The following is a transcript of a talk I gave at Borders Books at Bailey's Crossing, VA. on September 9,2000. This was an unscripted presentation. Extemporaneous speech, by it's very nature, is different than written material in which the author has a chance to consider every sentence, every word, for the precise shade of meaning he intends. Such are the difficulties of speaking without a written speech. Spontaneity, however, can have a singular quality of immediacy and candor.
I have edited the talk by taking out the extraneous pauses, repetitions, and such that serve no purpose and are only a distraction when reading a speech. I have made small corrections for the sake of clarity, but in doing so I have not altered the original meaning or content. Keep in mind, also, that when speaking, body language and expression add meaning, whether to soften or harden a point, or even to add humor. That is missing here.
What follows, then, is the transcript, edited by me for clarity. I have not materially changed what was said, but simply smoothed out a few of the wrinkles
Thank you for being here. I want to talk tonight about what it is I write, why I write, and how I write. I'm going to talk about why all authors write, and what all artists are doing when they create something.
Aristotle said that fiction is more important than history because "history represents things as they are, while fiction represents them as they might be and ought to be."
Aristotle was speaking about the concept of volition -that we are creatures of free will. You can either believe that we are creatures of free will, or that we are guided by mystical forces, or nature, or what have you, that directs everything in our life; that we therefore have no free will - that fate put me here, not my free will. I'm here to tell you that I'm here of my free will; I wanted to be here.
Ayn Rand said, " Art is a selective recreation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments." What this means is that an artist, whether he intends it or not, betrays his philosophy. His values are going to come out in what he does.
Take a beautiful painting like the cover of Faith of the Fallen - this painting of a sculpture of two people. A painting of such people does not show volition; the act of painting them does, because when you choose to paint the best life can be, you are acting of volition.
When an "artist" presents you with a non-objective painting, or story, what he is proclaiming is that there is nothing objective upon which to base anything.
Our lives are sustained by our ability as humans to think. In order to decide what to eat, you must first know what is food. If you eat dirt, you will die. That's very clear. Thinking becomes more important when the food is mushrooms. You have to know if a mushroom is poisonous or healthy to eat. That's where "thought" comes in. This is where learning comes in. This is where volition comes in. If you believe forces of fate guide the world, you will pick up any mushroom and eat it because if you are fated to die, you will die, and if you are fated to live, you will live. If you don't believe there is any reality, then you might eat anything.
We survive, however, by thinking - this is the reason we are all here. We send our children to school so they will be educated, so they will think, so they can get along in life. Non-objective art is a rejection of reality, of thinking, and instead attempts to set non-thinking as the standard. Non- thinking is eating poison mushrooms. When an artist presents you with a non-objective view of life, whether painted or written, when he abdicates his responsibility to think, he is rejecting life itself. He is embracing death. And asking you to do the same.
When I write, I'm presenting a view of reality in which I base what I do on the ultimate value, which is life.
When you buy a book, you are spending money to buy it. You must decide if the book is worth that amount of money. The answer is based on everything that you could spend your money on, how much money you have, everything available to you, what you need to spend the money on, and a number of other things. Then you may decide "yes I want to buy this book."
But you are doing something far more valuable -in the realm of thinking, in the realm of ideas, in the realm of values. Those things are measurable, too. They are measured by time. That's one reason there is a sundial on the cover of this book. The gnomon that the male statue is holding casts a shadow on the sundial to tell you how much time has passed in the day -how much of your life is gone, how much is left.
Ultimately, your life is all you have to give toward values, so how much of your life you choose to give determines the value of something.
If you love ice cream and you can go downstairs to get it, it's not going to take much of your time, so its value is small. If the only ice cream is in France, and you decide to go there to get it, that means you really love ice cream because you are giving up a great deal of your life to go to France to get the ice cream.
When you read books, you are giving something more than money: you are giving your time. In return for that part of your life, I expect of myself to give you in return my absolute best job. When I write a book, it's unconditionally the best book I can write. You can decide for yourself if it's worthwhile to you or not. What you can't argue is whether or not I put in my best effort. You may judge my best effort to be insufficient for your time, but the thing you are not entitled to judge is whether or not I've done my best, because I know I have.
Faith of the Fallen is without reservation the best thing I have ever written. Up until that point, I've loved all my books equally. Faith of the Fallen is on a new level.
I want to interject a few words, here, about fantasy.
Fantasy is a genre that encompasses many things. I'm at one end of the spectrum. The books I write are first of all novels, not fantasy, and that is deliberate; I'm really writing books about human beings. I believe that it's invalid and unethical to write fantasy for fantasy's sake, because fantasy for fantasy's sake is non-objective. If you have no human themes or values, then you have no life as a base value. Fantasy for fantasy's sake is therefore pointless.
At the other end of the spectrum from my writing are a kind of book that, for lack of a better word, I'll call "world-building" - and I don't mean to disparage pure world building books for what they are: entertainment. I don't consider them valid novels. They are entertainment the same way a video game is entertainment. A video game is not a novel. A video game has no values, except to hone your skills at blowing up electronic people.
