Doug Niles Fan Interview
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Doug Niles fan Q&A.
Doug Niles Interview
Doug Niles: I appreciate the chance to get involved in a chat like this. I'm glad to see some questions, and I will try to provide decent answers. I'll start with Dragonhelm's, and move on down the list.
Dragonhelm: Doug, you've been with the Dragonlance setting for many years now. What are your thoughts about 20 years of Dragonlance?
Doug Niles: My thoughts after 20 years of Dragonlance center around amazement, and pride. I watched this product line go through a number of storms over the years (Management insisted that the original 12 module series could be cut off after the first 3, in case the whole thing bombed. It didn't bomb. ;) ) And when Tracy and Margaret essentially invented the concept of game-based fiction, and their books landed on the NYT bestseller list, it was a great moment in gaming and fantasy fiction (and couldn't have happened to two more deserving people!) The fact that the line has thrived, and continued to grow, has made for great writing opportunities for me, personally, and to a host of other writers. In fact, the very size of the DL library, at this point, will no doubt be the cause of some of the other questions. . . . :eek:
Dragonhelm: Without spoiling the rest of the Rise of Solamnia trilogy, can you give us some background as to how the Knights of Solamnia evolved into their current state of affairs? I guess what confuses me the most is the structure of the knighthood and the gods they revere.
Doug Niles: As to the structure of the knights (which I suspect will come up again) my basic assumption at the start of the trilogy is that Lord Tasgall, the general who won (the military part of) the War of Souls, is the acting leader, and he is based in Sanction. The council I assumed was in Sancrist. The real seat of power in the plains, the traditional heartland of Solamnia, was the new Lord Regent in Palanthas. He was appointed by Tasgall, and he is the only lord rich enough to fund the reclamation of the plains (which were pretty well ravaged by the Dark Knights).
Eldor Starblade: Hey Doug, welcome to the boards! You have written quite a few DL books, so my question is which one was the most fun to write, which was the hardest to write, and which one is your favorite?
Doug Niles: EMPEROR OF ANSALON was perhaps the most fun to write (I'd never had an evil protagonist); WIZARDS CONCLAVE was the most difficult to write (because of many unique challenges) and either THE KAGONESTI or LORD OF THE ROSE is my favorite.
Dalamar Argent: How did you learn so much about fantasy type, tactics war? I thought it was brilliant in your books. What is your favorite race to write about?
Doug Niles: I have long been fascinated by military history, and have studied it a lot. It is not that much of a stretch to convert real world tactics to fantasy battles. Not necessarily medieval tactics, either! In the long short story I wrote, the Vingaard Campaign, the battles played out more like WW2 aircraft carrier battles (with dragons being the air groups, naturally) than any historical land campaign. And my favorite race to write about is the Kagonesti, because I am also fascinated with Native American history.
Ardent Silver: Just wondering. . . are there any characters in any stories that you modeled off yourself or felt an especially. . . ah, close link, or they were just plain cool?
Doug Niles: I try to model a little bit of myself (some good stuff, some bad stuff) in every character, because it gives me a link, or a hook, to latch onto that character with. As to my personal favorite, I would have to say Coryn. She was wonderful as a girl, and she has turned into one heck of a woman!
Raistlin M.: Well I have one Doug.... First off I'd like to say that the book, Wizard's Conclave Was perhaps one of the best books I've ever read. That said I have only one question...
What gives Coryn her unique abilitiy to capture the mind? Just as Maragaret did with Raistlin, I felt a special bonding with this character as I was reading, and I have to say, It really did make me feel like I was there beside her for most of the story. Well that's my only question I have right now, hope you have a good stay while your here on the forums!
Doug Niles: Raistlin M, I am delighted that you felt such a connection with Coryn (especially considering the exalted lineage suggested by your very name!!) I feel the same thing--to me she is a very special character, powerful and lonely at the same time. That said, the answer to your question is really "I don't know."
You and I felt a connection to her, and that is very gratifying to me as a writer, but this is not a universal reaction to the character, as you probably know. Some readers have been outraged by the "ease" of her ascent, the exalted station she achieved at a young age. To me, those things (I really don't think it exactly easy for her!) are part of her charm.
Dragonhelm: After the events in Wizards' Conclave, how will Coryn act towards sorcerers? Will she show the anti-sorcerer bias we see with Dalamar and Jenna, or will she be more open to sorcerers since she was a sorcerer herself?
Doug Niles: Back to Dragonhelm, I think that Coryn's relations to sorcerers will be shaped by the fact that she is a good person, and has a great capacity for empathy. I don't think she would make war on a sorcerer simply because he or she was a sorcerer; I am certain she would take into consideration the goals behind the use of wild magic.
