Tad Williams holds Reddit AMA interview, answers readers’ questions

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egendary Science Fiction and Fantasy author Tad Williams held an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) interview today on forum website Reddit.Williams revealed several details about his upcoming sequel to “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, The Witchwood Crown.

Williams began his AMA interview in inimitable fashion:

I have returned to the world of Osten Ard, first introduced in the now impossibly ancient days of the late 1980s, in THE DRAGONBONE CHAIR, first book of the “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” series (also known as, “Those really, really, REALLY long books by that Williams guy.”) Just published is a short introductory novel — really a bridge between the end of the first series and some of the characters who will appear in the new books — the slender volume, THE HEART OF WHAT WAS LOST (http://www.tadwilliams.com/2017/01/the-heart-of-what-was-lost-first-reviews/) which will be followed by THE WITCHWOOD CROWN (a more typical Tad shelf-buster) in June. The entire series will be called “The Last King Of Osten Ard”, because that’s what fantasy fiction needs — MORE LONG TITLES.

(I also thought about calling the first books “Osten Ard Classic” and the current series “New Osten Ard” or even “Osten Ard Zero”, until various soft drink company lawsuits got in the way. Killjoys.)

I will be answering questions about the original series AND the new books live on Friday, January 27th, 2017 at 2:30 PM ET / 11:30 AM PT. Feel free to leave a question or subpoena for me ahead of time, or to join me online.

Heart_of_what_was_lost_Tad_WilliamsAmong the gems asked during the Reddit interview were questions regarding the new upcoming “The Last King of Osten Ard” novels, as well as questions regarding characters in The Heart of What Was Lost, the new bridge novel which was just published this month.

One question asked was (minor spoilers): “Will we eventually find out what Ayaminu’s agenda was?”Ayaminu is one of the Gardenborn characters who appears in The Heart of What Was Lost.

Williams’ response:

Yes. Yes, we will.

That really frustrated a few of my early readers, by the way, wanting to know WHAT SHE WAS DOING and why the answer wasn’t in the book.

I can’t help it. I work in long form. My days are everyone else’s months, especially when I’m writing really long stories.

Williams was also asked how far apart each new Osten Ard novel would be. Williams is known as a relatively fast writer, and has not had the extended delays between books which have plagued other bestselling speculative fiction authors. While Martin and Rothfuss have struggled to finish their novels, Williams has managed to mostly keep to his publishing deadlines.Williams replied:

Can’t say for certain, but I’m aiming for a year to a year and a half max between books. I’m pretty good at that these days, and I’ve actually started and finished several multi-volume series, so it shouldn’t take too long altogether.

I’m already working on the second large volume, Empire of Grass, and Witchwood Crown (first of trilogy) has been done for quite a while.

Williams was also asked about how “open-ended” his books are, and if he plans to revisit his other worlds, which would include the virtual world in “Otherland”, Eion/Xand (“Shadowmarch”) , and San Judas, the alternate reality city in his “Bobby Dollar” novels. Williams stated:

I have never written anything except the Bobby Dollar books with the idea of the story being open-ended. I’d be in trouble if I did, since I’m only now returning to Osten Ard, thirty years later. Half my original readers are probably dead and the rest are drooling. Like me.

As I said elsewhere on the AMA, I never start something by where it takes place (like a previous world of mine) only with a story I want to tell. I may come up with ideas for stories set in some of my other worlds, and if I do, I’ll probably write them. I’ve had a couple of tentative ideas over the years, and now that I’ve found I can live with going back to Osten Ard, I’ll probably be more open to revisiting some of the other creations as well.

Most intriguingly, Williams was asked if he has any plans to link Osten Ard, the world of the “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” books, to the Xand/Eion world in “Shadowmarch”, with a reader asking “Are there any Easter eggs/connections between the worlds or Osten Ard and Shadowmarch?”

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Although the worlds of Xand/Eion and Osten Ard have been considered separate, and there has been nothing to link them together besides some small similarities (strange properties of mirrors, for example), Williams, interestingly enough, did not rule this out:

Funny, I was just thinking about this the other day — connections between the two worlds. I think it’s possible that there may be a Michael-Moorcock-style multiverse underlying all my books, but I’ve never consciously tried to link them all together.