Let me clarify my terms, here. When we write, we naturally build a world for our characters, and this isn't at all what I'm talking about in this context. I'm here using the term world building to mean books that are driven by the details of the world, in which characters are only incidental. These books are measured by, and appreciated for, the complexity and details of the world, not the characters. They also lack the fundamental requirement of a good novel: a coherent plot. The story is incidental.
World-building books, as I mean it in this context, are much like establishing an elaborate train set in which the author is placing little plastic people just like the little plastic trees are placed in a train set - laying down in tremendous detail what this world is like. The people in these worlds are simply part of the set. I wouldn't like writing that kind of book because it is not about human themes.
Now, at that end of the spectrum is the role-playing kind of non-novel and at the other end are novels such as I write, and there is a wide range of books in between. You can have a book that has a lot of detailed world- building, but at the same time has valuable human themes. I don't mean to say that you shouldn't enjoy another kind of fantasy than mine - I'm just telling you that I intensely dislike pure world-building books because they are not about values important to me -they are not about life.
I write books about the nobility of life. Faith of the Fallen is an uplifting book, an inspiring book, and a book about the nobility of mankind.
Those who don't understand or care about the value of life, those who prefer non-objective art or stories because they don't want to have to think, feel threatened by this book. For example, one reviewer dismissed it as a rant against Stalinism. This is a dangerous road, because if you understand anything at all about the way human beings act, and the book explains explicitly how they have acted throughout history, you would know that this is a story about the perils of non-thinking, of giving in to being a nonentity in any and every collective. The product of every collective throughout history has never been anything but endless suffering, unimaginable torture, and death.
A basic principle is the importance of the individual, since every individual's life -life being the ultimate value -is the only life they will have. Life is the most valuable thing they can have.
Throughout history, the method by which people have been enslaved is to first strip them of their identity as an individual. The Middle Ages are an example of how people had no identity, rather, they were thought of as only a part of the whole. Throughout history, this has always been the theme of those who would have you surrender into slavery: your individual life isn't important; you must contribute yourself to some greater good.
The greater good is always someone else. The food is always better in someone else's belly. The roof is always better over someone else's head. And anything of value is always better in someone else's pocket. When you have that mentality and surrender your identity into the whole, you end up with the likes of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge -3,000,000 people died; Adolph Hitler -6,000,000 people died; Joseph Stalin -24,000,000 people died. Can you even imagine what 24,000,000 individual lives being snuffed out is like? I mean, can you even conceive of it?
Yet observe what happens. Every one of those regimes - that says that the individual is irrelevant, your identity does not matter, and only your contribution to the whole is important - is headed by an individual who goes to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate his individuality. Look at Iraq; there are pictures of Saddam Hussein everywhere. In the Soviet Union there were statues and paintings of Joseph Stalin everywhere. So, while these men are telling you that the individual does not matter, they are pursuing individuality as their own goal.
In the Middle Ages, one way individuality was crushed was to make the human form unimportant. Art was a means to this end. When their bodies become unimportant, the process of devaluing people as individuals had begun. Middle Age art frightened people into accepting that the human form was corrupt. Just like in Faith of the Fallen, their art represented the human form as wooden, unbending, and lifeless. There is no animation to the figures, no joy in life. So, if 10,000 people died because some leader decided to massacre them on that day, it didn't really matter because life didn't matter -those who sacrificed and suffered were going to go to some kind of glorious afterlife. Stalinism uses this same method, merely substituting the greater good of the state for the afterlife. The results are always the same.
Faith of the Fallen shows the life of every person as important, that life is the basis of all value. I'm not interested in fantasy for fantasy's sake because fantasy for fantasy's sake is an empty world without life and therefore without values.
I believe in telling stories about the nobility of mankind. When Ayn Rand said, " Art is the selective recreation of reality according to an author's metaphysical value judgments," she was saying that you recreate the kind of world in which you want to live. I heard a review of a new book on National Public Radio in which the reviewer was raving about how wonderful the book was. It was a wandering story about a guy who went to Southeast Asia to buy heroine to smuggle into the United States, and about his stripper girlfriend in the States who was trying to help him smuggle it in. They got into trouble with underworld thugs -imagine that. At the end of explaining all the horrible troubles they had while trying to deal drugs, the reviewer said, "this is a novel about noble souls in trouble."
This is called a normative abstraction: the author is setting a standard of normal, of what he thinks the world should be like. This is the recreation of reality according to the author's value judgments. The author and the reviewer are saying that a drug dealer is a normative value. That is assigning value to the destruction of life.
I instead write about people being the best they can be. I hold up as values, human beings at their best, or trying to be their best. The worth in this is for people who believe in life, who believe in concepts that are ethical, like liberty and love and family and integrity and honesty. The value in art and the important thing that art can do is that it can give you a moment in time in which you can see the ideals in which you believe, triumph. That's a restorative.
