GRADUAL INTERVIEW (all dates)
Hierachy:  Roughly how large will runes of the earth be compared to the other books? I would have assumed about the same size as the others but I have heard rumours that it will be bigger, are these rumours true? Thanks for your time.
-Hierachy
When I wrote "Runes," it was about the same length as one of the "Mordant's Need" books--roughly 200 manuscript pages longer than the longest previous "Covenant" book. However, I'm under severe editorial pressure to cut the manuscript down by, you guessed it, 200 pages. So the published version may be about the same length as "The One Tree" or "White Gold Wielder."

(02/22/2004)

Tori Gallagher:  Will Cail come back? I feel like I'm using an Ouija board here, but he is my favorite character in the Second Chronicles.
-Tori
I don't want to answer this question because a) I don't want to give anything away, and/or b) because I haven't made up my mind. But you'll see in "Runes" that a great many things have become possible.

(02/22/2004)

jerry mcfarland:  If you are required to cut down the size of the books....any future chance of seeing the "original" or something like Gilden-Fire?

Personally, I like the thicker books rather than scaled down. If I have to pay $25+ anyway, better for a larger novel.
Oh, I wouldn't cut down the book just to please my editor. She has to convince me that the cuts are necessary (and I don't mean "necessary to the publisher," I mean "necessary to the quality of the book"). And if they *are* necessary, I certainly wouldn't be inclined to restore them. In any case, I don't cut by whacking out scenes or characters (with the one obvious exception of "The Illearth War"): I prune a word here, a sentence there, sometimes an entire paragraph. And I do a whole lot of rephrasing to say the same things more efficiently. Trust me, when I'm done cutting I'll have a better book.

(02/23/2004)

Michael Rowlands:  Mr Donaldson,
What do you think of the PostModern movement to 'reject the author's message'? I read that alot of writers now expect the readers to read their own interpretation into a text. Is this necessarily a bad thing, that the message can be ignored or missed?
Regards,

Michael
Here's what I think: there's less to this than meets the eye. Reading is an interactive process. Readers have always supplied their own interpretations of what they read. In my case, the issue is simple: I've never had a "message" I wanted to communicate (impose on the reader), so rejecting my message should be effortless. (I'm a storyteller, not a polemicist. As such, my only mission is to help my readers understand my characters and appreciate what those poor sods are going through.) In general, however, one might say that the task of any writer is to communicate his/her intentions so clearly that the reader will--as it were spontaneously--arrive at the appropriate interpretation. And if that task has been accomplished, what would be the point of rejecting the author's message?

(02/23/2004)

Tracie (Furls Fire):  Mr. Donaldson, first let me just say thank you so much for continuing one of the greatest stories I have ever read. I have always known the story was not finished, so many doors were left open. My question is, and this goes all the way back to "Lord Foul's Bane" and has been debated back and forth of Kevin's Watch: what exactly was his bane? I contended that it was the Illearth Stone, because that is what Lord Foul coveted and the Stone, of course, was a major "character" in all of the First Chronicles. But, others have had other answers...Covenant, the ring, Drool. So, I just thought I would go right to the source and see what it actually was. Maybe it is all of the above? <smile>

Also, I just want to say thank you for The Wounded Land, Chapter 26: Coercri. I have read and re-read The Chronicles more times than can be counted. Laughed, cried, raved over various events and parts, but nothing touches me more than Coercri. It still brings my heart up into my throat and tears to my eyes. So, thank you.
And thank *you*! I'm touched by your response.

Sadly, the answer to your question about the nature/identity of Lord Foul's "bane" is: I don't know. How could I not? you may well ask. Because I didn't make up that title, that's how. Lester del Rey imposed that title on the book for reasons of his own, mostly because he thought it would sell, not because it had meaning. *My* title, when I first wrote the book, was "Foul's Ritual," which I would cheerfully have amended to "Lord Foul's Ritual." But Lester wouldn't have it. And he's dead, so none of us can ask him what he had in mind.

(02/25/2004)

Peter B.:  Do you have any indications what the cover artwork for Runes will look like? There is a certainly a variety of artist interpretations through the different editions of the First and Second Chronicles.
No, I don't know what the art will look like. But I *do* know that the artist will be Michael Whelan--and there's none better. After the atrocities that Darrel K. Sweet perpetrated on the earlier "Covenant" books, I'm blissfully happy to be in Whelan's hands.

(02/25/2004)

Derrik S:  Well I am glad to hear that there is going to be a 3rd Chronicles. I am also glad i found this site. How many years will have passed for the "Runes of the Earth" since "White Gold Wielder"?
Do you mean for me, or for the story? You must mean for the story. Well, it's traditional--by which I mean that it's already happened once: Ten years passed in the "real" world (3500+ years in the Land) between "The Chronicles" and "The Second Chronicles"; so of course in "The Last Chronicles" ten years have passed for Linden Avery (and 3500+ more elsewhere). Time enough for the author to arrange pretty much anything he wants.

(02/25/2004)

James DiBenedetto:  In another interview, you said of Lester Del Rey that he kept sending you "bad ideas" for the Second Chronicles..."And they got worse as Lester pushed harder. Finally he succeeded at sending me an idea so bad that before I could stop myself I thought, "No, that's terrible, what I really ought to do is--"

I'm really curious: if you're allowed/willing to say, what kind of ideas did Lester have? And what was the idea that was so bad that it made you agree to finally write the Second Chronicles?
Sorry. This happened so long ago--and the idea was so bad--that I've long since deleted it from my memory. Knowing Lester, however, it must have had something to do with a thinly-disguised rehash of the first trilogy. "Change Covenant's name to Berek and tell the whole story again," that sort of thing.

(02/29/2004)

danlo:  Do you think you might write more Science Fiction after the Final Chronicles, or is it too early to tell?
You're right, it's WAY too early to tell. I have maybe nine more years of work to do on "The Last Chronicles," by which time I'll be, lessee, mumble, mumble, carry the 7, oh, nearly 318 years old. But if you held a gun to my head and forced me to guess, I would suppose that I'll probably stick to fantasy. After I write the last Axbrewder/Fistoulari novel.

(02/29/2004)

Derrik S:  For one I meant the story. But which covers did Darel K Sweet do: the original ones or the later ones?
Sweet did the original DEL REY/Ballantine covers. Lester considered him the greatest fantasy artist alive, despite the fact that Sweet told everyone who would listen that he hated fantasy. After the del Reys passed away, and the "Covenant" books were reissued, they featured a rather grand Michael Herring painting: one huge painting cut into six panels, so if you place your books side by side you can see the whole work. But Owen Locke, the King of Complacency, had become the head of DEL REY books, and he never bothered to change the artist credit in the books, so for quite a few years Sweet got credit for Herring's work. However, I *think* the situation has now been corrected.

(02/29/2004)

Elton Pruitt:  I just wanted to ask the correct pronunciation of Haruchai. I think I read in an interview with you once, but I can no longer find it, that it is pronounced Huh-ROO-cheye.

Thanks for bringing the Last Chronicles to life for us! I started re-reading both 1st and 2nd Chronicles a few months ago so I am glad they will be fresh in my memory when Runes of the Earth is published.
Really, I believe that the "correct" pronunciation is the one that works for the particular reader. After all, story-telling in print is an interactive process, and the reader's contributions are both necessary and valid. But I personally say:
ha-ROO-chai (where "ai" is pronounced "eye").

(02/29/2004)

Jerry McFarland:  You stated you have nine more years to complete the Last Chronicles. Please tell us this was tongue in cheek.
I'm sorry: it's not tongue-in-cheek at all. I spent 20 months writing the first draft of "Runes," and (so far) I've spent 10 months revising it. Toss in a family emergency here and a health problem there (such things become increasingly common at my age), and 36 months a book seems like barely enough.

Naturally, I wish I could work more fluently. But there's a reason (actually, there are several) why my characters struggle so much: it's because I do the same. As I've said elsewhere, for me writing is like wrestling with the Angel of the Lord.

(03/04/2004)

Eric Kniffin:  In light of quotes like, "Come Unbeliever. Do not prolong this unpleasantness. You know that you cannot stand against me. In my own name I am wholly your superior. And I possess the Illearth Stone." and "When the Despiser was powerful enough to give them strength, they enslaved creatures or people by entering into their bodies, subduing their wills, and using the captured flesh to enact their master's purposes." can you give us any specifics about Foul's powers/abilities?
I don't want to answer this question, mainly because I don't want to limit my options. But have you noticed that Lord Foul works primarily through proxies and instruments? (Drool, the Illearth Stone, Ravers, the Clave, the Banefire, etc..) And that the Creator does essentially the same thing? (Thomas Covenant, white gold, Linden Avery, etc..)

However you look at it, in these books "power" tends to be an expression of the essential nature of the person or being whose power it is. On those occasions when we've seen Foul act directly, he seems to exert the withering force of pure scorn. imho, that's pretty intense. And it has interesting implications for the Creator. Not to mention for "The Last Chronicles."

(03/07/2004)

birdandbear:  Okay, this is a theory I've had for a while, and here's where it may get shot down....;)

Does the title of the fifth book in The Gap series, A Dark and Hungry God Arises, refer to vengeance? I swear I've heard somewhere, a reference to Vengeance, or Revenge, being a dark and hungry god, but I can't for the life of me remember where. There's a line in the musical, Sweeny Todd, that would seem to support this as well. And in this case, I can see it refering to the plans of a certain character, against another certain character beginning to come to fruition at last....

Am I on the right track at all? Or if not, to what does this incredibly cool title refer? ;)

Thanks for your time, and I love your site!
-Annie
Forgive me: "A Dark and Hungry God Arises" is the third GAP book, not the fifth. Which--to my eye, anyway--undermines your theory a little bit. And I have to ask you: is the story really about revenge (or vengeance, which sounds more righteous)? Which characters are motivated by a desire for revenge? And of those, which might reasonably be referred to as a "god"? And of *those,* which experiences a downfall in "This Day All Gods Die"?

(03/07/2004)

Bernie Margolis:  Mr. Donaldson,

I have been a hearty admirer of your works since my junior high school days (when I was probably too young to be reading them) in the early '80s. I especially like your Mordant's Need novels and your short story compilations. Thanks for all the years of entertainment and intellectual stimulation that you've provided through the years.

I have a two-part question. The press release on your site indicates that motion picture rights have been optioned. Did the recent success of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy influence your decision to sell these rights, or was it the other way around (they optioned your work hoping to capitalize on the untapped [good] fantasy movie market)? On a related note, the release doesn't specify what exactly Gordon and Winther have optioned. The article implies that they've optioned the Third Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, but this seems like an odd place to begin cranking out movies to me. Could you please clarify this?
No, I didn't suddenly decide to sell the movie rights. They aren't mine to sell: they are held by Ballatine Books. So your second explanation is correct: the movie people have suddenly become hungry for viable fantasy properties. Ballantine would have sold the rights decades ago if they had a buyer. (But remember: only one out of every one hundred options bought is actually made into a movie.)

Hollywood having all the money and power, they get to make all the rules. So in a case like mine, here's how it works: xyz producers (or producer wannabees) buy an option on "Lord Foul's Bane"--and by doing so, they become the legal owners of the movie rights for ALL "Covenant" books. That's right: they buy one, they get them all. They can film *any* "Covenant" book, not just "Lord Foul's Bane." Or they can invent their own world and characters, give them my names, and call it "Lord Foul's Bane." And people like book publishers and agents (never mind authors) agree to this because they feel they have no choice. All the money is in movies. A dog of a movie which dies in the theaters can easily quadruple the sales of the book on which it is based. However, good agents (and sensible publishers, of where there are precious few) protect their authors by making sure that the author gets paid for each and every movie regardless of who owns the rights, or what the content of the move actually is.

(03/07/2004)

Pete:  It's been roughly 20 years since you've written about Thomas Covenant and The Land. The world is a much different place from 20 years ago, and I imagine you've had many life experiences in that time. I think I've read somewhere that looking back on the First Chronicles you saw a lot that you'd like to change and were even somewhat embarassed about. My question is, has it been difficult to jump back into this series after so long and keep the same "feel" as you had two decades ago?

Thanks,

Pete
Strangely, recapturing the narrative tone and rhetoric of the earlier books has been relatively easy. I guess it comes naturally. The hard part has been convincing my editor to leave the "feel" of the prose alone. She's a modern woman, much younger than I am, who hasn't read any previous "Covenant" books, and who lacks my background in the study of Conrad, James, and Faulkner. Instinctively she prefers the kind of lean and ambiguous prose which never calls a spade a spade (never mind a ^#$%# shovel), and which certainly never identifies any of the emotions of the characters. Nor does she like the pacing of Covenant-style prose: to use a musical analogy, she would rather jump from key to key without modulations, which, she feels, "bog down the narrative." So my biggest technical challenge in revising "Runes" has been to preserve the stylistic essence of the previous books without outraging her sensibilities.

(03/11/2004)

Kay (Duchy):  Of all of the vivid characters you have created which is your favorite?
I tend to have different favorites in different contexts. And I've always loved High Lord Mhoram and Saltheart Foamfollower. But secretly I feel an irreducible fondness for Castellan Lebbick and Hashi Lebwohl.

(03/11/2004)

MK:  Thirty years later, your writing style has most definitely changed, developed, evolved. One can say that the original Covenant books are steeped in overwrought (overwritten?) prose. How will your matured attitudes change how you write this new cycle of Covenant? Will the language still be connected to the old books, or will it echo your later works?
As I suggested in answer to an earlier question, I'm trying to strike a balance between what I prefer to call the "operatic" prose of the earlier "Covenant" books and the less poetic sensibilities of modern readers.

(03/11/2004)

Joey:  When is "The Man Who Tried To Get Away" going to be re-released? I devoured Brother and Partner both in less than a day and have been looking all over for book three- which at its cheapest is selling for $50+ online. Thanks so much.
"The Man Who Tried to Get Away" should be re-released in hardcover this fall (October or November, 2004), along with the paperback of "The Man Who Risked His Partner."

(03/23/2004)

Ying M.:  I've had some vivid dreams about being in the Land. Maybe that's inevitable for anyone reading something as emotionally intense as the Chronicles. My dreams about the Land tend to be sad and a little morbid. Do you have dreams and/or nightmares about the Land as you write the Chronicles? Thanks, and sorry if it's a corny question.
Since story-telling (at least for me) is in some sense a process of externalizing the content of my subconscious, you might say that it serves the same function as--or possibly even replaces--dreaming. Only once in my life have I dreamed about anything that could even loosely be construed as Covenant-related (and remembered the dream afterward), and that was the night before I wrote most of "The Celebration of Spring" (Lord Foul's Bane). The next day, I simply transcribed the dream (the dream itself was composed primarily of words and sentences rather than of images). For the other 32 years of my full-time writing life, I've never knowingly dreamed about anything I have written, am writing, or will write.

(03/23/2004)

Steven Elliott:  First, let me say thank you for bringing me to The Land. The first time I read the First Chronicles (with the Sweet covers), I fell in love. Then, when I started reading the Second Chronicles, I was mortified that the Land had been so ravaged as to be unrecognizable. I almost put the first book down in disgust. But, I couldn't walk away from your storytelling, much less from Covenant. Soon, I was of a single mind with Thomas... fix the Land. And it was fixed! But then it was gone. Story ended. I wept.

So, my question is this; Are we going back to a healthy Land?
It's difficult to answer such questions without spoiling things for other readers. But let me say two things. First, I have no interest in repeating stories I've already told. "The Second Chronicles" was fundamentally different in both design and content than the original trilogy; and "The Last Chronicles" will again be fundamentally different. Second, there wouldn't be much point to the story if the Land wasn't at least *threatened.* I can't spend four books simply touring the scenery while all my characters enjoy themselves. <grin>

(03/23/2004)

Josiah:  Forgive me for asking a second questions so imminently, but I am curious about this.

Would you, yourself, like to see Thomas Covenant, or The Gap, or Mordent made into movies?
I've thought long and hard about this myself, and I realize that turning excellent and well loved fiction into film doesn't always end well, But after seeing Peter Jackson's overwhelming success with the 'Lord's of the Ring' series, I decided that, yeah, if there were enough time and effort, a movie could truly do the series justice, and bring a whole new group of fans to libraries and stores for your books. Also, hypothetically, who do you seeing playing as Thomas?
At its foundation, my work is based on language rather than images. In a sense, it would have to be "translated" in order to be made into movies, and that--as you observe--is notoriously difficult to do, even with fiction (such as Tolkien's) which is less internal than mine. But if I had to choose, I would pick the GAP books for film. Followed by "Mordant's Need." But the "Covenant" books are the only ones that are currently under option.

Who could play Covenant? Twenty or thirty years ago, I would have picked Anthony Hopkins. Now I'm not sure. Dare we hope for Keanu Reeves? <grin>

(03/23/2004)

Josiah:  First I'd like to say that I love everything you've written. My Mother suggested Covenent to me for years before I picked it up, and I've read the Gap series, Reave the Just, and Mordent since I finished Covenent. When I saw here, on your own site, conformation of a third Covenent series, I almost cried. Of all the books I've read, no place ever felt as REAL to me as The Land.
Sorry, I just needed to fit that bit of fan mail in.
My question: The new Covenent books aside, do you have any other short stories, novels, or series in planning, or (hopefully) even in production?)
Sorry, I pretty much have a one-track mind. I can only work on (or even imagine) one story or project at a time. Also there's the unfortunate fact that I write very slowly. So everything I've done is already listed in the "background" section of this site, and "The Last Chronicles" is all I'm working on.

(03/23/2004)

Anonymous:  Dear Mr. Donaldson -

Your comments on the Stephen C. Mckinney Memorial Thread at kevinswatch.com?
My thanks to the several considerate people who have referred me to this thread (found on kevinswatch.com under The Collective in the index, Hall of Gifts). This is not the appropriate place for a discussion of that thread. However, I urge everyone who is interested in the importance of creativity, and in the relationship between creator and audience, to take a look.

(03/24/2004)

Michael S. Glosecki:  Dear Mr. Donaldson, the covenant books are the best stories I've ever read and I go back to read them whenever I need some joy in my life. Thank you!

As for my question, the previous chronicles are made up of three books each but the last chronicles will be four books in length. How do you know that in advance? Is this a self-imposed limit?

Thanks again for your time,
-=Mike
I can't explain this; but I pretty much always know in advance how long a story is going to be. Often I know the length (roughly) before I know what the story actually is. For some reason, the germinating ideas for stories contain a "length attribute": I have only the vaguest idea of what or who the story will be about, but I know from the first whether it will be a short story, a novella, a novel, a two-volume novel, or whatever. To some extent, this is about "shape" (what I think of story architecture): x story is going to require three movements, structural units, while y story will require four--or possibly two, or one. And to some extent it is about an intuitive perception of content: x idea is only big enough to support the weight of, say, a novella, while y idea is so big that it will need, say, four large volumes. But really I don't know what's going on. All I know is that this is how my imagination works.

(03/24/2004)

Mark A. Morenz:  First, I wanted to thank Mr. Donaldson for the always considerate and thoughtful responses to my (mostly sophomoric) emails over the years. He induldged me more than I would have.

My question: In several interviews you have described the various Chronicles as a "Systematic Theology". I wondered if you would expand on that?

For example: do you find writing a "theology" limiting or broadening your narrative possibilities? There are a lot of folks hung up on "Da Vinci Code" and "Passion..." right now as consumers examine what they define as metaphor and what they can enjoy as fanciful storytelling...

Thanks so much.

:-{)]
Let me try to be clear about this. As I've said before, I'm not a polemicist--or a preacher. It's confusing, I admit; but when I talk about writing "systematic theology" I do not mean that I'm trying to promulgate some specific set of organized beliefs. (Remember, that "sys. theo." comment was made looking back at what I had done: it wasn't intended as a comment on what I had set out to do.) Here's how it works. I decide to write a story for its own sake, because it moves or excites me in some way. Then, because I'm moved or excited, I try to bring all of my resources to bear on that story; to give it the best possible author. Now, it just so happens that my resources include an intensive background in fundamentalist Christianity, a fair acquaintance with French existentialism, and an instinct for conceptual thought. So what happens? My stories turn out to be full of organized theological implications. Go figure.

S. P. Somtow once said (I hope I can quote this correctly without my notes), "Fantasy is the only valid tool for theological inquiry." Perhaps that's why I'm drawn to writing fantasy. Or perhaps it's the other way around: writing fantasy necessitates asking theological questions.

(03/24/2004)

Alis Mirak:  Are you going to explain how Linden got Covenant's ring? I never quite caught how she ended up with it.
-Alis ;)
Alas, I can only tell you: wait and see.

(03/25/2004)

Ryan Thomas:  I was wondering, everything I've read seems to have Linden as the main protagonist, how big of a role will Covenant play? Will he be a living, breathing character or some sort of behind the scenes entity, helping the people of the Land in their struggles with Lord Foul? Maybe stupid questions but he's one of my favorite all-time characters, I even changed my last name to his first, jk. Thanks for your time, and looking forward to the books!
I'm sorry, but this falls under the heading of Things I Don't Want To Give Away. "Spoilers" are called that for a reason. They satisfy some people--and really diminish the enjoyment for others. And, to be honest, I work hard at trying to generate narrative suspense. To reveal my secrets prematurely would cause me actual pain.

(03/25/2004)

Andrew:  First I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. It is very kind of you.

I have read that it will be in the neighborhood of 10 years before the last book of the 3rd Chronicles is released. My question is, can you recommend some of your favorite fantasy books that your fans can read to help pass the time between the new Covenant installments?
Traditionally, I always recommend Patricia A. McKillip, Tim Powers, and Sean Russell. Now, however, I'm forced to add Steven Erikson to my list. Starting with "The Gardens of the Moon," his "Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen" is an astonishing achievement, and I drool over every book. Until now, his books have only been available in the UK; but Tor will soon start to release them here.

(03/26/2004)

Erik S:  Please comment on the process you go through to write a series of books. Do you tightly plot the entire series and then go back in and fill in the verbage or do you have a good idea where the series is heading but the story evolves as you write? Also, do you write as the passion strikes you or do force yourself to write X amout of words per day or pages per day? Last question, please comment on characters you have created that have struck a note with you and why and characters that in retrospect have disappointed.

Glad to hear about the new series....
I'm always reluctant to answer questions like yours simply because they're so complicated. <rueful smile>

First, let me say that there's only one way to be a writer, and that is to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and write. Everything else is just talk. So: 1) I don't force myself to write a certain amount every day, but I also don't wait for inspiration to strike. I write every day, and every day I give myself permission to write badly. If it *is* bad, I can always improve it when I rewrite. The important thing is to keep writing. As the music critic Newman once said of Beethoven, "Great composers do not compose because they are inspired. They become inspired because they are composing." 2) I learned long ago that it's important to avoid burnout. I write five days a week. And when it's quitting time, I quit, no matter how inspired I may be feeling. I don't write on weekends, or in the evenings, or on vacation. Rest refertilizes the brain.

When I was new at this, I plotted everything. Before I had written very much of "Lord Foul's Bane," I could have told you in detail the entire story of the first "Chronicles." But after years of experience I've learned that I can trust the part of my imagination that "plots" without having to give it so much conscious attention. So now, in "The Last Chronicles," I could give you a general description of where I'm going and why, what the characters are about, how they fit together, etc., but I couldn't tell you the story: it still contains vast unspecified areas which I will discover as I tell the story. HOWEVER. One thing is absolutely essential to me: I have to know the ending (where I'm going, and why), or else I can't even start. In the case of the first trilogy, that meant the ending of "The Power that Preserves." In the present case, that means the ending of "The Last Dark." The ending is my reason for telling the story. If I don't have that reason, I can't write.

One quixotic detail about how I work: I take lots and lots and LOTS of notes; I keep them in deliberately disorganized fashion; and I throw them away as soon as I've used them. In other words, when I plan ahead I force myself to review everything I have in mind; and when I need to check details for internal consistency I force myself to go over everything I've already done. This is--to put it politely--labor intensive; but it helps me keep the whole project in mind at all times.

I don't really like to discuss my feelings about my characters. I've already written entire books about them. If I haven't succeeded in being clear, I can't improve the situation at this late date. But I mentioned earlier that I've always had an idiosyncratic fondness for Hashi Lebwohl. And my most disappointing character is Davies Hyland, not because he disappointed me, but because I think I disappointed him. He deserved a better author than he got.

(04/13/2004)

Don (dlbpharmd):  Mr. Donaldson, as many have said above, thank you for writing my all-time favorite story, and thank you for continuing that story. I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for Runes to be published!

It seems, particularly in the 1st Chronicles, that so much of what is happening to Covenant physically is mirrored in the Land. For example, when his leprosy is at its worst, the Land is suffering under Foul's winter. My question: Is there any correlation between the onset of Covenant's leprosy and the enacting of the Ritual of Desecration?
When I planned the first "Chronicles," the relationship between Covenant's leprosy and the Land's plight was foremost in my mind. In fact, I designed the Land as a reverse reflection of Covenant's dilemma; and as the story progressed I consciously brought those two opposing images closer together until they were virtually superimposed.

However, the specific detail that you're asking about never actually crossed my mind. It's embarrassing, really, since it seems so obvious now that you raise it. But I didn't think of it for the same reason that I can't write prequels: as I suggested in an earlier answer, all of my attention is focused *forward*, on the ending. So I set up my reflections and then pursued their implications. I never asked myself about the implications of what might have happened *before* my starting point.

Everything that I've ever created about "the past" in any of my stories is there because it helps me get where I'm going: it doesn't exist for its own sake. In this important sense, if in no other, the Land is less "real" than, say, Middle Earth. Its history does not exist independent of "current events."

(04/13/2004)

Earl Craine:  Mr Donaldson,

Firstly I must say that your Thomas Covenant novels in particular and your writing in general have had a profound effect on me. Never before have I read characters so real and true to themselves and their beliefs, and so willing to follow those beliefs to wherever their destiny takes them. I first read the TC novels after I finished Tolkien, at the tender age of 11. TC and his trials later gave me the courage to continue through a difficult adolescence, as he didn’t give up on himself and so neither would I. Your work has been an inspiration to me. Thank you!

Two questions.

Could you tell me your top ten list of your favourite fiction (any genre), with a sentence or two about each as to why each story makes the list?

I’ve given many friends of mine the TC novels to read, and some of them gave me Lord Foul’s Bane back after TC rapes Lena, saying that they will not read a story where the main character is a rapist. What would you say to people who want to quit reading at that point of the story?

Thanks for your time.
Earl.
With all due respect, I have to say that "top ten" lists are too subjective to be explained. And--at least for me--such things change constantly. So, without explanation, here's today's list in no particular order:
1) Faulkner's Snopes trilogy
2) Erikson's Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen
3) Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"
4) Scott's Raj Quartet
5) Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings"
6) McKillip's "Book of Atrix Wolfe"
7) Powers' "Last Call"
8) Meredith's "The Egoist"
9) James' "The Sacred Fount"
10) Cherryh's "Downbelow Station"

I'm always saddened to hear that someone has quit reading when, say, Covenant rapes Lena, or Angus brutalizes Morn. I certainly understand such a reaction. When I get the chance, I say several things. 1) I write about tormented characters because no one else could possibly *need* the story as badly as they do--and it is in the nature of tormented characters to do tormented things. 2) If you quit reading, you'll never find out *why* I wrote what I did. If you do go on, you'll discover that what I did is not gratuitious; that, in fact, the whole subsequent story is about the terrible consequences of such violence. 3) Terrible things happen in the real world all the time. God knows they happen to me. If I'm not willing to write about those things, I pretty much have to give up my claim on being a serious writer.

I've been known to say other things as well, but only when I get really worked up. <grin>

(04/13/2004)

Jon-Ross Mallon:  First off, I just wanted to say, that I have not read another book which compares to yours in any way... I have read both series of TCOTC many times, and they are by far my favorite books. I have been hoping ever since reading the 2nd series the first time, about 5 years ago, you would come out with another series, and I couldn't be more happy that you are.
My question is about the marrowmeld that Elena made for Convenant, could you elaborate on the symbolism of the cross between Covenant and Bannor in the marrowmeld?
Think of it as the sort of cryptic warning you get from an oracle. The warning to Bannor is fairly straightforward. Look at what happens to Korik, Sill, and Doar in "The Power that Preserves." The warning to Covenant is more subtle. Elena's sculpture hints at the danger for Covenant in the moral absolutism/purity of the Bloodguard.

(04/14/2004)

Joey:  The Killing Stroke, Unworthy of the Angel, and Penance (while being short stories) are easily 3 of the most powerful and addicting pieces of literature I think I've ever read. I know you release a short story collection every few years (or decades, lol); Any new collection on the radar?
Sorry. I have two problems (well, two that are relevant to your question). First, I have a one-track mind. When a major project like "The Last Chronicles" is on that track, I don't write or even think about other stories. Second, I've never had a particularly fecund imagination. In other words, I don't get a lot of ideas. Which explains why I have to milk the ones I do get for everything they're worth. <grin>

(04/14/2004)

Ian Johnson:  Hi. I'd like to know if your childhood in India has had an influence on your work - whether you drew on Indian culture in the creation of the Land. Also, are the Hindu terms used as names for Foul's Ravers deliberately in contrast to their Land and Giant names? - and is there any reason why you chose those terms and not others? ~Ian
Does India influence my work? Absolutely. And absolutely not. It has a profound effect because it helped shape who I am as a writer and as a person. India is a very melodramatic country, full of stark contrasts between exoticism/mystery/beauty and destitution/pain/cruelty. BUT. I *never* (by which I mean only once, in "The Man Who Fought Alone") draw consciously on personal experience when I write. I don't base characters on people I've known; I don't base settings on places I've been; and I certainly don't base situations on problems I've experienced (not in any literal sense, anyway).

Yes, the Hindi (or, more properly, Sanskrit) names for the Ravers are deliberate. Moksha, turiya, and samadhi refer to various states of enlightenment. This reflects how the Ravers think of themselves. Their other names reflect how other people think of them.

(04/14/2004)

Johan:  I once read an interview with you where you said that after each major undertaking (such as writing the GAP series), you were burnt out, and needed lots of time to get back in "normal" working shape. Do you have a special strategy for recovering from such exhaustions, or how do you manage to get back once again for another extremely lengthy and intense project?

I wish you all the best for your ongoing project!
My method for recovering from creative exhaustion has several stages. First, of course, I collapse. I simply don't have the courage to write ANYthing. But after some time (three months? six? a year?) I begin to feel capable of writing something short; something that I can actually imagine finishing. So I spend another unspecified period of time writing short fiction (hence my two collections, "Daughter of Regals" and "Reave the Just"). During that time (and I cannot explain this) I begin to feel that it would be important to write a mystery novel (hence the four "The Man Who..." books). And somehow working on a mystery novel helps me feel brave enough to tackle another big project.

For close to 30 years now, this sequence has been perfectly consistent.

(04/14/2004)

Tracie (Furls Fire):  "Wrestling with an Angel of the Lord." Oh, Mr. Donaldson, my gratitude and appreciation for your work has just been increased 100 fold. I have been patient for the last 20 years waiting for the rest of this amazing and heart-wrenching story. So, I can wait however long it takes for its finish. As a reader of fantasy, I've spent the better part of my years waiting for books, (yours included, back in the early 80's) sooooo, it's nothing I'm not used too. <smile>

My mind is full of plot questions for the new books, but I know you can't answer those. (Not sure I would want you too either!)But, I would like to ask you this. If you were to start all over from the beginning, would the choice of Covenant's disease still be leprosy? Or would you go with the socially devastating disease of AIDS? This question has also been kicked around a bit on the Watch. It would be great to hear your thoughts.

Thank you so much for answering my previous question! And since you don't really know what his "bane" is, I'm going to stick with my earlier claim and go with the Stone. I love this stuff! <smile>

Peace,
Tracie
If I were starting all over again now, would Covenant's illness still be leprosy? I'm not sure that question has a meaningful answer. If I were starting all over again now, I would be a different person (and writer) than the man who wrote the original "Chronicles." I might not write those books at all. But consider two things. 1) Where I grew up, leprosy was extremely familiar. My parents worked in a leprosarium. They hired lepers. I encountered them every day. Even today, my personal knowledge of, say, AIDS is trivial compared to my knowledge of leprosy. 2) In the context of the original "Chronicles," leprosy "works": it has an organic relationship with the characters, the themes, and the world. A different illness would demand a different story: different characters, different themes, different world. And (see (1) above) a different writer.

As a side note: this appears to contradict an earlier answer in which I claimed that I don't base my writing on personal experience. That remains true even where leprosy is concerned. I was "familiar" with it; but I was a kid, and I never gave it a moment's thought. Covenant--and, by extension, the Land and the first "Chronicles"--is based, not on my experience, but on my father's. He was the one who knew and cared what it was like to be a leper. And he supplied me with all of the "facts" I needed for my story.

(04/14/2004)

Anonymous:  Come on. Do you *really* base nothing on personal experience?
OK, I just remembered another exception. Haven Farm is explicitly based on Anchorage Farm, the place where I lived when I wrote the first "Chronicles." (I wrote the trilogy in an actual garret.) I had never written fantasy before, and I needed, well, an anchor.

Incidentally, Anchorage Farm no longer exists. It was bulldozed for a housing development years ago.

(04/14/2004)

Esther Freeman:  I have read that you wanted the 2nd Chronicles to be four books, but the publisher insisted on three.

To make three books out of four, did you cut large sections? If you did, I would really like to read the original version.
Or did you divide the four books into three larger ones with the ends of the books in different places? In that case, where were those endings originally?
Or was this decision made while it was still in outline form?
Yes, I planned "The Second Chronicles" in four books, but Lester del Rey refused to have it on that basis. With him in those days, it was a trilogy or nothing. However, his demand did not change my actual story in any way. If you look at "The Wounded Land" and "The One Tree," you'll see that each is divided into three parts. But "White Gold Wielder" is in two parts. That makes a total of eight. If I had been allowed to make the decision, I would have ended the first book after the soothtell in Revelstone, the second after the escape from the Elohim, and the third after the sinking of the Isle of the One Tree. But, as I say, my story remained the same: Lester merely insisted on a 3-3-2 trilogy instead of a 2-2-2-2 tetralogy.

Things became much more peculiar when the French published the first "Chronicles" as a tetralogy (!) and "Mordant's Need" as a trilogy (!!). Until the stories were completed, none of the books ended: they just stopped.

(04/14/2004)

Tom Cummins (TOM C):  Mr. Donaldson,

This is my first contact with you so I would like to thank you for the contributions you have made to my literary enjoyment. I anxiously await the release of Runes.

My question concerns fan fiction. I confess my ignorance with regard to how a published author might view the use of his or her characters and environments in this way. I contribute to a fan fiction site and I have been known to post short scenes on Kevin’s Watch purely for fun. I would like to know your thoughts on the subject. Is this a case of harmless fan flattery or do you feel uncomfortable with the practice?

Thank you very much for your time.
I'm sure every writer is different. Tolkien was notorious crochety about any "use" that other people might want to make of his work. But personally I always feel flattered when what I've written inspires creativity in someone else. When I was much younger, I wrote one entire novella based on Marvel's "Thor" comics, and another on Conrad's "Heart of Darkness."

Of course, there are moral and even legal issues to consider. The legal issues typically involve money. If you, or the fanzine, or the fan site, gets paid for any use you might make of my world or characters, you have a problem. That's a copyright violation--unless you happen to have permission from the holder of the copyright. (For practical purposes, the holder of the copyright is not me: it's my publisher(s).) The moral issues involve giving credit and accepting responsibility. As long as you make it clear that what you've written is based on *my* work, but that *you* (not I) wrote it, you're covered.

(04/14/2004)

Dustin A. Frost (Syl):  I know before you've stated that you are not a polemicist and you're just trying to tell a story, but when it comes to understanding the motivation of the characters or the "why's" and "what's," is it more important to take into account the logical series of events leading to an action or the ideas surrounding them.

For example, a much debated topic at Kevin's Watch is, "Was Kevin right?" Many have argued that Kevin made the wisest choice, stopping Foul from harming the Land for millenia. Others would argue that following Mhoram's example, even in the face of superior odds, a way could still be found to overcome foul without desecrating.
"Is it more important to take into account the logical series of events leading to an action or the ideas surrounding them?" Yes. Both. A good story is an organic whole, and the "events leading to an action" cannot be meaningfully separated from "the ideas surrounding them."

I look at the issue in a very different way. As I see it, my job is to communicate who my characters are and what they're going through as clearly as possible. It is *not* my job to decide whether what my characters feel and do is "good" or "moral" or "right." That, if I may say so, is a job for the reader. (In the real world, of course, some readers care and others don't.) Now, it seems to me that any reader who cares about what he/she reads, or about living a life consistent with his/her values, needs to ask her/himself questions like, "Was Kevin right?" I certainly do. But I ask myself that as a person. As a writer, I don't. Instead, I ask myself to understand and empathize with Kevin--which isn't the same thing at all.

(04/14/2004)

Matthew Reed:  While I love the Chronicles and absolutely can't wait for the new book, the Mordants Need series is actually my favorite of your works. I loved the characters and the setting and identified with Geradan more than I care to admit.

Do you think you might ever revisit Mordant? Maybe even if just in a short story?

Either way I hope you keep writing short stories, I love them and re-read Daughter of Regals and Reave the Just all the time. Thanks for entertaining me for the past 30 odd years. :)
Thank you! As it happens, "Mordant's Need" feels "finished" to me, so I will probably not go on from there. I certainly don't have any story ideas that would be in any sense based on "Mordant's Need".

Please accept my regrets.

(04/14/2004)

J.R.:  Why did the Urviles make Vain, when his purpose went directly agaisnt that of Lord Foul's who they serve?
The ur-viles created Vain *because* his purpose directly opposed Lord Foul's. Somewhere between the first and second "Chronicles"--we must assume--they engaged in a radical reinterpretation of their Weird. Hence the Despiser's attempts to destroy them in "White Gold Wielder."

It's possible the ur-viles realized that they represent(ed) what we might call an evolutionary deadend. It's like this: in the name of their self-loathing, the ur-viles serve Lord Foul, who desires the destruction of the Earth, and who will therefore (if he succeeds) bring about the destruction of the ur-viles. As reasoning goes, that's nice and tidy. But it has a flaw or two. As a form of suicide, it's quite labor-intensive, and demonstrably unreliable. And self-destruction is not the only possible response to self-loathing.

Conceivably the ur-viles were "corrupted" (in a manner of speaking) by the example of the Waynhim, creatures who clearly found a different use for their heritage of Despite.

(04/14/2004)

Arturia (Yorkshire):  I think I read somewhere that the Last Chronicles involves the corruption of Time. Presumably Foul has found a means for this particular corruption (with all this corruption around, I think we need Serpico on the case) because Covenant became, to all intents and purposes, the Arch of Time; following his immolation in the Banefire, he became an amalgam of venom (I almost submitted this having typed "Vernon" - doesn't sound too scary to me!) and white gold, not dissimilar to the way in which Foul was able to corrupt the Earthpower following the destruction of the Staff of Law.
In the 2nd Chronicles, a vital support had been removed (the Staff); in the latter, the support has been weakened by the amalgam of venom and white gold.
More my musings than a question I suppose, but your thoughts would be welcomed.
By the way, the whole series to date has given me hours of joy and escapism through beautiful narrative (sometimes my thesaurus is my only defence), thought provoking dialogue and dilemmas, and deeply thought out plotlines that make sense.
I can't really give you my thoughts on this without "spoilers." But consider this: when Covenant surrendered his ring to Lord Foul at the end of "White Gold Wielder," Foul's subseqent attack on him burned away the venom. Hence there is nothing inherently flawed about Covenant's role as the keystone/defender of the Arch of Time. (Yes, even granting that white gold is an alloy, and in the Banefire Covenant transformed the venom into an element in the alloy of himself. The venom still represented a danger--a flaw--which is why Covenant then gave up using power altogether.)

(04/14/2004)

Beverly (caamora):  Mr. Donaldson

I have been a devout fan since the first edition of Lord Foul's Bane was released and I cannot wait for the Last Chronicles. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing them!

My question: Thomas Covenant is one of the most unique characters I have ever seen. Was he inspired by someone you knew or met? How about Linden Avery?

As I mentioned in an earlier answer, no characters in any of my stories are based on people I've known.

(04/14/2004)

Phil:  I've just discovered your Reed Stephens books and I'm trying to read them in the "proper" order. Any comments about that series and/or advice on the best order to read them?
Mystery novels are supposed to stand alone, but--fortunately or not, depending on your point of view--I'm not that kind of writer. There is an underlying or sub-text story which unites the stories of the particular books; and so the order in which they are read *does* make a difference. The correct order is the order in which they were written:
1) The Man Who Killed His Brother
2) The Man Who Risked His Partner
3) The Man Who Tried to Get Away
4) The Man Who Fought Alone.

Incidentally, I didn't actually get to pick the titles of the first two: they were imposed on me by a rather inattentive editor. But by the third book I figured out how to make the "formula" work for me.

(04/14/2004)

Luke (Variol son):  You have often said when asked if you would write about any of the various races of the Land that you wouldn't as your work is story driven. However, you did for various reasons publish Gilden Fire, and I was wondering if there was a specific storyline/character/anything at all other than what took place in Gilden Fire that you would have liked to write, or would have liked to write in greater depth, but couldn't because it didn't drive the key story.
Sorry, no. As I've said elsewhere, "Gilden-Fire" was an aberration. It was a natural part of the original text of "The Illearth War." Lester del Rey convinced me to cut it out, for very good reasons. Well, there's nothing sacred about my outtakes, and I would cheerfully have left that material in my wastebasket. But Underwood/Miller, a publisher of collectors' editions, persuaded me that it would do no harm to make "Gilden-Fire" available to an extremely limited specialty audience. (My mistake.) Unfortunately, Underwood/Miller was a rather unsophisticated (albeit extremely honest) operation, and they sold the rights (which they did not own) to the Science Fiction Book Club. In fairness to Underwood/Miller, they did everything in their power to make the situation right. Nevertheless I was outraged by the idea that unsuspecting SFBC readers would pay $10+ for something that I got out of my wastebasket. So, in an effort to reduce the scale of the ripoff, I included "Gilden-Fire" in "Daughter of Regals".

As you can imagine, I've been aproached many times for Covenant/Land related stories--not to mention prequels--but I have no inherent interest in doing such things. In addition, I have no ideas which might persuade me to change my mind.

(04/15/2004)

David:  Will I ever be able to purchase the Covenant books on tape?

And what did you think of the film adaptation of the "Lord of the Rings."
As far as I know, the first six "Covenant" books don't now and won't ever exist on tape. However, there are plans afoot to release "The Runes of the Earth"--UNCUT--on CD. If that happens, and the (enormous) project makes a bit of a profit, other volumes in "The Last Chronicles" may follow.

In my opinion, the film(s) of Tolkien's trilogy are about as good as they could possibly be, given the constraints of commercial movie-making, and the inherent impossibility of accurately reflecting such books in a visual medium.

(04/15/2004)

David Bowles:  Upon reading the two chronicles for the umpteenth time, I was struck by the near epiphany that Covenant's paradoxical perception of the Land is identical to my own understanding of morality. Though I'm an atheist, I do not hold with those moral relativists who dismiss all morality as totally illusory: I understand and agree completely with their reasoning, but I simultaneously embrace an ethical system, as insane and indefensible as that might seem to my friends. But there, in the center of the paradox, I have found my balance, my purpose and sanity.

Do you by any chance view morality similarly? If it isn't graven in every particle of the universe or set up by some god, isn't ethical behavior, that which is good and right, essentially the Land for each of us?
As far as I can see, my personal views on "morality" or "the existence of God" aren't particularly germane. I did my part when I wrote the books. Thinking about them--if you choose to do so--is your job.

However, I will say that in my view the underlying purpose of all literature--and perhaps of all art--is to answer the question, "What does it mean to be human?" This question can be rephrased in dozens of different ways (e.g. What is the meaning of life? or, Why are we here? or, Who is God and what does She think She's doing?), but the point remains the same. To the extent that my books justify your questions, I'm pleased and proud. And I'm very glad to have readers as sensitive and thoughtful as you obviously are.

(04/15/2004)

Nark W, Tomlinson:  The Thomas Covenant series (which I first read starting in 1977) has profoundly affected me, as well as proving to be vastly entertaining. Some of the 1-paragraph-or-less philosphical statements ("Peace, my friend. Do not torment me. I have already learned that I cannot be justified.") I have quoted (with credit!) on numerous occasions.

However, to be blunt, the Gap series left me feeling disappointed, to the extent of outrage ("I bought this because it was Donaldson! And it's %^&*!"). (Sorry, but it's bothered me for years, and I've finally found a way to communicate it.)

Number one, is that just me? And, number two, will "The Runes of The Earth" bring back the "operatic", if you will, Donaldson storytelling? I realize that time has passed, language itself has changed and the impetus of the author may well be different than it was almost 30 years ago. Whatever the case, I look forward to a return to the Land and the challenges that await us there.

Regards,

Mark W. Tomlinson
I've answered some of your questions earlier in this interview. But where the GAP books are concerned--

You are, of course, absolutely entitled to your opinions and reactions. I would (sadly, I admit) defend to the death your right to hate any of my books. But as far as I personally am concerned, the GAP books are the supreme achievement of my writing life so far. They are, it's true, less "operatic" in their methologies. But they are considerably more complex and subtle than, say, the "Covenant" books. And I believe that they probe more deeply into the nature of good and evil.

(04/15/2004)

steve cook:  having recently watched the movie version of 'lord of the rings' i noticed a lot of similarities between that and the first chronicles. am i losing it or did tolkien's work have any effect on your output. (i don't just mean that they both feature a ring).
love your work by the way and would love to see a film version of any of your books.

secondly there are also many paralells between mordants need and the chronicles. was mordants need some kind of re-write?
Actually, when I wrote MORDANT'S NEED I was trying to do a very different kind of fantasy than the "Chronicles": gentler and somewhat less magical, with a much greater emphasis on character and complexity.

Of course, Tolkien had an enormous influence on me. As I like to say, he made the kind of work I do possible, in part by re-creating an entire genre (epic fantasy), and in part by demonstrating the existence of a market. And in fact LOTR first inspired in me the *desire* to write fantasy.

When I'm asked to compare what I do to LOTR, I like to say that I'm playing in the same ballpark Tolkien did, but he's playing softball and I'm playing hardball. By which I do not mean IN ANY WAY to diminish or minimize LOTR. I'm simply pointing out a difference in the themes and intensity of my work.

(04/18/2004)

Peter Hunt:  Do your characters often do things that surprise you, taking the story in an unexpected direction, or do you keep them on a pretty tight rein?

I've enjoyed all your work immensely. I found the most recent Axbrewder novel *impossible* to put down, and I'm looking forward to the first installment of the Last Chronicles.
I'm glad you liked "The Man Who Fought Alone"! That's good to hear.

As I get older, I'm more and more often surprised by my characters--but not because they do things that surprise me, or because they take the story in unexpected directions. As I said earlier in this interview, I can't write at all unless I know exactly where I'm going, so unexpected directions (and, to a lesser extent, unexpected actions) are not an option.

No, my characters surprise me--how shall I put this?--by becoming more and more helpful. I mean helpful to me. More and more, they seem to materialize in the narrative for reasons which appear to be entirely functional (e.g. I need to have SOMEone standing right *there* or else *this* spot won't be in shadow) and local (once the moment in which that shadow is necessary has passed, the character who cast the shadow no longer has a role to play). But once they have materialized, they--apparently--decide to help out with the rest of the story as well, taking on depth and significance as they go along. I can almost hear people like, for example, Castellan Lebbick saying to themselves (after their intial function in the story has been fulfilled), "Oh, dear, it looks like our god (the author) really doesn't know what he's doing. I'd better get busy and help him out, or else this story is never going to work."

Of course, this is what people in literary studies would call a "conceit": a fanciful metaphor. Obviously everything that I write comes out of me. Therefore when I say that a character has surprised me I'm really saying that I've been surprised by the activities of my own mind. Nevertheless the conceit expresses a truth which the literal facts conceal: the work which my subconscious mind does on the story *feels like* it has arrived from somewhere outside or beyond my conscious mind; it *feels like* I've been handed a gift. As a result, these surprises are a humbling--as well as a gratifying--experience.

(04/18/2004)

Revan:  Hi! I was wondering which bad guy you've created is your favourite? I like Holt the best. And what character you've created do you hate the most?
I don't hate any of my "bad guys." If I did, I would consider that a failure on my part. As the author, it's my job to understand, and to empathize with, every character I create. But "favorite" bad guys? Well, I'm quite proud of Sorus Chatelaine. And I'm rather fond of Master Eremis.

(04/18/2004)

James Killeen:  Mr. Donaldson,
The thing that sticks out most in my mind about Thomas Covenant was his transformation upon entering the Land. It was a moment which was setup so beautifully. Will the new book explore the emotional wilderness of Covenant primarily, or Avery? And how much of a role will Covenant play in the new series? Hope you are well. Thank's for sharing your adventures with me. I'm glad to see you are still commited to beauty.
With newfound anticipation,
James Killeen
Well, with four books I'll be able to explore a variety of wildernesses. <grin> But, as you might expect, the story starts with Linden Avery. Who else *could* it start with?

(04/19/2004)

Jeff Smith:  First, a quick thank you. I've enjoyed reading your work through the years immensely! And, while I have a special fondness for the Covenant books, I find that my favorite is the Mordant's Need duology.

With that said, I would like to ask two related questions: First, how did you develop the idea for translating images through mirrors, which is, indeed, changing the very nature of mirrors as both a social and physical construct? Secondly, have you ever considered going back to that world to pen another tale? I, for one, would very much enjoy hearing more about that land and its inhabitants.
As I said earlier, "Mordant's Need" feels *finished* to me, so I have no plans to revisit that world in the foreseeable future. Sorry about that.

There is, of course, a tradition of "mirrors" in fantasy and science fiction. I'm thinking of books like "Through the Looking Glass" and (memory, don't fail me now) Vonnegut's "Breakfast of Champions." (Gosh, I hope I got that reference right.) But in my own thinking, the ideas for "Mordant's Need" started with Myers' "Silverlock." I was stunned by the lines, "Steeped in the vacuum of her dreams/A mirror's empty till/A man rides through it." That reminded me of Vonnegut's book, which in turn reminded me of "Through the Looking Glass." Then all I had to do was follow the suggestions those other writers had left for me.

(04/19/2004)

Mark Jeffrey:  Mr. D.,

First, thanks for the supreme reading experience of my life -- 20 years later, Covenent reigns unchallenged as my favorite of favorites, and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of Runes. :)

There seems to be a lot of themes of 'shared identity' throughout the series -- "You are the white gold"; Foul is Covenant's dark side, the side that despises himself. Foul is also the "brother" of the Creator. So, in a sense, they are all really One. This seems to be a rather gnostic or buddhist viewpoint (though i hate to label it like that) and the idea of these identities being separate is actually an illusion of the material world. Would say this is right, or rather your intent? And were these philosophical traditions the ones you drew on in constructing your mythos?

If anything, the tradition I was drawing on was Christian (because of my background in fundamentalist Christianity, not because I am in any useful sense a believer): the Trinity, God in Three Persons. Except I obviously wasn't thinking of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. More like Creator, Destroyer, and Holy Ghost (wild magic). Or Creator, Destroyer, and--what shall we call Covenant as the protagonist of the drama?--Acolyte. But you're quite right about the "shared identity" theme. I was explicitly thinking of the Creator, the Despiser, and wild magic as aspects of Covenant himself. And the part of himself which he denies--wild magic, his own personal power to assign meaning to his life and experiences--is the part which must mediate his internal conflicts (the struggle between the creative and destructive sides of his nature). Hence the thematic development from the first to the second "Chronicles." In the first, Covenant opposes his--dare I say it?--Dark Side and wins (an expensive--and temporary--victory). In the second, he surrenders to his Dark Side, and thereby gains the power to contain it (another expensive--and temporary--victory). "The Last Chronicles" will explore this theme further as Covenant's quest to become whole continues. (Linden Avery is also on a quest to become whole, but hers takes an entirely different form.)

My general view of the kind of fantasy I write is that it's a specialized form of psychodrama. Putting the issue as simply as I can: the story is a human mind turned inside out, and all of the internal forces which drive that mind are dramatized *as if* they were external characters, places, and events. This is easier to see in the first "Chronicles" because the story is simpler: the Land and everyone in it is an external manifestation of Covenant's internal journey/struggle. Everything is more complex in "The Second Chronicles" because there are *two* minds being turned inside out. Which means that there are actually three stories at work: Covenant's, Linden's, and the interaction between the two.

<sigh> And if I wanted to say more than *that* on the subject, I would write dissertations instead of novels.

(04/27/2004)

dlbpharmd:  Do you plan to tour to promote Runes?
Sadly, I *will* be touring in both the US and the UK to promote "Runes." (I say "sadly" because for me tours are arduous, lonely, and--in the long run--soul-destroying experiences.) But it's *way* too early to tell exactly where I'll be touring. Those decisions (in which I have no say at all) probably won't be finalized until a month before publication--which is currently scheduled for mid-October in the US and early November for the UK. (I say "currently" because they keep changing their minds.)

(04/27/2004)

David. G.:  What happens to bereks white gold ring? surely he would have passed it to his son damelon giantfriend and he would've passed it to his son so that all of the olds lords would have inherited it, but there is no mention of what happens to his ring, will there be an answer to this in the third chronicles?
Excuse me: does Berek *have* a white gold ring? If he does, it's news to me. Perhaps you would care to cite chapter and verse so that I can check the reference for myself.

(04/27/2004)

Sean Casey:  Stephen

Thanks for being a brilliant writer!

In the last year or so I've read your four detective novels (and enjoyed them immensely). I was quite amused by the fact that about 15 years passed between the writing of the last two, but only a few weeks had gone by in the story. This meant that while previously Mick and Ginny were ringing their answering service every ten minutes, they could now use cell phones. How did you feel about writing this? Why did you decide against having the last book set in the mid-eighties?
Clearly, there are anachronisms in the four Axbrewder/Fistoulari novels which will be obvious to any attentive reader. In fact, the four novels together appear to take place in less than a year of "internal" time; and yet they reflect a world going through twenty years of changes. This, of course, makes no sense--a fact of which I'm well (not to mention painfully) aware. But the simple truth is that I wrote them the way I did because I had no choice. Nothing external caused this: it reflects constraints within me, constraints which involve my reasons for writing the books.

This is difficult to explain. I don't fully understand it myself. But it's clear that the impulses which drive me to write mystery novels are fundamentally different than those which produce my other stories. And I do *not* mean that mystery novels themselves are fundamentally different than my other stories--although of course they are. No, I mean that mystery novels meet a unique need in me. On the one hand, they are more--you should forgive the term--autobiographical than my other stories; more private. (Private eye, get it? <groan>) And on the other, they serve a unique personal function: they consolidate what I've already done in my other stories, thus enabling me to write more of those other stories. Therefore I need them to be an expression of where I am at the time I write them--which, unfortunately, means that a number of years must pass in *my* time even though mere days or weeks have passed in the mystery novel's time.

Not a very clear explanation, I realize, but it's the best I can do.

(04/28/2004)

Peter B.:  First of all, let me thank you for all of your creativity and imagination through the years. Your stories and characters, especially those in the Chronicles, continue to touch me.

What are your thoughts concerning Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey and stages as it relates to the writing process? Author Neil Gaiman once said that he stopped reading Campbell's explanation of the steps because he didn't want to consciously be limited by them.
I don't actually have any thoughts on Campbell because I've never read him. I did, however, read an article in which he was quoted as saying something to the effect that there are no heroes in literature after World War I, and that if we want to understand "The Hero's Journey" in modern times we have to watch movies. I have nothing against movies, of course; but Campbell's assertion (always assuming that I understood it) was such rampant bullshit that the man lost all credibility with me.

(04/28/2004)

Daniel Fishback:  Have you ever thought of making a movie/movie series about any of your books? Although, a Thomas Covenant movie would be compared to Lord of the Rings in too many places so my personal oppinion is to make a movie of the Gap series.
Making movies isn't up to me. I don't happen to have $100 million just sitting around. But if I *did* have the money, and could choose which of my books to film, I wouldn't choose "Covenant." Too complex; too interior; too operatic. Personally, I think "The Mirror of Her Dreams" and "A Man Rides Through" would make good movies. The GAP books also have possibilities; but my second choice would be to expand a novella like "Penance," "The Killing Stroke," or "Daughter of Regals."

(04/28/2004)

Drogo:  G'day Mr Donaldson. Thank you sharing you worlds with us. Can you describe your writing day/week to us?
Well, I'm a very emotional, intuitive, and (secretly) dramatic guy; so in an effort to keep my balance I treat writing like "a job." I get up at 6am, get into my office by 8, take an hour for lunch, and quit at 5pm. I don't work weekends or evenings. I take vacations.

Of course, the amount of actual writing that I get done while I'm in my office varies a lot. This is due in part to unreliable levels of mental acuity, and in part to interruptions both practical (e.g. my car breaks down) and personal (e.g. someone I love needs me). But I stick to it as if it were what people persist in calling a "real" job.

Incidentally, reading is a crucial part of writing. I think it's fair to say that people who aren't dedicated readers don't amount to much as writers. I call the process "filling my head with words," but what I mean is that other people's creations spark my own creativity.

(04/28/2004)

Darth Revan:  I was wondering... because I've had several discussions on this topic with my fellow members on Kevinswatch, Who is the "Dark and Hungry God" that you call book three of the Gap series? I think it's Holt. But others think Joshua.

If it is Holt. Then why is it called "Dark and Hungry God Arises?" Because he doesn't actually Arises... He has already arisen. He doesn't actually arise to anything.

Thanks for listening. - Darth
It's a bit embarrassing to admit this, but sometimes titles are more intuitive than literal. Ferinstance, what *exactly* is the "forbidden knowledge" in "Forbidden Knowledge"? Have fun with that one. But working backward in the GAP books, "This Day All Gods Die" clearly refers to--gasp!--both Holt Fasner and Warden Dios. Joshua isn't really a candidate, except in the sense that "transformation" (and Angus *is* transformed) is a form of death. So the "Dark and Hungry God" must be either Holt or Warden. Both of whom have literally already "arisen" before the story begins, but who "arise" to prominence *within* the story in book three. And of those two, Holt is plainly darker and hungrier than Warden.

Strangely, there is a bookstore where I live that uses title abbreviations on their price-stickers; and the abbreviation this store used for book three was "Dark and Hung."

(04/28/2004)

Thomas Ferencz:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

throughout the Chronicles Lord Foul behaves like a "local villain"; he seems to concentrate on the Land, and seemingly people outside the Land do not know much about him, although he has a status of the Creator's brother, a god himself if you like. Was this concious planning on your side all the time, or maybe the Erath just expanded as your story evolved and you did not want to make Foul more "universal"?

Another question:

The two cosmogonic myths in the story, the Creator forming the Earth and the Arch, making the Rainbow and sealing it, and the myth of the Worm of the World's End seem to contradict - at least to me (the Worm isn't even a myth as we meet it "personally" in The One Tree). How would you reconcile these two facets of the same mythos to us?

Thanks in advance for your answers,

Amanibhavam
Ah, complicated questions. As if writing books weren't complicated enough. <grin>

Here's how I look at it: the Land is the main "arena" for a struggle which obviously has implications for the entire Earth. Clearly there are important side-struggles taking place elsewhere (I'm thinking of the peril Kastenessen was Appointed to stop). But clearly, also, unique beings like the Elohim are aware of the Land and Lord Foul. And the first six books hint in various ways that Earthpower (while arguably universal) flows closer to the surface, or is more accessible, in the Land than elsewhere. Hence the Land has become the main battleground.

Personally, I don't see any inherent conflict between the two main cosmologies presented in the "Chronicles." After all, life necessitates death. Anything that lives carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. (And our own bodies demonstrate just how *many* seeds there can be.) The alternative is stasis. Indeed, anything that doesn't both grow and die (usually in that order) can't really be described as being alive. So if the Creator wanted to make a living world, he pretty much had to supply the means for the eventual ending of that world. Hence, to my way of thinking, the tangible existence of the Worm of the World's End doesn't conflict at all with the general cosmology put forth by the Lords.

(04/29/2004)

Tim Barham:  I've always wondered how much thought was put in to the names of the characters in the Gap books. It seems to me that each one was very deliberately thought out and chosen for specific reasons. The implications of a name like Warden Dios or Holt Fasner are far to obvious to ignore. I was wondering what went in to choosing those names, and if you could indulge us with the background of some of them?
Very broadly speaking, I do names "by ear." I'm sensitive to the feeling and color (the "music," if you will) of sounds, and I want names that sound apt for the people, places, and things they represent. Then, assuming I can satisfy my ear, I look for names that have relevant meaning ("Sunder" in the second "Chronicles" is a good example), or that convey appropriate--if sometimes very private--suggestions ("Holt Fasner" in the GAP books: very few people will realize that the dragon who sequesters the ring of power in Wagner's "Ring" cycle is named "Fafner," but that detail was explicit to me when I chose the name for *my* Dragon).

But the GAP books are a unique case. There, for the only time in my writing life, the inspiration for the books started with names. One day the name "Angus Thermopyle" arrived in my head. For no apparent reason. But I chanted that name to myself like a mantra for six months or so, and then it was joined by another name: "Morn Hyland." So I chanted those two names until they were joined by a third: "Nick Succorso." The perfect story triangle: victim, victimizer, and rescuer. And the perfect opportunity to study how victim, victimizer, and rescuer can all change roles in the course of a story. That was the seed from which the whole GAP sequence eventually grew.

And throughout the life of the GAP books as I considered and wrote them, names played crucial roles as sources of inspiration and insight. Angus (bullheaded) Thermopyle (famous battle where a few warriors struggled against insurmountable odds). Morn (morning) Hyland (the Highlands of Scotland). Warden Dios (the caretaking, defending, imprisoning god). Godsen Frik (Hagen in my favorite recording of "The Twilight of the Gods" is sung by Gottlob Frik, and Godsen Frik is the "dark and hungry god" Holt Fasner's moral son). Lane Harbinger. Koina Hannish. Hashi Lebwohl. Sorus Chatelaine. Min Donner. Marc Vestabule. Vector Shaheed. The names positively *sing* to me, telling me who these people are, where they come from, what they care about.

In other words, I put a GREAT DEAL of thought into the names. But sometimes the "thought" was purely intuitive or musical rather than rational or explicit (Nick Succorso, for example, or Koina Hannish).

(04/29/2004)

Paul Mitchell:  Would you ever consider giving permission for other authors to use The Land as the context for developing their own additional, parallel or historical stories relating to the characters and races that you have introduced. I know that this has been done with Jack Vance's Dying Earth and probably many others, but perhaps it works for those settings simply because there is no strong temporal element linking event A to event B and so on. Not sure if I think giving permission would be a good idea, but has the thought crossed your mind (and has anyone ever asked - particularly in the hiatus between the second and third series?)

Thanks for all your books over the years!
That would depend on what the hypothetical you wanted permission *for*. Permission to write stories for your own pleasure and the entertainment of your friends? Sure, go ahead. Permission to publish stories set in my world, conceivably using or at least referring to my characters and my situations? Absolutely not. If you (still using the hypothetical you) want to make money or build a reputation, you should do your own work, not borrow mine.

(04/29/2004)

Derrik S:  I am wondering will the last chronicles be more like the first chronicles or the second chronicles?
(to make it more clear: at the end of each of the first chronicles, covenant goes back to his Earth. or is it like the second chronicles where the character stays in the land all throughout the trilogy.)
"The Last Chronicles" will be like the second, "through-written": one continuous story from beginning to end, with no interrupting returns to the "real" world.

(04/29/2004)

David Williams:  Hey Mr. Donaldson, I was wondering . . . What kind of music do you like? A Beatles man, perhaps? Heh heh. Take care!
I'm 95% classical music. And of that 95%, 80% is either piano music or opera. Still, even tastes as stodgy as mine do evolve. 20 years ago it was Beethoven and Chopin, Verdi and Wagner. Now it's Liszt and Dussek, Donizetti and Bellini.

(05/03/2004)

Lord Fool:  Mr. Donaldson,

It is mentioned earlier in this interwiev that you wanted "The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" to be published in four volumes; however, your publisher insisted on trilogy.

My question is: what would you have named the books? And, since you have already told us that Lester Del Ray made up the name of "Lord Foul's Bane", ignoring your opinion: are the names of the two last books of "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever" made by yourself, and if not, what would their names have been?
You know, my original four titles for "The Second Chronicles" must be buried away in my files SOMEwhere, but for the life of me I can't remember them now. Other than that: "Lord Foul's Bane" was pretty much Lester del Rey's title; he and I brainstormed "The Wounded Land" together (I wanted to call that book "Sunbane"); and the other four Covenant titles are entirely mine. As are all of my other titles, short fiction as well as books--with the exception of the first (and sort of the second) of my mystery novels. "The Man Who Killed His Brother" was *not* my title (mine was "City of Day/City of Night"), and "The Man Who Risked His Partner" was an uneasy compromise.

(05/03/2004)

Paul Mitchell:  Have your opinions on environmental and social issues (I'm guessing you have one or two like the rest of us!) influenced your approach to any of the six TC books so far released (or the latest)? I am an environmental consultant, so I have a tendency to project these issues onto everything including the kitchen sink, but it does seem to me that The Wounded Land has some parallels with the issues that modern and developing societies are now facing.

Thanks!
As I said earlier, I'm not a polemicist. In fact, I don't *believe* in being a polemicist. In my view, my imagination does not exist to serve me (or my opinions). Rather I exist to serve my imagination.

That said, I do try to put everything I have to work in the service of whatever my imagination has given me to do. And one of the things I happen to have is a visceral sensitivity to environmental issues. (I cannot begin to tell you how galled I feel by the knowledge that there is no place in this country so remote that a beer can hasn't already been there.) So it's not surprising that such themes crop up in my work from time to time. For example, I don't think it would be a stretch to view the Sunbane as analogous to toxic dumping.

(05/04/2004)

James:  Mr Donaldson,

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions, I appreciate the window into the thoughts behind the books.

From some of the comments on the web page about how you were intimidated by the Last Chronicles, I get the impression that the series is one you may grow into, or that you are writing even though you don't feel totally ready for it.

That raises the possibility that the story will surpass you -- if that happens, will you just finish the 'imperfect' version, having done the best you can? Will you sit on it for a while (Stretching out those already long 10 years!!) until you do feel ready? Or...?

I hope the question doesn't offend, I expect to thoroughly enjoy the Last Chronicles as they come out, but they sound like a formidable task.
The difficulties of the project--and my sense of unreadiness for it--will undoubtedly affect my "speed" as I write "The Last Chronicles." But I won't stop and sit on it at any point (except the in the sense of taking occasional--and relatively brief--vacations). Once I commit myself to a story, I stick to it (with one exception) until it's done. Everything that I've ever written is "imperfect." It has to be: I'm human. My standard is not, Is this perfect? but, Is this the best I can do today? And I revise a LOT, so that each sentence has been measured by a number of todays. After that, I accept the results and move on.

The exception was "The Real Story." That novella spent several years in a drawer after I wrote it, not because it was "imperfect" (although it was, desperately) but because it positively screamed at me that it was "unfinished". In other words, my imagination rather than my critical judgment was profoundly dissatisfied with the results.

So you can see why I don't normally put things in drawers. Novellas turn into pentalogies (sp?), and then I'm in real trouble. <grin>

(05/04/2004)

Rob:  A pet theory for you to gun down: Covenant begins the first chronicles by raping Lena. The second chronicles start with the rape of the Land and the Gap series starts with Angus Thermopyle..well - you know what he's like. In each case we then spend the rest of the story arc on a quest for redemption, either for the character or (in the case of the 2nd Chronicles) yourself. (I know several people who still haven't forgiven you for dreaming up the Sunbane and inflicting it on the Land!).
Given that, based on indications you've given elsewhere on this site, The Runes of The Earth is likely to be followed by nothing at all for at least 2 years can you at least offer a glimmer of hope that I won't be left suicidal by the end of it? If not I may have to wait until I can get the first two books together....
Well, "rape" is obviously a theme of mine. It's an apt metaphor for evil. Given enough time (and the inclination, which I lack), I could argue that virtually any act that might plausibly be called evil can be described as a form of rape.

But will you be left feeling suicidal at the end of "The Runes of the Earth"? I certainly hope not. It's not that kind of book. And in any case I don't actually want my readers to start killing themselves until after book three. <grin> But seriously: "The Last Chronicles" is structured differently than either of the preceding "Covenant" trilogies. Unlike the first "Chronicles," the story doesn't jump in and out of the Land. However, the pacing of the various crises is unlike the second "Chronicles".

(05/06/2004)

Luke (Variol son):  Thank you for your answer to my previous question. I must admit that the first chronicles was the first fantasy work I ever read that didn't leave me wanting to know more. When I finished reading it, it felt finished. Then I read Gildenfire and that destroyed my comfortable completeness. For some reason I now feel as strongly about the fidelity of the Bloodguard, the bravery of the Lords, and the survival of the Giants, as you appear to, and hence I have a nagging desire in the back of mind to know more about the mission to Seareach.

But enough rambling. I have always wondered about Elena's strange "other sight", and the way it was powerful when it came into focus with her normal sight. I always felt that this had to do with her participation in the Horserite of Kelenbhrabanal. Any comments on this?
I don't like to tell other people how to interpret my books. You read them: you have the right to think about them any way that suits you. But I will tell you that there's a bit more information about Elena and the horserite in "Runes". Perhaps that will shed some light on your question.

(05/06/2004)

Michael Rowlands:  Mr. Donaldson,
I read alot of sci-fi. One thing in particular that I enjoy are the alien species in them. Beyond the characters and the story of the Gap sequence, I found the Amnion to be absolutely fascinating; one of the most imaginative alien species that I have ever read. I have a number of questions regarding them:
1. What was your inspiration (beyond the dwarves in Der Ring des Nibelungen) in creating the Amnion?
2. Was Holt Fasner's long-term goal possibly the most effective way to survive against the Amnion?
3. Is it possible that the Amnion would eventually win against humanity due to that they pass on their knowledge so effectively?
Kind regards,

Michael
Ah, questions about the GAP books. What a relief. <grin>

1. Shapeshifters are common in science fiction and fantasy--although more so in fantasy. (Shucks, even good ol' Dracula was a shapeshifter.) But I've often felt that they were nowhere near as scarey--or as impressive--as they ought to be. Like the awareness of gravity, the perception of form is so deeply embedded in the human psyche that it's almost entirely unconscious. Surely, I thought, the violation (the--forgive me!--rape) of such fundamental knowledge ought to carry a tremendous emotional force. Yet in fiction it virtually never does. Most of us have an "oh, yeah, another shapeshifter" reaction. So I tried to do something about that. One of my many goals in the GAP books was to communicate, if I could, the real terror of losing form.

