For the first day of her new national book tour, Word Nerd is spotlighting Margaret Weis, one of the co-authors of the best-selling Dragonlance Chronicles.
Weis joined TSR (now Wizards of the Coast) in 1983 to be a book editor. There she got involved with the Dragonlance design time and now 20 years later, is on tour for the first new Dragonlance novel in four years. Weis has also written several series on her own without her Dragonlance collaborator Tracy Hickman. Additionally, she is involved in developing role-playing games, most recently working on the Serenity RPG.
For the blog readers in Oshkosh, you can meet Weis today at 1 p.m. at Apple Blossom Books, 513 N. Main Street, for a signing and discussion. Apple Blossom is the kick-off store for the tour.
Word Nerd: How did you end up with Oshkosh for a book signing?
WEIS: The bookstore that I’m doing the signing at – they wrote to me and sent me an email several months ago – if I was anywhere in the area, would I do a signing? I wrote back and said Wizards of the Coast was planning a big tour… see if you can get on the list. Wizards said sure. It’s the kick-off store.
WN: What’s the tour like?
WEIS: It’s kind of all across the US. Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit and San Diego for ComicCon and Seattle, Colorado, Lexington, Charlotte NC. That’s the best part, meeting the fans. That’s just great. The tours are kind of whirlwind… it’s a different city everyday and a different hotel every night.
WN: The new book returns to the original Dragonlance characters, why did you return to them?
WEIS: The first book came out in 1984. At the time, we’d had to cut a lot in that book. Nobody thought the book was going to sell. Then it went out and hit the New York Times list and everybody was astonished, including Tracy [Hickman] and I.
[At a convention] we were autographing and talking in between. I said I wanted go back and rewrite that first book. Tracy said ‘Why don’t we do a series and tell the lost tales?’ All of these are stories that we never got to tell.
WN: When you started that series, did you ever imagine it would be this lasting?
WEIS: We were so focused on getting that first book out. We knew we had something really, really good. TSR was going through a bad financial period. We lost the editor on the game side. It was one of those times where you were scared to answer your phone on Friday because you might get the summons. This might have been the last thing we ever were going to work on. I don’t think we even consciously did it to save the company. We just wanted to do this project.
We were just thrilled. I got the call that it hit the NYT list, I was floored. I was so amazed. I was fixing dinner for my kids – I was making a tuna casserole and I put the cat tuna in the tuna casserole instead of the Starkist tuna. I probably almost poisoned us all.
WN: For the new series, do people need to go back and read the first ones or can they jump right in?
WEIS: People who just jump in know immediately what’s going on. All of the books are self-contained, if you’ve never read any dragonlance books before, you can read this one. Everybody’s back – Raistlin and Tasslehoff, the whole crew.
WN: What authors inspire you? Why?
WEIS: Right now, I’m in the middle of Anthony Trollope’s Pallisers series. I read everything expect fantasy. Dickens, Austin, Chaim Potok, historical fiction. That helps me with research.
WN: Why don’t you read fantasy?
WEIS: I need to hear my own voice in my head. I don’t want to hear George R.R. Martin in my head. As much as I like George, I don’t want to hear him.
WN: What’s your writing process like from start to finish?
WEIS: Tracy and I get together and spend two or three days working out the plot and that’s the hardest part. Then I do the majority of the writing. Tracy does world building and works out any problems with magical spells and stuff.
I do the majority of the writing. If I get into trouble, which I do, then I call Tracy and say “Tasslehoff is going to die unless you come up with a way to save him.” He always does.
WN: Where do you do most of your writing?
WEIS: I write every morning. I have a nice leather Lazy boy chair… down on the first level of the barn and have all the dogs and one of the cats with me and birdfeeders outside. All my research material is down here. I write from about 8-11 a.m. Afternoon is shopping, walk the dogs. Afternoons are mostly think time. I also think about what I’m going to write the next day so I’m ready to do.
WN: For the Dragonlance books, you’ve collaborated with Tracy Hickman… how is that writing process different that when you write alone?
WEIS: The main problem is if I paint myself in a corner, I have to get myself out. It is fun to do a book just on my own. I get to do just what I want to. In a partnership, it is a lot of compromise. It is fun to have somebody to talk to about the plot who knows what’s going on.
WN: If you had to live the life of one of your characters, who would you pick and why?
WEIS: I’d be a kender. They are just so much fun. I’m not like a kender, I think the kinder are the wise-people of Krynn.
WN: What’s your favorite book?
WEIS: The Star of the Guardians series. Those were really the first novels that I ever wrote. They were never published in the form I originally wrote them. After the Dragonlance books became such a hit… I brought the first book out and it was just awful. I had to rewrite it completely. I worked ten years from start to finish.