Haxson:  While searching the web I stumbled over this site:

As far as I can see the site has the complete chronicles (six books) available as text.

Unless the books have been released to the public it looks like a serious case of copyright infringement.
If it isn't, please disregard this message.
You’re right, this is significant copyright infringement, otherwise known as *stealing*. But Ballantine Books, the holder of the copyright, has known about this for a long time, and has apparently chosen not to take any action. And a number of people have expressed an interest in e-versions of the “Covenant” books. So until Ballantine does get around to taking appropriate action, I say, What the hell. If you want any of the “Covenant” books in a poorly-scanned .rtf file, help yourself. And if you feel guilty about doing this (as I would), the solution is simple: buy an (extra?) copy of the physical book(s) to balance out the moral equation.


Mark Sanges:  Dear Steve,
You have ruined me sir! I must protest the absolute wonderfulness that is The Runes of the Earth. I picked up my copy the day it was released and finished it in a matter of 4 or 5 days and now I am ruined! As an avid reader (especially of fantasy fiction), I typically read 3-4 books a month and since completing Runes I have been entirely unable to immerse myself in any other novel so far. Every single book I pick up pales by comparison. The characters, settings, plots and counterplots, and everything else that goes into your works simply put the rest of the field of writers in this genre to shame. Even old favorites seem pale and dry when I try to re-read them now.

That said, I do have a couple of quick questions. (1) How is your book tour going? I know you find such tours grueling, so I hope you are bearing the burden well and will soon be able to return to a more normal life. (2) When will Book 2 of the last chronicles be ready?! The ending of Runes left me breathless for more. And to end it *THERE* simply had to be an exercise in planned torture by you for all of your fans. You had to know we would all be saying, "I can't believe it ended THERE!"

All I can say is well done. But you should probably express some form of apology to all the other fantasy writers out there whose works I can no longer become absorbed in. As I said, you've ruined me! Thank you so much for ALL of your books (btw, the Gap series is my favorite of your works, with Covenant taking a very close second) and for participating in such an open forum with your readers and fans. All my best to you and your family.

Mark Sanges
I know you’re mostly kidding around when you say that I’ve ruined you for other fantasy books. But in the same vein: I don’t think I owe “all the other fantasy writers” an apology; I think *they* owe *you* one.

1) The fact that I’m answering this question suggests that I survived the book tours. I suspect that my publishers would say the tours went “well” but not “great.” For myself, I simply concentrate on trying to get through the experience intact--and then on forgetting the whole thing as soon as possible.

2) Eventually this interview will include some form of FAQ for such questions. Until then, I’ll keep repeating: hope to see “Fatal Revenant” in two years; expect to see it in three.


Jim:  Mr Donaldson,

I just have a couple of questions.

1) How much does your environment impact your ability to write. It would be unjustified to call myself a writer...yet...but I do a bit of writing, and I am currently trying to write a story, but I have found that my environment affects my ability to write. I am currently having a hard time, because I like peaceful quiet places where I have a nice pastoral view. My room is dreary and dark and I find it hard to "tap into" my creativity. So I was wondering if and how your environment impacts your writing.

2) I seem to have noticed a stylistic shift in your writing over the years and would like your comment if you don't mind. The First and Second Covenant books were very descriptive. I have actually heard people complain that this is an aspect of the books they didn't like, although I absolutely loved it. It gave me a vivid picture of the people and places and made the beauty of the Land really concrete for me. But I noticed, or I think I noticed, with the Gap series that there was less detailed descriptiveness. In the Gap books, I attributed this to the environment. I mean, they were in space for the most part. How descriptive can you be? But I think I am noticing this in the Runes of the Earth as well. The style seems similar to the Gap books with less in the way of descriptive detail. Now I can see a justification for this in the story itself with the introduction of Kevin D. (don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't read it yet), which would make a lack of descriptive detail integral to the story itself. Is this a conscious device on your part, is it the result of stylistic evolution, am I off my rocker, or is there some other explanation? The third is quite a distinct possibility, so don't hesitate to say so if that is the answer. :)

Thank you in advance for answering, and... I don't want to be too obsequious here but... I absolutely drool whenever I hear another book of yours is coming out. You have spoiled all other fantasy for me. Everything else seems trite and predictable after Covenant. But maybe that's just me. :)


PS Sorry if you've answered either of these, but it is a long gradual interview, even with the filter. So I ask your forgiveness in advance. And PS, I love the covenant books, but I like the Man Who books too. Enough to pay unforgivable amounts of money for some of them used when they were out of print. If I'd known you were going to write a fourth... :)
1) I like to think that my environment doesn’t affect my *ability* to write. But there’s no doubt that my environment has a profound effect on my ability to *keep on* writing. In other words, I can write almost anywhere, if I have to--for short periods of time. But the less congenial the environment is, the more effort I have to expend in order to concentrate effectively; and therefore the more quickly I become too tired to keep going. So in practice the right environment (I mean right for me: everyone is different) is critical.

2) I’m only aware in comparatively subtle ways of a stylistic shift between the first six “Covenant” books and the most recent one. In particular, I know that there are a few technical methodologies which I developed for the GAP books which I’m reluctant to abandon now, for the simple reason that I like what can be accomplished with them. At the same time, I’ve worked very hard at continuing the essential stylistic “spirit,” the “feel,” of the original “Covenant” prose. And I’m not conscious of being “less descriptive” than I was years ago. (Certainly my current editor usually feels that I’m *too* descriptive.)

No, what I’m aware of is a shift in my narrative priorities. Putting the matter as crudely as possible, my characters now spend a lot more time talking to each other, and a lot less time moving around (and gazing at) the landscape. This is to some extent a conscious choice (I’ve written at length about my growing emphasis on the “dignity” of my characters) and to some extent an evolutionary change (after all, you can hardly expect me to be the same person I was 25 years ago; so naturally I think in different ways, and want different things, than I did back then).


Peter B.:  Stephen,

I just finished reading Runes of the Earth. How wonderful it was to return to the Land! Thank you!! I'm hanging on with anticipation for Fatal Revenant.I'm sure you can hardly wait to begin actually writing it.

My question: At the end of The Power That Preserves Lord Mhoram states, "...we will not devote ourseles to to any Lore which precludes Peace. We will gain lore of our own--we will strive and quest and learn until we have found a lore in which the Oath of Peace and the preservation of the Land live together. We will serve Earthfriendship in a new way."

During the "Soothtell" in The Wounded Land Covenant learns a bit more about what happened after his victory over the Despiser. [Mhoram} commenced a search for new ways to use and serve Earthpower. Guided by his decision, Councils for generations after him had used and served,performing wonders."
I won't ask what new Lore Mhoram and others found.
But did their decision to find another way, one not subject to Corruption, result at ALL in the coming of the Clave and the forthcoming Masters ineffective guardianship?
I’ll have to refer to you back to earlier discussions of the Oath of Peace because I don’t want to re-explain the insight which allowed Mhoram to become more effective than his immediate predecessors, even though he lacked the Staff of Law. The point is this: for a long time, the people of the Land saw the Oath of Peace as a proscription against certain emotions, while Mhoram learned to see it as a prescription for certain behaviors. In so doing, he opened the door for his own actions, and for the actions of others, to be galvanized, energized, empowered by previously-rejected emotions. Now, speaking as a student of the martial arts, I believe this to be A Good Thing--as long as no one re-creates the conditions which led to the formulation of the Oath of Peace in the first place. And those conditions were: action *determined* by emotion (Kevin and the Ritual of Desecration, Trell and the devastation of The Close) rather than action determined by conscience and then *energized* by emotion (“Lord Mhoram’s Victory”).

Well, the unfortunate fact is that emotions are messy, wisdom is rare, and conscience can be misled. In a very real sense, therefore, I think that when Mhoram removed the “proscription against certain emotions” and replaced it with the “prescription for certain behaviors” he did indeed open the door for the (eventual) emergence of the Clave. (There’s a *reason* why religions tell you how to feel--and it isn’t just because religions are about control [although they certainly are]. They’re also trying to avoid the dangers inherent in letting emotion determine action. Just to pick one example: history has shown us over and over again that punishing people for murder is a less effective deterrent than teaching them that rage, jealousy, and greed are evil.) An inevitable effect of unleashing emotion--even in the best of all possible causes--is that for some people emotion will then begin to overwhelm wisdom/conscience/morality.

So I think that Mhoram’s insight made the Clave possible. Does this mean he made a mistake? Far from it. Consider the alternative: Mhoram stays trapped within the confines of the “old” Oath of Peace; the Lords are defeated; Revelstone is over-run; and Covenant’s victory over Lord Foul does nothing to prevent a kind of cultural Dark Age (one which, in fact, closely resembles the state of affairs in “The Runes of the Earth”).

In practice, however, it was not Mhoram’s insight which led to the “ineffective guardianship” of the Masters: it was the vacuum of culture and lore left by the Clave’s defeat which inspired the Masters to take on a challenge that became too big for them.


Bryan Tannehill:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

Congratulations on the success of Runes. You'd probably be surprised to know I found "Runes" at a Navy exchange overseas two days after it's release.

Something occurred to me about your writing style and its potency while I was reading "The Illearth War" again. You say you are not a visual writer but an emotional one, butI wondered how the places you describe so sparingly can seem so detailed in my mind's eye. It later occurred to me that by evoking an emotion in a reader, you make them "fill in the blanks" with a place or setting that matches the emotion. Describing Earthenroot made me think of being with my father when he got me a sneak preview (legally) tour of Karchner caverns. The emotions you sought to evoke about Andelaine immediately made me mentally conjure up the Baldy Trail in Arizona, one of the most ecologically and geologically diverse places I've found. Even Succorso's ship immediately drew up in my mind's eye the ineriors of a run-down 30 year old ship I'd served on whose captain was a screaming, raving tyrant. Is this something you thought about conciously, to give give a short emotive description and rely on the reader's similar emotional attachments to places to fill in the blanks? For me, this has been the case, and because of it your tightly worded descriptions yield a much richer and detailed mental picture than other less effecient authors. I've referred an aspiring writer who works for me to this interview, it's a remarkable insight into so many facets of being a writer and an author. Thank you again for fielding these questions.

Very Respectfully,
Bryan Tannehill
The short answer is: yes, this is both a conscious choice and a natural inclination. I’m not a particularly visual person myself, so of course I want the reader to do as much of the “work” as possible. <grin> After all, communication through prose is always an interactive process, even though the “interactors”--the writer and the reader--are not physically present to each other, and are also separated in time. And I’ve noticed that the writers who are most successful at making *me* see--and feel--are those who provide emotive and poetic descriptions rather than visually literal ones.


Neil Parr:  Perhaps a minor point but I was just wondering why the Last Chronicles aren't a trilogy? Saying that I'm not complaining as each of Stephens books are a joy.
I’m truly surprised that this question keeps coming up. What’s so special about a trilogy? Why does anyone think it’s odd that I would choose some other format?

Well, repeating things I’ve said earlier: I’ve only actually written one trilogy in my life, the original “Chronicles.” “The Second Chronicles” was planned in four volumes: it only became a trilogy when Lester del Rey waved his editorial wand and made it so. “Mordant’s Need” is in four parts. The GAP books are, in effect, an extended drumroll followed by four books. I can’t explain why; but my creative impulse seems to work more naturally in four-part structures than in three (in symphonies, one might say, instead of in concertoes). The structure of “The Last Chronicles” *suits* me in some fundamental, and entirely inarticulate, way.


Michael Rowlands:  Mr. Donaldson,
In response to what was written last month in the gradual interview I would like to state that I find your books thought-provoking and intelligent. I am about to start a PhD in Psychology, and have found that many of your themes in the Chronicles and the Gap 'resonate' with what I have studied. Particularly, the concepts of the inner-despiser and redemption.

Anyway, my question regards redemption and the amnion mind. Given that some people go so far to seek redemption and the amount of energy of trying to seek it, what would be the effect of being converted to Amnion? Would the guilt become subsumed by the mindset of the amnion? I am curious to know considering what an interesting character Marc Vestabule was; complex because of his past fears and the amnion mind.
From my perspective, what made Marc Vestabule interesting was the way in which he was trapped between identities: no longer fully human, but certainly not fully Amnion; imperfectly able to function in both realities. The Amnion themselves don’t strike me as particularly interesting. They’re too single-minded: for them, the whole concept of conflict between individuals, or between groups of individuals, is inherently meaningless. I’m far more fascinated by the way in which humankind’s multifarious weaknesses can suddenly become strengths in the face of something as truly alien as single-mindedness.


Thor Hammersen aka Briny the Pirate (reverse-oblique-inverted-hero):  Greetings and salutations Mr. Donaldson,

first off, Thank you.

now that the important part of my message is out of the way and most of the questions I could ever have possibly thought to ask you have been answered here, I'm left with this one: do you have a written copy of the speech by your father that helped to inspire TCoTCtU, and is there any possibility that it could be posted on this site?

Again, Thank you

Best wishes T.H.
My father never wrote out any of his “talks.” And I was only half listening anyway, since I was in that creative zone where other things inspire thoughts which quickly leave their origins far behind. So I couldn’t reproduce that original talk even if I wanted to. Which, actually, I don’t. I do still have what you might call a research paper that my father wrote on the subject of leprosy for my edification; and it’s really nothing more than an emotionless recitation of facts. I wouldn’t inflict it on anyone.


Stephen Collings:  Dear Stephen,

Thanks as always for your fantastic writings!

A wee request: Please, when you start "Fatal Revenant", do post the happy news on your news board, so we can all celebrate and wish you good health! :-)

As always, I wish you an exciting time writing it!

Best wishes, Stephen.
I avoid doing this sort of thing for various reasons, one of which is that I dislike the sensation that people are looking over my shoulder, and another of which is that I don’t want to turn this into a “tease.” But since you asked so nicely <grin>, I’ll say just this once that I have in fact “broken ground” on Book Two, and that--changing metaphors as violently as possible--I’m juggling an enormous number of balls as fast as I can.


Pam Chinery:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thanks for answering my previous question. Here is one last one from me. I did run it through your filter, and evidently it hasn't been asked yet.

When my husband gave me "Lord Foul's Bane" to read thirteen years ago, I started a little game with him. From the beginning, I hoped your books would eventually be made into movies. So independently, we made up our own "dream team" of actors to cast the characters. Not necessarily superstars (in fact, we tended away from them), but to see who embodied our own mental pictures of the characters.

So here's the question. Who, if you could have anyone, and money was no object, would you cast for Thomas Covenant and Linden Avery? (Because, of course, all the books would be made into movies -grin-). My husband says Christopher Walken and Holly Hunter.
It's strange. I used to (mildly) enjoy playing Cast The Movie. But now that serious movie people are making a serious attempt to acquire financing for a "Covenant" film, I'm no longer interested. Doubtless this is self-protective: I'm trying hard to avoid expectations and disappointments. In an entirely personal, and rather peculiar, way, this has ceased to be a safe topic for me. <sigh> At this point, I really can't afford to worry about whether Justin Timberlake gets cast as Linden Avery.


Ryan H:  Mr Donaldson,

I have noticed a recurring theme in the TC books that I find the most appealing. Many of the sequences of your stories and sub-stories culiminate to a climax chapter. I speak not of action, but of fortitude and pressure-driven dialog by either Covenant or Linden. I call these chapters the "zinger" chapters whereby so much inadequency or damaging innocence or blind conviction of the Land characters forces Covenant or Linden to blow characters apart with shock treatment. The most entertaining aspect of that is that you have a realistic protaganist doing that in a fantasy setting. This makes my suspension of disbelief while reading very plausible! Does the extremes of a fantasy setting make these zingers easier to accomplish? Do you put yourself in Linden or Covenant's place as if you were there listening to Haruchai spout off about the impossibilities (and caveats) of perfect service or the Lords thinking that all the world's answers come in the form of a stick and some humming stones? Or how about the time, Covenant told Foamfollower just where he could stick his habitual laughter? ect....

Thank you so much for your time!
I'm not sure I know quite what your question is. Certainly the way I organize my stories (including, but not limited to, how I break them down into chapters) is deliberate. But does writing fantasy make this easier to do? Not that I know of. It's clear that all of my fiction deals in "extremes" of one kind or another. That seems inherent to the way I think. It isn't affected by the setting (fantasy, sf, mystery).


Matthew Orgel (The Dreaming):  What I was asking [in my previous question] was did you plan from the start to bring Hollian back to life? It was a very strange relief I felt when Cear Caveral brought her back.

All I was really asking though was if you meant her resurrection to feel like a complete vindication for the pain you put us through upon her death. (I am trying to word it as best I can and I am having trouble) Or did you want that feeling of strange, reluctant relief? I was frankly a little confused. It felt a little strange, and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to feel. On one hand it felt like a cop-out. You get the emotional Impact of killing a principle without the impact that it would have on the story.

Your completely shot in the dark response though reveals that I was correct in my other feeling. That somehow Cear-Caveral breaking the law of life was more important than Just brining back a dead character.

I somehow got this image of you in front of a computer (I know you used a typewriter, but I don't think in terms of them. I am a very young man) gleefully killing her off, and then saying "oh $#@$, I need her in the story again" and finding a way to bring her back. I am glad I was wrong, bit it was an amusing thought nonetheless.
As a matter of storytelling principle, I don't believe in jerking my readers around. So if something in what I've written makes you feel jerked around, you can be pretty sure that there's Something Else Going On. (And keep in mind that I know my stories before I write them--especially true in the case of the first six "Covenant" books--so the scenario you've imagined isn't likely to happen.) In "The Second Chronicles," it was absolutely essential that somebody who knew what was going on, and who wanted to help Covenant save the Land, broke the Law of Life. But since that somebody was clearly going to be one of the Good Guys, he/she/it had to have a pretty damn good reason for taking action.

The fact that Hollian's resurrection is also essential to "The Last Chronicles" is simply not a good enough excuse for, well, "toying with the reader's affections." By my standards, if what I'm doing isn't fully justified by the story I'm actually telling, then it isn't justified at all.


Lono:  In the Chronicles, it has been established that things that have to do with the Land have seeped through into Covenant and Linden's world, and that time moves at a completely different pace.

I presumed that, at least to me, that the snake bite and venom in the First Chronicles had some ties to the Second. I know this is a stretch, but, since in the WHGB section and Lord Foul's Bane there was mention that Covenant's disease came completely out of left field, is there any correlation between this and Kevin's desecration in the legend of the Land?

Well, I can't argue with you. But I don't think of it that way myself. From my perspective, any "seepage" from the Land into the "real world" didn't start until fundamental Laws essential to the Land's existence had begun to break down. Certainly I consider the snake bite in the first trilogy and the venom in the second to be "seepage" in the opposite direction. So, in terms of Covenant's psychology (his need in the first trilogy to believe that the Land is a dream), obviously you could argue that Kevin's Ritual of Desecration also represents "seepage" from the "real world" into the Land. But I don't see any evidence to indicate that anything "seeped" from the Land to the "real world" until after the first trilogy.


Bryan J. Flynn:  Stephen, bravo on the release of "Runes of the Earth." I just finished it for the second time - the first being a sprint, the second a walk - and it’s a remarkable start. Open sites like this can diminish a fan’s praiseworthy reaction, but Runes is masterful art. Reading it has been a treat on many levels: thank you. I wish you all the best (luck, happiness, speed?) in your work on the chronicles.

My question is: why the heck didn’t Ballantine publish the Last Chronicles? Nothing against Putnam’s publishing (the book is excellent) but I find it hard to believe Ballantine was not willing to support these books. The Covenant series is popular and widely read, and I’m certain there will be a wide interest in the Last Chronicles.

My own impression is the release of Runes is under the radar for a lot of your audience thanks to little advance work. I vividly recall seeing a large ad in *Rolling Stone* for the GAP series back in the early 90s; why so little for Runes? I found out about its release as a lark when in July I found this site! Can you shed some light on Ballantine’s decision?


Ballantine Books, like several other publishers, expressed very little interest in "The Last Chronicles" because they considered--and perhaps still consider--me a has-been. (In their defense: I do write more and more slowly as I get older; and nothing that I've published in past 20 years has sold even 10% as well as "Covenant"--which naturally makes publishers think that the success of "Covenant" was an aberration, perhaps nothing more than a symptom of the zeitgeist of the late 70's and early 80's.)

Jennifer Hershey at Putnams bought "The Last Chronicles" because she was my editor for the GAP books and she believes in me. In fact, she believes that I deserve to be published whether my books make money or not.

It's true that "The Runes of the Earth" has not been as well promoted (at least in the US) as the first "Covenant" books were. But we all lived in a different world back then. Publishers could afford to take more chances in how they marketted books. And Judy-Lynn del Rey was the publisher of DEL REY/Ballantine. She was a marketting genius. In addition, she received unprecedented support from her bosses. That combination of circumstances won't recur. It can't: the mega-corporations which own all of modern publishing won't allow it because they can't understand it.

And keep in mind as well: Bantam's attempts to promote the GAP books failed dismally. What good is an ad in "Rolling Stone" if it doesn't sell books?


Tony Powell:  Of all the generous glimpses you've given us into your writing process, the most intriguing to me is the notion of knowing how it all ends before you begin.

How literally should we take this? Do you know who, when, where and how everyone and everything will turn out specifically before you even begin? Surely not because elsewhere you speak of sometimes getting on the wrong track and having to "go back and figure out where things began to go wrong."

I would've imagined that many, many characters (Nom, e.g.) presented themselves long after your writing had begun, the story and its people appearing around each bend, so to speak. Not all could be conceived so completely from the first. Could they?

You should take it very literally. As I keep saying, I can't write at all unless I know "how it all ends."

However, what this means in practice has changed over the years. As I've explained elsewhere, the first six "Covenant" books were meticulously planned *in toto* before I began writing. Nom certainly came as no surprise to me: I had planned on that creature from the beginning. (Of course, there *were* surprises for me throughout the writing of those books. But those surprises revolved around "personality" rather than "function." Saltheart Foamfollower's personality was my biggest surprise in the whole of the first six books, followed closely by Pitchwife's personality, and by Lord Hyrim's.)

But since those days, I've become considerably more flexible. I still know exactly "how it all ends," but I no longer feel a need to pre-plan every single action and character along my way toward that end. Just one example: in the GAP books everything about Sorus Chatelaine came as a (wonderful) surprise to me. So your conception of how I work is much more accurate now than it once was.



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Daljit Singh Kainth:  Thank you for your visit to London, i really enjoyed your talk and look forward to the last chronicles. heres the question i was to nervous to ask during the book signings, did you and in particular your publisher think it a risk to have your main character suffer from leprosy and
commit rape so early on in the book and thereby loose any sympathy that the reader may have had to what is the "hero". Is immortality tough.
It is to Lester del Rey's eternal credit that he never blinked at Covenant's leprosy, or at the rape of Lena. He understood perfectly that such things were essential a) to the story itself, and b) to distinguish what I was doing from everyone else's work. Of course he knew that he was taking a risk (although it wasn't as big a risk as you might think, considering how little he paid me). But he was always ready and able to trust his own judgment.

"Is immortality tough." Is that a question? If it is, I'll let you know when I get there. The only thing I can tell you at the moment is that I find mortality plenty difficult enough.


Dean Ambroz:  Firstly, thank you for your transports to the Land and to Amnion space.
I am surprised and delighted that his foulness is up to his old tricks and can't wait to begin 'RUNES'.
I note that in response to an earlier question, you believe the GAP series is complete, yet the "Last Chronicles" has been there for 20+yrs waiting to be written! As an avid GAP fan, I want to know more about the Amnion, about Angus before he met Morn, about the Hylands clan, about Nick as a youth and his ruin, about the early GAP years, about Hashi (my personal favourite) and I can't believe that Angus could leave Morn forever. Surely there's another few books there somewhere.
Also, will GAP ever be made into a movie?
Kind Regards
Alas, I can only repeat that there is nothing "waiting to be written" in the GAP sequence. I have no ideas at all.

And I have no control at all over whether or not any of my books is ever made into a movie. A couple of wannabees once approached me about filming the GAP books. But they wanted *me* to finance the project--and I don't happen to have 300-400 million dollars I can spare.



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Darran Handshaw:  Dr. Donaldson,

I just finished Runes and it was wonderful.. I especially enjoyed the ending and the implications it has on the next books.

My question though, has nothing to do with Runes.. it was actually inspired by a few of the questions you answered about character names...

Have you ever decided to change a character name after you had written a portion of the whole of your story? If so.. what characters? Why? And what were their names beforehand? Also, has anyone ever suggested you change a name? Whether it be someone that reads your work before it is released or a publishing firm itself?
I don't like revealing my mistakes. They're embarrassing; and they undermine my (already tenuous) confidence. In addition, I believe passionately in the rewriting process; and I don't want to be judged by ANYthing that hasn't been through several stages of re-evaluation and reconsideration.

But Yes, I have occasionally (rarely) become dissatisfied with a character's name while I was working; and when I become dissatisfied I do change that name. In "Runes," Mahrtiir once labored under a less satisfying name (but no, I'm not going to tell you what that name was). And Yes, people (e.g. my agent, an editor) do occasionally (rarely) suggest that I change a name. When I understand their reasoning, I comply. In "Daughter of Regals," the rebel, Kodar, once suffered from a name that elicited reasonable objections.

In both cases, I think it would be fair to say that the original name had less, well, dignity than the name I eventually chose.



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Anonymous:  Mr. Donaldson,

Earlier in the interview I read that you lamented the “death” of DOS and the subsequent loss of a command line interface (it’s still there with Windows, just hard to find<grin>) and Wordstar. What OS do you use currently? Windows? Perhaps MacOS?

Have you had the opportunity to work with any of the free/open source operating systems such as Linux, FreeBSD, or OpenBSD? The reason I ask is that there are a number of Wordstar “clones” still active in the open source world.

I am pretty sure I know the answer the last question: your time is limited, so you do not have the freedom to experiment. Even with enormous usability improvements over the past few years, the free software operating systems and applications remain esoteric to users who just want things “to work.”

In what format do your publishers accept you submissions?

Also, when I discovered your Web page while looking for information on “Runes” I was immediately amazed by your picture. Your features (or those of your hired impersonator) are close to how I imagined TC in the second chronicles.

Thank you for taking the time to relate with your readers and more importantly writing the works we enjoy so much.

You're right: I don't have time to learn a completely new operating system (I'm stuck in the Windows world, and I hope I *never* have to leave Windows 2000), never mind new word processing software. And Word has sort of become the industry standard in publishing. My publishers would probably accept a small number of other formats (e.g. WordPerfect), but then they might well convert my files to Word anyway (introducing textual corruption as they do so). I'll stay where I am as long as I can.



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Michaelson:  Hello Mr. Donaldson. Do you find that this kind of continuous explication of your creative works on the internet diminishes your authors aura or the mystique of your works? For me it does to some extant.
Then I suggest you stop reading this interview. Personally, I have no interest in my "aura," or in the "mystique" of my works, and so I don't mind diminishing them (if that indeed is what this interview does).


Teresa Dealey:  Simple(or not so simple)question. If you could have any Christmas wish granted, what would it be?

Soulquest1970 (aka Mama T, Monstermom, and occasionally "hey, you with the face")
You mean I don't get to pick Peace On Earth? <grin> In that case, your question is *way* too personal for a public forum like this.


Paul Huntington:  Dear Mr Donaldson

Like a number of other correspondents (inquisitors) of the gradual interview, I have recently come out from under my rock, blinked while looking about, and discovered that a new Donaldson novel was released as I slept. Fantastic. I’m just sorry to have missed the UK book tour (?) and to have only just discovered this site.

I have often wondered if Linden would be seen again, in many respects I thought she had just begun to “be true”, much as Covenant had after the Power that Preserves. I’ve always loved your character-based approach to storytelling and the strong under current of redemption, which is almost always present.

Anyway I’m supposed to be asking a question so here it is. Are King Joyce and Warden Dios by any chance related? What I mean by that is did you develop on the ideas and character of King Joyce to produce Warden Dios or was he “stolen” (as you understand the word) from Wotan? (by the way; Gap was fantastic!)

Good luck with the rest of the new story.
"Related"? Well, they certainly have a number of characteristics in common. In retrospect, it's easy to see King Joyse as "practicing," "getting ready," for Warden Dios. But of course I don't write books in retrospect. And at the time when I wrote "Mordant's Need," I had no vision at all of ever writing the GAP books. In fact, I had no idea of any kind about what I was going to do after "Mordant's Need." And when I wrote the GAP books, I was thinking about Wotan rather than about King Joyse. Still, it's probably fair to say that Warden Dios is in some sense built on the experience I gained in exploring King Joyse.


Curtis Huska:  Hello Mr. Donaldson,

I had the pleasure of meeting you in Calgary, Alberta back in 1991. Since I found your descriptions of battle scenes in the First Chronicles to be some of the best I have ever read I was wondering where the inspiration came from? Did you do research on military tactics or particular historical battles?

Since finishing the Second Chronicles twenty years ago, I have not read any fantasy that has come close to the emotional impact that those 6 books had on me. Having read 'Runes'I believe the Last Chronicles may change that. My sincerest thanks for writing these books.
To the extent that I know where the inpiration came from, it came from the necessities of the story I was trying to tell. I certainly didn't do any research into "real" battles or "real" ideas about strategy and tactics. On the other hand, I always pay close attention when I'm reading novels (e.g. LOTR), looking for what "works" for me as a reader, and for what doesn't. Then I try to profit from those experiences, both positive and negative.


Paul Hawke:  I have 2 questions. Firstly, I am trying to track down the exact dialogue / quote from the Second Chronicles - a conversation that said if you truly want to hurt a man, you give him back the thing he most loves in a broken state. Do you recall where it is, or perhaps could you search your electronic manuscripts for it?

Secondly, what're your views of fanfiction set in the Thomas Covenant universe? I know that some authors encourage it (JK Rowling) while others strongly discorage it (e.g. Raymond E. Feist, Anne McCaffrey). What are your feelings?
The actual quote is, "There's only one way to hurt a man who's lost everything. Give him back something broken." Look in "The Wounded Land," chapter 2 of the prologue.

I've already discussed my views on the fan fiction you describe. In brief: as far as I'm concerned, as long as there's no copyright infringement involved, and appropriate credit is given, then go ahead. Creativity is a good thing. Just understand that building on someone else's ideas is, well, second-hand creativity; therefore less beneficial for the creator. Creating your own work from scratch will do you more good.


Todd Knight:  Mr Donaldson,

First, please accept my thanks for the joys and growth I've experienced reading (and re-reading) the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Their influence on my worldview has been deep, even to the point of using the lessons I've learned "in the Land" in the ongioing education of my (beautiful, intelligent) daughter.

Also, I must express the joy I have felt while reading ROTE. Returning to The World after all this time is like finding my old combat boots from college - and discovering that they still fit.

For both of these things, my thanks.

Now for the question: You have said that your characters occasionally suprise you as you write. Can you give some favorite examples of this (preferably from the Covenant Series)?

(Worded carefully to avoid "spoilers"): The question of your characters doing what even the author "doesn't expect" came to me while reading ROTE. If I'm not being too cryptic, can you also comment on this?
I've already discussed "surprises" at several points in this interview. I'm not going to repeat myself. But I can tell you that I only encountered one such surprise in "The Runes of the Earth." However, it would be a spoiler to explain what that surprise was, or who supplied it.


Paul:  First - thanks for Runes...fantastic and a real pleasure after such a long wait.

Three short questions:

1. There is more 'realistic' swearing in Runes than the first six books - was this a decision that came easily and why change now (not that I was bothered....a bit of Anglo-Saxon never hurt anyone!)

2. You said recently that "First, I consider myself an "efficient" writer, by which I mean (in part) that I only create what I need". Previously you mentioned that internal consistency was a female dog because you had to remember what information had been revealed about places and people (can't find the exact quote, so I am paraphrasing there). To me, the latter implies that you do have an extended history etc in your mind, at least some of which is never going to see the light of day, and that you have to differentiate between the total information, and what has been printed (so you might have enough for a prequel or you are clearly a big fan of that idea...NOT!) Am I completely mixed up in my assumption?

3. Now that Runes is read, I sadly have to fill my time reading other authors, so I took a sideways step and decided to reread Primo Levi's books (a great author). Given that the focus of much of his work is what it is to be human (and inhuman) I am wondering if you have read any of his books, and if they have influenced you at all?

Thanks again - looking forward to the next book!

First, a bit of trivia for regular contributers to the Gradual Interview: I'm now 193 questions behind. The good news? I'm so far behind because I'm working hard on "Fatal Revenant."


1) This wasn't a conscious choice. Rather I think it reflects the evolution of how I perceive character. (Or it may just be an aftereffect of writing the GAP books and four mystery novels. <grin>)

2) You appear to be looking at my comments about "efficiency" and "internal consistency" backward. When I wrote the first three "Covenant" books, I absolutely did not foresee that I would ever continue the story; so I only invented as much "world background" as I needed. Then when I wrote "The Second Chronicles" I was able to foresee (and prepare for) a certain number of the issues which would arise in "The Last Chronicles" (since I knew the story I would eventually write); but there I failed to foresee just how complex the challenge of unifying *all* of the "Covenant" books would be. So once again I only invented as much "world background" as I needed for "The Second Chronicles." Which has now placed me in the terribly INefficient position of having to rediscover and (in some cases) reinvent the world as it has been previously presented. None of this would have happened if I had first created the kind of "extended history" you describe. Like MS-DOS, I'm trying frantically to invent "backward compatibility."

3) Sorry, I've never read any Primo Levi. But I'll look for him.


John:  Hi,
Firstly let me say what a pleasure it was to see you in Manchester. It was good that you took the time to answer as many questions. It was both informative and interesting. My son left the signing swearing that he is going to be a writer.
Now to the question, you have told us previously that you read slowly and are very selective in your choice of book. I was wondering if you read slowly or if you avoided reading/particular genres whilst in the writing process. And the second part of the same question, do you think that reading could affect your story telling?
I read slowly in part because I study what I read: I want to be able to see how the author "did it". So yes, what I read does definitely affect my storytelling (style, structure, presentation of character and dialogue, etc.). But I don't choose what I'm reading on the basis of what I'm writing. I once did: back in my unpublished days, I stayed away from reading fantasy while I wrote the first three "Chronicles". For two reasons: 1) if what I read was good, it would intimidate me (I can't compete with *this*); and 2) if what I read was bad, it would depress me (how come *this* bozo can get published and I can't?). However, such reactions have long since ceased to trouble me. I now know perfectly well how bad books get published; and I no longer make the mistake of comparing myself to writers I admire.


thinbuddha:  One thing that I don't remember comming up in the 1st chronicles (or 2nd, for that matter, but it seems more relevant to the 1st chrionicles)-

Covenant was spending so much energy trying to prove that the Land was a dream, yet he never brought up the fact that everybody seems to be speaking perfect English. The obvious question is: wouldn't a separate land develop a different communication system? I'm not sure how someone like Morham would respond to such a question. I know you have a rule about answering questions that are outside the text, but it seems like you must have thought of this one, and perhaps even written a passage about it that ended up getting cut. Do you care to comment on how Morham might address this "hole" in the reality of the Land?

Oh, and remember: "Lysol is the power that preserves" <wink>
Well, I suppose you could say that I didn't bring up the "language" issue (e.g. between Covenant and Mhoram) because I didn't think of it. <grin> Or you could say that the fact that our characters in our dreams speak our language is so axiomatic that *Covenant* didn't think of it. But the fact is that I considered the whole how-come-you-and-I-and-everyone-in-the-whole-world-can-understand-each-other issue to be an appalling can of worms, and I did *not* want to open it. I foresaw the possibility that I might undermine the entire narrative foundation of the story. In sf, a writer is compelled by the exigencies of the format to confront problems like language barriers. But the underlying assumptions of fantasy are not so rational: they are, in a sense, a-rational (rather than non-rational or irrational), arising as they do from that aspect of the human mind which creates dreams. I was--and am--acutely reluctant to impose the wrong kind of rationality on the story I'm trying to tell in the "Chronicles."


Stephen Collings:  I was very entertained by the "One Tree", as there was lots of exciting newness in it. :)

I have a highly-emotional yet mixed response to the Second Chronicles, because whilst they are fantastically AWESOME and HYPER-BRILLIANT in many many places, and over and over again, the schema upon which the RESOLUTION of the Second Chronicles depends upon has always struck me as VERY SHAKY, and because I like the books so much, it has unhappily bothered me much more than is sensible!!

Perhaps you would care to shed some light on this, and perhaps help me understand (if this is possible!) [ONE of the reasons I am excited about the Last Chronicles, is that I am keen to understand more about what went on in the second!]

So here are specific questions that might help:

What happened to Vain at the One Tree? Did he need to gain something from being touched by the aura of the Worm? Or was it just COINCIDENCE - as he had been pre-programmed by his makers to be able and ready to turn into a staff of wood, and the hyper primal power of the aura of the worm just accidentally set that inbuilt power uncontrollably off for a brief burst of transformation?

I have to think that the Forestal had a hand in the making of a being who was to turn into a PIECE OF WOOD!! (Caer-Caveral has some experience in this area I think!)

Surely Lord Lord Foul wasn't planning to have Linden in the Land?

Why did Lord Foul EVER expect Thomas Covenant to just hand him the ring (or did he not, as was that just a machination of his, to make the things he wanted happen?)

Did Thomas Covenant fear Lord Foul would possess/merge with Linden, if he had given her the ring - so that Thomas Covenant would have effectively given the Despiser his ring, by having given in to Linden?

And for what its worth, I will NEVER buy that the Dead could not just have told Covenant what's what!

He had already shown his resistance to posession by Despite, so he would have been a safe carrier of this information!

I will NEVER buy the notion that the truth is dangerous! Ignorance is dangerous!

Having been deceived, misled, and bewildered by outrageously reckless insanity from early childhood - I shall treat apologies for mystification and obfuscation about anyone not telling-people-what's-what when they need it, with the OUTRAGE that is deserves!!

Thanks very much for your writings! I wish you very well in your exploits, and wish you the best "unexpected characters" and happenings.

Thanks again!

Feel free to pick a question!

"we shall pass utterly"
As you obviously realize, you've asked quite a number of very complex questions: too many, and too complex, for me to try to answer them all at once. I've already discussed elsewhere what happened to Vain at the One Tree. And I suspect that you could deduce the answers to some of your other questions. So for now I'm only going to address this: "I will NEVER buy the notion that the truth is dangerous! Ignorance is dangerous!"

Now, I don't want to get side-tracked into a discussion of the difference between "truth" and "knowledge." But I would argue that what the Dead withhold from Covenant in Andelain is not truth, but rather knowledge. And I have had long and intimate experience with how dangerous premature knowledge can be. (Again, in order to avoid being side-tracked, I won't mention *parenting*; but any parent can tell you that it's easy to hurt children by teaching them things they aren't ready to learn.) I'll stick to one example: the study of the martial arts.

At their core, the martials arts (as knowledge) are all about killing and maiming. Yet every responsible teacher of the martial arts knows that it would be destructive and even immoral to teach "killing and maiming" without *first* teaching the control AND the maturity to make ethical choices about when and how to *use* "killing and maiming." EsPEcially since many students of the martial arts are children who aren't developmentally qualified to make ethical choices. Therefore every responsible teacher of the martial arts begins by teaching a stylized and restricted version of the real arts. Will we teach you how to kick your attacker effectively in the stomach? Yes, we will: an effective kick to the stomach can save your life, and is *very* unlikely to kill or maim your attacker. But will we teach you how to kick in a way that will shatter your attacker's kneecap? No, we will not: not until the student has demonstrated the control necessary to practice the technique safely AND the maturity necessary to use the technique appropriately.

My point is that knowledge is dangerous unless it has been *earned.* Which is exactly why Kevin went to all the trouble of concealing his lore in caches which were intended to be discovered in a specific sequence. Learning x prepares you to learn y safely. Learning y prepares you to learn z safely. In responsible martial arts schools, the earning of a black belt is considered a prerequisite to learning the *actual* martial art. A student without a black belt simply isn't *trusted* enough to be taught "killing and maiming."

So think about it. What do you suppose the consequences would be if Covenant's Dead had simply *explained* everything to him? Well, let's see. Who in his right mind would visit the Elohim under those conditions? Who in his right mind would risk rousing the Worm? And why would the Elohim *ever* decide to Appoint Findail if Covenant and Linden already knew all of the answers? ("Pardon me. We don't actually need anything from you. We just want to trick you into Appointing Findail so we can go risk destroying the world for the sole purpose of bringing Vain into contact with the right kind of power.")

It seems to me that the "schema" of "The One Tree" is considerably more solid than you think it is. (Keeping in mind that this is Just My Opinion, and you have every right to your own opinion.)


Robert:  One of the many things I love about your books is that you have no fear in killing main characters, be it hero or villain (and I suspect that who the hero's and villain's are depend solely on the reader) seemingly without remorse. Unlike most popular fiction, you are never quite sure who will prevail. You may have already dealt with this elsewhere but my question is this, have you ever regretted killing off a character and thought later you could have explored their situation more and do you feel "sad" for them?
I do feel "sad," to varying degrees, for characters whose lives end at my hands. (See my comments on the Tor long ago in the GI.) And I have occasionally regretted that I haven't succeeded at exploring their situations/psychologies/stories more. (See my coments about Davies Hyland, also long ago.) But none of that means I regret "killing" those characters. I don't "kill off" characters because I'm tired of them, or because I just don't know what to do with them, or because I want to mess with my reader's emotions: I kill them off because their deaths are necessary, and perhaps even inevitable, in the story I'm trying to tell. Their deaths *fit*. Remember, I know my stories pretty well before I ever start telling them. I know what needs to happen. From that perspective, I couldn't regret "killing off a character" without regretting the whole story; and that would violate my fundamental relationship with my work, including my reasons for telling specific stories in the first place.


Allen:  I just read "The Runes Of The Earth" and I feel properly devastated, horrified, and apphrensive. In the Gap Saga you began to explore moral ambiguities with a vengeance but with the Last Chronicles the vengeance comes home to roost. Do you feel that the Last Chronicles is the work of your life - ? Your magnum opus?
Are you trying to destroy (or at least confuse) the moral universe or is this kind of incandescent havoc as easy for you as spitting at the dirt?
I have no fear that the next three volumes will make us all squirm. You're the best.
I'm uncomfortable with the whole "magnum opus" concept. And I certainly don't feel qualified to comment on it. I only hope that when I'm done with "The Last Chronicles" I'll feel as proud of it as I do of the GAP books.

I'm not "trying to destroy the moral universe." Nor am I "spitting at the dirt." (Surely those aren't my only choices? <grin>) Here's how I look at it. What you're seeing is the natural evolution of a (no longer young) writer who has spent his whole life studying the mystery of his own heart, trying hard to understand the stringent and often cruel dilemmas of the people around him, learning how to "be true" to his own values and commitments, and striving for excellence. Of COURSE everything I do becomes more complex, ambiguous, and fraught. Under the circumstances, what else would you expect?


Luke (Variol son):  Having just started reading Runes of the Earth for the second time, I am noticing that the entire book takes place within a time period measuring a little under a fortnight. This is a sharp contrast to previous Covenant novels, which take place over a much longer time span, months in some cases. Runes also had very little down time, the gap between the start of the Horserite and Liden's return to the Verge of Wondering being the only one I can remember.

Now, I have no doubt that this was purposeful on your part, but what were your reasons for so drastically reducing the number of days in which all that action takes place? Would The Second Chronicles be similar if they had been published as a quadrilogy as opposed to a trilogy?
Every story has its own unique needs and demands. "The Last Chronicles" is structured differently than the earlier "Covenant" stories because the story itself is fundamentally different. The truth may not yet be apparent; but "The Last Chronicles" is a far more *urgent* story than its predecessors. (However, squeezing a lot of events into relatively short periods of time does happen often in Donaldson stories. Just look at my mystery novels and the last three GAP books.)

*How* "The Second Chronicles" was published (as a trilogy instead of a tetralogy) had nothing to do with the content or fundamental structure of the story itself. The only reason I allowed Lester del Rey to make a trilogy out of a tetralogy is that his action had no effect at all on the actual story.


Morgan:  Dr. Donaldson,

I have just begun "Runes of the Earth" and I am enjoying it a great deal thus far. However, in reading your "What Has Gone Before" introduction, a few questions came to mind regarding High Lord Elena. It mentions that Covenant comes to realize that Elena is not entirely sane, and that eventually, this imbalance, in conjunction with his essential betrayal, lead to her downfall.

My two questions are as follows:

1.) In many ways, Elena is an example of an Aristotlean tragic character -- larger than life and noble, but with a fundamental flaw that leads to her demise. We even have elements of an Elektra complex in her portrayal. What caused this flaw? Was her insanity the result of her upbringing, or rather the result of a more "epic" weakness resulting from the inherent violence/sin of her creation? Epic nature versus fundamental nurture?

2.) How is it that the other Lords, including Mhoram who was seer and oracle, had no indication of her insanity? Why did even mind melds between the counsel fail to indicate her flaw? A mutual decision was made that she possessed the qualities necessary to face the challenges of the upcoming war; how could they have been so wrong?

Thank you for your books and your time. Your work is thought-provoking and very entertaining.
1) In a fantasy novel of this kind (explicitly epic in both theme and character), the answer would almost have to be: "epic nature." Elena was created to be who she became by the violence of her father and the disturbance of her mother (*not,* in this case, her mother's disturbed behavior, but rather her mother's disturbed personality). This fits the themes of the story. But it also fits the model of Covenant's Unbelief. If the Land is being invented by some aspect of his mind, then Elena's character could *only* have been formed by the consequences of his actions: nurture doesn't enter the picture.

2) The Lords who selected Elena to lead them were not "so wrong." This is a novel about paradox, remember. Elena was the perfect choice in the same sense that Covenant was the perfect choice. So she was discernibly unbalanced. So what? So was he. The other Lords--especially Mhoram--knew that she would (to borrow a phrase) "save or damn" the Land; and they chose to believe that she would save it, just as they chose to believe that Covenant would. None of them existed on the knife-edge of possibility in the same way that Elena--and Covenant--did. And they could so easily have been validated by the outcome, if she had simply made a different decision at the moment when she tasted the EarthBlood. Only characters with epic flaws are capable of epic victories. So I would argue that the issue isn't that the other Lords "had no indication of her insanity": they simply didn't think in those terms. They didn't ask, "Is she sane?" but rather, "Is she capable?" And in those terms, they made the best possible choice.


IVB:  Mr. Donaldson,

I am curious about the nature of the Arch of Time you envisioned in your Covenant Chronicles. Throughout the first two chronicles you stress the necessity of choice, especially in relation to Power. This, to me, implies that the Law of Time must support free will. Does the Arch of Time encompass all time with all instances existing within the arch? If so then it would seem that free will does not exist within the Arch given that everything that will/has happen/happened is mapped out, unless paradoxically the Arch can encompass all time and provide the capacity for free will.

In Runes, Esmer says that he respects the Wurd of the Elohim and will not alter the past and risk breaking the Law of Time. Does this mean that you treat time linearly (without branching muiltiverses) with the past set and any change to what has gone before will break the Arch? If so then Linden’s retrieval of the Staff of Law did not change history, she was predestined to make the trip and her free will in this case is an illusion.

Thanks in advance.
Well, it's true that I do think of time as being linear. That fits my own experience of life. It fits the way I think. It fits the form of communication through which my stories and their ideas are conveyed. And I'm writing fantasy here, not science fiction: I don't need to include quantum mechanics in my portrayal of time.

But none of that means that I actually understand your question. How did you get from "time is linear" to "therefore there is no free will"? Perhaps the problem lies in how we're conceptualizing the Arch. I grant you that the word "Arch" suggests a created beginning and a (perhaps simultaneously) created end connected by a (once again, perhaps simultaneously) created sequence of events. If that's the source of the confusion, then it's my fault for not thinking of a better term than "Arch." My own conceptualization of the Arch of Time does not contain *anything* that is predetermined. Rather, as I tried to explain throughout "Runes," I see the Arch as the (admittedly linear) system of rules--e.g. cause and effect, sequence, linearity itself--which makes it possible for life (as I understand it) to exist; which makes it possible for human beings to think, feel, choose, and experience consequences. In *my* conceptualization, when the Creator created the Arch, he/she/it did not create a closed system in which everything has already been determined, but rather an open-ended *process* both enabled and constrained by a variety of *rules*, a process in which anything can happen as long as it doesn't break the rules (because breaking the rules destroys the process); and even breaking the rules can happen--as long as the being breaking the rules doesn't mind destroying the process. Hence free will. Hence the importance of making choices. Hence the significance of, say, Covenant's and Linden's efforts to determine the meaning of their own lives.

Or here's another way to look at it. Think of the Arch as being "under construction" according to the rules of its original design; rules which guide *how* the Arch is constructed, but which do not determine the *shape* taken by the Arch as it is constructed. If the rules are broken, the Arch will collapse; but as long as the rules remain intact, the specific structure being built is determined by the on-going choices and actions of those individuals whose existence is made possible by the rules.

Does that help?


Sergio D. Caplan:  Mr. Donaldson,

In rereading the first trilogy here I am catching phrases which I either missed all the other times, or am missing something now.

In The Illearth War there are many indications of "burning wood":

page 214 (near bottom)
page 217 (near top):
"coals of the fire"
"troy threw an armful of kindling on the fire"
"troy piled wood on the fire so that he could see better"

page 235: "The fire had died down to coals..."

Just doesn't make sense to me.

I guess we need to make a distinction between (to pick two convenient terms) "mundane" and "magical" activities. People in the Land who have learned the appropriate wood-lore (lillianrill) are able to elicit fire from wood without consuming the wood itself: their fire is an expression of Earthpower. People who haven't learned--or can't access--the appropriate lore make fire the old-fashioned way: by expending the life of the wood rather than by drawing Earthpower through the wood. And there are a number of indications in the story that part of the lillianrill lore involves *preparing* the wood: even a Hirebrand can't draw fire from just any old stick without consuming it. So even when the Lords were at their most effective there were still (inevitably) plenty of fires that actually consumed wood.


Steve Allange:  I could not help but notice on another page of this website that your literary agent's name is Howard Morhaim. Now, maybe this is just me...but the similarity between his name and that of Mhoram are just too close to be conincidental.

Is this just chance, or was there thought in the naming of Mhoram to be so close to that of Howard Morhaim?

Stephen Allange
I first created the character of Lord Mhoram at least a decade before I even heard of, much less met, Howard Morhaim. And, while I know that the subconscious works in mysterious ways, I don't think that the fact that I'd already created Lord Mhoram influenced my decision to pick Howard Morhaim as my agent. <grin>



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Croft Petersmeyer:  Greetings, Mr. Donaldson:

Short and sweet seems to be the order of the day, so I'll submit as best I can.

I live in the same city as Steven Erikson. I once sat one table across from him at a popular restaurant (he acknowledges it in books four and five of "Malazan") where he was busy tapping away on his laptop.

I was both awestuck and preoccupied - quite unlike me - so my companion asked me what was wrong. After excitedly explaining who Steven was, and getting a perplexed brand of apathy in return, we both got busy on our own communications work.

A Short time later, we started debating the merits of putting a comma before "and" in a series.

Example: red, white, and blue
or: red, white and blue.

I'm allowed to use this example because I'm Canadian; I'm not overly worried about offending anyone's sense of linguistic patriotism.

During this somewhat heated exchange, I noticed Steven seemed to be leaning a bit toward us, paying mild attention to our varying justifications. Perhaps this was largely because I adamantly oppose his preferred method of omitting the comma.

Question: please explain why you choose (at least mostly and certainly rightly) to place a comma before "and" in a series.

If I ever screw up the courage to confront Steven directly one of these days, I'd love to be able to say to my second-favourite author that he's way off base on this point.

And I'd love to be able to say I know this because my favourite author (you) says so, dammit.

It'd be a great icebreaker, don't you think?


P.S. About an hour ago, I stumbled across a signed copy of "Runes." I didn't even know you were finally returning to Covenant! I'm officially giddy. Once, long ago, thanks to a former English professor we both know, I was given a signed, personalized copy of "The Real Story." For that, and for much more besides over the years, my sincere thanks.

To steal something you once wrote about Steven: your work - yours, sir, more than any other - "afflicts me with awe."

Tut, tut. This sounds like an (admitted light-hearted) attempt to create a "feud" between me and Steven Erikson--a writer whom I both admire and like. Nonetheless the simple fact is that Erikson and I are both "right" (in so far as anything that pertains to something as ambiguous as language can ever be "right"). My use of serial commas (red, white, and blue) conforms to Standard American. And as a fairly standard American myself, the guidelines of Standard American make sense to me. "Red, white and blue" seems to me to blur the distinction between white and blue. BUT. Erikson's use of serial commas conforms to Standard British. (He spent a number of years in England, after all.) Indeed, the Brits seem to be trying to rid themselves of the comma altogether. For example, my British copyeditor would have removed the comma from the previous sentence. And I had to fight to preserve any serial commas at all in the British edition of "Runes."

So. Erikson's choices are validated by Standard British usage; mine by Standard American usage.

But I must have some British blood in me somewhere (perhaps growing up in India did it). When I write, for example, "Involuntarily she raised her head," I'm following Standard British, not Standard American. My US copyeditor desperately wanted to put a comma after "Involuntarily".


Chris Allan:  Stephen, thanks for writing the last Chronicles.You will be pleased to know that it appears to me to be getting prominence in the better book stores here in Australia..More so than the re release of the first 2 chronicles.

After such a long wait ( nearly 20 years, although I have kept an eye on things via this website), I decided that the first 2 Chronicles deserved another reading before taking on series 3.

My question. I was apalled to read that Book 2 may still be 3 years away. Does that mean Book 4 is 9 years away. This was not the case with either of the first 2 Chronicles, nor with the Mordant and Gap series. It seems very unfair to us readers. Is this a marketing decision, as you seem to suggest you have always had the structure in place for this series ?
.... and dont let those producers make the Film as a 'Lord of the Rings' Clone' . The temptation must be there for them. As the Old Beggar says, ' Be True'......

Will you be doing a Book tour in Australia some time?
These questions keep coming up. Until I get a FAQ in place, I guess I'll keep answering them.

My contract for "The Last Chronicles" requires me to deliver a book every 36 months. I accepted 36 because I couldn't get 48. Deadlines are destructive to my creative impulse. And I need every scrap of that time. TLC <grin> is by far the most difficult challenge I've ever tackled; each new installment will be more difficult to write than the one before it; and I'm not young anymore, so even when I'm writing something simple I can't write as quickly as I once did. I'm sorry you consider this unfair. It isn't the fault of my publishers. They would love it if I could produce books more quickly.

At present, a "Covenant" film remains entirely hypothetical. If one is ever made, I will have absolutely no control over it whatsoever.

I post all of my tours and appearances on this site. If you don't see an Australian tour listed there, it isn't happening.


Ken Zufall:  I have to say, I was quite delighted when I received a copy of "Runes of the Earth" as a Sweetest Day present from my wife and discovered that it was another Covenant book--I'd known for several weeks (and had been anticipating it) that you had another book coming, but had no idea that it entailed a return to the Land. It put some pressure on me to re-read the first two Chronicles as I'm not normally a chronic re-reader, but 20 years is a long time and there was no way I was going to head into the Final Chronicles without a refresher! It was two weeks well spent--I first read the TC books late in high school and I found that I enjoyed them even more this time around. I'm just glad I didn't have to spend that 20 years living with the knowledge that there was a Final Chronicles planned...the anticipation would have been too much.

A couple of questions that occurred to me as I read through the GI (blessed are slow holiday nights at work *grin*):

1) Are there any questions or posts that have made you uncomfortable? I don't mean the ones like the Creator questions or ones seeking your interpretation of your works, but ones that make you wonder if it's safe to be out in public?

2) Have you ever used your status as a best selling author to meet other authors whose works you enjoy?

3) If you had the opportunity to sit down with an author you don't already know for a Q&A or just a bull**** session, who would it be?
1) I suppose the questions I dislike the most are the ones that ask for my opinions about other specific contemporary writers. Every such question is a minefield.

2) Fortunately I don't have to. In my field (sf/f), every one who has the desire to meet writers (generally or specifically) can do so whenever they choose to make the effort. There's an sf/f "con" somewhere in the US virtually every weekend of every year; and attendance by all and sundry is pretty much always welcome. I have gladly met dozens of my fellow writers simply by going to "cons," and I could easily meet dozens more if I took the time away from writing "Fatal Revenant."

Outside sf/f, things are more difficult. Being "a best selling author" gives me ZERO "status" outside sf/f, and would be useless to me in attempting to meet non-sf/f writers.

3) Anyone at all? George Meredith, the Victorian novelist and poet. He was perhaps not the greatest novelist and/or poet of his time; but he deployed his (arguably) modest talents with such fierce intelligence that he must have been a fascinating man. And many decades ahead of his time. Look up his sonnet sequence "Modern Love": it's accessible on the web.


Mike G:  I'm breaking my rule of not asking a new question until you have answered my previous one, but the recent questions about LF have made me consider him...
With the exceptions of the pwer he uses to draw TC and others from 'our' world, and the occasional possession, I am realizing he really doesn't use any direct power at all. He has his surrogates- Drool, Ravers, etc...using power for him, but what power does he have access to?
He must have some power, or why would all the evil entities follow his lead? I know he can't attack TC directly, any more than the Creator can aid him directly, but what is he capable of, or is he basically just the embodiment of evil in that world?
I wonder why I really don't want to answer this question. Would you believe Lord Foul's "power" is "force of personality"? Would you believe his "power" is his ability to make people feel things that they don't want to feel--or that they secretly *do* want to feel? Maybe I just don't want to shackle myself by pinning this down.

Still, it's interesting to observe just how charismatic cynicism and nihilism can be. Just look at American politics. It could be that Foul's surrogates follow his lead simply because they like what they hear.


Chris Hawks:  I've been reading this interview for, what? 10 months now? and have even submitted a number of questions myself...and only NOW does it occur to me ask the first question I ever had reading your books. I don't know why it took me so long to remember this, but here goes:

If someone summons a visitor to the Land, and the summoner dies, then the visitor leaves the Land. Right? That's why Covenant went back to his world between each book in the First Chronicles: Drool dies at the end of Book 1, and then Elena dies at the end of Book 2.

So what about Hile Troy, then? His summoner (Lena's mother, if I recall) died, but good ol' Troy still stuck around. The only explanation that I could come up with was that since she died in mid-summon, Troy managed to stick around on a technicality. (By the time he had fully appeared in the Land, his summoner was already dead.) Or something. Some clarification would be greatly appreciated!

Looking forward to finding "Runes" under the ol' Christmas tree this year. :)
I think the question is: who dies first, the summoner in the Land, or the person who is summoned from the real world? In Troy's case, he dies in the real world before Atiaran does in the Land; so he stays. But Covenant is still alive in the real world is when, say, Drool dies; so he goes.


C Jordan:  Steve, I think this gradual interview is a great idea. I'm curious about your comment in one of your answers to another question stating that the "rape theme ... is so prevalent in my writing". I must admit I almost didn't continue the first TC book because of that (though it's now my second favorite fantasy series), and the subject is touched on a couple of different ways in Mordant's Need (absolute favorite!), though more "gently" as you've phrased it. Frankly I never read the GAP series, much as I wanted to, because the rape in the first book was more than I could stomach. Why is this theme so prevalent in your writing?

And as a follow up, there is a fair amount of physical torture as well, which really was evident to me throughout "Reave the Just", but which I then noticed even in re-reading other books. Are the rape and torture scenes somehow part of the same theme you are exploring (for lack of a better word)?

Thanks, CJ
<sigh> What is a nice--and profoundly gentle--guy like me doing in a conversation like this?

Why do writers write what they write? I suppose I could fall back on the Stephen King answer ("What makes you think I have a choice?"), or the Ross Macdonald answer ("This is what makes writing possible for me"--a paraphrase, but I think a fair one).

But here's how I look at it. It's all about physical metaphors. Physical metaphors for emotional states. Physical metaphors for themes and ideas. Physical metaphors for moral questions. I've argued elsewhere that all "good" (i.e. deeply moving and engaging, rather than merely escapist) fantasy is essentially psychodrama: internal journeys dramatized as if they were, for example, external quests. For a writer like me, such things must be communicated through specific actions and particular events: I'm not writing Chekhov-style character studies, I'm writing stories. So what else do you expect me to do? The "violence" of the action reflects the importance of what that action represents.


Matthew Orgel (The Dreaming):   Well, I know you hate questions about the creator, but I think this is a pretty painless one. I was reading up on ancient Zoroastrianism recently, and in a moment of inspiration I imagined a parallel between the world described by Zoroastoer and the theology of the land. In particular, it was the relationship that The Wise Lord (Ahura Mazda, The Creator) had with his Deava Ahriman. (Ultimate evil, the Lie, etc.)

According to Zoroastrianism, The moment Ahura created the world; Ahriman sprang from him in a moment of doubt. Then, when Ahriman corrupted the creation of Ahura, he was cast down into the world of light, where he seems to rise and fall in 3000 year cycles. (I am paraphrasing my research grotesquely, but you begin to see the point I am driving towards)

The reason that Ahriman was created was so that man would have choice. This is a basic tenet of the religion. This got me thinking about Covenant and the fundamental question of ethics. I thought about how the Creator couldn't interfere directly with Covenants actions in the land.

Also, I discovered that the vast majority of modern Zoroastrians live in India, your place of birth. That and a bit about Ahura living in "infinite time" really got me thinking.

So Mr. Donaldson, is this just a completely blind coincidence? Or were you thinking of this Old theology when you wrote the first chronicles? Were you even just aware of its existence at the time you wrote it?
Actually, everything I know about Zoroastrianism I learned from reading your message. The missionaries made a point of preventing their children from learning anything about the countries and peoples they wanted to "redeem": doubtless they wanted to prevent their children from being "misled" or "confused." So what can I tell you? <shrug> Some ideas are simply too important or necessary to vanish from the collective human psyche. Those ideas find ways to perpetuate themselves somehow. Genetically? Who knows?


Michael Martin:  Dear Mr Donaldson:

First, and most importantly, thanks for all the wonderful stories you've shared. I've been reading your works since the early 80s, and am constantly amazed at how well your stories stand up to repeated readings.

"Mordant's Need", in my own opinion, is a much-overlooked fantasy work. In some respects, I think your writing there surpasses even the two complete Convenant trilogies, and I was especially impressed with your use of completely human villains (breaking away from the Dark Lord mode of most fantasies). I've read somewhere, though, that you disliked how you ended the books - is that true? I loved it, because while not everyone lived, it seemed to be a very emotionally-satisfying ending to a powerful tale.

A recurrent theme in the Covenant books (and one echoed by King Joyse's own peculiar mix of power and powerlessness in "Mordant's Need") is how God (the Creator) is good but limited. "Daughter of Regals" contains two stories that are overtly "religious" (or at least deal with religious matters and ideas). Can you share a bit on how your own beliefs impact the thematic elements of your stories?

Finally, near the end of "White Gold Wielder," you wrote that Linden Avery spoke a word across the distances to Sunder and Hollian. What did she say?

Again, thanks for the incredible stories and writing. I look forward to "Fatal Revenant"!

I'm quite proud of "Mordant's Need." I very much wanted to get away from the "Dark Lord mode" of my earlier work (and, as you say, most of modern fantasy), not because I was tired of it, but because I wanted to stretch myself in new ways. (In retrospect, "Mordant's Need" does look like preparation for the GAP books; but I wasn't aware of that at the time.) And I'm not at all unhappy with the way I ended the story. The fairy-tale-ish elements of the story (explicitly stated in the "bookends") were essential to my original conception; and I probably wouldn't have written the story at all if I hadn't been pleased by my original conception.

As I've said repeatedly, I don't consider my personal "religious" belief to be relevant to this discussion. My beliefs about *writing,* on the other hand.... Instead of thinking of characters like the Creator, King Joyse, and Warden Dios as "God" figures, you might try thinking of them as "author" figures: not because they "speak" for the author (they do not), but because their dilemmas--and their solutions to those dilemmas--closely resemble the problems that I face as a storyteller, and the solutions I devise to those problems. How can I create something that I not only believe in but also consider beautiful *without* violating the independent and organic integrity of the thing I'm trying to create?

I intended Linden's last message to Sunder and Hollian to be obvious in context. Apparently I failed. But if you want to read the sentence literally, the word was probably "Goodby." If you're willing to read the sentence more figuratively, her message was probably a combination of "farewell" and "I love you" and "I'm sending you the Staff of Law".



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Tony Powell:  In explaining your approach to The Gap series, you briefly talk about needing two ideas to proceed. Obviously this is what gives your work a depth that most fiction (no matter the genre) lacks these days.

I have an old, out-of-print book that is a compilation of essays, letters, etc., on creativity, written by the heavyweights --- Mozart, Einstein, et al.

One of these (and I'd tell you which if I weren't at work and the book at home) talks of visualizing ideas as a room full of balls that are constantly bouncing around. On each ball is a hook. And on the walls are empty eyelets.

The writer goes on to say that now and then he looks in on this room to find that his subconscious has hooked balls in several eyelets. And these are ideas (connections) he could never have made without first setting the balls into motion, then closing the door in order to let them "hook where they may."

My question is: is your "idea" process that esoteric? And do you see a benefit to such an approach? I ask because you often say that your stories find you rather than the other way around.

Well, my “idea” process certainly doesn’t seem “esoteric” to *me*. <grin> And it is nowhere near as visual as the process you describe. I’ve talked--and written--about the “story shelf” where my ideas sit waiting for something to happen to them. But that is a rhetorical convenience: I don’t actually “see” the shelf, or the ideas. In my case, the process by which ideas (eventually) make connections with each other is far more verbal. For example, if a story idea seems static or inert to me (if it lacks the imaginative connections that would bring it to life), that simply means that I need to change the words with which I describe the idea to myself. Putting it into different words creates different possibilities. I probably would have never found the connections that made the GAP books possible if I hadn’t changed one of my descriptive words for the original idea from “fantasy” to “science fiction.” Sometimes being creative is just that simple.


Steve Brown:  First off thank you so much for continuing what I think is the best series ever! I've read (and re-read) runes almost non stop since it came out. One thing has me puzzled and may be a RAFO?
When did it become possible, or was it always possible for a Raver or Foul to enter someones mind on the 'real' earth? We don't see it in the first series, so I would assume it happened then?
First we need to define “enter.” I see “possession” (“entering”) as operating along a continuum which ranges from “merely whispering nearly-inaudible suggestions” to “complete control.” And on that continuum, the degree to which Lord Foul can enter a mind in the “real world” is severely limited to the low end. He couldn’t do it all until the structures of Law which sustain the Land began to break down. And he still can’t assume control: he can only whisper persuasively. (The Ravers can’t do this at all to a mind in the “real world”: only LF is that powerful. When Linden feels turiya in Joan’s mind, Joan is already dead; already in the Land.)

But I’m puzzled myself: what does RAFO mean?


Jim Carter:  I just finished 'The Runes of the Earth'. I can tell you that I wish you had written this chapter of The Land 15 years ago but the Gap books were great. I have three questions: (1) Any movies planned for either series (Sci-fi channel would love these - these would excede the JR Tokken movies by far) (2) Are any of the premises concerning the laws of The Land (Arch of time) based on your personal beliefs/faith? We, as a race, are inheritantly asking why and reconciling our own perceptions and laws - String theory/Quantum Physics/Theory of Relativity with religion. I personally beleive how and what created us is constantly striving for a balance between order and choas and prevents and preserves us from many challenges that we shouldn't know exist. (3) I would love to get copies of all the Covenant's hardback books and have you sign them. I live in Alaska. How can I find these books and get you to come to Alaska for a visit? You like to fish? I equally would love to show you Alaska - as it is an beautiful as Andelain. Sincerely, Jim
1) I have no control over any of this. And if I had any news, I would post it on this site (as “news”). So if it isn’t in “news,” it isn’t happening. 2) As I keep saying, I don’t think my personal beliefs are relevant to this discussion. I have never, EVER set out to write a story that expressed or embodied my views on any subject. Instead I place myself at the service of the stories that come to me to be written; and I try to give them whatever they need for their own unique organic vitality and integrity. Which may or may not bear some resemblence to my personal view of life. 3) The only source of “Covenant” hardcovers I know about (apart from “Runes”) is the Science Fiction Book Club, which currently has omnibus editions of each trilogy. I’ve put a methodology in place that enables readers to obtain autographs: the procedure is described elsewhere on this site.

But since you ask: God, I hate fishing! <grin>


Clifton Wolfe:  A couple of things. FIRST. Lord Foul's Bane came out when I was in High School. I loved it. Then I waited for the next, then the next etc etc...It seems I have been waiting my whole adult life for the "Next" book. Not trying to rush you or anything but DAMN. I hope I live long enough to read the end. IF it ever ends. Tales of the Land could go on forever. It is rich in life and tales to be told. Which leads me to my question....

