Born in Massachusetts in 1959, Robert Salvatore’s love affair with fantasy, and with literature in general, began during his sophomore year of college when he was given a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as a Christmas gift. He promptly changed his major from computer science to journalism receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communications from Fitchburg State College in 1981, then returned for the degree he always cherished, the Bachelor of Arts in English. He began writing seriously in 1982, penning the manuscript that would become Echoes of the Fourth Magic.
His first published novel was The Crystal Shard from TSR in 1988. Since that time, Robert has published numerous novels, including the New York Time bestselling The Halfling’s Gem, Sojourn, and The Legacy. Robert held many jobs during those first years as a writer, finally settling in (much to our delight) to write full time in 1990. Over three million R.A. Salvatore novels have been sold with many translated into different languages and audio versions. CrossGen will be releasing his latest graphic novel, DemonWars volume 2: Eye for an Eye, later this year.
In the fall of 1997, Robert’s letters, manuscripts, and other professional papers were donated to the R.A. Salvatore Library at his alma mater, Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. When he isn’t writing, Robert attends his three children’s hockey games, horse shows, and fencing events. His gaming group of 18 years still meets on Sundays to play everything from Nintendo 64 to the AD&D game, and even set up its own company: Seven Swords. His hobbies include softball, hockey, and music, particularly a good blast of Mozart while tooling down the highway. He makes his home in Massachusetts, with his wife Diane, and their three children, Bryan, Geno, and Caitlin, their dog, Puddles, and a calico cat named Guenhwyvar.
More information about his books can be found at his web site: http://www.rasalvatore.com
Debbie Ledesma: How long have you been writing? Was it difficult getting published?
R.A. Salvatore: I started writing in 1982. I finished my first novel in the spring of 1983. I wasn't planning on publishing the book; I just wanted something to distinguish me from the other "Social Security numbered" working stiffs. I wanted something my kids would someday show to my grandkids.
Well, friends read it and loved it and said I should publish it. So I tried - and got hammered with rejection letters. That just made me more determined, though. If you tell me I can't do something, I get very stubborn and work hard to prove you wrong. I landed my first book contract in 1987.
DL: Do you find writing books based on role playing games easier to write then your own creations?
RAS: No. In both cases, these are my own creations. In both cases, it's the scope of the book itself, not the amount of world building I need to do or the amount of world research I need to do, that determines the difficulty of the book. One of the most difficu lt books I've written was Sojourn because I had to bring the Drizzt story in line with a previously written work, namely The Crystal Shard.
If you look at my work in the Realms, you'll see that I've spent a great amount of time finding places to stay out of other peoples' way. Icewind Dale is my creation, as much as is Corona of the Demonwars saga. Same with Menzoberranzan - using the mythologies of Gary Gygax and others instead of the real-world mythologies I used in the Corona setting.
Working in a shared world can be frustrating of course, as when things are printed that affect your work and for which you were not consulted. It can also be incredibly rewarding, like when Ed Greenwood and I shared ideas of what Longsaddle should look like.
DL: Do you have ideas for any other books besides your current series?
RAS: At this point, I don't even know where my current series is going! I do hav eon other book that I'm planning to write, but I'm not starting it un Átil next year and I won't talk about it, because when it comes out, it will be under a pen name. I don't want anybody reading it with any preconceived notions.
DL: One of your most popular characters is Drizzt. What do you think readers find appealing about him? Who is your favorite character to write?
RAS: Drizzt is a classic romantic hero. Misunderstood, often wrongly persecuted - sounds like High School, right? Add to that his indomitable spirit and high moral code and his ability to kick some butt and you have someone who offers hope to people who feel powerless.
That's what I think, but I honestly don't KNOW why Drizzt has become such a huge popular hit.
My favorite character to write? That changes all the time. Marcalo De'Unnero from DemonWars would be up there, as would Bruenor and Drizzt. Pikel Bouldershoulder is a blast, but Oliver deBurrows of the Crimson Shadow books takes the prize for comedy, with Pikel and Thibbledorf Pwent coming in at a second-place tie.
DL: How is The Highwayman different from your other books?
RAS: First of all, it's a stand-alone novel. You don't have to read anything before it or after it. It's a book, not a piece of a larger series, and that seems unusual in fantasy these days. This has been my plan since I started DemonWars: I wrote seven books to define the boundaries - magical, social, geographical and political - of the world and now I can go there and just tell stories.
Second, I made The Highwayman>/u> more human-centered than anything I've ever done. There are non-human monsters, but every named character is human, and some, like Bransen, are very, very human. I wanted the book to be accessible to people who don't read fantasy; the book a Drizzt reader can give to his girlfriend who keeps asking him what he's reading.
DL: What authors do you enjoy reading?
RAS: I'm all over the place with my reading. Generally these days I stay out of the fantasy genre altogether. I do enjoy David Gemmell and Terry Brooks.
Currently I'm devouring political books. We've got an important election coming up and I want to be as informed as possible. Right now I'm slogging through the Tom Clancy/Anthony Zinni collaboration. It's slow going.
DL: What do you think are the reasons for the popularity of Fantasy?
RAS: Because the world is dangerous and times are tough and the News makes a point of being depressing ("blood leads") and scary. Because work, for most people, is mundane and boring and overwhelming. Fantasy is the ultimate escapist fiction, and "escapism" isn't such a bad word to so many people.
Also, between Harry Potter and the Jackson "Lord of the Rings" movies, fantasy has been thrust into the imaginations of many, many more people.
DL: Could you give some advice to aspirin æg writers?
RAS: Sure: if you can quit then quit. I mean that with all my heart and soul. If you can walk away from this ugly business, then don't walk, run!
If you can quit, then quit, and if you can't quit, you're a writer. You don't
write to get published or to get rich and famous (because few writers get
published and a tiny speck of a percentage become rich and an even tinier speck of a percentage become famous). You write because you have stories clawing at the inside of your skin, desperately trying to tear free.
Once that question is settled, my advice would be to study the business of
writing as well as studying literature. Go to the library and look in "The
Writer's Market" or "The Literary Marketplace." Find out how to submit your
work, to whom and in what format. Every little piece is important.
DL: What books are you working on now?
RAS: None! I'm on vacation for the first time in 16 years. I'll start a new
Forgotten Realms book featuring Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle later this summer.
DL: Thank you very much for the interview Mr. Salvatore.