Matthew Baldwin:  Steve,
I've always wondered where the title to your short story, "The Kings of Tarshish Shall Bring Gifts" came from and what meaning it had to the story. I came across a verse in Psalms 72 which was almost an exact replicant of the title. It says: "The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts (Ps. 72:10). This Psalm is allegedly David espousing the future glory of his son, Solomon, so I was wondering if the title was related in the story because the prince was thought to have a bright future due to his dreams?

Thanks for answering my previous questions and for your work in your writings. Like others, they have been a source of enjoyment and inspiration to me.
I got the title from the passage I quote from Isak Dinesen's "Out of Africa" at the beginning of the story. I have, of course (given my background), read the Bible. And at one time in my life, I was required to memorize as many "verses" as I could. But all of that was 45+ years ago, and I haven't looked at the Psalms since. So if I was influenced in any way by Dinesen's *source*, the influence must be VERY unconscious. <rueful smile> Consciously I had never heard the phrase until I read "Out of Africa".


Tim Brieger:  Thank you so much for answering my earlier question about your reaction to your destruction of Kevin's Watch. Recently, I was rereading many of the questions submitted and began thinking about readers favorite characters. Outside of the obvious, Covenant, you get characters like Mhoram, Saltheart/Giants, Bannor/Bloodguard, Pitchwife (personal favorite)...the Top 5 if you will. My question is, was/is there a character you wrote that did not recieve the attention/fan appreciation you thought they would have when you wrote it? Do you sit and read the GI going, "come on people, more questions about X...he is a heck of a character and you are all missing the boat!"

Just wondering, because, as a teacher I have been known to prepare certain lessons that I thought would be homeruns, only to be duds with my high school kids.
I have certainly had the experience of hitting what I consider to be a homerun, only to find that it doesn't score at all. Or, if it *does* score, the score is only posted in a stadium 500 miles away. ("Playing for the Yankees against the Red Sox, Donaldson contrives to hit a homerun for the Wooster High School Generals.") The GAP books leap to mind (the only one of my mystery novels that I consider to be a homerun is the most recent one, "The Man Who Fought Alone"). But in my personal creative/emotional life, this doesn't apply to particular characters. I'm perfectly aware that some are more sympathetic than others, some are more sharply-drawn than others, some are simply more dramatic than others. However, I don't think I've ever felt that a particular character isn't getting the reader appreciation he/she deserves. Perhaps my own feelings in retrospect apply more to whole stories than to individual story components.

(I do naturally have my own list of favorite characters. But the fact that the list tends to change from day to day, and from situation to situation, reveals something about my underlying attitudes.)


Luchog:  I've read your work only fairly recently (this decade) despite being aware of its existence for far longer; but have devoured all that I could find, in a fairly short time. I greatly appreciate the nature and quality of your writing. Particularly your characters, who clearly do not fall into the standard hero/anti-hero moulds too common in epic fantasy and sci-fi; and the profound departure from, or subversion of, the overused Campbell-esque myth tropes.

One comment and one question. First, I find the names used by the Ravers (moksha, turiya, samadhi) for themselves to be interesting. You've noted in the past that they reflected both the nature of evil to consider itself to be a "higher good"; as well as an ironic use of terms that denote enlightenment in a particular mythology. Interestingly, the concepts embodied by those terms are more complex than that, and carry an additional meaning beyond what most westerners would consider "enlightenment". Rather than adding to, or raising up, levels of consciousness, they're a negation of individuality and identity. A loss of "selfhood" which in most Western value systems would be considered evil (or at least undesirable) in and of itself. As you've said before, this all happened decades ago, so I won't expect you to comment on whether you had that in mind when you chose them.

Regarding my question, for which I was unable to find an answer in the GI, a preface is necessary. I found the GAP cycle to be one of the most difficult works I've ever read. The sheer dark, gritty, grimmness of it was quite challenging. Even as a fan of psychological horror, and "grimdark" works in general, I often found it very disturbing, and had to take frequent breaks. That is not a criticism per se, since as others have mentioned, it's one of your best-written works; and I'm well aware of the difficulty of creating that sort of darkness without devolving into either ridiculous camp or polemical diatribe.

