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High Druid of Shannara: Straken

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High Druid of Shannara: Straken by Terry Brooks
Paperback $14.95
Aug 15, 2006 | ISBN 9780345451132

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Praise for Terry Brooks

“A great storyteller, Terry Brooks creates rich epics filled with mystery, magic, and memorable characters. If you haven’t read Terry Brooks, you haven’t read fantasy.”
–Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon

“Terry’s place is at the head of the fantasy world.”
–Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass

Author Q&A

An interview with Terry Brooks, author of High Druid of Shannara, Straken.

Question:With Straken, the High Druid of Shannara trilogy reaches its conclusion. How closely does the final book follow your original conception for the series? And what are your emotions as you bring a long project like this to an end?

Terry Brooks: Straken ends pretty much the way I had intended when I first set out to finish the three books of High Druid. I should mention that this trilogy is closely connected to the one that went before, Voyage of the Jerle Shannara. Both deal with the life of the Ilse Witch, Grianne Ohmsford, who started out as someone who was very evil and changed into something else entirely. I have lived with her, explored her life, and discovered something about my own feelings regarding redemption and forgiveness along the way. It was hard to let go.

Q: Though you haven’t published much short fiction over the years, you did have a story in Robert Silverberg’s Legends II anthology. Do you have plans to write more short fiction? Do you feel the form is less well suited to your talents than the novel?

TB:I would be hard pressed to agree to write any more short fiction. It is a discipline entirely removed from writing long fiction, and I find it very difficult. I think I am hard-wired to write the latter, and when I try to shorten it up, my circuits overheat.

Q:You recently published a nonfiction book about writing and your career, Sometimes the Magic Works. Is writing a kind of magic for you?

TB:Life is a kind of magic. I am amazed every day at the things that happen to people all over the word. Some of it is good, some not. Writing falls into this category on a somewhat lesser scale. I think writing is a kind of magic. I am amazed every time I write something that people like. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

Q:You’ve got an essay, "Why I Write About Elves," for sale in the new "Amazon shorts" program. How did you become involved, and do you think we’re finally starting to see electronic publishing move into a viable stage?

TB:Amazon asked me to participate in this program, and I didn’t see any reason not to give it a try. I don’t think we have figured out electronic publishing quite yet, especially for long fiction. Nor do I think the management of the economics has been worked through. I don’t even know how many readers are ready to start reading regularly on a computer screen. I think it will happen, but I don’t know if it will happen in my lifetime.

Q:And why do you write about elves anyway?

TB:Write what you know, they say. But I don’t know anything. So I decided to write about Elves because nobody knows anything about Elves, so no one could claim I didn’t know more than they did.

Q:The High Druid of Shannara has given readers a glimpse into the Forbidding, the dark realm to which the elves exiled their demonic adversaries in ages past. Grianne’s nightmarish experiences there are among the highlights of Straken and its predecessor, Tanequil. Will we be seeing more action set in the Forbidding, and featuring characters like Tael Riverine, in future Shannara novels?

TB:The fate of Tael Riverine was the most-asked question of early readers. How come I didn’t wrap up that particular loose end? Well, guess what? It wasn’t an accident. I hope to live to write more about that character, and at some point more about the Forbidding. But it will be a while.

Q:One of my favorite characters in Straken is a demon from the Forbidding, Weka Dart. Even though he’s a demon, guilty of horrible crimes, he’s not unrelentingly evil, and in fact he seems as much drawn to Grianne’s goodness as to her power, although often despite himself. Redemption has always played a big part in your books, but I can’t recall your ever hinting that a demon might change his ways. I always thought the thing about your demons was that they couldn’t change.

TB:I could argue that if the Ilse Witch could evolve to become High Druid, then anything is possible. It is true that the demons don’t often change. But they don’t have any reason to. In their world, they are what they have to be and what, genetically, they are supposed to be. Grianne Ohmsford gives Weka Dart a glimpse of what he might be, in a different world, a different life. So he takes a closer look. The question for the reader, of course, is whether or not real change is possible. Everything he does for Grianne is selfish in nature. Yet, there are hints that something else is at work. I left it for the reader to decide what would become of him.

Q:The King of the Silver River has played a key role throughout the Shannara saga, but always as a supporting character. Have you ever considered telling his story more directly?

TB:I have considered it and intend to do it. Stay tuned.

Q:I don’t want to give away any of the surprises waiting for readers of Straken, but I did want to ask you generally about transformation and metamorphosis in the Shannara novels. The boundaries between plant and animal, flesh and spirit, living and dead, seem extraordinarily porous in the Four Lands. In many ways, the famous opening line of Ovid’s classic poem Metamorphoses could stand as an epigraph for the Shannara series as a whole: "Of bodies changed to other forms I sing . . ." Why do metamorphoses–usually human to non-human–occupy such a central position in your work?

TB:I suppose it reflects my personal belief that the relationship we share with other living things in our world is much closer and more interdependent than we want to acknowledge. I don’t see human beings as any more important or better in our world than other species — more advanced, but not more enlightened. So in my writing, I lean towards an acceptance of a connection that transcends a simple sharing of world space.

Q:A lot of writers seem to slow down as they get older–you seem to be even more prolific than ever. How do you keep the ideas and enthusiasm flowing?

TB:Fear. What will I do with myself if I can’t write anymore? Actually, I love what I do enough that finding new ideas and fresh stories has never been a huge problem.

Q:Do you ever think of retiring?

TB:I struggle at times with the organizational part, and I suppose that I will slow down and write less eventually, but I don’t think I will ever retire.

Q:What’s next in the world of the Four Lands?

TB:I am at work on the pre-history of Shannara. This is a massive undertaking that will consume as many as nine books. The first will be released next August/September, and it will begin the chronicle of the Great Wars and the destruction of the Old World.

Q:In our last interview, you mentioned the possibility of a new book in the Magic Kingdom series. Anything new to report there?

TB:I do have plans to write at least one more Magic Kingdom novel, but writing it is tied into the making of the movie, which is in development at Universal. If things continue to progress and the movie starts filming, then I will go to work on the Magic Kingdom novel right away. Otherwise, it may have to wait a while. What I need are more hours in the day.

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