Because of the overwhelming number of questions we received for both Terry Brooks and Christopher Paolini during their chat earlier this week, the authors have agreed to answer a few more of those questions which weren’t answered during the live chat. First, let’s hear from Terry Brooks. Stay-tuned for more answers from Christopher Paolini!
Aidan Moher – Terry, you’ve been a published writer for over 30 years now, and during that time (and with the sort of success you’ve experienced), it is easy to fall into routine, to get too comfortable with your writing. What can a writer with your background learn from new writers like Christopher?
Terry Brooks: Good question, Aiden. Writers never stop learning the craft, no matter how old they are or how long they’ve been writing. You have to pay attention to what’s going on in the business. Christopher took a common trope – the friendship between a man and an alien creature (I use that word advisedly where Saphira is concerned) – and develops it in a highly original way. What I’ve learned from Christopher is that dedication to your work at an early age can make a huge difference. No one thought he could do what he’s done, aside from his editor and his family, and look where he is. That’s amazing. It demonstrates anew that you can’t take anything for granted about what is and isn’t possible. Someone is always there to show you that you’re wrong, if you do.
Hayley sue - Where do you both find the best place to write? I like to go to the local park, when it’s not raining.
Terry Brooks: I write in only one place – my desk. I’m like Monk. I need all my stuff in place and arranged. I also need it quiet. No disturbances. I never learned how to work in strange places or with any noise around me.
Michael C. – Do either of you ever feel like the characters are controlling everything, and not you?
Terry Brooks: Can’t say that I have. I keep my characters on a pretty short rein. Every so often, they surprise me with a fresh idea about what they should do or be. But mostly, they are like actors in a movie or a play. They have to follow the script, even given some improvising.
Xenia – so…question: how do you make your stories original? After all, there are so many stories about elves, dragons, mythological creatures out there.
Terry Brooks: I was taught by my first editor, back in the day, that there are no original stories. It’s all been done before by someone, so give it up. What makes your story different is your voice, your approach to the telling of it. No one else will be able to do it just like you. So quit trying to be original and just tell a good story the way you think it should be told.
Aria - I was wondering if you have any advice for someone who is new to writing,but really loves it? I love writing fantasy too.
Terry Brooks: I have lots of advice. Most of it can be found in my book on the writing life, SOMETIMES THE MAGIC WORKS. I recommend it to anyone starting out. Mostly, aside from the book’s advice, I tell writers that they have to be patient with themselves, that it takes awhile to get a story right. But you need perseverance and determination. You have to develop instincts about what works and what doesn’t. You have to sit down and write, write, write.
Ann - Terry I heard you started out as a lawyer-how long did you do that for and when did you make the switch. Do you have advise for someone who works hard at a full time job and then wants to become a writer?
Terry Brooks: I was a practicing attorney from 1969 to 1986. I wrote all during that time and published four books. I quit the law after number four because at that point I felt I could call myself a writer and expect to make a living at it. Lots of writers have other jobs – most, in fact. You have to balance the two if you want to eat and satisfy your creative impulses.
Megan - Terry and Christopher, I also write books I was wondering how you keep all your characters in order? As I add books to my series I find it hard to remember all the little side characters.
Terry Brooks: Welcome to the club! The only way I can keep it all straight is to go back and read pertinent titles of previous books each time I sit down to do a new one in a series. Mostly, because I write generational sagas, I don’t have to remember all that much about something that happened several hundred years ago. Also, mostly the previous minor characters don’t have a place in every book. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be minor!
Jeff - Terry and Chris: If you write a book but haven’t come up with a title for it, what do you do to find that “perfect” title?
Terry Brooks: Finding the perfect title isn’t nearly so hard as persuading everyone in the publishing house that you aren’t mistaken. Every time out of the gate, I have to fight to keep my titles. Sometimes I win, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you. Mostly, the right title emerges eventually, but I have given up on the idea that I alone know what that title is. I will say that it helps me to have a working title when I start out, even if it doesn’t end up the actual title.
Thanks again, Everyone! Terry.