GRADUAL INTERVIEW (November 2005)
Jeff Periman:  I just want to say the Thomas Covement Chronicles are such a graet read!!!! I just finished RUNES WOW!! Okay my question is the Ranhyns? Why horses?

Thanks for your time Jeff
Well, why not? This is a medieval-ish fantasy (technologically speaking <grin>). How else are people going to get around?

Or did you mean, Why horses instead of some invented creature? Because Covenant is familiar with them (through Joan). Remember that he thinks the Land is a dream--and not without reason. So naturally many of the "raw materials," so to speak, of the Land are based on details from his "real life" (e.g. the Giants).

(11/01/2005)

Todd:  I have a feeling that the following question may frustrate you, but I'm curious as to your answer.

You said that the "surquedry of the Elohim" as opposed to the "arrogance of the Elohim" was considerably more appropriate to what you were trying to communicate. Surquedry isn't in my leather bound Webster's or my nightstand dictionary, but is in the OED, as an alternate spelling of surquidry. It is defined there thus: "Arrogance, haughty pride, presumption". That certainly does fit the Elohim better than "arrogant". However, even the above average reader won't know the meaning of the word surquedry, and most won't have the OED as a resource in the next room, as I do. If the word you chose is so difficult for the average reader to find then isn't it your responsibility as an author to find a way to communicate "surquedry" to your reader without using the word?
I believe (just my opinion) that I've done better than that: I've both communicated "surquedry" to the reader *and* used the word. Putting it another way: I believe that a reader who doesn't have (or doesn't want) access to the OED will nonetheless gain an intuitive grasp of "surquedry" through exposure to the text; to the attitudes and behavior of the Elohim. In context, I have supplied an implied definition of the word. If later that reader decides to look up the word, his/her understanding of both the word *and* the Elohim will be enhanced. But if that reader *never* looks up the word, s/he still benefits from the fact that I used it. That reader now knows that there is something almost, well, paranormal about the arrogance displayed by the Elohim.

(11/01/2005)

steve cook:  just read the latest installment of the G.I. and saw that Kent State University Libraries holds every version of your works...including re-writes!!!!! i knew there was something there but i didn't realise just how much.

having read everything you've ever published many times over, (i should get out more) i would love the chance to read the 'complete' works.

the problem, and hence my question, is....
As i'm VERY unlikely to ever visit your country, i will never be able to access the contents of K.S.U.L. Is there any way in which it could be accessed online, maybe even through this site?

once again thanks for everything.
Sorry. No one involved--not KSU, and certainly not yrs trly--has either the time or the money to scan all of those documents (*both* sides) so that they could be displayed online. Remember, much of the material (the first six "Covenant" books, the first two Brew/Ginny novels, all of the stories in "Daughter of Regals") was written with a typewriter, not a computer.

Maybe when I have nothing better to do in life than become the Curator of the Donaldson Museum....

(11/01/2005)

Chris O'Connell:  Mr. Donaldson,

I'm a big fan and happy if I can make some contribution. I have heard Isaac Newton (he of the famous laws, not figs) credited with the 'standing on the shoulders of giants' quote.

Regards,
Chris
Many thanks! Now if I can just remember to credit Sir Isaac the next time I use that quote....

(11/01/2005)

John Dunn:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. It is certainly not necessary, but greatly appreciated!

When you first began to write the Man Who series, did you know there would be more than one book? You have stated throughout the G.I. that when you conceive a story you know exactly how many books/parts it will take. Was it the same for your mystery novels? Or was each Man Who book a conception/stroy by inself, even though the second builds directly on the first, and so on, till the upcoming and eventual confrontation with el Senior? And if this is true, why do you think you thought process works differently when you write these mystery novels (as you have stated you have no plans for more Mordant's Need or Gap novels, and only conceived of the Second and Last Chronicles after Lester Del Ray kept baggering you about it)?

What ever the answer, I very much enjoy the Man Who novels, and have made a place for them in my perament collection.

Thanks for your stories!

The First Chronicles
It's been so long since you posted your question that you may already have found the answer. But just in case....

When I wrote "The Man Who Killed His Brother," I intended it to stand alone. I didn't realize that I was secretly writing a completely different kind of story until I embarked on "The Man Who Risked His Partner." At that point, I recognized where I was going, and so I began trying to develop both the "background" and the "foreground" stories simultaneously. (What can I tell you? I was young. I needed time to figure out that I'm a compulsive epicist.)

I'm very aware that virtually everything I do in "The Man Who" books feels completely different--to me--than anything else I write. They make me "struggle" in a very different way. But I have no earthly idea why I feel compelled to write them. All I know is that their role in my writing life seems entirely necessary. I'm confident that I would never have written "The Second Chronicles" if I hadn't first written TMWKHB. "Mordant's Need" might not exist if I hadn't first written THWRHP. It's hard to imagine the GAP books without TMWTTGA. And "The Last Chronicles" would have been utterly impossible without TMWFA.



(11/01/2005)

Layne Solheim:  As an avid reader of the entire Covenant storyline, there are times that I'd cross a sentence and I'd find myself reading and rereading the same thing--taken in by the "raw" descriptive power you've managed to describe in mere print.

My favorite is the calling to The Land in the Second Chron's..." "Then the eyes of the fire blazed at her, and she was lost in a yellow triumph that roared like the furnace of the sun."

I know you've been asked about favorite characters. Do you have your own favorite sentences (paragraphs/moments/etc.) as an author? Lines or phrases that, to you, really stand out from the body of the work?
I'm sorry: I can't even *attempt* an answer. The whole point (well, maybe not the *whole* point <grin>) of writing things down is to get them out of my head. As a general rule, I can't remember any of my own sentences, favorite or otherwise--except for those rare sentences which proved to be the original inspiration for a story. E.g. "But necromancy and the fatal arts were Sher Abener's province, and at last I fled from them." I can recite that in my sleep.

(OK, one exception is when I screw up in a really dramatic way. That stuff is etched forever in my brain.)

(11/01/2005)

Brittany M Jones:  Dearest Mr.Donaldson,
First I would like to say that you are absolutely my favorite author of all time. My mother started reading the Thomas Covenant Series when she was pregnant with my siblings and I. I began the journey of Thomas Covenant when I was in the fourth grade and have been in love with your books ever since. I am attending the University of New Mexico now and I guess my question is when you were writing the first Thomas Covenant series did you ever think that it would become the phenomenon of generations? Mostly I just wanted to thank you; your work has brought light into my life when I couldn’t find any of my own.
Sincerely,
Brittany M Jones
No. And I still don't. "The phenomenon of generations." Forgive me: I don't intend to sound rude. But what does that even *mean*? I'm just a guy writing stories. And I'm blessed with a particularly devoted (not to mention intelligent and sensitive <grin>) group of readers. But I don't *feel* like I've created a "phenomenon."

On the other hand, the entirely unexpected success of the first six "Covenant" books does seem rather remarkable....

(11/01/2005)

Jim Latimer:  Stephen, thank you so much for such a fantastic series. I started reading the 1st trilogy in high school/college (back in the late 70's-early 80's), and anxiously awaited each volume of the 2nd while in college. I've re-read the series numerous times since (I've only read LOTR more often), but imagine my surprise and delight last fall when the Last Chronicles appeared in my bookstore!!! I wait with bated breath (can you do that for years at a time???) for the next 3 volumes.

I lived in Southern New Jersey in high school, went to college and worked in New York for 7 years, then came back to South Jersey as a physics teacher in the late 80's. I'm back to stay....and I was interested to see you based Haven Farm on a place in my neck of the woods. Could you be a bit more specific? Just out of interest, specifically where in South Jersey was Anchorage Farm? I realize it's gone now (as are many of my favorite places from my high school years...such is progress), but I'm just interested. Thanks again so much for such a great part of my youth, and now a rebirth in my middle age.
The mailing address for Anchorage Farm was in Sewell. It was between Sewell and Glassboro, but much closer to Sewell.

