An Interview With Terry Goodkind.

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Fax Interview June 1999.

Q1. What inspired you to write?
Q2. How did you come up with the idea for your Sword of Truth series, and other ideas like the idea of the possessed chicken in Soul of the Fire?
Q3. Have you been influenced in your own novels by the greats like Shakespeare, Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, etc?
Q4. Are you aware of the other fantasy writers out there?
Q5. Are you affected in your writing by current affairs and events that happen around you?
Q6. You have a reputation of being secretive about your plot lines. Why is this?
Q7. After answering that question, is it possible to know how many volumes of the Sword of Truth series there will be?
Q8. I know you have just started work on book six, so I hope you don't mind me asking, do you have a title (If so could we know wat it is?), and when will the book be published?
Q9. Are there any other projects you are planning to do?
Q10. Would you want to see your stories of books turned into a film or mini-series?
Q11. Will we see you in New Zealand on a promotional tour as some stage?

Q1. What inspired you to write?
A. As far back as I can remember, characters have inhibited my mind. I didn't so much think of it as making up stories, but as people who would come to tell me their tales, tales involving their troubles and deepest fears. These characters fascinated me, as they were always embroiled in dangerous and emotionally charged situations. I wondered and worried about them. I carried them with me everywhere. When I laid down to sleep, I listened to their whispers. These stories from my own imagination were crucially important to me because these people and their worlds where secret places only I could visit. They were uniquely mine, private, and untainted by others. Because I have a form of dyslexia which causes me to misinterpret words, I've always been a slow reader. I have to work at reading the words correctly. At that time, teachers didn't understand or recognize this perceptual disorder and consequently believed I wasn't trying, so they were always displeased with me. That I understood what I read was of no importance, since back then only speed was considered material. As a result, reading became a form of punishment. It was a process of quantity over quality, and to me that eviscerated the story, which was what I felt was important. Stories were my private world. Since adults made me feel as if I wasn't good enough to read - that I was a wretched person because I wasn't trying hard enough - that meant I certainly wasn't good enough to write down my stories. I was taught that what you wrote was irrelevant - the story was irrelevant - it was only the technical aspects of spelling, grammar, and construction that mattered. Finally, when I was a senior in high school, I had a English Composition teacher who made a difference in my life. Although she admonished me over my poor spelling and grammatical errors, she also told me that there was something beyond the mechanics of writing that was profoundly important: the story. She encouraged me to write stories. She shared my passion for the way in which writhing could reveal the nobility of the human spirit. For me, she was a light in the darkness. I was beginning to understand that the stories in my mind were a manifestation of who and what I was. I held dear that spark and never allowed it to be extinguished. I dedicated my third book to this one teacher, Ann Hansen, who allowed me to imagine by encouraging me to write stories. Because writing was such a sacred dream, and so overwhelmingly important to me, I couldn't risk failing and so I didn't start writing until I knew beyond a doubt that I was ready, and that the time had come. That was when I let Kahlan and Richard tell me their story in my mind. And then I began to write Wizard's First Rule. To this day those characters who visited me as far back as I can remember, still inhabit my mind. The characters still have stories filled with dire troubles. They still fascinate me. This, to me, is what it is to be a writer - to be filled with these stories, to burn to tell the tales. This is why I write. It is who and what I am.
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Q2. How did you come up with the idea for your Sword of Truth series, and other ideas like the idea of the possessed chicken in Soul of the Fire?
