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A Conversation With Raymond E. Feist
An interview with Wayne MacLaurin
November 1999

Raymond E. Feist
Raymond E. Feist
Raymond E. Feist has produced some remarkable novels. Most fall into his Riftwar Saga, consisting of Magician: Apprentice, Magician: Master, Silverthorn, and A Darkness at Sethanon, along with his Midkemia series consisting of Prince of the Blood and The King's Buccaneer, plus The Serpentwar Saga, consisting of Shadow of a Dark Queen, Rise of a Merchant Prince, Rage of a Demon King, and Shards of a Broken Crown. His most recent series, Riftwar Legacy continues the tradition started in 1982.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Krondor: The Assassins
SF Site Review: Krondor the Betrayal
SF Site Review: Serpentwar Saga
SF Site Review: Serpentwar Saga
SF Site Review: Rage of a Demon King
SF Site Review: Shards of a Broken Crown
SF Site Review: Shards of a Broken Crown
Return to Krondor (computer game) FAQ
Betrayal at Krondor (computer game) FAQ
Sierra Studios
Download Betrayal at Krondor

Krondor: The Assassins
Krondor:  The Betrayal
Shadow of a Dark Queen
Rise of a Merchant Prince
Rage of a Demon King

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions and to discuss your work. You have probably answered some of these a couple dozen times but I'll try and get a few originals into the mix.
I'll see what I can do.

Most readers know that the latest Krondor books are novelizations of the computer games Betrayal at Krondor and Return to Krondor. Why did you decide to "go back" and do these novelizations? You've commented before that it breaks your own rules.
Mostly because Neal Halford came up with a significant long term plot issue, why the Tsurani were not very active in Midkemian stories after the Riftwar. The issue of the Betrayal was so central to that, I felt the need to comment upon it. My choices were to ignore the games and put them "outside" of continuity or to integrate them. I chose the latter. There were problems doing it that way, but I wanted to avoid the Star Trek-ish fan nonsense of debates over why there were smooth headed and bumpy headed Klingons. Neal had a couple of good ideas and they fit nicely, so that's the way I decided to go.

I've heard you talk about your novels as a series of arcs, which I assume, span the various series. How far into the future of Midkemia have you mentally scripted out?
Well, the farther down the timeline I go, the vaguer things become, but the overall story concepts span about 500 years.

What's next? I've heard mention of Conclave of Shadows. Can you give us some hints of what's coming?
Conclave of Shadows is the next "down the timeline" series. It's set in the Eastern Kingdoms and will be about half-way between the "high fantasy" of the Riftwar and the "court intrigue" of the Empire Series in tone. More I won't say, except to mention the name of the central character of the first book, a tribal youngster named Talon of the Silver Hawk.

Have you been consciously writing more elaborate plots and concentrating on more character development with each new novel, or is it more of an unconscious result of having lived within your own creation for so long?
Probably both. One likes to think one grows as a writer as one ages, else all you get is an "old" young writer. Beyond that is the changing landscape of the universe and the stories I choose to tell. I've got to keep fresh and try new things. Also, it's risky to try to duplicate earlier success. Magician had a certain charm to it, mostly due to my choice of lead characters, that I would be hard put to duplicate. Knowing this, I consciously moved in a different direction. And, let's be honest, it's a trap to fall in love with a set of characters and stay with them too long.

Is that the reason why you took the rather shocking step of killing Duke James in the SerpentWar? I would think it is obvious that Jimmy the Hand is both a fan and author favourite!
Indirectly. There were two things going on: 1) I had already established in my own mind where I wanted to go with the next series, and having James around as a Grey Eminence would have complicated matters. He had had an amazing life and it was time to bid him good-bye. 2) I also knew I was doing the Krondor series, so there would be more "Jimmy the Hand/James" stories despite his demise in the Serpentwar Series. From that point of view, his death wasn't particularly shocking.

You are going to be jumping both in timeline and in location for the new series. That gives you the opportunity to introduce a new cast, unburdened by your own success, so to speak.
To an extent. There's always going to be comparisons, and that's unavoidable. There are people out there who feel I hit my peak with Magician and have gone downhill since. There are people who will tell you there was something special about that book and everything else has been anti-climax. In a sense they're right; you can't lose your virginity more than once (though I did know this one young woman who claimed virginity several times in her youth, but that's a different story). You can only have one first born child. You may love all your children deeply and with passion, but there is something unique about the first born. On the other hand, because I'm not trying to duplicate anything with my various projects, they aren't "pale imitations" of earlier works, either. In the end, my reasons for moving down the timeline and introducing a new cast have more to do with keeping myself entertained, on the assumption that if I get bored, my readers are going to be even more bored.

