Official Transcript of a Delphi real-time conference with Dennis McKiernan, author of the Mithgarian tales, held in the Science Fiction & Fantasy SIG on April 20th, 1995

.Gordie
Good evening, everyone! Welcome to our third monthly Author's Conference here in the SF&F SIG on DELPHI. Tonight, I'm pleased to have Dennis McKiernan as our special guest. Dennis writes what might be considered 'high fantasy,' with valiant quests, heroic characters and of course, the necessary great evil. His latest paperbacks are THE EYE OF THE HUNTER and VOYAGE OF THE FOX RIDER, which takes place in the same universe as the IRON TOWER trilogy and the SILVER CALL duology.

Now, because this is a formal Conference, we have some basic rules:

1. Signal the moderator if you have a question, by typing in a ?.
2. Wait for the moderator to call on you before you ask your question.
3. Don't 'speak' unless you've been recognized by the moderator.

There will be a transcript of this Conference posted in the next few days, and it may be distributed in an unaltered state wherever anyone would like. I'll post it to the rec.arts.sf newsgroups.

That out of the way, I'll turn the floor over to our guest for tonight, Dennis McKiernan...

.Dennis>
Hello, all. Well, let me see... I got started writing by being run over by an automobile. I do not recommend that as a way to start any career. Any questions?

ALGERHISS>
When will you Dawn Sword book be coming out and what is title??

.Katie>
Did you really get run over by a car ?

.Dennis>
Okay... first the Dawn Sword question. I may write that one in 1996. Of course, it won't be out until a year after I've written it. But that's the publishing business... And as to really getting run over by a car... indeed I was... The title of the Dawn Sword book, I haven't decided on yet.

.howard>
How long does it take to get a book into print?

.Dennis>
It takes me about a year to write it and about a year later it comes out. For example, the book that will be published in November, 1995, was written in 1994, turned in to the publisher in August. It is called CAVERNS OF SOCRATES and is set some 50 or so years in the future. It concerns an AI running a VR and there are two tales interwoven.

.Gordie>
Is that your first sf book?

.Dennis>
It is a combination SF/fantasy ...

.Gordie>
Ah, the VR part... I get it. Nice.

.Dennis>
In the reality chapters, it's SF, and in the VR chapters it's fantasy. I alternate between reality and VR.

.howard>
But if it takes a year between write and pub, what if you want to change something? I know I always find something to change.

.Dennis>
Well, howard, there are many steps between finishing the ms and the publication of the book. First, there's the copy-edited ms, and there I get to make changes. And then there's the galleys, and there I get to make changes as well. Finally, after the book is in print, if someone finds a typo in subsequent printings, changes can be made (small ones).

.Sue>
Have you had good experiences with the copy-editors and the publisher?

.Dennis>
Sue, I have had good and bad experiences with copy editors. Once I had the c-e from hell and I've had the c-e from heaven, too.

ALGERHISS>
Do you have a book coming to resolve the Aravan/Ydral conflict?

.Dennis>
That's probably when I'll tell the tale of the Silver Sword...

ALGERHISS>
Can't wait

.Dennis>
Y'see, when Bair and Aravan go after Ydral, they will no doubt get him.

.Katie>
I have 2 questions - what's a galley and are there proof readers to whom you send your books before pub?

.Dennis>
Okay, Katie. Galley's are also known as "page proofs." They are like xeroxes of the final pages before they go to printing. Here is the last chance to get (minor) changes in the books. And as for proof readers... I proof the manuscript. As does my wife. As do copy-editors at the publishers.

.howard>
Did you get to work with the artist on the I.T. covers?

.Dennis>
Howard, the artist for the trilogy was Alan Lee, an English artist.  He read the manuscript, chose some scenes and then painted his interpretation of them. I couldn't have asked for a better artist.  As to working with the artists, sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.  It depends on my specific contract. Recently, I have been working with them all. Keith Parkinson, who did Eye of the Hunter, Voyage of the Fox Rider, and Tales of Mithgar. And Donato, who just finished Caverns of Socrates.

WERNERGSYS>
What's an AI?

.Dennis>
Artificial intelligence.

WERNERGSYS>
Okay, I was right, just wasn't sure.

