World Building Reflections From Master Fantasy Author R. A. Salvatore

R. A. Salvatore
R. A. Salvatore

Live chat with R. A. Salvatore

Hank Garner 
And we are live. Thank you for joining us in the story craft cafe. I’m your host, Hank Garner. And today I have, you know, it’s always such an honor and a pleasure to get to talk with Bob Salvatore, one of my favorite writers of all time. And, you know, we’ve gotten to do this quite a bit of last couple of years, and it’s always fun. And something new. Bob, welcome to the show. 

R. A. Salvatore 
First off, it’s great to be back. Hank, thanks for having me back on.

Hank Garner 
Absolutely. Bob, two new books this summer that that’s, that’s crazy, even for you.

R. A. Salvatore 
Well, backing up. The Tao of Dritz is really  a journal. So, most of that’s been written over the last 35 years. Right. I didn’t have to do much for that except to help dig them all up and put them all together. And, you know, it wasn’t like I wrote a new book. These are the essays from Homeland through the book that’s coming next year. Okay, I think it’s next year. It just seemed like people have been asking for this for a long, long time. It just seemed like the right time to do.

Hank Garner 
Well, Drizzt is one of those characters and, you know, he’s been talked about, you know, endlessly about the dichotomy, that he is as a character, he’s a Drow, someone  that most people just assume, to be one way, and he does everything he can to go against his nature or his perceived nature, you know,

R. A. Salvatore 
it nurture, right, so

Hank Garner 
Well, this is like, been a 35 year exploration of nature versus nurture, hasn’t it?

R. A. Salvatore 
An individual agency, reasoning beings have a choice period. And you know, in my books, and this is the funny, the funniest thing about the books is that you’re told by the narrator’s in the books on the surface that the Drow are evil, right? And since they’re humans, they’re people that you can relate to you just go with that. But the truth of it is, if you read my books from the very beginning, Dritz wasn’t the only Drow who was not evil, right at the same vehement and Jarl Axel. These are people just trying to survive in a ruthless society. That’s an autocracy ruled by a demon, an eternal demon queen. They can’t leave Dritz isn’t unique and that he went against them jitsu is not even unique to the left. He’s unique that he left and survived the Underdark and came up and found friends exactly really unique in that he’s just the most well known. There’s, as I went back and did generations, we made it quite clear that even back before drizzt was born. Dabney, the priestess of love hate sloth didn’t understand why she was still getting your spells. Zach the fan hates love. Jarrell, Axl hates love. Everyone, the breaking dearth hates love. Half the priestesses hate love. Look at it this way, if you have a dictatorship, that is completely isolated. The only news you get the only thing you know about the other societies is what the dictator and her minions tell you. And they, you will do what you need to do to survive. And in my books from the very beginning, the barbarians of 10 towns attack 10 towns attacked the dwarfs they would have killed everyone there if they if they won, right? Is that not evil? The magistrates and Luskin were torturing people for the pleasure of the watching crowd. not evil. So there is there’s there is good and evil. Those are real concepts. And there are lines, but the perception of good and evil is very often decided by which ones are on my side. And which ones are on the enemy side. So Americans can go and cheer Red Dawn but then condemn people that fight back when we’re in their country. And the Drizzt books are about agencies. You know, I’m gonna get rid of McAfee. It just keeps popping up on my screen. I didn’t even install it. I thought it was I didn’t think it was a virus. I thought it was an anti virus. And I’ve addressed books around individual agency, they’re about doing the right thing. Period. Not not what tradition tells you supposed to do and not what love tells you you’re supposed to do but just doing the right thing. Yeah.

Hank Garner 
You know, I didn’t know that. We were gonna get into this conversation so quickly, but Let’s let’s just jump right in, you know, the, your, your latest trilogy has had some readers up in arms about, you know, some some things that you’re trying to expose some things that you’re trying to bring to the forefront of people’s understanding. And, and you know what I’m talking about. But But what you’re saying and looking back over your body of work, you’ve been saying it all along, people just want to see what you have been saying all along?

R. A. Salvatore 
Well, look, there’s a whole bunch of people in this country and probably in other countries as well. They drive to work and put on radio stations whose hosts are there to get you met. That’s what their job is. But it’s what it’s all about. Anger is addictive. Right? It lights up the same Patty brain is porn. It’s addictive. You know, if you’re if you’re listening to your local sports radio, the one of the hosts will say something about, like, up here about the Patriots. That is the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard in your life. And you wonder how did this guy get to be a broadcaster or, or a sports journalist? If he’s that stupid about the game? He’s not. He wants you to know when I have to correct him. Let me call and now the light goes on. And now the revenues come in from the advertisers. It’s a business, it’s a scam. And that’s what Cable News is. And I’m not pointing I’m not pointing my finger in either direction here. Okay. I’m pretty good at it. Cable News is there to get you angry? Yeah, it’s there to make you outraged about things that don’t even affect your life. Because it’s there to get you to watch cable news. It’s profit. That’s for profit. And so you talk about the latest book. I thought the latest book well, not the latest not glaciers edge, but styling enclave? Yeah, styling Enclave was planned. 20 years ago. Not the particulars. But 20 years ago, I knew that drittes had to find a society of drought elves that were not Loafie and elves so that he could forever get rid of the idea that it’s my nature. Right. I knew that 20 years ago. The books have been about that from the very beginning.