As you get further down the timeline, are we eventually going to get a glimpse into any of the stories that made up the original Midkemia games?
Probably not (I won't say certainly because "never say never"). The stories underlying games are by design often silly and/or tedious. If you enjoyed playing a game, it doesn't necessarily mean you'd enjoy reading about it. For example, a hundred pages of "we kicked down the door, killed the amorphous gluck, took the treasure, healed our wounds, kicked down another door, killed another gluck, took another treasure... etc." doesn't have a lot of appear to me as a writer.

Have you given any thought to going further back in time rather than forward? Perhaps a tale of the founding of the Kingdom?
Probably not. I won't say never, because you never know when an idea might spring to mind, but mostly the epoch I'm writing about begins with the first Riftwar, and that's where I'm probably going to start "Midkemian History" at least as I write it.

Getting back to Conclave... Rise of a Merchant Prince is probably my favourite of the Midkemia novels. I found the choice to concentrate on Roo's story completely unlike traditional action-driven fantasy. Is that the direction you are taking with the new series?
Not so much, in terms of Roo's being pretty mundane in his concerns and issues (finance, infidelity, a little murder, and no magic), but similar in the sense it'll be a different set of problems and circumstances than we've seen before. Conclave starts off with a pretty straight ahead revenge tale, and it gets very complicated for the characters involved after a while. One of the key issues will be personal honour vs. the good of the many, and unforeseen consequences.

I've also heard mention of a project called The Jigsaw Lady.
Jigsaw Lady is the working title of a science fiction novel I've had in my head for darn near 15 years. I think I'll start work on it next year (in all my spare time) but I'd like to get it finished some day.

Anything else you'd like to give a try? Its been a long time since Faerie Tale. Or, does Midkemia keep the urge to write going strong?
I'd like to do another dark fantasy. Heck, I'd like to try a quirky "Elmore Leonard"-like character-driven "screwed up crime caper" book, or a compelling police procedure novel. Most writers I think would like to try a half-dozen things they'll never get around to.

I've talked to a few other writers who have felt, at times, that writing "what's expected" has become more of a job than a passion. Have you ever found this a problem in the 17 (gads!) years since Magician?
Sometimes, but then I remember selling cars on Reseda Boulevard in August (think 110 in the shade) and I remember real tedium. Writing is hard work; it's also the best job I've ever had.

Yes... I can see how you might prefer one job to the other!
No contest. I enjoyed the "people" aspect of sales, but the haggling, the rinding, the tedium... thanks, but I'll keep on writing if I'm permitted.

I wanted to get off the topic of your writing for a moment and on to something internet related. Some of our readers undoubtedly subscribe to the very popular feistfans-L mailing list. How do you find the time to answer all those questions.
I make time. If I leave my computer, I'm probably not going to get back for hours. If I take a few minutes to answer questions and go web surfing, then guilt kicks in and I get back to work. And yakking with my readership keeps me a bit more in touch. It can get very strange at times, working in a relative vacuum. While I don't write to prescription, I do listen to what people are saying to determine if things are going as I wanted. Often I'll try things that just won't happen the way I'd like them to, so hearing that they're not working saves me some wear and tear the next time around.

One more, and the last, off topic question. I've heard you are a wine lover. What are your favourites? Personally, I'm partial to massive Australia Shiraz that are so dark that they look like indian ink (and stain just about as badly)!
I'm open to anything that's good. I love Ozzie Shiraz, and admire them as much for their differences from Château-Neuf-du-Pape, Hermitage, Côte du Rhône and California Syrrah, as much as I enjoy the similarities. I'm a huge fan of Cabernet and Bordeaux, and am passionate about Pinot Noir and Burgundies. I'm just learning about Italians (I've only been doing this for 30 years, after all) and discovering great Italian whites. Spanish wines are next on my list of things to study. (laughs...)

Well, that about wraps this up. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us and good luck with those Spanish wines.

Copyright © 1999 by Wayne MacLaurin

Wayne MacLaurin is a regular SF Site reviewer. More of his opinions are available on our Book Reviews pages.

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