it, is there something you attribute to this? Were you yourself a fan of such depictions before writing, and if so what inspired or who inspired this, or was it just something you were always good at involuntarily?
R.A. Salvatore — I was a boxer (informally) and a bouncer, and I’m a very visual person. I could watch the swordfight between Inego Montoya and Dread Pirate Robert 500 times and not get bored. Same thing with the training scenes in The Last Samurai. It always frustrated me when I’d read this great lead-up to a battle then nothing. Then Garet Jax leaning against a wall, mortally wounded (I’ll never forgive you for that Terry!). I love the visual, the movement, the interplay of swords. I want to be in that moment, to savor it and dissect it.
In a way I’m almost sorry that I was portrayed as “revolutionary” or whatever regarding this, because it makes it so much harder to get any attention to other things I’m trying to accomplish in the books. When I write a book like Mortalis which is not battle-heavy, many of my readers find “expectations” problems. I’ll just shrug and do what I do.
Jay — Recently you have seem to have been crossing into other creative outlets, like video games, a new comic, editing, etc. How are you enjoying these new roles, and can we expect more of this from you?
R.A. Salvatore — I’ve found opportunities to stretch and that’s a good thing. Variety keeps you young, after all. I loved working with Atari on Demon Stone (even if they didn’t tell me that we were up for an award on the storyline!) and would do it again, like a shot. Editing, I’ve had enough of honestly. I don’t know how long-time editors do it. I’ve had the good fortune to work with good writers and good people, but even so, I expect that the EverQuest book line will be my last editing assignment.
Comics were fun, and I’m excited about getting DemonWars running again, as soon as we can sort out the legal details, and even more excited about the new Drizzt comic coming from ‘Devil’s Due’. I don’t know yet if I’ll be personally involved in that but it’s thrilling anyway.
Jay — You have said some rather strong words in past interviews regarding the business, particularly to prospective writers. Is your opinion the same, and would you have it any other way?
R.A. Salvatore — Wow, there’s an open-ended question. I’m m not sure what you’re getting at, honestly. Yes, the business is brutal. It’s almost impossible to break in, it’s one rejection after another. And when you do break in, you might get a grace period where people are kind, but it will be short. And then, no matter what you do, no matter how many bestseller lists you make or books you sell, no matter whether your books are selling strong 20 years after their release, no matter how many letters you get from kids telling you they had never read a book until they happened upon one of yours, or letter from a soldier halfway around the world thanking you for getting him through a tough time, or from anyone saying that they found your books in a time of emotional turmoil and you helped them through it, or the letter from the family reading your books to a daughter/wife who was in a car accident and is in a coma because she loved them so much.
No matter any of that, to be a published writer is to know with certainty that no matter what you accomplish, no matter how you touch some people, there will always be plenty of people out there more than happy to tell all the world how much you suck.
It’s a tough business.