When I read LFB I was certain that either Loric or KEVIN were from our earth. I felt that way not just because of the name but also because Kevin knew of the existance of White Gold, which does not exist in the Land, but it does of cource exist here. But since you never mentioned it I assume I was wrong. Then why the totally normal and "Un-fantasy" like name of Kevin?
I’m occasionally shocked and sometimes horrified by the number of people who feel that the name “Kevin” doesn’t fit in fantasy--or at least doesn’t fit in *my* fantasy. Clearly many readers have the same reaction--and then go to great lengths to think of an explanation for the apparent discrepancy. But the simple truth is: I don’t feel the discrepancy myself. Your reaction, like those of many other readers on this subject, comes as a complete surprise to me. To my ear, there is no difference in kind, no difference in tone, no difference in substance, between a name like “Mhoram” and a name like “Kevin”--except for the one obvious fact that most of us have actually known someone named “Kevin” while very few of us have actually known someone named “Mhoram.” On this specific subject, I think that the same imaginative talent, the same suspension of disbelief, which allows me to “hear” Mhoram as a real name belonging to a real person prevents me from “hearing” Kevin as a name that is, in a sense, too real.

I regret the confusion. If I had ever once imagined that my readers would feel that Kevin’s name doesn’t fit, and then would try to assign meaning to the discrepancy, I would have chosen a different name in a heartbeat.


Todd Burger:  This is my second question in almost as many days, and given your time constraints and my selfish desire for you to get as much done on Fatal Revenant as possible, I feel a tad guilty.

I just read your statement in the GI, “I didn't want to go the Tolkien route: pick a name like "Sauron" and *pretend* he isn't Evil Personified.”

My question should be obvious by now. Why don’t you think that Sauron was evil personified? What did he “lack”?
I edited out most of your question because it seems to be based on a misunderstanding. I *do* think that Sauron was “evil personified.” My point, which I must have phrased rather badly, was simply that Tolkien doesn’t *announce* Sauron as “evil personified” (at least not in “The Hobbit” and LOTR, which is really all I know on the subject). To the best of my knowledge, Tolkien just told his story--and then stubbornly resisted all attempts to “interpret” it or assign meaning to it. Well, the story still is what it is; and Sauron qualifies as “evil personified”. But I got into this mess by trying to explain why I gave *my* “evil personified” a name as obvious as “Lord Foul the Despiser.” At the time that I wrote the first “Covenant” trilogy, I felt a young man’s desire to be VERY CLEAR that my story was not an imitation of Tolkien’s.


Christian:  OK, I know by now you must be tired of answering questions about how to pronounce words from the Covenant Series, like "Banas Nimoram", And "Melenkurion abatha" (one word, or two?), "duroc", "minas", "mill" and "kabal". Sure I would like to know the "correct" pronounciation of these and other words, but asking for them one at a time would take until the Arch itself falls, especially since you are coming up with new ones now!

So my question is; why not _include_ the pronounciation in the glossary at the back of the book(s)?
I want to say, “Because I didn’t think of it,” but the real reason is, “Because I don’t care.” I mean, I don’t care how any of my readers pronounce any of these words or names. And I certainly don’t want to foster the notion that *my* way is correct and everyone else’s way is wrong. I believe that anyone who bothers to read a book should be allowed to deal with the experience in any way that suits him/her. If your eye sees “Ranyhyn” and your brain says “Rrrrrrrrrrrrrr” or “huh?” or “whinny” or “poppycock,” that’s fine with me. Just read and I’m content.

But there’s a deeper issue as well. As far as I’m concerned, how language functions *at all* is a profound mystery. I make arbitrary black shapes on a piece of paper; and years later people whom I’ve never met send me arbitrary black shapes on a computer screen which SOMEhow my brain interprets to mean, “Tell us what sounds we should hear in our minds when we see these arbitrary black shapes?” Apparently communication is taking place--but HOW? How is it even possible? The fact that individual human beings (each cruelly isolated inside his/her own skull) somehow contrive to send and receive information with an appreciable degree of accuracy *to people who aren’t even present* amazes me. And I do *not* want to mess with that mystery by trying to impose something as trivial as “correct pronunciation” on it. Frankly, I fear that the more literal I am in my relationship with that mystery, the less that mystery will function effectively on my behalf.

So I have no interest in “correctness” here. And I seldom tell people how I happen to pronounce certain words.

But since you didn’t ask--<grin>--it’s mel-en-COOR-ion ah-BAH-tha. Two words.


I really have enjoyed everything you've written...
I just have one small question, and I apologize ahead of time if you've covered this before. I recently re-read the first 6 Covenant books in anticipation of Runes...and I noticed something I never noticed before.
When Covenant returns to the land in The Wounded Land, he is not healed as before. Thus, he remains impotent. And yet, at the end of The One Tree, Covenant and Linden...well, you know...Am I missing something?
The explanation is pretty simple. Covenant's impotence was psychological, not physiological. Leprosy doesn't necessarily cause impotence. The degree of psychological health that he regained during the course of the first "Chronicles" enabled him to return to writing; and with creative potency came, well, procreative (I mean sexual) potency.


Brian Dantes:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you for your fine work over the years.

I just recently discovered your Man Who novels. Are there plans for a Tor/Forge paperback reissue of "The Man Who Tried To Get Away?" I see the new paperback editions of the other three at Amazon, but Get Away appears to have just been reissued in hardback.

Brian Dantes
Yes, "The Man Who Tried to Get Away" is currently only available in hardcover. But in October or November Tor plans to issue a paperback edition. At that point, all of "The Man Who" books will be in print in paperback (and, I devoutly hope, on Long may this state of affairs last! "The Man Who" books have never succeeded at staying in print for long. On the other hand, Tor has a good reputation for keeping books available.


Usivius:  Hello, Mr. Donaldson. Once again, thank you for being so readily available to answer questions from your readers.

As with many, upon hearing 'Runes' was being released, I went back and read all the TC books again. There is always something that bothered me about certain books, and the 2nd series was an example of this: circumstance and planning. Often in certain books, the bad-guy or good guy, plan a series of events so meticulously that its complexity is staggering when it is completed and/or revealed. I felt this when reading the 2nd series. The series of events that both Foul and Thomas' Dead planned to ensure their victories, seemed to involve a mind-boggling series of events they hoped would occur.

To summarize my rambling: is there a simpler way of describing what each party (good and evil) had planned, or was it really, as it seems, a series of thin hopes that each group hoped TC would follow to victory or doom? Was this all planned this way by The Dead?
Interestingly, the same observation/complaint/criticism can be levelled at “Mordant’s Need” and the GAP books: it’s all insanely meticulous; no hero or bad guy regardless of intelligence could possibly predict, much less plan, the actions of other people that far ahead (chaos theory alone forbids it). But my own view of the situation is rather different. As far as I’m concerned, there’s really only one question that matters: does the author violate the integrity, the dignity, the independent reality, of his characters in order to contrive his elaborate plots? If he does, well, then the sorts of questions you raise really don’t apply, since we’re talking about *contrivance* rather than *character* and therefore predicting and planning are dead easy. Or at any rate as dead easy as playing chess. But if the author does *not* violate the integrity/dignity/independence of his characters, and the plots *still* seem insanely, impossibly meticulous--ah, then the problem must lie elsewhere. Not in the apparent meticulousness of the plots, but in how those plots are visualized by the reader.

It seems to me that some of the difficulty for the reader arises from the fact that the reader is looking back on the action, while everyone within the story is looking forward. (After all, these plots don’t seem insanely meticulous until you think about them afterward: the perspective of retrospect seems to change their nature.) One example--and only one, because I don’t want to spend hours writing about this. In the case of the Quest for the One Tree, Covenant’s Dead don’t actually need to predict and plan for the encounter with the Giants, the willingness of the Giants to redefine their own quest, the voyage to the Elohim, the actions of the Elohim, Vain’s ability to escape the Elohim, the Appointment of Findail, *and* Brinn and Cail’s surrender to the merewives (because without that event Brinn might not have been able to deal with the Guardian). What Covenant’s Dead *do* need is an understanding of character: the character of the ur-viles (Vain’s purpose), the character of the Elohim (why the Elohim might fear both Covenant’s power and Vain’s purpose), the character of Covenant (his instinct for extravagent solutions), and the character of Linden (her need to come to terms with her own capacity for evil). Given such resources, only a little imagination is required to see a variety of possible roads which could all conceivably lead to the same end. One such road: it is Linden rather than the Elohim who unlocks the location of the One Tree from Covenant’s mind (because she must encounter her power to take possession of Covenant in time to learn how wrong such an action is); she and Covenant travel south along the coast of the Land until they encounter a sea-faring race; Covenant wins an approach to the One Tree with wild magic (thus triggering the forces which catalyze Vain); meanwhile the Elohim *have* to take action (it’s really a convenience for them that Covenant and Linden visit them, since Vain’s creation and Covenant’s purpose automatically impose the necessity of a response: the Elohim are obviously going to Appoint one of them regardless of whether or not Covenant and Linden stop by for a sacrificial visit), so the Appointed is “in play” regardless of how Covenant and Linden approach the One Tree. My point? From the perspective of Covenant’s Dead looking forward in the story, there are a variety of conceivable scenarios. Hope doesn’t lie in predicting and planning exactly what Covenant and Linden are going to do: it lies in understanding who Covenant and Linden are. Another way to say the same thing: Covenant’s Dead supply the “raw materials” for a solution to the Land’s plight--and then step back, trusting Covenant and Linden to figure *something* out.

Lord Foul’s position is similar. He’s more of a control-freak, and more directly manipulative; but he still needs to do what Covenant’s Dead must do: understand who he’s dealing with, grasp what must happen *within* those characters to make them do what he wants, and then supply the “raw materials” (venom, etc.) which will make his desired outcome both possible and likely. The more scenarios he can imagine, the more “apt” his raw materials can be; but he really doesn’t have to plan or predict everything that’s going to happen, he simply needs to use his imagination and supply as many catalysts as he can.

In other words, I’m arguing that Lord Foul, like Covenant’s Dead, like King Joyse, like Warden Dios, does not engage in insanely meticulous plotting: rather he engages in a highly creative kind of open-ended thinking; thinking that revolves around the manipulation of characters rather than the manipulation of events.

I hope this helps.


Andrew:  What are the odds of myself succesfully using my status as a soldier deployed in Baquba, Iraq to mooch an autograph off of you for Christmas? I would like to add that I've been waiting for the Final Chronicles since I was 14. Thank you for your consideration.
I'm sorry it took me so long to get to your question. The procedures for obtaining autographs are described elsewhere on this site. And they work, I assure you.


Rick:  Ur-viles!

I wonder if you enjoy the same sense of delight writing about the ur-viles as I do when reading about them?

I am fascinated by their bravery and dignity, their darkness and mystery. Even now after all they have done, I am still uncertain of them - yet I rejoice at their every move.

It's great to see them back, they are real heroes. I for one am rooting for them all the way!

I would like to also take this opportunity to say thank you for all of your works. I am not really an "analyser", I simply immerse myself in your tales and enjoy the ride of a lifetime!

Thank you.

//Rick /Telford /England
I don't really know that it would be possible for me to feel the *same* sense of delight that you do. For me, anyway, writing is so-o-o not the same as reading. For one thing, it's so experiential. For another, it's *much* slower. But I feel pride and pleasure on several different levels simultaneously: I'm proud of myself for creating them, and for what I'm doing with them; and I'm proud of *them* in a way that's quite separate from myself. Somehow I think they and I bring out the best in each other.



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Turiya Foul:  Dear Mr. Donaldson, as you write, do the scenes go along in your mind like a movie? Being a writer myself, I find that this is fun. Of course, me being slightly crazy.... Eh, anyway. I've been in love with your books for nearly four years now. (Read TWL when I was ten.) I was wondering, how do you feel about "fanfiction"? (Y'know, where someone goes, takes the world, plot, etc... and writes missing moments, parodies, extra little adventures, the like?) Fanfic was the first thing that I wrote, but then I got a partial definition of plagerism, and burned most of my work. Eeuch.

Anyway, I love your writing, and I hope you keep it up.

Love in charred bits of fanfiction,
I've discussed these subjects earlier. But briefly:

I'm not a visual person. I'm quintessentially verbal. So I don't see movies playing in my mind. For me, it's more like hearing movies--or the stories of those movies--described as eloquently as possible.

I have no inherent problem with "fanfiction." In my view, "Imitation is the sincerest form of learning." I did a lot of it during what I think of as my journeyman years; my apprenticeship. It's only plagiarism if you try to pass it off as being more, well, original than it really is.


Doug Davey:  Hi Stephen
I Have never written to someone I do not know. But your books on Thomas Covenant inspired me to write my own book and thus ask your opinion. I have an eleven year old boy whom I read my two hundred page book to. Of course he says it is better than Star Wars and my book should be a movie. Of course the writing is poor the grammer suspect at best but the charaters are quite appealing. I would like to have someone edit and give me their opinion. It will most likely be a family momento only. But to have it made up in proper book form would be quite satisfying. Can you recommend anyone to edit the fantasy/fiction book I have wrote. Thank you for your response, I am looking forward to reading the last chronicles. DD
There are people who provide editorial services of various kinds. (Naturally they expect to get paid for their work.) I don't happen to know any of them personally--although many years ago I worked for a company (now defunct) that provided such services. Look in the yellow pages. Or a book callled "The Literary Marketplace." Or various other publications intended for aspiring writers. Or just ask an honest and reasonably intelligent friend/relative to help you out.



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Michael From Santa Fe:  I know this is a silly question, but I'll ask anyway (I'm like that :-)): If given the chance, and if it actually existed, would you leave this world to live in the Land?

I know for myself that when life is hard, fantasy provides me with an escape (which is why I love it so), but would I choose to leave this world for another? I've thought about it and my answer would be "no". I prefer to visit the Land only through your books. For that, I thank you.
My answer would also be: No. The life I'm leading right now is the only life I'm actually qualified for. <grin>


Balon:  Mr Donaldson,

My question is simple, and probobly simply answered, but it still rankles my mind. The name "Plains of Ra", it seemed a bit out of place as an apparent reference to Egyptian culture. Is it a vague reference, or am i completly missing the point?
Sorry for the confusion. I did *not* intend any kind of reference to Egyptian culture or cosmology. My near total ignorance of the subject precludes that. And in fact I suspect that an Egyptian reference in this context would be thematic gibberish. (Although synchronicity occasionally accomplishes miracles.) No, I was simply--and I don't mean to make this sound frivolous--playing around with sounds: Ranyhyn, Ramen, Plains of Ra.


Denis Delworth:  After years of shouting about the number of books you have sold in europe, how can you justify the paucity of personal appearances over here?
It's wonderful for us over here to sit and read about these Fests where you and your fans turn out for a celebration for what you have done.

When are we in Europe going to get some proportionate response to the books we buy?

Or are you going to submit to the steriotypical belief that nobody outside the Dollar dictatorship matters?

Still a fan, but so disappointed.

D Delworth.
*Who* has been "shouting about the number of books [I] have sold in Europe"? Not I.

Who makes decisions about where and why authors do public appearances? Not I.

Who believes that the policies and parochialism of US publishing companies (the "Dollar dictatorship") sheds any light at all on the personal beliefs and desires of individual authors? Not I.

I can't say that I understand your disappointment. If William Shakespeare were doing a signing across the street from me right now, I probably wouldn't go. Wouldn't want to stand in line. And it's the work that interests me, not the person. But still: don't you think it might be a bit churlish to blame *me* for your disappointment?


Anonymous:  Hi Stephen,
I wrote a post recently in which I gave my name and address and subsequently discovered that postings are posted,so just to request that it not be posted please?.Having read some of the postings I will submit a question to you soon.Thank you from Frank
If you don't want any of your personal information revealed in the postings on this site, please say so when you submit a question. I mean well, honest I do; but I can't pretend that I'll remember your specific request later on.


smith:  i've read answers to your previous questions regarding audiobooks of your previous works, and i had found a recording (online) of lord foul's bane read by teri hays sayles (sp) that sounds quite professional. Was this recorded without your permission?
Please send details! I was totally unaware of this recording. My actual "permission" is irrelevant: the rights are held by Ballantine Books, not by me. This could be a significant (and very labor-intensive) case of copyright infringement. Or it could be fully authorized by Ballantine, who just didn't bother to let me know.


Mark Morgon-Shaw:  Not so much a question......I read that you enjoy parody so last night started work on Chapter 1 of ' The Adventures of Briny the Pirate '. In the the first chapter Briny forgets where his boat is moored after a night of competetive drinking with Thomas the Incredulous, who cannot believe he too has lost something,his mobile phone memory has been erased. Their quest to rediscover the One Ring-tone takes them on many adventures, past the world's oldest French speaking mountain tree 'The L'arch of Time' , through a Swiss shopping centre where they purchase 'Kevin's Swatch', and finally visiting Europe's worst public toilet - 'Lord Fouls Salles du Bain'

I feel the story will be about nine chapters long and ask that you finish them for me as I have no actual writing talent at all. ;)
But you've already demonstrated more talent for parody than *I* have, so you're on your own. <grin?


thinbuddha:  Why the book tour? I was at an event in a major US city- there were only about 30 people there. Surely that can't generate enough sales to make the tour worthwile for your publisher(or you)?

Were there other (non-public) industry events tied to the tour such as interviews, meetings with other authors..... whatever...?

I loved getting a chance to meet you- and so much the beter that there wasn't a lot of people demanding your time (made it easier for me to get a couple of words in to one of my favorite authors) but the whole thing just strikes me as a bit odd.

Were your publishers disappointed that more people didn't show up? Where were all your fans?!? Were your tours always so quiet? Somehow, I really expected to fight with a hoard of fantasy/sci-fi fans for good seats.... But they just didn't show.

That's been my experience with US book tours generally. I've never understood why my publishers want to spend the money on them. Almost without exception, they're poorly promoted and mechanical; and there is no media interest whatsoever. (The one consistent exception is Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego.) Things were very different back when I did my first US tour, for "The Wounded Land" in 1980.

But compared to the other US tours I've done in the past 20+ years, the "Runes" tour was a huge success. When I was on the road for "The Man Who Fought Alone," I often found myself speaking to audiences of 2 or 3 people, and sometimes signed as many as 8 books.


Mark:  Sir,
May I add my small voice to the great choir singing your praises, giving thanks for your gifts?
*I don't know if this will qualify as a spoiler*
As I was filling in a crossword puzzle yesterday, one of the answers in the grid was the word "anele". (I didn't actually know the word, in the context, but was able to fill it out by completing all of the perpendicular words.) I then looked in my dictionary, and could not find "anele". It was that kind of a crossword puzzle. After some searching, found that "anele" is an archaic word for anointing, administering oil, giving a blessing or the "Last Rites."
Did you intend to name your character with this in mind?
I know that you have said previously that you collect words from your own reading, so I was intrigued by this possible connection.
If you did intend the name to echo the action, I must now ponder the ramifications of this discovery.
Yes, I chose the name "Anele" consciously because of the word's meaning. And yes, the conclusions that might be drawn about Anele from the literal meaning of his name are also intentional. People are "anointed" (chosen) for many reasons, few of them kindly.


Doug Davey:  Hi Stephen
This is the first time I have ever sent in a question to someone like yourself. Your Thomas Covenant books inspired me to write my own fantasy book that I would like to have edited and printed.(mainly for friends and family) The characters are great but my writing style is to action oriented and to the point, like most movies nowadays. I was wondering if you could recommend a company or person I could contact to have this done. The story is only about two hundred pages. I am looking forward to picking up the latest series. Thanks for your time. DD
Sorry. I know essentially nothing about self-publishing--except that it seldom accomplishes anything except, perhaps, ego gratification. The biggest obstacles to "success" (as we usually understand the word) are money and distribution. But there are exceptions. Books like "The Literary Marketplace" and magazines intended for writers should offer more information.


Todd Burger:  Hi,

Thanks again for this forum. Please bear with a bit of explanation before I get to my questions.

You've referenced an idea shelf - that may be a rough paraphrase. I have one myself. At the top of it is my adult fantasy, which I've been tinkering with for years, but haven't written (aside from volumes of character sketches, scene constructions, morality questions, "thesis papers" on themes, back-history narratives, a solid construction of the ending [of course], etc.) because at this point in my life, neither my mind nor my writing is ripe enough to do a good job with it. If I can't do a good job with it, I won't write it.

On the shelf below it, is a young adult fantasy series. I wrote half of the first book, am happy with the writing, but when reality sunk in regarding the publishing industry, I dusted off an idea for a single book (mature children's fantasy/horror), and am writing that. With this single book, I intend to go the way Mark Jeffrey did with his young adult series: self-publish, and then market the daylights out of it and hope to catch the eye of a publishing house. I didn’t want to self-publish one book with three or four to follow. So my first question is, what are your feelings on self-publishing? Mark and I have had a few conversations about this, but I was wondering what your thoughts were.

My second question goes back to your idea shelf. I believe I remember seeing in the gradual interview that you did not have anything on your shelf but Covenant, so rather than asking if you have ideas on your shelf (maybe you do, but you won’t tell us?) I’m wondering if you could *conceive* of writing another fantasy series? (Obviously, one that is neither The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant or Mordant’s Need.)

Thanks as always for your time.

I've just written an answer that contains everything I know about self-publishing; so I'll confine myself to your second question.

Almost anything is "conceivable." And I certainly don't have a crystal ball. Nor do I intend to give up writing--or living--after I complete "The Last Chronicles." I simply have no idea what the future holds. HowEVer, my working hypothesis has been that no new concrete ideas have appeared on my "story shelf" for a number of years now *because* "The Last Chronicles" got tired of waiting for me to get around to it; so it blocked off the shelf to force me to pay attention. If this hypothesis is accurate, then writing "The Last Chronicles" should free up the shelf to hold new ideas.


Travis Foss:  Mr. Donaldson,
I just finished Runes of the Earth and wanted to let you know I thought it was amazing. Easialy as good as the first series. I look forward to reading the next three books.

When can we expect to see the next book come out?

Until my webmaster and I get around to creating a FAQ, I guess I'll keep answering this question.

My contract allows me 36 months per book for "The Last Chronicles." I *hope* I won't need that much time; but I can promise nothing. "News," when there is any, appears promptly elsewhere on this site.


Michael From Santa Fe:  You have stated in the answers to several questions that writing the "Last Chronicles" was going to be difficult, for a number of reasons. My question is: what book or books, if any, have been the easiest, or least difficult, for you to write and why?
I think I can say with some confidence that the first "Covenant" trilogy was the least difficult for me to write. Why? Well, partly because I didn't know any better. <grin> Partly because there were absolutely no expectations (no publisher, no editor, no readers--and no reason to believe that such things would ever exist in my life). And partly because I had never written fantasy before, so I didn't know what my true talents were; and the sense of self-discovery as I got deeper and deeper into the story was enormously exciting.



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Michael Rowlands:  Mr. Donaldson,
It seems everytime I read TC's confrontation with Lord Foul in Foul's Creche I am reminded of Dr Who's (Tom Baker) confrontation with Sutekh in Pyramids of Mars (I'm not suggesting that you borrowed from it at all). I was wondering, and excuse me if this is a silly question, if you could (and were able to) cast (for a film) a voice for the Despiser would you cast Gabriel Wolfe?
Can I assume that Gabriel Wolfe played Sutekh? I remember the episode well (although I first saw it a number of years after writing "The Second Chronicles"), but I don't remember the voice; and I never knew who played any characters other than the Doctor and his companions. Oh, and the Master, of course.


Sergio D. Caplan:  First off, "thank you". Couldn't be avoided. I must say thanks, because I always re-read these stories when things are goign especially tough for me. I always found Covenant to be someone to look up to when despair has me in it's grips. It's always at these times when I say to myself, like Covenant, ride out the bad dream.

Anyway here is my question. In the second trilogy, did the Haruchi re-enact their vow? Did they sleep? I don't recall if I ever got that answer in the second trilogy. And I just have to know!

Now I must quickly re-read the first two trilogies, so I can start the third...21 years from White Gold Wielder to Runes of the Earth, that's not a long wait, is it?

No, the Haruchai did not re-enact their Vow. Nor have they done anything similar in "The Last Chronicles." They're just so ^#$%# stoical that they do all their sleeping off-stage. <grin>


Jason Avant:  First, a simple thanks for "The Runes of The Earth".

A comment, and then a question. What draws me to the Covenant novels are the characters, particularly Covenant and Linden. I'd enjoy reading about them and knowing them even if their adventures consisted of visiting an aluminum siding sales convention; they're perhaps the only characters I've read in the genre that come across as real people. It seems to me that the vast majority of fantasy writers place their emphasis on the realms they create, rather than the folks who inhabit (or gate-crash from our world) those realms. I'm curious - did the Land come first for you, or did Covenant, and later on, Linden?

Thanks, and looking forward to reading more of your work!
Covenant definitely came first. In fact, as I think I've explained elsewhere, discovering the character of Covenant *enabled* me to discover the Land. In my storytelling, anyway, the "world" is pretty much always an extension of the characters.

Linden was a far more difficult discovery, since both Covenant and the Land already existed. But eventually Covenant and the Land gave her to me.


Drew B:  Mr Donaldson,
Over the years, has writing the various Chronicles led you to particular insights about yourself?
Or have personal insights led to breakthroughs as a writer?
For a writer like myself, there is a constant synergy between what I write and what I know about myself. Unfortunately--or fortunately, depending on your point of view--this isn't necessarily a conscious process. And those aspects of the process that *are* conscious are probably too personal to discuss in a public forum (and in any case they would take *hours* to explain). But I'll say this much. Sometimes my imagination--and my characters--seem to run pretty far ahead of me. I've spent a significant portion of my life playing catch-up. <rueful smile> As a result, much of what I know about life (especially as it pertains to personal integrity) I learned from writing these specific stories about these particular characters.

On the other hand, I'm not exactly a "breakthrough" kind of guy. I do pretty much everything in life the same way I write: very slowly, in small increments, with lots and lots of revision. The difference is that I frequently experience epiphanies, sudden flashes of insight, in writing, but seldom in life. In life I generally grind it out the hard way.


Jay Shapiro:  I can't thank you enough for your books and for this interview. I have read and reread everything you have written, and enjoyed them all very much. After finishing RUNES, I bought and am listening to the audio version, and I am truly enjoying it as well. I hope enough people are interested in the audio version to make this possible for the rest of the series.

After reading the entire gradual interview, I have not seen the answer to this question, so I guess I will pose it...

When Sorus (and others) have to take the antidote to the mutagen every hour to stay human, when do they sleep? The chapter from Pup's POV described his being very meticulous about the timing of the dosage. Granted, he only had a limited supply of the antidote, but Sorus seems to have been taking it for quite some time. Is it necessary for them to take it every hour, 24 hours a day?

Thanks again,
Gosh, you know, I wrote those books a long time ago; and I no longer remember exactly what I had in mind. But the world of the GAP books is so advanced medically that I assume some kind of automated delivery system would be possible (the futuristic equivalent of the patch <grin>). Sorry I can't be more helpful.


Bert Torsey, aka Briney the Pirate at KW:  Not a question, really, as mush as an observation.

Having just re-read the First Chronicles, I found Golden Boy, as a chapter and a concept, delightfully ironic and somewhat prophetic of what has befallen you since the publication of the First and Second Chronicles.

How about you?
Well, I would like to believe that--like Covenant--I no longer have "feet of clay." But I certainly see the parallels. Certainly my *career* has revealed its unreliable foundations with a vengeance. <grin>



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Dave, Ellington, CT:  Mr. Donaldson,

Have you ever considered writing a work or non-fiction, or indeed, have you ever done so? Something larger than a magazine article anyway?

I imagine that writing fiction requires a large amount of research, as does non-fiction. But I would think the process would be a lot different.

Have you ever had the desire?

Dave P.
I burned out on writing non-fiction in college and graduate school. Fiction is what I love: non-fiction is pure chore. (So, for example, I virtually never *read* any non-fiction.) When circumstances require non-fiction from me, I almost have to hold a gun to my head to make myself do it.

I do believe that a certain mastery of writing non-fiction is an essential prerequisite to writing fiction. But (by my own standards, at any rate) I passed that point three decades ago, and I have no inclination to return to it.

One consequence is that I'll never write an autobiography (despite the steadily diminishing number of requests <grin>). I chose the title while I was still in my teens--"Important People I Might Have Known If I Had Been Paying Attention"--but I'll never write the actual book.


John Fitzpatrick:  So, I've read all your books and I have to say that the GAP series, though difficult at first, is by far your best work. You took the motif (for lack of a better term) that you establish in the first chapter of the first book (this is what you see, but the real story is...) and carried throughout the series with an ever larger scope. Absolutely fantastic. I had to prod my wife to get her through the first book but she is as big a fan as I am. A truly magnificent work. When are you going to do something that complex again? I've read the Thomas Covenant books and I have to say that they aren't nearly as deep. I appreciate your writing and would like to thank you for all that you've given but at the same time I'd like to ask you to take the time and really apply the immense talent that you have to write fiction with intricate depth like so few people can.

Best of luck with your future endeavours,
Strangely, many people tell me that they think the Covenant "Chronicles" have more depth.... I think the technical complexity and the--I don't know what else to call it--the sheer nakedness of the character portrayals in the GAP books prevent many readers from looking beneath the surface.

But, as I've said throughout this interview, I don't choose my stories: my stories choose me. So I have absolutely no idea when, if ever, I'm "going to do something that complex again." On the other hand, what I'm attempting in "The Last Chronicles" seems plenty ^#$%# complex to *me*. <grin> Certainly I feel that I'm pushing my "talent," whatever it may be, to its outermost limit.


Doug Alford:  It's been awhile since I read the last lines of White Gold Wielder, and my memory is something less than vast. So forgive me if I am asking a question that would be made obvious by a close reading of the Second Chronicles. That said...

I am unclear on the difference between the Law of Life and the Law of Death. What are the strictures of each, and the implications of their breaking?

(And thanks for the novels. They were one of the few healthy compulsions I indulged through my college years.)
Well, putting it crudely: the Law of Death prevents the dead from intruding on or affecting the living (manifesting as ghosts, visible spirits, etc.); the Law of Life prevents the dead from *becoming* the living (re-entering, re-animating, and re-ensouling their dead bodies so that they can literally pick up their lives where they left off). Together the two Laws preserve the necessary boundary between life and death; but they function sequentially. Still crudely: when you die, first your spirit leaves your body, then it leaves knowable reality. So in reverse, damaging the Law of Death allows your spirit to re-enter knowable reality, and then damaging the Law of Life allows your spirit to resume life in your natural body.

Does that help?


James Hastings:  "After all, Milton wrote about Satan explicitly. Why shouldn't I be equally daring, since my ambitions were certainly comparable to Milton's?"

Ha ha. Your ambitions similar to Milton's. And Ambition was the flaw that made Satan go bad. Clever.
Ergo Milton = Satan. Which explains why Satan is by far the most interesting character in "Paradise Lost." I *like* it.

But the flaw in that reasoning (mine, not yours) is that Satan was ambitious for himself, whereas Milton was ambitious for his creation ("Paradise Lost"). I like to think that's an important distinction.


Jerry Erbe:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
I've noted from the "BOOK TOUR" section of your website that you will be attending the "The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts" conference in March of 2005 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Their website however does not seem to reference your appearance...since the information IS in the "Book Tour" section, can we safely assume that you will be signing books and meeting the public at this conference? Would you be so kind as to clarify the nature of your appearance at this gathering or is it a "for members only" type of conference?
The International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts is an academic conference (a totally different animal than an sf/f convention) where graduate students and professors from around the world deliver and hear academic papers on *many* subjects relating to, well, "the fantastic in the arts." A number of writers find this atmosphere congenial; and for those writers the conference schedules both readings and autographings. I'll be doing both. You didn't find me on the website because you didn't look under the conference schedule: my reading is listed there.

The down side of the occasion, of course, is that you can't attend without a membership. (Which, as at an sf/f con, you can purchase when you get there.) The upside is that it is extremely relaxed, which means that opportunities for schmoozing are easy to come by.

btw, I'm sorry it took me so long to supply this information. I'm over 240 questions behind on the GI.


brian donovan:  I know that you conceived the character of thomas covenant after hearing one of your father's speeches which, I take it it was about his work as a surgeon dealing with leprosy.

I've been deeply curious to know more about the origin of this amazing character for 27 years. I have read all six books at least a dozen times over that period and the lastest ("Runes of the Earth")once ... so far. I have found inspiration and hope in these books that words cannot convey.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing thomas covenant into my life.

Brian Donovan
I've written at some length much earlier in this interview about my father's (indirect) role in creating the character of Thomas Covenant. My father described the emotional dilemmas of suffering from leprosy with uncharacteristic eloquence; and he followed that by writing what was, in essence, a research paper that gave me all the practical information I needed. The entire "Covenant" saga would not exist without him.


Fionn:  In your short story "Lady in White", I understand that you deliberately left Festil's answer/solution to the Lady's challenges unexplained -- the ambiguity makes for a better story.

My questions are: While writing the story -- or even afterwards -- did you conceive an idea of what Festil did? If you hadn't, then what is the process by which you avoid thinking about it while addressing his brother Mardik's solutions? Surely the creative process requires coming up with various possibilities before selecting the ones most appropriate for the characters and story, no?


-Jim O'Connell ("Fionn")
Saratoga, CA

I'm sorry. It is with some embarrassment that I'm forced to admit that I don't remember. I wrote that story nearly 30 years ago (it was in fact my very first published short story), and since then so many other stories have intervened that "The Lady in White" has become a blur. Even if I re-read it now, I'm not sure I could recall the process of its creation.


Mike Lerch:  ..I see you make reference to " the zeitergeist" of the times in an answer. I have a distinct feeling that the " Runes" is addressing another sort of "zeitergeist". The "synthetic realities" of today and the conflict of how human beings are to be defined, thus the reality of the next generation,..seem to be close to the surface . Am I just getting older or did you with intent mean to have the " theme" easier accessed? Perhaps I am out of the ballpark, and I've always enjoyed what I considered your social / political perpsective reflected in your art. It just seems to me its almost right at the surface in Runes. The struggle for the next generation's soul
you have taken to heart. Yes?......Thanks ...MEL
When I write, I am *never* conscious of trying to comment on ANYthing except the story itself. I don't write to expound my views on any subject: I write to tell stories; to see as deeply as I can into the hearts and actions of my characters, and to share what I see as effectively as I can. As a person, of course, I live in what we loosely call the "real world," and I naturally have opinions and concerns about that world. In addition, I'm a highly intuitive individual, and I pick up "feelings" about all kinds of things. And of course who I am as a person inevitably bleeds through into what I write. But I never never *never* have a message I want to convey. Instead I work very hard at discovering and communicating whatever seems to be inherent in the particular story I'm writing.

If you see a clear connection between what I've written and, say, "the spirit of the times," or any other aspect of the "real world," that is an example of the mysterious synergy which enlivens the relationship between writing and reading (and even between writer and reader).

Of course, I do *talk* about the themes in my stories. But that always happens in retrospect: I do it looking back on what I've written. Such thinking plays no role during my creative process.



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John McCann:  Stephen,

You stated in previous answers that when you start a project you immediately know how many books it is going to take to complete the project.

Does this prescience extend to the individual books in a series once you start them? That is do you know how the book will be strcutured (sections IEW entire second chronichles, or singlet LFB, TPTP) of the number of chapters it will take to complete the novel?

Now that you have started Fatal Revenant, do you know and would you be willing to share any of the above infomation about it?

One last question while I am on a roll. You've stated your contract requires you to deliver one book every 36 months. While a student, I never handed in a term paper early. Is there any chance you will turn in Fatal Revenant or any of the other volumes of the Final Chronicles early?

Thanks for humoring me
The reason I know how many books (how much narrative space) a big idea will require is that I can "see" the general shape or structure of the story (e.g. what crucial events/turning points will be necessary to bring about the eventual climax). This "prescience," as you called it, usually (but not always) extends to the main structure within individual books (for example, I knew from the beginning that "The Second Chronicles" would fall into 8 sections or movements). But it never extends to the, well, micro-level of individual chapters. At that level, I feel my way along as I write. With one proviso: once I've established a pattern within a story (e.g. 12 chapters in Part I of "The Last Chronicles") I do try to preserve that pattern--for the sake of symmetry, if for no other reason. So: 12 chapters in Part I, 12 in Part II. Therefore it's quite likely that there will be 12 chapters in each section of "Fatal Revenant"--which, like "The Runes of the Earth," will be divided into two "parts." (The Prologue in "Runes" doesn't count because it is an introduction to the entire story: it does not pertain exclusively to "Runes".)

I urgently hope--but cannot promise--that I'll be able to deliver "Fatal Revenant" (and each subsequent volume) early. But even if I do, the books may not be published early. "Runes" was prepared and published in an obscene hurry; and that will not happen again. So the time between submission of the manuscript and D&A (delivery and acceptance) of the final manuscript will be much longer than it was with "Runes," as will the time between D&A and publication. If "Fatal Revenant" is to have any chance at all of being published 36 months after "Runes," I need to actually write it in 18 months--and publisher demands burned up the first 6 of those months before I could even look at starting "Fatal Revenant." Then consider that from starting to first submission, "Runes" required 25 months. It's not a pretty picture.


Jonathan Meakin:  Mr Donaldson,

Has there been any word on the release date of the "Runes" paperback in Canada and the UK?

Several times during this gradual interview, you have expressed intent to make revisions to the "Runes" text for the paperback edition. I wonder how you will balance such revisions with the writing of "Fatal Revenant"? Hard work & inspiration, I guess!

All the very best to you and yours,
Jonathan Meakin

I haven't yet been given publication dates for any of the paperback versions of "Runes." If I had any actual news, I would post it promptly in the "news" section of this site. But it's fair to expect that paperbacks will begin to appear 11-12 months after hardcover publication.


Robert J Frias:  Mr Donaldson, this is more of an observational type question than an actual one, but I imagine an answer or opinion can be culled from you.

This pertains to the current "movie" trends and thinking [If that can be used at all in respect to H-Wood].

As a young man I read comics. Then I became a dealer profiteering from their collectibility. The trends in H-Wood are come to them as the ground was largely untapped and rich. Now with the success of the LOTR movies and CGI your books seem a clear choice. Moreover they are [when hindsight will be available], a "No-Brainer".

My observation is simple. We need Fantasy! Escapism in all its forms is a major pasttime is this [and a few] other countries. Video games, DVD,s and the froliferation of other distractions [READ: cell phones] only confirms our need for outside stimuli.

The current crop of comic movies and the wealth they have generated makes it all to clear the Covenant series will get done whether for good or ill. But there is hope. I have seen the material treated with a certain respect and downright fealty so my optimism remains. I have been to sites that suggest cast and directors and have agreed or disagreed [not that it matters an iota].

These few observations are just that and are meant to pry some kind of other answer from you beside your standard.

I also thank you for picking your outlet for your voice. You have made me smile, laugh out loud and get totally aggravated. Bravo for evoking in me these feelings over the last 25 years.

I don't know what you consider a "standard" response, but you're wrong about one thing. There is not only no guarantee that "Covenant" will be filmed; there is very little likelihood. Think of the odds against. And I don't mean the technical odds, which hardly exist anymore: I mean the odds of theme and character. Why try to compete with the success of LOTR by producing a dark fantasy about a leper/rapist when there are *mountains* of easy fantasy out there begging to be filmed? We'll see writers like Feist, Brooks, Goodkind, and Jordan filmed long before any studio seriously considers Donaldson--or even Moorcock.


Teresa Dealey:  Hello, Mr. Donaldson

I wanted to address something you mentioned about not being religious. There are many spiritual themes... in fact the entire story is a very deep spiritual theme in and of itself. As a Catholic in the loosest almost Pagan sense of the word and former "very" Catholic girl I found your TC books to be helpful spiritually. Do you think you examine your own spirutal beleifs and/or conflicts through the telling of your story? If so, I think you are honestly more spiritual than many people.

Teresa (aka Monstermom, MamaT, SoulQuest1970)
S.P. Somtow once said (I hope I'm quoting him accurately), "Fantasy is the only valid form of theological inquiry." I wouldn't go quite that far myself. Certainly I think that "Fiction is the only valid form of spiritual inquiry." And I believe that fantasy, as a form of fiction, is particularly apt for the discussion of spiritual questions. The fact that fantasy writers pretty much by definition take "magic and monsters" seriously means that questing, introspective fantasy writers take the "numinous" seriously, the "more than mundane." For this latter sub-group of fantasy writers, quests (and all other forms of searching) actually *mean* something: they reflect, if you will, a hunger for integrity, purpose, and significance which cannot be satisfied by the mere mechanical details of living.

So: when I say I'm not a religious person, I mean I don't adhere to--or even listen to--anyone or anything who thinks that he/she/it can tell me THE TRUTH ABOUT LIFE. On the other hand, I'm *very* interested in the efforts of my characters to discover and name their particular versions of THE TRUTH ABOUT LIFE. And I'm so interested, of course, because I'm trying to do the same thing they are. In my view, therefore, I'm a spiritual rather than a religious person; and I write stories about spiritual questions rather than about religious answers.

To the extent that I "examine my own spiritual beliefs and/or conflicts through the telling" of my stories, I use my characters as, well, role-models for my own questing.

I hope that doesn't make *too* much sense. <grin> I really don't want to be specific about this.


Petar Belic:  Mr Donaldson,

I know you hear this a thousand times, but I'm sure every little bit helps: thanks for the effort you've put in to enriching our lives.

I have a simple question: where comes this fascination for physical blindness - or a lack of eyesight - you have in your story-telling? Nom. Waynhim. Hile Troy. There are probably more references, of which I am too lazy to research. However, there does seem to be a pattern here...

I know you are busy. Thanks for taking the time to read.
I find it somewhat embarrassing to admit that until Anele came along I didn't actually realize that eyelessness or blindness formed such a recurring (one might almost say incessant) theme in the "Covenant" books. And yet the pattern continues, as you'll discover (if you haven't already) in "The Last Chronicles." Well, I like to think that my sub-conscious has a very good reason for insisting on this particular metaphor. Certainly one of the main subjects of the "Covenant" books is how perception creates reality. For one example, the Land becomes effectively real for Covenant when he "sees" that it is important to him. And for another, the ur-viles and Waynhim stand outside the governing forms of Law in part because they literally *don't* "see". Conversely, Hile Troy doesn't "see" the danger implicit in his attitude toward power: his inability/failure to perceive accurately threatens the survival of the Land. And so on.


Michael From Santa Fe:  OK, I used the search engine at the top of the interview (great tool by the way - thank the web master for me) to search and see if this has ever been asked and could not find any reference to it, so I'm asking...if it has been asked, I apologize, I did try and practice due dilligence: have you ever felt sad by the death of one of your characters (you kill off quite a few so I thought there was fertile ground for that to have happened at some point)? Have you ever killed off a character that you did not originally intend to die? Or, the other way around, have you ever WANTED to kill a character that you originally envisioned to live through the story?
Actually, I believe I have--and I say this without practicing "due diligence" myself <grin>--discussed grieving over the death of a particular character earlier in this interview. (I refer specifically to the Tor in "A Man Rides Through.") As a general rule, my stories are so thoroughly planned in advance that I'm seldom surprised by "who lives and who dies". (But when I say that I'm not surprised, I don't mean to imply that I'm not moved. Actually writing the stories is a very experiential process for me, and I have strong emotional reactions, even when I've known what's coming for--sometimes--years.) Exceptions do occur, however. For example, the death of Norna Fasner was not part of my original intent--although it came to seem inevitable long before I actually wrote it.

But I never kill off characters simply because I *want* to. For one thing, I never *want* to: I invest too much of myself in my characters to actively desire their demise (although simple pity inspired some relief when Norna was killed). And for another, I don't believe in doing, well, ANYthing gratuitously. If I'm not confident that what I'm doing is necessary to the design and logic of the story, I don't do it. (OK, OK, I often *do* do it--in the first draft. But then I undo it, or alter it in some other way, during my many stages of reconsideration.) Both as a person and as a writer, I need to be able to look back on what I've written and believe that it could not have been done effectively, meaningfully, correctly, in any other way.



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Michael Blatt:  Mr. Donaldson,

I have just begun Runes and 2 things come to mind immediately:

Linden is now working in the role of a psychiatrist -- I wonder if this is some sort of response on your part to the characters you have developed? Your characters seem to me to have all sorts of mental illnesses yet they remain scarily as examples of what we all could be.

Jerimiah - His muteness/numbness but building skill is a recurring theme in your works (IMO). These characters evoke a certain uncomfortableness in the reader - Is this your goal?

In any case I am a fan so please read my questions in that light.
Speaking very broadly, my main characters almost always have--or revolve around--an illness of some kind. Physical illness (leprosy, gap sickness) or mental/emotional illness (sociopathy, terminal narcissism, alcoholism). Obviously I find such things to be an extremely useful source of metaphors for various aspects of the human condition. But why do such things speak to me (I mean, to me specifically) as clearly as they do? I assume that the answer lies in some combination of: a) my father was a doctor of a kind that was highly valued where he worked (I often saw people kiss his feet in the street: very powerful stuff for a kid to witness); b) we lived in a community of doctors where a workaholic approach to healing was the norm; c) I was constantly exposed to the most appalling forms of human misery and degradation; and d) I've had MANY years of therapy, focusing primarily on PTSD, but ranging very widely.

No, I'm not trying to evoke discomfort when I present a character like Jeremiah. I'm after empathy. However, I've often found that empathy is difficult to reach without first passing through discomfort. No one is comfortable with Covenant--at first. AbsoLUTEly no one is comfortable with Angus Thermopyle--at first (and many people never get beyond that stage). Morn Hyland elicits a lot of discomfort; Terisa Morgan, less. So I'm hoping my readers will be able to go straight to empathy with Jeremiah, but I don't necessarily *expect* that to happen.


Dave Larson:  Mr. Donaldson,

Is there any chance that your books will be available as audiobooks? I so enjoyed the Thomas Covenant Chronicles as they were released but never got to finish The Second Chronicles. I am half blind and reading is difficult but these audiobooks are so well done that they are wonderful to listen to.

Thank You,
I wish I could tell you that all of the "Chronicles" will eventually be released as audiobooks. But that is highly unlikely: they aren't popular enough. The release of "The Runes of the Earth" on CD was an experiment, and the early indications are that the experiment has failed (i.e. it lost money). So unless something changes dramatically (a successful "Covenant" film would suffice), even the rest of "The Last Chronicles" will probably not appear as audiobooks.

Sorry about that.


JimH:  I bought myself a Christmas present (the new book). Turns out it is a signed copy. How many signed copies are out there?

I can't tell you how many books I signed--including store stock--during my tour(s) because I have no idea. (One store had 150 copies in stock; but 20 was a more common number.) However, for Putnams I signed nearly 7500 copies in advance; so there are (or were) quite a few autographed books out there.


Todd:  Mr. Not-late-for-dinner Donaldson, <smile>

Needless to say, "Thank you" for all you have written and thank you for returning to the Land.
But damn you for the ending to Runes... two years to wait now? Well I'll get by..
Seriously, thanks so much for what I consider to be the best collection of any one author that I own.

Just a few questions. One I think is fairly original, one beating a dead horse of a different color.

1) While writing either the Second Chronicles or Runes did the idea of having Linden become pregnant by Covenant ever pop into your mind, if only for a second? I wonder what set of dynamics could have been created by having someone conceived in the Land, born in "our" world, then returning to the Land.

2) Have you ever read E. R. Eddison? Tolkien once said of Eddison "I . . . think of him as the greatest and most convincing
writer of 'invented worlds' that I have read."
I have tried twice now to get through his Zimiamvia trilogy but have been daunted by the archaic type of prose he uses. I've made myself a pledge to get through that someday (yeah and Moby Dick, too).

Thank you also for this progressive interview format. I've found it a fascinating discussion of the books I love so much as well as the publishing industry.

1) Yes, the Linden-gets-pregnant-by-Covenant idea *did* pop into my head. Many years ago. But I dismissed it almost reflexively because it violates so many of the basic "rules" I've set up for "The Chronicles."

2) Yes, I've read four Eddison books, the "trilogy" you mention (Eddison left it unfinished) and a stand-alone called (memory, don't fail me now) "The Worm Ourobouros." The style didn't bother me at all: after all, I live on writers like Conrad, Meredith, Faulkner, and Scott. But I didn't like the stories: they seemed empty to me; empty of warmth, meaning, or even purpose. Now "Gormenghast," on the other hand.... I have reveled in those more than once (except for the third book, which in my opinion simply doesn't work).



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Michael From Santa Fe:  OK, extremely personnal question, would not be surprised if you decide not to answer: dog or cat person?

I believe I once saw an old picture of you with a cat perched on your shoulder (or your desk) - correct? So I assume you must have some affinity for cats, but as a cat owner myself it wouldn't surprise me if the cat just jumped in the picture at the last moment. Anyway, do you have any pets currently?
I'm not a "pet" person. I'm more comfortable with cats than with dogs, but I prefer not to be involved with animals at all. I know, I know: it's a terrible flaw in my character. But people can't change when they don't want to change; so I'm stuck where I am.


Nathan Eddy:  Mr. Donaldson,

You have insisted repeatedly that you are not a polemicist; instead, you write a story for its own sake, because it moves or excites you in some way. But this strikes me as misleading, because what excites you is necessarily entangled with deeper issues like French existentialism (as you’ve mentioned above). So I’m guessing that what passes for “exciting” to Mr. Donaldson goes a lot deeper than what most people would describe as an exciting story. And from reading others like me in this forum, I assume lots of us are reading your work for this very reason, for that underlying depth which gives your characters their meaning, their relevance, and their emotional power. What makes your characters “real” is that their journeys touch upon "what it means to be human”—another description you’ve given for your writing.

But isn’t this exactly what existentialism is? An account of our being-in-the-world? A description of “the human condition”? Life, death, freewill, our roles as our own lawgiver/enforcer/judge (as Nietzsche might say). If “what it means to be human” is that deeper level upon which your stories are grounded, then perhaps you would consider “existential metaphor,” if not “allegory” as a description of what you do? Or "existential fantasy?"

I’m not really trying to find a label for you. I just feel that in an effort to resist that particular label (polemicist), you misleadingly diminish the part of your work that so many of us find unique and epiphanic.

So I suppose my question is: do you REALLY think that your creative impulses can be explained in terms of pursuing an exciting story, or is this just a simplified version you offer to stave off more confusion and misplaced assumptions?

If (as you’ve said here) there are conscious and subconscious parts to our freewill, then this deeper level of significance, which leaks into your stories, is just as much your choice as your stated reasons for writing them. Your passion is obviously under your control. I’m confused why you distance yourself from what it “inadvertently” produces in your writing.
<sigh> This is all so much more complicated than I ever wanted it to be. You make a number of perfectly valid points. And yet there are some insidiously misleading assumptions at work, many of which I've inadvertently fostered.

In this interview and elsewhere, I've made a number of statements about my work which (apparently) justify your observations. But there are a couple of critical points here which tend to get lost in the discussion (I mean lost by me as well as by other people). 1) Every statement I've ever made that bears on the "content" of my work was made in retrospect; looking back on the work after it was done. In other words, it was made from my perspective as a reader, not from my perspective as the writer. 2) Every statement I've ever made that bears on the "content" of my work was made in response to a question. In other words, it was elicited from a perspective external to my own. Oh, and there may be a third critical point here as well: most of the statements I've made that bear on the "content" of my work were/are intended to apply to art/literature/fantasy in general rather than to my work in particular.

In this context, yes, I really do think that my creative impulses can be explained in terms of pursuing an exciting story. And yes, OF COURSE, who I am as a person profoundly affects what I find exciting. And in addition, my training as a student of literature affects both what I find exciting and how I talk about that excitement. Nevertheless I must insist: I DO NOT HAVE A MESSAGE. Certainly not in the sense that "allegory" implies. I'm not trying to convince you of anything, teach you anything, demonstrate anything, or advocate for anything.

My *message,* if I have one, is simply that good stories are worth reading. Why? Because, in my experience, they expand us. How? By engaging us in extremely specific individuals experiencing extremely specific dilemmas which we would not have encountered otherwise, but which (precisely because they are not us) can increase the range of what we're able to understand and (perhaps) empathize with. Polemics, by definition, is about generalization. Story-telling, by definition, is entirely consumed in specifics.

So you could--if you were so inclined--say that my stance as a story-teller is one of "existential humanism." But that is not at all the same thing as saying that my stories are *about* existential humanism. My stories are not *about* anything except my characters and their emotions; their dilemmas and their responses to those dilemmas.

The observations that we can make about a particular story, or about stories in general, after we have experienced them have the potential to be very educational: they can continue the process of expansion. But they also have the potential to be very misleading because they can confuse the observation with the experience.

Apparently I've made that mistake more often than I realized.


Nick:  Stephen,

I'm almost done with Runes of Earth - it's simply (although there isn't anything simple about it) excellent. I particularly like Esmer, and reading about the urviles, once again. I look forward to seeing more of them too.

One thing I've often thought about when reading the Covenant series is the potential metaphors for the "white gold ring." On the one hand (pardon the pun) I see it as a metaphor for addiction -- for wild magic, like a drug, can be a catalyst for both creativity and chaos. Also, I've often wondered if the duality of the white gold ring represents any particular feelings you may have about the institution of marriage... <wry grin> Do you have any thoughts you'd like to share about the symbolism of the white gold ring?

Another topic: Your Gap Cycle series was excellent, but the evil in it was too gruesome for me to bear. Emotionally speaking, among your numerous works, was that series the hardest for you to write? In those books you described the faces of evil very well... did you pay a considerable psychological toll to do so?

Finally, would you care to share the names of your favorite authors? You've indicated previously that you read very selectively. I was suprised (but respect why) you don't read Card, as I believe he is similar to you, in that he uses the fantasy genre to tell bigger stories, beyond the traditional sword and sorcery theme. I'm curious if you've ever read George RR Martin -- especially given the fact he's your neighbor..

I'd appreciate your comment on the items noted above, but of course will understand if you can not do so, given your very hectic schedule.

Thank you for your wonderful stories.

I've discussed my favorite authors too often here to go into that again. But as to your other questions....

Your perspective on white gold is inherently valid, being yours. My own perspective, on the other hand, did not involve metaphors of addiction. I was interested in the white gold ring first and foremost as a symbol of marriage: i.e. of those commitments to each other which people make of their own free will (as opposed to, say, commitments which are imposed on us by our culture--e.g. patriotism--or by our nature--e.g. our commitments to our children). Second, I was interested in white gold because--like marriage--it is an alloy, a union of inherently disparate materials, therefore symbolic of the essential paradox which both challenges and vitalizes our voluntary commitments to each other. (It is, after all, a commonplace to observe that the very thing which makes a marriage worth having is the same thing which is most likely to make that marriage fail: it unites two *different* people.) Third, I was interested in white gold because--again, like marriage--as an alloy it is unnatural (and I hasten to insert that I don't mean this in a negative or critical way), therefore apt as an instrument for the destruction (or the preservation) of what *is* natural. To get a sense of my point, consider the number of lives that are immeasurably enriched by marriage--and the number of lives that are utterly destroyed by marriage.

As to the Gap Cycle. All of my novels come arduously, so I often have trouble distinguishing between the specific difficulties of particular novels. In addition, the incessant shifting of POV in the Gap books was *so* difficult for me that it tends to blot out other difficulties. But the accuracy of your question is revealed in this: after writing the Gap Cycle, I needed *far* more "recovery time" than after any other of my big projects. I was so drained that I quickly sank into a profound depression (there were other causes at work as well) out of which I was unable to climb for over a year. Of course, abysmal sales contributed to that depression: I knew the Gap books were the best work I had ever done, but comparatively few readers cared. But the sheer emotional exhaustion of dealing with so much naked pain for so long was a major factor.


Mark Sanges:  Dear Mr. Donaldson, (do you prefer Dr. Donaldson?)

Again, thanks for responding to my previous questions. I noticed this weekend that Runes of the Earth is now available in eBook format at Hooray! I've already purchased and downlaoded my copy (that's 3 sales of Runes just for me, the hardback, the CDs and now the eBook!) I can now add it to my ever-growing library of ebooks. Did you have something to do with it appearing there after my previous posts about some of your detective novels (The Man Who... series) being available there? You also mentioned that it might be possible to get your other works on that site as well? Is this something you or your agents/editors are actively persuing?

Also, in your last response you mentioned that it's okay with you if someone like myself who prefers ebooks wants to destroy a book in order to produce a scanned copy for their own personal use that you didn't have a problem with that. I'd just like to assure you that I rarely scan books. If they aren't available as eBooks I bite the bullet a read them printed on dead trees like most other folks. But I *NEVER* destroy books in order to scan them. In the case of hard backs, I may damage the binding some by forcing them to stretch open enough to get the page flat on the scanner bed, but I've never ripped a book apart just for the sake of scanning it. And to be honest, yours are just about the only books I would take the trouble to scan simply because they are the only books that I re-read with relatively predictable frequency. However, now I am holding out hope that good, legal, valid eBook forms of the previous two Covenant series, the Gap series and perhaps even your short story collections may become available for purchase as eBooks and thus save me all that scanning, proofreading, and editing time to get good electronic copies!

As always, thanks for all of your works and for providing this forum in which your fans can communicate with you so directly! All my best to you and your family from myself and my family for a happy, wonderful Holiday season and a Happy New Year! Now get to work on Fatal Revenant<sheepish grin>!

Mark Sanges
Unfortunately, I don't have the "clout" to have any effect on whether or not any of my books appear in e-formats. And, frankly, the sales of e-books are so miniscule that publishers generally don't care. But there *are* a few publishers who are thinking about the future of the industry (Tom Doherty at Tor Books is one, which is why so many Tor books are available from, and those people want to position their books as favorably as possible for the changes that lie ahead. Well, my (now former) editor at Putnams was one of those people. Hence the e-version of "Runes." But the editors at DEL REY/Ballantine and Bantam are *not* among those people, so there is little chance that the first six "Covenant" books, "Mordant's Need," the Gap Cycle, or my short story collections will appear as e-books in the foreseeable future.


Khaliban:  Not so much a question as an explanation of the previous question. NEUROMANCER is the definative Cyberpunk novel, a dystopian future over saturated with technology. BLADERUNNER is the definative Cyberpunk movie. Your story "Animal Lover" could also be classified as Cyberpunk. Elements of Angus Thermopyle's reconstruction are Cyberpunk in style which may explain the origin of the question.
Thanks for the explanation!


Paul Mitchell:  Just wondering if you had ever read any of Primo Levi's books - although completely different genres, it seems to me that there is a lot of similarities in the themes of your work and his -evil, what it is to be human (and inhuman). He was a great writer, and not just his work on Auschwitz. Anyway, I would think he is essential reading as much today as ever - a sane voice in a time of madness.
Interesting that a number of readers of the GI have mentioned Primo Levi. I wish I weren't such a slow reader; but I'll get there eventually. At the moment, I'm feeling guilty about the dearth of John Crowley and James Morrow in my experience.


mags:  Mr Donaldson
I'm halfway through The One Tree,and the question I have concerns Covenant.
When I first started Lord Foul's Bane Thomas Covenant was very annoying he whinned all the way through,I was hoping and praying you would kill him off,by the time I finished the second book I felt sorry for him and then a grudging respect,since starting the second chronicles I have discovered that he has crept into my heart even although he is essentially the same person as he was when first coming to the Land.Was this deliberate or was it something that came about by accident.
In one sense, it was very deliberate. I did *not* want my readers to sympathize with, or even feel sorry for, Covenant at first. Why? Because it's important to the story that Covenant might plausibly end up siding with the Despiser. I wanted him to *earn* the reader's respect--and his own.

But in another sense, it was less deliberate. I always knew where the story was going; and so I always knew what Covenant would eventually achieve. For that reason, *I* always sympathized with him. And I hoped that my readers would see his potential for redemption even when he was at his worst.


JP:  There's a question that's been raging on the "Watch", one that your recent post to the GI further fueled, and it has to do with the Elohim's opposition to Vain's purpose. It seems clear why Findail would have been opposed to Vain's purpose (because Findail thought he would "die" in that scenario), but it's less clear as to why Vain's purpose was undesirable to the rest of the Elohim. Yet in the "What Has Gone Before" for Runes, you make it pretty clear that Covenant is silenced not really to protect the Earth from his power, but rather to make Vain's purpose inaccessible.

Why would the Elohim be opposed to creating a new Staff of Law? Perhaps they preferred having Covenant's ring themselves, but was the alternative an "undesirable" result? If so, why appoint Findail and make Vain's purpose possible?
This is another example of what I've been calling "open-ended plotting" on the part of the Elohim. Their true desire is that Linden should have and use Covenant's ring. They believe that because of her nature, her health-sense, and her commitment to healing, she could stop Lord Foul (and the Sunbane) without risking the Arch--and without bothering them. So they try to manipulate her into the position of, well, taking over for Covenant. But *just in case* that doesn't happen, they know they need to be prepared for other eventualities as well. For example, they're certainly aware that they might fail at imprisoning Vain. And if they *do* fail, an essential component of their manipulation collapses. So, very much like Lord Foul, they try to prepare for as many different scenarios as they can. If worst comes to worst, and Covenant retains his ring (and his purpose), Lord Foul and the Sunbane still have to be stopped. From their perspective, what actually happens in the story is the least desirable positive outcome.


Lorraine:   I am trying to find one of your books entitled
;Chaos and order; for my daughter. Is it still available for purchase? If so where can I get it. She has all the other Gap series, Forbiden Knowledge, real story, and a Dark and Hungry God.
I'm told that "Chaos and Order" and "This Day All Gods Die" are still in print. You should be able to get them from If you can't, I'm in trouble.


Robert A. DeFrank:  Mr. Donaldson

I remember reading in one interview that you once considered the first Chronicles complete and entire and had no plans for a sequel, yet I can't help recalling the destruction of the Staff of Law, which makes the events of the second Chronicles possible.

What was your motive in destroying the Staff of Law, then leaving that issue unresolved, if there was no sequel planned? Did you, at that point, consider that an embodiment and instrument of Law was no longer relevant to the Land?
Well, the Land survived for a very long time before Berek created the first Staff of Law. In the days before "The Second Chronicles" came to me to be written, I saw no reason why Mhoram and his descendants couldn't make do without a Staff of Law. And if they eventually recovered all of Kevin's Lore, they might conceivably undertake to create a new Staff of their own.

In the first trilogy, clearly, the Staff had to be destroyed because it had fallen into evil hands. And its destruction opens the way for Mhoram and his descendants to continue defining a new way to serve the Land, a way that isn't hampered by the misapplication of the Oath of Peace (a point I've discussed at length earlier in this interview).



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Garry Shuck:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

First let me add to the chorus by saying thanks so much for your stories. For more than 20 years now I have been carrying them around in my head, like old friends I get to visit from time to time.

And now a question, if I may, in regards to the Staff of Law. We saw in the 2nd Chronicles that Foul’s rejuvenation came via Earthpower, allowed by the destruction of the Staff, and in turn its absence allowed Foul to corrupt the Law and create the Sunbane. It was stated more or less (as I recall) that the Staff inherently supported the Law and allowed its expression. The Staff was first crafted by Berek, but how was the Law able to maintain its integrity prior to the existence of the Staff? Perhaps Foul just didn’t bother with trying to corrupt the Law prior to that? Although that begs the question of why Foul would mess with the Lords in any case, as they had no real power to release him from the Land, unless he was just taking his frustrations out on the Land’s inhabitants, and biding his time until he could get access to white gold? It’s a tribute to the complexity of your writing that it allows such musings…

Thanks also for this forum. A unique and welcome insight into the methods of a master storyteller!

Best Regards,

Garry Shuck, Irvine, CA
First we need to distinguish between Lord Foul himself and what he's able to do. You can't get rid of evil: that's a fact of life. Lord Foul is always going to be able to rejuvenate himself, Staff or no Staff. In his own way, he partakes of the same energy that enables all existence. But actions like turning the Council into the Clave and creating the Sunbane would not have been possible if the substance of Law had not been damaged by breaking the Law of Death as well as by destroying the Staff.

So how did Law remain intact before Berek created the first Staff? By being what it is. It is the nature of Law (the defined processes which make life possible) to remain intact. I don't know how to explain this well. But I suspect that in all good fantasy there is an organic relationship between the instruments of power and the power that those instruments wield (for example, Sauron could not be killed as long as his ring existed). Law did not need the Staff in order to exist and preserve itself (just as Sauron existed long before he created the rings of power); but when Berek created the Staff as an instrument of Law he could only do so by making it an organic expression of Law. And when he did that, he brought about a situation which had not existed previously, a situation in which the Staff could not be "removed" without damaging Law (because of the organic relationship: you can graft branches onto certain kinds of plants, but once those grafts have taken hold you can't cut out the new branches without wounding the whole plant, even though the plant was fine before you did your grafting).

As for Foul's reasons for messing with the Lords: why do you assume that they had no real power to release him from his prison? The very fact that Berek created the Staff (an organic instrument vulnerable to destruction) shows that the Lords were (inadvertently) helping to create the conditions necessary to Foul's release: they were (unintentionally) devising ways by which Law would be made vulnerable to damage. In addition, I see no reason to assume that Foul *knew* the Arch of Time would survive the Ritual of Desecration: he may very well have been hoping that such a draconian violation of Law would be enough to spring him free. Remember, he, too, is learning as he goes.

Does that help?


drew:  Mr. Donaldson. Thank you for answering my questions so far. I just have a light hearted one, that since I'll never meet you, I'd like to ask you here.
Do you have any funny little stories that happened to you in your writting carreer? Things like your cat knocking over your final edition of The Illearth War before you sent it to your editor, or accidentally deleting a whole days writting...things like that?
If you have time to share one or two, that would be great!-thanks.
You consider things like cats destroying entire manuscripts and computers deleting significant amounts of work "funny"? Oh, dear. I consider such tragedies the stuff of madness and suicide. Which is why I keep at least half a dozen back-ups in almost that many different locations.

<sigh> But I spent over a month on an author tour for "The Wounded Land" back in 1980; and during that time I was working hard on revising "The One Tree"--paper and pencil, of course. So naturally on a flight from San Francisco to L.A. Braniff lost my suitcase. Sent it to Bogota, along with my manuscript and all my revisions. (Not, I hasten to say, the only copy of the manuscript. But it was the only copy of my revisions.) Six weeks later, the suitcase found its way home. Intact: only my electric razor was missing. But by then I had already redone all of the missing work.

After all these years, I still don't call that "funny." But it wasn't as cruel has having to write again from memory a chapter deleted by a computer crash. As for writing an entire book over again from scratch: I don't think I could do it. The loss would probably kill me.


Marc Dalesandro:  Mr. Donaldson,

First off I'd like to say that you are my all-time favorite author. A friend introduced me to Lord Foul's Bane when I was all of 13 years old (this was 1986). This Christmas, my wife bought me The Runes Of The Earth, and I had it read in two days of non-stop bliss.

I recently discovered this web page and your Gradual Interview - unbelievable that a major author would interact with his readers to such an extent. Bravo!

Now, my questions.

1) Lord Foul created the banes and powers that he slipped into the Earth (like the Illearth Stone), correct? He presumably knows where they are all located. Just wondering why he never chose to unearth another one - has he simply abandoned the strategies he used in the first trilogy? Or is the Illearth Stone so much greater than the others, that he desires it above all else?

2) I know you have said you have no interest in "histories of The Land" and such, but with the tantalizingly-close events of The Runes Of The Earth, will we ever get to see the story mention or take place in the lands of the ruined empire Doriendor Corishev?

Again, thanks for doing this, and health and happiness to you in the New Year.

P.S. The Covenant books are my favorite, but the Gap series is indeed a phenomenal achievement. Literarily-speaking, perhaps your best. And "Reave The Just" is the finest short story I have ever read. But now I'm gushing.
I'm sorry to have to say this (sorry because, first, I don't like fobbing people off, and second, I'm so far behind in the GI that you've already been waiting long enough), but both of your questions fall into the RAFO category. I'm simply not willing to "tip my hand."


Fred:  I just saw that you don't really expect to have Fatal Revenant out for 3 more years. Any chance you could bump it up just a little bit, like to March of this year? I think I'm being reasonable in requesting this. Also, please make sure you eat and drink responsibly in the near future, so we can count on you surviving to complete the saga. I would suggest low-carb food, and periodic cardiac stress tests. A colonoscopy might be warranted, too, at your age.

Question -- you have the final saga somewhat fleshed out in your head, but are several years away from completion. On your previous Covenant trilogies, how much did the story change between start and finish? Surely your mind picks out major plot changes/improvements over the course of the effort.
I've actually discussed this in some detail earlier (perhaps *much* earlier) in the GI. The short answer: the first two "Covennat" trilogies were meticulously plotted before I started writing them, and their respective stories did not change at all between start and finish. But since then my methods have, well, evolved (I prefer to believe that they have not devolved <grin>). My stories still do not change from start to finish; but now they do a fair amount of modulation *between* start and finish. So they remain, well, fixed on a "macro" level; but on a "micro" level I do more discovery and adjustment than I did 20+ years ago.


spock42:  your writing is Unique, but I would like to congratulate you in two aspects that are very unique

1) your vocabulary is phenomenal, I have been reading sense middle school and, rarely read a word that I do not know. you are the exception.

2) your story's have what I call a "moral depth" which means that there is more then is written. And that there are no Luke Skywalker type hero’s.