(11/02/2005)

Mike (NOT from Sante Fe) G:  For the life of me, I haven't been able to come up with a book related question for months that isn't too nitpicky or that you have answered many times... but I do have something to ask. As of today, you have indulged us all with nearly 900 answers- a lot of time and effort on your part, as everything you answer you obviously put sincere effort into. I can't help wondering if you realized what you were getting yourself into allowing us to ask questions <grin>
So is this good for you? Your answers seem to be less guarded than they were in the beginning, and it astounds me the insights you are willing to give to us; not just about your works, but yourself as well, since you are clearly a private person.
Anyway, I hope this is semething that you enjoy, and that you get something out of it.

And don't think we all don't notice that Michael from Santa Fe is clearly teacher's pet! <grin>
It's true: when I started the Gradual Interview I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. And it *is* a lot of work. But overall I think it's been good for me. Diminishes some of the loneliness of writing. And when you've taken the kind of beatings that I have in life, you just naturally value affirmation (as who wouldn't?).

If you think that "Michael from Santa Fe" gets more than his share of attention--tsk, tsk--it's probably because he keeps his questions simple; easy to answer.

(11/02/2005)

Alexa E. Hanson:  Do you sign hats or just book templates? I've just realized how critically short life is so i've drawn up a list of things to do before it ends. You signing my hat is on that list. Don't be alarmed you're not alone.
In person, when I'm officially "in public," I try to sign whatever people want signed. (The strangest one so far: the guy who insisted that I sign his Scrooge McDuck comic book. Go figure *that* out.) But in my private life (e.g. by mail) I only sign bookplates.

(11/02/2005)

John:  Mr. Donaldson,

You have written in this gradual interview and elsewhere that your mind works slowly and you write slowly. I do not really think so. Consider: since 1977, though you began to write the First Chronicles in the early 70's, you have published 7 Covenant books, 2 Mordant Need books, 2 collection of short stories, 5 Gap books, and 4 The Man Who books. That is 20 books in about 35 or so years of writing. And lets not forget your poetry, albeit, seeming not in abundance (any published?). That is about a book every 1 3/4 year. What on earth makes you think that your mind works so slowly? It can't be based on how much you publish? Many authors have the same track record. Please explain why you think its so.

Another question. When you first wrote TMWKHB did you plan from the start Brew and Ginny would have to eventaully face him down in an as-of-yet unwritten book?

Thanks so much for you time and books! Both are greatly appreciated.
I've already answered your question about "The Man Who Killed His Brother." But as to your first question:

It's all relative, of course. I know a man who can easily write 12 novels a year. And John Nichols wrote "The Milagro Beanfield War" in six weeks--a book longer than any of mine. On the other hand, Patricia McKillip usually manages a book a year--but her books are *much* shorter than mine.

But of course it's also relative to me when I was younger. Somehow I wrote "A Man Rides Through" in a year--but "The Runes of the Earth," which is about the same length, took 2 1/2 years. And "The Man Who Fought Alone," which is considerably shorter, took three years.

Anyway, by my count it's 20 books in 32 years (since I started work on "Lord Foul's Bane" in 1972). For full-time writing, that's not bad. But look at what Stephen King has done in the same amount of time.

(11/02/2005)

Tom:  Stephen,

I bought a copy of Steven Erikson's Gardens Of The Moon a while back, at least in some part because of a quote from you printed prominantly on the front - "Erikson is an extraordinary writer... treat yourself". Now, in answer to a previous question, you refer to it as "...the most baffling book in the series...". I'm not sure I would have bought it if that had been printed instead. However, you are right on both counts (IMHO).

Which does lead to a question. Has there ever been an instance where you have been asked for your opinion of a book for promotional purposes, but you couldn't honestly say anything nice about it?

Tom
First, a bit of chronological context. I wrote my "blurb" for "The Gardens of the Moon" when I first read the book. I commented that it was "the most baffling book in the series" years later, when I had read four more installments. It isn't fair to compare the two remarks. In addition, the blurb (by its very nature) was intended for public use. My comments in the GI are intended for the more personal use of my readers.

I'm often asked to provide blurbs for books I don't enjoy. When that happens, I simply refuse. And since I started work on "The Last Chronicles," I've instituted a no-blurbs policy across the board. This only becomes sticky when I'm asked to "blurb" a book I didn't enjoy that was written by a personal friend. In cases like that, I offer a general comment on the value of my friend's work rather than a specific comment about the book in question.

(11/02/2005)

Michael from Santa Fe:  OK, here is a question I know you have not been asked in the GI - what are your feelings on parentheses? I noticed that in your answers to the GI you use them quite often (or you seem to), and I don't recall much of their use in your written works (or am I just missing them).
First, of course, punctuation is about clarity. But after that, it's about rhythm and timing. I use parentheses (regularly) here, and various *other* forms of punctuation, because they allow me to (perhaps) suggest the (rather) oblique way my mind works. But I avoid such things (as much as possible) in my stories because they (inevitably) interrupt the flow of the prose. Even the (comparatively) miniscule pauses which parentheses etc. impose on the reader hinder my efforts to create and control cumulative effects--which is not really a consideration in the GI.

(11/02/2005)

Reimund L Krohn:  Mr. Donaldson,

Like many of your ardent fans here, I have been an admirer of yours for many years. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant was the 2nd fantasy book I ever read (and I first read it back in 1984 when I was 13). Lord Foul's Bane was a difficult read after the rape of Lena, but I found after leaving the novel for some two months, I had to go back, I needed to know of Thomas Covenants fate.

You mentioned in a question dated back in March of this year that you always had your stories major events planned, prior to putting pen to paper. My question is this:

Having read The Second Chronicles several times, I was ALWAYS under the impression that your original intention in the Second Chronicles was to have Thomas Covenant successfully commit suicide in the Bane Fire, and thereby destroy it. I had thought that with Covenants death, Linden Avery would be faced with the responsibility of finishing what Covenant started, and dealing with his suicide and how it differed from her father's. Her father killed himself because of self-loathing (as she might assume Covenant himself had done), when in fact Covenant killed himself because he was too crippled by the Venom to face the Despiser (and therby risk the destruction of the Arch). I imagined that you might have intended for Linden to make for the Andelain to confront Covenants ghost... where I imagine Sunder and Hollian may NOT have perished.

Did you ever contemplate such a scenario, or is it just my imagination? It just always seemed like a logical step in the story - although (please don't get me wrong!!) I loved what you actually wrote!

RLK.
No. The scenario you describe for "The Second Chronicles" is *not* one that I ever considered. In fact, it never entered my head until I read your message. And just for the record: it would have destroyed my reasons for writing "The Second Chronicles"--and would have made "The Last Chronicles" completely impossible. (btw, I can add with confidence that Lester del Rey would have refused to publish the book you describe. But since he had already refused to publish "The One Tree," his [posthumous] opinion doesn't count for much. <grin>)

But did I "set you up" to think that Covenant might die in the Banefire? Sure, I did. What's the point of telling stories where the stakes aren't real?

(11/02/2005)

Peter Purcell:  I apologize if this question is over the line or if it scratches any emotional wounds.

But ... I've wondered since reading Runes. If I were divorced, and an author, I think I would find it cathartic to have a characters ex-wife repeatedly pound herself in the head! <GRIN>

Come on, tell us ... doesn't it make you smile even a little? ;)

OK, I admit that I'm grinning. <grin> See? But it really wasn't like that, despite the obvious synchronicities. Joan became "real" to me long before I ever met the ex-wife in question, and I knew her future story-arc pretty well before I married said ex-wife.

(11/02/2005)

Steve SanPietro:  Hello Mr. Donaldson.
This is my second question in this forum. This time it's about the process of editing a novel (or any literature, for that matter).

