R.A. Salvatore Interview…The Sequel!
You know you love a good sequel! As Emeril would say, “BAM!!!” (Yeah, we went there…)
Hopefully you all remember last year when R.A. Salvatore dropped by Elitist Book Reviews on his blog tour for THE GHOST KING. Bob is just one of those guys who is a pleasure to interview, and that really came through during that interview. If you didn’t read it then, check it out (EBR Interview).
Well, Bob is back, and he is as awesome as ever. You see, Bob just gets us, and he gets our blog. So when we were approached to host Bob Salvatore to promote his latest novel, GAUNTLGRYM (Amazon), you know were jumped at the chance.
‘Cause Bob is easily becoming one of our favorite people.
Elitist Book Reviews: Well, Bob, back for more punishment we see. It’s been nearly a year since we last chatted. How has the last year treated you?
R.A Salvatore: Punishment? Well, you guys do fancy yourselves elitist, don’t you? Won’t work, sorry… I know you’re just sniveling fanboys in the end. Just kidding… please, put down that pen! No, don’t write that review… ahhhhhh!
Seriously, the last year has been an amazing one for me. I became a grandfather in March and I love it even more than I thought I would (and that was a high bar)! I’ve been busy, as always, but since I finished up my Saga of the First King series with TOR Books (The Bear came out in August), I’ve cut down to one book a year. We’ll see how long that will last, but I have to tell you, having a couple of months to just sit back and enjoy my grandson and my family without a deadline hanging over my head is pretty wonderful.
Things have moved along splendidly with 38 Studios. I can’t wait for “Reckoning” to come out next fall, as I think we’re knocking this RPG out of the park. It really is beautiful to behold. And Copernicus (still using a code name for our MMO game) is going in marvelous directions; the team at 38 and Big Huge Games (BHG) stuns me every day. So all is well.
Still playing softball, still working out, and spent most of the summer floating in a pool. It’s easy to complain, but no one listens or cares, so why bother?
EBR: With Gauntlgrym, you are treading into one of our favorite areas of the Forgotten Realms: Neverwinter. Was it just right place, right time, or had the idea for Drizzt heading to Neverwinter been brewing for quite a while?
Bob: I’ll be perfectly honest here: I know what stories I want to tell. I knew where the road was heading for the remaining Companions of the Hall and knew the thematic beats I had to hit to bring these characters forward. The surroundings, the dressing on the story cake, are far more malleable to me. Wizards of the Coast asked me if I could set the book in the region of Neverwinter and could I do certain things to help them and Cryptic with the changes they needed for the upcoming Neverwinter for PC. Well, I’ve been near to Neverwinter since the beginning of the Drizzt tales, traveling to Luskan and the Crags (which I actually named), and riding the road to Waterdeep. I was passing right by Neverwinter before the city was developed for the computer game. And honestly, I intended to journey to that region, though not specifically Neverwtinter itself, in this book before Wizards even approached me with the idea.
So I agreed; my favorite part of working in a shared world are those times when I get to play off the work of other creative people. Isn’t that the whole point of the place, after all? I went to a summit last summer out in Seattle with the folks from Wizards and Cryptic, and we hammered out the general things Cryptic wanted me to accomplish regarding the city and the region. Many people around the table had bits and pieces of little side streets I could explore. Most fun of all was when Rich Baker and I got into a one-upmanship game. I have a curious relationship with Rich. We don’t really know each other all that well, but something pretty amazing happens when we’re sitting at a table: we just play off each other like a shortstop and second baseman who have been on the same team for a decade. It’s very cool and very inspiring.
So basically, at that summit, I had to digest the things they wanted me to accomplish physically with the area and see if I could create details within the framework of my story that would get us to that point. That process continues as I go through the series. Still being perfectly honest, it was a blast. I felt like there was a life to this book, a freshness to it, as if I was exploring the world beside my old friends. Which is exactly the point of the dramatic changes in the Realms, and exactly where I knew I had to place Drizzt.
EBR: How does the destruction of Neverwinter by the Spellplague affect Drizzt in this new series, and do you as a writer look forward to these types of big, landscape-changing events?
Bob: Why, whoever told you that the Spellplague destroyed Neverwinter? Oh come on, I can come up with something more explosive than that! I finally get to trash a section of the Realms (sorry Ed [Greenwood]!) and I wasn’t going to let that happen without putting my touch on it. Come to think of it, I took care of Luskan, too, a couple of books ago. I sense a trend here…
Generally speaking, I don’t look forward to these big landscape-changing events in a shared world, because the nature of the place puts too many limitations on what I can do versus what I want to do. I went through this from the other side of the coin during The War of the Spider Queen series, where I had to put the brakes on the level of destruction and carnage in Menzoberranzan, because I, after all, am likely to be the guy who will go back to the place in future works and I didn’t want to set a book amidst smoldering ruins.
In this instance, though, I didn’t really mind it. The big events for the book physically aren’t the big events for the book emotionally. That’s not a subtle distinction. The physical landscape, the city of Neverwinter, are more affected by the big events than are my characters and ultimately, this book, like all of the others, is about the personal journey of those characters. I realized early on that I could accomplish what Wizards of the Coast and Cryptic needed from me, not only without detracting from the story I wanted to tell, but through actually tying together the big events here with things I had written about previously. Surprisingly, the earlier tales dove-tailed beautifully with the events of Gauntlgrym, and so tied the journeys of Drizzt even more tightly than I had anticipated.
