R.A. Salvatore has been an inspiration for fantasy readers and role-playing gamers for over a generation. From his work in the Forgotten Realms of Dungeons & Dragons to his DemonWars novels and many other titles including Star Wars, he has played an integral role in building the imaginations of people for close to three decades. I was honored to be able to talk to Mr. Salvatore about his career in fantasy.
GeekDad: Could you tell us how you feel the world of sci-fi and fantasy writing has changed since your first book The Crystal Shard was published in 1987?
R. A. Salvatore: The biggest change is the audience. When I first started writing, if you went to one of my book signings, you’d find 45 high school boys and the five moms who drove some of them. Now, it’s very different, and almost 50-50 men-women, which has forced the writers to be better, particularly concerning female characters. The other big thing for me is that I’ve been doing this for 30 years, so my book signings look like a Fleetwood Mac concert, with a grandfather and his son and granddaughter all reading t he books! I love being multi-generational.
GD: Unlike many writers, most of your writing is immediately interpreted and used as canon in the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons. Readers assimilate your characters, locations, and lore into their games. They create paintings, maps, visuals, and even songs to enhance what they read. Is this, for a writer, intimidating in any way? Does it affect your thought and creative process?
RAS: Not intimidating, but flattering! And it really doesn’t affect my thought process much at all. Whether writing in an established fantasy world, one of your own making, or even in a real-world setting, the author has to know the parameters, geographically, technologically, magically. In the end, though, it’s always the characters that matter most.
GD: The Crystal Shard, as I stated earlier, was published thirty years ago and in many households, that book along with many of your other works have been passed down to other generations much the same way Tolkien or Herbert’s work has. In my own home, we have passed it to our children who are now in their early twenties, and we are sure they will do the same with their children. Is it comforting to know that your work has achieved this level of sustainability? Have you ever thought of your work as timeless?
RAS: As I said earlier, it’s like a Fleetwood Mac concert! I can’t tell you how satisfying that is to me. Being able to bring families together over my work is thrilling… and humbling. When Wil Wheaton did the foreword for one of my books–I think it was The Crystal Shard–[he] wrote about how the book helped him connect with his stepson, when he saw it sitting on his stepson’s night stand. The way I figure it, if you can leave the world a little better than you found it, you win.
GD: What are your feelings about the growing resurgence of the popularity of role-playing and Dungeons & Dragons? Did you ever imagine that it would become a broadcast sport? Has Wizards of the Coast approached you to write any more material or revisit old material to meet this growing need in the industry?
RAS: I’ve never left tabletop gaming, and never will. My Sunday nights are very important to me! My group is playing DemonWars: Reformation, which makes it extra special since I designed that game with my two sons. We’ve been playing it for more than four years now, and I doubt we’ll ever stop.
As for Wizards and the Realms, I’m not commenting on anything Realms-related post-Hero at this time.
GD: Your writing has covered so many fantasy worlds and lore. How are you able to consolidate all of the information for each individual piece? For instance, how do you go from a Drizzt Do’urden novel to say Star Wars then DemonWars?
RAS: It takes me a few days to make the transition. Usually, I go back and skim the last work in the next world I’m writing, to remind myself of the characters and such. For DemonWars, I’ve got style sheets saved to keep me up to speed. For the Realms, I use the online Wiki!
GD: What makes a great fantasy and science fiction hero? Is there a formula or is the concept a fluid one?
RAS: For me, it’s the size of his or her heart, not the skill with magic or the blade. For most readers, I find, if they can relate to the hero, if there’s something within that character that they see, or want to see, in themselves, they’re hooked.
GD: Could you tell us about what you are currently working on and what you hope to release soon?
RAS: I’m about to start the next DemonWars novel, following Child of a Mad God, which will be released in early February 2018. I’m so happy to be back in this world of Corona, and now in new lands, with new heroes. And of course, when I tie it all together down the line, it has to make sense–that’s the challenge I love.
GD: Lastly, how does a writer who is as prolific as you keep fresh? Where do you look for inspiration?
RAS: I get inspiration from everything around me–the people I meet, the music I hear, the shows and movies I see, the books I read, the politics (yeah, definitely) of our crazy world. I stay fresh with old characters by letting them grow older as I grow older. I was 29 when I wrote the first Drizzt book. I’m twice that now. I certainly don’t see the world the same way now as I did back then, so neither should my characters.
I want to thank R. A. Salvatore for his time but mostly for his work. I was lucky to meet him at New York Comicon in 2016 and share the love of his work with my daughter, and I look forward to reading his books for years to come.