I have two questions

1) what is the difference between a seer and a oracle and why could only berik be both?

2) Hile Troy seamed to me to be a version of covenant who was innocent, was this your goal to show us that “guilt is power” and the necessity of guilt

Lastly I would like to say that at the end of runes I both hated and loved you, I loved you because you had written such a wonderfully deep book. But I hated you because I could not just go out go out and buy the rest of them. Though I would rather have one book like yours every decade then have a hundred lesser books a day. It makes me wish I had a time machine, or for that mater wild magic.

Thank you. I wish I could supply a useful answer to your first question. (I'm reminded of a famous story about Robert Browning. Keeping it short: he was asked what something in one of his poems meant, and he replied, "When I wrote that, only God and I knew what it meant. Now only God knows.") The story has moved so far from those particular issues (seer/oracle) that I haven't thought about them clearly in a long time. So take what I'm about to say with a certain amount of salt.

A "seer" is someone who can see/feel/intuit some aspects of the future--or of the possible futures. (I'm sometimes asked questions like: why didn't Mhoram know Covenant was coming to Revelstone? Well, a seer doesn't see "the future" that literally. A seer is more likely to feel that important events are gathering and something pivotal is about to happen; or, we're in a situation that's more dangerous than it appears to be, and we need to be extra careful.) An "oracle," on the other hand, is not concerned with "the future" per se. Rather an oracle sees/feels/intuits things like fate, doom, or destiny (of an individual; of a people; of a world). In some sense this naturally involves "the future," but the oracle's focus is on the inherent nature of the individual/people/world, and on the likely consequences of that nature. So in general--and putting it very crudely--seers tend to be vague, while oracles tend to be cryptic. <rueful smile> Helpful, no?

I don't think there's anything in the text that says only Berek *could* be both a seer and an oracle. Rather it says only Berek *was* both.

As to your second question: your interpretation of Hile Troy is certainly plausible and defensible. I was thinking in somewhat different terms myself, but that doesn't weaken your position. I saw Hile Troy as, well, the hero the reader wants Covenant to be: full of commitment, free of doubt, automatically willing to take any risk and use any power for the sake of the Land (indeed, a veritable Conan in that regard). Hile Troy is (among several other things) one of my attempts to explain why only someone like Covenant has the capacity to actually save the world.


steve hetey:  Mr.Donaldson, First I wanted to say what a great admirer I am of your work. I love the way you challenge my thinking in your books.

My question is about "The Wounded Land". Why didn't Gibbon Raver destroy the ancient relics of the Lords? Why put them behind a secret door in Revelstone just waiting to be found? Also I was curious about the Christian references you made in your books. Were those experiences and feelings you have had in your own life? Thanks again.

A fan forever
Steve H
The Clave's preservation of "the ancient relics" is another example of what I've been calling "open-ended plotting" by Lord Foul. Sure, by destroying the relics Foul could effectively prevent several possible futures. But some of those possible futures lead to his release from Time. The obvious example is the iron heels of Berek's Staff. If those heels no longer exist, a whole cascade of implications follows, most of which do *not* lead Covenant and Linden to the One Tree, and which therefore do not include the possibility that Covenant and Linden might rouse the Worm. That possibility is precious to Lord Foul. And there's no gain without risk. In order to gain what he desires, he always has to risk failure. Just like the rest of us.

I've had several occasions to mention that I was raised by fundamentalist Christian missionaries. That stuff is so deeply engrained in me that I can hardly get out of bed in the morning without a Christian reference of some kind. <grin>


Sue Given:  Dear Mr Donaldson!!

I am so excited to be able to write to you! Thank you for realising my dreams by publishing the ‘RUNES’ and the promise of more yet to come!

I love the vibrant brilliance and creative prowess of awesome works. I love the essence of humanity evident in so many aspects of the Chronicles: in particular;the creation of a socially stigmatised subject as reluctant hero! I love the fact that the ‘hero’ is not unlike any of us, he is weak, vulnerable, susceptible to corruption, flawed and yet possessing the same potential for greatness we all posses. And yet Thomas Covenant is more, he is more like those few among us, who our society discriminate against.

Was this a conscious object of yours?

One issue however, that has always stumped me in my reading of the Chronicles are the Words of Power. Clearly there are only six mentioned and as Kevin’s Lore is now extinguished, will we ever learn more of Kevin’s Lore and the Words of Power? Will the seventh word of power that has alluded us, be revealed?

Will the new lore have any connection with the Lore of Kevin? Sure Kevin’s Lore was flawed (and I am the last person to argue otherwise) <nerdy grin> but is there any redeeming feature that may be salvaged and utilised to enlighten the Land in this new generation of time?


aka Skyweir <btw a fabulous name that I have claimed for myself .. many, many thanks>

I probably don't thank the readers of this interview often enough for their graciousness and praise. But I *do* appreciate it greatly.

Yes, I deliberately made Covenant both an Everyman and an Outcast. These are very familiar paradigms: they recur throughout literature (Western literature, in any case). But they recur so often because they're so apt and useful. And they certainly fit the explicitly archetypal elements of "The Chronicles."

As I've said before, I'm simply not willing to comment on what may or may not happen in the next three books of "The Last Chronicles." I deliberately left out one of the Seven Words (and several of the Seven Wards) from the first trilogy. In that way, as in many others, I'm trying to suggest just how much has been lost through the interaction between human despair/carelessness/poor judgment and Lord Foul's destructive desires. Indeed, the entire known history of the Land as it's presented throughout the "Chronicles" is an on-going process of loss. This seems to me inevitable as long as there is no "final solution" to the dilemma of evil.


Jerry Erbe:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
I recently listened to a radio report on NPR about a playwright whose characters were of a rather despicable nature. The playwright himself was bemused by the fact that people often times thought they knew him or knew of if him, based upon the characters that he writes. This got me to thinking about YOU find that people often "mistake" you for TC or take a certain familiarity with you because they think they "know you" based upon the characters in your book? (It kind of reminds me of that old Saturday Night Live episode with William Shatner where he had to explain to die-hard Trekkies that he wasn't "really" Captain Kirk) Since you have recently been out on your book tour and meeting with the general public, have you found this to be the case? If so, just how frustrating was it and how do you handle this type of notoriety?

ps. You're answering fewer questions recently, I hope this means that the powers that be have finally let you put ink-to-paper on Fatal Revenant. Hope all is well. Thanks again for this gradual interview.
Actually, I've experienced the reverse more often. When I'm "in public" (e.g. on a book tour) people seldom give me the impression that they've mistaken me for my characters. Instead I find that people who know me, in a sense, "privately" are often unable to take my work seriously. The so-called "real" Steve doesn't seem to mesh well with what they find in my books; so they dismiss my books. Or, knowing me, they are unwilling to read my work at all. Sad but true.

(And you wondered why I keep my private life so private.... <grin>)

Incidentally, you can measure my progress on "Fatal Revenant" with considerable accuracy by charting the inverse proportion of my progress on the Gradual Interview. Assign me an unspecified number of words per week (x), subtract the number of words I've contributed to the GI (y), and the result is z: the number of words I've contributed to "Fatal Revenant." If you like trying to solve single equations containing two unknowns <grin>.


KE8:  First, I would like to thank you Mr. Donaldson for taking the time to answer my two questions, and more importantly for writing such wonderful novels.

Anyway, my latest question: why were the Gates for Revelstone never repaired between the First and Second Chronicles? As I recall, the rubble wasnt even removed. Just a symbol of the essential impotence of the Council after the defeat of Lord Foul? I should think Lord Mhoram (who appears to be fairly orderly in temperament) at least would have sent out a clean-up crew for the debris.
Oh, and can we look forward to more "cameos" by the Dead in the Last Chronicles? I rather enjoyed seeing my old friends from the First Series appear in the Second, however briefly. I would love to read one last jest from Pitchwife.

Thanks again.
<sigh> I'm tempted to say--in the nicest possible way, of course--Get a life! But that isn't what I really mean. What I really mean is, Oops!

But here's the explanation I would have provided, if I had remembered to do so: in "The Power that Preserves," the gates were broken inward; the rubble therefore obstructed the passage under the watchtower; so of course Mhoram at al would have had little choice except to clear it away.

As for "cameos" by the Dead, all I can say is (you guessed it) RAFO.


chris cox:  Steve, I first read your books around my 12th birthday (I am now 30) and was totally captured by them, I have read and re-read them more times than I care to count. When I saw The Runes of Earth in the bookshop I was extremely happy and didnt bother to buy the book that I had originally come in for. My question is this, did you have an age group in mind for your readers when you began this and do you still? I have read all your other books and find them just as captivating, your writing style is second to none! Thankyou very much!
As I've had occasion to mention before, I write for readers who are, in essence, Just Like Me. That is to say, readers who share my love of language, my passionate nature, my ready empathy, my willingness to suspend disbelief, and my tolerance for paradox (to an unsympathetic reader, "paradox" is just another name for "self-contradiction"). For that reason, among several others, I certainly do not write to be read by middle school children. Indeed, the very idea frightens me. And yet I'm confronted over and over again by the (very) humbling fact that many of my most devoted readers first discovered my work as teenagers--and often as early teenagers. Go figure *that* out. My only explanation is that I actually do know how to tell a good story; and that children are often especially willing to suspend disbelief.



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Khaliban:  What is your opinion of the traditional "hero of epic stature" and its illegitimate daughter, the "Mary Sue"? I know such characters can be viable in certain types of fiction but are overused in contemporary fantasy. Where do you think such characters fit within fiction in general and how should they be manifested?
This is an impossible question. Such stereotypical characters don't "fit within fiction in general" at all: they only fit within specific stories told by specific writers for specific reasons. I like to say that there are no bad ideas: there are only bad writers. (It follows, of course, there are also no *good* ideas: there are only good writers.) As far as I'm concerned, there's no inherent reason why a writer who knows what he/she is doing can't get valuable "mileage" out of stereotypical characters. Or stereotypical settings, situations, whatever. The important question--again, as far as I'm concerned--is, Does the specific writer really know what he/she is doing?


Robert A. DeFrank:  Mr. Donaldson

I've just finished Runes of the Earth, and it was a pleasure to re-acquaint myself with Linden and once again experience a journey through the Land. I'd like to thank you for waiting to produce the final chronicles.

I'd also like to thank you for mentioning Patricia McKillip. I'd never heard of her work until visiting your site.

As for my questions, they all relate to the effect of reader feedback on the creative process.

1) Do you read your fan reviews on and similar sites? If so, do you find any criticism useful in future works?

2) Does the Q and A with readers on this site ever influence the direction of a story? I would think that would be hard to avoid, especially when writing a multi-volume story such as the Last Chronicles. While I doubt this is the case with the grand scope of the story, do you ever find yourself including some particular choice of words or minor plot-twist and thinking "won't so-and-so just love (or hate) this"?

3) While answering questions about your books, have you ever realized some theme or dimension that you weren't aware of while writing the book?
1) I read reviews as little as humanly possible. They aren't good for me. And they aren't intended to be: reviews exist for the benefit of potential readers, not for the edification of published writers. A review that was written for the writer's benefit would be useless to a potential reader.

2) There is no question that I *have* been influenced by the GI--but not in the way(s) you describe. As a narrative artist, I face an incessant dilemma which (I believe) plagues all artists in one form or another: I suffer from a natural and understandable (and perhaps inevitable) impulse to *leave out* anything that seems perfectly obvious to me. At the same time, I expound endlessly on anything that I find obscure or difficult. But guess what? The things that are obvious to me are seldom obvious to the reader. At the same time, readers are quicker on the up-take than I am (because they read so much more quickly than I write). So: the GI has been particularly good at helping me catch those passages where I have left out the "obvious." To a lesser extent, the GI helps me recognize instances of excessive explanation. When it is complete, "The Last Chronicles" will be a, well, more stable edifice because of the GI.

Of course, editors are supposed to do this job. But these days what editor has the time?

3) Very seldom. But it does happen. I just can't think of an example at the moment (apart from the fact that Anele is Elena spelled backward <grin>).


Brian Matthews:  Hi, Mr. Donaldson,
Amy Tan once noted that during all of the Q & A that writers go through, she never gets a question about the most important aspect of writing: the language. Could you please take some time to comment on your views of language and a) how it may have motivated you as a writer; and b) how you feel your command of language has impacted the vividness of your novels?

P.S. I *never* thought I would get to read new Covenent material until a saw your book at a Border's here in Michigan. I am so very pleased that I have eight to ten years of new material to look forward to. Thanks again ;)
I've spent some time earlier--perhaps much earlier--in the GI discussing language. As I tell everyone, I "see" with language. For me, at least, words--and combinations of words--are the primary source of thought, imagination, and emotion. One quick example: I sat dry-eyed through "Schindler's List" while my friends wept copiously--until I reached the place where Schindler was finally free to *talk* about what he felt, at which point the whole film came into focus for me, and I fell apart. The earlier visuals, horrific as they were, simply were not *articulate* enough to reach me deeply without the support of language.

So a) I probably wouldn't write at all if language and its uses didn't seem as necessary as breathing to me. In some sense, I *live* through language. And b) in my case I can not distinguish between the story I'm trying to tell and the language through which I'm trying to tell it. Covenant and Linden, Terisa and Geraden, Angus and Morn and Nick: none of them exist apart from the language with which I articulate them. And I find that the same is true in most (if not absolutely all) of the books and writers I most admire. For example, Patricia McKillip's language is inherent to her stories: those stories could not be told in any other words. Donna Tartt's "The Secret History" would be completely empty without its specific language. And even with apparently more "functional," certainly less "poetic," writers like Steven Erikson and Tim Powers, I can't make a useful distinction between what they have to say and how they choose to say it.


James Hastings:  Re: The Seven Plots that make up all literature.

These aren't really pigeonholing things, but are really just basic descriptions of the types of conflicts in plots (A story without conflict being considered plotless).

The seven are (and this won't limit your ability to write):

1 - [wo]man vs. nature

2 - [wo]man vs. man

3 - [wo]man vs. the environment

4 - [wo]man vs. machines/technology

5 - [wo]man vs. the supernatural

6 - [wo]man vs. self

7 - [wo]man vs. god/religion

Seems to me 1 and 3 could even be lumped together.

I have also heard other theories of 20 basic plots or 34, etc. But those seem to be theories by specific people and have much more specific plots assigned to them. I don't know who came up with the 7. I remember being taught it in 10th grade.

I would say that many of your books fall under Man v. Self, but it seems like most stories have elements of more than one of these going at any given time. Certainly in the gap series you had some characters were engaged in a man v. self thing, while others were in the good old fashioned man v. man or man v. genetically advanced alien species vein. The point there, I think, is that any given story can have more than one plot going at any given point.

So people shouldn't get hung up on the "only" in the statement "there are only 7 basic plots in the world."
Thanks for this information! Lester del Rey used to say that there were only three basic plots, person vs environment, person vs person, and person vs self; and that the best stories contained all three simultaneously. To me, this seems more useful than the notorious List Of Seven. I could argue, for example, that 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7 above are all the same. Or I could argue that 5 and 7 are variations on 6. The point, I imagine, is that good stories tackle as much as they can contain--or possibly a little more, since "A man's reach should exceed his grasp."


Perry Bell:  Hi Stephen,
While I have enjoyed the Covenant series and keeping them safe in my collection, I have a question about the short stories you have done in the past. Im refering to "Daughter of Regals and Other Tales" Have you ever thought of doing a story about Mardik the Blacksmith and his brother Festil? I found that story to be the best short read I ever had!
I cant wait for Fatal Revenant. I love the TC series!
Perry Bell
Actually, I thought I *did* do a story about Mardik and Festil. <grin> But of course you meant a further story. Sorry, the answer is no. I lack even the merest ghost of an idea that would do more with Mardik and Festil.


Dan Trueblood:  Dear Mr. Donaldson:

The question: Do you find that you are more inclined to make (or entertain the idea of) greater changes in your writing at the end of the day as you review what you have written due the word processor? What I mean is, would you look at the first Chronicles (as you created them on a typewriter) and think, ‘Gee, I would have liked to put another Bloodguard in here kicking some cavewight’s jaw loose, but quite frankly, if I have to retype a page one more time I am going to puke’? As opposed to now knowing that in a few clicks of the mouse you can make a sunny day rain or insert a character that popped into your head at lunch into an earlier chapter.

Ancillary question: You crack me up constantly on this web site. Is your deep, biting wit something that you have to think about before you type, or does it flow out naturally?
There is no question that the friendly technology of word processing encourages me to do more rewriting than ever before. But the primary result is that my first drafts now have more superficial polish than they once did. I've never, well, thought in the way you describe. I mean that I've never actually been afraid of "work". If a particular scene needed another Bloodguard, then I put in another Bloodguard. More retyping? So what? (Proofreading is a different kind of problem: I *do* get fed up with it.) In addition, working at the typewriter suited who I was at the time. And there are advantages to all that retyping. Among other benefits, it helps preserve internal consistency (because you keep going over and over the same material letter by letter). Still, I wouldn't go back. The time I save by using a word processor is too precious.

My "deep, biting wit," which I prefer to think of as a highly developed sense of irony, comes naturally to me. But it's based on many years of training and experience. I've spent most of my life learning how to conceal myself in various subtle ways; and irony is a particularly useful method.

Of course, I *do* actually have a sense of humor as well. <grin>



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Curtis:  Mr. Donaldson,

I just wanted to thank-you for your amazing work and to ask two questions (If I may):

1) Few authors' works have had the emotional impact on me than your books have. One of those is Guy Gavriel Kay. Have you read any of his books or are you familiar with his works?

d) I have yet to come across a book or series in the past 20 years that was as enjoyable as the two Covenant trilogies. I see you are a fan of Steven Erikson. I have read his first two books and while enjoyable, just didn't "do it" for me. Is there a particular reason you have found his works so appealing?

I'm afraid such questions are unanswerable because: 1) I haven't read Kay; and d) it is a profound truth that "there's no accounting for taste". We all like what we like, and don't like what we don't like; and there's precious little anyone can do about it. For me, the interlocking complexities of Erikson's story(s), the extreme sympathy of some of his characters and situations, and the fact that his work is not just another truckload of recycled elves and dwarves, give his work a unique power. But clearly what we might call his "appeal to the reader" is less, well, *personal* than mine. He doesn't ask you to open your heart the way I do.


Gerhardt Goeken:  Toward the end of "The One Tree," we see an attempt to send Linden Avery back to the "real" world. It is close, but she can't come all the way back. She see what's going on.

At the end of "White Gold Wielder" Linden does come back, but we never see her approach Thomas Covenant's corpse and take the ring off his hand, yet she walks away with it.

How did this happen? Is this a lose end to be explained in "The Runes of the Earth?" I always figured another story was waiting. Twenty years may be too long to have waited for an answer.
I never intended this to be a big mystery; so I'm always a little nonplussed when people see the possibilities for a larger issue. From my perspective, the fact that Linden ends up with Covenant's ring *even though we never see her take possession of it in the real world* is just another example of the ways in which events in the real world and events in the Land tend to mirror each other. Think of it as "sympathetic magic," if you're comfortable with that concept. In the Land, Linden makes a very deliberate choice to go pick up Covenant's ring; so of course (by the logic of sympathetic magic--or simply by the logic of organic unity within the story) that same choice would be mirrored in the real world, even though in the real world Linden is at best only semi-conscious (perhaps in one of those stupefied states where afterward people can't remember what they did).

I know this doesn't sound very satisfying. But it *is* what I had in mind when I wrote the story.


Krishnansu S. Tewari, MD:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
I was in high school when I read the first trilogy and then at U.C. Berkeley when the 2nd Chronicles was being published. What wonderful work you've created. Just finished Runes and I have to agree with one of the earlier commentators on this site that it's very difficult to read anything else, at least right away - nearly everthing pales in emotional depth and history.

In any event, I have a few questions:
1. When I think of your work, I compare it to other authors I love that have created such a unique group of characters with such fascinating historical depth and concepts (hey, I'm a cancer surgeon, not a writer, so forgive my awkward terminology). I was wondering what your thoughts were on the works of Tolkien, Lovecraft, Moorcock & Herbert - all four of whom I hold in as high regard as yourself in terms of literary creativity. If you've answered this question previously, I apologize.

2. I know you've said previously that you would not consider going back and writing the story of the pre-Covenant land, but I was wondering if you're re-considered doing so. Clearly you have so much on your plate with the Last Chronicles, but I think it would be great to get another Tetraology involving Loric, Berek, Kevin & Damelon, just to make your several-millenia '4-part' tale of the Land "complete".

3. Finally, I find it somewhat curious that being denied knowledge of Earthpower that after several millenia have passed in the Land we get to Runes and it seems as if the people of the Land have not progressed in terms of science and technology. Since the dawn of civilization in this world, it has only taken a few millenia for us to have the internet, palm pilots, Justin Timberlake (I'm quoting you from an earlier thread), and men on the moon - why is the world of the Land so static, or are there no explanations, it's just the way it is?

4. I have a fourth question, but I have to figure out how to phrase it better - maybe another time.

With warmest personal regards, Krish Tewari, MD
1. With specific exceptions, I avoid discussing other writers who are alive--or who, in the inimitable words of Robert Bloch, "were recently alive." (OK, that's an in-joke: Bloch was, among many other things, a master humorist, and those words were the punch-line of a joke far too complex to tell here.) I've already gone on at length about Tolkien. "Dune" I consider one of the great classics of the genre; and many of Herbert's other books were fascinating. Moorcock, with his many contributions to modern letters, certainly does not deserve to be compared to Lovecraft, who was--in both the best and the worst senses of the term--"sui generis."

2. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Commu--oops, I mean a prequelist. Sorry: the books you desire just ain't gonna happen.

3. Well, think of the Middle Ages, often rightly called the Dark Ages, when a totalitarian religious organization contrived to stamp out progress almost entirely for nearly 1000 years. Compare that to the isolating effect of what the Masters have done to the Land. And think about India (if you can stand it): on that sub-continent, a civilization evolved which explicitly precluded the whole *concept* of progress (and all its implications) for well over 3000 years. In 3000 years that extremely complex civilization never got as far as interior plumbing: hell, it barely got as far as drains. In addition, I consider it quite plausible that a few thousand years of magic would make people almost genetically inclined to think in non-mechanistic terms--which would in turn diminish the likelihood of technological advancement. In short, I think the Land's history makes sense as it stands.


Gene Marsh:  Two obvious and lingering questions... but my curiosity is killing me:

- Can the Power of Command be used again? Does it "require" an embodied emmisary/guide (a "single use power, so to speak)?

- Will any of the previously undiscovered Wards of Kevin's lore be found?
I'm completely unwilling to commit myself in regard to your second question. But as to your first: I've always assumed that this was a "single use per person" sort of power: it's always *there,* so in theory it can always be used; but it's *so* powerful that no un-god-like being could survive tapping into it more than once. And even that "once" leaves room for doubt: we don't know what the effects on Elena would have been if she hadn't gotten herself killed almost immediately by other means.


Ports:  Hi Steve,

You have mentioned in this GI how hard you found it to write "What Has Gone Before" for Runes and that you were quite resistant to doing it.

I would just like to say that your hard work paid off. Quite how you managed to compress so much into 9 pages is amazing. I have tried to outline what the books are about to "Unbelievers" over the years, but the precis you have created is quite astounding. While the previous WHGB authors have done a good job of summerising the text, you managed to express both the facts AND the feeling. Having re-read the first two Chronicles in anticipation of Runes, I almost skipped WHGB, but I'm so glad I didn't.

So to the question, do you find it as heartbreaking as your readers to leave behind such great characters as Saltheart, Bannor and Elena?

Cheers and Happy Holidays
In a word, No. Now don't get me wrong: I grieve when a character like Saltheart meets his end. But I also feel a strong sense of satisfaction. Not because I killed him, of course, but because he found the outcome that he most needed for his personal story. I feel that I "played fair" with him--as I did with Elena and Bannor--that I gave him "dignity" (discussed earlier in this interview), and that therefore he has no cause to reproach his creator. Thus I'm vindicated to myself.

In addition, keep in mind that I know the story before I tell it. I know what's going to happen, and why it needs to happen. That changes my emotional relationship with events considerably.


Stephen V. Allange:  Thanks so much for your answering my previous 2 questions. This one is pertaining to the website Kevin's Watch. If you have been there recently, I imagine that you may have browsed through some of the posts on Runes and all of the messages concerning the twists and turns of the plots. What do you think about all of the posts from members trying to guess what will happen in the upcoming books? I thoroughly enjoy going through all of the threads and the possibilities listed. What is your feeling when (if) you read some of the ideas posted? I imagine that you feel a sense of mirth and amusement at some of the ideas. Or maybe even pride in your readers if they get close to your master plan? As you noticed, we pay great attention to detail.

I hope that you and yours have a very happy holiday seanson.

I never browse Kevin's Watch. In fact, I seldom visit; and when I do, it's always for a very specific reason. By nature, I'm not a web browser. And I avoid browsing Kevin's Watch in particular because I don't want my own thinking to be, well, tainted by my reactions (positive or negative) to what I might read there. Various possible reactions: 1) "Ha! pitiful mortal. You cannot begin to conceive my cleverness." 2) "Now that's just plain insulting." 3) "How did you guess?" Well, none of that could possibly be good for me. Positively or negatively, my ego would be affected--and I've tried to explain that I consider ego antithetical to creativity.

For the same reason, I don't read reviews (unless they're forcibly thrust at me). I never check what people are saying about my books on Amazon. Doing what I do is already hard enough: I don't need to make it worse by getting myself entangled with glee, umbrage, or chagrin.


Doug H.:  A Great Hello!

I'm a long time fan and first time writer. I can't exactly explain why I haven't taken the time to thank you for your work before now, but Thank You.
At the age of 14 (when I discovered your Thomas Covenant series) it was a special and strange thing to be allowed to digest such adult themes. I don't think you were aiming these ideas at young adults, and that is perhaps why so many have been drawn to them. Adults have IDEAS about what they think children can or should digest. The reality is that somewhere between the ages of 12 and 20 children begin to comprehend much more than is expected and/or preferred.

If I may submit a couple questions:
1. How much (if any)damage done to "The Land" in the Second Chronicles came from your initial reluctance to do any more Thomas Covenant work? I guess I'm asking if your publisher turned you into your own "landwaster".
2. Was there ever a point when you reconsidered the level of destruction, or stepped back from it?

Best wishes,
I'm bemused by such questions because they have so little congruence to the way I actually work (and think). I don't write books because someone else wants them written: writing is too hard for that. And I'm not in third grade, breaking toys because someone pissed me off. I write because--and only because--I believe in the absolute (if entirely personal) necessity of what I'm writing. I write particular stories, and I write them in particular ways, because doing so gives my life meaning. From my perspective, nothing about this process is gratuitous, excessive, or unnecessary.


1) NOTHING in "The Second Chronicles" was a reaction to pressure from my publisher, or to my own initial reluctance. 2) There was NEVER a point at which I reconsidered or diluted "the level of destruction." Rather the Sunbane seemed to me inevitable: it was Lord Foul's next logical gambit. Without it (and a whole host of other things), I had no story.


Mack:  First off,Thank you for the many hours of Intense and Thought Provoking reading!

My question is about the healing of Vain's arm by Findial after Vain's battle with the Sunbane damaged ur-viles.I just wonder *why* Findial does this but still seems very determined to destroy Vain.
Findail is--you should pardon the expression--caught between a rock and a hard place. He does NOT want to driven to the extreme necessity of becoming part of a new Staff of Law. (Who would?) But if worst comes to worst, he doesn't want his sacrifice to be flawed--or possibly even wasted--by becoming part of a *damaged* Staff of Law. (Again, who would?) So, from his perspective, Vain's extermination would be fine ("Woo hoo, I'm free!"), but Vain's injury is not ("Oh, fu*k, I'm ruined, and it's all for nothing").


James Hastings:  Just started rereading the Gap sequence and I'm towards the end of Forbidden Knowledge. Well written, but not a light read. However, it is nice to see you take up the old cliche of "Rape Victim gets pregnant, has baby flash grown into spitting image of rapist, has a copy of rape victim's mind implanted into spitting image of rapist" and breathe new life into it.
Well, you caught me fair and square. <grin> Apart from English, Cliche is the only language I speak--and there seems to be some debate about my English. So naturally I milk Cliche for all it's worth.


Alain Villeneuve, JD, PE:  Bonjour Mr. Donaldson,

As a French Canadian, I learned english via your Chronicles. After reading the Rings, my brother explained "If you want vocabulary and proper grammar while remaining in the Gendre, this will delight you." His words still resound deep. What I really like is your intelligence that transpires in your story telling.

After a decade as a Nuclear Engineer in Europe, I came back to the US, and earned my Juris Doctor in 2003. I now practice law in this country. I purchased and read very slowly the Last Chronicles vol. 1. I could go on for pages on my appreciation of your work but it would be a waste of your time, and there is really no way for me to express such deep respect. Just understand it.

I am seriously thinking about, such as Champollion's Egyptian Hieroglyph grammar, to having a copy of your work printed on Coton Paper to increase its shelf life. Would you agree if I produce 2 copies, one for yourself? Would your publisher provide me with the digital file? Would you sign both?

Thanking you in advance.

Alain Villeneuve
I'm very flattered by your comments. Unfortunately, I don't have the legal right to give--or withhold--permission for you to produce even two more durable copies of any of my books. Those rights belong to my various publishers. And if you contacted them for permission, I suspect that you would receive no answer: they routinely ignore such personal requests. In addition, I'm confident that they would *not* supply you with digital files.

The solution, of course, is to buy your own digital files for any books that are available on, say, Then you can (I assume: I've never tried it) do what you want with them. In any case, autographed bookplates are available through the "contact" page on this site.


Bonnie Clark:  How did you make such a perfect connection with women to be able to write the Mordant's Need books? Every one of your books touches something within our souls. Mordant's Need is stunning. Thank you.
Ultimately, this is unanswerable. I can no more account for how my imagination works than I can explain what makes communication possible. There are a few obvious--and not so obvious--facts. 1) I have four sisters. 2) I was raised by a woman who emphasized the feminine side of men--and the masculine side of women. 3) Simultaneously I was raised to believe that women are far more *admirable*, more worthy of attention, than men. 4) Ironically for a proto-feminist like myself, I was subjected to a few viciously anti-male attacks by radical feminists in my early 20's. 5) In order to write "Mordant's need," I was forced to come up with my own answer to Freud's famous (and, in my personal opinion, famously stupid) question, "What do women want?" For my own sake, as well as for Terisa Morgan's, I decided to believe that "what women want" is indistinguishable from "what men want," or from "what human beings want": dignity, respect, validation, acceptance, inter-connection, and--for lack of a better term--usefulness (in my lexicon, a complex concept which includes both "meaningful work" and "self-discovery"). All of which accounts for a certain empathy (not to mention vulnerability) on my part, but does nothing to explain how my imagination works.

I'm afraid that's the best answer I can give you.


Stephen:  I bought and read Runes as soon as it came out, and found that my Donaldson fix wasn't satisfied. So I just finished reading the GAP books for the fifth time, and plan to revisit Reave the Just shortly.

My question: I've written some, and make my living doing it after a fashion. But I haven't yet conquered my fear that I'm simply *not good enough* to be able to come to the blank page and write something that anyone besides family would like to read.

If you ever had that fear, or still have it, how have you dealt with it?

Thank you--I deeply love your stories. I feel like they're a part of me.
I've always suffered from the I'm-not-good-enough syndrome. (Which--and this is important--must be distinguished from the I'm-a-phoney syndrome. IAP occurs when there is some deep-seated unsuitability between the individual and a particular activity, regardless of whether or not the individual is *good* at that activity. You'll never find the answers you seek unless you can tell the difference between IAP and INGE.) In my case, the solution--which I'm forced to re-learn at regular intervals--is the inevitable corollary: neither is anyone else.

Now, I hasten to add that I don't mean that to be as glib as it sounds. My actual point is that creativity is not a competition. I don't have to be as *good* as, or even comparable to, someone else, ANYone else. In fact, the opposite is true: my only real value lies in *not* being comparable to anyone else; in striving for excellence as defined entirely and solely by my own desires and abilities. Sure, I'll never be a good Tolkien--or a good Erikson--or a good McKillip. But none of them will ever be a good Donaldson. That's a job only *I* can do.

Socrates (I believe) said, "To thine own self be true." G. K. Chesterton said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." For me, the cure to the INGE syndrome goes like this: be honest with myself; give it my best shot; and refuse to be distracted by worrying about anything else. (Easier said than done, by the way.)

Whether or not any of this is relevant to you, I can't say. In the end, we all have to look into the abyss for ourselves, and survive the experience on our own terms.


Chris Minchin:  Stephen,

I have a small question about an insight which I have had about the name of the home of Foul which may have been asked b4 but here goes

Ridjek Thome - Was this a deliberate play on reject home or was this just a coincidence?
Gosh, I wish I were that clever. <grin> But no, it's just a coincidence. Rather like the spelling of Anele/Elena. I simply didn't notice the similarity in sound.


Jerry Burgess:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

Now in possession of my copy of "The Ruins of The Earth", I was surprised that there was no mention of your "Mordant's Need" books either on the dust cover or in the about the author section at the end of the book. Is this peculiar to the British hardbacked version (Gollancz) and/or, is there any particular reason why those volumes have not been acknowledged? Of all of your works - although I confess that I have yet to finish reading the Reed Stephens novels -, I especially enjoyed "The Mirror of Her Dreams" and "A Man Rides Through". I see them as the jewel in your writing crown and so am baffled by this omission.
I also take this opportunity to add my sincere thanks and appreciation, which I hope you will accept together with seasonal best wishes.
I appreciate your good opinion of "Mordant's Need." Those books are often neglected, perhaps because they have been *very* poorly supported by both my US (DEL REY/Ballatine) and UK (Voyager/HarperCollins) publishers. It's painfully easy for almost everyone to forget that I wrote them.


Alan Aubrey:  Mr. Donaldson,

I am not certain that my question for you is suited for your Gradual Interview, but I don't know of any other means to contact you directly.

I am an independent musician/recording artist that only discovered your Thomas Covenant books a few years back. As many have said before, as a reader I fell in love with the complex character of Covenant and look forward to reading the final chronicles as they are written.

I was so inspired by the character in fact, that one song my band has written was based on the emotions of your character Thomas Covenant throughout the first six novels.

The reason I write to you is because it was our desire to include this song on our upcoming independent CD release.

I am not well versed in copyrights and the legal issues all of this could entail, so I thought it would be best if I brought up this situation with you before we moved on.

Below I'll attach the full lyrics from the song "Outcast, Unclean" for your perusal. Aside from the name of the song, and the reference to the singer being "The Unbeliever", I hope you'll find it general enough to be talking about almost anyone. Of course, those that have read your books could assume who the song speaks of almost immediately.

Thank you for taking the time to read my message. Best of luck in everything.

-Alan Aubrey
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get to your question. I'm now 240+ questions behind on the GI, and losing ground steadily.

But I always feel flattered and gratified when people find inspiration for their own creativity in my work. I believe that even the most vicious of lawyers could not find fault with your "use" of my work. And I encourage you (belatedly, I know) to go ahead with your CD.

I hope that my response in a public forum (this web site) instead of by private e-mail will suffice to reassure any qualms. However, I deleted your lyrics to protect your ownership of *your* work.


John Bristor:  First Timer Question:

Who is currently in charge of your archives at Kent State University? Some things were getting a little dated and I noticed a Craig Simpson has recently updated some things. Also, are the archives open to members of the public to peruse, lend-loan, or make contributions?

One more question if I may. Which cover was the original cover intended for the first printing of "Lord Foul's Bane"? I heard the 1st printing have some difficulty and the book club version has an artist rendition of Kevin's watch, another cover is 'dark' and seems to have a rendition of Lord Foul.

Thnaks and hope you had a great holiday season!
The Kent State University Libraries don't have the budget to put a specific person "in charge" of their Donaldson collection. Craig Simpson did some much-needed organizational work recently. Perhaps someday someone else will do more.

Access to the collection is restricted in various ways. Certainly no one except yrs trly can "make contributions." And the materials aren't available to be removed from the library (e.g. through inter-library loan). But I believe that anyone who goes to the KSU Library in person and jumps through the usual hoops (forfeiture of off-spring, that sort of thing <grin>) can look at my actual manuscripts etc.. For whatever that's worth.

The true first edition of "Lord Foul's Bane," my very first book, was published by the Science Fiction Book Club several months before the Holt, Rinehart & Winston hardcover of the same title. The "dark" cover purportedly features Thomas Covenant and Drool Rockworm--or Lord Foul, who can tell?--in a cave full of bats and bones. I think of it as my hydrocephalic child: desperately ugly, but I adore it anyway. However, when Holt came out with their edition (the rather crude "Kevin's Watch" cover), the SFBC changed their dustjacket to match.


Allen:  I have a long and deep love for Wagner's music which is one of a thousand reasons why I responded so intensely to the Gap Cycle. Wagner is a great sound track to the Gap. I am wondering, however, how you handle the charge that Wagner was nothing more than a proto-Nazi. Do you ever feel the need to justify Wagner?
I feel no more need to "justify" Wagner for being anti-Semitic (as he plainly was) than I do to justify Brahms for being fat (as he very plainly was). Their lives/convictions/actions don't concern me: their art does. In some sense, all creation comes from the soul of the creator. But great artists somehow always manage to transcend their own pettiness, their own ordinary-ness, even their own ugliness. When they create, they draw on their potential greatness of spirit rather than on their manifest littleness of word and deed.

Considering your question from an opposite example: Sir Walter Scott was one of the most honorable men who ever walked the earth; but that has nothing to do with his art. If his books weren't worth reading for their own sake, they wouldn't be worth reading at all.

People who reject Wagner's music because of his personal anti-Semitism, or who praise Scott's novels because of his personal integrity, are caught in a profound fallacy. Sadly, it's a very *human* fallacy. I do it myself. When I know from personal experience that one of my contemporaries is a perfect s*it, I shy away from his/her work because I hate being forced to acknowledge that even perfect s*its are capable of artistic integrity and greatness. Similarly I'm grieved when some truly fine human beings turn out to be lousy writers. But when the artist in question has the good sense to be dead <grin>, such concerns fall away. At least they do for me. Then I can love or loathe the work on its own terms.


Bryan J. Flynn:  Steve thanks for the responses to my previous questions.

My question concerns a comment you made earlier in the GI. In your answer to Will on 11/1/04 you said "I'm not always satisfied with how I presented my characters in those earlier books, especially in 'White Gold Wielder.'" Could you enlarge on that? I always felt there was something different about that book from the others.

Thanks again!

Gosh, I do *so* love finding fault with my own work in public. <sigh>

In the case you mention, I was referring to how I handled Linden Avery in the second half of the book. Certain sections of that material fall a bit flat because I simply didn't understand her well enough to describe or dramatize her as effectively as the story requires. From my perspective, her struggle to come to terms with Covenant's eventual intentions is not well delineated. A slight but persistent disfocus weakens the narrative whenever that struggle assumes center stage (for example--he said, wincing--during her encounter with Kevin's specter in Andelain). If I had it to do over again, I would tell that aspect of her personal story more clearly--or bust a gut trying.

What else can I tell you? I can't afford to slit my wrists today: I don't have time. <rueful smile>


Joel J. Christian:  In the text "the one tree" I came across a word that I was not able to find a definition for in any other reference. The word is "catenulation" and is found on page 396. Any help that you could provide would be much appreciated.

Best regards,

"Catenulation" (a real word) refers to the creation of something by uniting its parts end to end like the links of a chain. This sentence is an example of catenulation--although of course you can't reverse it as you could a chain <grin>.


Michael Waltrip:  (alt email

Hello Gentle Screener... I have not (yet) gone through the "Gradual Interview", indeed, it is only the statement above where "I get it", i.e. what the intention is... Great idea (btw).
I think you (Steven's screener) can answer what I right now. If (when, confidence) you do, I'll then come back here and ask something of deeper meaning. OK? Gratze.

Is there single volumes that exist for each first two dhronicles? (illustrated? dying to see what Revelstone might look like). This not my real "1st" question.

This is: Is there any idea of when the the volumes for the future volumes for (have to call it something, how about "LCTC") Last Chronicles? Is there a notification list? (I will go ask Borders also...)

I worry I might miss a release. I sometimes spend long periods of time working, integrating, developing, etc, with customers.

Michael Waltrip
San Diego, CA

p.s. I was stunned are "freaked" out when first read "The Wounded Land". That one is my "fav"...


Your questions have already been answered here. But your message gives me a chance to address a couple of other topics.

1) I don't have a "screener." My webmaster does wonderful work, but I'm solely responsible for everything that is--and isn't--in the GI. This explains in part why I'm now 250+ questions behind. <sigh>

2) And speaking of what isn't in the GI, some readers will have noticed that I do sometimes edit messages and questions before I answer them. Sometimes I'm just trying to save space. And sometimes the content of the messages/questions simply seems too, well, personal for a public forum like this one.

Now, as to your actual questions....

The Science Fiction Book Club currently has single-volume editions of both "Covenant" trilogies. And information about the publication of the next books in "The Last Chronicles" will be posted in the "news" section of this site--when there *is* any information. At present, all I can tell you is that the first draft of "Fatal Revenant" is growing steadily.


Phillip Dodson:  Hello again, Mr. Donaldson, your generosity in this Gradual Interview is a wonderful thing!

I just finished reading The Man Who Fought Alone. It was my very first mystery novel-ever!
I was delighted by it, and can't wait to read more. I'd always heard of the guys who watched 'action' movies and then tried to imitate the actions the main characters did... I'd never understood it before!
I was wondering if you could describe how being involved with the Martial Arts has changed your outlook on life, or your outlook on yourself. I ask because it seems you've gone through confidence issues of your own, and may have some information worth relating. Also, are martial arts an enjoyable pasttime if you have no inclination to violence or competition?

Thank you for your time,
I personally find the study of the martial arts enjoyable (sometimes highly so, especially when I'm sparring--or teaching), and *I* "have no inclination to violence or competition." But if all you're interested in is a physical hobby, I suggest that you consider one of "sport" forms of Tae Kwan Do. No true "martial art" is a "sport": they are all forms of self-defense intended to save your ass if you--or someone you care about--is attacked in real life. (Putting it crudely: sports have rules; martial arts don't.) And therein lies their profound value. EsPEcially for those of us who "have no inclination to violence or competition."

Unless you're one of those people who JUST LOVE the idea of picking fights in bars, studying the martial arts is about facing your fears. And I doubt that there's a human being alive who couldn't profit by facing his/her fears. The logic is simple: the more of your fears you're able to face, the more freedom of choice you have. QED. And there's a valuable corollary: the more of your fears you're able to face, the more respect you'll have for yourself. I speak from experience.

For more on the subject, you might want to download my essay "The Aging Student of the Martial Arts," which is available from this site.


Dave Greer:  Mr Steve

As seems to be the custom, firstly I'd like to congratulate and thank you on the fantastic works you've written over the years. I went through all six Chronicles books in my early teens (1983/4), and have re-read the series several times since.

One question: I really like the use of first person POV in many of your short stories, it makes them seem very immediate, involving and life-like. How do you decide on a POV for your stories? Or when the story "chooses you", does it just so happen to be in a particular POV?

Thanks again, and best wishes.
I cut out most of your extremely flattering observations, not because I don't like praise--of course I do--but because (as I wrote a short time ago) I'm trying to save space. Certainly I'm proud of all the stories you mentioned. And "The Killing Stroke" is a personal fave.

How do I decide on a POV? It varies. Sometimes POV is dictated by the nature of the story: the GAP books would be impossible as a first-person narrative. Sometimes POV is dictated by the nature of the relationship that I want the reader to have with the central character. (For example, in "The Chronicles" I want to maintain a certain distance between the reader and Covenant. Without that distance, one of two things would happen: a) the idea that Covenant might "turn to the dark side" would become entirely unconvincing; or b) Covenant's potential for darkness would make the story so unattractive that no one would read it. In contrast, in "Penance" I very much want my readers to identify as strongly as possible with Scriven.) And sometimes POV is inherent in the original idea. (For example, "Reave the Just," "The Kings of Tarshish," and "By Any Other Name" have one secret detail in common: they each grew from a single complete sentence which simply appeared in my head. In two of those cases, the original--in the sense of origin--sentence contained the word "I": the third clearly implied a third-person narrative.)

You may have noticed, however, that I *never* use "third person omniscient": that's where the writer takes the reader inside the head of every character in every scene. As a technique, I find it jarring and disruptive at best, utterly implausible at worst. And for very different reasons I've never done a "present tense" narrative. Only a supreme master could make a technique with so many inherent disadvantages convincing.


j sheesley:  When you are writing the series does it leave you depressed about life or hopeful? ...
Writing stories gives my life purpose; meaning; a sense of direction. This process is seldom (perhaps never) *fun*: it's simply essential. I do sometimes get "depressed" (sad, anxious, lonely, existentially troubled) when I'm writing. But I only experience true clinical depression when I *can't* write for some reason. For much of my life, writing has been what keeps me going. I've often said that I can survive pretty much anything as long as I have a story that demands telling.


Jon Alex Giguere:   It has been my dream to talk to you. I dont want to bother you so I just want to tell you one thing. I am twelve and I just started reading the Thomas Covenant Series. I have one question. What is your favorite book of the the first two chronicles? Well i hope you get back to me.
One of your biggest fans,
Jon Alex Giguere
As I've said before, I have different favorites at different times, and for different reasons. But "The One Tree" will always be special to me. For one thing, I think it's very well written. (Just my opinion, folks.) And for another, I showed myself with that book that I'm capable of true artistic integrity. My editor at the time, Lester del Rey, HATED "The One Tree" so intensely that he "fired" me as a writer. But even in the face of losing my publisher (and, I believed, my career), I remained faithful to my story and my characters. I'm proud of that.


Ossie:  Firstly I would love to thank you for the true pleasure that your books have brought me. I’m sure this is just one of thousands of compliments, but quite simply your imagination, & the stories you offer, are one of my favourite ways to spend my time. My question is actually more of an inquiry: I must admit that, as my favourite author and (I thought) pretty well known, I just naturally assumed that you have enjoyed well-deserved success and are now sitting at home in blissful semi-retirement. However during this gradual interview there have been several comments along the lines of “more people are relying on me now”, “when I was at the peak of my career”, “I need to release the books as I write rather than waiting 9 years for sales” etc etc – even paying off the mortgage. I guess my question is, and I truly hope that you see this not as invasive or embarrassing, but a genuine wish to see my favourite author enjoying all the success that I believe he deserves: is writing inherently less – lucrative I guess, for want of a less mercenary term – than other “creative” or “entertainment” careers that the uninformed might lump together, say music or acting? I guess I’m just looking for some reassurance that my favourite writer enjoys some level of prosperity for all the pleasure he has brought me throughout the years!! (entirely deserved as far as I’m concerned)

Regardless, I am extremely grateful for this opportunity, and despite the fact it will *kill* me to wait this long for the end of the series, I trust that you know what you’re doing so it’s only because that is the way it has to be to produce the quality we’ve come to know, expect and love. You’ve already said you’re planning to never die, but it’s whether *we* are all still around to see it that I think we’re worried about!! Be well.
I'm sure you'll understand that much of what I might say on this subject is *way* too personal to discuss even with my close friends. But in the name of writers everywhere I feel constrained to state that in general writing is FAR less lucrative than, say, acting--or playing in a rock band. For every Stephen King, Tom Clancy, or John Grisham, there are 10,000 published writers who do not make enough money to quit their day jobs. Commonly quoted figures go like this: among published writers, only 10% are able to support themselves (and their families) by writing; of that 10%, only 10% live in actual comfort; and of *that* 10%, only 10% can be reasonably described as wealthy. With occasional wild exceptions (J. K. Rowling), the only road that leads to that last 1/10th of 1% goes through Hollywood: even enormously successful writers like King, Clancy, and Grisham would not be truly wealthy without a steady influx of movie money. Why? Consider this single fact: when a movie is an absolute commercial disaster, disappearing from the theaters the day after it opens, it is seen by more people than buy the biggest of the big bestsellers. (And that doesn't count rentals, tv broadcasts, and international audiences.) As a result, if a merely break-even movie inspires just 5% of its viewers to go out and buy the book, the author's income can easily be increased by one (or more) orders of magnitude.

The hard truth is that we do not live in a culture that reads. Books are expensive to produce and difficult to sell; profit margins are small; the author's share is downright tiny.


Stephen Elmore:   I noticed that the names of the three Ravers, moksha, turiya, and samadhi, are all words found in Hindu esoteric terminology, and that all of them designate transcendent states of consciousness. Why did you decide to use they terms in such a context?
Not to repeat too much of what I've already said: I named the Ravers after "states of enlightenment" because I suspect that evil commonly thinks of itself as good--indeed, as being *more* good than ordinary good. Iagos (characters that revel in what they perceive as evil) demonstrably exist in both fiction and life. But I imagine that most true "despisers" simply see themselves as being more important, more necessary, and even more *good* than everyone else. The Ravers--and Lord Foul--certainly think that way.


Jim Melvin:  I am a writer/editor with a bachelor's degree in English. I have a relatively large vocabulary and am well-read, especially in fantasy literature. I don't say this to brag but only to put my comments and question into context. This is not meant as a complaint -- because I'm a big fan of your work -- but I find about a word per page of your novels that I have to look up. Have you received any negative reaction from your readers about the sophisticated structure of your style and language?
Yes, I'm frequently lambasted by readers--and especially by reviewers--for the operatic (not to mention arcane) diction of the "Covenant" books. Such readers dismiss out of hand the notion that I may have consciously chosen my style--and that my reasons for doing so may be intelligible. Instead they assume that I'm an elitist who strives for obscurity in order to make my readers feel stupid (i.e. in order to make myself feel smart).

I disagree, of course. But that's just my opinion.


Sean Casey:  Your comment 'In particular, I know that there are a few technical methodologies which I developed for the GAP books which I’m reluctant to abandon now, for the simple reason that I like what can be accomplished with them' piqued my interest. Can you say what these methods are and what you've accompished with them?

Of course, the whole "lietmotif" technique that became so prominent in the GAP books has been continued in "The Last Chronicles." I've been trashed for this: "All Donaldson ever does is repeat his own sentences." But I think of it as a form of weaving: picking up thematic, emotional, and psychological threads (as well as the occasional simple reminder) from the past of the story and bringing them into the present. A blatant attempt on my part to enrich the narrative tapestry.

But another example is less prominent because, well, to put it crudely, the *punctuation* in the first six "Covenant" books is not what I wanted. For the first four books, Lester del Rey changed my punctuation to suit himself: for the following two, I accepted his template for the sake of consistency. As a result, the changes in the style of punctuation between the first "Covenant" books and the GAP sequence is not as obvious as it might otherwise have been; and therefore those elements of the GAP style which have been carried forward into "The Last Chronicles" are also not as obvious.

Specifically I'm talking about my use of colons and semicolons; about the way that usage allows me to have more control over the *timing* of my sentences (the rhythm with which the reader apprehends the words) by enabling me to blend sentence fragments into complete sentences. When it's done right, this makes it possible for me combine short, staccato utterances within long-breathed (for lack of a better term) melodies. In other words, GAP-style punctuation enables me to give the operatic rhetoric of the "Covenant" books more *punch*. Occasionally, anyway.


Michael E Lerch:  Hello Mr Donaldson. In the chatroom discussions i am hearing a disbelief in the length of time before the next 2nd book of the Last Chronicles and a gasp on the total time for the complete 4 book series to be complete. After reading and re-reading Runes I have come to understand. As much as there is mystery in the tale you tell, there is mystery and hidden things going on with the words you use to tell the tale. "Puissance", a word you use often is an example. I also note the high usage of the " Oh My God," and "Oh God" in an ironic way..Could be just me, but, are you sweating over each word as I think you are? Has the Flaubert muse got hold of you? Its like, how the words are being used, reinforces the story's plot and theme as well.( more than just in what the story is)Is this focus
the reason for giving such long expected completion dates on the forthcoming books?. MEL
Well, I do suffer from my own version of the Flaubert curse (his quest for "le mot juste"). Of course, my prose is not "tight" or "spare" in the way that Flaubert's was. But it is "dense" in the sense that I try to cram as much meaning into the sentences as I possibly can. You've pointed out a couple of my techniques for doing so. Phrases like "Oh God" are both direct expressions of emotion and ironic references to the (apparent) fact that the Land has been abandoned by its Creator. I intend a kind of alchemy. As I do with my (over)use of words like "puissance." Literally, of course, "puissance" denotes "great strength or force" (power) and connotes "mystical or magical strength or force". But the very strangeness of the word calls attention to its use (which explains the perception of overuse, even though the word is used *much* less often than, say, "power"); and that in turn enables me to emphasize the commensurate strangeness of the power itself--the way in which the power defies mundane expectations and rationality.

Yes, the fact that I'm "sweating over each word" does in part explain why I write so slowly--and rewrite so often and so extensively. But the complexity of my intentions on a micro level (words, sentences, timing) mirrors the complexity of what I'm trying to do on a macro level (plot, theme, character). And macro issues slow me down at least as much as micro issues do.

(And we won't even mention *age*, which definitely affects the rate at which my synapses fire. <grin>)


Steve M:  Prefatorily I want to tell you that in many ways your Covenant books have been transformational for me. Most of my childhood and teen years were saturated with feelings of being an outcast; like someone that did not fit in. I thought that I was the only one who felt like this until I met Thomas Covenant who taught me to always “be true” . My father and I read your books at the same time and we would constantly fight over them as the stories in the first and second chronicles unfolded. My father has been gone for over ten years and your books bring me closer to him. Thank you for bringing the stories to me and to my father. A few questions: The fourth, fifth and sixth of Kevin’s Wards remain hidden. Will they ever be found? I find somewhat of an inconsistency between the tale of the Creator of the Earth in the first Chronicles and the story of the Wurm of the World’s End in the Second. Is there a relationship between the Wurm and the Creator? Are these tales reconcilable? In other words, is the Earth something that was created by a beneficent being or is it a sleeping bag for a great mythological creature? Finally, will you ever tell us the story of Bahgoon the Unbearable and Thelma Twofist?
The problem of reconciling divergent "creation myths" has been discussed at some length earlier in this interview. I won't repeat myself, except to say that I don't actually see any conflict between the various stories we've been told (I mean in the "Covenant" books <grin>).

As for your other questions: sorry, these are RAFO issues. I'm not prepared to say anything about my intentions for the forthcoming books. Innocent curiosity for you can be a cruel spoiler for someone else.


Jared Koenig:  Mr. Donaldson,

I know it is trite but I will say it anyway, I love your books and I can’t get enough of them. Since that is out of the way I can get on to the question.

I am an aspiring writer myself (although I have my doubts about becoming published) and I would like to know how you keep you short stories short? You see, I am still in high school and because I go to a small school we have no advanced classes available. But my English teacher has given me the opportunity to participate in a program where students write what ever they want and send it in to published authors so they can evaluate it. The authors that she mentioned I had never heard of, but she mentioned one of them being from Wyoming (like yours truly). I was planning on writing a short story for it but I have trouble keeping my writing short. So I was hoping you could give me a few pointers on writing short stories.

Thanks for your time.
I'm sorry to keep saying this; but there's only one good way to learn how to write stories, and that is to figure it out for yourself. So my only pointers are: write what comes naturally; find honest readers who will tell you what they do and do not like about what you wrote; learn from what you hear; and avoid readers who try to tell you "how to improve" what you've written (figure that part out for yourself).


Riccardo Mussi:  Dear Mr.Donaldson,

i'm an Italian fan of yours, and I've read a lot of times both the First and the Second Chronicles (I've read their Italian translation).

When I first heard that the Last Chronicles have been published I immediately bought "The Runes of the Earth" in english. But I'm not so able in reading English language to appreciate entirely your work. I understand the story, of course, but I think that with a good translation I would take the deep meaning of your words.

So I wanna ask you... do you know if an Italian translation for the Last Chronicles has been planned? And if so, do you know the publication times?

Thanx for the time you will grant to me.
I do really love your works.

Thanx again,

Riccado Mussi
Whenever I receive "news" about my books (e.g. translation into Italian), I post the information promptly in the "news" section of this site. So if what you want to know isn't listed as "news," I don't have any answer for you.


Matthew S Brucato:  SRD,

First of all, like everyone else, I would like to say thankyou for the covenant series. Every time i find myself with more than I think i can handle, I remember what was told to Covenant: "This is the grace that has been given to you - to bear what must be borne". Anyway to my questions.

First, I am excited about the news and interest about the possible covenant movie. I was wondering who you think would be good playing Thomas Covenant, Lord Mhoram, Bannor, and Saltheart Foamfollower? I know you probably wont answer this question but I figured it was worth a try.

Second, I remember when i first saw your picture on the "Runes of the Earth". My father and I both thought you looked exactly what we pictured Covenant to look like. Was that planned or was it just an amazing coincidence?

Thankyou for your time,

Matthew S Brucato
You astonish me. I see absolutely no resemblence between myself and Thomas Covenant. For one thing, he exists only in words, whereas I appear to exist only in mirrors. <grin>


Sean Casey:  In the afterword to The Real Story you talk about a sense of shame you felt after you finished the ms, but before it was published. You were worried that people would identify Angus with yourself. How have your feelings on this issue changed since publication?

In as much as Angus (and each of your characters) is a product of your subconscious, has it been a) useful to the integrity and vitality of your work to use this source of inspiration, and b) useful to you as a person to explore this material in a public way (ie, by publishing it)?

My sense of shame only lasted until I realized that the story wasn't done; that I still had four more books to write. That insight or inspiration transmogrified my feelings completely. Writing solely about my own potential "dark side" seemed (and seems) like a rather narcissistic thing to do. In contrast, using my own potential "dark side" as a, well, launchpad for something much larger, more universal, and (I hope) more important seemed (and seems) like a perfectly valid approach to storytelling.

I hope I've made it clear in this interview that (for me, anyway) storytelling demands a certain impersonality. I need to *believe* that I'm writing about my characters rather than about myself (even though we all know that my characters--like my stories--come out of me and are therefore an expression of me): otherwise I can't work. Extending Angus, Nick, and Morn beyond the bounds of "The Real Story" gave me that necessary impersonality.

I hope I have successfully avoided answering most of your questions. <grin> I mean, your questions being *personal* and all.


Allen Stroud:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

Congratulations on The Runes of Earth. After purchasing it about it I read it so fast I am still unsure what I liked or didn't like particularly because I am such a fan of your work on Thomas Covenant. Although I also loved the Mordant's Need books and regularly use the duel between Artagel and Gart as a example text for my creative writing lectures.

Looking at both sets of chronicles and the new book, I am struck by how destructive the stories are to the originally introduced realm that existed in Lord Foul's Bane and the Illearth War. As a reader I guess I share many reader's wishes to see The Land as it was, a motivation that you reflect in Covenant and Linden at different points in the text. My question is, does this level of adversity also affect your own perceptions of your idea?

I am sure I'd love to ask more questions, so may pester again later as I am writing my master's thesis on fantasy world construction. But in relation to that I'd also like to ask do you have a sort of world bible, from which you record the relationships of your ideas? If not, what techniques do you use to create such a rich fantasy?

Thank you for your time,
Well, life is all about destruction (death)--and about new things arising to replace the old. But as a rule, people tend to be more afraid of dying than they are of being born <grin>, so I think it's probably normal that fiction in general--and fantasy fiction in particular--revolves around destruction. (Tolkien wasn't exactly kind to Middle Earth, as you'll recall.) On a crudely practical level, if nothing is being lost, there's nothing to fight for. Most people are completely ruled by their fears (a fact which defines most fantasy realms). And if the consequences of destructiveness (for example, Lord Foul's) aren't severe, they aren't truly serious--or worthy of serious attention.

OK, I admit I'm not being very coherent right now. But I'm not sure it would be good for any of us to "see the Land as it was"; to see any world--or any life--the way it was; to have the kind of childhood we all should have had and didn't. If we want to live, we all have to grow up; and growing up is all about loss. (Of course, it's also "all about" a bunch of other things too, like--just to pick one example--how is it that loss doesn't prevent life from being worth living?)

Enough babbling. Bad author. No bisquit.


Greg:  Greetings Steve. Just writing to ask you a couple of questions. Me and a few of my friends are readers of your books, mainly the first two series. This group of friends I speak of are also avid computer users and programmers, and we have been formulating for a few years since reading the books of making a MUD, or Multi User Dungeon based on your books. It's basically a text-only game where people come on and play the role of a character that they choose and create, set in whatever setting the mud has. Perhaps you've played one, I don't know... We havn't gotten anything major up, as we've been planning it, but I figured I'd ask the question just to know. Is there any kind of permission neccessary for such a thing? It seems to be fair use to me, but alas, I have no real knowledge of specifics. OF COURSE, we plan to cite you as the original creator of these ideas and the books, and will most likely link to your website, your publishers, etc at every opportunity possible.
We'd like very much to do this, as it would be a very interesting environment for gaming.

All of this requires -no work-, that's right Steve, no work or creative energy at all on your part. We'd just like your blessing :). As I said, the books are great, and theres a lot more about this I could tell you if you should be interested in it at all. Any thoughts, input, and answers you have would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance for your time Stephen, have yourself a good day.
Greg G.
This gives me another opportunity to say that I'm always flattered and gratified when my work becomes an occasion for creativity for other people! That's high praise.

Let me say, first, that you certainly have my blessing; second, that giving appropriate credit early and often is always a good idea; and third, that legal questions like "rights" and "permissions" only arise where there is *money*. If you and your friends are designing your MUD for your mutual enjoyment, and are making the game available to other players free of charge, you have nothing to worry about. Sadly, everything becomes much stickier once money changes hands, even if it only does so to cover the cost of maintaining your MUD on a server.

So: keep it free and have fun. If you accept money, no blessing of mine will protect you if my publisher (the actual holder of the rights) decides to take action.


john bnstor:  In the past you have mentioned that the 1st and 2nd Covenant series were all thought out regardin details. I believe I read in this 'Gradual Interview' that the 3rd/Last series is not thought out to the extent of the others.

You've mentioned, you are getting up there in years and the schedule is for that last book of the series to be released in 2013.. What happens if you croak before you finish the last series? (I hope that doesn't happen as I am the same age as you).. Do your contracts with the publisher cover that? I would think they would.

I patiently wait years between your books, but as you get older, do you have outlines or a family member in charge or someone you have selected that incase of your demise, that the story can be finished?

Hopefully, you'll live to be 110, and I will also. I look forward to other writings you may do into the middle of this century. But I am just curious.. how does it work. If you 'kicked the bucket' tomorrow, I doubt the series would survive.. But what if it happens during book three or four.

My apoligies, as I don't want to be morbid, but curious as to how contracts work with an author that has a long running series, and as an avid fan of all works, I have an interest in my own personal investment for almost 30 years.

Apparently people are starting to doubt my word when I say that I'm going to live forever! We live in a sadly cynical age, and all trust is forgotten. <grin>

But seriously: you raise a practical point that hasn't been covered earlier. And the answer is no, my contract does *not* require the completion of "The Last Chronicles" even if I make the mistake of being dead. I believe that no book contract includes that provision, presumably because it could not possibly be binding on whoever got the job of making sense out of my obscure and chaotic notes. (UNLESS *I* had previously contracted with some other writer to finish my story if I died. Then, if "some other writer" was acceptable to my publisher, my publisher would have contracted with both of us simultaneously, with the stipulation that "some other writer" would take over for me in the event of my tragic toothbrush accident.) The whole situation would be too messy for words, and no book contract addresses it.

No, here's what would happen if I behaved rationally: in my will, I would name a "literary executor"; after my death, my LE would examine any materials that I may have left behind, and would consult both my privately (in person) and publicly (in my will) expressed wishes; then, if no insurmountable obstacle existed (such as my will forbidding anyone to continue my work), my LE would approach my publisher, and together they would decide a) if my story was worth completing under the circumstances, and b) who could be asked to do the work.

So how likely is it that I'll behave rationally? Well, I *do* have a will, and it *does* name an LE. So far, so good. But I haven't yet gotten around to announcing that I DO NOT want my work completed by anyone else. Why? Because it's *my* work, that's why. If *I* didn't write it, it's just a pastiche, and I dislike pastiches.

Of course, I may change my mind. Imagine me with a long lingering illness which allowed me plenty of time to consult with my anointed "successor." Who knows how I would feel under those conditions? For the present, however, I'm going to stick to my guns and just damn live forever.


Jules:  Stephen,

firstly: what a great idea to have this rolling interview on-line - so involving and generous. I loved your response to a recent question regarding such a format reducing your authorial mystique. Did this guy even read your books? I loved that you confirmed that the creator of Thomas Covenant would find such lofty and power-broking techniques of some authors irritating and frankly very silly.

secondly: after devouring runes of the earth I reread the first chronicles for the first time in a decade. I cannot believe how much more I understand and am moved by these profound writings. A test of a great artwork is that it grows in meaning for readers as as time passes for them.

Lastly, I even have a question! Rereading the first chronicles I picked up on something I certainly didn't when I was younger. Did you intend for there to be a comic element in the chronicles (the first anyway)? Critical reviewers have churlishly noted the lack of this, but I found myself laughing out loud sometimes and I often sported a wry grin - amidst the tension, fear, wonder and sadness of course. Tragicomic at least. After all Covenant does view himself as ridiculous at many points. Then there is "Lord Foul". This has got to be a comic choice. I haven't read much commentary about it and I wonder if I just have a misplaced black sense of humour?
Other readers (well, one, anyway) have commented on a comic element in the first "Covenant" trilogy. On a conscious level, all of the humor in those books was of the wry, ironic variety (heavily tinged with sarcasm in Covenant's case). Unconsciously, who knows? In a very real sense, "what you see is what you get." If you find humor, then it's there.

Sadly, I did *not* intend "Lord Foul" to be a comic name--although I can easily see why it strikes you that way. I was young; and with the arrogance, ambition, naivete, or ignorance of the young, I chose to announce my archetypal vision loudly. "If you've got it, bump it with a trumpet." If I were starting "Lord Foul's Bane" today, I would approach my underlying subject-matter with less noise.

Still, it would not be fair to say that I regret the name. It has become so deeply embedded in what I'm doing that it feels right and even normal to me now.


Hilary:  I sense a great deal of similarity between Runes and "The Real Story" beyond them both being the beginning of a tale. You talk of needing to develop your skills further before tacking the Last Chronicles. To what extent was The Real Story a preparation for Runes? And would you care to comment on any correlations between the two?
In a sense, "the past is [always] prologue." Who we were enables who we are. Doubtless I would not be writing "The Last Chronicles" *exactly* as I am if I had not first written the GAP books. And of course there is another sense as well in which both "The Real Story" and "The Runes of the Earth" are "prologues." More and more, I seem to need a big wind-up before I throw my first real pitch (although I prefer to think of it as "building a solid foundation"). For that matter, "Forbidden Knowledge" is also a bit of a "prologue": one could argue that I don't throw my first real pitch in the GAP books until the last page of "Forbidden Knowledge".

But I'll ask you to keep in mind that I can only move forward in time, not backward--and I don't have a crystal ball. I wrote "The Real Story" and the rest of the GAP books for their own sake, not in preparation for anything. I've talked about needing to become a better writer before I tackled "The Last Chronicles," but this was not a "planned" or "explicit" process: I simply pushed myself to accept every challenge that my imagination offered. In retrospect, it's easy to see patterns; development; preparation. But I don't live retrospectively, and I certainly don't write that way. So you could say that "The Last Chronicles" have a great deal to do with the GAP books, but that the GAP books have nothing whatever to do with "The Last Chronicles."

Anyone who steps back from my work and looks at all of it in sequence can probably see that it contains a growing element of "machination," manipulation, plotting, concealed intentions. After writing the first "Covenant" trilogy, I wrote my first mystery novel--and Lord Foul's "designs" became far more subtle and multivalent in "The Second Chronicles". After "The Second Chronicles," I wrote my second mystery novel--and "Mordant's Need" is all about political intrigue. After my third mystery novel, I wrote the GAP books--and then my fourth mystery. In some sense, *all* of this was preparation for "The Last Chronicles." All of everything that we've ever done is preparation for what we do now.

But that doesn't mean we saw it coming.


Gene Marsh:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you for returning us all to the Land! I have two questions:

- How can you be so heartless as to end The Runes of Earth in the manner you did, knowing we would all have to wait 2 or more years to assess the implications. You are a cruel, insidious (and WONDERFUL) writer. ;)

- Perhaps you could shed some light on the trend toward "easier" use and control of white magic by Linden as we progress. You spent quite a bit of energy descibing the fear (perhaps exaggerated?) that many beings have/had of the use of white magic. With that level of fear expressed, I would have expected either more explicit potential danger during its use, or subtle changes noted because of its use. Is this, perhaps, an evolutionary trend with the use of power by anyone? Is this an expression of the underlying strength and understanding Linden is accruing?
I'm afraid I can't answer your first question--unless you'll simply accept the notion that I have a disturbed personality. As to your second:

Experience (training; dedicated, deliberate attention) makes virutally every human endeavor "easier" than it once was. It seems natural to me that the more Linden uses the internal pathways which lead to wild magic, the more readily she'll be able to find her way. And this seems especially true with wild magic, where un-self-conflicted passion and will are crucial. Linden, as you must have noticed, does not doubt herself on the scale that Covenant did in the first trilogy; and her personal commitments and choices (I mean in "Runes") are far more clear to her than his were to him (at least in the first trilogy).