Hank Garner 
From the very beginning.

R. A. Salvatore 
But what happened was, I mean, let’s be real. How many people came to glaciers edge? When I wrote that? I mean styling enclave when I wrote that book. I wanted the people to be as shocked as Jarl Axel Katti. Brie and turian. Zach the fame were when they saw the bows pointed at them in the glacier. What are you doing up here? The only one they had a clue that that could be going on up there was jaw axe. Right? Right. I wanted the reader to be shot but let’s be real be three months before the book came out the website came out all the marketing came out the announcements came out that were changing the drought and I was wait till after the books I’ll let people read the book organic right but you know other they have different needs than I had so I’m not mad or anything about it. But it’s amazing to me that when you go and look at the and I I tried I don’t look at many reviews at all, but I was curious what style it enclave. Its political. Yeah, the the one star reviews, their political reviews.

Hank Garner 
It’s ridiculous.

R. A. Salvatore 
It is. But I understand that because you have people who feel like the world that they were told to as is isn’t right. The game books have called drought evil monsters in the monster man, you know they’re not. So I understand that this comfort level. But organically is how you correct that. In my opinion. It’s always been my opinion that that’s how you do it. You. You don’t tell people you’re wrong. You know, you just show them a logical project project, procession of events, a logical path. To continue the message that you began in the very first book you wrote,

Hank Garner 
When Haven’t we always believed that the best way to get your point across most of the time is through couching it in story. You know, by you know, when you tell someone a story, that’s a much more powerful device than just hitting someone over the head with it. And I thought we all understood that.

R. A. Salvatore 
Yeah, but you know, again, you add cable news, talk radio to Twitter, Facebook, and you screw it. Like my friends, my son said that Facebook he goes, Facebook provides you a service so that they can make money off you while making your life noticeably worse. And I don’t know if that’s true for everybody using Facebook, because I know what people use Facebook and it’s just the sheer family photos. Yeah. But generally speaking, you will see people, you know, everyone in this country has a fight fix, right? They have this, you gotta get in a fight. You gotta get in the fight. And it’s insane. It’s an insane way to live your life. It’s an insane way to live your life to be angry about things that don’t even affect you. Yeah, but that’s what, that’s what we’re being driven to for profit. And that’s my, that’s my, you know, I studied communication. I saw what was going on 22 years ago and I told my wife exactly where this was going. And now you see it in full bloom. You know, I just drove across the country out to California and back. And we took the southern because it was winter. So you know, here’s this Massachusetts left of center. I’m not you know, I’m not a swan everything to work well, for every right right, but left the Senate. Sure. And if you go by the Internet, or listen to Fox News, or listen to MSNBC, you were the sworn that I was going into hostile territory with a Massachusetts license plate when I’m going through rural Virginia, Tennessee. Alabama, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, right. The people were freaking awesome. All the way. They will awesome about the mask, someone wearing them some more. There was no arguments. There was no people that notice the license plate on my car were like, Oh, wow, you’re a long way from home. Yeah, we know. And I want to hear not California for the winter. Oh, wow. That’s a heck of a drive. Yeah, I’m having a blast, right. The people were awesome. The people in Tennessee were wonderful. The people in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana. Well, wonderful people, Texas as the most polite drivers in the world. They really are helpful. The internet’s not real. Right? Evil news isn’t real.

Hank Garner 
It’s, it’s hilarious.

R. A. Salvatore Books

R. A. Salvatore 
And by the way, I mean, I spent my nephew came back. He went around the country with his family. He came back. And he’s, he’s, he’s he’s very Christian. He’s right wing. Much more conservative than I am. We had a discussion for like four hours last night after our softball game. I love this kid. He teaches me things. I teach him things. We’re nothing but respectful. Nothing but respectful. We argue policy. But we don’t argue we try to teach each other. Right. That’s how I am with Tracy Hickman, we’re the same way. We’re best friends. He’s my brother. Don’t get mad about things that hurtin you do. Right.

Hank Garner 
Exactly. And the only reason we get to have you know, dust UPS about this stuff is because we have a character with the longevity that Drizzt has. Did you ever imagine 35 years ago? And you’ve told me the story before about how, you know, you just created him? I think you said you were in the car. Maybe I was at work. I was at work. And you just said to you know, to whoever on the phone. His name is Drizzt. And you know, and that

R. A. Salvatore 
Do’Urdon of the ninth house of  Menzoberranzan, right. What’s that?
I don’t know. How do you spell this out? I don’t know. Yeah,
I talked to Chris, I got I got hired. I got hired to do a book, not three books, not 38 books about the character 39 writing now. I hate to read the book. But I liked it. And so at the end of the book, I put a couple of hooks and they gave me another book. And the books were doing really well. So they gave me another book. Yeah, no, I think this was a long at all.

Hank Garner 
Did this idea of nature versus nurture? Like how soon in you’re creating the character and building the stories around him? How soon did that hook? Come to you?

