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TOM MERRITT: Coming up, how to go from being an attorney to
the bestselling fantasy author ever.
VERONICA BELMONT: It's our guide to Terry Brooks,
TOM MERRITT: Are you coming down with something?
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah.
VERONICA BELMONT: Hey, everyone.
Welcome to the "Sword and Laser." I'm Veronica Belmont.
TOM MERRITT: And I'm Tom Merritt.
VERONICA BELMONT: And this is our guide to authors show,
where each week we bring up a brand new author and introduce
you to them, and then we ask them your questions and some
of our own as well.
TOM MERRITT: Yep.
We're very excited because this week, it's our guide to
VERONICA BELMONT: Now known as the man behind 23 "New York
Times" best sellers, Terry Brooks was previously known as
Terry Brooks, Esquire, a
practicing attorney in Illinois.
A writing hobbyist since childhood, Brooks used what
free time he had from being an attorney to pen fantasy works,
composing his debut novel, "The Sword of Shannara" while
still practicing law.
TOM MERRITT: The first fantasy novel to ever appear on the
"New York Times" bestseller list, of "The Sword of
Shannara" sat atop the list for more than five months as
the public flocked to the story of Shea and Flick
Ohmsford's quest to retrieve the Sword of Shannara and
defeat the warlock lord.
Brooks followed with "The Elfstones of Shannara" in 1982
and "The Wishsongs of Shannara" in 1985, which
followed the adventures of the next two generations of the
Ohms ford family, and were both best sellers
in their own right.
VERONICA BELMONT: Brooks then began his six-novel Landover
series, which followed the adventures of a former trial
lawyer, Ben Holiday, through the kingdom of Landover.
Holiday purchased the magical kingdom during a deep
depression, and when the land turned out to be real, he
assumed the throne and worked to restore the realm to its
TOM MERRITT: Aside from the Landover series, the rest of
Brooks' books have been set across a long history of the
While all of the Shannara works adhere to a consistent
universe and timeline, Brooks doesn't intend the series to
be read in chronological order.
He suggests reading in publication order to avoid
spoiling some of the series' best reveals.
VERONICA BELMONT: The original Shannara trilogy was followed
by The Heritage of Shannara tetralogy, set hundreds of
years after the original novels, and starring the
descendants of the original Ohmsfords.
Then came the Word and Boy trilogy, the origin story of
the Shannara universe, and the first battle against demons
from the void set in Hopewell, Illinois.
TOM MERRITT: The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, The High Druid
of Shannara, and The Genesis of Shannara trilogies as well
as The Legends of Shannara duology all followed.
But Brooks is far from done with the world of Shannara.
His latest trilogy, The Dark Legacy of Shannara, began with
the August 2012 release of "Wards of Faerie."
VERONICA BELMONT: Set 100 years after the High Druid of
Shannara trilogy, the novels follows Khyber Elessedil's
quest to recover the lost elfstones.
And if being the biggest-selling fantasy writer
alive isn't enough, Sonar Entertainment purchased the
film rights of the Shannara series in late 2012 with the
intention of developing a television series.
TOM MERRITT: Lem, our dragon, is putting through the call to
Terry Brooks right now.
So while he gets all connected, you, please, enjoy
this look at today in alternate history.
VERONICA BELMONT: We're very happy to have Terry Brooks
joining us today.
Thank you so much for being here.
TERRY BROOKS: Oh, you're very welcome.
It's nice of you to have me.
VERONICA BELMONT: So I was checking out your website.
And I have to say, there was a great tidbit on there about
"The Lord of the Rings." Can you dive into that a little
bit and tell us how it influenced you?
TERRY BROOKS: Well, it's kind of a long story.
So let me give you the 25-word version.
I grew up in the '40s and '50s when boys were
reading science fiction.
Nobody was reading fantasy.
Nobody knew anything about fantasy except for things like
"Tarzan the Apeman" and "The Emerald City of Oz." So all of
my formative reading, in spite of what people, I'm sure,
think, was with science fiction.
And it wasn't until I was 23 years old that I read "Lord of
the Rings," so I was long gone from a whole bunch of stuff by
the time I got there.
But it was a seminal influence, obviously,
particularly because the form in which it was written was
exactly the form I was looking for--
an historical, epic story that did not
require me to do research.
