Boomtron is proud to introduce the Bestselling author tandem of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. They were kind enough to answer some questions after just releasing their new book Bones of the Dragon (Dragonships of Vindras).
We are talking about the creators of Dragonlance!
Damon: How did the World of Dragonships come to be? How was the project put together?
Margaret Weis – It was a very long process, involving several months of e-mails, phone calls, etc. Tracy and I first began working on the project during a book tour a couple of years ago. The work is still ongoing. The world develops as we explore it and learn more about it.
Tracy Hickman – I like the basic foundational concept behind the world: that its original gods had failed it and that other failed gods – itinerant gods – were trying to take a second shot at having a creation of their own. I also knew that transportation limitations in a basically medieval setting often limited travel distances for characters . . . something which the Homer dealt with by going to sea. Doing a fantasy version of the Odyssey is very exciting since it allows us to see much more of the world we are creating.
Damon: From my reading, the Vindras have some similarities to the Vikings, how intentional was this and did you have to do any research on the Vikings for the book?
Margaret Weis – Absolutely that was intentional! We did lots of research on the Norsemen (Viking, by the way, is a verb, meaning to go “a-viking”). It seems odd to many people, but we research all our fantasy worlds. Adding touches of realism to an unreal world helps the reader to suspend disbelief. Small details like what people ate and how the food was cooked and how their houses were built make the world seem very real.
Tracy Hickman – Vikings are iconic around the world although they are largely misunderstood. There was a great deal more to their society than most people casually think. But that is part of the nature of the Dragonships world; it gives us an opportunity to explore so much.
Damon: I have always felt that your books are very character driven, how important is world building in your work?
Margaret Weis – The world is very important because it influences the characters. The Vindras are shaped by their world and what they find in it and how they have to deal with it. What is interesting about this series is that much of the world is unexplored. Since the Vindras are a sea-faring race, they know only those parts they can reach by ship. Their exploration of the world becomes our exploration, as well.
Tracy Hickman – Characters bring the ‘why’ to our stories; it is their observations of the world through which we, as readers, experience it both with our senses and our understanding. Character actions spring from their motivations and their world has to make sense for their motivations to make sense as well.
Damon: How do you feel you have grown from the Krynn to the World of Dragonships in that aspect?
Margaret Weis – With Krynn we had mountains of detail. We had boxes of information on the world, including all types of plants, animals, etc. Of course, we had a team working on it and we had game modules to produce, so we considered that necessary. I think for me that all that material actually tended to “box in” the authors of the novels. The author couldn’t go exploring with the characters. In Dragonships, we’re heading out for parts unknown. We have a general idea what we’re going to find, but in some instances we’re going to be just as surprised as our heroes!
Tracy Hickman – It is an important aspect of the romance in any fantasy story that there be places beyond the horizon that are unknown. ‘Here be dragons’ is an evocative phrase when placed at the edge of a map. The same phrase loses much of its magic if hung on the size of a zoo cage. Fancy become fact and in doing so loses some of its ability to inspire. I think we came to know too much about Krynn … now we’re setting off for parts unknown.
Damon: Gods play a prominent role in your books, with mortal god/goddess interaction, is there any reason behind that?
Margaret Weis – Both Tracy and I have always found the subject of religion and its effect on people to be fascinating. The relation of gods and men and gods and gods and the part faith plays in the lives of men (and ogres!) and gods is one of the central elements of our plot.
Tracy Hickman – A common theme in some of our books has been the difference between the perspective of the gods and the perspective of the mortals under their charge and care. I am a deeply religious person and find such questions intriguing.
Damon: Is Skylan based on anyone in particular?
Margaret Weis – Although Skylan is a war chief, he is in many ways a typical teenager. He knows all the answers, if people would just listen to him! What is interesting about Skylan is that the qualities that will make him a good leader in the future (if he lives that long!) are the very qualities that make him a bad leader now. He sees everything as black and white. He has to learn that there are shades of gray.
Tracy Hickman – The journey of the Dragonships is very much his journey and his journey is very much the journey of us all. This is his voyage of becoming.