R. A. Salvatore 
Oh, that’s the whole point of it. The whole point you know, that racism is stupid. Yeah. It’s self defeating. It’s limiting of civilization. It makes no sense. I mean, why don’t we just judge people by whether or not they have hair? Hank? Please don’t know it. I believe in individual agency. I believe that you are responsible for what you do. After the age of 18, you’re an adult, you are responsible for what you do. And it’s not it’s not racial, you are influenced by culture, you are influenced by your upbringing, you are influenced by all that stuff. But you are responsible for what you do. And there is, you know, there is there is an inner guide, in everybody that tells you know, when you’re doing something wrong, you know, when you’re cheating, you know, when you’re hurting someone, you know, these things, you don’t have to be told, you don’t need to you don’t need a book, a religious book to tell you what’s wrong, you know. And that’s not a knock on religion. Because if you ever knock anyone on religion, it’s that’s the thing I love the most about this country, you want to believe in something, believe in something. You want to believe in that believe in that you want to believe in that believe in that just don’t hurt anybody. Right?

Hank Garner 
Our friend, Doug has a question, how do you keep ideas for the same characters fresh after so long? I feel like so many series these days burn out much more quickly than Drizzt ever will for me. You know, you keep going back to the Well, time after time. And do you ever pull your bucket up? And it’s, it’s just not full of water?

R. A. Salvatore 
No, because here’s the thing with those characters that I created in 1987. And since I was 29 years old, I was 28 years old, from April to Crystal shine. I’m 63. Now, I’m a very different person than I thought I knew everything. And my job as an author was to tell you, right. And now I’m 63. And I know I don’t know anything. And my job is to is to write something that may be thought provoking enough for you to go find your own answers. Because we’re all just muddling through and trying to find our answers. And that’s what I do. So the characters are changing in the same way that I’ve been changing over the years. In fact, I’ve, when I, I don’t know, like 15 years ago, whatever it was, wizards decided to take all the drift stories into the collective stories of the legend of trust. And it was the book was I had to write like a one page where I was what I was thinking why I was writing the short story. And I’m gonna generally go back and read my work, because I’m always pushing forward. But I had to read the short stories. And I realized when I was reading the short stories, it was like looking at a family photo. Right? Because I would read the story. And I would know exactly where it was when I wrote it, what I was thinking and why I wrote it, even stories that were like 10 years old, 12 years old. And that’s when I realized, I think I always knew it. But this is when it became crystal clear to me that writing is just how I make sense of them. So as I’m changing the questions I’m asking my characters are changing with me. Therefore the characters have to change with me to keep up with the questions. And so it’s as fresh to me now as it was then.

Hank Garner 
When you when you went back to fight scenes,

R. A. Salvatore 
you can only sympathize so many way. Right? Although I glaciers edge has the best battle scene I’ve put in the book and maybe ever. The end of that book is, is one of the most intricately choreographed dive, wild divers battle. But all kinds of different friends and enemies it I had so much fun writing that book. And speaking

Hank Garner 
of that, like when you’re when you’re planning out a fight scene, how do you how do you work out the details in your mind? How do you choreograph it in your mind to bring it to the page

R. A. Salvatore 
and watch it happen and then write it down? It’s a joy. It’s a joy. And now I’ll change I mean, I’ll have like an outline of the fight scene. I know how I want it to end. That’s it. Yeah. And then I just let the battle go and weird things happen. Like I just wrote a battle in the book I’m writing and somebody got me Maybe Dad, I’m not sure yet. I did not expect that.

Hank Garner 
Axl says Do you ever listen to the audiobook? To see if the voice you hear when dressed? When you hear the voice of dressed? Does that match what you’re thinking? Or did does that just kind of make things convoluted to

R. A. Salvatore 
Victor? I love Victor Praveen. I love Tim Graham Reynolds does my demon war books I love with graphic audio did with some A lot of my books with the movie in your mind. Yeah. And I listen to them occasionally, parts of them, I won’t probably don’t go through the whole book. I know how it’s going to end. But no, it’s, that doesn’t change. It doesn’t change the what’s in my mind for the voice any more than the book covers change what my image of the characters, I am thrilled that other people are interpreting what I’ve done, whether it’s an artist painting picture, or are the artists, the audio artists like Victor who are doing the voices? So no, it doesn’t it it it like, is it dress or does it or resist? I called Fred most of the time. I don’t care. The only one was a CS Lewis said the only person who can determine the relationship between a reader and a book is the reader of the book. I live by that. I don’t care which one column column drizzle. That’s my boss used to calm. I don’t care. Just enjoy the damn book.

Hank Garner 
Right. Right. Speaking of looking back through the family album, that is the the body of work that you’ve created when when you’re putting together to the Tao of jurist? Were you did you ever look back? And and maybe not remember exactly what was there? And were you ever surprised by you know, the things that come out of juris mouth all the

R. A. Salvatore 
time. I just did these signings, and sometimes people will want to drittes quote in the signing, so they write the quote and they would like to put it in the book. And then like I see it on Twitter, someone will quote the will put a quote up and I kind of liked that. I wrote that. That was pretty good. Yeah, I have an old man’s brain. Now. I don’t remember anything. Well, but but there’s everything’s fresh right now remember.

