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R.A. SALVATORE INTERVIEWS

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Here is R.A. Salvatore's most recent interview from Wizards Of The Coast:

Wizards of the Coast: What are the main influences on you as a writer?

R.A. Salvatore: J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Shultz, Fleetwood Mac, a lousy job and a miserable high school experience -- though not necessarily in that order. Seriously, it's hard for me to look back on anything in particular, other than getting The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a Christmas present my freshman year of college and then say it was a turning point for me. Tolkien, more than anything else, turned me on to reading, and tuned me back into an imagination that had been lost early on in my educational experience. It absolutely infuriates me when I hear junior high school or high school teachers putting down fantasy or some other genre as "not real literature." I think these arrogant folks should come to recognize that their job is to teach reading, and the easiest and best way to make someone a reader is to give them something they WANT to read. When I was very young, I loved Charlie Brown -- I own a huge collection of first edition Peanuts books from the late 50's and early to mid 60's. I wrote many, many Snoopy books of my own. By the time I went to college, I was reading only required books -- hating every one -- and I was actually a math major! Tolkien reminded me that reading could be fun. Boy, did he ever.

Wizards: What is the first book you remember reading as a child?

Salvatore: Back to Peanuts here. I devoured everything Charlie Brown.

Wizards: Who are your favorite authors now?

Salvatore: Still Tolkien -- I never grow tired of Bilbo and Gandalf and the rest. I love Terry Brooks' work. David Gemmell is another.

Wizards: What do you do to get the creative process flowing?

Salvatore: I tape a copy of my mortgage statement to my computer.

Just kidding -- I can hear the comments on the cynical message boards now...

Seriously, the writing part has never been a problem. It's almost as if these characters are talking to me directly. Publishing is something different. I've often said, and truly mean, if I hit the lottery tomorrow (and since I don't even play it, this is a remote possibility at best) I'd continue to write, but I'd never publish again.

Wizards: How did you come up with the idea of how to reunite Drizzt, Cattie-brie, Regis, Bruenor, and Wulfgar?

Salvatore: It seemed a natural extension to me. They were reunited in Passage to Dawn, but if I had left it at that, I would have cheapened the experience of Wulfgar. He needed to feel some repercussions from his ordeal. He has, literally, been to hell and back. That's got to leave a scar. Now he's back with the group and all is well . . . or is it? Is he in love with Delly, or is he fooling himself because he NEEDS to be in love with someone, and that someone can't be Catti-brie . . . not yet, at least?

The wonderful thing of it is that I don't know the answers yet. I'm on the same ride as the readers; I just find out the answers about a year before they do.

Wizards: Do you and Drizzt share any common traits?

Salvatore: I think Drizzt is, in many ways, who I wish I could be. I like to think of myself as noble. I like to think that my word is good. I like to think that I'd do the right thing, whatever the cost. Reality might be a little different than that ideal at times.

Wizards: Have you had to make any changes to your writing style for the upcoming novelization of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones? What's unique about the process of writing a movie novelization ?

Salvatore: Obviously, I can't go into much detail here. Basically, my job was to take what George Lucas was giving me, through the script of the scenes of the movie and our conversations, and expand upon his vision of what he wanted to accomplish in the movie, with just a few hints about what might come next. I think my writing style remained the same -- I don't really know how to change the way I tell a story. It was Lucasfilm's decision that my style would fit well with the visual of the movie that got me the job, I suppose.

Wizards: What are the differences in writing in the fantasy genre versus the science fiction genre?

Salvatore: This is a tough question for me because I've never really written science fiction. I know there may be some Star Wars readers rolling their eyes here, but I've never really considered Star Wars "science fiction." It's fantasy, pure and simple, and coming up with various formulas and theories to explain the fantasy elements doesn't change that. It's epic, adventurous fantasy, and it's so much fun!

Wizards: What projects are you working on at the moment?

Salvatore: I'm putting the finishing touches on Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and I am immersed, and very late, on the next Drizzt book, which is the first in a new series. It seems that since the tremendous success of the collector's editions, my editors can think only in terms of "series" instead of novels, which is a good thing, job-security wise, I think.

Wizards: What projects are you working on at the moment?