However, she is a tad judgmental (and getting more so as she gets older) so if she didn't approve, she would not hesitate to strike out with whatever level of violence seems necessary to put the blasphemer in his or her place.
Laz Dragonslayer: Hey Mr. Niles I love your work. I have got a couple of questions..............
Doug Niles: My favorite character, I think the best character I've ever written, is Marcus DeVane. He's the protagonist is a novel I wrote last year called WAR OF THE WORLDS: NEW MILLENNIUM. (by a stroke of extreme good fortune, it is coming out this summer, at the same time as the Speilberg movie that, like my book, is a retelling of the HG Wells story.) DeVane is a curmudgeonly writer living in the woods of Wisconsin, mildly dysfunctional because of depression and panic attacks, who plays much the same role as Well's protagonist in the original novel. he is NOT a version of any curmudgeonly Wisconsin writers currently involved in this thread, but if he bears a certain relationship to me, that really helped me to sink my teeth into him. I am very proud of him, and that book. . . .
My favorite DL character was created by Tracy and Margaret: Flint Fireforge. I have always been partial to dwarves, and Flint seemed to typify all the greatest traits, good and bad, of that wonderful race. I loved the role he played in the first trilogy, and the comic relief he brought to a very serious story. I still have vivid mental images of Flint and Tas riding their bronze dragon into battle. . . . And I particularly relished playing Flint's part in the reader's theater interpretations the ol' TSR game/book department team would do at Gen Con. When Mary Kirchoff and I had a chance to write FLINT, THE KING, it was a great opportunity to fill in one of the key mysteries in his backstory. (NOW we know why he hates gulley dwarves so much. . . .)
Heron: 1. Did you create Coryn at out of necessity for Wizards Conclave due to the lack of a "known" white robed mage?
2. Will there be more backstory development for Sir Jaymes Markham?
Doug Niles: There certainly was a "vacancy", if you will, in the white robe order. With Palin's retirement, and nearly all the other mages dormant, there literally was not a practicing white robe capable of any kind of leadership in the immediate aftermath of the return of the Three Moons. The decision to have the order be represented by a new, very young mage, instead of, say, one that had been dormant through the Fifth Age, was appropriate--any previously practicing human wizard would have had to have been very old. (It was all Jenna could do to TRY and keep up with the girl!) Margaret also wanted this new young wizard to come "out of the wilderness", and the Icereach seemed like the perfect place to begin.
And yes, Sir Jaymes's story will come more into focus, both what he did before and, of course, what he is going to do in the future. (he has BIG plans. . . . )
Bobo: Just finished Lord of the Roses and I was wondering what was your vision of the knighthood after the War of Souls? The knighthood seems to have split in three almost separate and independent groups, something that is different from what we were told in previous books where there was a progression in the knighthood (Crown, Sword and Rose). In Lord of the Roses, I didn't feel that the Rose knights were "superior" to Sword or Crown knights (in the hierarchy of the knighthood). I actually felt that the knights were now accepted directly in an order based on their allegiance to a duke. Is my perception wrong? If not, is this something that will be addressed in the other 2 books? I really look forward to reading more about Jaymes, who is a really an original and atypical character. Nice to get something fresh and different from the stereotypical knight. Keep up the good work! ;)
Doug Niles: I know that in many sources the knighthood has been presented as a progression of orders, but I have to say I have never really viewed it that way myself. From the War of the Lance, and on, I thought it made much more sense for a knight to advance through the hierarchy of his own order, and achieve great status if he makes it to Master status. I have never articulated this, as such; it's just always been the way I viewed, from the days of Sturm Brightblade and on, in my own mind. Of course, Krynn is a game world and Krynn is also a setting for novels. Sometimes, what makes for a good game can be kind of clunky in fiction, and vice versa. So, in a nutshell, your perception is exactly right.
Sephzero: I've enjoyed the works that you have contributed to DL over the years. One of them being the Reader's Companion: The Odyssey of Gilthanas that you did with Steve Miller and Stan! It was extremely refreshing especially in the appendix to see such a wealth of information on all sorts of interesting sites across Ansalon with hooks to go with them. I was curious if there are any particular sites on Ansalon that you particular enjoyed or found very interesting? I for one found the history to Raekel's Pit to be extremely intriguing especially its promised ramification if left alone.