When you submit a first draft to a pulisher--or editor, I'm not sure to where you submit your work at first--to what extent is your work edited. By this I mean, are parts of your original work actually re-written by the editor? Are parts of it taken out? Or is the editing process simply a series of suggestions which are sent back to the author, leaving him/her to dot he actual editing?

You mentioned on an earlier GI response (5/20/04) that you were in a hurry to proof-read the finished manuscript of ROTE, which is why you hadn't started working on FR by then. So, then does the editing process operate in this way: does an editor revise an author'swork, for the author to then check over and approve or not of the changes? And if so, how significant are the revisions that are made to a piece of literature, which aren't necessarily made by the pen of the author?

I ask this because I hope to one day become a writer (provided I don't turn out to be a bad writer, of course :} ).

On a side-note, I think that most of the words I know, I've learned from the Covenant books. However, I'm trying still to work up to the lexicon of SRD. :}
It's important to understand that a book is the intellectual property of its author, not of its publisher. (Unless the book is "work for hire," in which case the roles are reversed.) In general, contracts grant the publisher the right to make changes to things like punctuation, for the sake of conformity to "house style rules" (whatever those may be). But the same contracts forbid the publisher to make substantive changes without the author's approval.

In practice, bad editors do rewrite books--and bad writers let them. But good editors offer only suggestions, observations, opinions, and criticisms: they never touch the actual prose (that's the author's job). And these days even bad editors don't have time to rewrite books very often. By contract, the editor's only real power (apart from the original decision to publish a manuscript) is to reject the book *if* the author refuses to make changes which satisfy the editor.

Copy-editors are a whole 'nother ball-game. Their actual job is to check the book for factual and textual accuracy; but in practice they often rewrite everything in sight (which then forces the author to spend *many* hours re-creating the original from the wreckage caused by the copy-editor). The copy-editor's only real power is the power to infuriate; but most of them wield that power gleefully.

And all of the above is separate from proof-reading. Proof-reading occurs *after* the editor and the author have agreed on an acceptable text, and *after* the author has repaired the damage done by the copy-editor. At this stage, the publisher creates what is in essence a "mock-up" of the book in its published form; and the author--and, ideally, several other people as well--then check the text once again, looking for errors introduced during the "mock-up" process as well as for errors which everyone involved has somehow managed to miss. That's proof-reading.

Which is why I often say that writing a book never ends, it just peters out. Sure, I've produced a complete manuscript for X story. But then I have to do editorial revisions (as well as my own, which are usually much more stringent). Then I have to rescue the story from the copy-editor's wrecking-ball. Then I have to proof-read the text. And all of the above has to be done at least twice because US and UK publication are separate arrangements (therefore differing requirements have to be reconciled in a single text at every stage in the process).

Really, it's amazing that anyone ever writes a *second* book. <sigh>

(11/02/2005)

Charles Adams:  It seems frequent that some fans come to believe the "relationship" between the fan and the celebrity is of higher level (greater intimacy) than actually exists.

Have you ever worried that the Gradual Interview would cause a false sense of intimacy to be created between some of your fans (especially those who participate in this Interview) and yourself? Has any fan ever tried to "impose" such a relationship upon you?
Crazy people will impose fantasy relationships on any "celebrity" under any circumstances. That's probably inevitable. But I suspect that crazy people don't actually read the GI. I believe it would tend to rupture rather than reinforce their fantasies.

In person, I do occasionally encounter crazy people. But so far none of them have derived their fantasies from the GI.

(11/02/2005)

Mitchell Oldman:  Hello, hope you're doing well these days Mr. Donaldson. I like your Covenant books very much but am disheartened by the many years it will apparently take to complete the Last Chronicles. But I wanted to say that I think your female characters are and always have been very alluring, most recently in the character of Manethrall Hami to whom I have quite a crush...This is one area where you have a distinct advantage over Tolkien, Lord of the Rings is a great novel but it must be one of the most asexual books ever written. I would be interested in your thoughts on the sensuality implicit in the Covenant books.

Have you read the His Dark Materials Trilogy, by Phillip Pullman? What is your estimation of these books?

In many ways The Chronicles of Narnia are superior to Lord of the Rings. Although C.S. Lewis was inspired by J.R.R.Tolkien to write The Chronicles of Narnia there is a lightness and vivaciousness that contrasts strongly with the gloom and thunder of LOTR. The whole transition theme from our world to Narnia possesses a revelatory visionary power that Tolkien by beginning at the outset in Middle-earth doesn't have. Lewis perfected the concept of Tolkien's "sub-creation" and surpassed the master on not a few occasions. What is your opinion of the contrasting merits of these two seminal works? Being an admirer of both, as I am.

Thank you.
I *have* read "His Dark Materials." It was not really to my taste--but I read all three books, which is more than I've done for J. K. Rowling. Certainly I respect the rigor of Pullman's conception.

I loved the "Narnia" books when I was in 7th or 8th grade: they thrilled me beyond description. But when I re-read them as an adult, I couldn't recapture my earlier excitement. And when I read them aloud to my children, we were all bored. Lewis' homilectic intent now seems so heavy-handed that it's almost lugubrious. (Just my opinion, as always.) For me, at least, storytelling is always diminished by preaching. In contrast, LOTR has survived at least 5 re-readings essentially intact. What I like about it changes from reading to reading; but I always like it.

(11/07/2005)

Allen:  This is a question (or two) pertaining to the Mordant's Need duology. One of the characters in that work is named Artagel. I'm wondering if you took the name from Edmund Spenser's "Faerie Queene" which also features a character bearing that name (though Spenser's character is little more than a monstrous executioner - yours is a fine, good-hearted fellow!)
Considering that the "Faerie Queene" is Arthurian in some of its inspirations I'm also curious if the Arthurian mythos ever mattered to you.

Take care, Allen
<sigh> Yet another Inevitable But Unconscious Influence. I may be desperate enough to begin calling them IBUIs. I've never made an intensive study of Spenser; but I certainly spent a fair amount of time on "The Faerie Queene" in college. In retrospect, it seems obvious that more than a few seeds were planted. But to this day I have no conscious memory of Spenser's Artagel.

However, I've mentioned Tennyson's "Idylls of the King" several times. And I also found quite a bit of power in the second half of T. H. White's "The Once and Future King." So yes, "the Arthurian mythos" does speak to me.

(11/07/2005)

Siobhan:  Hello Mr. Donaldson -

First off, I'd like to thank you for so many wonderful books. I am a committed bibliophile, and I don't think any fantasy/sci-fi library is complete without the Chronicles, Mordant's Need and the GAP books.

The GAP books are my personal favourite, with so many tremendous characters and such a rip-roaring narrative. The scene where Punisher and Calm Horizons duke it out outside the swarm gives me shivers every time.

I don't really have a question that I *need* answered - in fact I prefer not to know what's coming, but I do wonder if you've ever read the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. I read that series and the GAP books at about the same time and noticed a confluence of ideas - chiefly dealing with the role of corrupt multi-national (or trans-national) corporations and how they, even above governments, foster some of the worst aspects of society.

Just a niggling curiosity of mine, is all.

I look forward to Fatal Revenant, and actually quite enjoy the anticipation of three more books! Three!
Sorry. I've read very little Robinson, and none of his "Mars" books. I read far too slowly for my own good. Doubtless I miss any number of outstanding books.

(11/07/2005)

Vincent Culp:  Greetings good sir. First and foremost please allow me to express my gratitude for the many hours of enjoyment your books have brought me through the years, and hopefully will contiue to in the future. I've finished reading Runes of the earth and am acualy in the middle of reading it again. I am busily chewing my nails in anticipation of the next book in the Last Chronicles. Since I first happened upon Lord Foul's Bane in my English Class in High School I have been a devoted fan of your fantasy work, and the Second Chronicles is my favorite series of all time.