A. These stories that I've always had have been problems needing resolution. They are always dramas searching for a conclusion. They are stories of human struggle, of love and devotion, of people whose lives have been torn apart by appalling circumstances. I feel tremendous empathy with these characters, and I want to see how the stories come out, to see these people I care about made whole again. I'm always wondering what will come next and what is to become of these people who, in many cases, have become my friends. My whole life has been an exploration of these stories, much the way one walks through a fascinating forest exploring different trails and seeking fresh vistas. Never once, until after my first book was published and I began talking to fans, did the question of where my ideas come from ever arise. It's a completely foreign concept to me because that is simply not how my mind works. The questions can have no validity because it presupposes as reality a condition that in fact does not exist. Whenever a reader asks me where I get my ideas, I feel at a loss for words. There are no words, really, because I'm being asked to validate a myth, as such, and no matter how I answer, it authenticates the belief that "ideas" in some mysterious way come to writers. It is only by applying knowledge and using the power of thought - that unique human faculty to extrapolate through abstract reasoning - that I am able to create. I can't stop the process; I'm a writer. I have the mind of a writer. Everything I see, hear, and do is constantly being filtered through my conscious and subconscious. In the end, it's a story, a creation of my mind, composed from the sum total of a lifetime of experience added to speculative invention and acted upon by rational thought. Sometimes I need to think for long stretches in order to formulate the nuances of the story, or work out parts that don't fit, so I might go for a walk in the woods or for a drive. The story turns over and over in my mind and unfolds as I think about it. My books are complex and function on a number of different levels; they require a lot of thought. To me, it's kind of like getting paid to daydream. I think this is what makes a writer: either the concepts and stories are in your head, or they're not. You're a writer, or you're not. Ideas don't come to me in anything like the way the question implies. I believe writers simply think in a fundamentally different way than people who are not writers.
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Q3. Have you been influenced in your own novels by the greats like Shakespeare, Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, etc?
A. No. I've never read anything by these particular authors, other that a line or two here and there. Reading in school was a process of repetition and analysis of every sentence, every word, with endless dissection and discussion, until every last shred of sense and story had been completely sapped from the writing, until it was meaningless mush that laid on the page, eviscerated, drained, and impotent, never more to have the power to live or inspire. Outside of school I read for myself. The only writer who played a role in influencing me was Ayn Rand. Reading her work was a revelation because I identifies so strongly with the writing; it was a conformation of my ideas of the nobility of the human mind striving for excellence. Her writing made me realize I wasn't totally alone in the way I felt about the world and writing. I gave me courage. Whenever I get a chance, I now enjoy reading various writings from the past. Recently, for example, I read some of Niccolo Machiavelli's work. While it doesn't influence me, I find such reading interesting because as an adult I can understand it. I think it's silly to force profoundly complex and difficult works on children. This sort of thing is one of the reasons most people don't read for pleasure; they've learned reading is an unpleasant experience to be avoided at all costs.
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Q4. Are you aware of the other fantasy writers out there?
A. I don't know other fantasy writers. I write 12 - 14 hours a day, seven days a week, so I wouldn't have the time. I think most writers are busy writing. Besides, writers live in wide-ranging places. As for reading, I very rarely read fantasy. I read mostly nonfiction for research. While I've read a bit in the past, I infrequently read fantasy now because I don't want to be influenced by what others are doing. I consider Anthem by far the best fantasy ever written. In the intervening decades, I feel fantasy has too often become nothing more than landscapes devoid of characters with the ring of truth, much less intellect. I write to touch something both common and timeless within us all. I like to write about characters striving for freedom and the exaltation of the human spirit in the face of dark and dangerous forces that would crush such individuals.
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Q5. Are you affected in your writing by current affairs and events that happen around you?
