Paul:  When I read Runes, my wife would get annoyed at me because I would always go "Ahhhhh", "ohhhh", "oh wow!", etc as new revelations were made.

In particular, I was struck by how you have managed to tie elements up from the first and second chronicles in such a way that the whole story has been planned from start to finish.

Examples? Amok's talk about seeing the Sandgorgons or the great desert and mentioning Merewives.. Weaving the Ranyhyn into the time elements of the latest story..

So I have to ask.. how much of that is planned and how much of that is clever writing to make it *look* like you had it all planned? :-)

I mean when you wrote how the Ranyhyn will hear their call says before its made, did you have any inkling of the 3rd chronicles storyline?

I can almost imagine when you have deftly managed to tie into something said in a previous book saying "hehe, they are gonna love that!"

I've already discussed this at some length. The short version: when I wrote the first "Covenant" trilogy, I threw in a lot of stuff (Sandgorgons, Elohim, etc.) just for world-building; I had no intention of continuing the story. But when I realized that I both wanted and knew how to continue the story, I planned "The Second Chronicles" and "The Last Chronicles" before I started writing "The Wounded Land." And a significant part of that planning involved "mining" the first trilogy for raw materials.

Well, by now "The Last Chronicles" has been pretty thoroughly planned. But I have to admit that the "mining" process is still underway. Putting it another way: I know very well what I'm trying to forge; but I still occasionally need ore. And every once in a while I *do* get that "they are gonna love that" feeling. Shameless, I know: a real character flaw. <grin> But there it is.


Josiah:  Hey Mr. Donaldson, it's good to get the chance to correspond with you again :)

your limit is still 2 I see, so, here's both. and, just so you know, I'm barely half serious with the second, so if you shoot it down bluntly, or ignore it all together, I won't be offended :-p

1) I recall you saying that after you wrote the first "Gap" novel, you put it away for a while because, if memory serves (I say that to much) it was because it bothered you that you could write that. I saw your reply to this statement in recent questions, and the answer gave me a new direction to take the question: do you have other works you've written and put aside, for whatever reason, that may see publication one day, or was "The Real Story" the only such work?

2) this question will seem out of place at first, please bear with me :)
have you ever watched any Japanese animation?
films I'd recommend are "Ghost in the Shell" and its sequel, as well as "Princess Mononoke" and "Spirited Away"

now my reasoning: I KNOW you've said that of all your works, you would least like to see Covenant on the big screen, small screen... any screen.
not only is your style of writing it to much a part of it, but there is also to much that can not be conveyed outside of text.
-that is, in normal movies. live action.

I think that an ANIMATED Covenant might be able to convey things. show things, even be truer to the land than a live action movie.
no. not like "The Hobbit" or "Wizards"
if you are unfamiliar with Japanese animation, or have heard damning things about it, I would ask you to put them aside, and rent either "Mononoke" or "Spirited Away." I think then you'd see why I believe something could be accomplished there that live action cannot.

as I've said, I KNOW you don't want it to become a movie. But you've also said it's (unfortunately) out of your hands. I (nervously and possibly foolishly) suggest this because, if a movie version ever DOES happen, I'd like for it to be good enough that you could feel proud of it, and glad for the adaptation they did.
1) No, "The Real Story" is the only time I've had that experience, and the only time since I "turned pro" that I've suppressed (temporarily or otherwise) a story I've written. Of course, my files are full of what I think of as my "journeyman" work (although a more appropriate term might be "juvenalia"). But I had to start a long way back in order to get to "Lord Foul's Bane." Please trust me when I say that no one needs to read my adolescent flounderings.

2) I've seen "Princess Mononoke" and "Howl's Moving Castle." Enjoyed them both. But the problem, as I see it, with a "Covenant" film isn't live action vs animation: it's internal vs external. Prose allows me to go inside my characters: film inherently looks at the characters from the outside. In other words, film is a fundamentally different form of storytelling, with entirely different strengths and weaknesses; strengths and weaknesses which, I suspect, are not well suited to my stories (especially the "Covenant" stories).


Steve the Haruchai:  I just read in one of the structured interviews that you were afraid people would read Runes and think you should have quit while you were ahead. I finished Runes yesterday, and let me assure you your fears were unfounded. It is excellent, at least as well written as the the other Covenant books. Great stuff. I had problems reading every word because I was so excited to find out what happened next. Thanks to this, I mistakenly thought Stave's name was Steve when I first encountered it and blew past it. I admit that before I double checked, I thought you had lost your mind. Steve the Haruchai? My mistake. Now I need to reread it at a more normal pace.
My question is, out of all the wonderful cultures you have created for the Covenant books (Haruchai, Giants, Stonedowne, etc), which are you the most proud of, which is your favorite?
Thanks for continuing the story. And, i think I speak for many people here, I sincerely hope that you were teasing us when Linden was told she would not see any Giants while she was in the Land this time.
I don't have favorite races/cultures/creatures/whatever. That's too generic. I have favorite characters. But I hasten to say--as I've often said before--that my favorites change from day to day and situation to situation.

However, I suspect the results clearly indicate that I have found the Haruchai to be more creatively, well, fecund than anyone else. Even when compared to the Giants, the Haruchai have been a more constant presence in the overall story, and have supplied me with more individual characters.


Kurt:  I read the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant trilogy many years ago when I was in high school. I recently pulled them off the shelf to reread them while on long business flights. To my dismay, I found that the last 25 pages (pp 453-475) are missing from my Balantine/DelRey paperback copy. The binding is still in very good condition so the pages could not have fallen out.

Is this a unique occurence or was it widespread? Is there some way/where to get an electronic copy of those 25 pages? I have searched the web with no luck...
This is not a problem that I've ever heard of before. Of course, all human endeavors are susceptible to mishap; and that definitely includes publishing. Still, your experience seems a bit extreme....

At one time, bootleg e-copies of the first six "Covenant" books were available on the web. But I'm told that source has now ceased to exist. Sorry about that.


JP:  On behalf of someone who wrote in to the GI, you had asked about audio book versions of the Chronicles, and you had asked us to "address them to Mr Castano at the e-address above", but Mr. Castano's email address isn't visible in the GI. So i'm submitting what I found here, since I can't send it straight to him.

On this page:

a british site claims to have audio copies of The Wounded Land and The Illearth War as read by John Chancer. I don't know if they have the rest of the 1st or 2nd Chronicles.
Unfortunately, I also don't have Mr Castano's e-address. So I'm posting this in the (admittedly faint) hope that he'll see it.

I'm not at all familiar with the site you (ahem) cite, so I can't vouch for it.


Barry Brown:  Steve;
At the end of "White Gold Weilder" Pitchwife picked up Conenvant's body, and left with it. I guess since he was dead in RL, and in the land there was no need to be summoned back. Are you going to tell where it is buried??

Since the Law of Death was broken by the Power of Command, and the Law of Life was broken by the Forestial with the use of the Krill. The Staff of Law no longer supports these Laws. Will it not take a quest to the earthroot again to put these laws right?
Forgive me if this sounds brusque; but I'm afraid that all of your questions fall squarely under the heading of RAFO.

Although I don't mean to increase your level of frustration, let me just say that I actually *like* answering such questions--in the story itself rather than in this interview. But that doesn't ever mean I actually *will* answer them: it simply means that if I *do* answer them I'll enjoy it.


Allen:  The language spoken by the peoples of the Land is very distinct; full of dignity, grandeur, a kind of romantic beauty and power; the sound the gods might of made if the gods were rendered subject to the trials of mortality.
I'm curious about what the antecedents to this language are. Could you name any specific poets or writers who set your vitals on fire when crafting such speech? Perhaps Covenant's Struggles Against Despite In The Arena Of The Land should be regarded as a gigantic opera. Did Wagner's arias play their part?
gracias, Allen
As I keep saying, I seldom have *conscious* antecedents (with the obvious exceptions of Wagner's Ring cycle for the GAP books and Tolkien's LOTR for "Covenant"--which, now that I think about it, hardly counts as "seldom" <grin>). Nevertheless it's obvious that I've been influenced by all kinds of things (e.g. Wagner's music and story more than his libretto). In addition to citing Joseph Conrad, Henry James, William Faulkner, and Sir Walter Scott (and George Meredith and Shakespeare and Dostoevsky and Mervyn Peake and Alfred Lord Tennyson and...), I should probably mention Gerard Manley Hopkins and William Butler Yeats. The distinctive rhetoric of the "Covenant" books would not be what it is without all of them.