Damon: Also, who would you say would be each of your favorite characters that you have written?
Margaret Weis – That’s like asking a mother which child is her favorite! I have favorites in each series: Raistlin and Tasslehoff in Dragonlance, Lady Maigrey and Tusk in the Star of the Guardians, Raoul and the Little One in the Mag Force Seven series, Skylan and Wulfe in Dragonships, Haplo and his dog in Deathgate, Mathew in Rose of the Prophet, Simkin in Darksword. Bellona in Mistress of Dragons… Mmmm… I think I’m forgetting some . . .
Tracy Hickman – That’s a LOT of children, Margaret! But then I suppose we have so many of them. I have an original painting hanging in my office by Larry Elmore of the Heroes of the Lance. My wife Laura calls it our family portrait.
Damon: Who would you consider the most powerful character you have written?
Margaret Weis – Raistlin Majere is probably the most powerful character. He is a character that is a rare gift to an author.
Tracy Hickman – Interestingly enough, for me it is a character with whom the public is not yet familiar; a slave named Drakis from a series my wife and I are writing now for Daw books. However, I must also mention Lord Soth from Dragonlance who invariably runs away with a book plot anytime he steps onstage.
Damon: The most misunderstood?
Margaret Weis – I will be interested to see how readers view Draya in this new series. She does some bad things for good reasons.
Tracy Hickman – I’m wracking my brain . . . we’ve had characters across the spectrum of good and evil but I can’t think of any off hand that were misunderstood. I thought they all made their intentions rather clear!
Damon: I am a long time fan, with your work holding a special place on my reading shelf. The criticism most often heard of your work is that you cater to the Young Adult audience, how would you rebuke that, or would you consider that to be true?
Margaret Weis – Not sure we cater to any audience! We have readers that range in age from ninety to eight. We present a lot of adult themes to our readers. We deal with alcoholism, religious prejudice, racial intolerance, abuse, murder, death, sexuality. We ask readers to think–no matter what their age!
Tracy Hickman – Perhaps this comes from the fact that fantasy in general is seen as presenting stories that deal with young adult problems of coming of age, ethics and maturity. Our stories certainly address such issues but we’ve never seen ourselves presenting to any particular audience. We just tell the stories we like to tell.
Damon: How hard was it to get out from under the Dragonlance shadow, and get fan appreciation for your other works?
Margaret Weis – Not really hard at all. Darksword was a NY Times Bestseller when that series came out, as many of our other series has been. The Deathgate series ranks second to Dragonlance and has sold millions of copies.
Tracy Hickman – We’ve written all sorts of other works and I would certainly hope that our readers would trust us enough to join us on some new journeys into unknown worlds.
Damon: A question which you are probably asked more than any other, how is it to work together?
Margaret Weis – Tracy and I have been working together for twenty-five years now. We have a lot of fun working together. It’s strange, but it often seems like we’re living in the worlds we create. They become that real to us.
Tracy Hickman – I do the adjectives. Margaret does the nouns. We hold conference calls on the verbs. Oh, you mean you really WANT to know! The short of it is that we get together when we can, talk story when we do and spend a lot of time passing email and manuscripts back and forth. We also trust each other to do the right thing with the story … that’s what a quarter of a century writing together can do for you.
Damon: Maybe we can bring in the scope, how was it to work together on Bones of the Dragon?
Margaret Weis – Intense.:)
Tracy Hickman – There is so much to the world and the characters that it was a challenge to get up to speed on all of it. We had a lot of great help but we really wanted a world that people could thrill to as they read. We put a lot of years of experience into making that happen.
Damon: Were there any disagreements in reference to the world building or characters?
Margaret Weis – The only real disagreement we ever had was back in Dragonlance Chronicles. I said that Laurana would never give up being Golden General to save Tanis. Tracy, being the romantic, insisted that she would give up all for love. I went along with Tracy, mainly because we had to have Laurana captured in order for the plot to work out!:) But he eventually came to agree with me!