Maybe someday…

Curious readers asked quite a lot about the Norns, the embittered fair folk in the Osten Ard novels. The most clever term “Nornithology” has been coined by one reader. Of the Norns and their undying queen Utuk’ku, Williams writes:

I took the comparatively few things I knew about the Norns when I wrote the first books and have added/expanded quite a bit during the writing of these new ones. And you’ll see a LOT of the Norns and Nakkiga in the new books. I’m glad it seems to belong with the early stuff. I certainly mean it to feel as though it’s a seamless whole.

Reader Alaron asked:

Hi Tad. Huge fan here from Germany. I finished Heart of what was Lost a few days ago. It was great. I have a question about the timeline of Sithi/Norn history in Osten Ard. In Heart it was mentioned that the Norns came to Nakkiga more than 3000 years ago. Those Norns/ Sithi as Yaarike that were born before the Parting are considered to be old even by Keida’ya standard. I estimated that the Keida’ya must have arrived in Osten Ard at least 6000 years ago, as Utuk’ku is the last of the original Keida’ya that left the Garden. Is that timeline roughly correct?

And Williams’ response:

I’d have to check, and my notes are a mess right now. My tentative timeline actually has the Norns arriving, yes, at least 6000 years ago, but I suspect actually it’s a bit longer. (Along with some of my hardest-working friends and readers, I’m still trying to stabilize the timeline.)

But yes, at least 6000 years previous to the stories.

Williams was also asked about how many pages he has completed in Empire of Grass, the middle novel of the new series. Williams responded:

Not sure. About a hundred pages, I’d say (I’m writing in separate chapter-files at first, so I don’t have a running overall page count). The last couple of months, with the holidays and various kid-related things, have been grueling. I’m expecting to have a nice long stretch in the next few months to get the first draft substantially done.

Over 200 comments were made in the thread.

Rejoice – Osten Ard is truly back

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o, The Heart of What Was Lost (or HOWWL – I just love this acronym) hit the shelves. Tad Williams’ long anticipated return to Osten Ard is finally out for everyone to read and cherish.

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This review is written by me, ylvs, and represents my view of the book. Other contributors to the site might add their own later. I was a beta reader of this book, following its development from first draft to final manuscript and I am delighted to finally be able to share my thoughts.

This is a must read for fans of MS&T. It is amazing how perfectly Tad manages to match the flavour and texture of the original. It just takes a few pages and you’re right back in Osten Ard. For someone loving this story as much as I do it feels like coming home …

It is also a fine starting point for those unfamiliar with Osten Ard. You never read MS&T and shy away from the sheer mass of it? Try this and find out if the world is to your liking. Of course the story has less depth without the background provided in the old books, but it is self contained and makes sense on its own.

When I first heard that Tad was writing a novelette (which finally became a short novel – anybody surprised?) about the aftermath of the final battle of MS&T I was not that excited. The victorious humans chasing their beaten fairy foes back to where they came from – that sounded more like “a story for the guys” than one for me. I do not mind reading about war and battles and people suffering but a book which is prominently about that? Nah, not really. But alas, it is a sequel to my favourite story of all time so of course I did read it and yes I do love it.

Why? First because it features one of my favourite characters from the old books: Sludig already was the hero of many deeds and battles and here he keeps doing the right thing although there never seems to be a reward or promotion for him. This is actually a sort of running gag in the novel, mentioned more than once – poor old Sludig.

Secondly HOWWL finally throws a floodlight on the Norns and their culture. In MS&T they were the unknown faceless enemy (apart from their queen Utuk’ku), here they are real people with hearts and souls and their enmity to humans and the century old hate for them becomes much more comprehensible. On a meta level this can be interpreted as a parable for us all: you cannot continue to blindly hate or fear the foe/stranger/immigrant you became familiar with. Little by little I felt my allegiance shifting from the human army seeking revenge and attempting to “root out evil for once and all” (which can also be called genocide) to the Norns trying to survive as a people and save their home.

And third and lastly what really makes this shine is the aliveness and humanity of the characters. Amidst war’s horror and desolation there is also loyalty, friendship and hope – on both sides.