EBR: You’ve been killing off characters lately. Personally, we love it because it lends more danger to the situations you put your characters in. Has there been any thought to the possibility of Drizzt meeting his end?
Bob: Glad you love it, because for me, it hurts like hell. That aside, death is a necessary element of an action/adventure series that has gone on for 22 years, I suppose.
Any thought of killing Drizzt? Only for the last 22 years. Seriously, there was a time in the mid-90s when I came to actually resent the Dark Elf. I’m not kidding. Drizzt was my blessing and my curse, I thought. My blessing because what writer wouldn’t want a breakout hero and a breakout series? And my curse because the popularity of the Legend of Drizzt overshadowed all of the other work I was doing, including some work which I thought very important (to me, at least). When people ask me my favorite book, I tell them Mortalis, the 4th book of my DemonWars series, and I mean it. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything better than that, and doubt I ever will, and yet, more than half the people who know of my work, know only of my Dark Elf work.
So for a while, I admit it, I came to resent Drizzt. I wasn’t working for TSR (the previous publisher of the Drizzt books, before Wizards of the Coast bought them) at that time, however, and fortunately so, I guess! I did have this story of Drizzt tripping on a root and falling in a hole and dying of exposure.
You know, just because.
That’s all long past, however, and I no longer view Drizzt as a blessing and a curse. Rather, I’ve come to realize that my work, particularly my Drizzt work, is a shadow of my own personal journey. Through this character and his friends, I’ve been given the opportunity to not only share my point of view, my fears and my hopes, with others, but to explore those things within myself. I can relate to Carl Sagan when he wrote Cosmos and called it his “spiritual journey.” As that was his — searching for the universal truths of the universe — so this is mine, searching for that which is in my heart and soul.
And now you come along and ask me if I’m going to kill the bloke!
To that, I can only answer, “I don’t know!”
EBR: Where do you go from here, Bob? Any surprises in store for your readers?
Bob: Of course. Surprises for the reader, and for me, or I’ll stop writing these books. I’ve always maintained that I’d write Drizzt books as long as people want to read them and they’re fun for me. The way I know it’s fun for me is when I’m surprised. I don’t write like many other writers I know. I have an outline, sure (that’s part of getting the advance checks, after all), but once I get going, I might as well not have one. I write the same way other people read. I don’t know what’s coming on the next page, so I have to get to it. That’s always been the joy of writing for me.
I always find it interesting when some reader proclaims that he knew I was going to kill Character X several books ago. Interesting and amusing, because I assure you that I had no idea such a thing was going to happen. Perhaps I’m tipping off the readers as I’m tipping off myself, subconsciously, as I write the stories.
Or maybe people just want others to think they’re really smart.
So yes, to answer your question directly, there are certainly surprises to come. And changes, so many changes, in the life of Drizzt Do’Urden. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
EBR: Again, Bob, thank you for stopping by our blog. What do you say we make this an annual deal? Before you go, any parting words for our legions of faithful readers?
Bob: Seems to be morphing into an annual deal, doesn’t it? And that’s great with me. I love your site and the way you guys treat books: with a sharp eye, a dose of honesty, but always with respect for the effort.
To the readers, I can only say, please don’t stop reading. And I don’t even mean my works, necessarily. We’ve lost 3,000 bookstores over the last few years and the industry is in a state of flux. These are scary times, but also promising ones, with the new technologies coming on line — and by that, I mean not only the e-books and the greater ease in producing audio books, but the technologies that allow for smaller inventories and just-in-time printing and shipping, and even self-publishing. When you see a book you love, don’t be quiet about it, please! And I mean that doubly for beginning or lesser-known authors. I’ve watched publishers brought to tears over their inability to break out wonderful new authors in this difficult corporate framework, and far too many important voices are being silenced because of sales numbers.
So keep reading and keep championing those authors who have brought you joy, or entertainment, or enlightenment. The only person who really matters in the production of a book is the reader, after all.
What can we say, Bob Salvatore is one of the classiest guys in the business. Period.
Below are the links to the prior stops on Bob’s blog tour, as well as links to the next stops. We suggest you show these other bloggers some love by visiting them and clicking all over their sites. Being a blogger takes more work than you think…
1 – http://thetome.podbean.com/
2 – http://lordsoftyr.com/
3 – http://www.dungeoncrawlersradio.com/
4 – http://www.flamesrising.com/gauntlgrym-interview-salvatore/
5 – http://agentlethal.com/talking-with-ra-salvatore-about-gauntlgrym (Website no longer active)
6 – Uhh, you’re already here… you know, Elitist Book Reviews!
7 – Suvudu
Lastly, go take a peek at the online scavenger hunt that is going on. You have a chance to win all sorts of prizes; from a signed copy of GAUNTLGRYM and a D&D Starter Set, to stuff even MORE full of win. Go to our other post to check it out: EBR Giveaway
Thanks for another fun interview, guys. I love your slant on things, really. Keep it up!