Doug Niles: Thanks, Sephzero! I guess my favorite site on Krynn is probably Sanction. I love mountains (both in real life and fantasy), and also really like the various dwarf realms--Thorbardin being the ultimate example of such a place. (It was heartbreaking to have to inflict such wreckage there in THE LAST THANE :( ) But Sanction is such a dynamic place, and I got the chance to map it out in an old module--DL9, I think, but don't quote me. The rivers of lava, the spectacular valley and steaming bay, the temples and their limitless dungeons, just make for all kinds of interesting stuff. (I was really happy when Tracy and Margaret set the climax of the War of Souls there!)
Darcwulf: G'day Mr Niles! It is good to see you back here again! I have to say that I loved "Lord of the Rose" and I am really looking forward to the other books. :D As for my questions I was wondering whose idea it was to introduce blackpowder into the story? Also why did you pick Hiddukal to be the God behind the bad guys? Thanks! :D P.S. I love Coryn! ;)
Doug Niles: Hi, Darc'--nice to hear from you again! The introduction of black powder is a historical development that Margaret specifically wanted to see. It serves a vital plot function in that it gives, or will give, Jaymes a powerful tool with which to compete with increasingly magical foes. But it is also a very cool co-mingling of history with fantasy, and considering how long Krynn has existed in a quasi-medieval stage, it makes perfect sense. I chose Hiddukel, Prince of Lies, for several reasons: one, I had not employed him in a book before. More importantly, with the Knights moving toward a more mercantile religious system (Shinare has moved into Paladine's spot, at least for the wealthy knights) it seemed like a thief god would be the perfect counterpart to a merchant god.
Sylvanas_Windrunner: In Lord of the Rose, I noticed a lack of Dragons. It seemed a few well place dragon strikes could collapse the goblin hoarde. Where are the silvers that usually work with the knights? are they gone because of the division of the knights? What was the reason behind the scarring of the charming Dalamar?
Doug Niles: I really, really like writing stories with dragons in them, but LORD OF THE ROSE is not the right story to have the plot, and especially the military tactics, get taken over by all-powerful wyrms. (And, face it, if they are there, they WILL take it over.) The in-depth explanation is probably that the silvers are keeping their talons off of the Solamnic plains because they don't want to antagonize the blues, and start a new dragon war over essentially human concerns. The writing explanation is that this Jayme's Markham's story, and it is important that he hold center stage. That said, I won't rule out the appearance of dragons in the trilogy by book 3--and I can promise that there is at least one really unprecedented and powerful monster playing a major role in Book 2, THE SWORD AND THE CROWN.
Dalamar's scarring was something that grew out of the development of his story--Dal's karma coming home to roost, as it were. Naturally, I ran that idea past Margaret, and I think that she, too, liked the thought of him getting a little bit of what was coming to him. At the very least, it might take a little of the edge off of his smugness. . . .
Talinthas: So Doug, why did you choose to portray sorcery in such a negative light in Wizards' Conclave? The relationship between fourth age and fifth age casters is going to be a big issue in the future, and i'm concerned with all the bad PR ambient casters have been getting lately. In WC, for instance, you have two of the most prominent sorcerors in the Fifth Age- Jenna and Dalamar, totally denying that they ever used sorcery and being irrationally angry and bitter about it. It struck me as really odd.
It seems that you are taking the Knights in a more secular direction. With the absense of Paladine, wouldn't it have made more sense for them to follow Kiri Jolith or Habbakuk, their other patron dieties? How did we get from the religious order of sturm and gunthar to three separate secular forces run in a european fiefdom style fashion?
Why did you portray Coryn's conversion from sorceror to wizard in style you did? Was there any concern over how quickly she became so utterly powerful?
In all, though, I'm very intrigued by the new trilogy, and really want to know where it is going from here. I loved the locations you introduced and developed, and loved how you gave character to the cities of solamnia. And i hope we have more gnomes =) Thanks for taking this time with us, Doug. It's much appreciated.
Doug Niles: As to the negative view of sorcery in WIZARDS CONCLAVE, that is almost completely the result of the novel's point of view--which lay exclusively with the traditional magic users. Of course, I created an especially mad villain as an adversary, which no doubt helped to give sorcery a bad name, but it would be quite possible to tell a story from the other side, wherein the kind, generous sorcerors are being persecuted by the fascistic orders of high sorcery. (Probably someone will do that!) As to Dal and Jenna, they say that the most fanatical believers are those who have undergone conversion. . . .
The knights still very much venerate Kiri Jolith; but Shinare has been accepted, and imposed from above, by the very wealthiest leaders of the order. Although they are rooted as a religious order, the knights have often behaved in a very irreligious fashion--look at all the stuff Sturm had to go through! As the world becomes a little more modern, money is becomig more important, and it seemed logical that the knights in my corner of the world would invest authority in a symbol of wealth--that is, Shinare. No doubt, on Sancrist, where things are a little more pure, the traditional values still hold sway.