Hank Garner 
But there is something. You know, weird. That happens. You know, we kind of jokingly say, It’s the magic of writing that, that sometimes when you get into that flow state of writing, things come out. That that you you read back and go wow, what was I responsible for that? That That sounds like some or you go wow.

R. A. Salvatore 
Yeah, it is writing is like, I get asked questions, you know, how big do you outline, I do like two page outline, start writing and throw the wind my pants. And I write by the seat of my pants, I don’t know what’s going to happen on the next page A lot of times. And that’s what makes it fun for me. And when I’m writing the words, just that pouring out as I get into scenes, as I get deeper into the scene and deeper, like the fight scene or the essays, I get deeper into them, the words just stop pouring out. And then I’ll go back and edit it. But I don’t do big edits. It’s pretty much what you’re seeing is 95 plus percent the first draft? Because I like it. And I think it’s honest.

Hank Garner
Has your process always been that clean? Or is

R. A. Salvatore 
it so mad that those really want to pound you? early on? I got pounded. I deserved that made me a better writer. But now. Yeah, it’s my turn in the manuscript. They know it’s going to be a clean draft. Yeah.

Hank Garner 
Does there come a point in your author career where you become more confident in your voice? Like, you know, something that a lot of beginning writers deal with is, is holding that manuscript close to you, and kind of the fear of sharing it with people and maybe the fear is, you know, being exposed as a fraud or, you know, you know, that when does that transition point happen when you become confident in your voice,

R. A. Salvatore 
Confidence, the wrong word, what being a writer, you know, you’re in second grade, and you write something and you pass it and you think you just wrote the best thing that was ever written, it comes back red marks all over it that’s being read every day. But what happens is, once you’re been doing it long enough, you understand the behind the scenes, and you realize some of the things, bad things people are saying you are so ridiculous and so agenda driven and have nothing to do with you that you don’t take it personally. And realize that half the things people are giving you tremendous credit for things they’re bringing you the book that you didn’t even think of. Okay, you are being privileged to allow your voice to go into somebody else’s life and their judgments are the only thing that matters to them with the book. I remember when kingdoms Vimal Lord came out the game that 38 studios that wonderful game, and I know the process that big huge games had to go through to get that game out on time under budget, put it in a world they didn’t even know when they started we had to bring them into the world and do all these quest lines I know  how much work they put into this game, from the from Grant doing the music to the narrative team, to the design team to the technical teams, they work their butts off, and they produce the game that a lot of people love. And one of the reviews I read, a review came out on the game and, and it was curtain because you see this. And I look at the review, and I’m like, this is the best review ever. Like I trashed the game, and did a psycho analysis on me to talk about why the writing failed here, here, here. And here. I didn’t write the game. But there was a guy who hated me. So he went after the game because he thought I had the game. I didn’t write anything. And again, I edited some of the quest lines with by editing. I mean, I told the writers maybe I would try doing this a little bit, but I very minimal. I wish I had written the game. It’s frickin brilliant. Some of the questions sent to me in tears. I didn’t write that. But this guy went after me and use the game to prove his point about me. A guy I’ve never met. And that’s when you begin to realize half the people that you’re reading you think of the expert credits, just garbage. I mean, when I started writing the genre Kirkus used to tack me locusts used to attack me microwaves Tracy Hickman Ed Greenwood. They hated us. Because we weren’t New York publishers. We weren’t several we weren’t in their club. Hey, hey with us. Well, then you get in the club and they love you for this and doing the same things you were doing when they hated you. Oh, shit. It’s why I don’t. I’m not I’m still not in that. I don’t get nominated for awards. I keep them. You know, I’ll get like the I got the San Diego Comic Con. Gave me a lifetime achievement what that meant a lot to me. Yeah, because those kinds of awards mean a lot to me. I’ve won a lot of awards, but not genre awards. Big from the genre groups, because of those early experiences. I just never joined the groups, because I don’t care. It’s like, go back to glaciers edge. I mean, to style an enclave you see reviews from people who are it’s purely political reviews. Well, well, how did you ever like my books? Right? But don’t use me of changing I haven’t changed, have you? Well, if you’re driving to work, listen to the talk radio, and you’re coming home and putting on your favorite cable news show all day. And you’re burying yourself in that stuff. Yeah, you’ve changed. I’m sorry, you’ve changed. You’re seeing the world through a prism Mission Bay. And it’s making you miserable. And I feel bad for you.

Hank Garner 
The echo chambers can be strong, for sure.

R. A. Salvatore 
And they hurt you. Yeah. So so it’s not that you get confidence that you know, I’m gonna give it crap. I don’t care. I’m writing the book the way I want to write the book. And if enough people keep wanting me to write the books, I get to keep writing books and getting paid for it. Bobby, but even then, that’s over, I’ll be writing books, even if I’m not publishing them. Because it’s how I make sense of the world. So I don’t care. You know, the shots don’t bother me and the overblown reviews in the positive don’t keep your feet on the ground. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Recognize the privilege that you have of doing something that’s allowing you to go in and affect other human beings and their lives, hopefully positively. Yeah, if it’s not positively by the way. Change the channel go read different books, right you’re enjoying what you’re reading don’t read it if you’re not enjoying watching on TV change the channel. Right?