Take the life-long ambition of a loving committed relationship. A novel gives you a time, in that brief space, to see how people can be together - seeing them overcome obstacles and achieve their goal of being together. The novel lets you see these things finally realized. It's a way to gain the courage and energy to go on in the struggle toward goals that can take a lifetime.
Raising children is something that is not to be accomplished in a day. If you read a book about people raising children who overcome something in order to become fine individuals; you are seeing the realization of values. That novel is giving you something of high value for your time - instead of giving you a drug dealer as a hero.
World-building to me is no better than holding up the drug dealer as an ideal because it is holding up as a normative value a world in which humans do not exercise volition, but instead is a history lesson of when this person was born 300 years ago and had 12 daughters with unpronounceable names who had offspring who went on to have this and that convoluted history, which may be entertaining, but is not a novel.
I write novels.
Some people try to bring that world-building mentality to my books. I can understand why they do - it's not usually one extreme or the other, rather there is a tremendous range -but you have to understand what it is I am doing. I'm simply not interested in that kind of book. Magic for magic's sake is irrelevant. If this microphone could stand up and dance, what difference does that make to my life? Just because it has magic is irrelevant. Just because it can do something magical is of no importance unless I can use that magic to accomplish worthwhile goals or to overcome obstacles in order to realize values.
Let me give you an example of what irritates me most about fantasy and then I'm going to tell you what I like best about it and why I write fantasy.
The thing that irritates me about fantasy is that . . . let's take a story in which a man has to save his daughter; his daughter is going to be kidnapped at school. He jumps in his car, turns the key, starts the engine, and races off after his daughter. If that was a fantasy book, some people would be saying, "Hey, wait a minute. How does his engine's fuel injection system work?" They would be missing the point of why it's important for the guy to go save his daughter.
Then, later in the book, when he has to race off after the ransom note and he must get there in time, he gets in his car and pumps the gas pedal and then gets the car started and races off. If this were fantasy, there would be some fantasy fans that would say, "Now, wait a minute. On page 23 you say he turned the key and the engine started, which would indicate it's a fuel injected engine, but on page 275, he pumped the gas pedal, which would seem to mean it's a carbureted engine. Now, which is it? How can you have this strange dichotomy? What could it rea11y mean?"
When I don't see the importance of such questions, some people become unhappy. I can see why they are unhappy: they are looking at it from a different perspective. But you have to understand that I only care if the guy saves his daughter. I don't care if his car has a carbureted engine or a fuel injected engine, or how many times he pumps the gas pedal. This is what I don't like about fantasy: this improper reliance on minutia that is irrelevant to the story.
Now, I'm going to tell you what I like about fantasy, and why I like to write fantasy: fantasy allows you to explore important human themes. I'll give you an example of this.
In the manuscript of Wizard's First Rule, which is twice as long as the book because it's double-spaced, there's a little tiny bitty torture scene with a woman named Denna, which lasts 70 pages. (Laughter) When my editor first saw this, he said, "Well, Terry, this is way too much and we need to cut down the explicit torture and violence."
The reason he said this is because I was successful in accomplishing my goal, and my goal was not to write about torture. My goal was to write about the true nature of abuse. The true nature of abuse is not violence or torture. What I was doing in that scene was showing you graphically the true nature, the true terror, of abuse.
I did that by trapping you in Richard's soul. Once I had you trapped in his soul, then you, too, became a captive of Denna.
The reason it's so terrifying is because you can't bargain your way out of it, you can't buy your way out of it, you can't escape, and, most importantly, you cannot reason your way out if it. At the base of human survival is reason. Richard is not able to use that most important human faculty of reason to escape.
That is the terror of abuse: helplessness.
When you understand what it's like to be helpless, and under the control of another individual who is irrational, then you know the true terror of abuse.
Now, if I would have written a story about a man married to a woman, and he drinks and beats her all the time, and she's trapped in this relationship, it might go right over your head because you've heard it so many times.
Fantasy allows me to show you in a new way why abuse is so degrading -in a way you've never seen before because it surprises you to come at it like this, in this manner, and you discover yourself trapped in this character, Richard. You then understand what he's experiencing.
When my editor and I went back, line by line, sentence by sentence, he discovered that there's only about a page or a page and a half in the beginning where it actually describes physical violence. The rest of the seventy pages are so torturous because you understand, now, how horrifying helplessness is.
That's why I like to write fantasy.
More importantly, you fall in love with Denna - even though, in the beginning, you want this woman to die a thousand deaths in a thousand different ways. By the end of it you come to identify with her and to like her. How does that happen? What makes you change from hatred to compassion for this woman?
The thing that makes you change is that Denna does something that she has never done before: she begins to use volition. She begins to make decisions on her own -to think. She begins to understand that life is valuable, and she comes to realize the value of life. She comes to realize the value of Richard's life. Because she makes that transition from monster into thinking human being, even though she's done horrible things, you can appreciate her.