And that was pretty much it.
I wanted to write a European adventure story in the manner
of Robert Louis Stevenson, or Walter Scott, Alexander Dumas,
something of that sort, something you would read
straight through and never put down.
But I didn't want to research all that.
And besides, it had been done.
So I thought, well, I'll use that "Lord of the Rings"
But I'll cut out all that Tom Bombadil stuff, and we'll
forget about having appendices and other things that suggest
any work went into this and just write the story.
VERONICA BELMONT: So much hate on Tom Bombadil lately.
I love Tom Bombadil
TOM MERRITT: You and Peter Jackson both just dispensed
with the Tom Bombadil.
That's all right.
So what did you read before you discovered "Lord of the
Rings," and tell us a little bit about how that clicked for
you, and why that made epic fantasy work for you?
TERRY BROOKS: Well, I think the thing that I talk about
most in interviews about who the major influence on my life
was is William Faulkner.
I was an English major in college because I found out
early on I was no good at math.
And so I spent a lot of time with William Faulkner, as most
English students did.
I had a lot of classes in which he
was prominently featured.
I did my senior thesis on William Faulkner,
read all of his work.
And I was intrigued with the idea of having a whole series
of stories and lives on an epic scale set in this one
Mississippi county, in which we followed several
generations of various families and saw an evolution
in the way in which they interacted.
And I wanted to put that in.
I thought that that was more true to life than some other
possibilities that I had considered.
I also liked the idea of dysfunctionality within
families, because I think all of our families are
I know mine are.
I bet you've got a few in yours.
I think that the idea of power as the principal driver of
what happens when families start to interact in ways that
are not good is true to life as well.
And so all those things came together for me in William
Faulkner, and I grafted it right onto "Lord of the
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, speaking of dysfunctional
families, you've done some work in the Star Wars universe
as well, of course, that being the novelization of "The
Phantom Menace." That's a pretty dysfunctional family, I
have to say, Darth Vader.
So tell me about that interaction with George Lucas,
and how you start working on that project.
TERRY BROOKS: Well, it's kind of funny.
The way it happened was that, as you know, the second most
important thing that happened in 1977 was the publication of
the first of the Star Wars movies and accompanying book.
And my editor, the editors Judy-Lynn and Lester del Rey,
did George Lucas' work and mine at the same time.
So we knew about each other because Judy-Lynn talked
incessantly about George Lucas.
And Lester told me she also talked to him about me, and we
never met or had any kind of a connection or anything.
But when the series came back around, that was when there
was a short list on both sides put up as to who might do the
adaptation of "Phantom Menace." And my name came up
on both lists.
So I got the call to go down to Skywalker Ranch and meet
And we were going to size each other up, which was pretty
easy, because we're about the same size.
And we grew up in the same era.
We're pretty much the same age.
We had a lot of the same influences.
I think our worldview, our artistic view, is very similar
in a lot of ways.
There are suggestions that the Shannara series is not that
far removed from the Star Wars series.
George might take umbrage with that, I don't know.
But we hit it off really well, and he was great about letting
me have my hand free to do what I felt was
necessary with the book.
And I thought the success of the book was terrific.
TOM MERRITT: I read that book before I saw the movie
because, as you probably know, it came out a few days before,
maybe a week or so before--
I can't remember exactly--
and really enjoyed it.
And it did not spoil the movie for me.
I still was excited to see the movie.
So well done there.
Were you afraid to take on that task?
Because I know with Disney having the sequels now, a lot
of directors are like, I don't want to have
anything to do with it.
TERRY BROOKS: Well, I didn't want to have anything to do
with it because I'd done the work on "Hook." And I thought,
I'm never going through this again.
That was like a living hell.
So the first thing I asked George was I said, are you
going to tie my hands in this?
Am I going to have freedom to do what I think I need to do?
Or are you going to make my life miserable?
And he was great.
He just said, I'm going to let you do
anything you want to do.
TOM MERRITT: That's great.
TERRY BROOKS: And I said, well, I understand, because
you can always veto at the end.
And he said, yeah, that's true.
and he was very good about it.
He let me use material that I conceived of on my own.
He didn't require that I just use his material.
And it all went very well.