I have a few questions I'd like to ask: #1 How soon can I expect to have the next book in my grubby little paws?!?! lol....I'd hate to rush you but I've waited so long since the second chronicles. #2 Is it really all just a dream in Thomas Covenant's leperousy infected mind? He thinks this in the begining but is later convinced otherwise, but that may have just been him losing the little grasp he had left on sanity. Yes Linden has gone too, but perhaps she is just an image of someone he met, or may have at one time known? Joan even? Foul may just be that part of him who hates himself, that blames himself for the disease and the loss of his family. The fact that every time he enters the land he returns in the same physical condition that he left in points to this conclusion, as does the fact that he is always unconscious when he is called. #3 Will this particular possibility be resolved by the end of the series in one form or another, or will that be left open for the reader to decide? And lastly #4. I am an aspiring writer myself, do you have any words of wisdom for me?

It's an honor merely to have a talented writer such as yourself read my words. Thank you.
4) The GI is positively bestrewn with advice for writers. I won't repeat any of it here.

3) and 2) My problem with such questions is that they implicitly work backward--against the current of the story, as it were--rather than following the thematic developments as I actually intended them. My design is pretty linear, like virtually everything else I do. As Covenant becomes more and more engaged with and in the Land during the first "Chronicles," the question of whether or not the Land is "real" comes to matter less and less. Eventually he realizes that the Land's "reality" is not important at all: what *is* important is his love for the Land (and for Lena, and for Saltheart Foamfollower, and--if he were present--for Mhoram, and even for Bannor and the Ranyhyn). He learns to honor that part of himself which responds to, well, let's call it the iconography of the Land; and so he turns away from Despite. After that, questions of mere "reality" become trivial. So the story--at least in my mind--moves beyond those questions in "The Second Chronicles." As far as I can see, any attempt to interpret Linden's role, or Joan's, that doesn't take into account how Covenant's internal "reality" has changed can only sow confusion. In that sense, no, "The Last Chronicles" will not shed any more light on "is it all a dream?" than "The Second Chronicles" did. I left that issue behind decades ago.

1) I've said it before, and will no doubt say it again: information about the publication of "Fatal Revenant" will be posted in the "news" section of this site as soon as it (the information) becomes available.

(11/07/2005)

Jay Swartzfeger:  Mr. Donaldson, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to answer fans questions in the gradual interview. You recently spent some time answering a few questions I had after your guest of honor appearance at Bubonicon 37; it's a real treat to have such access to my all time favorite writer! Before I'm labeled as an obsequious bootlick, I better get on with my question. ;)

As a writer, I find that reading works by strong stylists tend to have an influence on what I'm writing, almost like a 'bleed over' effect. Non-fiction doesn't affect me this way, but writers like Nabokov invariably *do*.

Do you intentionally change your reading habits -- or not read at all -- while working on your own projects? Or have you mastered your craft to the point where you can read work by other authors and not let literary 'cross-pollenization' occur?
Actually, I *crave* "literary 'cross-pollenization." It strengthens my skill-set. I *want* writers like (in my case) Conrad and James, Faulkner and McKillip, to affect what I'm writing. Of course, it is true that at my advanced age I'm less easily affected than I once was. And it's also true that rewriting tends to iron out the stylistic possibilities that other writers have made available to me. But still: I always love it when something I'm reading bleeds through into something I'm writing.

When I was (much) younger, I *did* change my reading habits according to what I was writing: I read no fantasy at all while I was writing the first "Covenant" trilogy, and no mysteries at all while I was writing "The Man Who Killed His Brother." But that wasn't about stylistic influences: it was about fear. If I read a fantasy and liked it, I would feel intimidated--and so less able to do my own work. And if I read a fantasy and DISliked it, I would be dismayed by the fact that this bozo could get published while I could not; and again I would be less able to do my own work. Fortunately, with time and experience (and publication), that problem went away; so now what I'm writing has no effect on what I'm reading.

(11/07/2005)

STEVE M:  This may seem like a dumb question but at the end of The Power That Preserves, Covenant defeats Foul by using the wild magic yet at the beginning of the Wounded Land Lord Foul informs Covenant that the wild magic was no longer potent against him. Reference is also made in the earlier books that Berek knew of the wild magic and that Kevin had also longed for it. Accordingly, there must have been some fundamental change in the nature of Lord Foul that would bring about this immunity to wild magic. Moreover, The Land, Kevin, Berek and even Lord Foul exist within the confines of the arch of time (albeit Foul is imprisoned) yet the wild magic is the keystone of the arch and and exists outside of the arch. Logically the wild magic should have worked against Foul at the end of White Gold Wielder. Indeed, in many ways Covenant and the Land went through substantial changes between the first and second trilogies but at least the character of Lord Foul seemed to be substantially the same. Could you elaborate on the change that Foul must have gone through betwen the first and second chronicles that gave him the immunity to the wild magic.
As I see it, the change isn't in Lord Foul (although he has become considerably smarter): the change is in Covenant ("You are the white gold"). The combination of what he goes through at the final crisis of "The Power that Preserves" with what he experiences at the very beginning of "The Wounded Land" renders him incapable of repeating his earlier success: because he now knows where he stands, knows what he loves, and is fully committed, he is simply *too* powerful to just duke it out with the Despiser. (And please remember also that Lord Foul is really into misdirection and partial truths. "The wild magic is no longer potent against me" could easily mean "because I'm going to mess you up so badly before you ever get to me that you'll be helpless.")

Of course, Lord Foul isn't *really* the same in the first and second trilogies. In "The Second Chronicles," he's not only smarter: his larger aims are more clearly defined. Now it's not simply "DESPAIR FOR EVERYONE while I secretly destroy the Arch of Time": it's "Despair for you and you and you SO YOU'LL DESTROY THE ARCH FOR ME." If you see what I mean. And those larger aims will be even more clearly defined in "The Last Chronicles" (plus I think Lord Foul is still getting smarter).

(11/07/2005)

Simeon Rabbani:  I have really enjoyed reading the gradual interview over the last few months and have found that just about any question I could have asked has already been asked (and answered). I do have one simple one, though.

After the 'Runes' paperback edition is released, will a list of the differences between it and the hardback edition be made available on this site? (I live in South America, and it will take a lot longer for any version of the book to make its way here.)

Thank you for the many, many hours of enjoyment and reflective thought while reading your books and pondering their themes.

Peace,
Simeon

This has been much debated. In the end, I decided not to post a list of the textual changes. For one thing, the kinds of "corrections" that I made for the paperback are embarrassing. ("How could I have been stupid enough to make a mistake like *that*? Thank God they're going to let me fix it!") For another, the corrections will be of interest to only an extremely small number of readers. For still another, the corrections themselves are small. And for yet another, I could easily argue that none of the corrections are "substantive": they do not in any way alter the *content* of "The Runes of the Earth." I'll humiliate myself by citing one example. If you compare the Prologue of "The Wounded Land" with the Prologue of "Runes," you may notice a discrepancy in the descriptions of Jeremiah's "family of origin." To my eternal chagrin, I got both the genders and the relative ages of his siblings wrong. Well, this sort of screw-up makes me want to shoot myself in the head--but it isn't substantive. It doesn't change the story in any way: it's the factual equivalent of a typo. So-o-o-o-- I hope you'll forgive me for feeling that I've already embarrassed myself enough.

(11/07/2005)

Jim Melvin:  Dear Steve:

I recently joined (temporarily, for research purposes) a newsgroup made up of so-called medieval experts and was amazed to see how much they trash writers of epic fantasy. Your name wasn't brought up specifically, but several other big names were savaged by these people, including Tolkien. I realize that your characters and setting aren't medieval, but have you ever received criticism from these "experts"?
This is going to sound strange. To the best of my knowledge, my work has not been criticized by those “experts.” But such “experts”--or others like them--have criticized *me* fiercely because (and I really can’t explain this) I care more about what things *mean* than about what they *are*. This happened during a public discussion about “Why are there so many castles in fantasy novels?” Apparently the answer the “experts” wanted was, “Because we know so much about castles.” My answer, unfortunately, was, “Because castles provide a metaphorical context which is particularly apt for the storytelling purposes of fantasy.” And at that point, the counter(?)attack(!!) became so vehement that we never talked about either the “metaphorical context” or “the storytelling purposes of fantasy.” <sigh> I still don’t know what all that was about.