Tad Williams is a master of ambivalence and changing perspectives and if a fantasy novel manages to make one question one’s view on the world it does deserve a label usually denied to genre fiction: literature.

Tad Williams Releases Early Maps and Diagrams from “The Witchwood Crown”

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egendary science fiction and fantasy writer Tad Williams, author of the “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, “Otherland”, “Shadowmarch” and “Bobby Dollar” speculative fiction series, has spent the last two years writing The Heart of What Was Lost and The Witchwood Crown, the first two of five new books set in the same universe as “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”.

Williams is now releasing some early, provisional sketches that he created during the writing of The Witchwood Crown, which his wife and business partner Deborah Beale kindly shared with us, and which we are now sharing with all readers.

5678The first sketch is a map (right, clickable) of Sturmrspeik, the great mountain of ill repute inhabited by the Norns, embittered relatives of the immortal Sithi. Beneath the great mountain lies the ancient city of Nakkiga, home to Utuk’ku Seyt-Hamahka, Queen of the Norns and Eldest of all living beings in Osten Ard. Williams’ rough map shows the location of the mountain itself, with the great Nakkiga Gate guarding the pass. Around these landmarks are the white waste of the Himilfell Mountains, which stretch both eastward and westward from the area.
1234The second map sketch (left, clickable) is also of Sturmrspeik and Nakkiga, showing the locations of several well-known Norn landmarks as well as some which are entirely new. The Queen’s throne room appeared in the classic series, and makes a reappearance in the new map. Among the new landmarks are a Black Garden and a White Garden, as well as a subterranean lake, and an area marked as Great Processional. A bridge over the moat connects Nakkiga’s tunnels with the Queen’s Bridge.

We have more maps and diagrams, and will share more soon.

New characters and old familiar friends

Tad Williams recently posted a partial character list for his new novel, The Witchwood Crown, Book One of “The Last King of Osten Ard”. There hasn’t yet been much analysis of this list in the blogosphere, so we at OstenArd.com are going to do some analysis.

Also returning are the Sa'onserei siblings, Jiriki and Aditu.

Also returning are the Sa’onserei siblings, Jiriki and Aditu.

Several of the names that Williams released are returning characters. Among these are Jiriki and Aditu, son and daughter, respectively, of the House Sa’onserei, the ruling house of the immortal Sithi. Conspicuously absent, however, are the names of any of the other Sithi who dwelled in Jao e-Tinukai’i during “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”: there is no mention on the list of Likimeya, the queen of the Zida’ya; her brother, Khendhraja’aro; or Kira’athu, the healer. These three characters played important (albeit secondary) roles in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. Their absence indicates the possibility that the Sithi city of Jao e-Tinukai’i will not appear in “The Witchwood Crown” (other important Sithi characters included Amerasu, Shima’onari, Ann’ai and Kuroyi of Anvijanya, but these characters had passed on by the end of To Green Angel Tower).

Hakatri, son of Amerasu and Iyu'unigato, may reappear in the new series.

Hakatri, son of Amerasu and Iyu’unigato, may reappear in the new series.

The only other “returning” Sithi character on the list is Hakatri i-Sa’onserei, son of Amerasu Ship-born and Iyu’unigato the Erl King, and brother to Ineluki the Storm King who played a major role in the destruction of the mortal world in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. It is not certain that Hakatri will return in the new series, or if he is simply a character mentioned in passing. However, even the possibility of Hakatri’s return sets the stage for a possible major conflict between the humans and the Gardenborn once more. Hakatri’s doings were legendary even among the Sithi. But Hakatri was badly burned a thousand (or so) years earlier, and has apparently not set foot in Osten Ard for centuries. Attempts by the Sithi to reach Hakatri via the Master Witnesses have all failed, indicating that he was far away from Osten Ard, or possibly no longer even alive.

