I am thus truly honoured to have been able to connect with Raymond and ask him some questions relating to "Magician", the book which started it all for him, life as an author in general and interests outside of writing.
I trust that you will find this interview as enjoyable as I have.
The world of “Midkemia” in “Magician” was originally developed by you and some friends after becoming bored with the “Dungeons and Dragons’ game. Was this game the inspiration for “Magician”? Was there any specific idea from the game that inspired you to write “Magician”?
Not specifically. I started fiddling with concepts that ended up for the most part in King's Buccaneer, but along the way my gaming partner, Steve Abrams, suggested, "Why don't you tell the story of how the Greater Magic came to Midkemia?" I asked, "Greater Magic?" and he gave me the rough backstory. As that was a "back in history" part of our game, I evolved quickly into what I describe as writing historical novels about a place that doesn't exist.
You have created some more games relevant to your work and some of your work has even been published as comic books too. Can fans expect “Magician” or other books to be made into a movie at some point?
One can hope. We've been talking to various film and TV people since the mid-1980s. I grew up in the film/TV business--my father was Felix E. Feist, screenwriter, producer, director--and so the lure of a bad deal just because it's "Hollywood," isn't there. I've made a couple of deals along the way, but as anyone in the business can attest, there's no surprise when a deal "goes into turnaround," i.e. dies. I've actually made money on films that were never made.
My best guess is something my dad said to me when I was very young. "You've got to give your audience someone to root for." I drop Pug into a world of hurt before anyone knows just who he is, and after he's rescued the reader is already on his side. At first he's a charming kid. Throughout the series he matures and evolves and becomes this iron rigid icon of principle, but at his heart is always that charming kid. Other characters also suck readers in, so there is no one character who is everybody's favorite. I have fans of Pug, Tomas, Arutha, Carline, Amos, Briana, Erik, Roo, and everyone likes Jimmy and Nakor. I especially have a large passionate readership who adore Lady Mara of the Acoma. She's personally one of my all time favorites as she does astonishing things without magic or super powers.
You recently provided the history of the publishing process for “Magician” on FaceBook which was most interesting. What struck me was that you had an editor who seemed to be as passionate about “Magician” as you were and who provided a considerable amount of input to help make “Magician” the story that readers came to love. How did you meet the editor?
I met Adrian Zackheim several times. He's a terrific guy and was mostly a non-fiction editor. He was editing Mickey Mantle's biography at the same time he was editing Magician. He picked one novel a year to edit just to keep "fresh," he said, and in 1980, that novel was Magician, to my everlasting good fortune.
Did you have an agent who represented you initially to get “Magician” published?
Yes, the legendary Harold Matson, who founded the Harold Matson Company in 1927. He represented authors like Thorne Smith, Robert Chester Ruark, Max Schuleman, a couple of Presidents, Ray Bradbury, and many others. I was honored to be the last writer he signed to his agency. He left us in 1988 and his son Jonathan took over effortlessly. We lost Jonathan last week. My life was blessed by two brilliant men, one of whom became one of my best friends.
You co-authored the “Empire” trilogy with Janny Wurts which was about the other world in “Magician”. Can you share with us how your co-author relationship was defined? Were each of you responsible for writing certain characters, scenes or parts, and how was it all combined into the final books in the trilogy? Did you act as editors for each other as well?
Originally, I was going to write first draft and Janny was going to rewrite, so she could edit out stupid guy stuff with Mara. I wanted Mara to be a pretty normal 19 year old girl when the book started, and never having been one, I thought a female writer would be a good choice to collaborate. One of my best decisions. I wanted a character who grew in power, but only because she was trying to protect her loved once, not any personal ambition. I based the start of the book on the life of Alfred The Great, who was literally minutes away from taking holy orders when word came from his brother that he was dying and Alfred would be the next kind. Neither Alfred nor Mara wanted the job. In the end, without Janny coauthoring Mara, I doubt I could have written Miranda, Sandreena, or my new character, Hava. Anyway, when we neared Mara's wedding, Janny said, "Let me do the first draft; I have some ideas!" After that we jumped leapfrog over each other, swapped pages, and did this and that. There are entire sequences that Janny wrote and maybe I cut a word or changed a semi-colon into a period. There are things that I wrote that have Janny's eyetracks on them. But there are huge sections of all three books I can not tell you who wrote what. Janny is not day at the beach to worth with; she was fierce in her work-ethic and challenging me. I'd want to knock off at 5 and she'd say, "Hey, we still have work to do!" We battled at times, but every time we did, our compromises turned out to be better than what either of us wanted.