That's why I like to write fantasy. That's why I think fantasy is valuable. Those are the kinds of things I want to use fantasy for. So I push the envelope of what is fantasy because I have my own mission of what it is I want to do.
When I'm writing, I'm telling myself a story. This thing that I create, when I'm creating it, is mine and mine alone. In Faith of the Fallen, when Richard talks about how he feels toward art, he is speaking for me. He's describing how I feel about what I do. When Richard is describing his feelings, that's me describing my feelings.
The fun you have when you read a novel is the same feeling of fun I have when I'm writing it. I get to have this fun seven days a week. It's the most terrific job I could have. It's my most noble ambition, my most noble goal. I also feel a deep responsibility to readers. I always write for myself and for intelligent readers. I never write down to readers. Not everyone gets it, but I think most people do.
I think readers are hungry for things that don't treat them as foolish children, but that speak to their values, that talk about the things in their life that are important. So, when I'm writing, I'm having this terrifically fun time and I'm telling myself this story, I'm writing the world that is for me reality recreated according to my view of the way the world should be, according to how, as Aristotle said, the world can and ought to be, how individuals can and ought to live, and what is important.
In order to accomplish those goals, I must write in concretes. When
I'm trying to express a concept, such as freedom is good, slavery is bad, well, to someone in prison, that means getting out of jail is good, being in jail is bad. To someone who is living under a repressive regime, and their family is being taken away in the night and murdered, it means something entirely different, so I have to give you concrete examples of why the things I'm saying are meaningful.
Why is love meaningful? What are the values in a loving, committed relationship that are important? I want to recreate in this world a loving relationship in which two human beings show what love can be about. That doesn't mean that they always get along. When Kahlan gets mad at
Richard, for example when he forgot to tell her that he was married before, a normal human reaction is to get angry. (Laughter) As you get older, you come to understand that just because you get angry with someone you love, it doesn't mean that you don't love them anymore. You may be angry at the situation and want them to correct their behavior, but that doesn't mean that you don't still love them.
The things that people love in others are the things that they love about themselves. I'm a loyal person; therefore I value that trait in others. A jewel thief might love a woman who is good at stealing jewels because he values that in himself. We seek those values that we like about ourselves. If we don't like ourselves, if we don't think we're valuable, if we don't think that our individual life is important, then we seek destructive relationships.
I don't want to write about destructive people triumphing. I want to write about people who have values that I appreciate, values that I look up to, triumphing.
This is a book about the triumph of ideas, about the triumph of the nobility of the human spirit, about how you can be the best you can be and succeed- how ideas can overcome force. It's an uplifting and inspiring book and I'm very proud of it.
Now, if anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
Question: The name of the series, The Sword of Truth, does that refer not only to the weapon, but also perhaps to Richard's -I guess it's his strongest weapon -his sense of reason?
Answer: That's right. The Sword of Truth series means at the surface level that this is a weapon used for seeking truth. That's the metaphysical form of the epistemological goal of seeking truth. Epistemology is a science devoted to the discovery of the proper methods of acquiring and validating knowledge. Richard's goal is to discover truth. As Zedd has told him and as he has often realized, the sword is not the real weapon, the human mind behind it, is. The sword is just a tool.
In life that's the way it is. We survive through our ability to reason, through truth. That's why non-thinking is death. That's why nonobjective writing, writing to no purpose, writing about a world which is just a series of random events, is not about life because human beings are volitional creatures who need the ability to reason in order to survive.
Human beings survive by using final causation. There are two kinds of causation: efficient and final. Efficient causation is, for instance, when I slap my hand on the table and it makes a sound. The cause of the sound is my hand hitting the table - that's efficient causation.
Man is uniquely able to act purposefully toward a flnal causation - toward a goal in the future. When you build a house, for example, you don't throw two-by-fours up in the air and hope they come down in the shape of a house. You use the process of efficient causation -you hit a nail and the reaction is that the nail is driven into the wood in order to nail boards together in the shape of a house. You make a blueprint; you know what the house is going to look like in the end because you have realized it first in your mind. Then you consciously go about using efficient causation to realize that final goal - the final causation.
A novel is the same thing. By using efficient causation, which is the things people do along the way, called a plot, you get to the final cause which is the climax. The plot is a logical progression of events toward a goal. There must be a goal because human beings must have goals in their lives or else they are wandering through life as non-thinking entities. You have to have a goal. It doesn't have to be something like being a novelist, a doctor, an astronaut. The goal can be to be a loving husband and raise a family; to pass along ideas of integrity and values. But you must have goals in life, otherwise you wander aimlessly.
Question: In the first book, the night wisp told Richard "tell the other night wisps my name, Shar, and they will help you." Is that ever going to happen in one of the future books?
