"I Want to Rip Your Heart Out:" R.A. Salvatore Interview (Part 3)

David Craddock | 16 Oct 2014 12:30
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the ghost king by ra salvatore

Catti and Regis did not die like heroes. They fell to the Spellplague, the consequence of the death of Mystra, goddess of magic, which caused magic to run wild all across the world. One minute, Catti and Regis were up and about, talking and living. The next, their minds were gone, reducing them to vegetables.

Such ignominious death had plagued Salvatore's reality, a bitter wellspring from which he drew to write the deaths of Regis and Catti-brie. "Sometimes shit just happens," Salvatore said. "Excuse my French, but sometimes it does just happen. What heroic reason was there for my brother to get cancer and die? There's no heroic reason. It just happened. It doesn't make sense. It's ridiculous. You hear about some kid riding his bike and he gets hit by a car. There's no rhyme or reason to that. There's no plan. It's just awful."

Readers felt his pain. When he killed Wulfgar much earlier in the Drizzt line of books, Salvatore received letters from both sides of the fence. When Catti and Regis died, "there was no outrage," the author said. "It was just like, 'Well, I guess it had to happen sometime.'"

From the outside looking in, Catti-brie and Regis were dead and buried. Salvatore saw things differently. From the moment he walked out of the meeting where he, Ed Greenwood, and other Realms authors and game designers received the news that the world would be advanced 100 years, the wheels in his head were turning.

"I get 20 letters a day -- every day! -- from people who say, 'I was in a dark place, and these characters became my friends.' This isn't something like a television series that runs for two years. It's been going for 27 years. There are people in their 40s who were young teenagers when they found Drizzt and are still with him."

Salvatore recalled feeling nervous when he wrote the characters' resurrections in The Companions, afraid that fans might call foul. "But I thought I had a good way of doing it. I thought it made sense, and I thought I could make a point."

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Well aware of how they died, each character resolves to live differently. Regis, now known as Spider, was a coward. As the littlest of the companions, he worried that he was an albatross to his more combat-competent friends. From the moment he leaves his new mother's womb, Spider trains with a grim determination. He will not be the weakest link in the chain.

Bruenor, who died in the Neverwinter Saga series that followed Transitions, is pissed off. "He thinks, well, if this happened, is everything I did before heroic? That's the question I knew a lot of readers would ask," Salvatore said. Cattie-brie, too, questions the meaning of all that came before, and endeavors to explore options closed to her in her previous life. Wulfgar the barbarian takes a completely different tack. In his first life, he was good and honorable. Now, he just wants to have fun. "He's a complete hedonist. If it's fun, he's going to do it, whether it's fighting or making love. He figures he's on borrowed time. He already paid his dues, so this is his reward."

Salvatore got into the habit of inscribing The darkest night on copies of The Ghost King at signings, a hint of the darkness that would grow more cloying over each page. Then, with The Companions, the sun rose and shone all the brighter. "The thing that drew me to the Realms in the first place was that it was a really hopeful world. Then it became grim after the Spellplague. Very dark, nihilistic, and gritty -- I hate that word -- which seems to be the trend in fantasy. I hate that trend. I want fantasy to be enjoyable. I want to escape to a better place, not a worse place. So I wanted to restore that sense of optimism."

Smiling, Salvatore continued: "You can't believe the letters I get about this book: 'Thank you. My world just got better.' Not everything has to be gritty and depressing all the time."

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