As to my portrayal of Coryn's rise, the reason is that she has an unprecedented level of talent--as Margaret originally conceived her, she is a "Mozart" who surpasses with innate abilities those who have spent a lifetime in study. I never had any problems with that interpretation--in fact, I rather like it--though I realize that it has given some readers pause.
And yes, some of the gnomes will be back. But remember, if you play with fire (i.e. gunpowder) you are likely to get burned (i.e. blown up). . . .
Weldon Chen: I have a question about your character development of Coryn, and her family history. You mentioned that Coryn is from IceReach in the novel Wizard's Conclave. And you've written about Icereach in the the IceWall Trilogy. Is there a relationship between Coryn and the characters in the Ice Wall Trilogy? Also, (Just for the record) If you have any detailed notes, what is the date for the setting of the Lord of the Rose. It's been constantly asked by fans, and i would like it start from the horse's mouth (as the saying goes).
Doug Niles: I would like to think that Coryn is a descendent of Kerrick Fallabrine and his wife, Moreen. Of course, this is very many generations (like 900 years or so) later, but I think she has just that tiniest little trace of elven blood. Of course, we'll never know for sure, but if it was up to me. . . .
I have to apologize for some inconsistencies in the dates given in LORD OF THE ROSE. I orginally wrote the book to occur ten years after the War of Souls, and this factored into a lot of backstory--Coryn and Jayme's relationship, the history of Lord Lorimar, etc. I later learned that the book was supposed to occur much earlier. I tried to correct every mention of the time frame as I finished up the final draft, but I missed an embarressing number of notations. The correct answer is stated at the beginning of Chapter 1--the book occurs during spring, summer, and fall of 42 SC. (Nice of you to refer to the horse's mouth, even if the whole procedure makes me feel like I belong on the other end of that same animal. . . )
Kranar Drogin: Does the positions of Grand Master, High Clerist, and the High Warrior still exist? Who is this Duke Walker on pg 167? Is this suppose to be Walker Crawford or Crawford Walker? Says he is the Duke of Caergoth....but Duke Crawford is.
Doug Niles: The Grand Master still exists, but in the post war world I am assuming that his influence is limited to Sancrist and the far west. Lord Tasgall, the military ruler, is the authority in Sanction, and he appointed the Lord Regent in Palanthas, who controls the treasury and is the authority on the Solamnic plains.
Duke Walker and Duke Crawford are the same guy. I believe I had his formal name as Walker du Crawford, Duke of Caergoth. But I see now that I never really clarified that. Good catch!
Archangel21: Hey Doug, I enjoy your novels a lot, I have three questions for you. 1) Do you know what the "Big Secret" is, and can you tell us??? Sry I couldn't resist asking that :D
Okay now that real questions:
1) What is your favorite Dragon Lance book (or triogy)
2) How did you get started in Dragonlance and was it hard when you first started?
Doug Niles: Thanks for the questions--as a matter of fact re: "1" I do, but Trampas made me promise not to tell. Sorry. . . .
As to the second "1", my favorite DL trilogy is the very first trilogy, the DL Chronicles about the War of the Lance. I really wonder if now, 20 years later, people realize what a revolutionary series of books that was. Tracy and Margaret pulled off something that all the smart money said couldn't be done. But they did!
"2" I was in the right place at the right time. I was an aspiring novelist and a veteran game designer on the TSR staff. I had the chance to write several of the first AD&D game modules (a series of 12 that grew to 15), and the book department staff was kind enough to give me a chance at writing DL novels. I have done my best never to look back.
And yes, it was hard in the beginning, and it still is. Writing is a delightful and rewarding job, but it is always challenging. The world of Krynn gives an author a tremendous background and setting as a starting point, but it is a tapestry with many weavers (if I can be forgiven a medieval metaphor). And it is never a dull ride!
Uziel: (1) Having said above that you used Hiddukel because you hadn't done so before... does this mean you have the intention of using other gods in future novels that you also haven't used before.
In short, there are a small number of gods that we actively see used in the novels, and it'd be great to see a few more take an active role. I, for one, would like to see a more prominent role for either Zeboim or Sirrion.
(2) Now that the balance of power has been shifted away from Sancrist, is it likely that the hierarchy of old will be phased out at some point? Or will the Grand Master remain as a figurehead of state, and little else?
Doug Niles: (1) Actually, I try to avoid repetition in plotting, structure, villains, etc, as much as possible, but I can't say that I intend to go through the whole list of major gods before I use one a second time. And I thought Zeboim got some good attention with the whole Ariakan thing, didn't she?
