Sunday, May 05, 2002

Interview: R.A. Salvatore

Considering his last foray into the "Star Wars" universe, R.A. Salvatore may seem like an odd choice to write the novelization of "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones."

In 1999, he was pegged to write "Vector Prime," the book that introduced the "New Jedi Order Series." In that book, he had the unenviable task of killing one of the heroes, Chewbacca.

When he found that out, Salvatore says he had to be convinced to take the job.

"When they told me to do it, I told them to take their money back," he says. "I want to be remembered for the `Dark Elf' and `Demonwars' series, not as `the guy who killed Chewbacca.' I love Chewie."

Del Rey and Lucasfilms were finally able to convince him they were doing it for the "right reasons." They needed to inject a little reality and suspense back into the "Star Wars" universe. He gave in, and the book became a best seller - despite ruffling a few feathers among fans.

Still, it was a bit of a shock to Salvatore when he got the call from Del Rey to write the novelization of the new movie.

He says his initial reaction was mixed. He was unsure about returning to the "Star Wars" universe, instead preferring to focus on his own projects.

But the author of the earlier "Phantom Menace" novelization gave him a not-so-subtle wake up call.

"I got a call from Terry Brooks, and he said: `Are you nuts?'" Salvatore says, with a laugh. "I don't think I really got it that George Lucas was asking me to write the novelization of a `Star Wars' movie. I don't think it clicked."

Surprisingly, he had the same hesitations when asked to write his first "Star Wars" book.

"When I agreed to write `Vector Prime,' I thought I was doing them a favor," he says. "Then I realized: I'm writing dialogue for Princess Leia. How cool is that?"

One of the challenges of writing a "Star Wars" novelization is dealing with rabid enthusiasts - fans who know every minute detail about the universe. Salvatore says his experiences on his own "Dark Elf" series, which has spanned 14 years and 15 novels, have helped prepare him for that.

"There are people who read the books over and over again - and I have a hard time remembering things I wrote in 1990," he says. "It's the same way with `Star Wars.' The hardcore fans know more about the expanded universe than I did and do. So I just try to tell a good story. If you read the book and enjoy it, then I've done my job."

Salvatore says he would love to be chosen to write the novelization of "Episode III," but he's not expecting the call. He says Lucas and Del Rey want a different author for each book.

But, after many conversations with Lucas while writing "Episode II," he's excited about where the movies are going.

"I'd love to be a part of `Episode III,' as a co-screenwriter or in some other way," he says. "I know where (Lucas) is going with it, and I think he's doing it the right way."


In the meantime, Salvatore has several other projects. His latest "Demonwars" novel "Transcendence" hit the shelves recently; he's an advisor for a new "Forgotten Realms" series on the drow (dark elves) from Wizards of the Coast; and his most popular character, the dark elven ranger Drizzt Do'Urden, returns in the fall in the first book of the "Hunter's Blade" trilogy.

"As a writer, I couldn't ask for anything more than I've got," Salvatore says.

He's currently working on the final book in the "Demonwars" series, which should be out around this time next year. Salvatore thinks this series features some of his best work, saying it has "challenged me on every level as a writer." Too, Salvatore is eager to finish the final volume "Immortalis," and get it on the shelves.

"I'm going to line them up on my bookshelf, one through seven, and look at them and say: `You did it right,'" he says. "I'll feel like I've completed one of the most important things I've ever done."

Even though, he's wrapping up the final book of the "Demonwars" series, he says the world of Corona is a rich one with a lot of stories left to tell. Likewise, he laughs off rumors about the demise of Drizzt that swirled after his last "Forgotten Realms" novel "Sea of Swords."

"There have been rumors that this is the last Drizzt book ever since I finished the `Dark Elf Trilogy' (in 1991)," he says. "I've never been more excited about writing Drizzt, and the rest of the characters, than I am now."

Part of that excitement is the anticipation of "Hunter's Blade," a trilogy that should shake things up for everyone's favorite dark elf.

"The `Hunter's Blade' trilogy will put Drizzt in a whole new light," he says. "It's not about bigger and badder monsters, but about new challenges. Drizzt will really stand out and shine like he did in the `Dark Elf Trilogy.'"

Salvatore has also been asked to work on an upcoming live action "Forgotten Realms" television series for Fireworks Television, which he says is going well. But fans shouldn't get their hopes up about seeing Drizzt on the small screen.

"You may see some cameos by familiar characters, but I think they're going for something more original," he says. "I don't know how deep my involvement is going to go, but I hope it's pretty deep. It's something new, and it's been fun."

Salvatore's fans will be happy to know that books about their favorite characters and worlds will continue well into the future. He has plans for at least another five years and says there are infinite possibilities after that.

"I'm going to die some day, and unless my kids decide to write, I guess it will end there," he says. "But I don't see it any time soon."

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