Answer: Maybe. (Laughter.) I don't mean to evade your question; it's an honest question. I intend to give you the best answer I can give you, which is to say that, at this moment, I don't have a clue as to what the next book is about because I've devoted myself entirely to writing Faith of the Fallen. This is the way I write each book. I don't think about what's down the line because I'm thinking about this individual book. I have to work on the plot, the structure, the characters and the integration of all the themes into this one book. That's a very difficult task. It's fun, but it's hard work. So, I don't think about what's on down the line. I don't know if Richard is going to say Shar's name in another book. That's the first part of the answer.
The second part of the answer is that even if I did know, I couldn't tell you. (Laughter) Not because I'm trying to be evasive, but because the act f writing is a very personal dramatic undertaking. If I tell people things, t takes the fire out of that act of creation. When you're writing, you call upon your subconscious to give you the information you need to complete consciously directed goal. That may sound complex but you do it all the time, for instance, when you say to yourself, what's my phone number? Your phone number is stored in your subconscious mind. You don't think about it until you consciously need the phone number, then you call it into your conscious mind.
The creation of a novel is something so complex, so vast, that there is no way that anyone can hold all that information in their conscious mind at once. Take the small problem of writing a description of a sunset. Is the sunset going to be foreboding or romantic? You have to call from your subconscious the words that will make it one or the other -that will convey that sense to the reader. You have to have that information there in the first place. Throughout life we continually acquire information. This is one reason why a first grader can't write a brilliant novel. They simply don't have the information necessary.
Three or four years ago I couldn't have written Faith of the Fallen. I hadn't integrated enough concepts and ideas to get to the point where I could put together a book this demanding. I can, now, because I've made those connections in my subconscious.
What you have to do is understand all of the characters to the point where you can speak on their behalf. When we have a conversation, and I ask you a question, you answer from your premise. It's easy for you to do because you have a life-long experience of speaking for yourself, so you have no trouble answering. Characters engaged in conversation are revealing their character. I have to know what their character is like so that I can speak in their place without hesitation.
I'll give you an example of how this works. When Richard first told Zedd about Kahlan, if he would have said, "I can't wait for you to meet this girl - wait until you see the great body she's got," that would have told you something about Richard. Instead, Richard said, "I can't wait for you to meet Kahlan " -or something to this effect -"I feel as if I've always known her.” That says something profoundly different about Richard.
You have to know the character in order to speak on their behalf. I have to know Richard well enough to know he wouldn't make that first comment about Kahlan. I have to know Kahlan well enough to know what she would say. I know Richard and Kahlan well enough to be able to speak on their behalf in just about any conceivable situation. I know what they would answer. I know how they would feel.
I have to feel that same way about every character. When you're writing dialog and you're calling these things forth from your subconscious at a rapid pace and it's going smoothly, it feels like someone is channeling information to you and you're just writing it down. That's a misunderstanding of the writing process and a trap that writers fall into - of thinking they get inspiration from some mystical source. Inspiration comes to those who work hard. So, when I'm writing and it feels this way, I understand intellectually that it's my own subconscious feeding me the information I need when I need it -what Richard would say, what Kahlan would say -and it feels like the characters are speaking and telling me what to write. But I know that it's my own subconscious mind providing me the information I've already fed into it.
This is a process that requires intense concentration and a sense of drama. If I tell people what's going to happen, it's kind of like how it would take the fun out of telling a joke after you had told it a hundred times. It would become unemotional, unfunny, uninteresting. I don't tell people what's going to happen, not because I'm being stingy with information, but because it would harm the process of writing.
So, I can't answer the question, first because I don't know what future books are about and secondly because even if I did know what it was about I'm afraid I'd still have to decline.
Question: Have you already started working on the next book?
Answer: Not yet, because I'm on tour and getting to meet a lot of terrific people. This is an opportunity for me to say thank-you to people who are kind enough to give me a portion of their life in order for me to tell them a story.
Question: We know a little bit about the way Richard looks, that he's strong, that he's handsome, but what is it exactly that makes Richard so appealing to people?
Answer: In a single word: volition. Richard is a character of free will. He's a character interested in truth, and truth is essential to life. This is a person filled with respect for life -other people's and his own. Richard knows his own value. He knows that this is the only life he's going to have; he's not going to throw it away casually.
On a more surface level, one of the techniques I use is that I generally don't describe important characters in great deal. I may describe some less important character, or a villain, in more detail. The reason is that if I say Richard is handsome, you fill in the rest of it without realizing it. I'm giving you those blank spaces so that as you're reading along -and I fill the world with color, with light, with sound, with movement, with action -and leave out this little blank, your mind fills in what Richard looks like. You fill it in with your own concept of what is handsome. It would be a mistake for me to describe Richard as handsome in a certain way because that's not handsome to everyone. If I were to describe in great detail what Richard looks like and then said he's handsome, that would be wrong. I say Kahlan thinks he's the most handsome man she ever saw, or Kahlan loves his gray eyes, or something like that, and allow you to fill in details so that you're adding your own imagination to the book.
Also, I don't object to how people pronounce names. The first thing people ask is "How do you pronounce her name?" They're afraid to say it. Kay-lun is how I pronounce it. Some people pronounce it differently. Most of the names are very simple to pronounce because I don't feel it's fair to use unpronounceable names. When I do have a name you've never seen before, I try to make it easy and phonetic.