Janny was starting out like I was, and I had read her first book Stormwarden. We have very different approaches to storytelling, but I really liked how she handled her characters. She got the same results with a completely different approach. At the end we said, "There's a 'Feist voice,' and a 'Wurts voice," and a "Feist-Wurts voice.' All three are different."
In your opinion, how should a co-author relationship be structured in order to derive maximum benefit and achieve the intended end result successfully?
I had help from Larry Niven who said one thing: there must be a boss. As it was my universe, I was the boss. See above about compromise. I may have put my foot down and said, "We're doing this this way," but if I did I can't remember. But I was still the boss in case we needed to break the tie. Other than that, as I've worked with three other writers, each collaboration is unique. Every writer works in a slightly different fashion.
For new authors, getting published can be difficult. Can you briefly share the history of your publishing journey with us? Was there anything you did during your journey to becoming a published author which, in your opinion, was the tipping point between being published or not?
Not really. Life teaches you a lot about how to tell a story. Other than that, my publishing history is pretty unique. I dashed off a few silly short stories, but the first thing I wrote seriously to attempt to get published was Magician.
What advice do you have for authors who are seeking traditional publishers? Should they have their manuscripts professionally edited before submitting them? Should they have a cover designed before submitting their work?
I really have no advice. I'm a dinosaur when it comes to the business. When Magician debuted in 1982, 36% of my retail sales were through independent bookstores and Amazon did not exist. Online publishing did not exist. The only advice that still might apply is find a really good agent if possible, but remember no agent is better than a bad one.
As a successful author, what does a typical work day comprise of for you? How much time do you set aside every day for writing?
Mostly I'm a morning writer. I roll out of bed as early as 4:30-5, or sometimes as late as 8:30-9, more often the former. But as soon as I'm up and ready for the morning, the pot of coffee goes on. I check emails to see if there's anything time sensitive, read headlines, and then get my coffee. Then it's work until I feel the need to stop, read Facebook or more email or play a little WarCraft if either of my kids is online, until guilt sets in and I return to work. I learned years ago that if I get up and leave the computer it's 50/50 I won't be back the rest of the day.
There are two reasons, one of which is habit; other writer's voices can creep in when you're reading and writing, at least for me, so for years I didn't read other people's fantasy unless it was between books. I read mostly history, politics, and biography. Now it's also an age thing. At the end of the work day my eyes are tired. My body is tired. Heck, even my hair is tired, so i'll just make a drink, turn on the news and start yelling at the TV. Or if It's not news, I'll watch films, sports, or some TV shows I like, or because people I know are working on them.
What inspires you and stimulates your imagination when writing? Does your “writing cave” have an ambience which stimulates creativity? Do you believe that an author’s environment affects their creativity?
Habit. It's hard work, but it's the best job I've ever had. As for as imagination, I have book ideas that will never get written from 40 years ago, so ideas are never a problem. As for environment, it's different for every write. Janny managed to work in a tiny environment, 30 years ago. She had a bed that converted to a couch during the day, a desk, and an easel (pro painter as well, you know) and a separate kitchen (I slept on a roll out futon under the kitchen table when I would visit her to work). But all very orderly. Everything in its place. My office is bigger than her tiny apartment back in the day and probably twice as cluttered. I stack stuff ("I'll get around to sorting this out later") sometimes to the point of having to step over stuff. I have written on airplanes, in the back of cars, on trains, in buses. I can work pretty much anywhere that doesn't require ear protectors.
Which authors would you say have influenced you and your writing?
All of them. From Shakespeare on. If it was a good writer, I sucked down influence, even if I didn't think I was. I loved the historical novelists like Thomas Costaine, Mary Renault, Samuel Schellenbarger, etc. "Boys Adventure" books, like Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, Howard Pyle, etc. Read that stuff into my early teens, then discovered science fiction. Got to fantasy in college.
Your website mentions that you are working on a new trilogy called “Firemane” which is set in a world other than Midkemia. Can you share some information with fans and readers about the story as yet?