2. Undoubtedly Holt's long-term goal was/is the most effective possible solution to the Amnion problem--for him. But consider the implications for humankind of the sort of effective "immortality" Holt envisions. (And never mind the mere detail that we would cease to be who we are.) Egalitarian imortality might well produce a population explosion adequate to exterminate the species. And totalitarian immortality (which is surely what Holt desires) would produce tyrannies of truly staggering brutality. Face it: life *needs* death. The sooner we trick our way out of that fact, the sooner we can kiss our sorry asses goodbye.

3. Good question. I don't have a good answer. Deep knowledge and unwavering communal purpose vs imagination and mass production (of humans as well as of equipment). I predict a *very* long stalemate.

(05/06/2004)

Sean Casey:  Your current series is the *Last* Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and you've said that after that you plan to write another The Man Who... book - also the last in that series. Is it a coincidence that these are coming one after the other or is this a symptom of old age angst?

Also, how 'draft' is the draft version of the book cover? Do you like it? It looks very textured and much starker than any of your other books - which I think is interesting. It looks like something aimed at a more literary market.

Thanks and good luck with the new book.
Old age angst, probably. I've already outlived all of my known male ancestors by a considerable margin--and most of my known female ancestors as well (the ones who lived longer than I have fell into senile dementia at about my age). I'm very aware that time is running out; and I truly hate the idea of leaving stories unfinished.

The "draft" cover posted here (from my UK publisher) won't change much when it reaches its final form. (I've begged them to eliminate that reference to "fantasy events." Maybe they will.) It is intentionally a genre-bending design. I like that; and I like the design itself. But the picture posted here doesn't really convey the intended cover. For one thing, Orion hopes to print the cover on canvas instead of paper (or cardboard)--which will be nothing if not distinctive in a tactile sense.

The down side is that Orion's proposed cover doesn't "throw" well: it isn't eye-catching from across the room. But most people don't buy books from across the room anyway.

(05/06/2004)

Revan:  Hi! Thanks for answering my previous questions. :)

I was wondering how much power do you have over the titles and editing of your stories? If the publisher wants to change them, do you have to go along with them?
I tried to answer this question once before (well, I might add). But somehow my response was deleted. <sigh> I'll try again.

Here's how it works: the author has total authority over the content of the book, and editors (like Lester del Rey) who make changes which the author has not approved are in violation of contract; BUT the publisher has total authority over whether or not the book gets published. The existence of a contract guarantees nothing: the contract clearly states, "the author shall submit a manuscript suitable to the publisher." If the author submits an unsuitable manuscript (i.e. one that ignores the editor's requested changes), the publisher is free to cancel the contract. Fortunately, this seldom happens with fiction.

Titles are another matter. Since they cannot be copyrighted, they don't "belong" to the author in the same way that the text itself does. It used to be said that "It's a rare author who can call his title his own." In my limited experience, however, most authors have it their way most of the time. "Lord Foul's Bane" and "The Man Who Killed His Brother" are my only titles which were unilaterally imposed by my editor(s). And "The Wounded Land," "The Man Who Risked His Partner," and "Strange Dreams" all went through extended negotiations. All of my other titles are mine.

The exception to all of the above is what's called "work for hire." In those cases, the author agrees in advance to produce a work (usually novel or article) according to specifications provided by the publisher. The author receives a flat fee (no royalties or other income), and the publisher owns the work outright. (You can usually identify a "work for hire" by looking at the copyright information. If the copyright is in the name of a corporation instead of a person, that's a "work for hire"--unless the author has incorporated him/herself, which is possible, but which isn't common.) In those cases, the publisher can change anything at all: the author has no say in the matter.

I hope it goes without saying that I *never* do "work for hire".

(05/06/2004)

Nick G:  A quick thankyou for completing the Covenant saga. I've read a lot (read: too much) of fantasy and sci-fi, but whenever asked I point to you as my favourite author in both genres.

Will you be releasing limited edition signed prints (as you did for the gap series)?
There are plans afoot, but I don't know if anything will come of them. Keep in mind that I have no say in any of this. Such decisions belong entirely to the publisher. As it happens, Putnams has been approached by a publisher of signed limited editions (Hill House), and they may very well release such editions for some or all of "The Last Chronicles"--and, in fact, for some or all of the previous "Covenant" books as well. Or they may not. Hill House produces beautiful books, but the company is too new to have established much of a track record, so it hasn't yet built a reputation for follow-through. Only time will tell whether signed limited editions actually become available. And many such projects die for lack of sales. That's why Bantam/Spectra only released the first two GAP books in special editions.

(05/06/2004)

steve cook:  thanks for taking the time to reply to my first question (which came on my birthday!), i've since read that the question i put bothers you somewhat... god knows you must have fielded it countless times. so i've read pretty much everything on your web-site... and here's hoping i can avoid a repeat...
please tell me are we going to have to wait any longer for a release of "runes...." here in England? I fervently hope not.
p.s. have you ever heard the eponymous album by Mark Hollis (once of a british band Talk Talk) it's the sort of music i can imagine Covenant rambling around haven farm listening to.
Last I heard, Orion plans to release "The Runes of the Earth" in the UK early in November. That will be approximately 2-3 weeks after the US release.

Sorry, I've never heard of Mark Hollis.

btw, I didn't mean to embarrass you when I suggested that your earlier question bothered me. Some questions just make me squirm more than others. I intended my comment as a personal revelation, not as a criticism.

(05/06/2004)

Peter Purcell:  First, thank you for the Covenant series. I have read them many times - they are like old friends. I look forward to "The Runes of The Earth". [any possibility of posting an early excerpt on your web site?!]

Now to the questions. If Foul and Thomas Covenant are opposites where does the "Creator" fit in? Speaking of the "Creator", would you reconcile the "Worm of the World's End" creation ledgend with the "Creator" creation legend from the Land.

Lastly, tell me the giants will be back! Covenant's JOY at seeing them for the first time in the second series matched my joy at welcoming them back. I would miss them in the Third. [and perhaps the Ranyhyn as well!]
I'll have to consult with my publishers about posting an excerpt (or excerpts) from "Runes" on this site. They now own the right to publish the book, and anything which a) might be considered an enfringement on their right, or b) might conceivably be construed as marketting, requires their permission and approval. In other words, I can't promise anything. And I'm a bit uncomfortable with the idea myself. I don't want to give anything away.

Which is why I'm not willing to answer your question about the Giants. I work hard to build my stories (and their effects) in a certain way, and revealing anything ahead of time may undermine the actual experience of reading the book. I feel I've already given out too many hints as it is.

I don't see Covenant and Lord Foul as "opposites" at all. Covenant is more like the battleground where Lord Foul and the Creator carry out their struggle. As for reconciling the Lords' view of the Creator with the Worm of the World's End, I gave that my best shot in answer to an earlier question.

(05/06/2004)

Mike White:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

Several times in various interviews you have expounded upon the ability of the characters you create to surprise you - to grow in their capabilities and / or their character. My question - how do you define to what extremity you allow them to "grow" - do you have a defined sense of their capabilities, or do you allow them to move outside of your initial view of them?
Oh, I definitely allow them to move outside of my initial view of them. Saltheart Foamfollower's *role* in the story never changed, but his *effect* on the story increased exponentially as I "discovered" him. But that was long ago (the first "Chronicles"). These days my characters are free to take on new roles as well as new effects whenever they convince me that the change is appropriate.

(05/06/2004)

Mark Shaw:  In a purely physical sense how do you write your books, has the method changed over the years say from typewriter to word processor?? Has technology had an impact on the way you write?

I'm talking about being able to cut and paste whole chunks of text around or destroy it with the delete key, have the computer thesauras suggest alternative words, things like that??
Oh, I never use a thesaurus, computer-based or otherwise. But modern word processing technology has dramatically changed my writing life for the better. And I like to think that it has improved my writing as well. Here's what I mean. When I wrote the original "Chronicles," I used a typewriter; and when I was done--including all revisions--I discovered that I had typed 27 REAMS of paper. That's a LOT of typing. And I'm not a good typist, never have been: even at 40 words a minute, I make a lot of mistakes. But now, of course, I only have to type the story once. After that, I only have to type the changes. This saves me many hundreds of hours a year. Not to mention sparing me the sheer tedium of all that retyping. In consequence, I now do a great deal more revising. On a day by day basis, I can afford the time. And it's so-o-o-o much easier.

Sadly, using a word processor does *not* save paper. I've learned (the hard way) not to trust hard drives; so I print out hard copies frequently. But I feel guilty about that (wasting trees, you know), so I always print my own copies (as opposed to the ones I send to publishers) on the backs of other people's manuscripts. These have been sent to me by publishers seeking blurbs, and the publishers certainly don't want them back, so I "recycle" them.

Incidentally, I should probably mention that I compose at the keyboard. Always have. If I had to write a novel--or even a short story--longhand, I'd look for some other line of work.

(05/06/2004)

Aaron Kraemer:   HI my name is Aaron Kraemer and I am doing a class project on American authors. I chose you and one of the things I'm to do for the project is try to contact you and get a response. I have been all over the internet looking for a way to contact you and I finally found you. I also had trouble finding anything on your childhood experiences, so would you send me any information that you feel cofortable with regarding your childhood. I thank you for your time. I need a reply by 5/10/2004.
I'm sorry you had trouble contacting me. But you had reached me easily, it probably wouldn't have helped you. I'm a lousy correspondent. No doubt that's because I was forced to write letters home once or twice a week while I was in boarding school. Left deep psychic scars. <grin>

Anyway, all the information I'm comfortable with giving out is on this website. I hope you got what you needed in time.

(05/10/2004)

Steve Anderson:  Mr Donaldson,

I have been a huge admirer of all your works for many years, thanks.
I have often wondered to what extent ancient myths have influenced your work, it seems to me you have distilled certain elements of these from a variety of sources. I give some examples from Chronicles below, please say which of these have at least been a trigger in your work, or not at all.

The One Tree - Yggdrasill from Norse myth
Giants and Men - Norse myth
Lorik's Krill emerging from Glimmermere - Excalibur and the Lady of the Lake.
Covenant's ring - Wagner/ Tolkien
Covenant's death - the sacrifice of Christ
Vain/ Findail - Hermes/Aphrodite
The Sunbane - Biblical pestilence and plagues
Worm of the World's End - Numerous cosmologies
Elohim - the Gods in Homeric legends

many thanks
Steve
In a world where so much is written and--to an extent--known, it's difficult to be literate and *not* be influenced by sources in mythology. Of the details you list, only two were not suggested to me by the sources you mention. 1) I didn't have anything like "Hermes/Aphrodite" in mind when I envisioned Vain and Findail. 2) My source for the word "Elohim" was the Bible. Like Yahweh and Adonai, Elohim is one of the Bible's indirect references to God.

(05/10/2004)

Dustin A. Frost (Syl):  Something I should have done the first time I submitted a question - Thank you, Mr. Donaldson. Covenant, Foamfollwer, and Mhoram gave me some insight in times that I really needed some.

"However, I will say that in my view the underlying purpose of all literature--and perhaps of all art--is to answer the question, 'What does it mean to be human?'"

With this statement foremost in mind, I'd like to ask a few questions concerning the Forestal:

First, what is the difference to you between similarly natured beings like Tolkien's Ents or McKillip's Queen of the Woods?

Second, other than being descended from the Elohim's power, what is the significance of the Forestals' power being expressed through music?

Last, is there any chance of seeing another Forestal in the Last Chronicles?




Well, I haven't encountered McKillip's Queen of the Woods, so I can't comment on that. But the Ents are clearly natural beings (natural to Middle Earth, anyway) who have essentially the same relationship with trees that shepherds do with sheep. The Forestals, on the other hand, are not natural in the same sense. They were created by the sentience of the forests, using the natural Earthpower of the trees and the knowledge of the Elohim. To that extent, at least, the Forestals are more truly the servants of the trees than the Ents are. The shepherd is the "mind" which tends the sheep, whereas in the Land the forests are the "mind" which articulates itself--and acts--through the Forestals. Is that clear?

As to the significance of the fact that the Forestals express power through music: well, how else could they do it? Through flame and blade, as humans (in the Land) do? Unlikely--not to mention potentially self-destructive. Through physical action (as the Ents mobilize the trees)? Again, unlikely. The trees are the mind, and the mind--any mind--only acts through instruments (hands, legs, and all extensions thereof). Remember, this isn't an sf world. Concepts like ESP and telekenesis aren't options. In the Land, one being can only control or influence another through possession. So what's left?

Of course, this doesn't answer your question about "significance." But I don't ordinarily think in terms of "significance." I think about trying to tell the truth. I don't know of any other way to address the question, "What does it mean to be human?" And the truth here, as I see it, is that music is the most natural and appropriate way for the forests of the Land to express themselves.

As for seeing another Forestal in "The Last Chronicles": how is that actually possible? (No, don't tell me. I already know the answer.)

(05/13/2004)

Revan:  Did Thomas tell a Prophecy about the Second Chronicles?

I'm going to quote something I asked in a topic at Kevinswatch

"I was thinking that the lady with the beautiful smile that Thomas described, when talking about his time in the leper house has a connection with what happens in the second chronicles. The woman aways has a beautiful smile, even before she starts falling apart, and then, all of her gets destroyed, but the most beautiful part of her remains. (I have got a point to this) Elena or Mhoram preceed to say the Thomas is a prophet. And another lord goes on to ask if he speaks the future of the land. Mhoram and Elena say no, but passionately.

In the second chronicles the whole of the land is destroyed; but the most beautiful part of the land is still intact, Andelain. So Andelain could symbolize the womans smile, because they both remain intact, despite what is being done to the rest of the Land/face.

Am I the only one who has thought about this, or am I speaking a load of rubbish? What do you think?"

Did you do this Intentionally?
By defintion, anything that you find in any book--or any work of art--which sheds light on that work in your eyes is valid. So it isn't actually possible that you're "speaking a load of rubbish."

The practical fact, however, is that I did not imagine ever writing a second "Chronicles" while I was at work on the first. I didn't see that far ahead. (In contrast, I had "The Last Chronicles" quite clearly in mind when I wrote the second trilogy.) In that sense, I didn't intentionally try to make Covenant look like a prophet. But in another sense, of course, I did. Since the first trilogy already existed, I mined it for all it was worth when I wrote the second. So (to pick a more simple and concrete example) Sandgorgons exist in the second "Chronicles" because I mentioned them in the first; but when I mentioned them in the first, I didn't foresee their eventual importance.

(05/13/2004)

ghosa:  Firstly I'd like to say how grateful I am to hear that your continuing work on the thomas covent chronicles.

Secodly I'd like to ask you some questions concerning ravers.

1. I dont know If im right about this but, Is it correct to assume that within the three raver brothers there exists a kind of hierarchy itself? I ask this because of samadhi/sheol's role as the possesor of the na-mhoram in the second chronicles and his role as satansfist in the frist, also (I maybe wrong about this) but isnt samadhi the orginal possesor of the king who fought berek?.

Dont worry I wont trobule you to much more with my idle curiousness, just one more question concerning ravers.

2.When Nom the sandgorgon consumes samadhi and absorbs all the intelligence and knowledge from the raver, does this mean the raver is dead? or will the raver eventually corrupt the snadgorgons after thousands of years? (if sandgorgons livethat long).

thank you, I wait eagerly for 'runes of earth'.
Ah, Ravers. I don't see any hierarchy myself. (These aren't Ringwraiths, after all.) Perhaps that's because none of them have enough individuality or personal history to outrank the others. They started out as brothers, they became Ravers as brothers, and they serve Lord Foul as brothers. (See "Runes" for a bit more information on the subject.)

Samadhi, of course, wasn't *killed* by Honninscrave and Nom: the Raver was "rent," torn to shreds. Not the same thing at all, especially for a being which exists almost entirely as "spirit." So it seems natural--doesn't it?--that absorbing the scraps of a Raver would have a profound effect on Nom. But exactly what that effect might or will be I'm not prepared to say. However, you might ask yourself this: are the Sandgorgons inherently savage (and destructive)? or were they made savage by their imprisonment? or is the whole idea of their savagery simply a perception on the part of the vulnerable Bhrathair?

(05/13/2004)

Mark A. Morenz:  Hello Mr. Donaldson:

Thanks again for your brilliant work and for answering my queries (past and present).

All of these questions do tend to be repetitive, so I will try to break the cycle and ask something more bold: Can you please tell us about yourself?

While you've obviously shared much about your childhood/early adult years, your personal life since becoming an author is more of a mystery.

I might ask this because there is a proud scholarly tradition of enhancing one's appreciation of creative works (both fiction and historical "fact") by attempting to understand the personal milleu of the author themselves.

Or maybe I'm just asking because I'm nosy. :-)

Your art has obviously captured our hearts and minds. And of course it stands on its own. But you should also please feel free to share the occasional personal triumph/tragedy directly with your audience, too. After all, these days you could probably post an annotated grocery list and get an interested readership (witness the blog explosion).

Best Regards,

:-{)]



You know, I've never felt that my appreciation for an author's work was enhanced by knowing something about his/her life. Although there are exceptions: knowing a little bit about Sir Walter Scott's life has clearly increased my admiration for him. But by and large....

I think that my writing is more deeply personal than that of almost any other writer I know. (This, I suspect, is why readers either love or loathe what I do: you either respond to the exposure of such psychic depths, or you feel threatened by it.) Perhaps this explains why I feel a strong need to protect my privacy in other areas. Indeed, I believe that in a perfect world (by which I mean, The World According to Steve), all novels would be published anonymously, just as Sir Walter Scott first published his. (Of course, in The World According to Steve--which goes by the curious acronym TWATS--many things would be different than they actually are.) (And if that joke appears to be in bad taste, please accept my regrets.) So I will certainly never write an autobiography. And if a biography appears during my lifetime, it will almost certainly be unauthorized.

But if you're just DYING to know stuff about me: well, there's a certain amount of information available in the "background" section of this site. More specifically, the bibliography includes three "downloadable" articles, all of which contain some personal glimpses.

(05/14/2004)

Graham Ames:  First, I want to thank you for your amazing books. Oddly enough, I came across The Wounded Land first, and then had to travel "backward" to the 1st chronicles, and then "forward" again as One Tree and White Gold Wielder were published. Not ideal, but the effect of discovering the beauty of the Land AFTER confronting the devastation of the Sunbane has stayed with me all my life. Having read most of what you've written thus far, I draw a lot from your insights into personal motivation and its external appearance and how confusing it all can be. It's colored my own outlook, and given me a much deeper appreciation for not "knowing" what someone's thinking or feeling at any moment, even if I think I do.

After picking up Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlas Of The Land in the mid-80s, I've had a couple of questions nagging at me for years now. First off, it declares the Atlas is "Authorized" on the cover, but what to you think of this project? Second, I grew up in southern New Mexico, and have sworn for most of my life that places in the Land are based on features found in NM, and often "saw" the Land as I travelled around the area. Could that actually be the case?

Finally, thank you so much for the time and care which you apply to your craft. I have often wondered if there will be anything new from you coming out (and there will be -- hurrah!), but I'd rather have to wait 7 years from start to finish for something as amazing as the Gap, rather than have a hundred lesser-quality works from you in the same amount of time. I've lost interest in SO many "prolific" authors over the years, but I keep returning to your works time and again.
This seems like as good an opportunity as any to say to everyone who has posted questions and comments on my site: thank you! I value your good opinion of my work, and I will do my utter best to earn your continuing respect.

Now, about Fonstad's Atlas.... Well, I wouldn't have done it myself, but her work is certainly "authorized." In fact, I spent a number of hours with her, going over her work in an attempt to achieve a literal accuracy which I actually believe runs counter to the spirit of my work (or of Tolkien's, for that matter). (We could get into a long discussion here about the nature of communication through language, and about how that differs from, say, the nature of communication through visual images; but frankly I don't have the energy for it.) Fonstad tackled an impossible job, and I think she gave it a valiant and honest try.

But, no, sorry, none of the "Covenant" landscapes are based on landscapes in New Mexico--or anywhere else, for that matter--except in the sense that anything I see (indeed, anything I experience) has the potential to affect me subconsciously, thus shaping my imagination in unconscious ways. As I've said before, I don't write "from life." And that is particularly true of physical settings. I learned a long time ago that I can't write at all unless I have near-total control over "terrain" (in the broadest sense of the term). Which would be another long discussion for which I lack the energy.

(05/14/2004)

David Bowles:  We're all very much aware of the impact that myth has had on your work, but I specifically wanted to ask whether you've read any of the Hindu epics... I'm actually thinking of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Perhaps it's just me projecting onto those ancient works, but I see echoes of their images in the Chronicles (for example, the thumbnail-sized Valakhilyas that dance around Sri Rama in Dandaka Forest, begging for his protection- I couldn't help but think of the wraiths in Andelain). Anyway, I was just curious, especially given your other linguist allusions to Hinduism and your childhood in India.
I should probably try to dispel a natural misconception....

The fact that I grew up in India doesn't actually mean that I know anything about India. Speaking very broadly, missionaries loathe (which usually means *fear*) the cultures and peoples they're trying to "redeem," and so missionaries do everything possible to insulate their children from those cultures and peoples. We lived in walled compounds and went to school in walled compounds. The mission school I attended taught zero/zip/nada classes in Indian languages, history, philosopy, or religion. My childhood in India offered me many things, but what is commonly thought of as "knowledge" was not among them.

However, the college I attended (in the US, of course) had an extensive Indian studies program, and I used it to fulfill my "history" requirement. So I've read patches of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. But I can't honestly say that they influenced me on any deep level.

(05/15/2004)

James DiBenedetto:  You've already answered a similar question to this, but I have a different take on it. I know it's hypothetical because you've already said you won't do it, but, just "for fun" are there any other authors whose take on The Land or any of your other worlds you'd be curious to see?

In the same vein, are there any other authors' worlds that you'd like to write something in/for (based on your comments about "What Makes Us Human" I suspect we already know the answer to this one)?

One more quickie: have you ever been approached, or thought about, licensing any of your works to be used as a setting for role playing games? Mordant's Need would seem to be a perfect world for a fantasy RPG.
Please understand that I'm only talking about myself here; but for me, the whole idea of "using" someone else's creation is antithetical to the very concept of creativity. "Shared worlds" don't interest me at all on any level. So no, even hypothetically there are no writers whose "take" on the Land would interest me; and there are no writers in whose creations I would like to participate.

I've been approached many times about RPGs. When the gamers want to use my creations for their own private amusement, I give them an automatic Yes. When the gamers want to design a product which they could actually sell, I'm forced to refer them to my publishers (since my publishers hold the relevant rights); and my publishers always say No, typically by never answering the question.

(Now PLEASE don't ask me to explain the behavior of publishers. I have a hard enough time dealing with individuals. Corporations give me hives.)

(05/15/2004)

Scott R. Kuchma:  Mr. Donaldson ,

Can you give us an idea on how long it takes from the time we submit a question until you respond here on this Forum ? My first question seems to have vanished into the "Land" , so I'll ask a second and just wait.

I've been following the Q&A here and I don't think I've missed this one . You stated several times that the Last Chronicles will not bounce back and forth between the Land and Covenant's reality . Why then is the next book entitled "Runes of the Earth" and not "Runes of the Land" or have I missed the point altogether ?

Scott..................
Perhaps I should have called this a "desultory interview" rather than a "gradual" one. I answer questions when I can afford the time, and when I feel ready to tackle them. So some questions get postponed considerably longer than others.

I didn't mean "The Runes of the Earth" to be confusing. The "Earth" of the title refers to the Earth which contains the Land, not the Earth of our world. In the Land, the bones of the planet are striving to communicate in the only way they can.

(05/19/2004)

Harry Kanth:  Mr Donaldson, I want to firstly thank you for the gift of your works. I feel no shame in admitting that the Chronicles of TC helped support me through a difficult adolesence - something I had not realised until I started to read them again recently. I am really looking forward to reading the Third Chronicles.

My question(s) concerns the Creator. He has always been something of a figure on the edge of the story, perhaps because of his inability to intervene directly.
The explanation given by Lord Mhoram in the First Chronicle was that this was because direct intervention by the Creator would destroy the Arch of Time and so release Lord Foul to wreak havoc across the Universe. This always seemed to me in some way to parallel the impotence of people in The Land against Lord Foul by virtue of their oath of peace, something which Lord Mhoram realised,
Will the Creator also have a deeper role in the Third Chronicles now that Lord Foul is attacking the Arch of Time directly (by corrupting time as I read somewhere)? Will this involve him having to reconsider his own impotence?




Forgive me for repeating myself; but I don't want to talk about what is or is not coming up in "The Last Chronicles." I don't want to spoil anything for other readers; I don't want to create expectations which I may or may not be able to satisfy; and I don't want to commit myself to decisions which I might not be ready to make.

With that in mind, I'm uncomfortable with your parallel between the restrictions which bind the Creator and the Oath of Peace which at one time bound the people of the Land. Sure, both are voluntary commitments to moral principles. And sure, both restrict the options of those committed to them. But if a Lord (say) violates the Oath of Peace, he/she has only violated him/herself, his/her personal integrity. And if, in consequence, another being is harmed, that harm is a secondary effect of the essential violation. If, on the other hand, the Creator violates the restrictions which apply to all "creators," he/she/it has violated the creation. The Creator has *not* violated him/her/itself because the creation, in a fundamental sense, *belongs* to the Creator; and so the Creator can do whatever the hell he/she/it happens to feel like doing. But if the creation itself is to have integrity, then--having been created--it must be allowed to exist on its own terms. It must have "dignity": its beings must be free to determine the meaning of their own lives. For that reason, the Creator of the Land/Earth cannot interfere (reach through the Arch of Time) without effectively destroying the creation--i.e. without destroying the integrity of the creation, which comes to the same thing.

This moral distinction has already had profound effects in the "Chronicles." Doubtless it will continue to do so--if I (the creator of the "Chronicles") continue to respect the integrity of my creation.

(05/20/2004)

Scott R. Kuchma:  Hello Mr. Donaldson ,

Well , imagine being able to converse with the writer of the Thomas Covenant books , amazing ! I read the entire series each year and am very much looking forward to the next and last Covenant series . Well not as much to this being the last , but you know what I mean .

I am now trying to acquire the "The Man who..." series and found that the TOR Books have released them in your name and not Reed Stephens ! Why ? I also have been able to get the first , The Man Who Killed his Brother , in Paperback and the last , The Man Who Fought Alone (also in paperback) but the second and third are only in Hardcover with the third only to be released this November (2004) . Makes it a little difficult to maintain the flow . I haven't been able to locate the Reed Stephens published works anywhere .

I have read ALL your other published works and have enjoyed them all . Thanks.

I do see Kevin Spacey as Thomas in any movie deal .

Scott................
Thanks for your interest! I'm always pleased when someone reads an Axbrewder/Fistoulari novel (readers of those books being so few).

Meanwhile, publishers continue to be what they are: inexplicable. Ballantine published my first three mystery novels, but required the pseudonym ("Reed Stephens" was never *my* idea)--and then declared all three out of print and reverted the rights within a week of publishing book three, "Tried to Get Away." As a result, those three were unavailable for a decade. Well, since I didn't want the pseudonym anyway, when I wrote "The Man Who Fought Alone" I went looking for a publisher who would release all four with my name on them. Tor jumped in. But then they made their own inexplicable decision: they decided to release #4 first, followed at yearly intervals by !, 2, and 3. So as matters stand: 4, 1, and 2 have appeared in hardcover; and 4 and 1 have appeared in paperback. This fall, at about the same time "Runes" comes out, Tor will release 2 in paperback and 3 in hardcover. And a year later 3 will finally see print in paperback. Of course, God alone knows how long Tor will keep these books in print. Longer than Ballantine, I hope.

Meanwhile, the Brits (Orion) cleverly published a "Reed Stephens" omnibus at the same time as "The Man Who Fought Alone," and all four novels are now available in the UK in paperback.

(05/20/2004)

Peter B.:  You've mentioned that The Gap books are based, at least partly, around Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung. I believe you've even said that some aspects of The Chronicles are derived from Wagner. Have any other composers or musical works influenced your stories and do you listen to music when you write?
I listen to music constantly when I write. I create what I think of as a "cocoon of sound" which isolates me from the outside world and helps me concentrate. Toward that end, I have a stereo that can make semis stagger as they drive by.

Wagner has influenced everything I write, primarily (with the obvious exception of the GAP books) in a technical sense. Over the years, I've developed my own version of the "lietmotifs" which characterize Wagner's mature work. I'm sure most of my readers have noticed how words, phrases, and sentences tend to repeat throughout a given story. On one level, this expresses the attempts of my characters to make sense out of what's happening to them. On another level, it represents one of the several ways in which I strive to make sense of what's happening for my readers. It's my way of saying, "See, *this* connects to *that*--which in turn connects to *that*." And on still another level, I'm trying to increase the efficiency (and, by extension, the effectiveness) of my writing by using "signposts" or "reminders" instead of full-scale exposition (never mind endless dislogue) to develop my themes.

I hope it works.

(05/20/2004)

josiah:  I have kind of an odd question. Do you ever 'wonder' of the fates of characters and worlds you leave behind when the story is done? Like, whether Theresa ever went back and fixed things with her father (important to her, but not "book worthy" in and of itself), or if Morn ever was able to settle into a relationship, or if trauma from Angus' and Nick's treatment of her kept her away from love and physical contact?

On another note about the Gap series, did Morn love Angus? Towards the end of the series he did protect her, at risk to himself, and she had grown to trust him (more than anyone else could have trusted someone like him). She also knew that, in his way, he DID care for her and her son. When I say "Did Morn love Angus," I don't mean, did she want to leap into his open arms and fly off into the sunset, part of her, a large part, would always despise him. I meant, in your view, as their creator and their author, do you think at least a small part of her forgave him, and cared for him too?

An interesting question about Covenent: is The Land real? I assume it is, I'm sure all the readers assume it is, but, unless I'm mistaken, it was never actually stated that it was real. Thomas may have just excepted it as a place in his own mind, were he was not an angry, old leper, but rather someone who was able to help, and wanted to help (here i'm speaking of the last book of the first Chronicles, were he fought off the summons to save a child, then gave in to letting them call him into the land). Granted, the very begining of the second chronicles kinda dashes that to hell, but i thought i'd like to ask you about that anyways.

Also, will Thomas' ex-wife, or (i hope) son have any role in the upcoming books? And though I know their relationship was... taboo for lack of a better way to put it, I'd have liked to have seen Thomas and Elena stay togeather. Did a part of you regret writing her out, or do you wholey feel her death was nessasry, and her relationship with Thomas was simply a dead end?

In the above questions, that others have asked, i've noticed some of the fantasy fiction you've recomended, and noticed that a series I had finished short months before I picked up covenent wasn't there, so I thought I'd inquire: have you read Sara Douglass' "The Wayfearers Redemption" series, and did you like it if you did? I was very acustom to Tolkien style fantasy, so her world was very new, and very enjoyable to me (as was The World when I finally read Covenent).

In the Gap series, the physics of space flight, space travel, combat, etc, seemed so... real. Most Sci-fi (that i've seen/read) has either ommited such things, or has come up with cheap excuses to avoid dealing with them (Star Trek's 'Innertial Dampeners' are a good example of that). Did the reasoning behind the truer-to-life physics you used in the Gap come to you naturally (you accelerate, and are pressed against your seat, pressed harder of you accelerate fast, makes sense) or had you taken physics classes (or just have a friend perhaps, 'school' you in it for the sake of the novels) to make the Gap that much more real?

Lastly (lol, i truely appologize for such a long submission), as you are in ancreadible story teller, and an obvious fan of well told stories, do you ever roleplay? By that, I mean both videogames, in which you take on the role of a character, play through to save the world/humanity/the universe, and the story unfolds for you as you progress (one such game i played had a deeper story and more dialog than, say, Shogun, a 1000+ page softcover), or even table top, such as classic D&D. If you do or don't, what's your view on those kind of games? and would you, personally, like to see any of your works be turned into such games (though i think table top would be better, allowing for more detail, and a wider range of stories to play)?

dear lord, i did not realize i wrote so much! if you choose to answer this, and it's easier for you, i kinda sugest breaking it into 2 or 3 parts lol
Actually, you *have* asked quite a few questions; and some not easily answered. I'm going to tackle a couple of them here, and then I'll ask you to repost your other questions just two or three at a time. That way it will be easier for me to, well, make sure everybody gets a turn.

Now, do I ever wonder what happens to my characters and/or worlds after I leave them? No, I don't--but I'm not sure I can explain why. It has something to do with the fact that writing stories is (at least in part) a process of getting things *out* of my head. When I've done my job the way I think it should be done--specifically when I've told the story that came to me to be written as well and thoroughly as I can--that task is done; gone. It no longer engages my imagination. If it did, I would know that I hadn't done my job right. So I have no particular curiosity about, say, what happens to Angus or Morn.

Did Morn love Angus? Not by any definition of "love" that I'm comfortable with. He did her too much harm, and that kind of damage lingers. But "grudging respect"? That's certainly a possibility. After all, he eventually became a man who "played straight" with her; a man upon whom she could rely--in the context of their shared predicaments. For him, that was a huge change. And she was clearly capable of recognizing the value of that change. But love, it seems to me, requires something a whole lot deeper and broader than just, "He did what I hoped he would do in a crisis." In fact, I would stop short of saying that she forgave him. Why should she? And why would he want her to? But I do think she came to accept both him and what he had done to her; and *that* I consider a huge personal victory.

More later....

(05/20/2004)

Darth Revan:  How often do you visit KW?
Ordinarily I would consider this question an invasion of privacy. But Kevin's Watch is a special case; so I'll try to explain why I don't visit very often.

1) For some reason (technophobia, perhaps, or an extremely specialized sense of curiosity), I don't "hang out"--or even browse--on the web. I can't find things easily, the commands never do what I want them to, and I quickly lose interest.
2) Writing, as I'm sure you realize, is a very private occupation. I do it totally alone. So when I'm not writing, I want *people." The (admittedly very human) interactions which can occur on the web are too intangible to meet my needs. Even if we all had cameras and could look each other in the eye while we typed our exchanges, I would find that too, well, *removed* to feed my hunger for people.
3) And then there's the problem that doing anything on the web usually involves typing; and I already do more than enough of that. I'm neither an accurate nor a fluent typist. And any form of writing seems to require irrational amounts of thought. As a result, interacting with anyone on the web--or with the web itself--is, well, "too much like work."
4) Plus there's the complex problem of ego. Of course, I have as much ego as anyone else. But I've learned over the years that my ego gets confused easily. And the kind of writing I do (the kind that has attracted the attention of the members of Kevin's Watch) is NOT a function of ego. At its best, it is almost entirely devoid of self. So going to places where people take my work seriously and talk about it alot can create ego-confusion. (Hmm. That probably isn't clear; but it's the best I can do tonight.)

Anyway, the point of all this is: don't take it personally.

(05/20/2004)

Renny Richardson:  Mr.Donaldson

like many others your tales have had a deep effect on me and I have returned to them many times over the years.So much so that my eldest daughter was named Hollian when she was born as a living reminder of the beauty of the Land and it's people.

my question is simple really:have you started work on volume 2 yet?And if not,why not?lol

thanks and regards

Renny
No, I haven't yet started work on "Fatal Revenant"--except to the extent that I've been planning the whole project for actual decades. The reason is simple: my publishers are in a tremendous hurry to release "Runes," and so they need me to do things like revise the manuscript, check the copy-edited manuscript, and proofread the finished manuscript *very* quickly, and with little or no "free time" between tasks. As a result, I haven't had a chance to even think about starting book two.

Life isn't normally like this. If my publishers were not in such a hurry, I would have lots of gaps between assigned tasks. Under those circumstances, I would certainly have started on "Fatal Revenant" by now.

(05/20/2004)

Harry Kanth:  Hello, Mr Donaldson! I have a question about White Gold. Why did you decide to use this as the key element representing or channeling wild magic in the Land?

Secondary reasons: 1) I *like* white gold; and 2) it's different than Tolkien. Primary reason: I needed a material which would plausibly be beyond the capabilities of a non-technological world (although of course they do make swords and stuff), a material literally not found in the Land, and white gold (being an alloy and all) seemed like a reasonable choice.

Then how, one might well ask, do the people of the Land even know about white gold? Prophecy, lore, myth, take your pick.

(05/27/2004)

Todd Haney:  Finally! The wait is nearly over! Next to waiting for Stephen King to finish The Dark Tower, my other wish was always to see just a bit more of the Land--sounds like it's coming with a vengance!
I've started on Man Who Fought Alone before finding out it's one of the latter books of the series, but I can't stop now! You have a way of creating the most noble SOB's in fantasy/science-fiction (Covenant, Angus, and now Brew). You make me want to follow them wherever they go, no matter how horrifying it may get.
Thank you for creating such compelling characters and plotlines. The Runes, I'm sure, will follow in this tradition.
A question about covers--What is up with the SFBC's collection of the Second Chronicles? As far as I can tell, it has almost nothing to do with the tale contained within.
Thanks again for providing years of fine entertainment!
Generally speaking, SFBC covers are a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Back in the day when I was acquainted with an artist who actually did SFBC covers (at least 25 years ago), I was told that the artists were not *allowed* to read the book. Instead they were sent 1 or 2 pages of the manuscript with a paragraph circled which they were supposed to turn into a cover scene. Hence the truly extraordinary art on the SFBC's first edition of "Lord Foul's Bane." In the case of the present omnibus editions, the artist (?) may have said, "Oh, I read those years ago," and relied on his/her (faulty) memory to produce those, well, unique images. Or not: I'm just guessing.

(05/27/2004)

Vain:  A shade over two years ago we took the old Kevins Watch discussion forum, dusted it off, and breathed new life into it.

Little did we know then that we would be honoured by your kind gesture to recognise the Watch as the official discussion forum.

On to my question though: I am interested in understanding what part the internet will have in further promoting your works - do you see it as a valuable marketing tool or simply as a means to stay in touch with your readers?

For myself, the chief value of the internet (aside from research) lies in allowing me to engage in a dialogue with my readers. For my publishers? Well, I'm not sure they quite know what to do with the 'net. Of course, they maintain web sites of varying quality. But they don't yet appear to have a coherent strategy for using the 'net to promote books, mine or anyone else's. Perhaps they do--or will--rely on the kind of service Amazon.com provides (readers reviews to help buyers make informed decisions--which is more than you can hope for from bookstores these days).

(05/27/2004)

Don (dlbpharmd):  How did you choose the name "Covenant"?
A couple of people have asked this. Remember, I was raised and educated (through 11th grade) by Christian fundamentalists; so naturally I was thinking of the profound differences between the Old and New Testaments, specifically as those differences pertain to the relationship between God and Man (forgive the male word Man: it's appropriate in this context), the "covenant of law" versus the "covenant of grace." That this is apt won't surprise anyone familiar with the Bible. The "old" Thomas Covenant can't survive unless he abides by the strict rules of his illness (hence his Unbelief, his rigidity, his difficulty giving or accepting forgiveness). The "new" Thomas Covenant finds the grace/love/open-heartedness to transcend his old laws.

But I hasten to add that while all this is very "Christian" in its sources it is by no means "Christian" in its application and development. It was a natural starting point for me, but I have taken it in directions which would doubtless have horrified the missionaries of my childhood.

(05/27/2004)

Sean Casey:  Stephen, I'm sure I speak for all of your readers when I say that we're deeply appreciative of the chance to communicate so directly with you. Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions asked (or the ones that appear on the site, anyway!). I was wondering what you feel you get out of this communication. Do you enjoy it, value it, feel challenged by it, feel obliged to do it? (Not sure if that's one question or four...)

Also, my compliments to the web master: this morning I sent a comment about preferring the month-by-month breakdown of the gradual interview; when I logged on this afternoon: voila! There it was, restored to its former bite-size glory.
Well, I'm not sure I would use the word "enjoy." Answering all these questions is a bit too much like holding my toes to the fire. <grin> But "value it, feel challenged by it, feel obliged to do it" all apply.

I value it because writing is such lonely work--and once books get written they take so *long* to get published. The sort of Q&A I'm doing here gives me the sense that I'm writing for actual people who appreciate what I do. That means a lot.

I feel challenged by it because so many of the questions force me to *think*--which is good for me on a number of different levels. Certainly the more thinking I do the more clarity I can bring to my work. And thinking counteracts the natural human impulse to function on automatic pilot.

As for feeling obliged, well, that's the kind of guy I am. I can hardly get up in the morning without turning it into a *duty* of some kind. Doubtless this is an arduous way to live, but it's so deeply engrained in my personality that I can seldom turn it off.

btw, my webmaster looks at all these questions, so he has already received your compliments. I'm sure he appreciates them. If he doesn't, I'll appreciate them on his behalf. <grin>

(05/27/2004)

Tracie (Furls Fire):  You never use a thesaurus?? My goodness!! You mean all those beautifully huge and complicated words are in your head?? I am now in utter awe of you, not that I wasn't before, but man oh man if there is a threshold for "awe" I've just been pushed over the edge! A true wordsmith you are, Mr Donaldson. {big smile}

Oh, and Happy Birthday to you on the 13th!! Be well and happy!

Peace,
Tracie

PS. You don't have to respond to this. It was just a moment of mush on my part and I just had to pass it on to you. {big smile}
Certainly I'm glad for all the "mush" I can get. <grin> But don't give me too much credit. I compile word lists almost obsessively. Especially when I'm reading writers whose prose avoids the "modern" flavors we're all so familiar with. Good ol' Sir Walter Scott has been a veritable cornucopia of words: "oast," "eyot," "dromond," "surquedry." And I add to my list from such diverse sources as China Mieville, Steven Erikson, and John Crowley.

(And yes, just in case you were wondering: I do use the OED, complete with magnifying glass.)

(05/27/2004)

Peter B.:  Although this is not my first time submitting a question I would like to thank you for the opportunity to communicate with you. It is very generous of your time and energy, and is much appreciated.

Runes is now listed on Amazon.com with an October 14 release date and 496 pages. Is this accurate? Also, will there be a "What's Happened Before" section summarizing the previous novels, a map, or Author Note in the upcoming Runes?



October 14 should be reasonably accurate. 496 pages is just an approximation. I'll be surprised if it isn't longer.

Yes, a summary of the previous books (affectionately [?] known as WHGB, What Has Gone Before) will be included. It is entirely different than the summaries in the previous books. And yes, there will be maps--although they may not be quite what you're expecting. No "author's note": I hate writing such things almost as intensely as I hated writing WHGB.

(05/29/2004)

David Booker:  When my warm and tender-hearted daughter turned 14 or so she picked up my well-worn copy of Lord Foul's Bane and began reading.

A few days later she burst into our living room with tears running down her cheeks and sobbed "Dad, he turned Hile Troy into a tree".

While I'm sure that at that time in her life Stephanie missed many of the subtle points and messages you convey in your works, I think she held Hile Troy's transformation against you for some time after that time.

The question? Well, Stephanie is a bit older and wiser now. She went off to college this year and is majoring in journalism. However, these many years later she maintains that Hile Troy is one of her favorite characters in literature. So, for Steph. Gived us an anecdote or some insight on writing this fascinating character.
I'm not sure how to react. I'm touched that your daughter cared enough about Hile Troy to cry over him. But I'm also baffled: he didn't fascinate or move *me* to the same extent. And I'm a bit troubled that a 14-year-old was reading "Covenant" in the first place. I didn't intend the story for someone so young. Doubtless she's been traumatized for life, and it's ALL MY FAULT. <grin>

Frankly, I conceived of Hile Troy as an antidote to WhyDoesn'tCovenantGetOffHisButtAndDoSomething-itis. I was acutely aware that many of my readers, especially readers with a background in traditional sword-and-sorcery, would be very impatient with Covenant's ambivalence. I wanted a chance to discuss the implications (by which I mean the dangers) of *not* being ambivalent; and I created Troy as an exemplar of everything Covenant is not. You see the results. The only reason Troy didn't effectively destroy all of the Land's defenses is that Mhoram created an opportunity for him to sacrifice himself instead. Whatever the "answer to evil" may be, it cannot involve Hile Troy's unwillingness to question his own assumptions. Just try to imagine what would have happened to the Land if Troy were the ring-wielder.

(05/29/2004)

dlbpharmd (Don):  Have you had an opportunity to review the "Dissecting the Land" forum on kevinswatch.com? If so, what do you think of the detailed, almost rabid way your fans examine every minute detail of your work?
I've had occasion to glance at some of the "dissecting" threads on KevinsWatch.com. Frankly, I'm flattered. FINALLY (or so it seems to me) I have readers who are willing to put as much thought into reading my books as I put into writing them. When you spend as many hours laboring over every aspect of a book as I do, you're just plain *grateful* to be read with such attention to detail.

(05/29/2004)

David Wiles:  Dear Steve; I hope this finds all is well. Thanks for everything. Steve, I was wondering if you have ever had the chance to sit with a group of people and tell your short stories. If I could draw an analogy, think of Atiaran as she retold the Legend of Berek Halfhand to the stonedown or Foamfollowers tales. He did say that joy is in the ears. I picture a small outdoor setting far from any noise or disturance. Thanks David Wiles
It's hard to explain; but I'm not really an oral storyteller. In some fundamental sense, storytelling is a "manual" process for me. If I'm not writing, I can hardly think; and if I'm not writing at a keyboard, I can't think fluently. My kids used to ask me to make up bed-time stories for them, and I just couldn't do it. Which is a bit surprising, because in other ways I'm very oral (by which I mean I've been known to talk a LOT), and I've been told that I talk *about* writing eloquently. But on some level speech is an exercise of intellect for me: imagination flows primarily through my hands.

(05/29/2004)

Kim Coleman Healy:  Are you familiar with Cordwainer Smith's work, and especially the short story "Scanners Live In Vain"? Though it's SF rather than fantasy, it has some interesting resonances with the Covenant mythos. The Scanners, who are surgically modified for space travel, experience sensory losses even more pronounced than Covenant's losses to leprosy (and monitor themselves and their crews by a VSE-like method); and they make a commitment as irrevocable as the Bloodguard's, though it doesn't make them even conditionally immortal.

I'm wondering if these similarities are by design.
I read that story an exTREMEly long time ago, and it did not affect my writing of "Covenant" on any conscious level. Unconscious levels are, of course, well, unconscious, so I don't know what happens there.

(05/30/2004)

Peter Purcell:  Thank you for answering my last questions and for considering my request!

The Creator is a very interesting character. One of his comments discusses the Power and Impotence of Creators - plural. At the end of the first trilogy he talks about the rules of the "real" world and his ability to heal Covenant of the snake venom due to the "special" circumstances. Did the "Land" world Creator get permission from the "real" world Creator? It would be interesting to pursue the relationship between the two Creators. Have you considered this line of thought?

Do you have a background cosmology fleshed out ala the Tolkien notes that became the Silmarillion?

Lastly, I found Nom's "rending" and consuming of the raver very interesting (and gratifying.) But I wonder - Nom got power from the consuming (as if he needed more!) and knowledge. Is it possible that he might also be "infected" by the evil of the raver? A raving sandgorgon - now that would be frightening!!
I think it's safe to say that *I* was the only other "creator" that the Creator of the Land/Earth had to deal with. And no, sorry, I don't have anything resembling a Tolkien-esque background or cosmology fleshed out for the "Chronicles." I've never been able to compete with Tolkien in that kind of world-building. Since what I do is almost exclusively story-driven, as a general rule I don't try to figure out anything I don't need for the story at hand. I find that this approach leaves more doors open for things like "The Last Chronicles."

And sorry again, I either can't or won't (you'll have to figure out which for yourself) answer your question about the effect of ingesting a Raver on Nom. If I can't, it's because I don't need to (see above). If I won't, it's because the answer would be a spoiler.

(05/30/2004)

Peter B:  What is your philosophy or attitude toward literary criticism and praise as it relates to your work and how has this changed over time? The UK draft cover of Runes has a VERY complimentary aspect to it, one that may or may not make you squirm even as it congratulates.

Peter
David Frost once said, "When a writer asks for constructive criticism, what he really wants is a few thousand words of closely-reasoned adulation." Well, I have as much ego as anyone else. But for that very reason--I tried to explain this earlier in the interview--I distrust literary praise. And I did more than squirm when I saw the "comment" on the UK draft cover for "Runes": I screamed aloud. Fortunately, that was a *draft,* not an actual cover. Unfortunately, the actual cover has replaced the objectionable "comment" with an--to my mind--equally objectionable quote: "comparable to Tolkien at his best". <sigh> I've always disliked that quote. WHOSE best, I'd like to know? Mine? Tolkien's? And what is the *point* of these comparisons, I ask, since excellence is by its very nature incomparable? Comparing me to Tolkien is like admitting that I'm not very good. (But try telling *that* to a publisher....)

Literary criticism in the scholarly sense of the term is entirely another matter. In that sense, "criticism" means "analysis," and I'm always interested in hearing how other people analyse my work. If nothing else, it helps me understand how clearly--or poorly--I've communicated my intentions.

(05/30/2004)

appointed one:  what are the names of the last chronicles?
1 "The Runes of the Earth"
2 "Fatal Revenant"
3 "Shall Pass Utterly"
4 "The Last Dark"

(05/30/2004)

Dennis Glascock:  In my opinion, there are three important fantasy series: LOTR, the Covenant books, and the Wheel books by Robert Jordan. Have you read the Wheel books (10 books and counting) and do you have an opinion upon them? I especially enjoy long series, so I encourage you to exceed Mr. Jordan's book count!

many thanks!
Well, I don't read Jordan, so I can't comment. As I think (hope?) I said earlier in this interview, I have tremendous respect for Tolkien's achievement. He re-created an entire genre (at least in English), the epic. (For more on this, you might want to look at my essay "Epic Fantasy and the Modern World". It's on this site under "publications".) Without Tolkien's work, what I do would have been impossible.

(05/31/2004)

Ryan H.:  Mr. Donaldson,

If you are a visitor to the Kevin's Watch forum, you might have seen a post in the TC discussion about a PC adventure module I am creating for the RPG game Neverwinter Nights which uses elelments of The Chronicles.

I am following up with a previous question concerning RPG adventures and possible copyright infringement. I wish you to know that I have nothing but the utmost respect for your work and consider The Chronicles my favorite piece of literature. You mentioned making an RPG for "private amusement" is OK. I have been making a module that can be played on this Neverwinter Nights game, but I don't sell it to anyone (Bioware, the makers, wouldn't allow it anyway) and no one paid me to create it. Does private amusement mean I can give it away for other people to enjoy FREELY? I really hope so because I have so much fun bringing some of your characters, settings, and plots to the digital domain. (I hope you might possibly be interetsed in trying it out!?)

Thank you.
In practice, the key issue is MONEY. My publishers hold the relevant rights, and in theory they could object to virtually anything. But in reality they only care if money is changing hands. As long as you were not paid to create your game module, and no one has to pay to use it, you have no problem. *I* certainly don't object.

But I'm not interested in trying out your module--or in RPGs generally. Nothing personal: it's just (as I said in another context) "too much like work." One could well argue that role-playing is what I do for a living. For recreation I want activities which are as much unlike writing books as possible.

(05/31/2004)

Revan:  Hi! First I want to thank you for answering my other questions Steve. I'm grateful.

Anyways... gratitude aside, I will ask another. :)

In my opinion, and others of Kevinswatch, The character Thomas Covenant had generally inspired loyalty. And considering in the Third Chronicles he has been somewhat replaced as the main character; some people, I do not doubt, are going to be vexed at this... Has this matter crossed your mind at all during your creating of the Last Chronicles?

Ah, I fear you are making assumptions about "The Last Chronicles"--assumptions which I'm not prepared to confirm or deny. Clearly "The Runes of the Earth" starts with Linden Avery. You can see that for yourself. But so did "The Second Chronicles." And the fact that Covenant is dead certainly *seems* to diminish his potential as a point-of-view character. <grin> But there are several clever authors out there who wouldn't let a little thing like, "He's dead, Jim," stand in their way. So if any potentially vexed readers are perusing this interview, I would like to suggest that they try not to make assumptions.

(05/31/2004)

Russell:   the continuation of the tale of the land and it's redemption has been my fondest wish for over 15 years. thank you so much for taking the effort to finish the greatest tale in fantasy literature.

Now then, I probably won't get a straight answer for sake of spoilers, but, will the last chronicles combine aspects of the past present and future of the land?
"The past present and future of the land," hmm? Now, that--as they used to say--is a poser. The present? Well, yeah. The past? I certainly hope so. I think I've already stated that my goal is to write "The Last Chronicles" in such a way that it unifies the entire saga into one vast whole. But the future? Um, er, well.... How exactly do you imagine I could do that? Presumably it would have to be described in some way, either by the (theoretically) omniscient author or by some point-of-view character--and wouldn't that make it "the present," in effect? If it exists to be described, it either has happened or it is happening. To say that it *will* happen is inherently speculative.

But you know me. I'll probably solve the problem by just nuking the whole place. <huge grin>

(05/31/2004)

obscurity:  Hi, thanks for answering these questions. I'm a huge fan of your work, and like a previous questioner I'd particularly like to thank you for spending the time to write the books well, rather than churn 'em out by the truckload.

The first question I'd like to ask is about how you tackled the Gap series. The thing that strikes me most about those is how well designed they seem to be - the character's actions arise from the intersection of the information they have and their motives with no discernable (to me, at least) hand of the author pushing them towards the plot. Given the scale of these books, the complexities of the plot, the conflicting agendas (hidden or not) of the characters and the various layers of subterfuge they engaged in, the large (and ever-expanding) canon of established 'facts' in the created universe, and the length of time over which the books were written, how on earth did you make it all seem so self-consistent? How did you keep track of it all? How much of it did you plan out in advance, and how much did you make up as you went along? Were you actually able to hold the whole thing in your head at any one time, or were you constantly having to 'research' the previous books when writing a new one? And considering that you couldn't revise a previous volume (since it had been published) while working on a new one, just how terrified were you of not being able to tie it all up at the end? :)

Secondly (or, um, sixthly, depending on how you're counting) how do you feel about the fact that whilst you consider the Gap series to be your best work (or so I recall reading), it seems to be the Covenant books that get all the attention and praise? Do you feel at all jealous of the Covenant books on the Gap books' behalf? Or over-protective of the Gap books' reputation? Or do you not mind at all?

Wow, I wrote a lot more than I intended to there. Sorry about that. If you're still awake at this point, thanks for sticking with me :)
There appear to be several questions about internal consistency, especially as it pertains to the GAP books. I hope I can answer them all here.

I consider internal consistency to be absolutely crucial. Readers may not notice inconsistencies consciously--especially when those breaks in coherence are separated by hundreds of pages--but I believe that inconsistences *always* make themselves felt unconsciously. In the short term, they diminish the reader's emotional engagement in the story. In the long run, they damage both the reader's trust in the author and the re-readability of the story. Sometimes consciously, but always unconsciously, readers feel manipulated and ultimately disappointed by stories which are not rigorously self-consistent.

But rigorous internal consistency is difficult to achieve in any extended work. And it is made more difficult in my case by two things: how I work (about which I'll say more in answer to a later question); and what my goals as a story-teller are. On this latter point, I believe I've already mentioned (after answering a few score questions it becomes hard to be sure) one of my dominant goals: I want all of my significant characters to have dignity. By this I mean that I want all of them to do what they do, not to satisfy *my* requirements (such as my requirement for internal consistency), but for their own reasons: because of who they are, what has happened to them, what they know, and what they want. In other words, I want them to be as much like "real people" as possible.

So the question is: how do I strive for internal consistency *while* writing in a way which makes such consistency difficult *while* giving all of my characters dignity *while* attempting to achieve my other dominant goals (such as intense engagement, or harmony/symmetry/aesthetic beauty)?

Of course it helps that I'm good at what I do. But frankly, well, I ain't *that* good. So I use a number of aids. For one, I take a lot of notes. I mean a LOT of notes. For another, I write those notes on pages of notepaper, several notes to a page in a completely random fashion, and I make no attempt to organize those notes. (This forces me to look through all of my notes whenever I want a particular note, which has the effect of refreshing my memory of everything I want to do.) For another, I throw my notes away as soon as I use them. (This forces me to re-read what I've already written whenever I want to check something.) For another, I do other forms of self-research extensively: my "work" copies of the first six Covenant books are heavily annotated, and covered in those little sticky arrows that help me locate important passages quickly--and then I make separate notes based on my annotations. For another, I rewrite both extensively and intensively--and I take *more* notes while I'm doing so. In addition, I rewrite backwards as well as forwards. In other words, sometimes I change what lies behind me to suit what lies in front of me, and sometimes I change what lies in front of me to suit what lies behind me. For another, I re-read books *after* they are published, taking still more notes, and checking the published text against my other notes. This I do with the hardback editions, so that if necessary I can beg my publishers to make changes in the paperback editions. (One quick example: despite all of my other self-checking mechanisms, when I read "The Mirror of Her Dreams" in hardcover, I discovered that Terisa's sole bedroom window faced the sunrise AND--400 pages later--the sunset. Naturally I was horrified. But I had real clout with my publishers in those days, so they cheerfully allowed me to make the necessary changes before they released the paperback.) And for yet another, I always have at least one personal reader--someone who has nothing to do with publishing--whose job-description includes telling me whenever he/she thinks I might have screwed up.

<whew>

So, no, I don't (can't) hold the whole thing in my mind at once. And I don't try: I reserve as much energy as possible for the actual writing--which includes doing things like making sure my characters have dignity. Instead I rely on all of my aids to help me be consistent.

How much do I plan out stories like the GAP books or "The Last Chronicles" in advance? I think I've answered that earlier in this interview; but the short answer is: quite a bit, but not as much as I once did. Over the years I've learned to believe that as long as I know where I'm going I'll be able to get there somehow.

As for your other question: yes, I have been known to feel jealous of the "Covenant" books, especially on behalf of the GAP books, but also on behalf of my mystery novels and--to a lesser extent--"Mordant's Need." At times I have even felt resentment toward my readers for so soundly rejecting everything that isn't "Covenant." But I got over all that. After years of therapy. <grin> Now I (mostly) accept that life is what it is, and both jealousy and resentment are wasted emotions--not to mention being inherently toxic.

(05/31/2004)

Allen Parmenter:  Mister D. I wish to thank you personally for writing the Gap Cycle. It remains your greatest work and it interprets Wagner far better than that impoverished thug Hitler ever did. The Gap was the literary sound-track of my youth (wont bore you with details.). You will be amused to learn that a friend of mine pictured Pat Robertson playing the role of Holt Fasner. My question concerns the endless speculation about your religious or anti-religious proclivities. I understand you are not a "believer" but do you think a Creator exists? And - anything to say about that strange and complicated man from Nazareth? Again, thankyou for the Gap. It is a juggernaut that towers above most s-f written in the Nineties along side of Gene Wolfe's wonderful Book of the Long Son.
I've tried to say before that I don't think my opinion on the existence or otherwise of a "real" Creator matters. My opinion is just that: *my*...*opinion*. Everyone has opinions. Everyone is entitled to them. End of story.

But since so many people want to know, I'll say this. It is my opinion that the question of whether or not a Creator (let's call her God) exists itself does not matter. If God does exist, her existence will not be affected by my belief--or lack of belief--in her. If God does not exist, no amount of belief on my part will call her into existence. Either way, asking the question doesn't make any difference. But I'll go further. I think that asking the question *shouldn't* make any difference.

Here's what I believe *is* important. (Take it or leave it: it's just an opinion.) 1) Every human being is responsible for the meaning of his/her own life. God's existence, or lack thereof, doesn't change that. And in fact the very notion of God is often a destructive concept, since so many people use their belief in God as a means to avoid accepting responsibility for their own lives. Hence it is my *opinion* of the man from Nazareth that his story enriches some people's lives and degrades others, depending on whether or not those people use his story as an excuse to avoid their responsibility for their own lives. 2) We live in what I like to call a "possible" world; a world in which far more things are possible than we will ever be able to know, recognize, or name. "God" is certainly a convenient term of reference for many of those possibilities. So is "soul." So is "ghost." So is "Grace." But the terms of reference only exist for *our* convenience: they have no bearing on what actually is or is not possible.

And now I suppose I'm in trouble. <sigh> I've probably alienated every third person who reads this site. Certainly my poor mother is turning over in her grave. (My father was more inclined to the idea that religion is something you *do* rather than something you *believe*: he might conceivably have understood what I'm saying.) But, gol durn it, you DID ask.

(05/31/2004)

David Hughes:  Steve,

No question here; merely a statement of deep admiration and gratitude for your work. I'm a 41 year-old corporate exec, country club golfer, who hardly fits a stereotypical view of a fantasy fiction reader. And in truth, I'm not much of one. That's actually all the more reason that I hope you'll accept my gratitude as sincere and perhaps unusual. I've read the Chronicles through twice, 15 years apart, and have never been more impressed by any work, in any genre. Period. It's astonishingly sweeping, majestic, and unforgettable stuff. Thanks again for bringing such grace (and as passing an attempt at literary appreciation as I can muster) into my typically predictable, hectic but mundane, modern American life. After reading your responses today it's my new mantra to try to make future decisions based on how closely they advance the concept of "Control with passion".

David Hughes
Atlanta, GA
THANK you. I'm touched--and gratified. But remember that "Joy is in the ears that hear." All I did was write the books. You're the one who read them--and responded. I think that says at least as much about you as it does about my work.

(05/31/2004)

Julia van Niekerk:  Seeing as you've basically answered my previous question in response to someone else's question, I'll give this another go.

Do you read your own work on a recreational basis? Once you've put all your energy into crafting a story, editing it, revising it, fine-tuning it, do you say "Enough of that!" or do you pick up your own books and read them? If you do, do you gain any "new" insight into your characters and storylines that you didn't realize you were writing into them?
Well, I've been known to pick up a book--usually one of my short story collections--and read a page or two here and there. But in a broader sense, no, I do not read my own books for recreation. Once I've done all of my work on them, I try to forget about them (except in the sense of occasionally thinking back on them with--I hope--pleasure). The exception, of course--and it wasn't recreation--is the "Covenant" books. I studied them hard to prepare myself for "The Last Chronicles."

Maybe someday....

(05/31/2004)

Lindsay Addison:  Hello Mr. Donaldson. It's been a pleasure to find this site and (more so) to read your books, including, most recently, the Reed Stephens myeteries.

I had to laugh when I read in this gradual interview that you made lists of interesting or arcane words. It's a vice of mine as well, and man, I had a HUGE list derived from your books--it was an entertaining and enlightening exercise. So, my deep and weighty question is, what's your favorite "list-worthy" word? (Or more likely, what's the first one that comes to mind? <g>)

Peace.
As with books and characters, I have different favorites for different reasons. Not to mention for different days. I even have different favorites at different times of day. But two list-worthy words which are unlikely to find their way into "The Last Chronicles" are: "rachitic" and "nystagmus."


(05/31/2004)

Mark Shaw:  Do you ever get recognized by fans in your day to day life , and how does it make feel, what's your reaction ?
It happens very rarely (and usually only by members of KevinsWatch.com <grin>). There is a good reason for this, and it helps to explain why I live in NM. Around here, I like to say, you can't throw a rock without hitting an artist of some kind. This area is fantastically rich in creative types. As a result: a) everyone knows writers, artists, potters, etc., so they don't consider just one more writer worthy of comment; and b) to avoid being overwhelmed by sheer numbers, everyone has to "filter," to concentrate on a few and ignore the rest, and this tends to happen along regional lines; so everything "Southwestern" gets serious attention and everything else is usually ignored. Tony Hillerman probably can't cross the street without being accosted by a fan, but for me it happens once every couple of years at most.

How do I feel about being "recognized"? Well, how would *you* feel if someone you had never seen before in your life rushed up to you and began behaving in a way that demonstrated a considerable knowledge of your life and work? Unless your life is ruled by ego--and you never read newspapers--you might feel significantly uncomfortable. As I do.

It's different, of course, when I'm in a place where I expect to be recognized (e.g. an sf/f convention). There it's rather a blow when someone peers at my name badge, shakes his/her head in bafflement, and walks away. <grin> But I try to treasure such experiences as exercises in humility.

(06/01/2004)

phillip andrew bennett low:  First, I would just like to express my admiration and gratitude; I'm a playwright who suffers from chronic illness, and in both areas of my life your work has had a profound impact.

Two questions:

1) I've lately developed an obsession with the Book of Job; I don't know if this is something I'm imposing on the text, but the parallels between this book and the Chronicles are so striking that I can't help but wonder if it was an influence. Both open by recounting a man who has everything: health, wealth, and family, all of which are stripped away in the first few chapters; then, the bulk of the story involves the man railing, both passionately and rationally, against his fate, with other characters drifting in and out of the action, attempting to reason him away from his position of defiance; and both culminate in a philosophical confrontation with a divine force. (I happen to think that Covenant bore up a little better under the pressure.)

So, ahem. Was it an influence? And

2) For a writer who is generally so private, has taking part in this gradual interview affected your process at all? In other words, does engaging in an ongoing dialogue about your work while writing trigger any ideas or cause you to re-evaluate what you're working on?

Thanks!
First an announcement (the relevance of which will become apparent shortly):

Very soon now I will begin answering questions in this interview much more slowly. Between now (or whenever they arrive) and the end of July I will need to proofread four (!) novels: "Runes" in both its US and its UK incarnations; "The Man Who Risked His Partner" in paperback; and "The Man Who Tried to Get Away" in hardcover. At the same time, my US and UK publishers want me to undertake a project which I'm not supposed to talk about, but which will be so back-breakingly burdensome and vastly time-consuming that I'll have no choice except to simply cease living until the project is done. (Sorry, I can't tell you more than that.) So if you think I'm answering questions slowly now, wait until you see what happens soon.

<sigh>

Now, your actual questions.

With my Biblical background, I must have been influenced by the Book of Job; but the influence is entirely unconscious, I assure you. I don't *approve* of the Book of Job. By the time I was in junior high school, I considered God's *capriciousness" toward Job to be actively immoral. Of course, in the real world people suffer as Job did all the time. But if that suffering is God's doing, then I say God is a rather despicable individual, and we're all better off without him/her.

As for your question about how participating in this interview has affected my writing process, I'm afraid I don't know the answer. I've never done anything like this (the interview) before--and I haven't yet had a chance to start on Book Two. I only finished going over the copyeditted manuscript for "Runes" last week, and any day now the labors described above will hit my desk. So the earliest I can get started on "Revenant" will be mid-August.

Of course, if working on this interview has an adverse effect on my ability to write, I'll have to ditch the interview. But at the moment I have no idea whether or not that will turn out to be true.

(06/01/2004)

Julia van Niekerk:  Well at the risk of sounding trite, I've been a fan ever since my father sent me the First Chronicles when I was 13. It's been great to read your gradual interviews (or desultory, as the case may be) and get a little insight into the man who wrote the books that moved me so profoundly. I won't say that they changed my life, or opened my eyes, but on an emotional level, they definitely touched me in a way no other story has. The first time I ever cried over a story was when Elena died - and this even though I knew in advance that it was going to happen. (A 13 year old with access to the next book will never resist the temptation to "peek ahead").

At any rate, I'm wondering whether the curiosity runs both ways. Do you do so-called "vanity searches" to find out what people are saying about you? Read the reviews at Amazon.com? The only attempts I've made at publishing anything I've written have been on websites (with varying degrees of selectivity) and so I don't get to see a lot of unbiased feedback. At the same time, I don't know if I'd be "strong" enough to open a page of reviews and see someone shredding one of my works to bits. I think, though, that curiosity would prevail - at least the first time. I'd follow the question up with "And do you take any of it to heart?" but I think I might have a good guess at the answer to that one ;)

Oh, and over the years, I've apparently developed a strange predilection for dashes. Do you mind if I blame it on you?
By all means, blame your predilection for dashes--or any other personal foible--on me. I'm here to serve. <grin>

As a general rule, I do not do what you call "vanity searches." (Oh, maybe once every couple of years, when someone suggests that I look at something specific. But, I promise, I always feel guilty about it, and I swear I'll never do it again. <still grinning>). Reading reviews, like peeking in your lover's diary, is all about ego; and I find that ego is an obstacle to creativity. If you happen to spot something favorable and allow yourself to feel elated, you're simply setting yourself up to feel miserable when you spot something unfavorable. And neither reaction is particularly useful when you sit down to do your own writing.

Not to get too sententious about this (he said sententiously), but I know whereof I speak. Back in 1983, "White Gold Wielder" was the #3 bestseller in the country for the year. As you can imagine, I was riding high. But then "Mordant's Need" only sold 15% as well as WGW, and the GAP books only sold 20% as well as "Mordant's Need," and more than one publisher has been unable to give my mystery novels away on streetcorners, and last fall my agent had a hard time finding publishers for "The Runes of the Earth" (more than one US publisher called me a "has-been"). In other words, I've had my ego jerked around by experts. So when I say that "writing isn't about ego"--or shouldn't be, anyway--I'm trying to communicate something that I've learned to consider desperately important.

(06/01/2004)

Lou Sytsma:  Greetings!

Does the advice for a writer to read and write on a consistent basis ring true for you?

I'm curious to your take on Stephen King's Dark Tower series. His writing style is so different from yours.

Thanks for your time.
I love the Dark Tower books so far (I've read four). If the subsequent installments don't disappoint me, I'll be very glad King wrote them.

Advice for writers? Well, the most important thing I can tell you is that every individual has to figure it out for him/herself. Writing is like life in that respect. Everyone is different, and what energizes one person paralyzes another. With that in mind, however....

I don't see how anyone can even try to be a writer without both writing and reading consistently, stubbornly, regularly, deliberately, whatever you want to call it. If you don't "apply the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair and write," you're just kidding yourself about being a writer. And if you don't read constantly, even obsessively, you're denying yourself the greatest possible source of tools to write with. After all, we don't just write with words: we write with sentences and paragraphs, with imagery and timing, with mood and detachment, with denotation and connotation, with insight and irony, with ideas and emotions, with character and self-understanding: and other people's books are the best school in the world for studying how to do those things.

(06/01/2004)

Thomas Ferencz (Amanibhavam):  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

first of all thank you for anwering my previous question. Your answer to my next one may shed light on a very intriguing problem. I concerns the Seven Words of Power. As far as I know, the words we know from the books are: Melenkurion abatha! Duroc minas mill khabaal!
Now please tell me, whether:

- the seven words are in fact six:-)
- there _are_ seven words, but the seventh one is Yet To Be Revealed
- the whole phrase above is _one_ word, and we do not know anything about the other six (this is contradicted by the fact that Elena says about Melenkurion Skyweir that it shares its name with one of the Seven Words)

I am really looking forward to your answer.

Amanibhavam
There are in fact *seven* words, of which only six have ever been revealed. All such lore was hidden in Kevin's Wards, but several of the Wards were never recovered. Presumably Kevin hid the seventh word for the same reason that he concealed the Seventh Ward: he was trying to create a sequence of knowledge (a curriculum) in which people would learn (and earn) their way from one level to the next. The idea is to try to ensure that people only receive knowledge/power when they're ready for it.