Also, since I have dyslexia, I'm the world's worst speller. When I first wrote about Sister Nicci, I spelled it N-i-c-c-i because I thought that was how you spelled Nicci (Pronounced Nikki). Now some people tell me that that isn't how you spell Nicci. Some people are pronouncing it Niche-e.
Well, that's okay. I don't mind. The reason that I don't mind how readers pronounce names is because I think that a story is completed when it exists in your mind. You're adding your life experience to that story. You're adding your intellect, your emotions, your feelings, your values, your ethics to the story .If you want the hero to look this way, or the heroine look this way, where I don't fill it in, I think that's terrific. You're adding part of yourself to the story; you're making it more personal.
How you pronounce names is the same thing. That's you own personal world, now. You got this book, it's yours, and you're giving over part of your life in return for me telling you this story. It's entirely legitimate for you to pronounce it how you please. But I pronounce it Kay-lun.
Question: You have alluded to the fact that you have dyslexia. I have attention deficit disorder. Where would you come from in terms of professional writing, coming from having a learning difference, or disability, or whatever you want to call it? Presently I'm in a writer's group here.
Answer: This is the way I describe dyslexia: dyslexia is about as troublesome as the fact that I was supposed to have three arms, but I don't, and so I have to make do with two.
It's a matter of perception. I didn't go through life going "Oh, I have dyslexia, and I have to overcome it." You simply do what you need to do. I have a problem deciphering words. If I try to read too fast I misread words. I read slowly because I can understand the words if I take my time.
I guess the question is how do you overcome the disorder you have and how does that effect your writing? There are always obstacles. I guess that if I have to have one, I'm going to choose dyslexia because there are many other truly hellacious obstacles.
Question: I'm interested in character development. With your artistic background, do you have your renderings of what your characters look like? Do you draw them out?
Answer: No. In my mind I know what they look like. Being an artist helps me to write because when you paint it's important to pick out those things in reality that relay to the viewer the sense of the scene. For example, in a caricature of a person, an artist is able to select just a few lines to make a face that looks like Bob Hope.
When you're writing, you're kind of doing the same thing. You need to select things out of the scene that portray it in as brief a time as possible - unless you want to take up space to pad the book. (Laughter) I'm able to pick out those things that recreate the reality of the scene; I can make you see it in your head. I think being an artist helps me do that.
Question: You said you only write one book at a time, so do you have an overall goal in mind? Will the ending catch you by surprise?
Answer: I have a concept of how I want the series to end, even though some things change along the way.
When I wrote Temple of the winds, I didn't know if I was ever going to be able to write a book up to that standard. I'd put everything I had into it, and I didn't know how I would ever outdo it. At that time I could never have envisioned Faith of the Fallen. I didn't have a clue about the story for Faith of the Fallen.
What I do is I write each book as a novel that stands alone. You could pick up Faith of the Fallen having never read any of my books and understand it as a complete, independent novel. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. I do that very deliberately, because I don't want to end the series prematurely. What I mean by that is that I don't want to miss out on writing a book like Faith of the Fallen. If I would have said, "Okay, there's going to be five books in the series," I would have ended the series without ever having written Faith of the Fallen.
I don't want to put an artificial limit on myself, on my creativity, by saying right now that there will be eight books, twelve books, or a hundred books in the series. There might be only seven books. I might sit down to write book seven and say,” All right, this is the end."
I just don't know. I get very frustrated with the fantasy genre. There are a lot of problems in writing fantasy. I go into airports while on this tour, and I'm number two on the New York Bestsellers List, and my book isn't in the airport bookstores. Every other book on the New York Times List is there, but mine's not - because it's fantasy. And I think to myself "Why am I fighting this? Why am I trying to swim upstream? I could write a mainstream novel; I'm not writing anything that's unique that has to be set in a fantasy world. I can write stories set in a mainstream novel."
I'd be just as happy writing a mainstream novel because I like writing stories about people. The world is irrelevant. I'm not world building.
Many people call me a master world builder. I don't take offense because I understand their context when they say that. As I've explained, I don't like pure world-building books, but that doesn't mean that I don't build worlds within the book. In this sense, john Grisham is a world- builder, Tom Clancy is a world-builder, because you have to create the world for the book to be set in. Every properly drawn character creates a world for the reader.
My grandmother came from Italy. When I was little, and she would tell me what life was like for her as a young girl in Italy, she was world- building in that sense. I knew the details of what her life was like. The hills where she worked to cut wheat, and how she would work all week in the fields and clear rocks, and then at the end of the week she would have enough money to go into town and buy the material and thread to make one dress. That was world building, but through her life. She didn't tell me about the kings of Italy and their descendants and the princes and what war had been fought three hundred years ago. She told me what it was like for her to cut wheat on the hillside in the summer sun, or to press olives, so that she could earn enough money to buy material to make herself a new dress she dearly wanted. That's world-building the way I build worlds: through the characters' life, through their eyes.