Hank Garner 
Right.

R. A. Salvatore 
And so that’s the way I look at it now. It’s just, it’s not about whether you like my book or don’t like this installment or love this installment, I don’t like this installment. This is the next installment. It’s like when I wrote the book spine of the world about wolf guy having gone through the torture in the best now is back. Right? When I finished that book, I said that to my editor, and I said half the people are going to love this book, and half the people are going to hate this book. And there’s not gonna be anything in the middle and there’s nothing I can do about it because this book needs to be told for the story of wolf guy going forward. And sure as heck the book came out, and a whole bunch loved it and whole bunch hated it. But it was I don’t care because this is the story I have to tell. You want to come along Come on, you don’t know. Right? So often it’s it’s an understanding the difference between what you’re doing and what you can control.

Worldbuilding


The Sword Coast
The Sword Coast

Hank Garner 
Bob, I really want to talk to you about world building. And, and Doug has posted a question that I think is a great transition questions. He says not necessarily about writing, but what has the recent resurgence of d&d been like for someone who has been such a big part of stories in the Forgotten Realms. My my two sons recently well, in the last couple of years have really gotten into d&d. And my oldest son, who’s an English teacher is, is DMing, his first game right now. And, you know, so I get to, you know, casually drop things like, oh, you know, I know Bob Salvador, he’s, he’s been on our show a couple of times, and, you know, heads explode. And that’s a fun thing that I get to do. But, um, you came in to the Forgotten Realms in the 80s. And you had you had this the story idea, and you’re taking a character whose character class had already been established, and, but you’re going to do something different with it. So, you know, some fantasy authors just make up fantasy worlds out of out of whole cloth. And you but you also inherited a certain amount of that, but then have have taken what you inherited and expanded enormously. You know, and to, you really could could say that you’ve established the Salvator verse in a lot of respect. But first off at to Doug’s question, you know, how do you feel about the the new resurgence of d&d and and this whole new audience this discovering the stuff that we’ve loved for 35 years?

R. A. Salvatore 
I think is great. I think it’s absolutely great, because it’s look, escapism is not a bad word. When you live in a world of 8 billion people where you can’t control anything, being able to go hang out with your friends and control the fate of a world and a game is a blast. It puts people around the table to get around the computer screens hooking up in a positive way. Yeah, right. I think it’s fantastic. And I also think what’s really fantastic about it is that the group’s well first of all the stigmas gone, right? If you’re watching Stranger Things when I’m sure most of the people listening and watch Stranger Things, yeah, Hellfire Club that that was kind of extreme. Most people even playing d&d weren’t like clubs and of that, uh, that level or whatever. But the way they would treat it was pretty common in high schools, right? Yeah. The other show I would recommend is the last episode The Freaks and Geeks called discos and discos and dragons, I think it’s golf. And look, if you have a place where you can go and be who you are, and have fun doing it. That’s not the love. So I’m very excited about and I think they did a fantastic job on 5g. And then you have things like d&d Beyond roll 20, these new tools that are coming up just to make your game better, and easier to play.

Hank Garner 
I know roll 20 helped a lot of people, especially during the pandemic that I know it came out a couple of years before the pandemic. But when the pandemic hit, all of a sudden, people had a way to connect with each other remotely.

R. A. Salvatore 
Brought a lot of D&D groups back together. Yeah, yeah, that a talent, whatever, it changed the game. And so we will use a roll 20 They went back around the table, and we have a whiteboard that we would draw around. And they had typewriter keys with numbers that we use for monsters and stuff. And it just wasn’t singing for us. And we finally dropped that. And now we’re just plugging the big screen TV. We don’t even have it on the table, you have it on the wall, we plug it in, we all have our tokens that we can move around when he goes to a new map and stuff. And the game got rich got richer. So I love this stuff. And the fact that you can you can do it and it’s going to help you keep in mind all the things you have all the abilities you have. I think it’s been a godsend. And I think five years is a hell of a system. They’ve done a really good job of it and most of the expansions that I’ve seen like patches and Xana 1000 All that to really good. These there’s so much talent working in this world in this DND world right now. I think it’s great. I think it’s great. What’s not to like, what’s not to like, if you can bring people around the table and and be yourself or be someone completely different than yourself put on a different face and just play act. What’s not the like?

Hank Garner 
Right? Well, world building I know you have opinions about world building is one of your favorite things. 

R. A. Salvatore 
As you said it’s my favorite thing to do as a writer.

Hank Garner 
So when you first began, you know back in the in the late 80s What were your what were your ideas about the world you inherited and what you would how you would expand it. I know you signed on for one book originally, but you did some things in that one book that made people want more and more and more.

