It was a very happy (and then sad) day when I was told I could interview R.A. Salvatore again. I always get some really great information that makes me love the books even more, but sadly this was not to be.
Conflicting schedules kept me from actually getting to chat with him, unfortunately. But he was able to answer some questions via email for me, a pretty nice consolation prize if I ever saw one. With The Last Threshold ending the Neverwinter Saga, a lot of people are curious to see where this very unique series has been leading our favorite Drow ranger. Salvatore never ceases to take us on a wondrous adventure and this book is certainly no different.
Continue reading to see what Salvatore had to say.
Geeks Of Doom: The ending of the last book, Charon’s Claw, left us with a huge gap forming between Drizzt and Dahlia. Was that foreshadowing for this novel or did I perhaps read too much into it?
R.A. Salvatore: Well, the whole point of the Neverwinter Saga, post Transitions, was to surround Drizzt with companions who were not of like heart – for the first time since his departure from Menzoberranzan, actually. Does he lift them up, do they bring him down, or do they meet somewhere in the gray fog in between?
I invite you to look at these four books in a different way, one that goes back to Drizzt’s first musings about what it means to have a “god.” Is such a being a separate being telling you to behave in this way or that? Or is the god you choose (in a world like the Realms, where a plethora of deities is there for the picking) really nothing more than a name attached to that which you feel in your heart and conscience?
If you view this particular Drizzt series in this manner, you can see the books as a struggle for the heart of Drizzt between a pair of opposing “gods,” and a fight which began at a time when he was most vulnerable, grieving, alone and wondering what the point of it all might actually be. He’s struggling, mightily, and perhaps the cost of choosing right will be higher than the cost of choosing wrong.
Geeks Of Doom: Artemis Entreri, a constant fan favorite, has always seemed like a mirror image of Drizzt. You have stated in the past that he has helped Drizzt grow as a character. Does Entreri force him to be better in order to combat him or does Drizzt grow more from the knowledge that Entreri is what he was “supposed” to be like? Drizzt’s adventures have, at least to me, been a spiritual journey as much as they have been about any particular quest.
R.A. Salvatore: I have said that Entreri is who Drizzt fears he would have become had he not left Menzoberranzan, so your point is well taken.
But now flip that around, and maybe, just maybe, Entreri came to realize that Drizzt was who he might have been had his situation been different. Or even more intriguing, is Drizzt who he might
one day become? The question is complicated, of course, and there is the little matter of crossing lines from which there may not be redemption (and Entreri has leaped more than a few of those lines in his life!). He’s never going to be invited into a paladin’s guild, nor would he want to be, but in that same sense, neither does he believe those paladins to be, in reality, any better than anyone else, himself included. My favorite scene with Entreri is in “Promise of the Witch King,” when he’s in the dungeon of the great paladin, King Gareth Dragonsbane. Gareth is fascinated by him, and more than a little bothered by him, and Entreri knows why. He calls Gareth on the source of the problem: when Gareth looks at Entreri, he can’t help but see himself, and creating laws to make what he does legal doesn’t change the fact that innocents get trampled under the boots of his army.
So maybe there’s a spiritual journey here for Artemis Entreri, too, but one darkly colored by cynicism – cynicism many might think well-earned.
Geeks Of Doom: This more jaded version of Drizzt has taken some getting used to, but I find myself empathetic because he just seems to be in a bad place (emotionally). Was this harder to write since he has been the noble and incorruptible ranger for so long?
R.A. Salvatore: Nothing since the first book of the Transitions series, “The Orc King,” has been easy to write. “The Ghost King” battered me, “Gauntlgrym” left me wistful and wanting, “The Last Threshold” knocked me off my feet and “The Companions” has become perhaps my favorite Forgotten Realms book of all. It has been a delicious, painful, wonderful, wistful, nostalgic, forward-looking, agonizing run of eight books.
I need a drink.
To your question specifically, Drizzt has been walking right atop that dark line throughout this series, and I didn’t know which side he would choose until I wrote this book, and worse, I didn’t know the painful consequences of that choice.
Geeks Of Doom: This is the final book in the Neverwinter series and we see Drizzt getting back to what (and where) he knows best. Did you take him back to Icewind Dale as sort of a homecoming? A lot has changed in the decades that passed…was that the idea? To help him put his ghosts to rest, so to speak?
R.A. Salvatore: A homecoming, a proper farewell? We shall see.
It makes sense to me, both as a literary device and as truth, for Drizzt to go home in his time of turmoil, and to find there unexpected revelations about himself, his life and those who came before.
Think of the movie “Elizabethtown,” when Orlando Bloom goes home for his father’s funeral and realizes the things that were there all along, right before his eyes. His whole life gets put into a turning prism, where perspective is altered to fit those things he did not understand the first time through. It’s a bittersweet story. This is a bittersweet book, I think.