(11/07/2005)

Joseph McSheffrey:  Stephen,

I've got a question that has nothing (I think?) to do with your writing. I hope it isn't too personal and that you don't mind answering it. I just read a question and answer here recently regarding your opinion on the various styles of the Martial Arts. What are your thoughts on Bruce Lee's philosophy which emphasizes no style at all, but to pull from whatever you connect with; be it Gung Fu, karate, Cha-Cha dancing, boxing or anything you experience?

I agree that there are no good or bad Martial Arts. One attending their own body and/or mind can never be a negative thing but what, in your humble opinion, is an example of a bad martial artist?

I would like to point out that I'm not a Martial artist in any form, so my "book only" knowledge (heh, no pun intended) may not measure for much.

Keep writing, you bastard! How dare you end RotE that way at your age!? ;)

Joseph
Bruce Lee’s stated philosophy--as distinct from his actual practice, which is rumored to have included a number of dangerous compromises--makes good sense to me. As I understand his “no style” style, he advocated that every student learn as much as possible from as many different sources as possible, and then--in essence--create his/her own style based on all that study; a style which not only reflects his/her physical strengths and weaknesses, but also expresses his/her personality and values.

There are many different ways to talk about what makes a bad martial artist. Here’s one: a student whose approach to training includes any one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Sloth, envy, wrath, greed, any of those things can distort or even cripple the study of the martial arts. Or here’s another: a student whose approach to training concentrates exclusively on only one purpose, e.g. “My body is my temple, and I want to perfect it” (I’ve heard that one), or, “I want to be able to beat up drunks in bars” (I’ve heard that one a lot), or, “I want to be able to prove to people that my way is the best way, the only right way.”

(11/07/2005)

William Calderini:  It would take a far better writer than I to communicate the profound impact that your books have had on me through the years. For the last 26 odd years or so, your Covenant series has been required reading for me on a semi-annual basis, and your words on what I consider to be the "virtue" of stubborness have helped carry me through some rather stormy seasons in my own life. So being so indebted already, I would like to offer up 2 questions to further extend the bill.

Number one. This is one that has intrigued me more and more on every subsequent reading of the Covenant Series. This concerns the end of White Gold Wielder when Linden Avery heals the land with the new Staff of Law. It seems that Linden pours every ounce of her passion, her belief, her very essence into the effort it takes to set things right. Linden, being a very complex character and my personal favorite, has many areas of darkness and light within her. The fact that she is almost consumed by this darkness is a testament to it's power within her. What I took from this ending was that Linden was able to "re-make" the land in "her own image" in a sense. I have always wondered what the Land re-made by Linden would be like. Would/will there be consequnces that would derive from the conflicts within her to be dealt with? So far, having finished Runes of The Earth, it seems that this issue has not been addressed. Are there/were there any plans to explore this line of thinking in books 2, 3, and 4?

Question 2. Although I have always considered you to be one of my literary "fathers", I have always considered Ayn Rand to be one of my literary "mothers". (And yes, what a strange and confused bastard child I was, LOL)
So the the question is, was naming one of the Hurachai characters 'Galt" an intentional nod to the "John Galt" charcter in Ayn Rands "Atlas Shrugged"? You must admit that the unrelenting devotion to strict ideaology, without compromise. a trait shared by both.

William R Calderini
1) Linden has re-made the Staff of Law, not the Law itself, and certainly not the Land. A good healer doesn’t “re-make” his/her patients: s/he helps restore those patients to a state which should have been theirs all along (health). In addition, she didn’t create Vain, and has no control over the energy which Findail supplies; so she could not “re-make” the Land in “her own image” even if she wanted to (which I sincerely doubt).

2) As a passionate anti-elitist, I don’t have much use for Ayn Rand. If I had remembered that the name “Galt” appears in one of her books, I would have chosen a different name for my character.

(11/07/2005)

Newlyn Erratt:  Hi. I just firstly wanted to let you know that I definately consider you my favorite auther of all time. I read the "Thomas Covenant" books when I was around thirteen. When, I was around fifteen I read The Gap series and it quickly became my favorite series. On to my questions.

Firstly, I noticed in a post you mentioned that you cringed when your son discovered the Xanth series. Why is that?

Secondly, what would you say is the reason that your books are so enveloping? Is it the character development? Does it come naturally or is it something planned?

When I first bought the Gap series as well as the first time I discovered the TC chronicles I literally couldn't put them down depriving myself of sleep just so I could find out what happened next. Thank you for your wonderful books
The "Xanth" books are too jokey for my taste. And when you've heard the same joke 30 or 40 times, it loses its appeal.

Why are my books "so enveloping"? I've discussed this elsewhere in the GI; but I think there are two interlocking factors at work. First, I know how to design a good story. (If you think of "story" as the intersection of plot and character, then character development is crucial, but so is plot.) Second, I use a variety of storytelling techniques which are calculated to blur the boundaries between the story and the reader. Instead of maintaining a narrative distance (which is a much more common approach to storytelling), I work hard to make my readers experience my plot and my characters as vividly as I can.

(11/09/2005)

Eystein:  Dear Mr. Donaldson

I have read all the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, and even dream about the world when I go to bed.

I would really want to know if you have given any thoughts about how much information the inhabitants of the land and the other creatures have about Thomas and Lindens world. Are they curious about "our" world?
This question--like the "Why hasn't technology developed in the Land?" question--keeps coming up. But it still baffles me. Implicit in the question is a vision of a different story than the one that actually fires my imagination. It probably goes something like this: in the first trilogy, Covenant spends several hundred pages explaining as much as he can about "our" world; in the second trilogy, technology, pollution, and strip-mining based on Covenant's earlier explanations have accomplished what the Sunbane could not (irrecoverable damage to the Land); and in the last story, space travel has transformed the "Chronicles" into the GAP books. <sigh> The plain fact is that the stories I want to tell in the "Chronicles" would be impossible without a hermetic, self-referential, and in many ways static "reality." You can't have it both ways. Either you accept the stories I want to tell, with their inherent strengths and limitations, or you find something else to read.

(11/09/2005)

Mark Morgon-Shaw:  Hi

I've recently finished Runes of The Earth, and really enjoyed going back to the land but thought it was a very cruel place to end the book for the reader. I guess it guarantees we all rush out to buy the next one when it's finished.

My son is four years old and becoming more interested story books. I'd like to ask if you had any favourite children's books either as a child or a parent. I've just read him several of Roald Dahl's short stories which we both loved, can you recommend any other authors ? Would you ever write a story aimed at a younger audience yourself ?
In self-defense: there really wasn't any other way that I could have ended "Runes." All of my alternatives were anti-climaxes--*and* they would have failed to set the stage for "Fatal Revenant."

I've already discussed "Narnia" at length. As a child, I read anything I could get my hands on: Leon Uris, James Michener, "Dave Dawson, World War II Flying Ace," "Bomba the Jungle Boy," mystery novels, "Reader's Digest." I don't recommend any of it. As a parent reading to my children, I had by far the most success with Roald Dahl and Daniel Pinkwater.

And no, I'll never write a children's story. My mind doesn't work that way. Whenever my children wanted me to make up a story for them, I did so by cleverly prompting them to invent everything: all I did was ask them questions and flesh out their ideas.