.Steve>
First off thanks alot Dennis for all the enjoyable hours reading your books...

.Dennis>
Steve, you're welcome, and thanks for reading them.

.Steve>
Second, do you have a general plan for when your next Mithgar books will be written and what sort of order they will be in?

.Dennis>
I am in the end chapters of the next Mithgar book at this very time, Steve. The title is THE DRAGONSTONE.

.Steve>
How about all the future books? Or do ya know yet?

.Dennis>
Oops, there was a second part to your question ...

.Steve>
:)

.Dennis>
The Dragonstone is set in the time before Voyage of the Fox Rider.  As to other Mithgarian books, the saga of the Silver Sword will be set waaaay after the Ban War. As to how many more Mithgarian books I'll write ???

.Gordie>
Dennis, do you write from an outline, or do you just tell the story as it goes? You've got so much depth in your stories, I'm curious about the process.

.Dennis>
I do write from a "living" outline. In other words, I have a sketchy outline which I KNOW will change as I go through the tale. For Caverns of Socrates, I had a very detailed outline, but that was because I had to synchronize the reality tale with the VR tale and keep two very exciting (I hope) adventures running such that one did not get ahead of the other.

ALGERHISS>
Dennis, thanks for all the good reading and rereading, have really enjoyed it -- When will you write the war of the Ban?

.Dennis>
Okay, Alger, as to the War of the Ban, that's a story that has been most frequently requested. I am of two minds about writing that tale. One, to never do it, even though I know the climax (and it's a doozy) and, Two, to write it before I tell the saga of the Silver Sword. And I am not certain which way I'll go.

ALGERHISS>
But there are 2 bans, the first with Gyphon, and then a final war??

.Dennis>
Well, the main thing called "the Ban" was when the Foul Folk were banned from Adon's sunlight. But you are right in that Gyphon was indeed banned from creation. Cast into the Abyss. And he's been trying to get out ever since. For after all, didn't he say, "Even now there are events in motion..." I shall return. Rather like Gen.McArthur, eh? :>

ALGERHISS>
That's IT, can he come back again??

.Dennis>
Indeed, he will come back in the final apocalyptic war. Y'see, Durlok's staff is... oops, almost let a secret slip out, eh?

ALGERHISS>
Great, thanks for all the entertainment and enjoyment. We all love your books.

.Dennis>
Thanks, Algerhiss.

.Josh>
Dennis, I really love your books. Will we ever learn what happened to all the wizards?

.Dennis>
Indeed, the Wizards are there in Black Mountain (mostly) preparing for the final confrontation with Gyphon. Of course, there's a whole bunch "trapped" on their own Plane, and they seem to have no way back to Mithgar... or do they?

.Josh>
Just one more question. Is the child born in Eye of the Hunter the one who will bring back the Dawn Sword?

.Dennis>
That child is Bair, and he is indeed the Rider of the Planes. He and Aravan will go after the Dawn Sword (aka, the Silver Sword). Bair has some great talents, and will prove an interesting character.

.Josh>
Thanks, Dennis!

.Katie>
I have 2 questions again... Besides yourself, who's your favorite author? <: And, besides getting hit by a car - what made you decide to write?

.Dennis>
Tough questions, Katie. My favorite STORY is LOTR. But JRRT did not write other stuff that I really love. And so, although he wrote my favorite tale, he is not my favorite author. I like a bunch of writers: Robert E. Howard, Judy Tarr, Terry Pratchett... Shoot, and a whole lots more. And I cannot say that there is a "favorite" among them all, for they each bring something unique to their tales.

As far as what made me decide to write: Really, I was bedridden for almost a year, and that's when I wrote my first serious work. Although before, I had written for fun with my dad, and had been a writer for Dirt Bike Magazine, and for Popular Cycle, and other dirt bike magazines.

.Katie>
From the first ms to the pub date - how long did it take?

.Dennis>
There's an interesting tale, Katie. In actuality, the first thing I wrote was a sequel to LOTR. Doubleday went into a two-year negotiation with JRRT's estate, but that fell through. So, Doubleday asked me to write my own fantasy. It took about a year to do so, and then another year before the book came out.
Overall, that's the sequence for me... I write about a novel per year, and it takes about a year after I finish the MS before the book hits the stands.