A. Yes. I write stories about people who just happen to have to deal with magic as one of the factors in their lives, much as we have to deal with the technology in ours, but the issues, the emotions, are the same. If a character in a novel is running from danger and she tries to obtain things of vital importance by using her credit card, we don't summarize the novel as a story of technology; we say it's a story about a desperate woman with a problem. Yet, when I write a story of a woman using, say, a debt of bones to try to solve a very similar human problem, it's suddenly a story about magic. I'm here to tell you it's not. It's a story about a human problem. Readers make a huge mistake if they come to my books because they think they will just be reading about magic. I always say that's like going to a rock concert just to see hairdos. To think that these stories are about magic is to miss the true magic of the story. I don't write books about magic. We are today surrounded by technology that is for the most part no more knowable to us than magic was understandable in dark ages past. Despite our scientific advances, most of us are profoundly ignorant of science. We believe in scientific works, but in most ways such belief is on a mystic level, the same way people believed in magic. Many people graduating from high school in the U.S. today, when shown a globe of the earth, can't point to where they live. In the middle ages most people would have had just as much trouble doing the same thing. The world at large was beyond their capacity to grasp. As it was then, so it is now. Yet, we're smug about ourselves, as if because we were born into a world filled with the marvels of science, we've outgrown silly superstitious and ignorant beliefs, like those people in the dark past. We haven't. Despite our conviction that we are much smarter that people in the past, in reality we are no more immune today to being taken in by the unfounded and duped by the harmful than were people in the dark ages. They believed what was put to them in terms they understood and believed. As long as something is put to us in a way we have been conditioned to accept, we are just as truly ignorant as anyone in the past who bought amulets to prevent wandering evil spirits from making them sick. People will often be rightly cautious about prescription and over the counter drugs, often shunning them as far too dangerous to put into their bodies. They then turn around and buy an "all natural" substitute that in many cases is much more dangerous. The words "all natural" are a modern day magic incantation. We pride ourselves on our scientific advancements, and then we throw real science out the window in favor of medieval beliefs and superstitions burnished to a new luster with a little scientific-sounding jargon. I sometimes think that if some unscrupulous person used a green label advertising "the last supplement you will ever need," with the words "all natural" splashed across it, they could easily sell bottled botulism. Just as we today depend on the relatively few scientists and engineers who understand technology and make it work to help us and keep us from hardship, people in the past depended upon spiritual leaders who understood how the powerful forces of good and evil all around them functioned. People expected these "experts" to interact with the unseen divine powers to make their world "work." In the dark ages, you dared not speak out against the religion of the day. We have the same thing today, but we don't see it as such because ours is "Right" and theirs was "Wrong." Try opposing a scientifically unsound project to "protect the environment and save the children," and you will face an irrational storm of social fury little different in its moral outrage that a non-believer would have faced in the middle ages. Then, as now, truth would not have helped you. Most people, today as always, simply try to avoid trouble and live their lives. Today, as always, we prudently worship the gods and idols those in power tell us we should worship, and shun what we are told is evil, lest the finger be pointed in our direction. Today, as always, there are sacred cows which cannot be touched because they exist outside the realm of reason. I'm intrigued by these timeless moral and intellectual inconsistencies. I don't consciously think of what I write as fantasy; I write about us - our hopes, dreams, and fears. I like that fantasy allows me to write, in a different way, stories about some of the relevant problems we all face in our lives. Because I write stories about people, and people are the same now as they have always been, I can't help but to be affected by what is going on around me. The struggles are the same: the crushing of the individual in favor of the collective. The world today is again seeing the ascendancy of collectivist repression. It is a silent, stealthy war against individual freedom, and so against mankind. Freedom is being lost law by law, lie by lie, bit by bit. As I watch individual liberty dwindle, I cannot help but to chronicle, in my own small way, some of our descent into an unprecedented dark age. The world tomorrow will not enjoy the freedom of today, and the day after tomorrow will be worse yet. It has only just begun. The jammer of the politically correct movement is but the relentless beat of their jackboots. The real purpose of this new "enlightenment," like all oppression, is to police thought, censor debate, and crush inquiry, much as charges of heresy in the past were meant to stifle variance from the official doctrine of those in power. Tyranny does not exist in a vacuum; it exists with the tacit approval of the masses, with but a few brave people resisting. This is what I like to write about.
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Q6. You have a reputation of being secretive about your plot lines. Why is this?
