Tad Williams reveals “Empire of Grass” cover, answers Reddit questions

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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.

empire of grass by tad williams

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.

thewitchwoodcrownHeart_of_what_was_lost_Tad_WilliamsDuring the Ask Me Anything Reddit chat, Williams was asked by many long-time readers about his plans for the upcoming novels (which include Empire of Grass, The Navigator’s Children, and The Shadow of Things to Come, among other projects). The questions from readers included some spoilers for The Heart of What was Lost and The Witchwood Crown, both new Osten Ard novels published in 2017.

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.

 

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.