R.A. Salvatore: On Building Worlds in Fantasy Fiction

New York Times bestseller R.A. Salvatore discusses the process of writing his new fantasy novel, Starlight Enclave.
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R.A. Salvatore is the bestselling author of the DemonWars Saga, The Legend of Drizzt, and many other series. He has sold more than thirty million books worldwide, and has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list more than two dozen times.

R.A. Salvatore: On Building Worlds in Fantasy Fiction

In this post, R.A. discusses the process of writing his new fantasy novel, Starlight Enclave, what he's learned from readers in the last thirty years, and more!

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Name: R.A. Salvatore
Literary agent: Paul Lucas of Janklow/Nesbit
Book title: Starlight Enclave
Publisher: Harper-Voyager
Expected release date: August 3, 2021
Genre/category: Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery
Previous titles by the author: The Legend of Drizzt Series, The DemonWar Saga

R.A. Salvatore: On Building Worlds in Fantasy Fiction

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How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

The original concept for Starlight Enclave began about four years ago, which gave me a long time to learn about the new setting, both in real-world terms and with regard to the fantastical elements I wanted to bring to the environment and culture. Building a new society is among my favorite parts of writing, so it’s fair to say that I went into the actual writing of this book very eager and excited to execute on it.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

The research on the environment was pretty shocking, actually. I’m ambidextrous, so I have to think about left and right more than most. (At least, I blame the ambidexterity for it—one of the things that scared me about joining the military was this recurring dream where they yelled “Left face” or “Right face,” and I alone turned the wrong way. Fortunately, I guess, they wouldn’t take me anyway because of a knee I had blown playing basketball).

Back to the question: Having the sun circling me instead of simply crossing the sky would be a very disorienting and disconcerting thing. Just watching the videos of the polar summer day had me scrambling, trying to figure out positioning and time of day. I spent the entire time laughing and thinking I need to get there.

R.A. Salvatore: On Building Worlds in Fantasy Fiction

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

Always. I’m a “pantser,” not a plotter. I think of my outlines as telephone poles, with a straight-line beginning, middle, and end. But when I write, that pole becomes a tree, with weird, winding branches going every which way. Maybe it will grow straight, maybe not. That’s the fun of the journey for me—I write books with the same anticipation and page-turning nervousness as other people feel when they read the books.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

In the three-plus decades I’ve been doing this, I’ve learned that readers will get all kinds of things out of the books, expected or not. The reader brings as much to the experience as does the writer. It’s no longer even surprising to me to be accused of brilliance I never knew I had, or of cluelessness I never knew I had. Or that someone ties a character to their ideology on one end, while a person with an opposing outlook ties the same character to their viewpoint as a soulmate. It’s like that line in Paul Simon’s “The Boxer", where “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

Except, I don’t let those gloves lay me down. I take this entire journey as a learning experience, a spiritual journey where I try to make sense of the world. It thrills me to no end that there are so many others walking this road of exploration, learning, adventure, escapism, and just fun beside me.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Shut up, sit down, and write. I get far more letters from someone who “wants” to write their stories than I do from people who have written their stories. Writers write. Other than that, fall in love with a character and let them take you on a wonderful journey.

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