Tad Williams, The Witchwood Crown, and the Gardenborn calendar

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arly this morning, Tad Williams released the latest edition of his newsletter, where he talks about his writing, specifically with regard to The Witchwood Crown and the Gardenborn calendar.

Readers of Williams’ classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” series (comprised of The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower) will remember that the Gardenborn are the elder, elf-like race who sailed across the seas to Osten Ard from a mysterious eastern land known as Venyha Do’sae, the Garden That is Lost. The Gardenborn clans, composed of Sithi, Norns, Dwarrows and Niskies, settled in Osten Ard and established rule over a land empty of men… until centuries later, when mortal men arrived from across the western seas.

In “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”, Williams had previously developed calendars that were used in most of the mortal realms; the main calendar closely resembled our own (Gregorian) calendar: months with alternate-reality names like Septander, Octander, Novander and Decander. The months July and August were named Tiyagar and Anitul, after the Nabbanai imperators Tiyagaris and Anitulles. (An interesting aside: although they are never mentioned in the text or the appendices, a careful reader can infer (even though readers are told to “avoid assumptions,” we’ll risk it here) that there are old Nabbanai gods named Jonevus (or similar) and Marris based on the Erkynlandish months named Jonever and Marris, and also likely an old Nabbanai god named Satrinus, based on the Erkynlandish day named Satrinsday).

Despite Williams’ detailed work on the mortal calendars of Osten Ard, the full calendars of the long-lived Gardenborn were never revealed in the original Osten Ard novels. However, with the upcoming release of the new “The Last King of Osten Ard” sequel series, the focus has turned to the Norns, according to the author, and their calendar now plays a part in the new books.

Mr Williams gives some insight into his creative writing process as he talks about how the Gardenborn calendar developed in the writing process. He also gives some insight into how important it was for him that the new books match up with the old books when it comes to continuity. Williams writes:

So a few weeks ago I’m working my way through the 1st novel of the new trilogy, The Witchwood Crown, in final rewrite.  One of the many things that happens during my final rewrites is that I crystallize a lot of the smaller details, or sort out confusions and inconsistencies and commit to a final version of troublesome bits of the history/plot/etc.  In this case, I decided I needed more references to calendars for the “immortals”, especially since in this book I’m actually spending a lot of time with the Hikeda’ya — aka, the Norns.  One of the things that we learn in the new books is that the name of the Norns and Sithi when they were still one people was “Keida’ya” — “Witchwood Children”, because of the importance of that tree and its products to their civilization going all the way back to their old home, the Lost Garden.

There’s already some built-in complexity because of their old calendar from the Garden and their way of counting years — a Keida’ya Great Year is a bit more than sixty years in length (and why that’s true is another story for another newsletter) but they’ve been living in Osten Ard, which is more or less like our world, for thousands of years, so they have to have developed some kind of calendar that matches our world.  The most obvious markers for such things are the stars, the sun, and the moon.  The stars feed into the Great Year idea and others, so I concentrated on moons as the source of the calendar, as they are (roughly) with most real-world societies.

Williams states that during the writing of The Witchwood Crown, he conceived of months with names like Mother, Father, Child, Flower, etc. Eventually, however, he discarded these names entirely when he realized a partial list of months might potentially already exist in the later chapters of Stone of Farewell, in the magical song that Aditu sings when she brings Simon to Jao e-Tinukai’i, the Gardenborn settlement hidden deep in the ancient Aldheorte Forest:

"Memory, Sorrow and Thorn"

Aditu and her brother Jiriki, cover of To Green Angel Tower

I realized that I already had the beginning of what could be a symbolic lunar calendar back in Stone of Farewell, when Aditu the Sitha leads Simon “from winter into summer” — from the rest of the world, in the grip of the Storm King’s winter, into Jao é-Tinukai’i, a place where the Sithi hold sway, which is at least temporarily immune to the Storm King’s magic.  When I thought about all these evocative characters that Aditu mentions as she takes Simon from one season into another, it suddenly made sense that she should be invoking the names of things or powers or spirits or gods or whatever pertaining to different times of the year — in other words, her journey through seasons should be in part evoked in the names of the moons from different parts of the year.