(11/09/2005)

usivius:  (I will not break tradition here, so:) Thank you very much for so many wonderful stories that touch the marrow of my soul. Don't die (I want another Axebrewder story after the next three TC books).
I am reading The Gap series for a second time since they came out slowly (I recall going through withdrawal waiting for the next book in a same manner as I am doing now for the Last Crons), and I am rediscovering such a fantastic story. My favourite will likely always be Mordant's Need, but The Gap has so much going for it that it is impossible to ignore. After book three of my re-read, I have really only one question which I wanted to ask you:

The names for the Amnion ships --- It struck me then and it is almost a personal distraction to me now in my second read, but they seem too human. I would almost expect them to be named by humans, not these cold, almost machine-like, logical aliens. I know it would not be as interesting to read a ship series number for the Amnion ships (W-54767), but it would seem to be a logical way to mark or name thier ships. I love the smirking humour behind the names (at least that is what I see from the author), but I find it a little distracting that the Amnion would think of naming their war ships "Calm Horizons".

Can you comment on your decision to give 'human-like' names to the ships of the cold alien species.
The thing to keep in mind is that the Amnion ship-names *as given* are translations--and approximate translations at best, since humans can't actually receive, much less interpret, the full range of Amnion communication. You might do better of think of the ship-names as inadequately articulated concepts which the Amnion find desirable. (And who said the Amnion were a "cold" alien species? I don't think of them that way. They certainly crave "calm horizons." But for them, "peace" doesn't mean "the absence of war," or "everybody getting along well": it means "we consume everything until nothing remains that isn't us.")

(11/09/2005)

Mary Terrell (Arrogance):  First off, Mr. Donaldson, I thank you incredibly for providing the only fantasy literature that has ever given me nightmares. <grin> I'm a 'second generation' fan of the Covenant books through help of my father (who in turn caused those nightmares by reading Lord Foul's Bane to me as a bed time story when I was around 4 or 5 years old.)

Now, onto the question. Despite my constant re-readings of the Covenant books, I never found a passage that states Covenant's eye color. I see him as having a type of worn, tired blue eye color; but what is the official color, if anything?

(Yes, its trivial, but I always had a fascination for eye colors.)
See, I keep *telling* you I'm not a visual person. <grin> Eye color? Covenant has eye color? Why wasn't I informed about this?

It's actually a problem in my real life. It's not that I literally don't "see" things like eye color (or the color of the pickup truck that just rammed me, or even its general condition, never mind its make and model). It's that they simply don't *register* in my memory unless I apply words to them. Or perhaps the problem is that my imagination is too flexible: I can "remember" anything I want--unless I restrict myself to the facts by naming them. In any case--

In one of your spare lives, when you have nothing better to do <grin>, read all of my published works and make a list of all the characters who *do* have a specified eye color. It'll be a pretty short list.

(11/12/2005)

Tom Griffin:  A few years ago I read a story by Robert Silverberg in which he stated in the introduction that he lifted the idea for the story from a part of another work that was mentioned once then never again. His story was nothing like the original, he just was inspired by the idea. My question for you is, is this an acceptable way to get ideas and what if the original idea was from one of your works? What would you expect in the way of compensation?
I'm not sure I understand your question; but let's try this. Say writer A "lifts" an idea from something that writer B published. If when writer A is done, the idea can still be recognized as belonging to writer B, that's a no-no. In fact, there are laws protecting writer B in such situations. But EVerybody gets their ideas from SOMEwhere. So the test is: has writer A transformed the idea enough to "own" it, to make it original? If so, there's no problem. No permission is needed, and no compensation is given. Just one example. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the "Elder Eddas" knows Tolkien's "source" for his "ring of power." But nobody in his/her right mind would claim that Tolkien hasn't transformed the basic idea enough to "own" it. For him, the "Elder Eddas" weren't so much a "source" as a "starting point" from which he evolved his own ideas. Is that clear?

(11/12/2005)

Joseph McSheffrey:  Stephen,

Is there ever a time when you regret this much communication with your fan base? I refer to the GI. Do you think that the questions posed to you here have any effect on your future writings of the Last Chronicles? Do you find yourself tightening up on story plots because you know if you don't "Joey from Chicago" is going to point that sonofabitch out! Okay, that is an exaggeration, but it is human nature and you get my point. It is clear that you care quite a bit about your fans or you would never do this GI in the first place. I applaud you for that as much as for your heart wrenching books.

Obviously you (not *you*, but any artist creating something) draw upon experience, which this GI must be. I imagine you have a myriad of face-to-face conversations similar to ones in the GI. Okay, the GI isn't really a conversation, but it must evoke certain things within you? I wonder if this written form of thoughts has a more profound impact on your writing than a casual, verbal conversation with an actual friend or that annoying fellow that happened to recognize you at the bar.

Most artists don't open themselves up to the public in this way. As a huge fan I can't help but want to establish the connection, but at the same time I worry it adversely effects your creativity. Does that show a lack of faith in you? I certainly don't feel that way on the surface. I think it shows more a faith in the power of the public.

Just rambling... maybe I've had too much wine! Ignore this and get back to the sequel of your damn CLIFFHANGER! Sonofa...

Joseph
I've spent a bit of time on GI-related topics. But I hope to clarify a few points.

First, I do indeed occasionally "tighten up" what I'm writing because of issues which have been raised here. But I don't do it because if I don't X, Y, or Z reader will complain: I do it because the issues are valid--and because I might have missed them otherwise. I'm human. And, as I like to say, I don't write by Divine Inspiration: I write by Divine Intervention. In other words, I need all the help I can get.

Second, I've never had a face-to-face conversation with another writer (or any other artist) that in any way resembles the GI. Interviews are a specialized form of discourse. When I'm sitting around with other writers who also happen to be friends, we may talk about our lives, or our editors, or our peers, or even our paychecks; but we never talk about the content of what we write. (Oh, sometimes a friend might say, "You really chewed the carpet in that book." Or I might say, "I really like what you did with so-and-so." But it never goes any further than that. I suppose I could say that we're interested in each other as people rather than writers.) So it follows that the GI is more likely to affect what I write than any personal conversation--or than any other form of interview, for that matter, since in more "normal" interviews I do all the talking, and the people who ask the questions reveal virtually nothing.

Third, so far I have not detected any adverse effect on my work. I do sometimes groan at the amount of effort I've committed myself to here. But usually it pays off. Broadly speaking (there are always exceptions), this particular form of discourse weeds out people who wish to do me harm, or who feel harmed by me, or who desire some kind of impossible (and inherently destructive) symbiosis. As a result, the GI often feels both supportive and companionable.

(11/23/2005)

Scott Marchus:  I have to admit that I haven't read your new book yet- I bought it and met you a few months back when you were on your promotional tour, but I was in no great hurry to read it because.... well... I guess you are in no great hurry to finish the series. I'm trying to avoid the aches and pains of waiting for the next installment.... I've already done that with a couple of your series, and I just can't stand it anymore. If you died tomorrow, I may never get around to reading that book (!) ;p


What I have been reading (based on your reccomendation) is Steven Erikson's series. I am happy to say that I am very hooked, and I was curious: who is your favorite character in the Malazan series so far (and why)?
What do you mean, I'm "in no great hurry to finish the series"? Avaunt, Lugubrious One! <grin> I'm working as fast as my age, energy, and circumstances permit. Honest.

Like many readers of the "Malazan" books, I'm particularly fond of Whiskeyjack and his cadre, especially Quick Ben and Kalam. But I'm also intrigued by Captain Paran. Why? Who knows? "Sympathy" is far too subjective for any convenient explanation.

(11/23/2005)

Paul:  Here's an interesting idea..if you feel like indulging me on..

In developing the story and characters for TC books, have you ever gone down a certain plot/character path and then decided that it was just too dumb? Better still, has anybody (editors, family, etc) managed to convince you that an idea was bad and to rework it.

If so, I was wondering if you would list a couple that spring to mind. I have a morbid fascination to know what could have been if it was not for some 'constructive' feedback :-)
Why are people so eager to know why and how I almost screwed up? I would have thought that my verifiable mistakes are embarrassing enough....