In Faith of the Fallen, I got to do something that was really fun for me to do. I got to revisit a scene from Stone of Tears through a different character's eyes, giving you a slightly different slant on the scene. You get to see the world through Sister Nicci's eyes. You see her personality overlaying a scene we previously saw through Richard's eyes. It creates a different twist on the world, because the world as I write it is what is contained in the mind of each character.
Every character brings with them what is noteworthy to them about their world. If you talk to a boat builder, his world is about wood and tools and boat building. If you talk to a jockey his world is different. They may be living half a mile apart, but their world is brought out through their point of view. That's the way I like to bring character out and the way I present the world.
Question: How well do you think you incorporate your personal philosophy in your writing?
Answer: Everything that you write, and how you write it, betrays your philosophy. If you think that life is meaningless, and that human beings cannot affect the course of their own lives, then what you write is going to betray that. You will write a non-objective story about someone, like a drug dealer, at the mercy of fate, who wanders aimlessly through life. Not only does your writing betray your philosophy, but your conscious intent amplifies it. I consciously write the kinds of stories that I'm proud of.
Question: You tell a story from a lot of people's point of view, like you tell Richard's story and Kahlan may be in a different place and she has her story. Usually they're pages apart and they're really intense. Do you think of it as Richard's story and how it will end, or as Kahlan's story and how that will end? Are you piecing it together as you go? Or at the end? How do you piece it all together? How do you integrate it at the end? Do you understand what I mean?
Answer: Yes - how do I keep all those threads of plot and subplot in different places and with different characters straight? How do I keep track of them all so that they come together in the end?
I'm able to keep track of the plot lines mentally. I have in my mind where everybody is at all times. To me it's just part of the job, part of telling a story .It does require a tremendous amount of concentration. I also rely on and trust my subconscious as I discussed earlier.
Question: After Franca Gowenlock was put to death, did Dalton Campbell feel anything? He seemed numbed, like his spirit had been killed. Did he feel anything for Franca?
Answer: This was a person he cared about and he didn't realize it. I don't want to give away too much for those who haven't read the book, but when she died, he realized then that the things he stood for were hollow. That's why he did what he did, afterward. He realized the things he stood for weren't upholding life, but instead embracing death.
Question: In Stone of Tears, there was a scene after Richard had been captured where he destroyed the bits of Sister Verna's horses because he felt they were too harsh. To me that seemed symbolic of what would later happen with the Rada'Han and how they controlled boys by force. Were you writing that scene with the horses' bits, thinking about what would happen later? Or was that something that developed as you wrote it?
Answer: I wrote that with clear, conscious forethought and intent. Symbolism, to be effective, must be legible. If I write something symbolic and no one gets it, then it's pointless. That scene was symbolic, showing Richard's feelings about control and the collar. It symbolized the larger theme of control. You understood it perfectly well.
Question: Do you find that as you write you have to do a lot of research? If you do, do you do it yourself?
Answer: Yes, to both questions. Every book I've written has had to have extensive research in one way or another. For Stone of Tears I had to learn about horses so I wouldn't say something foolish. For Soul of the Fire, for instance, I had to do a lot of research on medieval feasts and food because there was a lot of political intrigue at feasts.
For Faith of the Fallen, I had to do a lot of research on marble carving and stone work. I know how to carve stone and how to polish it, but I didn't know how they did it in a preindustrial world. I can use modern tools and such to do the job, but I needed to know how stone carvers in the 13, 14, l5th century accomplished what they did and what tools they used. There's not a lot of research on precisely what they did. We do also have partially carved statues so we can see evidence of the tools used.
One of the things I discovered when doing research about quarries in Italy, in Carrara, was about some of the foods they ate. One of those was lardo. Lardo is pig fat that's been cured for a year in marble vats, along with brine and spices. This is a real food that's been eaten by quarry workers for thousands of years, so I used it in Faith of the Fallen.
After I wrote the book, a friend who is a doctor read the book and said to me "1 didn't know you knew about lardo." I told him that I'd done research and told him what I'd learned about it. He told me something more that I didn't know. As it turns out, lardo is the subject of medical curiosity .It has been discovered that when it's cured in marble tubs for a year, the calcium carbonate in the marble leaches the cholesterol out of the pig fat. So, lardo is the only cholesterol free fat. It's has been a healthy source of energy for stone cutters for thousands of years.
Lardo is a strange word, but I used it anyway because I think it's a fascinating thing that really exists. Usually I'll make up a word that has a basis in a specific language. In this instance I kept the real word.
Question: Where do you get your ideas for names? Do you do research about different cultures?
