Interview: R. A. Salvatore

[Note the following is the expanded transcript of an interview done for]

In the decades since he was first introduced, R.A. Salvatore’s drow ranger, Drizzt Do’Urden, has become a fantasy archetype on par with any of Tolkien’s Middle Earth crew. But unlike Bilbo, Gandalf and company, Drizzt’s adventures are yet being newly minted. Neverwinter, the followup to 2010’s Gauntlgrym, is the second of six planned books in the Neverwinter Saga, a series that races ahead 100 years in the Forgotten Realms timeline. With the last of his original companions gone, Drizzt must forge new bonds while facing determined, powerful foes at every turn. While it’s anyone’s guess what awaits Salvatore’s iconic protagonist, it’s certain where the book itself will go—straight to the New York Times bestseller list, where 23 of Salvatore’s earlier books have already been.

MB: Let’s talk process. You’ve written more than 53 novels in the last 20 years. That’s basically the definition of “prolific.” What’s an average writing work day look like for you?

R. A. Salvatore: On an average day, I get about two hours at the computer. If I’m home alone, I might have a character set up over the Pool of Fire in Mt. Hyjil [in World of Warcraft]. I’ll write for 10-20 minutes, minimize that screen and go down and fish the pools out, then fly back out, minimize that screen and write for another 20 minutes. Typically, the amount of words I can do in a day is between 500 and 2,000. Once I get over 2,000, I’ve kinda drained the battery. Every now and then, I have a 5,000 word day—usually with a battle scene—but I haven’t had many of those lately. I must be getting old.

The thing about being a writer is it never leaves you. You go to a Red Sox game or you watch a football game with the kids and try to get away from it, but questions like, ‘What am I going to do about this scene?’ just keep popping back into my head. I go to bed with it at night and wake up with it in the morning, but typically it’s about two hours at the keyboard.

MB: Any particular regimen?

RS: [My approach to my writing] used to be structured. I’d do it in the morning. The kids would go to school, I’d have my cup of coffee, and I’d have a couple of hours to get done. It’s not that structured anymore. I’ll poke around the Internet, watch TV, go work out, come back, sit down, type 50 words and say, “Nah, not in the mood.” I don’t really sweat it anymore.

MB: It doesn’t seem to have affected your output.

RS: Well, if you’re doing a thousand words a day, you can still easily do a couple books a year. And I’m so comfortable in my style now, and in knowing what I want to do, that it’s not going to take me 45 rewrites to get the paragraph the way I want it.

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