Raymond E. Feist Interview by Michael Brunton Auckland New Zealand May 23rd 1998
Q. What writers influenced you, if any?
A. Well, you know, I think you start with the presumption that anything was good that I have read in my entire life in some way or another was instructive. God where do you start, Shakespeare I guess, you know I've said this repeatedly I've only seen Hamlet, what, forty times and every time I see it there is new stuff. Once past the complexities it is simply a basic story about a pissed off student a kid that's mad with his mum, and look at the havoc that reeked. Actually his greatest play. All the writers that you had to read when at school then rediscover. I read Ivanhoe recently, as a kid it comes across as a pretty straight-ahead knights in armour adventure story. It's pretty dryly written on a kid's point of view with its nineteenth century language. Wow, when you get to the end of that thing, Bois-Guilbert lets Ivanhoe win to save Rebecca he dies; yet in everything in his upbringing rejects the notion he is in love with his student. Its pretty complex stuff given the time it was published and how its been perceived in the market place. It is not a simple childhood story. A lot of the adventure writers the body of publishing's referred to as boys' adventures. Conan Doyle's "The White Company, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, a lot of the historical novels, Black Rose, Silver Chalice, the Two Towers real take me there kind of books. I expect that is the measure of what I try to do. I've said this before I write historical novels of places that don't exist. Midkemia is an objective world, it's a virtual world it's not a real world. And yet I'm writing about 500 years ago. We decided when we created the world, what I wrote about would be about a long time ago.
Q. Are you aware of the other fantasy writers out there
A. Steven Donaldson I've read. I had a funny conversation with him once about his work. He's a skinny guy with a shock of blondish hair smokes these great bomber cigars wears glasses looks very surreal and he opens his mouth he's got this deep sounding voice. "I tell you Feist, I write serious fantasy I just can't be concern with this silly lightly stuff that so many people seem to enjoy". Which I respond " Steven, serious doesn't mean unrelentingly grim. He can't hold you up ether. Steven has a high readership so he must me doing something right. I like Lord Fouls Bane I got tired of Covenant's whining, well he pick a real tough thing to do and that was have a character who was locked in denial from page one. I wouldn't call it deep but it is certainly interesting. I've read Jannys work obviously, as I've worked with her.
Q. Have you heard of Terry Goodkind?
A. I've heard of Terry, I haven't met him, he seems to be building a very solid readership very quickly. When I first heard of him and where he seems now He seems to fit into that overnight success category.
Q. Will you work With Janny Wurts again?
A. We might do something together. We won't do anymore Kelewan stuff we put pay to that. If we do it will have to be something we both want to work on and if we have time to fit it to our schedules, I'm not saying we are going to, but we are talking about it, its just a couple of things that have come up, and there's a couple of other writers I'm trying to hear from about doing some projects together. If its not making grotesque amount of money it damn well better be trying, if not I'd rather be watching football or go play with my kids.
Q. Do you what to see your work turned into a mini-series?
A. If someone wants to pay me large amount of money to take a bash at it, good luck to him or her, as long as the cheque clears. I don't do films, that's not my thing I write books. I grew up in the film business, I was on sound stages from the Age of seven I have no illusions of Hollywood, I enjoy the box I'm as much a film watcher as the next guy. I have no desire to be involve in that business, so if somebody wants to do a rag-steal and take the book and go if into an dark room with their team of twelve writers and take a bash at working at a TV series or a Feature film GREAT, take me to the premiere and buy me the popcorn don't expect me to write on the damn thing, that's not what I do. I do novels. Needless to say if someone does take it on I would hope that the product of their labour would be a decent film or a decent TV show. I won't be over worried if it was a disaster, because its not going to change one word of the book, long after the TV show is forgotten the books will be still in the stores and that's what I do. That's what got my name on it. So "overly", sure it will be fun. But you won't see me dragging producers into corners saying you must read this with them screaming send me coverage trying to get away.