Krishnansu S. Tewari, MD:  Thanks for answering my previous questions and for continuing this Gradual Interview in the midst of your writing for Fatal Revenant. I have a few more questions:

1. Although the Covenant books are among my favorite works of all time (I mentioned my other favorite authors in my previous question), I have to admit, I did not enjoy the last two books of the 2nd chronicles as much as I did the first four books and Runes.

So, my question is, although it seems from the readership that writes in to the GI that they all loved both the first and second chronicles tremendously, I have become curious if I'm the exception or have you heard any comments like mine regarding how they were disappointed with the 2nd chronicles? Please understand, I'm sure if I re-read them now (I plan to as time permits), I will probably realize how very wrong I was back in the early 80s.

Question #2: I know you don't speak about other living authors, but I thought I'd ask you what you thought about Alan Moore since he's not a novelist but mainly a comic book writer and you have mentioned you onced collected comic books. I would be interested in your comments about Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, etc. if you've read them. For me, you and Moore are the best writers alive today (along with Gabriel Garcia Marquez!).

Question #3: I don't know if you've discussed this, but are there any painters alive or dead that you think would realize your vision of the Land and your stories to some degree?

Sorry this note is so long. I now know from my last one that I should not expect to see an answer for atleast 5 months (maybe more!).

With warmest personal regards,
Krish Tewari, MD
1) In my experience, the response to "Covenant" is not as, well, homogeneous as you seem to think. Some people read and *loathed* all six books. Some liked the second trilogy much better than the first. Some loved the first and couldn't stomach the second at all. Some threw "Lord Foul's Bane" into the fire after the first 50 pages and refused to read another word. Some killed themselves. Some felt redeemed. (OK, now I'm just having fun.) So I'm sure you aren't alone. Certainly Lester del Rey positively abhorred Linden as a POV character.

2) I've read both Moore and Marquez with great interest; but ultimately neither of them suits my personal taste. On the other hand, I enjoy Jim Starlin. And Gaiman's "Sandman" books I re-read regularly, despite the sometimes execrable art.

3) That judgmental remark notwithstanding, I'm truly not a visual person. I can't really answer your question--except to say that in all these years I've only seen one painting that made me feel the way the Land feels in my imagination (it was a rendition of Revelstone for the still-entirely-hypothetical film of "Lord Foul's Bane"), and I don't even know who painted it.



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Matthew S. Urdan:  Dear Mr. Donaldson:

High School was an amazing time for me. My best friends and I had discovered the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Freshman year and the Second Chronicles came out as we were heading towards graduation. 1983, Senior Year, was amazing. Not only did we have White Gold Wielder, but we also had Return of the Jedi. In High School we read the best there was: Tolkien, McCaffrey, Bradley, Herbert, Brooks, Douglas Adams, and yes, on top of them all, Donaldson. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Rule!

You can't imagine my shock, surprise, and awe at finding the first volume of the Last Chronicles at Borders today. One question I've always had though regarding Andelain, Earthblood, and the like is what personal experience or place in your life are they based upon? What experience have you had in the wilderness, and where was that wilderness, that inspired such awe-inspiring and lovingly described places and concepts?

For me, the Gauley River in West Virginia, the Tuolumne River in California, Yosemite National Park, Lake Michigan and Mt. Rainier are all places of raw power and life-affirming spirituality. I'd like to know where your Andelain is and where Earthblood comes from. I strongly believe you've based them on a real place. They are too real in print to be artificial constructs. Either that, or you're a more gifted writer than you seem to believe, as evidenced by current interviews on this website.

I'll be eagerly awaiting all volumes of the Last Chronicles, and will consider every one of them a gift, whether or not you match the quality of the first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

Best Regards,

Matthew S. Urdan
Formerly of Detroit, now of Columbus, Ohio
I'm sorry to keep repeating myself; but I really did not base any of the places, powers, characters, or situations in the "Covenant" books on ANYthing from my own experience (except that I did own a white gold ring, leprosy is real, and Haven Farm is modeled on the place in south New Jersey--now a housing development--where I wrote the first three books). The explanation (such as it is) is that that's not how my imagination works. If anything, places/people/etc. from personal experience paralyze me as a writer. Only language truly fires my imagination.

This does not make me "a more gifted writer". It simply means that I work with my limitations instead of against them, using *your* experiences to fill in the gaps.


Nigel Sutton:  Rather belatedly I have just started reading the Axebrewder/Fistoulari novels. Just can't put them down at the moment. In comparison to the fantasy books these seem, on the face of it, to be of a fairly simple first person reportage though none less compelling for that. How did they come about, being so diverse from your recognised output?
Really interested in this - where did the inspiration come from to "be" Brew?
I've said this before: on a conscious level (NOT the most reliable source of information), I decided to try my hand at mystery novels because I was so dissatisfied by other writers' mystery novels. From my perspective, both the "drawing room sleuth" (implausible puzzles) and the "hard-boiled detective" (static machismo) ignore the inherent wealth of the genre: unparalleled opportunities to examine character. To the extent that I wanted to work within a tradition, it was that of Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald. But even they fail one of my urgent requirements: an organic, personal, *necessary* relationship between the detective and the crime. So (like James Fennimore Cooper long ago), since I didn't like what I was reading, I decided to try to do better.

The resounding commercial failure of "The Man Who" books suggests that I may not have succeeded. <grin>

As for my unconscious motivations, they are purely a matter of speculation. But if you have *way* too much time on your hands, you might consider looking for connections between each Brew/Ginny novel and the immediately preceding sf/f epic.


Evaleigh:  Hi Mr. Donaldson,

I read Lord Foul’s Bane when it first came out and the Land, since that book I read in the 70s, has always been apart of my life. Thank you for sharing your imagination and creation with me.

I read a section where you wrote that you felt in the past you weren’t a good enough writer to finish the Covenant Chronicles, and so you wrote and wrote until you felt you were ready. I have begun to reread “Runes”, with new “eyes” after reading that you place an exuberant amount of energy into each word, sentence and paragraph. I felt it only fair that I do the same while reading “Runes”.

Now, while still early into the second reading, I find myself at a new level of emersion into your story. Instead of being a song I tap my feet to, it is a soulful composition that strums chords and notes that resonate through me.

So, does your writing bring you the same joy as my reading of it?
I think I know what you're talking about. As a reader, I sometimes feel almost *exalted* by the power of brilliant writing and storytelling, even when the writing and the storytelling are all about pain.

But as a writer, that isn't really possible for me. All of the to-ing and fro-ing, the self-doubt, the complex and vital efforts to solve what are essentially insoluble problems, that I find necessary (perhaps because of the nature of my ambitions, perhaps because I'm simply that kind of person) prevent the experience of writing from having much resemblence to the experience of reading. And the situation is worsened by the "experiential" way in which I write: I try--as much as imagination permits--to "go through" everything that happens in my stories. "The Runes of the Earth" was certainly not a joyful experience for Linden Avery: therefore it could not have been joyful for me.

The fact that writing and reading can be such different experiences is one of the more amazing--and ambiguous--miracles of being human.


Karen:  Hello! Hope this finds you well.
I have read a couple of the questions submitted re the machinations of various characters in Chronicles and how essential their 'plots' are to the storyline and the outcome.

The answer I came up with to these questions myself before reading some of your own answers was that these needed to be so complex due to the fact that Lord Foul COULDN'T in fact just muscle in and somehow obtain the ring if it fell into other hands etc, because as stated by Lord Mhorham in TPTP, Covenant IS the white gold. This would mean that the ring simply couldnt be found/stolen by someone else as it would not have the same properties/power. Of course I was then confused in the 2nd Chronicles by the fact that Linden Avery appears to be almost some sort of Demi-God in terms of what she can do with her own abilities and Covenant's ring.
If Covenant IS the essence of the wild magic which is unleashed by the white gold, how is it that Linden then becomes the key character with regards to its useage?

Am I just being very dense here in seeing the explanation?



I think the point on which I've failed to be clear is that it's a question of *degree*. White gold is the instrument of wild magic. Any passing stranger with a bit of lore and/or sensitivity could get *some* use out of the ring. And the more lore and/or sensitivity that someone-not-Covenant has, the more useful the ring will be. But only the ring's true wielder, someone who has an organic relationship with that specific ring (Covenant, Joan), can access *all* of the power of wild magic. The Elenas and Lindens of the Land can evoke a LOT of power from white gold; but a LOT is a far cry from the near-absolute power required to destroy the Arch of Time.

Lord Foul has no use for a LOT of power: he needs near-absolute power. Hence the somewhat oblique focus of his machinations.

Does that help?


David Pelton:  Greetings and Salutations

Is there a location we can sign up to get notification when volume 2 of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is published?


Sorry. Neither my webmaster nor I have the time to compile the necessary database. News will be posted on this site promptly whenever I have any.