(2) I don't want to predict what will be phased out, or embraced, by the whole order of Solamnic knights. They are bound by tradition, of course, and so I would suspect that the Grand Master will have a significant role. He hasn't shown up in this trilogy yet (which is geographically limited to only the Solamnic plains, from Palanthas down to Caergoth) but that doesn't mean he's not around.
ShatteredFaith: I just have 1 question. I know you didn't write it, but since you know Weis (I think) or maybe she told you or Perrin told you....when/will we ever hear anything about Kang's Regiment again? I really liked 'em.
Doug Niles: I can't say I know for sure about Kang's Regiment, but if that is the draconian military unit then it rings a bell. I have no idea what's up with them, but I will pass your question along.
Splinter: 1. Which character from DL do you believe resembles you? It could be one you wrote or another author wrote?
2. Will you be writing more books about Coryn, and do you know if someone else, like Margaret, will use that character, lets say in Amber and Iron?(She would be greatly used in the novel :D )
Doug Niles: 1. I would have to say Flint Fireforge, though he doesn't hold his liquor as well as me. . . .
2. Coryn figures prominently in the Solamnic Trilogy. I am not sure what she will do after that. Margaret first conceived the character of Coryn, and I would be delighted if she wanted to use her in a book.
Pagal: This question is in regards to two of your earlier books, but I think it can perhaps apply to way you approach some characters in general. In The Kinslayer Wars and The Puppet King you managed to breathe life into two previously dull and somewhat hated DL characters. I am refferring to Sithas and Porthios. These two books made me look at them from a different point of view, and actually start to like them. Was the reason for this that you feel that the readers need to actually like a protagonist in order for them to want to see the character succeed? OTOH, do you just like to accentuate characters positive traits rather than dwell on their negatives?
Doug Niles: Actually, and this is sort of a flaw for a novelist, I really like NICE people. Even when I wrote EMPEROR OF ANSALON, chronicling the early life of Ariakas, one of the great villains of Krynn, I felt compelled to make him somehow likeable. Neither Sithas nor Porthios was a villain, of course--they were just misunderstood! I am happy with the thought that, after reading my books, you understood them in a positive way.
Green_Cloaked_Sorcerer: Mr. Niles, I don't mean to offend, but I am not a huge Coryn fan, I don't like how it was she who was chosen to be the leader of the white robes. Who would I choose i don't know since Palin is without magic. Why is it that you chose such a young girl who was obviously naive and such? I just don't like how she learned so much so fast.
Are you able to explain to us how she can hear a spell and learn it?
Also what was the point of not saying the main character's name through out the first half of the book?
Did you discuss your knighthood views with Maragret?
Doug Niles: 1) talent
Green_Cloaked_Sorcerer: Ok now the real question I wanna know is do you get to choose the art on the cover of your novels? cause I loved the art for LotRose all the the title looks a lot like one that could be used for Lord of the Rings.
Were you angered that the main characters name was on the back of the book because I think that took away from the mystery?
Ok thats my two thanks Doug and I do enjoy reading your books I am loving LotR though not sure of my feelings on your take on the knighthood yet.
Doug Niles: The author usually gets to suggest a couple of scenes to the art department for the cover piece; the art director typically makes the decision as to what image will be used for the cover. But I try to think cinematically, and make suggestions to the artist that would make for a good, dramatic painting. I really like the LORD OF THE ROSE cover, too.
I hadn't noticed it until now, but you're right, it took away from the mystery that the character was named on the back cover.
Green_Cloaked_Sorcerer: Yea it was mentioned in the Lord of the Rose thread I started should be on page two. Umm I gotta say it was the cover that drew me to the book at first I was thinking of not reading as I am not a huge Coryn fan, and then saw the cover and was drawn in. Now though I am glad I am reading it the book is great! How do you come up with your characters names?
Would you be willing to take any aspiring writers(novel and game) under your wing?
Will you be attending Gen Con this year? Do you attend many conventions?
Doug Niles: In naming characters, I try to look for inspiration in some trait or physical feature, or sometimes just randomly tweak a "normal" name to make it a fantasy name. Dwarven names are my favorites.
I am glad to offer advice and suggestions to people who are serious about pursuing writing. When I have time, I will review a short story, a few chapters, or even a manuscript, if the writing is already fairly solid.
I don't know about Gen Con this year; but if I am invited by WotC I will certainly go. I am a guest at Opus in Denver (May 20-22) next month; I try to do about two cons a year.
Kranar Drogin: 1) Pg 137, Selinda calls Lord Powell by his first name of Sigmund, then on pg 138 she calls him Gennard, which one is it?
