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Terry Brooks
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Terry Brooks   Terry Brooks is the New York Times best-selling author of the Shannara series and the Magic Kingdom of Landover series. His first book, The Sword of Shannara, was the first fantasy novel to ever appear on the New York Times bestseller list, where it remained for 5 months. George Lucas also asked him to write Star Wars episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Terry Brooks is one of the most popular fantasy authors alive with over 30 million books sold in North America alone.

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This episode originally aired on 11/5/2009 with the following authors:
Note: The following interview has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show. Please excuse any typos, spelling and gramatical errors.

Interview with Terry Brooks

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Matthew Peterson: Welcome to the Author Hour: Your Guide to Fantastic Fiction. Iím your host, Matthew Peterson. Last week on my faery episode, I had Holly Black, Tony DiTerlizzi, Melissa Marr, Maggie Stiefvater, and Terry Pike. Todayís episode is with the masters of traditional fantasy, quests and adventure with Terry Brooks, Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weis, R. A. Salvatore, and Brandon Sanderson. Combined, these authors have sold well over a hundred million books. Enough for each family in the United States to own a copy. My next guest is Terry Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of the Shannara series and the Magic Kingdom of Landover series. His first book, The Sword of Shannara was the first fantasy novel to ever appear on the New York Times bestseller list, where it remained for 5 months. George Lucas also asked him to write the Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Heís one of the most popular fantasy authors alive with well over 30 million books sold domestically. Thanks for being on the show today, Terry.

Terry Brooks: Hi Matthew, thank you for having me.

Matthew Peterson: Letís go back to 1977. What gave you the idea to write The Sword of Shannara?

Terry Brooks: Well, thatís a fairly complicated question. I basically started out like most young writers, experimenting with different types of fiction. And all the things I tried, Iíd write part of it and then Iíd lose interest and things would drop away. While this was going on in my teen years, I was doing a lot of reading, of course, as well and trying to find a form that I really liked. Then I read The Lord of the Rings, and I thought, ďHereís the format for an adventure story.Ē But unlike Tolkien, who was a scholar, I didnít want all that excess baggage in the form of appendices and so on and so forth. I just wanted a straight forward Count of Monte Cristo kind of story. So, I jettisoned all of the extras and just wrote it in that form.

Matthew Peterson: I know a lot of people have referred to you as more of like a ďModern-day TolkienĒ. Iíve read the Tolkien books and Iíve read your books and I think that your books, though there are some similarities--fantasy, and a quest and so forth--I think your books have been more accessible. You know, a little easier read.

Terry Brooks: Well, I think youíre right. I mean, we as writers who both approach our writing with our backgrounds in tact. Tolkien approached it as an academic, and he was writing it as an academic effort, not as popular fiction. Iím a popular fiction writer, thatís the way I approached it. And I think that youíre right, too, about the fact that I was heavily under the influence of Tolkien when I wrote Sword of Shannara and it shows in that particular book. But Iíve really gotten a long way away from Tolkien these days and not very many people come up to me any more and say, ďWell, gee, youíre writing an awful lot like Tolkien.Ē They donít say that any more.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah. For the new comers who havenít read them yet, tell us just a little bit about it, like the premise of the story itself.

Terry Brooks: Well, you know, I write, pretty much, the same story all the time. Itís the little guy against the big combine kind of thing. Where somebody who doesnít want to be in a position, is put in that position and forced to find a way out of it. And they havenít chosen to saddle themselves with all the problems visited upon them, but they have to find their way through. And they do it by exercising responsibility and making good choices and just toughing it out. I kind of think thatís where audiences identify with what Iím writing about. And Iím writing about a post-apocalyptic world in which magic has replaced science as the driving force in society. But it also works the same way that science works. Which means, of course, that sometimes itís used for good, sometimes itís not and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesnít and sometimes you donít know how itís going to turn out. So, thatís kind of the basic premise of what Iím doing with that series, which I guess is now at somewhere like 16 books.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, thereís quite a few books in there. So, the last one thatís been published is The Gypsy Morph.

Terry Brooks: Morph, right.

Matthew Peterson: Tell us a little bit about that book, specifically.