However, this whole situation is not as simple as I'm making it sound. There may (or may not) be an absolute limit to the amount of use that Linden can get out of Covenant's ring. Such issues will be explored more explicitly later in the story.


Joseph McSheffrey:  Hello Mr. Donaldson,

I have read a little over four hundred pages of "The Runes of the Earth" and am enjoying it. Not being a big fan of Sci-Fi, short stories or Mystery I have read little else of your work in between White Gold Wielder and Runes. I thought the "Mordant's Need" material was exceptional as well. I noticed after a dozen chapters or so of Runes that your writing style has changed. It didn't surprise me given the amount of time that has passed, it's just something I never thought of, I guess. I suppose it could be my imagination, but there seems to be much more dialogue in Runes than in any other Covenant book along with several cosmetic changes.

The one thing I find perplexing is why are certain words like Haruchai, merewives and caesures *always* italicized? A boring question for sure, but it is harrying me! =P

You're right, of course: there *is* more dialogue in "Runes" than in the previous "Covenant" books. And there have been "cosmetic" changes in the style on every level.

The rationale for the way certain words are consistently italicized is that they are "foreign" words (foreign, that is, to the "native tongue" of the narrative, the Land's inhabitants, etc.). This is common usage (consult any familiar "style manual" of English grammer, punctuation, and so on)--although it hardly *appears* common because the inherent xenophobia of US culture prevents most writers from drawing on foreign languages. I can get away with it in a fantasy novel because fantasy readers *expect*--and even desire--the existence of other cultures.


Michael Waltrip:  Hello Steve,
My "discovery" of this site the other day, and sebsequent re-scan (and soon re-read) of "Runes", perhaps entire Chronicles I/II, I was wondering if there was Red, Blue and Yellow Lego Brick Revelstone sitting around your workplace? And if a picture be posted?

Indeed the two maps in "Runes", one affording a distant view was very enticing. Are there any existing artwork, maps, or anything?

The Lego I don't have, but my nephews do!

Thank you,
Michael Waltrip
San Diego
Sorry, I don't own any Legos myself--and wouldn't have the patience to work with them if I did <grin>. Apart from "The Atlas of the Land" (long out of print), I have no "existing artwork, maps, or anything" that haven't already been published in the various "Covenant" books--although I intend to prepare a new map for "Fatal Revenant."


Greg Cotterell:  Thank you for the opportunity to return to the Land through Runes. I look forward to your future work. As a physician and an attorney and a son of a physician with whom I would make house calls back in the 50's, (I think more to get me out of my mom's hair), I have always been profoundly moved by your characteizations and their struggles with redemption, truth, morality, altruism and their individual struggles with who they are at a very basic level. Your consummate writing skills bring all of this to the reader and, fortunately, pervade all of your work.
My question goes more to your work ethic. If you are spending time with "us" on-line through this gradual interview, are you then not writing those stories for which all of "us" keep hammering away at you for? Or are we truly in the best of "both worlds," reading your responses to our queries here in almost real time and, yet, you and we are still moving inexorably toward the next book, and the next, etc.?
Thanks, Greg
It's true: every minute that I spend working on the GI is a minute that I do *not* spend working on "The Last Chronicles." And of course I think we can all agree that "The Last Chronicles" should take precedence. So it does. I only answer questions here at times when I could not have worked on (in this case) "Fatal Revenant" anyway. For example, in motel rooms when I'm traveling. Or, at this precise moment, when I'm taking care of a sick friend who happens to be asleep for an hour or two.

This in large part explains why I'm consistently at least 200+ questions behind in the GI.



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Will Smith (not "the" Will Smith):  Stephen,

How do you come up with the names for your characters? Whenever I try to write, I always think "wow, that name is really bad" -- maybe it's just me being self-conscious, but I always imagine there must be a better way oof doing it . . .

I've discusssed how I "come up with" names at some length earlier in this interview. However, one point bears constant repetition: the only good way to learn how to do it is to figure it out for yourself. And that includes figuring out how to cope with your self-consciousness. The awkward truth is that there are some subjects on which the wise teacher tells the student *nothing*. Fortunately I had one of those teachers at a crucial point in my creative (not physical) adolescence. Da*n near made me crazy, he did--but he saved me as a writer in the process.


Anonymous:  On page 297 of The Illearth War, you describe how the Giants "grew whole forests of the special redwood and teak trees from which they crafted their huge ships." All of the Giant's ships in The Second Chronicles are stone. Did the Unhomed lose the ability to make stone ships, or do Giants make both wood and stone ships?

Thank you for continuing the best fantasy series ever.
Forgive me if this sounds glib, but:

4500+ years pass between the time when the Unhomed get stranded in Seareach and the time when Starfare's Gem reaches Coercri. Is it possible that the Giants, who always loved stone anyway, simply developed a new way to build ships? They certainly had enough time.



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Richard Schwartz:  Mr. D,
Great site. Thanks for letting me read the prologue at RotE_Prologue_Chapter1.pdf. It's everything I expected, and I can't wait to get my hands on the hardcopy.
I found a typo, though, on page 9:
"We brought her up her, tied her wrists."
should have read:
"We brought her up here, tied her wrists."
Richard the Proofreader
That typo survived through several proof-reading stages in both the US and the UK--but it *was* corrected before publication. It's amazing how the human eye can see what it *expects* to see rather than what *is*. Both modern physics and modern psychology have much to say about this.


Peter "Creator" Purcell :  Why does Linden swear so much?!

It somehow seems incondign in the Land!!
<sigh> Why do *people* swear so much? We live in profane times. I'm more than a tad profane myself. What other answer could I possibly give you?

Oh, here's one: it's a reaction against her excessively religious (not to mention excessively destructive) up-bringing.

But I'm afraid I just made that up on the spur of the moment.


Jillian:  Mr. Donaldson,

I am a mere sophomore in High School of 15, But I've read all your works, and have fallen in love with each one of them- especially the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the series has left a lasting impression on me, and I am so excited for the final ones! You have inspired me, and now my sole desire is to become an author. I'm writing to you about just that- do you have any advice for me? Such as, what classes are best to take for the remaining 2 years of high school, a good college to attend, etc...? And how would I go about, when I'm educated enough to try, conceiving a story to write? Once I have one, how do I start writing? How do I find a good editor/publisher? Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated!!! Thank you so much!

Always a fan ~ Jillian
I don't mean to put you off; but all of the advice that I could possibly give you is already in this interview. Well hidden, probably. <sigh> But start with the "creative process" and "writing and publishing process" categories.


Ricardo Castano Jr:  I enjoyed the first and second chronicles of covenant and I am looking forward to listening to the last chronicles.

However, since diabetes has taken my sight, I can no longer reread my old covenant novels.

I have been unsuccessful in finding any audiobooks of the first two chronicles. Can anyone help point me in the right direction?

I haven't been able to locate audio versions of any of my books except "The Runes of the Earth." I had heard a rumor that the first "Covenant" books were available from Books On Tape, but that appears not to be true. Can any readers of this interview offer Mr Castano suggestions? The only idea I've heard is to get a e-version of the books (the first six "Covenant" books still seem to be available free on the web somewhere, but I've lost the URL) and print it out or display it in a 26 or 30 point font: in other words, make it large enough so that you can still see it. But that may not work here.

Help? Anyone? If you have suggestions, please address them to Mr Castano at the e-address above.


Jonathan Gibson:  hi I would have lots of questions, but I will limit myself. I'm nineteen and I have had a story in my head thats grown and grown over the last 10 years, though when I write, I always find myself writing the outline and background of the story. I would come to beleive that all to the recent of covenent's book's had much background written before the story.
My question is how have you known when to stop the background and start the story? If you feel your perspective could be broader to create a story, do you wait and learn or start against fears?
I've addressed this answering other questions. I never--and I do mean never--start with background. I start with story, then I work on story, then I work on story some more. (I'm using the word "story" to refer to the intersection of "plot" and "character/emotion".) And somewhere during that process I start to ask myself what sort of background the story needs in order to function. Within the normal limits of human variability, I only create as much background as I need.

(Of course, one of the keys of successful world-building is to create the illusion that the entire world already exists. You can do this by, in effect, envisioning the entire world. But I prefer to do much of it by enlisting the aid of the reader's imagination. Wherever possible, I don't create actual background: I plant seeds which grow into background in the reader's mind.)

So: I *never* "stop the background and start the story." Far more often, I start the story, then realize that I need more background than I have; so I stop long enough to create a little bit of that background (and to think about the implications of that background), after which I get back to the story.

Where background is concerned, my methods are almost the exact opposite of Tolkien's.


Darrin:  Thanks for the Books,They are a great gift in my life and my families, If possible can you tell me(us) What are the seven words, I have read much speculation about a word being a phrase rather than a single word and wouldn't mind a definative answer and listing of the words with meanings if it is at all possible.
Thanks again and if this tale improves with every telling as it has so far it will be a tale of Giantish proportions by the end Of The Last Chronicles.
Everyone seems to want to know about the missing Word. And a fair number of people want to know about the missing Wards of Kevin's Lore. I have several answers, but I'll limit myself to two:

1) I'm keeping my options open. I only create as much background as I need, which leaves me free to explore new ideas as I need them. So you'll only know what my plans are--if indeed I have any plans--by reading what I write.

2) Referring to missing information is one of the "tricks" of world-building. I've called it "planting seeds," "enlisting the aid of the reader's imagination." It's a technique for creating the illusion that the world is bigger than the story--or the actual text--can contain. To the best of my (admittedly limited) knowledge, even Tolkien--a dedicated background creator if ever there was one--used this "trick" from time to time. Worlds simply don't seem real if they don't contain unanswered questions.


Charles Adams:  Thank you for many hours of joy reading and re-reading your works.

I have had thoughts that Foul's ability to manipulate the people and situations extends beyond simple manipulation. For example, manipulation itself doesn't explain how Foul was able to "encourage" rape which lead to pregnancy which lead to Elena which lead to breaking the law of death, all as a known outcome.

I have a theory/understanding that I would appreciate you confirming or rejecting, if it leads to no spoilers.

I envision that Lord Foul (being a creature from outside of the arch of time) has a vision of events that span time (perhaps even his existance spans time). His vision allows him to manipulate minor events into vast/major events that he can use to his advantage. His vision, however, is bound by the necesity of freedom from other outside participants (Linden, Covenant). The effect is that he cannot see past their choices that impact him directly. Thus, he doesn't see his defeats, because those defeats are a result of choices made by free individuals. As far as Foul is concerned, the "blankness" of his vision could easily be the result of his victory (the breaking of the arch of time).

Does this closely reflect your conception of Foul and his abilities?
I want to emphasize that you can think about what you read in any way that works for you. The way that *I* think about what I've written is "right" only in the sense that it works for me. So you shouldn't pay too much attention to the fact that I disagree with you.

Two points. 1) From my perspective, being trapped within the Arch of Time means, well, being trapped within the Arch of Time. Whatever perceptions of infinity Lord Foul may once have possessed (since he was originally a being whose existence transcended time), they were severely truncated when he was forced to live in "real" space/time. And as a being forced to live in "real" space/time, he has no supernatural "vision of events"--and no particular blank spots in his vision (except those that are inherent to the way he thinks). He is defeated, not because he can't see past "choices that impact him directly," but because he believes that people like Covenant and Linden will not make those choices. Which brings me to--

2) I certainly never intended to suggest that Lord Foul "planned" the rape of Lena, Lena's pregnancy, Trell and Atiaran's effective abandonment of Elena, or Elena's resulting mental instability. Of course, Lord Foul does what he can to manipulate events. Sending armies to attack the Lords probably counts as an attempt to manipulate events. But (and this is especially true in the first trilogy) he doesn't do so on the "micro" level. He doesn't--indeed, he can't--"make" Covenant rape Lena. On that level, his plans depend on Covenant's character rather than on the micro-manipulation of events. He chose Covenant because he believes that Covenant--by his very nature--will become a Despiser himself. And just in case there's a chance that Covenant might fall on the other side of the fence, Lord Foul exerts as much pressure as he can (macro-manipulation of events: armies, the genocide of the Unhomed, the maiming of the Bloodguard, changing the weather, etc.) to break down Covenant's resistence; to punish and (ideally) destroy the part of Covenant's nature that might not actually *want* to be a Despiser. My point here is that Lord Foul's plans depend, not on his (in)ability to control such details as the rape of Lena, but rather on his perception of Covenant's true nature.

As I see it, therefore, Lord Foul had no idea that Covenant's first significant action in the Land would lead to the breaking of the Law of Death. He simply worked very hard to encourage something like that--and to take advantage of any signs of weakness in Covenant (of which there are many).

In "The Second Chronicles," of course, Lord Foul's plotting becomes far more detailed (e.g. Marid's venom, and everything Lord Foul does to exacerbate that problem for Covenant). He's learned from his previous mistakes. But my central point remains: Lord Foul's plotting still revolves around his perception of character (Linden's as well as Covenant's in this case), not around his ability to foresee and manipulate events on a micro level.


Howard L. Miller:  I thought you might have a comment on my pretentious review of your last opus. It was written in an experimental style that will become obvious if you should read it. Here is the link:
I never comment on reviews. And I seldom so much as glance at them. I believe I've explained why earlier in the GI. But briefly:

Reviews are written for the benefit of potential readers, not for the benefit of the author. For the author, therefore, they are inherently misleading--and even potentially damaging.

Such "misappropriation of communication" cannot end well, and I avoid it as diligently as I can.


Steve Anderson:  Hi Stephen,

In your books you have created extremities of personalities ranging from the depraved to the brave and great. If it were possible to rank individuals on their heroism or decadence, where would you place your characters? I think these would have to be human to make a comparison meaningful; I don’t think one could say Samadhi is a nastier piece of work than say Angus because ravers are incapable of good, Angus has a choice. Who would you say were the three greatest and the most loathful of your creations?

If you’re interested mine would probably be Atiaran, Pitchwife and Reeve in the good corner (could be ousted by late arrival Liand) and in the bad corner Nick, Kasreyn and Eremis.

I would place TC not too low down the list. Any rapist is contemptible, but he believed he was in a dream. I think everyone would admit to doing things in dreams that their morality would forbid them from actually doing. Am I just making excuses for TC, or was your intent to create an amoral anti-hero by including his rape of Lena?

A rhetorical question: should the world’s leaders swear an Oath of Peace?

Steve Anderson
I'm sorry, I can't answer your primary question. I simply don't think of my characters in those terms. I wouldn't be able to create them at all if I viewed them so judgmentally.

My intent in creating Thomas Covenant was to explore a character who--in every sense that matters--literally "could go either way." A character balanced (by necessity) on the knife-edge of love and Despite. I don't consider him either "amoral" or an "anti-hero": I consider him *conflicted*. His rape of Lena--like his later repentance--and his eventual acceptance of responsbility--is an expression of that conflict.


Fred:  Mr. Donaldson, I'm not writing to tell you the the Chronicles has changed my life, or affected my choices, nor am I writing to dig into the intricacies of you have written, to see if the premise for your world is 100% plausible. I am simply writing to say that I enjoy reading books. I read for enjoyment. Your Covenant books have given me more enjoyment than any other books I've ever read. I'm as astounded now as I was 23 years ago, that your books have such depth of character, and such imaginative storytelling. I anxiously await the last three installments. I only wish you could finish them sooner. Keep up the good work, your Covenent decology will eventually (if it's not there already) get its recognition as a true classic.

When Revenant is released, will you be publishing your book signing dates and places? I am the type of person who has NEVER given importance to collecting autographs or memorabilia, yet for the Covenant books I've gone back to and bought used hardbacks for your first six. A first for me. I would be honored to travel (within reason) to tell you "thanks" in person, and get your signature. Or if you want to stop by my house and save me the trip, that'd be fine, too. I live in Indiana.
There is an (admittedly sparse) "appearances" page on this site. When "Fatal Revenant" is published--and *if* my publisher(s) decide(s) to send me out on tour(s)--the information will be posted there as soon as it becomes available to me. (I say again, as I've said before, that authors don't make these decisions: publishers do.) In the (admittedly lengthy) meantime, the "news" page on this site will supply the earliest possible information about the publication of "Fatal Revenant."


Angela Davis:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

I should like to add my own thanks to you for providing your readers with this opportunity to contact you, and I am so glad that you also derive some benefit from it. Thank you also for your truly wonderful, awe inspiring stories and for sharing your amazing talent with us. Your stories never fail to astonish and delight (even on the 10th re-read!), and the scope and breadth of your imagination makes me feel humbled! Runes is magnificent. It exceeded all my expectations, and I hope it is also a commercial success for you.

My question is this: even though you know the outcome of your stories from the start of the writing process, do you nevertheless become emotionally engaged with your characters as their stories unfold (as the reader does), or do you work fairly dispassionately?

One of the joys of re-reading your work is that one can savour your prose instead of rushing ahead after the plot! It is therefore dismaying to learn of pressures upon you towards a briefer style. Thank you for not giving in and maintaining your literary integrity! I have read your comments in this GI about prose style being appropriate to story, but I wonder if you might also feel that authors have a wider responsibility to preserve and promote the best use of language in literature. I will continue to count on you to do so, anyway! <Big Smile>

With best wishes

Angela Davis

As I think I’ve said before in various ways, I’m a very “experential” writer: in other words, I try to experience the story, both sequentially and emotionally, as if I were indeed inside the head(s) of my protagonist(s) or POV character(s). In addition, I place a high value on studying my characters empathetically and non-judgmentally as well as (as is inevitable) analytically. So I can hardly help becoming “emotionally engaged” with them.

Nevertheless my emotional experience of my stories pretty much *has* to be significantly different than the experience of my readers. For one thing, I *do* know what’s going to happen--and I also know *why* it’s going to happen. That has an unavoidable effect on the form my emotional engagement takes. And for another: the rate at which events and emotions are experienced affects the nature of their impact. As a reader, you move far faster than I do as a writer. (I’m a very slow reader, and even *I* move far faster than I do as a writer.) And speed profoundly affects perception. As I’m fond of pointing out: when you stroll casually past a tree, you see a very different tree than you would if you drove past it at 75 mph, even though the tree itself hasn’t changed at all. Well, my writing is the effective equivalent of a stroll (although there’s nothing casual about it), while for most people reading is the equivalent of 75 mph. This alters the tree’s distinctive reality in many ways. The experience isn’t better or worse, it’s just fundamentally different.

Which brings me to your comments about style. Editors nowadays are pretty much compelled to read at hyper-speed (knocking off a book like “Runes” over the course of an otherwise-full weekend would be considered fairly normal); and at hyper-speed it is simply impossible to care--or to understand why anyone else would care--that the 47th twig from the left on the back side of the 18th eastward branch is bent downward instead of upward. And in fact many writers--knowing that both editors and readers are moving fast--only concern themselves with those aspects of the tree which can be perceived at high speed. Hence the inevitable, well, friction between such editors/readers and a writer such as I am, who believes that every single leaf of his tree deserves his best attention; and that readers who bother to slow down while they’re passing the tree should be rewarded for doing so.

Well, I cannot be otherwise than I am. But I do also believe that readers who *don’t* slow down deserve attention and respect as well; so I accommodate the requests of my editors whenever and wherever I can do so without violating the integrity of my story--and of my story’s necessary style.

Do I believe “that authors have a wider responsibility to preserve and promote the best use of language in literature”? Please. How could I possibly be wise enough to know what constitutes “the best use of language in literature”? And, indeed, how can there possibly *be* a “best use of language in literature”? Surely the “best use” is the use which most perfectly suits the particular story under discussion. Talk about a different story, and the whole concept of “best use” must change.


Jim Clark:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

I finally have a question for you! My lasp message to you was just thanking you for so many enjoyable hours of reading and discussion...etc.

Here is something that is really interesting to me. If the breaking of the Law of Life was required, (as Covenant tell Linden) for him to act instead of merely being a spectator...How then was Elena and High Lord Kevin able to act without the breaking of the Law of Life. "All" Elena did was break the Law of Death, which allowed the Dead to come back...but not to act. This does presuppose the fact that Covenant was right when he told Linden what allowed him to act. Any clues on that one? Or is this something that you had planned all along to explore more fully?
I’m sorry, I don’t understand your question. Clearly Kevin *does* act when the Law of Death has been broken. But perhaps the confusion is one of direction (which I tried to explain earlier in the GI); of moving from death toward life instead from life toward death. It might help if you think of Covenant’s final place within the Arch of Time as a form of “remaining alive”: after all, (in an admittedly specialized sense) nothing is more alive than Time, since without Time there is no life. The breaking of the Law of Life permits Covenant to “act” like a living being even though he’s just been killed.

Or not. I have the impression that all of my answers on this subject cause more confusion than they relieve.


Edward Young:  I have enjoyed and been inspired by your novels for many years. I read many of the previous questions concerning the understandable changes in your style in the intervening years between the TC works, but two changes stand out to me.
Suddenly characters from the "real" world are using profanity. Your response to a few previous questions stated that you are now focused more on characters interacting and talking than on their observations; is this part of that shift in focus? Characters like Sheriff Lytton(sic?)had their moments to speak in the past, but neither he nor anyone else used profanity heavier than "Damn!" I'm no moral prude, but the change seems blatant; maybe it's to give the real world characters contrasting realism to the Land's denizens. The other shift is the realism of the Land itself. In the first two sets, Linden and Covenant regularly discussed the dream-vs-reality conflict, but Linden now seems to see the Land as obvious reality. This might just be a mistaken impression on my part however, and I should give some consideration to this questions length and close.

a) The issue of “profanity” keeps coming up, sometimes with considerably more vehemence. Let me say three things. 1) I’m probably the wrong person to discuss this with, not because I’m the author, but because I don’t believe that such a thing as a “bad” word exists. Certainly I understand the difference between “sacred” and “profane.” And in a general way I grasp that a distinction can be made between “obscenity” and, well, not-obscenity. But to me they’re all just words, all equally valuable--or valueless--depending on whether or not they express what they are intended to express. 2) It is possible that I’ve been affected more than I realize by writing mystery novels. In those novels, “profanity” and “obscenity” play a prominent (and realistic) role in the dialogue of many of the characters. Perhaps I’ve become more accustomed to writing such dialogue? 3) It really isn’t germane to compare whatever dialogue Barton Lytton has in the first and second trilogies with his dialogue in “The Runes of the Earth.” He isn’t a “real” character in the first six books: he’s a stock figure dragged on stage to perform a specific function and then summarily abandoned. (The same can be said of Megan Roman.) But, in keeping with my growing commitment to what I call the “dignity” of my characters, I wanted Lytton to be more “real” in “Runes,” and so I had to pay more attention to who he is, how he thinks, what he cares about, why he does what he does--and how he expresses himself. His dialogue in “Runes” seems to me to be a natural manifestation of his nature. And I would say the same about Roger Covenant.

b) The Is-the-Land-real? issue is a vanishing theme for every character who experiences it. Between the first three books and the second, Covenant ceases to care about the question: he has already made his personal commitment to the Land, and is no longer concerned about whether or not the Land can be *proven* to exist anywhere outside his own head. And the same thing happens to Linden between the second three books and the last four: the issue no longer matters to her. The things that are at stake for her far transcend such questions. And I’m confident that any parent who wants to save a threatened child would feel the same way.


Phil Murphy:  Steve - I was completely taken off guard by seeing the Covenant Series brought back to life. I was overjoyed, and was not disappointed when I finished the last page.

My question is regarding the Illearth Stone. I worked for a company dealing with Hazardous Waste back in the eighties when I was reading the Illearth Stone. It really intensified the work I did as I felt like the areas I was in was similar - vis a vis "the land was desecrated" and lain to waste. Did you consider the Illearth a Metephor for any one polluted area of our earth?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with your interpretation. It simply wasn’t what I had in mind when I wrote the first “Covenant” trilogy. On the other hand, hazardous waste and toxic dumping were very much what I had in mind when I visualized the Sunbane for the second trilogy.


Hod:  Steve
Many thanks for a superb book.
One question...Given the number of laws that have now been broken, and the failure of the creator to "turn up" at the start of the latest journey...Is the creator walking in the land?

I look forward to the next installment.
It won’t surprise you to hear that this falls under the heading of RAFO. <grin> But we all have to ask ourselves: how many broken “Laws” does it take to make the entire system collapse?


Charles Adams:  I have read throughout your responses here that Vain's deformation at the one tree was absolutely necessary to the completion of his purpose.

I have read the series of books repeatedly (THANK YOU so much for the many hours of enjoyment you have provided), but I have never grasped or understood WHY the deformation at the one tree was essential.

Can you elaborate on this point? Thanks!
Well, putting it as crudely as possible: the Staff has to be made out of wood, and Vain isn’t. Neither is Findail. They have to get wood from SOMEwhere. Think of it as a kind of “seed crystal” (I hope I’m using this term correctly). You have a vial of liquid that obviously isn’t doing anything; you toss in a seed crystal; and instantly the liquid is transformed into something else. “Vain’s deformation at the One Tree” is a necessary catalyst without which the eventual transformation simply could not occur.


Stephen Elmore:   Having spent a great deal of time reading, and yes re-reading the Covenant books, I am acutely aware of the way that you draw your words from a wide spectrum of sources; I have always been particularly interested in the sanskrit names of the three Ravers; moksha, turiya, and samadhi. In Hindu culture these represent elevated, or transcendent states of consciousness, so I was interested in knowing if you chose these names with that sub-text in mind. If so, what does this say about the Ravers?
I’ve answered this before; but I shouldn’t complain. I’m the world’s worst when it comes to using “filters,” “text searches”, etc.. And the GI is now *very* long. Naturally the process has become increasing cyclical.

My point was that the Ravers name themselves for states of enlightenment because evil typically thinks of itself as “better,” “purer,” “higher,” “more important,” or “more necessary” than the more ordinary beings around it. For every Iago in literature (or in life), who revels in evil for its own sake, there are thousands of Richard M. Nixons: men and women who believe that neither law nor morality applies to them because they transcend the strictures which should (indeed, must) control lesser mortals. For profound narcissists like RMN and GWB, as for Herem, Sheol, and Jehannum, the highest possible moral good is defined as “What I Want.”


Drew:  Mr Donaldson,
In past questions here in the GI, you've stressed a work ethic that means writing every day. My question is, does your productivity fluctuate much day to day (or week to week), assuming you have no time-consuming obligations, or is it relatively steady?
Like every other human being I’ve ever met, I experience variations of all kinds. For convenience let’s call them “bio-rhythms.” Some days I’m just plain *smarter* than other days. Some days I’m more facile (which isn’t the same thing is being smarter). Naturally my productivity and my effectiveness both vary. Speaking very broadly, however, I do tend to “speed up” as I get deeper and deeper into a particular book. If I were keeping score (which I do not), I could probably demonstrate that the second half of each book gets written in less time than the first half.


Jeff Hamilton:  I just started Runes of the Earth and it feels like visiting a long lost friend. Thank you!

My question is this: You hear alot about symbolism, irony, etc. from literary scholars. Personally I don't believe that most of it was planned in the story. It just develops with the art of good storytelling. There appeared to me to be a number of both subtle and not so subtle Biblical references regarding sin and redemption. Many closely paralleling the Christian plan of salvation. How much of this was actually planned? And does any of this refelect your own beliefs?
Nothing in my stories reflects my personal beliefs--except for my belief in the integrity of storytelling, and the importance I assign to my best understanding of my characters. However, I put an enormous amount of thought into my stories. And I *was* trained as a literary scholar. Very little in the way of "symbolism" and "irony" in my stories occurs by accident. And with my intensive fundamentalist Christian upbringing, Biblical references of all kinds can hardly be avoided. But don't be misled: if the stories can't stand on their own, entirely independent of my--to pick a random example--personal religious beliefs, then they can't stand at all; and I've failed at what I believe in most.


Stephen Hurwitz:  Congratulations on the Runes of the Earth! I look forward to the next volume. My question is one I almost hesitate to ask, but I would like to know the answer. Is there any chance, however slim, that poor book sales would cause you to not finish all four volumes of the Last Chronicles, or do you have a contract with your publisher, that they will be published, no matter what? I think if fantasy writers wanted to get rich, most of them would need a second job. They have to love it.
You're right, most of us really have to love it. And I do. There is no chance, none at all, that "poor sales"--or anything non-lethal--would prevent me from finishing "The Last Chronicles." I have a profound (not to mention obsessive) need to finish stories once I start them.

There is a remote--but real--possibility that poor sales might cause my US publisher to dump me. (This issue doesn't arise in the UK, where sales have been excellent.) On the one hand, my US editors are loyal and supportive. On the other, Putnams is well known for dumping authors when sales are unsatisfactory--or even when sales threaten to be unsatisfactory. However, even in the unlikely event that Putnams dumps me, all would not be lost. Books would still be available from the UK. And another US publisher might be willing to pick up the project.

In any case, there's no immediate danger. Hardcover sales for "Runes" were good (not great; but definitely good).


Drew:  Just for starters, you, Stephen R. Donaldson, are one of the best writers of all time. Your works have influenced me in more ways than I can express. One of the ways is actually what my questions are about. In the second book of the Gap Cycle on page 61, your "ancillary documentation" started with the conflict of Chaos and Order. I was curious where you learned of this or if it is something specific to you. If it isn't just yours then could you state where you took it from or modified it from because I want to know more, and if it is yours, I would be facinated at how you came across such a profoundly universal human trait. Thanks in advanced. From one of your most avid readers, Drew.
The "chaos vs order" theme which pervades the GAP sequence is certainly not original with me. (Only the specific details of how that theme is deployed are mine.) Indeed, the theme is so deeply embedded in Western thought that it might be impossible to determine who first put it into words. But speaking solely of my own intellectual development, I like to credit William Blake, who wrote, "Reason is the circumference of energy." This struck me when I first read it, and still strikes me today, as an ideal expression of the paradox which makes art, beauty, and even humanity possible. If energy (chaos) is not controlled by reason (order), it remains formless and destructive. If reason is not constantly challenged and stretched by energy, it remains rigid and destructive.


Paul Hanrahan:  Hello sir
I am currently working on my dissertation for my English degree and am looking at The Covenant Chronicles. I am Covering The Political And Social in Contemporary Fantasy Novels. It is clear that a lot of the issues covered in the chronicles have something to say on individual responsibility and the importance of community. Could you tell me do you believe that there is a political element to the Chronicles particularly the second chronicles. For example enviromental issues. Looking forward to finishing my degree so an sit and read your new book for pleasure.

Best regards
Paul Hanrahan
I'm uncomfortable with the idea that my novels "have something to say." For one thing, as I keep repeating, I'm a storyteller, not a polemicist. I don't write to communicate messages: I write to share characters and emotions, situations and questions. And for another, the--for lack of a better term--"content" (political or otherwise) of any story is a synergistic creation: writer and reader bring it into being together. And since, like the writer, every reader is a unique individual, each reading experience--each synergistic creation--has its own unique "content". For example, "The Second Chronicles". For you, and possibly for me, it may be an object lesson about toxic dumping. But for another reader, it may be pure escapism. For yet another, it may be a welcome relief from the rather claustrophobic confines of the Land. For still another, it may be a troubling exercise in implausibly elaborate machination--a "conspiracy theory" book, in a manner of speaking. And for still another, it may be a patently dishonest assertion that any human being can ever transcend the abyss.

On a conscious level, I'm a totally apolitical storyteller (although I admit that I have trouble turning off my environmental instincts). But that doesn't mean my stories lack political "content". In fact, my stories lack ALL "content"--until the reader makes his/her contribution to the creation.


Robert J. Pitkanen:  My question is simple, where my reasons are not. My question is this, how many books will make up the "Last Chronicles"? I've read most of your books twice, and love the depth of internal conflict. How do you develope such realistic characters? (BTW I've started reading "The Ruines of the Earth" and its great.
There will be four books in "The Last Chronicles." The titles are hidden away in this interview somewhere.

If I could explain how I do what I do (how, for example, the human imagination works; or how my particular ethos intersects with and shapes--or is shaped by--my imagination), I would become far more famous for that insight than I ever will be for my books. <rueful smile> All I can tell you is this: 1) my tastes in literature were shaped by greatness (from Shakespeare and Donne to James and Conrad); 2) the--I don't have a better word for it--"content" of my imagination was shaped by my childhood in India; and 3) and I've spent most of my life (certainly my adult life) making an intensive study of personal integrity.


Mary Matthews:  Having thoroughly enjoyed The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant I am now getting stuck into the second triligy - all I want to do is read! Can you please tell me if there are plans to publish the final four in The Last Chronicles of
Thomas Covenant as a one-volume edition? Also please do you have any release dates for the paperback version of the last four books?

From here in the UK - my best wishes to everyone, particularly to Mr Donaldson. I also write, but I fear I will never be as good an author. I can only aspire to be ALMOST as good!

Many thanks. Mary
No publisher that I know of plans that far in advance. Decisions about things like omnibus editions are made after--sometimes long after--all of the original books are published. And since what I call Covenant 8, 9, and 10 haven't even been written yet (although I'm making good progress on 8), no sane publisher would announce "release dates" for the paperbacks; or for any versions.

Good luck with your own writing! I hope you fare well.


Michael Weinhardt:  Hi Stephen,

I'm just wondering if you *will* ever appear as an expert on Fantasy Bedtime Hour?

I *definitely* love your work, but I also love the show and, somehow, the show won't seem complete until you are on it! Plus, I'm sure Julie, Heatherly and Cameraman Jenn would love to see you there...

Having had the pleasure of meeting Julie and Cameraman Jenn (Heatherly was apparently "asleep") during a book tour last fall, I find that I've now been invited to appear as the "final expert" on Fantasy Bedtime Hour. I can't honestly say that I feel equal to the challenge <grin>, but I don't see how I can refuse.

And for those readers of the GI who are *still* wondering who should play Thomas Covenant in the hypothetical film version of "Lord Foul's Bane": can anyone compare with Gamecat on FBH?


Stephen:  IVB at Kev's Watch is sharing with us "As the World Burns - A Kevin's Watch SOAP".

If you want to burst your sides laughing check it out! (Runes Forum, Sticky)

But be warned! Your characters are HILARIOUSLY ABUSED! (And the action starts at the end of Runes too... )

And Thanks for the news about book 2!!! We had a celebration!

I'm passing this along for people who might enjoy it. I haven't had time to check it out myself--although typically I enjoy such things (witness my fondness for Heatherly and Julie's Fantasy Bedtime Hour).


Doc:  Mr. Donaldson,
In LFB Foamfollower stated that a Giantship was always at sea seaching for a route home. What happened to the ship that was at sea during The Illearth War?
This is a more complex question than it probably ought to be. But consider the fact that in LFB the Lords promised Foamfollower Gildenlode keels and rudders (if memory serves) for the Giantships. From this one might well infer that when the current "searching" Giantship returned to The Grieve it stayed there--and no new ships were sent out--because the Giants were hard at work retrofitting all of their ships. Plus, of course, the sea is a perilous place. Any number of Giantships might simply have never returned.

A more probing question, I think, is: why did Lord Hyrim et al find no Giantships at all when they reached The Grieve in TIW? "The Last Chronicles" may conceivably suggest an answer. Or not. Authors have been known to be very clever. They've also been known to be badly confused.


Mike:  Mr. Donaldson,

I have been enjoying the Thomas Covenant series since it began, and am enjoying _The Runes of the Earth_ right now! For what it's worth, I was going to KSU when you donated your original manuscripts, etc., to the library, and was actually at the reception they had for you -- though I was only a lowly undergrad at the time!

Anyhow, I've been looking around to try and find a statement I *think* you made long ago, about the potential for exploring various concepts of redemption through the various Thomas Covenant series. If I remember correctly, the themes were: redemption through victory,
redemption through self-sacrifice,
redemption though the sacrifice of others.

I'm curious if a) I'm rememberig correctly and you recall saying something like that and b) if so, if you are following that theme through the 3rd Chronicles series, since the first two series seem to fit within that mold.

Thanks for your time!
This makes me squirm because, well, you *almost* got it right (which means that your memory is considerably better than mine); but I don't know how to correct any misapprehension without committing a spoiler. So let me try it this way: "victory" works; "self-sacrifice" is close enough (I usually refer to "surrender," but lo those many years ago I could easily have said "self-sacrifice"); but "sacrifice of others" is way off. Admittedly, Covenant is a pretty expensive guy to be around through much of the first trilogy. But by the end of the second he has become adamant about trying not to sacrifice others. And whatever inclination Linden may have had to let other people take the fall was--in a manner of speaking--cleaned out of her during the second trilogy. It's difficult to imagine either of these people considering "redemption through the sacrifice of others" to be anything except an oxymoron.

I am (very) consistently following through on my original model for the whole "Covenant" saga. But in some respects your memory has played you false.


Paul Haynes:  Does Berek's victory on Mount Thunder have any relation to the scene in the leprosarium in Lord Fouls Bane where Covenant vomits at the sight,stench,repulsion of the old leper and decides he wants to live?Also do you ever read any message boards concerning your writings?
Meaning is where you find it. Speaking purely for myself, I did not intend anything more than a thematic connection between Berek's victory on Mount Thunder and Covenant's reaction to his first encounter with another leper. But if you see more--well, enjoy it.

I stay away from message boards concerning my writing. As I've said before, I'm not the intended audience, and for that reason (among others) the experience isn't good for me.


Michael Waltrip:  Hello Steve,
Good news, I think. I used the search (keys: "Fatal" & "Reverent"), and what I wanted to ask came right up.

One question, "Runes" has seems quite a different "ending" style. The build up, i.e. cliff-hanger, took me by surprise. I wanted to immediately go on to the next book. I realize the "Quest for the Staff", is one common thread for the 3 chronicles. Any comment on the intention for the "Runes" ending, is what I'm wondering about.

I've read several places that "four" books is known already, for the 3rd Chronicles. Is that in stone?

Last, will I "we" get an email, if/when our question appears here (in this forum)?

"Runes" was vivid and rich to read. I was stunned, first time I read "Wounded Land", but this [has] a whole different feel. You could almost hear the ocean waves, when ever Esmer approached.

Didn't Mistweave (Giant of the Search) go with Cail Haruchi, when Cail left Revelstone to seek the Meerwives? The intent, if I recall, was to journey together, but Mistweave was going to the Giantship in Coerci.

Thank you!


You've asked a number of questions, here and elsewhere. I'm sorry I'm so slow getting to them.

I didn't consciously set out to create cliff-hanger endings for "The Runes of the Earth," or for any of subsequent installments. Rather the story itself seemed to dictate that structural device. (I refer you to "Mordant's Need," which is also organized in four parts, three cliff-hangers and a resolution.) Frankly, the only way that I could have extended "Runes" past the point where I ended it would have been by including all of "Fatal Revenant"--which would then have required me to include all of "Shall Pass Utterly"--which would then have demanded the inclusion of all of "The Last Dark." And that was not a practical possibility on many levels.

And yes, four volumes is definitely "in stone." The way my imagination works doesn't allow for variations which would change either the shape or the structural units of the story.

I'm sorry: neither my webmaster nor I can afford the time to send out e-mail "notifications" when questions are answered in this interview. Considering the lag (!) between question and answer, I can certainly understand *why* you would like to be notified. But then my answers would be delayed even further.

Yes, Mistweave left Revelstone with Cail. But Mistweave had a necessary purpose for going to Seareach; and in any case Cail would almost certainly have refused company on his quest for the merewives.


John Clem:  TC’s lack of understanding of the ring’s power made his desperate and sincere attempt to save Elena against Kevin’s assault futile. TC’s earlier decision to remain an observer and to not get involved prevented any motivation to determine the trigger mechanism of the ring so when he finally wanted to use it to save her nothing happened. The loss of Elena rendered him with such extreme despair and guilt he was initially unable to recognize his return to own world (i.e. mistaken his lawyer’s voice for Elena). Was it your intention to give readers the impression TC's rescue of the little girl who was bitten by a snake, to be a “psychological” rescue of Elena ? In his mind, did he initially think it was a little Elena who was crying for help ?

I have greatly enjoyed reading your remarkable work and look forward to your future books.

I'm sure you could argue that subconsciously Covenant was still trying to "rescue" Elena--or to expiate for his failure to save his daughter. But on a conscious level he was responding to an immediate--and very real--crisis. Indeed, *I* could argue that consciously he had learned from Elena's example and was refusing to repeat her mistake. Putting it another way: he was now humble enough to understand that he was neither wise enough nor grandiose enough to "save the world." Trying to save an endangered child who happened to be standing right in front of him, on the other hand: that *did* lie within his abilities. (Incidentally, I consider it self-evident that Lord Mhoram would have made exactly the same decision in Covenant's position.)


David Wiles:  Steve; I hope this finds all is well. I was wondering if you are still training in martial arts.
In your line of work it probably helps having an outlet for stess and pressures associated with keeping the story moving as well as remaining creative. It does'nt hurt on the physical health either. Thanks David Wiles
Yes, I'm still a dedicated student of the martial arts. As I've tried to explain elsewhere, there is wisdom hidden deep within the martial arts that I find invaluable. And I know that such exercise is a good pressure-valve; but I'm less conscious of that benefit than I am of other, more (for lack of a better term) spiritual benefits.


Steven Koper:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

I have enjoyed the Chronicals Of Thomas Covenant a great deal over the last 20 years. (I was 14 when I read the chronicals the first time, I am now 35). I was very excited to see the Last Chronicals Of Thomas Covenant and I loved The Runes of the Earth. That said, I would like to ask if you have any more ideas about Penance and Scriven? I read in an earlier question that you thought there might be more story to tell.
I was also wondering about the convention in Madison, Wisconsin. Your website has you listed as appearing but I can't find you listed as the guest of honor (as it should be) on the website of the convention. I am located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was looking forward to meeting you and a possible book signing opportunity. I know (hope?) you are busy on the next book and would like to thank you for your time.

Yours Truly,
Steven Koper
I will not be the Guest of Honor at the World Fantasy Convention in Madison for the simple and sufficient reason that the organizers didn't ask me. No, wait a minute, that's not it. Or it *is*, but it's not *why* they didn't ask me. The real reason is that I've already had my turn. I was the WFC GoH way back in Tucson 20 years ago.

More about Scriven and the "Penance" world? I'm sorry, you'll have to ask me that question after I finish "The Last Chronicles." I have a one-track mind, and I don't want to risk derailment by even pretending to think about other stories.



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Sergio D. Caplan:  Mr. Donaldson,

Am curious, are there questions asked of you that you would have to say, "I can't say I thought of that at the time, so I'm not sure there is an answer"?

Am just saying it because, let's face it, these are stories (wonderfully written and emotionally capturing stories mind you) and being just stories...Mistakes can be made, things you didn't think of LFB might have become an issue in WGW, and you just had to say, "to heck with it, will just ahve to write around it!" Things of that nature.

But this leads me to a big "writing" question, how do you do it? How do you keep track of all that you have written (names, characteristics, bio, past history and interaction, etc.)?

I mean surely at some point while writing one episode where char A speaks with char B you must have to sit there and go, now wait, are they aware of each others histories already? Did I cover that? Is one taller, did I write that already? etc. etc. etc.

Yes, it's true: I'm human. Ergo there are always things that I've missed, ranging from thematic implications (apt or otherwise) to details of internal consistency. And this forum has brought a number of them to my attention (which I find embarrassing, but almost always valuable). So yes, there are occasionally "mistakes" that I simply have to "write around"--or to bury in bullshit as cleverly as I can <grin>. In some happy cases, however, having my mistakes pointed out to me (or discovering them myself) opens doors for the material that remains to be written.

As to how I achieve as much internal consistency as I do: I've already discussed that at some length in this interview. I'll just reiterate here that I do a great deal of research on an almost daily basis, primarily into the "past" of the "Chronicles," but also into the "future" of what I haven't written yet.


Richard Medlin:  When I was half way through "Runes of the Earth" I wrote you concerning the Haruchai. Specifically how they have befuddled me since the first Chroncles. They live by extremes, seeing things as black and white, right and wrong with no middle ground. Now it seems the "Masters" have become the new "Clave." Only instead of robbing the people of the Land of their lives, they rob them of their reason for living. Didn't Berek make a deal with the earth when the fire lions were called that the people of the land would serve the earth and wasn't "earthpower" the gift of the land to the people to empower them to keep that promise?

I did learn one thing about the Haruchai from "Runes" that i hadn't realized before. For some reason the statement from Foamfollower came to mind when he said "does it surprise you then that I have been thinking about hope?" I guess what gives a person the ability to hope also gives them the ability to dispair. One cannot exist without the other since they spring from the same source; our passions. The Haruchai have been trying to subdue their passions so that they will not fall prey to dispair but at the same time they cut themselves off from hope. They have manipulated the land so that the people cannot perform great acts of dispair and thus harm the land but also the people of the land have no way to act on their hopes to save the land from its peril. To me this makes the Haruchai like some kind of disfunctional Taoist. They have denied their inner "yang" and in so doing, cut themselves off from their inner "yin."
In the Taoist philosophy, the yin and yang comprise the meaning of life, the coexistence of good/light and evil/darkness and that in all good, there is some evil and in all evil there is some good. Is this the way you intended the Haruchai to be in the story or is there some deeper meaning or agenda attached to them that I'm just not getting?

PS: If Haruchai owned pickup trucks, their bumper stickers would read "You can have my pride when you pry it from my cold dead fingers."

Thank you,
Richard Medlin
Pataskala Ohio
Your interpretation seems apt to me. I didn't have anything specifically "Taoist" in mind when I first created the Haruchai/Bloodguard. Nor have I thought in those terms since then. Rather I've been thinking about the inherent destructiveness of moral absolutes; and in particular about the dangers of "extremism" in the face of dilemmas which appear to demand extreme solutions. (E.g. exactly what *does* a person who abhors killing do when someone or something dearly loved is about to be killed?) But such themes consort well with the ideas you've expressed.

One practical point, however: Berek swore his particular service to the Earth and Earthpower long before the Haruchai came along; the Haruchai never swore *his* vow, they swore their own; and they have good reason to distrust the ramifications of Berek's oath as it was handed down through the old Council of Lords.


LaGinna Vincent:  When will the second book of the Last Chronicles, "Fatal Revenant" be available to the public?
Such questions are posted often in the GI, and have been answered several times. In the absence of a FAQ, I'll simply say that news about "Fatal Revenant" will be posted as soon as it becomes available in the "news" section of the site. However, I'm unwilling to provide vague "status reports." That seems too much like teasing. So I'll only post news when I have something concrete to report.


wrathex:  Mr Donaldson, thank you for the Covenant series,
it is indeed a literary treasure. I would like to
know why Covenant had to rape ? His character as
a leper already puts all the hardcore emotions
needed at his disposal. The rape scene has
desturbed me continually on a very personal level.
I don't want to feel sorry for a rapist, I do not
want to forgive a rapist and I do not want him
to be loved. Apart from murder, I think rape is the most selfish and destructive act against another human. No amount of 'alanthia'or
'hurtloam' can ever heal one who has been raped.
Nevertheless, your insight into human emotions are
clearly visible in your writing, and I suspect that your experiences in India touched you deeply.

When I turn the last page of Thomas Covenant one
day, I will mourn, for the beauty and possibilities of love therein has impressed me
and I hope that I will find the strength to
forgive those who defile. *I doubt it though.
<sigh> This keeps coming up. And God knows I can understand why. But I always want to ask: how have I failed to demonstrate a) the thematic revelance (even the thematic necessity) of Covenant's crime? and b) the enduring consequences of such violence? You say, "His character as a leper already puts all the hardcore emotions needed at his disposal." I disagree. In my view, "his character as a leper" casts him in the role of "victim"--and that is decidedly *not* where I want him. I want the reader to see that he is in truth a potential Despiser; or that he has already assumed the role of the Despiser. Otherwise there's no story.

A bit of narrative theory. (All such theories have severe limitations, but they also offer useful insights.) There are really only three roles that a character can play in a story: Victim, Victimizer, and Rescuer. And what makes the difference between what I think of as Real Stories and mere plot spinning is this: in a Real Story, characters change roles because of what happens to them. So Covenant starts out as a pure Victim. But I happen to think that being a Victim (or even thinking of oneself as a Victim) naturally inclines a person to become a Victimizer. Being cast in the role of Victim is morally damaging; and that damage tends to breed a desire to impose Victim-hood on someone else. Hence the rape of Lena.

To my way of thinking, however, the really interesting question is not how a Victim becomes a Victimizer, but rather how either a Victim or a Victimizer becomes a Rescuer. How does a human being find the resources to step away from that kind of damage (Victim or Victimizer) in order to become the opponent of damage? This theme manifests itself in one form or another in virtually everything I write.

(Sidebar: of course, there are plenty of Real Stories out there that deal with how Rescuers become Victims or Victimizers. But that doesn't seem to be my natural theme.)

Another way to look at this whole question is to think of "rape" as a metaphor for all forms of violation and betrayal, emotional, psychological, and spiritual as well as physical. And in those terms, I don't know anyone who isn't guilty of "rape." Speaking purely for myself, I've been on the receiving end of metaphorical "rapes" many times. Sometimes I've engaged in such actions myself, with or without provocation. Sometimes I've responded to the "rape" by holding myself to a higher standard of conduct--but I've done so entirely without forgiving the "rapist." And sometimes, just sometimes, I've both held myself to a higher standard of conduct *and* learned how to forgive my "rapist." (Which is, of course, the only road that leads to the place where I might be able to forgive myself.) Considering my own actions, I can only hope that the people I've "raped" (deliberately or inadvertently) will find it in their hearts to forgive *me*.


David Sweet:  Mr. Donaldson,
I am so happy to see you return to Thomas Covenant. I have enjoyed your works over the years. I had the pleasure of meeting you during the "Gap" books which were outstanding! Like you Mr. Donaldson, I am like dirt, and I was wondering if this old bit of dirt could ask you for a signed bookplate for my newest collection of your work. I am not able to attend any of the upcoming signings you have planned. I understand if you are not able to grant this reguest, as I am sure you must be asked this a lot. Keep up the great work. I can't wait for book two!!
David Sweet
Procedures for obtaining autographs are explained elsewhere on this site.


Steve Brown:  Not really a question, just an answer to your question RAFO means read and find out <grin>. But since I'm here...Your answer to my question concerning how Foul/Ravers were able to posses someone across the gulf's between worlds?
So Foul had access to Joan, and Roger?
In some form, yes--if only symbolically or metaphorically; or perhaps by "sympathetic magic". After all, the people of the Land can summon individuals out of the "real world"? So why couldn't a power like Lord Foul affect the thinking of obviously vulnerable individuals like Joan and Roger?


a watcher:  The sincerest form of flattery is... Folks at the watch are debating where something like this book (which appears to be extensively derivitive of TCTC) falls in terms of intellectual property rights.
I don't want to comment on Michael Warden's work. But the subject of "intellectual property rights" holds some interest.

As I see it, it's impossible to write without drawing on "sources"--things read, studied, seen, experienced, felt, etc. And how those sources are used ranges along a continuum from, for lack of a better term, "creative transformation" (Tolkien is a good example: anyone who wishes to make the effort can identify any number of his sources; but he has "re-created" those sources, "made them his own," so uniquely and well that no one can fault his artistic integrity) to literal plagiarism, direct quotation from someone else's work as if it were one's own (otherwise known as stealing). Everything else falls somewhere between those two extremes. And how a given "source" (presumably a living, copyrighted author) responds to being used to one degree or another is as much a matter of personality as of ethics.

Speaking purely for myself: if a case of literal plagiarism came to my attention, I would certainly take offense; and I might well take legal action. But anything short of literal plagiarism seems to me, well, a tempest in a teapot. The person who, let's call it, "leans heavily" on my work will be damaged more than I ever will (as soon as anyone notices what's happened); and I see no need to respond with anything more than a snort of derision. But other writers feel otherwise. I've seen "intellectual property" lawsuits filed--and won--on the most improbable grounds. IMNSHO, writers who do that are taking their own egos way too seriously.

Sidebar: it was T. S. Eliot, I believe, who wrote, "Bad writers borrow. Good writers steal." Clearly he was referring to theft in a different sense than I did above. He meant that a good writer takes his/her sources and transforms them into something entirely his/her own. A bad writer, on the other hand, commits something short of literal plagiarism. He/she simply and obviously fails to transform--or even digest--his/her sources. Then, mercifully, that writer lapses into oblivion.


Pet Peeve:  Earlier in this amazing gradual interview, you said that you consider the old lore to now be irrelevant.

The lore was discovered by Berek after he made the staff, and expanded on by the old lords through Kevin as the wards were codified. But is the lore all aspects of the constraints put on the earth by the Staff of Law? If that was the case, wouldn't the new lords have had no power the moment the original staff was broken? They wouldn't have had any lore knowledge to pervert into the practices of the clave.

If it's NOT an aspect of the staff, then the lore is still valid. Maybe the Mahdoubt is the seventh ward with a sex change.
Ah, where to start. The lore of the Old Lords was not contained in, nor did it require, the Staff. Berek's *ability* to make the Staff was one expression of that lore. But the Staff itself was/is merely an instrument for wielding Earthpower in the service of Law. Both Law and Earthpower existed long before Berek became aware of them. The Old Lords simply studied what they could, taught what they knew, and did their best to understand. Think of their lore as a body of knowledge (but only *a* body of knowledge, not all possible knowledge) about how the world works, and about how to benefit from how the world works. As the story demonstrates, the Staff is not necessary to the validity of the lore, and the lore is not necessary to the existence or power of the Staff.

Sure, the lore of the Old Lords is still valid (taking into account that some crucial Laws have been broken). But who's going to rediscover it? And how? It isn't a book you can suddenly find misfiled in the library and, ah ha! there it all is. It has to be built; learned in stages. And it requires a starting point, which Berek had, but which no one else since the corruption of the Council has had.



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Daniel Bateson:  Hello Mr Donaldson,

I have recently started on "the Runes of the Earth" and at approximately half way though I'm beginning to see how dissapointed I'll be at having to wait a few years for part 2 to arrive. However, I have expienced this "dilemma" with your books for years now so I guess I'll manage :)
Having read the first and second Thomas Covenant series and then finishing The Gap series (All quite a few years ago now) This third series of Thomas Covenant has hilighted a large difference between the writing styles of Covenant and The Gap, and even Mirror of Her Dreams, I hadn't paid much attention to up until now.

While Thomas Covenant largely dealt with the main character's point of view and their obsevations and interactions within the story, The Gap series primarily dealt with each characters point of view seperately as we shared each of their lives, pains and trials as the story was built. Given the main plot of each series this difference appears necessary and is, to me, a fundamental ingredient in the stories themselves.

What are your views on this observation, and the importance, if any, it appears to have on each of the stories individually?

How do you find that this difference in perspective affected the way you wrote or constructed each of the series?

Thank-you and Kind Regards.
I discussed this at some length (much) earlier in the GI. But briefly:

My use of POV is always dictated--nay, positively required--but the nature of the story I'm trying to tell. The stories you mention--and all of my short stories--and all of my mystery novels--simply could not have been told in any other way (at least by me). The perspective is inherent to the nature, the content, and the structure of the story.

How does this affect me? Well, I suffer from an a-rational dislike of first person narration; so I have to master certain aspects of myself in order to write stories which require such narration. (And don't even get me *started* on present tense narration. <grin> Or on third person omniscient narration.) And I find the use of multiple POV characters (most obviously in the GAP books) extremely arduous. From my perspective as the storyteller, multiple POVs require me to completely re-invent the world every time I change "heads". For me (I can't speak for other writers), this is exhausting in the extreme--which explains in part why I got so little writing done in the first few years after I finished the GAP books.


Jimmy Suzuki:  Mr Donaldson.

Thank you and your agency for the quick submission of the bookplates. They rock!

Probably you didn't have the time to answer two question that puzzled you from the GI, so these are the answers. Hope it helps.

1)Mr. Poe writes about the difference between chess and checkers in the introductory paragraphs of The Murders in the Rue Morgue, a story that according to my Literature class from last semester was the first sleuth mystery.

2)RAFO, according to the is “an acronym for ‘read and find out.’

And I've got a question of my own :). I love Penance, and I even butchered it to present it in Forensics tournaments—fitting novellas into a 10-minute time-frame ain't easy matter. I was wondering about the main character's name. Why you don't reveal its actual name? Is it irrelevant? Does it follow a theme or underlying principle in the story? Do you actually know it? If so, can you reveal it to us? And what about Aposter? did you choose it just because of the music? or did you consciously think of Apostle and/or Apostate? or is there something else I didn't think of?

Thank you in advance. I hope to see Fatal Revenant in my hot little hands soon. Take care, Steve.
Thank you! Other readers have given me the meaning of RAFO, but the Poe citation on checkers and chess eluded me until you came along.

Ah, "Penance." I didn't reveal Scriven's original or "actual" name because the story doesn't require that information: the story only requires that the character has a substantial past--which I can adequately convey through hints rather than with elaborate and digressive exposition. (As I keep saying, I'm an "efficient" writer: I only create what the story I'm writing absolutely requires. So no, I don't actually know Scriven's previous name(s).) All of the names I chose primarily because their music spoke to me. But I also chose "Scriven" because it resembles "shriven" and implies something written down (a story told). As you suggest, I chose Aposter because it might refer to both Apostle and Apostate. (With my religious background, such references are unavoidable.) And I chose Straylish because it includes "stray" (suggesting that Straylish has taken Mother Church far from its more benevolent roots).


Anonymous:  Maybe you have answered this somewhere before, but I haven't seen it. I've wondered for a long time if your father was acquainted with Dr. Paul Brand. They were both orthopedic surgeons and missionaries working with lepers in India. Dr. Brand and Philip Yancey wrote several books together about Brand's experiences (including at the leprosarium [sp?] in Louisiana) and drawing analogies from the human body for faith and so forth.

Thanks for your books. I just finished Runes and thought it was excellent. I really liked Mahrtiir's line to the Cords about giving our lives new meaning. The beauty of that really touched me.
If my father knew Dr Brand, he never mentioned it to me. But he obviously knew Dr Brand's work. He cited Dr Brand when he wrote a paper for me on the subject of leprosy and its emotional consequences.


Gene Marsh:  Mr. Donaldson,

I know in past responses you have stated you have given up on playing "cast the movie". However, I was absolutely STRICKEN this evening with the image of Gary Oldman playing Thomas Covenant. I'm not sure I'll ever get this face-to-character match out of my head.

Gene Marsh
Well, he could do it--because he can do just about anything. So can Johnny Depp. But Oldman fits better because he's, well, older.


Ken:  Thank you for doing this gradual interview. It is nothing short of amazing that you take time to let us look behind the curtain. Finding out that you were returning to the Land was like hearing I was going to be with old friends I hadn't seen in a long time. I finished “Runes” in a matter of days, and look forward to “Fatal Revenant”. I don’t mind the wait, considering the quality of the product.

My question relates to a comment you made (11/27/04) about Lord Foul and his ability to choose. You said Foul is free to choose how he responds to being trapped in the world. In LFB, Lord Tamarantha tells the story of creation and describes Despite and Creation as Necessary Opposites, and Lord Foul as the avatar of Despite. How is it, then, that Lord Foul has a choice? Are despite and evil not the same thing, or at least is not despite a mechanism of evil? I took the story to mean evil/despite is what Foul IS.

I suggest Foul exists on a different level than the denizens of the Land because he is an Absolute. He doesn’t contain the Necessary Opposites, despite and creation, within himself as the created beings do. He can’t choose between the two. The same obviously goes for the Creator. The reason the Creator and Foul can act at all, in my opinion, is because they act through the medium of the Land, overlapping spheres of influence as it were, reestablishing the co-existence of the Necessary Opposites. Well, that is just my two cents. I do not mean to presume to instruct the creator on his own creation, it is just the thing about Foul having a choice doesn’t seem to fit. I would prefer that you had a better answer than evil for it’s own sake, but given the Necessary Opposites I don’t see how.

Thank you again for stories that opened my eyes to a lot of different things, while expanding my vocabulary at the same time. In Thomas Covenant I found a character possessing more of what it is to be human than I usually encounter in the genre, or anywhere else for that matter. Tolkien may have showed me The Road, but Donaldson placed me firmly on it.
Thank you for your long and thoughtful message. I've pruned it significantly, not because I don't value your views (I do), but because there's little I can say in response. (I certainly can't comment on your analysis of Senior's book. <grin>)

Your view of Lord Foul is certainly defensible. Indeed, it is "authorized" (in a manner of speaking) by the explicitly archetypal intentions to which I've made reference throughout this interview. Further, it is consistent with the ideas I wrote about in "Epic Fantasy in the Modern World": if fantasy is a form of psychodrama in which a mind is turned inside out so that its aspects and conflicts can be dramatized as external characters and events, that implies a certain, well, let's call it single-minded-ness among many of the players. The Bloodguard. The Ramen and Ranyhyn. The Cavewights and ur-viles. The jheherrin. And, obviously, Lord Foul. So it follows that if he is a pure characteristic (evil, for example) rather than a true character (with a back-story, complex desires, and the power to make choices), he might well be considered a "Necessary Opposite"; essentially static. In a case like that, the whole "necessity of freedom" concept simply doesn't apply.

And yet-- Everything that I've just said only fits comfortably around the original "Chronicles." It seems obvious (at least to me) that my own perception of Lord Foul (like my priorities as a writer) is undergoing a sea-change. In "The Second Chronicles," for example, Lord Foul plainly demonstrates an ability to change and adapt. His tactics have changed radically--and his stated agenda has shifted subtlely (less emphasis on "eradicate hope from the Land," more emphasis on breaking the Arch of Time). (Curiously, a cursory glance suggests that the word "arch" isn't even capitalized until "The Second Chronicles.") And he adjusts "on the fly," as it were, to Linden's presence (even though the attitude of the Elohim seems to imply that her presence has been foreseen). Doesn't that entail an ability to make meaningful choices?

One could argue legitimately, of course, that no prisoner is free. By definition. But one could also argue with equal legitimacy that even a prisoner is free to choose his/her attitude toward imprisonment. Indeed, one could argue that self-mastery (the ability to choose one's own thoughts and emotions) is the only truly human form of power.

So where does that leave us? Beats the by-products out of me. All I can tell you for sure is that the comparative moral simplicities of the first trilogy have been left behind. And that this change affects the characters--all of them--as well as the story on every level. In my (current) view, Lord Foul is like Nick Succorso: the fact that Lord Foul chooses only ruin doesn't mean he hasn't made a choice; it simply means that--consciously or otherwise--he has rejected the alternatives.

Shucks, even in "Paradise Lost"--a far more didactic work than anything I've ever written--God's highest Angels themselves have the power to choose.

In short, if you want "Necessary Opposites," you may have to look at Elric instead of Covenant.


Khat:  Stephen;
I hope - needing a break while writing FR - you choose to answer my post:
After devouring (so to speak) Runes after Christmas, I needed to reread the first two Chronicles (and Gilden Fire) to help me remember more about "The Land", the characters, and to help me with the trivia games on the Watch <grin hee hee>. I am really curious about the Mahdoubt lady we meet at the end of Runes. She truly reminds me of the healer who saved Covenant after he ate amanibhavam and died in his place - (I never did find her name) - in PTP. At one time she seems to look like someone else - like the Elohim - Any chance you can "spoil" me here with more on this character?
Thank you again for bringing us (your readers) back to the Land - what a great ride!
Sorry, no. The Mahdoubt is a subject on which I can't offer "spoilers" of any kind. This is firmly in the category of RAFO. (From which you may safely deduce that the story isn't done with her. <grin>)


Marc-Antoine Parent:  <heart-baring salute>
My respects, Mr. Donaldson. I hope the last chronicles lead you where you want to go as a writer; the first two chronicles certainly got me where I wanted to go as a reader, and precious few books did that.
I read the gradual interview with much fascination, wondering which question I would ask, being granted this wonderful opportunity. Here is:
One thing that has always been very uncomfortable to me as I read the chronicles (and half of Mordant so far) is the amount of planning that main characters engage in... King Joyce is actually making a mocking display of it through the importance he gives to hopscotch; (A parenthesis on hopscotch: In French, it is jeu de dames, i.e. game of ladies. Amusing allusion to much that happens in the book, to this reader. The dame actually refers to the stacked piece that can move backwards, being feminine and powerful much like the chess queen.)

But in many cases I just cannot believe in the intricacy and fragility of people's plans. Let me give you a concrete example: Pietten's key role in the Ranyhyn's betrayal would have be brought to nought had Foamfollower given the hurtloam to him instead of the Cavewight. Did Foul know that Foamfollower would do this? I am quite convinced that is not the case in general, or he would not bother to beset a snare with another snare. In other words, Foul must have had a plan B... Or look at the whole complexity of the quest: How much of its details were foreseen by Mhoram and Foamfollower's ghosts? Another example is Foul threatening that a raver will ravish Linden unless Covenant relinquishes the ring. When Foul initially summons Covenant to the Land, I am quite convinced that Linden was not part of his plan. So how did he expect to convince Covenant of giving him his ring of his own free will, which he states quite soon after the summoning if memory serves me well? In this case, we know he had a plan A, which was despair through venom, but that plan itself was fraught with uncertainty. What if Covenant had failed to obtain Sunder's help and had been exposed to the sunbane? Or what if he had simply forgotten to put on his shoes that first morning?

This sparks a minor sub-question: What happens to white gold and wild magic if Foul miscalculates and gets Covenant killed somewhere? This is surely not equivalent to Covenant choosing to give him the ring. But that is not the question that matters.

My main question to you, the writer, is: Are you usually aware of the character's plan B? (or plan A as the case may be.) I assume that the plans do not rest fully on prophecy, as you repeatedly emphasize free will; so I assume that, like at hopscotch, the players (the characters) think through many alternatives. Did you often go through these alternatives mentally yourself, or only map out the one that happens in the story?

Another subquestion, if you do know, and I will stop: I am actually curious about the Elohim's plan A... Findail obviously knows what awaits him, and did not relish it; and he goes along because it is a balance of risk between him and the Quest. What else could he have done against the Sunbane if the Quest had failed? There is the notion that being made into a staff is the price of failure for him. How could success have come about?

Thank you again.
Your stories are a great gift, which we are all too eager to honour.
<sigh> This question keeps coming up in various forms. And I keep making the same points. The apparently intricate and even implausible planning (in the GAP books and "Mordant's Need" as well as in "Covenant") doesn't require prescience; or the ability to control as well as foresee distant events; or any other impossible combination of qualities or developments. I call it "open-ended plotting," and all it requires is imagination, some insight into character, and a willingness to rely on many gambits (and possibilities) instead of just one.

But first we should distinguish between the first Covenant trilogy and the other stories. There events revolve primarily around brute force, and are in consequence comparatively simple. Lord Foul doesn't *need* Pietten to grow up and betray the Ranyhyn, Covenant, etc. The poor guy is really just an exercise in gratuitous malice. All Lord Foul *needs* is enough muscle to exterminate the Lords--and enough understanding of Covenant to grasp (and exascerbate) his vulnerability to the destructive effects of despair.

Matters are of course much more complex in "The Second Chronicles." There Lord Foul has, in essence, given up any form of direct action: now he's all about manipulation. But his plans are nowhere near as fragile as you suppose. Really, the only way he can possibly fail is by misjudging Covenant's character--or Linden's. Just a couple of examples. 1) So what if Covenant gets exposed to the Sunbane? So much the better. What's going to restrain a monstrous and completely insane white gold wielder from smashing the Arch? 2) So what if Covenant gets killed during the Quest? Linden just takes the ring, and the beat goes on. And if they both get killed, someone else takes the ring. (We all know from reading LOTR that such powers always end up in *someone's* hands.) Admittedly that would make Lord Foul's position a bit messier. But he'll just go to work on whoever ends up with the ring--and the Sunbane will continue--and he's no worse off than he was before.

Of *course* I'm aware of all the possibilities that Lord Foul (and others like him) are juggling. I work very hard to make sure that the only way he can possibly lose is by committing errors in his evaluation of character. In other words, Lord Foul only loses because people like Covenant and Linden rise above the weaknesses that he sees in them.

As for Findail and the Elohim Plan A: they haven't shown much sign that they even care about the Sunbane; so why should they bother to have a plan? (And if they ever decided that they did care about the Sunbane, they would simply Appoint one among them to stop the Clave and the Banefire: as simple and perilous a task as preserving the dying sentience of the One Forest.) No, Findail and the Elohim Plan A are all about white gold. Their Plan A is that Linden has the ring. In that case, they see nothing to concern them. They only have a problem because *Covenant* has the ring. And he's full of venom, which makes him--among other dangers--a good candidate to rouse the Worm.

My point--which I hope I can stop making--is that all of these plans (Lord Foul's, King Joyse's, Master Eremis', Holt Fasner's, and Warden Dios', not to mention those of Covenant's Dead) aren't fragile at all. They're practically inevitable--IF the characters of the primary players have been accurately judged.