2) How old is Jaymes?
Just a comment here: pg 337, the Qualinesti vintage must have been VERY expensive, due to the fact that Qualinesti no longer exists basically!
Doug Niles: 1) It's Sigmund (Siggy for short). I have NO idea how that Gennard got in there, though I am sure I wrote it. :(
2) He's about 30, give or take a few years.
And yes, the Duke of Caergoth is a very wealthy man, and is quite willing to spend his wealth on material, even hedonistic, pleasures.
Benathalis: Hi Doug thanks for taking the time for this.Im just getting to the computer after some good Dragonlance gaming with Trampas so I haven't thought of many questions yet.
1. Do you think you will ever get to write any more about elves Kagonesti in praticular?
2.I know its a ways a way but what would you pick for your next Dragonlance novel topic?
Doug Niles: 1. I can't say that I see any opportunities to write about elves/Kagonesti, but I have 1.5 books to finish under my current contract, so there is really no way to know what will happen after that.
2. If I had my druthers, I'd perhaps like to make a return to the Icereach, or do something with Thordbardin. . . .
Uziel: Just make sure to do your research on the dwarven thanes of Thorbardin. Conflicting thanes, or thanes who were supposed to be dead and who have reappeared have been an ongoing bane to DL continuity almost since the setting began to the present. Naturally I have a running list of who's who, and I'm sure other reference junkies around this place do too. And I know we're all willing to share, if ever the need arises! :)
Phoenix555: I have one question: what happened to Liam Ehrling?
Doug Niles: Actually, he is a character in another writer's book(s), and I don't know what happened to him. (He's not in Solamnia, at least during the beginning of my trilogy.)
Uziel: The last we know of Liam Ehrling was that in 38 SC he was alive and well in Sancrist, and still ruling the knighthood, at the very least as a figurehead. The assumption in present-day Ansalon at the time of Lord of the Rose (42 SC), is that his power base has been undermined or diminished, and his rule over the entire knighthood is no longer completely binding in Solamnia itself. He is still respected as the figurehead and political leader of the knighthood, but the military leader runs the knighthood in Solamnia on a local level, since Sancrist is far removed from the affairs of state in Solamnia now.
Kranar Drogin: 1) Is it suppose to be Luinstat as on page 170 or Luinstadt as on the map?
2) Is it du Chagne or Du Chagne? I have seen both spellings in the book. And no, it wasn't at the begining of a sentence.
Doug Niles: 1) I believe it's "stadt"--I got it off of a previous DL map, and can't lay my hands on the source right now. But I will try to find it.
2) "du" Chagne was the usage I intended.
Dragonhelm: 1. Doug, you've worked not only as a Dragonlance author, but also as a Dragonlance game designer. Which of the Dragonlance game products was your favorite to work on?
2. Also, what are the similarities and differences in writing novels and writing for games?
Doug Niles: 1. I enjoyed working on the modules in the original series--as I recall, I did DL2, DL6, and DL9 in the first year or two. They were closely patterned on the "Chronicles" trilogy, and it was fun to try to match the adventures to the novels. My favorite product, though, is probably the "Dwarven Nations" boxed set, with maps and sourcebooks for all the major dwarf realms.
2. The biggest difference is this: In writing a novel, the author has complete control over what happens; in a game, you have to be prepared for any tactics the gamers might conjure up in their wicked, scheming minds. . . . ;) All told, I prefer writing novels!
Devil's Echo: Ah, just a favor, maybe, possibly? I've been writing a story, and I really want to be a writer when I grow up. . . I know you're probably pretty busy, but maybe you could review two chapters? Oh, and by the way, your books rule *attempts to butter him up* That's my question :)
Doug Niles: Well, geez, Devil'--after being buttered up like that, how could I refuse? If you have two chapters that you have worked over, proofread, and they are in as good of shape as you think you can make them, I would be glad to give them a critique.
Green_Cloaked_Sorcerer: Doug are you planning on sticking around and visiting this place often after your interview? Also if you wanted to gear an adventure into people going a certian direction almost like a novel with out over bearing a forceably controling your players, how would you go about that?
Doug Niles: I am enjoying this, and I would like to do it more often. I will make an effort. I hope to convert my old dial-up to a satellite internet this summer, which will make it more accessable. (I live way out in the country, and can't get cable or DSL; my phone line connects at about 21 Kbps on a GOOD day. . . .)
Every adventure tries to channel the players along a certain direction; DL is more story-driven than most, so this is especially important. It is accomplished by putting vivid clues in the module (treasure maps; puzzles; prophecies, etc) and also by having a DM who can steer the group effectively. But if the players are more interested in exploring than storytelling, they can still wander off on tangents.