Now, of course (I mean after "The Second Chronicles") *all* of Kevin's lore has effectively ceased to exist. (Linden's new Staff of Law doesn't even have *runes,* for crying out loud.) And without that lore to give it substance, the seventh word--if anyone chanced to discover it--would be meaningless.

(06/01/2004)

Todd:  I met you at a fantasy convention in Chicago back in 1983 when I was a disgustingly immature and single minded teenager. After the session during which you and other authors answered questions, I was lucky enough to stand with you and a small group of other people while you answered yet more questions. It was then that you said that you had a third trilogy "mapped out", and to be very frank, I have been waiting for this third trilogy with more anticipation than any literary event. (Perhaps if George Martin continues to take even MORE time in releasing the fourth book of his excellent series, there will be some competition, but that's not likely.)

You said something to me that I found (while simple), rather profound. I was completely taken with the inventiveness you displayed in creating Vain, and asked how you came up with him. You looked at me and replied, "I needed him." As a writer myself (after too many years of creative contemplation, I'm writing my first novel of a projected five book series), that answer has helped me a great deal. Whenever I find myself lost, I ask myself, "What do I need?" So, thank you for that simple answer that has helped me immeasurably.

And thank you, finally, for ending my own personal twenty-one year wait. While you have expressed doubts concerning your ability to write this series, given the challenges it will present you with, I have every confidence that those are nothing more than the typical insecurities that all writers (well, most that have any common sense) possess, and that these books will crown an already remarkable achievement.

Now, a question. How different would The First Chronicles have been had the Lord of the Rings never been written?
I think you're giving me too much credit. "I needed him" sounds to me like the kind of answer I give when I'm too tired to actively think about the question. <grin> Still, I'm glad you found my reply useful.

If I haven't said so already, I should state clearly that I don't think the "Chronicles" would exist *at all* if LOTR had not been both written and published first. As I've said, Tolkien brought an entire genre back into being. I don't think I could have done that for myself. And Tolkien (importantly aided by his publishers, Ian and Betty Ballantine) also created an entire market, which I certainly could not have done for myself.

Just to give you a hint of how deep Tolkien's "enablement" of my work runs: Ian and Betty Ballantine founded Ballantine Books and made LOTR successful; they hired Lin Carter to follow Tolkien's success with his "Adult Fantasy Series"; when Carter's series failed miserably--for obvious reasons--the Ballantines replaced him with Judy-Lynn del Rey; Judy-Lynn then hired her husband, Lester del Rey, to handle fantasy while she edited science fiction; and Lester discovered *me*--but not before first publishing "The Sword of Shannara," which was the first book to follow Tolkien's success, well, successfully (and which was, not coincidentally, a direct Tolkien ripoff). In more ways than one, LOTR literally made what I do possible.

(06/01/2004)

John Gauker:  I am very excited about another Covenent series. Is there a possibility that there could also be another Gap series?
This question appears more than once. Forgive me for saving time (and energy) by only answering it once.

Anything is possible; but there will be no "sequel" to the GAP books in the foreseeable future. The problem is simple: I have no ideas for a story that could be set in the future (or even the past) of the GAP books. They feel "finished" to me the way they are; and although I have tried to think of more that I could do, I haven't been able to come up with anything.

Ditto for "Mordant's Need," incidentally. On the other hand, I'm very aware that the underlying story of my mystery novels is *not* finished. And my novalla "Penance" seems to imply possibilities which I am so far unable to define.

(06/01/2004)

Peter Purcell:  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

The excerpt you posted is outstanding - I can't wait until the book is released! But at least I can re-read the posted chapter until then!
I'm glad you like it--and I certainly hope you won't be disappointed by what follows.

(06/01/2004)

Allen Parmenter:  Contemplating the excruciations in the Gap Cycle I wonder if you were at all informed by Elaine Scarry's important book "The Body In Pain". Davies Hyland is a mighty interesting character and I wondered if you took time to study psychological hermaphroditism before writing. You are actually a master ironist - I mean an ironist of big proportions equalled by few in Western literature really.(Hashi covers his eyes to keep the light in but in essence he is actually blind to the situation.) Does your mind naturally generate paradoxes and ironies or do you force yourself to do that? A bit of both? One last question - how about Sigourney Weaver as the always enchanting Sorus Chatelaine, a dowdied up Mark Hamil to play the God-character, Vector Shaheed, and , of course, James Earl Jones to play that transcendant power: Dolph Ubike?
Sorry, no, I've never read--or even heard of--Elaine Scarry's book. And no, I didn't do any particular study of psychological hermaphroditism before or while I worked with Davies Hyland. (Perhaps I should have. Then he might not head the list of characters who have reason to complain about me.) But irony comes naturally to me. I don't have to force myself to generate ironies and paradoxes--but occasionally I do have to force myself to *not* generate them (close personal relationships don't always function well on a steady diet of irony). Sigourney Weaver would be good at Sorus Chatelaine--but she would also handle Min Donner well. Personally, I would prefer Anthony Hopkins for Vector Shaheed--that is, if he refuses to play Warden Dios. I think there are several black actors who would be good at Dolph Ubikwe--but the names I want have suddenly fallen out of my head (except for the always stellar Morgan Fairchild). And of course who but Vin Diesel could play Angus?

(06/02/2004)

Brad Thompson:  SRD,
I am a devoted fan of both chronicles who returns to them every few years and reads voraciously from beginning to end. In a weird way, I feel that the excellence of these six books has prevented me from committing to my own works. On the other hand, this is almost certainly an excuse of mine. When I read the chronicles, I am always constructing little stories in my mind to deal with the peripheral races and areas around the land. I know you will never write a novel about the Haruchai or the Giants, but do you have the same urges that I do? Do you fantasize spin-off stories and histories when you write (or read) your books?
No, I never "fantasize spin-off stories and histories" in relation to my own books. As I've said before, I'm not a terribly fecund writer. I don't get many ideas. Which is why I milk them for all they're worth when I do get them. <grin> And it's also why I feel that when I do get an idea I must use it. If I ever start turning down ideas, my imagination is going to stop giving them to me.

As for letting the "excellence" of the "Covenant" books prevent you from committing to your own writing: yes, that is certainly an excuse. However, it's an excuse with which I'm intimately familiar. I'm not going to describe the long and messy process by which I finally got rid of that excuse. But here's what I learned by going through that process: "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, sayeth the preacher. There is nothing new under the sun." Nothing, that is, except you. What I've done, or what Tolkien has done, or Shakespeare, or Joseph Conrad, or George Meredith, or Willian Butler Yeats, or Steven Erikson, or Gerard Manley Hopkins: none of that is relevant. The only question that matters is, "What can Brad Thompson do?" And you'll never find out what that is if you don't stop making excuses.

(06/02/2004)

Scott J. Ecksel:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you for all that you’ve written and for taking the time to communicate with us here. I find your eloquence as you answer these questions to be as inspiring as your novels and stories themselves.

There’s so much I would want to say, but I’m going to limit myself to two comments and one question.

Comment: I began reading the Chronicles shortly after they were published, when I was around 11 or 12, and there has been one particular aspect of The Land which has had quite an impact on me: the “health sense” experienced by the denizens of The Land. More than anything else, that idea made The Land always stay in my memory; it made The Land a place I would desperately want to live in. (And I’ll admit I was heartbroken when in The Wounded Land we discovered that the health sense had been lost for the people of The Land and for TC). Through the years, I’ve come to think of health sense as something which isn’t so much unique to The Land but is, rather, something we all possess to a degree when we pay attention to what’s around us. Or, to use TC’s terms, when we think of the landscape as mere “scenery” we have no health sense, but if we were to live life noticing nature and being more attuned to...well, to everything...perhaps we’d be able to better develop our health sense. I know you’ve said on several occasions that you’re not a polemicist, but I have to thank you for planting within me the seeds of my environmental conscience. As I write this, I am listening to the 17-year cicadas singing in the trees outside my window, and I wonder if some of the ills of our society might be more readily resolved if more people had the health sense to notice such beauty.

Comment: As a writer myself, it was interesting and encouraging to learn that you like to “fill your head with words” (i.e. read voraciously) and that you use music to create a “cocoon of sound” when you write. I tend to be the same way. In fact, I’ve actually used that same phrase (“fill my head with words”) to describe what it’s like when I go on reading binges (and how necessary they are for me when I go ahead and write). I also seem to write best when I have headphones on. I listen to music that doesn’t interfere with my thoughts (Chopin, Delerium or other ambient music, Peter Gabriel's The Passion and The Long Walk Home, The Lord of the Rings soundtrack, etc.). The music blocks everything else out but doesn’t require me to focus on it...sort of a beautiful white noise.

Question: You’ve answered several of the questions I might have posed, so I’m going to ask something very simple: Which Wagner recording do you listen to? I have The Ring on cassettes and have no idea where it was recorded or by whom, and I’ve been considering buying it on CD. Is there a particular version you’d recommend?

Best wishes as you continue writing. I’m really looking forward (understatement) to The Last Chronicles.

Scott
Many thanks for your comments! Under the circumstances, it won't surprise you to hear that *every* professional writer or artist I've ever talked to uses "sound" in some way as insulation against distraction. In fact, "a cocoon of sound" is one of the main requirements for any form of concentration which resembles self-hypnosis--and as far as I'm concerned, writing (like painting or any other art) definitely involves self-hypnosis. How else are we expected to access our unconscious minds while we're awake?

Which recording of Wagner's "Ring" cycle do I listen to? It would be easier to name the ones I do *not* listen to (Levine's leaps to mind). But if you're thinking of CDs, you can hardly go wrong with Solti's recording (Nilsson and Hotter are incomparable). Or Boehm's recording, which might be a bit cheaper. However, if you're interested in DVDs, the best available (of an admittedly unsatisfactory lot) is the Boulez/Chereau production. Chereau's "industrial revolution" concept doesn't work very well; but Boulez has towering performers like McIntyre, Altmeyer, Hoffman, and Jones to compensate. Nothing that I've ever seen has moved me as deeply as the Boulez DVD of "The Valkyrie".

(06/02/2004)

Tom O'Toole:  Mr Donaldson,

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

You had a letter published in Avengers #98 in 1972. Were you happy with the reply that you got?

Do you still read comic books? If so, which ones, and if not, when and why did you stop? Do you still have your collection?

Tom
Actually, I had *two* letters published by Marvel Comics. I remember nothing about the reply to my letter in Avengers #98. But I won a "no-prize" for my letter in Fantastic Four #??

I stopped reading comics a couple of years ago when my kids stopped reading them with me. Unlike 20-30 years ago, when it was all Avengers and FF, I came to prefer the "X franchise". And I still treasure Starlin's three "infinity gem" limited series. But Marvel regularly wrote out my favorite characters (Havoc, Adam Warlock), and I find I haven't regretted giving up comics. I still have about half of what was once a rather extensive collection

(06/02/2004)

Peter Hunt:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you so much for spending the time to answer our questions, particularly given the pressures from your publisher. If it's any consolation, the publisher's urgency is due to *our* eagerness to read your work!

I want to reiterate my fondness for the Axbrewder series. I was fortunate enough to buy and read them when you were still Reed Stephens (although I knew it was you). I particularly like "Fought Alone", as it seems like Brew is on the mend. And I'm not talking about his gut wound, obviously.

My question relates to Mordant's Need. Did you ever have a map of Mordant, and if so, was there a reason that you didn't include it in the published work? It would have been handy to refer to, particularly while reading the second volume.

If a map does exist, is there any chance you would post it to this site?
Yes, I did have an exTREMEly rudimentary map for "Mordant's Need." I drew it myself--and if you knew how I draw, you would know that no more need be said. Of course, DEL REY/Ballantine would have had the thing redrawn by a professional, if I had considered it appropriate. But my editor felt it was unnecessary. And I had my own complex reasons for withholding it. The vastly simplified explanation: unlike "Covenant," where the Land is at least a much a character as Mhoram or Foamfollower or Covenant himself, "Mordant's Need" is not about the world in which it takes place. I withheld my map because I didn't want to distract attention from the characters. (Incidentally, this also explains many of the *other* differences between the "Chronicles" and "Mordant's Need".)

I'm confident that I never actually threw away that map. On the other hand, I sure can't find it now. Sorry about that.

(06/02/2004)

Jim:  Dr. Donaldson, i love your books (that i've read). I am currently reading the gap series (3rd book, and i am enjoying that one also)
I've wrestled most of my life, and i have just recently taken up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (a martial art very simialar to wrestling).

I was wondering where your interest in Karate comes from, and if you practice any other martial arts.
I took up karate because I was commanded to do so by my therapist (and no, I don't want to explain that statement). But then I fell in love with it, and now I couldn't give it up.

I only study Shotokan. But that statement is a bit misleading. All three of my senseis have been fairly open-minded, and the second in particular exposed his students to Muay Thai, boxing, Jujitsu, Silat, Kali, and Wing Chun (among others). As for my current sensei, he is now satisfied with my grasp on the Gojo-Ryu kata he taught me, so I'm now learning one of the White Crane ch'uan fa forms. I've also taken a couple of Gracie Brothers seminars, as well as several from Fumio Demura. And I study sparring at a local Kajukembo dojo.

With your interest in the martial arts, you might enjoy "The Man Who Fought Alone."

(06/02/2004)

Esther Freeman:  >except for the always stellar Morgan Fairchild<

Presumably the name you mean is Morgan Freeman?

This question not meant for publication.

Best :-)
Please see a deeply embarrassed expression on my face.

Yes, of COURSE, I meant Morgan Freeman. My apologies to the entire created cosmos for *that* unique malfunction.

(06/03/2004)

Thomas May:  Of course, thanks for all your works, and for opening my eyes to reading by my first wife insisting that I read "Thomas Covenant."

In reading your written work, you (SRD) seem to "feel" the pain while you're writing. Any truth to my observation?

Thanks,

Thomas May
Earlier I promised some comments about how I write. Here goes.

The simple answer to your question is Yes. Writing has never been "fun" for me, for a variety of reasons; but one of them is certainly that I "go through" everything my characters do in the course of a story.

My writing "method" is very subjective and, well, let's call it "experiential." Specifically, I try to *become* my point of view (POV) character, and then to see and touch and feel everything that character does. So of course I write everything in the sequence in which my POV experiences it. I start at the beginning of what happens to them, and I stay with them until the end of what happens to them. (This is true even in stories like the GAP books, where I change POV almost constantly. At the beginning of that POV's share of the narrative, I--in essence--create the entire world from scratch from their perspective, and then I live inside his/her head until the narrative shifts to another POV.) Along the way, of course, I try to experience the other characters as vividly as the POV does, to react to them and strive to understand them the same way the POV does.

(I've often told my kids that I'm the oldest person in the world. Not in years, of course, but in experience, since I have effectively lived through every one of my stories from the perspective of every one of the significant characters.)

The primary advantage of my method is that it helps me engage the reader as strongly as possible. However, there are some disadvantages. One is that my method makes it difficult for me to give all of my significant characters dignity (see my discussion of dignity earlier in this interview), since I am (apparently) constrained by the sympathies and knowledge of the POV. This obstacle I attempt to overcome by knowing my non-POV characters so well, and by articulating them so urgently, that my POV is forced to grant them the dignity which I desire for them. (This, of course, was not a do-able job in the GAP books, since characters like Nick and [at first] Angus don't give a ^#$%# about anyone else's dignity. Hence all the POV shifts in that story. I had to keep moving around in order to give my characters what their companions would not.) And then I work ESPECIALLY hard on the non-POV characters when I rewrite. Consistently the single thing that evolves most when I rewrite is how I articulate the non-POV characters--and how they articulate themselves.

Another disadvantage of my method is that it is bloody exHAUSTing. Especially when I shift POV, because then I have to re-create the entire world in different terms, with different assumptions, sympathies, exigencies, and knowledge. Which is why I need *so* much recovery time between big projects--or even between books within a project.

There are other disadvantages, but I'll only mention one. So much "engagement" isn't to every reader's taste. Readers either love or loathe what I do, virtually no one is indifferent; and I think the reason is that some people don't want to, or aren't willing to, FEEL as intensely as I ask them to. (And of course this problem is exacerbated in the GAP books, where what I'm asking the reader to FEEL is so intensely unpleasant most of the time.) On the other side, people who *do* want to FEEL when they read tend to value what I do a LOT.

(06/03/2004)

Revan:  Whom do you consider to best written character(s)? And what is your personal favourite story you've created?
As I've said before, I have different favorites at different times for different reasons. If I answered the same question tomorrow, I might give a very different response. But for now....

My best written character? Hashi Lebwohl. My personal favorite story? "The Killing Stroke"

(06/03/2004)

Scott Ellithorpe:  Mr. Donaldson,

I just finished reading the first chapter of the prologue posted on this site. Having also read your earlier concerns regarding your ability to successfully write the 3rd Chronicles, let me say I believe you will succeed.

I found a copy of “The Power That Preserves” on my father’s coffee table when I was 14, and was instantly hooked. Just last year I picked up “Lord Fouls Bane” and read all six books (in order this time). It is amazing what you can forget in twenty years (I’m 34 now). I had completely forgotten about Nom, among other things! Looking back I can see how your tale has influenced who I am today. Thank you.

I have only two questions. Are hardcover books from the previous Chronicles still in print? If not might there be a re-print, maybe special edition signed by the author :) The paperbacks are usually falling apart by the time I have finished them. Secondly (and obviously completely optional) do you believe in the Creator (God), in the Judeo-Christian sense?

Greatest Gratitude Scott Ellithrope

P.S. What in the world DID happen to Berek’s white gold ring? ;>
Thanks for your reassurance!

I've already said all that I'm going to say--and probably much more than I should have said--about my views on "the Creator (God)." At present, the only source I know of for hardcover editions of the first six "Covenant" books is the Science Fiction Book Club: they currently have an omnibus of each trilogy. As I think I've mentioned, Hill House is planning a collector's limited edition of "The Runes of the Earth," and if the response is favorable, Hill House hopes to go back to the earlier books eventually. But right now that's pure speculation. Hill House will have to succeed with "Runes" before they tackle any other Covenant books.

(06/03/2004)

Earl Craine:  When will 'Runes' be released in Australia?
I'm trying to get an answer from my UK publisher. Please post your question again, so I'll remember to reply when *I* get an answer. Or keep your eye on the "news" section of this site, just in case I'm smart enough to post the information there.

(06/04/2004)

Mike Berg:  I am (as most others here) a huge fan of the TC books, and am anxiously awaiting the Last Chronicles. My question is about artwork... I have seen almost no artwork for the TC books other than the cover art for the various editions.

Have artists submitted artwork to you? Is there somewhere on the net with a collection of TC artwork? If I were to create some artwork of my own, would you be interested in seeing it?

I have a great hunger for visual representations of the vivid images raised in my head while reading the series.

Thanks,
-Mike
I, on the other hand, have no hunger at all for "visual representations" of anything I write about. Artists do (very) occasionally send art to me, or make their art available to me (e.g. on the 'net), but I secretly wish they wouldn't. Such things have the curious effect of making me feel inadequate.

This is difficult to explain; but the plain fact is that I'm not in any useful sense a "visual" person. I don't think in visuals, I think in words. Mentally I "see" with language.

This is true in many, many areas of my life. If a blue car drives past me, it may very well be blue until the end of time, but I won't know it's blue unless I look at it and say the word "blue" to myself. When I look at something like a painting, it conveys absolutely nothing to me--until I hear someone talk about it. Then the words seem to bring the painting into being for me. Without the words, the painting might as well not exist as far as I'm concerned.

btw, this explains why I love "symbolic" cover art (such as the UK draft cover for "Runes" posted on this site), and always feel sad when my US publishers insist that cover art must depict "a scene from the book." (The Tor/Forge covers for my mystery novels are a wonderful exception.) The US approach to sf/f covers simply doesn't speak to me.

So no, please don't send me your art. And don't take it personally. Looking at your art, or anyone else's, simply reminds me of abilites which other people have, but which I entirely lack.

(06/04/2004)

Bryan:  Mr. Donaldson -
I would just like to add my deep appreciation for your works. I've enjoyed them a great deal over the years.

Are there any plans for publication of new editions of the First and Second Chronicles of Thomas Convenant to coincide with the publication of Last Chronicles (hard cover or otherwise)?

Thank you for your time.
Best regards,
Bryan
Please check the "news" section of this site occasionally for any information that comes my way concerning the re-publication of the earlier "Covenant" books.

(06/04/2004)

Harry Kanth:  Hi Mr Donaldson,

I recently read the five books of the GAP series over a recent holiday (so I had about 8 days) one after the other for the first time. I found myself as engrossed as during my reading of the Chronicles of TC but in a different way.

It is diffult to explain but the energy and emotions the GAP series raised in me were very different to my reading of the Chronicles. Did you specifically aim to achieve this in your readers or was that just a natural result of the story being told?

I have by the way ordered your mystery books recently and plan to see how these effect me within the next week or so. Without trying to 'creep', talent in a writer in my view results in quality stories in whatever genre, so I do not think I will be disappointed!

My second question is a technical one in that as a writer when you write in different genres do you have a special method of going into a paticular state of mind to write in that genre or do you simply sit down and get on with the job at hand?

Thank you for taking the time to read this and also for very kindly answering my earlier questions.
I don't set out to achieve different effects when I write different stories. I just try to tell each story as well as I can. But since each story is inherently different (because each story is by its very nature *specific*: it deals with very particular people in very individual settings and situations), each requires me to do different things in order to tell it well. Each story demands a different style, a different mood (and style and mood depend on language, imagery, timing, a whole host of factors); each deals in different themes (because different individuals face different issues); each needs a different length in order to express itself. Therefore each story *should* achieve a different effect, and each of these effects is (ideally) unique to its specific story. Writers who try to achieve the same effects that they have achieved before, or that other writers have achieved, are pretty much wasting their time--and the reader's.

When I find that I need to change genres (because the story I want to tell requires it), my only--what shall I call it?--*external* form of preparation is to do a fair amount of extra reading in the genre I'm about to attempt. I try to fill my head with the conventions and expectations and language of that genre so I'll know what I'm, in a manner of speaking, "up against" in the reader's mind. Other than that, my preparation tends to be pretty much the same for every story, regardless of genre: I need to know where I'm going, and why, and which technical tools (e.g. narrative stance) will best help me get there.

(06/04/2004)

Russell:   Just finished reading "Tull's Tale." Man, the destruction of the Unhomed always gets to me.

Thanks for recommending Steve Erikson, I just recieved my "Gardens of the Moon" from a special order, looking forward to it.

Question on pronunciation ( your pronunciation )
of "Bhrathair, Bhrathairealm."


Well, that depends on whether or not you can aspirate a "b" as you do the "t" in "the." If you can't, here's how I pronounce those names:

Bhrathair: BRA-there
Bhrathairealm: BRA-there-realm (but run "there" and "realm" together so that they only have one "r".

(06/04/2004)

Anonymous:  Thank you sir for your talent and work. Your books have changed my life from an early age. For over twenty years TCoTC has remained, and always will be, my favorite series. You have my respect, my admiration and a sincere love for the worlds you have made including your other works such as the GAP series and novels. I wish I had more time to sing your praises, but instead here are some questions.


How important is "Empathy" to you as a writer and to being a writer in general. In my personal life I am very empathetic with people, events and places. How can I use the inherent "empathy" in my personality to make myself a better writer.

In the "The Power That Preserves" (Hail SRD! er, I mean Hail YOU! *grin*) my question is about Mhoram and the Ritual of Desecration. In the chapter of the same name it's said that "That secret contained might-might which the Lords had failed to discover because of their Oath of Peace-might which could be used to preserve as well as destroy. Despair was not the only unlocking emotion."
I have always felt this reasoning was self explanatory. Others have spoken about how Kevin, while not being bound by the Oath of Peace certainly demonstrated it in his dealings with the Haruchai. He did not destroy them using his power instead he gave them gifts so powerful they in turn pledged their Vow. I know you don't like to dictate to your readers how they should interpret your books. Funny enough by writing this out however I have answered my own question. What better example do we need other than Kevin's willingness and subsequent desperate act to desecrate the Land and lay waste to it to show how different the old Lords were from any Oath of Peace? LOL. I guess my question is, do you feel my reasoning and thought process sound in regards to this issue. I don't feel the new lords were "afraid" of power, which is what some have stipulated. I simply feel the new Lords did not have the comprehension or knowledge. It's like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, till one day someone has an epiphany like Lord Mhoram and intuition leads to the right answer. IE. "Thinking outside the Box".

Thank you again sir, your willingness to interact with your fans in this medium, in spite of your value for privacy and need to work on TLCoTC this line of fan questioning and answers from you personally is a tribute and testimony to you as a writer, person and human being.
If by "empathy" you mean "the ability to relate accurately--and non-judgmentally--to what someone else is feeling," then empathy is crucial to the kind of story-telling I try to do. In effect, I try to put myself into as many different heads as possible, to see and feel the world through as many different sets of eyes as I can. And I want all of those heads to be fundamentally separate from mine (in other words, none of my characters is "me in disguise"). And I want to inhabit them with the same loyalty of perspective that real people have for their own points of view. When I talk about "engagement" and "becoming my characters," I'm very serious; and I couldn't even attempt those things without empathy--and imagination.

But there are as many different approaches to writing as there are writers, and I can't begin to guess how important empathy is to other writers. Certainly, judging by their books, some writers appear to do without empathy entirely. Others convey the impression that their personal engagement is real, but shallow. What the truth may be, I can't say. I can only speak for myself.

I can't honestly say that I understand your question about Kevin and Mhoram, the Ritual of Desecration and the Oath of Peace. But here's what I *can* say.

Kevin saved the Bloodguard (and the Ranyhyn, and the Unhomed, and most of the people of the Land) because he genuinely cared about them. (Yes, I know there were other factors as well.) And he performed the Ritual of Desecration for essentially the same reason: he cared more intensely than he could stand, and so the prospect of failure became unendurable.

Attempting to avoid the dangers which result when action is ruled by extreme emotion, the new Lords codified a moral principle in the form of the Oath of Peace. (It's the same principle Gichin Funakoshi proposed when he wrote, "If your hand goes forth, withhold your anger. If your anger goes forth, withhold your hand.") But every moral precept has its disadvantages--just as every strength is also a weakness. The advantage of the Oath of Peace was that it taught the people of the Land not to act on the basis of strong emotion. The disadvantage was, well, it taught the people of the Land not to act on the basis of strong emotion. In other words, it taught them to distrust strong emotions (of which there are too many to be covered by any one precept), and thus it left them without constructive outlets for their strong emotions. Mhoram's great insight was that strong emotions themselves are not the real problem: the real problem is the lack of constructive outlets.

The key to "constructive outlets," of course, is the ability to act on strong emotions while still using good judgment. That's a learned ability, and it can only be learned by people who first *trust* their strong emotions (i.e. trust themselves). The core of Kevin's dilemma is that he felt despair because he did not trust himself.

Does that help? I hope so. If it doesn't, maybe you shouldn't tell me. <grin> I don't think I can do better.

(06/04/2004)

C.S.:  After having discussed this with my friends who have also read the Second Chronicles, we have agreed that the sole purpose of "The One Tree" is to create the availability of Nom for "White Gold Wielder". Is this true, or was there some deeper purpose that did not come across so clearly?
Please. Do you really I think I would--in effect--waste an entire book just so I could introduce one character? "The One Tree" is crucial to "The Second Chronicles" in far more ways than I could possibly list here. However, I'll just mention that if Vain weren't partially transformed by the crisis of the One Tree, and if Findail weren't forced to trail after Covenant and Linden for so long, the eventual creation of a new Staff of Law would have been entirely impossible.

(06/06/2004)

James:  Greetings, Mr. Donaldson. Thanks much for allowing me to pose some questions.

(1) Why did Linden never make an attempt to use (or why did it never occur to anyone that she make an attempt to use) such things as the krill (which Covenant allowed Sunder to use), or Hollian's lianar (who died using it in an effort to alter the Sunbane), or Sunder's orcrest? At least until the time came for her to have to make use of Covenant's white gold ring.

(2) Vain demonstrated his ability to defend himself and others mightily on several occasions. Why did he refrain from going back into Revelstone or near the Clave the 2nd time? Couldn't he have used his hand gestures of power to protect against attacks aimed at him?

(3) How was the Creator able to offer to do certain things for Covenant at the end of The Power that Preserves (or able to heal Covenant from his deadly reaction to the antivenom in the "real" world), and not break the Arch of Time in so doing?

(4) How is "Atiaran" pronounced?

Thanks again!

James
OK, here goes.

1) There are too many reasons to list here (mainly because I'm sure I'll forget some of them), but I'll give you a few. a) Linden is hanging by her fingernails trying to cope with her vulnerability to the Sunbane, and she can't handle much more. b) She fears Covenant's surrender to Lord Foul, and all of her attention is focused on him. c) Nothing in her background or personality has prepared her to be a "warrior," and the whole idea of using "implements of power" as weapons goes against her nature. d) None of the "implements" you mention *belongs* to her. She isn't the kind of person who just takes precious things away from other people. e) The idea of "power" itself is foreign to her, and she has no inherent grasp on how to use it or what it can do. Only her desperation in Kiril Threndor, and the oblique knowledge gained by being possessed by a Raver, enable her to use Covenant's ring, and then the new Staff, at the end of the story.

2) Vain certainly has the power to defend himself. But he is, in a manner of speaking, a robot with very limited programming. He protects himself, and attacks Sunbane-warpped ur-viles: that's it. (With the one obvious exception that Covenant is allowed to command him once.) Other than that, he only does what he has to do to serve the purpose for which he was made. So, for example, he enters Revelstone the first time because he needs the iron heels of the old Staff, but stays outside the second time because (in terms of his programming) fighting the Clave is irrelevant to his purpose. Covenant and Linden are irrelevant to his purpose. Only Findail and the ring matter. (Remember that Vain's makers don't want to expose him to dangers--e.g. the full force of the Banefire--which may be powerful enough to damage him.)

3) OK, that does it. I'm not going to answer any more questions about the Creator(s). I think I've figured out what's wrong (I mean intellectually wrong) with this line of inquiry. It's rather like asking me whether Patrick Stewart and Leonard Nimoy ever get together when their Federation duties send them to Earth. An important and necessary distinction between "reality" and "fiction" is being blurred. The Land, the Arch of Time, and the Creator do not exist: I made them all up. That's what gives fiction its power. When fiction "works," the author's imagination is speaking directly to the reader's imagination, and thus a community which enriches both is brought into being. But this process depends entirely upon imagination, fabrication, invention, "lies" (falsehoods which have the gift of being "true" instead of "factual"). So any question that implies some sort of necessary relationship between my "fiction" and our "reality" is inherently illogical.

As to your specific question: When the Creator addresses and even effects Covenant, Covenant is in a state of transition between my fictional worlds (my fictional "Land" and my fictional "reality"). He isn't actually in the Land, but he hasn't actually returned to his "real world" yet. Therefore things literally "could go either way." And the same is true for Covenant's physical condition in my fictional "reality." Just because he has a negative reaction to the antivennin doesn't mean he can't "pull through." Stranger things happen in *our* reality all the time.

4) As far as I'm concerned, you can pronounce anything in my books any way you want to. You earned the sovereign right to do so by reading the books. But I understand your curiosity. As it happens, I pronounce Atiaran: A-tea-ARE-an. That first A is long (like "a cat") rather than short ("ah").

(06/07/2004)

Jonathan Meakin:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

I suspect you may well not know where your reading tour for "Runes of the Earth" will take you. However, are any visits to western Canada even on the radar?

Cheers,
Jonathan Meakin
Sorry, professional visits to Canada are highly unlikely. Canadian publishing is a separate business (although often closely tied to US publishing), and the population of Canada is too small (no aspersion intended) to justify the (rather high) costs of a tour. Of course, there are exceptions; but typically Canadian publishers reserve their cost-intensive promotions for Canadian authors (as I think they should).

(06/07/2004)

Victor:  Hello. Long time TC reader, first time caller.

Just curious as to what was the initial concept ro character idea for the Covenant series. Did you say, "I want to write a fantasy series" and proceed from there, or did you have a Thomas Covenant character lurking around in your brain for some time before discovering a setting for him to exist?

What was the spark?

And if you'll indulge me, in the initial creation of your story, was there ever a dramatically different (or alternate) direction the story almost headed before your deciding to go with the story we hold in our hands today?

Thank you for the many hours of enjoyment your books have provided.
Short answers first. Since I can't write at all unless I know where I'm going in a story, what the ending (purpose) of a story will be, my stories never change directions while I work on them. Details about how to get from here to there sometimes change (more often as I get older) as I get new ideas and become more familiar with the characters. But the shape and direction of the story never change in any substantive sense.

<sigh> There's a whole long story behind the initial conception of the first "Covenant" trilogy. I'll try to keep it short.

1) Reading LOTR in college inspired in me a desire to write fantasy, if I ever got an idea. Tolkien was generally sneered at by my peers and teachers in college and graduate school. However, I felt sure that they were wrong, although I couldn't at the time explain why. As I said to myself back in those days (1966-1971), LOTR convinced me that "fantasy was fit work for a man to do." Unfortunately, I had no ideas for a fantasy.

2) During xmas vacation in 1970, I had what Patricia A. McKillip has called a "tail of the comet" experience. I remember exactly where I was when it happened, but I won't bore you with the details. Out of (apparently) nowhere, my head was set fire by the notion (the tail of the comet) of a man from the "real world" confronting the archetypal evil of a "fantasy world" and emerging victorious because he knew that the "fantasy world" was not "real." This was terribly exciting to me, it felt like a mind-altering experience--BUT it was completely static. I had no story: no information about the man, no information about the world, no information about the evil. Nothing. It was fiery as all hell, but it simply didn't go anywhere.

3) In the spring of 1972, I attended the college graduation of one of my sisters. As it happened, my parents were in the US, they both attended the graduation as well; and while we were in town, my father, the orthopedic missionary, was asked to speak at the local Presbyterian church. Well, he was no preacher, so whenever he was asked to speak he described some aspect of his work. On this particular occasion, he spoke about his work with lepers. This, of course, was all stuff I'd heard before; but as I half listened on this particular occasion, I suddenly thought: if a man rejects a "fantasy world," he should be someone for whom fantasy is infinitely preferrable to reality. A man with a good life who experiences a horrible fantasy is only too grateful to label it a nightmare: that is mere self-interest. But if a man with a horrible life experiences a wonderful fantasy and *still* rejects it, that is not self-interest: it is a statement of principle; a rigorous and expensive and even self-sacrificing conviction about the nature of both "reality" and "importance"; a--in effect--religious affirmation. And *whose* "real life," I suddenly asked myself, could possibly be worse than a leper's?

Every essential detail about the first "Covenant" trilogy grew from that fortuitous intersection of leprosy and unbelief. NOW I had a story.

(06/08/2004)

Rob Smith:  Steve,

Not so much a question - more an observation.

In an earlier response you said that the fact your readership responded more to the Covenant novels than the Gap series used to cause you some discomfort (but you got over it - good for you <grin>). I just wanted to let you know that for me at least the Gap series has taken over as my favourite of your works. It was a gradual process over many re-readings and I think I've identified at least one of the reasons.
There is no inherently evil character in the GAP series. Oh there are lot's of villainous types who are willing to sacrifice pretty much everyone & everything else to achieve their own ends (Holt etc.) and the likes of Angus who, as a damaged individual, tries to damage everything and everyone else, but there isn't an equivalent of Foul. Foul is different. Whilst it might be argued his intent is to break the arch of time his methods seem cruel for no other reason than he thinks it's fun - He laughs at Lepers. (I know you don't like Tolkein comparisons but I have the same issue with Sauron who is nasty just because he can be.)

Having said all that the next time I re-read Covenant (in preparation for Runes in October) I'll probably discover more new stuff and it might take over as favourite again - Certainly The Wounded Land is (for me) the strongest single volume of any of your series' ("How do you hurt a man who has lost everything - give him back something broken" - That is truly cold man!)

By the way - in spending your valuable time answering these questions you are doing your fanbase an incredible favour and we salute you. (Just don't use us as an excuse for delaying the next volume - right!)
I understand what you're saying, but I'm not sure I agree. From my perspective, the "evil" in the GAP books--and "Mordant's Need"--is pretty much the same as the "evil" in "Covenant": it's all just Despite in one form or another. (Do remember that Lord Foul has what he considers a legitimate grievance. And all of that laughing at lepers can be seen as tactical: of course it expresses a certain inherent contempt--as does Holt's treatment of, say, his mother--but its primary purpose is, arguably, to manipulate.) The difference (just my opinion, folks: I'm not trying to lay down the law here) is one of *scale*. Lord Foul is an explicitly archetypal character (hence the crashing lack of subtlety of his name). Men like Holt Fasner and Master Eremis are (deliberately) more "human-scaled": they have more of the dimensions and limitations that real people have; they are less "single" or "pure" in their natures than Lord Foul is. As a result, the GAP books and "Mordant's Need" appear to be less about GOOD vs EVIL and more about good people vs bad people. But one of the many points that I'm trying to get at in stories like the GAP books and "Mordant's Need" is that the essential themes remain the same.

Putting the same point another way (in a floundering attempt to be clear): sure, Lord Foul is a "trapped god," while Holt and Eremis are not; but all three of them would probably behave disdainfully and even destructively no matter where they happened to be, even if they somehow achieved their hearts' desires.

(06/08/2004)

James DiBenedetto:  This might be asking you to give too much away (in which case, please accept my apologies and ignore the question), but since you're probably not going to be able to answer questions for the forseeable future, and since October is still 4 long months away, I'll ask...

Can you give us a list of the chapter titles for Runes, and/or the titles of the books/sections that Runes is broken up into?
I'm not sure my publishers would want me to meet your request, but I'll risk their disapproval to this extent. The Prologue has five chapters:
Mother's Son
Gathering Defenses
In Spite of Her
Malice
The Cost of Love and Despair

(06/08/2004)

David :  Mr, Donaldson:

First off, let me say thank you for such incredible writings. My friend whom I used to work with at my old job kept telling me and telling me, "Man, you have GOT to read Stephen R. Donaldson!" So I broke down and bought a copy of Lord Foul's Bane. Yeah, he was right. I was hooked. After that, I read the Gap and REALLY fell in love with that story. My last job was very tedious, boring and sometimes stressful with the amount of overtime we were made to do. Every break I had at work I was reading your books and forgetting about everything in the meantimee, and I have to admit, they helped keep me going. And when I was working, I could not stop thinking about what was going to happen in the next chapter and was eager to get back to turning pages.
Your stories also helped inspire me and grow on a very creative level as well since I'm an artist myself and loved drawing my own interpretations of your characters.
Anyway, what I wanted to ask you was your opinion concerning the required reading of literature in schools. I notice in text books and novels assigned by teachers there are hardly any fantasy or science fiction genres listed save for books in older sci-fi classics such as Farhenheit 451 or Frankenstein. Now in your opinion, why do you suppose we don't see more of the fantasy/sci-fi genre in schools as opposed to the amount of realistic or historical fiction? Doyou think the school boards don't feel the genre should be taken as seriously as Mark Twain or Chaucer? I mean, does the genre matter as long as the main ideas, themes and character development are strong and well-written, and if you can also learn something valuable?

Just something that's been on my mind for awhile, so I thought I'd ask someone who was splendid at writing in many different genres. :)

Take care and have a good day!

-Dutch
I should probably say far more often than I do that I'm grateful for all of the compliments, congratulations, and kindness I've received in the course of this interview. You all are very nice to me, and I appreciate it.

IMNSHO, the reading curriculum in high schools (and even middle schools) is explicitly designed to teach students how to hate reading. I've watched my children suffer through their reading assignments for many years, and my natural reaction is one of unvarnished outrage. (Of course, the same thing was true when I went through school; but fortunately I became an obsessive reader long before the schools tried to stamp it out of me.) But the problem as I see it is not one of genre (although there is an enormous amount of intellectual prejudice out there against "popular" genres like fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries), but of "age-appropriate-ness" (if you'll forgive such an unwieldy term). 30+ years ago, I was sitting in an airport once when a young girl plopped herself down beside me. As it happened, I was reading "The Great Gatsby." The girl glanced over at my book and said (and I swear I'm not making this up), "We read that in 8th grade. I thought it was pretty superficial." Well, "The Great Gatsby" is a great book--for adults. For children it is at best a terrible waste of time, and at worst a destructive experience. Or a contrary example. My dear son, of whom I am very proud (and who will forgive me for revealing this), discovered the Piers Anthony "Xanth" books at age 12. He loved them (while I secretly cringed). And because he loved them, he kept reading. And naturally his tastes matured as he did. The result is a man for whom books are a source of joy instead of a form of torture.

Why do schools do this? Beats the by-products out of me. I'm sure that intellectual prejudice plays a role. So does the distorted conviction that children should read books which are somehow "good for them." So does the way parents sue school systems whenever their children read books which expand their minds. Whatever the explanation, it's perfectly obvious that our educational system has nothing to do with education: it's a babysitting service designed to replicate the worst qualities of the parents.

Now, aren't you glad you asked? <grin>

(06/08/2004)

Cate:  Stephen, Just don't ever die, OK? ; )
Promise you will keep writing and keeping us happy.
OK, OK. I PROMISE I will NEVER DIE. How's that? <grin> And none of this "living on in the hearts of my readers" nonsense for me. I'm just going to go out there and NEVER DIE.

What a relief.

(06/09/2004)

John McCann:  I've been a fan of yours since highschool (before there were barcodes on the back of the trilogy). I actually read the TC trilogy before reading LOTR. Making you the founding father of my interest in fantasy. TC was an annual ritual for me while I was waiting for the second trilogy to be completed. Since the completion of the second trilogy I've read everything of yours as soon as I was aware of it except the Gap books. For the most part I have loved everthing. I reread all six books in 2000, the first time in 15 years. They were far better than I remembered. Rereading them was such a pleasure.

For Christmas a couple years ago I gave a friend the UK omnibus edition of the Man who books. Somewhere it stated these editions were revised. I have the old ballantine paperbacks. Are here any substantial differences between the originals and the newer editions? Will the Man who tried to Get Away also be a revised editon? BTW I enjoyed "The Man Who Fought Alone" more than any novel of yours since "The Woundwd Land."

What would you suggest for someone who really wants to finish the Gap cycle but can't imagine starting over again at "The Real Story" I read the first 3 as they were released and like the 3rd the best of those, but by the time I got "Chaos and Order" (a pre release copy even) I felt lost and never got more than 30 pages into it. This is coming from a person who has already picked up his copy of Lord Fouls Bane to refresh his memory for the upcoming "Runes of the Earth".
All three of the "Reed Stephens" novels ("The Man Who Killed His Brother," "The Man Who Risked His Partner," and "The Man Who Tried to Get Away") were *slightly* revised for their re-release by Tor/Forge in the US and Orion in the UK. I don't believe in attempting substantial revisions of older work: I'm not the man I was when I wrote those books, and I think I would damage their integrity if I altered them to suit my current perspective. So I just did a little polishing on the prose so that it would read more smoothly. If you compared the old Ballantine editions with the modern versions line by line, you would soon see how truly minor the changes are.

Gee, what *can* I suggest for a reader who can't stand to revisit "The Real Story"? Well, if you also can't stand to revisit "Forbidden Knowledge" (affectionately known as "Forbidden Cannelloni"), then my only suggestion is to re-read "A Dark and Hungry God Arises" (affectionately known as "Dark and Hung").

(06/09/2004)

Anonymous:  LOL!!! Well put sir! (In reguards to the education spiel) *Wonders if he spelled spiel right* Hmm..Sh?....Screw it.

Have a wonderful day sir.

I know I will.

Oh! And great books man. Thet are greatly appreciated. heh.

Thank You

J. Depp
Well, I probably shouldn't have gone off on our educational system the way I did. I know for a fact that there are many *many* excellent teachers out there, and some of them are actually able to triumph over the curriculum imposed on them. But our educational system itself, like so many of our systems in this country.... Ah, well.

(06/09/2004)

Bryan Tannehill:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

I first read The First Chronicles at the end of my 7th grade year in 1988 at the behest of one of my favorite (and crustiest) teachers. Your description of the Land and it's inhabitants evoked emotions in a way no books have done before or since. Fast forward to 1998 when I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere (1 hour drive to the nearest McDonald's, 2 to nearest Wal*Mart) with no more than an internet connection as a lifeline. I met a woman on the net a continent away whose alias was Linden_Avery. I contacted her using your books as a starting point for conversation. Well, we've been married for four years. On the inside, our wedding rings bear the inscription "There is also love in the world."

The question that goes with this long winded story is whether you are surprised by the strong emotional reaction the Covenant series seems to cause? People seem to either love or hate your works and style, and in those who love them they seem to strike a deep emotional chord. What in your writing do you attribute this effect to?

Oh by the way, thanks, from the both of us, for brining us together.

Bryan & Janis Tannehill
Just don't blame *me* if your relationship breaks up. <grin> I had nothing to do with it, honest. I mean, I wasn't even *there.*

I suppose I'm *not* surprised by the strong emotional reactions that people have to my work. I've discussed the issue as I see it at various points during this interview. My writing (if the writing can in any sense be distinguished from the stories being written) is explicitly and deliberately emotional--far more overtly so than virtually all of the writing I've read. My characters and I are unusually naked in our needs and passions. Some people respond strongly to such openness (elsewhere in this interview I call it "engagement") while others are repulsed or even threatened by it.

Put it this way: what's your reaction when you see someone you know sobbing openly? I know from personal experience that my reaction is a deep and almost irrefusable desire to put my arms around that person and comfort him/her. And I also know from personal experience that other people feel a deep and irrefusable desire to leave the room. (At least that's what they do when *I'm* sobbing. <rueful smile>) Well, readers of the latter type are unlikely to feel anything except disgust when they try to read one of my books.

(06/09/2004)

David :  I enjoy the names you give your characters, but I think I'm having trouble with proper way they some of them should be pronounced, notably names such as Mikka Vaseczk. How do you pronounce her last name? I also had doubts about "Ubikwe" and "Waynhim".

By the way, I noticed one of the questions earlier had been brought up about what actors would play well as what characters in the Gap. You mentioned Vin Diesel would be a good Angus. Now I know this is your story, but I have to admit, that took me WAY by surprise. :) For some reason, John Goodman was the first person I visualized. :)

-Dutch
Pronunciation. There *is* no correct way to pronounce the names in my books. Honest. *You're* the reader: you have the right to pronounce anything the way you want. Of course, I have my own pronunciation, but I really don't want to impose it on anyone.

With that in mind:
Mikka Vaseczk (Mikka rhymes with FLICK-ah, and in VAS-ah-check the VAS-ah is pronounced like the "vase" in "vaseline")
Ubikwe (you-BICK-way)
Waynhim (WAY-n-him)

John Goodman for Angus? I can't see it. Certainly Goodman has far more "range" as an actor than Vin Diesel has shown so far; but I've never seen Goodman produce anything that resembles the squalor of Angus' early malice. Diesel could do the malice (I'm not sure about the squalor).

(06/09/2004)

Peter Purcell:  Thank you for answering my prior questions.

I just received a first edition signed copy (in GREAT condition) of "Reave the Just and Other Tales". It's outstanding!

A thought occured to me - please accept my apologies if it's an inappropriate request of a famous author! Would you (or your publishers) offer your Kevins Watch fans & friends an opportunity to purchase a "special" Kevins Watch signed first edition? [Or are the logistics of fulfilling such a request so complex that it's rude of me to ask!? If so, again accept my apologies!!]

Otherwise, your site mentions planned tours. If your planning to tour the Washington DC area, I could get a signed edition in person. That would be WAY cool. [Some of us can't come to Elohimfest!!]

Best regards and sympathies for the hectic times ahead for you as you described in an earlier post!
The problem is partly one of logistics and partly one of cost. Until Kevin's Watch's membership numbers in the (high) thousands, my publishers simply couldn't make enough money from a special Kevin's Watch edition to justify the many complications of producing such an edition. Books may seem expensive enough already, but publishers actually get to keep very little of that money. Without sheer *volume* they would all go out of business--unless they, say, tripled the price of books.

(06/09/2004)

Mark Dickerson:  Your series "Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" was the most amazing series i'd ever read. It was my favorite set of books to read. The two tearjerking moments were when we thought FoamFollower died, and the retelling of end of the giants in the second series. I've always looked for a new set of books - imagine my joy at hearing that you're writing more (though i'm guessing that (sadly) it won't be from Thomas Covenants viewpoint as he's departed).

I know, i know - so far there isn't a question..

Well - my partner just made some peach and lime jam which he says is delicious - and from what i remember, aliantha supposedly tasted similar to peaches and limes - here's the question - would you like a jar?

I'm sure your partner's jam *is* delicious. But please don't send any to me. Jam doesn't get eaten at my house.

(06/10/2004)

Jeremy Gauker:  Mr. Donaldson,
Thank you for sharing your stories with us. No other author has moved me in so many different ways. Until recently, I had only read the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and The Gap cycle. Those alone were enough for me to say you are my favorite author. Currently, I am reading Reave the Just an other tales and have just finished Penance. I am now avidly searching for anything published in your name.

My question is: Do you have any plans(or ideas) to write another science fiction novel or series?

Again, thank you for your stories and your precious time. The previous Gauker was my Dad, who intrduced Covenant to me.
I think I mentioned earlier in this interview that my only (extremely) tentative plan for the future (after "The Last Chronicles") is to write one more mystery novel. This is normal for me: I don't try to think that far ahead, or in that way. My goal is always to concentrate exclusively on the story at hand, and to let ideas for future stories reveal themselves as they see fit. Sometimes I have ideas tucked away in the back of my head: sometimes I don't. But in either case, I pay no attention. Instead I focus on what I'm actually writing.

(06/10/2004)

Will Reidhead:  Dear Mr Donaldson,
Thank you for answering our questions and thank you for committing yourself to another 10 years of work - for our pleasure!

I have always been intrigued by your choice of obscure words. In a previous question you responded that you collect such words for later use in your work. I have come to savor these words for their sound and texture, and don't even bother to look up most of the ones I don't know. I am curious though, since you presumably know their meanings, do you always employ them in their strictly intended usage?

A second question: in a recent reply, you quoted the Giants' "Joy is in the ears that hear." Do you find yourself frequently quoting your characters in your everyday life, and if so, how do people respond?

By the way, my mother passed on Lord Foul's Bane to me when I was 13. However, I was mortified when on page 19 Convenant had some fairly sexual thoughts about a woman. I couldn't bear the idea of my mother knowing I had read such things, so I lied to her and told her I gave up on the book on page 18!
I do try to use words "correctly." But "correctness" in language is not a simple matter. Words often have several meanings, some of which are much less commonly used than others; but I have no qualms about using the least common meaning of a word. Indeed, I have no qualms about using words which have become so uncommon that they no longer appear in modern dictionaries. And then there is the interesting distinction between denotation (literal meaning) and connotation (implied meaning). Connotation often has more effect on communication than denotation does. But connotation is inherently more, well, debatable than denotation; and at a certain point the whole question of "correctness" becomes moot.

No, I never go around quoting myself in daily life. I only do so in contexts like this interview, where virtually every participant shares a body of knowledge, and where most of the participants like hearing such quotes. In my "real" life, I know very VERY few people who actually read my books. And I know NObody who enjoys such conversational gambits as, "As I wrote in my book XYZ...."

(06/10/2004)

Paul:  Do you have an opinion on the publication of twelve (or so) volumes of notes, extracts, original versions etc by Tolkien's son? Can it be justified because of the way Tolkien created a whole mythos that predated LOTR by several decades or is it merely pillaging? I tend towards the former, primarily because The Silmarillion was completed by his son and not bad at all, and some of the lost stories add a lot to the tale.

To put the above a different way, what would you think of the publication of YOUR notes and annotated texts etc after you shuffled off this mortal coil?! Would the lack of a world mythos approach in your work make it a rather pointless addition or would we learn more than we already know via the books? Another related and rather morbid question - if you were to pop your clogs today (a quaint Brit saying) what would you leave behind in terms of the last three books of the Final Chronicles (or do they only exist in your head at present)?

One final request - when you have proofread the new book, will you let us know how many pages it works out at please!

Thanks!
Grave-robbing is an ancient and (in some circles) respected tradition. I'm not at all sure how Tolkien would feel about what's been done with his unpublished notes etc. since his death. But there's no stopping the human impulse to plunder the past.

In my case, however, there won't be anything to plunder. My notes consist primarily of sentence fragments and (apparently) unmotivated questions, and would be opaque to anyone else. Ditto my annotated texts, such as they are. So nothing exists which could be plundered (or completed) by anyone.

The obvious exception is my journeyman-work, my "juvenalia": everything that I wrote before "Lord Foul's Bane". But such things reside among my collected papers at the Kent State University Libraries, and are only available to scholars doing research. KSU would win a juicy lawsuit if anyone took that stuff and published it. And I would die of embarrassment--which would be a problem, of course, since otherwise I'm not going to die. <grin>

I'll be happy to let people know the page-count for "Runes" when I've seen the final proofs. But you may have to jog my memory.

(06/10/2004)

Sean Casey:  Stephen, I'm currently doing a Creative Writing degree and my lecturer for my Level 2 Prose fiction module is doing PhD research on the novel. In particular, he's looking at the leitmotif in literature. Naturally, I offered to lend him The Real Story. He said that the afterword was 'most interesting' and told me a bit about where his studies had taken him. He's read a lot of Thomas Mann, who apparently was a Wagner fan and wanted to translate his musical ideas into literature. He also mentioned the 'Homeric epithet' and cited examples like 'wine-dark sea' and 'swift-footed Achilles' as early examples of the literary leitmotif.

How much of this is familiar to you and was it an influence on the creation of the style you used in the Gap series?

I read your comments on who might play Gap characters with a wry smile. I've always pictured Angus as a fatter, uglier version of James Hetfield (lead singer of my own musical muse, Metallica) after seeing a photo of him snarling into a mic. What about Tom Cruise for Nick?
I studied Thomas Mann in graduate school, and was dimly aware of his interest in Wagner. On the other hand, I know next to nothing about Homer. But I'm told that Homer was essentially an oral poet, and that his use of recurring phrases (and even entire paragraphs) was intended primarily as a mnemonic device (for the audience as well as the poet) rather than as a means of thematic development.

But to the extent that I'm conscious of what I'm doing (which may be more than you think--and less than I think), I developed my own version of Wagner's leitmotifs myself. And I started working on it long before I reached the GAP books. So, no, Mann and Homer were not conscious influences.

Cruise as Nick? Well, he plays "bad guys" well. And he has the look of a man who is attractive to women precisely because he secretly despises them--which would fit Nick nicely. But he's too "smarmy" for me. How about Ralph Fiennes (sp?)?

(06/10/2004)

Lord Fool:  Thank you for answering my last question. Now I'm back with tougher ones :)

My questions consern the limitations of Creators. The rule is simple: once you've finished your creation, you can't affect to it any way without destroying the whole thing. ("Even ultimate power has limitations", and so on.)

So,
1) In the end of "The Chronicles", the Creator of the alternative Earth offered Covenant the possibility of living the rest of his life in the Land as a hero. How could that have been possible, since sending Covenant back to the Land the Creator would had have to make some sort of "way" to the Land, thus interfering with his creation?

2) Although Creators have no power concerning their own creations, they seem to be able to meddle with other Creators' works. The Land's Creator could be there talking, deciding who of all the white gold carriers of our world exactly was going to be summoned by Drool the Cavewight, and in the end giving Covenant's body the energy to keep on living.

You said earlier in this interview that the Land's Creator didn't have to ask permissions for his actions in the "real world" from the "real world's" Creator. Is this because "our" Creator couldn't have stopped other Creators meddling with his own creation anyway? And, if a Creator steps in in someone else's creation, how much power does he have there? Unlimited, perhaps?

3) If a Creator has a *lot* of power in other Creator's creation, couldn't it be possible for one Creator to ask help from other Creators? Like, "you go and fix the errors in my world, and I'll put your world in order".

And a bonus question: After reading my comment, can you ever stand the word "Creator" any more? :)
Sorry. I've already OD'ed on "Creator" questions. I tried to explain why earlier. So please accept my regrets--and trust your own judgment.

(06/10/2004)

Anonymous:  This is not a question as much as some top of mind thoughts that really don't need to be put on the web.

First, thanks for responding to the questions. What a great service you are providing! I know I really enjoy the interaction and getting some insight on your thought process and all the different series that you have written. While I am saddened that you will have to cut back a bit, I understand the need to complete your various projects and look forward to the one you can't really talk about yet.

My real comment was to give you some honest feedback on Mordant & GAP. (I figure you get enough questions and comment regarding TC. Obviously, TC rates as my favorites all time. I think I have gotten to the point where I have memorized whole passages ). I have read each series atleast twice and have really enjoyed Mordant, was somewhat turned off by GAp but later in the series was able to appreciate it. I eagerly gobbled up your new publications that you have written as they came out over the last 25 years. I can't tell you how many times I checked for your name on the "forthcoming books" list. I was a bit surprised with some of the stats you threw up on sales figures for the different series. While not a real surprise that TC sold well, I was amazed that Mordant sold only 20% of that! And GAP only 15% of Mordant!!! I don't know how you don't get angry with numbers like that. And it sure angers me that Publishers now think you are a has-been. I am interested in why you think that the sales figures fluctuated to that degree.

I truly enjoyed Mordant as a series, in particular Castellen, Eremis, Artegal. I have found with most of your works, that I truly get a kick more out of the side characters than the main ones. Even in TC, I find Covenant and Linden to be less appealing than Mhoram (my personal favorite), Bannor, The Ravers, & Nom. Theresa and Geraden really didn't do it for me. I never could really buy into Theresa's inability to act and especially her ineffectiveness and existence in the real world. Geraden always seemed to be a bit one dimensional, especially in the first book where he is the lovealbe yet incompetent dufus who always is does something wrong. But yet, I really loved the plot, the intrigue,King Joyce, Havelock, and Gart. Great stuff. I have nine kids and the first two have read this series and also have gotten a kick out of it. Though I am waiting for them to be in the age 16-18 range before reading TC and probably older before they can choose to pick up GAP.

GAP was problematic for me. I found "The Real Story" to be absolutely revolting. The violence was so personal and absolute and that the triangle of change that occurred between the 3 main characters was lost upon me and got to the point that I really didn't care much about any of them. Morn, a character that I should have sympathized with, became unbelievable and I never bought into zone inplant. (I find it paradoxical that I can buy into alertnate worlds, gap drives, etc.. but can't believe the motivations that drive the characters). That violence continued into book two and even though I could see a decent plot developing the whole rape, control situation was still way to much for me to even say that I enjoyed reading the first two books. As books 3-5 continued in the series, I did appreciate the intracies and loved Hashi, Holt, Ward, Holt's Mother, Min, Dolph. But honestly, accept for that the GAP series was written by you, I never woould have even picked up "A Dark & Hungry God Arises".

Thanks for allowing me to go on a bit. Best of luck in future endeavors. You writing has been great entertainment, given me pause to think about what I think is important, and thereby shaped me. I truly appreciate your efforts and will remain a loyal fan.
Thanks for your loyalty! I've been exceptionally fortunate in my readers.

A few comments about the drop-off in sales from "Covenant" to "Mordant's Need" to the GAP books. I suspect that "Mordant's Need" suffered in comparison to "Covenant" because: a) the world is significantly less "magical" than the Land, and readers missed that sense of tangible transcendence; and b) "Mordant's Need" is more gentle--i.e. it has less of the "edge" which enhances suspense by making the reader worry about what might happen next. As for the GAP books, they: a) have too much "edge" for most readers to tolerate; and b) aren't magical at all. (There's a reason why science fiction in general doesn't sell as well as fantasy. I think it may have to do with the systemic anti-intellectualism of our society. Almost by definition, science fiction tends to emphasize mind over emotion, while fantasy tends to do the opposite. On a deeply visceral level, I suspect that most of us would rather "believe in" elves--and Creators--rather than black holes.)

(06/10/2004)

Allen Parmenter:  Mr. Donaldson, thankyou for answering my pestering little question about your " religious or anti-religious proclivities". I am a Roman Catholic and a close friend of mine who is also a Christian find great spiritual nourishment in your work even though we guessed you are not - ah - how should I put this? - a subscriber to "official Christianity." Now, on to the questions.
Towards the end of the Gap Warden says to Angus "Don't just kill him Angus, tear his heart out." in reference to Holt Fasner. Considering the disastrous culimination of Nick Succorso's useless life - was Warden's request tragic?
I am fond of calling the Gap "Star Wars Goes to Hell". Nick Succorso's grin always reminds me of that inveterate sexual harrasser Han Solo's. Was this deliberate on your part or would you just be pleased or horrified to think that a reader noticed the co-incidence?
One last question - will there be wookies in the sequel? (nasty grin) Thank you for your consideration.
In my view, Warden Dios' desire to "punish" Holt Fasner is certainly part of what makes him a tragic figure. But I don't see Nick as tragic. His wasted life is entirely his own doing, and he cares about nothing except himself. Warden, you might say, cares about everything except himself, and his life is not in any sense wasted.

I like the idea of "Star Wars Goes to Hell." And I enjoyed the movies. But I didn't take them seriously enough to be influenced by them. Han Solo is certainly not the only character in film--or in literature--or in life--to use that "shit-eating" grin as a form of sexual predation. Indeed, one of my personal complaints about "Star Wars" is that (visuals aside) it is *entirely* derivative. There is (just an opinion, folks) less to Lucas' work than meets the eye.

As for "wookies in the sequel": gosh, is that a *dare*?

(06/10/2004)

Brad:  Do you own the King of Thesaurases? I ask only because it has become something of a running joke at the Watch. I began reading the Chronicles at the age of 12. (My father had read them in the navy, and had carelessly left them out for me to find) I spent the next year poring over dictionaries for the words I could not comprehend (there were many), yet there were several I never found the meaning of. Is your vocabulary so extensive that this comes easily to you, or do you find yourself forced to reference you thesaurus on a regular basis. As an writer, I know I often do....
I've discussed the fact that I don't use (or even own) a thesaurus earlier in this interview. But if you can't find an unfamiliar word anywhere else, you might try the Oxford English Dictionary (a truly monumental achievement, and a boon to language-lovers everywhere).

(06/10/2004)

horribleboy:  First of all, let me just say thanks for everything. Can't begin to describe....ALL the books have meant something important to me.

Question: From a lot of what I've read on these pages, it seems that being an author must be extremely frustrating at times. The message that comes across is that all of your work must be altered or transmuted in some way before it ever reaches the reader - the words, the length, the title, the jacket cover - and so on. Which of your stories has reached us in the closest possible form to that in which you originally intended?

Well, I get frustrated: everyone does. And "Runes" has certainly been the most difficult book I've ever tried to write. (Unfortunately, the next installment will be much *more* difficult.) But I've conveyed the wrong impression if I've led you to believe that my stories *as published* somehow misrepresent my intentions, original or otherwise. (Remember, I'm just writing stories. Things like cover art and jacket copy are "not my problem"--even though I naturally have opinions about them.) I BELIEVE IN rewriting. And I know from long and painful experience that I need the services of good editors. I'll just mention two reasons. 1) Like (I believe) any creative artist, I have an intractable tendency when I write to *leave out* the things that are obvious to me; but of course those things are usually *not* obvious to the reader. Well, it's the editor's thankless job to stand up for the reader; to make me aware of what are, in effect, faulty assumptions on my part. 2) Contrary to what you might think--since my books are so long--I'm a very slow writer. Something that you read in an hour may well have taken me a month to write. As a result, because I'm moving so slowly, I have an intr--no, this time let's call it irrefragable--tendency to *emphasize* things which are necessary to me as I write, but which became obvious to the reader pages or chapters (weeks or months) ago. And again it is the editor's thankless job to let me know that I'm going on and on about something I've already beaten half to death. (Plus I haven't even mentioned my proclivity for making mistakes, or my natural human impulse to do things the easy way when the hard way would be much more effective. And let's not even *hint* at the damage insomnia does to my powers of concentration.)

For such reasons, among others, the whole concept of "what I originally intended" has very little meaning. Because I'm so fallible, nothing that I write ever achieves "what I originally intended." But that's my doing: it's not the fault of any editor or publisher (with the very rare exception of Lester del Rey's infrequent interference). And I'm certainly stubborn enough to stand by what I've written when I believe it's preferrable to the alternatives.

So: out of frustration, I sometimes complain about my editors. But at the end of the day, everything that I've ever published is MINE. If it is less than perfect, I have no one to blame but myself.

(06/10/2004)

Tracie (Furls Fire):  Hello again Mr. Donaldson. This is abosulutely wonderful, I am learning so much about you and your writing views reading this interview. This is the first page I come too when I turn on my computer and log onto the net. I love being able to communicate with one of my favorite authors in this way. You've answered so many of my questions when you answer others. It's given me such an insight into the Chronicles, one that I didn't have before, even though I have read them over and over again more times than can be counted. I know everyone, including me, has thanked you repeatedly for doing this, but I want to do it again. Thank you!! (More mush, I'm sorry).

One of the things I love most about The Land is the music/poetry. "Lord Kevin's Lament", "The Legend of Berek Halfhand", "Andelain Forgive!", "To Say Farewell", and the way music seems to enshroud the Land all give the Chronicles such emotional depth for me, my heart lurches everytime I come to a song in the books.

My question is-- and I know you've already answered musical questions so forgive me if I am being redundant-- but, I wondered if you had a running "score", as it were, going through your mind when you wrote the "songs"? Take "Andelain Forgive!" for example (my favorite), I "hear" a symphony behind the words rising in ear-splitting cresendo when Caer-Caveral sings the words.."Oh Andelain forgive! For I am doomed to fail this war..". And when Pitchwife sings the words "for even dust to me is dear, for dust and ashes still recall my love was here.." I hear maybe a soft cello or a single voilin accompany him, or perhaps even that flute he was playing as he sat on the wall at Revelstone.

I guess what I'm asking is, did you "hear" the music as you wrote the songs? Or did you just put them to paper in hopes your readers would do what I did--hear it in their own inner ears and souls?
No, I "just put them to paper in hopes [my] readers would do what [you] did." The only music I hear when I write songs, or verses, or poetry, is the music of the language itself. For me, that's music enough.

Maybe I've just heard too many bad composers butcher powerful lyrics--and too many good composers make abysmal lyrics sound powerful. Or maybe I have no detectable musical talent. <rueful smile>

(06/10/2004)

Brian H. Galloway:  Mr. Donaldson,

Although it was the Covenant books that introduced me to your work 14 years ago, it was Mordant's Need and The Gap series that placed you in my list of favorite authors regardless of genre (along with Orson Scott Card and George RR Martin). I've read The Gap series twice and Mordant's Need five times. I also intend to read the mysteries, but *hate* to read a series out of order so I'm waiting for TOR to finish publishing them all so I can read them back-to-back-to-back.

I do look forward to the Final Chronicles, but I look more forward to what you will do afterwards (and I don't mean retiring).

Thank you.

Brian
After "The Last Chronicles"? Oh, you mean the part where I NEVER DIE? Believe me, that *will* be something to look forward to. <grin>

(06/10/2004)

Jerry Erbe (DirectorDios):  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
There have been several disparaging remarks regarding the GAP series in this thread. I must admit to being befuddled as I found them stunning and impossible to quit reading.
As much as I love the Chronicles, I personally would have loved to have learned more about Morn and the whole Gap-gang!
Which of the GAP characters was the most fun to write and which of them do you wish you could have developed more? Additionally, if you HAD to equate yourself to one of the characters in the series, which one would it be?
Oh, unquestionably Hashi was the most fun to write. And I wish I could have developed Davies better: as I said earlier, I disappointed myself more with him than with any other character in the GAP books. Even if you held a gun to my head, however, I couldn't equate myself with anyone in those books. But when I grow up I *do* want to be Min Donner. <grin> She has integrity on a scale I can only dream about.

(06/10/2004)

Jonathan Meakin:  Mr Donaldson,
I only recently discovered this site and was so very pleasantly surprised to learn of the forthcoming Last Chronicles. I am also impressed that you are taking on the task of responding to questions, a remarkable demonstration of generosity on your part.

I have long been an admirer of your work. My copies of the Chronicles (UK Fontana editions, I think they are) are well-read and falling apart, so perhaps I’ll invest in the new editions as they look very, ahem, “precious.” I have also greatly enjoyed your short fiction (“Reave the Just” strikes me as particularly brilliant) and The Gap series is, in my view, an astounding accomplishment.

I must say, though, that "Mordant's Need" doesn’t quite come together for me. (Sorry.) The concept of Imagery was incredibly interesting, but the narrative’s ending seemed too neatly wrapped up and oddly inevitable. More significant, however, is the issue of power in “Mordant’s Need”. In other works you explore so well the *recognition* of personal failings as empowering individual agency, as a source of power. However, in seeing through to the end his contorted and convoluted plot, King Joyse doesn’t appear to recognize (in any real sense) what he risked or what he lost. In fact, and oddly enough given your knot of interests in this regard, Joyse appears vindicated for his machinations of power without clearly gaining new self-knowledge. The risk to Queen Madin and his daughters results in, at worst, Myste’s scar, and at best, a new political alliance. Whereas the loss of the Tor, the Perdon, and Castellan Lebbick (three wonderfully realized characters, by the way), a loss that would immobilize and paralyze Thomas Covenant, for instance, seems strangely distanced from Joyse. Similarly, Teresa doesn’t appear to acquire self-knowledge and, thus, agency, or perhaps her transformation is too subtle to be convincing? Eremis, of course, fails for his sheer arrogance and lust for power at the end, but, ultimately, Joyse’s and (perhaps) Teresa’s lack of self-knowledge echo Eremis’ and (dare I say it) Lord Foul’s, although configured differently and without the same consequences. (Also, the Perdon and Lebbick arguably gain self-knowledge, but die for that knowledge in this tale.)

I was wondering, Mr. Donaldson, whether you would like to comment on the power in “Mordant’s Need”? Do you see a distinction in the configuration and ramifications of power and individual agency in the two volume tale compared to the Chronicles and the Gap series?
I'm sure you don't expect me to comment on your critique of "Mordant's Need." Every reader has the right--even the responsibility--to have his/her own opinion about specific books. Just as I have mine.

But about "power" in "Mordant's Need": here's one way to look at it. Imagery and the use of mirrors occupy a sort of middle ground between the manifestations of power in more traditional fantasy ("magic and monsters") and those in science fiction (typically "weaponry"). The kingdom of Mordant is not *in itself* a magical place. In fact, it is a rather "mundane" quasi-medieval reality. Instead it has access to magic through the manipulation of devices; through a kind of technology. (Hence the otherwise rather strange fact that Imagery can tap into worlds which operate according to very different "rules" than Mordant does.) In that sense, "Mordant's Need" may deserve to bear the lugubrious label "science fantasy." The use of "magic" there bears a certain resemblence to our use of "science".

Of course, other writers have done this before. But in my experience, none of them have treated both the "magical" and the "mundane" aspects of their creation with equal respect, as I strove to do. (Having said that, however, I suddenly find myself thinking of China Mieville....)