Salvatore: I keep getting e-mails asking if this is the last Drizzt book. Let me answer that publicly. No. How long will Drizzt (or Artemis and Jarlaxle) continue? As long as possible. I am afraid that some of the core audience is getting too involved and too attached. What I mean by that is that some readers are judging the books more on the direction of the characters, or even a particular character, rather than on the story it tells. This is not even a subtle distinction, and one I didn't even know existed until I entered the Star Wars galaxy. When someone writes me a furious letter because they think that Drizzt might be getting together with Catti-brie, followed by a letter from someone else who is furious because I didn't take Drizzt and Catti-brie far enough, I can only sigh. What happens is that direction begins to split the audience (because all the characters continually face forks in the road), and, I think, these expectations defeat the joy anyone could get in reading a novel.

The other fear I have concerning Drizzt is one I expressed a long time ago. Some readers keep insisting that I find bigger and badder villains for Drizzt to face. This is a terminal illness for a series. What I'm concerned about is finding new emotional challenges for Drizzt and the gang within the context of action. If he kills a goblin in the first book, an ogre in the second, a giant in the third, a dragon in the fourth, a demon if the fifth, and a god in the sixth . . . well, where do we go from there? I've always considered Drizzt and his friends to be small players in a huge world -- Bruenor's position notwithstanding. Despite the nearly constant cries of "munchkin" from people who are more concerned with the gaming products (that I had nothing to do with) and their own campaigns than with the novels, Drizzt is far from perfect, and he's far from unbeatable. He's been operating on the edge of disaster for a long, long time now! While I understand that simply being there and surviving is of itself an opportunity for some people to roll their eyes, there's really not much I can do about that other than kill him and be done with it.

He's had an interesting road -- far more so than I ever envisioned when I slotted him, in desperation, as a needed sidekick character to help me tell the story of Wulfgar. As long as that road stays interesting, to me and to the readers, I'll walk it beside him.

Here is an R.A. Salvatore interview from Grimorio:

I know you must have answered this question thousands of times, but our readers would kill us if we didn't ask. How do you feel being the creator of RPG's best-known character, Drizzt Do'Urden?

Well, I'd call Drizzt one of the best known; I see a lot of Raistlin's running around the various games! It's a strange feeling. I once called Drizzt my blessing and my curse. My blessing because what author wouldn't want to hit it like that with a character that so many people seem to relate to? And a curse because it's so darned hard for me to tell the Drizzt readers that I've got other work out there, including some novels that I consider important, like DemonWars.

Now, though, I think of Drizzt as a blessing, period. I was fortunate enough to come up with something that was pretty much the same but a little bit different at the same time. Classic hero in a unique body, so to speak. For whatever reason, that created a wave that's still rolling along, these fourteen years later. I'm pretty lucky. I should put "Drizzt" license plates on my car, because he bought them, and if it weren't for the dark elf, I wouldn't have had the time or the opportunity to do DemonWars.

By the way, my cat is called Guenhwyvar. So is Drizzt's. What was the idea behind the panther? And the rest of the companions, on that matter? Catti-Brie reminds me a lot of Tika Majere, from Dragonlance... Could you tell us how did you come up with the characters from Drizzt's books? Are the characters you depict in the books your friend's characters or are they from your imagination?

The idea behind the panther came from Doug Niles' "Darkwalker on Moonshae", specifically, from Canthus the Moorhound, the canine pal of Tristan, Daryth and the others. Doug handled that relationship beautifully; I wanted to do something a bit different. In truth, Canthus and Daryth were in the sample chapter for "The Crystal Shard", because I thought the Forgotten Realms was only the Moonshae Isles (Doug's books were the only products out at that time). When I found out the truth and worked with an editor to find a place in the Realms I could call my own; I didn't want to lose the ideas I had for an animal companion. Thus, Guenhwyvar. I got the name form Mary Stewart's wonderful Arthurian novels, starting with "The Crystal Cave". According to Stewart, Guenhwyvar is the Celtic (I think it was Celtic) spelling of Arthur's Queen, and the name means "shadow". How perfect was that?

As for the other characters, they're pretty much standard (or at least, they started that way) fantasy fare. Catti-brie wasn't even in the first draft, when my editor, a woman, pointed out to me that I really didn't have much in the way of a woman lead in the manuscript. It so happened that my wife gave birth to my daughter, Caitlin Brielle, fifteen days after I delivered that first draft, and so Catti-brie, literally, was born.

What was the first reaction from your publishers when you proposed a Drow Elf Ranger character?