With Jao e-Tinukai’i likely sidelined, the focus of the Gardenborn part of the story seems to be Nakkiga, the frozen city of the Norns, in the far north above Black Rimmersgard. In fact, Williams has stated that the immortal Norns will have an important role to play in the new series. Two of the names on the published character list are Utuk’ku the Norn Queen and Akhenabi, both of whom were antagonists in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. Utuk’ku is expected to be a major antagonist in the new series, as one of the few major villains left at the end of the original series. The part that Akhenabi will play is as yet unknown; the embittered Norns were defeated and seemingly broken at the end of “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, leaving interesting possibilities in the new novels, set thirty years after the end of To Green Angel Tower.

No other previously-seen Gardenborn names appeared on Williams’ new character list. Because the name of the third novel in the new series was announced as The Navigator’s Children, it seems likely that the Dwarrows and Niskies will have some part to play in “The Last King of Osten Ard”, but the names Yis-fidri, Yis-hadra, Sho-vennae, Imai-an and Nin Reisu, all Dwarrow or Niskie characters from “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, do not appear on the new character list.

Many new names on the list, however, do appear to be Gardenborn names. Among these are Nezeru, Takeru, Tsoja/Tsoji, Saojemi, Viyeki, Rinan, Khibi-Ya, and possibly Kulva, Jhesa, Ommu, and Makho. The names Rinan and Khibi-Ya follow formats similar to Niskie and Dwarrow names, respectively. Names ending with a -u and -a are likely to be female Norns. Names ending in -i and -o are likely Norn males. Alternately, the character names ending in vowels may be new Sithi characters. Some, including Kulva, Jhesa, Ommu and Makho, may be non-Gardenborn names.

Simon and Miriamele return in "The Witchwood Crown".

Simon and Miriamele return in “The Witchwood Crown”.

Among the returning mortal characters will be King Simon and Queen Miriamele, who have apparently ruled Osten Ard for the last thirty years. Count Eolair of Hernystir, Duke Isgrimnur of Rimmersgard, Jeremias, Binabik, Sisqinanamook, Tiamak, Prince Josua and Lady Vorzheva also appear on the character list, indicating that they will return in the new series as well. Hyara (Vorzheva’s sister) and Pasevalles (the young boy in Nabban) also appear on the list.

Notably absent are Rachel, Father Strangyeard, Sludig, and Josua’s twin children Derra and Deornoth. However, the original press release has indicated that Derra and Deornoth will have a role to play in the new series. Also not mentioned are Count Streawe, Duke Varellan, Lector Velligis, Queen Inahwen, and March-thane Fikolmij, who were the rulers, respectively, of Perdruin, Nabban, Mother Church, Hernystir, and High Thrithing thirty years earlier. It remains to be seen who now rule these lands.

The names John and Pryrates also appear on the new list. These two characters are likely only mentioned in passing, since they died thirty years earlier.

One “new” name on this list, Morgan, was announced in the press release in April. Morgan is the prince of Erkynland, heir apparent to Osten Ard. He is likely either the son or grandson of Simon and Miriamele. It seems likely that he is their son, named in honor of Doctor Morgenes, Simon’s long-dead mentor.

Little can be deduced from the remaining new names, save that Jarnulf is likely a Rimmersman; Qina and Ommu may be Qanuc; Little Snenneq is definitely Qanuc, and is probably the son of Snenneq, who appeared in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”; Olveris, Drusis, and Saluceris are likely Nabbanai; Tylleth and Etan may be Hernystiri; and Grimbrand and Osric are probably Erkynlanders. Fremur may be a Rimmerman god. The remaining names — Astrian, Drojan, Goh Gam Gar, Hugh, Idela, Lillia, Narvi, Porto, Udrig, and Unver — are hard to classify. It has been revealed that Narvi is a baron, but where he lives has not yet been revealed.

Williams has stated that more may be revealed soon, sometime after he begins the second draft of The Witchwood Crown. At some point, he will conduct chapter readings for fans. The book is tentatively slated for a Spring 2016 release.

 

Tad Williams completes 800 pages of “The Witchwood Crown”, releases partial character list

On his official message board today, bestselling speculative fiction author Tad Williams (The Dragonbone Chair, Tailchaser’s Song) posted a progress update on his manuscript of The Witchwood Crown, volume one of his planned three-book return to Osten Ard, “The Last King of Osten Ard”, sequel to the classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series.

