This interview happened thanks to Shawn Speakman – a great guy, a writer too, and a friend of Terry, and Suvudu, and David Anthony Durham… Thanks Shawn! And thanks, Terry, for taking the time; much appreciated!
Welcome to the South African fantasy-reading public, Terry, and thank you for agreeing to do this interview! First off, when you burst onto the scene and changed the fantasy genre with the publication of The Sword of Shanarra, were you prepared for how your tale was going to change your life?
No one is ever prepared for something like that. I was just looking to publish the book and hope that someone, somewhere might find it as interesting as I did. I was very naïve about the business. I didn’t now any authors or publishing people. I didn’t know what the New York Times Book Review was. I had never heard of Publishers Weekly. So when all this happened, I didn’t appreciate what it meant. It was several years before I fully understood.
Being such a prolific and stable author, do you think that the genre has changed for better or worse?
Who the heck knows? I’m only prepared to say that it’s changed, and it will keep changing because that’s the nature of things. Publishing and writing is not what it was when I broke in, but I don’t know that it’s any better or worse. Just different.
When you conceived of the tales that would take place in The Four Lands did you already know that The Word and the Void and Genesis of Shanarra were waiting to be told?
No. Even after I wrote the three books of Word & Void, I didn’t know. At least, not consciously. Subconsciously, I might have known lots of things. But I can’t be sure of that now. What I do know is that after writing the three books of Word & Void, ending with Angel Fire East, I knew that if I went back into the series, I would do so from the perspective of the Knights of the Word after their dreams had come to pass and their efforts to save humanity had failed. When that time came, somewhere around 2003, it occurred to me for the first time that the world of the pre-
shannara Great Wars and the world of the dreams of the Knights of the Word were awfully similar. So what if the two were the same? What if I combined the series? I thought about it awhile, then talked to my editor. She said I should go for it. So I gave it a try and it worked.
Looking back, is there anything you would have changed or done differently, if you could?
I would have quit my job as a lawyer and started writing fulltime sooner. But who knows how that might have affected things? You can’t change history piecemeal – you have to accept that changing one thing might change everything. So I guess I wouldn’t do anything differently.
You’ve written adaptations for Hook and Star Wars: Episode One: The Phantom Menace; did you get to meet with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas while working on those projects, and if so, how much leeway did they give you when working with their scripts?
I wrote Hook first, before I knew better. I never got to meet Steven Spielberg or anyone who wasn’t some low level functionary. I got almost zero cooperation for the people I did meet. I was given no leeway on writing the book from the screenplay. The critiques offered in the end came from three different people with three different sets of corrections. The project was a royal pain in the butt from beginning to end, even though I thought I ended up with a pretty good story. Working with George Lucas was entirely different. I did get to meet and talk with him at length, and his people were entirely cooperative and helpful with what I needed. I was given great latitude in adapting the story and actually told by George to write some original material about Anakin. Writing Phantom Menace was a joy.
Genesis of Shanarra: The Gypsy Morph has hit South Africa: will you please give the readers who have not yet bought the book a taste of what they can expect from the novel?
Sure. Nuclear attacks, chemical warfare, conventional warfare, excessively polluted air and water, and various other forms of environmental destruction have creatred the perfect storm for a collapse of civilization. Governments are gone or have been superseded by militias and terrorists, and what remains of humanity either lives in the wilds or on the streets or in fortified compounds. The story, which began with Armageddon’s Children and The Elves of Cintra, concludes in The Gypsy Morph. It is told through the eyes of a band of street kids, through Knights of the Word, who seek to save some remnant of humanity and through demons in service to the Void. These elements come together in a final battle that determines if anyone will survive a cataclysmic destruction of what remains of the old world.
Were you ever able to offer any input into the design of the US covers for your novels, and what do you think of the UK cover designs?
I do have cover approval over the US editions, so I have input into those. England does their own, and they do ask for my comments. But I let their marketing people make those kinds of calls. They know what sells better than I do.
Dark Wraith of Shannara has been selling incredibly well here in SA (if not everywhere where it was published) and has really opened the door to graphic novel adaptations of SFF books: are there any more plans along those lines, perhaps in the world of Landover or The Word and the Void?
Nothing at present. But I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of something more a little further down the road.
It was reported a while back that Shannara may be hitting the cinema screens in the future; can you comment on whether that is still going to happen, and whether you will have any input in the process?
The Shannara series is under option at Warner Brothers where Mike Newell had been brought in to direct. The last I heard, he was going to work on Shannara as soon as he finishes work on Prince of Persia. I am available for input if called upon. I have already given some comments on ideas for filming Elfstones of Shannara, which will be the first movie.
Finally, what is next for Terry Brooks (and all of us)?
I have finished work on a new Magic Kingdom novel, which will come out in late August 2009, and I am presently at work on the first of two new books in the Genesis of Shannara cycle. That should take me through 2011. I’ll see if I’m in the Home or not by then.
Thank you, Terry, for giving up some of your time for this interview! We all wish you the very best, and more worlds of wonder that you’ll let us explore with you!