oday, legendary Science Fiction and Fantasy writer Tad Williams, author of the “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” novels as well as the “Otherland”, “Shadowmarch”, and “Bobby Dollar” series, participated in an “Ask Me Anything” Reddit chat with readers. During the AMA chat, he revealed the cover of his latest novel (sixth in the Osten Ard series), Empire of Grass, which will be published in May 2019.
The new cover, as with all previous full-length Osten Ard novels, was painted by the uber-talented and award-winning Michael Whelan. The beautiful cover art features one of the elvish-like Sithi at the edge of Aldheorte Forest, surrounded by ruins of one of the lost Gardenborn cities. Behind the trees, grassland can be seen. Since the cover has been disseminated, we at Treacherous Paths can present it here.
There has, of course, been some speculation about which one of the Gardenborn settlements is depicted in Whelan’s painting. Nine great cities were named in Williams’ original Osten Ard novels: Nakkiga, Enki e-Shayosaye, Da’ai Chikiza, Kementari, Hikehikayo, Asu’a, Mezutu’a, Jhina T’senei, and Tumet’ai were named as the nine. But Nakkiga and Tumet’ai are now covered in ice, Mezutu’a and Asu’a are deep underground, and Jhina T’senei was lost under the waves. Da’ai Chikiza and parts of Asu’a were previously depicted by Whelan in earlier artwork, as was a smaller settlement, Sesu’adra.
The full cover artwork, including the wrap-around (showing the backside as well), can be found at Michael Whelan’s official site.
One reader asked, “Norn society changed a lot during this time span, with an obvious example being the mixing with mortals but several other things can probably be included. Is it fair to say that this process is due to the change of leadership from set-in-her-ways-for-millennia (ultra-conservative if I may) Utuk’ku to a little more flexible Akhenabi and maybe some others?”
Williams responded: “The long-term direction of Norn society will definitely be an important part of the third volume. Hard to say more without spoiling all the little hints smuggled into the first two volumes.”
Another reader, named Novander, writes, “I was reading Memory, Sorrow and Thorn around the time I was starting university and didn’t want my screen name to be something horribly goth and edgy anymore, so I stole your word for November in Osten Ard, which may be part of my legal name now. So my question is, you cool with that?”
(We at Treacherous Paths sincerely hope Novander’s last name isn’t Holyfield).
Another reader, a Christopher Paolini, writes: “Dude! It’s been ages! (Life has a way of throwing curveballs at us all.) I really enjoyed The Heart of What Was Lost, and I’m finally — FINALLY — starting in on the Witchwood Crown. My questions are these: Given the size of your main novels, how do you go about tackling them, both before and during the writing? As I remember, you tend to be pretty methodical in your approach. What habits have you found helpful? What’s your day-to-day process like? Also, what was it like returning to the world and characters of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn after so long?
Williams responded, “Hi, Christopher! Yes, it’s been ages — please give my love to all your family. My day to day process is very much about preparing to write as much as writing. I like to spend a lot of time figuring out — by trying lots of thought experiments — how to move the story forward appropriately, and what kind of scenes would make good reading. I spend a lot of time lying down thinking. Some would say I am merely napping, but that’s a terrible, unfair lie. (I only spend part of that time napping.) Returning to Osten Ard has been an unexpectedly rich and satisfying experience for me, which is why I no longer say I won’t do this kind of thing. In fact, I’m planning to write more Osten Ard after this set of linked projects, although I don’t know if that will necessarily be the next thing I write.”
A fourth reader writes: “Ok, my question: are we going to see what happened to Prince Josua? I’m not expecting a happy family reunion or anything, but… He’s not just gone, is he? Also, the ending to Witchwood Crown… Holy shit. How’d you pull that judo move? I never saw it coming…”
Williams responds, “Question one: I guarantee we’ll find out quite a bit more about what happened to Josua. More than that I cannot say now. Question two: Good! Thank you! That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. We writers love to deliver an honest shock every now and then, and it’s especially difficult with my readers, because they’re smart and they’ve read a lot of books, so they’re often trying to outthink me and guess what’s going to happen.”
More of Williams’ AMA thread can be found here.