R. A. Salvatore 
Yeah, but here’s the thing, the thing that the thing that I, like I didn’t know the Forgotten Realms, when I signed on to do the Forgotten Realms, they weren’t out yet, at all. The only thing that I got when I was reading my book was Doug Niles book, the first one doc Barker, I’m gonna check the box that wasn’t out. But I got the original maps from Ed. And what but what I loved when I finally got my hands on that gray box of the Forgotten Realms was how much of the world was little defined or undefined, undefined. So what that just did is it gave you the perfect base to put your games it. But as a writer, it gave me carte blanche when I, we spent two weeks trying to figure out where I could put my book to not bump into all the other projects game and book that they had in the world. And I finally get frustrated. And I looked at the map, and I said, you see a little line above the spine of the world. And Mary credits laughs I think that’s a typo. So we’ll leave it because that’s nice when debt to cool. That’s Icewind Dale show us. And, you know, they let me have a drought sidekick who became a main character, which surprised everybody over there. But the beauty of the realms for writers in the early days were that you had you were free. It’s almost like writing a book about World War Two, right? You have to know the geography. You have to know like, where the Nazis are, where the Axis powers are, where the allies are, you have to know all that stuff. You have to know the technology and the Forgotten Realms, you have to know the various powers in the areas you might be going into, if they’re already established. And you have to know the technology. And by that, I mean the game rules. That’s the technology of the world. The lightning bolt of it is the is the M 16. Of The Forgotten Realms. I think they’re using them six. No, they probably they probably weren’t using them 60s When they Yeah, they work because that was in the 60s when it created. But anyway. So you know, the technology, you know, the world boundaries, and you have a place where your whole clock when I was going to right after they decided that they told me at the end of halflings gym that was it. We were going to go on if I was going to keep working on the new characters, people have done with these characters. They said 1989 and they were wrong. But when they came back and said people want to know which ones came from, I looked at the I think it was it was either Fein folio. I don’t know if that candidate had like a two page trial entry. I had the old modules queen that the demon web pits descend to the depths of the earth fault, the drought. But that was it. And they really didn’t flesh it all out. And I said, Well, what else you’re going to send me for the drought? They said, That’s it. You know, that’s all we have. That’s what do you want from me? They said, create the drought in the rounds. And, you know, we had the signposts that they were they were considered evil by the surface races they worshiped both in and I said in that city, and then you know, by 91 illustrate what’s out there the good the idea of good draw isn’t just mine, I mean, illustrate has been around since for 30 years, right? Because it makes sense. Because individual agency reasoning beings. And so I got to play, I got to just do my thing, and nobody was bothered. So I got to create Icewind Dale, I got to create mounds of barons and I got to create spirits soaring lands of Cavaliers and I got to create in the throw Hall, I got to take the concept of gauntlet grim and make it a real place. I got to create now that the North Cal day the fire north north pole. And there really weren’t any restrictions on it was like creating my demon was world. Same process. And the process I use, by the way is I just I just know history. I know cultures, I understand how people react together. You know, cultures don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen because of geography. They happen because of availability of of needs, right? I mean, if you live in a super hot area that’s full of berries and fruits and stuff, you probably not building castles. Right? Right. If you live in a really cold area, when you have to go out there and hunt for your food against animals that are gonna kill you. If you don’t do it right. You’re probably going to build technology that transfers to war. These are the kinds of things that just happen in history. So I study history, I read books; I read about cultures, and and I understand the flavor of them. And that’s what I look to put in the cultures that put in my fantasy world so that they in the person’s heart. It should seem new and fresh, but somehow familiar. So if you’re reading Menzel, Baron Zahn, and you happen to have watch The Godfather recently you probably understand where it came from.

And if you’re reading Kalladay and you know anything about pre Renaissance Italy, you probably know where calidez and a lot of it came from.

Hank Garner 
So I think when a lot of people think worldbuilding they’re thinking, the terrain, the vegetation, the climate, and then other folks might think, well, world building is really about characters and, and the societies that are that are built but But what you’re saying, and I completely latching on to what you’re saying here is that the one affects the other. So the terrain the climate, can affect how a society is built, and how that society behaves, and how that society defends itself. And, and then those things then become political systems and, and then those political systems then, you know, become warring factions with other political systems and, and, and it

R. A. Salvatore 
Partners with other political systems exactly when I did my demon was world. I started with the gemstone magic. Now, I didn’t create gemstone magic. I mean that there are people that buy crystals they think are powerful in our world today, that this is something that’s been throughout history where their gems are, you know, there there are magical properties associated with gems in fables and folklore throughout our history. Sure, as as a species, and there are some properties that like, I don’t think people if you weren’t in the cave full of giant crystals, it would be really hot. They throw off energy. That’s true. That’s that’s that’s reality, there are caves, you can’t go in and stay in for more than a few minutes, or you will die because of the crystals. So I had this idea for gemstone magic, and I figured out which gemstone would do what how you could combine them and everything. And then I had to figure out well, how are you going to get them? So I came up with a world that had a ring, a no that ring around it. And every now and then we have the Percy of media showers, they wouldn’t have showers of gemstones from above, but only in certain places. And the gemstones came down and they had magic they had magical they have energy that you could tap which is magic to them. And they one group figured out how to treat the stones when they get them fresh, basically, and preserve them to hold the magic in it. Well, that became the main church of the world, the Belikin church, because look at these guys, they have magic, they talk to God. Right? So then you have the bellicon church, and that structure built up. What would that mean for the kings and queens arrived? What would that mean? How would the church control the kings and queens,

Hank Garner 
right?