Daryl McCormack:  I am sure you hear it all the time, and don't have time to respond to all comments but I would like you to know "in your dwindling years" as you put it how much I loved and got out of your books. Thomas Covenant was a religious experience to me, a deeply moving and truly awesome story.

Was there a specific reason you chose Thomas to have leprosy??

If it helps the writer in you, "A man rides through" duo was an excellent book and I would never have been able to tell it was yours just by reading it, some authors always write in the same vein as it were and you can recognize it, those books don't and so can stand on their own as great books. Thanks again for bringing something special into my life.
Sincerely yours,
Daryl McCormack
It's probably obvious that I think in extremes. Because I grew up with the subject of leprosy (in a manner of speaking), it was quite familiar. And I considered it an apt metaphor for the kind of private alienation and loneliness that might drive an otherwise ordinary--and possibly even kind and loving--man to become a potential Despiser. Certainly I know (based on experiences physically if not emotionally less extreme than leprosy) how Covenant felt. And the success of the various "Chronicles" suggests that many of my readers also know how he felt.


Vera B.:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you dearly for the superb duology of Mordant's Need. I don't care how long ago you wrote them, I consider them timeless classics in my personal library.

However, I do have a question. It seems Nyle was severely (to put it lightly) abused by Gilbur. What I was wondering is if you intended to make it seem like he was supposed to "heal" with a few words from King Joyse--I doubt it--or if his being named/assigned as Contender to Alend a recompense of sorts for the suffering he endured. Somehow, this is the only detail that I cannot seem to reconcile. I realize he made a few bad judgement calls, but...

Regardless of the answer(if there is one), I felt very satisfied with how Eremis' end came about, and I loved how this story ended with a great wedding! As a woman, I also appreciate the way women's role--especially Elega, Myste, and Terisa--changed that society's fate and, consequently, its culture concerning women. Thank you again for a wonderful tale. <sigh> I do wish you'd reconsider "revisiting" Mordant. They only had peace "for the time being"...
And thank *you*! I'm quite proud of "Mordant's Need." And I've often wondered why more readers don't seem to notice the transformative role of women in the story.

King Joyse's response to what Nyle did and suffered was intended as both forgiveness ("I don't hold what you did against you") and apology ("I'm sorry that my actions put you in the path of so much harm"). But I had a deeper idea in mind as well. Under the right circumstances, a gesture of trust toward someone who has (apparently) shown himself unworthy of trust can have a redemptive effect. In a very real sense, King Joyse *is* trying to help Nyle heal.


John Dunn:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. I have several questions, on your various works.

The Man Who...
Firstly, I have read several of your The Man Who series, and I am looking forward to the others. In the last few years those books have been published under you own name, but almost all of them were published many years ago. The first two books (the onse I have read so far) note that there have been some revisions. Why did you revise those books from their original publication, and what did you actually revise? you have stated that you are proud of what you have written, so why the changes?

Secondly, I think I read you planned to publish one last Man Who book. When you originally conceived of the first book, did you know there would be others. You state that your creative process dictates how many books will be in a series; was this true for these books as well? Or was each book conceived of as a singular story in an open-ended series?

Thirdly, what person/idiot decided you should publish these books under an assumed name? As you know we are not a very literate people. I know nothing about the 'publishing business', yet I would assume that many readers read anything their favorite authors publish. As soon as I found out about The Man Who series I started to track down the books (actually had to end up ordering them on-line, the book stores do not seem to carry them). If I had known about these books years ago I would have bought them when they were originally published, as I am sure others would have too. What was the reason these books could not have been originally published under your own name?

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
In all there series the Despiser wants to flee what he beleives is a prision: the Earth. He needs to destroy the Arch of Time to do so. Thus, he needs White Gold (correct me if I am wrong). You stated somewhere in the GI that we have to wonder how many Laws have to be broken before it all falls down, meaning if enough Laws are broken the Earth is destroyed (I think).

In the Illearth War turiya Raver uses the Illearth Stone to summon a tsunami. He is stopped by Lord Hyrim and three Bloodguard. Lord Hyrim states that if turiya Raver is successful in summoning the tsunami he will violate the Law that governs the sea, he will break that Law.

High Lord Elena uses the Blood of the Earth to break the Law of Death by summoning dead High Lord Kevin.

The Despiser obviously has access to powers that can break Law. Till the end of The Power that Preserves he has the full might of the Illearth Stone, besies the Blood of the Earth. If he can not use the Blood, perhaps a raver or one of his other servants? If we have to wonder just how many laws have to be broken before the Earth ends, why does Lord Foul not wonder that too? Why does not he nor his Ravers break as many Laws as possilbe to bring about the ruins of the Earth, and win his release? Maybe I simply do not understand somthing?

I know you are very busy writing the next book, and have your own personal life to attend to, so I will leave you with just that, and hope for an answer sometime in my life.

Best wishes to you and yours.

Most sincerely,
John Dunn
<whew> That's a lot. Ordinarily I ask people to limit themselves to two questions at a time. But you've been waiting for quite a while....

Briefly, then:

1) As I've said elsewhere, my revisions to the first three books involved only minor polishing. In small ways, I wanted to improve the rhythm and flow of the narrative. In one case, I thought that a particular character's dialogue was stilted. And in a very few cases, I found the names of the characters jarring. By my standards, I changed nothing substantive.
2) When I began these books, I envisioned them as stand-alone novels--apart from the minor (!) inconvenience (?) of the fact that the characters change and grow. With the third book, however, I realized that I was not actually creating an open-ended series. Some facet of my imagination seems to require a unifying story arc. So now I have a fairly clear idea of my ultimate destination.
3) My pseudonym was imposed on me by my publishers as a condition of publication. My publishers then were--as most publishers today are--married to the idea of "category" publishing. The underlying assumption is that readers of one category *will not* read books in another category--and that if they are somehow tricked into opening a book in another category (e.g. by using the same author's name in more than one category), they will feel profoundly betrayed. I consider this errant nonsense; but very few people in publishing agree with me. And perhaps they're right. "The Man Who" books under my name have sold just as poorly as they did under the name "Reed Stephens."

As I've said in a different context, it's a question of *scale*. Violating the laws of weather to summon a tsunami in Seareach is an almost trivial disruption to the weather-patterns of the entire Earth. Unless the core Laws (e.g. gravity and convection) are unmade, they will promptly and naturally efface the effects of any localized disturbance. By its very nature, Law seeks stability; seeks to correct imposed imbalances. In other words, not all unnatural actions inevitably destroy (or even damage) the Laws which they violate.

On the scale of such disruptions, breaking the Law of Death is a far more profound violation. Yet even there Law strives to preserve itself. Raising Kevin's spirit does not automatically mean that every spirit of everyone who has ever died is now free to roam at will among the living. In a completely different sense than the Giant-Raver's tsunami, Elena's violation of Law is also a "local" phenomenon: it pertains to very specific spirits under very specific conditions.

Lord Foul does indeed want to escape the Arch of Time. But if his desire depends on the kind of piecemeal disruption that occurs in the first trilogy, he'll have to wait a REALLY LONG TIME before the fabric of the most essential Laws begins to unravel. Entropy is on his side: inertia works against him. Hence his hunger for an excessive application of wild magic.


Joe:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
I first picked up the "Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" in the late '70's, and to this day it remains the best I've ever read. Rather than perceiving hidden religious and political meanings in them, I enjoy them for what they are: vivid, thrilling, and emotionally stirring epics that know no equal. For this reason, I'd like to respond to a statement you made in the Sept. 2004 Publisher's Weekly: "There's this fear in the back of my head that readers who loved the first six Covenant books are going to look at the Last Chronicles and think, "I wish he'd quit while he was ahead." Well Mr. Donaldson, put your fear to rest. As high as my expectations were, "Runes of the Earth" exceeded them! I anxiously await the next three books,(An understatement if ever there was one!).
One thing I'd like to know: Are there, or have there been any high quality leatherbound publications of the "Chronicles"?

Thank you!

As far as I know, the Easton edition of "Lord Foul's Bane," the Bantam/Spectra "collector's" editions of "The Real Story" and "Forbidden Knowledge," Donald M. Grant's edition of "Daughter of Regals," and the Gollancz "collector's" edition of "The Runes of the Earth" are my only "high quality leatherbound publications." But at some point Hill House may also release a "collector's" edition of "The Runes of the Earth" (don't hold your breath).