Incidentally, "Mordant's Need" also represents my first attempt to deal with the themes and implications of "politics"--in (no doubt unconscious) preparation for the GAP books.

(06/11/2004)

josiah jacob:  Thank you very much for answering my previous questions. It truely made my day when i first saw your written reply to my inquiries, and i'm sorry my second set of questions was so large.

you answered 2 of my many questions from my previous post, so i figure that i'll post two more here, and when/if they are answered, i'll post 2 more next month. i hope that makes it easier for you, as apposed to my barrages of 10 or so questions at a time because i get so caught up in typing them :-p


An interesting question about Covenent: is The Land real? I assume it is, I'm sure all the readers assume it is, but, unless I'm mistaken, it was never actually stated that it was real. Thomas may have just excepted it as a place in his own mind, were he was not an angry, old leper, but rather someone who was able to help, and wanted to help (here i'm speaking of the last book of the first Chronicles, were he fought off the summons to save a child, then gave in to letting them call him into the land). Granted, the very begining of the second chronicles kinda dashes that to hell, but i thought i'd like to ask you about that anyways.

Also, will Thomas' ex-wife, or (i hope) son have any role in the upcoming books? And though I know their relationship was... taboo for lack of a better way to put it, I'd have liked to have seen Thomas and Elena stay togeather. Did a part of you regret writing her out, or do you wholey feel her death was nessasry, and her relationship with Thomas was simply a dead end?

i'm sure you already know how your fans feel, but just incase you don't hear it from us enough, i'd like to thank you again for taking the time to talk with us, and answer our questions.
Is the Land real? Of course not. I made it up. As I also made up the characters who have to wrestle with the question of the Land's "reality". It's all a parlor trick. Or, to put it more constructively, an exercise of imagination.

OK, OK, I know that's a glib (not to mention dismissive) answer to a serious question. But I'm actually trying to get at what I consider a very serious point: what is "reality"? Is something "real" because we can verify its existence in some tangible way? (I know this desk is "real" because I can touch it. I know my illness is "real" because I can feel its effects. I know my friends are "real" because I experience them in various ways.) Or is something "real" because we choose to assign importance or value to it? (You may believe that you have a "soul." I may believe that I do not. But surely the fact--and it is a fact--that I cannot verify the existence of your "soul" has no bearing on the importance of your "soul" to you. Is not your "soul" therefore "real" as far as you are concerned?) Gene Wolfe says that he knows "angels" are "real" while "corporations" are not because he's *seen* "angels" but he's never laid eyes on a "corporation." I personally don't consider "real estate" to be "real": oh, I know that the physical ground exists, but the whole notion that a person could "own" a piece of the planet seems so absurd to me that I simply can't give it any credence.

Do you see my point? The Land has no tangible, verifiable "reality," not even to Covenant and Linden. Yet they--and I--and many of my readers--assign importance/value to the Land. Isn't it therefore "real" precisely because we make it so? And isn't that really the position at which Covenant himself arrives at the end of "The Power that Preserves"?

As for Covenant's ex-wife and son, if you've read the chapter of "Runes" I've posted on this site, you already know the answer.

But your question about Elena and Covenant as a couple is actually your *third*, so it will have to wait until the next time around. <grin>

(06/11/2004)

Clayton:  Mr. Donaldson, you have my unending gratitude for so relentlessly pursuing this Gradual Interview. I know of no other author connecting in this way to their readers. (then again, isn't this taking time away from "Runes"? get back to work! <grin>)

My question is: When writing about the Land for the first time, did you sit back and first sketch out a map or are you able to think spatially as you write in such a way that a map is redundant and only created as an afterthought for the reader? From this interview I know you don't write copious notes of 'backstory' ala Tolkien, but I'm curious if the geography was planned or sort of happened.

Thanks!!
No, I had to plan the geography and draw the map as part of my preparation to write the story. I can't think spatially at all. Questions like, say, how long would it take Troy's army to march from Revelwood to Doom's Retreat? would have been impossible for me to answer without a map. Just *think* of the narrative logistics involved in having the opposing armies reach Doom's Retreat almost simultaneously, and then having Covenant arrive at Gallows Howe while Mhoram et al are there.

(06/11/2004)

Peter Purcell:  I had to smile when I saw your last response to a "Creator" question having sumbitted some of my own. I promise this isn't an additional one!

But I think your wrong on the "problem". It isn't a blurring of reality and fiction. I think there is a general human need for structure and order as it relates to existence. I think that is at the root of the popularity of religion in general - a quest for the meaning of it all - where did we come from and why. While there are a few of us who rebel at the notion of there being any ONE right answer, I believe we are in the minority.

In fiction you "pull" us into the fictional universe (or multiverse - take your pick!) you've created. Writers who do that VERY well (as you do) have us emotionally caring about your "fictional" creation (in your case the "fictional" Land and "fictional" real world.) The liability (if you'd call it that) is that we also care about the "fictional" cosmological structure - we want to feel that it's complete and consistent.

I'd suggest that authors who have sold "background" cosmologies for their series as separate books are appealling to this desire (ala Tolkien Silmarillion.)

Just a thought!!

I think I understand your point. But (if I do) you're talking about "internal consistency." I've already discussed that at some length. And I believe that the Creator's role in the "Covenant" books has demonstrable "internal consistency." However, most of the "Creator" questions on this site are actually "reality" questions (discussed above). Hence my unwillingness to continue answering them.

(06/11/2004)

David Wiles:  Steve;After reading the last question in your QnA section I agree, it is expensive touring. So please be welcome and true in our home. A good hardy home cooked meal,( my wife cooks organic if necessary) is just the thing a road warrior needs. We are not wacko's, just people who are grateful for the gift of your stories. Two of my children are blackbelts in Karate and were trained at the American Academy of Martial Arts and my youngest is a brown belt. They are 18, 16, and 11 years old. We are located in central California right between San Fransisco and Los Angeles in Fresno. So as you see, it would be on your way and a perfect waymeet for any weary traveler. Thanks again for the countless hours of joy, anguish, pain and love through your words.
Before you write this request off please remember that the receiving of a gift honors the giver.
Yours very truely, David Wiles and Family
I appreciate your very kind offer. Frankly, however, I can't imagine taking you up on it. For all practical purposes, you are a total stranger to me. And dealing with total strangers is a huge part of what makes touring so arduous. Only the company of old friends and family actually comforts me when I'm on the road. Failing that, I need privacy, isolation, even sensory deprivation.

I hope you understand.

(06/11/2004)

hosabian:  Hi monsieur Donaldson I cant tell you how gratefull I am to be able to communicate with one of my favourate authors this way. Most of the questions I am curiuos about have been asked so at the risk of getting the same answers(understanbly) i'll ask you different questions. Firstly I want to tell you how moved i was when covenant resigns himself to find his own caamora in the banefire, because he does so with such dignity, very moving. My question is simple, In 'mordants need' why the game draughts instaed of chess?. Also (i know its cheecky to ask you about other authors) grin!!, but what do you think of david eddings and his series the 'Belgariad'? (I thought I'd avoid asking about tolkien lol).Also Ive heard you talk about camus, and satre before I wanted to ask you if you've read 'nausea' by satre and if so did you like it? thanx for your time big D, I wish you luck with the new series!! x x
Briefly--

I chose "hop-board" instead of chess for "Mordant's Need" for reasons explained by Edgar Allen Poe: he argued that to win at chess requires mere concentration, while to win at "draughts" (checkers) requires imagination. A bit over-simple, perhaps, but it suited my purposes at the time.

Sorry, I can't comment on David Eddings. Like Robert Jordan (and George R. R. Martin, for those of you who were wondering), he lies outside my ken.

Sartre's brand of existentialism isn't to my taste. After all, wasn't it Sartre who asserted that "Man is a futile passion"? A man who writes the kind of fiction I do can hardly be expected to accept that statement. (If you want to know more about my views on the subject, you might look at my essay "Epic Fantasy and the Modern World" posted on this site. And before long my webmaster will post an essay by Benjamin Laskar which treats extensively with "Camus, Sartre, and Donaldson.")

(06/11/2004)

Elisabet Liljeblad:  Hello!
It's a great pleasure to read your fantastic novells.

When will The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant be released in Sweden?

Actually, as my heart has a great desire of a figurative making of Covenant, I rather wouldn't want to see an adaption for the screen of the trilogies in the bottom of my heart. I just can't imagine how you will succeed in for example transforming Linden's thoughts and feelings into pictures.

I wasn't fully dissatisfied with Peter Jacksons adaption to the screen of The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, but with your work it is different. Nothing can compare to your books, they are just to important to be destroyed by us, the commercial word. Anyhow, I will watch the film, if there will be a film, even if my heart will break :). Guess I'm too young to be ready for that.

I very much look forward to the release of The Runes of the Earth.

Thank you!
Privately, I believe that if anyone ever makes a "Covenant" movie it will almost certainly be *bad.* The deep internal dimensions of LOTR are precisely what was missing from Jackson's films, and those dimensions are even more central to "Covenant" than they are to Tolkien. Books can take you inside the characters: movies cannot (except by dialogue, imagery, and inference--and, like LOTR, "Covenant" has *way* too much action to leave room for all the talk, the *explanation,* that would be necessary).

I'm sorry, I have no idea when--or if--"The Runes of the Earth" will appear in Sweden. Publishers from other countries usually wait until they see how a book sells in the US and the UK before making a decision.

(06/11/2004)

Mike G:  Thanks for taking the time to answer questions- it is a great thing to get your insight into these stories...
My question- and I apologize if it has been asked before-
You seem to be very big on anti-heroes. Covenant, certainly is not likeable on the surface, though he has many admirable qualities. And *no one* in the Gap Series has many socially redeeming qualities by the end <grin>. How do you go about writing such dark characters? It can't be easy to get inside these characters for long? One of the testaments to your great skill is that you can make such likeable stories about such unlikeable people- I was constantly angry wtih myself reading "Gap" because I started to care about the characters...
There are at least a couple of keys to my approach. One is that I don't think of them as "anti-heroes." Yes, I know they're "dark," and yes, it is often unpleasant (!) to spend so much time with them. But I think of them as important people who *need* to have these stories happen to them. I am, in a manner of speaking, helping them find redemption (or personal integrity, or love, or the ability to care about something other than themselves, or whatever you choose to call it). After all, I'm a natural born "do-gooder" <grin>.

Another key is that I know where these unpleasant people are *going*. Remember, I can't write at all unless I know where the story is going, and why. From the start, I can see the resolutions toward which my characters are (unconsciously) striving. That helps me cope with an awful lot of what they do along the way.

There's an interesting point of "literary criticism" here which I have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue in any depth. But briefly: a literary critic named, I believe, Kazin has argued that the defining characteristic of US writers (as opposed to writers of other nationalities) is that they feel compelled to create what they are not; to fill in perceived (conscious or otherwise) absences within themselves. Hence Hemingway, who lived a dramatic, even romantic, life wrote spare, unemotional prose which underplayed any drama or romance contained in his stories. And Hawthorne, who lived an exceedingly spare and mundane life, wrote exotic, dramatic, and supernatural fiction.

It would not be difficult to find ways in which Kazin's argument applies to me.

(06/14/2004)

Elisabet Liljeblad:  How come Thomas Covenant never is called Thomas, and how come Linden Avery always being called the opposite, Linden?
It's sexist, I know. But I was programmed that way many decades ago, and breaking free has been, well, difficult. Of course, in my own defense, Covenant hates his first name; so he encourages people to call him Covenant. But that's really just a rationalization. *I* call him Covenant to emphasize the issues which lie beneath his Unbelief. But my Mommy would wash my mouth out with soap if I called "Linden Avery" Avery. <grin>

The GAP books, I'm glad to say, don't have the same problem. Nor for that matter does "Mordant's Need." But after six books poor Covenant and Linden are kind of stuck the way they are.

(06/14/2004)

Fist:  A no-prize?? How cool!! What was it for?
Gosh, if I remembered, I'd tell you.

(06/15/2004)

Russell:   I must say thanks again for this great service
you're doing for your fans. Opportunities like this to correspond on a fairly long term basis are pretty unheard of, as it must be a bit time consuming.

On to my question. Have you considered scheduling an appearance at the San Diego Comic-Con? A great promotional opportunity at the best convention of it's kind in the country( if not the world), July 17-21. Much thanks for all the work through the years.
I have attended similar conventions in the past, and enjoyed them. And I have friends in the San Diego area. But the timing this year is completely impossible. And in future years--well, who knows? My publishers only send me on the road when I have a new book coming out.

(06/15/2004)

Jim H:  I just finished reading the Gap series for the third time. Any chance of a second cycle?
Also, I found the prospect of a species such as the Amnion mortifying. Someone in Hollywood should turn the Gap series into a movie. I think a thriller based on the Gap series, highlighting the Amnion, would rank right up there with Alien. Who would you like to see play Morn, Angus and Nick?
I've discussed the (im)possibility of future GAP books earlier in this interview. The debate about casting the leads continues. I haven't yet heard a good suggestion for Morn. Cate Blanchette? (sp?) How about Colin Farrell for Nick?

(06/15/2004)

Michael from Santa Fe:  Please tell me that we will get to hear Covenant cry, "Hellfire and bloody damnation!" again?

Thank you Mr. Donaldson for all your wonderful books. I've read and loved them all!
Sorry, I can't make any promises. But it will be difficult to pass up. <grin>

(06/15/2004)

Danijel Sah:  Dear mr. Donaldson!

I'am a young SF-author from Croatia, Europe. Two months ago I published my first book "The Black Wall" which was accepted excellent among the readers in my country.
I read both trilogies about Covenant for several times. There are no words of mine to discribe their excellence and what they mean to me and how they effected my life.
My question is this: Because You are mine favourite author, I'am asking You: Can I send You one chapter of my book, so You can read it and maybe say something about it? I would be gratefull if You could accept it! I know You are a busy man, and maybe I'am asking to much of You. I'am sorry if that's true.

PS: I'am am also sorry if my English is not so great!

Truly Yours,
Danijel
I'm sorry to keep turning people down; but please don't send me anything. I'm a very slow reader. And I have no time. For those reasons, I quit writing blurbs or comments of any kind several years ago.

And I'm the wrong person for the job. I'm nothing if not judgmental about writing, other people's as well as my own. If a writer isn't good enough to sweep away my judgments--and few are--I'm a *very* harsh critic. That's why I so seldom express opinions about other writers in this interview.

(06/16/2004)

Chris Hawks:  I've noticed that each of your series (1st Chronicles, 2nd Chronicles, Mordant's Need, and the GAP) gets progressively better than the last. As such, I have high hopes for the Last Chronicles. :)

I just finished reading Mordant's Need for the second time, and I have a couple of questions/comments:

1) What are the "seven Cares of Mordant"? There's Armigite, Domne, Fayle, Perdon, Termigan, and Tor. But that's only 6. If pushed, I'd be forced to guess that the 7th is Joyse's province, the Demesne, though it was never specifically mentioned (and, in fact, it seems care was taken to *not* mention it) as one of the Cares.

2) How does Geraden's talent work, anyway? At first, he could change where a mirror went without changing the Image; but then, at the very end when he translates everyone back to the battle at Esmerel, he does change the Image. Is this merely the final maturation of his abilities?

3) Upon first completing the GAP series, I was struck by the similarities between King Joyse and Warden Dios. Each put not only his own reputation on the line, but also the lives and hearts of both those under his protection and who serve him, in order to thwart a greater evil. Was this similiarity intentional? Regardless, it makes for wonderful suspense, with the added result that Warden and Joyse are my favorite characters from their respective series.

4) Not a question, but I read your previous answer regarding the map for Mordant, and I have to admit that I've long wondered about its existence myself. Though part of me thought that perhaps you were toying playfully with the readers, by including numerous (!) references to maps within the story, while not providing them with one. :)
Well, I hope I can justify your high expectations. There's nothing like pressure.... <grin>

Your questions. 1) Yes, King Joyse's domain--Orison and its immediate environs--is the "missing" Care. Except to the extent that the whole of Mordant is Joyse's Care. 2) And yes, the changes in what Geraden is able to accomplish indicate the maturation of his talent. 3) And yes yet again, I was very aware of the qualities and methods which Joyse and Warden Dios have in common. Although I wasn't conscious of it at the time, Joyse is--in a manner of speaking--a "trial run" for Warden. Much of the content of "Mordant's Need" was my first attempt at techniques, subjects, and themes which I explored much more deeply in the GAP books. Indeed, I could hardly have written the GAP books as I did if I hadn't first written "Mordant's Need."

(06/16/2004)

Kevin Green:  Like many I'm on a return trip to The Land preparing for Runes later this year and enjoying your work all over again.

A few things struck me on this journey and I appreciate the opportunity to ask you directly:-

- You mentioned in an earlier question that you disliked writing the What Has Gone Before sections and TBH I felt that they were somehwat superfluous as having just re-read The Illearth War I found that the first couple of chapters rehash some of the previous events in Lord Fouls Bane as if there is no WHGB. Is this duplication intentional?

- For the first time I read Gilden-Fire during The Illearth War & was struck by how much of Illearth is actually not from Covenants' viewpoint or even within his prescence. Strikes me that the reason for the exclusion of Gilden-Fire doesn't honestly hold water. Your thoughts?
About WHGB, here's a key fact you may not know: I never wrote them. Not for "The Illearth War," not for any of Covenants 2-6. I refused because I truly do hate doing such writing. So Lester del Rey wrote WHGB for 2-4, and then my next editor, Risa Kessler, wrote 5-6.

Sadly, I *have* written the WHGB for Covenant 7, and will probably be forced to continue for the rest of "The Last Chronicles." When you see the WHGB in "Runes," the differences between how I do these things and how Lester and Risa did them will be immediately obvious.

Superficially, you're right about point of view in "The Illearth War." But remember that virtually all of the non-Covenant POV is Hile Troy, who seems to have reached the Land from Covenant's "real world," so his viewpoint doesn't violate the principle which excluded "Gilden-Fire." As for the (as I recall) one other instance of non-Covenant viewpoint: I used Mhoram's POV in a (I hoped) subtle attempt to prepare for the significant viewpoint changes which would occur in "The Power that Preserves."

(06/19/2004)

Ash Quadir:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you for making yourself so accessible. It’s a true honor.
Many, many thanks for being such a thoughtful and EXTREMLEY talented writer! One of the things that make your novels so compelling is that your characters are so REAL in your books. Most great books have this trait. Do you set out to develop well-round characters first or are you more driven by the plot?
Are the titles for the Last Chronicles “firm”? Pardon me for being blunt, but the titles of the four new books are not as compelling as the ones for the prior books.
Do your family/kids read your books? What do they think? Do you discuss ideas with anybody besides your editor/publisher?
Is writing your full time job because you made enough money off your books to do so?
If so, what year did you become a full time writer?
I shudder to think it but what are the contingency plans if you pass away before all four books are completed… Do you have extensive notes so somebody else can finish the series? Are there contingency plans?
Again it has been the GREATEST HONOR and JOY to read your works!

PS: Stop being so hard on yourself – or so modest. You should be EXTRMELEY proud of what you’ve accomplished as a writer!

PPS: Have your read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire? If so, what do you think about them?

- Ash Quadir
Some of your questions have already been answered in this interview. I know it's a chore to read through everything that's already here; but I simply don't have time to answer the same questions repeatedly.

So--

Yes, the titles of "The Last Chronicles" are firm--considering that none of us can foresee the future. I'm sorry you don't like them. I do. And I've had favorable responses from other people.

Neither of my kids are extensive "Donaldson" readers. However, my son has finished the GAP books, and my daughter has read "Mordant's Need." But I don't discuss my ideas with ANYone--not even my editor(s). Occasionally I slip up and give my agent a hint (he's a dear friend). And sometimes, when I need a little brainstorming, I consult my personal reader. But that's it.

I became a full-time writer in 1972, and began supporting myself and my family in 1977. That's my only job.

Sorry, there are no contingency plans to finish "The Last Chronicles" if I expire. Hence my solemn (!) determination to never die (!!).

(06/19/2004)

Ben:  I'm really enjoying reading the questions/comments/responses in the Gradual Interview. Like so many others, I've been touched and thrilled by your work for a great many years. Dammit man, yer just one helluva writer (as if you need me to tell you).

I could write an essay on how much discovery - and fun - I've had at your imagination's expense, but I digress. Other folks are doing a fine job with re-collected details and admiring insights, so no lengthy questions/comments here.

But I must point out my love of your short story work - in particular, "The Killing Stroke," which IMO is a masterpiece of short fantasy fiction. After I read it - hell I practically wanted to teach it. Or film it.

Cheers,
Ben
I'm so glad you liked "The Killing Stroke"! It's my current favorite of my shorter works.

(06/19/2004)

John McCann:  Thank you for answering my previous question. I have a feeling that after rereading both Chronicles and devoring Runes, I will have a need for some new (to me) Donaldson and will finally discover and apreciate the entire Gap cycle.

As a fan of your work I was always disappointed by the Sweet covers for the TC books. I was excited when they were reissued with new covers but immediately dismissed then when I saw, the erroneous art credit. I was suprised and pleased to read such a blunt assessment of the covers from you. Something I had always wished for was Michael Whelan's interpretations of The Land.

How did it come about that Mr Whelan was commisioned to do the cover for the American edition of at least this volume of the Final Chronicles? Did you request his services? Has he been contracted for all four volumes?

Thanks you again for answering my questions. If your current pace is a slow down, I can't wait to see how you handle the questions when you are not distracted.
I've long admired Michael Whelan's work myself. (But you should see the original paintings. They are even more impressive than the covers made from them.) And I've been casually acquainted with Michael for many years. Indeed, I requested him for "Daughter of Regals and Other Tales," as well as for "Mordant's Need." But my "glory days," when I had the clout to do things like request cover artists, are long past. No, commissioning Michael was my editor's idea. And I guess that she--or the art director at Putnams--worked long and hard to get him to agree. Like a lot of the people I've known for years, he's apparently looking for ways to cut down on his workload. And he's exceptionally conscientious--for example, he insists on reading the entire book--so he can't just knock out paintings whenever he needs one.

Unfortunately, I don't know how many of "The Last Chronicles" he's agreed to work on. "Runes" may be a one-shot; or he may have contracted for all four books. In either case, we should have the cover for Putnams' edition posted on this site sometime in the next couple of weeks.

(06/20/2004)

Ingo Metzler:  Dear Mr. Donaldson.

Do you know of the translations of your books in other languages? It was in the early 1980s when I read your books in the german translation.
The german translations of the Covenant books are fantastic. The transator Mr. Pukallus chose a somewhat old-fashioned German language and he paid much attention on translating names and places. When I read today the english books I have to admit: He did a very good job.

On the other hand, the same translator did a bad job on translating the Gap-series. He used the same stile of language as in the Covenant books and this simply does not fit (in my opinion). The english originals (by the time the Gap books were published, I was able to read them in English) were much better.

So my Questions:

* Do you take care of the translations of your books?

* Do you influence the translators in any way?

* Do you know of planned German versions of the third Chronicles?

Best regards,
Ingo Metzler
No, I have no control over the translations of my books: publishers in other countries make their own decisions about which English-language books to buy; and they choose their own translators. Occasionally this is disastrous: just to give you one example, the first time "Lord Foul's Bane" was translated into French, "Saltheart Foamfollower" became "Briny the Pirate." At the opposite extreme, the appointed translators do sometimes contact me, asking for advice (many years ago a Swedish translator asked me if I wished him to preserve the "child-like" flavor of my prose, offering instead to inject a note of "dignity and grandeur"). Frankly, I know of no authors who aren't at the mercy of their translators. (Well, unless you're someone like Borges.) Which is why the author of "Lolita" (I've blanked out on his name--temporarily, I hope) did his own translations.

Fortunately, I now know that negotiations are underway for a German translation of "The Last Chronicles." But translation is an arduous business, and I can't begin to guess when "Runes" will appear in Germany.

(06/20/2004)

Cornaquious:  Thank you for taking the time to answer your fan mail. I understand that some of our questions are a bit tiresome (present company included, as you will soon see). You have been a good sport.

I'll ask a question first, then go on a brief rant. You may ignore the rant if you like, but it's been bothering me for years. For good measure, I'll include a praise!

Question: When I was first exploring the wonders and benefits of the internet, I seem to remember coming across an interview you gave where you mentioned that in a Third, and consequently *Last* Chronicles, it might be fun (or words to that effect), to bring back Covenant as Lord Foul. Without giving away any spoilers, aka plot secrets, do you remember making this comment? Or, was it just wishful thinking on my part?

Rant: I have been *extremely* disappointed with your publishers approach to re-releasing your books. The trade paperback versions of both The 1st Chronicles and Mordant's Need have typesetting and margins that would appear to fit a mass market paperback. By that I mean you could literally cut the wasted space around the typeset and have a MMPB. If they're going release a TPB, at least increase the font size and take advantage of the extra margin created by the larger physical size a TPB has to offer.
The cover art for the recently released TPB version of Mordant's Need, and the soon to be re-released versions of the 1st and 2nd Chronicles are, how do I put this nicely? Ghastly. If I hadn't already read the books, I would have no clue as to what these books are about. At least on the web site, the ring on the covers look positively, *yellow*. Given the location you find the book in the bookstore, it could suggest that marriage is a fantasy or science fiction. I'm sorry. Your work deserves better.

I should also throw in a praise: Hurray for Michael Whelan! I find his art spellbinding. It's probably not a coincidence that my favorite authors, (Stephen King, Tad Williams, as well as yourself) have had his art grace their covers.

Bonus question: Any chance of presenting any of MW's work for your books on these pages? The dust jacket for MoHD, as is, is beautiful, but the original painting, which was cropped for the book cover gives added depth to Terisa's character. More people should have an opportunity to see this.

Again, Thank you for taking time to answer our questions. It goes without saying, that your writings have sparked the imaginations of many readers throughout the world!
Sincerely,
CA
I don't think there's any question that my publishers (principally Ballantine Books) have given my "back-list" support which is both weak and infrequent. And I'm as disappointed as you are by the various re-releases. The trade paperbacks of "Mordant's Need" elicit actual pain; and the misleading blandness of the forthcoming covers for the first "Covenant" trilogy and "Daughter of Regals" beggars description ("Hi, folks. Here's an extremely pale imitation of LOTR. Try it if you don't have anything better to do"). Naturally I shouldn't be saying any of this; but one good rant deserves another. <grin>

As for "bring back Covenant as Lord Foul." Yes, I remember saying that. And yes, I meant it. But it doesn't mean what it sounds like it means (I'm often deliberately misleading when people ask me about such things), and I have no intention of explaining what I meant. My purposes will become clear in the fullness of time.

Presenting Whelan's art on this site would be fun; but he holds all of his copyrights (firmly, I might add), and he has his own methods for making his work known. He probably even has a web site that does more justice to his art than I could. So don't expect to see any Whelan "originals" reproduced here.

(06/20/2004)

Chris Sizemore:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

As noted here by so many other fans, your works have moved me, delighted me, entertained me, and been the focus of many hours of thoughtful musing and pondering. Thank you.

Now on to my question... In the Second Chronicles, you build the tension to an incredible peak, realized with the one word utterance of Covenant, "Nom". How did it feel when you wrote that scene? Did you realize the power it would have on the reader? I have to say that at that moment I had to put the book down, I was so charged, and wait until my excited nervous energy dissipated before I could go back and continue. Well done!
Thanks! I'm glad that scene worked the way I wanted it to. I, of course, knew what was going to happen years before I actually wrote it. As soon as I wrote that scene, I started on the next one. And writing often elicits very different emotions than reading. So the way I felt when I wrote it was nothing like the way you felt when you read it. I was, however, proud of myself. Satisfied that I had come so far. And deeply worried about the work still ahead of me.

(06/20/2004)

Jason :  First off, I can't wait to get my hands on the first of the "Last Chronicles"! I just came to the site because I was re-reading the first Chronicles and wanted to see what new stuff you had out. I wanted to comment on the news section mentioning Russell Crowe and a "Covenant" film. I had a thought as I was re-reading and wondered what you thought of it, since I was inspired to see that the movie was actually somewhat of a thought of yours. I think that the guy from the Hulk movie, Eric Bana, would be a good fit for Covenant. What do you think?
Eric BANA? As COVENANT? I'm sorry, but I can't see it. He's too young, and *way* too fit. And I've never actually seen him *act*. All I've ever seen him do is pronounce his lines and move around the set.

(06/21/2004)

Allen:  Vector Shaheed does not have a "point of view"chapter written about him. Was this diliberate? Vector Shaheed also has blue eyes, as well other characters, King Joyce, the spectacular Reave the Just, and the Creator in the Thomas Covenant works. Is my noting of that purely co-incedental or is there something more important going on? I understand that "joy is in the earest that hear" but I must confess I have a hard time believing, at the least, that you did not subconcionable was up to some kind of trick.
your handling of that transcendent power Dolphe Ubikwe is horribly exciting. There is a scene in "This Day All Gods Die" when the divine Dolpe gazes out upon the solar system and he beholds that universe and " he saw a treachorness and he approved." He has passsed through horrors into a place of a terrible whimsy and peace. He also carries on a sickly banter with Vector Shaheed. My question. I have no right to pry into your private life but I am wondering if you are friends with veterans of the Vietname war, or have you any any friends who are police officers. Your portayal of Dolphe shows a huge load of psycholical acuity.
Vector Shaheed does not have a point of view chapter because he doesn't need one. Certainly he's an interesting character, and he does important things. But you'll notice that whenever he's doing something important, someone else is doing something even *more* important. As a general rule, POV in the GAP books follows whoever is the most central character in the story AT THAT MOMENT.

All those blue eyes are certainly coincidental. I'm not so much color-blind as color-stupid. I often forget to give my characters any eye color at all.

As it happens, I'm friends with both Vietnam vets and cops (SWAT and Bomb Squad mostly). One of my friends was a Vietnam vet *and* a cop *and* a psychologist. I've learned a lot from them all.

(06/21/2004)

dlbpharmd:  There is currently a big debate on kevinswatch.com about the sale of the ARC for Runes on ebay. Would you mind sharing your thoughts and opinions about this?
I think it's "stealing," and I don't condone it. But we live in a society ruled by greed, and I know of no effective way to change "'our' core values." I'm told by those who know more than I do (agents and editors) that the vast majority of ARCs get sold to SOMEbody. Most of the sellers are just more discreet than our friend on eBay.

(06/23/2004)

gmv:  In case you haven't remembered yet Lolita was written by Vladimir Nabokov!!

Thanks! My memory can use all the help it can get.

(06/23/2004)

josiah jacob:  i hope you'll excuse a thrid question from me this month, but this one just popped in my head, and i wanted to get it out before i lose it :)

in the gap series... had you intentionally written Angus to be the most HUMAN charater, or am i simply seeing him thusly?

by the 'most human' i mean... well, forgive me, i do NOT mean to critic your characters,you seem to almost go out of your way to make sure every character, not matter how small a role, has a name, for example, to make him more real. what i mean by "more huma" though, is... dammit, i'm sorry, i can't put it into words. morn, thomas, warden, the masters... all of your characters are plausible, all have their own personalities, their weaknesses and strengths... but as much as i hated Angus (for the first 2 books, then he became one of my favorite characters), despite how much i detested him, i still noticed a subtle difference. was it intentional? I hope you know what i mean...

One last small question: as i'm sure you've noticed in my questions past, i tend to... babble, endlessly. i do it because i feel the need to be as clear and precise as possible, and i've (in the past, on ther sites) written several paragraphs to even a page or so, just to ask, or answer simple questions, even when a simple sentance would have sufficed. to be honest, this drives me (and people who read me) up a wall. as a writter, do you have any advice for me as to how to lose this annoying habbit, or how to write just as clearly, in shorter, easier amounts?

sorry, i know this has nothing to do with your books, but your a professional writer, so i figure it couldn't hurt to bring this question to you. a good example of what i mean: i called that question (above) a SHORT question :-p
Please don't worry about "babbling". We all need to express ourselves in our own ways. Indeed, we all DO express ourselves in our own ways, whether we want to or not. <rueful grin>

Is Angus "deliberately" the most "human" character in the GAP books? That's a hard question to answer because I don't think in those terms. There was never a time when I stood back from the story and mused to myself (in Olympian tones), "This will never work unless Angus is the most well-rounded, complex, detailed, deep, convincing character in the whole saga." What I actually said to myself was more along these lines: "Oh, **u*! This will never work unless I can find some way to open my heart to the most overtly despicable character I've ever imagined. 'When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you,' and the abyss is going to be doing some LOOKING." Believe me, opening my heart to characters like Morn Hyland and Nick Succorso--or to smaller players like Godsen Frik and Cleatus Fane--was a *e** of a lot easier.

Incidentally, what I've just described explains a couple of odd points about "The Real Story." 1) The novella's idiosyncratic structure, what I call the "onion-peeling" approach to story-telling. Surely most of my readers have noticed that I've never done this before or since. Well, for my own sake as well as for the reader's, I needed to approach the truth about Angus gradually, in "layers." If I had simply slapped people in the face with Angus, none of us would have been able to stand it. 2) After I first wrote "The Real Story," I put it away in a drawer for--as I recall--two and a half years. Which I've also never done before or since. It (by which I mean Angus) asked too much of me, and I didn't feel brave enough to go on. For reasons, and by means, too complicated and personal to explain here, I needed to become a stronger person before I continued the story.

(06/23/2004)

Anonymous:  A question from an alternate reality....

If you hadn't managed to get a deal for the Last Chronicles, would you still have written the books anyway, or sketched them out just as a means of getting them 'out' of your head? Or could you simply put the stories to one side and move on to the next idea?

Also, a question of the 'you can save only one relative from a burning house, which one would it be' type........if someone with a terminal illness approached you and asked to know what happens in the rest of the Last Chronicles, would you tell them and if so, with what provisos? That is just a hypothetical question, but a taxing one perhaps?!

Gee, I hope you didn't have a lot invested in "taxing" me. These are easy questions.

Writing is tough for me. I don't write at all unless I believe in the story enough to do the work regardless of its prospects for publication. After all, I wrote the entire first "Chronicles" with no prospect of publication. I can do that again. It would be financially difficult because I have a lot more people counting on me these days. But when I make a commitment to a story, I stick with it.

If someone terminally ill approached me as you suggest, I would provide a loose sketch of what lies ahead (the only kind of information I *can* provide); and I would ask that person not to share the information with anyone else. What if the person who approached me was lying? Not my problem. I'm not responsible for the honesty of other people. I'm only responsible for the meaning of my own life; and the meaning I choose to create requires certain varieties of kindness.

(06/23/2004)

Brian McCorry [Kaseryn, intentionally misspelt]:  Dear Mr Donaldson. It seems almost redundant now to add to the effusive praise and thanks that have accumulated over the course of this interview, but having had no channel of communication in the past and knowing that you'll soon be a lot busier i find I can't let the chance pass to add my voice to the chorus of approval. I've read and loved most of your work, but the TC Chronicles - my first 'fantasy' read and actually first real read as a young adult - left the most indelible impression on me. Many readers seem to come to them around adolescence and are moved at the time.. i think a lot of the themes strike particularly true at that time when so much of your own world-self perspective is in flux.. I eulogise about the works to anyone i think i might be able to convince to read them and have often given sets away in the hope of making a convert.

As a previous poster said, its not the setting, in this case fantasy, that matters, but what happens within it. I cannot stress it enough.. If anything i think the fantasy tag has let you cram more of what is important about life and being human in a story than might be possible or tolerated if told in other ways. With respect to Tolkien, i've always found the quote on the British editions 'Comparable to Tolkien at his best' rather offensive, and not giving enough of the respect your work deserves in it's own right. I came to LOTR later and for me as great a masterpiece it may be, and the debt owed for the genre.. it's chalk and cheese substantively. I wont go any further than that, and certainly don't mean to make you uncomfortable.. but when something is this good, the comparison becomes meaningless. (And by the way, i always took it to mean comparable to tolkien at HIS [Tolkiens] best) although others may have read it differently..

Going back and rereading the books every year or so is a constant process of self-rediscovery. So rich and searching of the reader are they i find my changes in thought, value and perspective held up every time, it's like a sort of spiritual travelog. I know they are not your most beloved work but for me they are far the more personal, and i would have you know that this person at least, considers them masterpieces awaiting their due recognition. We don't read these books, we live them.. so potent are they. And i LOVE your use of lanuage! I haven't read very widely but i do enjoy artistry in construction and description. A dictionary was always at had for those first reads, but more than expanding the known vocabulary, i found myself admiring your ability to, what was to my mind, draw upon shades of meaning from words that were familiar to us but less so in the senses you used them. To quote myself, in discussions regarding your use of language on The Watch, of which you will not be surprised to know have been many, your writing often borders the poetic, and has therefore earnt the license that implies. Which is not to say, hell if he talks gibberish.. but that it serves your meaning, and conveys it.

Ok, having thoroughly embarassed you may i just thank you again for your time and your work. I'm gutted I won't be able to make Elohimfest but if this much contact has these results perhaps its for the best lol One question, will you be doing any readings and/or book signings in the UK?

Sincere Gratitude

Kas :)
Well, thanks! That's a lot. And I agree with you that fantasy allows me to discuss the "big questions" more freely than I could in another genre. (You should see the contortions I go through to write mystery novels. <grin>) For more on that, you might be interested in my essay on "epic fantasy," downloadable from this site.

I'm afraid I won't have any choice: I'll have to do some signings (which occasionally include readings) in the UK. Gollancz/Orion will burn me in effigy if I don't. So I should be over there in November. But of course I haven't been vouchsafed any details. Come to think of it, the Brits *never* vouchsafe me any details: they don't tell me what I'm doing until I get there.

(06/25/2004)

Anonymous:  First, I’d like to say I’ve been a huge fan of yours since I read the First Chronicles when I was in junior high school and have anxiously awaited all of your new releases. And thank you so much for answering our questions.

As an aspiring fantasy writer, I’m always curious for insight into the processes of other writers. You answered a previous question regarding your process and I agree that all writers need to find what works for them, but I find it helpful to hear as much as I can from others. So, if you are comfortable sharing this with us, how ‘polished’ is your first draft, and how drastic does the manuscript change on subsequent drafts? Would we be surprised at how different the first is from the final product, or have you developed as a writer to the point where you can sit down and write pretty close to what we will see in the end?

With regards to your body of work, I’ve always been impressed by the added – what I would call – ethical layer of your stories. As I perceive this, in the Thomas Covenant books it was the question, “What was Covenant’s moral responsibility to Lena, the people of The Land and The Land itself if this was all a figment of his imagination?” In Mordant’s need, “What right did the people of Mordant have to force Teresa and the Champion to serve them, if in fact they existed outside of Mordant?” And in The Gap series, “How ‘evil’ are the Amnion if their need to mutate is simply a part of their nature?”

Are you very conscious of these questions when you begin a story, or do they develop as you go? And were you aware of how Mordant’s Need seemed to mirror Covenant in the question of existence – in Mordant, the character’s existence was in question, in Covenant, the world’s?

Vinny F

I rewrite a LOT. In that sense, readers who saw my first draft might be quite surprised by how much the final version has changed. But I virtually never change what happens--or the order in which it happens. I've been known to change the viewpoint of a scene completely. Or to alter all the dialogue in a scene. But by and large I do what my agent calls "invisible rewrites." He can seldom figure out what I did differently in each succeeding version of the story: he just knows that version by version the story becomes tighter, clearer, more vivid, and more exciting. When I'm done, he sometimes says my prose "reads like the wind"--and he *never* says that about my first drafts.

The "ethical layer" in my stories. Of course I'm (very) conscious of that. I'm (very) conscious of it in *life.* But, as I've tried to explain elsewhere, I don't set out to develop an ethical theme. I set out to tell a story; and while I'm doing that, I try to put as much of myself as possible at the service of the story. So naturally every story I tell turns out to emphasize the themes and concerns that I happen to be capable of emphasizing. If I were a different person, I would inevitably emphasize different things. But the POINT--as I keep trying to say--is not to preach ethics. The POINT is to allow each story to elicit from me as much of, well, everything as I'm capable of providing.

Incidentally, I was quite conscious of the way in which "Mordant's Need" appears to invert some of the themes of "Covenant." In that respect, "Mordant's Need" pushes the themes of "Covenant" further. When Covenant's "Is the Land real?" becomes Terisa's "Am I real?" I'm trying to take the whole "nature of reality" issue to a deeper level. Because *really* it is not the Land Covenant doubts: it is himself. He doesn't believe in the reality of his own heart. Doubting the Land is just an excuse to avoid facing his true fear (and his true power).

These themes are, of course, developed even more fully (and, I hope, more deeply) in the GAP books. Never mind my mystery novels.

(06/25/2004)

Brad:  The Killing Stroke is easily my favorite short story ever. I was wondering what philosophy, if any, inspired the concept 'there is no killing stroke', and what disciplines you modeled the clan types after....


Also, thank you for writing the Last Chronicles, I've been hoping you would follow up on them for ten years.

-B
Actually, I tried not to "model" my clan types on particular disciplines. Nevertheless there is quite a bit of "bleed-through." You don't have to look very far to see elements of Ninjitsu, or of "hard" (linear) styles like Shotokan and Shorin-Ryu vs "soft" (circular) styles like Tumpai and Wing Chun.

I developed the philosophy behind the "there is no killing stroke" concept through my own study of Shotokan; but the concept is not one that I've ever been taught (either as part of Shotokan or as an element in any of the many other styles I've been exposed to). But as my training progressed I gradually came to believe that there is no such thing as a "victim" (except to the extent that many people are self-victimized). There is, of course, such as thing as "prey"; and when a predator comes after you, you are commonly referred to as a "victim." But there's a useful distinction to be made here. In my lexicon, "prey" has no say in the matter: "victim" does (hence the emphasis on self-victimization). To pick a crude example: a woman is attacked by a rapist. She is "prey" (i.e. she has no responsibility whatsoever for the fact that she was chosen for attack). And if she fights back with all of her resources (as "prey" always does in nature), she remains "prey." But if she gives up on herself and submits, she becomes a "victim"--and she is self-victimized by her decision to give up on herself. The important point (in "The Killing Stroke" as in life) is: how do you *choose* to respond to the behavior of a predator? And if your attacker is *not* a predator (i.e. you've chosen to engage in combat when you could have avoided the fight, as in running like hell away from the rapist, or staying out of vulnerable situations), then you have--in effect--chosen your own fate. Your attacker becomes merely the instrument of your own will. Therefore "there is no killing stroke": there is only the decision to be killed, or to not be killed. And if you choose not to be killed, you don't get to call yourself a "victim," since your will determined what happened.

I'm afraid this isn't very clear. Sorry about that. Maybe I'll try again when somebody flames me for criticizing rape victims (which is definitely NOT what I'm trying to do here).

(06/25/2004)

mike white:  Dear Mr Donaldson - just to make you aware of this - surely this is illegal?

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=378&item=6905025591&rd=1&ssPageName=WD2V#ebayphotohosting
Actually, it may *not* be illegal. (Is it illegal for you to auction off your xmas presents?) ARCs are given to reviewers, and they are not intended for resale. But in order to make an issue out of it, the publisher might first have to prove that the ARC was not used for its original purpose--and after all, there's never a guarantee that a reviewer will review a particular book. As a result, it isn't worth a publisher's time and money to worry about what happens to an ARC once it's been sent out.

However, I personally consider it rude, crude, and--possibly--immoral to turn a profit on gifts. If I were given an ARC I didn't want, I would donate it to some worthy cause (a library, a poor friend, whatever).

(06/26/2004)

Peter Purcell:  You've mentioned your children and their reading habits (Piers Anthony - Xanth series - not bad Fantasy junk food for the brain!)

That got me wondering: what is their favorite from your works? They must be very proud of their dad! Have you ever thought of authoring a Young Adult book ala Stephen King "The Eyes of the Dragon" dedicated to your children? Perhaps one for any / future grandchildren?

Lastly, thanks for being so open and generous with your fans. It is extremely appreciated by all of us. It is rare that literature pulls us in and makes us care (or hate) and FEEL so much about the characters and the stories. It is extraordinary to be able to connect to their author.

Peter
My kids are now way too old for YA books. But I've tried to say before in this interview that I don't (consciously) choose what I'm going to write. Ideas come to me to be written. If I don't write the ideas I get, I'll stop being given ideas. So I never ask myself, "What would I like to write?" (Or-shudder--"What would I approve of writing?") I ask myself, "What have I been given to write?"

(06/26/2004)

Paul S:  This is an unbelievable opportunity. I've never heard of an author taking and answering questions over the course of months! Thank you for your time, not to mention your excellent books.

I've read your fantasy and sci-fi books, etc. except your mysteries. I've just never really enjoyed mysteries -- all that thinking about "who dunnit" is too much like work! -- however, I'm really into Martial Arts (been involved for about 20 years, on and off) and having read during this interview that you've worked it in to your mysteries, I think I have to start reading them.

My question is (and I've re-skimmed the entire interview to make sure I'm not reiterating a previous question, but please forgive if I am): You've mentioned several authors that you don't read and that you don't read your own work (not surprising)... so who do you read? What, if anything, are you reading now? Do you tend toward fiction or non-fiction for your leisure reading?
I read almost exclusively fiction, in part because that's what I love to read, in part because I feel loyal to the kind of work I'm committed to, and in part because I believe you can learn more from a good story than from almost any form of non-fiction. (Certainly I've learned far more about writing from reading fiction writers than from, say, all of the literary criticism I studied--and practiced--in college and graduate school.)

Currently I'm reading Sean Russell's "The Isle of Battle." Before that it was China Mieville's "Perdido Street Station," and before that it was Steven Erikson's "Midnight Tides." As a general rule, I read all of the Russell, McKillip, Erikson, and Powers I can get my hands on. Oh, and David Gemmell. I've already read all of the Paul Scott there is: I'm sorry there isn't more. I'm slowly working my way through the complete Sir Walter Scott; and I regularly re-read William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, Henry James, George Meredith, and Ford Maddox Ford.

Sadly, I'm a very *slow* reader, so I can't do everything I would like (e.g. re-read all of Shakespeare).

(06/26/2004)

Rex:  Gee, now that you are NEVER GOING TO DIE, you'll be able to see which of us mean it when we say we're *eternally* grateful for your work.

My question is: do you have a minimum amount of time that you set aside for writing, for example "at least 3 hours per day" or "at least 3 pages per day"?
Generally speaking, I keep "businessman's hours": I get into my office between 8 and 9am five days a week, and leave between 4 and 5pm. How much *writing* I get done during that time depends on a whole host of factors, like how often my #^$#%$ phone rings, which Herculean labors my publishers want me to undertake *immediately*, how many of my appliances need repair toDAY, and whether or not someone I love is experiencing a crisis.

(06/26/2004)

John Thomas:  Has the thomas coventant chronicles come out on audio if not will the 1st and 2nd ever and will the new ones?
John
There has never been an audio version of the first and second "Covenant" trilogies, and I doubt that there ever will be. But if "Runes" becomes a monster bestseller, or if any of the "Chronicles" is made into a successful movie, everything could change. Doors would then open which have been firmly shut (not to mention locked) until now.

However, an audio version of "Runes" (complete) is in the works: I believe it's projected to appear on 12 CDs. When, I don't know. If it sells well enough, the subsequent volumes of "The Last Chronicles" may also get audio versions; but so far no commitments have been made.

(06/27/2004)

Ross Edwards:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

Found a typo in the Runes of the Earth prologue chapter on this site. On page 8, paragraph 10, the text reads "We brought her up her[e], tied..."

Thought you'd like to know, just in case changes can still be made before printing.
It's not too late. Thanks for letting me know!

(06/29/2004)

Casey Cady:  Hi! I stumbled upon your upcoming new book on the Hill House Website. I own the Hill House limited edition of American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, and have to say, I look forward to their production of the your Thomas Covenant books.

Anyway, to the point: It was your Gap books that first piqued my interest in Wagner, and opera in general. I saw the Seattle Opera production of the Ring Cycle back in 2001, and loved it! I'm lucky enough to live in Seattle, where the Seattle Opera is pretty well known for their Wagner. Did you catch the last Seattle Opera production of the Ring Cycle? And can you tell me what your favorite production you've seen was? Do you plan on going to see it next year?

Thanks for the great books!
Casey
Since I don't live anywhere near Seattle, I've never had the pleasure of seeing any of their productions. In fact, I've never seen the "Ring" live (although I did get to see "The Valkyrie" at the Met in NY a number of years ago). But I've seen two productions on PBS, one from Bayreuth roughly 20 years ago (the Chereau/Boulez production) and one from the Met closer to 10 years ago (the Levine production). Of the two, the Bayreuth one is *far* stronger, not because of the staging, but because the cast and conductor are much superior.

(06/30/2004)

Lynne (aliantha):  I'd like to chime in with my thanks to you for answering our questions -- it is *so* cool that you are spending so much time on this. A thousand times that thanks for writing the books in the first place; I've read them all, except for one of the mysteries which I haven't been able to find, and have enjoyed them all (okay, maybe I enjoyed the GAP books less than the others -- sorry, I know they're your favorites). And a thousand thousand times that thanks for telling us why you need an editor, because when I write, I need an editor for the same reasons, and here I thought it was just me! :)

I'm re-reading TCTC (again) in preparation for the release of "Runes" in the fall, to refresh my memory (well, that's my cover story; I'm actually looking for all the doors you left open for the Last Chrons). My question regards the name ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol: Who's Ken Austin?

Looking forward to seeing you on your book tour when you come to the DC area. (Yes, I did say "when"; I'm thinking positively!) Sorry, though, you can't stay at my house -- you'd have to sleep in the basement, and trust me, you don't want to do that. :)

Thanks again!

P.S. No, no, no, not Ralph Fiennes for Nick. I *like* Ralph Fiennes. Nick's scum. (That's a purely female reaction, of course.)
Ken Austin is actually the younger (although much better looking) brother of the far more famous Tex Austin.

Nick may be scum, but he's irresistable-to-women scum. So I repeat: why *not* Ralph Fiennes? <grin>

(06/30/2004)

eggy bread:  Hello hose donaldson so good it is to hear of your recent endeavors in the writing of 'runes of the earth'. My question is this, will the 'atlas of the land' by karen wynn fonstad be reprinted in promotion of the new books? (i know this isnt greatly relevant, its probably more of your publishers idea type-thingy) it would be nice to own one (grin) although not essential. thank you ....ciao x x x
I consider it HIGHLY unlikely that "The Atlas of the Land" will ever be reprinted. It sold very poorly when it first came out, and the rights have long since been reverted to the author. But, as I've said before, if "Runes" becomes a monster bestseller, or Hollywood makes a successful "Covenant" movie, almost anything will become possible.

(06/30/2004)

Michael from Santa Fe:  Being a fellow New Mexican, I have to ask: Red or Green?
Red exclusively. I know this is heresy, but I don't like the taste--or much of anything else--about green.

(06/30/2004)

Mike G:  Thanks for answering...

LOL. So are you saying with the comment about Kazin, that you have no dark side whatsover and you are trying to create one, or is it that you have no hope of personal redemption? <grin>

What surprises me is what a romantic you are! Who knew? You are starting with flawed characters and unenviable situations, and your stories create an environment that allows them to grow and redeem themselves...I always realized that was a major theme, but not quite in that way...That means I'm going to have to re-read Gap! "Star Wars in Hell" wasn't it?
My question, since I don't want to over impose, is (following up on your previous answer).. Do you then start out with a character and a resolution that that character's 'problem' and then create the story around it, or do you have a storyline that you tailor a character and issues to? Or is there no particular chicken/egg scenario?
Thanks again for your time in this forum. It is fascinating to get these glimpses into what you do and how you do it. Particularly since your books are not the typical tall elf/grumpy dwarf/wise wizard stereotypes that we see out there, even those that are really great stories...
Well, if you want to analyze me on the basis of Kazin's theory, you'll have to dig a whole lot deeper than *that*-- <grin>

There are some fundamental things that I'm unable (not unwilling) to explain about how I work. All I can tell you is this. Stories start in a variety of different ways for me ("Reave the Just" began with the first sentence, as did "The Kings of Tarshish," but the GAP books began with names, "Mordant's Need" began with a couple of lines of poetry, and all of the "Covenant" books began at their conclusions), but certain elements have to fall into place before I can write: I have to know what the final crisis (as distinct from the resolution of that crisis) of the story is (where I'm going; my reason for telling the story); I have to know what that crisis "feels" like (this is often more a matter of imagery and context than of literal emotion); and I have to have a sense of the general shape of the process which leads to that crisis (general shape involves what I call "story architecture," the units, building blocks, temporary crises, etc. that accumulate to produce the final crisis). Once I have those things, writing is (now) very much a process of feeling my way: into the situations, into the characters, into the specific content of the architecture. (I say "now" because when I was much younger I felt a need to plan out virtually everything; but now I trust the back of my brain to do a lot of the planning for me.) I discover who all these people are, and why they're doing what they're doing, and why it matters, as I go along.

This isn't much of an answer, I know. It has been said by Tony Hillerman that the difference between "plot" and "story" is the difference between "brain" and "mind." In other words, "story=plot+content." It's misleading to say that I start with plot and discover story; but there is some truth in the statement. Of all my stories, only the GAP books (and, to a significantly lesser extent, my mystery novels) truly *began* with character. In some sense, we all start with "brain" and develop "mind."

(07/04/2004)

Peter B.:  I have always deeply admired your work. Now, each time I read your responses to these questions I am moved and touched anew by the thoughtfulness and intelligence of your answers. Thank you for being such a sincere and wonderful human being.

A couple quick questions and a comment.

Any idea who will be reading Runes on CD? It would be a real treat if it could be you.

Have you ever given any thought to writing a children's story? I'm guessing not since their is a strong visual component usually and the length of such works is usually a lot less than your more epic endeavors.

Not to get ahead of things, but I just love the title of the final Chronicles book-The Last Dark. Wow! For me, it conjures up all kinds of interesting possibilities.


I've said before that I don't (consciously) choose my stories: they choose me. For what are, I hope, obvious reasons, a children's story has never chosen me ("Mythological Beast" is the closest I've ever come). But if one ever does choose me, I trust that I will write it.

The reader for the audio version of "Runes" is a man named Scott Brick. He's done other audio books, and I think he has a good voice. It's a very good thing that I'm *not* doing the reading. I would do a terrible job; and I don't have the time.

(07/04/2004)

Sean Casey:  I'm interested in hearing your views on rewriting.

Personally, rewriting my work fills me with dread and I tend to avoid it. However, I know this isn't good enough. It's easy to go back and take out or add the occasional word or sentence, but writing is such hard work that when I realise a section needs completely redoing I think 'Oh no, not *again*!' Obviously, I don't expect you to solve *my* problems (but if you could, that'd be great :) ), but I was wondering how *you* deal with this sort of thing.

Would you consider posting first, intermediate and final drafts of a passage of your work on the site to illustrate?

Finally, I'm a bit concerned about the use of the word 'repeated' in the first line of the prologue to 'Runes'. '[R]epeated for the third time' means she's said it four times in total - the first time wasn't a repeat of anything - was this what you meant?

Thanks.
I've said before that I rewrite a *lot.* Indeed, I believe that a writer who doesn't rewrite can't learn or improve. (Oh, a cagey individual may be able to pick up a few cheap tricks by observing what other writers do; but those techniques will never be integrated into a coherent whole without lots of practice, i.e. rewriting.) Rewriting involves looking at what you've written as if it had been written by someone else (looking at it as a reader innocent of all your knowledge and assumptions), and evaluating whether or not it actually communicates what you meant to say; then admitting--as all good writers do frequently--that, no, your prose does not actually communicate what you meant, you only wish it did; and then figuring out what went wrong and making appropriate changes. I don't usually enjoy rewriting; but I do it religiously because otherwise I'll never become a better writer.

But I'm not going to post "before and after" samples of my own process. How rewriting gets done is as distinctive and individual as how writing gets done: every writer is different. I know writers so fluent that they rip out a book, look at it, say, "Well, *that* didn't work," and simply write the whole book again, perhaps from a different starting point, perhaps with different characters, perhaps from a new point of view. Other writers write the book, realize it doesn't work, throw it away, and write a completely different book instead. At the opposite extreme, I know of writers who simply cannot write sentence 2 until they have made sentence 1 feel perfect. And between those extremes exist a multitude of approaches, none of which are relevant to you. You'll never be any good unless you find your own way.

With all of that in mind, how can you possibly be "concerned" about my use of the word "repeated" in the first line of "Runes"? Don't you suppose I've thought about this? Don't you suppose I meant exactly what I said? After all, I rewrote that sentence five times. Of *course* I meant that she said it four times.

(07/05/2004)

Scott Wilson:  As I read the gradual interview I note that a great many of your fans first came upon your works (specifically the Chronicles of TC) at an early age (12, 13, 14). I, too, read them as a juvenile. I'm now in my mid-30s (not trying to make you feel old <grin>) and have long since understood that these are not books for kids, even older kids. Does it bother you that young readers come to your work looking for another "The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe" or "The Hobbit" or the "Chronicles of Prydain" as so many of them do; and run up against the rape of Lena and other mature topics and themes you most likely did not intend for less mature minds?
Actually, it bothers me quite a bit: the "Covenant" books were NOT written for kids. And I'm positively astonished that so many too-young readers enjoyed what they read so much that they became, well, fans for life. But I had a professor in graduate school who liked to say, "The reader's mind is like a stomach: it digests what it can use, and it dumps the rest." Apparently all those 12, 13, 14, 15 year old kids found enough in "Covenant" that they *could* digest to make the meal enjoyable in spite of all the spinach.

(07/05/2004)

Mike Sales:  My question is about the old man that pops up in Covenant's 'real' world.

Exactly who is he? Is he the CREATOR? (Sorry, I know you said you wouldn't answer any more CREATOR related questions :0)

If he IS the creator, doesn't coming into Covenant's 'real' world violate his own rule for himself, namely that he must stay outside the ARCH OF TIME?

If he ISN'T the creator, is he an AGENT of the creator? And if he IS, will his role be explained more?
I swore off "Creator" questions. But let me try again to be clear about one point. The "Covenant" books deal with two fictional realities, Covenant's "real" world and the Land. It's important not to blur the distinction between these two (just as it's important not to blur the distinction between fictional realities and other, more tangible realities). Because they are separate realities, there is no reason to assume that the same being is the "Creator" of both. Indeed, there is no reason to assume that the "Creator" of one cannot be just another character in the other. Therefore there is no reason to assume that the integrity of either reality is being violated if the "Creator" of the Land appears as a character in Covenant's "real" world.

Having rid ourselves of those assumptions, we can then consider the possibility that the Land's "Creator" is Covenant himself (an act of imagination which he later shares with Linden); that--in a manner of speaking--both the "Creator" and the man in the ochre robe are Covenant's dopplegangers, externalized versions of aspects of himself. My views on such subjects are better explained in my essay, "Epic Fantasy and the Modern World" (available on this site). But you might find that they repay consideration.

(07/06/2004)

Anthony:  Dear Mr. Donaldson:

So what is the answer to the question posed in the introduction of your wonderful collection Reave the Just:

"...which of the stories in this book responds to a lawsuit impugning my honor, both as a writer and as a father?"

I doubt that it is The Killing Stroke, although that ranks as my very favorite short story of yours by a country mile.

Curiously yours,
Anthony
This is a *very* personal question, and I don't usually answer questions this personal. But enough time has passed: perhaps it's safe to answer.

The story is "Penance."

(07/06/2004)

Pete Bejmuk:  Hello Mr. Donaldson,

Congratulations on your extraordinary writing skills. You're a great example to may writers.

I have a question reguarding the Atlas by Karen Fonstad. With the recent revamp in interest in the LotR series, Fonstad (or at least her publisher) has re-released her atlas of Middle Earth, along with some new content. Is there any chance of a new edition of the Atlas of the Land being published, once the new Chronicles are completed?

Do you have any plans on having a comprehensive appendix at the end of the final Chronicles book, in the way that JRRT did? (I must add many thanks for the glossaries in the end of your previous books).

Finally, reguarding short stories such as "The Killing Stroke": my friends have debated if this novel could possibly have set in the Land. Obviously, there is no direct reference (although my arguement was that it could be a semi-futuristic glance at the martial arts of the Haruchai). Now, you don't have to comment on my wild imagination (thank goodness), but have you ever concidered incorporating content from your previous novellas/stories into your larger works? Not just published works, but perhaps a short story that originally had nothing to do with your main series', but would fit in nicely?

Finally, you may find it interesting to note that when asking for a recommendation of a new author similar to you, a number of employees at (various different) bookstores have recommended me to the "Game of Thrones" books by author George RR Martin, along with the words "If you like Donaldson, you'll like Martin". This may be because of the definite dark "antihero" fantasy theme that links both yourself and Martin. I just thought you'd be interested to know what major booksellers are telling people when someone asks "I liked Donaldson's books, who do you recommend that's similar?"
I've already discussed the improbability that "The Atlas of the Land" will ever be reissued. But I can say with confidence that I will *never* create a "comprehensive appendix" (or any appendix) to go with the "Covenant" books. Never mind the fact that I hate doing that kind of writing. I don't have the requisite raw materials. My (extremely cryptic and rudimentary) notes get trashed as soon as I use them; so all I'm left with are the maps. Unless somehow this "gradual interview" counts as an appendix. <grin> It is certainly becoming long enough.

No, "The Killing Stroke" was not set in the same fictional reality which includes the Land. And I won't fudge that story by trying to squeeze it in where it doesn't belong. But I do have two stories which I secretly hope will someday lead to novels: "The Killing Stroke" and "Penance." But I must hasten to add that at present I have no ideas which would enable me to take those stories further.

(07/06/2004)

Todd:  Mr. Donaldson,

This is a general question, with answers that are fairly generic in nature. Feel free to be as general or specific as you want.

When writing, do you:

1. Write the entire story, and then go back and edit.

2. Write the entire story, doing minor editing along the way, saving the major editing for the end.

3. Write and edit as you go, not moving forward into the next logical sequence of events until you're satisfied with what you've already written?

Thanks - and thanks for answering a question I asked last month with more depth than I hoped for.

Good luck with all of the editing you're doing right now!!

Todd
I write the entire story (by which I mean book), doing (very) minor editing along the way, and saving the major editing for the end. You might say that my "critical" (rewriting) brain is very different than my "creative" (first draft) brain; and I find I'm unable to do substantive editing until I've gained some distance from the original work. But trying to write entire sagas (in the present case, four volumes) without doing any substantive editing along the way has huge disadvantages: it would be creatively exhausting; it would force me to build on my mistakes instead of correcting them before I get *too* deeply into the story (and then the editing would be brutal beyond description); and it would require me to go too long between paychecks (I *do* have a family to support).

(07/06/2004)

gmv:  There's no question here, I just wanted to say that I learned only last night about the upcoming Last Chronicles and I have yet to peel myself off the ceiling!!! Extreme glee!!! "Joy is in the ears that hear" indeed.

I've been living under a rock (e.g. focused on grad school and career), but every once in a while I resurface to check the weather and see if Stephen R. Donaldson has released another book. And now it's happening!!! This is better news than when I heard of the LOTR films.

Thank you so much for revisiting the Land! Don't let that young editor person take too much away --people who love your writing want YOUR writing, which is right up there at the pinnacle of the genre!

The highest compliment I can think to give you is to give you heavy credit for exposing me to so many wonderful words. I was once called a "f*c*ing dictionary" -- you had a hand in that.

You should buy stock in Kleenex. I always end up crying desperately throughout the Covenant books.

Bless you. Stay healthy!

Gina
THANK you. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: readers like you do a lot to help make the difficulties of writing books like mine worthwhile.

(07/06/2004)

Danijel Sah:  Thank You for your answer. I understand completely.
I have one more question which I forgot to ask You, if You could be so kind to answer it:
I read somewhere that before your first publish of Covenant series You were rejected 47 times. Because I'm author myself and also was very difficult for me to find a publisher, please tell me what were the reasons that your work was rejected so many times and who was the first who recognised and than published your work?
Thank You again. I hope we will meet somewhere someday. I 'am inviting You to visit my beautiful country Croatia! You will enjoy it!
As I've said before, "Lord Foul's Bane" was rejected 47 times--every fiction publisher in the US (at that time), including all of my current publishers, plus several agents. Most gave me no explanation whatsoever: form rejections never do. The few that did respond said in various ways that: 1) they couldn't take such a large risk on an "unknown" (at that time, the Waldenbooks chain refused to stock ANY fiction by previously unpublished authors); and 2) LOTR notwithstanding, fantasy doesn't sell (Lin Carter at Ballantine had spent several years proving this to the book industry). The editor who finally gave me my chance was Lester del Rey, who eventually became the fantasy editor at Ballantine after Lin Carter was fired. And even then Lester's gamble might not have worked if he hadn't first published Terry Brooks' "The Sword of Shannara," which defied conventional wisdom by selling an astonishing number of copies. That opened the door for me, in a manner of speaking. But even *that* would not have happened if Ballantine Books hadn't been founded by Ian and Betty Ballantine, who rescued Tolkien from the stupidity of Houghton Mifflin and the subsequent theft of his work by Ace Books, and who never stopped looking for "successors" to LOTR.

(07/07/2004)

Christian Moller:  Dear Sir:

I read both Thomas Covenant Chronicles many years ago, and recently re-read them. Since I had an interest in the books, I thought I'd look on the internet and see if anyone else had posted anything about them.

I was surprised to come across your so-called "official" web site, and disheartened to learn that you were masquerading as Mr. Donaldson. I have copies of the books that contain a picture of Mr. Donaldson on the book jacket, and the picture of old fellow on the home page who is supposed to be the author doesn't match. I wish I could paste the picture from the book jacket with this email to show you what Mr. Donaldson really looks like, but unfortunately the constraints of email won't allow me to. Sufficient to say, Mr. Donaldson is a young looking fellow, with long dark hair, very literary looking, wearing glasses. From this picture I gather he seems to be a nice guy, since he's got a Siamese cat sitting on his shoulder. The picture of the man on your website you've posted claiming to be that of the author is a gray-haired and eldery man, and to my mind rather disreputable looking. Not a cat lover at all.

If I were you, I would remove all claims to being the author from your web site. I don't know whether Mr. Donaldson is a litigious sort of person, but if he should find out that an old fellow such as yourself is claiming to be him, he might not take it too well, and a lawsuit might result.

Other than your false claims of celebrity, I found your website interesting, and actually enjoyed some of the insights into the books. Being a fan and making a decent web site should be enough, without claiming to be something you're not. I know that sometimes people get caught up and want to immerse themselves in a beloved topic such as in this case, but as I said, if Mr. Donaldson finds out that you are claiming authorship of his books, and I imagine he will eventually, you may be in for some serious consequences at his hands.

Sincerely,

Christian Moller
Well, you caught me. I am in fact *not* "Stephen R. Donaldson." I'm an actor hired by Mr Donaldson to impersonate him because he, well, doesn't think he looks like a writer. So you'll be glad to hear that the real "Stephen R. Donaldson" still looks *exactly* the way he did back in 1876 when the photo you mention was taken. Admittedly, the cat on his shoulder is starting to look a bit ratty--but otherwise, no change at all.

I'm sure you'll also be glad to hear that since I was hired for this gig by the real "Stephen R. Donaldson," I'm in no danger whatsoever of being sued for my impersonation. And I should know. At my age, I'm very aware of the difference between being sued and not being sued.

If you still doubt that my impersonation is authorized, I suggest that you contact my publishers. They'll set you straight.

(07/08/2004)

Allen:  I think it must take much courage to write the Last Chronicles because it means that you are now willing to outlive and outlast your own primary vision. My question regards Reave The Just. You said somewhere that the story began with a sentence. I am wondering if you would reveal to us devotees of Reave what inspirations like behind the character himself. Also, how about a younger Christopher Walken to play Reave?
I can say with complete honesty that the entire story of "Reave the Just," including the character himself, grew out of the first sentence. Such is the magic of language for me--especially names. I knew exactly who Reave and Jillet were as soon as I heard their names in my mind, just as I knew all about the setting from the name Forebridge. And I knew what the story was going to be about (thematically, anyway) as soon as I heard the words "strange, unrelenting tales."

How this works, I can not explain. I have no idea. All I know is that only one other story started with the first sentence ("The Kings of Tarshish"--unless you're willing to really stretch a point, in which case I might also mention "The Man Who Tried to Get Away," or indeed "By Any Other Name," which actually started with the 4th sentence).

Casting Reave? I've never given it any thought. But a much younger Colin Baker would be an interesting possibility.

(07/08/2004)

Paul S.:  GAP Casting:

Angus: Liam Neeson - maybe too old, but could pull it off; but I think your suggestion of Vin Diesel is still the best

Nick: Brad Pitt - he's good looking (apparently), cocky, and has played the bad guy (Fight Club); second choice: Jude Law.

Min: 7 of 9, from Star Trek Voyager... can't remember the actresses name.

Morn: Charlize Theron or Nancy McKeon (ok, Nancy's not an A-List actor but she's played the victim who comes back swinging role before very well)

Holt: Al Paccino, he's already played the Devil and the head of crime family...

Warden: Can't think of anyone...

Since the GAP movies will never be made (the only "producers" who ever approached me wanted *me* to finance the project), casting them is just a parlor game. But parlor games are fun.

At the moment, I like Robert de Niro for Warden, Carrie-Anne Moss for Min, and good ol' whatshername who played 7 of 9 for Sorus Chatelaine. And it's just barely possible that the actress who played Jack Bauer's wife on "24" would make a good Morn Hyland. And how about Sam Sorbo for Koina Hannish? (As I say, parlor games are fun.) Francis McDermott for Lane Harbinger? And my buddy Colin Baker for Hashi Lebwohl?

(07/08/2004)

Anthony:  Mr Donaldson,

Thankyou so very much, you introduced the concept of the anti hero to me, and I feel fortunate that the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant were the first novels I had ever read. Since then you were always my favourite author and have reread the chronicles 4 times, taking pride of place on my Bookshelf.

My question however is, why does it seem you have been inactive for so long? Please however, stop answering all these questions, and go write the next book, I cant wait for the first one as it is.
If it seems I've been inactive, there are several explanations. 1) You may be unaware of my mystery novels. 2) Over the past decade, I've been trying to "reinvent" myself as a writer, one consequence of which is that for 8 months in '96 (I think it was) I couldn't write at all. 3) My most recent novel, "The Man Who Fought Alone," took me three full years to write, in part because I was--and still am--"reinventing" myself, and in part because in that book I deliberately tackled a challenge which has effectively paralyzed me throughout my writing life. From the beginning, my ability to write has depended on "making things up": I've never written "from life," so none of the characters, settings, or situations have been (consciously) based on my own experience. But in "The Man Who Fought Alone," I chose to write about some things which are demonstrably "real" (in other words, you could go out and check my facts for yourself), specifically martial arts styles and tournaments. Not to put too fine a point on it, this ^#$%#^ near killed me. Sure, verifiable facts occasionally appear in my other books. The information about leprosy in "Lord Foul's Bane" was accurate and up-to-date when I wrote the book. But nothing that I've ever written has depended so heavily on my personal knowledge and experience.