Q. In your Riftwar saga you had Kelewan and Midkemia closely linked, is that going to happen again?
A. Well the book that's coming out in November "Krondor Betrayal" is based in part from the period of the end of the first Riftwar saga up to the serpent war saga, that the linkage between the two worlds was very closely guarded. Obviously the title the book will give you a hint, that somebody pulled a double cross, and the nature of the betrayal and why it took place is part of the underlining reason why from that point forward why there is one rift at that start off, and is closely controlled and who comes through it is closely monitored. So people popping off to go visiting is not in the order of possibilities. Later on in the third Riftwar the rift will be closed permanently, but I won'' say why as that is one the big sub plots the third rift war.
Q. When will that series be published, is this the one you mentioned for a November release?
A. No, this is properly two years from now. The book in November is titled volume one in the rift war legacy because the computer games are slotted between Darkness and Prince so the stories are ten years after Darkness there will be a period of five or six years where there will be lots of things happening, on a small scale however but it introduce elements that are fairly large and important in cosmology that are touch on in Rage of a Demon King and Shards. There are actually two events mention in Shards that I haven't written yet because it sort of got out of order. It was a conscious decision, when we did the original Betrayal at Krondor, to have a nice big window of time that we haven't common on. I definitely wanted to leave myself some room to go and do some things. It worked dramatically in the game, and then I found myself do what I swore I would never do that was do a prequel. What I was faced with was trying to plug the game to another writer and somebody put out a Raymond Feist Riftwar Legacy Volume one Betrayal at Krondor by someone you never heard of . And I thought heck there's a load of that going around and I kind a think it's an insult to the reader ship to put my name to any thing that I didn't put my hand in. So I did the childlike mistake of volunteering, and my publisher said great have them ready my next week .So I actually pounded at them and had Betrayal done in 4 months. Call it an exercise in craziness. I never had to work with someone else's work before. Neil Helper and John Cutter wrote Betrayal at Krondor I just had some input. The original story was the product the three of us sitting around saying "OK bring him here and do this, so the credits for Krondor said story by Helper Cutter and Feist. I basically did two, three days work on that thing and they went off and labored for six months. I got to say he couldn't be wearing that change the colour and that kind of stuff. But when I wrote the book it was fine I unraveled every thing and took it down to its bare essential narrative, threw away all the silly stuff, you know all the really game like "lets go get the beer off the trolls, so the army will fight". What are we Australians? Then build up a narrative that is a satisfying read that as all the things associated with a Feist novel. Characters, people doing things interesting.
Q. We will see Pug, or Macros the Black, reappear?
A. You won't see Macros, I doubt seriously that I will put him into a game, and if he's not in the game he won't be the series of books. Macros is too much like a nuclear bomb he's a sheaf of destruction. Chekov said something really important if you are a writer. That is if you have a gun on a mantle place in act one you had better have shoot it off in act three. If you bring Macros in you had better have something cosmic going on, and how many planet eating monsters can I throw at Midkemia .It follows something George Shwarz told me about when he was editing DC comics he really liked editing Superman ,and Batman ,but he told me once he hated Justice League I asked him why and he said because of the stupid Superman book, He said every month the writer has to come up with a reason why Superman is weaker or dumber than in his own book, other wise its watch Green Lantern, Wonder Woman , Aquaman, the Flash and Batman stand around and watch Superman solve the problem , so the first thing the writer has to do is how do I get Superman out of the story .He said I hate it every month I have to do something to get Superman out of the story . Yeah well I'm have the same problem with Pug now its like he's getting to the point where fine, Pugs been showing his power for a lot of reasons valid dramatic reasons. He got his ass kicked in Rage, because he got a little arrogant. Pug has finally realized that he has a lot of power, I haven't articulated this way but if I was to write now I would prefer Pug talking to somebody. Even with great power, power is meaningless if you are not willing to use it. I'll give you an idea, what's a more effective weapon a 22-caliber handgun or a nuclear bomb .It depends on what you what to do. If you what to take a hostage, and be able to focus on that one person then obviously the pistol is more important, if you what to hold the entire city of Auckland hostage then the nuclear bomb is your better