R. A. Salvatore
Oh, you’re sick, we have a gemstone that can heal that you should let us build that chapel. Right? Then as I expand the world, like when I did the Coven series, sure as heck you find out on another part of the same continent. There are crystal caves that emanate magic, and there are witches that have learned how to tap those energies. So it’s the same magic system but being used a little bit differently. And out of that group of cultures of the area, you have all these tribes around a lake, you have a tribe that lives up on the mountain, you can’t live up on the mountain without magic. You’re at 13,000 feet, and a place that’s you know, cold at times and row, six feet of snow will fall you will die You can’t live up there. But you have magic and you have a magical area that defies the elephant elements because of the power of the crystals. Well, what does that mean? It means you have a group of people living up on a mountain the tribe living up on the mountain that has an enormous advantage over the fishermen who live down by the lake and the cultures get defined by that and the attitudes of the characters get defined by that and in that series as with the drift series there was someone a which name Ireland who I love dearly dearly might be my favorite character the right right now who decided this isn’t right there they’re not what they told me these people down there were monsters. They’re not that people. What do we do? And again, individual agency in a world of magic created around that magic they have set boundaries so there’s no Deus Ex Machina moment about to happen and make sense and logic and then you have to pick the technology of that world. work with the magic because, like, if I can throw a lightning bolt, why am I going to design a gun? Right? But if only a few people can throw the lightning bolts, maybe the other people are tied to getting hit by lightning bolts. So they designed guns. Right? Right, if I can, if I can flick my fingers and laid up the logs in the fireplace, and on the matches, technology and magic replace each other back. The first book I book I wrote was called Echoes of the fourth magic. And the fourth magic was technology. Because I’ve always been interested in fantasy worlds of how the world develops, along the same lines as our world. Right now, culturally, a lot of the worlds seem to be very similar, but you have magic replacing invention. And so it’s anyone who’s a writer who wants to build anyone listening, who’s a writer wants to go and build a world, I strongly recommend you go find the the 1970s series, the PBS 13 patterns that they were doing, there were three that I strongly suggest every world builder look at the first one would be I seconds Cosmos just because everyone should watch seconds cosmos. Yeah, second would be connections, which is really powerful. But the third one, the one that most influences me is called the ascent of man. And it’s by Jacob Rimouski. And what broski does is he looks at the history of mankind, instead of going War, the War battle, the battle Empire, the Empire, he goes invention to invention, to just go, how we went from rubbing sticks together to make fire to building nuclear bombs. And it’s absolutely brilliant. And 13 passes, I wish they would be I don’t think it’s been remastered and it really should, because the sound is still you know, it’s all analog. Right? The things you know, 50 plus years old, but it is wonderful. I still have the book, I started that in college. This is where it all got me going. On the world differently.

Hank Garner 
I love it. A lot of people think about a fantasy writing. And and to them there’s an argument between Are you a world builder, fantasy author? Or are you a character development, fantasy author? In hearing you talk they are they’re closely intertwined, and you almost cannot separate your world building from your character development.

R. A. Salvatore 
I don’t know that that’s always true with authors. We all do it differently. You know, you asked an author how they read the book, yes. 10 authors how they write the book, and you’ll get at least nine different answers.

Hank Garner 
15 different answers. And for

R. A. Salvatore 
me, I love building the world. But the way I show the reader the world is I fall in love with the character and let the character take me on the journey with the reader. So I see the world through the eyes of many characters, period. And I’m writing and dear friend who one of the most influential writers of the 20th century became a difference from my hometown, Robert Cormier. I am cheese, the chocolate war. Most of us read him in school. He kind of took me under his wing when I got my first rejection letters. We had this long conversation, I call them up because his phone number was the actual the the phone number and I am the cheese was his actual phone number. That time, and he was just at the schools and stuff. So it seemed I actually called him up and he kept me on the phone for a couple of hours. And what he drummed into my head was character is more important than story. If you have a great story with terrible characters, nobody cares. If you have a mediocre story, but people care about your characters. They’ll love the book. Now it’s and I believe, and I. And so for me, when I’m writing, the most important thing is development of the characters as they’re going through this world I made. That makes sense. So yeah, it’s both. Love it. I can’t speak for other authors, because we all do.

Hank Garner 
Doug asks, If you were to start building a new world today, where would you start? The geography, history, culture magic, or something else? Or can they be separated?

R. A. Salvatore 
Well, I am building a new world today and expanding my demon wars. And what was most important in that world was geography at this point, because I have the magic system. Right. And, and so basically, I had to do a lot of research about about the Americas, and the Caribbean, and pirates. And but geography plays a huge part of that, right. So For that one that was a bit of a tongue depend on what I’m doing like demon War started with magic because I really wanted to do something I really wanted the magic system that was mine, that I also turned into an RPG once upon a time, too. And we played for six years and had a blast. But I wanted, I wanted to start with the magic system. And then as I tried to figure out how we’ll have these gems, how to get them? If the gemstones are magic, couldn’t anybody like pick up a diamond and make it light? or dark? Or pick up? It’s not just gemstones minerals, pick up some graphite and hit you with a lightning bolt. But no, because of the geography. And the geography determined the cultures, the geography leading to who control the magic determined the way that culture is developed, all tied together.