Terry Brooks: Well, this whole Genesis series, the three books are actually the prequel to the Shannara books that went before. And it talks about the time when the old world was destroyed and the new world began to develop. And itís a big time line, itís about a thousand years of history. So, you can tell Iím not going to write the whole thing, so Iím skipping in generational fashion through different cycles of the story. And the first story really is about what happens when the perfect storm of nuclear explosions and poisons and chemical destruction, various other things, come together to wipe out almost all of civilization, along with a little help from some very bad people.

Matthew Peterson: That is such an interesting thing because the very first books are very high fantasy . . .

Terry Brooks: Oh very, yes.

Matthew Peterson: . . . and so all of a sudden you get into [laughs] . . .

Terry Brooks: Yeah, the end of this world as we know it. Itís pretty dark stuff, but I write books that I think are basically uplifting. People who are placed in difficult situations, find ways to overcome the obstacles placed in front of them. And even the destruction of the world doesnít destroy mankind; it simply makes it imperative that they find a way to survive and regenerate. And thatís basically what happens in the Genesis series.

Matthew Peterson: Mm hmm. You also have another series called Word and the Void. I havenít read that one yet. Thatís on my to-do list. Does that play a role in the Shannara series?

Terry Brooks: Well, it does, probably Running with the Demon, which is the first book in that series, is a good a book as I can write. I really love that book and I think it was the perfect book for me. It is a prequel to the prequel, I guess you would say. Itís a dark fantasy set in the present, in the contemporary world. And it posits that thereís a schematic of magic out there that is consistent with everything we know to be true about the way the world is. So, you know, you donít have dragons flying around or anything like that. What you have are bad things happening because thereís a war going on in the underground of society between two different sides. And the upshot of it is, is that if the bad guys are successful, the world will be destroyed and weíll see what happens in the Genesis series. If the good guys win, then theyíll be able to prevent it, and I guess you can figure out who won that battle.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Well, thereís three books, so . . .

Terry Brooks: Right!

Matthew Peterson: Well, thatís exciting. One of the things, you know, for over 30 years now, I mean, people have been waiting for a movie to come out. I know the option has been bought. But whatís the status? Iíve heard some talk about The Elfstones of Shannara? Whatís the status of the movie?

Terry Brooks: Well, thereís two movies in the works. At Universal, Magic Kingdom for Sale is under option. And they are in the process of having a screenplay written for that. I should say, a second screenplay written for that. And that option actually runs out in April. So, weíll know by April if thatís going to come to fruition or not. The whole Shannara series is under option over at Warner Bros. And that particular option is also in some state of flux. And I do not know at this point exactly whatís going on over there. Supposedly theyíre developing it, but you know, you canít really be sure. Iím up here in Seattle, so I donít know whatís going on down there. [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Well, itís one of those things . . . definitely cross your fingers. ĎCause you have a fan base, and we want a movie.

Terry Brooks: Well, it would be lovely if it would happen. It would be even better if they would make a good movie. And Iím hopeful that one of these two projects will actually come to pass and weíll see the kind of movies that readers deserve. But as we know, thereís been a lot of movies made that are not The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter out of fantasies that are only mediocre at best.

Matthew Peterson: Yes, yeah.

Terry Brooks: And thatís what youíre really afraid of. So, I can control with what happens with the books. I canít control what happens with the movies. And you just have to accept that, I think.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. As Iíve been speaking with authors. Iím finding more in that realm of the, ďI wasnít too excited about the movieĒ, you know, when the movie actually was made.

Terry Brooks: You know, weíre writers! And writers are book people, at least they should be. So the whole idea of worrying about movies to me seems a little weird anyway.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah.

Terry Brooks: I just do what everybody else does. Light a candle in the window and hope for the best.

Matthew Peterson: Yep. Letís move over to The Magic Kingdom of Landover. This is a new series for me that I had never read before until just recently. Just like a couple months ago I really got into them. And I havenít gotten to the last book and I was excited to see that there was another book in there, Ďcause itís been several years since the . . .

Terry Brooks: A long time. Itís actually been about a dozen years. I wrote three books in the Magic Kingdom series in the Ď80s, one right after the other. And then in the mid Ď90s two more. And then I put the whole series aside for a dozen years Ďcause I really didnít have a story I wanted to write.

