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

David Craddock | 16 Oct 2014 12:30
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drizzt in the neverwinter series

Setting Drizzt aside and focusing on tertiary characters is something Salvatore fans have come to expect and appreciate. The Spine of the World focused on Wulfgar's struggle to recover from the torture he had suffered at the hands of the demon that had broken him mentally and spiritually. "When I turned in the manuscript to my editor, I said, 'Half the people are going to love this book, and half are going to hate it. There's nothing I can do about that.' Boy did I call it right on the nose. I got letters saying, 'What's the matter with Wulfgar? He got all his hit points back!' Other people said, 'One day at a time, man. This is awesome.' They were going through similar difficulties."

Beggars and Choosers

Even though Wizards' mandate gave him the chance to put a new spin on the companions, Salvatore would still prefer to call the shots when writing fiction. During our conversation, he revealed that he would like to try his hand at self-publishing books featuring new worlds and characters. "Like I said about the Kickstarter, it made me be responsible for so many things. I like the challenge. I liked being able to name my own [rule] book. If it's a terrible name, hey, at least I named it. I love being able to hire my artist to design my cover. I love being able to hire the editor I want to hire. I'm not afraid of failing, so I'm not afraid of responsibility."

Nor is Salvatore afraid of failing to attract readers to his other, non-Drizzt works. At the signing where I met up with him, Salvatore asked how many in the audience read the Drizzt books. Every other hand went up. When he asked how many of those readers had cracked open copies of Stone of Tymora, DemonWars, or other works unrelated or tangentially connected to Drizzt, only a smattering of hands appeared.

Still, if the worst-case scenario is every Drizzt novel hitting the New York Times bestseller list, Salvatore can live with that. "It's the same thing Robert Jordan went through with Wheel of Time, Terry Brooks went through it with Shannara, George Martin's going through with A Song of Ice and Fire, and J.K. Rowling went through it when she wrote a book that wasn't Harry Potter: she didn't hit anywhere near those numbers. You get pigeon-holed just like actors on TV shows. But you can't complain about that because the fact that you got pigeon-holed means you did something that people accepted and loved."

fans listen to ra salvatore talk at book signing

The way Salvatore sees it, he's damn lucky that something he writes touches so many lives. "When I read a letter from somebody in Iraq who says, 'Thank you. I read your book and it allowed me to forget what I did for today, and not think about what I'll have to do tomorrow' -- that's a blessing that I get to be part of that through writing about an elf. So there's nothing to complain about ... although I do wish more people would read DemonWars [laughs]. I'll pull people over to DemonWars one at a time. I'm pretty good at it."

The End?

Twenty-seven years and nearly as many iconic characters later, and Salvatore is still having a blast writing the world's favorite dark elf. Even so, Salvatore admits that he has thought about how Drizzt's saga will come to an end, and the note he wants to end on when the time comes.

"I think I'm beginning to understand how this will end. But, no, nothing specific [in terms of an ending]. Not yet. However, I do expect as of right now that if they said, 'This is the last Drizzt book,' and I had to end it, I do expect it wouldn't end sadly. I wouldn't end on a down note. I thought the last Drizzt book I would ever write for TSR [before Wizards of the Coast acquired TSR] was Passage to Dawn. TSR and I had an ugly break-up. I was done. How did I end that book? With Drizzt and Catti-brie riding off into the sunset. The series would end more like that."

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