Terry Brooks interviewed on AOL's The Book Report
On September 4, 1997, THE BOOK REPORT welcomed bestselling fantasy author
Terry Brooks to speak about his new book, Running with the Demon. Brooks
talked about Demon and much, much more--from magic and children to small
towns and bestseller lists! Our interviewer was TBR's Senior Producer Sean
Doorly (BookpgSD@aol.com). Our unflappable host was BookpgXena@aol.com
BookpgXena: Hello, Mr. Brooks and Sean. Welcome, and good evening!
Terry Brooks: Thank you for inviting me.
Bookpg SD: Why the change with Running with the Demon?
Terry Brooks: Tough question! Every ten years I need to do something different. I'd pretty much decided I'd done enough of Shannara and Magic Kingdom. I wanted to do something contemporary and epic. Other than that, I wanted to do a story that revolved around my experience of growing up in a small town. For children in a small town, magic is a very real thing.
Bookpg SD: Is there a real Hopewell?
Terry Brooks: Yes, there is. Hopewell is based on where I grew up, Sterling, Illinois. No people are real, but the geography--the park especially---is real.
Bookpg SD: Will there be any more Shannara books?
Terry Brooks: The answer is yes. I have a two-book set to write in the next two to three years, but I want to spend some time with the Demon series. There will be three books in the Demon series. It's not fair to write a solitary book with epic themes and then walk away from it, especially when you're writing about the world coming to an end. You need more than one book to cover it. So, I'm committed to writing two more.
Bookpg SD: This is the first book I've read of yours.
Terry Brooks: The other books are more traditional fantasy with different worlds and stronger themes of magic. This is much different. It's a new take on how magic might be a part of the present world. It might be there even if we don't see it.
Question: Could you explain the connection between children, small towns, and magic?
Terry Brooks: No! Writers use small towns and kids as a kind of microcosm of the larger world. When you're writing about a small scale, frequently you're talking about a larger scale. This book is in a small space and with few characters, but I think it is still representative of the world at large. I think that's why it works.
Bookpg SD: God is mentioned throughout Demon. Do you believe in Him?
Terry Brooks: First of all, God is not throughout Demon. It's broader. The mention is almost solely confined to the word and the void. I didn't want readers to get too lost in a particular word for a deity. A lot of people read their own beliefs into what this story is about. That's a good thing. They should. But it's meant to be broader.
Question: Did you get the name of your book from Van Halen's "Running with the Devil"?
Terry Brooks: No. I don't even know anything about that. Ben Bova and I once rode up in an elevator with some Van Halen people, actually! The original title was different, but we made it more specific. It was originally Sinissipi Fade. But people liked Running with the Demon better.
Question: Do you think a game based on the Shannara series would be popular?
Terry Brooks: There was a game. And it was popular. But it's gone now. Oh well. It is two years old. A computer game, it was. It was a CD-ROM put out by Legend. It ran its course and that was that.
Bookpg SD: Any movies in the works based on any of your novels?
Terry Brooks: Lots of interest, no money.
Question: Have any of your storylines been inspired by a work of art and, if so, what form of art or what artists?
Terry Brooks: I think that most writers write because of what they've read. I'm no exception. A lot of other writers inspire me. I was inspired to write Shannara in the tradition of the great European adventure stories, that and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I also listen to classical music and pop rock. I get a lot of ideas while listening to music. I don't like rap. My son listens to techno. I listened to it once and thought I was going to go insane.
Bookpg SD: What do you say of to those critics who say fantasy and science fiction are not real literature, but are more for kids?
Terry Brooks: Nothing unprintable, right? Some of the best literature being written today, that's reviewed well, has strong elements of fantasy in the text. Alice Hoffman, for example, works with themes of magic and fantasy connects to that. It's mushroomed more than ever in the past 20 years. It's a very strong presence in literature. But, really, who listens to the critics anyway? Every time a movie comes out and the critics pan it, it becomes number one automatically.
Question: How did you choose fantasy as your genre, or did it choose you?
Terry Brooks: It probably chose me, mostly. You write to the topics that appeal to you. That's a function of who you are and how you grew up. You experiment as a young writer with a lot of genres. Then you find a type that fits you. I found that the broad sweep of fantasy suited me. There's an endless landscape out there that you can paint into. Those large stories appeal to me and fantasy works well for that.
Bookpg SD: I read you loved science fiction as a kid, so why not science fiction?
Terry Brooks: Mostly because I don't know any science! I actually wrote some sci-fi early on. It wasn't very good. I don't think my strengths work in science or futuristic settings. I'm better at characters and inner turmoil, and how we interact with each other. I like sci-fi and still read it, but I'm not compelled to write it. If I found the right subject, I might, but so far I've steered clear of it. Play to your strengths, or write to them, anyway!
Question: Of the books you have written, which is your favorite?
Terry Brooks: Why don't you just ask me to choose between my children and get it over with? I can't choose one.
Question: Is the Magic Kingdom series finished?
Terry Brooks: I don't know. I haven't got any books planned at the moment. I haven't really decided what I want to do with it next. Unless I come up with a good idea of where to go with it, I may not continue it. I don't like to think too far ahead in books. I have the next three planned already, so I want to finish those up.
Bookpg SD: Have you ever considered a joint writing project with another author, such as John Saul?
Terry Brooks: We're friends. And I'd really like to keep it that way! I don't think there's a snowball's chance in Hell that I'd work with another writer because I don't think anyone would want to work with me! I'm very territorial with my storylines. I don't think I would work well with another writer. I haven't had a real strong reason to even think about it.
Question: I've read all your books. Who does Terry Brooks read when he can?
