Terry Brooks

Terry Brooks (JUDINE BROOKS PHOTO / July 24, 2013)

Terry Brooks

July 26, 7:30 p.m., The Mark Twain House & Museum, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford, (860) 247-0998, marktwainhouse.org

 

When The Sword of Shannara was published in 1977, it was promoted as the book to read after finishing The Lord of the Rings. Since then Terry Brooks has been one of the leading fantasy writers of his generation, making his own idiosyncratic mark on the genre from the environmental themes running through the books to Brooks' habit of undermining and subverting genre tropes and expectations. In addition, he writes about a constantly changing world where there is no idyllic golden age to return to and where the future is always uncertain.

Brooks will be appearing at the Mark Twain House on July 26 to talk about his long career and his new book Witch Wraith. What follows is an excerpt from a phone conversation before he set out on the book tour.

 

The Dark Legacy Trilogy, which concludes with your new book, is a sequel to The High Druid Trilogy, which you wrote almost a decade ago. What brought you back to this world and time after being away?

When I finish one book or one series it always tells me where I need to go next. It really depends on what interests me at any given point. I try not to spend any too much time on any one thing because then you tend to burn out a lot easier. I try to stay fresh by moving around. I've been in this Shannara series for a quite a while now — probably too long. I'm at a point now where I feel like I need to write something else. It's all part of an effort to bring the thing to a close, too. I'm working toward wrapping the whole thing up in the next five years.

When you say wrapping it up, do you mean the Shannara series?

It's a generational saga and we're in different time periods, so you can pretty much write in this world forever, but I've been leading toward a conclusion for the last dozen years. I don't want to be dead when it gets written. I'd just as soon do it myself while I'm still in a place where I can do it.

That answer opens up so many questions.

[Laughs.] I bet it does. You can overstay your welcome in any series, no matter how well written it is or how much people like it. I'd rather leave people wanting more. I'm sensing that it's time to do that. I just feel like I should get it to a conclusion, and then if I do want to go back and write something else, I can always do that.

Grianne, the Ilse witch, plays a role in this new book and has played a dominant role over nine books, more than any other character. Did you plan that from the beginning?

When you start out to write a story, you don't always see all of the aspects of the story and so you're not real sure what's going to come into play once you start the actual writing. You can plan all you want, but it doesn't actually resolve all the issues that crop up along the way.

When I'm writing about something it's usually to answer a question or two that are troubling to me. The question I set out to explore is about transgression and redemption. If you cross that line, where public opinion of you is such, how far can you cross over that line before you can come back again? Can you simply say, "Oh, I made a mistake and now I want forgiveness?" I don't think life is that simple. That sounds a little pretentious, I know, because mostly what I'm doing is telling stories, and storytelling is the primary focus of this kind of literature. You can get carried away, but I think it's good to have that underlying foundation that readers can latch onto because they understand it in their own lives, and so you try to make the story work on more than one level.

I know that they're not as successful as the Shannara books, but I'm a fan of your Landover series. To what degree are they semi-autobiographical?

Very. When I wrote Magic Kingdom for Sale, I was contemplating leaving the law and becoming a full-time writer, but I hadn't made the leap yet. I was speculating about how the grass always seems greener on the other side, but of course there's a whole new set of problems once you get there. Metaphorically, Magic Kingdom was my rumination on where I was in my life. Most of those stories since then have had an element of something that was true about myself or my family, or people in my family. Did you read Princess of Landover? Remember the girl gets thrown out of school? That happened to one of my children, and it happened in much the same way it happened to Mistaya in the book. You've got to write what you know [laughs].