Stunned silence. Which was pretty much my reaction when I thought about what I had just said. Drizzt was a spur of the moment thing. I was put on the spot for a new sidekick for Wulfgar (who was supposed to be the star), because we had reset the novel away from the Moonshaes, but as I already told you, Daryth and Canthus were in the sample chapter I had submitted to get the assignment. So my editor calls in frenzy, heading to a marketing meeting and needing a new sidekick. I was at work as a financial specialist at the time, with a desk covered in papers, and put on the spot, the idea of Drizzt, and the name, just popped into my head. Very strange.

Your Lolth is less sarcastic and more vengeful than Paul Kidd's (from the paperback Queen of the Demonweb Pits). How do the authors share the mood and feel of the iconic characters? Are there "behavior guidelines"?

I guess it all depends upon the tone you want for your books. The Dark Elf series, by design, was very dark, and of course, that all emanates from Lolth. I try to keep the gods at arms' length, though. I'm more interested in characters with human traits, even if they happen to be dark elves or dwarves.

My feeling is that the Forgotten Realms, particularly things like the pantheons of the gods, provide a backdrop an author can shape, a bit, to his or her needs. And since authors write with different styles....

That's why I don't like to share characters!

Your book, Spine of the World, partly concentrated on a love story. What was the reason for this change of pace?

It wasn't really a love story, in my mind. It was (half of it was) a tale of a young girl faced with a difficult choice. She's in love with one guy, but her mother is deathly ill and the only one who can save her is the lord of the land, who's smitten with her. I think Meralda was amazingly unselfish and heroic in that story. I loved examining her feelings, as well as those of her father, who even beats her up at one point, so frustrated is he that he is helpless to save his dying wife. I really like that book, and loved writing it. I'm not sure that it gave all of the Drizzt fans the kind of action or black-and-white moral choices they want, but hey, it's my series!

How did your life changed since the first Drizzt book hit the shelves? Do you consider yourself a celebrity? People recognize you in the streets and ask for autographs and such? Do you enjoy the attention of the public?

Well, I work at home, make my own hours, and have more money than I ever expected to make. I'm able to give my kids not only a fairly good life (no private planes or anything like that!), but more importantly, I was, and am, able to spend a lot of time with them, coaching their teams or watching their high-school games while most other fathers are still at work.

A celebrity? I suppose in some circles. I have been recognized - someone once eavesdropped on a conversation between me and Terry Brooks at a small restaurant and put the private conversation up all over the Star Wars' websites the next day. That was a kick! A kick in many places....

I don't consider myself a celebrity. I have as normal a life as you can imagine. I think I used to enjoy the attention a lot more than I do now, though it's always fun meeting new people, and particularly wonderful to know that my work has affected some young reader in a positive way. When I get letters that begin, "I couldn't get my son/daughter to read anything until I gave him one of your books," it puts a lump in my throat and reminds me that this business is more than royalty checks.

The downside, of course, is that you have to take the hits of some incredibly mean people, particularly on internet sites, which is why I rarely, if ever, visit message boards anymore.


There are some rumors about Drizzt motion pictures produced by Fireworks. What's your role in this project? If you had the power and the money to cast the film, what actors would you choose to play the role of the main characters from your Dark Elf's books?


I've seen the announcement, and met with some WotC/Hasbro and Fireworks people early on. I have no idea of what's going on at this time, though, nor do I know if I'll have any role in it. They know where to reach me, and given the recent successes in the genre in movies of late, I am truly excited by the prospect.

Casting? I've heard this a million times. A few years ago, I would've hoped for Antonio Banderas as Drizzt. He was just so good as Zorro. Honestly, though, I have no idea. I never heard of the guy who played Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings before, but wow, he was something. And the elf... doesn't even get me started about Legolas. Perfect elf, right there!

Since you're a gamer yourself, what do you think about the new Drizzt gaming stats presented on the new Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting? Don't you think they've underpowered him a little bit? It wouldn't do any harm to have Twinkle and Icingdeath a little bit more powerful...

No idea of what they've done to him, nor do I care. Underpowered? Munchkin twink? No idea; I suppose that's all relative anyway. If the strongest character in your game is level 5, a level 15 will look like a god, but if your PC's are all level 20, level 15 is just another NPC. I've always considered Drizzt a small player in a large world, blessed with a good bit of talent, a fair amount of luck, and most importantly of all, some of the best friends anyone could ever want. That could change, by the way, and not for the better.