Doc:  Mr. Donaldson,
In TPTP Elena "takes" Covenant's ring while he is unconscious. Subsequently in TOT Kasreyn states that the reason he does not "rip the ring" from Covenant's finger is that a power given is different from a power taken. There are other times throughout The Chronicles where power or lore must be earned or learned before it can be used. In WGW Lord Foul himself must wait till Covenant chooses to give him the ring.
Why then did Elena feel that she could wield the ring after she had "taken" it from Covenant?
For that matter, what would it matter? Both Elena and Kasreyn are "Lore-wise", how would the act of "giving" as opposed to "taking" effect there actions.
By the end of TPTP, Elena is fully insane; so what do you expect? She's no longer capable of understanding--or even caring about--"the necessity of freedom."

Why does the difference between "giving" and "taking" matter? Well, quite apart from the obvious moral issues.... Look at it this way: "taking" requires energy, perhaps vast amounts of it. That energy has to come from SOMEwhere, and of course it's going to come from the "taker" (where else would the "taker" get it?). So the more you "take," the less you *are*. Lore-wise beings like Kasreyn and Lord Foul understand that simply snatching Covenant's ring will do them more harm than good--especially when you consider the corollary that "taking" inherently prevents replication of the organic relationship between power and its natural wielder.


Allen:  What, in the final analysis, is the real difference between the epic fantasy and the space opera? I love both forms but I wonder if space opera doesn't bare even a tenuous relationship to epic fantasy. It makes perfect sense that the writer of the great Gap Saga also gave us "Covenant's struggles against Despite in the arena of the Land".
In an essay Gene Wolfe calls most science fiction "chrome-plated fantasy". I also have a friend who insists that science fiction in general bears the same relationship to our era that the great romances like "L'Morte D'Arthur" and "Orlando Furioso" bear to their eras.
Could space operas like the Gap be workings out of the same impulses that drive us to create epic fantasys?
Well, many people see science fiction as a sub-set of fantasy. Others regard fantasy as a sub-set of science fiction. The connections are obvious: both rely on the creation of "secondary realities," realities noticably different than the one most of us have agreed to inhabit.

(In this framework, space opera is a sub-set of science fiction, while epic fantasy is the "main event" of fantasy.)

Nevertheless the distinctions are important. In sf, the differences between our reality and the secondary creation are explained materially (rationally): x, y, or z has happened in science/technology, and therefore reality is changed. In fantasy, the differences are explained magically (arationally): x, y, or z powers (which can be imagined, but which defy any material explanation) exist, and therefore reality is changed. As I see it, such distinctions have profound implications. For example, fantasy is--sort of by definition--a journey into the non-rational possibilities of the human mind (a journey inward): sf is a journey into the rational possibilities of consensus reality (a journey outward).

Of course, any storyteller of high aspiration will use *any* genre (sf, fantasy, western, mystery, historical, etc.) to explore the possibilities (both rational and otherwise) of the human mind. Nevertheless each form of storytelling offers unique possibilities, poses unique challenges, and presents unique obstacles or limitations. So in one sense all storytelling is storytelling, regardless of form or genre, and in another each form is peculiar to itself (although naturally there are always exceptions). In the first sense, equating, say, John Carter of Mars (space opera) with Conan the Barbarian (epic [?] fantasy) is perfectly apt. But in the second, equating, say, Simmons' "Hyperion" duology with Erikson's "Malazan" epic confuses the actual content of both.

So I think your friend is mistaken. "Orlando Furioso" is to its era as "Lord of the Rings" is to ours, *not* as Simmons' "Hyperion" is to ours.


Billy:  First I just wanted to say thank you Mr Donaldson. I started reading the Covenant Chronicles when i was 14 mabey younger, im now 36. this story has spanned 22 years of my life and I have ready many many more books since then..this is still my favorite story beginning to end, I have the Runes of the Earth on Audio Book, but I havent listened to it yet, I want to read it first. I loved the first six books so much I actually Narrated an Unabridged Audio book for each book, including gilden fire inserted into the Illearth War (Read by me, for my personal use of course). thankyou again for restarting this Great Story,

My question is: have you considered narrating unabridged versions of the first six Covenant books your self? alot of work, I know, but we would love to hear it. and my other question is, during editing they make you cut segments of your books out to make them more marketable I guess? is there a possibility of Expanded Editions being released?

Best Wishes from a life time fan
Forgive me for saying so, but you have *way* too much time on your hands. <grin> No, I have never (and I do mean NEVER) "considered narrating unabridged versions of the first six Covenant books" myself. And I wouldn't do it at gun-point. Life is too short, and I have too many other things to do--including too many other books to write.


Brent:  Dear Mr.Donaldson,

I've become something of a sentence structure freak due to 'The Chronicles", and have made copious notes in the margins of my "Chronicles" paperbacks regarding the kinds of sentences used in succession (simple, complex, etc.), the use of parataxis, similes, and so on. All in an attempt to unlock how you write.

Unfortunately, because I've been doing this ever since I was about 13-years-old, I've become a little too familiar with your work, and find myself writing sentences dangerously close to your own. Therefore, I'd like to develop a kind of composing fluency that rescues me from relying on your's or anyone else's style or bag of writing tricks.

Any thoughts on this? Also, were there any particular books that helped you develop your grasp of sentence structure? That's something I've long wondered about.

Thanks in advance
I learned what I know about writing by studying other people's writing, not by studying books *about* writing. With that in mind, I have two suggestions.
1) Imagine a character as unlike yourself as possible, and then narrate something from that character's POV, preferrably in first person. I did this exercise quite a bit during my journeyman years--which is how I learned that I'm simply incapable of writing "dialect" <sigh>.
2) Apply your "Chronicles" methodology to as many other books as possible (preferrably books you admire, but even ones you don't admire will help). If you draw on enough different sources, you'll end up with an amalgam which is entirely your own.


Rob Murnick:  Hi Steve,

Pardon, but going over the GI I saw someone asked about the potential for TCOTC prequels, referencing Tolkien's Silmarillion as a prequel example, only to be surprised to see you reply by stating that prequels suck! I want to take your word for it that stand-alone prequel stories would be entirely inappropriate for TCOTC, but am I going too far to assume you don't like The Silmarillion?
You're right: I didn't particularly enjoy "The Silmarillion". It's really just a bunch of fragments imperfectly woven together. As such, it lacks a unifying "story arc" which permits the material to both concentrate and accumulate. In the absence of those qualities, I get bored pretty easily. Putting the problem another way: "The Silmarillion" is about too many different characters and situations that have little or nothing to do with each other.

But that's not my objection to prequels in general. My general objection is that prequels have no real suspense because their outcome is already known. They are, inevitably, "historical documents" rather than "vital storytelling".


Brad:  Hi Stephen

Hope you're well. Ever since I became aware of the GI Ive checked in regularly, I am not aware of any other authors that indulge their readers in such a regular and lively exchange; so i'm sure I speak for many others when offering my appreciation for you taking time out from Fatal Revenant, not to mention having a life of your own! (after all, author is your profession, not your function).

I recently read on the GI several questions regarding the monetary rewards of your work and indeed authors in general, it was your belief that the number of authors that live in luxury as a result of their work was a tiny percentage of the total number of those published. My question regards the recent release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which reputedly is making its author an astonishing £1million an hour. My feelings on the books, (possibly unfounded as I have never read them) is they are diluted fantasy for the masses and naught more than a good read for kids. You have mentioned that you have read one of them and it didnt touch you.

Now, not to question your artisitc integrity, but doesnt that rankle you just a little, for someone to make such an astonishing amount of money out essentially re-hashing fables, fantasy and enid blyton novels? Ever been tempted to knock out a dumbed-down trashy fantasy purely for the sake of making money? Or possibly, do you not see the Potter books as having any relevance to your own work at all?

I appreciate your thoughts on this.
All the best,
Brad Glen
London, UK
Hey, I'm human. I have just as much ego, just as much vanity, just as much envy, just as much insecurity as anyone else: more than some, less than others. Of *course* I wish I had more readers. Of *course* I wish my work attracted more respect. Of *course* I wish other people had the good sense (?) to think the way I do. <sigh>

But I'm smart enough to know that comparisons are invidious at best, and can be completely crippling. Far saner to attend to what *I'm* doing, and let the rest of the world attend to itself. And on that subject, a) I don't *want* "to knock out a dumbed-down trashy fantasy" (I have to look at myself in the mirror every day), and b) even if I did want that, I'm incapable of it because I can't turn off my brain (and if I could that would be the same thing as death).

But make no mistake about it: J. K. Rowling is an extraordinarily skillful craftswoman. What she does doesn't appeal to me; but that doesn't mean she doesn't do it supremely well.