(07/08/2004)

Derrik S:  As far as the geography of the Land:
There is an ice field to the north of the Land
There is a desert to the south of the Land
And a sea to the east of the Land and a few things to the west

As far as my question goes:
In The One Tree, i came across that there is a desert to the north(?) of one of the cities (where they picked up some weapons from the palace, i believe), they say that there is a land far north(?) of the desert, i was wondering if that is the Land they were talking about?

(My memory isn't quite as clear as when i read the books a couple years ago)

I've never tried to construct a map of the entire planet; but in my mind the land of the Bhrathair and the Sandgorgons is on a different continent than *the* Land. After all, any self-respecting planet has more than one desert. <grin>

(07/09/2004)

Stephen Smith:  Dear Steve:

First of all, I am amazed at your dedication to answering the questions submitted in this gradual interview. But I have known for a long time that you treat your readers with a tender devotion. Back in 1992, (in the halcyon days before e-mail) I finished the Covenant books, and you were kind enough to respond to my snail mail letter with one of your own. It has taken me 12 years to say thank you.

Thank you. It was the only such "fan letter" I've written, before or since. It's my pleasure to write you again.

My $64 question: I have recently been able to start writing my own novel full-time at home. I'm finding it difficult to stay on task in this too comfortable environment. I appreciated your candor in a previous answer about treating your writing like a "normal" 40-hour a week job. Do you have any advice for staying focused on the work, and the loneliness that (for me at least) dovetails so smoothly with this solitary craft?

I hope you and yours are well. Thanks for everything,
Steve Smith.
If you can afford to write full-time, can you afford an office outside your home? That would be my first piece of advice: get a space that is dedicated exclusivly to writing, ideally a space away from phones, family, friends, or anything else that threatens to make you self-conscious about what you're doing.

Then (or instead, if you can't afford a separate space) devise a congenial "cocoon of sound" to isolate you from distractions (it also helps to be sure you don't have a distracting view from any windows): you need a form of sound that helps you relax, that doesn't require you to think about it, and that is loud enough to resist penetration by noises from outside your place of work.

Then make "rules" for yourself, something along the lines of, "If you are in your place of work, you are either reading or writing. If you aren't doing either of those things, leave." People like Fred Pohl require a certain number of pages from themselves every day; and everything else is secondary until those pages are done. Roger Zelazny used to require himself to walk into his office and write four sentences; if those sentences didn't start a flow of words, he left; if they did, he stayed as long as the flow lasted; and he required himself to walk into his office at least four times a day. Me, I require myself to put in the hours rather than the words or sentences or pages.

But the best advice I can give you is this: trust your excitement. You need self-discipline to get yourself going every day; but after that your only reliable guide is your own excitement. If what you're doing doesn't excite you, there's something wrong somewhere. And if you *are* excited, nothing else matters--except nuturing your excitement.

(07/09/2004)

Mark A. Valco:  Dear Stephen R Donaldson:
I just came across your website last week and just read 90% of the "Gradual Interview" yesterday. My brother and his son recommended last Thanksgiving that I read your Covenant Trilogy. I suddenly found myself with an insatiable appetite for Donaldson, so as soon as I finish the GAP series, I will start on the Mordant books. It smacks of synchronicity (for me personally) that you are writing the last trilogy now. I was elated to deliver that exciting news to my brother and his son.

I notice that most of your emails are from guys, yet your novels have such strong female characters, that I think it is sad that women readers have not discovered you yet. (Either that or they are not as compelled to give you feedback). For each strong male character, there seems to be an even stronger female character. By "strong" I mean intelligent, complicated, brave, and forceful. For this reason --among many other reasons-- you may be well ahead of your time. (Especially when you consider that the Covenant trilogies were written in the eighties).

If I may comment about the "living forever" thread in a few of your previous emails, I think you have certainly made yourself immortal with your writing. Let's face it, after two or three genertions, most people are soon forgotten (even in their own families!). My first question is: Does it ever dawn on you that you *have* made "Stephen R. Donaldson" immortal? If so, doesn't that make you feel fulfilled? There is no doubt in my mind that there will be college classes on the Covenant books, and there is no doubt in my mind that over the course of the next fifty years there will be a couple remakes of movies based on your books. They are simply too rich to ignore.
Well, thank you! I especially appreciate your comments about my female characters. I was told vehemently (not to mention savagely) many years ago that no man could write convincing female characters; the male mind being inherently crippled by, well, maleness, etc.. After a fair amount of soul-searching, I decided to ignore the people who say such things. You see the results.

But about "living forever." Naturally I'm pleased that you think my work will stand the test of time. But I have no illusions about my artistic "immortality." There were plenty of people in Dickens' time who considered Galsworthy a greater novelist; and now we all say, Gal-who? Similarly, many of Shakespeare's contemporaries considered Ben Jonson a greater playwright--and poet. History teaches us over and over again that time (at least 50-100 years) is the only true test of artistic significance.

Well, the bad news about the test of time is that I'll never know if I passed. The *good* news is that I'll never know if I failed. Meanwhile the only thing I can do is the only thing any of us can do: give it my best shot, and take my chances.

Hence the attraction of *actually* "living forever." <grin> Which I have solemnly sworn to do.

(07/09/2004)

Peter Hunt:  Mr Donaldson,

You've mentioned Colin Baker a couple of time in this interview (and dedicated Forbidden KNowledge to him). Are you referring to the same Colin Baker who played the sixth Doctor Who?

If so, do you know him personally, or did you just used to watch a lot of Doctor Who? :)

(Sorry for the personal question. I am an unabashed fan, and do have a lot of questions about your writing, but I'm curious about this, too.)
In fact, I have the good fortune to consider Colin Baker (the 6th Doctor) a personal friend. But I'm also a major Dr Who fan. You should *see* my collection of bootleg Dr Who tapes. <grin> And I've never forgiven the BBC for what they did to Colin's Doctor.

(07/09/2004)

Louis Sytsma:  Here's a couple of more actors for your consideration to play Thomas Convenant:

Viggo Mortensen
Christian Bale
Sorry, Viggo (I call him that because he has no idea who I am) has never shown me the range needed for Covenant. And I don't know who Christian Bale is, although other readers of this site have mentioned him.

(07/09/2004)

Lee Whipple:  Thank you, I needed to read this today.

"I'm only responsible for the meaning of my own life; and the meaning I choose to create requires certain varieties of kindness."

This world would be a better place if more people believed the same.

I agree. And I know a fair number of people who would do the same. Unfortunately most of them actually consider "convenience" more important than either "responsibility" or "kindness." Well, you get what you pay for. "Responsibility" and "kindness" take effort. When people let "convenience" determine the meaning of their lives--well, the results ain't pretty.

(07/09/2004)

dlbpharmd:  What is the time ratio between the "real world" and The Land?
It is roughly one day in the "real world" to one year in the Land--give or take a little poetic license.

(07/09/2004)

Ross Edwards:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
I can't begin to tell you how excited I am that you've taken up the Chronicles again. The first six books amazed me, but to my mind your writing has gotten even more intense in the past 20 years (the Gap series has now passed TC as my favorite story -- once the action hits Billingsgate, it really takes off, and Chaos and Order just HAS to be read in one sitting).

I just might have to hose myself down when the Last Chronicles are released!

And I was relieved when I found out that you finally had your own official Website. For so many years, your (unofficial) Website community had been sorely lacking in content and news -- I wish I’d discovered Kevin’s Watch earlier… Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your world!

Anyway, I could babble on and on, but I won’t take up any more of your time. I have two questions for you, and then I’ll hang up and listen to your answer (if there is one).

First, the news that Hollywood has an option on TC has made me dust off my unfinished screenplay based on Lord Foul’s Bane. If I end up finishing it, where would I send it to (potentially) be read by whomever is in charge of the project?

Second, though I know Runes is already in final proofing stage, would you be interested in some free proofreading for the next books? I can say I’m pretty good at it, and would love to help out (did you notice the small formatting issues in the posted Prologue chapter? Reversed quotation marks, for one… Hope those didn’t make it to the final proof! Or were those only caused by the conversion process?) ;-)

Hey, thanks for listening! And take care.

Sincerely,
Ross Edwards
1) As it happens, the producers who purchased the "Covenant" option already have a screenplay in hand. They're using it to try to attract a "bankable" star. But if you want to pursue the matter, the names of the producers are in the Putnams press release on this site. You can track them down at least as easily as I can (I don't do "web searches" well) and offer them your screenplay.

2) Sorry, I don't let anyone else do my proofreading for me. *I'm* responsible for my work. And I make changes right up to the last minute. Or even later: I occasionally make changes between the hardback and paperback editions of a book. (Small stuff, usually; or matters of internal consistency.)

(07/09/2004)

Adrian:  Mr. Donaldson, The Covenant Books and Mordant's Need both focus on a person from the "real" world entering into an impossible world and then learning the rules and surviving.

First question: how did you come up with this very intriguing idea of mixing reality and fantasy?

Second Question: I absolutely love the notion of using mirrors in Mordant’s Need. This was one of the most original ideas I had ever read up to that point. How did you come up with the notion of using mirrors in this way?

Last Question: when you set out to create a world (Mordant’s Need for example), how much of the “rules” of the world do you outline before writing, and how much do you “make up as you go”? In other words, how much of the rules of conjuring did you know before you began to write and how much was made up after you had begun?

Thank you.
1) Well, it's been done before: the Lewis Carroll books; the "Narnia" books; shucks, even the "Oz" books. I grew up on that stuff.

2) Again, this isn't original. "Through the Looking Glass" leaps to mind, as does a Kurt Vonnegut novel ("Breakfast of Champions," if my memory does not mislead me).

3) This isn't a subject on which I've ever felt that I could afford to wing it. Sticking with the example of "Mordant's Need": since the "known" rules of Imagery (known by the Congery, at any rate) are violated right at the beginning of the story (by Geraden), I had to start out with a pretty clear picture of what those rules were. Or a completely different example: the GAP books. Virtually all of the essential parameters of that entire saga are laid out in "The Real Story" (many of them obliquely, I admit).

(07/09/2004)

Scott Rush:  Mr. Donaldson,

It is with a large smile on my face that I write this short message to you today. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to the release of Runes of the Earth. It has been about 18 years since I finished WGW the first time and I have been trying to find a fantasy series that can match the excellence of the first two chronicles of TC ever since. I just may have found one such series in George Martin’s excellent Song of Fire and Ice. It is certainly worth a read if you have the time, and you will need a lot of time because Mr. Martin likes to write even larger books than you :-)

I have so many thoughts about the final series spinning in my head that it is driving me nuts. For example:
1. What sort of new “Council of Lords” did Sunder and Hollian form?
2. Did the new council (foolishly?) recover Kevin’s Lore from Revelstone and make use of it, or did they fashion their own lore?
3. Did the beloved Ranyhyn come back to The Land after so many centuries?
4. Did the Giants re-populate Coercri?
5. What about the Haruchai? What part do they play?
6. Just how in the Seven Hells does TC come back from the dead? I know that the Law of Death was broken, but wouldn’t have this been fixed by the new Staff of Law?

I realize that you cannot answer any of these questions in this forum, but I hope that they and the many other un-asked questions that I have will be answered in the Last Chronicles. You could have very well left the chronicles complete after WGW. I thank you though from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to write the Last Chronicles.

I am a displaced native of Cleveland just like you and I was wondering, assuming you enjoy professional sports, if you still are a fan of the Browns, Indians, Cavs etc? I haven’t lived in Cleveland for 20 years, but I can’t bring myself to follow any other sports team but my “Home Town” teams.

Now get busy writing Fatal Revenant!
You're right: I can't answer any of those questions without giving things away. But just to tease you, I can say that Kevin's Lore is in what we might politely call a parlous state. <grin>

The only professional sport that actually holds my interest these days is the NBA. I was living near Philadelphia when I became interested, so the 76'ers are approximately "my team." But since I virtually never get to watch their games, I do root for other teams on an almost random basis. The only thing that isn't random is that I always root *against* the Lakers, Celtics, and Knicks. And, no, I can't explain that. It just is.

(07/10/2004)

Peter Hunt:  Mr. Donaldson,

When I read "The Killing Stroke" a few (um ... six? Yikes!) years ago, it struck me that the world you had created was complex and complete enough that it could have supported a novel-length story. I've read elsewhere that you know almost immediately what form (or how many volumes) a story will take, even when the idea is young.

Is this the case for "The Killing Stroke"? Did it always exist in your mind as a short story? If so,
(and I don't know how to word this question differently, so forgive me if it's unanswerable) how did you know that the world and situations of "The Killing Stroke" were to be the subject of a short story rather than a novel?

Do you ever look back at the world that you've created in a short story, and think "Hmm, that's pretty cool. I'll bet there are other tales to tell in that world"?
Well, I've been known to look back at a story and say, "That's pretty cool. I *hope* there are other tales to tell in that world." Having written them, I'm perfectly aware that some of my tales *could* support additional or longer narratives. Nevertheless I simply can't answer your real question. When a story idea appears in my head (and I can't explain how that happens), it always arrives carrying a "length attribute," a tag or label which tells me roughly how long the story will be (and I certainly can't explain how *that* happens). Often I know how long a story will be well before, even years before, I know what the story itself actually is.

In "The Killing Stroke," for example, the original idea was nothing more than the possibility of a martial arts story involving unspecified characters caught in a "time-loop" who could only escape by somehow transcending the limitations of their own identities (an idea stolen directly from Doctor Who); but I knew immediately that the story would be a novella. Years later, when I was ready to actually write the story, I could hardly fail to notice that it was full of unexplored potential. Nevertheless I had then, and still have now, NO IDEAS which would enable me to explore that potential. For reasons I can not explain, the longer an idea sits in my head before I write it, the more context (setting, background, etc.) it accretes; but the idea itself doesn't grow to match its (now more elaborate) context. All I know is that the worlds of, say, "The Killing Stroke," "Penance," or "Daughter of Regals" could support other or longer stories; but the stories themselves can't support any more length than they started with.

(07/13/2004)

Pier Giorgio (Xar):  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
I must say that when I first heard you were going to write the Last Chronicles, I hardly could believe it. There I was, just after I finished reading WGW for the first time, feeling sad because Covenant was gone and the journey to the Land was over, too... and then I found out about all this. Thank you! I was introduced to the Chronicles by a friend of mine from Venezuela, in Germany of all places (I'm Italian) - isn't it strange how life goes? ;) It's a pity your books haven't enjoyed much success over here :(

Anyway, on to my question... I just realized that time and again, all Laws that were broken in the Land that I can think of were broken because the Land itself, directly or not, provided the means to do that. What I mean is, without the EarthBlood, no Law of Death would have been broken; without a Forestal, no Law of Life would have been broken; and so on. Not even Foul with the Illearth Stone could apparently break the Law of Death without the unwitting assistance of Elena.
So, is this another facet of Covenant's belief that to have power (in this case, Earthpower) one (the Land) cannot be wholly innocent (in this case, by placing within the very Earthpower the possibility of "guilt", intended as the destruction of natural Laws)? In other words, that for the Land to be rich in Earthpower, it must also "accept" the fact that it holds within itself the seeds of its fall, whereas to avoid holding those seeds (being "innocent"), the Land couldn't hold Earthpower either (and therefore would be "powerless")? Or am I just rationalizing? ;)
That's quite a question! I'm not sure I can do it justice. But here's how I look at it.

You're a Creator; and you want to create a world that will be an organic whole, a living, breathing entity, rather than a mere mechanical extrapolation of your own personality and preferences. So how do you accomplish that goal? The obvious answer is: give the inhabitants of your world--or perhaps even the world itself--free will. Allow them to use or misuse as they see fit whatever your world happens to contain. Therefore they must be equally capable of both preserving and destroying your creation. QED.

When you look at it that way, the fact that the powers in the Land can be used to break the Laws which preserve the Land is sort of a "Duh." That *has* to be true. Otherwise your world is nothing more than an exercise in ego, a piece of machinery which exists solely to glorify you.

Such "Covenant"-esque ideas as "innocence is impotence" and "only the guilty have power" are inferences drawn from the basic precepts of free will. They might be rephrased thus: only a person who has truly experienced the consequences of his/her own destructive actions is qualified to evaluate--is, indeed, capable of evaluating--his/her future actions in order to make meaningful choices between destruction and preservation. Hile Troy is an interesting example. He's "innocent" in a way that Covenant is not: he's never done anything even remotely comparable to the rape of Lena. As a result, he's bloody dangerous. He literally doesn't know what he's doing: he hasn't learned the kind of humility that comes from meeting his own inner Despiser face-to-face. Therefore, in spite of all his good intentions, he makes decisions which bear an ineluctable resemblence to Kevin's.

Do you doubt me? Look at Troy's "accomplishments." If Mhoram hadn't saved his bacon at the edge of Garroting Deep, his decisions would have effectively destroyed the Lords' ability to defend the Land. He's just too damn innocent. He hasn't learned the self-doubt, the humility, that makes Covenant hesitate, or that makes Mhoram wise.

Does this help? I hope so.

(07/13/2004)

Michael from Santa Fe:  Thanks for posting the cover art, very nice, but who/what are the figures seen on it? It looks like three people and a white horse. Now, I know you probably aren't going to tell me who they are, but can you at least confirm that this is a scene in the book? Thanks!

P.S. I have to admit that when I first saw the cover I thought the white animal was a giant poodle! Please confirm that this is not the case!
Sorry, I can't explain Whelan's art for "Runes." He does what are considered "symbolic" covers: they don't illustrate a scene from the book; instead they're intended to *evoke* the book in a general sense. But once you've read "Runes," you'll be able to appreciate Whelan's concept. In the meantime, I can assure you that the white animal is NOT a "poodle." <grin> Merciful Heavens, what will you people think of next?

(07/13/2004)

Marc Alan:  While reading the Second Chronicles, as a reader I was always hoping that Covenant and Linden would talk more about the real world. Instead, the trilogy seemed to alternate with one or the other character being locked up in his or her own thoughts. They seem to remain strangers for most of the book(s) as they struggle with their own inner demons. Even after they become close, they bounce right back to being alone and miserable. Do you have something against happy endings, or do you just find them boring?
Do I have something against happy endings? Not as such. (Doesn't saving the entire world count as a happy ending?) But I desperately want to make my characters as real as possible. And virtually all of the real people I know "remain strangers...as they struggle with their own inner demons." Certainly that has been my lot in life. The true connections that I occasionally succeed at making with other people are so precious because they are so (comparatively) rare. None of us would really cherish the people we love if such connections came easily. Meanwhile struggling with inner demons is pretty much the name of the game for most human beings.

(07/13/2004)

Kristen:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

I would like to start this off by saying that my favorite books are the Gap series (although Thomas Covenant was great, too) and I absolutely love your writing.

My question is this: What advice could you give to aspiring writers?
Well, they always say that anyone who CAN be discouraged from being a writer SHOULD be discouraged from being a writer. My own take on that basic concept goes something like this:

No one is born with an owner's manual. We have no idea what our true abilities, talents, and interests are: we have to *discover* that information about ourselves through an (unfortunately messy) process of trial-and-error. So the important question is not: Do you aspire to being a writer? The important question is: What have you discovered about yourself? Now, as far as I can tell, the only reliable guide to self-discovery is self-observation: watch your own behavior, watch your own emotions, and draw reasonable conclusions from that data. The particular things to look for are: how does your mind work (what comes naturally to you)? and what excites you? (Unfortunately excitement often presents as fear, so making the distinction can be difficult.) Or another, perhaps simpler, way to say the same things: when do you feel most alive? and what are you doing when you feel that way? If the answer is, "When I'm writing," then give it everything you've got. If the answer is *not*, "When I'm writing," then give it up.

Incidentally, the same principle applies *within* writing. How do you know what KIND of writing you should be doing? And how do you know HOW you should be writing? The answer, again, is self-observation. Experiment. Watch. And trust what makes you feel more alive; distrust what doesn't.

(07/15/2004)

Anonymous:  Mr Donaldson.

As an admirer of your work and literature in general I find myself perplexed by a simple problem.

Taking a world, its characters and placces from notes and maps into a fully realized story. I am able to envision a world, its continents, cultures peoples and heros. I can see its cities, forests, mountains and valleys. I have a clear vision of its history and future. Yet I find all my vision is channeled more into an analysis of my world than stories about it.

I have no problem writing analytical research papers yet creative writing other than poetry eludes and boggles me.

I know each writer is unique in how they write so what you do will not necessarily work for me. However I am still curious. Is there any advice you may have which could change the world I see from a notebook and drawings ( many digital ) from an analytical work to a creative work.
Sorry, the best answer I can give you is the answer to the previous question. Instead of trying to become someone else, you need to trust who you are.

(07/15/2004)

Louis Sytsma:  Hello again!

My first post was short - this one will make up for it!

Reading the questions and your responses here have been quite illuminating. One of the highlights was where you explained how you shift your POV to aid you in empathizing with each character so that you may better articulate what each is feeling.

That approach is quite successful. I have described your work as harsh and angular yet tinged with compassion and despair. Please take that at it's most complementary! All those aspects work together to create characters that emotionally resonant for me like few writers are capable of.

You do seem to thrive with anti-heroes. Do you enjoy the challenge of presenting us with lead characters that are hard to sympathize with initially? I remember my initial revulsion - with shame - on reading about Covenant's leprosy and his shameful actions upon arriving in the Land. Yet, by the end of saga the character had won me over.

As a writer, such scenarios must present an exciting and difficult challenge. The payoff to end with a sympathetic or at the least - an understood character - must provide you with great satisfaction.

Thanks again for your time.

As I think (hope?) I've said before, I don't view my characters as "anti-heroes." Within my creative ethos, the term makes no sense. I think of my characters has troubled and damaged, but profoundly sympathetic, people who need to have intense stories happen to them (otherwise they'll be stuck where they are forever), and who need all the understanding I can give them in order to benefit from those stories. So, Do I enjoy the challenge? Does the payoff give me great satisfaction? Such questions don't have any particular meaning for me.

I don't mean to suggest that I feel neither enjoyment nor satisfaction, either while I'm working or after the work is done. But for me those emotions have nothing at all to do with the challenge of dealing with "anti-heroes," or with the payoff of finally making them "sympathetic." For me, they were sympathetic from the beginning. And every human being is the hero of his/her own story.

(07/15/2004)

Paul Culmsee:  Hi Steve

I just wanted to say that stumbling across this site and discovering that we will be returning to the land again brought me a great sense of joy.

When I first watched Lord Of The Rings, I immediately thought "Holy shit they *have* to do Covenant" - but Peter Jackson would have to do it :-).

But now I feel the trepidation that Tolkien fans must have felt. "They better not fuck it up", etc. Plus I figured that now producers would be falling over themselves looking for other fantasy series to convert to the big screen - and there probably are a couple).

It would seem likely to me that any commercial studio would want to take out elements like Lena's rape and change Elena's character altogether. How would you personally feel about your work being stripped/dumbed down and rehashed as well as risking being labelled a Lord Of the Rings cash in?

thanks

Paul

In my opinion, the "Covenant" books are un-film-able. They are too "adult" for commercial studios--and only commercial studios have the bucks for such a special-effects-intensive project. In addition, there are LOTS of fantasy series around that would be *much* easier to do. "Shannara" leaps to mind; but so does "Elric"--and let's not even mention Ray Feist's books. At opposite ends of the spectrum, both Patricia McKillip and Steven Erikson would be easier to film. So I don't think I'll ever have to face the dumbing-down of my work.

But if it happens, well, here's my philosophy: it's not my problem. *I* wrote the *books.* That's what matters to me. Everything else is just a distraction.

(07/27/2004)

James DiBenedetto:  You wrote, in response to a question about "Mordant's Need":

"Imagery and the use of mirrors occupy a sort of middle ground between the manifestations of power in more traditional fantasy ("magic and monsters") and those in science fiction (typically "weaponry"). The kingdom of Mordant is not *in itself* a magical place. In fact, it is a rather "mundane" quasi-medieval reality. Instead it has access to magic through the manipulation of devices; through a kind of technology."

I hadn't ever thought of it that way, because , the use of mirrors in Mordant's Need involves one of what (to me, anyway) is one of the big indicators of "magic" in fantasy: that it's only accessible to the select few who have an inborn, mysterious, unteachable ability to access it. The smartest, most dedicated resident of Mordant could try to shape mirrors and perform translations every day of his life and never have the slightest success, if he didn't have the whatever-it-is that makes one an Imager.

Thinking about it more, in the Land, especially in the First Chronicles, it seems that Earthpower, and the many "magical" things that can be done with it, is accessible to anyone, so long as they're willing to work at it. In that sense, you could say that the Land is LESS magical than Mordant, and that the sort of power the Lords of Revelstone wielded is more like science (since anyone, in theory, could study hard enough and long enough to master Kevin's Lore and become a Lord) than the Imagery of Mordant.

I guess my question is, does that make any kind of sense at all, or am I completely off base/missing something obvious?
If I may say so, you're proposing a rather "elitist" view of magic. This is certainly a defensible position. The important thing to remember about "magic" in fantasy, however--good fantasy, anyway, fantasy with real emotional depth and resonance--is that it is pretty much always a metaphor of one form or another. The writer isn't saying, "This place really exists, and these things really happen in it." The writer is saying, "If you will imagine this place with me, and imagine as well that these things can happen in it, then I have a good and, I believe, important story that I would like to share with you." Therefore the relevant question is not: What are the inherent attributes of magic? (E.g. Is magic by definition a power accessible only to a few, or is it a more universal resource of life?) The relevant question is: What are the assigned attributes of magic in x, y, or z particular story, and what is the writer trying to communicate by assigning those attributes to magic?

In these terms, it is essentially meaningless to say that the world of "Mordant's Need" is inherently more (or less) magical than the world of "Covenant." The stories are different; the focus of the themes is different; the (necessary) parameters of the worlds are different; so of course the manifestations of magic are different.

(07/28/2004)

John McCann:  I see you have posted the US cover for Runes. It is beautiful, I am sitting here trying to figure out where it is. My guess is Kevin's Watch. I know it is unlikely, but would be willing to post the text which inspired the image?

Other guesses are the character in the background under the tree is Covenant. I beleive this since he appears to be wearing jeans. There also appears to be a Ranyhyn in the foreground. I don't know who the other 2 characters are since I do not picture Linden in a dress. She appears to be running joyfully towards the character under the tree, so it could be her.

While typing the word Ranyhyn, the similarity to Swift's Houyhnhnm struck me. Is this the inspiration for the name you chose for the noble horses?
As I said earlier, Whelan's art is intended symbolically. Its purpose is evocative: it isn't meant to represent a literal scene. Or literal characters.

I've studied enough Swift to know that his work may well have influenced me on an unconscious level. However, I drew no conscious inspiration from his horses when I named the Ranyhyn. I was much more aware of "modifying" Tolkien than I was of "modifying" Swift.

(07/28/2004)

Todd S:  How many books do you read in a given time
(week, month or year ?)and what kind of books do you read currently ?
I'm a slow reader: two books a month, three at most. And I only read one book at a time (otherwise I can't keep them straight). I've just finished Patrick O'Brian's "The Fortune of War" and Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons." Now I'm back to reading fantasy.

(07/28/2004)

Peter Purcell:  Thanks for answering my prior questions - I waited until July to submit a new one!

I have a question about pets in the Land. I'm a pet person; I have always had dogs (and cats and other critters). My current dog pack consists of two 5 year old doberman females at 70lbs each and my baby is Rusty, a cuddly and loveable 2 year old 110lbs rottweiler.

My questions: why are there no pets in the Land!? There are horses and Ranyhyn - but no one would call a Ranyhyn a pet (and live after the Ramen heard about it!) There were small animals that the Unfettered One called to save Covenant. But other than that - no animal companions. I would think as close to nature as the first Land was there would be some. [OK, the Sunbane gives you an excuse for the Second Chronicles.] Perhaps the third?
Well, the real reason may be that I'm not a pet person myself. But my meticulously-rationalized, yet spur-of-the-moment, explanation is that the whole notion of "domestication" sort of violates the spirit of Land (at least as it existed in the first "Chronicles"). Sure, ordinary survival depends to some extent on having things like herds, transportation (e.g. horses), etc.. And the people who originally ventured into the Land don't have a particularly attractive history. But once Berek got that whole "reverence for life" thing going, people probably stopped thinking of animals as potential pets.

Incidentally, since you asked much later in this interview, no, I'm not planning to wait until after my "Runes" tours to start on "Fatal Revenant." The delays imposed by my publishers are already making me crazy. The hardest part of any book--at least for me--is starting it; and the longer I put off starting, the more difficult it becomes.

(07/28/2004)

Avalest:  Dear Mr Donaldson,
Why at this site is your beard a link to your "private office"? If someone clicks on your beard in real life do they also get linked to your "Private office"?

Thanks for your time, Avalest.
People who click on my beard in real life usually get linked to my "Private Jab-Cross Combination." <grin> You should try it sometime.

(07/28/2004)

Beverly (caamora):  Not a question, just a thank you for the wonderful question and answer session you did for us last night at Garduno's. I hope you had as much fun as we did.
And thank YOU. I was pleased and flattered by the occasion myself, and I'm glad it went so well.

(07/28/2004)

Pete M.:  You've posted the stats on how each of your book series have sold compared to each other, and I'm assuming it's fair to say you were disappointed with how the Gap books sold? If a musician or band puts out a so-so album after a million-selling one they can always say, "Well, our next one will be better". As an author, though, what's it like to be in the middle of a 5-book series that isn't selling well? You can't just say, "Well, the third book will be really great!" Obviously you liked and believed in the Gap books (as did most everyone else on this site), but were there ever any "What's wrong with you people!" moments? How about the publishers - were they giving you any heat about sales? (not that there's much you could have done)

Speaking of publishers, if you hadn't decided on The Last Chronicles and were instead writing a "new" fantasy or sci-fi series, would you have had a problem finding a publisher?

From a loyal (sometimes fiercely) reader since 1983 I just want to say thanks for all of your great work over the years.

Pete
My reactions to the sales of the GAP books are difficult to explain. Yes, I was (painfully) disappointed: who wouldn't be? We all want to be read by as many readers as possible. And on some level, we all want the ego-boo of popularity. Naturally I felt rejected by my readers. On the other hand, the sales were about what I was expecting: no matter what my publishers' expectations may have been, I *knew* the books wouldn't sell particularly well. They're too dark--and you have to stick with them too long before you begin to get any of the normal "rewards" of reading (characters you can respect, vindication, resolution, hope, that sort of thing). And on still another hand, I found the whole situation vastly depressing. Publishers never blame the author *directly* for poor sales: they're too polite for that. However, they seldom accept any responsibility themselves: indirectly they *do* blame the author. So what always happens is that they simply decline to publish your next book. Hence my appearance of publisher-hopping: Ballantine dumped me because they were disappointed in the sales of "Mordant's Need," Bantam dumped me because they were disappointed in the sales of the GAP books, and Tor dumped me because they were disappointed in the sales of my mystery novels. And in England HarperCollins dumped me because they were likewise disappointed in the sales of my mystery novels (even though in England all of my other books have been *very* successful, yes, even including the GAP books). So now I'm with Putnams and Orion. God only knows what will happen if they're disappointed in the sales of "The Last Chronicles." As I say, I find all this very depressing.

But Lester del Rey would probably respond (perhaps aptly) that I did it to myself. After all, I found out what my readers like--and then I spent 20 years refusing to provide it. Why, he might ask, *shouldn't* they reject my non-"Covenant" books?

All I can say in my own defense is that I'm not that kind of reader myself. Once I decide that I like a writer, I'll read anything that he/she writes. I don't care about mere details like genre, setting, or story-type: I care about the particular gifts and integrity that writer brings to his/her work.

Would I have had difficulty finding a publisher if I were currently working on more non-"Covenant" books? Depends on what you mean by difficulty. If I accepted a small enough advance (possibly too small to live on), I could probably get published by anybody. (After all, the sales of the GAP books are still better than most of the sf out there. Bantam was only disappointed because their expectatons were so high.) So, no, I wouldn't necessarily have had difficulty, but, yes, I might have had to get a day job. Which at my age would have been "difficulty" on a whole new order of magnitude.

(07/29/2004)

Paul S.:  I was just re-reading you first Structured Interview from 1979... and noticed that you mentioned that Holt and Ballantine had both rejected LFB.

Just wondering if there's any connection between "Holt" the publishing company rejecting your work and a character -- coincidentally named "Holt" who was a rather despicable corporate type....

hmmm...
No, it's just a coincidence. Holt (known then as Holt Rinehart & Winston) treated me very well--once Judy-Lynn del Rey at Ballantine talked them into publishing my first trilogy. In fact, they did a great deal to launch my career by publishing three long books by an unknown author all on the same day. That attracted an enormous amount of review attention, which in turn helped make the paperbacks successful. I've long since forgiven Holt for first rejecting "Covenant" so many years ago.

(07/30/2004)

Dustin A. Frost :  In June's responses you said, "...but I've never seen Goodman produce anything that resembles the squalor of Angus' early malice." I never would have thought of Goodman myself, but that remark (call me contrary) made me think of Barton Fink, starring John Turturro. If you haven't seen it, and if you will forgive me for projecting, I believe you might enjoy it.

Lastly, there is only one other F/SF writer whose praises I sing as loudly as yours, and that is Gene Wolfe. What are your thoughts on his writing? Or, to be a little less vague, perhaps _The Book of the New Sun_ or even his newest, _The Knight_? Any amusing anecdotes from conventions, etc.?

Respectfully,
Syl
Yes, I saw Goodman's demonic side in "Barton Fink." Perhaps that would work for Angus. But I'm afraid that too much of his normal geniality would show through. Angus doesn't have a genial bone in his body.

I've known Gene Wolfe for years. He's an interesting man; he's often treated me kindly; and his opinions are frequently enlightening.

(07/30/2004)

J C Bronsted:  I have read of authors in the past (Tolkien first: I am sure the number of people he inspires to write is staggering; Yourself: also one of the top members of my list in inspiration to create for myself), and their journey to publication described (in every single case, in my experience) as seeking a Publisher. Once found, they speak of an Editor who helps them polish and revise still more. In my reading of this Gradual Interview, I have read many references of your interactions with various Editors (Lester Del Ray, et al), and only (within the last few days, in fact) two references to your Agent. Are Agents a perhaps "forgotten" part of the publishing process: condemned to be never mentioned in the story of publication? I do not doubt the necessity of having an Agent, but is this a recent trend in writing: a rise of middlemen who do work once relegated to the author himself? And is the difficulty of finding an Agent the same for that of finding an Editor and/or the Publishing House he works for/with? Are their concerns only parallel in judging incoming material, or do they seek the same thing? Are these questions perhaps beyond your ken or the purview of this interview? Have I misunderstood the industry?

My most sincere thanks for even reading this question. I cannot imagine how I would endure such a forum, and I hope those who submit continue to respect your generosity.
If I haven't mentioned my agent very often, it's because he hasn't been germane to this discussion--and because he doesn't particularly want the attention. But in fact he is both a good friend and an essential "player" in my career. I would be lost without him.

For a number of reasons, several of which involve the changes in the publishing industry over the past 20-30 years. Back in the days when Lester del Rey gave me my "break," editors still read unsolicited manuscripts (the "slush pile," manuscripts submitted "over the transom"). But what I call the conglomoratization of modern publishing has put huge pressures on publishers, forcing them to change the way they do business. The vast and faceless corporations which now own virtually all of US publishering don't give a damn about books, or authors, or (God forbid) literature. They care about bucks. And they demand profits from their subsidiaries (only some of which are publishers) on a scale previously unknown in publishing. This has had two primary effects: 1) publishers are under tremendous pressure to produce bestsellers, and only bestsellers; and 2) publishers have been forced to dramatically reduce their costs of doing business. One result is that, as a general rule, the average editor today is doing the work that three editors did ten years ago, and five twenty years ago. (There are other results, but they aren't relevant at the moment.) He/she can't afford to put much time into editing; and he/she certainly can't afford to read unsolicited manuscripts. Therefore much of the work that editors used to do has been transferred to agents. An editor simply won't read a manuscript that doesn't come from an agent; and the agent had damn well better do a fair amount of editing before he ever shows the manuscript to an editor.

My agent is vital to me because he has clout with editors (because he represents good books), and because he is a good editor. I'm confident that Putnams would not have agreed to publish "The Runes of the Earth" if my agent hadn't first worked long and hard on the manuscript with me.

So yes, you need an agent. And no, no professional writer "forgets" about his/her agent. The role of the agent has become central to the life of the writer.

(07/30/2004)

Jonas Kyratzes:  I have only a comment this time, not a question. I just finished reading your essay "Epic Fantasy in the Modern World" and I have to tell you that this is the first time that I have found an explanation of why fantasy is popular and why it is important that really hits the mark.

Thank you.

Jonas
Thanks! I guess my degrees in English literature were good for something after all. <grin>

(07/30/2004)

Jonas Kyratzes:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

I would like to begin by thanking you deeply for your books. They have had a significant effect on my life and especially on my views as an artist.

You say that your main responsibility as a writer is to your ideas, to expressing them as they come to you, as fully as you can. I realize that your ideas are of course just a part of you, but I fully agree with the concept of the artist as an interpreter of ideas (even though, of course, I do not mean to force anyone into this system - it just works for me). Have you ever wondered what would happen if you came up with a story, an idea, which really seemed to make sense to you and which demanded to be written, but which actually expressed an opinion with which you deeply disagreed? Have you ever been faced with this situation?
[I'm thinking of Clarke's "Childhood's End" here, and of my own personal experience with a story of mine, which I like but disagree with.]

Thank you for your books.

Regards,
Jonas Kyratzes
I'm sorry. On some fundamental level, your question doesn't make sense to me.

If a story comes to me to be written, it does so for a reason--presumably because it fits me in some way, or I fit it. And if I can't commit myself fully to the writing of that story, giving it (in a manner of speaking) everything I've got, I have no business writing in the first place. So. Then it exists. It has become a thing separate from me, a thing as particular and as self-contained as, say, a human being. How, then, is it *possible* to "disagree" with it?

The analogy to a human being may help. You can disagree with a person's opinions; dislike a person's personality; disapprove of a person's actions. But in what sense is it possible to disagree with the person him/herself? That person simply *is*. Even if you are that person's *parent,* that person is still separate from you; that person still simply exists for his/her own reasons, in his/her own way. Therefore saying you disagree with a person sounds to me like the same thing as saying you disagree with a tree, or a force of nature.

So no, I've never had, and never will have, the experience of "disagreeing" with a story I've written. (Opinions such as those expressed here are entirely another matter. <grin> I change my mind all the time. Otherwise it gets grubby.) I certainly don't want to *meet*, say, the characters in "The Conqueror Worm." I think that zone implants are probably immoral by definition. But such issues are far removed from actually disagreeing with the substance of a story I've written.

(08/01/2004)

Lonnie Thompson (AKA Amok):  Thanks again for sitting down with us last Saturday and answering our questions. I had a great time - your thoughts on the work you have done and the subsequent reaction from your fans were very interesting to me. Unfortunately, during the Q&A I could think of nothing to ask you - but of course since then, I finally came up with a couple and here they are:

1. If the 2nd Chrons had been titled: "We are the Elohim, hear us ROAR - How we would have handled the Sunbane (instead of having to deal with those pesky White Gold Wielders..." I mean, what was their plan? As you can probably tell, those type of people REALLY annoy me - you know the all-powerful, all-knowing 2nd-guessers.

2. I was in college when the One Tree was published, and I seem to remember that it was delayed due to the original manuscript being lost in a plane crash. Is that correct? Or was the sleep deprivation getting to me...
1. In what sense did the Elohim *need* a plan? Do you mean, what would the Elohim have done if white gold and its wielder(s) never existed? Nothing, probably--since the Elohim themselves would never have existed, since I would not have written the story. In other words, you have to take white gold wielders as a given when you think about the Elohim. You have to take the whole created (and implied) world in which the Elohim exist as given. So for them, plan A was that Linden has the ring, therefore doesn't need a Staff of Law; she beats the shit out of Lord Foul, and no one else has to worry about it. Plan B was Findail. Who was so reluctant because from the perspective of the Elohim his role should not have been necessary at all.

2. Yes, the manuscript of "The One Tree" was lost, not in a plane crash, but by airline incompetence. (From San Francisco, Braniff sent my luggage to Bogota instead of L.A.) Of course, I had another copy at home. But I had been on the road for over a month, and while I was traveling (another ^#$%^$ book tour), I did a lot of rewriting. So only the rewriting was actually lost. But having to redo all that work *did* delay the publication of "The One Tree" somewhat.

(08/01/2004)

Anonymous:  I was interested by the prey/victim paragraph, and I don't necessarily disagree, but it seems in your formulation that the only way to become a victim is to "give up on yourself" and quit trying to resist a "predator." Which is causing me some definitional confusion (if that's a word) when it comes to, say, natural disasters. People are often described as "flood victims," and I feel that ought to be an accurate desctription, though the people involved may never have stopped trying (for example) to sandbag their town. Further, a natural disaster has no will or intent of its own. But I guess my question is, in this philosophy, is there any way to be a "victim" without being "self-victimized"? It's really just a question of semantics and my trying to picture how exactly you're defining the word "victim." The answer I think I've arrived at for myself is "victim" in this is a state of mind rather than an outcome, so there may not be a quantitative difference between two people who have been beaten up, flooded out, whatever, but a qualitative difference between their mental responses.
It's true: my (very) personal definitions for words like "victim" cause confusion because they, well, you might say *interfere* with the way people normally use those words. When I came up with my personal definitions, I was thinking pretty much exclusively of human interactions: there are predators (e.g. rapists) and there are prey (e.g. the targets of rapists); and the prey is not in any sense responsible for the actions of the predator; but the only way to be a victim is to, in essence, victimize yourself (i.e. to submit to the actions of the predator as if they had some form of moral or psychological authority: e.g. refusing to fight the rapist on the grounds that you might be hurt worse if you do fight). In this context, being a victim is very much a state of mind: every victim is by definition self-victimized.

When I proposed such ideas, I wasn't thinking of things like forces of nature. (Flood victims, for example.) Yet I believe that the concepts I'm trying to explain can be generalized rather broadly. The person who sees the flood coming, screams, runs around in circles, and drowns, is very different than the person who figures out how to use his/her front door as a raft REGARDLESS of whether or not the latter person drowns. To call both of these people "victims" creates just as much confusion as my personal definitions do.

Or a completely different kind of example. I know a woman who broke her toe. Her doctor told her, "There's nothing we can do about that. Just tape it to the next toe and stay off it until the pain goes away." So five months later the pain goes away, and five years later the pain comes back because now she has arthritis in her toe. Meanwhile I broke my toe. And I rejected the whole "There's nothing we can do about that" concept. I got adjustments to realign the bones and tensons; I got laser treatments alleged to speed healing; I got (very painful) myofascial (sp?) massage treatments to eliminate internal scarring; I took lot and LOTS of herbs, vitamins, minerals, enzymes to combat imflammation and to heal cartilege and joints. In two months my pain was gone, and five years later I have no arthritis (actually, the arthritis I had before the injury has now gone away). So which one of us is a victim? We both suffered identical injuries: we were both the "victims" of comparable accidents. There was no predator involved, and the only force of nature at work was gravity. Yet I maintain that she is a victim and I am not.

This is my complicated way of saying that I agree with you: "victim" is "a state of mind rather than an [event or] outcome." That's why I say that all victims are self-victimized. And that's why a victim is always a victim, regardless of the outcome.

(08/01/2004)

James:  Stephen,

I was hoping for a little more clarification on your explanation of there not being a killing stroke. You'd stated that if you choose not to be killed, your attacker becomes the instrument of your own will.

But in the situation as in The Killing Stroke, where the shin-te's attacker was more skilled and *could* have killed him, even if the shin-te had chose to fight on -- how is the attacker the instrument of the shin-te's will? Or, are you saying that in choosing to fight on, he is electing to die?

I like the broad strokes of this philosophy, but am a little shaky on that point :)

Or to pose the question in a way that follows the rape example: if the woman is raped despite her best efforts to fight off the attacker, she has been 'victimized' in that her will to not be raped was overridden by the rapist's will. But would you say she isn't truly a victim because she never gave in? That the key of being a victim is giving in, and the actual occurrence of what happens doesn't determine her status as 'victim' or 'prey' or 'survivor' or whatever word might be suitable there..?

As I've just demonstrated, it's hard to be clear about these things, in part because our use of certain words ("victim" in this case) precludes clarity: we use the word to refer to too many different things.

I'll try again.

The point that the shin-te makes in "The Killing Stroke" is *any* outcome to the fight which leads to his death is the result of his own choices: he might choose to fight on and be killed, or he might choose to stop fighting and be killed; but in either case, he CHOSE. Therefore he is not a "victim" ("there is no killing stroke"). Instead he has created a situation in which his attacker can only impose his *own* will by choosing NOT to kill. (Anyone who has studied the martial arts for a while knows that the attacker is always at a disadvantage. This is one demonstration of that principle. The attacker chose to offer combat [in that sense he is not a predator], he chose to conduct the combat in a life-threatening fashion [in that sense he *is* a predator]; but he can only choose the outcome by withholding a fatal blow.)

As for the rape example: this is a very different question morally than the situation in "The Killing Stroke" (except insofar as the shin-te's attacker chose to try to kill his opponent). There both fighters chose to fight. Where rape, and similar crimes, are concerned, no one (well, no one sane) *chooses* to be prey. But everyone *can* choose his/her response to being treated as prey. Therefore the prey always determines the meaning of his/her own life REGARDLESS of the outcome. As for the poor (he said sardonically) predator, he/she can only regain his/her freedom of choice by refusing to continue the attack.

Perhaps this is becoming less and less clear as I explain it more and more. I should probably stop....

(08/01/2004)

Mark A. Morenz:  Mr. Donaldson:

Thanks for answering our questions.

Here are two more-- #1-At the request of a co-worker, she and I exchanged our favorite pieces of literature. She gave me C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy. I gave her Book One of The First Chronicles.

The Space Trilogy is pretty good. But I was struck how Lewis (generally considered to be a Christian apologist) explicitly says in a foreword that his work isn't allegorical. It reminded me of how you (rather forcefully) respond to questions of artistic intention by saying that you aren't a polemicist. However, you do say in your essays/interviews that you indended your Covenant works to be both "archetypal" and that you wanted to return Epic Fantasy to its pro-humanist roots (I apologize if that isn't a fair enough paraphrase). Anyway, these seem to be indications of "agenda" beyond just the telling of the story for its own sake. I'm not trying to play 'gotcha', just seeking clarification for the benefit of all the other artists out there.

If I could hazard a guess: is it a case of keeping ones eyes on the prize- that is, concentrating on the medium (crafting/discovering of the story) and letting the message (the trascendant art of the subtexts, bla bla) take care of itself? The sports analogy would be playing games the best way possible, the way they are supposed to be played, and letting the winning take care of itself...??

#2- As a former HS teacher, I found that your recent comments on education were so unerringly accurate that I laughed out loud upon reading them. You, sir, nailed it.

So my question is this-- if one cares enough-- at what point does one seek to reform systems from within and at what point do you attempt to end-run and try to affect them from the "outside"?

This is asked in the context of education, or politics, or especially the publishing industry. Some authors are backing e-publishing in a big way, for example.

(You don't seem shy about critiquing the publishing industry, so I felt safe in asking...)

Many Thanks!

:-{)]

-MM

1) It seems to me you're making this all more complicated than it needs to be. Stories come to me to be written. I write them, bringing (I hope) all of my resources to bear on the challenge. Then people ask me questions about them, and I answer. In other words, these answers always postdate the stories: they shed light on who I am and how I think, but they are fundamentally separate and distinct from the stories themselves--or from the writing of those stories. For example, I wrote "Epic Fantasy and the Modern World" to explain what I had done. I did *not* write it first, and then write, say, "The Chronicles" to illustrate the points I made in my essay. Essays of that kind are pretty much by their very nature polemical. I have a very obvious polemical streak in my personality. Here I'm being polemical about stories I've already written; but that does NOT mean that I had any kind of polemical agenda when I actually wrote those stories.

Putting the same point more crudely: I write stories, and then (if someone asks) I rationalize them. I do NOT rationalize them before I write them. In fact, they don't need to be rationalized at all. I'm just doing so because, well, you asked.

2. I'm not wise enough to know when a given system (public education, publishing) can be reformed from within, and when it should be torn down and completely rebuilt. But I do know that reform of one kind or another tends to happen when the need becomes great enough. Private schools appear to perform functions which have been abandoned by public education. Small presses (and independent publishing of all sorts, sometimes Internet-based, sometimes not) appear to perform functions which have been abandoned by large corporate publishers. Americans opposed to Bush are registering to vote in numbers previously unknown in modern politics. Somehow human societies find ways to keep themselves alive in spite of their own worst impulses.

(08/01/2004)

James:  Also -- I realized while writing the previous question that I see elements of this philosophy (No killing stroke) in the Second Chronicles (Brinn at the One Tree, Covenant 'accepting' Foul, etc.) and in the Gap Series, where victims learn to become rescuers or victimizers.

How conscious was the process of illustrating this concept through your different writings as time went on? Since Gap is so much later than the 2nd Chrons, I assume your realization of the idea was much more firm then than back then. ?
Please read my answer to the previous question. Both as a person and as a writer, I learn and grow as I go along. Therefore the resources that I bring to bear on my stories change. But the point of the previous answer remains the same. I don't write stories to illustrate ideas or concepts. I write them because I care about the stories themselves: these particular people, with these particular emotions, experiencing these particular events. Everything else is, well, literary criticism--which as we all know is a very different process, with different purposes and goals.

(08/01/2004)

Mark A. Valco:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
Question 1) While reading the Covenant books, I admired the Bloodguard's (and Harachai's) sense of honor and their devotion to duty. At the time you were writing these books, were you contemplating the possibility of one day studying martial arts?

Question 2)I come from an English background in college, where I studied and enjoyed many of the classics. The entire Covenant trilogy was every bit as good as any literature I was forced to read. For reasons I cannot specifically explain, I loved THE ONE TREE the most. For me, it was like taking a swim in a sea rich with language and ideas. I was spellbound during the visit with Elohim and chilled by the lure of the merewives. After reaching the end where the quest for the One Tree yields no Staff of Law to use against Lord Foul, suddenly the plot of the entire book seemed a sad and ironic waste of time. Were you, perhaps, trying to say that sometime life takes us in wrong directions but the lessons we learn are still valuable and worthwhile?

Question 3 for next month)Thomas Covenant's greatest fear seems to be other's dying for his sake, while Linden's greatest fear seems to be the possession of another being's body. It's it fair to say that both of these fears made their perils worse? (It's probably fair for me to say it, but is it a point you were trying to make?)
1) I never gave a second's thought to studying the martial arts until about the time I began working on the GAP books. And when I did consider the idea, my reason were entirely personal: they had nothing to do with anything I had written, or anything I intended to write. (Some day, long after I appear to have died--because we all know I'm not *actually* going to die--I'll write an essay about "The Writer as Warrior." But don't wait up. <grin>)

2) Personally, I don't consider anything in "The One Tree" to be "an ironic waste of time"--and I certainly don't see anything "wrong" with the directions my characters took in that book. One reviewer described the ending of "The One Tree" as "a subtle victory disguised as defeat," and I agree. For example, without Findail, without Linden's possession of Covenant in Bhrathairealm, and without Vain's "damage" at the Isle of the One Tree, Covenant's victory over Lord Foul, and Linden's creation of the new Staff of Law, would never have been possible.

3) The fears that you describe for Covenant and Linden are both fears that involve concern for other people. Such fears may very well increase the peril of the characters: they certainly make life a lot more complicated. But Covenant and Linden probably wouldn't be worth reading about if they didn't care about issues larger than their own survival. God knows I would not have considered them worth writing about.

(08/01/2004)

Peter B.:  Happy July Fourth, although personally I wish there was more to celebrate nationally speaking.

Regarding the Chronicles and time: (don't worry its not a plot question) Is the time setting for events in the "real" world always our own present day. For instance, is the year roughly 2004 in the Runes Prologue? (Sorry, so far I've avoided temptation and have not read it.) In the earlier Chronicle novels events in the so-called "real" world seemed to be set in the current readers present day. I seem to recall a typewriter or electric typewriter referenced in Lord Foul's Bane. Perhaps this is a minor point, but I am just curious. I know one cannot keep ahead of time but making the attempt to keep pace could add an additional sense of relevance for the reader, at least initially. If this is not the case, and the time setting in the "real" world is say 1997, how does this help or hinder the narrative? Are there advantages to having only general time references?
I've tried to avoid too many time-specific references. After all, ten years pass within the story between the first trilogy and the second, and another ten years between the second trilogy and "The Last Chronicles". But in *my* life much less than ten years passed between the first trilogy and the second, and much more than ten have passed since the second. I don't want to clutter up the story with such details, especially since Linden's "ten years" don't match mine (which would create the danger of a wide range of anachronisms). But some things I haven't been able to avoid. E.g. the information on leprosy was current when I wrote the first "Chronicles". And I wasn't able to escape the necessity of giving Linden a pager in "The Last Chronicles." In other ways, however, I've tried to avoid being too specific about *when* in "our" world these stories occur. Partly, as I say, because anachronisms would undermine the story. And partly because such time-specific details aren't particularly important. (Except in the case of the information about leprosy.)

(08/01/2004)

David Wiles:  Dear Steve; Do you find it more or less difficult to write story line or dialog as compared to the songs and poetry in your stories.
When Mhoram gives the eulogy for his parents or the Forestalls song in White Gold Wielder, all seem so full of emotion and it seems that so much is said in so few words.
Thanks for being the best damn story teller around.
Without question the songs and poetry are the most difficult for me to write. When a particular kind of inspiration strikes, they flow fairly well; but I can't just sit down and "force" them out: I have to wait for the right energy. Which, btw, doesn't come along very often at this stage in my writing life.

Where story-line is concerned, I plan (far) ahead, so that aspect of story-telling is probably the least difficult for me. And dialogue often comes very spontaneously while I'm writing. Yet dialogue is the single most rewritten aspect of every story I publish. For some reason, dialogue that makes perfect sense to me when I write it seems to make no sense at all when I reconsider it months (sometimes many months) later. I suspect that this happens because I've gotten to know the characters better as the story goes along; so when I start to rewrite I realize that their earlier dialogue no longer fits my perception of them.

(08/02/2004)

Lono:  What are the actual titles of Covenant's books that he has written?

Thanks
Sorry. Since I've never read any of them, I don't know what their titles actually are. <grin> But seriously: I just never felt a need to flesh in that particular detail of Covenant's life.

(08/02/2004)

Clayton:  Mr. Donaldson-
Thanks for answering my earlier query, and again, I heartily appreciate your accessibility in this forum.

My question is regarding your writing methods from early TC days to now. Back when you started, did you write longhand or use a typewriter? How/when did you transition to word processors? I read here that you conduct your days when writing sort of like an office job - get there at a preset time, work x hours with a few breaks, etc. Do you experience any pains when writing for so long each day (i.e. carpal tunnel, etc.) and how do you deal with them?

Thanks!!
I've always composed at a keyboard of some sort. From my original manual typewriter, I progressed to electric typewriters (I wore out several) for the first six "Covenant" books, "The Man Who Killed His Brother," and "Daughter of Regals and Other Tales." For (as I recall) "The Man Who Risked His Partner" and "Mordant's Need," I switched to a dedicated word processor; an IBM behemoth that chewed my files onto 8 1/2" floppies. "The Man Who Tried to Get Away" was the first novel that I wrote on a PC: as it happens, a Toshiba laptop with no hard drive was my first computer. So now, of course, I use computers exclusively. But I will never EVER forgive the world for abandoning DOS in favor of GUI-based applications. DOS made sense to me: it involved words I could understand, like "format" and "chkdsk," and DOS word processors also relied on language. (I used WordStar 2000, and I'm very bitter that I had to give it up because it become obsolete.) "Icons" never make sense to me; so these days I always have to hunt through the menus until I find words I can understand. All these years of "progress," and we're reduced to cave drawings just like our (very) early ancestors.

I don't have problems like carpal tunnel syndrome and eye strain when I write because I move around so much: it's rare for me to remain in one position for more than two sentences at a time, and while I'm moving around I use my hands and eyes for so many other things that they seldom get tired.

(08/02/2004)

Peter Hunt:  Mr Donaldson,

You've mentioned Colin Baker a couple of time in this interview (and dedicated Forbidden KNowledge to him). Are you referring to the same Colin Baker who played the sixth Doctor Who?

If so, do you know him personally, or did you just used to watch a lot of Doctor Who? :)

(Sorry for the personal question. I am an unabashed fan, and do have a lot of questions about your writing, but I'm curious about this, too.)
I think I answered this earlier. Yes, I'm referring to the Colin Baker who played Dr Who, and yes, I'm proud to call him a personal friend. During a certain extremely difficult period of my life, my large collection of bootlegged Dr Who tapes was my emotional security blanket; and no Doctor did more to help me stay sane than Colin Baker's character. Imagine my astonishment when I discovered that he's a "Covenant" fan and wanted to meet me (!).

(08/02/2004)

robby littlefield:  i just got through reading books 1-6 for the second time. i read it when i was about 12-13 and now i am 35yrs old. i must say that this time it was even more incredible. i don't really have a question about the book, just curious about your command of vocabulary. i have never read a book that has introduced me to as many new words as ttcc. was that intentional and where did you acquire such a vast vocabulary?
I've already discussed vocabulary earlier in this interview. But the short answer is: yes, I used exotic and unfamiliar words deliberately (in an attempt to make the Land feel "real" through sheer language); and I acquired my vocabulary by making word-lists when I read other people's books.

(08/02/2004)

Demian:  SRD-

I'm glad I found this site! I've been a devotee of Michael Moorcock's Q+A since 1998 and it is great to see another of my favorite authors doing the same thing.

I wanted to give my own fantasy nominations for Covenant: Billy Bob Thornton. After watching "Bad Santa", I have to say that no one does self-loathing right now better than Billy Bob.

I also wanted to make a comment about "The One Tree". It is by far my favorite book in the entire Chronicles, even though it might be the "slowest" in terms of action. The handling of the at sea scenes (which had a huge potential for being dull), was perfect. And every time the crew makes landfall, things get weirder and weirder. It is like an extended fever dream, and given that Covenant is ill throughout the novel, I'm sure this was an intentional effect on your part (the old "externalization" thing again). I think this book was took some serious stones for you to write- you take Covenant out of the Land, and then you have his quest "fail". Did your editors cringe?

A final comment- I hope the 3rd Chronicles will be even weirder than the 2nd. I'd love to see more of the world beyond the Land (I have a feeling it goes on and on like one of those houses in nightmare where every room seems to lead to more rooms and each one has a secret door or passage), and of course, more Raver fun is always welcome.

Thanks for your time!!!
I'm glad you liked "The One Tree." I can't comment on my "stones," "serious" or otherwise <grin>, but I can tell you this: Lester del Rey did more than just cringe. After a long fight about the book, he told me that Ballantine Books was no longer willing to publish me. The sticking point was not leaving the Land, however: it was Linden Avery's role as the protagonist (POV character) of the book. During the course of the fight, he said such things as:
"You can't have a Tarzan book with Jane as the main character" and
"If I publish this book the way you've written it, it will destroy my publishing program" and
"You don't need to understand why I want the book rewritten. You will rewrite it because I'm your editor and I so say."

So how come Ballantine Books remained my publisher? you may well ask. Because six or seven hours of this fight took place in the presence of Dick Krinsley (then president of Ballantine) and Marc Jaffe (then editor-in-chief). And when I refused to abandon my position (my artistic integrity), they simply informed Lester that he was no longer my editor. Instead they appointed a new editor for me, and told Lester that he could, in essence, "like it or lump it."

Neither Lester nor Judy-Lynn del Rey ever forgave me (although I think Lester came close after reading "Mordant's Need"). If you'll look at any printing of "The One Tree" in paperback that occurred before Lester's death (he out-lived Judy-Lynn by some years), you'll see that his personal "griffin" symbol (his imprimatur, his seal of approval) does not appear on the cover--although it *does* appear on "White Gold Wielder" (probably because the "The One Tree" was a massive bestseller, and he and Judy-Lynn didn't want to make themselves look foolish).

A strange situation in a number of ways. Lester and I had several significant fights about the first "Chronicles," as well as about "The Wounded Land"; but in each case he just kept on explaining himself until I finally understood his criticisms--and then he allowed me to find my own solutions to the problems. Why he changed his approach for "The One Tree," I'll never know. The only "explanation" he ever gave me was pure gender stereotyping: he said that women are inherently "internal" while men are inherently "external," and that therefore no woman could ever be an effective POV character for world-building. Go figure *that* out.

(08/02/2004)

Anonymous:  Hello. Will Michael Whelan be doing art work for the collectors edition of Runes of the Earth? Thank you.
I believe that Hill House will be using the art that Michael has already done. And I believe they're also trying to get more art out of him in order to enhance their edition. But I have no idea whether or not they'll succeed. Michael is in *huge* demand, and he has to pick and choose his commitments with some care.

(08/02/2004)

Peter B.:  As a Doctor Who fan, are you excited that the BBC is bringing back Doctor Who to the tele in 2005?
Depends on how they handle it. The Fox made-for-tv movie some years ago was atrocious. If the BBC can't remain true to the original spirit of the series, I won't be interested. And since I don't trust corporate mentalities of any sort, I'm inclined to assume that the BBC will botch whatever they try to do.

(08/02/2004)

Mike:  In what part of the country are the "real world" parts of the Covenant books set? For some vague reason I always think of Haven Farm as being in New Hampshire.
As it happens, Haven Farm is a near-exact replica of the place where I was living when I wrote the first "Chronicles". It was called Anchorage Farm, and it was in south New Jersey. (Incidentally, it no longer exists. It was plowed under to make room for a housing development many years ago.) For the town, however, I was thinking of unspecified places considerably farther south.

(08/02/2004)

Sean Casey:  Do you read poetry? And if so, who do you like? Do you write poetry? And if so, where has it been published (if anywhere)?

On a related note, there's something I've always wondered about. Are you aware of the Metallica track 'To Live is to Die'? It's an instrumental, but it has a spoken passage which shares lines with the poem Thomas considers writing at the start of the Chronicles:

When a Man Lies He Murders
Some Part of the World
These Are the Pale Deaths Which
Men Miscall Their Lives
All this I Cannot Bear
to Witness Any Longer
Cannot the Kingdom of Salvation
Take Me Home
Sorry, I'm not aware of ANYthing Metallica has done. I don't listen to the radio, and my tastes in music are a bit, well, out-dated.

As an English major in both college and graduate school, I naturally read and studied a lot of poetry. Gerard Manley Hopkins, Willian Butler Yeats, and George Meredith (his sonnet sequence, I believe it's called--memory, don't fail me now!--"Modern Love") all speak to me eloquently. But I have a bit of a "thing" for Alfred, Lord Tennyson. His "Idylls of the King" strikes me as one of the sovereign artistic creations in the English language. (Of course, one reason I love it so much is that it is an "epic": story-telling in the grandest of the grand old traditions. In addition, however, as I argued in "Epic Fantasy and the Modern World," "Idylls of the King" is, in essence, an epic about why it's no longer possible to write epics. As such, I find it especially poignant.)

My published poetry, such as it is, is listed in the bibliography on this site. (I don't think I missed anything: if I did, it's a bit of verse published in a student magazine--now defunct--sponsored by the English department at the College of Wooster.) I've written a small handful of poems which have never seen print. Hmm. Perhaps I should post them on this site.

(08/02/2004)

Mike White:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

Hello once again - and thanks for answering my previous questions. Once again I am astonished, humbled and extremely grateful for this opportunity to communicate with you in such a direct way - how on earth you find the time is quite beyond me!

My question - such as it is - involves the Gap books. I was very disappointed to note from one of your previous responses that this set of books did not sell as well as others. Personally I feel that they are the best novels that you have written, and apart from "Reave the just" certainly your best to date. Re-reading the first Covenant books recently I was astonished to see how much your writing style has developed over the years - the short story restrictions showing this in particular.

Anyway, I ramble - my question: in your foreword to "reave the Just" you refer to losing your way between gap novels - bearing in mind your words on developing characters "backwards", as it were, could you explain what you meant by this?

My thanks in anticipation and I wish you and yours health, happiness and success - and may they always be in that order.
As you may have guessed, that comment in the foreword to "Reave the Just and Other Tales" refers in part to the cumulative effects of the fact that the GAP books were not selling. As the disappointments surrounding the sales mounted, I became increasingly discouraged. Writing "The Woman Who Loved Pigs" when I did--a story short enough that I could actually "see the end" (the end of the writing, not of the story itself: as I've said before, I don't write at all unless I can see the end of the story)--helped me regain my belief that I would eventually reach the end of the GAP books.

But I was also referring to another issue. The simple fact is that writing science fiction (or indeed any genre that isn't fantasy) doesn't come naturally to me. The GAP books placed a number of demands on me that I've never had to face before (e.g. creating plausible hypothetical technologies, or changing POV characters so often). The strain of trying to meet those challenges undermined my self-confidence in a way that was quite distinct from the stress of disappointing sales. For that reason, returning to fantasy for "The Woman Who Loved Pigs" *refreshed* me so that I could continue with "Chaos and Order".

Unfortunately, that novella also caused a fair amount of trouble. Putting the problem crudely, it broke my concentration on the GAP books, causing me to drop some of the balls I was juggling. As a result, "Chaos and Order" was a much more difficult rewrite than, say, "Dark and Hung". I had to find all the balls I'd dropped and somehow get them back in the air without letting the reader see that I'd dropped them.

Because of that experience, I've sworn off (eternally, of course) writing short fiction while I'm in the midst of a big project like "The Last Chronicles".

(08/04/2004)

Mike Sales:  Like many others here, I stumbled on your writing by way of the Covenant novels. I was in high school at the time. They immedeately became my favorites.

As I get older, though, I feel more affinity for the short stories found in REAVE THE JUST. Both stories that feature REAVE, in particular, move me in some way almost every time I read them.

My questions:

~ What or Who was the inspiration for REAVE?

He is probably one of the most UNIQUE characters I have ever read. He conveys so much, without saying much of anything, and comes across as this wild cross between an old school COWBOY/SAMURAI and ROBIN HOOD. Yet, he employs NO VIOLENCE, which makes him remarkable.

~Why no violence?

~And did you consciously set out to make him a sort of 'empowering' figure, or was that a natural outgrowth of his character.

Last:

~ Any chance of MORE STORIES about Reave?
The story "Reave the Just" was inspired by the first sentence. I can't explain this: that sentence just fell into my head one evening (typically these things happen to me while I'm starting to fall asleep, or when I've been hypnotized by driving--which is not necessarily the same thing <grin>). There is a sense in which I knew the whole story as soon as I "heard" that sentence, especially the names Reave the Just and Jillet of Forebridge.

I suppose you could call Reave an "empowering" figure. He certainly isn't the protagonist of either of his stories: instead (a bit like the Angel in "Unworthy of the Angel") he is whatever the other characters need him to be. He's a catalyst rather than a "real" character (i.e. he has no story of his own; he simply intrudes on other people's stories). You could say that he encourages other people to grow up by nudging them toward accepting responsibility for their own lives and circumstances.

I hope this explains the fact that he himself doesn't use violence. He doesn't exist to solve problems or impose his will on events. Rather he exists to confront people with problems: the actual solutions to those problems depend on the people he confronts.

I suppose it's possible that there will be more Reave stories (although I have a horror of repeating myself: hence the fact that Reave's name is never used in his second tale). "By Any Other Name" also grew out of a single sentence that just fell into my head: "But necromancy and the fatal arts were Sher Abener's province, and at last I fled from them." However, the mental context into which that sentence fell was more complicated than it was for "Reave the Just". Some years had passed since I wrote "Reave the Just"; I loved the character; and on some deep level I was actively looking for another opportunity to write about him. For all I know, the same thing may happen again.

(08/04/2004)

jerry mcfarland:  Ah...a Dr Who fan! Any remote possibility of submitting a novel? Being a friend of Colin just might make an interesting interpretation to what really happened to cause his regeneration to McCoy.

Anyway...for the GAP mini-series...I think the FARSCAPE guys would do a marvelous job. How about Claudia Black as Morn?
I think I've covered this. I don't consciously choose my ideas: they choose me. (However, I do often choose the order in which I tackle the ideas that come to me.) So if an idea for a Dr Who novel ever chooses me, I'll do it. Otherwise there's no chance.

Sorry, I can't visualize Claudia Black. I'm not sure I've ever seen her.

(08/07/2004)

Jonathan Meakin:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

Thanks again for responding to my questions. As I said before, undertaking this gradual interview is such a generous undertaking on your part and enlightening one for your readers. Someone commented earlier that you had responded to a "fan" letter so promptly; you did so with me, too, and were kind enough to gently turn down my request to act as a "pen-pal" -- "Art is long and life is short," you said. As I pursue my own writing career, that aphorism rings true.

Anyway, the Covenant books will always stand out for me as formative and enriching influences and I look forward to the release of Runes. As for all of the discussion of casting choices for TC and Gap movies ... ultimately I can't help but hope that movies *aren't* made as I think readers of your work will likely be disappointed (as I think you suggested earlier in this interview).

Whoops. There's no question here. Err ... When do you anticipate getting stuck in to writing the next Last Chronicles? (Yeah, that'll do.)
I assume you're referring to Book Two of "The Last Chronicles." Believe me, I want to start working on it. But my publishers keep coming up with more and more and MORE promotional chores for me to do, all with stringent (not to mention implausible) deadlines; and it would be *very* unprofessional for me to refuse to help my publishers promote my books. So for the time being I'm stuck. <groan> This is *not* why I became a writer; but it sort of goes with the territory.

(08/07/2004)

Ritu:  I have two questions actually:

1] Would your book tours ever include India, so that I may get my books signed?

2] Have you ever heard the Urdu couplet 'Aag ka dariya hai, doob ke jaana hai'?
Sorry, there's no chance on God's created earth that I would ever visit India again. Nothing personal (to India, I mean: it's obviously personal to me). I just have too much Western Missionary Imperialism guilt to face it.

Since the language I grew up with was Marathi, I have no acquaintance with Urdu at all.

(08/07/2004)

Mike G:  Again, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions...this is incredibly interesting...

Q. What happened to Earthpower? The people in the Land were attuned to it in the first trilogy, but weren't because of the Sunbane in the second trilogy(right?). But once they went down into Sarangrave and beyond, shouldn't they have begun to feel it again? And none of the people they met in their travels seemed to have any affinity for it. What causes (or prevents the affinity for Earthpower? And (thinly veiled digging for hints) can it return?