Hank Garner 
Wow. So it’s a bob, having these worlds that you have built or have expanded for so many years? Are there things that you do to keep pushing the boundaries? And, you know, you talked about those early days where you know, the map, you took a typo on a map and created a whole society out of it? You know, with with it has, if it has been expanding so much over the last few decades that you would think that the worlds were becoming kind of set in stone. Are there things that you can do to keep pushing those boundaries, even in a well-established world,

R. A. Salvatore 
Some characters in Starlight enclave found one character in particular got cast into the far north, the very far north and couldn’t understand why the Sunland set, and it drove her crazy. So yeah, I mean, I finally found the place in the realms and nobody was at fault the polar north, I created a glacier out of the body of one of the wind gods who lay down there, and the glacier grew around them. I filled it with a society that built logically up there, as they were trying to hide from the rest of the world. And another society of Nemesis on the other end of the glacier and built the new world in the Forgotten Realms. There’s nothing in the foreign realms like calumny. Or the Cadiz glacier. There’s nothing in the ROM site that I found a place to hide, I always find places to hide, only my grandkids can find me.

Hank Garner 
So so you can come up with a scenario. And then think well, what could support this scenario? And then the what if game just starts playing in your mind?

R. A. Salvatore 
Yeah. Yeah. What do cultures in the cold north look like? The very cold north, you know, they look very different than the cultures in the temperate zones, which looks very different from the cultures in the equatorial zones, generally speaking,

Hank Garner 
right?

R. A. Salvatore 
But how do you, you know, you have scarcities up north, right? But I have a big population up there. But how would it support it? It’s the frozen north, you’re not going to go out and hunt enough to? Well, that’s magic. You can create food if you’re a priest, but you’re creating boring food. Well, maybe they find out now not to create boring food. And so they don’t have to go hunting, but they have other things they’re going to do instead. And you know, they they fiercely protect their city, but it’s not really under assault, except from one group that every now and then. So what do they do to stay sharp? What do they do stay ready for battle? Well, they have a great way of staying ready for battle. And it’s based on a historical visit historical precedent for exactly what I did in there with the BloodSport that they do. Again, it just keeps building on itself well, what would they do about their clothes? And you know, the logical clothing for up north would be sales get so dense, right? But it’ll kill all the seal how many seals are there to kill you? It’s frozen. It’s not on the ocean. But imagine what and oh, what drought so we have spiders and that helps to but they don’t worship them the way to loathe the instance. You use.

Hank Garner 
You talked about your demon Wars series earlier and does having another property like that to work in. Does that help you on your other series that you’re right, I guess what I’m asking is just taking a break from one series working on something else. Then when you come back? Are you able to look at it with fresh eyes with a new imaginative

R. A. Salvatore 
Yeah, I can try something out something out in the minor scale of one world and then bring it to the other. Like I did a story that was audible exclusive called One Eyed jacks. And it was about your last lesson, and about pirates, and about having to deal with some really bad developments with the pirates. Yeah, very bold and they were getting unstoppable. And he had to deal with if you want to keep his hold on Luskin by they after I did that story, and that came to me because I was working on the next email or series, which is pirates. So I did on a small scale, tried out some things started doing my research. And then of course, I just bring it much bigger. It’s difference the the arms race and demon wars on the ships is very different than the than what was going on in the world with chillax. But yeah, I mean, you bring things back and forth, I can do more things with my demon Wars world that I came with the realms. I don’t need someone’s permission to blow up a city. I just do it. Right. I think the books serve a different purpose creatively for me. They’re bigger in scope. And don’t fall in love with too many characters because not many of them make a live and they’re not coming back and they’re gone. They’re gone. You might get a ghost back short for a very brief visit, but they’re gone. So yeah, they give me two halves of the creativity I want.

Hank Garner 
I love it. And if you’re worried about whether Bob Salvatore will kill off one of your favorite characters or not, remember, he’s the man who killed you.

R. A. Salvatore 
We don’t talk about chewing. Princess, I’m off the hook. Leave me alone. There you go. There. You made me do it. You did.

Hank Garner 
Bob, I know you got a busy day of a promotions that you still have yet to do. Glaciers edge Book Two of the Way of the Drow is out now everywhere. Go grab it. And the Tao of Drizzt comes out in a couple of weeks, September 20th, September 20. All right. We’re going to put links where folks can grab both of those in the notes of this episode. Bob, always a pleasure catching up with you. Thank you for coming on the show today.

R. A. Salvatore 
Absolutely. Thanks for having me back.

Hank Garner

I am the chief evangelist and podcaster here at Dabble. I began writing and publishing around 2012, and podcasting shortly after that. I have recorded more than 1500 author interviews and love to talk about writing and the creative life. My main focus now is sharing Dabble with as many people as possible and encourage them to share the story that is in each one of us.