I am simply wondering, and I accept that you may have neither the willingness nor ability to answer this, if you found that writing the GAP books, and the major characters in particular, involved any sort of personal catharsis or "purging of demons"; or if it was simply a device used to tell that particular story. Either way, it's very well done; and it's a story I do plan to re-read eventually (once I've worked myself up to it).
Your comment about the Ravers is particularly apt since--as other readers have observed--their individual identities have been completely subsumed in Lord Foul's. This loss of "selfhood" doubtless confirms or completes their "enlightenment"--at least from LF's perspective, since the Ravers no longer have individual perspectives <grin>.

Regarding writing the GAP books, I wouldn't comfortably use the term "catharsis," although there probably was some "purging of demons" involved. That story required me to go to some pretty dark places in my characters--which in turn (being the kind of writer I am) required me to go to some pretty dark places in myself. (Paraphrasing a famous quotation, When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you.) I couldn't have done that without some degree of what I'll call (for lack of a better term) "acceptance". But "catharsis" suggests (at least to me) a specific experience of insight, acknowledgment, or release; and I didn't have one of those. Instead I had my usual slow, grinding progress toward a necessary (if ultimately ambiguous or incomplete) validation.


Mike S.:  Regarding your observation on consulting time for the Gap option: "So why did I agree to any of this in the first place? Well, frankly, I can use the money. But here's the real issue: even a crap movie gives a major boost to book sales (which is what I really care about)."

Well said! Whether you love or hate the book and it's author, I'm sure L. Ron Hubbard would agree with you on "Battlefield: Earth". That was the absolute worst so-called "adaptation" of a scifi book ever made (could Travolta have possibly picked a more terrible movie to "star" in?). But I'm also certain that the movie enticed more than one viewer to take his wheelbarrow to the local bookstore and bring home the book (physically, it's a monster that should have been three or more volumes).

Anyway, as a reader I have no vote in any such arrangements. However, should either your Gap or TC options get picked up I hope that you exercise as much firm creative control as you can over YOUR stories and characters.

Why? Well, bad movies from good books make good money, but as a fan I would hate to see either series become the laughing-stock parody that Battlefield: Earth became for the late Mr. Hubbard.

Without your guidance, I see no way either "movie" could succeed. With your guidance? Well, I've already mentioned one bad example. You could also ask Mike Straczynski if exercising creative control over "Babylon 5" helped make it a success (it did). Conversely, Joss Whedon can tell you just how fast a good story can turn into a bad train wreck when you lose "creative ownership" of YOUR idea to a studio ("Firefly" and "Dollhouse" come to mind...).

Intellectually, I understand the need to earn a living. Emotionally, I hope to never see any of your characters or stories needlessly prostituted into "crap films" because a studio thinks that mucking with the story can make them MORE money.

Anyhoo, thank you for sharing your stories with the rest of us, and I look forward to reading the next installment of TLC.

Mike S.
I appreciate your perspective on the situation. But in addition to the other things I've said on other occasions, I have a particular problem that I don't think I've mentioned before. Working with committees drives me to distraction. No, wait a minute. That wasn't it. (I got distracted.) The problem is that my entire head and psyche are full to bursting with "The Last Chronicles". Wrenching myself out of that mindset in order to deal with issues pertaining to the GAP books requires a form of mental violence that I find exasperating (at best): a problem compounded by the fact that I haven't actually read the GAP books in over a decade, so I don't always remember them clearly enough to provide accurate "guidance" for a movie person. If issues pertaining to a GAP movie came to my attention at a time when I wasn't immersed in a completely different story, I might conceivably find the challenge less troublesome. But as matters stand, I really can't tolerate significant interruptions to my concentration on "The Last Chronicles".


Joe Higgins:  I was catching up on the GI and noticed your explanation of how Teenage mutant ninja turtles affected your life. I thought you might find this amusing. Years ago an old friend of mine told me that his daughter when she was a toddler referred to the turtles as "teem-mate neutered injured turtles."
There's no doubt in my mind that your friend's daughter was correct. Clearly they *should* have been called "teem-mate neutered injured turtles".