The character names that Aditu invokes in this passage (the Serpent, Wind-Child, Tortoise, Cloud-Song, Otter, Stone-Listener, Lynx, and Sky-singer), then temporarily became the basis for the Gardenborn calendar in Williams’ draft of The Witchwood Crown, providing an explanation for Aditu’s invocation of those names in the novel. Williams then added four additional names (Ice-Mother, Wolf, Raven, and Fire-Maiden) to the already existing names to bring the full number of months to twelve. Then the author ran into a major problem:

I made this list and was all happy and pleased with myself — I even went back to the Witchwood Crown manuscript and put these moon names in various places where I’d left a blank space waiting for a date-name, especially in the Norn sections — I had a horrible recollection.(Horrible because it would mean more work.  Thank God it came to me before the book was finalized!)

Anyway, what I remembered was that when Simon, Binabik, and Miriamele entered into the deserted Sithi city of Da’ai Chikiza by river (and the city will almost certainly feature in the new books) they passed under a succession of bridges, called “Gates”, that had something to do with moon cycles.  So I went back to The Dragonbone Chair and looked it up and damned if Binabik didn’t specifically say “These gates represent cycles of the moon”.  So immediately my most recent moon calendar turned out to be wrong, because TDC mentions several “gate” names, and none of them correspond with Aditu’s incantation.

So there I was.  I either had to say Binabik was mistaken (which goes clear against my principles, unless it’s in a minor, minor mistake that can be easily explained) or I had to throw out everything that didn’t match, which would mean that the new Da’ai Chikiza stuff would wipe out my (still unpublished) second version based on Aditu’s incantation.  Which would be a shame, because I really liked the connection, and it brought a little quasi-historical light to a magical section of the old books.

The author then decided to merge the two draft calendars together to create one unified calendar:

Thinking about it, I decided that what seemed quite realistic to me was that each patron spirit (or god or ancestor, or legendary hero/heroine, or whatever) might have both attribute names and animal names — that both could be ways to describe them, but neither would be the patron spirits’ actual NAMES.  So then the problem was to make the two lists match up somehow.

Williams’ letter not only sheds light on his creative writing process, it also reveals how deeply committed he is with establishing a continuity between two series of novels (“Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” and “The Last King of Osten Ard”) which were written thirty years apart. It is clear that Williams has been working diligently to avoid major continuity errors.

The Dragonbone Chair, book 1 of Memory Sorrow and Thorn

The cover of The Dragonbone Chair shows Simon, Binabik, and Miri traveling through the ruins of Da’ai Chikiza

Hidden in Williams’ text is another (small, but important) revelation: that the lost Sithi city of Da’ai Chikiza, Tree of the Singing Winds, will also feature somewhere in the new series. Da’ai Chikiza is the ruined city depicted on the cover of The Dragonbone Chair; what remains of the city are the old Sithi ruins through which the main protagonists, Binabik, Simon, and Miri, travel as they attempt to escape the Queen’s hunter Ingen Jegger and his deadly white hounds.

The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the upcoming “The Last King of Osten Ard” series, is set for publication in April 2017, to be proceeded by the shorter Osten Ard novel The Heart of What Was Lost in January 2017, and to be followed sometime thereafter by three more long Osten Ard novels (provisionally titled Empire of Grass, The Navigator’s Children, and The Shadow of Things to Come).

To subscribe to Tad Williams’ mailing list, and for regular updates on the publication schedule for the five new Osten Ard novels, click here.

 

 

 

 

The Witchwood Crown set for release in March 2017

Hot off the presses is an announcement from Tad Williams and Deborah Beale concerning The Witchwood Crown, Book One of “The Last King of Osten Ard”:

Tad Williams’ books have sold tens of millions worldwide.  His considerable output of epic fantasy and epic science-fiction series, fantastical stories of all kinds, urban fantasy novels, comics, scripts, etc., have strongly influenced a generation of writers.  Tad always has several secret projects on the go.  2016 will see the debut of a number of them; March 2017 brings ‘The Witchwood Crown’, the first volume in the long-awaited return to the world of the ‘Memory, Sorrow & Thorn’ novels.