Very different world, cultures, politics. It's a different flavor, I hope, but some elements should be familiar. Young characters tossed into the fray of life. One the bastard son of a noble with no hint of his heritage, the other the hidden son of a murdered King and his two companions, the girl he loves and his best friend, all of whom have been raised to be killers. Tough bunch to love, but I'm trying.
I go where they send me. Authors do not pick where they go, for the most part. A few attend festivals in places like India, Singapore, and other places just because they love to visit and they can write it off as a business expense. And some are also "fans," and regularly attend conventions. I go where my publishers request me. HarperCollins, my English language publisher arranges the US, UK, and the "export" countries like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa (I'm still waiting for them to send me to Bermuda or the Virgin Islands) and my Portuguese publisher sent me to a festival in Rio. I also get invited to conferences, like Singapore and La Jolla, and I drive myself down to the San Diego ComiCon pretty much every year. How many varies from 1 (SDCC) to maybe a half-dozen, depending on what my publishers want from me.
Many authors seem to change publishers during the course of their careers. Why is this? Is it a case of choosing the publisher who is best suited to publish and represent a book at the time or does the author’s agent have an influence in this aspect?
There is no one size fits all answer. In general a writer may follow an editor from one house to another, may leave for a better deal--sometimes the people who make you a star don't see you as a star--or any other number of possibilities. I've been with HarperCollins in the UK since they were Granada, back in 1982 and through leaving Bantam to follow my original editor, Adrian Zackheim to Morrow/Avon, then mergers and suddenly I'm with HarperCollins on both sides of the Atlantic.
I try to do enough sets of exercises I can do in the privacy of my home to keep things from freezing, popping, falling off, etc. I do that because at my age I look silly in jogging clothes running from the neighborhood dog.
You mentioned to me that you are an aficionado of whisky. Which is your favourite brand? What other interests do you have aside from writing?
Glenffich is my go-to brand, but I have a bunch of others I like. I've pretty much tried every distillery in Scotland over the last 20 years (not every whisky, as they have some rare and expensive beasties they sell. I'll not be paying $5,000 per bottle for anything unless I win the Lotto first). Other interests are hanging with my kids, my friends, occasionally spending time with women far too young for me (hey, I can still look, right?), love movies, and love ice hockey, football from every code My UK side is Wolverhampton, Rugby is Osprey in the Guinness Pro12 and Dragons in the NRL, Lions (used to be Fitzroy but now it's Brisbane) in ALF, and until they moved to L.A. last week the Chargers in the NFL. I have seen every code live at least once.
Thank you for your time and agreeing to be interviewed. I am sure fans and readers will enjoy reading this interview!
You're more than welcome.
Raymond E. Feist (full name Raymond Elias Feist, though also known as Ray Feist), is a Southern Californian by birth and a San Diegan by choice. He was educated at the University of California, San Diego, where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts with Honors in 1977.
A New York Times, and Times of London Best-seller, he is the author of Magician, Silverthorn, and A Darkness at Sethanon, the three novels comprising The Riftwar Saga, the first series in the Arc that has become known as the Riftwar Cycle. Other works include the Empire Trilogy (co-authored with Janny Wurts), Krondor's Sons, comprising Prince of the Blood and The Kings Buccaneer, and Faerie Tale a dark-fantasy set in contemporary America. Subsequently he wrote the Serpentwar Saga, and The Riftwar Legacy series which is based in part on the hugely successful computer games set in his universe, Betrayal at Krondor and Return to Krondor.
In more recent collaborations, we saw the arrival of the Legends of the Riftwar, which included, Honoured Enemy with William Forstchen, Murder in LaMut with Joel Rosenberg, and Jimmy the Hand with Steve M. Stirling.
Following a move to the Eastern Realms, he has introduced us to Talon of the Silverhawk and the Conclave of the Shadows. The subsequent trilogy, the Darkwar Saga comprising Flight of the Nighthawks, Into a Dark Realm, and Wrath of a Mad God.
His last book of The Chaoswar Sage and the overall Riftwar Cycle, Magicians End we see a conclusion to the events spanning centuries in story time, or over 30 years real time.
Raymond is currently working on a new book titled, The War of Five Crowns. This is the first book in a new series called Firemane.
Hobbies include collecting movies on DVD, fine wine, books on the history of Professional Football, and the works of American Illustrators.
You can also follow Raymond on these social media platforms:
You can buy Raymond's books using the links below: