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Notes from a Lecture by Terry Brooks

The following is my notes from a lecture given by Terry Brooks on September 1, 2007 at the Decatur Book Festival. He was hilarious, and a very friendly guy. He was kind and patient with everyone, and offered to stay as long as needed to sign books. I thought that was very gracious. Words or Phrases in quotation marks in these notes are direct quotes taken word for word from the lecture. The lecture itself was divided into four sections with a follow-up question and answer session.

Terry Brooks: A Retrospective Lecture
Decatur Book Festival 2007

– all writers talk about themselves
– 30 years in publishing, 27 books
– 1st book published in 1977
– A writer changes dramatically from decade to decade

How has Terry Brooks changed as a writer? In 4 ways:

1. How has Terry Brooks’ work habits changed?
– in his early career, he had another job but he tried to write everyday (usually at night), now he more often works mornings, since his body wakes him up early and by 3PM he can�t think straight.
– He used to be very focused on outlining and then sticking to the outline, in the last five years this has changed into changing outlining but taking the outline apart midway through writing the book, and then re-outlining. This is because he is comfortable with the outlining process and so can monkey with it more.
– He finds it fun to write himself into a corner and try to get out of it.
– He is no longer dogmatic about writing, because he has less need to write for money, now only needs to write for pleasure and joy

2. What is Terry Brooks interested in writing about now?

– Learned from Lester Del Rey that his obligation is to tell a good story
– All of the important fantasy that has been written has an undertone of looking at the human condition. (i.e. Shea Ohmsford doing something he didn�t want to do; Will explores coming of age; Genesis of Shannara deals with family issues, the environment, and the collapse of civilization.)
– Terry Brooks has moved outward from personal issues in the initial novels to global issues in the later novels.

3. Where does Terry Brooks get the Inspiration for his stories?

– reading other people�s books (particularly non-fiction and non-genre books, though not often general fiction)
– current events
o Voyage of the Jerle Shannara � explores issues of redemption and transgression – triggered by a person in the news who found religion immediately after getting caught committing a crime or immorality but who had no time between getting caught and finding religion for true introspection.
o Magic Kingdom for Sale: Sold! Series � explores the idea that the grass is greener on the other side � written when deciding whether to give up legal career and pursue full-time writing.
o Armageddon�s Children � explores idea of civilization in decline, what will the street kids take with them and how will they rebuild after the collapse? � triggered by one too many people cutting him off in traffic � the idea that the loss of manners is the beginning of the collapse of civilization.

4. Why is Terry Brooks still writing?
– He doesn�t have to.
– New authors start out trying to write and get published, old authors should have no reason to write?
– Brooks can�t quit, because then what would he do?
– �Writing is an addiction you are born with.�
– �If I�m not writing, I�m not a complete person.�
– Even if Brooks were forced to quit, he would still write.
– Operates under the theory that �I�ve got one more book, I haven�t written my best book yet.�
– Right now is his best book, but this will change when he finishes this one and goes on to the next.
– �You keep thinking you can find your way to something better.�
– Made joke about devil and God, with meaning that finding a lawyer is difficult, and so is finding that perfect book.

5. Questions
– Does Brooks have a passion for mentoring young writers?
o Not doing much anymore due to lack of energy (is in his 70�s)
o Sees a focus on family and writing as his first obligation, but does participate in some formal mentoring.
– Why choose to write fantasy, and what would Terry Brooks say to critics of fantasy?
o �What you write chooses you.�
o Everything he wants to write lends itself to the fantasy genre.
o Critics just don�t get it, many critics haven�t read it, and those that have read one book and then write it off entirely.
o Critics need to read authors in the field, beyond those who are dead.
– Which current writers do you read?
o Most important in fantasy genre is Philip Pullman.
o Brooks tends to read in other fields, nonfiction, ancient civilizations, adventure, some contemporary fiction on the recommendation of Mrs. Brooks (who was in attendance).
– What is the process for getting Terry Brooks� books into audio? (i.e. why are series incomplete and haphazardly made?)
o Audio is fairly new technology in the market, and of course the last area reached is fantasy, as a result publications are very hit or miss.
o Slow process
– What is happening with the movie adaptations?
o Magic Kingdom was optioned two years ago, but little has been done with it.
o Shannara was optioned by Warner Brothers, they are working on getting a certain director to sign on, if they do it will be fast tracked for production.
– Why does Terry Brooks have to go out on the road?
o Joke � �Basically, because my family sends me away.�
o �I do it because I like it.�
o It is energizing to have people tell you they liked your book.
– Is Genesis of Shannara going to have more books?
o Yes, Brooks needs to cover the space between the 80 years of the Word and Void books and the 1000 years in the future of the Shannara books.
o It will come in a series of ones and two�s maybe a set of three.
o The spotlight will be on important periods of time, not the full time between Word and Void and Shannara.
o Next book will be a Magic Kingdom book.
– Thoughts on Character Development?
o If he can�t relate to a character, it�s time to let go.
o Characters he connects with the most are those with personal issues.
– Who are Terry Brooks top picks in fantasy publishing?
o Del Rey
o HarperCollins
o Ace
o Some of the new little imprints
o �The number one skill in publishing is luck.�
o There are many opportunities to break in, not just one.

At the book signing, when my turn came, he shook my hand (something no other author I’ve met has done) and signed my 6 books. We discussed the new graphic novel Dark Wraith of Shannara. He told me that the art would be black and white (except for the cover) which he thought he wouldn�t like, but he found that it actually enhanced the dark feel of the story he had written for it. Dark Wraith is set to be released in January of 2008. See a piece concept art below.