Bugley:  Would you consider using hurtloam on Stave's eye socket? Maybe he could gain earth sight to discern the insequent. Ps I love the word 'surquedry'
No, I wouldn't consider it. I don't actually want Stave to be anything more than he already is. If he had more "power," he would require a larger role in the story, which would in turn throw other facets of my design out of whack. Plus I'm not convinced that hurtloam would work that way (Hile Troy notwithstanding: his case and Stave's really aren't comparable).


Darren Churchill:  Hi Mr Donaldson,
I noticed on the `news` tab that you had considered doing reading from AATE in San Diego last May. Did this reading ever take place in the end? If you were giving this consideration at such an early stage, what about the people from all over the world who could not of made it to SD to attend? How about throwing the provberbial dogs a bone by uploading a teaser onto this site from the first chapter? Which brings me on to a 2nd point. God forbid that you should ever fall under a bus or some such other calamity. But should anything ever happen to you (and I am sure we are all aware of our mortallity)does anyone apart from you have the remotest concept of where you see /saw the story ending in the final LCTC book? Would you sooner the final book remain unwritten? Or if not which author would you most trust to do your story justice? I hope you do not find this question to morbid to contemplate. I like many hundreds of thousands of other readers have the utmost concern for you well being and health. I am sure you will appreciate this even if its admittedly for a selfish reason. Thanks Mr Donaldson you really are one of the greatest story tellers in history in my humble opinion.
I did in fact do a (very) short reading from AATE at Mysterious Galaxy in May. I made an exception to my general practice for them because they were making a special effort for me: i.e. organizing and promoting an author event for my benefit when I did not have a new book to offer (an exercise which usually does not work out well for bookstores).

I've discussed the what-happens-if-I-die scenario more than once in the Gradual Interview. In practical terms, my will names "literary executors" to make post mortem decisions for me; and I've given them explicit verbal instructions about my wishes. That's really all I'm prepared to say at this point.

Of course, the whole situation changes if the world *does not* end in 2012. <grin> Right now, I'm counting on the predictions of the Maya to solve a wide variety of problems for me.


Unpech:  Is Linden's own percipience more acute/effective/powerful than that which "once informed and guided all the people of the Land"? I.e. her health-sense unaugmented by other powers, periapts, etc. It 'seems' to be more powerful, but I do not recall any passage(s) where this is clearly stated.

Very much looking forward to the next installment!
My own perception has always been that Linden has more than most when it comes to natural, unaugmented "health-sense". (More than, say, the Old Lords? Who knows? Personally, I don't need answers to questions like that. But more than the Haruchai? In that comparison, I would say that she's more "sensitive" rather than more "discerning". She may not *see* more, but she *feels* what she sees more.) She has unique abilities which make her uniquely vulnerable to Lord Foul's manipulations, especially in "The Second Chronicles".


James DiBenedetto:  Not sure if this is a question or just an observation, but here goes...

I saw Gotterdammerrung performed live for the first time recently (Washington National Opera - it was truly spectacular), and something struck me.

In the first scene of Act II, Hagen is possibly awake and possibly asleep, and he's talking to his father Alberich, who may or may not really be there. Alberich regards Hagen as his "tool" and after urging Hagen to obtain the cursed Ring, he ends the conversation by admonishing Hagen to "Be true."

Interesting echoes to the First Chronicles and the beggar's words to Covenant, arne't they?
I can't very well pretend that there's no connection, since I was intimately familiar with "Gotterdammerung" long before I began work on "Covenant". But like many of the connections in my books (the names of the Ravers leap to mind), this one has an ironic tinge.

(For those readers who aren't acquainted with this opera: Alberich is urging Hagen to "Be true" to Alberich's hunger for revenge and to his lust to reclaim the magic ring. The subtext, of course, is that Alberich wants Hagen to carry out his revenge, but does not want Hagen to claim the ring for himself: Hagen is urged to "Be true" to Alberich's desires rather than to his own.)