Marc:  Dear, Stephen,
This is a statement rather than question. I was only just born when you first published the Covenant Chronicles, so i have frantically reading them since i discovered them a couple of years ago. I was delighted when i got a proof copy of 'The Runes of the Earth' from the bookshop where i work part-time. I just wanted to thank you for an amazing book; it was sensational and has left me in total anticipation for the next book.

OK, I'll have a go at a couple of questions too; how do you begin to conceive of a world like you portray in your covenant works?

Secondly, if you are ever in the UK how would you feel about coming to the University of Warwick to give a talk (or lead a discussion) about the social ideas behind the books (sorry as a sociologist, I’m constantly noticing the wonderful depiction of social life and interactions you express in works?

Once again your works truly are inspirational, and pose questions that are intensely important about a social or human conditional.

Lastly (i promise i will stop after this point), i loved the GAP series: what a stroke of genius.


Well, if I could explain how the human imagination works, I would be a *whole* lot wiser than I am right now. <grin> As for the practical details behind the conception of the "Covenant" world, they've already been described at some length earlier in this interview (and elsewhere).

On those occasions when I'm "out in public" (e.g. in the UK), I'm happy to talk about my work. But I don't see it in sociological terms, so I might have to do a fair amount of squirming. As I keep saying, I'm not a polemicist (in other words, I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything), I'm a storyteller. And much--if not all--of the content of any story is in the eye of the beholder. I simply try to put all of my resources at the disposal of the story I happen to be telling. After that it's up to the reader.


Lou Sytsma:  Hello Stephen.

After reading ROTE and your most recent interview in Locus, I eagerly await the next instalment. In the Locus interview, you emphasized the power of the relationship that exists between a parent and their child. Given how the first book ends, probably the best cliffhanger since The Empire Strikes Back by the way, you have laid very fertile ground as to how Linden will react when she begins to interact with these two people.

The drama of handling dual responses should be rich indeed. This is probably spoiler territory and I am hoping the wording of my question will allow you to answer in a circular manner.

The dynamics of hurting someone who has lost everything by giving them back something broken has been explored in the previous Chronicles. Does the variation of giving something back fixed, that was originally broken, hold any interest for you?

Continued thanks for your writings past, present, and future.
If I may ask this respectfully: what would be the *point* of "giving something back fixed"? I mean the storytelling point: what would be left for the writer to write about?

I realize that many major religions are predicated on the idea that God (or some other external force) is going to fix things for us. All we have to do is have faith. But I can't see how that makes sense. If we aren't responsible for the content of our own lives, why do we bother to live at all?

On the other hand, *believing* that someone else is going to fix things for us can give rise to any number of storytelling possibilities.


Daniel Björkman:  Dear Mr Donaldson...

Well, first off (and somewhat unoriginally, I admit) thank you for your books. I especially love the "Mordant's Need" ones - I can identify only all too well with Terisa's sense of not existing, and reading about her overcoming her limitations has been very encouraging for me.

As for the questions you have, most graciously, offered to answer...

1) I very much enjoyed your short story "What Makes Us Human", but I'm confused about something. At one point, the characters ask themselves the question in the title - what it is that they have that machines don't have, that they might be able to use against them. Eventually, they formulate a plan that proves successful - but I don't see how it has anything to do with the philosophical question. As far as I can tell, they win because they know more about their own technology and resources than the machines do.

Judging from the amount of things that have been made clear to me by reading this interview, I'm guessing that there's something brilliant here that I'm just too thick to see. (*looks sheepish*) Please clue me in?

2) Is Mordant about the same size as Alend/Cadwal? I've always kind of pictured it as a kind of spot on the map surrounded by these two giant empires, (*smiles*) but Mordant does seem to be able to maintain an army of more or less the same size as Alend's (and as Cadwal's "native" army, without the mercenaries).


Daniel Björkman
(Note to general readers of the GI: No, I'm not dead. <grin> Life has just been very complicated recently.)

1) Perhaps I should have been more clear in "What Makes Us Human". (We always leave out the things that are obvious to us.) I was referring to imagination and love: the imagination which enables Temple and Gracias to use their technology in ways which the machines could not have anticipated; and the love (for their own kind as well as for each other) which empowers them to take really extreme risks. I doubt that any kind of machine logic would have arrived at Temple's and Gracias' decisions and actions.

2) For the purposes of the story, Alend and Cadwal are both effectively bigger than Mordant. By which I mean two things. a) My own very rudimentary map of the region gave Alend no northern border and Cadwal no southern one because the story didn't need those details. So there's no theoretical reason why those nations couldn't be comparatively vast. b) I wanted Mordant to be physically vulnerable and strategically critical. It is the buffer which prevents far worse wars from breaking out; the keystone of peace--assuming that King Joyse can preserve it intact. Personally, I don't think of Mordant as *small*, but I do consider it smaller than its neighbors.


Richard Medlin:  Mr. Donaldson

I'm reading Runes Of The Earth now but have read the first two trilogies 3 times. I have two questions actually. First, I read a previous question regarding references to the "burning of wood" in "The Illearth War" such as "coals of the fire" and "putting kindling on the fire." I also read your response indicating that there were some fires that consumed wood because not everyone had the lore to call up the earthpower in the wood and that it had to be prepared first. However, the "prepared wood" could be reused over and over and each Woodhelven village had a Hirebrand to prepare that wood. Also Stondowns used graveling for fire and light which was prepared by the Gravelingas and used by everyone in the Stonedown. It was also reusable. More importantly, In "The Wounded Land" pages 73 and 74, Covenant cursed "Hellfire" when he smelled smoke and saw wood being consumed in a fire in the home of Nassic, father of Sunder. At the top of page 74 you wrote "The people he had known here would never have voluntarily consumed wood for any purpose." There were many Hirebrands and Gravelingas who accompanied the army of Hile Troy and they were well prepared when they began thier march. So, I guess what I'm saying is that your previous explaination does not suffice and would you care to comment further? However, I love the story and consider it a minor inconsistancy.


Richard Medlin
Pataskala, Ohio
What can I say? I'm human, and sometimes things just don't work out as well as I wanted them to. Taken by itself, the text of "The Illearth War" seems defensible: the Lords' army is comparatively large, and will need a *lot* of fires for cooking, etc.; but the number of Hirebrands is comparatively small--and in any case how would an army in a forced march transport the amount of "prepared wood" that would be required? Sadly, this logic is rather vehemently undermined by Covenant's attitude in "The Wounded Land." <sigh> Still, I ask you to give me credit for this one point: Covenant was not present for the forced march in "The Illearth War."


Ethan:  Hello Mr. Donaldson,

I just finished reading the Second Chronicles tonight. I have not even looked at Runes of the Earth at this moment, and I'm not aware of anything in that book. I'm going to wait a bit to start it, so I can rest in psychological completion for a while.

The reason I am writing is that I can really only see one possible future for Lord Foul. In the second Chronicles, he was not bested by superior power, he was defeated by his own greed and incomplete understanding of the wild magic. Now, he is barred from reaching beyond the Arch of Time by Covenant's vigilance, trapped by his own exertion of power. I don't think that even if he returns to mastery of the Land, he will be able to break the seal he made on himself.

His expenditure at the end of White Gold Wielder forced the realization on him that his motives worked against him - he got what he was striving for and his own ends unmade him. I think now that the only resolution available to him is for him to examine and rethink those motives, namely his despite of the Creator and his prison. Or else his despite will continue to work against his self-interest.

Lord Foul seems not to be a force of pure evil, but rather a tragic figure when Covenent dispels his veil in Foul's Creche. What was Lord Foul before he was imprisoned? Is there any possibility that he might outlast his despite?


Oh, I read the most recent of the Gradual Interview questions. What do you think _would_ have been the right choice for Elena when she stood on her knife edge at the source of Earthpower? What force native to the Land could have bested Lord Foul? The Fire-Lions? I thought reading that passage that she was caught at that point in her anger and lust beyond the possibility of a 'correct' choice.
I'm sorry to say such things because they sound so much like a cop-out <sigh>. But. Your analysis of Lord Foul's nature, position, and future options is something that I can only address when I've finished "The Last Chronicles." Until then, such matters fall ineluctably into the category of RAFO.

Where Elena is concerned, however: I'm inclined to agree with you. By the time she reaches the EarthBlood, she has become (in part because of Covenant's underlying selfishness in his dealings with her) a person for whom no "correct" choice is possible. It's like that old joke: "You can't get there from here. You have to go somewhere else and start." (btw, it seems to me that much of life is like that.) But if she could have started somewhere else (i.e. if she had been a different person), she might have considered her problem in terms of "protection" rather than "attack". Perhaps the only valid use of Earthpower in her position would have been to strengthen beauty and Law against Despite rather than to weaken Law as an attack on Despite. Certainly I don't think that any "force native to the Land could have bested Lord Foul." (By the same logic, I don't believe that Lord Foul--unaided--is capable of breaking free of Time.) That's one reason why beauty and truth are so precious: they're fragile; and on a day-to-day basis unscrupulous despisers always have the advantage. Just try arguing with a nihilist, and you'll see what I mean. <grin>



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Russ Byrd:  Thanks for continuing the story about The Land !

In Runes, when Linden is considering whether to try to use her ring to heal a Ramen girl, she remembers that she did so once with a giant on the Starfare's Gem. Even though it says the giant was a he, I thought it was a female giant.

Am I mistaken? Or, if it is a blooper do I win a free vacation to the land with all the aliantha I can eat?:>)

I was moved by the part in the book where Linden fixes herself some tea and spends time with her friends from the land.(Thinking about them) This struck close to home for me, as I have often done the same. OK, my case it was hot tea and sunflower seeds..but it was the 80's when I first read your books <G> I have read many books over the years, but few characters stay with me as much as the giants from your books have.

Anyway, thanks again!

OK, I'm not researching this. If you want to, please feel free. But as I recall, Linden was involved in healing more than one Giant aboard Starfare's Gem, one of each gender.

But guess what? Even if you *are* mistaken, you *still* win a free vacation to the Land (gratuities not included). You can pick up your prize whenever you want it. Just close your eyes. <grin>


Michael Weinhardt:  Hi Stephen,

My question is really a question for advice, so if it's been answered by you elsewhere, or here (I couldn't find anything), I'd be glad to follow a URL.

I've been writing technical articles for magazines for a few years now, and am currently working with another author on a techy book.

I love writing, I love creating a story and filling in the pieces and I can't not do it. Now, I'm considering turning my attention to creative writing, either fantasy or sci-fi (or whatever it turns out to be).

My question is, what are some useful [ways] to get started. By that, I mean, how do I gain the extra knowledge I need to construct a creative work eg approaches, considerations, character development etc etc. Do I simply just write and see what happens?

I'm quite happy to do the last, but feel like some additional learning would by beneficial.

Peter F. Hamilton (sci-fi author guy) suggests the cutting of ones teeth on short stories, which doesn't seem like a bad idea.

Anyway, thanks for any thoughts you might have.

Dedicated readers of the GI--if any of them are left alive <grin>--can assure you that it contains lots of advice for writers. I'm not going to repeat myself, except to say:

1) Trust your own excitement. It's the only guide you have.

2) Never assume that what you wrote says what you meant. Your reader's mind is different than yours, and that difference must be taken into account.

3) You can learn more by studying what you love to read and what you hate to read than from all the writing classes that have ever been taught and all the how-to books that have ever been written--put together.

P.S. Search the GI categories "Creative Process" and "Writing & Publishing Process."


Mark G. Hewitt:  When I first began reading your initial Covenant series, I was fascinated with Theology and Gestalt Psychology. As I completed the trilogy, I became convinced that you also are interested in these topics and ingeniously wove them together within your story.

Am I on to something here or simply isogeting?

For which agencies did your parents perform medical mission work?

Your work inspires me. Thank you.
My knee-jerk reaction to most theology is that there's less to it than meets the eye. Doubtless I feel this way because I was badly over-exposed to self-righteous religiosity when I was young. Nevertheless the rather driven theology of my parents is imprinted on my neurons, and there's no chance that I'll ever stop writing about it.

In contrast, I suffer from a life-long fascination with psychology; and I like to believe that over the course of my writing life my portrayal of character has been thereby enriched.

(And yes, I'm aware that at a certain point psychology becomes indistinguishable from theology--as well as from philosophy. But we all have to start somewhere. I choose to start with what happens to my characters--and why they care.)

My parents were Presbyterian. Specifically United Presbyterian.


Anthony Wilkinson:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

As an aspiring writer and student (I have just recently finished a dissertation exploring the validity of critical and scholarly opinion of fantasy literature in which your work featured heavily) I have one comment and one question.

Firstly, I extend my rueful gratitude to you for inspiring me to become a writer. I'm grateful that your work, particlarly the Gap series, fanned the sparks, but If I'd have known what an all-consuming blaze it can be, I may have turned to law perhaps, or medicine. (something easier! LOL)

Secondly a question. How important to your conception of Covenant is it that he is American? I ask because it seems to me that in the Sceond Chronicles he loses his national specifity, becoming more an individual, untrammelled by clasdss or nationality. Is this in preparation for the universal support he becomes at the end of the second chronicles?

Actually, I've never been conscious of Covenant as an "American," and his specific nationality has never played a role in my thinking. On some unconscious level, I suppose I've always assumed that he was a US citizen (so is Mick Axbrewder). But I'm certainly not aware of giving him--or any of my characters--national characteristics.

Perhaps this is because I don't feel fully identified with any particular country myself. Instead everywhere I go is just another occasion for culture-shock. <sigh> Going to India when I was four and returning when I was sixteen pretty much destroyed any personal sense of "homeland" that I might otherwise have felt.

Which may, in some baroque fashion, explain why absolutely everything I write is fantasy (even my mystery novels)--in the sense that I can hardly write at all unless I create physical reality almost from scratch. (The exceptions are few, far between, and comparatively brief. Haven Farm is closely based on the place where I lived when I wrote the first Covenant trilogy. And the karate tournament in "The Man Who Fought Alone" matches actual tournaments that I've attended.) In that specific sense, even the GAP novels are fantasy. And all of my mystery novels take place in imaginary cities.


Drew B:  Thanks for the answer! I really enjoy reading the responses in the Gradual Interview-- it's a lot of fun to get "behind the scenes" with a writer whose work I've enjoyed for so long.
As a side note, Jack Chalker passed away recently. I make note of it because he was a "contemporary" of yours at DelRey, his Well World books having been launched around the same time as Lord Foul's Bane. It seems like there was a small group of truly remarkable writers who were launched by Judy-Lynn and Lester delRey at that time-- and it's sad that (so far as I know) at least one member of that group is no longer with us (apart from the delReys themselves, that is).
Both Lester and Judy-Lynn del Rey were good at recognizing talent. Among a number of notable writers, they discovered Tim Powers--and rescued Patricia A. McKillip from obscurity.


Dan From Brooklyn:  Huzzah! An opportunity to butt in.

While I have had a lot of difficulty coming up with the right way of introducing myself and asking a question, I can do something better and provide an answer.

The audio recording of Lord Foul's Bane read by Terry Hayes Sales was created by the National Library Service for the Blind, part of the Library of Congress. It was recorded for the sole distrubution to libraries; not for sale and falls within some provision of copyright law.

I'm guessing that the person who found it online found the work of someone who converted the tapes to MP3 files for distribution.

My visually handicapped neighbor took a lot of advantage of this program, "reading" some 8 or 9 books a week. From what I heard, they are very simple recordings: a reading of the text without sound effects or music. But what was lost in audio production was more than well made up for in the lack of abridgement.

The Stephen R. Donaldson collection contains Mordant's Need and the first six books of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. They can be found in the link below to the "prolific authors" section of science fiction and fantasy writers.

There you go, the Library of Congress not only thinks your prolific but has *classified* you as such. Add that to your jacket bio without guilt.

With much respect, I remain your servant

I'm posting this because the information seems valuable (many readers have asked about audio versions of my books), and because I was completely unaware of it myself until now. Thanks for letting me know! I hope your research will benefit readers who want--or need--to "listen" to books.


Peter B.:  Stephen,

Thanks again for all your work. I've had the opportunity to share your Thomas Covenant series with several people recently and it's quite a joy to see them really getting into it.

My question...You mentioned in the G.I. that your editor for Runes will not be working on the next Covenant novels. What are your thoughts about this? It would seem ideal to have the same editor through the whole series for consistency's sake.
Yes, it would have been ideal to have the same editor (Jennifer Hershey) for all of "The Last Chronicles." In addition to the consistency issue, there's the fact that we already knew each other well: we worked together on the whole of the GAP cycle. But my new editor, Susan Allison, has an excellent reputation. *And* she is the paperback editor for "Runes," so she has already dealt with that book in detail. I see no reason to worry about the editorial future of the saga.


Eric A Marks:  I was a reader from the very beginning, really, and needed no help in picking up a book, rather than perusing the television. I loved the written word well before my 'peers'. I never fell in love with a charachter until I real "Lord Foul's Bane".Your first trilogy gave me a reason to delve deep into the work. Do you get this kind of reaction often? I really feel like you opened up a whole literary world to me. I can't thank you enough, Stephen. In the 20+ ensuing years, I have read thousands of books that I understood how to appreciate, and I cannot believe that would be true without the Unbeliever....
Thank you! I don't say that enough.

If nothing else, the sheer scale of this gradual interview testifies to the fact that you are not alone: a fact which always humbles, sometimes intimidates, and occasionally out-right terrifies me. <grin> I really have no idea how I got so lucky.


Hazel:  Hello,

I have thoroughly enjoyed all of your books, having only recently been introduced to them in the last few years. I also really appreciate the time you take to maintain the Gradual Interview... I hope this quation hasn't been asked before.... Why are words like Haruchai and Elohim in Italics? Why the extra emphasis on these words when others aren't? Thanks for your time.
This, as I think I've observed before, is common English usage: words in "foreign" languages are printed in italics. The implication in the "Chronicles" is that words like Haruchai, Elohim, croyel, and even Grim (as in the na-Mhoram's Grim) are drawn from languages "foreign" to the Land.

And yes, I'm aware that the whole question of "foreign languages" can get us into some pretty turbulent waters, especially from a "world-building" perspective. All I can say in my own defense is that I chose not to spend (waste?) narrative space dealing with the vast problems caused by a need for translations. So for practical purposes, let's just say that "foreign" words tend to derive from "lost" languages; languages which were once used many millennia in the Land's--and the Earth's--past.


Larry:  How did you like Tom Baker in the BBC production of The Chronicles of Narnia (actually an adaptation of only three of the books if I recall correctly) as Puddle Glum? This series had a strangely "hippie" look to it that I liked. The Runes of the Earth was marvelous. Keep up the good work.
Tom Baker was a good Doctor and an excellent Puddleglum. In "Dr Who," however, I actually preferred the earnestness of Jon Pertwee and Peter Davidson, and the crackpot flamboyance of Colin Baker. Just my opinion.


Willow Ravenswood:  Do your characters enter your dream life as well as your imagination? What meaning if any do you make of the 'mediumistic' quality of your creative process? Do you believe these characters will die with you or maybe they have some autonomous reality in an imaginative realm you resonate to? Perhaps this sort of questioning is irrelevant to you and you are just happy to serve the process? Thank you for the time you take to respond to your readers queries.
I don't know what you mean by "the 'mediumistic' quality of [my] creative process." I've certainly never dreamed about any of my characters. In fact, the only (conscious) role that dreaming has ever played in my writing has been on those extremely rare occasions when I've dreamed the language I need to describe a particular event or scene. Will my characters die with me? Of course not. They will only die when the last reader who remembers them dies. (And even then one could argue that their influence lives on.) Examples abound. Shakespeare's Falstaff is certainly still alive.


Maxim Vorst:  Hy Stephen i'm from Holland. I am a great fan of you and all of your books not only the covenant series. All of them are masterpieces. I always read the untranslated versions, because the Dutch versions have not been translated very well.
What pleases me most in your books is that every time i read them , I discover new things. I've read The first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant only about ten times so i probably can find some new things the next time.
I think that the covenant series are the best fantasy books ever written. Because they have more depth in the characters and the plot than any of the others, they are simply brilliant.
And now my question.
Yesterday I received the first book of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. For the first time i saw your picture , which wasn't in any of the other books . The strangest thing was that you look much as I have imagined that Thomas Covenant looks like. Is it my imagination or do you resemble Thomas in more then one way.
I'm afraid it's just your imagination. I certainly never intended any physical resemblence between Covenant and myself--or consciously intended any other resemblence. Please keep in mind that the picture in "The Runes of the Earth" was taken more than 20 years *after* I started work on "Lord Foul's Bane." Back in those days I looked like I was still in high school. <grin>


Skeletal Grace:  Dear Mr. Donaldson...

I'm another one of those people who have followed your writing career and I have thoroughly enjoyed most everything you have put out so far, the Gap-ology being my absolute favorite. I could write a book on how I love the way you develop characters and make them come alive before our very eyes.

If being your "biggest fan" gives me the temporary credentials I need to ask a somewhat blunt question, I will happily label me thus...

I have noticed a gradual, yet drastical, change in your written language from your first books to your last. Naturally, a change is to be expected as a writer matures and evolves with his writing over the years, but to me it almost seems like you are "showing off" in 'Runes', waving words in our faces I quite frankly have never encountered before (and I do consider my self fairly well versed in the English language).

I know of course that this is not an intentional "mockery" on your part, don't get me wrong, I am just curious to know whether you have considered how that "uber-eloquence" might potentially scare off the average reader who does not possess the high-end vocabulary required to sometimes get the overall context of a whole "Runes" paragraph? I can see how taking breaks to run to for every other page turned might make the actual reading a task more than a pleasure.

I guess what I'm saying is; the use of elegant words can be a thing of beauty, but it can also disrupt the flow of a story to the point where you feel you are unfortunately skipping more than you're actually enjoying.

I regret to say that I found "Runes" to suffer quite a bit from the Fancy English Syndrome. The Gap-series, for instance, was a very technical piece, yet I don't remember flinching at words like I just did ever so often while finishing the new part of the last chronicles.

I hope it is not because you feel that Fantasy writers don't get the "credit" they deserve from the "serious press" and you therefore feel the need to grow a mad scientist hair do, throw your hands to the sky while cackling: "Idiots, I'm going to show them all - BWAHAHAHA".

We all know you can write, that's why we love your books so immensely, I just think it would be a shame if you concentrated so much on your love for the higher art of writing skillful sentences that it is done at the expense of the flow of your beautiful and engaging stories.

Maybe it is not a conscious thing on your part at all and I'm just talking out of my ass (it has been known to happen I am told) so if I in any way have offended you, I beg your pardon... it was not my intention. I was just making an observational inquiry.

Thank you for your time and thank you for the worlds you have created,


Well, I'm completely flummoxed. a) While I was writing "Runes," I was consciously trying to tone down my (over)use of what I'll call Fancy Words. b) (and this is totally subjective) Apart from the word "scend," I can't think of a single Fancy Word in "Runes" which doesn't appear in at least one of the previous six "Covenant" books. c) My editors objected with polite urgency to the presence of *any* Fancy Words, so I pruned out a fair number during the revision process. d) In my own re-reading, I notice Fancy Words in "The Second Chronicles" far more than anywhere else, including "Runes". As a result, you've left me with my mouth hanging open.

Elsewhere in this interview, I've written at length about the specific rhetoric of the "Covenant" books. I'm not going to repeat all of my previous comments. But I feel a need to emphasize a few points. 1) Words are the tools of thought--at least for a person as verbal as I am. The more words I know--and use--the more things I can think about--and write about. 2) Words are an essential tool of world-building, and their flavor, their connotation as well as denotation, even their familiarity determine the nature of the reality (and even the characters) that can be constructed with them. For example, writing about "the arrogance of the Elohim" is NOT the same as writing about "the surquedry of the Elohim," and that difference is crucial to what I'm trying to accomplish. 3) If you're at all inclined to believe that my use of Fancy Words is "mockery," "showing off," or any other manifestation of ego--and thank you for saying that you're not so inclined--then you should have stopped reading me a long time ago, because I'm clearly not worthy of your attention.

Does my use of Fancy Words have the potential to scare off readers? He*l, EVERYTHING I DO in fiction has the potential to scare off readers. Every story I tell, everything I do with character and event, is rife with possible alienation. The "Gap-ology" mentioned above positively bristles with material that can either frighten or outrage readers. It's what I do. My use of Fancy Words is only one necessary element of the "Covenant" books.


Patrick St-Denis:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
I just finished reading THE RUNES OF THE EARTH, and I absolutely loved it! It feels great to return to the Land!

I'm a book reviewer for my own website (, for an independent magazine (Gryphonwood Press), as well as for another website (

I've just added your novel's review on my website, and I thought that perhaps you'd like to read it.

Again, congratulations for another fantastic book, and may all the others be as captivating.

All the best,

Patrick St-Denis
As I've explained before, I don't comment on reviews. I'm posting this so that other readers of the GI can check out what you have to say if they're so inclined.


Gene Marsh:  Mr. Donaldson,

As an former English major (BA) fascinated by your work and your style, I have read most of your works and pursued other material in an attempt to "get into your mind". Since I live near Kent State, I have had the opportunity to visit the library there and examine some of your documents there. My questions:

- I believe you have a "breakthrough style", a distinctive one never used before. Were you aware of this when you were writing (especially the TC books), and do you see the distinction now?

- Are there documents at Kent State (or elsewhere) that might help me understand how you came to this style - then moved forward with it?
I'm certainly not conscious of creating--or having--a "breakthrough style." The influence of Joseph Conrad, Henry James, William Faulkner, George Meredith, Sir Walter Scott, and others (not to mention the King James Bible <grin>) is everywhere apparent to me. To steal an apt phrase (which I would credit if I could remember who coined it), I'm always "standing on the shoulders of giants."

If you have way too much time on your hands, and are genuinely obsessive/compulsive (and I hasten to say that this is *not* an implied criticism: I'm pretty ob/com myself), you might learn a lot about the evolution of my style from the Donaldson collection at the Kent State University Libraries. At least one copy of every version, every rewrite, of every story I've ever published resides there. With enough patience, you could, for example, pick up the very first draft of what later became "Lord Foul's Bane" and watch how it modulates toward its final form.

Although I can't imagine why anyone would bother....


Gilbert:  Mr. Donaldson,

I loved your books when I read them in high school -- but re-reading both chronicles last December in preparation for "Runes" allowed me to appreciate them much more. I remember when I first read them, I kept wanting Covenant to use the ring -- use it! Blast them! But now that I'm older and more mature and aware of the violence in the world, I have a much better understanding of his overwhelming reluctance and inability to use the ring.

Anyway, I've read through some of the gradual interview and saw a question early on about your intended title for the first book: Foul's Ritual. Was that the only title that was imposed? Were the others chosen by you?

Also, I know how you have said multiple times that the stories choose you -- is it the same way with the titles for the Last Chronicles? Is there any chance the inspiration for the titles may change, or the path of the story may differently than you think right now?

Thanks very much. -- Gilbert
It's been a long time since I covered this is the GI. I'll try to be brief.

Titles changed at the insistence of my editor:
"Lord Foul's Bane" (formerly "Foul's Ritual")
"The Man Who Killed His Brother" (formerly "City of Day/City of Night")
"Strange Dreams" (formerly "Unforgettable Stories")

Titles changed because my editor insisted on publishing "The Second Chronicles" as a trilogy instead of a tetralogy: all of them (but the only one I can now remember is "Sunbane," which originally formed the first two thirds of "The Wounded Land").

In any case, as I recall, no titles were actually imposed on me (except for "Lord Foul's Bane," as I've said before). My editors simply rejected my titles until I came up with ones they liked.

Since "The Second Chronicles" (and not counting "Strange Dreams"), I've chosen all of my titles without objection from my editors; I came up with the titles long before I wrote the books; and only once have I changed a title after it was "set" in my mind (and still this happened well before I wrote the book). Curiously, the original title for "Forbidden Knowledge" was--drumroll, please--"Strange Dreams." But I couldn't think of a good alternative to "Unforgettable Stories" until I realized that "Strange Dreams" was actually a lousy title for the second GAP book. So I transferred that title to the anthology; and almost immediately "Forbidden Knowledge" suggested itself.

I don't foresee any problems with the titles in "The Last Chronicles." And I'm certainly not going to change the general shape or purpose of the story at this late date. Many details, however, are still being negotiated by my conscious and unconscious minds.


Ian J:  Hi Steve
Some say they can't stand the long wait for the next book in the Covenant series. On the contrary, I say that the thought of having another book to look forward to is infinately more preferable than the enormous void that will be created when you have finished your magnum opus.

I have a brief question: You mentioned in the GI that there was a 22-CD audio book available on Runes. I have just picked up from my local library a 6-CD abridged version of Runes which I am halfway through. The narrrator is Anton Lesser. I was looking through the GI for some reviews of this CD but can find no mention of it. Were you aware that this was available in the UK and, if you have heard it, do you have any comments on his delivery which I have to say I find rather stilted?
Yes, I'm aware of Orion's abridged audio version of "Runes" (on both CD and cassette). And no, I haven't listened to any of it. The whole idea of such abridgement gives me hives.

If you want the complete text on CD, it should still be available in the US (perhaps from It was released by Penguin Audio and read by Scott Brick: decent work as far as I can tell, although he occasionally gives the sentences a different cadence than I would in his place.



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Jason D. Wittman:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you for answering my previous questions. The question I have now is a bit less frivolous: in your introduction to _Reave the Just and Other Tales_, you said that writing "By Any Other Name" helped you through the worst case of writer's block you had ever experienced. I was wondering if you could elaborate more on what happened there. I'm an SF writer myself, and I've been having, if not actual writer's block, a creative funk for several months now. I was hoping you could shed a little more light on the subject.


Hmm. I know the answer, I just don't know how to explain it without getting bogged down in personal details that won't have anything to do with your situation (and that I don't want to discuss in any case). So look at it this way: "By Any Other Name" deals with a character who is victimized through no real fault of his own, who (in essence) diminishes himself by running away from the problem, and who is eventually drawn back to confront the problem by his own better nature. Well, I started work on that story, froze up because I found writing it to be extraordinarily painful, couldn't write for six months, and finally returned to work when I realized that I was doing exactly what my protagonist started out to do: I was diminishing myself by allowing my pain/fear/victimization to define and control me. The story helped me understand myself better, and understanding myself better enabled me to finish the story.

In my personal experience--and this may have nothing whatever to do with you--a "creative funk" is almost always caused by running away from something (sometimes from an emotional problem, sometimes from a writing challenge, sometimes from a few of the more debilitating vagaries of life).


Kathleen:  Stephen; I truly enjoyed Runes and felt the need to reread the two Chronicles again. This brought up a few questions which were answered in this interview. I have only one question that was not answered (that I could see) when I searched in the GI:
In The Wounded Land, when the three children place their right hands in the fire, the third child is indicated as a girl: "And the third waif followed in turn, surrendering her flesh to harm like lifeless tissue animated solely for immolation."
Jeremiah, the third and youngest, is a boy. I was wondering if you thought about putting in something about Jeremiah's appearance resembling a little girl (skinny, long hair, sweet face) and Linden at first mistaking him as a "her"?
You're not the first to point this out; and it's a certified solid-gold Authorial Fu*kup. In fact, of all the unarguable mistakes that I made in "Runes," I found this to be the most mortifying--because (he admitted, cringing) I actually checked my facts before I introduced Jeremiah, and I *still* got them wrong.

This is one of several internal consistency problems that should disappear when "Runes" comes out in paperback (or trade paperback). I sent the corrections that I wanted to both my US and UK publishers months and months ago.


Peter B.:  Stephen,

As a librian for a small academic library in Minnesota one of many joys and privileges is ordering materials for our collection. Although non-fiction takes up much of our focus occassionally I can purchase fiction as well. Your books are on the top of my 'to get' list! Recently, Reave the Just and Other Tales came in. What a great feeling it is to share your work with others in our community! You've been an inspiration to me since I first read The Chronicles as a high school student in the early 80's. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the worlds you've brought us, the characters I'll never forget, and the integrity you display in this gradual interview!

Okay, I'm done gushing now. On to my question. In Runes of the Earth I observed that the scope of the geography was somewhat limited. Will this expand in future installments of The Last Chronicles (and perhaps into other dimensions as well [grin])?
I used only "detail" maps for "Runes" because I was badly pressed for time and a full map of the Land wasn't strictly necessary for the story. If nothing goes wrong, however, I intend to supply a full map with "Fatal Revenant." Not of the whole Earth, I hasten to add: just of the Land.


BCS:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

First let me say that I have just started reading your Gap series and I find it very stimulating. I found the 1st and 2nd chronicles of Thomas Covenant very emotional and thought provoking. Bravo for raising the bar again on story telling.
My one question is what made you decide to go back to school to receive a doctorate in Literature? As for me, the power of your writing soothes my day and is worth infinitely more than gold. I have met many a pretentious hack hiding behind a Ph.D. in Literature and none measure up to you.
Thank you for effort in writing such wonderful fiction that honest-to-God makes me think about it long after I read the material.
Thanks for your good opinion. I know a certain number of Ph.D.s who are "pretentious hacks." But I also know many who are valuable thinkers and teachers. I wouldn't be where I am today without them.

But I didn't "go back to school" for my Litt.D.. It's an honorary degree. A recognition of achievement outside the academic halls. To some people, this means that it doesn't really count because I didn't "earn" it in the usual way (school). Fortunately others see the honor in a very different light.


T Chamberlain:  Mr. Donaldson,

I've finally convinced my sister that you are a "writers, writer" in the fact that you make no attempt to "dumb down" your stories or write them for the masses. I admit I keep a dictionary handy when I read your works; I'm a vocabulary buff and you certainly keep my appetite whetted! I've (after years of trying) convinced her to begin with the first Thomas Covenant series and then she'll be on her own... I "discovered" your "The Man Who..." series quite by accident, but feel that these express your talent and wry humor as well as anything you've done. I was more than surprised to learn of your interest in the martial arts; I was promoted to Shechidan years ago, but no one "outside" is aware of this. Keep it up!!! One question: I've heard you described as either "gruff" and unappreciative, or just very shy and hard to get to know. Any comment? btw, not MY observation!!!
No one who knows me would describe me as "gruff" or "unappreciative." But I'm definitely "shy" and "hard to get to know." And sometimes those qualities give me an air of aloofness which can easily seem both gruff and unappreciative. This is especially true on author tours, where my emotional exhaustion--and the strain on my general shyness--exacerbates the problem.


Todd Burger:  Mr. Donaldson,

I just read that if you lost an entire manuscript, as opposed to edits of a manuscript, that you would likely kill yourself. I'm quite certain that I'm paraphrasing a bit, and that you were exaggerating (I hope!). You might be interested to know that Sharon Kay Penman, a wonderful writer of medieval historical fiction, had her first and only manuscript stolen from the front seat of her car while was parked in front of a shopping mall. Personally, if that happened to me, I would likely have succumbed to despair and depression from which I may never have recovered. SOMEHOW, she recovered, and rewrote the book from start to finish, for which I'm very grateful, as I'm a huge fan of her work.

History also supplies examples of writers who lost entire books--and survived the experience. Frankly, I don't know how anyone does it. The day my computer died, destroying half of one chapter of "The Man Who Tried to Get Away," was one of the worst days of my life.

Still, as they say, "Life is just one #^#$% opportunity for growth after another." I like to believe that I wouldn't actually kill myself. After a period of (no doubt considerable) disarray, I hope I would get back to work.


Melissa Goldfinch:  Hi steve i was just wondering if you are a christian?
i am myself and noticed that in the second chronicles of Thomas Covenant you have the Elohim beings. i recently found out that the word Elohim in greek means God. How did you come to use that word?
Keep writing the chronicles. I can't wait till i read the rest.
I used the name "Elohim" precisely *because* it means "God". In Donaldson books, however, such references usually have an ironic component. My "Elohim" do have some rather elevated opinions about themselves.


Dave:  I've always enjoyed the map of the Land as it appeared in what I am going to call the originally released paperbacks (the books with Darrel K. Sweet art). I noticed that the paperback versions of the Chronicles that are in stores now - the ones with the cover art that joins to make one big picture - has a map by a different artist. Do you have any say as to the maps that appear in the various TC books? I imagine you'll tell me that the publisher controls such decisions based on answers to other questions in the GI, but just wanted to confirm. Moving into the future, do you have more control, now that you are working with a different publisher, over what will appear in the remaining installments of the Last Chronicles? Will we see different maps than those in "Runes"?

And since we are on the subject of maps, can you discuss your invlovement with Karen Lynn Fonstad's "The Atlas of the Land"? I've enjoyed her Atlas for some time and often wonder how much input you had.

As is customary, I've greatly enjoyed reading your books, look forward to any forthcoming works of yours, appreciate the GI, and would like to meet you if you ever make it to Columbus, OH.
I've just posted a comment or two about maps, so I won't repeat myself.

Quite some time ago, actually, the orginal maps for the first "Covenant" trilogy were re-drawn, in part to increase legibility, and in part to facilitate making the changes necessary for "The Second Chronicles." I was a willing participant in this process. To my eye, however, the increase in legibility entailed a loss of precision (e.g. where, exactly, is Gallows Howe?). And my publishers, especially in the UK, were extremely sloppy about applying the changes (the death of all the forests west of Landsdrop) to "The Second Chronicles."

I don't like the maps in "Runes" stylistically; and they're also inaccurate (we were extremely pressed for time, and the artist refused to heed my corrections). I hope my publishers and I can do better for "Fatal Revenant."

I spent quite a bit of time with Karen Fonstad when she was preparing her "Atlas". The results are as close to literal accuracy as possible, considering that I'm not a visual person.


Michael from Santa Fe:  Here is something I have wondered about since the First Chronicles. A person who is sent to the Land, always begins to assume the physical state they entered the Land when they are about to be returned to the "real" world. So in Lord Foul's Bane, for example, Covenant bumps his head before being sent to the Land, and he bumps his head "on the way out". What would happen if a woman entered the Land who was pregnant? Obviously they would need to be pregnant again when they left, but would they show their pregnancy while in the Land? Could they have the baby in the Land, only to be impregnated again before returning? Or is this all just speculation since none of the books transports a pregnant woman to the Land and so dealing with that situation is not necessary? Just curious how you would handle it though.
This is obviously WAY outside the text, so anything I say about it must be taken as purely speculative. But--just guessing here--I might arrange a miscarriage in the Land, matched by a miscarriage in the "real world" caused by the trauma of events enabling translation to the Land.


David Kirkham:  Dear Mr.Donaldson

I finished ROTE yesterday- I've worked it out- it is *you* in fact who is Lord Foul- you keep us all waiting for 20 years, then out comes ROTE and you keep us waiting for 'twenty-eight score' pages until the final sentence.

Now I know how Liand feels- what freedom of choice will I have whilst waiting for FR?

Now I regard myself as a fairly intelligent, cultured, well-read person, with a BA in English and lets face it I'm a Brit- so I understand irony, rhetoric and parody, though I don't drive a Rover [any more]. BUT- my question is this:

Will Covenant *really* return and become the main protagonist- I dearly hope so, as- though I enjoy all of your characters- it is he who represents the 'root note' to your symphony- surely?

Thank you and best wishes with your work- and I hope you continue to enjoy our 'writing' as we continue to enjoy your 'reading'...

David, UK
I'm sorry. I can readily appreciate your reasons for asking it; but answering your question would be a MEGA-spoiler, and I really don't want to give anything away.


Dave A:  Hello Mr. Donaldson,

The other day was discussing the Covenant books with a friend, and we made a curious observation: Lord Foul never tells an actual lie when speaking to the protagonists. He misdirects, he omits, and he manipulates, but at no time does he out and out lie. So I wondered if this is deliberate - Foul considering it below him - or if it was just fortuitous?

Keep up the good work!
Putting it as broadly as possible: Lord Foul simply has too much contempt for people to bother lying to them. In order to lie to them, he would first have to believe that they can actually defeat him. (Misdirection, omission, and manipulation are much more fun than lies: they reinforce his feelings of superiority.) Of course, he *has* been defeated in the past. But he's also learned from his mistakes, which allows him to continue believing that *this time* he can't fail. (Like virtually every human being I know, he's better at solving yesterday's problems than he is at foreseeing--or handling--today's problems.)

Of course, deeper issues underlie his manifest egocentricity. But he isn't likely to admit that to anyone.


Bill Kovka:  The Covenant Chronicles are my favorite books. Years ago I had the whole series and I lent it to someone and never got it back.
I've since replaced them except for the the atlas of the land. I can't find it anywhere.
Is this still in print?

Thank You

Bill Kovka
Today seems to be my day for maps....

As it happens, "The Atlas of the Land" went out of print a very long time ago (for the obvious reason: poor sales). And I don't think we'll ever see its like again. I'm just not that popular. Which is pretty easy to understand, considering the demands that my books make of their readers.


Lynne (aliantha):  This isn't so much a question as a story that I happened to think of this past weekend and wanted to share with you.

In the early '80s, when the 2nd Chronicles were being published, I was working in a radio station newsroom where most of us (we had 5 on our staff) were big Covenant fans.

At about this time, the radio station joined RKO Radio Networks. One of the perks of the deal was that RKO would give us a computer, primarily to download information about network commercials, but also for such practical purposes as playing "Hunt the Wumpus" and so forth. To illustrate how long ago this was: In order to connect with the network's computer, we had a rectangular box, the top of which sported two holes outfitted with rubber gaskets. One would insert the handset of the phone into the two holes, dial the access number, and connect at a screaming 300 baud.

Anyway, we received the computer. Our news director set it up, plugged it in, and lovingly christened it Yoda. We had nothing but problems with the thing. I don't remember the specific issues, but suffice it to say they were frustrating enough that eventually, we convinced RKO to send us another computer.

When the new machine arrived, the news director set it up, plugged it in, and dubbed it Lord Foul the Despiser.

Damn thing ran like a top.

So you see, there is power in names.
Between this and "Heatherly and Julie's Fantasy Bedtime Hour," my immortality is assured. <grin>


Daniel L. Gillard:  Hello Mr. Donaldson,

I have always wondered who the 'old man' was that Thomas & Linda encountered in the real world. Was he The Land?

I have often wondered this, and reading your new novel brought back this question.

It's great to see another chronicle for Thomas C. and to return to the Land once more with it healthy again.

I, like so many other people, enjoy you work.
Actually, I intended the old beggar to be an avatar or manifestation of the Creator (I mean the Creator of the Land, not necessarily of Covenant's "real world"--and certainly not of *our* "real world").


Scott:  Most importantly - I want to thank you for the wonderful fiction you have given us, and for the generosity of doing this interview.

I love and enjoy the Covenant series in some part because of two qualities that are essentially absent from the majority of fantasy but wealthy in the Chronicles. I see both strong emotional content (something which you have discussed in GI a lot) and a certain relevance to human life. My question is do you have a tip, or suggestion for writers in trying to keep something as exotic and seemingly irrelevant as epic fanstay relevant?

My easy and whimsical question - have you given any thought to what might be in the part of Kevin's Lore that was never recovered? It always crushes me when the Lords are forced to jump straight to Earthblood.

Of course being crushed is par for the course in your books :)

I'm tempted to contest the notion that epic fantasy is either "exotic" or "seemingly irrelevant": that would be easier (being more abstract) than answering your actual question. The truth is that I don't really know how I do--whatever it is that I do. As far as I can tell, I just do what comes naturally. I follow the advice of virtually every high school writing teacher on the planet: I write what I know--which turns out to be my own mind (my thoughts, emotions, reactions, dreams) and the minds of those people around me who have given me glimpses into themselves.

Of course, that's a terrible over-simplification. It leaves out alot. For example: my literary tastes and standards were formed by the study of giants, from Shakespeare and Dostoevsky to Jane Austen and Henry James. And I've made an exhaustive (and occasionally unflinching) analysis of myself. And I believe in the absolute necessity of empathy; of getting outside myself, putting myself in other people's shoes. Such things greatly complicate the issue of how I do what I do. And then there's the small matter of imagination, which I can neither explicate nor quantify.

<sigh> The short answer? Your guess is as good as mine.

As for the content of Kevin's lost Lore: as I keep saying, I'm an efficient writer in the sense that I only invent what I need. If I ever need to know what's in the missing Wards, I'll think of something. <rueful smile>


sue:  Did you get the idea of despite or malice from dealing with someone who suffered from depression? My best friend recently died of a drug overdose and I feel like Linden Avery who suffered great losses from losing Covenant and her son. I have just finished "Runes of the Earth"; I enjoyed it greatly. When will the next book be published?
I can't honestly say that I drew on a conscious source. The idea of "despite" just seemed to fit my notion of evil. But looking back over my life, I can see that I grew up immersed in depression, my own as well as that of the people around me. In addition, both of my parents died while I was still in my 20's. And I can say with some confidence that I was affected by the state of American politics in the late 60's and early 70's (and no, it's not any better now).


Darran Handshaw:  Hey again Stephen,

I just got finished with the third book in The Man Who.. series and it was literally jaw-dropping for me. You took an old and outdated concept, brought established characters into it and you also succesfully created a group in which each character could be suspected and rooted for at the same time. Bravo!

In reading some of your previous posts for The Man Who.. series, I heard that you changed alot of the character names in the re-release for the first two books. Not having access to those names, I was wondering which ones were changed and what they were before you changed them. I feel that a character's name has alot to do with the reader's perception of him/her, especially in the world of text. Thank you.

First, I'm glad you've been enjoying "The Man Who" books. This is a rare experience for me.

Unfortunately, your question is one that I find uniquely embarrassing. I didn't change "alot of the character names," but those that I did change--and off the top of my head I can only remember two--I changed because they made me cringe. And as you probably know, it's no fun cringing at your own work. In addition, it's no fun dropping your literary pants in public. And you're absolutely right: "a character's name has alot to do with the reader's perception of him/her, especially in the world of text." All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I'm not going to answer you. I hope you'll forgive me.


Sean Casey:  You've said that part of the motivation for writing the Last Chronicles now was financial. If things get especially tight, I was wondering if you'd consider corporate sponsorship. For instance:

Thomas Covenant, Unilever
Windows Avery
Terry's White Gold
Lord Foul the Budweiser

You should have your agent look into it. Just a thought, anyway. :)
Well, I didn't mean that I'm writing "The Last Chronicles" for money. (If I suspected myself of that, I'd go into some other line of work.) I meant that I'm *selling* it--and specifically selling it one book at a time instead of holding them back until the whole project is complete--because I need the money.

Still, I like the idea of corporate sponsorship. <grin> Although I personally prefer "Lord Foul the Un-Cola" (being a non-drinker and all), the rest of your suggestions are excellent. I'll get right on them.


Gary:  Hello Stephen,

Have you ever seriously considered doing screenplays based on any of your work, or have received offers to collaborate on a screenplay? Over a decade ago, I read the Mordant's Need duology and fell in love with it. I thought that it would make a phenomenal movie, once graphic technology progessed enough. And now that we've seen the highly impressive and successful results from the Lord of the Rings triology of movies, I think that the technology has finally arrived that could certainly do your work justice (with the right actors of course!).

Forgive me if this question has come up before--I didn't seem to find anything searching the database. If it had been addressed before and nothing came of it, perhaps it's time again to reconsider? I still feel that the two stories have such fabulous imagery and could turn into a truly magnificent and successful movie.

Best regards,
I'll never write a screenplay for any of my stories. 1) I don't know how. 2) I don't have time. 3) Any screenplay would necessarily involve abridgement, and I'm allergic to abridgement. 4) Movies are made by committees. Therefore they require compromise--and I'm also allergic to compromise. 5) The people who hold the option on "Lord Foul's Bane" already have a good screenwriter in mind, John Orloff.


Peter "Creator" Purcell:  You recently stated:

Well, I'm completely flummoxed. a) While I was writing "Runes," I was consciously trying to tone down my (over)use of what I'll call Fancy Words. b) (and this is totally subjective) Apart from the word "scend," I can't think of a single Fancy Word in "Runes" which doesn't appear in at least one of the previous six "Covenant" books.

Come on! How about "formication"?! You know, after I wiped the grin of my face and told myself you couldn't mean THAT <grins again> I looked it up. I don't think it was in any of the others!!

Just a polite correction (unless I'm mistaken!) from one of your fans!! <chuckles>

You win: I also can't find "formication" in any of the previous "Covenant" books. I probably got confused because I've known the word, like, forever, while "scend" was a fairly recent aquisition.


Mark:  I have a question regarding the nature of evil. What is your opinion on inherent evil? Original sin. Many of your books deal with corruption as an active evil. This presupposes an undefiled state that cannot defend itself, as you say. But this leaves untouched the "bad seed" so to speak. Natural evil, if you will. Is The Land wholly good (in which case it's very different from the Earth we know with its vacillating compounds of good and evil. Do you agree with this?). To put it another way is there any uncorrupted thing from The Land that in itself is corrupt. Thank you.
You appear to be asking about two entirely different, fundamentally distinct things, evil in our consensual reality and evil in the Land.

Evil in our reality (and I emphasize that this is just my opinion).

In my view, every personality is composed of a host of conflicting impulses, some tending toward destruction (perhaps in ways which we might be able to agree are evil), some tending toward healing, some rational, some emotional, some petty, some noble, some egocentric, some unselfish, some that defy description. Every human being is a mixture of all of these impulses; and it is the specific proportions of the mixture which make each individual unique. Well, when the mixture is dominated by the darker or more destructive impulses, we get--just to pick one example--sociopathy. And when the mixture is so completely dominated by the darker or more destructive impulses that every other kind of impulse is, in effect, cowering in a corner somewhere, we get people whom most of us would not hesitate to describe as evil. (And just to make the subject more complicated: every individual mixture is created by a combination of "nature" and "nurture" so unquantifiable that it's impossible to tell where one leaves off and the other kicks in.) That's as close as I can come to believing in "bad seed" or "natural evil." I'm simply convinced that everybody contains everything. Obviously, however, in some cases certain impulses are so dominant that their opposites (and anything associated with those opposites) become invisible.

Of course, I can't actually *demonstrate* any of this. If those opposites have become invisible, we can't possibly know that they still exist. Nonetheless I choose to believe it. I doubt that I could be a storyteller if I didn't believe that everybody contains everything.

Evil in the Land is entirely another matter. And I don't want to discuss it--for the simple reason that I've already discussed it at length elsewhere. But if you take the ideas described above, and combine them with the argument in my essay on "Epic Fantasy" (downloadable from this site), you should get a pretty clear picture of my views on evil in the Land.


Brad:  Hi Stephen

I only came across your site fairly recently and have read your answers to the graduated interview with interest - must admit what brought me here was trying to track down a release date for Fatal Revenant (no, its not that again, bear with me).

You have explained that any speculation about a Covenant movie is exactly that, speculation, moreover about something that will most likely never come to fruition. It was your answer regarding the LOTR trilogy that interested me, when you mentioned that most of the things that you treasure about the books was missing from the movies - this intrigued me. Could you please briefly explain what these elements were?

Oh, one last thing - when is Fatal Revenant going to be released? Im joking of course.


London, UK
Briefly, huh? Now I *know* you're joking.

But I'll try....

Putting it crudely: the LOTR books are drenched in sorrow and nostalgia, and the movies are not. Despite their heroic trappings, the books aren't really about "good vs evil": they're about "simplicity vs evil". (In other words, they're about the Hobbits, not Aragorn and the Riders of Rohan and Gandalf and Elves.) And in the process of defeating evil, simplicity (in the person of Frodo) is crippled. It's a very sad story. Well, movies being movies, the heroic trappings dominate, and so the unique emotional depth of the books is lost. If you doubt me, consider this: the movies leave out virtually all of the harm that is done to the Shire *after* Sauron is defeated. *That* (the whole last third of "The Return of the King") is what ties the books together and completes their thematic development--and in the movies it's just not there.

Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed the movies. I like a good "heroic" fantasy as well as anyone. But I don't think that those movies will ever linger in the heart the way the books do.


David Carter:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

As a classically trained musician, I have been intrigued by your frequent reference to music in this interview both to create your Cocoon of Sound when your write and the references to Wagner’s Ring and opera generally. I have also been interested to read your antagonism? antipathy? towards any possible movies of the Covenant Stories.

How would you feel about someone composing an opera or indeed cycle of operas based on the Thomas Covenant stories? I have not so far seen you mention any modern composers. Personally I would have thought an excellent ‘Modern’ possibility would be Sir Harrison Birtwhistle whose treatment of the Orpheus legends in “The Mask of Orpheus” and the Arthurian and Green man legends in “Gawain” would suit the Covenant stories. If you couldn’t face a ‘Modern’ opera which composer would you most liked to have written a Covenant Opera and would you be/have been interested in writing the Libretto?

David Carter
Wherever possible, I try not to hamper anyone else's creativity. If someone felt moved to compose one or more operas based on "Covenant," I wouldn't stand in the way (just as I wouldn't stand in the way of a movie).

But I think it would be a deranged endeavor, even more truly "doomed from the start" than a movie. By their very nature, operas have to be even more truncated/condensed/abridged than movies, if for no other reason than because singing takes so much longer than speaking (which in turn takes so much longer than showing). I don't doubt that individual scenes could be set to music effectively. But the larger story would be irretrievably crippled.

Under the circumstances, discussing specific composers seems pointless.


Brian from Michigan:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you so much for letting me revisit my favorite fantasy world. You have mentioned that, as book tours go, the Runes of the Earth tour went well. AND, while I was recently at a Border's in southeast Michigan, there were several sf/f fantasy fans that I tried to talk into buying a copy; however, they were waiting for the paperback edition. So, to the question: how have the sales for Runes of the Earth been so far? Have you and/or your publisher been satisfied?

Again, thank you for the many, many years of your work. I have truly enjoyed every novel/story.
Thank you.

Here's the best report I can give you on sales for "Runes" so far. My US publisher is happy: my UK publisher is very happy: neither is ecstatic. Publishers don't get ecstatic without both prominence and longevity on their respective "Times" bestseller lists.

Am I satisfied? Not entirely. But I try not to care too much. As long as my publishers don't dump me--and do keep my books in print--I'm pretty much content.


James DiBenedetto:  Two questions:

Do you have any creative outlets/hobbies other than writing? Painting, drawing, music, etc.?

You have often talked about how ideas take up residence in your mind and demand to be written, and they dictate their format (short story, single novel, trilogy, etc). Do ideas ever come to you that demand to be expressed as, say, song lyrics, or as a play, or in another medium entirely?
Creative outlets? No. Hobbies? Yes. These days I study karate pretty diligently. Long ago, I played the guitar (12-string, no less); but then I lost interest. Ditto with playing tennis (although I suspect that my racquet had less than 12 strings <grin>). More recently, I played competitive bridge; but again I lost interest (this time, however, in competition rather than in bridge).

Back in my college days, I got ideas for plays; but they dried up after I had the humbling experience of seeing one of my plays performed. And I do still (rarely) get ideas for poems.


John Schwarting:  I'll take my time getting to the question, because I feel some background and praise is needed. I think I have a bit of giant in me. I discovered The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant six years ago, when my aunt gave me a copy of Lord Fouls Bane. It was a catalyst in my life because after I was done with both the series I started devouring books of all types day after day. I still have never read a series that I am more fond of. When I read in my aunts beat up and cover torn copy of Lord Fouls Bane that you lived in New Mexico I was thrilled, I asked her and she said you frequently go to signing and conventions that come to Albuquerque.I started a search then in used bookstores everywhere to find a good condition hardcover copy of Lord Fouls Bane. Well from 1999 till now I have been looking and the internet finally yielded an end to that search. So now the question, at the upcoming BUBONICON 37 on august 26 will you be signing any books so my long search can come to an end?
I'm always happy to sign books when I'm "out in public" (e.g. at conventions, conferences, and book tours). And I'll definitely be signing at Bubonicon later this month (August 2005).


Michael Hudson:  Dear Mr.Donaldson,
Your books are credited for drawing me into read for the shear joy of reading (As opposed to being forced to read school books). 20 something years ago as a teen I dared to follow Tomas Covenant across the land(from the safety of my bedroom). But as creative as I think my mind is, I have never been able to picture your characters in my mind's eye. I really want to know what your creatures from your mind really look like as you have envisioned them. I've always wanted to see from your eyes what these people and some of the places look like. Even in your descriptions I still don't know how revelstone,mount thunder,or revelwood look like. Is there anyway you could get together with someone who might draw these things for your website or a book just of characters and places of the chronicles? Thats what I am really asking for. Except, well its kind of silly, but the printers never seem to have given a leigable map of the land in any of the printings I have of your books. Alot of names of places are unreadable and its not always clear where the place is. For example I see mithil stonedown written on a map and no dot as on a regular map indicating its position. Will you have someone do these things someday soon?
Michael Hudson
Setting aside the issue of maps for a moment....

There are a couple of issues involved in my visual descriptions. First, as I keep saying, I'm not a visual person. I "see" with words. In other words, I don't have a visual in my mind which I then translate into words. Rather I think of words which then evoke visuals. I see scenes and characters because I have described them rather than the other way around. So what you get in the text is pretty much all there is. If I were to sit down with an extremely gifted and intuitive artist and suffer over it for hours, I still wouldn't be able to show you what's in my head. What's in my head is words.

But within that context, I do emphasize certain kinds of descriptive words and de-emphasize others because I'm not interested in literal "accuracy" (which doesn't exist anyway because I don't have visuals in my head): I'm interested in the power of words to evoke emotional and imaginative reactions. I figure if I can engage the reader's emotions and imagination, the reader will create his/her own visuals (which will be far more effective than any literal description).

In short, you're never going to see the kind of visual representations you're looking for. Sorry about that. (But if you're just *dying* for something literal, look at the Holt cover art for "The Power that Preserves" on this site: there you'll see a mundane, unevocative, but fairly accurate image of Revelstone.)

Maps are a different problem. (And there's nothing anyone can do about the difficulties caused by spreading the maps over two pages: detail will always be lost in the crease. Squeezing the map down onto one page would make it virtually unreadable.) The original "Covenant" maps were exactly what I wanted--and I didn't try to be precise about things like exACTly where Mithil Stonedown is because I didn't care: all I wanted to convey was a general idea of where things are in relation to each other. Unfortunately, the maps in "The Runes of the Earth" are *not* what I wanted. They were produced in an atrocious hurry; I don't like the style; and the artist and I had no effective way of communicating with each other. Perhaps the situation will improve with "Fatal Revenant." I hope that I'll be able to work with a professional who will take the original "Covenant" map and elaborate on it according to my specifications. But I don't have the clout (i.e. my books don't sell well enough) to make any promises.


Will:  Dear Mr Donaldson,
Barring the few "authorial screwups" that you have admitted in the GI, I think that you have done an excellent job of maintaining internal consistency within incredibly complex stories (particularly the GAP series and the Covenant books). So much in these stories builds on what took place earlier that being internally consistent must be very important. And I imagine that this must be particularly the case with the Last Chronicles, where caesures are bringing bits of the past story literally into the present.

My question is how do you do this? How do you keep track of exactly who did and said what with whom and where and when? Do you use some sort of story mapping tool?
I've already discussed this at some length. But it's been a long time; so briefly....

I don't know what a "story mapping tool" is, but I certainly don't have one. I have mountains of notes, which I deliberately keep disorganized (so that when I want something specific I have to refresh my memory of all my notes). I re-read (and rewrite) a LOT. I work from heavily annotated copies of the first six books. I write out Q&As for myself. When all else fails, I'm fairly clever about finding creative uses for apparent inconsistencies. And I have diligent readers who help me watch for authorial screwups before my books get published. (Editors and copy-editors used to do this sort of thing; but now they simply don't have the time. However, they contribute generously by allowing me to make corrections *after* books are published--which they are *not* required to do.)


James Hastings:  I just posted a joke on here, but then remembered a real question I wanted to ask. I won't post again for a while:

Do you still get money when we buy newly published copies of the first Covenant books?

Also, from Forbidden Knowlege: "...and the term 'an Estevez' referred to "a major blunder with beneficial results." Did you know that the same year FK was published, the simpsons officially defined "Pulling a Homer" as "to succeed despite idiocy," due to a situation at the power plant that is similar in theme to Estevez's invention of the gap drive? Dig the synergy.
Unless a book is "work for hire" (not relevant in this discussion), the author gets a royalty for every copy of every book that's ever sold (legally, anyway: pirates don't pay royalties). However. Publishers acquire the right to publish a book by paying the author up-front money: an advance (literally "an advance on royalties"). From that moment forward, every penny of the author's royalties goes to the publisher to pay back the advance. The author receives no more money until the advance has been paid back (this is called "earning out"): after that, the publisher passes the royalties on to the author. So it follows that small advances earn out with relative ease, while large advances may never earn out.

In practice, it all comes down to how much risk a publisher is willing to assume. For unknown writers, publishers tend to pay small advances because the presumed risk of publication is large. For well-established writers, publishers tend to pay large advances because the presumed risk is small.

But nothing is ever that simple. Publishers have no objective way to measure risk. And there's a difference between the up-front risk (the advance) and the publication risk (sales). So publishers tend to make small efforts to promote books for which they have paid small advances: they tend to make large efforts to promote books for which they have paid large advances. This introduces an element of "self-fulfilling prophecy" which complicates EVerything.

btw, thanks for pointing out the synchronicity between "an Estevez" and "pulling a Homer." I was unaware of it.


Robert:  Stephen

Firstly let me thank you for giving us so much over a long period of time, you're books are a joy (the Gap Cycle far and away my favourites). I had a friend tell me that the best fantasy series ever written was King's "Dark Tower" so we agreed to swap "Dark Tower" and the first TC chronicles. She came back several weeks later and apologised for her ignorance and pleaded with me to borrower the second chronicles to which I refused and told her to buy her own.

Now to my question. I may be drawing a long bow but in reading "Runes" I keep drawing the parallels between Linden often speaking of the daunting task ahead of her and that she is unprepared for what she has to face, with several comments that you have made about your own task ahead in writing the Last Chronicles. Am I off the track or are you projecting your concerns through Linden. If so you shouldn't be, your public has every confidence in you.

PS please stop answering stupid questions on the GI, including this one and get on with Fatal Revenant.
Writers often channel their own emotions through their characters, usually (if not always, at least in the case of good writers) without being aware of it. What else can a writer draw on, if not on his/her own experiences, emotions, and capacity for empathy? So I can't argue with your observation: it seems eminently plausible. All I can say is: 1) I'm not conscious of "venting" through Linden; and 2) Linden's emotions are justified (or not) by her circumstances, not by mine. In any case, if you have to understand the author in order to understand the book--or the characters--then the author has failed pretty dramatically.


Perry Bell:  Hi Stephen,
I was wondering about "Lord Fouls Bane". When Mhoram took his fathers staff, Covenant was offered Tamarantha's staff. Covenant said "burn it". What happened to Mhorams original staff? I know thats odd for a question, but I noticed nothing said of the one he carried from Revelstone.
Thanks for a great series!
Well, I think we can safely say that no one burned a staff. <grin> But other than that, all I can say is: d'oh! Sure looks to me like the author lost track.


Michael Den Tandt:  Dear Mr. Donaldson:

I'm a journalist, screenwriter and black belt (shodan, goju-ryu) from Ottawa, Canada. I was weaned on Thomas Covenant, loved the Gap series, just discovered The Man Who Fought Alone.

My question: Why no mention of Goju-Ryu in Fought Alone? Developed in Naha, Okinawa, based on Crane-style Gung Fu, it bridges hard and soft, striking and grappling. I've dabbled in Judo, Jiu-Jutsu, Aikido, Muay Thai, and incorporated techniques from all of them into my Goju. My teachers tell me all these techniques are buried in the Goju katas - that it's a complete fighting system.

Just curious - did Goju-Ryu ever come up in your research?

Enjoy your books,
Michael Den Tandt
Well <rueful sigh>, there are mumblety-mumble times ten martial arts styles that aren't mentioned in "The Man Who Fought Alone." Goju-Ryu just happens to be one of them. In fact, I've taken a couple of Goju-Ryu seminars. And I've had the good fortune to study (very occasionally) with two Goju black belts. But when I wrote "Alone" I already had more material than I could use, so I left a lot out.

Just as a casual observation: to my eye, Goju-Ryu looks like a more obviously "complete" system than Shotokan. (So is Hapkido.) But that, I think, is because so much of Shotokan is "hidden": the style is designed to conceal many of its uses from the casual observer. In recent years I've had the regular opportunity to watch both Wing Chun and Chinese Kempo closely, and I still haven't seen anything that isn't hidden away in Shotokan somewhere.

My point--to the extent that I have one--is something I like to say at every opportunity. There are no good martial arts--or bad ones, either. There are only good martial artists and bad martial artists.


Dennis Grant:  Mr. Donaldson,

Allow me to add my thanks for what you are doing here with the Gradual Interview. The opportunity to see into a favourite author's mind comes rarely if ever, and the opportunity to have the process be *interactive* is beyond price.

I'm enough of a hard-headed realist to know that [earning a living as a writer is] Just Not That Easy. I do *not* have visions of Stephen King or JK Rowling dancing in my head. Writing is not a "get rich quick" deal, nor is it necessarily a "get rich EVER" deal.

I also realize that there's a certain element of luck involved; that even if we make the (completely unwarranted) assumption that I am the greatest writing talent since Billy Shakespere, that doesn't necessarily mean that success is inevitable. I confess to being very suprised that the Gap series did not sell well.

So "success" as a writer, as I am currently imagining it, means being able to pull in enough income as to match a reasonable professional salary (say on the order of $50k-$80k annually) soley on the proceeds of one's writing.

And that's where I'm having trouble conceptualizing how that's even possible.

A quick look at the outlets for short fiction shows that the going rate for newbies runs between $0.06 and $0.20 per word. (Fortune, it seems, favours the verbose) That makes my story, at roughly 4000 words, worth between $240 and $800. In order to gross $50k to $80k, I'd need to sell somewhere between 70 and 350 stories *PER YEAR* to pull that off.

That seems excessive.

OK, so maybe novels is the answer. At one per year (which would be, as I understand it, superhuman levels of output) that means I need to sell each book for $50k to $80k each. One every two years seems far more reasonable, which means that each book needs to sell for $100k to $150k each. Etc.

Plus there's an agent involved, who gets a percentage....

I absolutely cannot see how this is possible. There must be some aspect of the economics of writing of which I am utterly ignorant.

Could you fill in the blanks for me? How is it economically possible for you to subsist off your writing? How does a pro writer pay the bills?

Any information you'd be willing to share would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

(I pruned your message heavily to save space. I hope you don't mind.)

First, let me refer you to a very recent answer in which I discussed sales, advances, and royalties. With that information as context, I can respond more directly.

It's true: no one earns a living writing short fiction. Even if you're one of those one-in-a-bazillion people who gets a short story made into a movie, all you get is a single intoxicating rush of cash: after that, you're back to 5-20 cents a word. And even if you write enough stories to publish a collection which sells very well, you'll still only make about 20% of what a novel of average sales makes.

Add that to the fact that first novels usually get pretty small advances (for the first three "Covenant" books *combined* I received $10,000), and the picture looks pretty grim.

So the standard advice for new writers goes like this: DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB until you've been selling short stories and perhaps a novel or two *steadily* for at least five years. What you're hoping to do is establish the kind of track record that a good agent can leverage into an advance (for a novel) in the $50-100k range. And even then, DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB unless you believe that writing full-time will enable you to produce a novel a year.

Of course, there are a number of writers out there who succeeded while ignoring this advice. (I'm one: the first three "Covenant" books earned out so quickly that I was able to live on royalties). But there are also a number of writers who followed this advice and still failed. And then there are the people who succeeded for a while and then failed; the people who failed for a while and then succeeded; and--well, you get the idea.

But one truth holds NO MATTER WHAT: you cannot earn a living as a writer unless you are able to be steadily productive day after day, rain or shine, sick or healthy, married or unmarried, with children or without. This stricture becomes a bit more flexible when you've established a long and healthy track record; but it never goes away (unless you happen to be Stephen King or J. K. Rowling or Tom Clancey, and those people are about 1% of 1% of 1% of regularly published writers).

<sigh> As I say, it's not a pretty picture.

For the sake of completeness, I should mention that there *are* other roads. "Work for hire" is one. I'm no authority on such subjects. But as I understand it, in "work for hire" a writer produces a novel according to the specifications of a particular publisher; the publisher pays a flat fee for ownership of the novel; and after that the publisher gets everything and the author gets nothing (usually not even the right to put his/her name on the book). Writing "Harlequin Romances" would be one example of "work for hire." I'm told this can be fairly lucrative--*if* you happen to be good a producing work which exactly meets the publisher's specifications.

(And there *is* a middle ground. Writing "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" novels, for example, closely resembles "work for hire"; but the writer does get royalties--and does get to put his/her name on the book.)

Another road--about which I know even less--involves writing books on behalf of some famous person (writer or celebrity) who may or may not have an actual idea, but who either can't or won't do the work of writing that idea. I'm told that in some cases this is pure "work for hire," while in others the famous person shares income (and possibly credit) with the writer.

All of which serves to demonstrate another standard piece of advice: "Anybody who *can* be discouraged from being a writer, *should* be discouraged from being a writer." Are you having fun yet?