But it is in some sense "public knowledge" that Lester del Rey convinced me to cut "Gilden-fire" out of "The Illearth War," and to rework the narrative of the entire mission to Seareach. His reasoning was sound, and as soon as he explained it I had to agree with him. Although the material was viable in itself, it obliquely undermined the integrity of Covenant's POV. (I've discussed this is more detail elsewhere.)

Less well-known is that fact that Lester also persuaded me to tone down the sexual issues between Covenant and Elena. I'm a natural-born over-doer, and in the original drafts I had thrown all caution to the winds. Lester helped me to see various ways in which excess can be self-defeating.

However, my most common narrative error does not involve going down a poor "plot/character path": it involves using the wrong POV. From time to time throughout my writing life, I have drifted into the mistake of viewing the story through the wrong eyes. (Lester used to say, "The story should always be told from the POV of the person who has the most at stake." A bit over-simple, perhaps, but useful nonetheless.) In the short term, this always has the effect of making the writing easier. Eventually, however, I slam head-first into a logjam of my own making. Then I'm forced to back-track (sometimes a considerable distance), not to change the plot or the characters, but to find a more effective perspective.

(11/23/2005)

Pete Warner:  Sir,

Bravo sir. You have changed the landscape of my imagination forever. Tolkein first showed me a door to possibilities I hadn't previously considered existed. Thomas Covenant forcibly kicked it open (probably hurting his foot and muttering "hellfire"!)

A return to the Land in 2005 is like a return of a loved one from beyond the grave. The downside is that I must be reacquainted with the grief of loss when one day it all comes to an end once more. A fatal revanant indeed.

I hope I might get away with asking two questions:

1) No sooner is a new literary success upon us then we have to endure the parodies: Bored of the Rings, Barry Trotter et al. I have no problem with parody on fan sites but loathe the idea of honest shelf space being sacrificed to accomodate them. I wonder what your feeling would be if you were ever approached about the idea of a Thomas Covenant parody (I am assuming that you would actually *be* approached!)

2) Like LotR, I am delighted that you use chapter titles. Not that a numerically ordered bunch of chapters affect the quality of a story for me - it's just an inexplicable affection I have for titled chapters. Does your use of chapter titles reflect a similar affection on your part? Do you title your chapters before, during or after their completion? My favourite chapter title of yours is "Something Broken" - I still think about the concept several times a week. From LotR I have a soft spot for "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit".

Thanks for your time. May the flame of your genius never burn out.

Sincerely,
Pete Warner
1) Well, there's always the argument that anything worth doing is worth mocking. And I do enjoy a good parody (witness "Heatherly and Julie's Fantasy Bedtime Hour"), although they often go on too long. (But there are exceptions. Look at Terry Prachett.) However, one thing is certain: no one is ever going to ask my permission. They'll just do it.

2) I, too, like chapter titles, although I don't always use them. When I *do* use them, I try to come up with the title before I write the chapter, on the theory that the title helps me focus. But I often change my mind partway through the chapter, or when I finish it, or when I realize that the title would better suit some other chapter.

(11/23/2005)

Revan:  "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.)"

Would it really be so bad were we to achieve an effective "immortality"? (not a egalitarian immortality of course, because that would be an obvious catastrophe) You say that we could cease to be who we are, what, in your opinion, would we become, in what way would we change that would be for the worst? Why was Holt so wrong in his vision?

As it happens, I was thinking of "egalitarian immortality". As a confirmed egalitarian, I consider any form of elitist immortality an atrocity. Who chooses the elite? The moral implications alone are appalling. And who controls the elite once they've been chosen? Do you really want the Dubyas and Cheneys of the world (or even the Einsteins and Mother Theresas) to live forever--and to acquire the kind of power that immortality would make possible? At the very least, we would become a species of gods and drones.

Need I add, "Just my opinion"?

(11/23/2005)

Jeff:  I don't really do this sort of fan thing. I love your work, but that's between me and the book, not you and I in any meaningful way. Still, I was inordinately pleased to find that the "Runes" copy I bought at Media Play was, for some reason, signed. Didn't even cost more.

Finally, my question (maybe answered elsewhere, haven't waded through all the interview yet): Do you do extensive research on the various systems of thought implied (sometimes stated outright) by your characters and in your novels? Rely on your native intelligence to fill in from basic knowledge? Because it seems that your characters act from what they believe, in a "natural" way, so I wondered if you know people very well, know belief systems very well, or some amalgamation of the two? In a way, the answer is irrelevant, because the characters and stories are great, which is all that matters in fiction. Still, I'm curious.
Jeff
I'm afraid I don't do anything that a more systematic thinker could call "extensive research." On any subject. Except fiction. I've learned virtually everything I know about ideas (pretending for the moment that I didn't actually go to college or grad school <grin>) by studying fiction. And I believe something that S. P. Somtow once said: "Fantasy is the only valid form of theological inquiry." Certainly I consider all of my stories to be forms of inquiry. So I suppose you could say that I do my research as much by writing stories as by reading them.

Still, I've made what might be called an "intensive" rather than an "extensive" study of people. Starting with myself. As a result, I know quite a bit about how perceptions of reality shape behavior. Does that answer your question?

(11/23/2005)

John Dunn:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you for taking the time to read and answer some of these questions!

I have now read all of "The Man Who" books, and though I enjoyed them greatly, I must say that "The Man Who Fought Alone" was simply outstanding. I find it hard to explain in a tangible way, but I think because of that particular book, Brew is now one of my most cherished characters. I know some people have said that they identified the the villain from a particular scene relatively early, as I did, though I didn't figure out the why, but I thought it was of little importance. The journey of that story is the true treasure. But now I find myself with a problem.

Ok. So it will take you around 3 years to write each new Covenant book. So 9 more years till that series is finished. Not that I am not enjoying this new and last adventure into the Land; I am! But then, I think I can properly assume that it will be another 2 or 3 years after the publication of the last Covenant book till we find out what happens next in Brew's life. This simply won't do.

I have a few suggestions.

1. Less sleep; more writing.

2. Postpone a Covenant book or two.

3. Stop reading our silly questions and write more.

4. Ummm.... just write more quickly.

5. Again, I ask: Why are you reading this and now working. Back to work. Chop chop!!

Other than that I don't really have any questions. But most seriously, "The Man Who" book are outstanding; the "Fought Alone" simply great.

Best wishes and all that.

I can't imagine why none of these ideas ever occurred to me. They seem so obvious now that you point them out. <grin>

But thank you for your good opinion of "The Man Who" books. That isn't something I get to hear very often, so it's especially welcome.

(11/27/2005)

Eric Spahr:  Dr. Donaldson
I would first like to say thank you for having a forum that allows your fans to provide feedback.
Second, I have a question about Linden Avery from Runes.
Early in the story, while in her 'real world', she gives Joan her ring back to calm her. But then she also states that any attempt to restrain Joan from hurting herself fail.
I remember the passage roughly saying that restraints would just fall off in the night.
Is Joan really that stupid that she couldnot see Lord Foul at work?
Not an insult to you, but the observation that she KNEW that Foul could work in this world, she in fact remarks on memories of his influence of the weak willed in her world.
I would think the second or third time the restraints 'fell off' she would have taken the ring away. She know how much Lord Foul wants access to white gold.
So why did she not 'connect the dots'?
First, I assume your question is really about Linden rathr than Joan. I hope that's accurate.

Other than that.... <sigh> Sometimes the more obvious something is to me the more trouble I have explaining it.

As a general observation, I find that "connecting the dots" as a reader of fiction--or as any kind of observer--is a whole lot easier than it is in real life. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to smack people I know because they can't connect the dots in their lives; but I *don't* smack them because I've learned with anguish and sorrow and I'm pretty ^#$$&U& lousy at connecting the dots in my own life.

