An Interview with Tad Williams, part 4

Like Tad Williams, we tried to keep it to three parts, but it ended up being four. Below is Part Four of OstenArd.com’s interview with internationally bestselling speculative fiction writer Tad Williams, author of the “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, “Otherland”, “Shadowmarch” and “Bobby Dollar” books, and who recently announced the completion of the first draft of The Witchwood Crown, the first volume of a series of sequel novels to his classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” trilogy, called “The Last King of Osten Ard“. The Witchwood Crown is tentatively slated for a Spring 2016 release.

Part OnePart TwoPart Three

The below questions were asked by readers on the Tad Williams Message Board and by OstenArd.com contributors. In this part of the interview, we asked Williams about publication plans for print and audiobooks, plans for re-releases of the classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” books, and what, if anything, he has found challenging about writing a much-older Simon, Miriamele, Binabik, and the rest of the crew.

Tad Williams' novels have long been available as audiobooks in Germany. Now "The Last King of Osten Ard" will get an English-language audiobook.

Tad Williams’ novels have long been available as audiobooks in Germany. Now “The Last King of Osten Ard” will get an English-language audiobook, Williams reveals.

OstenArd.com: Tad, the new series will certainly be a major publishing event, and deals have been announced for the US and the UK. Are there any other deals in place that you can talk about? Have plans been put in place on how the new books are going to be published and/or marketed? Will there be audiobooks?

Tad Williams: I’m sure there will be audiobooks in English and German, although I don’t know any details yet. All other stuff, I really don’t know. Deb [Tad’s wife and business partner Deborah Beale] probably knows more than I do, because I’m doing my best just to get the books written.

OA.com: Will there be re-issues of the original trilogy? Hardcover reprint? Audiobooks? Any news on that front?

Tad: Same answer. But, yes, we’re pushing for a re-release.

OA.com: In the “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” reread on the Tad Williams Message Board, we had a lot of fun tracking down references to mythology/history/other books – can we expect more of that in “The Last King of Osten Ard”? Is there a reference you particularly liked in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” and that no one mentioned to you yet? Any still hidden Easter-egg?

Tad: I honestly have no idea if there are any Easter eggs that have escaped the laser-focus-bunnies of the message board. I’ll keep an eye open when I do another re-read (which I think I’ll have to do before I commit to the first volume as finalized), and if I see something, I’ll let you know. Besides, it’s better when you guys find these things on your own, because then even if I never intended it, I can look wise and nod my head: “Ah, yes, that. Very clever, wasn’t I?”

Simon and Miriamele gained a throne thirty years ago... How have their experiences changed them over the decades?

Simon and Miriamele gained a throne thirty years ago… How have their experiences changed them over the decades?

OA.com: Were there any aspects of writing a 30-years-older Simon or Miriamele (or any other character from “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” who reappears in “The Last King of Osten Ard” for that matter) that you found surprising or challenging or surprisingly challenging?

Tad: Too early to say, really, because a lot of this will be not just who the characters are at the beginning, but how they change during these books, as they did during MS&T. But it’s all challenging, because we know these characters as young people. The difference between a teenager and a middle-aged adult is almost like two different people. But I think I’ll be able to tell you more when I’m actually done — rewrites and all — with this first volume, because it’s in rereading Witchwood Crown AS A NOVEL that will tell me a lot about whether Simon and Miriamele’s older selves feel real and appropriate.

 

[Ed.: This concludes our multi-part interview with Tad Williams. We’d like to take a moment to thank Tad Williams and Deborah Beale for their time, and all the friendly folks on the Tad Williams message board, who asked a lot of great questions.]

An Interview with Tad Williams, part 3

Below is Part Three of OstenArd.com’s interview with speculative fiction writer Tad Williams, author of the “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, “Otherland”, “Shadowmarch” and “Bobby Dollar” books, and who recently announced the completion of the first draft of The Witchwood Crown, the first volume of a series of sequel novels to his classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” trilogy, called “The Last King of Osten Ard“. The Witchwood Crown is tentatively slated for a Spring 2016 release. Part One of the interview is here. Part Two is here.

The below questions were asked by readers on the Tad Williams Message Board and OstenArd.com contributors. In this part of the interview, we asked Williams how his main characters from Osten Ard compare to Bobby Dollar, if he has any plans to ever return to other worlds he built, and if he ever regrets his decision to wander back into the thick of things in Osten Ard.

Cover of Russian edition of "The Dirty Streets of Heaven"

Cover of the Russian edition of The Dirty Streets of Heaven, the first “Bobby Dollar” book.