Matthew Peterson: Mm hmm

Terry Brooks: And because that particular series is grounded in autobiographical elements and my life was, you know, there was nothing really, I didnít think important enough to try to build a story around. Then after letting it go for a long time and listening to readers say, ďWell, why arenít we getting a book from Magic Kingdom? Why is it always Shannara?Ē And the publisher was saying to me, ďDidnít we pay you for that book a while back?Ē

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Terry Brooks: ďSo, do you plan to write it in your life time, or what?Ē So, I decided to write a book about the only child of Ben and Willow, who is this magically enhanced little girl, named Mistaya. And I thought, ďWell, weíll make her a teen. Thatíll make her more interesting.Ē So, thatís what Princess of Landover is about, is her struggles with being a teenager, first in Benís old world, our world, where things donít go so well for her, and then back in Landover where she tries to find her way back to being what her parents hoped that she might be.

Matthew Peterson: That series is such and original concept. I actually listened to the audio books, Iím a big audio book person.

Terry Brooks: Oh yeah.

Matthew Peterson: And it was really great. When I get to the last one, Iíll probably do the audio book . . .

Terry Brooks: Yeah.

Matthew Peterson: I donít know if thereís the same narrator, but he did such a great job, with the books.

Terry Brooks: Yeah, Iíve heard that before. I think it was Dick Hill.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah.

Terry Brooks: In fact Tangle Box won an award for that particular rendition. He did a terrific job.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Terry Brooks: Iíll give you a quick low down on that first book, Ďcause itís kind of interesting. It was an idea that my editor, Lester Del Rey, came up with and he lent it to me for a year.

Matthew Peterson: Oh!

Terry Brooks: After telling me he didnít think I could write the book, he said I wasnít the right author, and blah, blah, blah. And he said, ďBut Iíll give it to you, and if you write the book, then you can keep it.Ē And he envisioned it as a Piers Anthony kind of story, as a Xanth story. But I saw it as something much darker, so thatís the way I ended up writing it.

Matthew Peterson: Huh!

Terry Brooks: He didnít ask for the idea back, so I guess he was happy.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, yeah. Well, it was such an interesting idea, I mean the first book is called, Magic Kingdom for Sale--Sold! [laughs]

Terry Brooks: Yeah, right! He added that ďSold!Ē part. It was his title, too, because I was calling it Holidayís Magic. And he said, ďNaa, I donít like that titleĒ. So, he called it Magic Kingdom for Sale--Sold! and then after a while he stamped sold, like on a real estate sign, over the end of it. It was a clever idea.

Matthew Peterson: It was clever, Ďcause thatís one of those series that I knew I wanted to read. Years and years and years I saw the book, but that title was so memorable to me, that, like I said, just a few months ago, I picked them all up and listened to all the audio books.

Terry Brooks: Well, good, Iím glad you got to them!

Matthew Peterson: Yeah, and now Iím very excited for the Princess of Landover because I really enjoyed that series and Iím glad to see that you got another one. Do you plan on, perhaps, doing another one after this one?

Terry Brooks: Well, Iíve left it open. When you read the book, youíll see at the end, itís left open, clearly for a sequel to this one and I probably will write it, down the road, somewhere, but itís not in the immediate future where Iíve already locked myself into some other projects.

Matthew Peterson: Okay. Last question, what are the newest projects that you have? What can we expect from you?

Terry Brooks: Oh, okay. Well, Iím just finishing two books in the Genesis series, the next two, actually. Itís a set of two that take place 500 years in the future, after Gypsy Morph. Finishing those up, and then my plan is to write a new set of books in the future of Shannara that take place after the conclusion of the books in High Druid. So that should keep me off the streets for a while. I do know I want to write something different and new and I will probably do that in the next five years. And of course the Magic Kingdom people are already saying, ďWhenís the next book?Ē So . . .I need to clone myself.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Yep. Well, Iím so glad I was able to talk with you, Terry. Iíve been speaking with Terry Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of the Shannara series and the Magic Kingdom of Landover series. Thanks so much for being on the show today, Terry.

Terry Brooks: Oh it was a joy. Thank you very much, Matthew.

Matthew Peterson: Donít go away, Iíve got the creators of the Dragonlance series coming up next: Tracy Hickman, and Margaret Weis.

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