bet, only if you are willing to use it, in other words if you are willing to turn this city in to radioactive slag heap sitting on top of a crater, then you have something rather formidable, but the question that comes is whose going to play chicken first, so Pug is faced with a situation where there are a lot of things he can do but only when he is willing to use his power , that was one of the key issues between him and the Kingdom at the end of Shards. I'm not your puppet or your secret weapon you can not order me to go out and slaughter thousands of people I won't do it there's that moral element to it. And Pug can only be one place at a time he's got a lot of power he can do some magic things he can set up some wards and things to tip him off when things are going on in certain areas. But even if he is sitting in his study and suddenly two arms go up at the same time, something going down in the Keshian boarder and something happening in the Northlands where's he to go. Where he isn't he's not intervening. So Pug will become very involved in the conclave of the shadows in the next series it would have been running for a number of years. I was thinking of calling it the Secret War, then I was reminded of a bad mini series the marvel comics put out called the Secret Wars. So that's where we will go with Pug, he will be much more than the man behind the throne. So actually if you think about it that's what Macros did for a number of years so in that sense there is a seminary with him at the end of the book. Pug will take on the mantel of the black sorcerer, he will let the legend of the black sorcerer keep people away from the island, scare people and become more a mystery .One of the things I can tell you about the new series is there will be lots of new characters, that are ether recruited or about to be.
Q. Are you effected in your writings of current affairs, about things that happen around you?
A. Not to much when you get to my age you grew up with the duck and cover, the nuclear terror thing and we grew up with, when I was a little kid there were odd moments where the teacher would sing out duck and cover and you would hit the floor screw under your desk cover your head when in theory the nuclear bomb goes off that would protect you .It was handy for earthquakes and a few other less destructive things .We were totally undated with the propaganda .I look back and wonder how did they feed us this crap. Ultimately that influences certain things about how writer looks at the world .In my case it really contributed to my way of a idea of how can people be so wacky how can they be just so down write dirt dumb. One the problems I have with of the fantasy conventions is evil I've had this conversion with several people .If you can get the emotional distance of the horror of the holocaust it's a very easy to look at example you look at the slaughter of six million Jews two million gypsies and homosexuals 20 million Russians you look at that and if you can just filter out the damaging revulsion. You can look at something like the death camps there is a banality that emerges in which you are looking at this amazing engine to attempt to dispose of a lot people. To some how say we can make you go away, we don't like you we think you are scary we can make you go away. And without giving you the whole social political thing of scape-goating the Jews it basically said the Germans and there servants and allies said well we can make you go away. Of cause they couldn't. They killed a lot of people but they couldn't make them go away and instead of being clever with the gas and the ovens the conveyer belts the possessors they still had a lot of dead bodies. What you are left with (once again keeping the horror away from you so you are not throwing up.) is this amazing waste this profound human waste who knows how many potential Chopin's, Mozart's were there, was there another Einstein, was there another Steven Hawking in there .The stupidly stems from somebody who could actually walk and crew gum at the same time who wasn't totally imbecility in some wired twisted sick fashion thought this was a good idea. Something good would come of this and you sit there in stunned disbelief so evil is really the emotional response to waste and stupidity .So on of the problems I have with the conventions of science fiction is the idea of this apparition of distilled evil this evil exists in this vacuum where it is a entity of itself. So the whole cosmology centers on the idea that everything in one fashion makes scene. It doesn't necessarily mean we apprehend it correctly or that it makes sense to us but does make sense in a sort of cosmically whole way that the universe is essentially perfect and that our view of it is floored .So we stemmed the whole idea of the Midkemia design as that the universe is trying to right itself, by making it whole and healthy, crap happens along the way problems exist and you have to solve them.
Well would you believe our half hour was up. Raymond did go to say he has never glorified war in his novels but showed the true side of war.
Interview displayed by permission of the interviewer and is copyright Michael Brunton 1998. No reproduction without permission of the author. Please visit Michael's site.