Do you still play roleplaying games? What are you playing right now? D20 system?

We're playing a blend of 1st and 2nd edition right now, though we'll be heading to 3rd edition D&D soon, if all goes well with my schedule. I'm just too busy right now with the Star Wars' novel and the continuing DemonWar and Dark Elf books to learn he new system and put together a campaign. We (my gaming group) also get together to play Everquest once a week.


I have two D&D characters I'm most found of, a bitter elven bladesinger and a barbaric half-orc that just became a champion of the Mulhorandic deity Anhur. What are your most memorable characters?

Belexus Backavar, my warrior from 1st edition. He's very different from the Belexus in "Echoes of the Fourth Magic," by the way, though they shared physical traits. He's the only character I ever elevated to god status, so to speak, running him to something like 27th level. He destroyed several towns along the way, by the way.

I also played Oliver deBurrows, my highway halfling from the "Sword of Bedwyr" books, for a short time. Annoying little guy. He got killed, my fellow players cheered, and I knew he had to be in a book.


You once said that Tolkien was your biggest inspiration for fantasy. What do you think of the new Lord of the Rings motion pictures?

Well, I've seen it three times (and that in the first four days), so that should tell you something. I loved it. Flat out. It brought me right to Middle-earth. My deepest thanks to Peter Jackson, his crew and the actors. What a wonderful job. And Ms. Blanchett absolutely slayed me as Galadriel. The way she looked at poor Frodo out of the corner of those beautiful and terrible eyes of hers sent a chill up my back. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Were you thrilled when you've been offered the opportunity to write Star Wars novels, including Chewie's death and the novelization of Episode II?

Yes, and no. I wasn't thrilled when told about killing Chewie AFTER I had signed the contract for "Vector Prime", that's for sure. And I certainly don't want to be known as the guy who offed the hairball! On the flip side, I've gotten to meet so many wonderful people at Lucasfilm, including George Lucas himself, and I just got a copy of "Vector Prime" in the mail, signed, "Bob, Chewie Lives!" from Peter Mayhew (who played Chewie in the films). You just can't replace experiences like that.

As for getting asked to write the novelization of Episode II, it was probably the highest honor I've ever gotten as a professional writer. It showed a bit of trust and was really a pat on the back, and from a legend, no less. It's been a lot of work, and ultimately satisfying. I hope George Lucas is pleased with my expansion of his vision.

Have you read J. K. Rowling`s Harry Potter books? What do you think of the little wizard with the lighting scar on his forehead?

I read part of one and thought it was beautifully written, but not really my cup of tea. Everyone has different tastes, and Harry Potter simply didn't do it for me; but then again, I've been jaded by years of the fantastical in this business. On the other hand, I have nothing but respect for Ms. Rowling and what she's accomplished. She should feel very, very good about her contribution to a generation of readers. And I, as a fantasy writer for those a bit older than her prime demographic, certainly thank her for teaching an entire generation to use their imaginations!

Salvatore... you have redefined fantasy literature, with you fast-paced style and charismatic characters. Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, before you, laid out the groundwork with the excellent initial Dragonlance trilogy. What do you feel the future of this stream of literature to be like?

I was in England about a decade ago with a wonderful writer named Tom DeHaven. We did an interview together for the BBC and were asked if we understood why Tolkien wasn't so readily embraced by the typical teen reader of the day. Tom gave a brilliant answer, I thought. He said that the sensibilities of the younger generation had changed, because of the media to whom they were most exposed: TV. Reading any of the older literature, the pre-TV literature, requires a good deal more patience than many people weaned on MTV and computer games want to muster. That's not a knock against those people, by the way, as so many literary snobs often try to point out. They just absorb information differently, more quickly, and probably fill in a good deal of the details themselves, since they've seen so much more than, say, my father ever could. I doubt that my father ever saw a swordfight outside of Errol Flynn movies, while my sons can choreograph their own on various computer games.

I'm from the transitional generation. I was raised on both TV and literature. I've been fortunate because the way I tell a story resonates with enough people for me to keep telling stories. That's all an author can hope for.

And still talking about the future... do you plan to do anything game-related, with the success of WotC's D20 system?

Game products tend to sneak up on me, unexpectedly. Maybe something will be there in the future. Both of my sons have expressed interest (and show real talent) in designing some adventures, so who knows? I certainly wouldn't turn down the chance to work with either of them!