As with many boys engrossed with reading do, I went through various phases of interest when it came to literature. My first love, around the third grade, was dinosaurs. Next up was space and astronomy, which lead to a love of science fiction. The fact I was a full-blown Star Wars nerd (still am, actually) helped ease my transition into that particular section of the library. After that was, and probably still is, my favorite – Mythology. Greek and Roman first, then the Norse. I even tried Egyptian, but it was just too weird.
It was my obsession with Zeus and Odin and their respective broods that gave me an appreciation for fantasy literature. While I still enjoy sci-fi and I love me some good horror novels, fantasy is the genre that has stuck with me the longest. It was around this time, probably junior high, I discovered the joys of book clubs. I could literally send in an order form to a fantasy/sci-fi book club and they would send me books.
It was my memberships of these clubs that introduced me to Terry Brooks. In almost every monthly guide I received, Brooks’ novel Magic Kingdom for Sale: SOLD! was promoted heavily. I didn’t give it much attention, as I was deeply involved in books that related more to the hardcore swords and sorcery (think Dungeons and Dragons crowd) such as Thieves World. But, I kept seeing this book and finally, I checked it out at my high school library.
I immediately fell in love with the kingdom of Landover and the story of Ben Holiday, a man looking for a purpose in life and found it by purchasing his own kingdom. The story was easy to read, but not a simple story by any means. It wasn’t aimed at children, nor was it so steeped in fantasy terminology and ten-dollar vocabulary that younger readers couldn’t get involved.
So, it was fairly ironic that I discovered Brooks had written another series outside of Landover, a rather large, in-depth, and popular series, in fact. The Shannara books are among some of the most popular in fantasy literature and have spawned legions of fans spanning three generations. It was the Shannara series and the first book in his latest trilogy in the series, Wards of Faerie, that recently brought him to St. Louis where he spoke to a packed house containing everyone from the stereotypical Comic Book Guy fanboy nerd to kids to folks who looked as though they may have been around when the original printing press was built. Such is the joy of books – there is no age limit, no socioeconomic boundaries, no gender exclusion, no barriers of any kind.
Once again, Left Bank Books did a superb job of hosting the event which featured a talk by Brooks, a fan Q&A, and then an autograph session that made me shake my head in amazement that the literary icon didn’t suffer from massive carpal tunnel issues. The new book, said Brooks, was written to channel the vibe from Sword of Shannara and, in a move he said he would never do again, all three books of the trilogy will be released in one calendar year. “It’s the last time I’m doing this,” Brooks said. “Don’t ask me to do it again. I’m going back to the old days of writing.”
The book contains several extras for hardcore fans, including full color artwork by Todd Lockwood in the back along with a full map. It’s also the first time since his very first book that pictures have been included. “We haven’t put pictures in the books since the first one,” Brooks said, “because it would increase the price of the books. I asked the publisher if we could go back to having pictures in the books without raising the cover price and they agreed.”
Brooks, who originally hails from Sterling, Ill., also announced some other projects causing mass salivation from the fans in attendance, the biggest being an annotated version of Sword of Shannara coming out in November.
“I wanted to include the original artwork, but it’s literally vanished from the warehouse,” he said. “I feel like it probably vanished onto eBay. We have all the preliminary sketches, though, and they will go into the annotated book.
“I’m also doing a lot more online these days because I have to. Don’t want to, but the publisher said I have to. So I did some e-published stories, ten to twelve thousand words, you can get for 99 cents. I did three this year with three coming out next year.”
While he admittedly loves reading short stories, he is well-known for his loathing for writing them. It’s not that he feels he’s above it or that it’s a dead end, Brooks said he just doesn’t feel he’s any good at it because he prefers long-form writing. “I’m getting better at it because I’m getting into the stories.”
As a thank-you to the fans for their years of loyalty, he began reading excerpts from one of his unpublished manuscripts (“It’s a piece that will reveal nothing,” he said to a laughing audience). Brooks is one of the few authors I’ve found to actually be very strong storytellers. One would think if a writer has the ability to put brilliant words on paper, they should also have the ability to vocalize those words effectively. That isn’t the case most times. Brooks knows how to hold an audience’s attention, how to tell a compelling tale. His reading reminded me of what made me love books in the first place: My second-grade teacher Mrs. Steers reading to us after recess. The adventures of Henry Huggins, Beezus and Ramona, Ralph the mouse and his little red motorcycle; all those things flooded back to me as I listened to Brooks’ voice.
Upon finishing what will be Chapter 10 of his next book, the Q&A began. Many questions directed at authors in panels I’ve attended focus on the business of writing, the mechanics of translating thoughts into words on paper, etc. This wasn’t one of those sessions. This was very much picking the brain of Shannara’s God, hoping to find heretofore unknown secrets of that world.
His humor and his back-and-forth with the audience made what can sometimes be a brutal recitation of events throughout the history of a literary series very entertaining and light. To my surprise and delight, one of the first things he spoke of was the fact a new Landover book is in the making and, even better, it will come out the same time as the movie version of Magic Kingdom For Sale: SOLD! scheduled to star Steve Correll as Ben Holiday.
“We optioned Landover at the beginning of the year,” Brooks said. “The screenwriter is working on the second draft and for the first time, I think it has a real chance of being made. I think Correll is perfect for the part.”
At the same time, he continued, there is also interest from a multi-national group to put together a Shannara movie. Brooks said more information would be posted via his website in the fall.
The topic of the night, however, was the one seemingly everyone and no one wanted to discuss and that was whether or not there would be an actual final ending to the Shannara series. Brooks said he does plan to end it.
“I’m planning to finish it sometime over the next 10 years,” he said. “The publisher’s probably vetting writers as we speak to continue it, so the series can go on forever. “I’m OK with that.”
For more information on Terry, his books, his tour schedule, and movie information, visit his website at TerryBrooks.net. Fans can also follow him on his Twitter account and on his official page on Facebook.