VERONICA BELMONT: That kind of reflects on a similar
conversation we had with Are Salvatore about his work in
the Star Wars universe, and how he wanted to do something
very specific, and they let them do it.
So that's very good to hear.
TOM MERRITT: We have some questions from
our audience members.
Ty was wondering if you had a favorite book or subseries in
the Shannara universe, and which one was the most fun for
you to write?
Which is kind of like asking you your favorite children.
TERRY BROOKS: I love them all.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, yeah.
TERRY BROOKS: Equally.
I think probably "Running with the Demon" was the most the
book I was most passionate about because it was about my
childhood and because I had a strong
connection with the material.
You know, the first three or four books were very, very
hard because Lester del Rey kept making me rewrite them,
and rewrite them, and rewrite them to the point where I
thought, I'm just going to throw myself off a cliff.
"Magic Kingdom" was very easy to write, and it's really very
So that one was a labor of love as well.
But the trick with this writing game is to become
invested in every single book strongly enough that you're
energized from beginning to end, and you don't lose
interest after about six weeks.
VERONICA BELMONT: And Chris wants to know, how do you
organize your plots for multi-volume stories?
There are so many different tales in the same universe.
It must be kind of hard to keep them all straight.
TERRY BROOKS: Oh, you think?
Well, I have a compendium of what my stories are about that
was published by del Rey.
I just go to that.
That really helps.
I do outline heavily of my work.
Not so much anymore, but I certainly did for the first 20
years, or 25 years, or whatever.
So that helps.
And this is a craft.
And the more you do it, the better you get at it,
And so after a while, you learn to trust the process,
and you don't have to work quite so hard at it, and you
don't have to worry so much that maybe it won't work out
the way you want it to, or it won't come to you when you
need it to, that you can't make the decisions.
So all of those things, I think, play
into it, and you change.
I'm not the same person I was when I started.
I'm not the same person I was 10 years ago.
So your process changes, and the approach that you take
TOM MERRITT: One of things we like to do on the show is help
people find good things to read, especially, people who
are just getting into the genre.
We get a lot of people saying, I've always
wanted to read fantasy.
I didn't know where to start.
So we like to ask authors, if you recommended a book to
someone to get into the genre, what book might you recommend?
TERRY BROOKS: You mean besides my own?
TOM MERRITT: Obviously, start with Shannara.
But then after that, where do they go?
VERONICA BELMONT: It could be your own, yeah.
TERRY BROOKS: I'm not going to leave that door.
TOM MERRITT: Of course not.
TERRY BROOKS: I don't know.
I think Patrick Rothfuss' work is excellent.
I would certainly recommend his.
Bob Salvatore, I think his Drizzt series is very good.
I like a lot of esoteric stuff, too, you know.
I think Naomi Novik's Dragon series is terrific.
VERONICA BELMONT: Oh, one of my personal favorites,
TERRY BROOKS: I think young adult fiction in this field is
And there's terrific stories, "Serafina" being the one I
just finished reading, which is a really good story.
But anything by all those young new writers coming up
that are doing young adult fiction, which is a misnomer
if ever there was one.
A lot of it's very edgy stuff.
But I think those are all good things, too.
And then you can go back to people like Steven Donaldson
and David Eddings, who started out when I did, and wrote
There's a lot of very good things being written and have
been written in the past, thank goodness.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, I would definitely be picking
"The Belgariad" for one of our book picks if it
weren't quite so long.
It's one of those fantastic stories, but I think the book
club members would probably *** me if I tried to get
them to read that in a month.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, exactly.
VERONICA BELMONT: But it is wonderful.
So tell us a little bit about what you're working on next.
TERRY BROOKS: Well, I'm working out, as always,
I'm working still in Shannara.
I have two books coming out this year that will complete a
trilogy called Dark Legacy of Shannara that I began last
year with "Wards of Faerie." You know, I'm still writing in
But after these two books are published in March and July,
I'm now working on a book for 2013 that's the first of a
series of standalones.
I know it's going to cause any of my readers to feint on the
spot because I haven't done a standalone book
at a very long time.
But I'm doing I'm doing a few of them now that are set in
the Shannara world.
And after that, I'm thinking of branching out into
something entirely new.
VERONICA BELMONT: Ooh, interesting.