Or, having read your response to a recent question, if it is all a construct of Covenant's imagination, did he subconsciously change his own rules in resonse to his 'reality'? Ack, this could give a guy a headache...
I think of the Sunbane as being what you might call an imposed perversion of Earthpower. And I think that the reasons people like Covenant and Sunder didn't become aware of it once they had passed east of Landsdrop are: a) they didn't have enough time for their senses to become reattuned after the assault of the Sunbane; b) Earthpower is effectively weaker east of Landsdrop because of the toxic effects flowing out of Mount Thunder, the consequences of Lord Foul's long residence there (admittedly farther south), and the fact that the human slaughter of the One Forest began in the east (more likely north of the Sarangrave than south). So no, Covenant did not (unconsciously or otherwise) "change his own rules" between the first and second trilogies.

(08/09/2004)

Todd:  You said that you were/are under considerable pressure to reduce the original manuscript of "Runes" by 200 pages. I'm surprised by that, given the recent trend of lengthier books, all of which seem to be selling pretty well. You've said that one publisher said you were "washed up", I believe, but I have a hard time imagining that publishers don't realize what they have here. You enthralled millions of readers with Covenant, and for twenty years we've been waiting with zero patience for The Last Chronicles (that's a good thing, because people like me will be standing at the bookstore waiting for the doors to open to buy "Runes"). If Robin Hobb, George Martin, and Robert Jordan can write 600+ page books (and Martin has written one 900+ page books - granted, it was marvelous), why is Putname so stingy with you?

Heck, even Goodkind is writing long books, and selling them, although that certainly defies all common sense. But he's hardly the first writer of any genre to fill the pages of his books with nonsense and make money from it.

I digress.

You write good books. No - you write *exceptional* books, and you proved that Covenant is more than marketable. So - what gives? Perhaps I just don't know anything about the publishing industry, but I'm more than a tad confused. I would have thought your rein would have been rather free.
Leaving aside all discussion of other writers and "what sells"....

My editor now is the same editor I had for the GAP books; and she was not then, and is not now, "stingy" with me. Her over-riding, number one concern with "Runes" (as I assume it is with every book she edits) has been to publish the best possible book; and she believed that "Runes" would be stronger, more effective, and--ultimately--better art if it were made tighter, leaner, cleaner. Well, once she had explained her reactions and reasoning to me, I agreed with her--about 80%. The roughly 20% that I disagreed with her revolved around the most obvious, fundamental difference between us: she moves MUCH faster than I do.

I've said before that I write very slowly. And I read slowly as well. If I were to sit down and read "Runes" as if it had been written by someone else, I would take 4 or 5 times as long at it as my editor would if she were not thinking about editing. Well, this difference in speed has a profound effect on perception. Look at it this way: when you are walking past a tree, you actually see a very different tree than you would if you drove past it at, say, 50 mph. Walking you see many more different leaves, many more different branches, from many more different angles. This does *not* mean that you don't see the tree when you're driving: it simply means that you see it differently. By some standards, you see the tree *more* accurately when you're driving because you see it whole, you get a gestalt perception of it, instead of being bogged down in details. Then--to extend the metaphor--consider that the writer is the person walking and the editor is the person driving.

Therefore those of us who are walking pretty much have to revel in the details because we're going to be looking at the same ^#$% tree for quite some time. Broadly speaking, however, readers are driving. Hence my editor's concern for making the book as taut and precise as possible. On the other hand, a lot of readers may not "drive" as fast as she does (I obviously don't). Hence my concern for making sure that the details repay prolonged observation.

But (since I'm already making this answer complicated) this does not mean that when my editor asked me to cut 200 pages I actually cut 160. I really cut only 120. Why? Because sometimes the only good way to make scene x tighter (more vivid, more effective) is to make preceding scene w (or r or h) longer. In other words, some scenes can only be made shorter by preparing the way for them at greater length. So that extra 20% difference between what my editor asked for and what I actually did happened, not because I disagreed with her, but because I was--in essence--moving words to an earlier part of the book. You might say I was causing the highway to run a bit closer to the tree.

I hope this relieves your concern. When my editor pressured me to cut "Runes," she in no way pressured me to *damage* the book. She simply looked at it from a very different perspective than I do--or can. And she certainly made no attempt to impose her will on me. Lester del Rey did such things: she does not. And finally, I'll say--as I have before--that I simply don't make changes or cuts unless I agree that they are necessary for the good of the book. So relax. "Runes" is *better* because my editor pressured me.

(08/09/2004)

David Lomax:  I wonder if you're aware that the full text of both the first and second chronicles of Thomas Covenant are available on-line? They are. Just check out (link removed by webmaster). If you check out the guy's other links, you'll find out that he doesn't want anyone taking away his guns, distrusts psychic hotlines and, apparently, isn't too fond of apostrophes.

All kidding aside, I wondered if I should just notify geocities or Harlan Ellison, but I really thought you ought to know. I feel like a sort of tattle-tale, but gun-nut copyright violators who refuse the apostrophe just knot my shorts up everywhich way.

Your books had an unutterably huge influence on my soul when I was young -- only fifteen when I read _Lord Foul's Bane_ -- and I have been vibrating like a tight-rope ever since I learned you are going back to the Land. I'm not exactly as malleable as I was twenty-three years ago, but I half-wonder if you'll do it to me all over again.

Thanks for the books.
Thank you for this information. As it happens, Ballantine Books (current holder of the publication rights, and therefore the "wronged party" in a stricter sense of the term than I am) is aware of this particular case of piracy. No doubt the Ballantine legal department will eventually take some form of action.

(08/09/2004)

Ross:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

In one of your interviews, you mentioned that you were a little disappointed with the accuracy of the science portions of the Gap Cycle. When I read that comment, I was a little amazed, because I had completely bought into the science behind the story… it seemed so logical and believable.

Of course, I’m no scientist. I’m just one of the hundreds of writers who it seems were first inspired to write by your example. So that could pretty easily explain why I was “fooled.” But how did you – another non-scientist – even go about creating such a complex, seemingly science-based, universe? Do you have a physics background? Or did you just do a lot of studying to prepare yourself for the writing? Did you first come up with the plot, and search for the scientific knowledge to make the action plausible, or did the knowledge you already had make it easier to create the plot?

Also, I wanted to add my thanks to all the others whose questions you have answered here. You’ve said that you’re very grateful for your fans, but we’re the luckier ones, really. And it’s amazing to me that you’d open up this communication channel to us – I get probably 200 emails a day, so I can only CRINGE at the number I imagine you must be getting.
I'm no scientist or engineer, so I did a fair amount of research to back up the hypothetical science/medicine/technology in the GAP books. (Incidentally, I did my research on a need-to-know basis: if I needed to know something, I went looking for it. I didn't do any research in preparation for the story, except my usual "research" into the structure and implications of my own ideas.) But it was simple old Newtonian physics that tripped me up (thanks to Hawking and a few of his, well, I'll call them fans, I was able to avoid really sophisticated screw-ups). I can't calculate rates of acceleration and deceleration--and I certainly can't calculate them as multiples of g--and I absoLUTEly can't calculate the effects of such stresses on undefended organic tissues. So during the course of the first three GAP books I occasionally made the mistake of suggesting how *long* certain amounts of acceleration and deceleration would take, only to have indignant readers point out to me that so much g would reduce human beings to grease smears on the bulkheads. (In my own defense: I actually had a NASA engineer read those books before they were published; and I gave him explicit instructions to help me avoid such bloopers; but he let me down rather badly.) As a result of what those readers told me, you won't find the same mistake in books 4 & 5: I learned my lesson.

(08/09/2004)

Clint:  Do you have any plans for a world tour to promote your new books? We would love to see you in New Zealand (aka Middle Earth).
It is conceivable that my UK publisher may someday send me to Australia and New Zealand on tour. They did so back in '83. (That's 1883, for those of you who are keeping track.) But so far there has been no active discussion of the possibility.

(08/10/2004)

Sean Casey:  TC might be described as a part time solipsist. What about you - how's your faith in reality? Do you think that kind of introspection is essentially bound up with the urge to create?
I know plenty of writers who wouldn't recognize a moment of introspection if it had big teeth and smelled bad. But generally speaking I think that the best writers (and the best artists of all kinds) search deep within themselves for their subject-matter. *That*, I hasten to add, does not make them solipsists. Or me either, for that matter.

If we actually want to discuss solipsism (or George W. Bush), however, we need to define our terms--and I don't have my dictionary with me (I'm on the road at the moment). Certainly there is a useful distinction to be made between questioning external reality and doubting one's own existence. Artists (of all kinds), I imagine, are particularly prone to feeling unsure of their own substantial existence. Narcissists, on the other hand, are quite naturally inclined to doubt that anyone *else* is real.

If you want to argue that Covenant is a solipsist (part time or otherwise), I might counter that his apparent rejection of external, tangible reality is in fact a defense mechanism designed to protect an extremely fragile sense of self. And as his sense of self grows stronger, his need to challenge the reality of the Land declines. After all, he's no philosopher: such questions aren't abstract intellectual queries for him. In very "real" terms, he's fighting for his survival.

(08/10/2004)

Steve Anderson:  Hello Stephen,

Thanks for your answers to my earlier questions. I wonder if you would tell us what makes you laugh. Personally I like Terry Pratchett and Monty Python, as do many others, but what about yourself. As widely appreciated as your works are, I think I would be right in saying that rarely, if ever, has humour been your intent.. Having said that, the confrontation between Nick Succorso and the Amnion where the latter just repeated "I wish to sit".. for some reason I found that very funny indeed.

thanks,
Steve
Well, there's a pillow fight in "Mordant's Need." And some unexpected humor in my mystery novels....

But of course you're right. I don't really *do* humor. Which sometimes surprises people who know me: in person I have a very active sense of humor. For reasons I can't explain, however, the humor bone is not connected to the writing bone. Or the reading bone: I very rarely find "funny" things worth reading (although writers as diverse as Mark Twain and Carl Hiessen [sp?], Dave Barry and Terry Pratchett, have taken me pleasantly by surprise). What makes *me* laugh? Monty Python, certainly. Eddie Izzard. Sabotage (a local comedy duo). Danny Kaye. As a general rule, however, tv and movies don't strike me as funny.

(08/11/2004)

Todd:  I believe it was in The Real Story you mentioned that one of the most powerful scenes in The Power that Preserves (or maybe the whole set of six books) was inspired by an arisol can in a bathroom at a truck stop.

What scene was that?
This question has come up before, and will, I'm sure, come up again. I wish I could explain how the human imagination works--or even how in one case one idea leads to another, but in another case nothing happens. All I know is that I was in that truck stop restroom reading the label of the disinfectant can while I used the facilities, and one particular word--it may be been "putrefaction," although my memory is no longer clear on that point--started a train of thought which rather quickly "gave me" the scene where Lena saves Covenant's life after they're driven out of the Ramen covert. But I was young then, full of energy, and in some sense I was always trying to mine the world around me for ideas. Actively looking for idea-triggers whenever I was awake. Now I'm not "on" all the time. Usually I leave work at work.

(08/11/2004)

Harry Kanth:  Hello again, Mr Donaldson

I have started reading 'The Man Who...' series of books. I really like them. In fact I have started to slow down my reading of them because I don't want them to end! How strange is that!

Anyway my question is whether you plan to write any more books in this series? I think it would be a shame if you didn't.

Regards

Harry
Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying those books. Especially since comparatively few people have read them.

If I live long enough--oops! excuse me, of course I mean *when* I live long enough--I intend to write one more Axbrewder/Fistoulari novel. However, this could conceivably change. The question is: are Brew and Ginny ready for their big showdown with el Senor, or do they need to (for lack of a better term) "grow up" more first? If they *are* ready, then one more book: if they are *not*, I'll need more than one more book.

(08/11/2004)

Paul Mitchell:  Thanks again for doing this gradual interview...what else would we be reading while waiting for Runes?!

Simple questions: how, if at all, will the day Runes goes on sale be any different for you from an emotional perspective, and if you had to use a single word to describe the process between finishing writing and publication, what would it be?
Actually, these aren't simple questions at all.

My reaction when "Runes" goes on sale will probably be intense anxiety. As a general rule, throughout my career the publication of my books has been an occasion for excitement--although the degree of excitement varies a lot according to my expectations (do I expect, or hope, that the book will sell well--the GAP books, for example--or am I aware in advance that the response will be relatively modest--my mystery novels, for example, or my short story collections?). But there are unique factors at work in the present situation. 1) At my age, with several kids in college and lots of other demands on me, I'm more concerned about money than I used to be. I *need* "Runes" to sell well--and before the stock market crash in 2000 I didn't have that problem. 2) My career has been in decline for the past 20 years. As I've mentioned before, finding a publisher for "Runes" wasn't easy because these days a number of publishers believe I'm a has-been. What if they're right? The success of the "Covenant" books 20 years ago was rationally inexplicable: it appeared to be a function of the zeitgeist. But the zeitgeist has obviously changed since then. *Now* what's going to happen? 3) Putnams and Orion are publishing "Runes" much faster than any other book I've done. As a result, all the stages that take place between submitting a manuscript and publishing an actual book have been squeezed into a painfully short period of time. This whole year has been one long mad scramble to try to get extremely complex tasks completed far too quickly. As a result, my nerves are frayed as they've never been before during the preparation of a book. 4) Because Putnams and Orion are publishing "Runes" so quickly, I haven't had a chance to start on the next book--and being immersed in a new book is my best single coping mechanism for dealing with the uncertainties of publication and sales. Storytelling helps me survive--but only when I'm immersed in it.

As for "finishing writing" vs "publication": first we have to define our terms. What do you mean by "finishing"? First draft? Second draft? Third draft? Final editorial approval? Copyediting? Proofreading? I always get depressed after the first draft: I'm very tired, and very aware of how far the book has fallen below my aspirations. Finishing a rewrite usually prompts relief. If the rewrite meets with approval, I feel relief and pleasure. But copyeditors hate what I do, so going over copyedited manuscripts fills me with frustration and even fury. Proofreading brings back the depression (I can't proofread well if I allow myself to get caught up in the story; and if you don't get caught up in my stories, they aren't worth reading at all).

I'm afraid you'll have to extract your own "single word" answers. <rueful smile>

(08/13/2004)

Michael from Santa Fe:  Have you ever considered doing a story or novel with another writer, or ever been offered/asked about doing one?

Strangely, I keep trying to answer this question; but whenever I do, my answer disappears, and the question remains. I'll try one more time.

I've been invited to collaborate on a few occasions. The offer that tempted me most was to do a "samurai" novel with Midori Snyder: I was tempted because she's such a fine writer, and because we share an interest in the martial arts. But the only offer I ever accepted was from Fred Saberhagen; and that was a special case. He asked several writers to write completely independent "berserker" stories (in mine, "What Makes Us Human," the word "berserker" never appears); and then he cleverly wove those stories into an apparent novel called "Berserker Base." So I had to play by his "killer machine" rules, but everything else was entirely up to me.

I suppose you could say that I don't collaborate because I'm too much of a control freak. But it doesn't feel that way. From my perspective, the problem is that I simply can't get excited about other people's ideas. They may sound interesting, but they don't come to life in my imagination. So what it feels like is that I don't collaborate because I can't.

(08/15/2004)

Layne Solheim:  Mr. Donaldson:

In preparation for the upcoming release of "TLCoTC", I've been rereading the Covenant series (the 5th time). My question revolves around the chapter structure of "The Illearth War." I'm curious who made the decision to bunch the chapters focusing on Hile Troy and the war and then go back and follow the tale of Covenant and Elena? In "The Power that Preserves" you jump between action at Revelstone and Covenant. I was just curious if that was a decision on your part or an editorial decision. Not being familiar with the publishing world, do they have a right to do something like that...just wondering.
Love your work--the most profound SF&F work ever! I look forward (as I'm sure everyone else here) to the release.
Thanks,
Layne
I'm solely responsible for the structure of everything I write. By contract, editors do not have the power to make "substantive" changes without the author's consent--and structure is certainly "substantive." (Of all the editors I've worked with, only Lester del Rey ignored the contractual restrictions on his "authority"--and he only did so in situations which I considered gratuitous and stupid.) In fact, the editor's only real power is to accept or reject the book. But that's huge, so it's hard to ignore. However, as I've explained elsewhere, I've been known to defy my editor when I believe that the quality of the book is at stake.

But to give you an example of a non-substantive change which an editor *can* impose: when I planned "The Second Chronicles," I designed it in four books; but Lester believed that a trilogy would sell better, so he made my four books into three. HOWEVER, he did so without altering a single word, or touching any aspect of the story's design. He simply took the 8 "parts" of my story and published them 3-3-2 instead of 2-2-2-2. (A situation, btw, which I've cleverly avoided in "The Last Chronicles" by the simple expedient of not telling my editor anything about what I mean to do. <grin>)

(08/15/2004)

Paul Mitchell:  Like many others here I guess, I am re-reading the first six books (the literary equivalent of athletic training perhaps?) and one thing I have noticed is (hmmmm...how to say this in a way that doesn't sound impolite...) that at the beginning of the second and third books, there appear to be a lot of 'memory joggers' (and I am not referring to the 'What Has Gone Before section!). Stuff that helps the reader remember but doesn't actually add anything new. So my questions are:

1. Is that a deliberate writing tool that you choose to use, or does it flow more organically from the story?
2. Is the presence of memory joggers the reason you dislike the WHGB section...as they actually make it unnecessary or at best a rather unsubtle, blunt tool?
3. In the theoretical world where you are never going to die and where all your readers have perfect memories, would you write the opening chapters differently if memory joggers were not required?

Thanks!
I use "memory joggers" both deliberately and organically because: a) my own memory is imperfect; b) therefore I assume that my readers' memories are also imperfect; and c) memory jogging is not the only function of a "memory jogger" (among other common possibilities, "memory joggers" can be used to control the pace of the narrative, or to enhance thematic development, or to enrich the emotional context of a given passage). Indeed, I probably couldn't write such long and complex stories if I didn't use "memory joggers."

So given that I usually write in a way that makes WHGB sections unnecessary (they certainly don't appear in the GAP books, or "Mordant's Need"), why are they a feature of the "Covenant" books? Beats the by-products out of me. Lester del Rey insisted on them; he (and my subsequent Ballantine editor) wrote them; so there they are. Which occasioned considerable debate about "The Last Chronicles." On the one hand, WHGB sections tend to be superfluous. On the other, they have become an accepted part of the "Covenant" canon, and are therefore a reasonable part of the readers' expectations. In the end, we--my editors, agent, and I--all agreed to go ahead with new WHGB sections because so much time has passed since the previous "Covenant" books were published, and we didn't want readers of "Runes" to feel lost if they didn't re-read--or haven't ever read--the first six "Chronicles."

(08/15/2004)

Derrik S:  Thanks for answering my last question

Now I understand about the deserts
Well this is my next question:

Will the map of the Land have anymore cities (and will we be introduced to anymore cities) added to it or anything?
And will the map be in color?

I fear you'll be disappointed by the maps in "Runes." They aren't in color; they are deliberately fragmentary (I have some extremely self-serving reasons for doing this); and I don't particularly care for the style (I can't draw usable maps myself, so I'm pretty much forced to rely on "artist's interpretations" of my rough sketches; and time constraints have prevented me from negotiating maps which I might consider ideal). On top of all that, the Land itself isn't exactly prone to cities. But I hope you'll find the story worth reading anyway.

(08/15/2004)

Sean Farrell:  Hi Mr. Donaldson. Not a question, just a comment - don't know how else to reach you. I am lucky enough to work in bookselling in the UK (my desire to do so due in no small measure to reading your books twenty years ago)and have thereby come by an ARC of Runes of the Earth. (Actually I have two and have had several others offered to me - my love for your work is very well known...)
For what it's worth - and I've only read about half so far - I humbly offer my praise. So far it's the best in the series: for depth, consideration, pace, prose... I'm no critic, but I've come a long way in my reading habits since Lord Fouls Bane, and the quality of writing in Runes of the Earth ranks alongside the best I've ever read.
For what it's worth - thanks.
Thank you! I'm posting your comments in an attempt to reassure readers who may be awaiting "The Last Chronicles" with some trepidation. Sf/f is littered with examples of writers who returned to their earlier successes after long absences--and did so with massively disappointing books. An innocent reader might well be forgiven for wondering if "The Last Chronicles" is just one more (doomed) attempt to recapture lost popularity. For that reason, your opinion of "The Runes of the Earth" may be especially valuable.

(08/15/2004)

Michael Dalton:  Mr. Donaldson,
I had heard rumors of the Last Chronicles for several months now and I found your official website by accident today. I immediately choked up with tears. OK, obviously your writing has been a bright light in my life, so I should ask you something, compliments aside:

In the trailer put together for The Runes of the Earth, it mentions that "Despite cannot be killed..." (Forgive me if I paraphrase). Would that beg the question that Hope also cannot be killed? Covenant made his sacrifice for Lena in the "real world", yet what Covenant truly is couldn't really die. Hell, leprosy couldn't kill him. Again, thank you so much. For everything.

Michael
I can't honestly say that I understand your question. I think it's probably logical to argue that if "Despite cannot be killed" then Despite's opposite also cannot be killed. (Light and darkness are meaningless without each other, etc.) But is "Hope" the opposite of Despite? Personally, I doubt it. I'm tempted to claim that "love" is Despite's opposite--but then I'm also tempted to claim that the opposite of love is apathy, and apathy is clearly not the same as Despite, so that doesn't help.

It's a curious intellectual conundrum. If we say that "Good" is the opposite of "Evil," what exactly do we mean by those terms? "Evil" seems comparatively easy to define: "Good" is not. And simply defining "Good" as "the opposite of Evil" isn't particularly helpful.

You see the problem.

Incidentally, the fact that leprosy couldn't kill Covenant doesn't really shed any light. Leprosy itself doesn't kill anyone: in itself, it isn't fatal. Lepers are killed by the side-effects of their illness (which, when you think about it, actually does shed a bit of light).

It might be more useful to think of Creation as the opposite of Despite. Certainly in the "Covenant" books the Creator is no more likely to be killed than Lord Foul is. But that doesn't make the plight of the story's more mortal characters any easier.

(08/16/2004)

Janey Roberts:  Hi Stephen,

Remember me? Sorry - bad joke. I wrote to you twenty years ago, enthusing about the “Mordant’s Need” series which I had just read, but moreso about “ The Chronicles of Thomas, Covenant”, both “unbeliever” and “second”, the first of which I actually read while still at school.
I am married now, and when my husband and I first met he lived miles away, in London, which necessitated several train journeys, for him. I had begun to read your “Gap” series, and my husband read these (he is a bigger fan of SciFi), and others, on his return train journeys, being an absolute convert. He read my “Covenant” books after we married, and loves them just as much as I do.
However, I digress. As a result of multiple sclerosis I suffer from double nystagmus. Because of this I have not read a book since 1996, and “Chaos and Order” remains unfinished for me as do the rest of the “Gap” series. It was not like this when I first wrote to you all those years ago and I drew comparisons between myself and Covenant – “they can’t do this to me” etc. Ah well; older and wiser. I read the “Runes” PDF prologue two days ago, or got the text reader to read it to me, and was absolutely blown away. I just can’t wait for this, and therein lies my problem. I read computer text by enlarging the font and making it bold, so how the hell am I going to read this book, which is a completion of something which has defined and illustrated my life?

Any thoughts? They would be vastly, vastly appreciated.

Jane Roberts

I'm posting this in the hope that someone who sees it can come up with a better suggestion than mine. The only solution *I* can think of is to get "Runes" when it comes out on CD and listen to it instead of reading it.

Anyone?

(08/16/2004)

Russ:  As much as I love your work, I am surprised by my ambivalence about the upcoming series.

I have considered the idea of delaying purchase of the books until they have all been published just to insure that I will be able to read the entire series. To be honest I am not sure I could hold out.

Have you considered writing a synopsis, executive summary, precis, whatever of the upcoming series and giving it to your lawyer for release in the event of an untimely demise.

A lot can happen in 12 years.
Even if completing "The Last Chronicles" only takes me 9 years (which is what I've contracted to do), a lot can still happen. And it probably will. Unfortunately, I'm either unwilling or unable (and on this subject I can't tell the difference) to follow your suggestion. At this stage in the project, I need to keep as many of my options open as possible; and as soon as I start to write down a synopsis/executive summary/precis I limit those options, if in no other way than by hindering the freedom of my subconscious mind. And make no mistake about it: good storytelling is profoundly a function of the subconscious mind. I've tried telling stories which were exclusively (or almost so) a function of my *conscious* mind, and I didn't like the results. (Oh, they're craftsmanly enough, so I'm not ashamed of them; but they lack the kind of resonance I live for.)

As it happens, "Fatal Revenant" (as it exists in my imagination) has gone through some significant modulations in recent months. Thanks to my subconscious, it has already become a much stronger book--and I haven't even written it yet. Hence my unwillingness to "dictate terms" to the secret operations of my creative impulse.

And what would a synopsis/executive summary/precis be *good* for anyway? If "God (or the Devil) is in the details," then the value of storytelling is in the telling. Do you imagine that someone else would finish my story for me? Would you really want that? Or would a bare synopsis ("Oh, *that's* what happens to so-and-so") satisfy you? I suspect not.

The plain fact is that life is what it is, and we all have to take our chances.

(08/17/2004)

Mark O'Leary:  Firstly, my thanks for taking us back to The Land.

You've mentioned editors often suggest plot lines to you, but do you encounter much feedback from your readers where they specualte on the future of your characters? If so, did reaction to the first chronicles have any impact on your plotting of the Second, or Second to the Last? How do you feel about the sub-creations of fans?

(You see, I have this recurring picture of Covenant standing in Andelain, with the ring threaded onto the centre of the Staff of Law under his hand, empowering the Law but exerting the paradox that maintains him to wield it...)
For some reason, when readers have sent me their speculations (or their appeals) for more, their ideas have always involved going backward in time rather than forward. I've received hundreds of requests for Berek's story, or Loric's, or even poor Kevin's; and I've received dozens of suggestions for those stories. But no one has tried to tell me what to do *after* "White Gold Wielder" (or after "The Power that Preserves"). I can't explain this--but I'm grateful. The last thing I need in life is a Lester del Rey surrogate. <grin>

(08/17/2004)

Guy L:  I would be glad to offer some suggestions to Jane Roberts regarding visual aids. You may provide my e-mail address to her.
Several considerate readers have already offered to provide suggestions for Jane Roberts. I'm impressed! And I ask you to contact her directly (her e-address is above). Being in the middle gets messy. And there's always the chance that I won't understand your suggestions.

(08/17/2004)

James:  A couple of months ago you wrote:
"There has never been an audio version of the first and second 'Covenant' trilogies, and I doubt that there ever will be.

Did you mean that there has never been an audio version of the "entire" trilogies? Or did your comments refer to excerpts as well?

I ask because a few years ago I acquired a copy of the following audio cassette (ISBN: 0898450691):
Stephen R. Donaldson reads from his White Gold Wielder: The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant "Winter in Combat"-Book Three (Part I: Chapter Six).

Side A is 27:48 minutes in length, and Side B is 27:02 minutes.

In came in a little casing, with an illustration on the cover (by Real Musgrave).

The audio cassete itself was put out by Caedmon (1983).

Is this authentic/legitimate?
Yes, your Caedmon cassette is authentic--although I myself only have the LP version. I did that reading. But I tend to forget that it ever existed, since it was only a fragment anyway, and had such a short shelf-life (it sold so poorly that Caedmon quickly cancelled their plans for a whole series of "Covenant" recordings). And Real Musgrave is a dear personal friend, so don't blame him if the cover-art seems a little, well, "de trop".

(08/17/2004)

Roger:  Hello!

Many thanks for sleepless nights!
(hm, don't get me wrong) :)

I've read the 2 chronicles about TC many times now, but only the translated versions (swedish).
I'm thinking of reading them in english now,
to see how true the swedish version is to the english?

Have you ever heard any complaint about the translation of your books? And can you as an author or your publisher do anything about it?
I think I've already answered this question. But briefly:

The only responses I've ever received have been to the original French translation of "Lord Foul's Bane"--a translation so egregiously bad that the book's title was dropped entirely in favor of "The Chronicles of Thomas the Incredulous", and "Saltheart Foamfollower" became "Briney the Pirate". Usually when I'm contacted by readers from non-English-speaking countries, those readers have read my books in English anyway.

No, the author (and his original publisher) have no power over translations--and no recourse except to refuse to do any more business with foreign publishers who offer lousy translations. So it's perfectly possible that a bad translator can cost an author an entire language-group of readers.

(08/17/2004)

J. Kevin Calkins:  Hi Mr. Donaldson, I love your works! I am wondering what you think of the possibility of the "Into the Gap" series being made into a movie? I think it would totally rock, and even, in some respects, would be totally appropriate for the times.
Have you considered doing such a thing?
Cheers and hope the creative juices keep aflowing for this next Chronicles, really looking forward to it.
J. Kevin Calkins
Personally, I think that the GAP books could more plausibly be made into good (or at least watchable) movies than any of the Chronicles. SF, I think, lends itself more naturally to an "external" medium like film than fantasy does. But surely you understand that none of this is up to me? Oh, if I happened to have $200 million I could easily spare, I might be able to make a movie happen. But in the real world I have absolutely no say in the matter.

Well, that's not completely true. In the case of the GAP books, I do have the power to say No if anyone asks me. (In other words, I hold the movie rights.) But I have no power to make someone ask me. And in the case of the first six "Covenant" books, the movie rights are held by Ballantine Books, so there I don't even have the power to say No. (Not that I would. For the author, movie deals are "found money." All the author has to do is cash the check--and pray that something good happens. Everything else is Somebody Else's Problem.)

(08/18/2004)

Paul S.:  I was reading the paper "Variations on The Fantasy Tradition" by W.A. Senior, posted on your web site. In it he mentions Michael Moorcock's "Wizardry and Wild Romance" where he states that:

"Michael Moorcock, who for the most part has little good to say about the Chronicles in Wizardry and Wild Romance, claims that the heroics of epic fantasy are generally children, or are at least childlike creatures such as hob- bits, but concedes that Donaldson's characters are adults trying to deal with adult concerns (82, 91)."

On a lark, I went searching for that book and found Michael Moorcock's website -- and on a further lark did a search on your name...

http://www.multiverse.org/postxf593-0-15.html

Quoting Michael Moorcock: "I, too, think those books" [referring the the Chronicles of TC] "are above average, though I was a bit harder than I should have been on him in Wizardry and Wild Romance, tending to lump him in with Tolkien imitators about whom I had become a bit grumpy at the time."

My question is: did you know of Moorcock's original criticism and if so did you ever give it much thought or consideration? What do you think of Moorcock's work (although having read all of this interview my bet is that you've never read his stuff, right?)?
I've had the pleasure of making Michael Moorcock's acquaintance. And I'm familiar with some of his work. He's clearly a highly intelligent writer who has put a great deal of thought (and no small amount of talent) into what he does.

At the time that I wrote the first two "Covenant" trilogies--and "Mordant's Need"--I was unaware of Moorcock's literary criticism (although I had read a few of his books); so his views could not have affected my thinking about my own work. Today I don't necessarily agree with all of his views, but I consider him an important literary critic. We definitely need *somebody* who's willing to cast aspersions on a veritable mountain of blatant Tolkien imitation.

(08/18/2004)

John P:  There have been so many searching questions posted on this site that I feel mine fall into the realm of the banal, but nonetheless:

1) Why has Foul not simply summoned Joan to the land and convinced her to part with her ring? She does not seem to have the same fortitude of will as TC. I realize that the paradox of wild magic revaled in White Gold Wielder might mean that Joan's ring would not have possessed the power, but I'm not sure. Perhaps answering this treads too close to Runes, but perhaps not.

2) Why does Seadreamer, while still alive, not write down what he wants to say? I remember in Lord Foul's Bane that Llaura couldn't write down what she was forbidden to say because her hands were shaking too uncontrollably, but it doesn't seem as if Seadreamer is similarly afflicted.

Thanks!
JP
Very briefly:

1) What makes you think that Joan is in a condition which would *allow* anyone to "convince her" of anything? One of the disadvantages of being Lord Foul: he's already done Joan so much damage that she's almost entirely unreachable; therefore inaccessible to persuasion.

2) Is there anything in the "Covenant" books to suggest that the Giants possess a written language? Surely one of the long-term side-effects of writing things down is that people then talk less; tell stories aloud less. But I see no evidence that the Giants talk less than they once did. So why would they *need* a written language?

(08/18/2004)

Zenslinger:  I wonder if you’d care to engage a bit of discussion on your essay “Epic Fantasy in the Modern World.” Although it was written some time ago and, by its modest secondary title (“A Few Observations”), we aren’t to expect a monumental thesis, you still refer to it to answer some of these questions you so generously answer. But I can’t help but find your definition of fantasy literature to be unsatisfactory.

To say that fantasy is literature in which characters meet their own internal struggles personified as external forces is a definition that fits the Covenant stories very well. The health and ill of the Land are congruent with Covenant’s view of his own illness (if not the illness itself). His victory over the Despiser at the end of the first Chronicles is directly related to his gaining the moral courage to let go of fear and despite and finally to be able to laugh at illness.

But I cannot see Sauron “as an expression of Frodo.” What can be seen as an identification between them arises from the fact that they both suffer from the corruption of power, but this would apply to anyone who handled the Ring. They do not have the same kind of close relationship that Covenant and Foul have from the time of TC’s first summoning. Frodo and Sam’s victory is one of perseverance, friendship and loyalty, and doesn’t particularly dwell on confronting personal demons, despite their internal struggles.

I see Tolkein’s world as one that is like our reality, only a different reality. Ditto most fantasy. Even in Zelazny’s Amber, the nature of Shadow is such that Corwin meet expressions of his psyche – but I don’t see his whole universe this way. It seems that Zelazny created a reality like our own but expanded out. The fact that an Amberite can find themselves in the infinitude of worlds expresses only the breadth of Zelazny’s milieu.

I’m afraid I don’t have a better definition of fantasy to propose – Orson Scott Card has said that SF and fantasy place setting above character, a notion that garners some credence but isn’t really defining either. Perhaps it’s simply literature that takes place under in a setting ontologically different from the reality we inhabit?
Sorry, I'm not particularly interested in a discussion of the ideas in "Epic Fantasy in the Modern World." You see things differently than I do. Good: you probably should. Not being a polemicist--as I keep saying--my primary interest in "ideas" per se has to do with whether or not they shed any light (for me, since I'm the one typing this response). I don't really want to convince anyone that I'm "right," and I'm certainly not troubled if someone--you, for instance--believes that I'm "wrong" ("inaccurate" might be a better word). Remember, the ideas in this interview--like the ideas in "Epic Fantasy"--are essentially after-the-fact rationalizations. They only exist in response to the questions which elicited them. Without the questions, my "answers" (such as they are) might never have crossed my mind.

(For my part, I have no difficulty at all seeing Sauron as "an expression of Frodo"--or, if you prefer, as an expression of the idealized weltanschauung embodied by the Hobbits, and by Frodo as the most idealized Hobbit.)

That said, I find I *do* want to respond to Card's silly assertion that "SF and fantasy place setting above character." Sure, junk SF and fantasy make that mistake. But art of all kinds is always about character (about what it means to be human) in one form or another. I prefer to think that SF and fantasy use setting as a means to probe character. And sure, virtually every form of serious fiction does the same to some extent. (Look at Sir Walter Scott's best novels, or Joseph Conrad's, or Henry James', or William Faulkner's, or--well you get the idea.) The distinction, as I see it, is one of degree. (Of course, "Differences in degree become differences in kind.") SF and fantasy exaggerate this technique (using setting to probe character) in an attempt to shed light upon aspects of the human definition which might otherwise remain inaccessible. ("Dune" is an obvious example, as are C. J. Cherryh's best novels.)

(08/19/2004)

Tony Powell:  From the very beginning, some 23 years ago when I first began "Lord Foul's Bane," the way you "formalized" the tale jolted me into a literary snobbery so intense that even now I have yet to find anything to compare.

It was your dogged adherence to no contractions from the mouths of the inhabitants of the Land that struck me so. To this day, I pick up a fantasy novel and flip to some dialogue --- any dialogue. And as soon as I see the hero say "can't" or "won't" instead of "cannot" or "will not," the book goes back on the shelf.

You ruined me with this stunningly effective convention. I never read high fantasy with any heart again.

But, what ho? There is now hope? Four more books? I pray you have once again spurned the contractions, because I really would like to get into a good fantasy again.
Well, if "no contractions" is your definition of Good Fantasy, then I think we can safely assume that you'll like "The Last Chronicles." <grin> But I suspect that you're having me on. Either that, or your tastes are unnecessarily self-restricting. "Formalization" is only one of many techniques that a writer might use to create valid and interesting fantasy. (Steven Erikson leaps to mind.) And it is equally available to writers whose only aspiration (or ability) is to produce mental junk-food.

Here's how I look at it: there are no bad techniques--or bad ideas--there are only bad writers. A good writer so inclined can spin gold out of damn near anything.

(08/19/2004)

steve cook:  I've been off-line for a while and i've just caught up by reading the last couple of months Q & A. Now i'm feeling a bit guilty...having read your views on people selling the ARC of 'Runes...' Can i justify myself by saying that i own practically everything you've written, read everything at least 2/3 times, and i only put in a bid for the ARC cos i'm so impatient! My buying this book will not impinge on your sales as i still intend to buy the hardbound book on day of release (can i say, without sounding like a stalker, that ideally i'd love to come to one of your book-signing appearences and have a copy signed). So to the question, should i retract my bid for the ARC?
what's a little negative feedback on ebay against 20 years of literary pleasure???
Please do whatever seems good to you. I'm neither wise nor arrogant enough to tell other people how to make their own decisions.

(08/20/2004)

Jeremy Haines:  Thanks for answering all of these questions -- it's fascinating to read your responses. I'm a fan of most of your work, but I have to say that "A Dark And Hungry God Arises" is easily my favorite fiction book of all time. I'm surprised to see that the Gap books are so underappreciated around here!

My questions regard "The Man Who Fought Alone". Unlike the earlier Axbrewder books which kept you guessing all the way through, TMWFA seemed to give away the identity of the villain about 1/3 of the way through the book (though Brew didn't pick up on this until much later). Was this accidental or intentional? If it was intentional, what were your motivation and goals for giving it away early? If it was accidental, how do you feel about that in retrospect -- and have you ever considered altering that early scene between Brew and the villain for future editions of the book?

Thanks for your time. I'm looking forward to "The Runes Of The Earth"!
I can't honestly say that I "telegraphed" the identity of the bad guy(s) in "The Man Who Fought Alone" deliberately. But I'm not surprised: I happen to think that I telegraphed the identities of the bad guys in all "The Man Who..." books. The sad fact is that I'm not particularly good at constructing puzzles. So instead I've simply tried to "play fair," both by giving the reader all of the information that Brew and Ginny have uncovered, and by telling the truth about what Brew understands when he understands it.

You're certainly not the first reader to "guess" (all right, deduce) the identity of the villain in "Fought Alone" early. (I know you aren't because my agent did the same, and he was the book's first reader. <grin>) But other readers have been just as "surprised" in that book as they were in Brew and Ginny's earlier adventures. And still other readers had no difficulty figuring out promptly whodunit in some or all of the previous books. What can I say? Certain pieces of information jump out at certain readers: other readers have a different experience. And I realized long ago that the only way to avoid telegraphing of one form or another is to "cheat" by withholding crucial information, by "hiding" whodunit by, say, never bringing the character on stage (vide the Perry Mason books), or by operating under the (obviously false) assumption that all characters are equally capable of committing all crimes (virtually all Agatha Christie books). So I stopped worrying about it, and concentrated instead on simply trying to write good books.

(08/20/2004)

Brad M:  I am currently suffering from a debilitating case of writer's block. (Also known as the Oh Da%$ Syndrome) I have tried nearly everything I can think of. (Writing odd short stories, reading my favorite authors, including you of course, even just visiualizing myself strangling the problem <grin>) Any ideas? I could use some help.

-B
At the core of writer's block, of course, lies fear. Usually fear of the challenge, fear of making a mistake, fear of disappointing yourself, fear of proving that you're actually a lousy writer. The form this usually takes, however, is an elevated sense of self-criticism. Stating it baldly, you can't put anything down on paper because you can't convince yourself that what's in your mind is good enough.

(If that's *not* your problem, you may not be suffering from true writer's block. You may have some other difficulty, such as what I call "life block"--where your daily life leaves you so drained and frazzled that you simply can't summon the energy and concentration for writing--or a form of emotional blockage, a condition in which other fears completely occlude your creative impulse. What "other fears"? you may ask. Well, just to pick one example from my own experience: fear of loneliness.)

Bruno Betelheim's important book on creativity (I can't remember the title) discussed this problem. He argued--and I agree--that any form of self-censorship is death to the imagination. The imagination simply can't function unless it is allowed to function in absolute freedom. For the imagination, there are no bad ideas, bad sentences, bad stories: there is only the process of generating ideas, sentences, stories. The whole point of "brain-storming" is to reject nothing, dismiss nothing, criticize nothing. Good ideas only emerge when all ideas are free to emerge. Saying it another way, you have to start putting words down on paper and just let one thing lead to the next WITHOUT WORRYING about ANYTHING except LETTING one thing lead to the next.

Personally, I handle this dilemma in four different ways (which is why I've never suffered from true writer's block). First, I go to work (I mean go into my office where I work) faithfully. No excuses, no delays: if it's a work day, I go to work. Second, every day when I go in to work I give myself permission to write *badly*. It DOES NOT MATTER if it's good: it only matters that I WRITE. Third, I often spend a fair amount of time writing ABOUT the problems that I'm having writing. And I don't mean, "Why can't I write?"--although you might find that useful. I mean, "Why am I having trouble with what I need to write *now*? What are my uncertainties about this particular story? What questions do I need to answer in order to go ahead?" In other words, I write about writing in order to ask myself concrete, specific questions about what I want to write, and then to attempt answering those questions. And fourth, I do virtually no rewriting of any kind (no self-criticism) until after I have the whole story or the whole book on paper. Self-criticism stops the flow of words, and my #1 priority is to keep the flow of words going.

Naturally, this approach produces a fair amount of gibberish. THAT'S OK! One of the great blessings of writing is that you can rewrite as much and as often as you want, until you're satisfied with what you've done. Just don't rewrite until after you're done being creative.

If, on the other hand, your problem is *not* true writer's block--well, you're still going to have to face your fears somehow. For that fundamental aspect of the human dilemma there is no cure except courage.

(08/20/2004)

JP:  I knew there was another question I meant to ask: it's about the need that Covenant's ring be given voluntarily in order to be usable (as Kaseryn explained). I understand this, and it's adhered to fairly consistently (i.e. Foul doesn't simply use his power to wrest the ring from Covenant, but rather tries to "persuade" him to turn it over, even in the First Chronicles; Troy was given it voluntarily, and Linden is able to "possess" him to use it). But then how was dead Elena able to wield it? It certainly wasn't given to her voluntarily...
I'm afraid I can't answer your questions without more specific information. When was Covenant's ring given to Troy? (A page reference would be useful.) When did dead Elena wield Covenant's ring? I'm afraid I'm confused.

(08/23/2004)

Fist:  We've been debating ak-Haru Kenaustin Ardenol's origin. Any chance you're willing to help us out? I don't know if it would be a spoiler to do so. Some think the Guardian was not aHKA until Brinn "conceived" of him that way. Some think aHKA was not originally a Haruchai. Some (me :) think aHKA was always Haruchai, and took on the job as the Guardian after Berek met him somewhere or other, and explained how important the job was.

And, again, THANK YOU for meeting with us at our Elohimfest!!!
More interesting, I think, is the question of how the Haruchai even know of Kenaustin Ardenol's existence. Nothing in the record (i.e. the first six "Covenant" books) suggests that the Haruchai were aware of the Lords in the Land prior to Kevin's time--and if they had ever had any dealings with, say, Berek, they certainly *would* have been aware of the Lords. So we can probably assume: a) Kenaustin Ardenol him/her/itself was not Haruchai; b) the Haruchai know of the existence of this being (which, by the way, is not the same as knowing of the existence of the Guardian of the One Tree) through some interaction outside the known history of the Land; and c) this interaction gave rise to the supreme Haruchai honorific "ak-Haru". More than that I can't say at the moment. The Earth is a whole lot bigger than the Land, and (like the Land) it's full of stories. I can't possibly tell them all.

(08/23/2004)

Ian:  Stephen,

Thank you for the contribution your works have made to me. I'm glad to find myself among such a multitude.

I noticed something some time back - Thomas Covenant belongs to no family. I'm not dismissing Joan and Roger here; their importance to Covenant is clear. Their absence from his life makes them a profound presence in the books. Likewise the friends, associates and acquaintances of Covenant's home town and career are present (if glancingly) in their absence - the 'By Hell!' severance of normal human contact and interaction that underpins Covenant's fury at his fate, and shoves his clay feet into stride.

Yet there is nothing (ever, unless my memory of the story fails me totally) of Covenant's life prior to his marriage. No person, no recollection, no souvenir - not an absence but a non-existence.

This could be just structure and logistics. You've stated clearly that the character of Covenant was born as a man for whom a fantasy world was utterly, almost unbearably desirable - and whose life required that he reject it. And there's no question that Covenant is busier than the one-legged man at the arse-kicking party throughout the narrative. Opportunities for nostalgia are few.

Is this it? Or is there a story behind this?

Footnote: I reread the opening chapters of Lord Foul's Bane before writing, to ensure I wasn't just dribbling shit, and was struck by the coincidence of your friendship with Colin Baker. Since my first reading of the books, the voice of Lord Foul that rings in my head (and I hope this won't offend) has been that of my favourite Doctor - Tom Baker.
Broadly speaking, it's amazing how few characters in Donaldson stories--or in fiction generally--seem to have families. Still speaking broadly, families are such messy subjects that when they're introduced they tend to take over stories, regardless of what the original purpose of the story may have been.

But in Thomas Covenant's case, the absence of family (or other past connections) is deliberate. It's part of his profound isolation--an isolation which many people feel even when they're *with* their families and friends, but which always has to be *explained* when it's included in a story. I didn't give Covenant parents or siblings (or aunts and uncles, or etc., not to mention friends or colleagues or even an editor) because I didn't want any of us to be distracted from the central themes and development of his plight.

(08/30/2004)

Variol son:  I was reading White Gold Wielder again and I started asking a couple of questions about the Waynhim and the ur-Viles.

We know (from Hamako) that there are only two kinds of Demondim spawn; the ur-Viles who loathe what they are and seak the power and knowledge to become what they are not, and the Waynhim who seek to give meaning to what they are by providing service to what they are not.

So I started thinking. Surely not every ur-Vile hates itself? Surely not every Waynhim chooses the path of peace and service? Surely not every ur-Vile serves Lord Foul? This lead me to ask how ur-Viles and Waynhim are created to be so different from each other.

We also know (from Hamako again) that the ur-Viles continue their breeding programmes in the catacombs beneath Mount Thunder, and that some of their creations are ur-Viles, some Waynhim. But why would the ur-Viles create more Waynhim? Especially since the Waynhim aren't considered the pinacle of the Demondim spawn. It just seems like a waste of time. Also, if the difference between ur-Vile and Waynhim is genetic, thenwouldn't breeding programmes produce more strange hybrid creatures? Yet the only other Demondim spawn we see is Vain.

Perhaps, I thought, the ur-Viles simply produce a Demondim spawn, but have no control over which genetic variation they end up with. A kind of luck-of-the-draw thing.

Or perhaps, when each individual Demondim spawn is created, it looks at itself, realises that it "lacks the justification of birth", and then either loathes itself, or sees that despite the fact that it was made and not born it has the potential to give meaning to its existance through service, therefore deciding by its own choice whether it is ur-Vile or Waynhim.

So which one is it? :)
In my opinion (just an opinion, as I keep saying), your last explanation comes closest to the truth. If these were SF novels, simple genetics would require more variation than the ur-viles and Waynhim reveal. But they are created by lore (magic), and such rules don't apply.

They *all* loathe their own forms, for the simple and sufficient reason that (drumroll, please) they were created out of self-loathing. (It even tends to work that way with human beings.) The difference (the magically significant fact) which causes some creations to be ur-viles and others to be Waynhim lies in their attitude toward what they are not: the ur-viles seek to appease their loathing by destroying what they lack, while the Waynhim seek to redeem their loathing by serving what they lack. And because we're talking about magic (which is at its heart a metaphor), this difference manifests physically as well as behaviorally.

From the perspective of the Demondim, therefore, the Waynhim represent "failed" attempts to create ur-viles. But seen from another perspective--that of the Land, for example--the ur-viles represent "failed" attempts to create Waynhim.

(08/30/2004)

David:  Mr. Donaldson,

Were you at Kent State during the fatal riot. If so, what are your recollections about that event?
I usually try to avoid answering such questions because the memories disturb me.

The facts are simple enough. I was attending Kent State during the shootings as a graduate student taking evening classes while I worked in Akron City Hospital as a conscientious objector. I was not on campus during the actual shootings (which took place around noon) because I was at work ten miles away. However, my apartment was a block and a half from the campus, so I lived under martial law for three days after the shootings (virtually the entire study body and faculty--well over 20,000 people--were evacuated within four hours of the shootings, so they were spared that aspect of the experience, while I was spared the experience of being evacuated under threat of lethal force).

I have many recollections, all painful, some horrific. I'll only mention four. 1) Living under martial law meant that a helicopter shone its searchlight into the windows of my up-stairs apartment every 90 seconds for three nights in a row. 2) Within half an hour of the shootings, virtually everyone I worked with in the hospital believed that the National Guard had fired on the students because the students were urinating on the Guardsmen (quite a trick from a distance of nearly 50 yards). 3) Within four hours of the shootings, every gun shop in a 75 mile radius was completely sold out; and for the next week I never left my apartment without at least one of my neighbors aiming a firearm at me as long as I was in sight. 4) Three days after the shootings, a Kent citizen was quoted by the local newspaper as saying, "If my son had long hair, I'd want him shot too."

I'll spare you the other 20 or 30 things I'll never forget.

(08/30/2004)

Will:  Dear Mr Donaldson,
One thing that always intrigued me was the size and demographics of the Land. As far as I can remember (sorry, I don't have the books in front of me right now, so feel to correct me if I am way off), the Land was roughly 500 miles on a side. That's a large area no doubt, but would only constitute the size of an average country in the real world. As for the population, I don't think you ever gave an estimate, but it always seemed fairly sparse to me. In my mind, the Stowndowns and Woodhelvens numbered more in the dozens than the hundreds, and each contained maybe a couple thousand people at most? So what would the total population of the Land be, if you consider all the humanoids -- Stowndowners, Woodhelvinen, Giants, Haruchai/Bloodguard, Wayhnin? By my reckoning, there wouldn't really be more than a couple hundred thousand.

That always bothered me for two reasons. First, and this may sound silly, but I always liked to think the battle against Despite was a battle against world domination at the scale of the world I am most familiar with -- 21st century earth. But with such a small geographic size and a small population, the scale of Foul's threat and evil seem, somehow, trivialised. The other thing that bothers me is more a question of internal consistency. If, in the Illearth War, the Land was able to field an army under Hile Troy large enough to defeat Foul's army of a couple hundred thousand ur-viles and warped creatures (sorry, again cannot reference the exact number from the book), that would basically mean signing up *every single* able-bodied male *and* female in the Land. What are your thoughts on this?
Such questions aren't answered in the "Covenant" books because I don't think in those terms. If you don't mind my saying so, they seem more appropriate to SF than to fantasy. But since you raised the issue of internal consistency, I'll make a few points.

1) The distance from Mithil Stonedown to Revelstone is given as 300 leagues (900 miles). For purposes of convenience, we'll call the Upper Land roughly square--although the Lower Land needs to be considered also. So we're talking about 810,000 square miles (not counting the Lower Land): a small country, if you choose to think so, but still substantial.

2) If you want to destroy the planet, you don't necessarily need to launch your attack from a large platform. One really good nuclear missle silo, and you're well on your way. And remember this: Lord Foul's wars against the people of the Land are simply a means to an end. His real goal is to manipulate Covenant into a Time-shattering blast of wild magic. For such a goal, it isn't the *scale* of the body-count that matters, it's the *quality*.

3) The Land appears sparsely populated because I can't afford the narrative space to spend several hundred pages simply "touring the set." Putting the issue as crudely as possible, when you've seen one Stonedown, you've seen them all. Ditto for a Woodhelven. So what would be the point of writing more of them into the story? I have--crudely again--more important things to do. Instead I trust my readers to assume that an Earthpowerful place which has been significantly healed since its most recent devastation both can and will support a healthy (if not particularly crowded) population.

4) Hile Troy's army did *not* defeat Lord Foul's. Indeed, much is made of the fact that he has no actual hope of defeating such forces. Without the intervention of Caerroil Wildwood, Troy's entire army would have been slaughtered.

(08/30/2004)

Dan Brown:  I was thrilled to find your website recently after having been an avid reader of the TC series for many years as well as the short story collections and Mordant's need. I even have the Gilden Fire volume (blame my SciFi Book Club addiction at the time!)I was introduced to "The Wounded Land" through my SFBC membership while in college and had to get the first trilogy at the local Waldenbooks after reading just one chapter so I could catch up with what was going on. I read all four over a very intense weekend. I've also thought your short stories are excellent and, to a point you've made before on how you write, I've always been emotionally engaged with them to where my wife makes fun of me when I sniffle during a particularly poignant passage. I just got "Reave the Just" in paperback a few months ago and had to read it one sitting as well. As a short story affectionado(sp?), I also agree with other posters that "The Killing Stroke" and "Penance" rank as among the best short stories I've ever read.

My questions touch on how you recently described stretching yourself as a writer. With many other authors going to the well to keep their series alive, and are commercially successful at it, does that evoke any feelings of jealosy at all? Tery Brooks, Katherine Kurtz, Allan Dean Foster, and Anne McCaffrey come to mind as authors who have developed these worlds that inspire a huge amount of reader loyalty that also started publishing about the same time as you did (who also have series that I read regularly). I believe Brooks, Foster, and McCaffrey were also at Ballantine in the late 70's in looking at my worn paperbacks. I'm partial to Ballantine since I bought a huge amount in college and still enjoy the authors from that time more than current ones. Did they take Lester's admonitions to heart more than you in building their "franchise"? Did Lester ever have all his promising writers together in one room for business sessions or just work with you all individually in getting you published? I can just see a late '70's authors softball game! Given your nature, it appears to me that you would place the consideration of the story above commerce. Do you have any regrets about the road travelled or, like Covenant, prefer to do something that appeals to your artistic sensibilities and money be damned?

Regards,
Dan Brown(not to be confused with the best selling author!)
I'll take this opportunity to try to be clear about one specific point. Discussions of other writers' work--where that discussion raises even the remotest possibility that something other than complete admiration might be expressed--are at best pointless and at worst actively hurtful. I've seen how this game is played: before the ink is even dry on my opinion (and its JUST AN OPINION) of writer X, someone has already contacted writer X to report, "Did you know that Donaldson says thus-and-so about you?" in the process usually taking thus-and-so entirely out of context; then writer X, feeling attacked--as who wouldn't?--replies, "Oh, yeah? well, Donaldson is a this-and-that"; writer X's response is immediately relayed to me, again out of context; and the next thing you know, we're back in grade school.

As it happens, I've met Terry Brooks, Katherine Kurtz, Alan Dean Foster, and Anne McCaffrey; I think they're all good people; and if I don't happen to read their books regularly, well, so what? They probably don't read mine regularly either. Who has time?

That said, I can inform you categorically--and none of them would dream of contradicting me--that Lester del Rey never got us all together for any reason. (He and Judy-Lynn did introduce me to Terry Brooks and, I believe, Alan Dean Foster. Anne and Katherine I think I met on my own.) He worked with each of us individually, and I'm sure he had his own individual methods for working with each of us. (Come to think of it, I'm not sure that Lester ever worked with Anne. She may have been Judy-Lynn's author.)

But do I have any regrets about what I've written? None at all. I don't write for money. I write for love: I *sell* what I've written for money. The distinction is important. As a matter of historical fact, readers have not consistently loved what I love. Consequently my career has followed a less successful trajectory than, say, Terry's or Anne's. And, being human, I naturally wish that my career had been more successful. On the other hand, I do NOT wish that Terry or Anne or Alan or Katherine had been any less successful. They work hard, and they deserve what they get. What more needs to be said?

(08/30/2004)

Tom O'Toole:  Thank you again for taking the time to answer our questions. I suppose you realise that now you can never, ever, stop :)

In a previous answer you said that you had just finished Patrick O'Brian's "The Fortune of War".

Did you read the previous 5 books in the series, and do you think that you will be continuing with it?

Tom
Yes, I started O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series at the beginning, and I'm sure I'll stick with it for the foreseeable future. Those books have given me a great deal of pleasure.

(08/30/2004)

Elisabet Liljeblad:  I have a question again.

When I was little, I read a lot of fairy-tales and fantasy-stories. Two that got stuck in my mind was Mio my Mio and The Neverending Story.

Even you have been a little boy and you were certainly affected by your surroundings, and maybe you, as I, read a story that got stuck in your brain.

Now, here's my question: Is there any author or any story that has influenced your life a bit?

I can say that The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant has influenced me much.

Thank you for answering my previous questions!

My thanks to you!

/Lisa
I answered your question more fully in my essay, "Books that Made a Difference," which you can download from this site. But the short answer is: at the time that I read them (middle school), C. S. Lewis' "Narnia" books seemed to transform my brain. No book that I read before high school had as profound an effect on me. (At the time, I was also transfixed by Jim Corbett's "Maneaters of Kumoan" series. But those books had nothing like the lasting effect of "Narnia".)

(08/30/2004)

dlbpharmd:  Mr. Donaldson:

In a previous answer this month you mentioned the injury to Vain at the One Tree as being crucial to the overall victory achieved in White Gold Wielder. This has sparked something of a debate at Kevinswatch.com. Personally, I have never seen Vain's "damage" as anything other than an accident, and an obvious clue to his purpose. Would you elaborate on this please?
I think of the "transformation" of Vain's forearm as the catalyst which makes his later changes possible. After all, how can you possibly have a Staff of Law that doesn't come from the One Tree? Vain carries the true victory of the Quest for the One Tree with him when Covenant, Linden, etc. flee the sinking Isle.

(09/06/2004)

Todd:  First, the requisite thanks for this forum. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate it, and how valuable I consider your insight.

I have a rather simple question. You mentioned in your Essay on Modern Fantasy that Lord Foul's Bane had sold 5 million copies. As that was many years ago, I was wondering if you could tell us what the current sales totals are for your works.

Thanks!
I don't have anything like reliable figures. I do get US and UK royalty statements; but information from other countries is sketchy at best. However, I think we can safely say that LFB is up around 10 million copies worldwide, with the rest of the "Covenant" books not far behind. Beyond that, who knows?

(09/06/2004)

Sean Farrell:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

You have mentioned before that when writing the Second Chronicles, you were already laying plans for the Third, but that you were also aware that the Last Chronicles were going to be extremely complex and very difficult to write, hence the wait of twenty years or so. My question is this - with these ideas in your head for all that time, and especially given their complexity, have you at times sat down to develop the themes and structures of the books in the extended interval, or did you literally not touch Thomas Covenant for twenty years?
By the way, thanks again. Your books are the reason I read at all - always in search of something even better - so far in vain...
I literally did not touch "Covenant" for 20 years (or thereabouts). Over-simplifying the truth as egregiously as possible, I did not accept the challenge of returning to "Covenant" until I had completely run out of other ideas for stories. At that point, I decided that my apprenticeship must be over. <rueful grin>

(09/06/2004)

Anonymous:  Will Ballantine/Del Rey be repackaging the second Chronicles as well? It wouldn't make much sense to do the first without the second.
I have no idea what Ballantine/Del Rey's plans may be. Since most publishers don't indulge in long-term planning, B/DR probably won't think about repackaging "The Second Chronicles" until after they see how the repackaged first trilogy sells.

(09/06/2004)

Dave, Ellington, CT:  Mr Donaldson,

First of all, thanks for all your great work. I've been a fan since the early 80's. I'm anxiously looking forward to the 3rd Chronicles.

Now my question. In this forum, you've mentioned a lot of other science fiction and fantasy authors and novels. Other than your own work, and maybe that of Tolkien, can you recommend a few novels (or series) to your fans. Maybe three science fiction and three fantasy from different authors? Doesn't necessarily have to be your top three in each category. I know that's hard to do. Maybe a few that fall in your top ten though. That'll give us something to read while we're all waiting for the 3rd Chronicles, and get an idea of what you like to read.

Thanks,
Dave
Buried away in the recesses of the Gradual Interview is a previous answer to this question. Today's answer: (fantasy) Steven Erikson, "The Gardens of the Moon," Patricia A. McKillip, "Ombria in Shadow," Tim Powers, "Last Call"; (SF) Alfred Bester, "The Stars My Destination," Walter Jon Williams, "Hardwired," China Mieville (whose work could, I admit, be considered fantasy; but I think of it as SF), "Perdido Street Station."

(09/06/2004)

Peter Purcell:  I was interested in your response to the magic Mordant's Need vs. magic in the Land. As an author, you are focused on the *story* you're relaying and magic-used-as-a-metaphor. As a reader we get absorbed in the story but fall in love with the *universe / world* you've created. I think that's why you get so many questions on the "rules of the WORLD" that are irrelevant to your author's perspective that the *story* should be the only focus. [Although you have said that maintaining internal consistency is important to you so that it does not distract from the *story*.]

Am I on track? Does it matter?! (smile)

Peter
I don't consider "rules of the world" questions irrelevant at all. But I get confused (and sometimes exasperated) when the questions don't appear to respect one vital distinction: we're talking about "rules of the world THAT I MADE UP." If the questions don't pertain to, or aren't validated by, material contained within the boundaries of the story, I can't answer them.

(And here we have another interesting difference between the "Covenant" books and "Mordant's Need". In "Covenant," the Land clearly exists in a different kind or order of reality than Covenant's "real world". In the Platonic sense, the Land is *more* real than Covenant's "real world." So characters from Covenant's "real world" can expand into the Land, but characters from the Land cannot shrink into Covenant's "real world". But in "Mordant's Need" the differing realities accessible by Imagery are all pretty much equal, or are "real" in the same way: they may run by different rules, but the substance of one can exist and function fully in another.)

(09/08/2004)

Paul:  Hi there

This is a question my wife asked me... She like me enjoyed all of your series. But one thing that irritated her was Covenant's cursing. ie "Hellfire - what kind of a swear word is that".

So I am curious, was "Hellfire and bloddy damnation" a common curse in the mid sevenites? Or did you go out of your way to try and avoid 'dating' your books by using dialogue or settings (in the real world) that would show up the story for its age?

Incidentally, with 30 years of hindsight, I think that Covenant would pay his phone bill at the postoffice - he would do it online and frequent chatrooms :-)
"Hellfire and bloody damnation" is probably the sort of swearing that only a missionary's kid can truly relate to. I chose it because: a) I'm a missionary's kid; b) it's exotic, unfamiliar, dislocated, an apt expression for a man terminally dissociated from his own life; and c) Covenant pretty much lives in Hell, and his story is about damnation (or the escape from damnation, which comes to the same thing).

Need I point out that when I wrote the first "Covenant" books chatrooms didn't exist, and people *did* pay their phone bills at the phone company?

(09/08/2004)

Sean Casey:  I suspect that the answer to this is that the question is irrelevant, but it's kind of interesting, I think, so:

What is the composition of Thomas Covenant's ring? Is the gold alloyed with nickel, palladium, silver etc? Is it electroplated with rhodium?

What would happen if someone with white gold of a different composition came to the Land? Would they have the same power, or less or none at all?
The white gold I had in mind is an alloy of gold and platinum (with no doubt various trace metals about which I know nothing).

Your question about "what would happen if ... white gold of a different composition came to the Land" is a good example of something I talked about in answer to an earlier GI question: a question which comes from completely outside the text, outside the "rules of the world I made up." So I have no idea how to answer you. What is the metallic composition of the Earth in which the Land resides? What kind of metal-working (and refining) skills exist planet-wide? What exactly did the Creator plan for when he/she/it created the Earth? Beats the by-products out of me. None of those issues are germane to the story--and the only "rules" I'm interested in are the ones which *are* germane.

(09/09/2004)

Akaya:  This may not be something you want to respond to online, but I thought I'd ask. I recently (on the advice of a fan or yours I met in my local S-F bookstore) bought the entire Thomas Covenant series. I'm in the first part of "Lord Foul's Bane" (which I have been completely enjoying) and have come to the part where Thomas rapes Lena, the young woman who saves his life. He is now about to set off on his journey led by her mother Atiaran (upon whose wisdom and experience I assume he will be dependent). Before I decide what I will do with the remaining 5 books, it would be helpful to me if you would tell me if Thomas recognizes his violent betrayal of Lena beyond his sense that Lena "purchased precious time for him" (in not speaking of her violation). "Clearly the people of this Land were prepared to make sacrifices --". Does he return to her and make restitution?
I would like to assure you earnestly that during the course of the first "Covenant" trilogy he has his nose rubbed deeply in the consequences of his crime against Lena, that he learns to understand just how vile his actions have been, and that he does put his feet on the road to redemption.

HowEVer--

The author may not be the ideal person to respond to your concerns, feeling (as he does) a fairly natural human desire to justify himself. You might get more useful answers from fellow readers. May I suggest that you post your concerns on kevinswatch.com? The good people there will give you honest reactions from a wide variety of perspectives.

(09/11/2004)

Northcote Coleman:  "If literature speaks of bread or wine or stone or tree, it appeals to the whole of these things, to their ideas; yet each hearer will give to them a peculiar personal embodiment in his imagination. Should the story say 'he ate bread' , the dramatic producer or painter can only show 'a piece of bread' according to his taste or fancy, but the hearer of the story will think of bread in general and picture it in some form of his own. If a story says 'he climbed a hill and saw a river in the valley below', the illustrator may catch, or nearly catch his own vision of such a scene; but every hearer of the words will have his own, and it will be made out of all The Hills, The River, The Valley which were for him the first embodiment of the word."

As I read this passage from The Tolkien Reader. By, J.R.R. Tolkien, I thought of your own Thomas Covenant books and how they have been reflected from this extract of Tolkiens. Even in your choice of titles, The One Tree, The Wounded Land. I would like to know if you agree that the visual medium's inherent inadequacy can only debilitate the readers imagination.
First, let me say that I question the implicit assumptions in phrases like "the visual medium's inherent inadequacy." (I have to say this first because I actually agree whole-heartedly with Tolkien. I'm an almost entirely verbal person myself: I like to say that I see with words. Whenever words are replaced by visual images, I feel that my own imaginative and emotional responses are being limited and controlled.) I think it's important to recognize that *every* medium has inherent inadequacies--to go along with its inherent strengths. It happens (just my opinion) that translating books into movies tends to expose either the inadequacies of film as a medium or the inadequacies of the specific book on which the film is based. But this tendency confuses the central issue, which is that every medium has its own particular strengths and weaknesses.

I don't want to try to propose an entire philosophy of aesthetics here. But just take one example: consider the simple, immutable, and profound fact that verbal language (*all* oral language, but especially written language) is LINEAR. Words have to be read one at a time in a very specific order or else their meaning either changes or collapses. Therefore verbal (especially written) language is a means of organizing time. One of its strengths is that it has direction: if the words are put together imaginatively and skillfully enough they accumulate over time (as the notes in a piece of music accumulate) until movement in that direction has tremendous force. But this strength is also a weakness: words in sequence cannot go in more than one direction at a time, or make more than one statement at a time (except by implication).

Well, OK, film is also a linear medium. But it has this strength which prose cannot match: it constantly conveys information to two senses (sight and hearing) simultaneously. This means that film *can* go in more than one direction at a time, or make more than one statement at a time. Indeed, because our brains appear to be capable of processing greater degrees of aural complexity than visual (mine is, anyway), film can go in more than one direction at a time, or make more than one statement at a time, with *sound* alone (e.g. the music can convey different information than the dialogue, even when both are happening at the same time).

I could go on at some length (don't even get me started on painting, or on the visual dimension of film), but I hope I've made my point. For me, movies can be enormously intense experiences; but they can never compete with the way written prose can accumulate richness, complexity, and depth. But that statement is a description of *me*, not a useful critique of the medium of film.

(09/11/2004)

Peter:  Hello Stephen, I'm very happy that you are writing the final part of the series, it was a pleasant suprise mainly because the last series ended perfectly to me so thank you.

My question is, I understand that you grew up in India which is a different culture and for a young child you would have been considered a minority and difficult especiallif if there were only a few other caucasians. So do you think that it has affected you, that growing up that way seems to make you think differently? That sometimes you feel like you look at the world like looking into a zoo exhibit and think why do people do that?

Over the years I have strongly liked certain books, music and people and on closer inspection have found that they were normally from a different race raised in a different culture and have amazing insight and appear to see the world differently, like T.Dolby who was raised in egypt, and you who was brought up in India.

I'm just curious on your views on this. If you're wondering about this strange question It's because of being part Jamaican and was raised in NZ.


thanks.
Peter.
First, a quick word about my recent silence in this interview. Everyone knows that life sometimes goes through phases of disarray, when it seems that every conceivably mishap occurs at once. Well, this has been one of those times.

Now.

My actual experience was a strange variation on your question. My family first moved to India when I was four; but after my initial trauma (which occurred while my parents were in language school, and to which I could only react with terror), my life there seemed more "normal" than you might expect. I'll spare you a long riff on the underlying fear that motivates virtually all missionaries: my present point is that the missionaries did everything possible to isolate their children from the cultures and people they purportedly wished to "save." So we lived in walled compounds surrounded exclusively by other missionaries, other caucasians (and their servants). We attended exclusively white missionary schools, again in walled compounds. And those schools taught an exclusively white mssionary curriculum: pure US college preparatory, with a heavy dose of religion. No courses were offered in Indian history, philosophy, language, or culture; and we were discouraged from learning anything on our own. Yes, we were a tiny minority. But we weren't alone: we were surrounded by our own kind, and there were enough of us to make effective insulation.

As a result, I didn't start to feel like I'd landed from the planet Koozbane until I returned to the US for my senior year in high school. Nevertheless, as you surmise, that sense of alienness has endured throughout my life--and has shaped much of it. It's hardly a coincidence that *all* of my sf/f novels can be read as "culture shock" stories.

(09/17/2004)

Michael From Santa Fe:  I have a question about dukkha Waynhim - specifically, about his name. The concept of "dukkha" in Buddhism relates to suffering and dukkha Waynhim was certainly a creature of great suffering - so I thought it was a cool name. But, did giving one of the creatures of the Land a name that relates to a concept from "Covenant's world" give you pause? I realize it is a rather obscure reference, but if Thomas Covenant had been a Buddhist, or knew something about Buddhism, wouldn't a creature with a name with a reference to his own world cause him to doubt the existence of the Land even more?