David Cronin:  Hello Steve,

Firstly, my thanks for your many marvelous books over the years. I have been reading your work for around 25 years. At times you have made me feel like laughing, crying, screaming and cheering... sometimes all at the same time!

My question: The story of Thomas Covenant seems to me an intensely personal journey. To what degree do you see parallels between him and yourself (or any other person)?

Best Regards,
David Cronin.
As I've said on a variety of occasions, I can hardly write fiction at all if I don't have the sensation that I'm "making it all up". As a rule, I don't base characters, situations, or settings on Real Life, especially not my own. One way to look at this is that my stories seem like personal journeys, not because my characters are stand-ins for me, but rather because I'm a stand-in for them.

Of course, my stories arise from some place deep within me: in that sense, they are all based on my personal struggles and quests. And of course, I *do* learn from my characters and their stories. But none of this involves my conscious mind. Consciously the only parallels I see are the ones that apply to us all: e.g. the struggle for meaning and integrity in a world that refuses to conform to our wishes.


Alex Finney:  Stephen... While with great anticipation awaiting AATE, I recently decided to read again all your books. In a recent post (thanks again for answering) I commented how much I had enjoyed The Gap Series, with this reading being more fulfilling than any before. Now half way through the Chronicles once again (middle TWL), I am similarly enojying the books in every aspect more than previously. Given I am reading most of them 25 years after my first foray, it begs the question from me... do you have an age (or maturity) in mind for your ideal reader when you write the books? Would you automatically expect a 40yr old to get substantially more from them now than when he was 15?
Yes, I would "automatically expect a 40yr old to get substantially more" from my books--because I never intended them to be read by teenagers in the first place. I've always *thought* that I was writing for, well, "mature" readers. Regular readers of the Gradual Interview will know that I'm consistently perplexed, amazed, and humbled that what we might call children have found value in my work. But I suppose I should get over feeling that way. After all, I have children myself: I have first-hand experience with how dramatically capable teenagers can be. And I do remember my own reading when I was a teenager: the fact that much of it wasn't intended for people my age didn't prevent me from enjoying it.


Anonymous:  Was Jeremiah orignally planned to be a central character in 3rd chronicles as you wrote the 2nd chronicles? Or was he "mined" as you went through and reviewed the 2nd chronicles and throught about what to write in 3rd chronicles?
Please more updates in the "news" section. I love knowing the status of where you are in the process. It somehow builds the anticipation.
Jeremiah was "mined". My original conception for "The Last Chronicles" all those years ago was more than just a sketch, but it was far from being a "whole" story. Actually writing the present story has required a great deal of invention, some of it "mined," some of it forged from entirely new ores.

I post news whenever I have some. But I don't like feeling like a "tease," so I only post news when I have something solid to report.


Robert K Murnick:  Finally digging into the GAP series. I tried to once before, back when TRS first came out, but couldn't get into it.

Just read about the public humiliation scene on the main deck halfway through FK. Had to put the book down. Cascades of thought masquerading as insight are occuring here. I have no right to pollute the GI with my mental excreta, but heck, that hasn't stopped me before.

First thought: Covenant, despite his rape of Lena, isn't difficult for a male reader to identify with. We (by which I mean us guys) are all handicapped heroes struggling against our own personal despisers, both internal and external. Question: Did you intend for Covenant to be every male reader's avatar?

Second thought: In the GAP (at least up 'til the point I've just read to, and I see no reason for this to change), there is no stand-in for me. I'm entirely a spectator. Is there a female reader somewhere who can identify with Morn? I guess that's possible, but I would think that an exhaustively violated woman wouldn't care to read about the exhaustive violation of a fictional woman.

Third thought: 1) Covenant rapes Lena, engendering Elena and much of the subsequent action. 2) You (Stephen) are taken to task by some of the public for your treatment of Lena. 3) Now you write the GAP, where your hero is no longer the rapist, but the rape victim. I cannot help but conceive that there's some connection between 1, 2 and 3. Care to comment?

