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 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

Twenty-fifth Anniversary of The Dragonbone Chair

This month marks the 25th Anniversary of the publication of Tad Williams’ fantasy novel, The Dragonbone Chair, Book One of “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn.”  The epic series begins as the story of a simple castle servant named Seoman who stumbles upon treachery as nonagenarian King John lies dying. The book went on to become a nationwide best-seller in the US.

A war fueled by the dark powers of sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard–for Prester John, the High King, slayer of the dread dragon Shurakai, lies dying. And with his death, an ancient evil will at last be unleashed, as the Storm King, undead ruler of the elvishlike Sithi, seeks to regain his lost realm through a pact with one of human royal blood. Then, driven by spell-inspired jealousy and hate, prince will fight prince, while around them the very land begins to die. Only a small scattered group, the League of the Scroll, recognizes the true danger awaiting Osten Ard. And to Simon–a castle scullion unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League–will go the task of spearheading the quest for the solution to a riddle of long-lost swords of power…and a quest that will see him fleeing and facing enemies straight out of a legend-maker’s worst nightmares!

Williams’ series went on to inspire George R. R. Martin to write “A Song of Ice and Fire,” which was adapted for television as Game of Thrones.