Lonoman:  I've heard a few authors say this, but since you're a writer, when you read, fiction or non, do you find yourself wondering what hell the writer he/she put themself through to complete the work? Does it bring reading to a halt or add to the magic of imagination? Thanks.
Strangely, I never think about that. But I think a lot about what I believe the writer was trying to accomplish (often in very specific terms); about whether or not he/she succeeded; and about what I might or might not have done differently.


T. PIper:  SRD,
I may be in the minority, but Covenant won't translate well to any screen (though Willem Dafoe 10 years ago had the right face). The Gap Cycle, however . . . Book 4 in the asteroid field was 200 pages of riveting SF that deserves to be shared with the non-reading public.
I consider the Gap Cycle an excellent SF effort, never mind hard SF nitpicking. The key is always the characters. Nick, Morn and Angus . . . well, you know.
I wanted to ask this question back in '96. No matter how much I enjoyed the series, the ending did leave ME wondering; Angus on the loose, the Amnion threat. Did you ever, including notions and inklings, consider a continuation or spin-off?
I understand how busy you will be for . . . ever, but I hope there's an opening in your future.
As I've said often before, I have no plans to continue the GAP saga--or "Mordant's Need" or any of my short stories. That doesn't mean I *won't*: I can't predict what ideas will come to me. But I don't write unless I have an idea I believe in; and at present I have no ideas for continuations of anything except the Axbrewder/Fistoulari novels.


D.R.:  I've been a spell bound reader for a long time and I was wondering if there is any chance of a grand prequel, going back to the old lords, Many of Their deeds are mentioned and I think it would be very intersting to be able to read all about them, right up to Kevins rise to lordship and fall to dispair....I hope it dosen't sound like a dumb question, but I love the series and I'm just curious.
As I've had occasion to say before, I have no intention of ever writing prequels. Their fatal flaw, as I see it, is that their essential outcome is already known. Over-stating the case a bit: a professor where I went to college was fond of saying (and I'm paraphrasing here), "We really don't need the story of Moby Dick as a suckling whale." In practice--and I mean no disrespect in saying this--I find the prospect of a prequel simply too boring to contemplate.


Jerry Erbe:  Not a question, just a comment -
The line, "Well, it's the jacket" from the fantasy bedtime hour, had me on the floor! :)
If it was scripted, it was great, if it was improvised, it was BRILLIANT!
Just as a point of information: nothing that the "experts" do or say on "Heatherly and Julie's Fantasy Bedtime Hour" is scripted--or even planned. Heatherly and Julie give the experts absolutely no clue of what to expect: the experts don't even know which scene(s) they'll be discussing until the tape is rolling.


Stephanie:  Mr. Donaldson:

In reading some of the questions posted over the past months I find it heartening I was not the only 13 year old who fell in love with your works. I can still recall sitting up late at night crying over what happened to Hile Troy when I was supposed to be studying for a middle school history test.

Fortunately I made it through those horrific teen years and now I'm sitting in my college apartment reading Runes for the second time. I should probably be working on a paper, so if I end up with a "C" on it I blame you. :>

My question ......

I love the way you convey life, spirit and courage in your female characters. I read a great deal, and in my opinion no other male author in the fantasy/SF field comes close to your ability to do so.

Now that I've passed along my compliment, here comes the question. Do you have a friend/editor/wife/girlfriend/mistress who assists you by making specific suggestions as to how to bring your female characters to life? I write the question perhaps partially in jest, but I'm curious just the same. If you have someone special who does offer suggestions from time to time, keep that person!

And, if I may follow with a second question, which female character gave you the most difficulty. Did you struggle with any one of them in particular?

Oh well. Back to my P.R. paper.
Thank you! I'm actually quite proud of my female characters. (Pure ego, of course.) When I was much younger, I was assured--vehemently--that males are psychologically incapable of creating female characters. I made a conscious decision not to believe that (in part because of Doris Lessing's dictum--I'm paraphrasing--"It is the responsibility of the imagination to accept no limitations"), and I'm glad you like the results.

No, there has never been a woman in my life who guided me with my female characters. But I was raised in a family full of sisters; and my mother was much more "real" and "present" than my father. In addition, one of the underlying postulates of the missionary world in which I grew up was that women are inherently morally superior to men. (This concept now strikes me as demeaning to both genders. Still it's "bred in the bone," in a manner of speaking, and it shows up in my work in unexpected ways, especially in "Mordant's Need" and the GAP books.)

The female character who caused me the most trouble was Linden Avery in "The Second Chronicles." (I was much younger then, and still floundering in some of my attempts to understand my characters.) However, the argument could be made that Davies Hyland (a woman's mind in a man's body) was actually my greatest challenge--and elicited the least satisfying results.


Michael from Santa Fe:  So, now that you've been on Fantasy Bedtime Hour Higgins, I think the question we all have is: are Heatherly and Julie REALLY naked underneath that sheet?
It is with sorrow that I'm forced to report: it's all done with smoke and mirrors. <grin>


Ethan:  Hello again Stephen,

while visiting Kevins' watch I noticed in the "cover art" section a record titled, "The White Gold Wielder". Any idea what this silly looking thing might be about? Perhaps a childrens' version of the last book in the second chronicles? (can you imagine?) The reason I say this is because the artwork is extremely hokey.
Please. The artist in question (Real Musgrave) is a dear personal friend, and he tackled that cover at my request. This is clearly an example of "casting against type," since Real's natural bent is toward the gentle and whimsical (for which I admire him); so if you don't like the results, you should blame me, not him.

The "record" itself (an LP from Caedmon) is a (as I recall) condensed scene from "White Gold Wielder" read by yrs trly. Caedmon originally intended to do a whole series of these recordings; but the sales were so poor that they scrapped the project.


Peter Purcell:  Hi!

I'm glad you're making such progress on Fatal Revenant.

A request if possible. I've seen postings mentioning your reading the first chapter of the new book.

Could you perhaps post it on your site? Or maybe an audio of the reading? It would somewhat satisfy the appetites of your loyal fans as we wait the years til publications !! (making you feel guilty? ;) )

Regardless, thanks for bringing joy to so many. Foamfollower got it almost right ... joy is also in the eyes that read!!

My publishers would be justifiably outraged if I posted anything from "Fatal Revenant" on this site without first letting them see it--and give their approval (since they've paid good money for the "first publication" rights). And since I have no intention of letting my publishers see anything until I have the whole book on paper--simply to avoid duplication of effort--I'm afraid you'll have to wait a while longer. Or come to one of my readings and get *really* confused. <grin>


Connie Martin:  I do hope you can help me. I have been trying to find an Agent to handle my manuscripts. Publishers want to go thru Agents and all I am finding are the Self-Publish people.
Could you point me in the right direction to find the 'old fashioned' Agent? I have run out of ideas on places to look.
Thank you for your time!
Any good guide to modern publishing (e.g. "The Literary Marketplace" or "Writer's Digest") as well as any "writers' advocacy" organization (e.g. Poets & Writers) should be able to supply you with lists of "old fashioned" agents. Whatever you do, stay away from agents that require you to pay a fee before they'll consider representing you. That's a scam.


Mark:  Thanks for this wonderful resource, excellent work!

My question: can you give any more insight as to why the people of the land lost their ability to 'see' between the first and second chronicles? In reference to this, the only specific reference I can find is in TWL, during the Clave's soothtell, where it merely states that "Through the centuries, they had grown blind, and had lost the means to know that the man who had been named the na-Mhoram ... was a Raver." It seems as though they lost the ability to 'see' before the coming of the Sunbane, so was it Foul's early corruption of Law and Earthpower that cost them this health-sense?
Having said this, I now wonder did the Haruchai also lose this ability? I can't recall whether its mentioned or not, and my re-reading has only brought me 2/3 of the way through TWL so far.
Thanks again!
The short answer is that, yes, it's an effect of the Sunbane, which is after all a corruption of Earthpower (the "energy" that enables health-sense) rather than of the actual sun, and which must in the beginning have been developed by small increments, changes that took generations to affect the people of the Land.

Were the Haruchai affected? That question, I suspect, takes us outside the text. If so, we've entered the realm of speculation; and in that realm your guess is no doubt as good as mine. (I'm not trying to be glib. I just don't remember caring whether or not the Haruchai could "see" when I wrote "The Second Chronicles.")


J C Bronsted:  I was considering what you have said about thinking (at least so far as writing goes) in words, and not visually. In my own experience, while writing, I usually watch the movie in my head and try to describe what I see, but at times I think of a phrase or sentence that then triggers a visualization. This is not apparently how your version of this works, as you’ve said it is all about language. You have also said that when a story suggests itself to you, it is from the ending forward.

I was curious how these stories come to you, whether in language, or (if not visually) in some other way. You did say (I believe) that Names began the process for the GAP books, and these names themselves suggested to you the characters that (I assume) suggested the story. In your consideration of the story, building it backward, or discovering it, do you do this through language? Do you write to work it out? Or is it merely something that plays in your head, teasing you with sentences like mantras until you are forced to go to a keyboard and bang it out? This may be something difficult to characterize, along the lines of “Where do you get your ideas?” I try to ask myself the same question and the short answer is that I “see” it (although I do not always know my endings and almost never know how I will get there); my curiosity may arise from how differently (from mine) your mind works at your writing.

I suppose this suggests another question I hadn’t intended: If you do write your ideas out in exploration, did you do any of that preliminary work on the Last Chronicles 20 years ago when it first came to you?

As an aside, in hindsight: I suppose I may come closer to understanding the process you go through in composition in my own revising and editing: it is there that the words, phrase structure, meter and prosody, and other purely language-based formulations come to the fore.

Thank you for this interview: it is invaluable to us.
I'm perfectly serious when I say it's all about language for me. Still, your comments suggest that I've inadvertently created some confusion. Stories seem to come to me from a wide variety of directions, sometimes from names (the GAP books), sometimes from someone else's sentences ("Mordant's Need"), sometimes from sentences which simply unscroll in my head (stories like "Reave the Just" and "By Any Other Name"), sometimes from simple statements of purpose ("The Second Chronicles," "The Last Chronicles"). However, no matter where an original idea comes from, I can't write it until I know how it ends (in other words, until I know why it's worth telling).

Part of my creative method is that no matter where an idea comes from, or when it arrives, I write nothing down (except in those cases where an idea is a specific sentence) until I'm actually ready to commit myself to the story. Writing things down has the advantage of preserving them--and the disadvantage of limiting them. (It also has the disadvantage of giving poor ideas more permanence than they deserve.) So I let sentences, or fragments of sentences, or mere rhetorical possibilities, simply flit through my head, sometimes for decades, until I'm ready to get serious (in a manner of speaking); until the back of my brain lets me know that the time has come for my conscious mind to start work. After that, I write things down like mad (often as cryptically as possible in an attempt to avoid premature limitation or permanence).

In addition, the process of planning a story (which is usually an on-going process in my case) often involves doing a fair amount of writing *about* the story. I write out questions that I'll have to answer, or lists of problems that I'll have to solve, or themes that I'll have to develop, in order to write the story itself. Writing inspires writing. ("Service enables service.") As a critic named Newman said of Beethoven, "Great composers do not compose because they are inspired. They become inspired because they are composing."

However, none of that happens until I'm ready to do concrete work on a story.

While I'm actually writing, I sometimes tap into a vein of sentences that seem to pour forth of their own accord. In those cases, I scramble frantically to try to get it all down before I lose the vein. (Unless it's "quitting time" for the day: then I scrawl out fragments that I hope will help me access the vein later.)

But whatever happens, I never "watch the movie in my head and try to describe what I see." The closest I ever come is hearing the sentences in my head and trying to transcribe them before I lose them. And I don't even do *that* unless those sentences apply to the work immediately in front of me. (In other words, I never write "ahead," not even in small fragments of scenes.) My general philosophy is that any idea or sentence that deserves to live will provide for its own survival.

OK, I'm rambling. I'll stop now--and hope that I haven't sown more confusion than I can afford to reap. <grin>


Dianne Sherratt:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

How generous of you to be so interactive with your readers! I have read much here, but I am surprised that all seem to miss the metaphor that I find to be so obvious. I would love to hear your opinion and find out if it is me who has missed the point.

Your Chronicles of Thomas Covenant seem to be an examination of trauma and dissociation. I see evidence of this on a macro and micro level, as well as dissociation on both a personal and social level.

Lord Foul and the Land seem to be the embodiment of the internal workings of dissociative process, and the Land itself goes through trauma as do all the major charactors. Healing involves bringing together the good with the bad as it is the rupture of the self which causes pain.

Can it be coincidence that Lord Foul is named the Despiser when despair is the most difficult part of trauma to overcome? Can it be coincidence that white gold is so powerful against despite because it is an alloy?

I have read that both Tolkien and Lewis used their writing as a metaphor for exploration of the role of religion. Am I wrong in thinking of your works as an exploration of trauma and it's effects?

I find yours to be a beautiful work despite all of the pain described, because it describes so accurately the arduous journey to oneness and health after picking up the dissociated aftereffects of trauma. Anyone with such a thorough knowledge of the dissociative process must have been witness to great pain.

But, of course I could be wrong. I would love to hear your thoughts on his.

As I've tried to say at several points during this interview, I don't believe that you could possibly "be wrong." Reading is as private as writing; and we all see through the lenses of our own minds. What you see is inherently valid *because* you've seen it. (Of course, paying attention to what's actually on the page does count--especially if you want your views to be understood by other readers. But in your case there's clearly no lack of attention to the actual text.)

That said, my reaction is that you say "trauma" and "dissociation" while I tend to say "illness" and "alienation," but we're really talking about the same things. Of course, you use words that have special meaning to you. I do the same. In my case, "culture shock" was the first profound trauma of which I became conscious in myself (although it was far from my first profound trauma), so words like "alienation" have a particular weight in my thinking. (So do words like "sin," "guilt," "healing," "salvation," "integrity".) But it's easy to see that "culture shock" entails both "trauma" and "dissociation."

In short, I agree with you. I just use different words. As do many of the readers who post questions and comments on this site.


Rob Murnick:  Dear Sir,

I fear that if the short answer to this question isn't "no", then I have little hope for a long answer, as it may entail you spoiling the story. But here goes: Do you have plans to expand further on Foul as a character? I've been used to thinking of Foul as an epitome of evil, and, at the same time, a manifestation of Covenant's dark side. (I'm afraid I haven't yet thought of him as a manifestation of Linden's dark side - Is that coming? A female version of Foul? Foulette? :) ) But thinking of Foul as a dark reflection of Covenant implies that his development depends upon Covenant's development. Your response to a question in November (11/27/2004) stating that Foul is as free to make choices as the other characters are seems counter to him being the "anti-Covenant". Please forgive me if I'm being too rigid, I love your novels more than words can express.

The truth is I would be thrilled to read the "dirt" on Lord Foul. What is his "secret origin"? Has he always been the epitome of evil (and nothing else)? If he hasn't, then I may have to chuck the "Foul is Covenant's dark reflection" POV out the window, to be replaced by "Foul is a fallen, tragic figure". Then again I doubt you'll make it that cut and dried.

Thank you so much for the new series!

Rob Murnick
Not intending to waffle timidly, but: why can't all of your theories (and all of mine, for that matter) be correct simultaneously? Surely the affirmation of inherent contradictions is the very life-blood of the "Covenant" books? Speaking purely for myself, I see no difficulty in stating that LF is "Covenant's dark reflection" AND "a fallen, tragic figure" AND Evil Incarnate AND a being as capable of choice as any other.

Some might argue that by definition Evil Incarnate can't be "capable of choice" (since it is what it is, and is only what it is). But I don't see it that way. Even a character as simple and black as Sauron still makes choices in how he pursues his aims. The fact that he *does* make choices proves that he *can* make choices. And if he *can* make choices, who's to say what those choices can *be*? (Well, Tolkien, in this case. <grin> The possibility that Sauron *might* make a choice that wasn't evil didn't fit the story Tolkien wanted to tell. But that doesn't affect the point I'm trying to make.)

Your desire for "the 'dirt' on Lord Foul" (his "secret origin," etc.) would require me to truncate my intentions; to restrict the rich (and admittedly contradictory) variety of things that I want to say about "evil" in general, and about Lord Foul in particular. I'm not willing to do that. Even if it means that I have to spend the rest of my natural life answering questions in this interview. <broad grin>


Stephen Elmore:   I was wondering if Mr. Donaldson had ever considered fleshing out the other books that Covenant wrote, after his first journey to the Land? In the Wounded Land they reference a novel called "Or I Will Sell My Soul For Guilt". I think that it would be fascinating to deal with some passages of this book, either within the context of the Last Chronicles, or with SRD writing it as Thomas Covenant.
I appreciate your interest, but what you're asking doesn't seem likely. I've never had the faintest hint of a glimmer of a suggestion of an idea for a novel that might have been written by Thomas Covenant. And I hope I've made it clear that without an idea I have no reason to write.


Brian Gannon:  Hi,
I have just one quick question for you. Have you ever thought of writing a short story on the giant story of 'Baghoun The Unbearable and Thelma Two-Fist who tamed him'? (forgive my poor spelling from memory). I've always wanted to hear that story.


Frankly, I've always wanted to hear that story myself. <grin> But for now, I'm afraid this falls into the category of RAFO.


Paul:  As you might have noticed, a few of us are waiting for the next book (mild understatement - I bet you can almost hear the gnawing of fingernails and drumming of fingers on the desk). You have said you are a slow reader, but are there any new books that YOU are anxiously waiting for?
At the moment, the only one I can think of is the next installment in Steven Erikson's "Malazan Book of the Fallen" series. At one time, I was pretty impatient for Stephen King's "Dark Tower" saga; but the final installments became available just when I discovered that I enjoyed them more if I spaced them out. So far, I've read the first five, and I'm just about ready for book six.


Ethan Firl:  Stephen,

greetings and congratulations on another fine novel. Is there any chance of seeing you on BookTV?

Since I've never even *heard* of BookTV, the odds don't look good. <grin> Surely if they had ever invited me to appear, I would at least know that they existed.


Karl (Vector):  Not realizing the length of your backlog, I feel I wasted my earlier first question with a not so important question.

I own your older original paperback novels of the "The Man Who.." series. Somehow, I never read them and having just reread everything else of yours, I decided that I am now going to pick up that series. Is it worth that I should pick up the new editions of these novels since you have indicated that you add revisions to correct internal consistency, are the changes worth purchasing the latest novels ?

As a side note to the above question, I am now looking forward to the paperback edition of ROTE since your revisions will add some additional meaning to my next reread of that novel.

Another question, you have indicated that you turned to writing mysteries since you felt that you could fix something that you perceived as broken. Another author, perhaps my second favorite modern author (at least in his older works - he, like you, evolves himself over time, however I find myself having trouble adjusting to his latest style - a problem I do not have with your work), Peter Straub moved from his version of supernatural fiction to attempt his hand at Mysteries. I very much liked his "Koko", "The Throat", and "Mystery" novels (though I like even more his "Shadowland", "Ghost Story", and "Floating Dragon" stories). I was wondering if you had any opinion on these works especially since I like him for some of the same reasons that I like yours - fidelity to his vision, for example.

Also, I think Arturo Perez-Reverte with his genre of historical/literary mysteries such as "The Club Dumas" and "The Flander's Panel" (especially after noting your reading of Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" - I tend to think of Arturo Perez-Reverte as writing a more intelligent version of this type of fiction, though less action packed).
No, it isn't worth purchasing new editions of "The Man Who..." books if you already own the original *Reed Stephens* versions. The changes are very slight, and they have nothing to do with internal consistency (except in the case of Axbrewder's handgun). Most of the changes were for readability; a few simply polished dialogue (again for readability); and in a very few cases I adjusted the names of characters to make them less "clunky".

I've always been a Peter Straub fan. He's one of the important writers of our time. "Koko" is brilliant. After that, "Shadowland" is my favorite of his books so far.

Sorry, I'm not familiar with Arturo Perez-Reverte.


Jim Melvin:  Have you ever been told approximately how many of your books have been sold in the U.S. and around the world? Or is that something that is too difficult to estimate? And if a writer's books have sold in the tens of millions, is that a guarantee that the writer will have made tens of millions of dollars?
My royalty statements tell me exactly how many books were sold in the US. But with the first six "Covenant" books, I sold all of the rights to Del Rey/Ballantine. So DR/Bal acted as agent for all overseas publications, including England. As a result, foreign publishers report sales to DR/Bal, but DR/Bal does not then report those numbers to me: I'm simply told what my share of the "take" is. Since I don't know what the royalty rates were, I can't even try to estimate how many books were sold overseas.

And no, millions of books sold does not mean that the author made millions. Two facts, one general, one personal. 1) Books published in languages other than English pay VERY low royalties because the cost of publication is so high: the publisher has to pay for translation. So when a book is sold in, say, France, DR/Bal probably gets a nickel--which means I get 2 1/2 cents. 2) My royalty rate for the first three "Covenant" books is around 2 1/2%. Taking an arbitrary average cover price of $5 (they were first published at $2.50, which was when the majority of the sales occurred; now, of course, the price is close to $8), that gives me 12 1/2 cents per book. Then spread the total out over 27 years. When you do the math that way, it gets downright depressing. <grin>


Mark Morgon-Shaw:  How fast are you at typing ? I've seen voice typing software demonstrated on which a trained operator far exceeded the speed of even the best typists, I'll buy you a copy if it gets the final chronicles here quicker !
I'm a very slow--AND inaccurate--typist. I've always had poor small motor skills. But that's OK because I also think slowly. <grin> However, if I had to write books longhand, I'd go into some other line of work.


caeriel:  I have three questions:

1. I know many of your characters' names come first; their details arrive later. But what happens when you have a character you already know about but who hasn't yet found a name? Do you wait for the name to appear? Do you brainstorm possible names? Or?

2. How do you discipline yourself to write on the hard days? Do you reward yourself for pushing through your own resistance? How? If you let yourself take "time off", how long before you absolutely make yourself sit down and get back to work?

3. How do you balance dignity with reality? You've frequently mentioned that you are committed to imbuing your characters with dignity, and we are all grateful--it's awful when a story (especially an epic story) is robbed of that dignity by careless writing or an embarrassingly undignified character (Jarjar Binks comes to mind). But in real life I find that many people lack dignity; they're messy and petty and careless and banal. Is it just that the people who find their way into your tales are exceptional? Or do you see this kind of dignity in everyone?

Thank you for your work. It's been an inspiration to me for more than half my life.
1) I pause briefly in case a name chooses to appear: then I start brainstorming (and as a corollary of brainstorming, I allow myself to change my mind later if I come up with a better idea). I can't write about a character if I don't have a name for him/her.

2) Well, of course, I'm addicted to the sensation that my life has (admittedly self-imposed) purpose. That helps to motivate me. But one of my secrets is that every day I give myself permission to write badly--not because I'm prepared to accept a bad final result (I'm not: I edit and revise heavily), but because I know that during my creative phase preserving forward momentum is much more important than initial quality. And then I follow a consistent, even rigid, daily routine that helps to "get me in the mood" even when I don't feel like it.

3) I contest your assumption. Just because in "real life" people can be "messy and petty and careless and banal," not to mention demeaning or abusive, doesn't mean that they lack dignity. Of course, I know that I'm using the word "dignity" in a specialized sense. What I mean is that every person--even the slobs/tyrants/butchers/whatever--has an internal story which explains and (in his/her own terms) justifies or motivates his/her behavior; and that if we could know that story, and that if we were sufficiently open-hearted, we could give it our empathy. In my lexicon, "giving my characters dignity" means understanding and empathizing with them: it doesn't mean "causing them to behave in a dignified fashion". Jarjar Binks is an embarrassment, not because he behaves like such a geek, but because he has no story. Lucas didn't give him the dignity of a story.


Yvan Le Terrible:  Hello to you Mr SRD,
firstly, many thanks for the pleasure of reading such a great SF story as the Gap Cycle
I must say that, as a french fan, i Had to earn it the hard way as only 3 books were translated, so I had to switch to original version to have the full story !
Ok that was source of good improvement for my English level, specially in the field of spaceships Alien technology and robotics (fields which are not so commonly used but it was VERY worth it).
Your writing was so "visual" that i Still see the images of that Zero-G fight in the deck of the ship-with the drops of blood spills...(many years after)
I still do not understand the way some music you are listening while reading gets forever connected with complete visions of the books.
I believe there are special momments the reader gets so deeply lost in the his new world and swith to a better perceptive level to get this "print"
maybe our mind is like some E-PROM waiting for the right Flashing light.

Af course, this story would make a very good movie as Mr Orson Wells said to an interview :
Q : What does it takes to make a good movie ?
A : You need 3 things : A good story,... A good story, .. and a good story
Ther Mr Donaldon, There is in the Gap cycle evrything to get a perfect movie !
In the hope to read you
A French Fan
Yvan Le Terrible
As I think I've said before, I believe that both the GAP books and "Mordant's Need" (not to mention some of my novellas) could more easily be made into good movies than anything "Covenant". But the people who own the option on "Lord Foul's Bane" aren't giving up, so who knows what the future will bring?


Tom Simon:  Not a question, but a point of information for Richard Castano, Jr. (Unfortunately, Mr. Castano's address did not actually make it into your answer to his question in the GI.)

The pirated e-texts have been taken offline, along with the pirate's entire website. However, scanned ASCII files of the books may be available from Send a request to this email address:

If that fails, I downloaded all six of the pirated files before they were taken offline. I don't read them or distribute them, of course, but sometimes use the search function of my word processor to locate specific passages; in effect, I use the files as an electronic index. It can be quite handy. (I have all six books in hardcover, and planned to scan them into text files for just this purpose. So the pirate saved me some work that I could have done legally myself.)

If you are willing, I can forward copies of the text files to Mr. Castano. If he is totally blind, or almost totally, so that he can't read even large-print books, he probably has a computer with a Braille display. Since the files are plain ASCII text with no special formatting, they would be ideal for reading in Braille.

Please forgive my presumption if this is not helpful.
I, too, don't know how to contact Richard Castano. So I'm posting this in the hope that the information reaches him somehow.


Michael from Santa Fe:  OK, this is nitpicking and totally pointless (but what are fans for!) In the dust cover inside text of "Runes" it states that "the inhabitants named him The Unbeliever". Now, I'm almost positive that Covenent gave himself that title when he met Lena's parents at the beginning of Lord Foul's Bane, when he was still in complete denial. The inhabitants certainly accepted that title, but I believe "Unbeliever" is the only title he gave himself. So you can imagine my shock when I read the quote mentioned above! So my question is, who wrote the text for the dust jacket, and will they be sacked in short order?
Dust jacket copy is pretty much never written by the author. Sometimes the editor writes it; sometimes a publicity person writes it; sometimes an assistant of some kind gets the job. Sometimes the copy is then sent to the author for his/her approval. And SOMEtimes even the author doesn't catch obvious mistakes (since the author is occasionally hard at work on something else and doesn't really want to be interrupted <grin>).

But no, no one would ever be fired for a mistake this trivial--as I'm sure you've already assumed.


Michael Carolan:  Hello.. I wont take up too much of your time..
I read the first two chronicles maybe as much as three times each... I loved them. They were for me such a breath of fresh air in a genre that was very very repetitious... When I saw that the Runes Of The Earth was coming out I was a little apprehensive... but after reading it I can now say it is great.. a credit to you.
1, My concern is over finding a way to make the arrival of Thomas Covenant on horseback plausible.... He's dead.. Therefore has no physical form.. Have you found a way to make it plausible? I would greatly struggle to read on if I cant be made to believe.
2, Is there any chance of me getting a signed bookmark?? I can send one if you would be willing. I cant imagine a more fitting way of enjoying the rest of the series than having such a token to keep my place in the story....
Thanks for your time.. now stop reading this and get back to work!!
1) RAFO. But don't you think I've earned a little trust here?

2) You can get an autographed bookplate by following the procedure described elsewhere on this site. If you absolutely have to have a signed bookmark, contact my agent at the e-address on this site, ask for an s-mail address, and mail the bookmark to him. He'll pass it along to me, and I'll sign it and return it to you--probably months later <sigh>.


Tim H.:  Mr. Donaldson,
As I recall, somewhere in the first two chronicles, there were mentions of gold and other precious metals being used in the land.

This always made me wonder...if all the metals used to create the alloy of white gold are available in the land, what prevents a competent smith from creating white gold? Is one of elemental metals(nickel or palladium) missing completely from the land or would physics in the land not allow the metals to mix as they would in the real world?

Geekishly yours,
In a non-fantasy novel, such issues would naturally arise. And they would have to be dealt with. But in fantasy novels (LOTR is a prime example) people simply don't think in mechanistic, mundane terms: they think in magical terms. For example. the Elves live forever--and they've had plenty of time to think. So why don't *they* have any technology; or metallurgical skills; or any apparent interest in the compostion and possibilities of the physical world? It isn't because they're stupid. And it isn't because Tolkien didn't think it through. It's because LOTR simply isn't that kind of story. It's about the spiritual essences of things, not about their physical properties.

Well, the same general principle applies to the "Covenant" books. I admit that I opened a conceptual door when I used the word "alloy": it suggests possibilities which the story does not address. But I used the word because it also suggests *other* possibilities which the story *does* address. Other than that, the only real "point" of white gold is that it doesn't occur naturally in the Land (whereas "pure," non-composite metals such as gold probably do exist, if not in the Land then elsewhere in the Earth); it has to come from outside the Land's (and the Earth's) known magical reality.

Many years ago, when I was still mulling over "The Last Chronicles," I considered introducing various forms of technology (metallurgy and steam engines); but I soon realized that such developments would violate the fundamental nature of the story I'm trying to tell.


Phil V:  As others have, I'd like to first thank you for this wonderful body of fantasy work. I was given the original Chronicles in high school and was startled at how drastically it differed from the other cliche-riddled bologne on the market. I hear the comparisons to LOTR, and quite frankly, I just don't see them (they both have a ring...COPYCAT!!).

My question(s)...

How does your interest in the martial arts correlate to your interest in the deeply internal fantasy that you write? Also, are the Haruchai in any way a literary manifestation of your interest in martial arts?

While I have you... I have purchased Lord Foul's Bane for quite a few friends because I felt so strongly that they could not know fantasy as a genre without having experienced them. Many had difficulty with the early chapters. My antidote was always to describe the Bloodguard to them as a spoiler. Worked every time. By far one of the coolest concepts you've ever devised. Thanks again.

You couldn't know this, of course; but you're getting the cart before the horse. I started work on "Covenant" in 1972. I started studying the martial arts in 1988--and I didn't truly become interested in them until 1989. Well, my imagination has always run a considerable distance ahead of my conscious mind (not to mention my life <grin>). It could easily be argued that I became interested in studying the martial arts *because* I write deeply internal fantasy--and had already created the Haruchai.


Steve Elmore:   I am re-reading the second chronicles and was wondering about something. It seems that through out these books we learn things about the Earth and about Creation that we did not know. For instance we knew that the Creator forged the Arch of Time, but there was no mention of the Worm's role in this. I was wondering of the Clave story of a-Jeroth and the Seven Hells might be proven to be more relevant than merely being the twisting of the Earth' history? I have a tendency to look at the Sunbane as the projection of Foul's internal reality, his essence in at least one form, onto the Land, so I though that maybe there might be some metaphysical truth to this legend.
I tried to suggest--*much* earlier in this interview--that I think there is significant truth (metaphysical and otherwise) in *every* legend or myth presented anywhere in the "Covenant" books. What we *know* (in concrete, undeniable terms) is that the Worm of the World's End exists. But as far as I'm concerned, that doesn't mean for second that stories like "the broken Rainbow" or "a-Jeroth and the Seven Hells" are in any way untrue.

We all see the world through perceptual filters. We emphasize some things and leave others out. The various myths and legends of the Land reveal some truth about the Land itself (the creation of the Earth, etc.); but they also reveal some truth about the people telling the story. Those myths and legends diverge because the people telling them are different from each other.


Kristen Steffenhagen:  Hey there, Steve!

I think you're a magnificent story-teller. You create worlds beyond imagination, your plots are wonderfully constructed, and your characters are beautiful. I really enjoyed the GAP (I'm rereading it for the second time now). I've enjoyed all your books so far, and I can't wait to get my hands on "Runes".

Now, I'm curious... when did you start writing? Was it something you always did? Perhaps you had a flair for writing? What inspired you?

I think I've answered this in some detail--but I can't remember where or when. <sigh> So briefly:

I started writing fiction early in my Freshman year in college. Until then, I hated writing--although in some sense I've been a storyteller since I was five. When I discovered writing, I definitely had "flair". But I had no skill at all. So learning skill became my driving motivation through college and graduate school. And, in my view, I didn't become skillful enough to write effective stories until my 3rd year in grad school.

What inspired me? The short form is: college itself. After just one year in a public high school in the US, the intellectual stimulation of college was an ecstatic experience for me. Without that catalyst, I doubt that I would ever have given writing stories a try.


BigMick:  Hi there!

I've been a big fan of yours for many years since discovering "Lord Foul's Bane" in my school library in the 1980's. I particularly like your short stories, though I love all your work.

Considering that novels and short stories can be considered two different disciplines, which do you prefer to write? Do short stories give you an opportunity to examine themes and ideas that novels fail to meet?


PS Runes of the Earth - Fantastic!
Well, it's certainly true that "Differences in degree become differences in kind." (Karl Marx) In that sense, short stories and novels *are* different disciplines. But I don't think in those terms. As far as I'm concerned, they're all just stories. The only difference that matters is that some stories have more inherent content (e.g. multiplicity of characters, or thematic complexity) than others.


It has become obvious to me that one of my strongest talents is my ability to organize a large narrative canvas. In addition, I get comparatively few ideas for stories; so when I *do* get one I have to milk it for all it's worth. <grin> So the vast majority of my writing life has been spent on novels. In fact, I didn't become *capable* of writing an effective short story until after I had completed the first "Covenant" trilogy. At that point, I realized that a short story is *not* different than a novel: it's just shorter. So my first published short story, "The Lady in White," was written *after* three "Covenant" novels.

These days, the special attraction of short stories is that I can actually imagine finishing them. <grin> After the prolonged strain of a huge project, that's a great relief.


Robert:  OK OK. I admit it. You are my favourite author....*grins*...Thanks for the great works of literature you have given us all. As an aspiring author, I'd be happy if I could achieve a small measure of your success.

When I read your works....and other books too..I sometimes find myself falling in love with a certain character...*laffs*....the Platonic kind......and trying to put a face to them. Do you ever "put a face" to a character while writing about them?

I've read the little bits about a possible Covenant movie. It's exciting, but I have often thought that Covenant would be extremely hard to bring to the big screen. Too much of what makes the Covenant series great is how you convey his thoughts, etc.....which is hard to do without using large amounts of narrative,,,or relying on the idea that the audience knows what the hell is going on because they have read the books. In this reguard I believe Mordant's Need would be much more adaptable to the big screen.It's a shorter work, got more of a romance to it, has many many strong believable characters...Any thoughts on this?

Sorry for such a long winded question...

I think it would be fair to say that I never "put a face" to a character in the way you do. It's not just that I don't base my characters on anyone I've ever known--or even seen. It's also, as I keep saying, that I "see" with language. I don't even remember what my characters look like while I'm writing about them (although I often get brief intense glimpses when I'm writing their descriptions): I remember what I *said* they look like--which isn't at all the same thing. (So it probably goes without saying that my visual memory is pretty weak at the best of times, while my verbal memory is usually reliable.)

I've already spent more than enough space in this interview on the entirely-hypothetical "Covenant" movie. I'll just repeat myself to the extent of saying that, yes, I think "Mordant's Need" could more easily be translated into a good movie. However, wherever possible film producers think "franchise" (e.g. James Bond), and "Covenant" clearly has more potential in that regard than "Mordant's Need"--or even the GAP books.


John Butcher:  Dear Mr Donaldson,

First of all, let me add myself to the many others who have thanked you for the enjoyment your works have brought us.

You have said that the First Chronicles were self-contained and intended to have no sequel. In that case, the references therein to Elohim, Bhrathair - and now also Demondim - were not intended to lead to ever encountering these beings. Did you know when you wrote the First Chronicles what they were, or did the names come first and the creatures later? Elohim is of course a very resonant word.
The names came first: I developed the characters/creatures later, when I needed them. As I keep saying, I'm an efficient writer in the sense that I only create what I need. In the first "Chronicles," what I needed was world-building; and one time-honored technique for world-building is to refer to races and countries etc. which never appear in the story (thus creating the sensation that the world is "bigger", and hence more real, than the particular story). Of course, I was very aware of the resonance of the word "Elohim" when I used it; but I didn't go beyond that in the first "Chronicles" (at least not consciously).


Jim Melvin:  It is important for fantasy epics to contain some degree of historical accuracy or believability (in terms of settings, weapons, dialogue, etc.) But do you think that some of today's successful fantasy novelists (I won't name names) carry this too far? I have found several of your fellow best-selling authors to be amazingly well-educated in the historical sense, but not so clever in the this-is-a-great-story sense. Which is more important? What the story is about? Or how it is told?
I'm inclined to contest your opening postulate. Of course fantasy epics require believability: every story does, in one form or another. But do they therefore require historical accuracy? That sounds like an oxymoron to me, since fantasy is by its very nature, well, fantastic (i.e. it does not conform to any known consensus about external reality). In any case, weak writers use "accuracy" (however defined) as a substitute for imagination: strong writers use it (when they use it all) as a springboard for imagination. Using "Covenant" as an example (if I may do so without arrogance): the whole point of the information about leprosy is *not* that it is accurate (although it was when I wrote those books), but rather that it enables what follows. And the same can be said of "historical terms of settings, weapons, dialogue, etc.." A case in point is Dan Brown, who regularly wins the I-know-more-than-you-do sweepstakes hands down, but who couldn't tell a good story if his life depended on it. At its core, storytelling is about character; and (as someone observed in an entirely different context) Dan Brown "writes about human beings as if he's never actually met one."


Kristen Steffenhagen:  Mr. Donaldson,

I have two questions for you today.

1) In the GAP series, you used such terms as "swashbuckling" and "buccaneer." Angus and Nick were pirates. These words -- what seem like pirate terminology -- made it seem to me that Angus and Nick were pirates out at sea. I was just wondering whether is was some strange coincidence that these two were ore-pirates and you were using such words when describing them?

2) My second question has to do with the death of Nick. How did you feel about killing him off the way you did? To me it felt like the worst death he could have had, trying to get revenge on Sorus Chatelaine and she ends up killing him.

Thank you for your time.

1) It has recently come to my attention that words like "swashbuckling" and "buccaneer" once had very specific and concrete meanings which could not possibly be applied to the GAP books--or to any form of space opera. In my view, however (a view confirmed by at least one modern dictionary), the meanings of those terms have lost their specificity over the centuries, and they can now be used in a whole host of contexts only loosely related to literal piracy and crime. For example, 200+ years ago the word "buccaneer" could only be used metaphorically unless it referred to "piracy," which in turn only took place "at sea." Now even "piracy" no longer requires a nautical denotation. Better writers than I am have been tossing around "swashbuckling" and "buccaneer" pretty freely for decades.

2) From Nick's perspective, he got exactly "the worst death he could have had." From my perspective, he got exactly the death he brought on himself. Considering the relentless pettiness of his desire for revenge, any less futile death would have violated the terms on which he lived.


Nathan Graber:  I was just recently introduced to your work and have just finished the first Covenant trilogy, and I am very intrigued by the philosophy of the books, especially the end of the third. I noticed both Christian and eastern religious symbolism, and I am wondering what your personal philosophy of life is.
As regular readers of this interview know, I'm not interested in discussing my "personal philosophy of life." For one thing, I consider it irrelevant: only the books themselves matter. And for another, well, this is a public forum, and my personal philosophies are private.

Please accept my regrets.


Michael from Santa Fe:  One of my favorite parts of "The One Tree" (besides the romance developing between Linden and Covenant) was that it took place at sea, on a Giant ship. You really made the ship come alive to me and I believed I was sailing along with them. So, my question: do you have much real life experience with sailing and ships or did you just do some basic research to get the ship terms straight and go from there?
I've spent significant periods of time at sea, literally as well as metaphorically <grin>. But I have very little experience with actual sailing: mostly I've been on cruise ships, freighters, and oceanliners. My (very limited) knowledge of sailing comes from reading stories about sailing (Hayden's "Voyage," Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast," a whole bunch of Melville and Conrad, Russell and O'Brian) rather than from more mundane forms of research.


David Flood:  Hi Stephen,

I have read in your previous replies that all of Kevin's Lore is now 'lost'. Is that an irreversible situation - have the Masters destroyed the Wards and other items in Revelstone?

Does Anele have the skills and knowledge (as what amounts to being an Unfettered One) to resurrect a new line of Lords, or are they gone forever?

Again, thank you so much for your writing. Thank you.

David, Ireland
I'm afraid all of this falls under the heading of RAFO. But I think it's very unlikely that the Masters would *destroy* a Ward if they ever found (or had) one. That doesn't sound like them to me: whatever else they may believe, they have too much respect for the Lords.


Jerry Erbe:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
As always, thank you so much for this GI and of course for your wonderful stories. I am particularly drawn to The Gap Cycle and can't seem to stop reading and re-reading it (I really MUST broaden my horizons eventually) but to the point. Regardless of the numerous times I have read The Gap series of books, I have not yet been able to make heads-or-tails of two particular incidents that take place and how they came to be and the characters motivations behind them. I've searched for an answer to the question on Kevin’s Watch but I’ve had no luck. Perhaps you can shed some light on my incomprehension.

- WHY does Holt send a kaze to try and kill Captain Vertigus? I really don’t understand what he could have hoped to gain by this act? He had no real notion of what Warden was up to at the time and not much else had really happened that I can see that would have justified this act.
- The second question is similar, WHY would Holt send a kaze to kill Gosden? He was grooming Gosden to become President of the GCES. Was it simply a loyalty test? Either get on a shuttle to visit Holt in person, thereby saving his life or choose loyalty to Warden and die? Is it really that simple or am I missing something obvious? Holt seemed to have nothing to gain by this attack on his own subordinate.
- And for both these questions it would seem that Holt would have to be prescient in order to have foreseen his need or desire for these kazes far enough in advance to make the necessary preparations eventually uncovered by Hashi’s investigation.

Please help me to understand. On my next reading of the series I’d like to be able to think, “ah-hah!” instead of, “huh?”

Thanks! – Looking forward to Fatal Revenant
Well, keeping in mind that you've probably read the story far more recently than I have....

Captain Vertigus opposes virtually all of Holt Fasner's political/personal agendas--and the good captain has a *lot* of credibility within the GCES. Prior to the events precipitated by Warden Dios' "betrayal," Holt is (as I recall) trying through such tactics as the Preempt Act to reverse the roles of the UMC and the GCES: to make the governance of Earth an extension of that in space instead of the other way around. Consolidating his power-base. But Vertigus is a serious threat to Holt's efforts. He's dedicated, passionate, and persuasive. And an attack on him (intended to be successful) would have the added benefit of making the GCES fearful for its own safety, therefore more willing to accept the hegemony of the (already powerful and effective) UMCP.

The attack on Godsen could be called a loyalty test. Such tests are useful when the loyalty of a subordinate is open to question. At this point in the story, Holt has plenty of reason to suspect that "something's up": he just doesn't know what, exactly. Sending an attack on Godsen that Godsen could avoid by blindly following Holt's orders offers Holt a chance to glean or precipitate valuable information. And it has the added benefit of serving as a warning to Warden: "You aren't safe from me, so toe the line."

Holt isn't prescient: he's simply the kind of man who always keeps a few kazes handy, just in case. (In other word: no, this is not yet another example of excessively elaborate and implausible plotting. <grin>)


Pitchwife:  Hi Stephen,
I was planning to finish reading all the archives from the gradual interview before writing to you, but I have been making my way slowly through them and realized that I may as well start sooner since I have so many thoughts and questions I want to share with you over time.

What is the origin of Kasreyne of the Gyre ? In all the covenant books, he reminds me most of the Master Imagers from Geraden's world, both in character and in capabilities - his use of mirrors for translation within the sandhold, plus the use of his oculum (? not sure if I am remembering the name of this correctly) which seems optical in nature.

Another related similarity between these two worlds are the appearance of the acidic green creatures (Skeche?) that attack Covenants party in the swamps, and that Eremis translates to attack the village in Geraden's world. Were these similarities on purpose (after all, Eremis does translate them from another world...)
Gosh, I *wish* I had the kind of global mind that could weave together novels as disparate as "The Second Chronicles" and "Mordant's Need" with such subtlety and foresight. Alas, I don't. Any parallel details (glass; acidic creatures) that exist are--in effect--coincidences. I didn't do them on purpose. At least not with my conscious mind (the actions of my subconscious are another matter entirely).

As for Kasreyn's origin: as far as I know, he sprang full-grown from my imagination. In other words, I have no earthly idea where he came from. If I could explain how the human imagination works, I would be the most important thinker since, well, ever. <grin> Still, it's interesting to stand back and observe how the mind recycles its own materials. I suspect that a really obsessive-compulsive study of my stories would unearth all manner of unrecognized links (quite apart from the more obvious reiterations of theme and subject matter). And some of those links (he said almost seriously) would be syntactical.


Clement Singarajah, M.D:  Not a question, but just a big thank you. Of all the great authors out there, you have come the closest to JRR Tolkein and in some ways have exceeded him (almost sacrilege to say so!) and I am pleased you are returning to the Land. By the way, you are one of the few authors who manages to tax my vocabulary with curious words like cerements, frangible, percipient, lambent, inchoate etc. Perhaps you could put floccinaucinihiliplification to good us as you have an undoubted mastery of English writing that very few others can match, perhaps only JRRT. Best regards to a superb author and thank you again for the alas too short hours of pleasure you have given my imagination.
OK, this is a quiz for regular readers of the GI. Do any of you own a dictionary that contains the word "floccinaucinihiliplification"? If you do, please post a definition--and 4-6 months later I'll post my heartiest congratulations. <grin>

P.S. No points will be awarded if it turns out that no one except Clement Singarajah, M.D., can provide a definition. (Now I'm *really* grinning.)


Chris O'Connell:  Mr. Donaldson,

I"m a big fan and I appreciate your taking the time to answer our questions. My question is: what is your interest in a potential 'Lord Fouls Bane'? I don't mean monetarily, but I mean as the original author.

I'm not judging by any means, but I'm curious about your motivation (if any). Since you have said you would not write a screenplay and you aren't interested in having input into the process, in a lot of ways, the movie will having nothing to do with you.

As fans, we are interested because we can't get enough. As I have read through the GI, you don't seem to be that interested in any life your stories may have outside the books. Is it curiousity? Maybe just a chance to learn 'how Hollywood works'? Or just plain ol' pride?

This is pretty open-ended, so any thoughts you'd care to share would be great.

Since I would have no control whatsoever over the outcome, I work hard at not investing any mental or emotional energy in a "Lord Foul's Bane" film. (And in any case I have too much other work to do.) But of course I'm curious: who wouldn't be? And of course I have as much ego as anyone else, so naturally I want my books to get more recognition than is actually possible <grin>. In addition, however, I believe strongly in not stifling other people's creativity. By legal and honest means, certain individuals have obtained the right to attempt a LFB film. Who am I to stand in their way? And how can I assume that the result of their efforts will be failure (a bad movie; an unsuccessful movie; no movie at all)? I'm not that prescient--and I'm certainly not that wise.


Anonymous:  Have you read Stephen King's Dark Tower series? I wonder if it is coincidence that the protagonist of that story is maimed in a suspiciously famialiar way-he loses two fingers on one hand.

You have recommended Stephen Erikson several times as an author you enjoy. Which of his books specifically would you recommend to start with? Its difficult to find good fantasy these days, and I've got to read something until the next Covenant book comes out.

You have said earlier that you currently do not have any ideas as far as what you will write when the Third Chronicles is finished. Do you expect to retire at that point, or by that time will there probably be another project in mind?

Thanks for the stories.
1) As far as I'm concerned, it's just a coincidence. I didn't encounter Stephen King's Dark Tower series until long after I had written the first "Covenant" trilogy.

2) If you want to read Steven Erikson, you have to start at the beginning: "The Gardens of the Moon". But be warned: it's the most baffling book in the series because so many new concepts have to be introduced simultaneously.

3) I have no intention of ever retiring. The fact that I don't know *now* what I'll write when "The Last Chronicles" is done doesn't mean that I won't continue writing.


Greg Larson:  Mr. Donaldson,
I first heard of Chronicles of Thomas Covenant from my 7th grade reading teacher, Mrs. Fritsch. (later to become Mrs. Wheeler) She had a Lord Foul's Bane poster and I was sold!
I have read both trilogies and am very excited to see 'Last Chronicles' come out!
I am in the process of rereading the first of the series again and once again find myself falling in love with the Bloodgaurd! How did you come up with the idea for the Bloodguard?

Thank you so much for sharing your imagination with the rest of of! It is truly inspiring!
As I keep saying, I can't explain how my imagination works. Details aside, however, I had three guiding concepts in my creation of the Land and its peoples. 1) The Land is the opposite of leprosy. 2) My story in the first "Covenant" trilogy is the opposite of Tennyson's in "The Idylls of the King." Tennyson took one heroic, romantic, mythic character, Arthur, and surrounded him with ordinary, fallible, self-conflicted, and (to coin a word) debase-able human beings--with the result that the grand dream of Camelot failed. I took one ordinary, fallible, self-conflicted, debase-able human being and surrounded him with heroic, romantic, mythic characters--with the result that the human being eventually discovered a capacity for grandeur in himself. 3) My story is one of extremes: it's about people who push their own beliefs and personalities beyond all rational limits. So, in the case of the Bloodguard, mere fidelity isn't enough: it has to be deathless, sleepless, super-human fidelity or nothing. For Kevin, it was victory or nothing. For the Giants, it was pure untarnished love of life or nothing. And for Lord Foul, it's (for lack of a better term) absolute transcendance or nothing. Only a few characters--Lord Mhoram, Saltheart Foamfollower, Covenant himself--find salvation between the extremes.


dr.gonzo:  hey dude! first of all thanks! the covenant books are among the the best i've ever read. kudos for the mordants need duet too! i'm currently re-reading the first trilogy, lord fouls bane. one thing that always gets me is the savageness of covenants actions towards lena, and i find myself making excusses for his brutality. i;ve always wondered if it was truly his actions,(most likly as he belives he is dreaming and therfore not harming a real person)or is has he been taken by a raver? being new to the land he would be an easy target, white gold weilder or not. plus several times in the text he questions what foul will do next, rape children/harm children. were you trying to get across the supressed thoughts and emotions of covenant or some obscure similarity with foul or was it to show the paradoxical nature of the bearer of white gold? being equaly capable of evil and good.
i hope you can shead some light on this quiery of mine.
p.s. cant wait for the fatal revenant! the cliffhanger to the runes of the earth is unbearable.
I've already taken up a fair amount of space discussing the rape of Lena. The short answer: that was Covenant's action--and Covenant's responsibility. He was not under the influence of a Raver (although he *was* under the influence of his own inner Despiser). So there's no excuse for what he did. Which is the whole point. Covenant is demonstrably a man who "could go either way." And when the story begins, he is far more likely to go in Lord Foul's direction than in the Creator's. The real subject of the story is how and why that balance tips.


Bill Rich:  Mr. Donaldson,
I have read several months worth of your answers to the "Gradual Interview" questions, however I did not see the question asked as follows, "when will the next book in "The Last Chronicles" be released? I have read many questions and critical points of view seeking answers to questions about how you wrote the stories, possible paradox issues and so on, I am not qualified to critique your books nor the detail of the stories. What I am qualified to do is read and thuroughly enjoy them, I am disabled and home bound, your stories give my mind a chance to soar to places my body isn't able to go, for that I a simple reader, thank you.
Since "Fatal Revenant" does not yet exist as a complete manuscript, its release date is impossible to guess. However, work on the first draft is proceeding more quickly than--just to pick a random comparison--the first draft of "The Runes of the Earth" did. On the other hand, "Revenant" threatens to be longer than "Runes". So there you have it: a non-answer if ever there was one. <sigh>


Chris Reade:  I wrote a paper about 10-12 years ago in college about Mordant's Need. It was an upper level Lit Criticism class so the choice of subject matter was up to us and I had just finished the series so it seemed appropriate.

What I wrote about is that I saw a the series as an interpretation of the King Lear story. Mordant is filled with the same characters - the king who has lost control of his kingdon, his three daughters, the king's personal lunatic, etc. Even down to the one daughter who stays loyal to him even though he doesn't deserve it.

Now, Lear, of course, is as feeble as he appears and Joyce is canny and proves himself in the end. But the similarity was striking to me and I was wondering if it was an on-base comparison or if I'm looking through the wrong mirror?
Since I was an English major in college, and later earned an M.A. in English lit, you can be confident that I spent a *lot* of time studying Shakespeare. (And I still re-read some of the plays regularly, although I was never a big "King Lear" fan.) If I were to claim that "Lear" had no influence on "Mordant's Need," no sensible reader would believe me. However, I can say with a clear conscience that "Lear" had no *conscious* influence on "Mordant's Need." My attention was fully engaged elsewhere (on the story and characters), and I didn't become aware of the "Lear" parallels until later. But then, my un(or sub)conscious mind has always been a lot smarter than my conscious mind. <grin> Perhaps the cleverest thing I've ever done as a writer was learn to let my un/subconscious express itself without interference.


Katten:  Mr Donaldson,

From reading the First Chronicles, I somewhat got the impression that the Haruchai, while being quite extreme as a race (who else could come up with the Vow?), were mostly made the outwardly cold and unexpressive beings they were because of their millenia of service as Bloodguard. This was reinforced for me when the Bloodguard in The Illearth War, whose name I forget, returns to tell of the trip through the swamp and has a panicked outburst while telling his tale, which is explained through him being recently made a Bloodguard.

The Haruchai in the later books, while being very slightly more expressive than the Bloodguard, are still extremely stony-faced and it is hard to imagine any of them having an outburst like that. Is this one of those small discrepancies that happen over series, or did I miss the point, and was that Bloodguard just an unusally sensitive Haruchai?

No, I think my point was that the Bloodguard of the unseemly outburst was unusually *young*. In my thinking, it has always been true of the Haruchai (not just the Bloodguard) that they cultivate a stoney stoicism as a defense against, or as a way of managing, their extreme passions. And since they lead long lives (when they aren't killed in battle), they have lots of time to practice their impassivity. But even Haruchai start out as children; and it seems likely that at least a few of them became Bloodguard pretty early in life.


Brian Gannon:  Hi,
Let's assume that our collective dream comes true. That is, that the Thomas Covenant movies are made and are a great success. (I admit that you are probably right about their success, and in fact, i think that Mordants Need would make a more accessable movie for most people). With success comes imitation, and therefore I would expect that a number of authors would want to start writing stories that take place in the land (Gregory Benford comes to mind. :^) ) Would you allow other authors to work on your turf - so to speak?

Thank You
One curious demonstration of the general proposition that Hollywood Rules the World: if a LFB film were to be made, and if that film became successful, the producers who purchased the original option would--in a manner of speaking--*own* the turf. They wouldn't have any control over my own work in the Covenant/Land world, or over the sale and publication of my own books; but they would control everything else Covenant/Land-related. If they wanted to license Playboy to produce a "Girls of the Land" wall calendar, they wouldn't need my permission. And if they wanted to pay--just picking unlikely names at random--Piers Anthony or John Cheever to write Covenant/Land novelizations or spin-offs ("The Legendary Journeys of the Giants," by Kevin Sorbo), they wouldn't need my permission. I would have no legal say in the matter.

But if the question ever came up, and I *did* have a say: no, I would not "allow" anyone else to milk my ideas for money. (Doing so for private enjoyment, or for the amusement of one's friends--as in fan fiction--is a different question altogether. There I have no objection.) If other writers want characters and/or worlds, let them get their own.


Sean Farrell:  Hey you,

I know you're super-clever and all that (what with your very British, if I may say, sense of humour) but I've got a rather un-deep question! Have you seen the new Doctor Who, and do you like it? It's not exactly traditional, but we Brits are lapping it up!

Now for something a bit (not much!) deeper. I consider you a writer of rare talent. Now, I read a wide variety of genres (as a bookstore manager, I need to) and I know that your skill compares extremely favourably with 'mainstream' or 'general' fiction writers. Yet you're NEVER going to receive the breadth of acclaim that lesser writers acheive simply because your chosen field is fantasy. Does this irk you? I know it irks me!!

Hope you are well and getting on with Vol II. Simply can't wait!! You're still the best.

People keep asking; but no, I haven't yet had a chance to see the new Doctor Who. Would that it were otherwise.

And speaking of things that I would were otherwise: I wish that genre labels did not automatically doom books to the critical dustbin. One of many reasons why we live in such an anti-intellectual society is that those who consider themselves intellectuals are such ^#$%^ snobs. (A woman of my acquaintance once wrote a long and highly favorable review of "The Mirror of Her Dreams" for the NY Times Book Review. The editors ran the review--because they were under deadline--and then fired the reviewer for wasting readers' time on such crap.) Of course, I'm not suggesting that "cookie-cutter" books, books which value formula over imagination, insight, and skill (Harlequin Romances leap to mind), should be taken seriously. But why, I ask myself, are writers like Elmore Leonard and Patricia McKillip denied substantive acclaim? The only explanation I can think of is that they've been cursed by genre labels. (And McKillip is double-cursed by the "fantasy" and "young adult" labels.)

For reasons which surpass my comprehension, publishers believe that labeling is the only way they can sell books. (In the US, at least, the packaging of "The Runes of the Earth" positively shouts GENRE LABEL.) I can only hope that the passage of time will allow "dreck" like "Last Call" and "The Book of Atrix Wolfe" to arise from the dustbin and finally receive the validation they deserve.


Anonymous:  Mr. Donaldson,

First of all, an obligatory "thank you" for your wonderful work. I absolutely loved the first two Covenant series which I devoured for the first time (of several times) back in the 80s. It's quite a gift to be able to revisit the Land one last time.

While I was thrilled to read Runes, I was left with a nagging sense of dissatisfaction in one respect: the lack of any sign of advancement, technological or otherwise. I know that you've briefly addressed this question a time or two, citing (for example) the stifling effects of totalitarian regimes. I can buy this as an explanation for the repressed Land, but I'm having difficulty buying it for the entire Earth. The Chronicles have collectively covered, what, 7,000 years of recorded history? Given the irrepressible nature of humanity, and the residents of this Earth don't seem to have an inherently less creative drive, it would seem to me not only possible but probable that technology would develop _somewhere_ in the world. I realize that we haven't seen many other residents of the Earth, so it's certainly possible that there is some explanation (Lord Foul's reach being broader than we were led to believe, some behavior by the Elohim, etc.). But the residents we _have_ seen were not only seafaring, they were clearly part of an extensive trade network. Knowledge normally advances quickly against this backdrop, but as far as we know, not much has changed for over 7,000 years! As far back as the time of the old Lords, the Giants (at the very least) had reached a level of technology equivalent to what we had reached only several hundred years ago. One would think that over that vast a period of time, repression or not, individuals would emerge sporadically to push technology forward. And that they would find their way to the Land...

Thoughts? I suppose that you might believe that this falls into the "not necessary to tell the story" category, but it seems to me that that's not the case. At least that's not the case for me.

Again, perhaps a minor point in the grand scheme of things, but something that stood out to me as a reader.

Thanks again for your work and your willingness to participate in this forum.

<sigh> I shy away from tackling questions like, Why hasn't there been any technological advancement? and their corollaries, like, Why haven't metalsmiths learned how to forge white gold? Beneath the surface, such questions ask me to define the essential nature and purposes of fantasy; but any postulate I might advance will have so many exceptions that it may well cause more confusion than it relieves. So I'm going to confine myself to a few (possibly) cryptic remarks, and then I'm going to bravely run away <grin>, deleting valid counter-arguments as I go.

Unlike every other form of storytelling (with the possible exception of romances, "bodice-rippers"), fantasy is not *about* material reality, or even material plausibility. It does not describe or comment upon rational or tangible observations of the external world; the world of science and technology. Nor does it describe or comment upon verifiable observations of the human condition, in general or in particular, through research into the past or extrapolation into the future. Fantasy is *about* metaphysical reality, the intersection of the spiritual with the psychological. It describes and comments upon non-rational and (ideally) universal observations of the internal world; the world of the unverifiable; the world of imagination and nightmare, of hope and despair and faith; the world of magic.

Therefore the essential substance of fantasy worlds is composed of "that which transcends definition" rather than of, for example, electrons and J particles. And *therefore* the inhabitants of fantasy worlds think and act in magical rather than in technological or scientific terms. (Just one example. I hope you don't imagine that the Giants formed Starfare's Gem by digging up chunks of granite, devising tools to cut the granite into slabs, and then glueing, pegging, or trussing the slabs together. That's *way* too much trouble when you already have access to wood. And then there's Revelstone. My point is that the ability of the Giants to work with stone doesn't derive from tools: it derives from magic; from the essence of who they are.)

It follows, then, that "advancement" in a fantasy world isn't measured by, say, constructing a device to replace a horse. Rather "advancement" is measured by movement toward internal integration, wholeness; toward an effective affirmation of life and consciousness in all of their many avatars. And by that standard, the people of the Land--and, by extension, all of the peoples of the Earth--are *not* advancing. Bit by bit, evil (both mortal and otherwise) is breaking the world down. If that were not true (I hope I'll be forgiven for saying this), there would be no point in telling the story.

LOTR is a perfect example--although as far as I know Tolkien never analysed his own work in these terms.

Putting the matter crudely, you're asking an external question about an internal story. Still crudely: my nightmares don't care whether ravaging monsters with four heads and venomous fangs have ever existed, or whether such creatures can be killed with gauss rifles; my nightmares only care that those monsters are after *me*.


Allen:  In my eyes Covenant is the absolute paragon of heroism. His passion for truth is so severe he is willing to destroy a cosmos rather than lie. I remember when I was a youth marching about town with my friends discussing life the universe and everything else. I asserted, one day, that Thomas Covenant was more emblematic of the heroic than was Aragorn. That statement initiated a war of almost cosmic proportions. Though, in my old age, I've come to see the point of the Aragorns of the world, Thomas Covenant remains the my heroic icon.
My questions: 1. Were there or are there any antecedents for Covenant in literature, for you? 2.Do you have any thoughts on the nature of the heroic in general? 3. When do I get my autographed copy of "Or I Will Sell My Soul For Guilt"?

Gracias, Allen
1) I didn't consciously base Covenant on any specific antecedants. But the argument could be made that Covenant--like many of my characters--is loosely based on the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky, the work of Joseph Conrad, and the life of Sir Walter Scott. a) Dostoevsky. First, he wrote about moral and emotional cripples. And second, he wrote about them with relentless artistic integrity. Although he yearned to write explicitly "Christian" novels, he refused to compromise his actual stories; to distort his characters so that they would suit his beliefs. b) Conrad. He demonstrated that the resources of melodrama (high adventure, exotic locales, etc.) could be used to serve the most serious artistic purposes. c) Scott. Sparing myself the effort of going into detail, he was a shining example of personal responsibility and integrity. Few human beings have ever gone as far or given as much for the best of reasons: to keep his word.

2) I suspect you can deduce my "thoughts on the nature of the heroic" from what I've just said. Doing what's hard, and doing it for the right reasons. In my personal experience, the third hardest thing is to have artistic integrity. The second hardest thing is to love without stinting. And the hardest thing is to have personal integrity. (What is personal integrity? Here's one definition: to always tell yourself the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about yourself; and then to act on that truth without flinching.)

3) That novel is available in bookstores everywhere just two dimensions away from ours. And every single copy has been autographed by the--you guessed it--author.


michael sasen:  will there be giants.


Jessica:  Hey SRD. Being an avid reader I have read many good books during my 16 years but yours stand superior to the rest. Good books may be forgotten, and even, in time great books. But your writing is astoundingly unforgettable. Thank you for the enjoyment of such works.

Couple of questions:

1) Do you base your characters off of a particular race when you create them? I just like to get a mental picture of what everyone looks like and you described the Haruchai with brown skin. Would they almost be Hispanic looking or African-American or...what? Just wondered...

2) Could anything develope between Linden and Stave or is that just wishful thinking? :) I'm probably just jumping to conclusions, but it would be so sweet in a way...a Haruchai romance. *grins*

Thank you for your time. I will continue to anxiously await your next books in this series.
1) Two things to keep in mind about how I work. One, I'm not a visual personal. And two, my imagination doesn't respond well when I try to base what I'm doing on verifiable reality. So no, I didn't have any particular races in mind for any of the "Covenant" characters. However, it is a little known fact that many of the Ramen names and words are based on or extrapolated from Marathi (which is derived from Hindi, which in turn is derived from Sanskrit).

2) "Could anything develop between Linden and Stave...?" Now there's an idea that literally never crossed my mind. <grin> Several problems. a) I suspect that no ordinary human woman is strong or fierce enough to appeal to Haruchai males. b) Parents whose children are in danger really don't think about much of anything else. If they *appear* to think about something else, that's only because they're scrambling to find SOME way to help their children. c) It's neither an accident nor a marketing ploy that this story is called "The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant."


Mark Harris:  I've been trying for nearly a year to buy the Gap Series, why are such popular books not in print?
Indeed, the GAP books were quite popular in the UK. Nevertheless my (now former) publisher, HarperCollins (once Fontana, then Collins, and so on), has abandoned support for all things Donaldson. "Mordant's Need" is also a casualty; and I suspect that the first two "Covenant" trilogies will disappear in England soon.

My agents are working to rectify this problem. And my new publisher, Orion/Gollancz, has expressed some interest in bringing my "lost" books back into print. But movement has been slow. In the meantime, I can only suggest, which seems to offer books from the US.


Alan:  Hi Stephen.
Obviously, I love your work.
But... I gotta say. I WILL NOT be buying your books new if the intended deadlines of 2007, 2010 and 2013 are correct. That is just too long to wait and I will by the books 2nd hand or thru Ebay.
I must ask, Why would you(or your publishers) do this. The time limit is much too long. No story is worth waiting that long for!
For me, I've passed up books for the very same reason, too long to be published, I don't care for the endings if the wait is that long. I can wait a year or two, perhaps three. But 8 years is beyond a joke!
Why would you do this?
Secondly; was there any need to use swear words, as in sh*t, f*ck, bullsh*t? what was the point in using modern expletives?
Thanks for your time(if indeed you give it, as I suspect you wont)
<sigh> I don't suppose it ever occurred to you that books like mine might be difficult to write? Or that a man my age might have health problems? Or that I'm a human being who has to deal with all of the many complications that beset human beings? Or that I might by trying hard to beat the announced deadline(s)? No, of course not.

I hope to make my characters as real as possible. You show me one human being who doesn't use obscene or sacrilegious (?) expletives--not even in the privacy of his/her own mind--and I'll show you twenty who do.


Steven S :  I discovered Lord Foul's Bane around 1978, on the scheme of things not long after the first three in the Covenant trilogy were published. I have read them and re-read them, as I have your other novels and short collections. I am excited at Runes, I have read that as well. I cannot express how your craft has touched my life, and keep me company through the many years since I first picked up from the school library a copy of Lord Fouls Bane. My question is this. Why even attempt to bring this to the big screen in movie form? I realize it is your art, your vision but it has touched millions including me beyond words. To run the risk of damaging our own mental view of the Land and the struggles withing, are a risk I think is too great to take. Literature, great literature should stay that way and not be allowed to be subjected to massacre by a director and editor that turns it into an action spectacle, fodder for the normal cheap hollywood formula for success. Please reconsider and allow the Land to live as it is meant to, in the imagine of your loyal readers. Thank You.
I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I have absolutely no control over whether or not anyone ever makes a "Covenant" film. My contracts for the first six books with Ballantine/Del Rey give that company the movie rights. (I was young, inexperienced, had no agent, and was just glad to get published.) So Ballantine doesn't need my consent to sell anything to anyone. I understand your feelings, but this issue is entirely out of my hands.


John Dunn:  Mr. Donaldson,

I would like to express my gratitude for the books you have written. I especially found the Mordant's Need series extremely enjoyable-not to say that I do not consider your other works (Chronicles, Gap, Man Who) to be about the best written works published in the last 3 decades, because they are! As I have aged, I find it more and more difficult to *force* myself to read most of the trash published today that I sadly enjoyed as a younger man. Learning that you had returned to the Covenant series I was delighted; reading the Ruins of the Earth was perhaps the best literary pleasure I have had in many years.

If you have answered this question before, pardon my asking again. In the Illearth War Hile Troy is given Covenant's ring, but is prevented from using it by Caerroil Wildwood, who states "I cannot permit this. It is breaking of Law." Maybe I am too dense to have understood, or I missed it, but what Law is Wildwood referring to?

Thank you so much for you time, and I wish you and yours the very best.
What I want to say is, "If you have to ask the question, you wouldn't understand the answer." But that's a joke. What I really mean is that your question makes me squirm. The answer is intuitively obvious to me--and I'm particularly bad at explaining things which are intuitively obvious to me.

(Now I want to say--quoting, or perhaps misquoting, Robert Browning--"When I wrote that, only God and I knew what it meant. Now only God knows.")