.Katie>
Thanks for the information and excellent stories. I have to go - work starts early tomorrow - see you in the bookstores! <:

.Dennis>
Great, Katie. And thanks.

.howard>
How old were you when you started (I'm 53 and just getting into it), and is there special significance to the name Adon?

.Dennis>
Howard, I began seriously writing in 1977 when I was 45. And as to the name Adon, there is a deity called Adonai (probably from Adonis) which I liked the sound of, and so I shortened it and used Adon.

.Gordie>
When was the Iron Tower trilogy published?

.Dennis>
Let me look. The Doubleday version was published in 1984.

.Gordie>
That's about when I think I read it from the library. Thanks.

.Dennis>
The Paperback version in 1985.

.Josh>
Have you ever thought of turning some of your books into movies?

.Dennis>
That'd be hard to do, Josh. They are soooo loooong and movies are usually from shorter tales. But given today's technology and a good screen writer, I think that some of the stories could be made into fairly good movies.

.Josh>
Will you do anymore stories like Tales From the One Eyed Crow?

.Dennis>
Perhaps someday, Josh. They were fun to write, especially The Ruffian and the Giant.

ALGERHISS>
Three quick questions: Will you bring back the silver wolves; Will you bring back the Rage Hammer; Will Bair be a shapechanger?

.Dennis>
Silver Wolves will be in the Bair and Aravan story; the Rage Hammer has a destiny to fulfill, and it will show up again; Bair will be a shape changer taught by Dalavar, The Wolfmage.

ALGERHISS>
Thank you, and keep those wonderful stories coming.

STEPHENDCOLE>
Two questions: When can we expect next book? Title? And how does Vulgmaster figure in?

.Dennis>
Stephen, the next book is November '95 and is entitled Caverns of Socrates, a combination SF and fantasy tale. The next Mithgarian book will be out sometime in '96 and is entitled The Dragonstone. The Vulgmaster (Baron Stoke) was pursued and brought to his just reward in The Eye of the Hunter.

STEPHENDCOLE>
Is there some book or collection called "Vulgmaster"?

.Dennis>
Oh, Steven, now I understand. There was a graphic novel (paperback sized) entitled Tales from the One-Eyed Crow: The Vulgmaster. It was published in, let me look 1991. It is a graphic version of the first tale in Tales of Mithgar. Also titled The Vulgmaster. I liked the written story better than the graphic novel story.

STEPHENDCOLE>
Thanks from three fans in our house.

.Dennis>
Three? Wow!

.paul>
I have a question. Just a sec. I am a blind computer user. I have scanned a number of your books. I think I have read them out of sequence. I have just started the Iron Tower trilogy, but prior to that I read a single one called the Eye of the Hunter. And then another prior to the Iron Tower. What is the exact order?

.Dennis>
Okay, Paul, let me tell you the order I wrote them and then I'll tell you the order in which they occured in the "history" of Mithgar...

The Iron Tower was published first, then the Silver Call duology was published second. Strangely enough, I actually wrote them in the reverse order, but that's neither here nor there. Then came Dragondoom. Followed by The Eye of the Hunter. Then Voyage of the Fox Rider. Then Tales of Mithgar. The one I am currently working on is called The Dragonstone.

Now the so-called historical order would be Dragonstone, Foxrider, Dragondoom, Iron Tower, Silver Call, Hunter. That's it.

.paul>
Thanks Dennis. I read Eye of the Hunter first followed by Dragondoom and now the Iron Tower. I have not heard of the others. I will look for them.

.Dennis>
Hey, Paul, they'll stand in any order.

.paul>
Great. I appreciate it. I like your use of language. Thanks.

.Josh>
Will there ever be a reference book to the world of Mithgar?

.Dennis>
Josh, there may be some day, but for the moment I'd rather be working on new tales rather than referencing old tales. What say, eh?

STEPHENDCOLE>
If Dragonstone is prequel, when will Bair return? Written yet? Pub date?

.Dennis>
Bair is not written yet. But it may be the next one I do. If so, then 1996 pub date. And by the way, the Silver Wolves also appear in the Dragonstone (I forget who asked that question, but I thought I'd throw the info in here).