After that, I suppose you could say about Linden that it's all a question of what her assumptions are and where her attention is focused. (After all, the poor woman doesn't know she's a character in a novel.) Trying to keep the list short (and remembering that we're only talking about the Prologue of "The Runes of the Earth"), her assumptions are: a) the struggles of the Land to survive Lord Foul revolve around Covenant, not around Linden herself, and certainly not around Joan, because b) Joan isn't now and has never been--in Linden's experience--a figure of power, she's just *bait*, on top of which c) Linden has never been given any reason to believe that any ring except Covenant's matters, in addition to the fact that d) Linden has left Covenant "in charge" of the Land's reality (the Arch of Time), so she has no reason to believe that Lord Foul will ever be a problem again.

As for Linden's attention, she's a physician who has spent all of her life except for one (apparently) long night living in a world that follows rules she knows and understands, rules to which she was born, and she is (very naturally, in my opinion) focused on Joan as a *patient* rather than as a *threat*. I don't consider myself a stupid person, but if I were in Linden's place I think I could have made the same mistake she makes 12 times out of 10.

And as an additional point, remember that Linden's decision to give Joan her ring is a "successful" therapy: it significantly reduces the amount of damage Joan does to herself, as well as the amount of hysteria Joan displays.

Also: have you ever tried withholding relief from a person who is obviously in terrible pain? Do you know what that kind of decision costs the person who does the withholding? (Covenant's decision in "The Power that Preserves" to reject the Land for the sake of a threatened child is relevant here.)

Finally, how do you know that Linden's decision wasn't the best possible choice under the circumstances? You haven't read the rest of the story yet: you don't know what the eventual outcome of Linden's actions--or Joan's--will be.

<sigh> All of the above may be over-kill. If so, I hope you'll pardon me. I've been known to become downright belligerent in defense of my characters.

(11/27/2005)

Jon Bernstein:  Hi Stephen,
Have you ever given thought to turning one of your works like Mordant's Need or some unpublished short strory into a graphic novel

And if so what are the odds of someone like me taking a shot at drawing some panels up?

I know it's a long shot but it never hurts to ask.

Thanks
Jon Bernstein
No, I've never considered the idea, in part because my mind doesn't work that way (alltogethernow: "I'm not a visual person"), and in part because I don't own the rights. It's standard practice that those rights are held by the publisher. (Exceptions occur, of course, but they wouldn't in my case because I don't have that kind of clout.)

(11/27/2005)

Michael from Santa Fe:  When Runes of the Earth started, we learned that Linden had adopted a son which she loved with all her heart and was taking a lot of her time and energy and that she still obviously missed and loved Covenant despereately. She has not remarried and the text makes no mention that she has had even a boyfriend in the intervening years since she was last in the Land. Now this may fall under the heading of "just because it's not in the text doesn't mean it didn't happen", but gosh, you mean she hasn't gotten laid in ten years?
Well, it happens. But this is pretty far outside the parameters of the story I'm trying to tell, so in a sense your guess is as good as mine.

(11/27/2005)

H. Scarbrough:  Hello. I had a question on the Land itself in particular. I searched the GI and it didnt seem like anyone has hit on this point yet but if they have forgive me asking again. It seems that the Land itself, was based in part on the human body. In Illearth war, Thomas and Elena pass through "Damelons Door" to find the earth blood. The description seemed very similar to the human ear. Damelons door being the eardrum and the earthblood being the pool of wax. the long descent down to the pool being the eustachin tube. And it seemed that, I believe, that Fouls Creche was alot like the human eye in in its description. If you can answer to the truthfulness or the idiocy of my observation it would be appreciated. It has been bugging me for over 15 years. Thanks
Writers often take metaphors wherever they can find them. And the idea of the Land as a "body" (e.g. the internal body of Covenant's psyche) is certainly defensible. But I did not have any specific organs in mind, either for the geography within Melenkurion Skyweir or for the structure of Foul's Creche. And I sure wouldn't want to push this line of imagery too much further (Andelain? Kevin's Watch? <ouch>).

(11/27/2005)

Dave Hollin, Wales:  Stephen,

many thanks for all the years of pleasure your writing has given me. Along with Tolkien, Pratchett, Adams (Douglas that is), you really are up there at the top.

A couple of clumsy questions if I may?

Like Tolkien, one thing constantly intrigues me about The Land. There are never any "technological advances" in the Land even though many thousands of years pass by. Tolkien also leaves little room for such "natural" progression of development for races in Middle Earth. Is this a coincidence? Further to this I am very intrigued by the "civilisation" present at the time of Berek before the first lords are created. Pardon my groping ignorance, it almost seems as though there is another separate world in existence for that time period, almost "historical" with parallels to real history. I mean there are glimpses of battles, cities and tales innumerable (Doriendor Corishev, Doom's retreat, etc) from this proto-world you alude to in the first chronicles. One could almost say that if left to a natural progression this could have resulted in a world much more familiar to ourselves! Did you ever think about developing this strand of the the Land's tapestry further or was it just litarary teasing to draw the audience in? I must admit that I went on to read the Silmarillion before LOTR because of tantalising details Tolkien left lying about in the Hobbit.

Anyway I have rambled enough. Many thanks again for your books, your friendship through hard times (even though you didnt know it!) and your obvious humanity.

Regards Dave
I don't get compared to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams very often, so I'll assume that's a compliment. <grin> (I enjoy both authors. But Judy-Lynn del Rey once said of "Lord Foul's Bane," "It isn't a book you can just laugh your way through over the weekend.")

I've already discussed the Land's lack of technological progress--no doubt since you first posted your question, lo! these many months ago. So I'll just say that, no, I've never considered exploring the civilization that rose and fell with Doriendor Corishev--or any other civilization that doesn't impinge directly on the story I'm trying to tell. As I've observed with some regularity, I don't create--even casually--things I don't need. I needed places like Doom's Retreat and Doriendor Corishev to have a past, so I gave them one (or a sketch of one). But a fully-developed past was unnecessary. And worse, it would have been a distraction. You can call this "literary teasing" if you wish: I prefer to think of it as world-building. (Or "staying on task," if you're as ADD as I am. <grin>)

(11/30/2005)

Sean Casey:  Stephen, you say you admire the works of messrs Erikson and King - do you only like writers with the same name as you?

My sensible question is partly about the same thing - The Dark Tower series. You've said in reply to questions that you don't like an omniscient viewpoint that skips around the minds of various characters and that you're not keen on prequels. The Dark Tower contains both of those things (Wizard and Glass arguably being a prequel). Does the other Stephen carry off these techniques in a way that you particularly like or are they flaws in an otherwise excellent story? (Personally, I'd agree with the latter.)
Well, Erikson spells his name with a "v" instead of a "ph". Doubtless that explains why his books aren't better-known.

My memory isn't what it was, and it wasn't exactly encyclopedic to begin with. But I don't remember King ever using "an omniscient viewpoint that skips around the minds of the various characters" in the Dark Tower novels. He does change POV regularly--even often--but he does so clearly, coherently (he does not change within a specific episode or action), and I'll call it respectfully (while he's using a specific POV, he respects its limitations: he does not use that POV to provide information which that POV could not possess--e.g. knowledge of the private thoughts of other characters). The kind of omniscient viewpoint I loathe is the kind that tries to tell you how everybody sees everything simultaneously, or that floats indiscriminately from one POV to another within an action, or within a defined sequence of actions. (Dickens does this. So do Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn. But, curiously, they only do it at the beginnings of books, as if they were feeling their way along. As soon as they hit their stride, they stop playing fast-and-loose with POV.)

As for prequels: I distinguish between "prequels" (which in my lexicon are not essential to the comprehension of the present story) and "back-story" (which *is* essential). No one needs to read "The Silmarillion"--or even "The Hobbit"--to understand LOTR. But Roland's back-story contributes a great deal to the Dark Tower saga. (OK, I admit it: when I first started to read Roland's tale in "Wizard and Glass," I was impatient with it. It felt like a distraction from the main story. But that feeling evaporated quickly--which I consider a real tribute to King's narrative skill.)

(11/30/2005)