But let me try this. 1) The Law of identity. As Mhoram says, Covenant *is* white gold. The use of his power by someone else violates his relationship with that power. In "The Power that Preserves," Elena destroys herself--and the Staff of Law--by violating Covenant's relationship with white gold. 2) The Law of promises. Troy has offered to pay Wildwood's price; to trade himself for the survival of his army. If he becomes a white gold wielder and goes off to confront Elena/Kevin, he'll be breaking his word--and once Troy does that, Wildwood won't have the power to force him back. 3) The Law of, well, let's call it consequences. Elena has broken the Law of Death. She's locked in a battle with Kevin's ghost/spirit/whatever. Troy wants to intrude on that battle, determine the outcome. But wild magic is the wrong tool for the job. It's better suited to breaking Laws than to mending them. Elena already has the only tool that could possibly be used to repair what she's done--but she's fighting for her life, and besides she's out of her mind. In a situation like that, how could wild magic do anything except make matters worse (break more Laws)?

I hope this helps.


Stumpy:  Thank you for 'The Chronicles' - if only they were longer...... you can't get too much of a good thing (allegedly)

I have just read a thread on the GI where you comment upon the fact that the author gets only a small percentage of the selling price for his/her work.

Do you think that with the internet and online community there is a market for authors to sell direct to the public via a website? This is a concept which at least one major games producer is pursuing as it allows them to maximise profits whilst also not being at the mercy of their publishers. It also allows them to release additional content as and when they wish. Understand that this would probably not be viable for a new author, but for one who is well known it could be a perfectly reasonable proposition. Particularly with a 'cult' following.

Best wishes


Other writers have tried this--or some variation of it (Stephen King leaps to mind). I don't know how well it worked. But I'm the wrong guy to make the attempt. I'm a storyteller, not a bookseller. Even with a gun to my head, I wouldn't be able to force myself to do all the different chores necessary to marketting books online. And there are other problems. These days, publishers won't publish books unless the publisher gets the "electronic" rights. Any writer who wants to self-publish online will have to turn his/her back on all conventional forms of publication (unless, of course, you have clout on Stephen King's order of magnitude). I couldn't bring myself to do that.


Hazel:  Hi there,

It is a great pleasure to find your website. I, and I'm sure every other fan, greatly appreciate the time, thought and effort you put into replying to the various queries arising.

I am an avid reader, but somehow only came across your books two years ago. I have now read and re-read every single one of them, and completed the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant a third time in preparation for The Runes of The Earth (which I *loved*). Despite reading practically anything I can get my hands on (and I mean anything!)I have not found any authors' work as compelling or emotive as yours, nor indeed, thought provoking. What, do you believe, gives your work the extra "oomph" that seems to linger in the mind?

Thanks for your time.
Well, assuming that you don't supply "the extra 'oomph'" for yourself (a dubious assumption at best, since reading is an interactive process)....

On one level, it has to be a function of imagination. On another, it has to be a function of narrative skill. And on another, it has to be a function of psychological insight/empathy. Logic requires such conclusions. But I suspect that there may be another factor at work as well: the amount of myself that I give to what I'm writing. Putting it crudely (because at the moment I can't think of a better way to say this), I don't "visit" my stories while I'm writing: I "live" them. I'm a participant, not a spectator. Somewhere deep inside, I put myself into all my characters and go through everything they experience or feel. (Which is why what I do is so ^#&% arduous.) (And which, I'm forced to add, wouldn't be possible without imagination, skill, and insight.) (Nor, in the case of prose storytelling, would it be possible for someone who isn't a fundamentally verbal person; someone who doesn't naturally experience life through words.)


Pier Giorgio (Xar):  Hello Steve! I was reading a question you recently answered, concerning the Haruchai and their obsessions with moral absolutes, and I was wondering - the Haruchai of the Last Chronicles, as far as we can see, appear to believe themselves the only ones who are worthy of preserving the Land, and they absolutely refuse to accept any criticism about their ways, their deeds, and the actions they undertook in order to become the Masters of the Land. In short, in their own eyes, they appear to believe themselves unassailable, and they exorcise the fear of being inadequate which was shown by the Haruchai in the Second Chronicles by establishing the tradition of the three Humbled, which should technically serve as reminders of past mistakes and lessons in humility. Even this tradition has become a source of pride though, as we learn that it is a great honor to be maimed into a Humbled, and the Haruchai actually fight to prove themselves worthy of this honor. So, in short, it seems that the Haruchai have a deep-rooted desire - perhaps on an unconscious level - to prove themselves to be the best, bar none. This is also reflected in the obsessive way all Haruchai we have known hone their physical skills to near-perfection.
Obviously, this attitude leads to a certain amount of metaphorical blindness (if I believe to be always right, and you show me evidence that I'm wrong, chances are I'll pretend I didn't see them and keep believing I'm always right), and so the Haruchai end up being generally impervious to outside influence - somewhat tragically, though, this imperviousness seems to apply more to their would-be allies than to their subtler foes.

Anyway, all of these considerations led me to wonder: Stave, who has shown the typical behaviour of the Masters throughout most of "Runes", eventually rejects at least part of this belief. Could the loss of his eye, which happens shortly before this event, also be taken to exemplify a "crack" in the imperviousness of the Haruchai (or at least Stave)? I mean: the marring of a Haruchai's near-perfect physical skills (and I would imagine that having one less eye does have an impact on those) could symbolize the shattering of Stave's preconceptions and a "crack" in the "moral armor" all Haruchai have? The Humbled are also maimed, but they do so voluntarily, and turn the maiming into a source of pride; whereas Stave's maiming seems to symbolize something more - although I could easily be reading too much into this event :)
I'm posting this more because of the thought and care you put into it than because I have anything substantial to add (although the theme is being explored further in "Fatal Revenant" even as we speak <grin>). But I do want to confirm that I intended the loss of Stave's eye pretty much the way you interpreted it. His "single" vision is both physically less and psychologically more than the ordinary "double" vision of the Haruchai.


Rachel Bevilacqua:  The Chronicls of Thomas Covenant have deeply touched me and they inspire me daily to face up to my fears and keep going, even though I know I'll probably fail. Having these books is like having a Staff of Law, they spread a warm sense of calmness and sureness through me whenever I have to face something I don't think I can do. My question, then, is how can your readers ever thank you enough for the precious gift you've given us?
You've already done so. It's not just that you enable me to earn a living while doing what I was born to do: by reading what I write and responding to it, you clarify and enhance my sense of purpose in life. And, as I'm sure you know, a sense of purpose is at least as precious as anything that I've ever given my readers.


Daniel Bateson:  Firstly a thank-you! I grew up in a house with more books that the average household. Great towering bookshelves filled with an enormous selection of subjects and stories. My mother, in her youth, worked in a book shop and I guess her love of books started there - seemingly she passed that love to me. These bookshelves happened to contain the then entire collection of "The Chronicals of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever"! and I was introduced to them at about the age of twelve (some seventeen years ago). As time passed I found "Mordant's Need" very entertaining. I annoyed many a bookshop clerk for the release of each and every "GAP" publication through the years. I am sure the many hours spent "glued" to the insides of all of these books has impaired my vision - though I have no regrets. At having found this web site I discover that there are still a good deal more of your books that I would like to own - one day...


I have noticed, after having read your "The Aging Student of the Martial Arts" article, that your use of Martial Arts or hand-to-hand combat through your work began sometime before you began your personal journey in Martial Arts. One thing that comes to mind is that your earlier work contained hand-to-hand combat that seemed to last longer than such combat in your later and most recent works. Perhaps I see this because my memory could be liken to that of a fish, but do you feel that your personal experience with Martial Arts has allowed you to create hand-to-hand combat that is shorter lived and more precise? Or is this just mere coincidence?
I've noticed something similar myself. Back in the, say, early "Covenant" and "Mordant's Need" days, I often described fights at greater length, but with less concrete detail. No doubt the fact that I had never seen a fight in my life played a part. But now, after years of study, my fight scenes tend to contain less movement (or fewer movements) but considerably more precision.

That was never a conscious or deliberate change: it just happened as a result of changes in my own knowledge and experience.


Zack Handlen:  Mr. Donaldson,

I just started reading Runes of the Earth. It's been a couple years since I last read the Covenant books (although I did read most of the Gap series recently; had to put it to one side, as their darkness was really getting to me, but I'll be picking them up again soon), so I had to re-discover your writing style again. It's unique; initially, it always seems labored and over-done, but after a few paragraphs it becomes clear that this is intentional. The effect is one of the reasons I love your work so much, as it lends an amazing weight and intensity to the story, and makes the reader more vulnerable and empathetic to the characters and their needs.

I said this style is unique to you, and it is, but I have found one other writer with a similiarly gravid prose line, who's work I had only discovered a year ago- Mervyn Peake. You've mentioned elsewhere that you're a fan of the Gormenghast trilogy (although man, it hurts saying "trilogy" when you know the last book is as disappointing as it is), and I was wondering, has Peake been an influence on your writing? Had you read him before you started the first Covenant series? Or is it simply a case of two different authors developing similiar styles based on a similarity of intent, even if the end results are disparate?

Thank you, and thank you for your wonderful novels.
I suppose I could pretend that I wasn't influenced by Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books (as you say, the third is a crushing disappointment), but I would be lying. I love the richness of Peake's prose: in certain ways very akin to some of Joseph Conrad's writing ("Heart of Darkness" or any of the other "Marlowe" stories), but deployed for very different purposes. And I love what Peake achieves with his prose. Certainly I read him before I began work on "Covenant".

My own purposes probably have more in common with Conrad's than with Peake's. To see what I mean, look at Peake's florid use of caricature, normally a technique of satire, but employed by Peake to poignant effect. You'll find little that could be called caricature in my novels--or in Conrad's. In this respect, Peake more closely resembles Dickens.


Jory:  Main Entry: floccinaucinihilipilification
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: an act or instance of judging something to be worthless or trivial
Etymology: the parts of the word each mean `at nothing' or `with a small price'
I couldn't resist looking ahead; and I've been astonished by the number of readers who have answered--correctly!--my question about "floccinaucinihilipilification" (try saying *that* three times fast). For reasons of space, I won't post the other responses. But you should all give yourselves a hearty pat on the back. (Or, if your shoulders are like mine, a pat on the head will suffice.)

However, the award for both the quickest and the most comprehensive response goes to Robyn Butler of Australia, who turned in a veritable term paper on the subject. Kudos, girl!


Tom:  I guess you'll get quite a few answers to your request for information, but here's my bid for a no-prize: floccinaucinihilip[i]lification - the action of estimating as worthless. There was a missing i.

It's supposedly the longest word in the English language, along with floccipaucinihilipilification, which means exactly the same thing. I remember it from a 'did you know' article printed on the back of a packet of Walkers Crisps (or as Americans would say, chips) back in the 80s. Or maybe the 70s.

And you can reMEMber things like that? Wow!


Paul:  When I read Runes, my wife would get annoyed at me because I would always go "Ahhhhh", "ohhhh", "oh wow!", etc as new revelations were made.

In particular, I was struck by how you have managed to tie elements up from the first and second chronicles in such a way that the whole story has been planned from start to finish.

Examples? Amok's talk about seeing the Sandgorgons or the great desert and mentioning Merewives.. Weaving the Ranyhyn into the time elements of the latest story..

So I have to ask.. how much of that is planned and how much of that is clever writing to make it *look* like you had it all planned? :-)

I mean when you wrote how the Ranyhyn will hear their call says before its made, did you have any inkling of the 3rd chronicles storyline?

I can almost imagine when you have deftly managed to tie into something said in a previous book saying "hehe, they are gonna love that!"

I've already discussed this at some length. The short version: when I wrote the first "Covenant" trilogy, I threw in a lot of stuff (Sandgorgons, Elohim, etc.) just for world-building; I had no intention of continuing the story. But when I realized that I both wanted and knew how to continue the story, I planned "The Second Chronicles" and "The Last Chronicles" before I started writing "The Wounded Land." And a significant part of that planning involved "mining" the first trilogy for raw materials.

Well, by now "The Last Chronicles" has been pretty thoroughly planned. But I have to admit that the "mining" process is still underway. Putting it another way: I know very well what I'm trying to forge; but I still occasionally need ore. And every once in a while I *do* get that "they are gonna love that" feeling. Shameless, I know: a real character flaw. <grin> But there it is.


Josiah:  Hey Mr. Donaldson, it's good to get the chance to correspond with you again :)

your limit is still 2 I see, so, here's both. and, just so you know, I'm barely half serious with the second, so if you shoot it down bluntly, or ignore it all together, I won't be offended :-p

1) I recall you saying that after you wrote the first "Gap" novel, you put it away for a while because, if memory serves (I say that to much) it was because it bothered you that you could write that. I saw your reply to this statement in recent questions, and the answer gave me a new direction to take the question: do you have other works you've written and put aside, for whatever reason, that may see publication one day, or was "The Real Story" the only such work?

2) this question will seem out of place at first, please bear with me :)
have you ever watched any Japanese animation?
films I'd recommend are "Ghost in the Shell" and its sequel, as well as "Princess Mononoke" and "Spirited Away"

now my reasoning: I KNOW you've said that of all your works, you would least like to see Covenant on the big screen, small screen... any screen.
not only is your style of writing it to much a part of it, but there is also to much that can not be conveyed outside of text.
-that is, in normal movies. live action.

I think that an ANIMATED Covenant might be able to convey things. show things, even be truer to the land than a live action movie.
no. not like "The Hobbit" or "Wizards"
if you are unfamiliar with Japanese animation, or have heard damning things about it, I would ask you to put them aside, and rent either "Mononoke" or "Spirited Away." I think then you'd see why I believe something could be accomplished there that live action cannot.

as I've said, I KNOW you don't want it to become a movie. But you've also said it's (unfortunately) out of your hands. I (nervously and possibly foolishly) suggest this because, if a movie version ever DOES happen, I'd like for it to be good enough that you could feel proud of it, and glad for the adaptation they did.
1) No, "The Real Story" is the only time I've had that experience, and the only time since I "turned pro" that I've suppressed (temporarily or otherwise) a story I've written. Of course, my files are full of what I think of as my "journeyman" work (although a more appropriate term might be "juvenalia"). But I had to start a long way back in order to get to "Lord Foul's Bane." Please trust me when I say that no one needs to read my adolescent flounderings.

2) I've seen "Princess Mononoke" and "Howl's Moving Castle." Enjoyed them both. But the problem, as I see it, with a "Covenant" film isn't live action vs animation: it's internal vs external. Prose allows me to go inside my characters: film inherently looks at the characters from the outside. In other words, film is a fundamentally different form of storytelling, with entirely different strengths and weaknesses; strengths and weaknesses which, I suspect, are not well suited to my stories (especially the "Covenant" stories).


Steve the Haruchai:  I just read in one of the structured interviews that you were afraid people would read Runes and think you should have quit while you were ahead. I finished Runes yesterday, and let me assure you your fears were unfounded. It is excellent, at least as well written as the the other Covenant books. Great stuff. I had problems reading every word because I was so excited to find out what happened next. Thanks to this, I mistakenly thought Stave's name was Steve when I first encountered it and blew past it. I admit that before I double checked, I thought you had lost your mind. Steve the Haruchai? My mistake. Now I need to reread it at a more normal pace.
My question is, out of all the wonderful cultures you have created for the Covenant books (Haruchai, Giants, Stonedowne, etc), which are you the most proud of, which is your favorite?
Thanks for continuing the story. And, i think I speak for many people here, I sincerely hope that you were teasing us when Linden was told she would not see any Giants while she was in the Land this time.
I don't have favorite races/cultures/creatures/whatever. That's too generic. I have favorite characters. But I hasten to say--as I've often said before--that my favorites change from day to day and situation to situation.

However, I suspect the results clearly indicate that I have found the Haruchai to be more creatively, well, fecund than anyone else. Even when compared to the Giants, the Haruchai have been a more constant presence in the overall story, and have supplied me with more individual characters.


Kurt:  I read the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant trilogy many years ago when I was in high school. I recently pulled them off the shelf to reread them while on long business flights. To my dismay, I found that the last 25 pages (pp 453-475) are missing from my Balantine/DelRey paperback copy. The binding is still in very good condition so the pages could not have fallen out.

Is this a unique occurence or was it widespread? Is there some way/where to get an electronic copy of those 25 pages? I have searched the web with no luck...
This is not a problem that I've ever heard of before. Of course, all human endeavors are susceptible to mishap; and that definitely includes publishing. Still, your experience seems a bit extreme....

At one time, bootleg e-copies of the first six "Covenant" books were available on the web. But I'm told that source has now ceased to exist. Sorry about that.


JP:  On behalf of someone who wrote in to the GI, you had asked about audio book versions of the Chronicles, and you had asked us to "address them to Mr Castano at the e-address above", but Mr. Castano's email address isn't visible in the GI. So i'm submitting what I found here, since I can't send it straight to him.

On this page:

a british site claims to have audio copies of The Wounded Land and The Illearth War as read by John Chancer. I don't know if they have the rest of the 1st or 2nd Chronicles.
Unfortunately, I also don't have Mr Castano's e-address. So I'm posting this in the (admittedly faint) hope that he'll see it.

I'm not at all familiar with the site you (ahem) cite, so I can't vouch for it.


Barry Brown:  Steve;
At the end of "White Gold Weilder" Pitchwife picked up Conenvant's body, and left with it. I guess since he was dead in RL, and in the land there was no need to be summoned back. Are you going to tell where it is buried??

Since the Law of Death was broken by the Power of Command, and the Law of Life was broken by the Forestial with the use of the Krill. The Staff of Law no longer supports these Laws. Will it not take a quest to the earthroot again to put these laws right?
Forgive me if this sounds brusque; but I'm afraid that all of your questions fall squarely under the heading of RAFO.

Although I don't mean to increase your level of frustration, let me just say that I actually *like* answering such questions--in the story itself rather than in this interview. But that doesn't ever mean I actually *will* answer them: it simply means that if I *do* answer them I'll enjoy it.


Allen:  The language spoken by the peoples of the Land is very distinct; full of dignity, grandeur, a kind of romantic beauty and power; the sound the gods might of made if the gods were rendered subject to the trials of mortality.
I'm curious about what the antecedents to this language are. Could you name any specific poets or writers who set your vitals on fire when crafting such speech? Perhaps Covenant's Struggles Against Despite In The Arena Of The Land should be regarded as a gigantic opera. Did Wagner's arias play their part?
gracias, Allen
As I keep saying, I seldom have *conscious* antecedents (with the obvious exceptions of Wagner's Ring cycle for the GAP books and Tolkien's LOTR for "Covenant"--which, now that I think about it, hardly counts as "seldom" <grin>). Nevertheless it's obvious that I've been influenced by all kinds of things (e.g. Wagner's music and story more than his libretto). In addition to citing Joseph Conrad, Henry James, William Faulkner, and Sir Walter Scott (and George Meredith and Shakespeare and Dostoevsky and Mervyn Peake and Alfred Lord Tennyson and...), I should probably mention Gerard Manley Hopkins and William Butler Yeats. The distinctive rhetoric of the "Covenant" books would not be what it is without all of them.


Krishnansu S. Tewari, MD:  Thanks for answering my previous questions and for continuing this Gradual Interview in the midst of your writing for Fatal Revenant. I have a few more questions:

1. Although the Covenant books are among my favorite works of all time (I mentioned my other favorite authors in my previous question), I have to admit, I did not enjoy the last two books of the 2nd chronicles as much as I did the first four books and Runes.

So, my question is, although it seems from the readership that writes in to the GI that they all loved both the first and second chronicles tremendously, I have become curious if I'm the exception or have you heard any comments like mine regarding how they were disappointed with the 2nd chronicles? Please understand, I'm sure if I re-read them now (I plan to as time permits), I will probably realize how very wrong I was back in the early 80s.

Question #2: I know you don't speak about other living authors, but I thought I'd ask you what you thought about Alan Moore since he's not a novelist but mainly a comic book writer and you have mentioned you onced collected comic books. I would be interested in your comments about Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, etc. if you've read them. For me, you and Moore are the best writers alive today (along with Gabriel Garcia Marquez!).

Question #3: I don't know if you've discussed this, but are there any painters alive or dead that you think would realize your vision of the Land and your stories to some degree?

Sorry this note is so long. I now know from my last one that I should not expect to see an answer for atleast 5 months (maybe more!).

With warmest personal regards,
Krish Tewari, MD
1) In my experience, the response to "Covenant" is not as, well, homogeneous as you seem to think. Some people read and *loathed* all six books. Some liked the second trilogy much better than the first. Some loved the first and couldn't stomach the second at all. Some threw "Lord Foul's Bane" into the fire after the first 50 pages and refused to read another word. Some killed themselves. Some felt redeemed. (OK, now I'm just having fun.) So I'm sure you aren't alone. Certainly Lester del Rey positively abhorred Linden as a POV character.

2) I've read both Moore and Marquez with great interest; but ultimately neither of them suits my personal taste. On the other hand, I enjoy Jim Starlin. And Gaiman's "Sandman" books I re-read regularly, despite the sometimes execrable art.

3) That judgmental remark notwithstanding, I'm truly not a visual person. I can't really answer your question--except to say that in all these years I've only seen one painting that made me feel the way the Land feels in my imagination (it was a rendition of Revelstone for the still-entirely-hypothetical film of "Lord Foul's Bane"), and I don't even know who painted it.



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Matthew S. Urdan:  Dear Mr. Donaldson:

High School was an amazing time for me. My best friends and I had discovered the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Freshman year and the Second Chronicles came out as we were heading towards graduation. 1983, Senior Year, was amazing. Not only did we have White Gold Wielder, but we also had Return of the Jedi. In High School we read the best there was: Tolkien, McCaffrey, Bradley, Herbert, Brooks, Douglas Adams, and yes, on top of them all, Donaldson. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant Rule!

You can't imagine my shock, surprise, and awe at finding the first volume of the Last Chronicles at Borders today. One question I've always had though regarding Andelain, Earthblood, and the like is what personal experience or place in your life are they based upon? What experience have you had in the wilderness, and where was that wilderness, that inspired such awe-inspiring and lovingly described places and concepts?

For me, the Gauley River in West Virginia, the Tuolumne River in California, Yosemite National Park, Lake Michigan and Mt. Rainier are all places of raw power and life-affirming spirituality. I'd like to know where your Andelain is and where Earthblood comes from. I strongly believe you've based them on a real place. They are too real in print to be artificial constructs. Either that, or you're a more gifted writer than you seem to believe, as evidenced by current interviews on this website.

I'll be eagerly awaiting all volumes of the Last Chronicles, and will consider every one of them a gift, whether or not you match the quality of the first Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

Best Regards,

Matthew S. Urdan
Formerly of Detroit, now of Columbus, Ohio
I'm sorry to keep repeating myself; but I really did not base any of the places, powers, characters, or situations in the "Covenant" books on ANYthing from my own experience (except that I did own a white gold ring, leprosy is real, and Haven Farm is modeled on the place in south New Jersey--now a housing development--where I wrote the first three books). The explanation (such as it is) is that that's not how my imagination works. If anything, places/people/etc. from personal experience paralyze me as a writer. Only language truly fires my imagination.

This does not make me "a more gifted writer". It simply means that I work with my limitations instead of against them, using *your* experiences to fill in the gaps.


Nigel Sutton:  Rather belatedly I have just started reading the Axebrewder/Fistoulari novels. Just can't put them down at the moment. In comparison to the fantasy books these seem, on the face of it, to be of a fairly simple first person reportage though none less compelling for that. How did they come about, being so diverse from your recognised output?
Really interested in this - where did the inspiration come from to "be" Brew?
I've said this before: on a conscious level (NOT the most reliable source of information), I decided to try my hand at mystery novels because I was so dissatisfied by other writers' mystery novels. From my perspective, both the "drawing room sleuth" (implausible puzzles) and the "hard-boiled detective" (static machismo) ignore the inherent wealth of the genre: unparalleled opportunities to examine character. To the extent that I wanted to work within a tradition, it was that of Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald. But even they fail one of my urgent requirements: an organic, personal, *necessary* relationship between the detective and the crime. So (like James Fennimore Cooper long ago), since I didn't like what I was reading, I decided to try to do better.

The resounding commercial failure of "The Man Who" books suggests that I may not have succeeded. <grin>

As for my unconscious motivations, they are purely a matter of speculation. But if you have *way* too much time on your hands, you might consider looking for connections between each Brew/Ginny novel and the immediately preceding sf/f epic.


Evaleigh:  Hi Mr. Donaldson,

I read Lord Foul’s Bane when it first came out and the Land, since that book I read in the 70s, has always been apart of my life. Thank you for sharing your imagination and creation with me.

I read a section where you wrote that you felt in the past you weren’t a good enough writer to finish the Covenant Chronicles, and so you wrote and wrote until you felt you were ready. I have begun to reread “Runes”, with new “eyes” after reading that you place an exuberant amount of energy into each word, sentence and paragraph. I felt it only fair that I do the same while reading “Runes”.

Now, while still early into the second reading, I find myself at a new level of emersion into your story. Instead of being a song I tap my feet to, it is a soulful composition that strums chords and notes that resonate through me.

So, does your writing bring you the same joy as my reading of it?
I think I know what you're talking about. As a reader, I sometimes feel almost *exalted* by the power of brilliant writing and storytelling, even when the writing and the storytelling are all about pain.

But as a writer, that isn't really possible for me. All of the to-ing and fro-ing, the self-doubt, the complex and vital efforts to solve what are essentially insoluble problems, that I find necessary (perhaps because of the nature of my ambitions, perhaps because I'm simply that kind of person) prevent the experience of writing from having much resemblence to the experience of reading. And the situation is worsened by the "experiential" way in which I write: I try--as much as imagination permits--to "go through" everything that happens in my stories. "The Runes of the Earth" was certainly not a joyful experience for Linden Avery: therefore it could not have been joyful for me.

The fact that writing and reading can be such different experiences is one of the more amazing--and ambiguous--miracles of being human.


Karen:  Hello! Hope this finds you well.
I have read a couple of the questions submitted re the machinations of various characters in Chronicles and how essential their 'plots' are to the storyline and the outcome.

The answer I came up with to these questions myself before reading some of your own answers was that these needed to be so complex due to the fact that Lord Foul COULDN'T in fact just muscle in and somehow obtain the ring if it fell into other hands etc, because as stated by Lord Mhorham in TPTP, Covenant IS the white gold. This would mean that the ring simply couldnt be found/stolen by someone else as it would not have the same properties/power. Of course I was then confused in the 2nd Chronicles by the fact that Linden Avery appears to be almost some sort of Demi-God in terms of what she can do with her own abilities and Covenant's ring.
If Covenant IS the essence of the wild magic which is unleashed by the white gold, how is it that Linden then becomes the key character with regards to its useage?

Am I just being very dense here in seeing the explanation?



I think the point on which I've failed to be clear is that it's a question of *degree*. White gold is the instrument of wild magic. Any passing stranger with a bit of lore and/or sensitivity could get *some* use out of the ring. And the more lore and/or sensitivity that someone-not-Covenant has, the more useful the ring will be. But only the ring's true wielder, someone who has an organic relationship with that specific ring (Covenant, Joan), can access *all* of the power of wild magic. The Elenas and Lindens of the Land can evoke a LOT of power from white gold; but a LOT is a far cry from the near-absolute power required to destroy the Arch of Time.

Lord Foul has no use for a LOT of power: he needs near-absolute power. Hence the somewhat oblique focus of his machinations.

Does that help?


David Pelton:  Greetings and Salutations

Is there a location we can sign up to get notification when volume 2 of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is published?


Sorry. Neither my webmaster nor I have the time to compile the necessary database. News will be posted on this site promptly whenever I have any.


Daryl McCormack:  I am sure you hear it all the time, and don't have time to respond to all comments but I would like you to know "in your dwindling years" as you put it how much I loved and got out of your books. Thomas Covenant was a religious experience to me, a deeply moving and truly awesome story.

Was there a specific reason you chose Thomas to have leprosy??

If it helps the writer in you, "A man rides through" duo was an excellent book and I would never have been able to tell it was yours just by reading it, some authors always write in the same vein as it were and you can recognize it, those books don't and so can stand on their own as great books. Thanks again for bringing something special into my life.
Sincerely yours,
Daryl McCormack
It's probably obvious that I think in extremes. Because I grew up with the subject of leprosy (in a manner of speaking), it was quite familiar. And I considered it an apt metaphor for the kind of private alienation and loneliness that might drive an otherwise ordinary--and possibly even kind and loving--man to become a potential Despiser. Certainly I know (based on experiences physically if not emotionally less extreme than leprosy) how Covenant felt. And the success of the various "Chronicles" suggests that many of my readers also know how he felt.


Vera B.:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you dearly for the superb duology of Mordant's Need. I don't care how long ago you wrote them, I consider them timeless classics in my personal library.

However, I do have a question. It seems Nyle was severely (to put it lightly) abused by Gilbur. What I was wondering is if you intended to make it seem like he was supposed to "heal" with a few words from King Joyse--I doubt it--or if his being named/assigned as Contender to Alend a recompense of sorts for the suffering he endured. Somehow, this is the only detail that I cannot seem to reconcile. I realize he made a few bad judgement calls, but...

Regardless of the answer(if there is one), I felt very satisfied with how Eremis' end came about, and I loved how this story ended with a great wedding! As a woman, I also appreciate the way women's role--especially Elega, Myste, and Terisa--changed that society's fate and, consequently, its culture concerning women. Thank you again for a wonderful tale. <sigh> I do wish you'd reconsider "revisiting" Mordant. They only had peace "for the time being"...
And thank *you*! I'm quite proud of "Mordant's Need." And I've often wondered why more readers don't seem to notice the transformative role of women in the story.

King Joyse's response to what Nyle did and suffered was intended as both forgiveness ("I don't hold what you did against you") and apology ("I'm sorry that my actions put you in the path of so much harm"). But I had a deeper idea in mind as well. Under the right circumstances, a gesture of trust toward someone who has (apparently) shown himself unworthy of trust can have a redemptive effect. In a very real sense, King Joyse *is* trying to help Nyle heal.


John Dunn:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. I have several questions, on your various works.

The Man Who...
Firstly, I have read several of your The Man Who series, and I am looking forward to the others. In the last few years those books have been published under you own name, but almost all of them were published many years ago. The first two books (the onse I have read so far) note that there have been some revisions. Why did you revise those books from their original publication, and what did you actually revise? you have stated that you are proud of what you have written, so why the changes?

Secondly, I think I read you planned to publish one last Man Who book. When you originally conceived of the first book, did you know there would be others. You state that your creative process dictates how many books will be in a series; was this true for these books as well? Or was each book conceived of as a singular story in an open-ended series?

Thirdly, what person/idiot decided you should publish these books under an assumed name? As you know we are not a very literate people. I know nothing about the 'publishing business', yet I would assume that many readers read anything their favorite authors publish. As soon as I found out about The Man Who series I started to track down the books (actually had to end up ordering them on-line, the book stores do not seem to carry them). If I had known about these books years ago I would have bought them when they were originally published, as I am sure others would have too. What was the reason these books could not have been originally published under your own name?

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
In all there series the Despiser wants to flee what he beleives is a prision: the Earth. He needs to destroy the Arch of Time to do so. Thus, he needs White Gold (correct me if I am wrong). You stated somewhere in the GI that we have to wonder how many Laws have to be broken before it all falls down, meaning if enough Laws are broken the Earth is destroyed (I think).

In the Illearth War turiya Raver uses the Illearth Stone to summon a tsunami. He is stopped by Lord Hyrim and three Bloodguard. Lord Hyrim states that if turiya Raver is successful in summoning the tsunami he will violate the Law that governs the sea, he will break that Law.

High Lord Elena uses the Blood of the Earth to break the Law of Death by summoning dead High Lord Kevin.

The Despiser obviously has access to powers that can break Law. Till the end of The Power that Preserves he has the full might of the Illearth Stone, besies the Blood of the Earth. If he can not use the Blood, perhaps a raver or one of his other servants? If we have to wonder just how many laws have to be broken before the Earth ends, why does Lord Foul not wonder that too? Why does not he nor his Ravers break as many Laws as possilbe to bring about the ruins of the Earth, and win his release? Maybe I simply do not understand somthing?

I know you are very busy writing the next book, and have your own personal life to attend to, so I will leave you with just that, and hope for an answer sometime in my life.

Best wishes to you and yours.

Most sincerely,
John Dunn
<whew> That's a lot. Ordinarily I ask people to limit themselves to two questions at a time. But you've been waiting for quite a while....

Briefly, then:

1) As I've said elsewhere, my revisions to the first three books involved only minor polishing. In small ways, I wanted to improve the rhythm and flow of the narrative. In one case, I thought that a particular character's dialogue was stilted. And in a very few cases, I found the names of the characters jarring. By my standards, I changed nothing substantive.
2) When I began these books, I envisioned them as stand-alone novels--apart from the minor (!) inconvenience (?) of the fact that the characters change and grow. With the third book, however, I realized that I was not actually creating an open-ended series. Some facet of my imagination seems to require a unifying story arc. So now I have a fairly clear idea of my ultimate destination.
3) My pseudonym was imposed on me by my publishers as a condition of publication. My publishers then were--as most publishers today are--married to the idea of "category" publishing. The underlying assumption is that readers of one category *will not* read books in another category--and that if they are somehow tricked into opening a book in another category (e.g. by using the same author's name in more than one category), they will feel profoundly betrayed. I consider this errant nonsense; but very few people in publishing agree with me. And perhaps they're right. "The Man Who" books under my name have sold just as poorly as they did under the name "Reed Stephens."

As I've said in a different context, it's a question of *scale*. Violating the laws of weather to summon a tsunami in Seareach is an almost trivial disruption to the weather-patterns of the entire Earth. Unless the core Laws (e.g. gravity and convection) are unmade, they will promptly and naturally efface the effects of any localized disturbance. By its very nature, Law seeks stability; seeks to correct imposed imbalances. In other words, not all unnatural actions inevitably destroy (or even damage) the Laws which they violate.

On the scale of such disruptions, breaking the Law of Death is a far more profound violation. Yet even there Law strives to preserve itself. Raising Kevin's spirit does not automatically mean that every spirit of everyone who has ever died is now free to roam at will among the living. In a completely different sense than the Giant-Raver's tsunami, Elena's violation of Law is also a "local" phenomenon: it pertains to very specific spirits under very specific conditions.

Lord Foul does indeed want to escape the Arch of Time. But if his desire depends on the kind of piecemeal disruption that occurs in the first trilogy, he'll have to wait a REALLY LONG TIME before the fabric of the most essential Laws begins to unravel. Entropy is on his side: inertia works against him. Hence his hunger for an excessive application of wild magic.


Joe:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
I first picked up the "Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" in the late '70's, and to this day it remains the best I've ever read. Rather than perceiving hidden religious and political meanings in them, I enjoy them for what they are: vivid, thrilling, and emotionally stirring epics that know no equal. For this reason, I'd like to respond to a statement you made in the Sept. 2004 Publisher's Weekly: "There's this fear in the back of my head that readers who loved the first six Covenant books are going to look at the Last Chronicles and think, "I wish he'd quit while he was ahead." Well Mr. Donaldson, put your fear to rest. As high as my expectations were, "Runes of the Earth" exceeded them! I anxiously await the next three books,(An understatement if ever there was one!).
One thing I'd like to know: Are there, or have there been any high quality leatherbound publications of the "Chronicles"?

Thank you!

As far as I know, the Easton edition of "Lord Foul's Bane," the Bantam/Spectra "collector's" editions of "The Real Story" and "Forbidden Knowledge," Donald M. Grant's edition of "Daughter of Regals," and the Gollancz "collector's" edition of "The Runes of the Earth" are my only "high quality leatherbound publications." But at some point Hill House may also release a "collector's" edition of "The Runes of the Earth" (don't hold your breath).


Doc:  Mr. Donaldson,
In TPTP Elena "takes" Covenant's ring while he is unconscious. Subsequently in TOT Kasreyn states that the reason he does not "rip the ring" from Covenant's finger is that a power given is different from a power taken. There are other times throughout The Chronicles where power or lore must be earned or learned before it can be used. In WGW Lord Foul himself must wait till Covenant chooses to give him the ring.
Why then did Elena feel that she could wield the ring after she had "taken" it from Covenant?
For that matter, what would it matter? Both Elena and Kasreyn are "Lore-wise", how would the act of "giving" as opposed to "taking" effect there actions.
By the end of TPTP, Elena is fully insane; so what do you expect? She's no longer capable of understanding--or even caring about--"the necessity of freedom."

Why does the difference between "giving" and "taking" matter? Well, quite apart from the obvious moral issues.... Look at it this way: "taking" requires energy, perhaps vast amounts of it. That energy has to come from SOMEwhere, and of course it's going to come from the "taker" (where else would the "taker" get it?). So the more you "take," the less you *are*. Lore-wise beings like Kasreyn and Lord Foul understand that simply snatching Covenant's ring will do them more harm than good--especially when you consider the corollary that "taking" inherently prevents replication of the organic relationship between power and its natural wielder.


Allen:  What, in the final analysis, is the real difference between the epic fantasy and the space opera? I love both forms but I wonder if space opera doesn't bare even a tenuous relationship to epic fantasy. It makes perfect sense that the writer of the great Gap Saga also gave us "Covenant's struggles against Despite in the arena of the Land".
In an essay Gene Wolfe calls most science fiction "chrome-plated fantasy". I also have a friend who insists that science fiction in general bears the same relationship to our era that the great romances like "L'Morte D'Arthur" and "Orlando Furioso" bear to their eras.
Could space operas like the Gap be workings out of the same impulses that drive us to create epic fantasys?
Well, many people see science fiction as a sub-set of fantasy. Others regard fantasy as a sub-set of science fiction. The connections are obvious: both rely on the creation of "secondary realities," realities noticably different than the one most of us have agreed to inhabit.

(In this framework, space opera is a sub-set of science fiction, while epic fantasy is the "main event" of fantasy.)

Nevertheless the distinctions are important. In sf, the differences between our reality and the secondary creation are explained materially (rationally): x, y, or z has happened in science/technology, and therefore reality is changed. In fantasy, the differences are explained magically (arationally): x, y, or z powers (which can be imagined, but which defy any material explanation) exist, and therefore reality is changed. As I see it, such distinctions have profound implications. For example, fantasy is--sort of by definition--a journey into the non-rational possibilities of the human mind (a journey inward): sf is a journey into the rational possibilities of consensus reality (a journey outward).

Of course, any storyteller of high aspiration will use *any* genre (sf, fantasy, western, mystery, historical, etc.) to explore the possibilities (both rational and otherwise) of the human mind. Nevertheless each form of storytelling offers unique possibilities, poses unique challenges, and presents unique obstacles or limitations. So in one sense all storytelling is storytelling, regardless of form or genre, and in another each form is peculiar to itself (although naturally there are always exceptions). In the first sense, equating, say, John Carter of Mars (space opera) with Conan the Barbarian (epic [?] fantasy) is perfectly apt. But in the second, equating, say, Simmons' "Hyperion" duology with Erikson's "Malazan" epic confuses the actual content of both.

So I think your friend is mistaken. "Orlando Furioso" is to its era as "Lord of the Rings" is to ours, *not* as Simmons' "Hyperion" is to ours.


Billy:  First I just wanted to say thank you Mr Donaldson. I started reading the Covenant Chronicles when i was 14 mabey younger, im now 36. this story has spanned 22 years of my life and I have ready many many more books since then..this is still my favorite story beginning to end, I have the Runes of the Earth on Audio Book, but I havent listened to it yet, I want to read it first. I loved the first six books so much I actually Narrated an Unabridged Audio book for each book, including gilden fire inserted into the Illearth War (Read by me, for my personal use of course). thankyou again for restarting this Great Story,

My question is: have you considered narrating unabridged versions of the first six Covenant books your self? alot of work, I know, but we would love to hear it. and my other question is, during editing they make you cut segments of your books out to make them more marketable I guess? is there a possibility of Expanded Editions being released?

Best Wishes from a life time fan
Forgive me for saying so, but you have *way* too much time on your hands. <grin> No, I have never (and I do mean NEVER) "considered narrating unabridged versions of the first six Covenant books" myself. And I wouldn't do it at gun-point. Life is too short, and I have too many other things to do--including too many other books to write.


Brent:  Dear Mr.Donaldson,

I've become something of a sentence structure freak due to 'The Chronicles", and have made copious notes in the margins of my "Chronicles" paperbacks regarding the kinds of sentences used in succession (simple, complex, etc.), the use of parataxis, similes, and so on. All in an attempt to unlock how you write.

Unfortunately, because I've been doing this ever since I was about 13-years-old, I've become a little too familiar with your work, and find myself writing sentences dangerously close to your own. Therefore, I'd like to develop a kind of composing fluency that rescues me from relying on your's or anyone else's style or bag of writing tricks.

Any thoughts on this? Also, were there any particular books that helped you develop your grasp of sentence structure? That's something I've long wondered about.

Thanks in advance
I learned what I know about writing by studying other people's writing, not by studying books *about* writing. With that in mind, I have two suggestions.
1) Imagine a character as unlike yourself as possible, and then narrate something from that character's POV, preferrably in first person. I did this exercise quite a bit during my journeyman years--which is how I learned that I'm simply incapable of writing "dialect" <sigh>.
2) Apply your "Chronicles" methodology to as many other books as possible (preferrably books you admire, but even ones you don't admire will help). If you draw on enough different sources, you'll end up with an amalgam which is entirely your own.


Rob Murnick:  Hi Steve,

Pardon, but going over the GI I saw someone asked about the potential for TCOTC prequels, referencing Tolkien's Silmarillion as a prequel example, only to be surprised to see you reply by stating that prequels suck! I want to take your word for it that stand-alone prequel stories would be entirely inappropriate for TCOTC, but am I going too far to assume you don't like The Silmarillion?
You're right: I didn't particularly enjoy "The Silmarillion". It's really just a bunch of fragments imperfectly woven together. As such, it lacks a unifying "story arc" which permits the material to both concentrate and accumulate. In the absence of those qualities, I get bored pretty easily. Putting the problem another way: "The Silmarillion" is about too many different characters and situations that have little or nothing to do with each other.

But that's not my objection to prequels in general. My general objection is that prequels have no real suspense because their outcome is already known. They are, inevitably, "historical documents" rather than "vital storytelling".


Brad:  Hi Stephen

Hope you're well. Ever since I became aware of the GI Ive checked in regularly, I am not aware of any other authors that indulge their readers in such a regular and lively exchange; so i'm sure I speak for many others when offering my appreciation for you taking time out from Fatal Revenant, not to mention having a life of your own! (after all, author is your profession, not your function).

I recently read on the GI several questions regarding the monetary rewards of your work and indeed authors in general, it was your belief that the number of authors that live in luxury as a result of their work was a tiny percentage of the total number of those published. My question regards the recent release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which reputedly is making its author an astonishing Ł1million an hour. My feelings on the books, (possibly unfounded as I have never read them) is they are diluted fantasy for the masses and naught more than a good read for kids. You have mentioned that you have read one of them and it didnt touch you.

Now, not to question your artisitc integrity, but doesnt that rankle you just a little, for someone to make such an astonishing amount of money out essentially re-hashing fables, fantasy and enid blyton novels? Ever been tempted to knock out a dumbed-down trashy fantasy purely for the sake of making money? Or possibly, do you not see the Potter books as having any relevance to your own work at all?

I appreciate your thoughts on this.
All the best,
Brad Glen
London, UK
Hey, I'm human. I have just as much ego, just as much vanity, just as much envy, just as much insecurity as anyone else: more than some, less than others. Of *course* I wish I had more readers. Of *course* I wish my work attracted more respect. Of *course* I wish other people had the good sense (?) to think the way I do. <sigh>

But I'm smart enough to know that comparisons are invidious at best, and can be completely crippling. Far saner to attend to what *I'm* doing, and let the rest of the world attend to itself. And on that subject, a) I don't *want* "to knock out a dumbed-down trashy fantasy" (I have to look at myself in the mirror every day), and b) even if I did want that, I'm incapable of it because I can't turn off my brain (and if I could that would be the same thing as death).

But make no mistake about it: J. K. Rowling is an extraordinarily skillful craftswoman. What she does doesn't appeal to me; but that doesn't mean she doesn't do it supremely well.


Rob Smith:  Dear Stephen,

A recent response in the GI intrigued me and I thought I'd ask for more info (We are greedy aren't we?)
You mentioned that you had a different editor for the paperback version of Runes than for the hardback. As an ignorant non author with no knowledge of the publishing business I'd always assumed that once a book had been through the Author/Editor cycle once it was a "finished" version regardless of format. I cannot think of a reason some text written in a hardcover book would be worth changing because the book had a differest (and more flexible) cover!
I'd be grateful for any examples or details you could share. (Unless this falls into the category of TMPDTM*)
* Things My Publisher Does To Me
Thanks again for humouring us and tolerating this ongoing inquisition!
In big publishing conglomorates, hardback editors and paperback editors are always separate people. Hardback and paperback publishing are procedurally different in various ways; and in any case it's too much work for one person. But that doesn't mean a book gets edited twice. The editor who "buys" the book (and who could as easily be a paperback as a hardback editor) does the actual editing (working with the author to produce an acceptable text): the other editor simply handles the procedural business of producing and marketting the book in a different format.

(To complicate matters, in my case US and UK transactions are separate. Therefore two different editors *do* work on the actual editing, one US, one UK. But in practice they share the job so that the author is not inundated with conflicting editorial demands.)

So: "The Last Chronicles" was originally acquired for the Putnams empire by Jennifer Hershey (a hardback editor), who therefore became "my" editor. The paperback editor's job was simply to convert the hardback into a paperback--and to market it in paperback-appropriate ways. But since "Runes" Jennifer Hershey has left the company. So now the paperback editor, Susan Allison, has officially become "my" editor. If/when she's satisfied with the text of "Fatal Revenant," someone who doesn't work with me at all will oversee the production and marketting of the hardcover.

It follows that when changes are made in a book between the hardback and paperback editions, it only happens at the *author's* insistence; and every editor devoutly prays it won't happen.


Adrian Smith:  Hello Mr. Donaldson. I have a couple of questions from my reading of The Illearth War. First of all, was Amok created to lead seekers to the Earthblood only once? In the event that someone else desired to drink, who would lead them there and help them pass Damelon's Gate?

The second question relates to the Vow of the Bloodguard. At the time of the first and second chronicles, did any of the Bloodguard know the location of the remaining four Wards of Kevin's power? Do any of the Harauchi know where the Wards are in the Last Chronicles?

Thank you for your time.
Since Amok was unmade by leading Elena and Covenant to the EarthBlood, I think we can safely assume that he was a one-time-only offer.

Naturally the Bloodguard learned a few things by being around the Lords; but Kevin did not burden the Bloodguard with his lore. Of course, the Bloodguard weren't interested. But Kevin's deeper reason--and a wise one, in my opinion--was that unearned knowledge is dangerous. Power without understanding (not to mention wisdom) is dangerous. Kevin intended the mastery of each Ward to enable the discovery of the next--IN SEQUENCE--until all Seven were finally known. And this entire scheme would be undermined if Kevin supplied any deliberate short-cuts (e.g. by telling the Bloodguard where the Wards were).

No, as matters stand the lore of the Old Lords is just plain irretrievable.


Kasreyn:  Hi Mr. Donaldson,

When I discovered your website, I was thrilled by the depth of information and discussion available. Thank you *so* much for making something like this website available to the people who love your work. And if I may also take a moment, I'd like to say that I've enjoyed your books for many years now, especially the Chronicles and the Gap Cycle. You've inspired me as a writer and shown me I have a long way to go still.

Enough hero worship! Two questions per month, eh?

My first question is something that's bugged me for years: at the end of The Illearth War, Covenant was willing to give up his ring in the name of the woman he cared for - he was willing to give it to Troy so Troy could save Elena from Kevin. Admittedly he was under a lot of pressure at the time. And yet in the Second Chronicles, Covenant is informed by the Elohim that the earth's peril lies in the fact that Linden doesn't have his ring, and he refuses to give it to her, though he is once again under great pressure. He refuses even though he loves her, like he loved Elena, and he is also motivated by guilt and desire to save the land, as he was in Illearth War. Was it his victory over Foul in Power That Preserves that gave him this sense of self-assuredness or arrogance that prevents him from surrenduring his ring to Linden?

Also, in The Power that Preserves, during Covenant's aborted first summons, Mhoram reflects at one point that the way in which Covenant forced Morin and Bannor to choose between fidelity to Kevin or fidelity to the new Lords at Rivenrock somehow helped cause the breaking of the Vow. This has always rung true to me, but I've never quite been able to put my finger on *why*. Can you explain what the consequences were of Covenant's actions on Rivenrock, and how they led to - or enabled - the breaking of the Vow?
1) You're comparing apples and oranges. Of course, Covenant in "The One Tree" is not who he was in "The Illearth War": the parameters of discourse, if you will, are entirely different. But in addition Linden's "condition" in TOT cannot be compared to Elena's desperate straits at the end of TIW. Linden has (mostly) recovered from the crises of TWL and is functioning fairly well: Elena is in imminent danger of absolute destruction (or absolute corruption, take your pick).

And, of course, Covenant has no particular reason to trust the Elohim--who may well be wrong in any case.

2) When Morin and Bannor aid Elena and Covenant on Rivenrock, they--in effect--enable Elena's insane use of the Power of Command. This introduces an inevitable self-doubt to a people who don't handle self-doubt well: you could say that it leaves the Bloodguard vulnerable to the consequences of the larger mistake of Korik, Sill, and Doar.


Anthony Raythorn:  From the late 70,s to the present I have being reading the chronicles.If the final book is not due to be published until 2013,what guarrentees have you put in place to ensure that the story will come to an end for your millions of avid readers in the event of your untimly demise?
Clearly you haven't been reading the GI interview long enough to learn that I'm never going to die. <grin> Which, it probably goes without saying, is not at all the same thing as living forever.


James:  Greetings!

'Having read THE LORD OF THE RINGS, in 3 days, at the tender-if somewhat angry-age of 13...well, I simply can't "wait" for #8 in the Chronicles you started w/Covenant!
My question is simple, yet laden for me with the kind of glamour only hidden "lore" can hold...LOL! Knowing your personal history w/ India, I wonder: Did you knowingly ascribe the names "Moksha, Turija, et al..." to the Ravers to exemplify their innate perversion? (Moksha, for instance, means "Liberation" in Sanskrit, and I have had Turija translated to mean "Brother".)I realize that many of the names in the Chronicles come strictly from your own inspiration, but the Sanskrit can't be denied, more than can be the Blood of the Earth....LOL!
Forgive me if I have repeated an oft asked question! I have only dared to ask this one, because it seemed, to me, overlooked by others...
Anywho, whatever moves you to write: I hope that fire burns for many lives to come! You strike a chord in many of your various works that I have longed to hear: thankyou.

Ever grateful,

I think I covered this some time ago. On the other hand, finding the answers you want in the GI must be a daunting task. <sigh> In any case....

Yes, I chose "moksha, turiya, and samadhi" deliberately, knowing what those words referred to in Sanskrit (broadly translated, they are all states of enlightenment). Those names reflect how the Ravers think of themselves. Their other names (Herem, Sheol, and Jehannum) are also real words, which reflect how other people think of the Ravers.

Incidentally, real words (e.g. Elohim) are used as names here and there throughout the "Chronicles". But sometimes you can't recognize them unless you happen to speak Marathi. <grin>


carlos armenta:  i have a couple of questions that i hope you answer. first, i am going into my first year of college and hope to develope my writing skills and one day enter the fantasy genre, any advise on that? also as i read your chronicals i couldnt help but want to know how you could write an anti hero like thomas without actually hating him at certain points in the book? thx for your time, and just wanted to say my father i and i love your books.
This interview is littered with advice for aspiring writers. I won't repeat any of it here.

In some form, I love all of my protagonists (although in some cases "pity" might be more accurate). I'm attracted to them for their possibilities, if not always for their initial emotions and actions. And I never hate them. For one thing, there is too much of "me" in them. And for another, I always know where they're going in the story, so I can appreciate why they need to go through their various stages along the way. In fact, I don't think of characters like Thomas Covenant--or even Angus Thermopyle--as "anti-heroes" at all. I would only use that term to refer to, say, Warden Dios, Cleatus Fane, or Nick Succorso. And even those guys inspire sadness rather than dislike in me.


Glenda Boozer:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thirteen years ago in New Orleans, you told me (as best I remember; I beg your forgiveness for any error I make in quoting) that you meant every word you had written. I know that you are not talking about "message." I find myself discovering new insights every time I reread any of your books, but they aren't about politics or religion; they are more basic and universal than that. Would it be reasonable to say that your aim is to write true words about fictional characters and situations? Is this, in your view, the storyteller's task?
Certainly my aim is to tell the truth about my characters and their dilemmas--and to tell it as vividly and sympathetically as I can. You could call that *my* task. But is it "the storyteller's task"? Who knows? I suspect that every storyteller has to make that kind of determination for him/herself, just as every reader has to decide what s/he considers important, valuable, or even fun.


bob gosnay:  Why white gold, how did he know such extremes how did you concieve such a thing as the pain of leprosy, how did you turn a total anti hero into the main character of your thomas covenant series?
I've answered these questions as well as I can. But if I tried for a hundred years, I couldn't really explain how I do what I do. In some essential but undefined sense, it's just the way I am.



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Mabbie:  So. Are we ever going to hear the tale of Baghoon the Unbearable and Thema Twofist?

...That would make me so happy. I like the Giants.
I’m sorry. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that this is yet another RAFO.


David:  Steve; I hope this finds all is well with you and yours. I have read all the Man Who novels. I actually own 2 of them that have Reed Stphens as the author, A.K.A. you. What I want is something good to happen for Mick. He fights addiction, gets beat up and shot at, he accidently kills his brother, and all the while he never gets the girl.
Steve; even Conenant finds love in the Land. Thank You for the tremendous ride. I promise to purchase a ticket to each and ever one. Kindest Regaurds, David
Well, I admit that ol’ Mick really takes a beating. In fact, “The Man Who Fought Alone” was rejected by a publisher on those very grounds: too much pain, too little reward. (Which is not the way *I* look at it, btw.) But he brace yourself adult material coming not to mention spoilers get laid in “Alone”. <grin> And Deborah Messenger’s name is not an accident.


Anthony :  Bravo on your performance on the Fantasy Bedtime Hour. You looked like you were having quite a bit of fun.

Oh, I was! So I’m happy to say that I’ve already been invited to appear in the final episode. And if I ask nicely, they may even let me wear the wig again.


Steven Koper:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
In Lord Foul's Bane Atiaran describes the Viles as a "high and lofty race", if this is true how could they have sired (gave birth to?, created?) such a destructive and seemingly brute race as the Demondim? The Viles, Demondim, ur-viles and especially the Waynhim have always been an interesting aspect of the entire series to me.
Thank you for your time.
Yours Truly, Steven Koper
Serendipity can be a wonderful thing. As I’ve said before, when I wrote the first “Covenant” trilogy I had no intention of ever carrying the story further. Instead I had in mind what might be called an *implied* story for the Viles/Demondim/ur-viles: they were intended as an example in the background of Despite’s effect on the nature or content of reality. But when I realized that I had two more “Chronicles” to write, I soon discovered that some (a lot?) of the “background” in the first trilogy was ripe for additional development. The Elohim and Sandgorgons are just two examples.


Peter B.:  Stephen,

I'm a big tennis fan, and once again sat spellbound watching Wimbledon. The most graceful and masterful player on the grass courts is once again Roger Federer. Are there any particular athletes that you admire?


I can’t imagine how this relates to the purposes of the GI, but….

As I get older, I find that more and more of the athletes I admire are from an earlier generation. John McEnroe and Roscoe Tanner in tennis, Bernie Kosar in football, Maurice Cheeks and John Stockton and Dr. J in basketball. But I no longer follow tennis. Perhaps because I was a varsity tennis player in college, when I lost interest in playing the game I lost interest in watching it.


Phill Skelton:  This is probably going to be not so much a question as a mini-essay thinly disguised as a question, but I hope it is of some interest.

I recently discovered the existence of the third chronicles, and devoured Runes in a few short days (and can I just say that I can think of very few writers - if any - who can make me *think* about what i've read quite as much as you do). Shortly after finishing Runes, I was reading Browning's "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came", and was struck by the similarity to Covenant's journey across the Spoiled Plains to confront the Despiser at the end of the first chronicles. There are the superficial, and largely uninteresting (to me), similarities: the trackless wasteland; the few scraps of life barely hanging on; the ancient battleground; the failure of allies who had been on the same quest; the tower at the end. (The grass, incidentally, is described as 'leprous'). I dare say a closer comparison could dredge up a few more. But the themes seem similar as well. The 'hero' is decidedly unheroic. He isn't looking for some glorious victory; he just wants an end to his search. And yet when presented with the final challenge, he at least takes up the gauntlet and prepares to fight. In an age when other writers were producing epics about King Arthur and other traditional romantic heroes, we have a poem about decay, failure and despair, yet like Covenant, that hero retains at his core the essential element of real heroism that makes a difference at the end.

Okay, I lied. There's not even the thin veneer of a lame question here. Maybe I'm just hoping to inspire you to read a poem that goes against the heroic conventions of its time in a way that I think you'd appreciate.

And thank you, once again, for all the books you've written.
This falls into the Department of Inevitable But Unconscious Influences. After the amount of time that I spent in college and graduate school studying--and admiring--Robert Browning, I can hardly pretend that I haven’t been influenced. But I wasn’t conscious of the influence while I was writing the first “Covenant” trilogy, and only dimly became aware of it later.

Incidentally, Tennyson was a contemporary of Browning’s, and he also was *not* “producing epics about King Arthur and other traditional romantic heroes.” Sure, he wrote about King Arthur, but his theme was “decay, failure and despair.” And in a very different vein, George Meredith’s work was also full of darkness. I could go on. Victorian England was a fascinating time in part because its (extremely) conventional virtues elicited so much anguish from its more creative inhabitants.


Donald Coward:  Stephen;

In the June 2005 GI you discuss three paths to redemption that are linked to the TC chronicles. The three paths were: Redemption through Victory (the first chronicles); Redemption through Self-Sacrifice (or Surrender) (the second chronicles); and Redemption through the Sacrifice of Others (the last chronicles).

You validate the first two themes (and in my mind you also verify that they underlie the first two series) but suggest that the reader is way off with regard to the third path (In fact I believe you are overly dismissive in saying that the idea presented is simply an oxymoron and would have instead presumed that the reader was trying to convey the idea of redemption through the intervention/forgiveness of others such as the redemption of mankind by Jesus).

I am wondering if the true third path is Redemption through Children. I can’t recall where I first saw this idea expressed, but I’m a firm believer that many people are saved by the good works of their offspring rather than any overt act on their part. This would seem to fit with some of the themes in ROTE as well as highlighting the role that I understand your own father to have played in the inspiration of the TC character. Is this where you are going with the third path and the Last Chronicles?
<sigh> I’ll probably get in (even more) trouble for saying this, but I don’t buy the whole “redemption of mankind by Jesus” notion. As far as I can see, no one is ever “redeemed” by transferring the responsibility for or the consequences of his/her actions and intentions to someone else. (Just my opinion, folks.) Although I should probably be the last person on the planet to say anything that sounds like I don’t value outside help--and even outside intervention. I probably wouldn’t be alive today if I hadn’t experienced the power of “grace” in one form or another. On a number of occasions. But in my experience that “grace” has never taken the form of having my essential responsibilities shouldered by someone else. I’m committed to the idea of “working out my own salvation”--“with fear and trembling.”

No, the third path for which my characters seek in “The Last Chronicles” is something else entirely--although children play a vital role, for good or ill. (Certainly *my* children are part of my experience of “grace”.)


BRYAN HUBBARD:  Mr. Donaldson. I first read the original chronicles in 1981, I was 9 at the time and then and now I think the Covenant novels are second only to Lord of The Rings as far as influenciing my love of reading. I have read almost every prominant author in the genre since and have always gone back to reread your books after a few years. Thanks for all you have given with your novels . Now my question would be The One Tree' the thinng I have always wanted to know is why do the Elohim show little or no concern for the threat that Lord Fould poses, when in the past Earth power has proven useless against Despite and Despite seems to be able to subvert earth power to it's will ?
Findail seems not to worry so much about Lord Fouls ability to controll and pervert his power as he is about Covenants self control. I understand that Foul can't destroy the Arch of Time w/o the white gold but he could enslave the whole earth over time and that would include the Elohim I would guess. Anyway thaks again for your novels(Just finished This day ALL Gods Die). Kepp em' coming:)

In its simplest terms: the Elohim show no concern for the threat posed by Lord Foul because they see no threat--to them. They are rather self-absorbed. They believe that they are the answer to all things: therefore they can be in no danger. And they can see that other powers abroad in the Earth are adequate to deal with Lord Foul. Hence their vexation that Linden does not wield Covenant’s ring: that detail forces them to involve themselves in something that they believe should not be their problem. You could say that they only bother to Appoint one of themselves to solve a problem in order to prevent that problem from expanding to involve the rest of them.


Chris O'Connell:  Mr. Donaldson,

One question that kept bothering me as I listened (not read. I bought the 'book on CD'. It is wonderful) to Runes... Why didn't technology develop in the Land? I can understand why it wouldn't have developed when EarthPower is around ("Hey, look what happens when I move this coil of wire around this weird rock." "No thanks, look at how I'm using this pot of Graveling to cure cancer."). But given the absence of EarthPower, why wouldn't a technological society have developed, similar to what happened here, in the 'real' earth. About the same amount of time has passed in the Land since the Staff of Law was lost as has passed here on earth since Aristotle contemplated the nature of matter. You would think the farmers struggling to raise crops might find modern chemistry helpful in growing crops, things like printing presses, cotton gins etc. etc. would start cropping up.

I know that we all need to suspend a little disbelief when reading a fantasy novel, but you also consider the 'dignity of your creation' to be an important party of your stories. I'm not finding fault, just wondering how you feel about that possibility.

Is it possible that the Runes could not have progressed as it did had technology been 'discovered'? A stonedowner a little bored with the mundane details of life as a farmer is likely to help Linden, just for a little excitement. Is a computer programmer or engineer (or even a high school student studying for the SAT's) likely to do the same?

Thanks again for the wonderful times your books have given me.

This question keeps coming up. I've already tackled it more than once. To what I've said before, I'll just add two things. 1) The development of technology would violate the necessary conditions of the genre. (Just one example: LOTR. Elves live forever. After a few thousand years, don't you think one of them would get *bored* enough to try something new?) 2) Those conditions are necessary because they permit the telling of certain kinds of stories. Stories the essence of which is "magic" would be badly inhibited by "technology" (less by the specific technological developments themselves than by the attitude toward what constitutes reality which "technology" implies). The story that I want to tell in "The Last Chronicles" would be impossible in the presence of technological thinking.


STEVE M:  I recall listening to an interview with Frank Herbert several years ago where he said that the character of Duncan Idaho in the Dune chronicles was originally intended to be a minor character but as he wrote Idaho wound up developing into a major character. I am curious as to whether you have experienced this with any of your characters? Conversely have you ever created a character that you liked and intended to play a major role but as you wrote found that it really did not work and wound up minimizing its role or even eliminating it completely?
Secondly, the experience of reading a good book (for me) culminates with the natural anger, frustration and general feeling of being pissed off that I have in fact finished the book. Ergo, the better the book the more pissed off I get that the story and characters that I have come to know and love are gone. Naturally the Thomas Covenant books REALLY PISS ME OFF. It is clear that the Chronicles of TC must evoke am incredible gamut of emotions from you. What is your emotional reaction to a) writing such a monumental epic; and b) finishing writing such a monumental epic?
P.S. Sir, You are truly a genius.
I've had characters expand on me (always to good effect), but I've never had one shrink. Doubtless this is an effect of the way I work. Since I always know where I'm going (how the story is going to end), I also know who my major players have to be. That never changes. But sometimes (often?) minor players step out of the scenery and take on larger roles than I had originally anticipated (since I don't try to plan in advance every detail of how I'm going to get where I'm going).

My emotions while I'm writing are pretty much the emotions of my characters (because I experience the story as they do)--with the difference that I feel frustration, fatigue, and despair more often than they do. My emotions when I've finished writing an epic depend on the passage of time. At first, I'm filled with depression, in part because I'm exhausted, in part because I can see how far I've fallen below my aspirations, in part because my life now seems to have no purpose, and in part because there's no ^#$^#$%$%ing closure (after mountains of writing come mountains of rewriting, followed by mountains of copyediting, followed by mountains of proofreading, followed by mountains soul-crushing promotional chores, followed by etc.). But gradually the situation changes. At times, rewriting can be almost restful (because it uses a completely different part of my brain)--except when I'm forced to hurry. Copyediting, on the other hand, is always infuriating beyond description. A finished book does provide a certain sense of closure, albeit too long delayed. And eventually enough time passes to let me look back on what I've done and feel proud of it.


Luke A:  Mr. Donaldson, after further viewing the GI, I decided to rephrase my original question to you as well as better clarify what I want to know.

My Question:

Focusing completely on Covenant's feelings, what was the purpose of having him reciprocate Elena's "innappropriate" attraction ?

Don't get me wrong, I was glad that Covenant didn't act on those feelings, but still he felt them... As a father of 3 daughters myself, I find it strange that Covenant harbored such feelings even after learning that Elena is his daughter.

Covenant definitely exhibits that he knows the difference between right and wrong( choosing not to kill/ shame for manipulations), so are we to believe that the revitalization of his ability to physically engage in sex has overpowered his basic sense of ethics and morality ? Even after making so many previous decisions based on those basic principles?

I don't mean to sound aggressive or disrespectful, but I just don't want to believe that Covenant is...well...a pervert.

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to your response, and thanks a billion for such great stories, keep it up !
Covenant and Elena are both in "impossible" situations, both literally and emotionally. Covenant has sex for the first time in, like, forever, and a few weeks later he's presented with a 40something daughter? Without going through any of the normal experiences of watching a child grow up? In a place that he doesn't even believe is real? Considering that the most powerful aphrodisiac in life is feeling desired by someone else? And that nothing about being a leper has prepared him to handle such situations? How could he possibly have an *appropriate* reaction? What could conceivably constitute an *appropriate* reaction in a situation like that? As far as I'm concerned, the fact that he doesn't act on his feelings is a triumphant display of his growing moral character.

In one sense, Elena faces the same dilemma. Nothing that she's ever experienced has made Covenant real to her AS A FATHER. But in another sense, she stands on the opposite side of the problem. Almost EVerything that she's ever experienced has made him real to her AS A HERO, a figure of power, an enormously desirable source of redemption. Triock is the father-figure in Elena's life. Covenant is (in a manner of speaking) the figment of Lena's--and therefore of Elena's--most romantic fantasies.

Does that help?


Luther A:  Thank you for the opportunity to pick your brain. And many thanks for the wonderful stories you've written (I'll leave it at that, I could write pages upon pages concerning how your work has brought me enjoyment.)

My question:

I found the apparent sexual tension between Covenant and Lena a bit uneasy to accept at first, but gradually I've gotten over it and tried my best to understand exactly why it(the tension) was there. Especially considering Covenant wanted what she offered in the worst way. Were you intending to be more "loud" so to speak, about how "flawed" Covenant was ? Was it Foul indirectly urging him to , in a sense, "love" the crime or the product of his crime against Lena ?

Any insight or explanation to this particular relationship would be greatly appreciated...and again thank you, more than I could ever say for helping a son strengthen a once-weak relationship with his father by discussing you wonderful stories. <smile>
I suppose it would be fair to say that I intended to be "loud." The story wouldn't have much point if Covenant didn't start out as a believable servant of Despite. Until his crime against Lena, he's pretty much exclusively a "victim" (passive, abused, etc.). I needed to shift him out of that role as promptly--and as vehemently--as possible. Otherwise he isn't a potential Despiser: he's just another tool or plaything.

So I also consider it important that Lord Foul wasn't whispering in Covenant's ear, or sending a Raver to control him, or shaping his behavior in any other way. That crime is all Covenant. If it weren't--if he could escape any portion of his responsibility for it--everything that follows would shift. Eventually the moral logic of the story would collapse.


Phillip Yorks:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,

I submitted a question a few months ago, but since the meat of that submission was merely to thank you for the positive influence that your novels have had upon my development as a person, I really did not expect an answer.

However, in the time that has passed since then, I have found that I really do have a question for you.

I have noticed that nearly all of your longer works have featured protagonists and important secondary characters who are morally ambiguous. You have referred often to the theme of rape in your works and how that is important in establishing the moral ambiguity of, say Thomas Covenent and Angus. But on the other hand, I must note that you did an admirable job of establishing Terisa's potential to slip to "the dark side" or at least to avoid opposing it in the "Mordant's Need" series. So, to my question. Do you feel that you have ever gone too far in depicting your main characters' potential for evil, or are you generally satisfied thzt you have not hit your readers over the head with a baseball bat but still made your point clear?