While the news that the publication date has been pushed all the way back to March 2017 is quite disappointing, we at OstenArd.com can assure Tad’s readers that the delay has nothing to do with the writing of the novel, as the manuscript is largely complete (we have seen it), and has to do instead with publication delays at DAW Books/Penguin Books.

Despite the disappointing news about the novel, new projects are already in the works, and will be unveiled soon.

Publishers Line Up for “The Last King of Osten Ard”

Stone of Farewell, book 2 of Memory Sorrow and ThornGood news for readers of Tad Williams’ books in Europe!

Following last year’s press releases that DAW Books in the US and Hodder and Stoughton in the UK will publish “The Last King of Osten Ard” is news this month that the as-yet unpublished book will be translated into German and Dutch for overseas readers.

Dutch publisher Luitingh has acquired the publishing rights to the new series in the Netherlands. Luitingh has previous translated Williams’ four-volume “Shadowmarch” series as well as the single-volume entry, The War of the Flowers.

In Germany, a major market for Williams’ books, Klett-Cotta has acquired the rights to publication in Germany, according to PublishersMarketplace.com (registration required). Klett-Cotta has previously published translations of most of Williams’ books, including “Shadowmarch”, a four-volume edition of “Das Geheimnis der Großen Schwerter” (“Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”), Traumjäger und Goldpfote (Tailchaser’s Song), the “Tinkerfarm” books (“Ordinary Farm”), Der Blumenkrieg (The War of the Flowers), “Otherland” and Der brennende Mann (The Burning Man).

The Witchwood Crown, the first volume of Williams’s upcoming “The Last King of Osten Ard” trilogy, is expected in the US and the UK in Spring 2016. Foreign-language editions will be published sometime afterwards. The Witchwood Crown will be followed by Empire of Grass and The Navigator’s Children.

 

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

An Interview with Tad Williams, Part 1

Speculative fiction writer Tad Williams has sold over 30 million copies of his books, which have been translated into more than 25 languages. His first epic fantasy trilogy, “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn”, became an international bestselling series beloved by millions. And now Tad Williams returns to the world of “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” with a new sequel series called “The Last King of Osten Ard”, a series which seems likely to catapult him back once more onto the bestseller lists.

We talked with Williams shortly after he and his wife and business partner Deborah Beale announced that he had just completed the rough draft of the first book in the new series, The Witchwood Crown. In this exclusive interview, we asked Williams some questions about his world-building, plans for book tours, what it’s like to return to a world he hasn’t been to in ages, and his plans to continue to write “Bobby Dollar” books in between Osten Ard novels. Below is Part One of the interview. Further portions of the interview will be published later this week.

OstenArd.com: Thanks, Tad, for agreeing to do this interview! You have stated that you are writing the new Osten Ard novels at the same time as Bobby Dollar stories. Even though they are very different stories, do you ever find yourself confusing the characters’ voices? Or are they just too different for that to happen?

Tad Williams: One of the nicest things about Bobby Dollar is that I tell it in the first person. Once I start writing that voice, it comes pretty naturally (in part because he talks more than a bit like me.) Most of TLK is third-person past tense (there are some epistolary sections in first-person present) so it’s actually quite different. Not to mention that BD is modern in style of speech, so it’s like turning off the tape-delay. When I’m writing fantasy, especially pre-industrial fantasy, I have to find a proper tone and vocabulary to go with the story. But with TLK, I just have to come up with something that feels appropriate to what I used in the first books.

Cover of part 1 of the Japanese edition of The Dragonbone Chair, one of more than 25 language editions of the book.

Cover of part 1 of the Japanese edition of The Dragonbone Chair, one of more than 25 translations of the book.

OA.com: You have a devoted fan base who would love to meet you. Does your publisher plan a major book tour before/during/after the launch of The Witchwood Crown, and if so, where might you go? Are there markets that you absolutely know you’ll have to visit?

Tad: I hope so, and I would love to do it. Publishers haven’t been touring writers as much because of a) the loss of profitability in brick-and-mortar publishing and the 2006-present economic ructions. But I hope this is enough of an event to warrant my American publishers touring me again. As far as other countries, that’s always catch as catch can, although I’m pretty sure my German publishers will tour me.