Answer: Names are vitally important to me. They carry connotations that are difficult to quantify. Darken Rahl's name is threatening from the first time you hear it. I'm not entirely sure why. I know it's threatening but I don't think I could give you an analysis of precisely why. Part of it has to do with the sounds of words. I know that if the name had been Clarence it wouldn't have been as threatening. (Laughter)
Sometimes a name will pop into my head and it will be perfect. Like the little girl Rachel. She was Rachel from the first instant I thought her up. Sometimes, I will spend two days trying to figure out a name for someone because I want it to be the right name and I don't want it to carry the wrong connotation. I'll look up names, I'll write down names to see how they look, I'll do a number of things, like looking up the source of names, until I find one that fits. It's often difficult and it can be time consuming, but I won't use a name until it feels right to me.
Question: What kind of things are you trying to show about humanity through the character of Shota?
Answer: Richard had preconceived notions about Shota because she is as a member of a certain group: witches. This shows how people make the mistake of not valuing individuals, but valuing someone, instead, as a member of a group.
This muddled thinking leads to things like the dehumanizing concept of "hate crimes." What "hate crimes" do is to say that the real measure of the crime is in the mind of the murderer. What he was thinking qualified the crime -rather than that he took a human life. The very notion of "hate crime" is bigoted; it strips away the value of the victim's life and places the importance, instead, on their membership in a group. This is an attempt to wipe out the importance of the life of the human being who was murdered, and to establish instead that the "real" crime is that a member of a group, not a human being, was attacked.
These perverse notions leave in their wake young people who don't have any goals in life because life itself has been devalued for them. What society is telling them, is that human life isn't valuable -because it is the thoughts that make the crime serious. When you say that thoughts can make murder a more serious offense, you are devaluing human life.
When thoughts are the crime, then people always begin deciding what thoughts are "good" and what thoughts are "bad." It's only a matter of time until- since life isn't valuable, and thoughts are the test of value -that people by the millions are marched into gas chambers, or people by the millions are starved, because they don't have the right "thoughts." They have the wrong religion, or the wrong culture, so those members of a group with these wrong thoughts must die for these "crimes."
That's in part what I'm trying to show with Shota. When you first see her, you know she is a witch, and you have a prejudice against her because you think you know what she is like. That's what Richard did -that's the mistake he made. When he came to understand his mistake, he corrected it by beginning to recognize her as an individual. Richard, and later Kahlan, finally judged Shota as an individual, by what she actually did. By doing this, Richard was able to discover truth that helped him triumph.
Question: Is it intended that Jagang and Brother Narev are similar to the pope?
Answer: No. Jagang and Brother Narev are similar to any collectivist leader throughout history. They all conduct themselves in much the same way. Religion can be oppressive and religious leaders can behave in that fashion, but religion is not the distinguishing trait. Jagang and Narev are also the same as the real Dracula, as Pol Pot, as Saddam Hussein, as Mao Zedong. They all are dictators who preach that everyone must sacrifice themselves for the greater good. While these leaders gain personal power, they always leave a legacy of corpses in almost inconceivable numbers.
Question: I've heard some people compare Darken Rahl to Darth Vader, as in "Richard, I am your father." (Laughter) I know that's not the case-
Answer: Then that's all that matters.
Question: But is there something that you're exploring with him? Answer: Well, we're here because of our parents. We are part of both of our parents. That's always a fine brew. It can be the foundation of your nature. That's where we get many of our values -good or bad. I like to write about important human themes. I like to explore powerful human relationships. Parent and child in conflict has been the subject of stories from the dawn of mankind. Most people understand full well that these two stories are really quite different.
Question: When and if you say everything you want to say in the Sword of Truth, are there stories that you want to tell that are in some other setting? Some other world?
Answer: I'm a storyteller. I love to tell stories. Ever since I can remember I've been telling myself stories. The Sword of Truth is the way I enjoy telling stories right now. I enjoy telling stories about characters I value, characters I think are noble individuals. Richard and Kahlan are like that. There are also other characters in the stories like that.
I may at some point decide to write in some other format, or series, or genre for a variety of reasons. Fantasy is often very frustrating for me. Fantasy is the only genre in which some people read it simply to be unhappy and to complain. In other genres, say, for example, mystery, if you read a book and say "1 don't like this guy's books," you simply don't read them any more; you read, instead, someone else's books. But in fantasy, some people continue to read books they don't like and gripe endlessly about them. I find this mystifying. Life is too valuable to be voluntarily doing something that you don't like - not everyone is going to like the same thing. If you don't enjoy some person's books, or my books, or whoever's books, well, look around. This bookstore has thousands of books; find something you like.
I find that attitude disturbing -that there are people reading books they don't like - people with disapproval as their goal.
But to counter these few, I have to say that on this tour I've met a tremendous number of intelligent, brilliant, rational, wonderful people. This tour is my chance to say thank-you for bringing your intellect to my books. Thank you for rising to the occasion. Thank you for appreciating stories that I appreciate, and valuing noble characters who I value. In that we all share a common bond. I'm so happy to meet so many wonderful individuals, young and old alike. It's life affirming to me to know that I'm not the only one who cares passionately about good stories and noble characters.
Thank you all.