Williams revealed that he will have completed 800 pages of the manuscript this weekend. “I’ll crest 800 pages this weekend, I think, God willing and the river don’t rise,” he wrote, after much flooding in the Bay Area. The page count likely refers to manuscript pages rather than published book pages.

Williams, one of the most respected names in speculative fiction and whose fans include Christopher Paolini and George R. R. Martin, also released a partial character list for the new series, 34 of which are new characters, and the remaining 18 are characters who originally appeared in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”. Several of these 18 listed characters died in the original series, so they are likely only mentioned in passing in the new book, rather than zombie resurrections, although Williams has been known to resurrect characters who were long thought dead, as fans of his work well know.

Cover of The Dragonbone Chair, book 1 of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

Simon, Binabik and Miriamele will be returning in “The Witchwood Crown”, Book One of “The Last King of Osten Ard”.

Returning characters include fan favorites Simon, Miriamele, Binabik, Aditu and Jiriki. Also apparently returning, at least as mentions in the book, are Duke Isgrimnur, Prince Josua, Tiamak, Lady Vorzheva, Pasevalles, Akhenabi, Jeremias, Count Eolair, Prince Hakatri, Sisqinanamook, and of course everyone’s favorite 10,000-year-old ice queen Utuk’ku Seyt-Hamakha, who is believed to be a major antagonist in the new series.

Unmentioned in this announcement are Derra and Deornoth, the twins whose respective prophesies caused over 20 years of fan speculation while Williams wrote other novels. Williams has confirmed in previous announcements that Derra and Deornoth will appear in the new series.

Williams also wrote of his plans for the new book, including his intention that The Witchwood Crown will move a little faster than the beginning of The Dragonbone Chair, stating, “[T]his one moves a little faster and jumps into multi-person [point-of-view] pretty much immediately.  The “moves faster” part may not be so obvious after I revise and put in some of the detail I skipped over in the heat of first-drafting, but I think it will probably still feel this way.  (Thus, for returning readers, I will have to make sure it still feels pretty similar in terms of depth of character and background).”

Also returning are the Sa'onserei siblings, Jiriki and Aditu.

Also returning are the Sa’onserei siblings, Jiriki and Aditu.

The Witchwood Crown, the highly-anticipated first book in the new Osten Ard sequel series, is tentatively scheduled for a Spring 2016 release by DAW Books, publisher in the United States, and Hodder and Stoughton, the publisher in the United Kingdom. This will give the publishers time to edit what promises to be a lengthy manuscript, promote the book in international markets, and commission appropriate cover art on both sides of the Atlantic. An official release date for the first volume has not yet been set.

Who was your favorite villain in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”?

Updates on “The Last King of Osten Ard”

Over the summer, a number of fans have visited with Tad Williams, and coaxed out some details about his new fantasy series, The Last King of Osten Ard. The first volume in this highly-anticipated new series, The Witchwood Crown, is expected in 2015. Reader alert: there are spoilers in the news listed below.

New characters and old
The original press release mentioned familiar characters Simon Snowlock and Miriamele, the granddaughter of old King Presbyter John. The pair have now been king and queen of Erkynland, respectively, during the last thirty years.

In addition to these two beloved characters, the press release also mentioned Miriamele’s cousins, Prince Josua and Lady Vorzheva’s children, Derra and Deornoth. Other confirmed returning characters include Utuk’ku Seyt-Hamakha, Queen of the Norns, who is expected to be a major antagonist in the new series; and Akhenabi, the Norns’ spokesman at Naglimund. Both Utuk’ku and Akhenabi were antagonists in “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”.

Among the returning mortal characters will be Eolair, Count of Nad Mullach; Isgrimnur, Duke of Elvritshalla; Tiamak, a Wranna scholar; and Binabik, the Singing Man of Mintahoq Mountain; and presumably his wife, Sisqinanamook.

Among the new characters will be a female Wranna servant, and a female Norn; neither characters’ names have been revealed. Other new characters include Binabik and Sisqi’s daughter and son-in-law (whose names also have not been released); and Prince Morgan, Simon and Miriamele’s “heir apparent”. In addition to Binabik’s new family, Binabik will be riding a new wolf, after the death of Qantaqa.

More news will be published when it’s available.