A. A reputation? Really? I have a reputation? How very interesting. The answer is quite simple and, I M afraid, not very remarkable: Talking about what I will write in the future takes the fire out of writing it. If I'm asked a hundred times what will happen in thee next book, and I tell every person who asks, then when the time comes to write the book I would be bored silly before I even write it and the result would be even more boring to readers. To answer plot questions even once is destructive to the process of writing the story. It's not that I wouldn't like to tell everyone who asks all the exciting story elements in my head, it's just that I must keep my writing fresh. The book, after all, is the answer to all the questions. To answer any such plot questions before the book comes out is counter productive, and I'm simply not going to do it - even if I get a reputation.
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Q7. After answering that question, is it possible to know how many volumes of the Sword of Truth series there will be?
A. No. Not because I'm withholding anything, but because I just don't know. I love writing about these characters - Richard and Kahlan and Zedd and all the rest, and the new ones who are coming along all the time. I want to continue writing about them. As I write, I'm constantly coming up with new aspects of the story - new vistas. I don't want my freedom to hampered by some artificial number of books. I want the series to eventually end when the time is right and story is at its true end. I want each of my books to continue to have the major conflict presented in each book reach a conclusion - to make each a novel in its own right. In this way each book stands on its own, while at the same time contributing to the series as a whole and to our understanding of the characters. I want people to be able to pick up my next book, even those who have never read my books before, and have a satisfying experience. In this way, I feel I can deep writing Sword of Truth novels while being fair to readers - old and new. Besides that, I have to tell you, I'm having a grand time writing these books and for now don't want to stop. Additionally, I have a truly wonderful working relationship with Tor, my publisher in the U.S., and Orion, my publisher in England; they make the whole experience a pleasure.
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Q8. I know you have just started work on book six, so I hope you don't mind me asking, do you have a title (If so could we know wat it is?), and when will the book be published?
A. I have a working title I really like, but I can't release it yet because sometimes, for various reasons, a working title will change before publication. This happened with the second book. I told everyone that the working title was Wizard's Second Rule. I eventually changed the title to STONE OF TEARS. Unfortunately, in the front of WIZARD'S FIRST RULE, "Wizard's Second Rule" was mistakenly listed as my forthcoming book. As would be expected, it caused confusion. To this day, I still encounter frustrated readers confused by this mistake. People still write me, desperate to find this nonexistent title. I was out of town once and, while visiting a bookstore, a breathless woman came up to the manger I was speaking with and said she had been to every bookstore in the city and couldn't find "Wizard's Second Rule" and wanted to know if they had it. The manager, a bit stunned by the coincidence, pointed at me and said, "Well, here's the author," I explained the mistake to the relieved (but quite surprised) woman, but I wonder how many other people there are like her. I don't want anything like this to happen again, so I keep the title to myself until I know beyond doubt that it won't end up being changed. I hope you all can understand. In due course the new title will be released. Right now we're planning the sixth book to be out in the summer of 2000. But, that is subject to change.
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Q9. Are there any other projects you are planning to do?
A. I put everything I have into each book as I'm writing it. I don't save anything or use any mental energy thinking about future books. Writing is hard work and I want to devote all my effort to doing my best job on each book as I write it. I love writing, and for now I only know that I want to continue to write Sword of Truth novels.
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Q10. Would you want to see your stories of books turned into a film or mini-series?
A. I like writing big, involved, epic stories for intelligent readers. It is not my job, not my desire, to entertain the illiterate and the lazy. I'm not saying I wouldn't sell the story as a movie, but the chances are remote. The books are what I love doing and I can control them so that I'm satisfied they are what I want them to be. I would lose all control were they to be made into movies. I would probably loathe them.
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Q11. Will we see you in New Zealand on a promotional tour as some stage?
A. I would truly love to visit New Zealand. It's a place that has always fascinated me, so I hope to make it there someday. It would be great fun to have the opportunity to meet people and sign books. Until then, may the good spirits be with you all.
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