Extra thought that doesn't want to go away: Terisa Morgan and Geraden seem like more likely candidates for readers to see themselves as than any of the GAP characters. How do you feel about the reader-will-identify-with-character-X meme and how it has evolved over your career?
First. When I write, I don't think in terms of "avatars" or "reader-will-identify-with" or even that old English major standard, Everyman. I do my best to identify with *all* my characters, and I naturally hope that my readers will do the same. This is especially true in the GAP books.

Second. In fact, a number of female readers have told me that they identify intensely with Morn Hyland. One woman told me it was the most "cathartic" story she had ever read.

Third. There's certainly a connection (I prefer to call it a progression) between 1 and 3 above. I'm digging deeper into the themes--or at least I hope I am. As much as humanly possible, I try not to let things like 2 affect my creative decisions.

Extra. See "first" above. But in "Mordant's Need" I did consciously try to write a *gentler* story than my previous novels. I was following my usual pattern of writing what comes to me to be written. But I was also stretching myself artistically. And unconsciously I may have been a) seeking an antidote to the first two "Covenant" trilogies and my first two mystery novels (the first of which also deals with rape); and/or b) soothing myself in preparation for the harsher realities of the GAP books.


dennis glascock:  I am curious as to how the last two Covenant books have sold compared to the first 6 books. Right or wrong, I have the impression that the last two books did not receive as much publicity as did the previous 6. If so, could this be because of the time lag between book 6 and 7? Or perhaps the publisher not promote them adequately? Obviously, I am a fan of the series and believe that all eight books are very extraordinary.
It's true that the first two books in "The Last Chronicles" have sold roughly 10% of the sales of any of the previous six "Covenant" books. And it's true that publicity is a factor. But here it's important to avoid any simplistic definitions of "publicity". With the possible exception of "The Wounded Land," Ballantine didn't spend more money on advertising and promotion than Putnams/Ace. The real difference (aside from the zeitgeist) was Judy-Lynn del Rey. In a stroke of publishing genius, she first persuaded Holt, Rinehart & Winston (a "mainstream," "literary" hardcover house in those days) to pick up the hardcover rights to the first trilogy, and second convinced Holt to release all three books on the same day. That combination (serious literary publisher, unprecedented publishing gamble) drew an astonishing amount of attention from reviewers--which in turn led to the kind of word-of-mouth advertising that money can't buy. The result was an implausible degree of success.

Judy-Lynn's coup was not something Putnams/Ace could have duplicated, even if the whole publishing business were not in decline.

Meanwhile there can be no doubt that the "delay" between Covenant 6 and Covenant 7 contributed significantly to the comparatively poor sales of "The Last Chronicles". Many readers, it seems, simply forgot that I exist. (How many times have I heard readers say, "I'm your biggest fan, I've read all your books"? Yet subsequent conversation reveals that by "all" they mean the first six "Covenant" books--and nothing else.)


Ronald Anselowitz:  Mr. Donaldson, I first read your books when I was a teenager, eagerly awaiting each new volume. Yours were the only stories that could keep me up reading until four in the morning, and they will always hold a place of honor on my shelves right beside the works of Professor Tolkien. I write to you today to let you know how important it is to me to have digital versions of your work. I plan to invest in a Kindle, and no matter how many books will be contained therein, it will seem incomplete without the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I have seen you state that you don't have much interest in the e-book format and negotiating the rights seems to be a tricky thing, but I hope that you will pass my wishes on to your publishers and let them know that while I have all of your Covenant books in traditional print form, I will buy them all again in digital form to be able to carry them with me on my Kindle. Over the years, I have come back to these books several times, and I suspect I will several times more before I am done. Thank you, sir, for all.
These issues are indeed "tricky". Among other complications, e-rights alter the definitions of "out of print"--and those definitions are an important safeguard for writers. In addition, Amazon appears to want "exclusive" e-rights for the Kindle, which significantly limits the number of outlets available to writers. So I'm in no hurry to release those (few) e-rights I still hold; and publishers really shouldn't be in a hurry to do e-business with Amazon/Kindle.


Drew (drew):  Hello.

I'm wondering about book dedications. Is it necessary to dedicate each and every book to somebody, do publishers demand it?

Do you remember to whom each book you wrote was dedicated?
Are some books easier to find people to dedicate them to?

Has anyone (to your knowledge) ever dedicated a book to You?

Thank you.
Frankly, I don't know whether publishers demand dedications. But I suspect that writers would if publishers didn't. I know I would.

Occasionally specifics slip my mind; but I can often remember the dedications of all my books. Some days thinking of a new dedication is more difficult than others; but in general there's no problem: I have many people for whom I want to express gratitude.

To my (limited) knowledge, at least a couple of books have been dedicated to me: Patricia A. McKillip's "Harpist in the Wind" and Steven Erikson's "Dust of Dreams".


William:  I've just started reading the Axbrewder novels, and I love them. I wanted to ask; to me it seems that the feeling of the Axbrewder books is more casual. While not being any less serious, well written or interesting, it gives a feeling that you had more fun writing it, or that writing it was alot more natural to you.
Is there any vague truth in that poorly worded sentence, or am I just going a little crazy?
(Woo Hoo! A Mick/Ginny question!)

The word I would use is "colloquial" rather than "casual," but I think I know what you mean. For me, the Axbrewder novels are a strange combination of uniquely easy and uniquely difficult. They're easy because they contain more of my sense of humor (in fact, I occasionally recycle my own jokes through Brew), and because their prose style resembles my own. They're difficult because I find *structuring* them laborious and even occasionally stilted. The problem, I suspect, is setting. Even though the novels all take place in cities I've invented, the "reality" those cities inhabit is intended to look just like ours. This does not come easily to me at the best of times; and it becomes brutally arduous when what I'm writing about *needs* (for the purposes of the story) to be verifiably accurate. That dilemma exerts a kind of creative strain unlike anything I experience writing my not-our-real-world stories.


MRK:  First, I'd like to comment on how you have mentioned that you don't really write "funny" scenes, at least not consciously. I just wanted to say that I found the scene in "The Wounded Land" where Vain rips up the tree and then uses it as a ramp to climb into Covenant's room/cell in Revelstone struck me as hilarious. I'm not sure if you intended it that way but it still cracks me up (in a good way).

I'm not a fan of the Twilight series but I was still intrigued by the somewhat-recent story (I don't know if you've heard this or not) of how Stephenie Meyer's 5th novel in the series was "leaked" to the internet and therefore the general public in an incomplete and unedited form. Her response was to simply let it go but give up on finishing her work on the novel altogether, apparently. Given the state of things with AATE, what would your response/reaction be if that book, or any future volume, was "leaked" to the public in its raw, unedited state? (fates forfend)
I can't comment on your sense of humor. But if I were in the Stephanie Meyer situation.... I would feel outraged and betrayed. I might go to considerable lengths to try to track down the source of the leak. I would do everything in my power to let my readers know that I--and they--had been ripped off. But I certainly would not stop working on the book. I care too much about the quality of what I choose to publish. And I like to believe that my readers also care about the quality of what I publish.


Dave:  Hi Stephen,
I am one of your very many UK fans. I recently read in the news section of your website about the mistakes in the UK edition of the TC Chronicles and having not re-read the first and second recently, decided to purchase the US versions. I have also just been given an ebook reader and wanted to purchase the US versions in ebook format. I searched hard but could only find legitimate copies of the Third Chronicles. I did however easily find pirated copies which I am not interested in.
I read in the GI (March 2008) that you were in discussions with your publishers about this but perhaps this is still ongoing. Is there any chance of an update on this issue or perhaps I am just looking in all the wrong places and they are already available somewhere.
Best of luck with the last 2 books.
For the record: there are NO authorized e-books of the first six "Covenant" books. I still hold those rights, and I'm in no hurry to negotiate them away. (I've explained why elsewhere.) Pirated e-texts appear and re-appear all the time; but they are thick with mistakes. And of course they constitute a particularly arrogant kind of theft.