Spadstein: I'm a longtime fan of the series but I had taken a bit of a hiatus a for a few years and thus missed some novels when they first came out. when I was getting back in I saw the Icewall books and thought "ugh" (nothing against you, i just didn't think there would be much of a story to tell in an icy wasteland). I picked up the first book because I couldn't find anything else to read, and I've felt compelled to let you know that your work on that trilogy surpassed any and all expectations I had for the series. I loved the charactre progression, the insight into the minds of both sides of the racial conflicts (I loved how the Ogre Prince was so likeable). I think that trilogy was a great series, and I regret not picking it up a long time ago.
1) I see a similar insight with the Half-Giant warlord in Lord of the Rose to the Ogre Prince In the Icewall Trilogy. I'm not expecting events in your current trilogy to mimic the progression from the Icewall series, but are we in for any surprises regarding the Half-Giant's development both as a thinker and as a person?
2) Giant Smiter and the Axe of Gonnas seem to be the same breed of weapon, right down to twisting the handle to make the flames start. I was wondering if this is a D&D staple that I was unaware of (turning on the flames) or a aspect of the weapons you came up with? Additionally, is there any chance that the two weapons might have a connection, be it the same pyromaniac creator, or maybe just maybe, Jaymes is running around with a sword that long-ago was made in dedication to Sargonas? Good for a vengeance seeker, maybe not so good for leader of the Knights?
P.S. Thank you, thank you for your excellent use of Zivilyn in Icewall, and while it was never stated in your books, I assume you were aware that Zivilyn and Chislev are a couple, thus making their alliance in Icewall that much cooler.
Doug Niles: Hi Spadstein, and thanks for the nice remarks about the Icewall trilogy. Grimwar Bane is one of my favorite characters--I'm glad he worked so well for you! And yes, I liked the connection between Zivilyn and Chislev; their use was intentional. The theme of that series, after all, was that ogres and humans have more in common than they have differences.
1) I am trying to make sure that Ankhar the half-giant is NOT the same as Grimwar Bane. That being said, I do want the reader to be able to sympathize with him; and I hope his development does offer some surprises.
2) Good eye, to note the connection between the two weapons. For now, just know that Giantsmiter has not revealed ALL of its secrets. . . .
Here's a question of my own for readers: Did anyone catch the homage to a classic heroic adventure character that was implicit in the way Ankhar was introduced? Post the answer if you know it--if not, I'll spill the beans at the end of the chat.
Cam Banks: It wouldn't a certain Edgar Rice Burroughs lord of the apes, would it? That'd play in well with the name of the book...
Doug Niles: Give the man a cigar!
Cam Banks: Am I a bad person to like him more than Jaymes? :)
I'm actually quite a fan of borrowing ideas and themes from other places. I think I'm sometimes a little too influenced by Roger Zelazny, Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin for my own good, but it's not a crime to be known for your inspirations!
Here's a question for you, since I should probably ask one before it looks like I'm just on here to answer questions about Tarzan:
Much has been made of gold as du Chagne's personal wealth, and this is especially interesting given the controversy among fans about steel pieces as currency and how viable this is. Where do you see this going? Are steel pieces on the way out, or is gold a sort of metaphor for extravagance rather than the efficiency and "progressive" steel piece standard?
Doug Niles: Tarzan, IMHO, is the greatest hero in the history of adventure fantasy, so I am as bad a person as you are, Cam. . . .
As to gold vs steel, I am sorry, but I could never really buy into steel coins (so to speak) as an illustration of wealth. I know that the DL game world says they are more valuable than gold, but a big vault full of steel just does not seem as precious to me, or to a miser like du Chagne, as a vault piled high with stacks of gold. Call it authorial bias, I guess.
Thorn_9: Question 1. When writing about the tower and the incarnation of the tower in the master of the tower, I was shocked and surprised that sorcery could effect a magical entity like that, and moreso, was shocked that sorcery was shown to be so much more powerful than the god's magic. I thought it would be the opposite, as gods helped form the world and its peoples. So my question is this, Is sorcery more powerful than magic, or was it a way to tell an engaging story?
Question 2. Why were the gods unable to directly intervene with the destruction of thier Tower?
Doug Niles: 1. The key to Kalrakin's power re: the tower was the Irda Stone. That potent artifact acted like a magical amplifier, capable of influencing both wild and godly magic. In general, sorcery and magic have approximately equal potential; it all depends on the abilities (and tools) of the spellcaster.
2. In general throughout DL and most other fantasy writing, the gods are prevented from direct intervention in the world. There are exceptions, of course, but as a rule this allows for more mortal-centric storytelling. Otherwise, the stories would be about the gods, and the characters would be mere gamepieces.
Thorn_9: Right. I just thought that after the gods' tower was being destroyed, and there was no hope in sight, they would've walked in and said, thats enough. I know I would've, but then, I'm not a god. lol... Thanks for answering my questions!
Green_Cloaked_Sorcerer: Who is your favorite character besides Coryn? What is your favorite book ever?
Doug Niles: I am tempted to say Moreen Bayguard, heroine of the Icewall trilogy (if you mean characters that I have written). But I don't want it to seem like I only like female characters . . . Jaymes Markham and Grimwar Bane are two others I am really fond of.
My favorite book is Professor Tolkien's masterpiece (a trilogy, but he concieved it as one book, originally.) A close second is Lloyd Alexander's CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN.
OnyxFlame: Question 1. What was your inspiration for the antagonist Ankhar?
Question 2. (Might have been asked, I might just have missed it) Are we going to get more details on Jaymes' past?
Doug Niles: 1. I didn't have a specific inspiration (though, as I alluded to in an earlier question, his introduction is modeled very specifically after a famous hero's). But I wanted Ankhar to be a truly savage and beastly guy, with great physical presence, who still had a soft spot for his dear old hobgoblin witch-doctor step-mom.
2. And yes, Jaymes' story has a long way to go before it is completed. That will include more backstory.
Splinter: Will you be doing any collaboration work(working with another author) in any future books? I believe you and Margaret would do a great trilogy, maybe one with Coryn and Mina? :D
Doug Niles: re: Prydain: I especially love how Alexander, in the climatic book of the series--THE HIGH KING--managed to re-introduce all the characters Taran met during the first four books; and each of them had a perfect role to play in the story.
I am actually in a regular collaboration with Michael Dobson--it's not Dragonlance; we have written two alternate history WW2 novels, FOX ON THE RHINE, and FOX AT THE FRONT. We are currently working on MACARTHUR'S DOWNFALL: THE INVASION OF JAPAN, and plan to continue as a team. As to writing a book with Margaret, if the opportunity arose I would naturally be delighted to get involved.
Sephzero: You've written a number of adventures over the years, the introduction premise for The Dragon Peak of Palanthus in DL16 World of Krynn was simply delightful. I was curious on whether there were any one of them that you did that you liked the most?
Doug Niles: Actually, I forgot about that one--it WAS a doozy. I also am very partial to DL9, where you get to crawl around under Sanction, discover the corruption of the dragon eggs, and (if I recall correctly) ride bronze dragons into battle at the climax.
DalamarArgent: 1. When developing characters in your book how should you incorperate that into the story. In my book I'm having trouble making the characters devolop. Thanks.
2. Can you make up a name for a character in my story??I think that would be cool...
Doug Niles: 1. I think you need to connect the character to the setting and the plot right away. Generally, characters are interesting when they have a problem, so let the reader know in the first few pages what the character's problem is. What do they WANT? And tie that want, that problem, into the setting, so that you can use the exposition to explain both your character, and the setting, of the story. And then, when your character is on the way to solving the problem, instead have that character find an even bigger problem, one that builds on the first one.
2. I would try to make up a name, but I would need to know something about the character--race, gender, social status, jobs, wants, fears, background, allies, enemies (all these are good things to know in terms of your question #1, too).
Kranar Drogin: 1) pg. 227, Dekage is spelled DeKage, what is the correct spelling or both?
Doug Niles: I can't see why it shouldn't just be "Dekage"
Snifferdoo: Mr. Niles will the future novels of this trilogy continue to revolve around the four main cities (Thelgaard, Caergoth, Solanthus and Palanthas) or will new locations like the Braken's or some of the previously unnamed cities in Solamnia be introduced? BTW I like the idea of the evil forces from Lemish finally getting some attention we always hear how bad a place it is, but it's rarely explored in novels.
Doug Niles: I would like to expand the locales somewhat, but the areas of the first book play most of the prominent roles in the second, as well. I hope to do something with Lemish, also. Sorry about the timing--it seems like we never get the info we need, until the source that has just become obsolete has been shipped to retailers by the printer. . . *sigh*
Doug Niles: G'night everybody!
Thanks for all the great questions! I am really happy to know that so many people have enjoyed these books, and have had their curiosity provoked. I appreciate especially those glitches y'all have caught, that I wasn't aware existed. It is powerful motivation to doublesheck, copyedit, and proofread ONE MORE TIME, even when you think the manuscript is ready to be shipped off.
Keep the faith, one and all!