And also, I'm very glad that you said Shannara--
TOM MERRITT: Me, too.
VERONICA BELMONT: --to me because now I know how to say
TOM MERRITT: Right.
TERRY BROOKS: Only me and the two of you and four other
people say it that way.
So everybody else says Shannara, and I've long since
given up on worrying about it.
VERONICA BELMONT: All right, well, we'll get that right for
the rest of the episode, I promise.
TOM MERRITT: All right, last question.
We have a lot of aspiring writers in
the audience as well.
And they always want us to ask the authors when we have them
on what they would say to somebody who's
getting started writing.
Do you have any words of wisdom, any words
of advice for folks?
TERRY BROOKS: I have a whole book on words of advice called
"Sometimes the Magic Works." But in 25 words or less one
more time, I would say, patience, patience, patience
with your work.
And I would say the patience has to go along with
You have to write a lot.
And you have to write a lot to get any good at it.
I started when I was 10 years old.
And I wrote every chance I got.
And it wasn't every day or anything like that, but just
because you have to do a lot of writing.
But you have to also be patient with yourself because
a lot of it's going to seem like it's impossible.
I can't tell you how many writers I've talk to who said,
yeah, I started out, and I threw it away.
And I started out, and threw it away, never finished it.
And I think that's the process you go through until you
finally find something that clicks.
TOM MERRITT: Well, Terry Brooks, thank you so much for
talking with us today.
We really appreciate you taking the time.
TERRY BROOKS: I appreciate your having me on.
TOM MERRITT: If you want the newest thing from Terry
Brooks, look for the short story "Paladins of Shannara--
the Weapons Master's Choice" on January 28, and "Bloodfire
Quest" is the next Dark Legacy of Shannara book
coming March 12.
VERONICA BELMONT: To finish up our author's guide to Terry
Brooks, please enjoy this whiteboard video from Aaron,
which shows why reading Terry Brooks
novels is the best present.
Aaron: In 1977 when I had more hair, Star Wars came out.
I saw it eight times.
That Christmas, an extra packages was under the tree.
My parents told me it was from my godfather.
And inside was Luke's speeder.
This guy, that I'd never met, had known
precisely what I wanted.
That's Terry Brooks for you.
One of the most reliable authors in the fantasy genre.
He's like that previously unknown relative who, out of
the blue, gives you exactly the right thing.
His debut fantasy, "The Sword of Shannara"
also appeared in 1977.
And its epic fantasy style owes a clear debt to Tolkien
but even more so to Tolkien's fans.
His writing has always been unabashedly, wonderfully
That readability has made his Shannara
series a fantasy staple.
But my special love is for his Landover novels.
There's an awesome sort of pragmatism in a guy who
doesn't have to slay dragons or discover an
interdimensional wardrobe to get his fantasy kingdom.
He just buys it from the want ads.
It gives hope to everyday guys like me.
I've been searching Craigslist,
but no luck so far.
I did see someone selling my speeder.
Nothing going to bring that '70s feel back, though--
or that hair.
VERONICA BELMONT: I want to see a picture of that hair.
TOM MERRITT: I actually have that-- not the hair.
VERONICA BELMONT: You have that hair?
TOM MERRITT: I have that landspeeder.
VERONICA BELMONT: You have a picture of Aaron?
TOM MERRITT: No, I have that actual landspeeder that he was
VERONICA BELMONT: Oh, the land speeder.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, the little toy.
VERONICA BELMONT: Because I was going to say, if you had a
picture of Aaron form the '70s, that would be
a little bit weird.
TOM MERRITT: He hasn't sent me that.
VERONICA BELMONT: We like Aaron, but we don't like--
TOM MERRITT: What are you trying to say?
VERONICA BELMONT: I'm not saying--
TOM MERRITT: I have not taken him hostage and
have in my new basement.
VERONICA BELMONT: You're a creepy Aaron stalker.
TOM MERRITT: No.
VERONICA BELMONT: No?
TOM MERRITT: I don't.
VERONICA BELMONT: OK, anyway.
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TOM MERRITT: That is it, folks.
If you're looking for more great things to read, though,
be sure to watch our book club episodes, where we read a book
a month and give great ideas for lots of
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And join us on Goodreads for the conversation
We'll see you next time.
VERONICA BELMONT: Bye.