OA.com: Both Christopher Paolini and George R. R. Martin have acknowledged that you inspired them to write their own series. Are there plans afoot to ask them to provide a blurb for The Witchwood Crown?

Tad: Christopher would probably do it, no problem. It’s always hard to get George to do stuff like that just because there’s so many demands on his time. He’s like me times a thousand, probably, in terms of how many things he can pay attention to out of however many are seeking his attention.

Map of Osten Ard, showing the more than a dozen nations which make up the continent.

Map of Osten Ard, showing the more than a dozen nations which make up the continent.

OA.com: In The Dragonbone Chair, you built a massive world with more than 100 cities, towns and villages spread out over a continent. Then you created languages, cultures, and peoples to fill those places. As you added more books, Osten Ard grew further. Are you planning to do any exploring of areas outside the old maps? The “blank areas at the edges of the maps”? If so, how will that mesh with the existing infrastructure and the old maps?

Tad: There will definitely be some expansion of what we know about O. Ard., but I’ve got plenty of stuff from the originals to elucidate and expand upon without going beyond the Nascadu desert or the northern Trollfells or Nornfells. However, we will learn a bit more about the -conceptual- map of the world, and also see some places we never saw in the first books, that’s for sure.

OA.com: During the events of MS&T, readers got to explore the realm, visiting everything from steaming jungles to frozen tundra (LOTS of frozen tundra!). Any plans to revisit areas of Osten Ard which didn’t get much attention in the classic series? Nascadu? The Hyrkalands? The Westerling Islands? Harcha and Naraxi? Ijsgard? The Lost Garden?

Tad: We’re going to see a LOT of the Nornfells and Nakkiga. We’re also going to see a lot of Aldheorte and the Thrithings and Nabban. As far as other, previously unvisited places, I’m not sure — that will depend on where the second volume and the beginning of the third takes some characters whose steps I haven’t completely mapped yet. (By the way, the amusingly stupid spellchecker on this email keeps trying to change “the Thrithings” to “the Thrashings”.) And we will learn and hear more about the Lost Garden as well — a LOT about the early history of the Norns and Sithi, both in Osten Ard and before. So while I can’t say we’re going to visit the Lost Garden — it is lost, after all — we’re definitely going to learn and hear more about it.

To be continued…

Part Two

Williams completes 555 pages of “The Witchwood Crown”

Tad Williams announced today that he has written well over 500 pages of the first draft of The Witchwood Crown, the first volume in his new series, “The Last King of Osten Ard”:

Just to let you all know, I hit a nice little milestone today — 555 pages of the 1st draft, end of Chapter 30. I’ve actually had time again to get into a rhythm, and it’s amazing how much faster it goes when I have dedicated working time and thinking time.

With 30 chapters of the first draft having been written, the manuscript may already be larger than Stone of Farewell, which only contained 28 chapters. In comparison, The Dragonbone Chair had 44 chapters and To Green Angel Tower had 60. This means that the manuscript is approaching or has already exceeded the size of previous Osten Ard books. Williams is known for long, intricate stories, and it looks as though The Witchwood Crown will be no exception.

In other news, it appears as though the publication date of The Witchwood Crown has been pushed back to Spring 2016, to allow time for editing of what is likely to be a massive manuscript. The original publication date had been set to Fall 2015. Williams writes very fast, and there likely will be no long publication delays that have been seen in other massive epic fantasies such as Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” or George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”. Indeed, The Witchwood Crown was only announced in April of this year.

News: Tad Williams has written 400 pages of “The Witchwood Crown”

Tad Williams has announced that he has written around 400 pages of The Witchwood Crown, Book One of his new epic fantasy series “The Last King of Osten Ard”:

I’ve had a lot of other things going on, so I’m only at about page 400 of the book, but I’m back into a stretch where I can work on it full-time again.

The first volume of the new Osten Ard series, a sequel to the classic “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn” books, is expected to be published sometime late next year, but no concrete date has yet been set. Each new novel in the series is expected to be about the size of previous Osten Ard novels, which were between 750 and 1,600 pages each.