Terry Brooks: They always ask that one! I read a lot of different things in a lot of different categories. I've been reading non-fiction lately: Angela's Ashes, Bird by Bird, Into Thin Air. I like authors like Alice Hoffman, Cormac McCarthy, Paul Watkins. I read all over the place. I read out of my own field mostly. I find that the inspiration I get as a writer come from books that have nothing to do with what I write.
Question: How long does it usually take you to write a book?
Terry Brooks: It takes about a year from outline to final edit. Sometimes less, depending on the nature of the story. Sometimes more.
Question: What kind of impression do you want to leave with the readers of this book?
Terry Brooks: Indelible! That's it.
Question: What hours do you like best for writing?
Terry Brooks: Mornings, mostly. I pretty much quit thinking after two in the afternoon. The creative juices dry up.
Bookpg SD: Who gave your first break as a writer?
Terry Brooks: Lester Del Rey. He got the manuscript from his wife, who had just been signed up to head the sci-fi division of Ballantine. He went in to edit fantasy there with the agreement that my book would be the first original piece of fantasy they'd publish. It got a lot of support, which was a great break. The publishing business didn't believe in the viability of fantasy beyond Tolkien. Del Rey proved that wrong. They did it with Shannara , David Eddings, the Star Wars books, etc.
Bookpg SD: You had a great comment about being on the bestseller list for your first book--would you repeat it?
Terry Brooks: Those were the days I was living in Sterling, Illinois. I didn't know any writers. I just thought that's what happened. They called to tell me the book would be on the New York Times bestseller list. I didn't react in any way. I thought it was normal. I didn't realize how great it was! Now I understand.
Question: Do you rely on traditional mythology or folklore for your books and study up on those subjects?
Terry Brooks: No. I read in mythology and fantasy sometimes, but I almost never use it as a basis for anything. I make it up. I hate research. That's too much hard work! I like to make it up. The hardest job I had was researching the word "sinissipi" for this book. It was indigenous to the town I grew up in. I made my dad do the research. He's retired; he doesn't have anything to do. He found something about it eventually, but no one was real sure. It might mean the valley, the river. It doesn't have much meaning now, although it did at one time. It used to have more meaning. I used that idea in the book a lot. It was a real eye-opener to discover that you could have a name on town signs and no one might know the origin of the name anymore. It's strange.
Question: Didn't I see your works in comic books before you went on to writing novels?
Terry Brooks: No. But I did read comic books.
Question: Do you create your worlds and then fit your characters/story into it, or do you do it the other way around?
Terry Brooks: It varies. I'm not sure that the two are separable in any identifiable sense. You work on them together so the whole thing comes together at once. You might start with a theme or character, but you can't do one without the other. If you're a writer, it's important to take time to dream. Much of what writers do is sit around and not look like you're doing anything. You need to take a long time to think before you write or even outline. You can't rush that process. It's half of what you do as a writer--how the story fits together, what makes it exciting and interesting for a reader.
Bookpg SD: You were a lawyer for some time. Any legal thrillers in your future? They are hot now!
Terry Brooks: Is that John Grisham out there? No. It doesn't interest me. I liked being a lawyer as opposed to writing a legal thriller.
Bookpg SD: Was being a lawyer just to pay the bills?
Terry Brooks: I did it for a long time. At the time, it was something your parents encouraged you to do. You were seen favorably in the community. It wasn't the money. After Watergate, the money became more important. It's all changed in law nowadays.
Question: I only recently finished the Shannara trilogy and I was wondering why you killed off so many supporting characters?
Terry Brooks: Gee, I got tired of them. I said "You're outta here!" You're writing stories where people are at risk all the time. Lots of people get killed. It would be strange to take a whole platoon into a fight and have everyone walk out alive. I also kill off main characters pretty frequently. After a while, you just want to kill everyone off. You get sick of them. David Gemmell kills everyone. All of them! So I'm not as bad as some writers.
Question: Did you base the character of Ben on yourself and your dreams?
Terry Brooks: Actually, I wrote that book as an autobiography at some level. It was about my transition from being a lawyer to being a writer. But I don't box like Ben does.
Bookpg SD: How are you involved in the Maui Writers Conference?
Terry Brooks: It just ended this year. I've been a participant for two years. This year there was a teaching school for the first time with writers and editors. It's a very strong conference--Hollywood screenwriters and book writers. We had myself, John Saul, Ron Howard, James Brooks, Elmore Leonard. A lot of great people. David Guterson was there. Julie Garwood. They have quite a distinguished group of writers come. Who doesn't want to come to Maui? And it's very focused on teaching.
Question: Besides the obvious element of science, what else do you think distinguishes the fantasy genre from science fiction?
Terry Brooks: I think fantasy writing tends to be more timeless, less concerned with the future and the development of science. It's more theme-driven and more storytelling in the traditional sense. It's mythological and tells what we know to be true about humanity. Science fiction is more speculative than fantasy.
Question: Do you type or handwrite your books?
Terry Brooks: I'm a computer person. It makes life much easier. I used to use a typewriter, but I love the computer.
Question: What advice do you offer to aspiring authors?
Terry Brooks: Don't quit the day job! I gave a talk at Maui this year on ten things every writer should know: Read. Read. Read. Outline. Outline. Outline. Write. Write. Write. Repeat. That's it!
Question: When did you decide writing was your calling?
Terry Brooks: I can remember thinking that I would be a writer at the age of ten. As far back as I can remember anything, pretty much always, I guess.
Bookpg SD: Thanks so much for dropping by THE BOOK REPORT, Mr. Brooks.
Terry Brooks: Thanks so much for having me here tonight!
Copyright 1997, THE BOOK REPORT, INC.