STEPHENDCOLE>
Want to tell us if Bair will open mage gate?

.Dennis>
Stephen, I will tell you this... Bair can ride ALL the Planes.

.Gordie>
Do you have any plans for short stories snuck in somewhere along the line?

.Dennis>
I have written a number of short stories, most of which appear in various anthologies. I will probably continue to do so.

.Gordie>
Apparently, you don't mind short story writing, then. Some writers don't feel comfortable with being that brief.

.Dennis>
Gordie, most of my short stories are really short (less than 1000 words), though some are novelettes (appx 10,000 words).

.Gordie>
When you're in the midst of a longer piece, do you ever get ideas for little side stories that could be told, but that wouldn't really fit into the larger work? Do those go into anthologies, or do they become kernels for future works?

.Dennis>
I always get ideas for short stories. Let me tell you about the Red Slippers.

.Gordie>
Please do.

.Dennis>
You see, in Sherlock Holmes tales, Watson would often start a story out something like "It was right after Holmes and I had resolved the case of the red slipper, that a knock came on our door, and we were confronted by a harried man ..." Then Watson would go on to tell the tale of something other than the Red Slipper. That meant to us
readers that Watson and Holmes were always working on some case, even though we didn't get to read about them. Now in my stories, I drop a lot of those Red Slippers. And sometimes I go back and tell one of those Red Slipper tales. For example, in The Iron Tower I spoke of Elgo and Sleeth, and Elyn and Thork, and I also spoke of
them in The Silver Call duology. I then wrote Dragondoom, which told that Red Slipper story of Elgo and Sleeth and Elyn and Thork. And so, while writing stories, I often include ideas within the tale which I will fill in later.

.Gordie>
I like that. Looks like you're going to sell a few more books. <g>

.Matthew>
I was wondering if you found it hard to get short works under 1000 words published...

.Dennis>
Matthew, I haven't had any problems so far, but usually I have been invited to contribute to an anthology before I write the short tale.

.Gordie>
Will your sequel to LOTR ever see the light of day, somewhere?

.Dennis>
I think not, Gordie. The JRRT estate is not yet ready for ANYONE to write a sequel.

.Gordie>
<sigh> Oh, well. I'll bet it's good.

.paul>
My wife and I are sitting here. She is reading the screen to me.We were wondering if you are lucky enough to just write books or do you have the leisure to just write books or do you have to do other work.

.Dennis>
Good question, Paul. I write books for a living. Full time. But I do have an independent income. I retired from AT&T in 1989 and get a monthly retirement check. However, my writing income is quite substantial and I could easily live (in some luxury) from it.  But I do not advise anyone to give up their day job until they get established as a writer for several books. And then to consider it carefully before doing so.

.paul>
I am Vonnie, Paul's wife. I was the one with the question because I was curious. I had heard that writing was not too full an income. Thank you.

.Dennis>
Right, Vonnie.

.Gordie>
Not all authors do as well as Dennis. Probably a talent thing. <g>

.Matthew>
This may have been asked before and I missed it, but do you do any cons Dennis?

.Dennis>
Matthew, I attend several cons. Most recently I was at Coastcon in Biloxi, Miss. I also do World Fantasy, Marcon, Context, and the occasional Worldcon.

.Matthew>
Ever been to Arisia?

.Dennis>
I will be at Kaleidoscope in September, and probably Bubonicon. I've never done an Arisia.

.Gordie>
Well, I'd like to thank Dennis for joining us here tonight, and thank all of you for attending!

.Dennis>
It was fun, gang. You were very engaging.

.Gordie>
I seem to find new books to buy every time we have one of these things.

.Dennis>
Hey, buy my books .... Hoom Ha!

.Gordie>
Not that I'm complaining. I've got to spend it on something...

.Dennis>
And never give your right name.

.Gordie>
<g>

.Dennis>
Okay, gang, I'm bailing out. It's my beddiebye time.

.Gordie>
In that case, I'll declare this CO officially closed!

-- Copyright 1995, DELPHI and DELPHI's Science Fiction & Fantasy SIG.

 

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