Also, just because I'm curious and asking about names - when you created Linden Avery and her name, did the idea come from the Linden tree, which has heart shaped leaves - thus, Thomas Covenant's love interest?
No, I can't honestly say that it gave me pause. After all, Herem, Sheol, Jehannum, moksha, turiya, samadhi, several of the Ramen names, and *Kevin* (for God's sake!), not to mention Sunder, are all real words from our world. And then there's the curious fact that Covenant and Linden experience virtually no language barriers anywhere. As you point out, such details can't undermine Covenant's insistence that the Land is not real. If he is effectively "dreaming," what would compose the dream if not the hidden contents of his own mind?

Covenant's Unbelief has its own peculiar integrity, and I deliberately gave it as much support as I could.

Good call about Linden's name. But I had other intentions as well. "Linden"=tree. Avery=aviary=birds. Both "nature" references. Which I considered appropriate for a woman who would become the Land's great healer at the end of "The Second Chronicles".

(09/17/2004)

Anonymous:  Hello again

"Somehow human societies find ways to keep themselves alive in spite of their own worst impulses."

For some reason this line grabbed me, now, this is in no way intended as an antagonistic question but you sparked my easily kindled curiousity. Okay, here's the question. heh.

Do you view humans, as inherently...negative? Or are you simply stating the fact that inherent in every human, given complex cognitive function (vain attempt at intellect...chuckle), will, and desire, are both the dark and light aspects of a personality, and that the "wants" often outweigh the "shoulds" or "shouldnt's" of a given situation? In other words people have both qualites, good and bad, however it's usually easier to do what you want inspite of the fact that it may be incorrect (in the eyes of the majority).

This isn't a question of morality, because I don't think there are universal morals. People, generally speaking are the sum of their experiences, and the decisions they've made when encountering the opportunity to choose.

So in short I'm not asking for a "so do you think it right? or morally correct?" I'm asking, humans; inherently dark, or given the choice, and little opposition, they will go with what they want despite the way it may be viewed by the public at large.

I ask only because, the sentence made me think, and it may be helpful with a character I have yet to work on, with a deadline coming up. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Have a good one


J. Depp


There are a number of questions hidden away in there, none of which I'm actually wise enough to answer. I'll just express a few opinions. (Need I add that they're just opinions?)

Leaving out a long discussion of heredity and environment: I take it as axiomatic that every human being is a mixture of qualities, each of which (the qualities) can be seen as positive or negative, depending on their circumstances and your perspective. For myself, I find it more useful to think of persons as being very crudely divided into two groups: those that choose to care about people other than themselves, situations other than their own, issues larger than their own well-being; and those that do not. The former group tends to evolve ethical structures (however peculiarly defined)--and then live by them. The latter group tends to be ruled by personal *want* and *need* (in other words, by fear).

However, using the word "group" now in a different sense: it is a curious characteristic of groups (especially large groups, both spontaneous--e.g. rallies and mobs--and structured--e.g. bureaucracies) that they tend to reinforce the most self-centered and fearful qualities of their individual members. Only very rarely do human beings in aggregate behave better than they would alone. I can't begin to tell you how often I've experienced small acts of kindness from people whose group behavior is vicious. (Missionaries are a good example.)

Like individuals, groups are ultimately guided (if not actively ruled) by an instinct for survival. This accounts for much of their self-centeredness. But it may also explain why they so often seem to pull themselves back from the brink of extinction at the last possible moment. (An interesting case in point: has anyone else read Thomas Cahill's fascinating "How the Irish Saved Civilization"? The fact that modern Western civilization exists *at all* is a perfect demonstration of the point I'm trying to make.)

(09/17/2004)

Perry Bell:  Hi Stephen,
I see the original release is calling for Hardcover. Will the new series be released on paperback as well?
"Fist and Faith"
Publishers decide whether to do a hardcover "original" or a paperback (or a trade paperback) "original" based on whether they think the potential audience justifies the expense of a hardcover (or trade paperback). However, virtually all (fiction) hardcover "originals" *are* later reissued in paperback, typically a year after the hardcover. The hardcover then effectively goes out of existence, and the paperback remains the only enduring form of the book--if it endures at all.

(09/17/2004)

Amanda Grey:  Dear Stephen,

I have two questions;

I am so excited to be rereading the First and Second Chronicles after 15 years (I am now 37). I have an 11-year old son who I managed to get reading at the very late age of 8, thanks to Harry Potter. To what extent has the popularity of HP affected your own and have you read the books / seen the films?

(Incidently my son speaks better French than English, much to my *chagrin* and there doesn't seem to be a translation... I am a translator living in France, Irish born.)

2) I know you are a fan of Gormanghast. Have you seen the British TV serialisation and do you think this format would be suitable for Covenant?

Thank you so much for the many years of reading pleasure and I am so looking forward to *la suite*.
Harry Potter hasn't had any affect on me that I'm aware of. (Although the popularity of HP and LOTR on film may have affected the decision to buy an option on "Covenant".) I've read one of the books and seen the three movies. I enjoyed them, but they didn't touch me.

Yes, I saw the BBC version of Gormenghast. As with the LOTR films, I thought they did as good a job as we could have hoped for; but much of the particular richness of those books was lost. A 12+ hour mini-series of "Covenant" might be the most effective way to bring those books to film, but I still don't really consider "Covenant" to be film-able. And of course the TV screen loses visual scale--an important aspect of "Covenant". "Mordant's Need" would make much better movies, as would the GAP books, or some of my novellas (e.g. "Penance," "Daughter of Regals," or "The Killing Stroke").

(09/18/2004)

Scott Byers:  Mr. Donaldson, I greatly enjoy reading all your books. I was very glad to hear that we will once again be able to return to the Land. I was wondering if you are planning any book tours to Canada soon?
The answers to all book tour questions are posted elsewhere on this site. A Canadian tour is exTREMEly unlikely: the audience isn't large enough to justify the publisher's expense (from the publisher's point of view, anyway).

(09/18/2004)

John McCann:  I managed bookstores for years and have always been a bit curious about the publishing process. It's now about 8-9 weeks until the release of Runes. What stage is the book in now? (eg. Has the final draft been completed, with the typesetters, or actually been printed and bound and sitting in warehouuses)

Thanks
My experience with "Runes" this year is quite atypical. Typically publication occurs 12-18 months after delivery and acceptance (what we call D&A) of a final manuscript. The process takes so long because there are so many different things that have to be done: cover art commissioned and painted; advertising designed (which usually can't happen until after the cover art and design is complete; but magazines typically require 3 months of lead time to run an ad); promotional campaigns planned and executed; copyediting on the manuscript; proofreading on the manuscript (a very distinct process from copyediting, but both take time, and the author needs to double-check both separately); contracts and schedules with printers negotiated; maps prepared (in my case, anyway). And I'm sure I've left out a number of details.

The preparation of "Runes" has been cruel because 12-18 months of work--for everyone involved--has been squeezed into 6. And that was only possible because the book was rushed to D&A (I was required to do a 6 months rewrite in less than 3). So don't judge what normally happens in publishing by "Runes".

As it happens, my US publisher has had finished copies of the book arriving in their warehouse from the bindery for nearly 10 days now. And books may very well start to appear in bookstores by early October. My UK publisher is running about a week behind the US schedule.

(09/18/2004)

James DiBenedetto:  A couple of questions about the influence that your work has had:

Are you aware of anything from your works popping up as cultural references (like the very specific references to "Dune" that appear in a couple of Yes songs, or your books being answers on "Jeopardy", etc)?

What do you think your influence has been on the field of fantasy or science fiction over the last 30 years?

Are there any specific books or authors that you see your influence in? Any time that you've read something and said "Aha! He/she must have been reading the Gap series when he/she wrote this..."?
I'm afraid the answers are no, no, and no. Perhaps I'm the wrong person to ask. I'm aware that I live a very "private" life, and that much of what is "public" passes me by. But until recently I couldn't honestly say that I'd seen my influence anywhere except in, well, my children. Then, however, I was made aware of Kevinswatch.com. <grin> So that's at least *some* influence. But "cultural influence"? "Influence on the field"? "Influence on specific authors"? If anything like that has happened, I'm unaware of it.

(09/22/2004)

Stephen Wright:  Hello.

I’ve been reading your books since shortly after the first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant came out. I’m very much looking forward to reading the last sequence in my favorite fantasy series. The book tour is an additional bonus from my point of view, as I’ve been interested in meeting you almost as long as I’ve been reading you.

My question for you is one more of personal nature than one dealing with your works. Simply put, it is this: if your interest, time and schedule allows for it, would you be willing to meet people, perhaps before or after your bookstore appearances, in something like a “mini” Elohim-fest, at local public forums, such as a lunch or dinner?

I don’t have any real understanding of how wearing an author’s tour is, but I thought that perhaps a quiet meeting over a meal (or other avenue of your choice) might be a welcome break for you. Given the way our world is, I completely understand your reluctance to accept earlier offers for meetings at homes…but I thought it could not hurt to ask if something more public and secure would possibly be desirable from your point of view. Local folks might be able to point out things of regional interest, give you good recommendations of where to eat (since aliantha and springwine are unlikely to be readily available), etc.
Please accept my regrets. I appreciate both the courtesy and the kindness of your offer. But the sort of occasion you describe would simply add to my exhaustion. When I'm out "flogging" books, dealing with travel fatigue, sensory overload, LOTS of work, terminal loneliness, and the strain of comporting myself in an appropriately "public" manner when I'm really a private person, the only thing--and I do mean the *only* thing--that restores me at all is to spend time with people I already know well, like, and am comfortable with. People like family. Or friends that I've known for decades.

(09/22/2004)

Peter Hunt:  Mr. Donaldson,

In a previous answer, you described the changing POV you employed in the Gap series. During the first two books, the POV doesn't change that much (as evidenced by the chapters being numbered rather than named), while in later books, the POV changes much more often.

While writing the earlier volumes, did you forsee that the POVs would have to multiply in the later ones, or was this something that you discovered along the way? What determined whose POV should be used in chapters that dealt with multiple major characters?

I loved the Ancillary Documentation. I always appreciated the contrast between the very subjective views we get from the characters, and the objective, fact-based views we get from the Ancil. Docs.

Can you talk a bit about how you decided to include them? Was it mainly to avoid "As you know, John, ..." exposition, or did you have this contrast in mind? Did you always intend to omit them from the concluding volume, or was this a decision you made during revisions?

And are they trustworthy accounts? <g>

Thanks once again for being so gracious in answering all of our questions.
I've been putting off this question because I couldn't think of a way to answer it simply. So please keep in mind with what follows that I'm only talking about *one* aspect of several rather complicated subjects.

Yes, I knew before I ever started on "Forbidden Knowledge" ("The Real Story" was originally written as a stand-alone novella, but it simply didn't work that way) that I would need a vast array of POV characters. The issue here--as it is in the Ancillary Documentation--is "world-building." What I call in the case of the GAP books "unrolling the canvas." I have a systemic dislike for "As you know, John"-style exposition. In addition, none of the GAP characters is likely to sit around discussing the details of their reality (can you imagine Angus saying, "As you know, Morn, matter cannon work like this"?): they're all too busy struggling for their own survival. In addition, the story simply takes place in too many locations at once for any one character, or any small handful of characters, to be an effective POV. In addition, I've denied myself that wonderful gimmick which is so useful in the "Covenant" books and "Mordant's Need": the "outsider" who demands the kinds of explanations the reader needs. In addition, the canvas itself is more complex and contains a wider variety of details than the Land or Mordant. So many POVs were necessary.

As were the Ancillary Documentation: those sections are a kind of shorthand exposition which allowed me to *imply* much more world-building than was actually stated. (And, yes, the AncilDocs were intended to be reliable.) (They also served several other functions, which--as I said--I'm not discussing at the moment.) I discontinued them in "This Day All Gods Die" because--as you may have guessed--after "Chaos and Order" I was done "unrolling the canvas." All of the necessary details and characters were in place.

Both "The Real Story" and "Forbidden Knowledge," in their separate ways, are simpler in POV than the subsequent books because I needed narrative space in which to establish Angus, Morn, and (to a lesser extent) Nick as fully as possible without--in effect--overwhelming the reader with exposition about the larger canvas. It would have been too much too soon for my intentions.

Determining which POV to use at which moment wasn't easy. My guidelines, generally in this order, were: use the character a) who has the most at stake at that moment, b) who has the most important decision to make or action to take at that moment, c) who has the widest perspective on what is going on at that moment (e.g. Koina before the GCES), d) whose subsequent off-stage actions may not be comprehensible without explanation, or e) who may be the only one who knows something that the reader needs to know at that moment.

<whew>

(09/23/2004)

Chris Hawks:  Having written you twice already -- and having never really said it before: Thank you so much for doing this; it's really quite a treat to pick one of your favorite author's brain. (Heaven knows how I'd pester Orson Scott Card if he ever opened up a Q&A on his site :) It's a really neat and generous thing you're doing, and I thank you heartily for it.

That said, I recently finished up "Reave the Just and Other Tales" after hearing that the concluding novella ("By Any Other Name") was also a Reave story -- and I loved the first one. I can certainly see the potential for future Reave tales, and, though I know the basic Reave formula is fairly straightforward (protagonist is wronged, Reave arrives and confronts the antagonist, antagonist assaults Reave, protagonist defeats antagonist) I also know that any new story you write will have to pass your own high standards. So I'll keep my fingers crossed. :)

Questions:
1) Whose idea is it to publish a major fiction writer's short stories? Does the author say "Hey, I've got a few things we could collect together..." Does the publisher pester you for any other writings you've got lying around?

2) Also, who controls how the collection is put together? For instance, was it your choice to have the Reave stories headline the collection? (It could easily enough have been "The Woman Who Loved Pigs and Other Tales"...)
Typically, it's the writer's idea to publisher a collection of short stories. Publishers don't "pester you for any other writings you've got lying around" because short story collections don't make much money. Even comparatively successful collections have small profit margins, and today's multi-national mega-publishers aren't interested in small profit margins. So it follows that the writer is entirely responsible for how the collection is put together. The only detail that an editor has ever argued with me about was the title: for "Daughter of Regals and Other Tales," I wanted "Ser Visal's Tale and Other Stories"; my editor wanted "Ser Visal's Tale and Other Tales"; I thought that sounded stupid; so we compromised on the actual title.

(09/23/2004)

Bob DeFrank:  Mr. Donaldson

I don't have as much time as I would like for reading, but my profession often requires long car trips and I've become acquainted with audio books. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any audiocassette productions of your work, other than an abridged version of “The Real Story.” I also understand “The Runes of the Earth” will appear in audio format. Are there any plans to produce unabridged audio versions of your past works? I would really like to re-read them.

Most sincerely,

Bob DeFrank
As I've said before, there are no plans for audio versions of my previous works, unabridged or otherwise. And there will be no plans unless the 22-CD version of "Runes" is exTREMEly profitable. Even then there will probably be no plans unless something happens to raise my "stock" to a whole new level: e.g. enormously popular "Covenant" movies. As I said about short story collections, the profit margins on audio books are small, so publishers usually don't do them. Indeed, the subsequent volumes of "The Last Chronicles" will not be released in audio versions if "Runes" doesn't sell *very* well.

(09/25/2004)

Bob. DeFrank:  Mr. Donaldson

I've heard that self-consciousness is among challenges to an artist, as it often leads to self-doubt. You've achieved some (well-deserved) fame in your career. Does the thought that millions of people will read your writing make the creative process difficult? If so, how do you deal with this problem?

Most sincerely,

Bob DeFrank
I have no earthly idea whether or not "millions of people" will read what I write. And I honestly don't think about things like that while I'm writing: there my self-consciousness takes the form of "Am I even capable of writing a book this difficult?" That concern is more than enough to fill me with self-doubt. *Between* books I worry about things like, "Will this book sell?" but that form of self-consciousness doesn't impinge on my actual creative process--except to the extent that a history of *poor* sales ("Mordant's Need," the GAP books, my mystery novels) reinforces my impulse to doubt myself.

(09/25/2004)

Jerry Erbe:  You made a statement in answering your last question that got me to thinking...you wrote:
<i>"The Earth is a whole lot bigger than the Land, and (like the Land) it's full of stories. I can't possibly tell them all."</i>
Given the commercial success of sci-fi and fantasy movies and their subsequent book spin-off's, i.e. Star Wars and Star Trek, etc., have their been any offers from other authors to perhaps write other stories relating to The Land, for instance, stories about the Giants journeys or stories of the Haruchai adventures? Would another author HAVE to get your permission to use your ideas and characters as a basis for a completely new storyline relating to The Land and its characters? / Thanks again for this forum. I know I speak for all your fans when I say that it is a special treat being able to personally hear your responses to our questions, however banal and repetitive they may become.
No one has ever approached me about writing a "spin-off" from the "Covenant" books--or from any of my books. And yes, anyone who wanted to write a spin-off (for any purpose except their own private amusement) would *require* both my permission (as the holder of the copyright) and my publishers' permission (as holder of the publication rights). And no, I would never give that permission. As for my publishers, they probably wouldn't even answer the letter: even if "Covenant" became a series of enormously popular films, my publishers would want to create their own spin-offs with writers they're already comfortable with. And they would *still* need my permission, which they won't get.

(09/25/2004)

JP:  I have a question about the nature of personal choice as it relates to Covenant's ring. Covenant tells Linden that the reason that Foul hasn't simply possessed him with a Raver to obtain the ring is that it has to be given by choice in order for its power to be unlocked. And when Hile Troy is about to use its power, it was given to him willingly by Covenant. Yet:

1) Dead Elena is able to utilize it when it's forcibly swiped from Covenant in Power That Preserves, and

2) Linden is able to "possess" Covenant to use the ring at various times.

Are there explanations that fit these instances into the theory of personal choice?
<sigh> All of this would be so-o-o much easier if I hadn't *forgotten* that Covenant gives his ring to Troy in "The Illearth War" and has it taken from him by Elena in "The Power that Preserves." I tell ya, folks, internal consistency's a bitch.

The key points to keep in mind are "the necessity of freedom" and Mhoram's assertion to Covenant, "You are the white gold." So, taking the questions that have come up from easiest to most difficult:

Troy is able to raise power from the ring because a) Covenant gave it to him, and b) Covenant's will, his volition, supports what Troy wants to do with the ring (save Elena from dead Kevin).

Elena, of course, doesn't actually raise power from the ring, but there are a couple of reasons why she might have been able to do so. (In any case, she isn't bluffing when she threatens the Colossus. She *believes* she can exert wild magic. She has, after all, lost her mind.) Volition is a complex thing: there are unconscious as well as conscious choices. And sometimes the unconscious choices subvert the conscious ones. At that point in his struggle, Covenant must have been feeling a certain amount of "death wish" (why else would he even think about tackling Lord Foul when he believes he has no power?), and his unconscious volition might have enabled Elena to use the ring against him. In addition--on a somewhat more conscious level--Covenant has known for a while that external forces can trigger a response from the ring; and he may have been hoping (volition again) that Elena's use of the Staff would trigger a reaction she didn't expect.

Linden's actions raise even more complex issues (not the least of which is my still fallible memory) (and let's not even mention my unwillingness to spend an hour or two researching each question in this interview). She has an emotional bond with Covenant that goes far deeper than consciousness. And on those occasions when she "possesses" him, she always seeks to control him in ways with which some part of him agrees. He certainly doesn't *want* to destroy Starfare's Gem, and he isn't exactly eager to walk into the Banefire--just to pick two examples that happen to come to mind. In other words, she taps into his unconscious volition (not always wisely, I might add).

It follows, naturally, that a Raver--or Lord Foul himself--could not make use of the ring as Linden does. They don't love him; have no bond with him; share none of his impulses, conscious or otherwise. And so they cannot win the cooperation (if you will), the volition, of any of his complex impulses.

All of these points, as I'm sure you can see, depend on the identification between Covenant and the ring. Which raises interesting questions for "The Last Chronicles." Now that Linden has the ring, is *she* the white gold? Does it truly *belong* to her as it once did to Covenant? As Spock might have said (deadpan, of course), "Fascinating."

(10/02/2004)

John McCann:  Stephen,

Are you ready for the onslaught of Runes specific questions, once the book is officially published?


How long after publication will you wait to answer such questions? In order to protect the innocent, will you set up a seperate gradual interview for questions about Runes?

Thanks
John
Not a simple question. After all, I don't want to create spoilers for readers who are waiting for the paperback--or who are waiting to begin until the whole story is in print. At the moment, I don't have any answer for you. I'll probably make decisions on a case by case basis--and try to provide spoiler warnings.

(10/02/2004)

Allen Parmenter:  Mister Donaldson, you've stated a few times that you are trying to re-invent yourself as a writer and had been doing so since the Gap. I was a bit puzzled. One of the great joys of being one of your devotees is that you constantly re-invent yourself. The Second Chronicles were practically an inversion of the First. And I remember being shocked in my mid-teen when I read of fire burning wood to ash in "Mordant's Need" without anyone caring. And then came the mighty Gap Cycle - most dear to my heart but quite a real shock to get accustomed to. May I ask what you precisely mean when you speak of re-inventing yourself as a writer? What greater curve do you wish to turn around? Pull the Bard down from his lofty throne?
This is an example of what happens when you (by which I mean, I) use the same words in differing contexts, without clearly explaining how the contexts differ. I see now (good ol' retrospect) that I've used the phrase "re-inventing myself" with more than one meaning.

Of course you're right: within the context of *writing stories* I've always striven to invent myself anew for each story. To create for that story not just a new "voice" (style and tone) and setting, but also a new author (one who is capable of doing different things than he has done previously). But I usually use the phrase "re-inventing myself as a writer" in a different context: within the context of "being a person who writes." In *that* context, "re-inventing myself" refers to things like: when and how I write; how important writing is when compared to other facets of my life; the role writing plays in my image of myself, my identity. And *in* that context, I haven't needed to re-invent myself as often; but when I *do* need to do it, the process is excruciating, and requires long (sometimes very long) periods of time.

I don't want to get particularly personal about this; but I'll give you a quick gloss. Back when I was young and life was simple (although I didn't consider it simple at the time), writing pretty much consumed my identity. I never said, "I am a person who writes": I said, "I am a writer." But then I had children, and an extraordinarily messy and corrupt divorce; and I decided then that as long as they needed me my children would always come first. So, arduously, I learned to say, "I am a father first and a writer second." But (sparing you all the details) this didn't actually work (because being a father is not an "acitivity": it's something you have to do with your heart), so eventually I learned to say, "I am a person who is primarily devoted to his children, and who also writes." But that also caused problems because I didn't know *how* to write without letting writing take over my (new) identity. So first writing became very difficult: then it became impossible: then it became very difficult again. And now that my children hardly ever need me anymore, the time has come to re-invent myself *again*: now it is appropriate for me to be able to say, "I am a person who writes, and who is also devoted to the people he loves." Which is turn causes a whole new range of problems.

There. A long answer to what could have been a fairly straight-forward question.




(10/03/2004)

Michael:  Steve,
Forgive me if something along the same lines has been broached previously,and that this is fairly lengthy.

I'm intrigued by the fact that you got into Martial Arts at a relatively mature age, and I was wondering whether martial arts philosophy, such as the Japanese concept of *zanshin*, intrigues you as much as I?

You have said that you are aware of your obvious physical limitations that come with age, but that you make up for this by employing guile and cunning, particularly when sparring. In the past I’ve had to do much the same myself (and I’m 25 years younger than you), so how do you think you would cope if you had to give up altogether through injury?

My (admittedly limited) experience with Shotokan is that it’s pretty conservative in implementing changes to some exercises that sports science has proven in recent times to be bad for practitioners. Has this been your view?

Thanks very much

Michael
I've expressed my views on most of the issues you raise in my essay, "The Aging Student of the Martial Arts," which you can download from this site; so I won't repeat them here. I'll just say that every style has some stupid teachers. And accidents can happen anywhere. But at its core, Shotokan is *good* for the human body. (Some highly effective martial arts are not.) It uses the muscles and the joints in ways that protect them from injury and prolong their usefulness. So I make a point of supplying for myself the intelligence in training that my teachers sometimes lack; and of course I only train with teachers who allow me the latitude to make my own decisions. (It helps that my current sensei is only half my age, has already suffered several life-altering injuries, and now knows how stupid he's been in his own training.) I listen in horror to martial arts students who describe *with pride* how crippled their senseis are, or how many injuries they themselves have suffered. I just wish they would all get out of the gene pool before they breed. <grin>

(10/03/2004)

Sean Casey:  Stephen, for me, the Gap series is far and away the best thing you've done, as well as my favourite series of books - and I usually prefer fantasy to SF. It's the intensity that makes it such a satisfying read - the characterisation, the writing, the plot.

It's plot I want to ask you about. Having recently reread the first Chronicles, I've been thinking about how different the plotting is between that and the Gap. (Quite a *gap*, in fact, ho ho.) Thomas is the lead character exploring a world he doesn't know, and quite often the plot twists take the form of convenient coincidences that neither he nor the reader could know about in advance. Eg, meeting Saltheart, being healed by the Unfettered One, being rescued by the Jheherrin. In the Gap series, being an ensemble piece, the plot threads are much more interwoven, one character's surprise is another's plan or accident. This was one of the most enjoyable things about the Gap.

The question (finally) is this: What are your opinions on these different styles of plot? Do you have a preference? I suppose the latter is much more difficult to create. And would it be fair to assume that the Last Chronicles will continue in the vein of the former?

Thanks.
Yes, "The Last Chronicles" will remain consistent with the paradigms of the previous "Covenant" stories. And yes, the narrative structure of the GAP book is much more difficult to create (if you play fair with it, as many writers do not) than that of "Covenant".

I'm very proud of what I accomplished in the GAP books. But the narrative approach of the "Covenant" books comes far more naturally to me. And it is inherently more congenial to my long-term story-telling goals. I always aspire to create for the reader the experience of actually being *in* the story; and this is more readily accomplished through immersion in a single POV. (Which is why so much of "Forbidden Knowledge" is from Morn's POV. She is the story's perceptual "anchor." However, it's also true to a significant extent that being *in* the story of the GAP books means sharing the confusion and the struggle to understand of the characters. Hence the narrative methodology of multiple POVs.) After all, in life each of us is restricted to a single POV: I (and you) can only experience the world and other people through my (and your) own unique sensorium. Why should art not imitate life? Especially when I have so many world-building issues to deal with (as discussed earlier in this interview).

(10/03/2004)

Donna Seagrave:  First a comment. At the the Bubonicon event you made light of comparisons to you and Tolkien. Just wanted you to know that I read you first, and if it hadn't been for your writings, I never would have read Tolkien.
Question: I know you have written many mysterys under another name and I would like to read them, but don't know that other name. What is it?
Everything that I've ever published is listed in the "publications" section of this site. Unless I've forgotten something. <sigh>

(10/03/2004)

Joey:  Any chance we can get more of your essays and speeches posted? Kind of to tide us over until Runes? :)
This site now has a substantial body of "structured interviews" and download-able essays. And more will be added--especially when I'm allowed to use the *many* essays I've written for use in promoting "The Runes of the Earth". (I hope I don't need to explain that I do *not* write "promotional essays." I write essays on what I hope are "points of general interest," and these essays are then used by other people for promotional purposes.)

(10/03/2004)

John McCann:  Thank you for taking the time to answer my previous questions. In reading today's answers. I saw for the second time in this interview the second chronicles was supposed to be 4 books.

The titles of books, particularly those in a series, have always been fascinating to me. Do you happen to remember original titles or working titles of the four books?

Thanks again, John
This question keeps coming up. My webmaster and I are working on a way to organize the "gradual interview" so that readers can more easily find out if their questions have already been answered. Until then: sorry, no, I don't remember. I *think* (but I could be wrong) they were all one word titles. One definitely was "Sunbane." Another may have been "Seaquest." Other than that, I'm drawing a blank.

(10/03/2004)

Michelle:  Are any of your books currently available in audio format?

If so, could you please let me know how to purchase.

Thank you very much

Michelle
"The Runes of the Earth" (on 22 CDs) is currently available for pre-order from Amazon.com. None of my other books exist in an audio form at present. "The Real Story" and "Forbidden Knowledge" were once available, viciously abridged, on audio cassetts (2 per book), but those disappeared from the market over a decade ago.

(10/07/2004)

Eric:  Steve,

Thank you for returning us, your readers, to The Land one more time. I remember reading both series in college for the first time, and reading them every other year since then. To get to my point, I was wondering what your thoughts are in regards to Thomas Covenants leprosy, in the sense that he almost needed that affliction, both in the physical and spiritual sense, to be able to deal with the evil that Lord Foul repesented. Does that leprosy represent a sort of inner corruption within Covenant that he had to accept and overcome to be able to deal with Lord Foul? Thank you sir, Eric
This is both simple and complicated. On an external level, Covenant's leprosy is both the mechanism for and the symbol of his alienation from any sustaining form of human community (marriage, children, friends, etc.). This brings his inner Despiser to the fore. In a manner of speaking, it makes him a fertile field for what Lord Foul wants to plant. (What saves him--to extend the metaphor--is that the Land and its people can also plant in that field.) And as such, of course, it *is* something that he has to deal with in order to deal with Lord Foul. But "accept and overcome"? Ah, that's where it gets complicated. Covenant is on a spiritual journey--and it ain't over yet. To say that he "overcomes" his "inner corruption" in order to deal with Lord Foul would be accurate enough for the first trilogy. But at that point he is still a long way from accepting that inner corruption. Naturally he makes progress in the second trilogy. There he discovers the power that can be found in ceasing to try to overcome. (We're getting pretty Zen here, I admit.) But if that were the whole story, I wouldn't need to write "The Last Chronicles."

(10/09/2004)

Peter B.:  My apolgies if this question would be better aimed at the WebMaster but is there any chance that "Stephen R Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" by W.A. Senior and "Realms of Fantasy" by Malcolm Edwards/Robert Holdstock could be added to the list of publications on your website? As you are aware, the former is a scholarly exploration of your Covenant books including two author interviews while the latter devotes a section to your Chronicles novels, and also includes an interview with you. The artist renderings in Realms are wonderful.

I would just hate to have admirers of your work miss out on these titles.
Unfortunately, there are copyright problems. I've already posted some portions of Senior's book (with his express permission, of course). Permission to make use of material from "Realms of Fantasy" would be more difficult to obtain, since that is a "for profit" book while Senior's work is an academic publication for which profit was never an option.

(10/09/2004)

Kevin:  Mr. Donaldson,

I've been a big fan since 1981, when, during my freshman college year, I had to get to the bottom of the "Landwaster" thing I kept getting from people. I might have never discovered your books if you had gone with 'Andrew Landwaster' - for that, but much more as well - thank you.

I cannot help but notice that the Mordant's Need series is a bit more "spicey" than your other works that I have read. Poor Terisa seems to have frequent trouble with torn or missing clothing, her breasts are mentioned in almost every chapter, etc.

Not that I didn't find it enjoyable! But this inquiring mind wants to know: what were the details behind this choice?
"Mordant's Need" is more explicitly *about* gender roles and stereotypes than my other stories. Terisa Morgan begins the story with such a frail sense of her own identity that she makes Linden Avery at the beginning of "The Wounded Land" look fully self-actualized. And Mordant itself is gripped by rigid gender stereotypes: the kind of male-dominated quasi-medieval society that we so often find in mediocre fantasy novel. Well, the subsequent story describes how Terisa discovers her own reality as both a person and a woman *while* the culture of Mordant undergoes a profound redefinition of gender roles, predominently as that pertains to the permissable/available roles for women. King Joyse (get it?) sets in motion events which eventually enable his daughters, his wife, and Terisa herself to assume unexpected roles which transform their society.

In other words, "Mordant's Need" is about sex. Specifically it's about how the treatment of women as mere sexual objects breaks down in a society which is in danger of breaking down itself under pressures both external and internal; and about how the breaking down of the treatment of women as mere sexual objects actually enables their society to be both transformed and saved. So naturally the evidence that women are being treated as mere sexual objects is fairly overt.

In addition, these issues also touch on the "rape" theme which is so prevalent in my writing. But "Mordant's Need" is--as I intended it to be--a *gentler* story than my usual work; and so "the evidence that women are being treated as mere sexual objects," while overt, is seldom violent. Hence your observation that the story is more "spicey" than others I've written

(10/10/2004)

Thomas Griffin:  Mr. Donaldson,

I would like to thank you for the outstanding series of books you have written. I may be in the minority here, but I actually enjoyed the Gap series more than the Covenant series. I am shocked to hear that they did not sell well, but looking at what passes for entertainment these days, it isn't that surprising.

In reading "The Killing Stroke" I noticed a similarity (in spirit, at least) to a story by Harlan Ellison called "In Fear of K." Have you read it, and if so, do you agree? I consider you to be the two finest imaginative fiction writers ever.
Sorry, I've never read "In Fear of K."

(10/10/2004)

Drew Bittner:  Mr. Donaldson,
First off, THANK YOU!
At World Fantasy last November, I asked you if you'd consider writing more Covenant... and now I'm reviewing Runes for a website. This is so darn cool.
You may have answered this already, but: what led you to write mysteries?
I've known several writers to cross from fantasy to sf to horror, but mysteries (like romances) seem like foreign territory in genre terms.
Thanks!
Drew
It is said of James Fennimore Cooper that he started writing novels because he was fed up with what he was reading and thought he could do better. Where my mystery novels are concerned, the same could probably be said of me.

I read a lot of mystery novels during my "formative years" (because missionaries read a lot of mystery novels, so the books were readily available). But the more I read them, the more dissatisfied I became. It seemed to me that the writers either cheated (e.g. by withholding crucial information from the reader) or lied (e.g. by relying on the absurd assumption that every human being is equally capable of every crime). I wanted something better. Specifically, I wanted mysteries where the real mystery lay in the heart of the "detective": I wanted mysteries where the "detective" was personally at risk in the attempt to "solve" the crime, and was personally changed by the "solution" to the crime.

Which is not, apparently, what mystery readers want. Hence the consistently disappointing sales of "The Man Who..." books.

(10/10/2004)

Michael:  Mr. Donaldson,

I've read and re-read The Man Who Fought Alone many times recently. It has kindled a keen interest in the martial arts for me. How does one discover which of the martial arts is a good fit? There are so many. You had mentioned soft and hard styles. I have been a drug-free bodybuilder for many years and I am very disciplined; I would like to attempt one of the martial arts. How do I discover if the local sensei knows his stuff?

At any rate, my wife and I are overjoyed with a return to The Land. We'll do our level best and have all of our friends by copies of 'Runes' so your children can make it through college easily <grin>; and since you're going to live forever, you might as well have enough money to enjoy eternity.

Many thanks,
Michael Dalton

P.S. I'd never thought about Angus's last name before--The three-hundred Greeks holding their own against the countless Persians at Thermopyle--Brilliant, sir.

This is complicated. You don't just need an instructor who knows his/her stuff. (And in any case that's difficult to know unless you already know the stuff yourself.) You need a style that suits you--and that is taught in a style that suits you.

The first thing to keep in mind is that there are no good (or bad) martial arts: there are only good (or bad) martial artists. Then I think the place to start is by visiting schools and observing classes. Do you like what you see in the instructor? Do you like what you see in the comportment of the students? Do you like the level of discipline and formality? And while you're observing, ask yourself if the *method* of teaching appeals to you. Some people learn best by seeing how it's done, some by hearing how it's done (explanation), some by feeling how it's done (hands-on adjustment of the student's body by the teacher). Naturally, different instructors emphasize different methods. Then ask yourself if what is being taught suits your body and personality. Just as an example: some styles are intensely gymnastic, and others involve lots of falling, neither of which my old joints can tolerate; while soft (circular) styles suit my personal needs less than hard (ballistic) styles.

Along the way, I think there are some danger signs to watch out for. If the instructor won't *let* you observe, forget it. If the school requires a long-term commitment (3 months or more) up front, forget it: you should be allowed an inexpensive trial period. If the school asserts (in any form) that its style is "best" and all others are inferior, forget it.

Does that help?

(10/12/2004)

Pierre Nunns:  Firstly Stephen, many thanks for your work over the years. You would be well seated at my "Dinner table of notary people" along with Spielberg, Ghandi, Kennedy et al. My question goes to the discipline and passion of writing. You appear to take great care and craft to choose the exact phrase and wording. This is not work you can necessarily rush. Do you consider yourself a disciplined writer in the sense that you devote dedicated blocks of time to writing, or are you an inspiration-driven writer? If the latter, how do you maintain the momentum to get through such solid bodies of work? Make sure you get out to Melbourne Australia sometime. Can't guarantee you Spielberg, and Ghandi is otherwise occupied, but we are good for a home-cooked dinner! Best of luck enduring the book tour.
I believe I've answered this question before--and when my webmaster and I finally get this interview organized, you'll be able to find such things much more easily. For now....

I'm definitely a disciplined, plug-away-at-it-every-day writer. In fact, I'm that kind of person. As far as I'm concerned, steady incremental progress, however small, always beats out the inspirational rush. Indeed, steady incremental progress often summons inspiration: the inspirational rush never summons steady progress.

(10/12/2004)

Nathan:  Most of the questions you answer seem to be about the Covenant books, so I'll offer you a little variety.
When Nick Succorso died on the bridge of Gutbuster/Soar I was so disappointed that he never got his revenge on Sorus, his whole life had built up to that moment and he'd lost everything else. My question is: do you think Nick Succorso deserved to die without exacting revenge for the scarring (and the humiliation that went with it) that turned his life into a long, bitter struggle?
I'd probably agree that he deserved to die, but not the way he did.
By the way, thanks for some really great stories, especially The Gap, The Killing Stroke and By any other name.
I have a vivid memory of having already answered this exact question. But if I did, I find no record of it. Perhaps I dreamed it....

Your reactions are your own, of course; and inherently valid by definition. Speaking purely for myself, however, I can't share your disappointment. Here's how I look at it. Sorus Chatelaine is a rather scuzzy character who toward the end of "Chaos and Order" discovers in herself the capacity, even the necessity, to care about something larger than herself; and then to take action in support of that larger "something." Nick Succorso, on the other hand, reveals no such capacity, even though he has four books in which to do so (Sorus only gets two). Indeed, he seems oblivious to the concept that ANYthing might be larger than himself. So who would I root for? Sorus, no question.

Or you might look at it this way: Nick exacts his revenge on Sorus; therefore she never gets the chance to fight for Trumpet; therefore Trumpet can't escape the asteroids; therefore the whole story goes down in flames. There is, I like to think, a profound--and profoundly necessary--inevitability to Nick's demise.

(10/12/2004)

Brian:  Every reader, unless they regularly mind-meld, makes every story "his own." If it is a well-told tale, it becomes an integral part of a person's inner mythology with unspeakable value to that reader alone.
If anyone ever makes a Chronicles movie, I will refuse to see it. It would defile my own visualization of The Land and its peoples. Another's imagination is theirs alone and for that reason, does not suffice for me. The Land has touched me too deeply on a personal level, and to render it in another's vision would be a loss I choose not to bear.
I will cherish forever your gift to me.

That's sort of how I feel. But nothing is ever simple. I enjoyed the LOTR movies even though they left out or distorted much of what I treasure in the books. Perhaps it's simply a case of not having unrealistic expectations. Movies being movies, and Hollywood being Hollywood, I expected the LOTR movies to be far worse than they actually were. Maybe that's why I was able to enjoy them.

(10/12/2004)

Paul Beachem:  Mr. Donaldson,

First off, thank you for being so engaging with your reading public. I think I speak for everyone when I say that this Q&A is a blessing.

My question is about writing. I enjoy writing in a manner that is reciprocal to real life events. I have always enjoyed an allegorical approach as the key to creating an interesting plotline, a deep and emotionally engaging character, or a compelling tale because it speaks directly to our primal motivations. Allegory is about critical thinking and can be a helpful tool in showing the possibilities inherant within us.

As an example of what I would call a fantastic use of allegory, I offer up my viewpoint on 'Reave the Just' (please forgive me).

Reave is the good in men. He is strait forward and is iconographically filled with hope. He is honest. His decency is empowering and known throughout his land and beyond. Divestulata is the depairing counterpoint to Reave. He is manipulative, without honor, and believes in only the basest of man's possibilities. He supports the worst in society to the very end.

I find that these two characters are not the main characters, but the embodyment of society's possibilities. The focii of the tale are Jillet and Huchette. Jillet is the common and immature man without a real purpose in life. Huchette, though uncommonly beautiful, has no uncommon direction about her... she has resigned herself to fate. Jillet & Huchette have succumed to despair. They do not believe in themselves enough to even TRY and accomplish thier goals. It takes Reave (the embodyment of purpose) to show them what purpose is, but in the end Reave and Divestulata are no more than just men. Neither are endowed with anything more powerful than certainty in one case and doubt in the other.

Allegorically, this could be a tale about the nature of being human. We are Jillet and Huchette. The goods and the bads of the world are in fact Reave and Divestulata. The final outcome of this tale is really about overcoming a societal presure towards mediocrity. I find 'Reave the Just' to be about real men's motivations behind their real life hows & whys. What does a human being do when confronted with something they want or do not want? In what way does society's influences (Reave & Divestulata) affect that person?

So, I suppose my question is about intentions and goals. When the image of a story begins to solidify in your mind, do you bring to bare some sort of morality issue that has relevance to the everyday man... something identifiable metaphorically or allegorically? Is the telling of tales a simple joy? Something that is strictly about entertainment... or should writting have a NEED to incorporate a dose of 'lesson' and 'moral'? Should literature be about 'setting up' the reader for a lesson? Sometimes I believe that this would be too agenda-like and contrary to the creation of a legitamately classic tale. Is a moral agenda (cloked in allegory) a legitimate source for decent story telling or does it suffer from becoming period literature?

I acknowledge that Im looking for pointers and my hope is that you have the time for a little direction.

Thank you for your time and thank you for the new chronicles.

Paul Beachem
You can read in any way that suits you. Your approach--being yours--is inherently valid for you. And I certainly wouldn't argue with your interpretation of "Reave the Just." As I like to say, any good story is about "what it means to be human."

But in technical literary terms, "allegory" is not "about critical thinking". It is about polemics, and as such it discourages critical thinking. In allegory, x equals y, x *only* equals y, and x has no real value except for the fact that it equals y. Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" is the quintessential exemplar, but Spenser's "Faerie Queene" also fits, as do Lewis' "Narnia" books. At the opposite extreme, in symbolism x equals both y and z, but also a, c, e, and several other letters, depending on a whole host of factors, including the context of the story and the perspective of the reader. And in symbolism, all of those other letters are entirely dependent for their meaning on the concrete, separate, and valuable reality of x. Therefore symbolism encourages critical thinking, while allegory rejects it.

Well, as I've said often in this interview, I am NOT a polemicist. I'm a story-teller. And for a story-teller, if the proposition that "x equals x AND ONLY x" isn't good enough, then the story isn't worth telling.

Now, as it happens, I believe that the numinous possibilities of symbolism can only by achieved by working from the proposition that "x equals x and only x." But I don't concern myself with y, z, a, c, e, or any other possibilities: I concern myself with x and let everything else take care of itself. Before I wrote "Reave the Just," I didn't give a moment's thought to how the story might be interpreted. Instead I thought about: Are Jillet, Reave, the widow Huchette, and Kelven real to me? Is what's happening to them important to them? Do they need these events to happen to them? And, Do they care about what's happening to them so urgently that they all engage my empathy?

You're the reader: interpretation is your job, not mine.

Of course--and I hope this goes without saying--every writer is different. What works for one fails miserably for another. But speaking purely for myself, the more allegorical and polemical a story is, the less it interests me.

(10/12/2004)

Mel S. Hutson:  Thanks for utilizing this forum. I’m a 35 YO attorney in Atlanta. I read almost all of your books in my teens – the Covenant series several times – but, alas, all but one of my copies of your books were destroyed in May 1995 (my last day of law school) in New Orleans due to a flood. (Cue the mocking laughter of Lord Foul!)

I thought I’d “outgrown” scifi/fantasy but I recently pulled my last copy of Lord Foul’s Bane off the shelf and, courtesy of the local library, reread the entire series in two weeks. Terrific stuff! Can’t wait for your new book! Guess I haven't "outgrown" the genre after all.

To the point: Do you worry that what happened to the music industry will happen to the book industry? That is, anyone can steal any song off Kazaa for free. Anyone can copy a book and turn it into a PDF file and “share” it with the rest of the world. Will people in the near future stop buying books and read free digital copies instead? Is that more likely to happen for fantasy books since their readers tend to be computer-savvy?
No, I don't worry about it. The extent to which something is made available illegally is a direct reflection of its commercial popularity. Think drugs--no, wait a minute, think popular music. All of those songs wouldn't be stolen if the same songs weren't already generating pots of money for their performers and recording companies. And certainly the only books of mine which have ever been "bootlegged" on the web are the six "Covenant" books--which just happen to be my only books that ever generated pots of money. In my professional guise as a published author, I frown disapprovingly. But as a private person who has to live off the income from his books, I don't worry for a second.

I mean, come on! Who would BOTHER to scan and post the entire "Wheel of Time" just for the thrill of making those books even more widely available? (After all, copying and posting a song off a CD is a hell of a lot easier than scanning and prepping a book.) And at the opposite end of the spectrum, I suspect that Patricia A. McKillip's readers respect her too much to steal from her.

(10/12/2004)

Martin Douglas (Revan of KW) :  Alathea... You never mention her after the first Reed Novels... What happens to her? does she recover?
Personally, I believe that she recovered well. She was loved. And she obviously had considerable courage and strength of character. But I pity the poor fool who got in her way when she became an adult. <grin>

(10/12/2004)

Drew Bittner:  Mr D- second question of the month...
Can you describe how you developed the <i>Haruchai</i>? I pictured them as vaguely Polynesian or perhaps Southeast Asian, and wondered if you had any specific image or concept before creating the Bloodguard and their ancestral people.
thanks!!
Drew

PS, I finished reading Runes last night and wrote the review this morning. I give it my highest recommendation.
I imagine it's obvious that I had a vaguely Southeast Asian "type" in mind. As I think I explained much earlier in this interview, when I planned the first "Covenant" trilogy I concentrated on "roles" rather than on "characters": I knew what, say, Giants or Bloodguard or Ramen were going to do, but I didn't necessarily know what they were like; I discovered their character(s) as I wrote. (Incidentally, as I've also explained, I no longer work that way.) Well, when all you have is a "role," sometimes you need more to help you discover the "character." And at that time (the early 70's), I had the vague--if false--idea that martial arts existed as a Southeast Asian phenomenon. So I started there.

I'm glad you liked "Runes"!

(10/12/2004)

Ash Quadir:  Steven,

Why did you make the relationship between Elena more than a “father-and-daughter” relationship? Elena kissed Covenant on the lips several times (the first time in Glimmermere); this felt “icky”. I know somebody who was turned off by this and did not finish the book. What kind of reactions did you get from this unorthodox relationship? (And I know Elena explained that she felt Triock was her father, but still…)

Another question, have you ever been offered to do a short story for Legends the very successful Fantasy anthology edited by Robert Silverberg? If so, would you do a Thomas Covenant story? (Perhaps a story about Kevin, Berek, Dameleon, etc? Or even a prequel?)

Finally, you wrote that you excised several hundred pages from the Illearth war by removing the chapter about Korik, Shetra, Hyrim’s mission to Seareach and putting it in Gildenfire and that you pared down your prose. You said that the original version of the Illearth War was over 900 manuscript pages, but the final book in paperback is a little over 500 pages. That’s a lot of cutting. Is a “manuscript page” equivalent to a “book page”? Did you remove other chapters or “chunks” of story besides the Gildenfire chapter and prose paring? Will we ever see a full and complete version of the Illearth War?

Thanks for writing such great books!

- Ash Quadir
Briefly:

Yes, Elena's incestuous feelings for Covenant were deliberate on my part. I thought when I wrote "The Illearth War", and still believe, that such ill-conceived attraction/hero worship both dramatized her essential imbalance and foreshadowed her tragic misunderstanding of Kevin. Strangely, readers haven't busted my chops about this very often. But Lester del Rey hated it. I had to tone it down quite a bit before he would publish the book. In retrospect, I think he was right: I did overdo it originally.

Silverberg approached me for a "Legends" story. I turned him down.

"Gilden-Fire" is the only coherent chunk of story that I've ever cut out of a book completely. All of my other cuts have been "pruning" or "re-envisioning" or "rephrasing." And I don't regret any of them, so there's no chance that they will ever be retrieved from my wastebasket.

A manuscript page is probably never equivalent to a book page. Publishers use smaller type and put more lines on a page.

(10/12/2004)

Cat Palmer:  I wake up in dreams of Orison.
Would you consider letting me make it into a film?
This demon of desire will not let me go.

Cat
Sure, you can make a film out of "Mordant's Need." All you need is mountains of money, thousands of contacts, a lot of know-how--and the movie rights. If you want to acquire the rights, the contact information for my agent is posted on this site

(10/12/2004)

Mark Shaw:  You once signed one of your books for a pal of mine whilst on tour in England, and made a joke.

' I'm your biggest fan ' he said

' I've seen taller ' you replied....which I found quite funny.

Is this a standard author/booksigning joke you use often, just waiting for the feeder line ? Do you have any others you can share ? I imagine touring a book must be the worst aspect of your work - how do you cope with it ?
Boy, I must have been tired that day. I usually try not to tease people who are being very earnest, and who might take a little humor the wrong way.

No, I don't have any standard jokes for booksignings. That one was definitely "off the cuff." I'm afraid I don't cope with book tours very well. I usually go into what I call "survival mode": a state of emotional lockdown in which I function like a machine. Which is reasonable, I suppose, since the entire process treats me like a piece of equipment instead of a person.

(10/13/2004)

Patrick:  
Thank you so much for bringing Thomas to us, then,and now. If a movie is ever made of the series, I hope Tom Cruise would get the starring role, I think he would be perfect for it,but,thats another topic in itself. At any rate, my question is, will any part of your Book-signing tour be in Pennsylvania ? I looked through the listed dates,and there was nothing listed there,and, how do you feel now that you have "returned to the land" again ?

Thank You again,I can hardly wait for Runes... :)


Patrick
How do I feel now that I've returned to the Land? At the moment, beleaguered. The book tours are about to start; I think I've made it pretty obvious that I dread such experiences; and this whole year has been filled with trying to meet other people's demands instead of doing my own writing (which is, after all, the reason those other demands exist).

In other ways, writing is always a teeter-totter between anxiety and excitement for me. So far "The Last Chronicles" has been no different.

Incidentally, authors don't choose where they go on book tours (although their suggestions are occasionally solicited, and if they get pushy they are occasionally accomodated). Publishers make those decisions based on a number of factors, the largest of which is probably "budget": how many places can we send so-and-so with the amount of money we have available? (Remember that cheap plane fares are rarely available for such hither-and-yon trips.)

(10/13/2004)

Stuart Gandy:  First of all, thank you for vastly expanding my vocabulary, and thank you for having such an open dialogue with your readers (Shakespeare hasn't answered ANY of his fan mail...). I have been salivating since I first heard about Runes, ten years is going to be a helluva wait to see how it ends, but I know it'll be worth it.

My question is, how much do you like to leave up to the reader's imagination? I've noticed that the visual descriptions tend to be allegorical rather than describing physical detail.

Cheers for your time, keep up the good work and be good.
Well, I wouldn't have used the word "allegorical" (for reasons explained in my answer to a recent question). I would say that my visual descriptions tend to be "emotional" rather than physically specific. Although there are of course plenty of exceptions, especially in regard to terrain. I'm not a particularly visual person to begin with, while I am an intensely emotional person. So I often care more about what a character, place, thing, or scene *feels* like than what it *looks* like.

The hard part, naturally, is to offer a description which inspires both a visual and an emotional image for the reader. That takes some doing, and I wish I succeeded at it more often.

(10/13/2004)

KE8:  In response to a question about why Seadreamer was unable to write down the information he possessed, you wrote:

"Is there anything in the "Covenant" books to suggest that the Giants possess a written language? Surely one of the long-term side-effects of writing things down is that people then talk less; tell stories aloud less. But I see no evidence that the Giants talk less than they once did. So why would they *need* a written language?"

I would answer that yes there is: maps. I find it difficult to picture an effective map that does not employ some form of written language. Nor can the maps have been written by someone else - since the Giants are said to be explorers, they would have to be cartographers of some kind, which suggests a written language.

And on the subject of Giants, I have a second question, and it’s one that I have often wondered about: why were the Unhomed unable to find their way home? Putting aside the various mythological allusions inherent in a group of lost wanderers, why should it be so difficult for this sea-faring people to find Home? They had literally thousands of years to locate it before the events in the First Chronicles. They must know the general direction in which it is to be found. Is the Earth so huge that such a problem is possible? Was there some kind of curse put on them, unmentioned in the story? Or does this fall under the category of a question for which there is no answer, or no relevance?
We're wandering outside the text here, so this is dangerous ground. But I'm willing to hazard a few observations.

First, there is nothing about being a seafaring people that requires either maps or written language. Polynesian sailors a very long time ago found their way east as far as Pitcairn Island and north as far as Hawaii (vast stretches of ocean)--and returned home--and there is no record that they possessed anything like maps. As far as I've been able to learn, they navigated by an extremely close observation of their surroundings, by expanding their reach in small increments--and by telling the story (sharing knowledge orally).

As for how the Giants could become lost: well, history doesn't record how many Polynesian sailors--or Vikings, for that matter--were lost on their journeys; but the distances they covered successfully, while vast, were small compared to the overall size of the planet and its oceans. And they didn't have to cope with navigational hazards like the Soulbiter. (Even in our mundane world, the Bermuda Triangle demonstrates that "getting lost" can have a wide variety of meanings.) Sure, I know that in the original "Chronicles" references are made to visits to such place as the lands of the Elohim and Bhrathair: places which the later Giants clearly know how to find in "The Second Chronicles." But you might want to consider how completely disorienting it could be to get caught in the Soulbiter, only to emerge a continent or two and several oceans away from familiar seas. Especially keeping in mind that the Unhomed admit how reckless their explorations were. (And we won't even mention how notoriously fickle even mundane oceans and weather can be.)

(10/14/2004)

Joel:  I know the giants did not have need for a written language and as a result Seadreamer could not communicate his vision in that way, however Covenant and Linden did. The giants did have the gift of language, so why didn’t Covenant and Linden attempt to teach him how to read and write English (they had a lot of time on the sea)? Or draw pictures on the deck of the boat? Even charades might have worked, “sounds like… I’m going to die”. Of course I understand that if he had been able to communicate his visions the outcome of the quest would have been changed and most likely it would not have been for the better. Anyway, just curious.
Once again, we're *way* outside the text. If I had written a different story, naturally it would have been, well, different. But remember that Covenant and Linden have a great many other things on their minds. And remember also that they think they already know what the essential content of Seadreamer's visions is. How can they plan a means to discover the answers to questions when they don't know they need to ask those questions? (Reminds me of an ex-wife who used to say, "You should have asked," in situations where I could not possibly have known there was something I needed to ask about.)

(10/14/2004)

John Duff:  Will there be a signed limited editon of Runes of the Earth? If so, who will be publishing it and what is their address or web site.

Thanks
John Duff
Hill House plans a "collector's" edition of "Runes," but they have no publication date that I'm aware of. As for how to get in touch with them, your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps one of the "contacts" posted on this site can help. Or try Google.

(10/14/2004)

Michael Barkowski:  Dear Sir,

As you said, the musicality of your character names and how they describe the essence of the characters really makes a difference, esp. Marc Vestabule, Milos Taverner, Warden Dios, Liette with her wind metaphors, and others you mentioned. It makes for a deeper, more abstract, even more suspenseful reading, almost as if parts of my subconscious are summoned by the names to act out the scenes. I was amazed to hear that you used a dream of words, not images, as the basis of a chapter. I didn't even know it was possible to have a dream of words. Must be a writer thing.

Can you offer any recommendation, even non-fiction, for further exploration of musicality of words as opposed to the imagery of them? By the way, what are some of your favourite character or place names from other authors, or even names of real people?

Your powerful works are a great emotional, spiritual and intellectual blessing, laudable in so many facets, particularly the Gap sequence and the Reave The Just compilation. Keep wrestling!
I'm sorry, but I have no idea how any of this "works." I certainly didn't *learn* it anywhere (except perhaps--pure speculation--by listening to operas, music that tells stories, and being moved by them). And I have no idea where or how you could learn more about it.

If you're particularly interested, however, you might want to take a look at some of the names in M. John Harrison's work. But most writers seem to use names simply as placeholders for particular characters. (Not that there's anything wrong with doing so.)

(10/14/2004)

Robert Watson:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

First of all, thank you for sharing your unique gift with us. It is not hyperbole when I say that you are one of the most gifted storytellers of our time.

I have a litany of questions I could ask you about the “Covenant” books, but I think many of those you have answered in previous questions, and others I could answer myself if I gave it enough thought. I do have one question that has puzzled me for quite a while. I have a copy of “White Gold Wielder” that sits dog-eared on my nightstand. On the cover of this book is a half-handed man with a white-gold ring clutching a wooden staff in one hand, and his arm around a rather resolute looking woman as they gaze out over a vista. Clearly, this is Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery. Also as clear is the fact that this *never* happens in the book. So my question is this: Does the artist who creates the book cover read the book? Who instructs the artist on what to create? Why is this so misleading? Do you, as the author, have any say in what image appears on your work?

Okay, I know in the grand scheme of life, this is pretty trivial, but it has bothered me on a subconscious level for quite some time, and now I have the ability to get the answer from the highest authority.
A general rule of thumb: the author had nothing whatever to with any aspect of the physical design of the book, especially the cover art. 9 times out of 10--or more--the art director for the publisher plans the cover in discussion with the selected artist; and the art director has not read the book. (There's more variety among artists. Some--e.g. Michael Whelan--insist on reading the whole book. Others are happy to simply work with a "concept" provided by the art director. And there have been publishers who do not *allow* the artist to read the book--doubtless because that might raise the cost of the art.)

Exceptions occur--although art directors hate them. When I was at the peak of my career after the publication of "White Gold Wielder," my agent was able to get "cover consultation" written into my contracts for "Daughter of Regals and Other Tales" and "Mordant's Need." Nevertheless "Daughter of Regals" was the only book where I actually got to help choose the cover art. For the two "Mordant's Need" books, the art director shamelessly sabotaged the process (I'll spare you the gory details), leaving me with no effective input at all. And since then I haven't had enough clout to get any real "cover consultation" (although Putnams did *ask* me if I would object to a Whelan cover: I have no idea what they would have done if I had actually objected).

The cool thing about that "White Gold Wielder" cover is that when all of those "Covenant" books are placed side by side, they form a single painting.

(10/14/2004)

Clyde C Rowland:  Will you ever return to Mordant's Need? I have read all the Thomas Covenant novels several times. I'm happy the last Chronicles is finally coming out.
The future is full of uncertainty. At present, however, I have no plans to return to "Mordant's Need." I think the story is finished.

(10/14/2004)

James Reeves:  Hello Mr. Donaldson,

I'm in the process of reading your books (I have almost finished the first chronicles). In reading such a wonderful series, I wondered if you had any tips for my literary exploits? I am and have been working on a fantasy novel. I am no where near publishing time, but wondered if you had any suggestions? Being a first time author, the writing journey is new. . .we will see how it turns out. . .thanks for writing these excellent, inspiring, and imaginitive novels.

JCR
I do have a few generic tips, but I can never remember all of them at the same time. Here are a few.

1) "Anyone who *can* be discouraged from being a writer *should* be discouraged." (Not original; but true nonetheless.)

2) "More things are wrought by stubbornness than this world dreams of." (A shameless paraphrase of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.)

3) "There is only one right way to write--or to become a writer--and that is by figuring it out for yourself." (OK, I made that one up.) Nothing that applies to any other writer is necessarily germane to you.

4) "If you don't apply the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair and actually write, you aren't a writer." (Again, not original: I just rephrased it.)

(10/14/2004)

Theodore Martin:  Stephen,

Your book tour is under way, and this web site states you will be in Portland, OR on October 20th (less than a week away), but not when and where. Would you please update the site with the time and place of your tour on the 20th? I am a fan of your work, I will be in Portland on the 20th, and I would really like to meet you.

Thanks, Theodore Martin
As it happens, the 20th will be a "vacation day," which by then I will badly need.

(10/14/2004)

Darran Handshaw:  Dr. Donaldson,

I have been a great fan of yours for several years now, having started off by reading the Gap Sequence. I realize that you are currently working on the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which I am eagerly awaiting. As much as I liked Mordant's Need and the Covenant series though, I always find myself thinking back to the Gap universe even though I read it about three years ago.

Have you had any ideas in mind for any future novels in the Gap universe? I realize that it would be implausible to create a story of the magnitude of the original series, but have you ever considered doing a followup book or two? Or maybe even a prequel about a character or two? If not, maybe it could be a thought.

I for one would be interested in seeing the entire story between Sorus and Nick followed by how he gained Captain's Fancy. Or maybe what happened to Angus after the last book.. or even Morn Hyland? Just a few thoughts.. thanks.

-Darran
As I just said about "Mordant's Need," the future is full of uncertainty. However, I have no plans to write anything more in the GAP "universe." I'm aware that the present books are full of potential material for subsequent books. But I have no ideas; and without ideas I can't write.

To that let me just add that I'll never do anything that might be called a "prequel." If you wonder why, just look at Lucas' three prequel films to the original "Star Wars" trilogy. The prequels are, inevitably, boring because (among other reasons) we already know how the story is going to turn out.

(10/14/2004)

Alan:  Hello Stephen,
I was disappointed in the LOTR filems because they have to miss so much out from the book. If a set of movies is made of TC I fear too that much will be left out. Will you have any direct say in what should or should not be in a movie.

cheers

Alan :-)
I've said this before, but I'll say it again. If a "Covenant" film ever appears, I will have had no influence at all on any aspect of the process or the finished product. Nor would I want any. I write books: what do I know about making movies? And life is too short to spend it worrying about anything other than my own life and writing.

(10/14/2004)

Drew Bittner:  Mr. Donaldson,
Question: I'm reading Erikson's "Gardens of the Moon" and am wondering if you've read any of the other Malazan titles yet? From an Amazon search, it seems there are at least seven in the series to date, though only the first seems to have been released through a US publisher.
thanks!
Drew
I've read all of the Malazan books which have been released in the UK. (One of the advantages of knowing both the author and his editor.) Erikson is an amazing writer.

(10/14/2004)

Debbie:  How can I get an autographed copy of the book when it is released? My husband is a HUGE fan and I would love to give it to him as a gift.
There are several ways to go about this. 1) Find a bookstore that has autographed books in stock (there will be a *lot* of them out there). 2) Attend one of my (admittedly sparse) book tour signings. 3) Contact me through my agent (on the "contacts" page of this site) with your s-mail address and how you want the autograph done (e.g. what's your husband's name?), and I'll send you a self-sticking autographed bookplate which you can then place in the book of your choice.

(10/14/2004)

Steve:  Mr Donaldson
I was very pleasantly surprised to find the 'Gradual Interview'. As has been remarked on elsewhere, it's very unusual to find an author willing to make such an on-going commitment.
At the risk of upsetting a few people, it might be better if anyone wanting to post a question had a quick read through the archives.....
Anyway, the subject of book jacket artwork seems to crop up regularly. I personally loved the more 'abstract' approach taken by Peter Goodfellow on the early UK editions as compared to the more 'literal' or 'figurative' treatments from Sweet and Whelan (although I'm a big fan of the latters work). Any views on this?
On the subject of short stories...'Unworthy of the Angel', doesn't seem to elicit the same level of discussion as some of your other stories - no comment, just loved it and re-read it regularly.
Thanks.
by the way, with the certain knowledge that you have a number of years of hard work ahead of you if we are to reach the end of the 'Chronicles', take care when crossing roads.......
I also loved what I would call Goodfellow's "symbolic" cover art for the original UK paperbacks. Whelan--a terrific artist--also does "symbolic" cover art, but his paintings come closer to being "literal" than Goodfellow's did. Entirely as a matter of personal taste, I prefer the symbolic approach--and the more symbolic the better. Thus I'm particularly pleased with the Orion/Gollancz cover for "The Runes of the Earth." And I'm also very happy with what Tor/Forge has done for my mystery novels. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I hated Sweet's Ballantine/DEL REY covers. Indeed, his "The One Tree" nearly reduced me to tears of pain and frustration.

(10/14/2004)

Dennis Hawthorne:  Hello Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you for granting your readers this interview, and even more so for your literary contribution to the sci-fi/fantasy genre.

I fudged up a half-dozen or so mock questions to ask that would give me an excuse for dumping some praise on you (stopping short of whether Covenant was a Levi's or a Wrangler man). But then I remembered I already had a little one that comes up every time I re-read the Second Chronicles:

Is there someone else to whom you can attribute (paraphrasing here) ["How do you hurt a man who has lost everything? Give him back something broken"]? This smacks of a *great* quote - one that you'd imagine someone would've already come up with during a few thousand years of written history and would have had the presence of mind to jot down somewhere. When I Google some permutations of it, however, all I find are "Donaldson", "Covenant", and uncredited uses of it. Is this truly original? If so, please feel free to add "way cool quote-master" to your already-impressive resume!

Sincerely,
Dennis Hawthorne

P.S., you might like this: whenever I read a terrible book, your short stories are among those I sometimes read afterward to get the "bad taste out of my brain" - so thanks doubly for Reave the Just, which I've happily added to my collection of Bad Fiction Balms.
Well, if it's such a great quote, then I must have stolen it. <grin> In fact, I actually thought that I made it up (an extension of the very familiar idea that there's no way to hurt someone who has already lost everything). If I *did* (unconsciously) steal it, I hope that the original author will accept both my regrets and my respect.

(10/14/2004)

Mike White:  Hi Mr Donaldson,

Just finished reading the "Gap" series of books again. I'm afraid I just don't get it (relating to poor sales, that is ). I feel like camping in Waterstones booksellers and forcing anyone that comes near to buy all five at once!

This series of books is quite simply the best you've ever written. Period. How in the name of God you can "get your head around" such a series of well-rounded characters is simply beyond me - it must have surely nearly driven you completely to despir! (Perhaps the redemption of certain characters helped you out there!)

I'd go as far to say it's the best work of fiction I've ever read. Quite superb.

I appreciate that at thie moment of time you're probably feeeling, shall we say, a little less "sane" than usual - pre major book launch - and the anxiety that must produce - and your keeness to "get on" with the next book - despite everyone else (publishers etc) seeming to get in the way!

So - and here's the question <phew> how in the name of God DO you stay calm??

PS you referred once to ensuring your characters retained their dignity -as you were the only "God" they had. For the same reason I'm not in the slightest concerned about the success of the "The Last Chronicles". In the words of a true Liverpudlian - they are "gonna be mega mate"!

PPS Which, is apparently a VERY good thing!
I think I've answered this already; but I no longer trust my memory. So the short answer is: I *don't* stay calm. (Do any of my books look to you like they were written by a man who knows how to stay calm?) Even written interviews and (comparatively) short promotional essays make me climb the walls. But when they actually happen, I cope with things like in-person interviews and book tours by going into what I call "survival mode": I shut down my emotional life and become the moral equivalent of a machine. This has the *huge* short-term benefit of making me *appear* calm in public. But the long-term costs are high. In effect, I have to experience all of the emotional impacts of interviews or tour events after the fact. And the longer I've been in survival mode, the more intense those impacts are.

(10/14/2004)

KE8:  I’m rather curious about Covenants decision to make a new Staff of Law. While in the abstract it sounds like a good idea (as the destruction of the first staff was the cause of the Sunbane) I don’t see how it could ever have been made to work, practically speaking. For one thing, who could wield it? There are no more Lords (Covenant doesn’t count) and there is no one left in the land at the time of the Second Chronicles who has the Lore required to actually make use of the Staff, barring Foul himself. Linden would not be able to make use of a Staff akin to the old one simply by health sense alone. Sunder (possibly) might be able to use it, but only after years of study, which they clearly didn’t have. It cannot be doubted that it would take a huge amount of knowledge and power to use it - it is said in “Lord Foul’s Bane” that Drool can only wield it because Foul taught him some of its uses. And yet Covenant not only wants to make one, he believes it can be used for things such as sending Linden back to our world, surely a very complex spell.
And second, how was one to be made? The Staff wasn’t just some piece of wood hacked off the One Tree, I presume. Almost certainly it had to be fashioned in the proper manner, and the old staff had runes on it that I imagine meant something, of which nobody alive in the SC knew what they were. Again, with the dearth of Lore in the Land at this time, who would have had the skill to create a New Staff? It seems to me that asking some questions along these lines of the Elohim would have been appropriate, since they would be in a position to know, but it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone. Its a bit like a nuke - even if you found a glop of uranium somewhere, you aren’t going to be able to make a bomb out of it, and if all the scientists that could make one are dead, you are pretty much out of luck

It appears to me that you're making a number of assumptions that don't sit well with me. Of course, there is no earthly reason why your view of what you read should agree with mine. But just for the sake of discussion....

1) In the Land, there is always an inherent relationship between the instrument of power and the wielder of that instrument. Mhoram tells Covenant, "You are the white gold." Foamfollower himself powers his boat to Revelstone, even though the boat has a Gildenlode keel.

2) On that point, it is worth observing that there is a difference between "having lore" and "having power." Lore may give access to power, but it isn't power: it's knowledge that tells you what you can do with your power; or how to accomplish your goals.

3) As the creator of the new Staff of Law, Linden definitely has an inherent relationship with it; so she would certainly be able to use it.

4) I see no reason to believe that "health sense alone" wouldn't be an adequate guide to the power of the Staff. After all, Linden (who has no inherent relationship with Covenant's ring) is able to access wild magic by possessing him by means of her health-sense. Sunder could surely discern the *potential* of the new Staff by health-sense alone. And he has become full of Earthpower himself. Why wouldn't health-sense and a little concentration be enough to let him use the Staff?

5) Indeed, the whole notion of "spells" fits awkwardly within the "Chronicles." Sure, some expressions of power require elaborate rituals. But if you look closely, you'll see that virtually all of *those* expressions are violations of Law: they rupture the natural order. When the Lords raise significant power, their methods are comparatively simple: those methods depend primarily on learned lore guiding inherent power rather than on "spells."

6) Drool naturally needs guidance in order to use the original Staff because he wants to use it in ways which violate its essential nature. Putting it crudely, he wants to "break the Law," and the Staff is all *about* Law.

7) How much of the lore of the Old Lords do you suppose that Berek himself possessed when he first set out to fashion a Staff of Law? Your argument seems to be that he must have known everything that Damelon, Loric, and Kevin (not to mention Berek himself) later discoverd or developed. So who taught Berek? I think the truth must be the other way around: creating the Staff enabled Berek to begin the process of discovering and developing the lore of the Old Lords.