Geeks Of Doom: When starting into a new book series, not just this one but any of your other ones, do you plan out the entire concept or is it more of a “write as you go” sort of thing? I ask because I recently reread the Cleric Quintet and it felt like one long novel with almost no interruption. When I originally read them, I had to wait for each novel to be released so it felt more separated at the time.
R.A. Salvatore: I plot it out, but roughly – a few pages for the story arc, then a few pages for each individual book. The publisher wants an outline to make sure that I know where I’m going.
Of course, then I start writing and I throw the outline away. The characters take over, the story takes me – like I said earlier, I write books the way other people read books. That’s the joy of it for me. It’s like I’m talking to these characters on the phone, typing furiously while they tell me their stories, and more particularly, their side of the stories. This is what works for me.
One thing I pride myself on is the sheer number of developed characters in these books. They may be referred to as “Drizzt” books, but really, there are so many characters who have had their say, right or wrong, throughout the series. If I ask ten different people to name their favorite character in the series, I’ll get at least 8 different answers. I think it’s because I let these characters tell me who they are, instead of me making them who I want them to be, and I report it accurately. To me, and to many of the readers, they’re real.
I know, it sounds crazy, but if this is crazy, I’ll take it with a smile.
Geeks Of Doom: Any chance we will see some spin-off type books featuring some lesser used characters? I would love to see a Jarlaxle book or series.
R.A. Salvatore: I think that’s very possible. After the events of “The Last Threshold,” it’s almost a requirement, I would say. I’ve got some interesting characters, perhaps going their own way, either singly or as a group, who are worth exploring.
Jarlaxle? Everyone always seems to be asking me about Jarlaxle. I guess that’s a hint.
Geeks Of Doom: Do you write every day? It seems every author has their own patterns or rituals, if you will. You told me once about having WoW on a different computer so you could take breaks from writing. But I believe you also mentioned to me once about hauling your laptop around pretty much everywhere you go.
R.A. Salvatore: I do write (almost) every day. Sometimes the real world gets in the way. The problem for me is that if I go too long between writing sessions, I spend an inordinate amount of time catching back up to where I left off. So I either plant myself at my desk, headphones on, Jonn Serrie and George Winston playing, or I haul my laptop around and peck as I find the time.
Geeks Of Doom: What can you tell us about the Neverwinter game and any parts you played in its creation? I hear it’s due out soon, will we see any iconic characters as NPCs?
R.A. Salvatore: My role was simply to put the region in a proper position/state for Cryptic Studios to go in and rebuild it in the image that fit their game design. I tried to offer them as many Easter Eggs as possible – villains who survived the books, some POI…points of interest…in the city or particularly in Gauntlgrym, things like that. I think that a measure of trust has grown between us over these years and so perhaps there will be more to come as they get their game up and running. Certainly I’ll be haunting the area in future books – I’m almost always there, after all – and so I expect that we’ll stay in touch on a regular basis, each trying to get the most out of what the other is doing. This is when “shared worlds” really pay dividends, creatively.
Geeks Of Doom: You have said several times that you still play tabletop RPGs, have you had any interaction with the D&D Next playtesting? I’ve been reading and playtesting it for over a year now and I was wondering if you have had any input into the forming of the rules and settings. I know there are NDAs in place to keep anyone from revealing particulars, I was just curious if you are involved on any level.
R.A. Salvatore: I recently played a game up at Wizards of the Coast, so yes, I’ve been paying attention. Not as a formal play-tester, however. I don’t know many of the specifics of what’s coming, but what I’ve seen has been very promising.
Geeks Of Doom: A question was asked during a game the other day. Are any of these adventures tested through gaming? I know you have said in the past that you sort of have to follow along with the current rules and systems of combat but do you ever let the creative juice flow while gaming? If so, do you find that it helps?
R.A. Salvatore: No, absolutely not. Not by me, at least, though I’ve heard of other gaming groups “playing” “Homeland” as a campaign. The ultimate pick-a-path, I guess. I’d try that someday, except that my particular group has been together for many, many years, and if I ever “rolled Drizzt,” they’d roll their eyes and plot his swift demise.
Geeks Of Doom: Anything else about the new book that you can leave our readers with that they might love to hear? I know we all love the little details.
R.A. Salvatore: All I can tell you is that this book gives the answers, finally. And the truth of it is, I didn’t know the answers until I was halfway through this book. All of my books surprise me, this one especially so. Truly shocked me, actually. That’s the fun of this long and winding journey!
Thanks again to R.A. Salvatore for making the time to answer some questions for me. As long as he keeps writing, I will keep on reading! You can grab your copy of The Last Threshold at pretty much any bookstore anywhere starting Tuesday, March 5, 2013. It’s available in hardcover and for your Kindle!