Rob Smith:  Dear Stephen,

A recent response in the GI intrigued me and I thought I'd ask for more info (We are greedy aren't we?)
You mentioned that you had a different editor for the paperback version of Runes than for the hardback. As an ignorant non author with no knowledge of the publishing business I'd always assumed that once a book had been through the Author/Editor cycle once it was a "finished" version regardless of format. I cannot think of a reason some text written in a hardcover book would be worth changing because the book had a differest (and more flexible) cover!
I'd be grateful for any examples or details you could share. (Unless this falls into the category of TMPDTM*)
* Things My Publisher Does To Me
Thanks again for humouring us and tolerating this ongoing inquisition!
In big publishing conglomorates, hardback editors and paperback editors are always separate people. Hardback and paperback publishing are procedurally different in various ways; and in any case it's too much work for one person. But that doesn't mean a book gets edited twice. The editor who "buys" the book (and who could as easily be a paperback as a hardback editor) does the actual editing (working with the author to produce an acceptable text): the other editor simply handles the procedural business of producing and marketting the book in a different format.

(To complicate matters, in my case US and UK transactions are separate. Therefore two different editors *do* work on the actual editing, one US, one UK. But in practice they share the job so that the author is not inundated with conflicting editorial demands.)

So: "The Last Chronicles" was originally acquired for the Putnams empire by Jennifer Hershey (a hardback editor), who therefore became "my" editor. The paperback editor's job was simply to convert the hardback into a paperback--and to market it in paperback-appropriate ways. But since "Runes" Jennifer Hershey has left the company. So now the paperback editor, Susan Allison, has officially become "my" editor. If/when she's satisfied with the text of "Fatal Revenant," someone who doesn't work with me at all will oversee the production and marketting of the hardcover.

It follows that when changes are made in a book between the hardback and paperback editions, it only happens at the *author's* insistence; and every editor devoutly prays it won't happen.


Adrian Smith:  Hello Mr. Donaldson. I have a couple of questions from my reading of The Illearth War. First of all, was Amok created to lead seekers to the Earthblood only once? In the event that someone else desired to drink, who would lead them there and help them pass Damelon's Gate?

The second question relates to the Vow of the Bloodguard. At the time of the first and second chronicles, did any of the Bloodguard know the location of the remaining four Wards of Kevin's power? Do any of the Harauchi know where the Wards are in the Last Chronicles?

Thank you for your time.
Since Amok was unmade by leading Elena and Covenant to the EarthBlood, I think we can safely assume that he was a one-time-only offer.

Naturally the Bloodguard learned a few things by being around the Lords; but Kevin did not burden the Bloodguard with his lore. Of course, the Bloodguard weren't interested. But Kevin's deeper reason--and a wise one, in my opinion--was that unearned knowledge is dangerous. Power without understanding (not to mention wisdom) is dangerous. Kevin intended the mastery of each Ward to enable the discovery of the next--IN SEQUENCE--until all Seven were finally known. And this entire scheme would be undermined if Kevin supplied any deliberate short-cuts (e.g. by telling the Bloodguard where the Wards were).

No, as matters stand the lore of the Old Lords is just plain irretrievable.


Kasreyn:  Hi Mr. Donaldson,

When I discovered your website, I was thrilled by the depth of information and discussion available. Thank you *so* much for making something like this website available to the people who love your work. And if I may also take a moment, I'd like to say that I've enjoyed your books for many years now, especially the Chronicles and the Gap Cycle. You've inspired me as a writer and shown me I have a long way to go still.

Enough hero worship! Two questions per month, eh?

My first question is something that's bugged me for years: at the end of The Illearth War, Covenant was willing to give up his ring in the name of the woman he cared for - he was willing to give it to Troy so Troy could save Elena from Kevin. Admittedly he was under a lot of pressure at the time. And yet in the Second Chronicles, Covenant is informed by the Elohim that the earth's peril lies in the fact that Linden doesn't have his ring, and he refuses to give it to her, though he is once again under great pressure. He refuses even though he loves her, like he loved Elena, and he is also motivated by guilt and desire to save the land, as he was in Illearth War. Was it his victory over Foul in Power That Preserves that gave him this sense of self-assuredness or arrogance that prevents him from surrenduring his ring to Linden?

Also, in The Power that Preserves, during Covenant's aborted first summons, Mhoram reflects at one point that the way in which Covenant forced Morin and Bannor to choose between fidelity to Kevin or fidelity to the new Lords at Rivenrock somehow helped cause the breaking of the Vow. This has always rung true to me, but I've never quite been able to put my finger on *why*. Can you explain what the consequences were of Covenant's actions on Rivenrock, and how they led to - or enabled - the breaking of the Vow?
1) You're comparing apples and oranges. Of course, Covenant in "The One Tree" is not who he was in "The Illearth War": the parameters of discourse, if you will, are entirely different. But in addition Linden's "condition" in TOT cannot be compared to Elena's desperate straits at the end of TIW. Linden has (mostly) recovered from the crises of TWL and is functioning fairly well: Elena is in imminent danger of absolute destruction (or absolute corruption, take your pick).

And, of course, Covenant has no particular reason to trust the Elohim--who may well be wrong in any case.

2) When Morin and Bannor aid Elena and Covenant on Rivenrock, they--in effect--enable Elena's insane use of the Power of Command. This introduces an inevitable self-doubt to a people who don't handle self-doubt well: you could say that it leaves the Bloodguard vulnerable to the consequences of the larger mistake of Korik, Sill, and Doar.


Anthony Raythorn:  From the late 70,s to the present I have being reading the chronicles.If the final book is not due to be published until 2013,what guarrentees have you put in place to ensure that the story will come to an end for your millions of avid readers in the event of your untimly demise?
Clearly you haven't been reading the GI interview long enough to learn that I'm never going to die. <grin> Which, it probably goes without saying, is not at all the same thing as living forever.


James:  Greetings!

'Having read THE LORD OF THE RINGS, in 3 days, at the tender-if somewhat angry-age of 13...well, I simply can't "wait" for #8 in the Chronicles you started w/Covenant!
My question is simple, yet laden for me with the kind of glamour only hidden "lore" can hold...LOL! Knowing your personal history w/ India, I wonder: Did you knowingly ascribe the names "Moksha, Turija, et al..." to the Ravers to exemplify their innate perversion? (Moksha, for instance, means "Liberation" in Sanskrit, and I have had Turija translated to mean "Brother".)I realize that many of the names in the Chronicles come strictly from your own inspiration, but the Sanskrit can't be denied, more than can be the Blood of the Earth....LOL!
Forgive me if I have repeated an oft asked question! I have only dared to ask this one, because it seemed, to me, overlooked by others...
Anywho, whatever moves you to write: I hope that fire burns for many lives to come! You strike a chord in many of your various works that I have longed to hear: thankyou.

Ever grateful,

I think I covered this some time ago. On the other hand, finding the answers you want in the GI must be a daunting task. <sigh> In any case....

Yes, I chose "moksha, turiya, and samadhi" deliberately, knowing what those words referred to in Sanskrit (broadly translated, they are all states of enlightenment). Those names reflect how the Ravers think of themselves. Their other names (Herem, Sheol, and Jehannum) are also real words, which reflect how other people think of the Ravers.

Incidentally, real words (e.g. Elohim) are used as names here and there throughout the "Chronicles". But sometimes you can't recognize them unless you happen to speak Marathi. <grin>


carlos armenta:  i have a couple of questions that i hope you answer. first, i am going into my first year of college and hope to develope my writing skills and one day enter the fantasy genre, any advise on that? also as i read your chronicals i couldnt help but want to know how you could write an anti hero like thomas without actually hating him at certain points in the book? thx for your time, and just wanted to say my father i and i love your books.
This interview is littered with advice for aspiring writers. I won't repeat any of it here.

In some form, I love all of my protagonists (although in some cases "pity" might be more accurate). I'm attracted to them for their possibilities, if not always for their initial emotions and actions. And I never hate them. For one thing, there is too much of "me" in them. And for another, I always know where they're going in the story, so I can appreciate why they need to go through their various stages along the way. In fact, I don't think of characters like Thomas Covenant--or even Angus Thermopyle--as "anti-heroes" at all. I would only use that term to refer to, say, Warden Dios, Cleatus Fane, or Nick Succorso. And even those guys inspire sadness rather than dislike in me.