8) Are you certain that the Staff's runes were an original and necessary part of its creation? If so, perhaps you would care to tell me where you find that information. I can't find any reason to believe that the runes could not have been added later, as Berek acquired more and more lore. Even the iron heels of the Staff could have been added later. I grant that the wood from the One Tree would have to be fashioned in some way. But Berek (over-simplifying here) has been granted a relationship with/knowledge of Earthpower. That and a little health-sense may have been all he needed.

9) What it is about the Elohim that makes you think they would *answer* the kinds of questions that you consider appropriate?

In short, your "glop of uranium" analogy doesn't seem particularly apt to me.

(10/15/2004)

steve cook:  Hello stephen, As i'm sure you must hear on a VERY regular basis,i've been a huge fan of your work for longer than i care to remember. I was blown away when i found this site, and when you actually replied to one of my more inane questions...i was happily amazed that my all-time favourite author took the time communicate with me. (And to the point....) So i really wanted to come to the book signing on Nov. 9th and,at the risk of coming across as a gushy starstruck stalker, actually meet you.
Now having heard how much of an ordeal you find the whole process, i'm wondering if you'd prefer it if i stayed away?
Knowing that your answer is going to be " i couldn't possibly decide for you"i'll ask a 2nd question. If i do decide to come can i bring my own copy to be signed(i don't want to wait another 3 weeks before i get it?)
Please come to the signing. That's what signings are *for*. If I didn't accept that, I wouldn't agree to do them.

And please do bring your own books to be signed. If I'm going to go to all the trouble of doing a signing, I am *not* going to let some bookstore restrict what can or cannot be signed.

(10/15/2004)

Meaghan Carr:  Mr. Donaldson,
I am reading the gap series for a school project (it is amazing, Hashi is my favorite character)and am going to have to write a report in the form of a diary. For this i have to write about two events of your childhood and how you felt about them, two events about your teenagerhood and how you felt about them, and two events about your adult hood and how you felt about them. I was wondering if you could please tell me some events in your life that were significant to you. It would be greatly appreciated if you could and completely understood if you cannot. Thank you sir.
As a matter of both policy and preference, I try to keep my personal life as private as I can. (Too many "p" words, if you ask me; but I don't have the energy to rephrase.) There is a certain amount of information available on this site--for example, in the essays you can download from my "publications" page. But other than that....

Please accept my regrets.

(10/15/2004)

Anonymous:  kevinswatch.com says Runes will not be out until October 21st; however, both Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com say October 14th. Which is correct?
Both and neither. There is considerable variety in when books actually arrive in specific stores; and publishers have next to no control over that variety. Most books are actually sent to stores by independent distributers; and those corporate entities make their own decisions in some unfathomably arcane manner. And the schedules of the shipping agencies--e.g. UPS--often play a part. HowEVer: since the official publication date is October 14 (US), books really should be in the stores by October 21.

(10/15/2004)

Mark Sanges:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
Please allow me to add my thanks to you for creating this forum in which your readers can interact with you on such a direct level. I know it's been said about a thousand times in this interview, but it bears repeating. What a treat to get to ask our favorite author a quest and actually have the potential to have it answered directly!

I have about a thousand questions and have hesitated to submit any since many of them have already been asked and answered, so my thanks go out to everyone who has submitted some of my questions as well.

One thing I haven't seen anyone mention yet (yes, I've read and re-read this entire interview) is electronic text (eText, eBooks, etc.). May I ask what your feelings are toward this slowing growing publishing medium? I notice none of your works (with the exception of 2 of your The Man Who... novels) are legitimately available as electronic books. What are your personal feelings toward electronic publishing? I am an avid reader though I love the feel of a book in my hands, at the rate I read and with my voracious appetite for fantasy fiction, I find I enjoy eBooks as I can carry several around in my pocket on a PDA, complete with an electronic dictionary to look up words within a text that I may not know (side note here, you are just about the only author who consistently uses words with which I am not readily familiar and must look up). As far as I can find, none of the Covenant or Gap books are available electronically (at least not legitimately). Are there any plans to publish the Last Chronicles in electronic formats as well as paper and audio? Also, I know Runes will be released on CD. Are you familiar with Audible.com? They are the largest distributor of electronic audio books for use with devices such as MP3 players. Will Runes be released in an electronic audio format or only on CD? I know, these are probably questions better asked of your publisher, however, they haven't yet decided to open so direct a forum for questioning their intentions and motives so I ask you in the hopes that they may have communicated some of these plans to you.

Thanks again for answering our questions.

Sincerely,
Mark Sanges
Actually, I had no idea that *any* of my books were available in legitimate e-formats. Would you mind telling me where you found those two "The Man Who..." mysteries as electronic books? I like to know about these things.

The steady growth of e-publishing seems to me inevitable. And good: how else can anyone hope to break the demeaning stranglehold which greed-driven mega-corporations currently have on book publishing? In our history, there has probably never been a worse time to be a respected author. Those mega-corporations don't want respected authors, they want fungible bestsellers. If a author can't produce bestsellers, he/she is often history. E-publishing offers a low-cost alternative to the ugly reality of the mega-corporations.

And yet.... <sigh> I don't think I'll ever be able to make the transition myself. I need physical books: I can't read novels, or even short stories, off a digital screen. No, the trend *I'm* hoping for is "on-demand" publishing. (Doubtless a variation on e-publishing.) Books would be printed because they've been bought by readers, rather than being bought by readers because they've been printed. That would be another way to take the power out of the hands of the mega-corporations.

Incidentally, I've never heard of Audible.com before. Certainly I know of no plans to make any of my books available in that format.

(10/16/2004)

Russ:  The weather was bad the other day so I was walking the mall. For no apparent reason I started thinking about Foul. I realized that even after having read the Covenant books several times I had never gotten clear on the cause of Foul's predicament. It has been quite a while but I don't remember catching any echoes of Paradise Lost. Am I remembering correctly that Foul's presence in the Land wasn't the result of a casting out?
I'm not in a position to check my facts at the moment. But I've always thought of it as "being trapped inadvertently" rather than as "being cast out." After all, what sort of Creator actually *wants* a being like Lord Foul messing up his creation?

Of course, the existence of "a being who creates" sort of necessitates the existence of "a being who destroys." Can't have light without darkness: that sort of thing. But the state of the relationship between such beings pre-Creation lies a long way outside the text, and I'm not particularly interested in speculating about it. The point, as far as I'm concerned, is that LF has what he considers a legitimate grievance. He didn't trap *himself* in Time; he isn't *supposed* to be trapped in Time; and as far as he can see the destruction of Time is a small price to pay for the freedom that belongs to him.

(10/16/2004)

Ur-Brett:  I am sure you have been "told" but, birds' knees don't bend backward, like Nom's. Anatomically it is actually their ankle, with their 'knee' being higher up.
I love the series, and with great anticipation (AND PATIENCE!) await my further trips to The Land. Do you have a projected timeline for each book's release?
Thanks for the tip. I didn't know.

As I've said before in this interview, my contract for "The Last Chronicles" gives me three years for each book. At one time, I didn't actually expect to need that much time: I just write better when my deadline is self-imposed instead of demanded by a publisher. However, my US and UK publishers have already burned the first 7 months of my 36 month countdown (and naturally they'll never give me that time back); so suddenly 36 months no longer sounds as generous as it once did. These are *very* complex books; they're going to become *more* complex as they go along; and I write *very* slowly.

Sorry about that.

(10/16/2004)

Vince Reilly:  I just found out about "Runes of the Earth" and I have been reduced to thetic rubble. I remember when my wife and I, newly married and trying to keep spending low, nevertheless went into NYC to buy "The Wounded Land" in full-price hardcover on the first day it was available. Thanks for an absorbing fantasy world, even though occasionally excruciating.
"Thetic rubble," huh? You clearly have a gift for a phrase. <grin> Maybe all that occasional excruciation was good for you. <big grin>

(10/04/2004)

Ash Quadir:  Steven,

1. When Covenant meets Hile Troy/Caer-Caveral in Andelain in The Wounded Land, he is in the form of “Hile Troy” but at the end of The Illearth War he was transformed into a tree. How is this change explained?

2. If Covenant wasn’t able to get a branch off of the One Tree because of the Worm and sinking of the Isle, how was Berek able to create the Staff of Law? Didn’t he journey to the Isle of the One Tree?

3. If Cable Sea Dreamer wasn’t able to speak, why wasn’t he able to convey his thoughts by writing them down? Don’t the Giant’s have a written language? For that matter, does the Land have a written language?

Thanks in advance!

- Ash
1) Well, if you wanted to be a Forestal, don't you suppose that part of your "initiation" would be to spend some time as a tree? If nothing else, Troy was transformed into a tree in "The Illearth War" to imprison him until Wildwood's music had time to work a deeper transformation.

2) Perhaps I never made it clear that over long spans of time the One Tree, well, moves around. Such archetypal creations don't cease to exist: the sinking of the Isle didn't unmake the One Tree, but simply took it out of reach. I've always assumed that when Berek found the One Tree it was somewhere else entirely, and that the challenges of approaching it and obtaining wood from it were (apart from the Guardian, another archetypal creation) entirely different than those faced by Covenant et al.

Incidentally, I've also assumed that the "affront" (to the One Tree) of Berek's actions was in part responsible for the, well, "sensitivity" which caused Covenant and Linden to fail.

3) I've discussed this elsewhere in this interview.

(09/10/2004)

Peter Purcell:  Do you have creative control over announcements for Runes?

A review on Amazon.com (edited to remove spoilers--SRD) concludes, Filled with splendid inventions (occasionally described to the point of prolixity), this book promises extremely well for the future of the end of the Covenant chronicles. Expect readers to swarm. Roland Green"

Gives away a number of spoilers.

HOW DARE THEY!! Those who've read the ARCs have chosen to. Those who haven't don't want reviewers spoiling plot lines WITHOUT signally such spoilers well in advance so a reader can skip the review!

BTW, I've read an ARC version - wonderful, but stylistically very different from the prior two (have you read any of the Runes threads at the Watch?) I can't wait to ask you "open" questions on Runes!!
Sadly, I have no control at all over such things. And reviewers are notorious for spoilers. Gives them a feeling of power, I suppose.

I feel constrained to point out, however, that this isn't really Amazon.com's problem. They're just a store: they don't write any reviews. Part of their service, however, is to make reviews available so that buyers can make "informed" decisions. It's a good idea that only turns out badly when the reviewers have no scruples.

(10/17/2004)

Peter B.:  Do you think that fantasy is looked at as a more respected genre today as opposed to when you first started writing? It's certainly more popular. Personally, I think it's a shame that genre classification often slights works that are classified as non-literary, whatever that means. Your Chronicle books are certainly literary to me (as well as epic). More importantly, they resonate INSIDE me. Maybe that's an important distinction, with any literary or merit distinctions being imposed on the OUTSIDE. Still, it seems fantasy is often seen stereotypically, with even the truly imaginative books lumped in with the cardboard-cut-outs.

Thanks again for all your wonderful work and insights! Although the Covenant series is dearest to my heart one of the favorite things you did in any of your stories was transport a science-fiction character/hero (Darsint) into a fanatsy/medieval setting (Mordant).

My personal experience is that fantasy is no more respected today than it was 20 or 40 years ago. Indeed, I happen to know of a reviewer for the New York Times Book Review who lost her job because she wrote a favorable review of "The Mirror of Her Dreams." And of course genre stereotyping--what I think of as "category publishing"--perpetuates this problem. Just to pick one random example, Patricia A. McKillip (OK, I'm kidding, that's not random at all) will never get the recognition her literary merit deserves as long as she is categorized as "fantasy" or "young adult."

And yet, when we apply the "test of time," the only test that seems to reliably separate wheat from chaff, we can all see that the oldest and most enduring form of literature in ALL LANGUAGES on the planet is fantasy. This cannot be an accident. Obviously fantasy (the form of communication which is only made possible through the use of "magic" and "monsters" as metaphors) speaks of something both profound and universal in the human psyche. When we as a culture sneer at our literary roots (by, for instance, thinking of fantasy as "adolescent wish-fulfillment"), we sneer at ourselves.

(10/18/2004)

Anonymous:  Hi Stephen, thank you so much for replying to these questions. You are amazing. :)

I wanted to ask what you think of Book burning... I've read reports that books like yours, Rowlings, Tolkiens books have been burnt; because people think you, she Tolkein, are "Pro-war" and "Pro-rape". And Rowling promotes the Black Arts. Very stupid in my opinion. Naturally it seems to be Americans. "Free-Speech" - yeah right.

What do you think of this? Surely it's as silly to you as to me.
It isn't just silly: it's dangerous. Book burning is the act of a society dedicated to self-destruction. History is full of examples of societies that fall from civilization into barbarism; and book-burning always seems to be part of the process. I know the US is still the most materialistically wealthy country on the planet; but I think (just my opinion) that the signs of approaching collapse are all around us. Eventually we'll turn ourselves into a third-world country. I just hope that my children are able to live out their lives before it happens.

(10/18/2004)

Bradakas:  I was just wondering; I had looked over your touring schedule and noticed a complete lack of midwest destinations. It was my sincere hope that you might be coming to the Iowa/Nebraska area. Is there any hope for we midwesterners?

-B
There have been *many* questions generally like this one posted recently. I think I've said this before, but it bears repeating: authors don't plan or organize tours, publishers do. There's virtually nothing *I* can do about it.

Of course, I could plan and organize my *own* tour(s)--if I were willing to give up writing as a way of life, and if I were willing to spend the money (no publisher would agree to pay for a tour they didn't control). But why would I do such a thing? I didn't become a writer because I want to tour: I became a writer because I want to write stories. My present tour is only three days old, and I'm already dying to be at home working on "Fatal Revenant."

So *please*: if you're dissatisfied by my tour schedule, address your concerns to my publisher, not to me. I'm in enough trouble as it is.

(10/18/2004)

Peter B.:  Stephen,

Just a quick note to say that I hope you're surviving the book tour and will soon be back surrounded by family and friends, writing again.

I read in a review on the Web (sorry, don't rememeber where) that your publisher plans to release the Last Chronicles as a trilogy rather than a tetralogy. Any truth to that?

Gosh, what a bizarre rumor! No, there's no truth to it at all. As I've explained elsewhere in this interview, "The Second Chronicles" was planned as a tetralogy and published as a trilogy. But that's ancient history.

(10/20/2004)

Mike G:  Enthused by this gradual interview, and armed with all of your insights, I reread The Gap Cycle, which I realized I had not read the last book of....I really enjoyed it a lot more this time- TDAGD was as breathless a finale as I have ever read....it all pulled together wonderfully, especially considering all the pov and storylines that had to be finished...
One question though- What happened to poor Victor? With all of his talk about dying, being a savior, not being brave, etc....all of the sudden he was just dead- like we missed a page or two....Did he jump in front of Angus to save him, or did he just get in the way? I (lol) feel bad for him,that his death didn't get more print...
Does it annoy you at all that readers pick apart your work or look for chinks in the logic, or do yoy just take it with a grain of salt, glad that they care? It must give you a chuckle or two wondering if we must have better things to do...

I (and I know this carries a lot of weight!) look for the new books to vindicate you to the naysayers who think fantasy should be mindless questfests...There isn't much thought provoking fantasy out there, it's mostly just escapism (which is certainly ok). But it is the depth of your writing that makes your books waht they are...

Enough ramblings from Another Reader Who Talks To You Like He Knows You.
Well, you've read the GAP books more recently than I have. And I don't have them with me. But I could have sworn that I gave Vector's demise/self-sacrifice more narrative space than you found. He was important to me, and I certainly didn't *intend* to scant his fate. However, events were pretty hectic at that point in the story. Maybe I made the familiar mistake (the curse of my writing life) of leaving out things that were obvious to me, although they could not have been obvious to anyone else.

I do occasionally get annoyed at the way some readers pick apart my work. (Just look at the way I OD'ed on "Creator" questions.) But from time to time I also profit from the information. And there are times when the sheer generosity of the things my readers share with me leaves me feeling humbled.

(10/20/2004)

Matthew Orgel:  Imagine my surprise to learn that you are a comic book geek! I was just wondering if you were at all familiar with the 2 capstones of the genre, "The Watchmen" and "The Sandman". The Watchmen (soon to be a movie by Aronofsky!!!) seems to be a source of anti-heroes to daunt even your own prodigious supply of them.

Also, no fantasy will ever enlighten and delight me to the degree Gaiman's Sandman has. Perhaps if you haven't heard of The Sandman you have heard of some of Niel Gaiman's novels? Neverwhere, American Gods, or Good Omens are admittadly inferior within their genre to the Sandman, but are still good fantasy.

It seems to me you are more of a Marval man... DC really grabbed the torch and thwacked Marval across the head with it in the late 80s. Maybe looking into these titles would rejuvenate your interest in comic books.
Yes, I've read both "The Watchmen" and (much more extensively) "The Sandman." In particular, Gaiman's work on "The Sandman" seems extraordinary to me, and I re-read the whole set every few years just for the pleasure of it.

But in other ways I no longer feel drawn to comics. I can't say why: it just happened.

(10/20/2004)

Stephanie :  Hello Mr. Donaldson.

A few month's ago in this forum my dad posted a question and in it mentioned that years ago his young daughter (yours truly) loved your books and that I was fascinated by Hile Troy. In your reply you mentioned (and have in other replies to other posts) that you felt these particular works were certainly not meant for young girls.

With this introduction I have a comment and a question...

I was around twelve or so when I first picked up Lord Foul's Bane and began reading. I was fascinated with your writing style and almost immediately began reading up on leprosy just so I could better understand your character. At that age the chapter devoted to Lena's rape turned me so much against your main character that I put down the book. A week or so later, out of some sort of morbid fascination, I picked the book up again and, with the exception of some homework that intefered a bit I never it or the other books down until I made it through both trilogies.

I'm twenty now, and I suppose as wise and 'grown-up' as a twenty year old can be who has been raised UMC in the states with limited travel outside our protected borders. I can also understand and perhaps agree with you when you say you feel your books were not intended for twelve-year-old girls.

On behalf of this former twelve year old I would like to offer you a slightly different view. It's true that when I re-read your books my first year in college I certainly experienced them differently than I had during my younger years. But I must add my first pass through those books filled me with wonder, awe and a lust for more. They led me on and on through the years to new books and new stories. To this day whenever rare free time permits I put down my history or biology textbooks to devote at least a little time for escaping into worlds of fiction created by others.

So, on behalf of the twelve year old girl who fell in love with Foamfollower, Mhoram, Elena, Linden and Bannor....and yes Hile Troy...thank you so much.

And now for my question....in either trilogy did you ever take off in one major direction with a character and then back off and dramatically change your approach? Perhaps a change of heart as you grew into or away from a character, or perhaps at the direction of an editor. I'm not even sure why I'm asking the question, but I thought the answer could be interesting.

I am primarily posting your question--and an answer--as an antidote to my own fear of what could happen when young (by which I mean unprepared) readers encounter my books. Thank you for your reassurance. It helps.

Did I "ever take off in one major direction with a character and then back off and dramatically change [my] approach"? Yes, once. The Germans have a proverb: All beginnings are hard. This is always true for me; but it was especially true with the character of Linden Avery. She went through a number of "false starts" (most of them before I ever started writing "The Wounded Land") before I finally began to get a useful handle on who she was. The Linden Avery who appears in "The Second Chronicles" is indeed *dramatically* different than my first conception of her. In a pure world (which of course doesn't exist) I probably would have written "Mordant's Need" *before* "The Second Chronicles." Putting it crudely, I needed practice with female protagonists. (On the other hand, "Mordant's Need" is definitely *better* because I got my practice writing "The Second Chronicles"--so I suppose I can't have it both ways. <grin>)

I don't like to embarrass myself this way; but for your sake I'll just mention that in one of my "false starts" Linden Avery was not a doctor: she was a graduate student studying the novels of Thomas Covenant. <sigh> What can I tell you? I was young.

(10/20/2004)

Tony Powell:  Do you realize that with your guidelines for determining point of view (an answer to a previous question), you taught me more than all the "writing" books in my bookcase?

I wonder if I can get a refund....
Shucks, that was nothing. Wait until I get around to writing my "Incredibly Wise Things I've Learned about Life" <grin>. Then you'll be able to ask your *parents* for a refund.... (OK, now I'm laughing out loud.)

(10/21/2004)

Tom Bracken:  (As have many others, I first thank you for the inspiration of the Chronicles. No other work has inspired me as much in my work as a physician and as a caring human being!)

My question regards your portrayal of evil and of evil deeds. You have generated some horrific images of evil in your works: Pietten enjoying licking the blood of the dead, ,the giants submitting to the Ravers,the "entertainers" in the Gap series that disemboweled themselves. Perhaps the most disturbing images were those of Linden at the deaths of her father and suicide by suicide and "matricide".

Can portraying such degree of evil become evil itself? I have felt revulsion in reading of Steven King's work; he seems to delight in creating more and even more disgusting and revolting images in his work. Does the description of the evil ultimately lead to a better portrayal of good, even if good doesn't always prevail? Are you yourself ever disturbed that you can create such scenes?

And ultimately, could the 1st and 2nd Chronicles have been "succesful" if Lord Foul hadn't been defeated to any degree at all? Such is the way of the world upon occasion -we feel we do what is right to fight evil but our efforts are not always successful.

I realize some of the answer to this question may require careful reading of the upcoming third Chronicles!
Your question prompts a number of reactions. But after being on the road so long--with so much more to go--I'm very tired; so I can't promise you a coherent response.

However....

Sure, portraying evil can itself be an evil thing to do--if the portrayal is gratuitous. I've read books where it seems clear that the writer simply delights in inflicting pain on the characters--and on the reader; where inflicting pain seems to be the only real purpose of the book. I don't hesitate to call such books obscene. But we need to be very careful here. We need to be sure that what we're talking about is indeed gratuitous. And there are a number of issues to keep in mind (although I won't be able to remember all the ones I know of right now). First, I want to mention the importance of telling the truth. Evil and horror really do exist in the world, as well as in people; and to pretend that they do not is a lie. Second, the whole notion of "good" has very little meaning if it doesn't imply the notion of "evil". What is "light," after all, if there is no "darkness"? Third, I wonder what concepts such as "redemption" can possibly mean if they don't entail walking through "hell" to get to the other side. Fourth, we live in a cynical and nihilistic age, and if our literature does not face that fact squarely it cannot offer us any substantive alternatives. "When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you." How else can we find out if we have anything in us except emptiness? One of the *many* functions of story-telling as I practice it is that it teaches me how to believe in myself.

In life, of course, good doesn't always triumph. Maybe it seldom does. Maybe it never does. But literature isn't about life: it's about living; it's about human beings *going through* the necessary struggles of living; it's about human beings defining the meaning of their own lives as they go through the necessary struggles of living.

I'm sure the "Covenant" books would have been FAR less successful if they had ended in victory for the Despiser. But I also know that I would not have considered them worth writing that way. I already know everything I'll ever need to know about how the Despiser wins; and I suspect that the same is true for most of my fellow human beings. What my characters and I desperately need to know is some valid means for achieving a different outcome.

Well, I did warn you that this would be rather incoherent.... <rueful smile>

(10/21/2004)

Steve Cohen:  Stephen,

Discovering this forum has finally caused me to accept an inescapable truth: I’m a Donaldson Groupie. I’ve certainly read the books enough, but reading through this forum almost makes me feel like I’m attending a 12-step program… "Hi, my name is Steve and I’ve read both Chronicles of Thomas Covenant cover to cover more times than should be legal."…


Okay here are my questions. Assuming that it won’t spoil "What Will Come After" would you mind shedding some light onto 1) How Dead Saltheart Foamfollower actually acquired Vain from the Ur-viles? 2) How did Covenant’s Dead (and good ‘ol Mr. Troy) formulate a solution to save the Land? 3) How/why Covenant’s dead would have answer to the Land’s need different than would be conceived by the Elohim. (Beyond the reason that Elohim through Findail didn’t want to bear this particular burden and had that shadow business thanks to Foul weighing them down.)

Final question: when Covenant was about to enter the Banefire, Findail says something along the lines that "he will not leave Covenant and doesn’t know how he’ll prove worthy of him." Is Findail just referring to what’s happening in White Gold Wielder or is he referring to “What Will Come After” in the 3rd Chronicles?

Enough with the questions. I’m hoping that the song and tale of the Search is wondrously told and retold amongst the Giants of Home. I could write more and ask more, but this email is too long as it is! Thanks…

Steve
1) Covenant's Dead in Andelain acquired Vain very simply: the ur-viles gave him to them.

2) The Dead--being dead and all--exist on a different plane of knowledge than the living. Just to pick one obvious example: they have a different relationship with Time. Covenant's Dead don't reveal everything they know because, like the Old Lords, they understand the dangers of unearned knowledge. But they clearly have access to some pretty wide bodies of knowledge.

3) Covenant's Dead are just a bit less selfish, and a whole lot less self-absorbed, than the Elohim. Fundamentally different beings think in fundamentally different ways. (And I won't even mention the special relationship between the Elohim and the Worm of the World's End.)

4) Findail's statement refers to events in "The Second Chronicles." After all, he does *know* what he was Appointed to do: he just doesn't like it. (And yet even he is forced to respect Covenant.)

(10/21/2004)

Hilary Reynolds:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

Thank you so much for this interview which I have dubbed in my own mind "The Desultory." I find it to be an almost unparalleled insight into the creative mind. And a creative mind may I say, without the least sycophancy, I consider to be one of the best of it's age. I have found the desultory no less compelling than the First and Second Chronicles of TC. I have also read the Gap books which while I admired the work itself, I found too bleak and the characters too irredeemable for me to truly enjoy. I have so many questions to ask which range from the facile to the somewhat less facile. Let me start by asking two.

1) Was Hile Troy from the "Real World"? Covenant's telpehone calls seem to indicate that he did not exist, though given the nature of agency he was phoning, this may have been a cover up.

2) In some of your responses there seems to be a contradiction when talking about your writing processes. In one place in the desultory you were asked about Nom and you replied "I, of course, knew what was going to happen years before I actually wrote it." Elsewhere when asked about the Last Chronicles you say "but I couldn't tell you the story: it still contains vast unspecified areas which I will discover as I tell the story." The first implies a good deal plotting before hand whereas the second connotes less complete plotting. Which of these is true, do you plot a great deal beforehand or sketchily and fill put the details as you write?
1) I've always assumed that Hile Troy was indeed from Covenant's "real world."

2) All of my statements about how I plot are true. As a general rule, I now do less detailed *conscious* plotting than I did when I was younger: I trust the unconscious part of my creative impulse more. But there are enormous variations, not only from book to book, but from year to year in my life, and from detail to detail within a story. When I said that "The Last Chronicles" "still contains vast unspecified areas," I did *not* mean to suggest that it doesn't also contain vast *specified* areas. For example, there are specific characters whose complete stories I *could* tell you right now; but I couldn't necessarily tell you how those stories interact with and catalyze *all* of the stories of specific other characters. Whereas when I wrote the first "Covenant" trilogy, and much of the second, and large parts of "Mordant's Need," I did have more of the details planned in advance.

(10/21/2004)

Allen:  Mr. Donaldson, I just had the pleasure to read the interview with you in Locus. I would not worry about whether or not you are as good a writer now as you were when you wrote the original trilogies. I still believe the Gap is your greatest work and I have no fear that the Last Chronicles will surpass the Gap. The first chapter of the Prologue you include on your site tells me you are entering onto a transcendent plane at this point in your career.
My question concerns "Mordant's Need". For some time now I have regarded it as the most minor of your larger works. I am wondering how you view "Mordant's Need" now, looking back at it after so many years. wishes, Allen
I've very proud of "Mordant's Need." It is deliberately "more gentle" than my other large works. But does that make it "minor"? I certainly hope not.

Beyond question I could not have written the GAP books if I had not first written "Mordant's Need." (And I could not have written "Mordant's Need" if I had not first started writing mystery novels; so there you are.)

(10/21/2004)

John Thorpe:  With hindsight, do you think "The <blank> Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" is an appropriate title for each series or just a marketing necessity? That is, is the whole work primarily about Thomas Covenant? It seems like he passed the torch in the Second Chronicles and became something that is difficult to develop further as a character, being dead and the Arch of Time and all.

On a more trivial note, what was Anchorage Farm? An actual farm or just the name of the place where you lived? Where in New Jersey was it? Maybe I’ll make a pilgrimage. (kidding, of course)
Yes, I do consider "The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" to be an appropriate title. You'll see why eventually.

Anchorage Farm was a real place in south Jersey. But it was plowed under to make room for a housing development 7-8 years ago. The nearest town was Sewell.

(10/21/2004)

Joseph McSheffrey:  Mr. Stephen R. Donaldson,

This is quite an arduous read! I think I'm actually overdosing on Donaldson! Perhaps your editor should have a look at this? That aside, I will not only continue to read this Brobdingnagian interview, as the weeks pass, I will heap more on the pile!

I've only waded through half of this interview but the topic of music has only come up once so far and I must say I'm a bit surprised. Rather than inquire how you pronounce Haruchai or debate the reality of the Land in a purely fictional sense, I would like to know what kind of music you listened to in your youth. I understand you are ninety-five percent Classical now, but surely that has not always been the case. What were you getting down to at your prom? Did they have proms then? *duck* As for now you've got Beethoven written all over you, if your work (hence your imagination) is any indication, but everybody and I mean everybody needs a little Albert King now and then.


Sincerely,
Mr. Joseph McSheffrey

As I keep mentioning, I grew up in India as the son of medical missionaries. The missionaries sing hymns, (white) gospel tunes--and old Broadway show tunes. So through high school that's all I knew.

In college in the 60's, of course, I was exposed to a bit more variety. My personal taste was toward folk music (e.g. Peter, Paul, and Mary; the Limeliters); but I acquired a few other interests as well: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Three Dog Night, and (to a lesser extent) Blood, Sweat, and Tears. So such music now constitutes maybe 1/10th of 1% of my music-listening. But I'm still (surprise, surprise) drawn to Broadway show tunes: "Rent," "Aida," "Les Miserables."

(10/22/2004)

Rick Monroe:  Mr. Donaldson,

I am curious about what drives your desire to refuse rights to anyone wishing to use your created worlds for the setting of other stories. Is it a desire to protect the integrity of your creations from a creative viewpoint, or a feeling that others shouldn't profit from your efforts by building on top of your framework? Or, more likely, some combination of these and other personal beliefs regarding the creative process?

I should say, I don't think I'd care to read stories based on your worlds that were crafted by anyone other than yourself. I look forward to the remaining "Chronicles", as well as all the other books you will write in your never ending life. And I wish you'd come to the East Coast on your book tour.
I must not be communicating clearly. *I* don't refuse rights to people who want to write spin-off stories: I don't own those rights. However, you understand correctly that I *would* refuse (unless the spin-off was strictly not-for-money, and full credit was given). Would I give someone else permission to be the father of my children? Would I give someone else permission to sweep away the woman I love? So why on earth would I give someone else permission to dilute/change/revise/distort my work?

In addition, I believe that using other people's ideas (instead of coming up with your own) is bad for the people who do the using. But that's a secondary issue.

(10/22/2004)

Tom Newton:  Firstly, I would like to thank you for sharing
your gift of storytelling with us all. Also,
...it's pretty cool that you respond to all these posts.

My question is, have you ever read "Foucault's
Pendulum" by Umberto Eco. Taxing at times by
preponderance of names and places but brilliant
nonetheless.

Thanks for increasing my perspicacity.
Sorry, I've never had that experience. I'm a very slow reader, so I don't get to read all the books I might wish.

(10/22/2004)

Paul S.:  A while back you mentioned:

"At the same time, my US and UK publishers want me to undertake a project which I'm not supposed to talk about, but which will be so back-breakingly burdensome and vastly time-consuming that I'll have no choice except to simply cease living until the project is done. (Sorry, I can't tell you more than that.)"

Can you tell us more, yet?
Autographed books are already appearing on eBay. And I'm being inundated with questions like, Why aren't you coming to X city on your tour? So I guess the time has come to reveal the secret.

This summer Putnam's had me autograph 7500 (!!!) copies of "Runes." The single most brutal thing I've ever been asked to do for a publisher. (Orion/Gollancz had me sign another 1000, but those were for a collector's limited edition.) Apparently those 7500 books are being distributed in parts of the US where I'm *not* touring. So readers who want signed editions don't have to pay eBay prices. There are a LOT of signed books already out there. And of course I've already posted instructions on how to get a signed bookplate from me directly.

(10/24/2004)

Rick Monroe:  Mr. Donaldson,

I am eagerly looking forward to the new books. I hope that an oversight in your travel plans will be corrected, as your publishers seem to be neglecting the eastern half of the US. I hope you will be adding dates to come east.

I have a few questions about your writing process. You have written that stories choose you. Do stories come to you with a beginning and ending (points A and Z), and the middle fleshes out as you write? Or do you have a more holistic view of the story from the start?

I recall reading (not sure where) that you once said that you had a plan for the third chronicles, but would not write them if people kept requesting them. To what degree was this an empty threat? Given your description of the process by which a story chooses you, do you think you could have chosen to not write this story?
Stories seem to come to me from a wide variety of starting points. With all of the "Covenant" installments, the starting points were for the endings of the stories; and I had to plan them backward in order to find a place where I could begin. But "Mordant's Need" started with a few lines of poetry; the GAP books began with the names Angus Thermopyle, Morn Hyland, and Nick Succorso; and some of my short stories began with the first sentence (or an early sentence). Several things remain constant, however. I can't write at all until I know what the ending (my reason for telling the story) is going to be; so I always know where I'm going. (But figuring out where or how to begin can be intensely difficult.) I need to have a fairly clear sense of the shape or structure or architecture of the story (although sometimes this "sense" might reasonably be called "holistic"). And I absolutely have to have control over setting. (Even the most "realistic" of my stories, "The Man Who Fought Alone," takes place in an invented city.) Why any of these things should be true, I have no idea. That's just the way my mind works.

Clearly my threat that I would *not* write "The Last Chronicles" if people kept asking me about it must have been "empty." But I recall that I meant it half seriously at the time. It is very frustrating to have worked so hard to write so many books, and to be treated as if so little of what I've done actually counts.

(10/24/2004)

Martin Bennett:  Hi Steve - really can't wait for 'Runes' - I must have been asleep at the wheel to believe that Covenant would stay dead forever!

Speaking as somebody who is writing their own little stab at immortality (as is everybody else who poses a question here it seems!) my question is this - which do you value higher: (a) constructing fantasy i.e. lands, people, magics or (b) the human aspect. I have heard it said many times that fantasy precludes characterisation - I guess you were skiving that day (sorry - not sure if 'skiving' is a UK colloquialism or not).

In my opinion you managed to bond these two like venom and wild magic in the Banefire (i.e. successfully). I find it difficult to bring in the human aspect without using a 'real-world' protagonist - I then get bogged down with details such as the difference in language between primary and secondary worlds. Unbelief answers this question, but you've already used that one!

Looking forward to your UK tour, whenever that may be.
Are a) and b) my only choices? What I value most is telling a story that will excite, move, and (ultimately) change me. But years of experience (not to mention simple common sense) have made it clear to me that telling such stories is utterly dependent on "the human aspect," and that "constructing fantasy" only has value to the extent that it both enables and sheds light on "the human aspect." The notion that fantasy (or sf, or mysteries, or westerns, or horror, or historical drama) "precludes characterisation" is plain bullshit.

But then we might need to discuss what we mean by "characterisation." In my personal lexicon, "characterisation" is what writers do when they can't actually create characters: "characterisation" is a series of techniques for creating the *illusion* of character. By that definition, nothing on the planet "precludes characterisation." But I would argue that fantasy also does not preclude "character": indeed, I believe that of all forms of fiction fantasy is the most dependent on character for its credibility and content.

(10/24/2004)

Anonymous:  Mr. Donaldson,

You mentioned you sometimes write with the ending in mind.. Do you have an ending already in mind for the Final Chronicles, are you likely to change your mind.

Thanks,

Mike
I don't "sometimes" write with the ending in mind: I *always* write with the ending in mind. I can't write without that. So naturally (well, at least it seems natural to me) that never changes. The ending I have in mind for "The Last Chronicles" hasn't changed since I first came up with the ideas in the late '70s, it hasn't changed while writing the first volume, and I cannot imagine that it will change between now and when I finish the project.

(10/24/2004)

Michael from Santa Fe:  I just read your answer about what "influence" you may have had on culture, the field, or other authors. I thought you may be interested (or perhaps not :-)) to know that you have influenced other people to become writers. A new author I like very much, David B. Coe, states this on his website:
http://www.sff.net/people/DavidBCoe/Authorpage.htm:

"If Tolkien's books made me want to read as much fantasy as I could get my hands on, Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books (both the first and second Chronicles) made me want to write in this genre. The Covenant books are strange and dark and disturbing. They're also brilliant and, in my opinion, among the most original fantasy sets ever written. They taught me that there was no limit to what fantasy tales could explore — any facet of the human condition, no matter how strange or difficult, could be plumbed by the creative mind. All one had to do was find the right approach, the right character. Donaldson found both."

So, while you might not be aware of it, I'm sure this is only one example. I believe you have had a great impact and continue to do so.

Michael
It's very kind of David Coe to say such things. I haven't yet had a chance to read any of his books (because I am a VERY slow reader); but I'm looking forward to them.

(10/24/2004)

Ross Edwards:  Stephe,
You've said before that you naturally tend to write fantasy novels-- that you have an epic mind (paraphrasing, of course). But now that you've written a lot of fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery novels, what's next? You've dabbled in other genres in your short stories, but is there one other type of story you've always wanted to try?
I've responded to such questions earlier in the interview. It is my devout hope that our new organizational structure for the Gradual Interview will make it easier for readers to find the information they want.

The short answer is this: I don't choose my stories; my stories choose me. And I make no attempt to control that process. I'll go wherever my ideas go. However, I have a one-track mind; so while I'm working on "The Last Chronicles" I won't make any plans beyond it.

(10/27/2004)

Michael From Santa Fe:  I just finished the Gap series. I really enjoyed it and I don't understand why they didn't sell as well as your other works. C'est la vie. My question: you stated on some answers to previous questions that you thought Hashi was your favorite character and that Davies needed a better writer. Why? While I liked Hashi he didn't strike me as a "better" or "better written" character than Davies (I thought you took on an incredibly difficult task in that you put Morn's mind into another character and how do you differntiate the two without making them so different that we don't buy that's it's Morn's mind without making them so much the same that we don't buy them as seperate characters - I thought you pulled it off). My favorite character was Angus and I thought the "best" written character was Nick (A better written asshole you may never find). Is this all just personnal preference? Or does the fact that I am not a writer mean that I am missing something?
Yes, it's all "just personal preference." I don't think you're "missing something." I hope I never said that I thought Hashi was my best-written character: he's just one of my personal favorites. And I'm very glad that you feel I did well with Davies--although that doesn't change my (entirely personal) sense of having fallen short of his needs. At its best, story-telling is an interactive process between writer and reader; and your participation in the process is inherently valid. If there is a lesson in here anywhere, it is probably that sometimes the impulses which drive a writer to write are so proFOUNDly personal that no one else can actually understand them. But that doesn't matter. As long as you get something of value out of what's written, the writer is essentially irrelevant.

(10/27/2004)

Phillip Dodson:  I just finished reading all of the gradual interview questions and answers, and I don't know if there were specific rules for questions. If there were, and this one is out of bounds or intrusive I apologize. I was just curious, could you describe the experience of doing this gradual interview Q and A, and maybe what, if anything, you've gotten out of it for yourself? If that's getting too personal, once again, I apologize.
Your works have deeply affected me, and came at a time when I was pretty young (14-15) and so having this opportunity to communicate with you in any way is actually pretty daunting, and I keep second guessing myself out of questions (this is the billionth I've come up with and the first I've submitted).
The most frustrating aspect of this interview, for me, is the way that questions I've already answered keep reappearing. This, of course, is a natural result of how long and unwieldy the interview has become. Perhaps the new organization which my incredibly diligent webmaster has designed will help alleviate this difficulty.

In spite of the frustration, however, I keep plugging away at this because I get two very significant benefits. First, your questions often force me to *think*--which is always good for me, even on those occasions when I would really prefer to be indolent. And second, the interest that this interview has generated reminds me constantly that the real importance of story-telling lies in its power to create bonds between people--people who usually could not be aware of each other's existence in any other way. Under normal circumstances, you can't know--and I can't know--that your response to what I've written connects you to literally thousands of other people around the planet (me included). But a forum like this one allows both you and I to discover that those bonds exist, and that they have substance.

(10/27/2004)

Tracie (Furls Fire):  Hail Mr. Donaldson!!

I just wanted to say that I think your poetry is awesome. I especailly like "Rock Poem", which reminds me of how a dear friend felt when I first met him. He was so lost to himself.

And "The Unholy" is fantastic. They are all wonderful!

You said: "The fact that I could only scrounge up eleven poems to post here demonstrates that I don't write much poetry. And the unevenness of the work demonstrates that I'm no poet. Still, I like the idea that visitors to my web site may occasionally read these verses. And I'm confident that no one will actually hold them against me."

My response to this: You are full of hooey. Hold them against you?? Good Lord, man!! These and all the ones I've read in your books, are music! Poetry speaks to the soul and heart of a person. And all of your works, whether it be prose, poetry, or essays, have spoken to both my heart and soul.

I'm a simple reader, and I don't hold to the old myth that poetry has to rhyme, or follow some rigid meter. It's the words and the music that make it a poem. It's the emotion and meaning it conjures it up that makes it a poem. And, being the simple reader that I am, I would love to see more of your poetry. "I'm no poet." Bah! I'm here to tell you, that is just not true.

Have a nice day. <big smile>

Peace,

Tracie
I'm posting this, although I have no actual answer to it, because: a) it's good for my ego <grin>; and b) I need a chance to say "Thank You!" to Tracie, who has been *very* supportive ever since I started this site.

(10/27/2004)

Art Griffin:  Stephen,I always wondered what the effect of Thomas's polar opposite being drawn to the land by Foul would have upon the land. A strong individual young and vibrant who longs to be the hero,expects to be the hero. Any thoughts along this line?
I think I've already done this. Hile Troy is as close as I'm ever likely to get to presenting the Land with Covenant's polar opposite. Except for the part about "being drawn to the Land by Foul," he fits your criteria.

(10/28/2004)

Darrin Cole:  I noticed the comment about russel crowe turning down the role of Thomas Covenant(not sure if it was serious) and Just wondered whether you or the people who might make the movie have considered asking viggo mortenson for the role, when I saw him as aragorn in Lord of the rings My first thought was they should make a thomas covenant movie with viggo as covenant he could be perfectly made up to resemble the character I and I imagine many others visualised as Thomas Covenant.
I'm not posting this information under "News" because, well, it doesn't qualify. But one plus of my current book tour is that I had a chance to meet with the movie people who bought the "Covenant" option. They turned out to be both very serious movie people and very serious "Covenant" fans: people who could easily be doing other things to make money, but who want to make "Covenant" films because they love the books, and because they see a window of opportunity which didn't exist before the success of the LOTR films. We had a rather wide-ranging discussion, during which they said that they feel they need an "A-list" director but not "A-list" actors. In other words, they want to use much the same approach to casting that Peter Jackson used for LOTR: good actors, but not necessarily "bankable" ones (because "stars" are too expensive). Well, thanks to LOTR, Viggo has probably become too expensive. But I can't see him as Covenant anyway: he doesn't seem to have the emotional range--or the emotional extremes--to play Covenant.

(10/28/2004)

drew in nova scotia:  Mr. Donaldson. Your use of language in all that I have read is amazing. I was wondering if when translated to other languages, if it loses the original flare? Some of the terms you create, like Revelstone, gravelingas, or Delsec would not mean as much to someone not familier with English. -In French, is it Saltheart, or Cour de'sel?
Sorry, I'm not equipped to comment on any translations of my books. I don't speak or read any language except English.

(10/28/2004)

JSmartt:  Thank you for your writing. Your work is the best I have read at combining exciting, 'escapist' (in the best sense) fiction with thought-provoking, personally challenging and helpful ideas.
Is it part of your conscious intent to write material that helps your readers to think and grow as people, or is that simply something that comes from the way you personally view the world and from the stories that come to you?
This goes back to my oft-repeated assertion that I'm not a polemicist. My conscious intent is to write the best stories I possibly can--the ones that would give me the most excitement, satisfaction, and even joy to read. To give my stories the best possible author. *If* what I write "helps [my] readers to think and grow as people," that is a side-effect of my attempts to serve my stories well.

As it happens, however, I believe that pretty much *all* conscientious, imaginative, and honest story-telling creates (admittedly unconscious) bonds of empathy and understanding between people. In that sense, such story-telling by its very nature "helps ... readers to think and grow." Therefore there is simply no *need* for the writer to consciously "challenge" or "help" the reader. The benefits (for both writer and reader) are inherent to the system.

(10/28/2004)

Ross Edwards:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
I just finished rereading the 1st and 2nd Chronicles for the 35-40th time (maybe I'm an inattentive reader, but I always find something new, so I don't consider rereading that many times a waste), and I'm completely eager for Runes to get to Chicago! As a writer who reads, are there any books that you've reread an insane number of times? Or do you generally just move from book to book?

Also, a few months ago I offered to do free copyediting for your next books, just so I could get my greedy hands on an advance copy. Now that I've learned from the Video Interview on the site how much you despise copyeditors, thank God you turned me down!

Thanks, and take care!
Because I'm such a SLOW reader (being an English major in college and grad school trained that into me, and I can't get rid of it--although I don't actually want to), I've never re-read anything on the scale you describe. My 5 times through LOTR is the most re-reading I've ever done. Except possibly for Conrad's "Heart of Darkness."

(10/28/2004)

Ken Thompson:  As with many, I have thoroughly enjoyed the Covenant series. The only negative being, having first read Lord Foul's Bane when I was in High School, I was effectively ruined as far as the fantasy genre goes. Everything else out there seemed so shallow, except maybe Dune. Nothing I've ever picked up since has managed to hold my interest. Your so-called "overwriting" makes for very good story telling. It's hard to hold back when you first read through, but it's worth every minute. I am eagerly anticipating the new books as I may for the first time in many years have book that I can really sink my teeth into.

Questions:

1. I know you've probably call "out of bounds, I haven't gone there...," but I must ask. What on earth gave the inspiration for the Ur-viles and Waynhim? It was fascinatingly open ended...Demondim...Viles, who were those guys. You'll probably never ever write about that era again. The story of the Ur-viles and Waynhim and their Würd provokes some thinking. They are by nature perverse, in a very loose sense they remind me of good and bad laywers. They typically aren't held in high regard, and neither are the demondim spawn!

2. You've often spoken of your childhood in India with much discomfort, but is there anything that you've taken from there that you would characterize as positive?
Thank you!

1) I wouldn't really call your question "out of bounds." But it does make me squirm. In part because it may or may not imply spoilers. And in part because there are certain kinds of subjects about which I prefer not to get too specific: the Creator, creation myths, the Worm of the World's End, and so on. In purely practical terms, however, I simply don't remember where the original inspiration came from. All I remember is that the ideas started with the Waynhim and expanded from there to include ur-viles, Demondim, and Viles.

2) Well, my childhood in India played an ENORMOUS role in making me who I am today. Is that positive? I hope so. Certainly I had an exotic and exciting childhood. And very often life-threatening: so often that as a parent I shudder to remember it.

(10/29/2004)

TOM C:  Mr. Donaldson, thank you for answering my first question regarding your thoughts on the matter of fan fiction. Since receiving your response I wrote a short piece, that I shared with Kevinswatch, to illustrate my opinion on the subject of Lord Foul’s tenure on the Council of Lords. (Per your advice I made certain to include the proper disclaimers.) Though I certainly enjoyed writing the story as a fan, I felt far more satisfaction in making my point in the discussion. The concept of the Land’s most hated enemy having infiltrated the Council and befriending Kevin himself is fascinating to me and I would like to ask you about the nature of Foul’s participation. I have proposed that LF may have at times deliberately created scenarios for which he would be given the opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty and bravery to Kevin and the Council while at the same time furthering his clandestine and far reaching plans. In the scenario I created, Foul (whom I name Lord Jeroth for the sake of a less obvious label) hatches a fairly complex plot in order to do away with a certain young Lord who has drawn his ire. I liken it to using a sledgehammer to crush a cockroach. However the argument has been made that Foul may not have risked meddling or influencing events so that his deception would remain iron clad until he felt the time was ripe to spring his trap. I personally don’t believe LF could resist stirring the stew while he waited for it to cook. I realize this debate concerns subject matter that you have only hinted at in the course of telling your story and my question likely asks for a great deal of speculation on your part but I would appreciate any thoughts you may have on the subject.

Thanks,

Tom Cummins
As I've just said, one problem here is that the subject may or may not contain spoilers. In some cases, I don't want to discuss certain things because I have specific plans. In others, I avoid discussion because I simply want to keep my options open.

But remember that Lord Foul has a long history of working through misdirection, subordinates, and proxies. And remember that, in spite of his obvious delight in petty malice, there is no evidence that he has ever risked his larger plans for the sake of some smaller goal. No, even when he appears to be at his most overt and petty, his intent is to manipulate a response which will serve his larger purposes.

(10/29/2004)

Bryan J. Flynn:  Thanks for taking us back to the Land. Thanks also for this gradual interview; I find it enlightening while re-reading the series in prep for "Runes of the Earth."

I have one question:

Have you ever considered a point of view from Lord Foul and if so what would he say to the reader? I found Holt Fasner's POV well worth the wait in the Gap Series, and was curious if Lord Foul had anything to say beyond what we know.
I'm reluctant to rule anything out; but I consider it unlikely that I'll ever write anything from Lord Foul's POV. As a character, he exists on a different order of magnitude than his opponents in the Land--or than Holt Fasner, who for all of his narcissism was as mortal as anyone else. I suspect that I couldn't write from Lord Foul's POV without diminishing him in some way.

(10/29/2004)

David:  Mr. Donaldson - Would you discuss the business aspects of being a writer? I assume each writer negotiates specific terms for each book(s) that gets published. What role does an agent play in the process? Generally, how are you compensated for writing (i.e., a royalty per book sold? does the publisher bear the cost of publishing/promoting the book, and then subtract the costs from the royalties?, etc.) My second question. In addition to the scheduled book tour for "Runes", do you expect any additional magazine and/or television coverage? I still have a copy of the "People" magazine article that came out in the early 80's/late 70’s about the “Covenant” series.

I look forward to meeting you at the “Tattered Cover” in Denver. Thank you!
Strangely, this question didn't come up at the "Tattered Cover"....

The world has changed since I got my publishing break by sending in an unsolicited manuscript. Nowaday editors never read unsolicited material; so an agent is a necessity. And in the real world, the most practical way to get an agent is to first establish a track-record of some kind, for example by getting some short stories published (no agent can help you with short stories anyway). Also referrals are good: you want an agent whom you know to have a good reputation.

For novels, there are two main forms of publishing: "work for hire" (where the publisher pays the author a flat fee, and--usually--owns all the rights forever) and royalty. In both, the publisher bears all of the costs of producing, distributing, and promoting the book. In royalty publishing, the author is paid a (negotiable) percentage of the cover price of each book sold. However, a (negotiable) amount is paid up front as an "advance on royalties"; then the author receives no more money until the publisher has paid itself back for the advance out of the author's royalties. The publisher's costs are *never* subtracted from the author's royalties.

Unless you're dealing with what we call a "vanity press": a publisher that uses *your* money to produce books. This is almost always a disaster for the author because such publishers actually have no means of distributing or promoting the book: they make their profit directly off the author.

(10/30/2004)

Phillip Dodson:  Hello Mr. Donaldson,
I used to read a lot of fantasy, but after a while (I think in part to a lack of exposure to fantasy that appealed to my intellectual side) I lost interest, and started in on some fiction. Specifically, Conrad and Faulkner, and also JD Salinger. However, the Covenant series always remained a part of my read and re-read selection, and I kept finding myself buying cheap second hand book copies of the first and second chronicles, whenever I am in one of those establishments.
At any rate, can you think of any ways, either broad or specific, that Faulkner's style dealing with characterization, mood or setting that you carried with you into your writing?
If you look closely, I think you'll see significant echoes of Faulkner in the way Covenant talks when he gets worked up enough to make a speech about something. And of course the echoes of Conrad in the prose sytle of the "Covenant" books are hard to miss.

(10/30/2004)

James Kiernan:   First of all, thank you. Your Covenant Chronicles are definitely a gift to me. I live in New York state. Are you coming east for any book tours? Now a Covenant question. It seems as if The Worm of the World's end is real. Does this negate the creation story told by Mhoram? I don't think so, for all cultures have different creation myths. I also do not understand how Berek got the limb from the one tree? How did he not wake the worm?
As I've discussed before, I see no conflict at all between the various "creation cosmologies" which are presented in the "Covenant" books. Nor do I have any difficulty with the idea that they are all "real": since they don't conflict with each other, they can all be true simultaneously.

But that does not imply that the world, or anything in it, is static. I've suggested elsewhere that just because Covenant and Linden found the One Tree in an island doesn't necessarily mean that Berek also found it there. And the fact that the Worm was "restive" when Covenant--and his white gold ring--approached doesn't necessarily mean that Berek faced similar difficulties. Indeed, it may well be that Berek's actions *caused* the restiveness that troubled Covenant and Linden.

(10/30/2004)

Alan:  why a third series?
all the way through the 1st series people died to give covenant a chance against foul and I can understand why foul came back. In the 2nd chronicles however TC is raised to the stature of pure wild magic between foul and the arch. Linden then creates a new staff of law. this staff is created by the pinicle of the urvile law (vain whose purpose is greatly to be desired) and the elohim, beings of pure earth power. I fail to see how foul can come back. could you please explain.

puzzled of UK
I'm tempted to say, Read the book and find out. But that might miss the point of your question. How is it possible for Lord Foul to recover his vitality? My attitude is, How is it possible for him *not* to recover his vitality? Of course, there are some practical points covered in "The Runes of the Earth" that I don't want to mention here. But the story of the "Covenant" books so far describes a couple of (I believe) temporary solutions to what we might call "the problem of evil." And as long as those solutions ("power" in the first trilogy, "surrender" in the second) are temporary, Lord Foul *must* return. In "The Last Chronicles" my characters will be looking for a more enduring solution. (I, of course, already know what that solution is.)

(10/30/2004)

Jerry :  Not really a question but a comment. Just bought Runes and slowly read the prolog. WOW! Thank you again. Though long, the wait has been worth it if only for the beginning.
Thanks! That's good to hear.

(10/30/2004)

David:  Dear Sir; Do you ever plan on anything good happening to Mick. He is a good guy by nature but it seems that he's always just P.O'd somebody off. He is just doing his job and wants the good guys to win but always ends up the sacrificial lamb. Give him a break for crying out loud.
I guess I disagree with some of your underlying assumptions. It appears to me that good things happen to (and for) Brew in every book. Of course, some--perhaps many--of those things are painful; even terribly painful. But life is like that. Certainly mine is; and I suspect I'm not alone. If the journeys we all go through weren't painful, they wouldn't give us the opportunities to learn and grow that we all urgently need.

In any case, I cling to the central principle on which my stories are based: the stories happen to those people who most desperately need them. Through his pain, Brew has come a very long way since the beginning of "Brother." I don't feel sorry for him, I'm proud of him.

(10/30/2004)

Peter J Purcell:  I deeply appreciate your dedication to answering our questions. It is especially impressive as you are burdened with your book tour [and we all know how much you like touring! ;-)] Thank you.

Now my question; do you angst and rewrite and proof your answer to our questions anywhere near as much as you angst and rewrite when you're writing your fiction? If so you deserve several orders of magnitude MORE appreciation than we have given you to-date!!
Well, *angst* might be too strong a word. But I'm a compulsive self-editor, rewriting and revising constantly. Which is why these questions get answered so slowly (well, that, and the fact that I have so little time)--and why I carry on virtually no "ordinary" correspondence.

(10/30/2004)

Michael from Santa Fe:  I've never been to an author's book tour event. What will happen if I go to yours? Do I have to purchase the book there, or can I bring a copy I've purchased before and have you sign it? Will you sign copies of your other books? Do you plan to speak, or will you be sitting and signing? Thanks for any info.
I'm sorry this hasn't been made clear. No, you don't need to buy a book. Yes, you can bring your own books to be signed. Yes, I usually talk for a while before I sign. But no matter how long it takes, I don't turn anyone away.

(10/30/2004)

Hazel:  Do you anticipate difficulties in translating the complexity of thes Covenant novels into film format? Are you likely to write the screenplay yourself?
No, I won't write the screenplay--although I've agreed to be a casual consultant. Yes, I anticipate enormous difficulties in translating "Lord Foul's Bane" to film. Curiously, the screenwriter involved disagrees: he thinks much of the translation will effectively write itself (although he acknowledges some crucial problems). However, the movie people are all primarily concerned with the difficulties of "selling" the project to a studio (in other words, they need vast amounts of money). If they can get a commitment from a studio, they're excited by the challenges of actually making the movie.

(11/01/2004)

Will:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
As you have stated several times in this interview, you have grown and evolved much as a writer in the 20+ years since you finished the Second Chronicles. Are there any particular things that you will do/have done differently in writing the Last Chronicles? Are there any stylistic or technical aspects of the first two Chronicles that in hindsight you would choose not to repeat?

thanks!
This is hard to answer, since I don't have an "outsider's" perspective on my own work. But I do see problems in both the first and second "Covenant" trilogies: there are some structural things that I would definitely do differently today; and I'm not always satisfied with how I presented my characters in those earlier books, especially in "White Gold Wielder." So I'm certainly striving not to make the same mistakes again. Only time will tell whether I actually succeed.

(11/01/2004)

Matthew Orgel:   Well, I would first like to say that in the past months I have pulled a Donaldson marathon, rereading Mordant's Need, and reading the entire chronicles for the first time. I finished White Gold Wielder last night and I am still shell shocked. (I got The Real Story sitting on my nightstand right now)
The emotional impact these books have had on me is profound, and I seem to be drawing absolute reams of personal meaning from what I have read.
The only time I cried in the whole chrons? Lindon and Covenant's realization and consummation of love. I just wanted to know, is this all my own personal interpretation? Or was this the core of your purpose?
One other thing, this mad passion of yours for killing principles was beginning to wear me down at the end of WGW. Was this consciously vindicated by Cear Caverol's breaking of the law of life? Perhaps the only thing in the whole series that affected me as much as the redemption of Covenant and Lindon was Sunder's breakdown after you killed Hollian. (I somehow grew extremely attached to Sunder, I felt he was an important anchor for Covenant and Lindon)
Well, I can't honestly say that "the core of [my] purpose" in "The Second Chronicles" was to make you cry. <rueful smile> But Covenant's and Linden's discovery of love for each other *did* lie at the core of my purpose. You will perhaps have noticed that the entire story revolves around "relationships": Covenant and Linden; Sunder and Hollian; the First and Pitchwife; on a different level, Honninscrave and Seadreamer; and on a *very* different level, Vain and Findail. One of the points I was trying to get at is that it is these relationships, rather than any individual heroism, which defeat Lord Foul and redeem the Land. As an old poem says, "Two are more than one and one." Even in the first "Chronicles," Covenant could not have done it alone; but that truth is explored (I hope) more deeply in "The Second."

As for the body-count: what can I tell you? Hope is meaningless if it can't exist in the face, in the very teeth, of death and despair. I don't think it's possible to tell the truth about evil without confronting murder, mayhem, and self-sacrifice. But I'm afraid I don't understand your question as it pertains to Caer-Caveral. I don't believe that there are any conditions under which life can exist without death. It follows, therefore, that between them Caer-Caveral and Elena have opened the door for the utter destruction of the Earth.

(11/03/2004)

Martin Bennett:  Are the Creator of the Land and Covenant one and the same? I seem to remember Linden feeling that the two resembled one another. Foul also resembles Covenant, according to the man himself. What then is the nature of this Creator/Covenant/Despiser relationship? Or perhaps the Creator is the opposite of the Despiser within Covenant? Is the Despiser battling his 'Enemy' for ultimate possession of Covenant's soul?
If I had written only the first "Covenant" trilogy, we might reasonably be able to say something like: Covenant = Creator + Despiser. But such an equation is clearly too simplistic to be applied to "The Second Chronicles." I fear you may have to accept the possibility that my intentions are more complex than you've made them sound; and that "Covenant = Creator + Despiser" is merely a starting point.

Unless you're asking me about the relationship between Covenant, the Creator, and the Despiser *outside* the context of the story; in which case I have no answer for you.

(11/03/2004)

Usivius:  I am a casual user of internet at best, but imagine my joy at having stumbled upon your OFFICIAL website! AND you answer questions! (a bit of fan awe..)you are my favourite author. Your style of writing inspired me to write, mainly because of the visual images and emotional impact your words create in me. I have many many questions, but I will limit myself to one every week or so...

I am primarily a visual person. I draw and I paint. But writing has the ability to create things that the visual mind cannot adequately put on a surface. I am especially astounded at your ability to create fantastic characters in such confined spaces. I have felt the most impact of your writing in such 'confined' spaces as book 1 of "Mordant's Need", where almost the entire action takes place in a castle; and in the Gap series, where in many books, the best stuff is written in the confines of a spaceship, or the buildings of leaders.
My (rather roundabout) questions is, do you approach writing differently when describing scenes/action/plot that takes place in such confined spaces? I just find it so much more intense and viseral (and visual).
No, I don't approach writing differently when the story is set in confined space(s). It's all story-telling to me. The challenge is simply to find the right methodology (e.g. narrative "voice") for each story. However, I can certainly see that confined space(s) could help produce a certain kind of intensification. The characters in "The Mirror of Her Dreams," and in the GAP books, occupy a "hothouse" atmosphere quite unlike the expansive vistas of the Land.

If I had an hour or two to spare, I could discuss at some length the *nature* of what words can and cannot communicate, especially as that compares to the *nature* of what visual images can and cannot communicate. But I'm always scrambling for time; so I'll limit myself to observing that I actually spend relatively few words on attempts to convey visual images. Instead I concentrate on trying to convey emotional impressions: impressions which I hope will inspire the reader's imagination to create (among other things) his/her own visuals. At least where you're concerned, my method appears to have been successful.

(11/03/2004)

Bill Foley:  Thanks so much for being so accessible and forthright in considering our questions; much appreciated. Let me also echo the senitments of others by sharing my beliefe that you're "way up there" on the list of the great top authors in my book. Thanks for your talent.

I'm re-reading the 1st and 2nd Chronicles in anticipation of the arrival of a complex and exciting Final Chronicles soon. A question occurs...

Please describe your thoughts on the relationship between the Land's Creator and the Creator of the "real" world. Same?

Congratulations in advance for what I am certain will be a resounding success with the Last Chronicles and best wishes to you for continued prosperity and happiness.
We've been over this. As *I* am the creator of the Land, the Land's Creator, Covenant, and Covenant's "real world," I am, of course, the same guy. Other than that, I find such questions impossible to understand, never mind answer. As I *am* the creator of Covenant's "real world," and as I am *not* present in the story, I cannot possibly be the same being as the Land's Creator (whom I also created).

(11/03/2004)

Kevin:  Mr. Donaldson: If we were ever to meet, I'm afraid it would be as adversaries of sorts.

You've described often enough how you feel about book tours. However, if I ever get a chance to, I will nevertheless insist on joining a drooling, line-looped hoard in order to push a mass-produced example of your work into your personal space in order to induce compulsory handwriting. Or something like that. It's bizarre, I suppose, that that would be meaningful to me, but, then again, it's not really how I dream it would be either.

So: is there any gesture, expression, or consideration that a fan might offer to you at a tour event that could make things nicer for you, or that you would appreciate?
First, a general comment for readers of the Gradual Interview. There are currently 85+ questions in the database for October, and another 25 (already!) for November. Clearly, I'm falling farther and farther behind. So please be patient.

Second, a general comment about book tours. I don't do tours because someone holds a gun to my head: I do them because my career needs the help. So when I'm doing a tour, I accept it. There is no need for anyone to feel apologetic about attending one of my signings and asking for my autograph.

Now, since you asked, I'll tell you one thing that I truly loathe: people who not only want my autograph, but who want me to write "something creative" just for them in their book. Please! Book tours in general, and signing sessions in particular, are the LEAST creative circumstances imaginable. On top of that, I never create ANYthing longhand: I can only create at the keyboard. So don't even ask. It just makes me want to scream.

(11/03/2004)

Ranyhyn:  Hi Steve, my question is probably pretty obvious considering my name. My mother named me after the Ranyhyn in your Thomas Covenant series because she loved the name. I haven't read the books yet myself but I have looked at the glossary of names in the back of the books and I 've always wanted to know, did you make up the names in your books (including mine) or were they taken from somewhere? and how is Ranyhyn supposed to be pronounced? My parents pronounced it Ranyin but I'm just curious to know whether that's the way it's supposed to be said.
Ranyhyn
Yes, I made up the name "Ranyhyn." There are plenty of names in my books that I borrowed from one source or another, but "Ranyhyn" is mine.

In general, I believe that there are no wrong ways to pronounce the names in my books. But just for your information, I pronounce it:

RON-e-hin

(11/03/2004)

mike white:  Hi Mr Donaldson,

Any news on how sales of "runes" are going?
So far, I guess I would have to say that the US sales are going "very well" but not "great". "Great" means "on the NY Times Bestseller List," and that hasn't happened. On the other hand, "Runes" has appeared on the Publishers Weekly Bestseller List, so that constitutes "very well."

(11/03/2004)

Garry Maynard:  Hi Mr Donaldson i was wondering if you might have considered doing a movie version of Lord Foul's Bane?

I have always been a great admirer of fantasy literature. In 1985 my stepfather gave me Lord Foul's Bane as birthday gift(13 years old). In reading this novel i became aware of the anti hero element in mythical based literature. Is there more impact in the telling of disbelief in self worth as a basis of story in comparison to conviction of the hero who always believes that they will win?
Thankyou for giving me an opportunity to communicate with you as i have always liked your writing yours truly Garry maynard
The movie version of "Lord Foul's Bane" is discussed elsewhere. But you raise some complex points about character. In my personal opinion, "the hero who always believes that they will win" is an inherently uninteresting concept: the guy is either just plain stupid or stone blind with denial. However, a more important point lies behind this issue. Again in my personal opinion, the best stories are the ones that happen to people who urgently *need* those stories: people who are lost, and who will remain lost unless some life-changing crisis overtakes them; people whose only hope for salvation (however loosely defined) lies in that crisis. I don't think of such characters is "anti-heroes": I think of them as people in need. And, to no one's surprise, "the hero who always believes that they will win" is seldom truly "in need". (Unless, of course, what that hero truly *needs* is something to break down his denial, or to break through his stupidity.) This is why Hile Troy doesn't become an interesting character until he realizes how badly he's misjudged Lord Foul's power.

(11/04/2004)

Joseph McSheffrey:  What's the R. stand for?
Reeder. My mother's maiden name.

(11/04/2004)

John Gauker:  I want you to know that you have greatly underrated yourself as Science Fiction writer. It is my opinion that the GAP books are the best I have read in the genre and I have been reading SF and Fantasy books for over 30 years. You are among the authors that I read without even thinking about any promotional material, Terry Pratchett is the other. I have Runes on order and have some guesses as to the content that I do not expect you to confirm or deny. One of which is that Covenant was transported to the Land in the fire similarly to Hile Troy and is somehow still aging as if he were still in the "regular" world and will be a major character in this series of books. After all that, my question is a simple one. How far have you progressed in the writing of the next book? I know you have stated that it will take you 10 years to complete this part of the story but I am very impatient.
I think I've been over this; but I'll risk repeating myself for the sake of clarity.

"The Runes of the Earth" was published in a tremendous rush--by both my US and UK publishers. I finished work on the book in mid-April, 2004, and books have already been in the stores for a couple of weeks. That's six months for a job that usually takes 12-15. As a result, all of the normal chores of preparing a book--copy-editing, proofreading, designing maps, approving cover-copy (not to mention art)--had to be squeezed into a painfully short period of time. Twice. AND my US publisher asked me to autograph 7500 copies in advance. AND my UK publisher asked me to sign 1000 copies in advance. AND I've been asked to do perhaps 30 times as much advance promotional work as ever before in my career. AND I have to do book tours in both the US and the UK.

The result? I've made *no* physical progress on "Fatal Revenant." I've had no TIME.

(11/05/2004)

Christian Van Raam from Minnesota:  Mr. Donaldson,

Have you considered writing a prequel to the thomas Covenant books? A kind of history of the land similar to J.R.R. tolkeins "Simmarillion". With the stories of Berek, Loric, Damaleon and Kevin. Maybe with the story of the one forest. just an idea, I have always thought that the history of the land was fascinating and much deeper than what other authors put into their books.

Also we would be honored if you would visit the "frozen chosen" in Minnesota during your book tour.
I wish I could dispose of this question once and for all. It's come up hundreds of times over the past 20+ years. Will I ever write "prequels" for the "Covenant" books? No, no, a thousand times no! As a general rule, prequels suck. In fact, they pretty much *have* to suck, since they involve telling stories where the outcome is already known. There are no imaginable circumstances under which I would write a prequel. To *any* of my books.

This does not mean, I hasten to add, that "The Last Chronicles" will contain no prequel-like material. They may or may not: I'm not going to reveal my intentions. But one or more stand-alone prequels? Never.

(11/05/2004)

David B McClendon:  Just got my confimation from amazon.com that my copy of "Runes" is on the way. I ordered it a couple of months ago. I'm 46 years old and remember sharing the second C's among my coworkers back in the early or mid eighties.

Back in the late 90's I was a sofware product manager and was involved in an intense development effect. To make a long story short, I sent out a email after a intense period to my guys (guy means both males and females) that they were the "white gold." I was accussed of be be "under the influence" (guilty).

One of my favorite characters was Amok. He was wise, very poweful, yet, eventuanly, submitted to his fate, only at the end complainling about his "short" life.

Do you have any further thoghts about Anmok you wonld like to share?

Thanks
I glad you liked Amok. But I pretty much said all I have to say about the character in "The Illearth War." Despite the length of my books, I'm really a very efficient writer: I create what I need to create; and if I don't need it, I leave it alone.

(11/05/2004)

John Rea:  Hi Steve:

My jaw literally dropped wide open when my amazon home page broke the very unexpected and welcome news about the Last Chronicles. I couldn't believe it, and I am now happily staying awake into the night reading.

I can't figure out how to phrase this request in the form of a question: please find another literary description to replace "retreat into autism".

At two places in the Gap, you refer to a highly stressed-out character as "retreating into autism." When you and I were in school, a long long time ago, it was thought that autism (then called childhood schizophrenia) was an emotional disorder brought on by refrigerator mothers and treatable by Freudian therapy (as everything was in those days).

Well, everything we thought we knew about autism has been proven wrong over the past 20-30 years. We now know it is not an emotional condition. We know it is not like catatonia or living in a dream world. We do know it is probably genetic in origin, triggered during pregnancy or early years of life by infection or antibiotics or even childhood vaccinations. Organically, it is a form of brain damage: different areas of the brain don't develo