Tracy Hickman – Then there was the time Margaret forgot entirely about a character that was supposed to be in a book. We got it straightened out but I think it made the character seasick.
Damon: Any funny stories based on writing this book?
Margaret Weis – Other than me getting the world completely turned around, so that north was south and east was west and I had to go back and change it all, no!:) Oh, and Tracy sending me Erik The Viking for Christmas.:)
Tracy Hickman – Yes, Erik the Viking IS a funny story!
Damon: Also what advice would you have to new co-authors, since you are the reference these days?
Margaret Weis – RESPECT each other!
Tracy Hickman – And respect the STORY even more. The integrity of the story you’re telling has to come before your ego every time.
Damon: Are there any plans for a role playing game based on The World of Dragonships? Graphic Novels?
Margaret Weis – We have plans for all sorts of games based on these books. Working on that now. Graphic novels would be great. Know anyone who would like to publish them?
** Ha! Yes we’re working on games and we’ve got some very nice companies who are interested in them. We’ll let you know when we have ink that’s dry.
Damon: How much input did you have on the cover and how would you rate Michael Komarck’s depiction on the cover?
Margaret Weis – We provided the description for the cover art. I think Michael’s work is great. We were very pleased that he did NOT put horns on the helms!
Tracy Hickman – No horns! I also provided the artist with my own crude art depicting how the ship was rigged. He did a fine job portraying that in the cover art.
Damon: How much input do you have on the audio version of your books?
Margaret Weis – We tell them how to pronounce the words!:)
Tracy Hickman – But only when WE know how to pronounce the words.
Damon: What are your favorite conventions to attend? After so many years how do you keep being an author fresh and still fun?
Margaret Weis – Gen Con is my favorite. As for being an author, I love writing. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself otherwise.
Tracy Hickman – Laura and I were guests at Gencon OZ in Brisbane, Australia last July and then were guests of the Lucca Comics and Games Convention in Lucca, Italy last November. I fell in love with both of those conventions both for the excitement of the events and, more importantly, the wonderful people that we met at each of them.
Damon: Who are some of your favorite new authors?
Margaret Weis – I’m reading Bernard Cornwell. I don’t suppose he counts as a new author, though. I’m also reading Wilkie Collins. Not new either. And I’m re-reading the Pickwick Papers. Not very new either. Mmmm.
Tracy Hickman – I’m starting David McCullough’s ‘John Adams’ … wait, he isn’t new either. I’ve been rereading Stephen Leacock’s ‘Sunshine Sketches’ … he’s been dead since 1940. New authors you say? Can I get back to you on this one?
Damon: This one is for Margaret, how did you get into flyball? I have two very active Australian Shepherds and have a great love of dogs myself. Tell us a little bit bout the BC Boomerangs and the dogs? What breed do you think does the best at flyball?
Margaret Weis – My team, the BC Boomerangs, is great. We’re a group of people of all backgrounds who come together because we love dogs. We love being with our dogs and we love racing our dogs. The dogs are super. Each has its own personality. We have crazy Stewie, shy Bandit, obsessed Dixie, Joey the Thug, Mojo the Wild Man. If you want to know more about flyball, there are videos of the sport on YouTube. Most major cities have local flyball tournaments you can attend and places that teach flyball. I’ve seen almost all breeds compete in flyball. Herd dogs tend to be very good at the sport, but I’ve seen Jack Russells, poodles, dachshunds, Papillions, mastiffs, Padengos, labs, whippets. Depends on the owner and the dog.
Damon: This one is for Tracy. How has being a Grandfather influenced your writing?
Tracy Hickman – I’ve dedicated Bones of the Dragon to my new granddaughter A.J. I think such life events add to your experience and that translates into your writing. Even in fantasy, we’re writing essentially about life, how life should be lives, and how we should behave to each other. I hope to leave the world a better place for A.J. I hope my writing, even in its darkest moments for our characters, reflects that hope.
Damon: I would like to thank both Margaret and Tracy for joining us for On the Spot at Bookspot. It is always a great experience to chew the fat with some of your favorite authors.
– originally published 1/17/2009