Friday, March 30, 2001
The Dragonlance Nexus was able to sit down for a few minutes with Dragonlance author Jean Rabe. Check out the results right here!
Dragonlance Nexus: Tell us a little about yourself.
Jean Rabe: Well... I live in the "sticks" in Wisconsin. Literally. There is a corn field across the road, and a corn field behind the row of houses. Country living is great (except for the sulfur-smelling well water). We have a goldfish pond in the backyard, a mini-orchard, and when it snows we can hop on our snowmobiles and zoom off on one of the trails.
I started writing when I was in high school, getting published in the local paper. I got a degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University and skipped around to a couple of newspapers (covering education, courts, crimes--some real bloody ones) before joining TSR in 1987. I worked as head of the RPGA for quite a few years, then switched over to being a game designer before I decided to quit and write books--in an office that has a window facing one of the corn fields.
N: What attracts you to Dragonlance, and how do you show that in your books?
R: DragonLance--I like the world because it's epic and has such rich fantasy elements. There's a comfortable "sameness" to it, while at the same time it is turbulent and changing. I hope I show it in my books by adding to the turbulence a bit.
N: What Dragonlance novel of yours are you most proud of and why?
R: Dhamon: Downfall, I think, is my favorite book. I put Dhamon through some rough times, and I got to develop a part of Krynn that hadn't been covered a lot--the ogre area around Bloten. I experimented with some new characters, not all of them heroic or particularly nice. And... I think my writing improved on the book over my previous novels. So that's why I'm proud of it.
N: What are your favorite Dragonlance novels written by other authors?
R: Other favorites: anything written by Margaret and Tracy. They're a phenomenal pair--good people, great authors. Another of my favorites is Flint the King by Doug Niles and Mary Kirchoff--it's a delightful read. Once I started it, I was up all night finishing it.
N: How do you juggle creative license with the demands of a shared world?
R: Juggling creative license with a shared world isn't difficult if you're real familiar with the "world," and in effect niche out a piece of it for yourself. I try to stick to places in Krynn that other authors are currently writing about. And Margaret has been great to tell me where she's taking her stories. So I pick a different part of the continent. A shared world has benefits in that so much is mapped out for you, it's easy to reference and you don't have to go to the work of doing your own world-building. On the other hand--you don't get to do your own world-building, which -- though time-consuming--is lots o' fun.
N: Tell us about writing the Fifth Age novel series and the obstacles that you had to overcome.
R: Obstacles: Well, for my first Fifth Age trilogy, I worked with the games department, meeting with them and sculpting the characters and the plot. There were elements that had to be included because of things going on in the game world at the time. It was a good experience, but it was tough work. Sometimes things in the game would change, and then I'd have to change my manuscript to fit, even resurrecting a character I'd killed.
N: Why the Dhamon series? At the end of the Dragons of the New Age Trilogy Dhamon is not as fallen as in the beginning of the Downfall book.
R: Why the Dhamon series? I think he's a great character that can go in so many directions. I'm certainly enjoying adding to his facets and causing him problems. He's a hero at the end of the first trilogy, and he starts "fallen" at the beginning of the Dhamon saga. The change is because of things that happened to him "in the between time," after Feril left and the band of heroes broke up. A character without a band of friends has a tougher go of it, and he suffered through a few incidents that caused him to basically give up on the world and put himself first. The action in Downfall contributes to his character and helps him grow, and I take it further in Betrayal--the second book in the series. I'm working on the third book now.
N: What were your original plans were for what happened to Khellendros? He went to the Grey...what happened, and why is he back without Kitiara?
R: My original plans for Khellendros when he went to the Grey? Well, actually, I was gonna have him take over Malys's spot as being the biggest, baddest dragon on the planet. But the game division had plans for Malys at the time, so I took Khellendros off-stage for a time. I can't say what he did in the Grey, that could be the subject for a grand tale.
N: There have been some criticisms of your writing, including Goldmoon's death. How do you respond to your critics?
R: Ah... Goldmoon's death. Therein lies a tale. Okay, here's what happened. I had permission to kill Goldmoon. Margaret gave me her blessings, and my editor thought it was a great idea. I got it all cleared and... well... killed her. Then there were some changes in the DragonLance game group, and someone said... "What?! You can't kill Goldmoon! We have plans for her." Sigh. Double sigh. Okay, so I had her in effect resurrected in the next book. Remember my comments about shared worlds. When the world is not wholly your own, you have to make changes to accommodate others who use the world.
N: What do you think is needed to get more Dragonlance authors, including yourself, more involved with on-line forums, such as the Dragonlance Mailing List?
R: Ask. That's all it'll take, I think. Just ask the authors to participate. I know several authors who would take part. You just have to make sure it fits into their schedules. I've only done one on-line forum. I haven't had other invites.
N: Do you participate in Dragonlance gaming? If so, is it as a player or a DM and can you share any memorable campaigns? Have these affected your novels in any ways?
R: Do I participate in DL gaming? No. I used to yearrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs back. I played the original DL series of modules. They were great fun. Now, I don't have a lot of time for gaming, though I try to hit some conventions during the year and play RPGA tournaments. And we try to game once a month or so at our place. I run a (currently) low-level Greyhawk 3E game.
N: What would you like to see in the future of Dragonlance?
R: See in the future? Oh, that's tough. I like what I see now. Maybe more with the dragons. I looooove dragons. They're such incredible creatures. And maybe more anthologies. I like writing DL short stories, too.
N: What new projects are you working on? Any future Dragonlance novels?
R: What other projects? Well, I've just started the third book in the Dhamon saga. I'm writing a few short stories for DAW Books for next year's anthologies--Knights Fantastic, Familiars Fantastic, and the Repentatent. I'm editing a DAW Books anthology called Sol's Children, which will also be out sometime next year. This latter project is wonderful and humbling, as some of the authors I've invited are big-name Hugo and Nebula winners... Timothy Zahn, Mike Stackpole, Mike Resnick, Jack C. Haldeman II. Here I am editing folks who I've admired for years. A great experience.
N: Anything you want to say or any soapbox issues you want to talk about?
R: Soapbox. Hmmm. Issues. That could fill a few pages if I had the time (short on time 'cause of deadlines right now). How about some advice for budding writers instead?
I've had the pleasure of attending some "unusual" conventions lately. I went to the World Mystery Convention and sat in nonstop on writer's panels. Incredible advice. Anyone wanting to write should make it a point to go to a con's writing panels. Even if you have more published credits than the folks on the stage, you'll walk away with something new. I believe I've learned more from the panels I've attended through the years than through any writing course I took in High School and College (NOTE: I am not saying don't take writing courses.)
I'm giving a couple (with some author friends) at this year's GEN CON Game Fair. And I'll make it a point to sit in on some given by other folks.
As an aside: A good friend of mine gave me a book for Christmas--Stephen King, A Memoir On The Craft, ON WRITING. I'd only read one Stephen King book, so you couldn't consider me a fan. But this book is great. The first half is memoirs, how he got into the business--his triumphs and tragedies. The second is chock-full of good advice on writing. Really a great book!
N: Thank you, Jean, for taking the time to talk to us.
R: Thanks for asking me to do the interview.