Glenda Boozer:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thirteen years ago in New Orleans, you told me (as best I remember; I beg your forgiveness for any error I make in quoting) that you meant every word you had written. I know that you are not talking about "message." I find myself discovering new insights every time I reread any of your books, but they aren't about politics or religion; they are more basic and universal than that. Would it be reasonable to say that your aim is to write true words about fictional characters and situations? Is this, in your view, the storyteller's task?
Certainly my aim is to tell the truth about my characters and their dilemmas--and to tell it as vividly and sympathetically as I can. You could call that *my* task. But is it "the storyteller's task"? Who knows? I suspect that every storyteller has to make that kind of determination for him/herself, just as every reader has to decide what s/he considers important, valuable, or even fun.


bob gosnay:  Why white gold, how did he know such extremes how did you concieve such a thing as the pain of leprosy, how did you turn a total anti hero into the main character of your thomas covenant series?
I've answered these questions as well as I can. But if I tried for a hundred years, I couldn't really explain how I do what I do. In some essential but undefined sense, it's just the way I am.



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Mabbie:  So. Are we ever going to hear the tale of Baghoon the Unbearable and Thema Twofist?

...That would make me so happy. I like the Giants.
I’m sorry. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that this is yet another RAFO.


David:  Steve; I hope this finds all is well with you and yours. I have read all the Man Who novels. I actually own 2 of them that have Reed Stphens as the author, A.K.A. you. What I want is something good to happen for Mick. He fights addiction, gets beat up and shot at, he accidently kills his brother, and all the while he never gets the girl.
Steve; even Conenant finds love in the Land. Thank You for the tremendous ride. I promise to purchase a ticket to each and ever one. Kindest Regaurds, David
Well, I admit that ol’ Mick really takes a beating. In fact, “The Man Who Fought Alone” was rejected by a publisher on those very grounds: too much pain, too little reward. (Which is not the way *I* look at it, btw.) But he brace yourself adult material coming not to mention spoilers get laid in “Alone”. <grin> And Deborah Messenger’s name is not an accident.


Anthony :  Bravo on your performance on the Fantasy Bedtime Hour. You looked like you were having quite a bit of fun.

Oh, I was! So I’m happy to say that I’ve already been invited to appear in the final episode. And if I ask nicely, they may even let me wear the wig again.


Steven Koper:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
In Lord Foul's Bane Atiaran describes the Viles as a "high and lofty race", if this is true how could they have sired (gave birth to?, created?) such a destructive and seemingly brute race as the Demondim? The Viles, Demondim, ur-viles and especially the Waynhim have always been an interesting aspect of the entire series to me.
Thank you for your time.
Yours Truly, Steven Koper
Serendipity can be a wonderful thing. As I’ve said before, when I wrote the first “Covenant” trilogy I had no intention of ever carrying the story further. Instead I had in mind what might be called an *implied* story for the Viles/Demondim/ur-viles: they were intended as an example in the background of Despite’s effect on the nature or content of reality. But when I realized that I had two more “Chronicles” to write, I soon discovered that some (a lot?) of the “background” in the first trilogy was ripe for additional development. The Elohim and Sandgorgons are just two examples.


Peter B.:  Stephen,

I'm a big tennis fan, and once again sat spellbound watching Wimbledon. The most graceful and masterful player on the grass courts is once again Roger Federer. Are there any particular athletes that you admire?


I can’t imagine how this relates to the purposes of the GI, but….

As I get older, I find that more and more of the athletes I admire are from an earlier generation. John McEnroe and Roscoe Tanner in tennis, Bernie Kosar in football, Maurice Cheeks and John Stockton and Dr. J in basketball. But I no longer follow tennis. Perhaps because I was a varsity tennis player in college, when I lost interest in playing the game I lost interest in watching it.


Phill Skelton:  This is probably going to be not so much a question as a mini-essay thinly disguised as a question, but I hope it is of some interest.

I recently discovered the existence of the third chronicles, and devoured Runes in a few short days (and can I just say that I can think of very few writers - if any - who can make me *think* about what i've read quite as much as you do). Shortly after finishing Runes, I was reading Browning's "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came", and was struck by the similarity to Covenant's journey across the Spoiled Plains to confront the Despiser at the end of the first chronicles. There are the superficial, and largely uninteresting (to me), similarities: the trackless wasteland; the few scraps of life barely hanging on; the ancient battleground; the failure of allies who had been on the same quest; the tower at the end. (The grass, incidentally, is described as 'leprous'). I dare say a closer comparison could dredge up a few more. But the themes seem similar as well. The 'hero' is decidedly unheroic. He isn't looking for some glorious victory; he just wants an end to his search. And yet when presented with the final challenge, he at least takes up the gauntlet and prepares to fight. In an age when other writers were producing epics about King Arthur and other traditional romantic heroes, we have a poem about decay, failure and despair, yet like Covenant, that hero retains at his core the essential element of real heroism that makes a difference at the end.

Okay, I lied. There's not even the thin veneer of a lame question here. Maybe I'm just hoping to inspire you to read a poem that goes against the heroic conventions of its time in a way that I think you'd appreciate.

And thank you, once again, for all the books you've written.
This falls into the Department of Inevitable But Unconscious Influences. After the amount of time that I spent in college and graduate school studying--and admiring--Robert Browning, I can hardly pretend that I haven’t been influenced. But I wasn’t conscious of the influence while I was writing the first “Covenant” trilogy, and only dimly became aware of it later.

Incidentally, Tennyson was a contemporary of Browning’s, and he also was *not* “producing epics about King Arthur and other traditional romantic heroes.” Sure, he wrote about King Arthur, but his theme was “decay, failure and despair.” And in a very different vein, George Meredith’s work was also full of darkness. I could go on. Victorian England was a fascinating time in part because its (extremely) conventional virtues elicited so much anguish from its more creative inhabitants.


Donald Coward:  Stephen;

In the June 2005 GI you discuss three paths to redemption that are linked to the TC chronicles. The three paths were: Redemption through Victory (the first chronicles); Redemption through Self-Sacrifice (or Surrender) (the second chronicles); and Redemption through the Sacrifice of Others (the last chronicles).

You validate the first two themes (and in my mind you also verify that they underlie the first two series) but suggest that the reader is way off with regard to the third path (In fact I believe you are overly dismissive in saying that the idea presented is simply an oxymoron and would have instead presumed that the reader was trying to convey the idea of redemption through the intervention/forgiveness of others such as the redemption of mankind by Jesus).

I am wondering if the true third path is Redemption through Children. I can’t recall where I first saw this idea expressed, but I’m a firm believer that many people are saved by the good works of their offspring rather than any overt act on their part. This would seem to fit with some of the themes in ROTE as well as highlighting the role that I understand your own father to have played in the inspiration of the TC character. Is this where you are going with the third path and the Last Chronicles?
<sigh> I’ll probably get in (even more) trouble for saying this, but I don’t buy the whole “redemption of mankind by Jesus” notion. As far as I can see, no one is ever “redeemed” by transferring the responsibility for or the consequences of his/her actions and intentions to someone else. (Just my opinion, folks.) Although I should probably be the last person on the planet to say anything that sounds like I don’t value outside help--and even outside intervention. I probably wouldn’t be alive today if I hadn’t experienced the power of “grace” in one form or another. On a number of occasions. But in my experience that “grace” has never taken the form of having my essential responsibilities shouldered by someone else. I’m committed to the idea of “working out my own salvation”--“with fear and trembling.”

No, the third path for which my characters seek in “The Last Chronicles” is something else entirely--although children play a vital role, for good or ill. (Certainly *my* children are part of my experience of “grace”.)


BRYAN HUBBARD:  Mr. Donaldson. I first read the original chronicles in 1981, I was 9 at the time and then and now I think the Covenant novels are second only to Lord of The Rings as far as influenciing my love of reading. I have read almost every prominant author in the genre since and have always gone back to reread your books after a few years. Thanks for all you have given with your novels . Now my question would be The One Tree' the thinng I have always wanted to know is why do the Elohim show little or no concern for the threat that Lord Fould poses, when in the past Earth power has proven useless against Despite and Despite seems to be able to subvert earth power to it's will ?
Findail seems not to worry so much about Lord Fouls ability to controll and pervert his power as he is about Covenants self control. I understand that Foul can't destroy the Arch of Time w/o the white gold but he could enslave the whole earth over time and that would include the Elohim I would guess. Anyway thaks again for your novels(Just finished This day ALL Gods Die). Kepp em' coming:)

In its simplest terms: the Elohim show no concern for the threat posed by Lord Foul because they see no threat--to them. They are rather self-absorbed. They believe that they are the answer to all things: therefore they can be in no danger. And they can see that other powers abroad in the Earth are adequate to deal with Lord Foul. Hence their vexation that Linden does not wield Covenant’s ring: that detail forces them to involve themselves in something that they believe should not be their problem. You could say that they only bother to Appoint one of themselves to solve a problem in order to prevent that problem from expanding to involve the rest of them.


Chris O'Connell:  Mr. Donaldson,

One question that kept bothering me as I listened (not read. I bought the 'book on CD'. It is wonderful) to Runes... Why didn't technology develop in the Land? I can understand why it wouldn't have developed when EarthPower is around ("Hey, look what happens when I move this coil of wire around this weird rock." "No thanks, look at how I'm using this pot of Graveling to cure cancer."). But given the absence of EarthPower, why wouldn't a technological society have developed, similar to what happened here, in the 'real' earth. About the same amount of time has passed in the Land since the Staff of Law was lost as has passed here on earth since Aristotle contemplated the nature of matter. You would think the farmers struggling to raise crops might find modern chemistry helpful in growing crops, things like printing presses, cotton gins etc. etc. would start cropping up.

I know that we all need to suspend a little disbelief when reading a fantasy novel, but you also consider the 'dignity of your creation' to be an important party of your stories. I'm not finding fault, just wondering how you feel about that possibility.

Is it possible that the Runes could not have progressed as it did had technology been 'discovered'? A stonedowner a little bored with the mundane details of life as a farmer is likely to help Linden, just for a little excitement. Is a computer programmer or engineer (or even a high school student studying for the SAT's) likely to do the same?

Thanks again for the wonderful times your books have given me.

This question keeps coming up. I've already tackled it more than once. To what I've said before, I'll just add two things. 1) The development of technology would violate the necessary conditions of the genre. (Just one example: LOTR. Elves live forever. After a few thousand years, don't you think one of them would get *bored* enough to try something new?) 2) Those conditions are necessary because they permit the telling of certain kinds of stories. Stories the essence of which is "magic" would be badly inhibited by "technology" (less by the specific technological developments themselves than by the attitude toward what constitutes reality which "technology" implies). The story that I want to tell in "The Last Chronicles" would be impossible in the presence of technological thinking.


STEVE M:  I recall listening to an interview with Frank Herbert several years ago where he said that the character of Duncan Idaho in the Dune chronicles was originally intended to be a minor character but as he wrote Idaho wound up developing into a major character. I am curious as to whether you have experienced this with any of your characters? Conversely have you ever created a character that you liked and intended to play a major role but as you wrote found that it really did not work and wound up minimizing its role or even eliminating it completely?
Secondly, the experience of reading a good book (for me) culminates with the natural anger, frustration and general feeling of being pissed off that I have in fact finished the book. Ergo, the better the book the more pissed off I get that the story and characters that I have come to know and love are gone. Naturally the Thomas Covenant books REALLY PISS ME OFF. It is clear that the Chronicles of TC must evoke am incredible gamut of emotions from you. What is your emotional reaction to a) writing such a monumental epic; and b) finishing writing such a monumental epic?
P.S. Sir, You are truly a genius.
I've had characters expand on me (always to good effect), but I've never had one shrink. Doubtless this is an effect of the way I work. Since I always know where I'm going (how the story is going to end), I also know who my major players have to be. That never changes. But sometimes (often?) minor players step out of the scenery and take on larger roles than I had originally anticipated (since I don't try to plan in advance every detail of how I'm going to get where I'm going).

My emotions while I'm writing are pretty much the emotions of my characters (because I experience the story as they do)--with the difference that I feel frustration, fatigue, and despair more often than they do. My emotions when I've finished writing an epic depend on the passage of time. At first, I'm filled with depression, in part because I'm exhausted, in part because I can see how far I've fallen below my aspirations, in part because my life now seems to have no purpose, and in part because there's no ^#$^#$%$%ing closure (after mountains of writing come mountains of rewriting, followed by mountains of copyediting, followed by mountains of proofreading, followed by mountains soul-crushing promotional chores, followed by etc.). But gradually the situation changes. At times, rewriting can be almost restful (because it uses a completely different part of my brain)--except when I'm forced to hurry. Copyediting, on the other hand, is always infuriating beyond description. A finished book does provide a certain sense of closure, albeit too long delayed. And eventually enough time passes to let me look back on what I've done and feel proud of it.


Luke A:  Mr. Donaldson, after further viewing the GI, I decided to rephrase my original question to you as well as better clarify what I want to know.

My Question:

Focusing completely on Covenant's feelings, what was the purpose of having him reciprocate Elena's "innappropriate" attraction ?

Don't get me wrong, I was glad that Covenant didn't act on those feelings, but still he felt them... As a father of 3 daughters myself, I find it strange that Covenant harbored such feelings even after learning that Elena is his daughter.

Covenant definitely exhibits that he knows the difference between right and wrong( choosing not to kill/ shame for manipulations), so are we to believe that the revitalization of his ability to physically engage in sex has overpowered his basic sense of ethics and morality ? Even after making so many previous decisions based on those basic principles?

I don't mean to sound aggressive or disrespectful, but I just don't want to believe that Covenant is...well...a pervert.

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to your response, and thanks a billion for such great stories, keep it up !
Covenant and Elena are both in "impossible" situations, both literally and emotionally. Covenant has sex for the first time in, like, forever, and a few weeks later he's presented with a 40something daughter? Without going through any of the normal experiences of watching a child grow up? In a place that he doesn't even believe is real? Considering that the most powerful aphrodisiac in life is feeling desired by someone else? And that nothing about being a leper has prepared him to handle such situations? How could he possibly have an *appropriate* reaction? What could conceivably constitute an *appropriate* reaction in a situation like that? As far as I'm concerned, the fact that he doesn't act on his feelings is a triumphant display of his growing moral character.

In one sense, Elena faces the same dilemma. Nothing that she's ever experienced has made Covenant real to her AS A FATHER. But in another sense, she stands on the opposite side of the problem. Almost EVerything that she's ever experienced has made him real to her AS A HERO, a figure of power, an enormously desirable source of redemption. Triock is the father-figure in Elena's life. Covenant is (in a manner of speaking) the figment of Lena's--and therefore of Elena's--most romantic fantasies.

Does that help?


Luther A:  Thank you for the opportunity to pick your brain. And many thanks for the wonderful stories you've written (I'll leave it at that, I could write pages upon pages concerning how your work has brought me enjoyment.)

My question:

I found the apparent sexual tension between Covenant and Lena a bit uneasy to accept at first, but gradually I've gotten over it and tried my best to understand exactly why it(the tension) was there. Especially considering Covenant wanted what she offered in the worst way. Were you intending to be more "loud" so to speak, about how "flawed" Covenant was ? Was it Foul indirectly urging him to , in a sense, "love" the crime or the product of his crime against Lena ?

Any insight or explanation to this particular relationship would be greatly appreciated...and again thank you, more than I could ever say for helping a son strengthen a once-weak relationship with his father by discussing you wonderful stories. <smile>
I suppose it would be fair to say that I intended to be "loud." The story wouldn't have much point if Covenant didn't start out as a believable servant of Despite. Until his crime against Lena, he's pretty much exclusively a "victim" (passive, abused, etc.). I needed to shift him out of that role as promptly--and as vehemently--as possible. Otherwise he isn't a potential Despiser: he's just another tool or plaything.

So I also consider it important that Lord Foul wasn't whispering in Covenant's ear, or sending a Raver to control him, or shaping his behavior in any other way. That crime is all Covenant. If it weren't--if he could escape any portion of his responsibility for it--everything that follows would shift. Eventually the moral logic of the story would collapse.


Phillip Yorks:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

I submitted a question a few months ago, but since the meat of that submission was merely to thank you for the positive influence that your novels have had upon my development as a person, I really did not expect an answer.

However, in the time that has passed since then, I have found that I really do have a question for you.

I have noticed that nearly all of your longer works have featured protagonists and important secondary characters who are morally ambiguous. You have referred often to the theme of rape in your works and how that is important in establishing the moral ambiguity of, say Thomas Covenent and Angus. But on the other hand, I must note that you did an admirable job of establishing Terisa's potential to slip to "the dark side" or at least to avoid opposing it in the "Mordant's Need" series. So, to my question. Do you feel that you have ever gone too far in depicting your main characters' potential for evil, or are you generally satisfied thzt you have not hit your readers over the head with a baseball bat but still made your point clear?

Let me add as commentary that I have read nearly all of your fantasy and science fiction work, and that it is my opinion that you have generally produced work that has improved upon your previous work. The exception to this would be the GAP series, which I felt suffered from the lack of a likable main character until the third book.
I guess it depends on what you mean by "gone too far." Clearly I went "too far" for your personal taste in the GAP books. And there has to be *some* reason why a million "Covenant" readers (US) and 100,000 "Mordant's Need" readers (US again) have refused to touch the GAP books.

But if "too far" is measured by my own artistic standards, or by the particular rigor of my storytelling ambitions, then no, I've never "gone too far." And I still say that the GAP books are the best work I've ever done (although I'm aiming even higher in "The Last Chronicles").


Aidan Walters:  First of all thank you for writing so many brilliant books.

My question is do you ever get annoyed at the massive amount of interest in your Covenent novels and the just as massive lack of interest in your other works? Everyone seems to dismiss you as 'the Covenent author', and even those few people who have read all your works seem to spend all there time talking about Covenent (eg see the massive amount posted about Covenent novels on your fansite in comparison to the rest of your work). As Mordant's Need and Gap (as well as your shorter fiction) are such stunning works this chasm of difference of opinion must be slightly irritating to say the least.
I would be less than honest if I didn't admit that I've been known to feel a near-suicidal dismay at the sheer *scale* on which everything that I've ever done--except "Covenant"--has been rejected. <sigh> But gradually over the years I've come to understand that readers are people, just like everyone else; and just like everyone else, they have the right to make their own decisions. They don't ask my opinion when they make their decisions--and they shouldn't if they could. God knows I've never asked for *their* opinions when I'm deciding what to write.

I'm wise enough to know that life is too short to be spent suffering over things like comparative book sales. Now if I were just wise enough to *live* by what I know....


Eystein Finne (norwegian fan):  Dear Mr. Donaldson

For the moment I'm reading "the Runes of the Earth". Linden is asked a question about her world. This made me think about the lack of interest all the inhabitants in the land show towards learning more about the world of Thomas and Linden.
If I was a inhabitant of the land and met Linden, I would certainly try to learn more about her world and how they solve problems.
My question is therefor: Have the Giants or the Haruchai any detailed knowledge about "our" world.
This question comes up a lot. But I don't actually understand it. It seems to advocate a violation of the essential conventions of storytelling.

Of course, you're right: anyone from the Land who encountered Covenant or Linden would naturally be very curious (except perhaps in "The Last Chronicles," where the characters are so ignorant of their own world that they may not have much curiosity to spare). But from my perspective as a storyteller, it's an impossible situation. First, it would bog down the narrative something awful. (How *do* they make those boots? I've never seen anything like them. Well, they use a series of machines. What's a machine? Well, ohmyGod, this is going to take the next two hundred pages.) Second, dealing with such natural curiosity would involve telling the reader things the reader already knows. Third, simply asking questions about Covenant's/Linden's world would threaten the particular "suspension of disbelief" upon which fantasy necessarily depends. And answering those questions could violate the internal integrity of the fantasy world. Fourth, it's an inevitable necessity of storytelling that the teller has to judge what to put in and what to leave out. I leave out the natural curiosity of Stonedownors and Giants etc. because it simply isn't germane to my story--and I already have many truckloads of other stuff that I need to put in.


Hazel:  As I've mailed before, I think you're great. This however, isn't really a question. Nonetheless, a friend, knowing how much I enjoyed the TC books, directed me to the "Book A Minute" website

There's a special section on SF/F where your work, along with Tolkiens, Ursula K.LeGuins, Philip K. Dick, Devid Eddingd etc., etc. appears, ultra-condensed.

All the Best from the Emerald Isle!

I'm posting this because I think everyone should know about the "Book A Minute" site. If you haven't been there, give yourself a treat. I'm not revealing the "ultra-condensed" versions of the first six "Covenant" books here because I don't want to spoil the surprise.

As Dave Barry might say, "Thanks to alert reader Hazel!"


Denese Van Over:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
I have 24 years worth of questions to ask, and luckily for you this "gradual (meandering?) interview" has taken care of many of them. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for a quarter century of soul searching and intellectual stimulation...and for the laughter as well.
On to the question - While in college I had to read Wise Blood, by Flannery O'Connor. Something about her style and the story seemed uh, familiar, to say the least. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I see some striking similarities to *your* writing, particularly pertaining to Hazel Motes, who seems almost like one (or several) of your own characters. F. O'Connor had a flair for what has been described as "the Grotesque" in her descriptions of people and places. Space and courtesy restrain me from working myself into a long and most likely unnecessary explaination of my thinking in this matter -- I am sure you will either know what I mean, or...after you get done gut laughing, correct my assumptions. (grin) In short, is she an influence in your writing?
Side note...I earned an A+ for comparing and contrasting The Chronicles to Wise Blood, The River and Everything that Rises Must Converge.
Thank you again!
Denese Van Over
Here's another in the Department of Obvious But Unconscious Influences. I studied Flannery O'Connor in college and graduate school, so I can hardly pretend that I haven't been influenced by her (although much more in style than in substance). But the fact that I haven't mentioned her before in this interview demonstrates just how truly *unconscious* the influence has been.


Marianne G Locke:  Dear Mr Donaldson

In the 1990's when your 'Gap' novels were coming out, suicide bombers weren't very much in the news, at least not as far as I recall. Today of course suicide bombers are very much in the news; consequently I've been remembering the suicide bombers in at least one of the 'Gap' novels... I forget which one or ones though. (It's been a long time since I've read them!) I believe in the novels they were called 'kazes' weren't they? Were the kazes inspired by some real-world terrorism, or was it all just prescience on your part?

Also, I've heard you're fond of 'Doctor Who'. Have you seen the new series with Christopher Eccleston, and if so what did you think of it?

Kind regards

Marianne Locke
Gee. Are "real-world terrorism" and "prescience" my only choices? How about serendipity? Or synchronicity? Or just plain dumb luck (in this case, *bad* luck)? I can't even pretend to have my finger on the pulse of the times. (Gosh, what a gift for a phrase! <grin>) On the other hand (OK, that will be quite enough of *that*), anyone who pays close attention to the people around him/her is bound to pick up any number of unconscious cues. Who knows? Maybe Osama bin Laden (sp?) read the GAP books. Maybe I really am to blame for all the ills of the world (as I was once accused of being--in public, no less).

Sorry, I (still) haven't seen the new "Doctor Who".



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Eric Angevine:  Steve -

It seems an inordinate number of people picked up the Covenant series as adolescents (including myself). Have you ever considered writing a series of books geared toward the adolescent market? Perhaps this age-warp would continue and you could become a best-selling author to the five-year-old crowd. Toddlers have despair too, you know.

Yours in jest,

Eric Angevine
I know you're playing. And I know that toddlers actually do have despair. But I've never aimed anything that I've ever written at a "target audience"--unless you define a target audience as "someone like me." (The "Covenant" books weren't written for adolescents because I wasn't an adolescent when I wrote them.) I'm not likely to change now.


Robert T:  Hi Stephen....

I've read a number of questions in the GI relating to your vocabulary. I've always felt this was one of the bonuses of your works. My own opinion is that writers are also teachers. Through their writings they stir others imaginations, and even inspire some to write themselves. They become, in a sense, custodians of language and as so it is their responsibility to use that language. If not them, who will do so?

When I read a word I don't understand, and I have to fetch the dictionary (and this happens frequently reading your works), I don't feel stupid. I feel challenged, and delighted. That word that I just looked up becomes special to me. Without writers like you, these obscure words might die. So thank you for keeping them alive.

I was just wondering if you agree with anything I've said...
Strangely, I don't agree. Or it might be more accurate to say that I simply don't think in these terms. (Perhaps other writers do. And perhaps they produce excellent work. I wouldn't know.) As far as I'm concerned, words are the tools of thought. Fancy words, common words, sublime words, crude words: tools. Naturally I want to have as many tools as possible. The more tools I have, the more things I can think about--and write about.

But--and speaking purely for myself--I believe that writers are *not* "custodians of language." A story isn't a museum--or a zoo. The writer's primary responsibility (as an artist in language) is to use the *right* tools for the job at hand. The story determines the language. And I see myself as the servant of the story: I do NOT see myself as a teacher (or as a--drumroll, please--polemicist) in any useful sense of the term.

Of course, I'm always pleased when a reader (you, for example) shares my delight in the rich possibilities of language. But that happens in retrospect (after I've already written something): it has nothing to do with how I make decisions when I'm actually writing.


Matt:  Hello Stephen! Allow me first to thank you for all your published works; they have been great gifts to my imagination and truly life-affirming. Having read some of your commentary on fantasy writing I feel as if I 'get' the genre more fully than I ever could without them, so thank you for that also. When you talk about writing, I want to write.

My question: were the wraiths of Andelain inspired at all by the wonderful firebug gatherings that can be seen in Ohio during summer evenings?

A poor question, perhaps, but it is after all just cover for a thank-you. So thank you!
Another Inevitable But Unconscious Influence. (I need an acronym.) Since I grew up in India, Ohio fireflies were a delightful surprise. How could I not have been affected by them? But I wasn't *aware* of thinking about them when I created the Wraiths of Andelain.

The mind can be a very strange--and unexpectedly oblique--place.