OstenArd.com: Tad, your most recent main character, Bobby Dollar, seems pretty cynical sometimes, but his actions are unfailingly that of an optimist. “Of course I’m going to go to Hell to save my new girlfriend (who’s not really my girlfriend)!” Simon’s journey was from a youthful idealism (or even, some might say, cluelessness) to adulthood with a good measure of earned wisdom. How has Simon’s worldview changed with the passage of time? Would you describe him as an idealist or optimist? Does he have anything in common with Bobby Dollar’s cynicism, now that he’s been around the block a few times?

Tad Williams: Simon is still much more of an optimist than Bobby, but part of that comes from him resolutely refusing to dwell on the worst things in life. That doesn’t mean he ignores them, but he is more determined not to let them dictate his everyday life than, say, Miriamele is. I think I myself am a wounded romantic by nature, an optimist with a cynical sense of humor, rather than a cynic per se. Simon is, I hope, an older version of his younger self, thus more pragmatic, less surprised when things don’t go well, and more aware of how hard it is to change the world. In some ways, he’s probably less of a romantic than Bobby.

Tad Williams states that Simon Snowlock is less of a cynic than his wife, Miriamele. Possible plot point?

Tad Williams states that Simon Snowlock is less of a cynic than his wife, Miriamele. Possible plot point?

OA.com: When you reread “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” in preparation, was there anything, about the plot or the worldbuilding or the characters, that made you think, “I wish I could rewrite this”? Or on the other hand, something that you’d maybe forgotten about and that surprised you in a positive way?

Tad: I thought, “I wish I hadn’t made this so damn long.”

No, I always have ambivalent responses when look at my own work. Most of my flinch moments come from what I see as prose issues — too many commas, too flowery when not necessary, etc. — rather than story choices. I think I’ve always had a pretty good grasp of story and character, so the main things I see that I wish I could change are almost always technical things about the writing itself.

On the other hand, I’m always pleasantly surprised when my older work isn’t as lame as I sometimes fear it might be.

Cover of River of Blue Fire, second volume of "Otherland".

Cover of River of Blue Fire, second volume of “Otherland”.

OA.com: You’ve said that you are interested in writing some more Orlando (from “Otherland”) stories. Do you think this desire might turn into a book or even a new series? Is there any particular Otherland sim you would like to revisit and flesh out more?

Tad: It’s not so much any one simulation as that I’d like to 1) make more simulations, 2) explore how the Otherland network is changing as it becomes more “alive” and self-aware, or at least self-regulating, and 3) I think Orlando’s situation is interesting in and of itself, as detailed in “Happiest Dead Boy”. Plus, I’m interested in the idea that some of the artificial life-forms (or semi-life-forms) in the network might want to bring Dread back, for weird pseudo-religious ideas of their own.

OA.com: You resisted returning to Osten Ard for a long time; now that you’re back, do you ever find yourself thinking, “What the heck am I doing here?”

Tad: Every goddamn day. Especially when I’m trying to remember history and stuff from the first volumes, which is all the time, instead of just being able to make things up from scratch. But as mentioned, it’s also a really fun challenge. Not to sound like a complete sap, but that’s a big part of what I love about writing, too. I know I won’t please everyone, but it will be fun to see if I can at least please a few people.

OA.com: Readers are re-reading “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” far and wide in anticipation of the new books. And their responses seem uniformly positive. Do you think “veteran” readers of MS&T will enjoy the new books just as much? Why or why not?

Tad: If anything, I have to work hard to make sure these books are as much fun for new readers as for the old readers, because there is so much old history, and so many old characters and plotlines to plug into. I think the veteran readers will have no problem with these because there is a LOT of continuity despite the decades passed.

Editor’s note: the interview with Tad Williams will conclude with Part Four.

An Interview with Tad Williams, part 2

Below is Part Two of OstenArd.com’s interview with Science Fiction/Fantasy writer Tad Williams, author of the “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, “Otherland”, “Shadowmarch” and “Bobby Dollar” books, and who recently announced the completion of the first draft of The Witchwood Crown, the first volume of a series of sequel novels to his classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” trilogy.

(Part One of the interview can be found here).

In this interview, we asked Williams what it’s like to return to the world of Osten Ard, how he’s reacted to the announcement that Michael Whelan will be illustrating the covers, and what he’s been researching while working on The Witchwood Crown.

Michael Whelan painted the covers for the US and UK editions of "Memory, Sorrow and Thorn".

Michael Whelan painted the covers for the US and UK editions of “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”.

OstenArd.com: It’s been recently announced that Michael Whelan will be doing the covers for the new Osten Ard books, just as he did for the classic MS&T series. When I spoke to him in person in November, he was excited and proud to be asked to create the new cover art for your books. How excited are you to know that his amazing work will be on the new books?