Let me add as commentary that I have read nearly all of your fantasy and science fiction work, and that it is my opinion that you have generally produced work that has improved upon your previous work. The exception to this would be the GAP series, which I felt suffered from the lack of a likable main character until the third book.
I guess it depends on what you mean by "gone too far." Clearly I went "too far" for your personal taste in the GAP books. And there has to be *some* reason why a million "Covenant" readers (US) and 100,000 "Mordant's Need" readers (US again) have refused to touch the GAP books.

But if "too far" is measured by my own artistic standards, or by the particular rigor of my storytelling ambitions, then no, I've never "gone too far." And I still say that the GAP books are the best work I've ever done (although I'm aiming even higher in "The Last Chronicles").


Aidan Walters:  First of all thank you for writing so many brilliant books.

My question is do you ever get annoyed at the massive amount of interest in your Covenent novels and the just as massive lack of interest in your other works? Everyone seems to dismiss you as 'the Covenent author', and even those few people who have read all your works seem to spend all there time talking about Covenent (eg see the massive amount posted about Covenent novels on your fansite in comparison to the rest of your work). As Mordant's Need and Gap (as well as your shorter fiction) are such stunning works this chasm of difference of opinion must be slightly irritating to say the least.
I would be less than honest if I didn't admit that I've been known to feel a near-suicidal dismay at the sheer *scale* on which everything that I've ever done--except "Covenant"--has been rejected. <sigh> But gradually over the years I've come to understand that readers are people, just like everyone else; and just like everyone else, they have the right to make their own decisions. They don't ask my opinion when they make their decisions--and they shouldn't if they could. God knows I've never asked for *their* opinions when I'm deciding what to write.

I'm wise enough to know that life is too short to be spent suffering over things like comparative book sales. Now if I were just wise enough to *live* by what I know....


Eystein Finne (norwegian fan):  Dear Mr. Donaldson

For the moment I'm reading "the Runes of the Earth". Linden is asked a question about her world. This made me think about the lack of interest all the inhabitants in the land show towards learning more about the world of Thomas and Linden.
If I was a inhabitant of the land and met Linden, I would certainly try to learn more about her world and how they solve problems.
My question is therefor: Have the Giants or the Haruchai any detailed knowledge about "our" world.
This question comes up a lot. But I don't actually understand it. It seems to advocate a violation of the essential conventions of storytelling.

Of course, you're right: anyone from the Land who encountered Covenant or Linden would naturally be very curious (except perhaps in "The Last Chronicles," where the characters are so ignorant of their own world that they may not have much curiosity to spare). But from my perspective as a storyteller, it's an impossible situation. First, it would bog down the narrative something awful. (How *do* they make those boots? I've never seen anything like them. Well, they use a series of machines. What's a machine? Well, ohmyGod, this is going to take the next two hundred pages.) Second, dealing with such natural curiosity would involve telling the reader things the reader already knows. Third, simply asking questions about Covenant's/Linden's world would threaten the particular "suspension of disbelief" upon which fantasy necessarily depends. And answering those questions could violate the internal integrity of the fantasy world. Fourth, it's an inevitable necessity of storytelling that the teller has to judge what to put in and what to leave out. I leave out the natural curiosity of Stonedownors and Giants etc. because it simply isn't germane to my story--and I already have many truckloads of other stuff that I need to put in.


Hazel:  As I've mailed before, I think you're great. This however, isn't really a question. Nonetheless, a friend, knowing how much I enjoyed the TC books, directed me to the "Book A Minute" website

There's a special section on SF/F where your work, along with Tolkiens, Ursula K.LeGuins, Philip K. Dick, Devid Eddingd etc., etc. appears, ultra-condensed.

All the Best from the Emerald Isle!

I'm posting this because I think everyone should know about the "Book A Minute" site. If you haven't been there, give yourself a treat. I'm not revealing the "ultra-condensed" versions of the first six "Covenant" books here because I don't want to spoil the surprise.

As Dave Barry might say, "Thanks to alert reader Hazel!"


Denese Van Over:  Dear Mr. Donaldson,
I have 24 years worth of questions to ask, and luckily for you this "gradual (meandering?) interview" has taken care of many of them. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for a quarter century of soul searching and intellectual stimulation...and for the laughter as well.
On to the question - While in college I had to read Wise Blood, by Flannery O'Connor. Something about her style and the story seemed uh, familiar, to say the least. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I see some striking similarities to *your* writing, particularly pertaining to Hazel Motes, who seems almost like one (or several) of your own characters. F. O'Connor had a flair for what has been described as "the Grotesque" in her descriptions of people and places. Space and courtesy restrain me from working myself into a long and most likely unnecessary explaination of my thinking in this matter -- I am sure you will either know what I mean, or...after you get done gut laughing, correct my assumptions. (grin) In short, is she an influence in your writing?
Side note...I earned an A+ for comparing and contrasting The Chronicles to Wise Blood, The River and Everything that Rises Must Converge.
Thank you again!
Denese Van Over
Here's another in the Department of Obvious But Unconscious Influences. I studied Flannery O'Connor in college and graduate school, so I can hardly pretend that I haven't been influenced by her (although much more in style than in substance). But the fact that I haven't mentioned her before in this interview demonstrates just how truly *unconscious* the influence has been.


Marianne G Locke:  Dear Mr Donaldson

In the 1990's when your 'Gap' novels were coming out, suicide bombers weren't very much in the news, at least not as far as I recall. Today of course suicide bombers are very much in the news; consequently I've been remembering the suicide bombers in at least one of the 'Gap' novels... I forget which one or ones though. (It's been a long time since I've read them!) I believe in the novels they were called 'kazes' weren't they? Were the kazes inspired by some real-world terrorism, or was it all just prescience on your part?

Also, I've heard you're fond of 'Doctor Who'. Have you seen the new series with Christopher Eccleston, and if so what did you think of it?

Kind regards

Marianne Locke
Gee. Are "real-world terrorism" and "prescience" my only choices? How about serendipity? Or synchronicity? Or just plain dumb luck (in this case, *bad* luck)? I can't even pretend to have my finger on the pulse of the times. (Gosh, what a gift for a phrase! <grin>) On the other hand (OK, that will be quite enough of *that*), anyone who pays close attention to the people around him/her is bound to pick up any number of unconscious cues. Who knows? Maybe Osama bin Laden (sp?) read the GAP books. Maybe I really am to blame for all the ills of the world (as I was once accused of being--in public, no less).

Sorry, I (still) haven't seen the new "Doctor Who".



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Eric Angevine:  Steve -

It seems an inordinate number of people picked up the Covenant series as adolescents (including myself). Have you ever considered writing a series of books geared toward the adolescent market? Perhaps this age-warp would continue and you could become a best-selling author to the five-year-old crowd. Toddlers have despair too, you know.

Yours in jest,

Eric Angevine
I know you're playing. And I know that toddlers actually do have despair. But I've never aimed anything that I've ever written at a "target audience"--unless you define a target audience as "someone like me." (The "Covenant" books weren't written for adolescents because I wasn't an adolescent when I wrote them.) I'm not likely to change now.


Robert T:  Hi Stephen....

I've read a number of questions in the GI relating to your vocabulary. I've always felt this was one of the bonuses of your works. My own opinion is that writers are also teachers. Through their writings they stir others imaginations, and even inspire some to write themselves. They become, in a sense, custodians of language and as so it is their responsibility to use that language. If not them, who will do so?

When I read a word I don't understand, and I have to fetch the dictionary (and this happens frequently reading your works), I don't feel stupid. I feel challenged, and delighted. That word that I just looked up becomes special to me. Without writers like you, these obscure words might die. So thank you for keeping them alive.

I was just wondering if you agree with anything I've said...
Strangely, I don't agree. Or it might be more accurate to say that I simply don't think in these terms. (Perhaps other writers do. And perhaps they produce excellent work. I wouldn't know.) As far as I'm concerned, words are the tools of thought. Fancy words, common words, sublime words, crude words: tools. Naturally I want to have as many tools as possible. The more tools I have, the more things I can think about--and write about.

But--and speaking purely for myself--I believe that writers are *not* "custodians of language." A story isn't a museum--or a zoo. The writer's primary responsibility (as an artist in language) is to use the *right* tools for the job at hand. The story determines the language. And I see myself as the servant of the story: I do NOT see myself as a teacher (or as a--drumroll, please--polemicist) in any useful sense of the term.

Of course, I'm always pleased when a reader (you, for example) shares my delight in the rich possibilities of language. But that happens in retrospect (after I've already written something): it has nothing to do with how I make decisions when I'm actually writing.


Matt:  Hello Stephen! Allow me first to thank you for all your published works; they have been great gifts to my imagination and truly life-affirming. Having read some of your commentary on fantasy writing I feel as if I 'get' the genre more fully than I ever could without them, so thank you for that also. When you talk about writing, I want to write.

My question: were the wraiths of Andelain inspired at all by the wonderful firebug gatherings that can be seen in Ohio during summer evenings?

A poor question, perhaps, but it is after all just cover for a thank-you. So thank you!
Another Inevitable But Unconscious Influence. (I need an acronym.) Since I grew up in India, Ohio fireflies were a delightful surprise. How could I not have been affected by them? But I wasn't *aware* of thinking about them when I created the Wraiths of Andelain.

The mind can be a very strange--and unexpectedly oblique--place.


Jeff Periman:  I just want to say the Thomas Covement Chronicles are such a graet read!!!! I just finished RUNES WOW!! Okay my question is the Ranhyns? Why horses?

Thanks for your time Jeff
Well, why not? This is a medieval-ish fantasy (technologically speaking <grin>). How else are people going to get around?

Or did you mean, Why horses instead of some invented creature? Because Covenant is familiar with them (through Joan). Remember that he thinks the Land is a dream--and not without reason. So naturally many of the "raw materials," so to speak, of the Land are based on details from his "real life" (e.g. the Giants).


Todd:  I have a feeling that the following question may frustrate you, but I'm curious as to your answer.

You said that the "surquedry of the Elohim" as opposed to the "arrogance of the Elohim" was considerably more appropriate to what you were trying to communicate. Surquedry isn't in my leather bound Webster's or my nightstand dictionary, but is in the OED, as an alternate spelling of surquidry. It is defined there thus: "Arrogance, haughty pride, presumption". That certainly does fit the Elohim better than "arrogant". However, even the above average reader won't know the meaning of the word surquedry, and most won't have the OED as a resource in the next room, as I do. If the word you chose is so difficult for the average reader to find then isn't it your responsibility as an author to find a way to communicate "surquedry" to your reader without using the word?
I believe (just my opinion) that I've done better than that: I've both communicated "surquedry" to the reader *and* used the word. Putting it another way: I believe that a reader who doesn't have (or doesn't want) access to the OED will nonetheless gain an intuitive grasp of "surquedry" through exposure to the text; to the attitudes and behavior of the Elohim. In context, I have supplied an implied definition of the word. If later that reader decides to look up the word, his/her understanding of both the word *and* the Elohim will be enhanced. But if that reader *never* looks up the word, s/he still benefits from the fact that I used it. That reader now knows that there is something almost, well, paranormal about the arrogance displayed by the Elohim.


steve cook:  just read the latest installment of the G.I. and saw that Kent State University Libraries holds every version of your works...including re-writes!!!!! i knew there was something there but i didn't realise just how much.

having read everything you've ever published many times over, (i should get out more) i would love the chance to read the 'complete' works.

the problem, and hence my question, is....
As i'm VERY unlikely to ever visit your country, i will never be able to access the contents of K.S.U.L. Is there any way in which it could be accessed online, maybe even through this site?

once again thanks for everything.
Sorry. No one involved--not KSU, and certainly not yrs trly--has either the time or the money to scan all of those documents (*both* sides) so that they could be displayed online. Remember, much of the material (the first six "Covenant" books, the first two Brew/Ginny novels, all of the stories in "Daughter of Regals") was written with a typewriter, not a computer.

Maybe when I have nothing better to do in life than become the Curator of the Donaldson Museum....


Chris O'Connell:  Mr. Donaldson,

I'm a big fan and happy if I can make some contribution. I have heard Isaac Newton (he of the famous laws, not figs) credited with the 'standing on the shoulders of giants' quote.

Many thanks! Now if I can just remember to credit Sir Isaac the next time I use that quote....


John Dunn:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. It is certainly not necessary, but greatly appreciated!

When you first began to write the Man Who series, did you know there would be more than one book? You have stated throughout the G.I. that when you conceive a story you know exactly how many books/parts it will take. Was it the same for your mystery novels? Or was each Man Who book a conception/stroy by inself, even though the second builds directly on the first, and so on, till the upcoming and eventual confrontation with el Senior? And if this is true, why do you think you thought process works differently when you write these mystery novels (as you have stated you have no plans for more Mordant's Need or Gap novels, and only conceived of the Second and Last Chronicles after Lester Del Ray kept baggering you about it)?

What ever the answer, I very much enjoy the Man Who novels, and have made a place for them in my perament collection.

Thanks for your stories!

The First Chronicles
It's been so long since you posted your question that you may already have found the answer. But just in case....

When I wrote "The Man Who Killed His Brother," I intended it to stand alone. I didn't realize that I was secretly writing a completely different kind of story until I embarked on "The Man Who Risked His Partner." At that point, I recognized where I was going, and so I began trying to develop both the "background" and the "foreground" stories simultaneously. (What can I tell you? I was young. I needed time to figure out that I'm a compulsive epicist.)

I'm very aware that virtually everything I do in "The Man Who" books feels completely different--to me--than anything else I write. They make me "struggle" in a very different way. But I have no earthly idea why I feel compelled to write them. All I know is that their role in my writing life seems entirely necessary. I'm confident that I would never have written "The Second Chronicles" if I hadn't first written TMWKHB. "Mordant's Need" might not exist if I hadn't first written THWRHP. It's hard to imagine the GAP books without TMWTTGA. And "The Last Chronicles" would have been utterly impossible without TMWFA.


Layne Solheim:  As an avid reader of the entire Covenant storyline, there are times that I'd cross a sentence and I'd find myself reading and rereading the same thing--taken in by the "raw" descriptive power you've managed to describe in mere print.

My favorite is the calling to The Land in the Second Chron's..." "Then the eyes of the fire blazed at her, and she was lost in a yellow triumph that roared like the furnace of the sun."

I know you've been asked about favorite characters. Do you have your own favorite sentences (paragraphs/moments/etc.) as an author? Lines or phrases that, to you, really stand out from the body of the work?
I'm sorry: I can't even *attempt* an answer. The whole point (well, maybe not the *whole* point <grin>) of writing things down is to get them out of my head. As a general rule, I can't remember any of my own sentences, favorite or otherwise--except for those rare sentences which proved to be the original inspiration for a story. E.g. "But necromancy and the fatal arts were Sher Abener's province, and at last I fled from them." I can recite that in my sleep.

(OK, one exception is when I screw up in a really dramatic way. That stuff is etched forever in my brain.)


Brittany M Jones:  Dearest Mr.Donaldson,
First I would like to say that you are absolutely my favorite author of all time. My mother started reading the Thomas Covenant Series when she was pregnant with my siblings and I. I began the journey of Thomas Covenant when I was in the fourth grade and have been in love with your books ever since. I am attending the University of New Mexico now and I guess my question is when you were writing the first Thomas Covenant series did you ever think that it would become the phenomenon of generations? Mostly I just wanted to thank you; your work has brought light into my life when I couldn’t find any of my own.
Brittany M Jones
No. And I still don't. "The phenomenon of generations." Forgive me: I don't intend to sound rude. But what does that even *mean*? I'm just a guy writing stories. And I'm blessed with a particularly devoted (not to mention intelligent and sensitive <grin>) group of readers. But I don't *feel* like I've created a "phenomenon."

On the other hand, the entirely unexpected success of the first six "Covenant" books does seem rather remarkable....


Jim Latimer:  Stephen, thank you so much for such a fantastic series. I started reading the 1st trilogy in high school/college (back in the late 70's-early 80's), and anxiously awaited each volume of the 2nd while in college. I've re-read the series numerous times since (I've only read LOTR more often), but imagine my surprise and delight last fall when the Last Chronicles appeared in my bookstore!!! I wait with bated breath (can you do that for years at a time???) for the next 3 volumes.

I lived in Southern New Jersey in high school, went to college and worked in New York for 7 years, then came back to South Jersey as a physics teacher in the late 80's. I'm back to stay....and I was interested to see you based Haven Farm on a place in my neck of the woods. Could you be a bit more specific? Just out of interest, specifically where in South Jersey was Anchorage Farm? I realize it's gone now (as are many of my favorite places from my high school years...such is progress), but I'm just interested. Thanks again so much for such a great part of my youth, and now a rebirth in my middle age.
The mailing address for Anchorage Farm was in Sewell. It was between Sewell and Glassboro, but much closer to Sewell.


Mike (NOT from Sante Fe) G:  For the life of me, I haven't been able to come up with a book related question for months that isn't too nitpicky or that you have answered many times... but I do have something to ask. As of today, you have indulged us all with nearly 900 answers- a lot of time and effort on your part, as everything you answer you obviously put sincere effort into. I can't help wondering if you realized what you were getting yourself into allowing us to ask questions <grin>
So is this good for you? Your answers seem to be less guarded than they were in the beginning, and it astounds me the insights you are willing to give to us; not just about your works, but yourself as well, since you are clearly a private person.
Anyway, I hope this is semething that you enjoy, and that you get something out of it.

And don't think we all don't notice that Michael from Santa Fe is clearly teacher's pet! <grin>
It's true: when I started the Gradual Interview I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. And it *is* a lot of work. But overall I think it's been good for me. Diminishes some of the loneliness of writing. And when you've taken the kind of beatings that I have in life, you just naturally value affirmation (as who wouldn't?).

If you think that "Michael from Santa Fe" gets more than his share of attention--tsk, tsk--it's probably because he keeps his questions simple; easy to answer.


Alexa E. Hanson:  Do you sign hats or just book templates? I've just realized how critically short life is so i've drawn up a list of things to do before it ends. You signing my hat is on that list. Don't be alarmed you're not alone.
In person, when I'm officially "in public," I try to sign whatever people want signed. (The strangest one so far: the guy who insisted that I sign his Scrooge McDuck comic book. Go figure *that* out.) But in my private life (e.g. by mail) I only sign bookplates.


John:  Mr. Donaldson,

You have written in this gradual interview and elsewhere that your mind works slowly and you write slowly. I do not really think so. Consider: since 1977, though you began to write the First Chronicles in the early 70's, you have published 7 Covenant books, 2 Mordant Need books, 2 collection of short stories, 5 Gap books, and 4 The Man Who books. That is 20 books in about 35 or so years of writing. And lets not forget your poetry, albeit, seeming not in abundance (any published?). That is about a book every 1 3/4 year. What on earth makes you think that your mind works so slowly? It can't be based on how much you publish? Many authors have the same track record. Please explain why you think its so.

Another question. When you first wrote TMWKHB did you plan from the start Brew and Ginny would have to eventaully face him down in an as-of-yet unwritten book?

Thanks so much for you time and books! Both are greatly appreciated.
I've already answered your question about "The Man Who Killed His Brother." But as to your first question:

It's all relative, of course. I know a man who can easily write 12 novels a year. And John Nichols wrote "The Milagro Beanfield War" in six weeks--a book longer than any of mine. On the other hand, Patricia McKillip usually manages a book a year--but her books are *much* shorter than mine.

But of course it's also relative to me when I was younger. Somehow I wrote "A Man Rides Through" in a year--but "The Runes of the Earth," which is about the same length, took 2 1/2 years. And "The Man Who Fought Alone," which is considerably shorter, took three years.

Anyway, by my count it's 20 books in 32 years (since I started work on "Lord Foul's Bane" in 1972). For full-time writing, that's not bad. But look at what Stephen King has done in the same amount of time.


Tom:  Stephen,

I bought a copy of Steven Erikson's Gardens Of The Moon a while back, at least in some part because of a quote from you printed prominantly on the front - "Erikson is an extraordinary writer... treat yourself". Now, in answer to a previous question, you refer to it as "...the most baffling book in the series...". I'm not sure I would have bought it if that had been printed instead. However, you are right on both counts (IMHO).

Which does lead to a question. Has there ever been an instance where you have been asked for your opinion of a book for promotional purposes, but you couldn't honestly say anything nice about it?

First, a bit of chronological context. I wrote my "blurb" for "The Gardens of the Moon" when I first read the book. I commented that it was "the most baffling book in the series" years later, when I had read four more installments. It isn't fair to compare the two remarks. In addition, the blurb (by its very nature) was intended for public use. My comments in the GI are intended for the more personal use of my readers.

I'm often asked to provide blurbs for books I don't enjoy. When that happens, I simply refuse. And since I started work on "The Last Chronicles," I've instituted a no-blurbs policy across the board. This only becomes sticky when I'm asked to "blurb" a book I didn't enjoy that was written by a personal friend. In cases like that, I offer a general comment on the value of my friend's work rather than a specific comment about the book in question.


Michael from Santa Fe:  OK, here is a question I know you have not been asked in the GI - what are your feelings on parentheses? I noticed that in your answers to the GI you use them quite often (or you seem to), and I don't recall much of their use in your written works (or am I just missing them).
First, of course, punctuation is about clarity. But after that, it's about rhythm and timing. I use parentheses (regularly) here, and various *other* forms of punctuation, because they allow me to (perhaps) suggest the (rather) oblique way my mind works. But I avoid such things (as much as possible) in my stories because they (inevitably) interrupt the flow of the prose. Even the (comparatively) miniscule pauses which parentheses etc. impose on the reader hinder my efforts to create and control cumulative effects--which is not really a consideration in the GI.


Reimund L Krohn:  Mr. Donaldson,

Like many of your ardent fans here, I have been an admirer of yours for many years. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant was the 2nd fantasy book I ever read (and I first read it back in 1984 when I was 13). Lord Foul's Bane was a difficult read after the rape of Lena, but I found after leaving the novel for some two months, I had to go back, I needed to know of Thomas Covenants fate.

You mentioned in a question dated back in March of this year that you always had your stories major events planned, prior to putting pen to paper. My question is this:

Having read The Second Chronicles several times, I was ALWAYS under the impression that your original intention in the Second Chronicles was to have Thomas Covenant successfully commit suicide in the Bane Fire, and thereby destroy it. I had thought that with Covenants death, Linden Avery would be faced with the responsibility of finishing what Covenant started, and dealing with his suicide and how it differed from her father's. Her father killed himself because of self-loathing (as she might assume Covenant himself had done), when in fact Covenant killed himself because he was too crippled by the Venom to face the Despiser (and therby risk the destruction of the Arch). I imagined that you might have intended for Linden to make for the Andelain to confront Covenants ghost... where I imagine Sunder and Hollian may NOT have perished.

Did you ever contemplate such a scenario, or is it just my imagination? It just always seemed like a logical step in the story - although (please don't get me wrong!!) I loved what you actually wrote!

No. The scenario you describe for "The Second Chronicles" is *not* one that I ever considered. In fact, it never entered my head until I read your message. And just for the record: it would have destroyed my reasons for writing "The Second Chronicles"--and would have made "The Last Chronicles" completely impossible. (btw, I can add with confidence that Lester del Rey would have refused to publish the book you describe. But since he had already refused to publish "The One Tree," his [posthumous] opinion doesn't count for much. <grin>)

But did I "set you up" to think that Covenant might die in the Banefire? Sure, I did. What's the point of telling stories where the stakes aren't real?


Peter Purcell:  I apologize if this question is over the line or if it scratches any emotional wounds.

But ... I've wondered since reading Runes. If I were divorced, and an author, I think I would find it cathartic to have a characters ex-wife repeatedly pound herself in the head! <GRIN>

Come on, tell us ... doesn't it make you smile even a little? ;)

OK, I admit that I'm grinning. <grin> See? But it really wasn't like that, despite the obvious synchronicities. Joan became "real" to me long before I ever met the ex-wife in question, and I knew her future story-arc pretty well before I married said ex-wife.


Steve SanPietro:  Hello Mr. Donaldson.
This is my second question in this forum. This time it's about the process of editing a novel (or any literature, for that matter).

When you submit a first draft to a pulisher--or editor, I'm not sure to where you submit your work at first--to what extent is your work edited. By this I mean, are parts of your original work actually re-written by the editor? Are parts of it taken out? Or is the editing process simply a series of suggestions which are sent back to the author, leaving him/her to dot he actual editing?

You mentioned on an earlier GI response (5/20/04) that you were in a hurry to proof-read the finished manuscript of ROTE, which is why you hadn't started working on FR by then. So, then does the editing process operate in this way: does an editor revise an author'swork, for the author to then check over and approve or not of the changes? And if so, how significant are the revisions that are made to a piece of literature, which aren't necessarily made by the pen of the author?

I ask this because I hope to one day become a writer (provided I don't turn out to be a bad writer, of course :} ).

On a side-note, I think that most of the words I know, I've learned from the Covenant books. However, I'm trying still to work up to the lexicon of SRD. :}
It's important to understand that a book is the intellectual property of its author, not of its publisher. (Unless the book is "work for hire," in which case the roles are reversed.) In general, contracts grant the publisher the right to make changes to things like punctuation, for the sake of conformity to "house style rules" (whatever those may be). But the same contracts forbid the publisher to make substantive changes without the author's approval.

In practice, bad editors do rewrite books--and bad writers let them. But good editors offer only suggestions, observations, opinions, and criticisms: they never touch the actual prose (that's the author's job). And these days even bad editors don't have time to rewrite books very often. By contract, the editor's only real power (apart from the original decision to publish a manuscript) is to reject the book *if* the author refuses to make changes which satisfy the editor.

Copy-editors are a whole 'nother ball-game. Their actual job is to check the book for factual and textual accuracy; but in practice they often rewrite everything in sight (which then forces the author to spend *many* hours re-creating the original from the wreckage caused by the copy-editor). The copy-editor's only real power is the power to infuriate; but most of them wield that power gleefully.

And all of the above is separate from proof-reading. Proof-reading occurs *after* the editor and the author have agreed on an acceptable text, and *after* the author has repaired the damage done by the copy-editor. At this stage, the publisher creates what is in essence a "mock-up" of the book in its published form; and the author--and, ideally, several other people as well--then check the text once again, looking for errors introduced during the "mock-up" process as well as for errors which everyone involved has somehow managed to miss. That's proof-reading.

Which is why I often say that writing a book never ends, it just peters out. Sure, I've produced a complete manuscript for X story. But then I have to do editorial revisions (as well as my own, which are usually much more stringent). Then I have to rescue the story from the copy-editor's wrecking-ball. Then I have to proof-read the text. And all of the above has to be done at least twice because US and UK publication are separate arrangements (therefore differing requirements have to be reconciled in a single text at every stage in the process).

Really, it's amazing that anyone ever writes a *second* book. <sigh>


Charles Adams:  It seems frequent that some fans come to believe the "relationship" between the fan and the celebrity is of higher level (greater intimacy) than actually exists.

Have you ever worried that the Gradual Interview would cause a false sense of intimacy to be created between some of your fans (especially those who participate in this Interview) and yourself? Has any fan ever tried to "impose" such a relationship upon you?
Crazy people will impose fantasy relationships on any "celebrity" under any circumstances. That's probably inevitable. But I suspect that crazy people don't actually read the GI. I believe it would tend to rupture rather than reinforce their fantasies.

In person, I do occasionally encounter crazy people. But so far none of them have derived their fantasies from the GI.


Mitchell Oldman:  Hello, hope you're doing well these days Mr. Donaldson. I like your Covenant books very much but am disheartened by the many years it will apparently take to complete the Last Chronicles. But I wanted to say that I think your female characters are and always have been very alluring, most recently in the character of Manethrall Hami to whom I have quite a crush...This is one area where you have a distinct advantage over Tolkien, Lord of the Rings is a great novel but it must be one of the most asexual books ever written. I would be interested in your thoughts on the sensuality implicit in the Covenant books.

Have you read the His Dark Materials Trilogy, by Phillip Pullman? What is your estimation of these books?

In many ways The Chronicles of Narnia are superior to Lord of the Rings. Although C.S. Lewis was inspired by J.R.R.Tolkien to write The Chronicles of Narnia there is a lightness and vivaciousness that contrasts strongly with the gloom and thunder of LOTR. The whole transition theme from our world to Narnia possesses a revelatory visionary power that Tolkien by beginning at the outset in Middle-earth doesn't have. Lewis perfected the concept of Tolkien's "sub-creation" and surpassed the master on not a few occasions. What is your opinion of the contrasting merits of these two seminal works? Being an admirer of both, as I am.

Thank you.
I *have* read "His Dark Materials." It was not really to my taste--but I read all three books, which is more than I've done for J. K. Rowling. Certainly I respect the rigor of Pullman's conception.

I loved the "Narnia" books when I was in 7th or 8th grade: they thrilled me beyond description. But when I re-read them as an adult, I couldn't recapture my earlier excitement. And when I read them aloud to my children, we were all bored. Lewis' homilectic intent now seems so heavy-handed that it's almost lugubrious. (Just my opinion, as always.) For me, at least, storytelling is always diminished by preaching. In contrast, LOTR has survived at least 5 re-readings essentially intact. What I like about it changes from reading to reading; but I always like it.


Allen:  This is a question (or two) pertaining to the Mordant's Need duology. One of the characters in that work is named Artagel. I'm wondering if you took the name from Edmund Spenser's "Faerie Queene" which also features a character bearing that name (though Spenser's character is little more than a monstrous executioner - yours is a fine, good-hearted fellow!)
Considering that the "Faerie Queene" is Arthurian in some of its inspirations I'm also curious if the Arthurian mythos ever mattered to you.

Take care, Allen
<sigh> Yet another Inevitable But Unconscious Influence. I may be desperate enough to begin calling them IBUIs. I've never made an intensive study of Spenser; but I certainly spent a fair amount of time on "The Faerie Queene" in college. In retrospect, it seems obvious that more than a few seeds were planted. But to this day I have no conscious memory of Spenser's Artagel.

However, I've mentioned Tennyson's "Idylls of the King" several times. And I also found quite a bit of power in the second half of T. H. White's "The Once and Future King." So yes, "the Arthurian mythos" does speak to me.


Siobhan:  Hello Mr. Donaldson -

First off, I'd like to thank you for so many wonderful books. I am a committed bibliophile, and I don't think any fantasy/sci-fi library is complete without the Chronicles, Mordant's Need and the GAP books.

The GAP books are my personal favourite, with so many tremendous characters and such a rip-roaring narrative. The scene where Punisher and Calm Horizons duke it out outside the swarm gives me shivers every time.

I don't really have a question that I *need* answered - in fact I prefer not to know what's coming, but I do wonder if you've ever read the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. I read that series and the GAP books at about the same time and noticed a confluence of ideas - chiefly dealing with the role of corrupt multi-national (or trans-national) corporations and how they, even above governments, foster some of the worst aspects of society.

Just a niggling curiosity of mine, is all.

I look forward to Fatal Revenant, and actually quite enjoy the anticipation of three more books! Three!
Sorry. I've read very little Robinson, and none of his "Mars" books. I read far too slowly for my own good. Doubtless I miss any number of outstanding books.


Vincent Culp:  Greetings good sir. First and foremost please allow me to express my gratitude for the many hours of enjoyment your books have brought me through the years, and hopefully will contiue to in the future. I've finished reading Runes of the earth and am acualy in the middle of reading it again. I am busily chewing my nails in anticipation of the next book in the Last Chronicles. Since I first happened upon Lord Foul's Bane in my English Class in High School I have been a devoted fan of your fantasy work, and the Second Chronicles is my favorite series of all time.

I have a few questions I'd like to ask: #1 How soon can I expect to have the next book in my grubby little paws?!?! lol....I'd hate to rush you but I've waited so long since the second chronicles. #2 Is it really all just a dream in Thomas Covenant's leperousy infected mind? He thinks this in the begining but is later convinced otherwise, but that may have just been him losing the little grasp he had left on sanity. Yes Linden has gone too, but perhaps she is just an image of someone he met, or may have at one time known? Joan even? Foul may just be that part of him who hates himself, that blames himself for the disease and the loss of his family. The fact that every time he enters the land he returns in the same physical condition that he left in points to this conclusion, as does the fact that he is always unconscious when he is called. #3 Will this particular possibility be resolved by the end of the series in one form or another, or will that be left open for the reader to decide? And lastly #4. I am an aspiring writer myself, do you have any words of wisdom for me?

It's an honor merely to have a talented writer such as yourself read my words. Thank you.
4) The GI is positively bestrewn with advice for writers. I won't repeat any of it here.

3) and 2) My problem with such questions is that they implicitly work backward--against the current of the story, as it were--rather than following the thematic developments as I actually intended them. My design is pretty linear, like virtually everything else I do. As Covenant becomes more and more engaged with and in the Land during the first "Chronicles," the question of whether or not the Land is "real" comes to matter less and less. Eventually he realizes that the Land's "reality" is not important at all: what *is* important is his love for the Land (and for Lena, and for Saltheart Foamfollower, and--if he were present--for Mhoram, and even for Bannor and the Ranyhyn). He learns to honor that part of himself which responds to, well, let's call it the iconography of the Land; and so he turns away from Despite. After that, questions of mere "reality" become trivial. So the story--at least in my mind--moves beyond those questions in "The Second Chronicles." As far as I can see, any attempt to interpret Linden's role, or Joan's, that doesn't take into account how Covenant's internal "reality" has changed can only sow confusion. In that sense, no, "The Last Chronicles" will not shed any more light on "is it all a dream?" than "The Second Chronicles" did. I left that issue behind decades ago.

1) I've said it before, and will no doubt say it again: information about the publication of "Fatal Revenant" will be posted in the "news" section of this site as soon as it (the information) becomes available.


Jay Swartzfeger:  Mr. Donaldson, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to answer fans questions in the gradual interview. You recently spent some time answering a few questions I had after your guest of honor appearance at Bubonicon 37; it's a real treat to have such access to my all time favorite writer! Before I'm labeled as an obsequious bootlick, I better get on with my question. ;)

As a writer, I find that reading works by strong stylists tend to have an influence on what I'm writing, almost like a 'bleed over' effect. Non-fiction doesn't affect me this way, but writers like Nabokov invariably *do*.

Do you intentionally change your reading habits -- or not read at all -- while working on your own projects? Or have you mastered your craft to the point where you can read work by other authors and not let literary 'cross-pollenization' occur?
Actually, I *crave* "literary 'cross-pollenization." It strengthens my skill-set. I *want* writers like (in my case) Conrad and James, Faulkner and McKillip, to affect what I'm writing. Of course, it is true that at my advanced age I'm less easily affected than I once was. And it's also true that rewriting tends to iron out the stylistic possibilities that other writers have made available to me. But still: I always love it when something I'm reading bleeds through into something I'm writing.

When I was (much) younger, I *did* change my reading habits according to what I was writing: I read no fantasy at all while I was writing the first "Covenant" trilogy, and no mysteries at all while I was writing "The Man Who Killed His Brother." But that wasn't about stylistic influences: it was about fear. If I read a fantasy and liked it, I would feel intimidated--and so less able to do my own work. And if I read a fantasy and DISliked it, I would be dismayed by the fact that this bozo could get published while I could not; and again I would be less able to do my own work. Fortunately, with time and experience (and publication), that problem went away; so now what I'm writing has no effect on what I'm reading.


STEVE M:  This may seem like a dumb question but at the end of The Power That Preserves, Covenant defeats Foul by using the wild magic yet at the beginning of the Wounded Land Lord Foul informs Covenant that the wild magic was no longer potent against him. Reference is also made in the earlier books that Berek knew of the wild magic and that Kevin had also longed for it. Accordingly, there must have been some fundamental change in the nature of Lord Foul that would bring about this immunity to wild magic. Moreover, The Land, Kevin, Berek and even Lord Foul exist within the confines of the arch of time (albeit Foul is imprisoned) yet the wild magic is the keystone of the arch and and exists outside of the arch. Logically the wild magic should have worked against Foul at the end of White Gold Wielder. Indeed, in many ways Covenant and the Land went through substantial changes between the first and second trilogies but at least the character of Lord Foul seemed to be substantially the same. Could you elaborate on the change that Foul must have gone through betwen the first and second chronicles that gave him the immunity to the wild magic.
As I see it, the change isn't in Lord Foul (although he has become considerably smarter): the change is in Covenant ("You are the white gold"). The combination of what he goes through at the final crisis of "The Power that Preserves" with what he experiences at the very beginning of "The Wounded Land" renders him incapable of repeating his earlier success: because he now knows where he stands, knows what he loves, and is fully committed, he is simply *too* powerful to just duke it out with the Despiser. (And please remember also that Lord Foul is really into misdirection and partial truths. "The wild magic is no longer potent against me" could easily mean "because I'm going to mess you up so badly before you ever get to me that you'll be helpless.")

Of course, Lord Foul isn't *really* the same in the first and second trilogies. In "The Second Chronicles," he's not only smarter: his larger aims are more clearly defined. Now it's not simply "DESPAIR FOR EVERYONE while I secretly destroy the Arch of Time": it's "Despair for you and you and you SO YOU'LL DESTROY THE ARCH FOR ME." If you see what I mean. And those larger aims will be even more clearly defined in "The Last Chronicles" (plus I think Lord Foul is still getting smarter).


Simeon Rabbani:  I have really enjoyed reading the gradual interview over the last few months and have found that just about any question I could have asked has already been asked (and answered). I do have one simple one, though.

After the 'Runes' paperback edition is released, will a list of the differences between it and the hardback edition be made available on this site? (I live in South America, and it will take a lot longer for any version of the book to make its way here.)

Thank you for the many, many hours of enjoyment and reflective thought while reading your books and pondering their themes.


This has been much debated. In the end, I decided not to post a list of the textual changes. For one thing, the kinds of "corrections" that I made for the paperback are embarrassing. ("How could I have been stupid enough to make a mistake like *that*? Thank God they're going to let me fix it!") For another, the corrections will be of interest to only an extremely small number of readers. For still another, the corrections themselves are small. And for yet another, I could easily argue that none of the corrections are "substantive": they do not in any way alter the *content* of "The Runes of the Earth." I'll humiliate myself by citing one example. If you compare the Prologue of "The Wounded Land" with the Prologue of "Runes," you may notice a discrepancy in the descriptions of Jeremiah's "family of origin." To my eternal chagrin, I got both the genders and the relative ages of his siblings wrong. Well, this sort of screw-up makes me want to shoot myself in the head--but it isn't substantive. It doesn't change the story in any way: it's the factual equivalent of a typo. So-o-o-o-- I hope you'll forgive me for feeling that I've already embarrassed myself enough.


Jim Melvin:  Dear Steve:

I recently joined (temporarily, for research purposes) a newsgroup made up of so-called medieval experts and was amazed to see how much they trash writers of epic fantasy. Your name wasn't brought up specifically, but several other big names were savaged by these people, including Tolkien. I realize that your characters and setting aren't medieval, but have you ever received criticism from these "experts"?
This is going to sound strange. To the best of my knowledge, my work has not been criticized by those “experts.” But such “experts”--or others like them--have criticized *me* fiercely because (and I really can’t explain this) I care more about what things *mean* than about what they *are*. This happened during a public discussion about “Why are there so many castles in fantasy novels?” Apparently the answer the “experts” wanted was, “Because we know so much about castles.” My answer, unfortunately, was, “Because castles provide a metaphorical context which is particularly apt for the storytelling purposes of fantasy.” And at that point, the counter(?)attack(!!) became so vehement that we never talked about either the “metaphorical context” or “the storytelling purposes of fantasy.” <sigh> I still don’t know what all that was about.


Joseph McSheffrey:  Stephen,

I've got a question that has nothing (I think?) to do with your writing. I hope it isn't too personal and that you don't mind answering it. I just read a question and answer here recently regarding your opinion on the various styles of the Martial Arts. What are your thoughts on Bruce Lee's philosophy which emphasizes no style at all, but to pull from whatever you connect with; be it Gung Fu, karate, Cha-Cha dancing, boxing or anything you experience?

I agree that there are no good or bad Martial Arts. One attending their own body and/or mind can never be a negative thing but what, in your humble opinion, is an example of a bad martial artist?

I would like to point out that I'm not a Martial artist in any form, so my "book only" knowledge (heh, no pun intended) may not measure for much.

Keep writing, you bastard! How dare you end RotE that way at your age!? ;)

Bruce Lee’s stated philosophy--as distinct from his actual practice, which is rumored to have included a number of dangerous compromises--makes good sense to me. As I understand his “no style” style, he advocated that every student learn as much as possible from as many different sources as possible, and then--in essence--create his/her own style based on all that study; a style which not only reflects his/her physical strengths and weaknesses, but also expresses his/her personality and values.

There are many different ways to talk about what makes a bad martial artist. Here’s one: a student whose approach to training includes any one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Sloth, envy, wrath, greed, any of those things can distort or even cripple the study of the martial arts. Or here’s another: a student whose approach to training concentrates exclusively on only one purpose, e.g. “My body is my temple, and I want to perfect it” (I’ve heard that one), or, “I want to be able to beat up drunks in bars” (I’ve heard that one a lot), or, “I want to be able to prove to people that my way is the best way, the only right way.”


William Calderini:  It would take a far better writer than I to communicate the profound impact that your books have had on me through the years. For the last 26 odd years or so, your Covenant series has been required reading for me on a semi-annual basis, and your words on what I consider to be the "virtue" of stubborness have helped carry me through some rather stormy seasons in my own life. So being so indebted already, I would like to offer up 2 questions to further extend the bill.

Number one. This is one that has intrigued me more and more on every subsequent reading of the Covenant Series. This concerns the end of White Gold Wielder when Linden Avery heals the land with the new Staff of Law. It seems that Linden pours every ounce of her passion, her belief, her very essence into the effort it takes to set things right. Linden, being a very complex character and my personal favorite, has many areas of darkness and light within her. The fact that she is almost consumed by this darkness is a testament to it's power within her. What I took from this ending was that Linden was able to "re-make" the land in "her own image" in a sense. I have always wondered what the Land re-made by Linden would be like. Would/will there be consequnces that would derive from the conflicts within her to be dealt with? So far, having finished Runes of The Earth, it seems that this issue has not been addressed. Are there/were there any plans to explore this line of thinking in books 2, 3, and 4?

Question 2. Although I have always considered you to be one of my literary "fathers", I have always considered Ayn Rand to be one of my literary "mothers". (And yes, what a strange and confused bastard child I was, LOL)
So the the question is, was naming one of the Hurachai characters 'Galt" an intentional nod to the "John Galt" charcter in Ayn Rands "Atlas Shrugged"? You must admit that the unrelenting devotion to strict ideaology, without compromise. a trait shared by both.

William R Calderini
1) Linden has re-made the Staff of Law, not the Law itself, and certainly not the Land. A good healer doesn’t “re-make” his/her patients: s/he helps restore those patients to a state which should have been theirs all along (health). In addition, she didn’t create Vain, and has no control over the energy which Findail supplies; so she could not “re-make” the Land in “her own image” even if she wanted to (which I sincerely doubt).

2) As a passionate anti-elitist, I don’t have much use for Ayn Rand. If I had remembered that the name “Galt” appears in one of her books, I would have chosen a different name for my character.


Newlyn Erratt:  Hi. I just firstly wanted to let you know that I definately consider you my favorite auther of all time. I read the "Thomas Covenant" books when I was around thirteen. When, I was around fifteen I read The Gap series and it quickly became my favorite series. On to my questions.

Firstly, I noticed in a post you mentioned that you cringed when your son discovered the Xanth series. Why is that?

Secondly, what would you say is the reason that your books are so enveloping? Is it the character development? Does it come naturally or is it something planned?

When I first bought the Gap series as well as the first time I discovered the TC chronicles I literally couldn't put them down depriving myself of sleep just so I could find out what happened next. Thank you for your wonderful books
The "Xanth" books are too jokey for my taste. And when you've heard the same joke 30 or 40 times, it loses its appeal.

Why are my books "so enveloping"? I've discussed this elsewhere in the GI; but I think there are two interlocking factors at work. First, I know how to design a good story. (If you think of "story" as the intersection of plot and character, then character development is crucial, but so is plot.) Second, I use a variety of storytelling techniques which are calculated to blur the boundaries between the story and the reader. Instead of maintaining a narrative distance (which is a much more common approach to storytelling), I work hard to make my readers experience my plot and my characters as vividly as I can.


Eystein:  Dear Mr. Donaldson

I have read all the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, and even dream about the world when I go to bed.

I would really want to know if you have given any thoughts about how much information the inhabitants of the land and the other creatures have about Thomas and Lindens world. Are they curious about "our" world?
This question--like the "Why hasn't technology developed in the Land?" question--keeps coming up. But it still baffles me. Implicit in the question is a vision of a different story than the one that actually fires my imagination. It probably goes something like this: in the first trilogy, Covenant spends several hundred pages explaining as much as he can about "our" world; in the second trilogy, technology, pollution, and strip-mining based on Covenant's earlier explanations have accomplished what the Sunbane could not (irrecoverable damage to the Land); and in the last story, space travel has transformed the "Chronicles" into the GAP books. <sigh> The plain fact is that the stories I want to tell in the "Chronicles" would be impossible without a hermetic, self-referential, and in many ways static "reality." You can't have it both ways. Either you accept the stories I want to tell, with their inherent strengths and limitations, or you find something else to read.


Mark Morgon-Shaw:  Hi

I've recently finished Runes of The Earth, and really enjoyed going back to the land but thought it was a very cruel place to end the book for the reader. I guess it guarantees we all rush out to buy the next one when it's finished.

My son is four years old and becoming more interested story books. I'd like to ask if you had any favourite children's books either as a child or a parent. I've just read him several of Roald Dahl's short stories which we both loved, can you recommend any other authors ? Would you ever write a story aimed at a younger audience yourself ?
In self-defense: there really wasn't any other way that I could have ended "Runes." All of my alternatives were anti-climaxes--*and* they would have failed to set the stage for "Fatal Revenant."

I've already discussed "Narnia" at length. As a child, I read anything I could get my hands on: Leon Uris, James Michener, "Dave Dawson, World War II Flying Ace," "Bomba the Jungle Boy," mystery novels, "Reader's Digest." I don't recommend any of it. As a parent reading to my children, I had by far the most success with Roald Dahl and Daniel Pinkwater.

And no, I'll never write a children's story. My mind doesn't work that way. Whenever my children wanted me to make up a story for them, I did so by cleverly prompting them to invent everything: all I did was ask them questions and flesh out their ideas.


usivius:  (I will not break tradition here, so:) Thank you very much for so many wonderful stories that touch the marrow of my soul. Don't die (I want another Axebrewder story after the next three TC books).
I am reading The Gap series for a second time since they came out slowly (I recall going through withdrawal waiting for the next book in a same manner as I am doing now for the Last Crons), and I am rediscovering such a fantastic story. My favourite will likely always be Mordant's Need, but The Gap has so much going for it that it is impossible to ignore. After book three of my re-read, I have really only one question which I wanted to ask you:

The names for the Amnion ships --- It struck me then and it is almost a personal distraction to me now in my second read, but they seem too human. I would almost expect them to be named by humans, not these cold, almost machine-like, logical aliens. I know it would not be as interesting to read a ship series number for the Amnion ships (W-54767), but it would seem to be a logical way to mark or name thier ships. I love the smirking humour behind the names (at least that is what I see from the author), but I find it a little distracting that the Amnion would think of naming their war ships "Calm Horizons".

Can you comment on your decision to give 'human-like' names to the ships of the cold alien species.
The thing to keep in mind is that the Amnion ship-names *as given* are translations--and approximate translations at best, since humans can't actually receive, much less interpret, the full range of Amnion communication. You might do better of think of the ship-names as inadequately articulated concepts which the Amnion find desirable. (And who said the Amnion were a "cold" alien species? I don't think of them that way. They certainly crave "calm horizons." But for them, "peace" doesn't mean "the absence of war," or "everybody getting along well": it means "we consume everything until nothing remains that isn't us.")


Mary Terrell (Arrogance):  First off, Mr. Donaldson, I thank you incredibly for providing the only fantasy literature that has ever given me nightmares. <grin> I'm a 'second generation' fan of the Covenant books through help of my father (who in turn caused those nightmares by reading Lord Foul's Bane to me as a bed time story when I was around 4 or 5 years old.)

Now, onto the question. Despite my constant re-readings of the Covenant books, I never found a passage that states Covenant's eye color. I see him as having a type of worn, tired blue eye color; but what is the official color, if anything?

(Yes, its trivial, but I always had a fascination for eye colors.)
See, I keep *telling* you I'm not a visual person. <grin> Eye color? Covenant has eye color? Why wasn't I informed about this?

It's actually a problem in my real life. It's not that I literally don't "see" things like eye color (or the color of the pickup truck that just rammed me, or even its general condition, never mind its make and model). It's that they simply don't *register* in my memory unless I apply words to them. Or perhaps the problem is that my imagination is too flexible: I can "remember" anything I want--unless I restrict myself to the facts by naming them. In any case--

In one of your spare lives, when you have nothing better to do <grin>, read all of my published works and make a list of all the characters who *do* have a specified eye color. It'll be a pretty short list.


Tom Griffin:  A few years ago I read a story by Robert Silverberg in which he stated in the introduction that he lifted the idea for the story from a part of another work that was mentioned once then never again. His story was nothing like the original, he just was inspired by the idea. My question for you is, is this an acceptable way to get ideas and what if the original idea was from one of your works? What would you expect in the way of compensation?
I'm not sure I understand your question; but let's try this. Say writer A "lifts" an idea from something that writer B published. If when writer A is done, the idea can still be recognized as belonging to writer B, that's a no-no. In fact, there are laws protecting writer B in such situations. But EVerybody gets their ideas from SOMEwhere. So the test is: has writer A transformed the idea enough to "own" it, to make it original? If so, there's no problem. No permission is needed, and no compensation is given. Just one example. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the "Elder Eddas" knows Tolkien's "source" for his "ring of power." But nobody in his/her right mind would claim that Tolkien hasn't transformed the basic idea enough to "own" it. For him, the "Elder Eddas" weren't so much a "source" as a "starting point" from which he evolved his own ideas. Is that clear?


Joseph McSheffrey:  Stephen,

Is there ever a time when you regret this much communication with your fan base? I refer to the GI. Do you think that the questions posed to you here have any effect on your future writings of the Last Chronicles? Do you find yourself tightening up on story plots because you know if you don't "Joey from Chicago" is going to point that sonofabitch out! Okay, that is an exaggeration, but it is human nature and you get my point. It is clear that you care quite a bit about your fans or you would never do this GI in the first place. I applaud you for that as much as for your heart wrenching books.

Obviously you (not *you*, but any artist creating something) draw upon experience, which this GI must be. I imagine you have a myriad of face-to-face conversations similar to ones in the GI. Okay, the GI isn't really a conversation, but it must evoke certain things within you? I wonder if this written form of thoughts has a more profound impact on your writing than a casual, verbal conversation with an actual friend or that annoying fellow that happened to recognize you at the bar.

Most artists don't open themselves up to the public in this way. As a huge fan I can't help but want to establish the connection, but at the same time I worry it adversely effects your creativity. Does that show a lack of faith in you? I certainly don't feel that way on the surface. I think it shows more a faith in the power of the public.

Just rambling... maybe I've had too much wine! Ignore this and get back to the sequel of your damn CLIFFHANGER! Sonofa...

I've spent a bit of time on GI-related topics. But I hope to clarify a few points.

First, I do indeed occasionally "tighten up" what I'm writing because of issues which have been raised here. But I don't do it because if I don't X, Y, or Z reader will complain: I do it because the issues are valid--and because I might have missed them otherwise. I'm human. And, as I like to say, I don't write by Divine Inspiration: I write by Divine Intervention. In other words, I need all the help I can get.

Second, I've never had a face-to-face conversation with another writer (or any other artist) that in any way resembles the GI. Interviews are a specialized form of discourse. When I'm sitting around with other writers who also happen to be friends, we may talk about our lives, or our editors, or our peers, or even our paychecks; but we never talk about the content of what we write. (Oh, sometimes a friend might say, "You really chewed the carpet in that book." Or I might say, "I really like what you did with so-and-so." But it never goes any further than that. I suppose I could say that we're interested in each other as people rather than writers.) So it follows that the GI is more likely to affect what I write than any personal conversation--or than any other form of interview, for that matter, since in more "normal" interviews I do all the talking, and the people who ask the questions reveal virtually nothing.

Third, so far I have not detected any adverse effect on my work. I do sometimes groan at the amount of effort I've committed myself to here. But usually it pays off. Broadly speaking (there are always exceptions), this particular form of discourse weeds out people who wish to do me harm, or who feel harmed by me, or who desire some kind of impossible (and inherently destructive) symbiosis. As a result, the GI often feels both supportive and companionable.


Scott Marchus:  I have to admit that I haven't read your new book yet- I bought it and met you a few months back when you were on your promotional tour, but I was in no great hurry to read it because.... well... I guess you are in no great hurry to finish the series. I'm trying to avoid the aches and pains of waiting for the next installment.... I've already done that with a couple of your series, and I just can't stand it anymore. If you died tomorrow, I may never get around to reading that book (!) ;p

What I have been reading (based on your reccomendation) is Steven Erikson's series. I am happy to say that I am very hooked, and I was curious: who is your favorite character in the Malazan series so far (and why)?
What do you mean, I'm "in no great hurry to finish the series"? Avaunt, Lugubrious One! <grin> I'm working as fast as my age, energy, and circumstances permit. Honest.

Like many readers of the "Malazan" books, I'm particularly fond of Whiskeyjack and his cadre, especially Quick Ben and Kalam. But I'm also intrigued by Captain Paran. Why? Who knows? "Sympathy" is far too subjective for any convenient explanation.


Paul:  Here's an interesting idea..if you feel like indulging me on..

In developing the story and characters for TC books, have you ever gone down a certain plot/character path and then decided that it was just too dumb? Better still, has anybody (editors, family, etc) managed to convince you that an idea was bad and to rework it.

If so, I was wondering if you would list a couple that spring to mind. I have a morbid fascination to know what could have been if it was not for some 'constructive' feedback :-)
Why are people so eager to know why and how I almost screwed up? I would have thought that my verifiable mistakes are embarrassing enough....

But it is in some sense "public knowledge" that Lester del Rey convinced me to cut "Gilden-fire" out of "The Illearth War," and to rework the narrative of the entire mission to Seareach. His reasoning was sound, and as soon as he explained it I had to agree with him. Although the material was viable in itself, it obliquely undermined the integrity of Covenant's POV. (I've discussed this is more detail elsewhere.)

Less well-known is that fact that Lester also persuaded me to tone down the sexual issues between Covenant and Elena. I'm a natural-born over-doer, and in the original drafts I had thrown all caution to the winds. Lester helped me to see various ways in which excess can be self-defeating.

However, my most common narrative error does not involve going down a poor "plot/character path": it involves using the wrong POV. From time to time throughout my writing life, I have drifted into the mistake of viewing the story through the wrong eyes. (Lester used to say, "The story should always be told from the POV of the person who has the most at stake." A bit over-simple, perhaps, but useful nonetheless.) In the short term, this always has the effect of making the writing easier. Eventually, however, I slam head-first into a logjam of my own making. Then I'm forced to back-track (sometimes a considerable distance), not to change the plot or the characters, but to find a more effective perspective.


Pete Warner:  Sir,

Bravo sir. You have changed the landscape of my imagination forever. Tolkein first showed me a door to possibilities I hadn't previously considered existed. Thomas Covenant forcibly kicked it open (probably hurting his foot and muttering "hellfire"!)

A return to the Land in 2005 is like a return of a loved one from beyond the grave. The downside is that I must be reacquainted with the grief of loss when one day it all comes to an end once more. A fatal revanant indeed.

I hope I might get away with asking two questions:

1) No sooner is a new literary success upon us then we have to endure the parodies: Bored of the Rings, Barry Trotter et al. I have no problem with parody on fan sites but loathe the idea of honest shelf space being sacrificed to accomodate them. I wonder what your feeling would be if you were ever approached about the idea of a Thomas Covenant parody (I am assuming that you would actually *be* approached!)

2) Like LotR, I am delighted that you use chapter titles. Not that a numerically ordered bunch of chapters affect the quality of a story for me - it's just an inexplicable affection I have for titled chapters. Does your use of chapter titles reflect a similar affection on your part? Do you title your chapters before, during or after their completion? My favourite chapter title of yours is "Something Broken" - I still think about the concept several times a week. From LotR I have a soft spot for "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit".

Thanks for your time. May the flame of your genius never burn out.

Pete Warner
1) Well, there's always the argument that anything worth doing is worth mocking. And I do enjoy a good parody (witness "Heatherly and Julie's Fantasy Bedtime Hour"), although they often go on too long. (But there are exceptions. Look at Terry Prachett.) However, one thing is certain: no one is ever going to ask my permission. They'll just do it.

2) I, too, like chapter titles, although I don't always use them. When I *do* use them, I try to come up with the title before I write the chapter, on the theory that the title helps me focus. But I often change my mind partway through the chapter, or when I finish it, or when I realize that the title would better suit some other chapter.


Revan:  "But consider the implications for humankind of the sort of effective "immortality" Holt envisions. (And never mind the mere detail that we would cease to be who we are.)"

Would it really be so bad were we to achieve an effective "immortality"? (not a egalitarian immortality of course, because that would be an obvious catastrophe) You say that we could cease to be who we are, what, in your opinion, would we become, in what way would we change that would be for the worst? Why was Holt so wrong in his vision?

As it happens, I was thinking of "egalitarian immortality". As a confirmed egalitarian, I consider any form of elitist immortality an atrocity. Who chooses the elite? The moral implications alone are appalling. And who controls the elite once they've been chosen? Do you really want the Dubyas and Cheneys of the world (or even the Einsteins and Mother Theresas) to live forever--and to acquire the kind of power that immortality would make possible? At the very least, we would become a species of gods and drones.

Need I add, "Just my opinion"?


Jeff:  I don't really do this sort of fan thing. I love your work, but that's between me and the book, not you and I in any meaningful way. Still, I was inordinately pleased to find that the "Runes" copy I bought at Media Play was, for some reason, signed. Didn't even cost more.

Finally, my question (maybe answered elsewhere, haven't waded through all the interview yet): Do you do extensive research on the various systems of thought implied (sometimes stated outright) by your characters and in your novels? Rely on your native intelligence to fill in from basic knowledge? Because it seems that your characters act from what they believe, in a "natural" way, so I wondered if you know people very well, know belief systems very well, or some amalgamation of the two? In a way, the answer is irrelevant, because the characters and stories are great, which is all that matters in fiction. Still, I'm curious.
I'm afraid I don't do anything that a more systematic thinker could call "extensive research." On any subject. Except fiction. I've learned virtually everything I know about ideas (pretending for the moment that I didn't actually go to college or grad school <grin>) by studying fiction. And I believe something that S. P. Somtow once said: "Fantasy is the only valid form of theological inquiry." Certainly I consider all of my stories to be forms of inquiry. So I suppose you could say that I do my research as much by writing stories as by reading them.

Still, I've made what might be called an "intensive" rather than an "extensive" study of people. Starting with myself. As a result, I know quite a bit about how perceptions of reality shape behavior. Does that answer your question?


John Dunn:  Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you for taking the time to read and answer some of these questions!

I have now read all of "The Man Who" books, and though I enjoyed them greatly, I must say that "The Man Who Fought Alone" was simply outstanding. I find it hard to explain in a tangible way, but I think because of that particular book, Brew is now one of my most cherished characters. I know some people have said that they identified the the villain from a particular scene relatively early, as I did, though I didn't figure out the why, but I thought it was of little importance. The journey of that story is the true treasure. But now I find myself with a problem.

Ok. So it will take you around 3 years to write each new Covenant book. So 9 more years till that series is finished. Not that I am not enjoying this new and last adventure into the Land; I am! But then, I think I can properly assume that it will be another 2 or 3 years after the publication of the last Covenant book till we find out what happens next in Brew's life. This simply won't do.

I have a few suggestions.

1. Less sleep; more writing.

2. Postpone a Covenant book or two.

3. Stop reading our silly questions and write more.

4. Ummm.... just write more quickly.

5. Again, I ask: Why are you reading this and now working. Back to work. Chop chop!!

Other than that I don't really have any questions. But most seriously, "The Man Who" book are outstanding; the "Fought Alone" simply great.

Best wishes and all that.

I can't imagine why none of these ideas ever occurred to me. They seem so obvious now that you point them out. <grin>

But thank you for your good opinion of "The Man Who" books. That isn't something I get to hear very often, so it's especially welcome.


Eric Spahr:  Dr. Donaldson
I would first like to say thank you for having a forum that allows your fans to provide feedback.
Second, I have a question about Linden Avery from Runes.
Early in the story, while in her 'real world', she gives Joan her ring back to calm her. But then she also states that any attempt to restrain Joan from hurting herself fail.
I remember the passage roughly saying that restraints would just fall off in the night.
Is Joan really that stupid that she couldnot see Lord Foul at work?
Not an insult to you, but the observation that she KNEW that Foul could work in this world, she in fact remarks on memories of his influence of the weak willed in her world.
I would think the second or third time the restraints 'fell off' she would have taken the ring away. She know how much Lord Foul wants access to white gold.
So why did she not 'connect the dots'?
First, I assume your question is really about Linden rathr than Joan. I hope that's accurate.

Other than that.... <sigh> Sometimes the more obvious something is to me the more trouble I have explaining it.

As a general observation, I find that "connecting the dots" as a reader of fiction--or as any kind of observer--is a whole lot easier than it is in real life. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to smack people I know because they can't connect the dots in their lives; but I *don't* smack them because I've learned with anguish and sorrow and I'm pretty ^#$$&U& lousy at connecting the dots in my own life.

After that, I suppose you could say about Linden that it's all a question of what her assumptions are and where her attention is focused. (After all, the poor woman doesn't know she's a character in a novel.) Trying to keep the list short (and remembering that we're only talking about the Prologue of "The Runes of the Earth"), her assumptions are: a) the struggles of the Land to survive Lord Foul revolve around Covenant, not around Linden herself, and certainly not around Joan, because b) Joan isn't now and has never been--in Linden's experience--a figure of power, she's just *bait*, on top of which c) Linden has never been given any reason to believe that any ring except Covenant's matters, in addition to the fact that d) Linden has left Covenant "in charge" of the Land's reality (the Arch of Time), so she has no reason to believe that Lord Foul will ever be a problem again.

As for Linden's attention, she's a physician who has spent all of her life except for one (apparently) long night living in a world that follows rules she knows and understands, rules to which she was born, and she is (very naturally, in my opinion) focused on Joan as a *patient* rather than as a *threat*. I don't consider myself a stupid person, but if I were in Linden's place I think I could have made the same mistake she makes 12 times out of 10.

And as an additional point, remember that Linden's decision to give Joan her ring is a "successful" therapy: it significantly reduces the amount of damage Joan does to herself, as well as the amount of hysteria Joan displays.

Also: have you ever tried withholding relief from a person who is obviously in terrible pain? Do you know what that kind of decision costs the person who does the withholding? (Covenant's decision in "The Power that Preserves" to reject the Land for the sake of a threatened child is relevant here.)

Finally, how do you know that Linden's decision wasn't the best possible choice under the circumstances? You haven't read the rest of the story yet: you don't know what the eventual outcome of Linden's actions--or Joan's--will be.

<sigh> All of the above may be over-kill. If so, I hope you'll pardon me. I've been known to become downright belligerent in defense of my characters.


Jon Bernstein:  Hi Stephen,
Have you ever given thought to turning one of your works like Mordant's Need or some unpublished short strory into a graphic novel

And if so what are the odds of someone like me taking a shot at drawing some panels up?

I know it's a long shot but it never hurts to ask.

Jon Bernstein
No, I've never considered the idea, in part because my mind doesn't work that way (alltogethernow: "I'm not a visual person"), and in part because I don't own the rights. It's standard practice that those rights are held by the publisher. (Exceptions occur, of course, but they wouldn't in my case because I don't have that kind of clout.)


Michael from Santa Fe:  When Runes of the Earth started, we learned that Linden had adopted a son which she loved with all her heart and was taking a lot of her time and energy and that she still obviously missed and loved Covenant despereately. She has not remarried and the text makes no mention that she has had even a boyfriend in the intervening years since she was last in the Land. Now this may fall under the heading of "just because it's not in the text doesn't mean it didn't happen", but gosh, you mean she hasn't gotten laid in ten years?
Well, it happens. But this is pretty far outside the parameters of the story I'm trying to tell, so in a sense your guess is as good as mine.


H. Scarbrough:  Hello. I had a question on the Land itself in particular. I searched the GI and it didnt seem like anyone has hit on this point yet but if they have forgive me asking again. It seems that the Land itself, was based in part on the human body. In Illearth war, Thomas and Elena pass through "Damelons Door" to find the earth blood. The description seemed very similar to the human ear. Damelons door being the eardrum and the earthblood being the pool of wax. the long descent down to the pool being the eustachin tube. And it seemed that, I believe, that Fouls Creche was alot like the human eye in in its description. If you can answer to the truthfulness or the idiocy of my observation it would be appreciated. It has been bugging me for over 15 years. Thanks
Writers often take metaphors wherever they can find them. And the idea of the Land as a "body" (e.g. the internal body of Covenant's psyche) is certainly defensible. But I did not have any specific organs in mind, either for the geography within Melenkurion Skyweir or for the structure of Foul's Creche. And I sure wouldn't want to push this line of imagery too much further (Andelain? Kevin's Watch? <ouch>).


Dave Hollin, Wales:  Stephen,

many thanks for all the years of pleasure your writing has given me. Along with Tolkien, Pratchett, Adams (Douglas that is), you really are up there at the top.

A couple of clumsy questions if I may?

Like Tolkien, one thing constantly intrigues me about The Land. There are never any "technological advances" in the Land even though many thousands of years pass by. Tolkien also leaves little room for such "natural" progression of development for races in Middle Earth. Is this a coincidence? Further to this I am very intrigued by the "civilisation" present at the time of Berek before the first lords are created. Pardon my groping ignorance, it almost seems as though there is another separate world in existence for that time period, almost "historical" with parallels to real history. I mean there are glimpses of battles, cities and tales innumerable (Doriendor Corishev, Doom's retreat, etc) from this proto-world you alude to in the first chronicles. One could almost say that if left to a natural progression this could have resulted in a world much more familiar to ourselves! Did you ever think about developing this strand of the the Land's tapestry further or was it just litarary teasing to draw the audience in? I must admit that I went on to read the Silmarillion before LOTR because of tantalising details Tolkien left lying about in the Hobbit.

Anyway I have rambled enough. Many thanks again for your books, your friendship through hard times (even though you didnt know it!) and your obvious humanity.

Regards Dave
I don't get compared to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams very often, so I'll assume that's a compliment. <grin> (I enjoy both authors. But Judy-Lynn del Rey once said of "Lord Foul's Bane," "It isn't a book you can just laugh your way through over the weekend.")

I've already discussed the Land's lack of technological progress--no doubt since you first posted your question, lo! these many months ago. So I'll just say that, no, I've never considered exploring the civilization that rose and fell with Doriendor Corishev--or any other civilization that doesn't impinge directly on the story I'm trying to tell. As I've observed with some regularity, I don't create--even casually--things I don't need. I needed places like Doom's Retreat and Doriendor Corishev to have a past, so I gave them one (or a sketch of one). But a fully-developed past was unnecessary. And worse, it would have been a distraction. You can call this "literary teasing" if you wish: I prefer to think of it as world-building. (Or "staying on task," if you're as ADD as I am. <grin>)


Sean Casey:  Stephen, you say you admire the works of messrs Erikson and King - do you only like writers with the same name as you?

My sensible question is partly about the same thing - The Dark Tower series. You've said in reply to questions that you don't like an omniscient viewpoint that skips around the minds of various characters and that you're not keen on prequels. The Dark Tower contains both of those things (Wizard and Glass arguably being a prequel). Does the other Stephen carry off these techniques in a way that you particularly like or are they flaws in an otherwise excellent story? (Personally, I'd agree with the latter.)
Well, Erikson spells his name with a "v" instead of a "ph". Doubtless that explains why his books aren't better-known.

My memory isn't what it was, and it wasn't exactly encyclopedic to begin with. But I don't remember King ever using "an omniscient viewpoint that skips around the minds of the various characters" in the Dark Tower novels. He does change POV regularly--even often--but he does so clearly, coherently (he does not change within a specific episode or action), and I'll call it respectfully (while he's using a specific POV, he respects its limitations: he does not use that POV to provide information which that POV could not possess--e.g. knowledge of the private thoughts of other characters). The kind of omniscient viewpoint I loathe is the kind that tries to tell you how everybody sees everything simultaneously, or that floats indiscriminately from one POV to another within an action, or within a defined sequence of actions. (Dickens does this. So do Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn. But, curiously, they only do it at the beginnings of books, as if they were feeling their way along. As soon as they hit their stride, they stop playing fast-and-loose with POV.)

As for prequels: I distinguish between "prequels" (which in my lexicon are not essential to the comprehension of the present story) and "back-story" (which *is* essential). No one needs to read "The Silmarillion"--or even