Tad Williams: I think it’s wonderful. It’s hard to imagine what anyone else could do with them, since Michael put his stamp on them so authoritatively. And I’ve always loved Michael’s work, since long before he intersected my career, or I even had a career to intersect. So, yes, thrilled to see what he’ll come up with, proud that he wants another go.

OA.com: On the TadWilliams.com message board, you revealed a partial character list. Any plans to reveal a more detailed or more extensive character list? Or would that be too spoilery?

Tad: I intend at some point — probably closing of rewrite of first draft — to update and correct that list. Also, I may very well release the chapter titles, which won’t necessarily give anything away conclusively, but will certainly inspire some guesswork.

OA.com: When MS&T was first published the initial critical reaction was disappointing since critics only read it as a generic fantasy trilogy and failed to see more than that. Only a few critics (like Roz Kaveney) saw beneath the surface and recognized it as a revisionist fantasy. But 30 years on, a new generation of writers is acknowledging their debt to MS&T (Brandon Sanderson, Christopher Paolini, even GRRM), and MS&T is widely regarded as “classic”. Are you still disappointed over the lack of critical appreciation? Do you think that the new trilogy will change that?

Tad: I’m kind of resigned to the fact that for whatever reason, I will remain one of those weird tastes, like some odd ice cream flavor, that some people will be passionate about, and others won’t quite get the fuss. And, in all fairness, I’m just writing fantasy and science fiction books that I’d like to read. It’s not like I think I’m all that important myself in the first place. But, yes, it’s heartening when people DO understand that I put a lot of thought and care into this, that I’m not just writing extra-long role playing adventures, that I bring a few other skills and interests to the table. My wife says, “Don’t worry, they (critics and trendsetters) will kiss your ass after you’re dead”, to which I usually reply, “That doesn’t sound like it will be all that much fun for either of us.”

OA.com: Has Osten Ard society changed in the last 30 years? Does Simon’s upbringing have lasting influence on his kingship and if so was he able to change things? Did he want to?

Tad: That’s one of the things that will definitely be a part of the story, so It’s hard to discuss without giving things away. But, yes, Simon and Miri and the lessons their lives have brought them will have a lot to do with the future of Osten Ard, and they both want to be “good” rulers, so they’ve spent a lot of time since the end of TGAT trying to figure out what that means and how to accomplish it, with mixed success (as is true with all of us with just about anything).

OA.com: How difficult is it to “collaborate with yourself”, as it were, in writing a sequel to a story you wrapped up over twenty years ago? Are you trying to match the style and mood of the original, or are you just trusting yourself that it will come out right? Do you find yourself remembering any of the feelings or thoughts you had when writing MEMORY, SORROW AND THORN, even things you’d forgotten until now?

Tad: I won’t really know until I’ve finished, because when I’m writing things they are always composed of dangly bits and rough edges that have to be fixed, and that’s where I am right now — all dangly bits.

Some of the process is easier than a first-time novel, because for instance I already feel I know who Simon and Miriamele are in a deep sense, and can guess which things would be appropriate to their adult selves, and which wouldn’t be. But of course I’m not just trying to match a style, or match older characters to their younger selves, I’m also trying to match an -impact- as well, because I’m messing with material that in some ways means more to readers than it does to me. While I know I will never be able to write new stories which have the same impact for the older fans, I want them to feel appropriate, and that I took the best possible care of old favorites while justifying a sequel by adding new material. And of course, I can’t forget about all the people who may read this without having read the first books. I don’t want to freeze them out and make it some kind of nostalgia fest. So it’s a very interesting, occasionally terrifying thing to do.

OA.com: For the Shadowmarch series, you mentioned doing research on geology, iirc. What sort of research did you do (are doing) for TLKOOA?

Tad: Ohmigod, what amn’t I researching? I’ll pick some bookmarks at random:

The Morrigan
Battle of Walcourt
List of Anglo-Saxon place names
Ice Cave Picture
3D plans for Skipton Castle
Tetraplegia
Traditional Gaelic Names
Monasticism in Western Europe
The Male and Female Names of Animals
History of the Wool Trade
Crows roosting
Proto-Indo-European
Akasha (name)
Entheogens of Antiquity
Parthenocarpy
Central Asian Steppes
Mythical Thule
Sami People

and so on and so on, to the tune of about five hundred bookmarks. Not to mention the fact that I’ve got about forty or so research books that I have out and in use just for this story alone, as well as copious notes from the first book and various other bits and bobs. (Message Board conversations, Maps, etc.) So, yeah, there’s research in all my stuff, but I think this one is second only to OTHERLAND in terms of how much material I’m using.

(To be continued…)

Part Three