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Tracy Hickman Interview: Lost Chronicles Book Tour and Journeys Beyond!

Monday, June 19, 2006


Dragonhelm speaks with Tracy Hickman about the upcoming book tour for Dragons of the Dwarven depths, Bronze Canticles, the Dragonhearth, and more!


Dragonhelm: It has been over 20 years since Dragonlance was launched. How does it feel revisiting the Chronicles era with Dragons of the Dwarven Depths?

Tracy Hickman: Truthfully, I find it refreshing. Here we are dealing with the characters back in a time when they were fresh and new ... back when they were just struggling friends instead of Heroes of the Lance.

Dragonhelm: Is it like coming home again?

Tracy Hickman: Well, I have a painting on the wall of my office -- an Elmore original -- that depicts the heroes sitting around a campfire. Laura has often referred to it as the 'family portrait.' It has a sense of coming home ... and also a sense of completeness ... coming full circle again.

Dragonhelm: What are you most anxious to tell about with Lost Chronicles? Any stories that have been in the back of your brain for all these years, such as the defeat of Feal-Thas at Icewall or how Theros Ironfeld got the Silver Arm of Ergoth?

Tracy Hickman: We're concentrating on those parts of the original story which we just didn't have the time or the space to incorporate in the original. The first book, Dragons of the Dwarven Depths of course tells the story between the first and second book that was cut for space. The second book does give us an opportunity to deal more with Icewall and with the War in Solamnia from Kitiara's perspective. I think it makes the entire series richer -- bringing new light and perspectives to old favorites.

Dragonhelm: What should we expect with the third installment, Dragons of the Hourglass Mage?

Tracy Hickman: We'll be taking that book telling the story of Raistlin's journey. He vanishes from the Blood Sea in Spring Dawning and then appears in the Dark Queen's Temple in Neraka. The story of his journey also brings an entirely new perspective to the original tale.

Dragonhelm: Will there be new scenes that you didn't plan on originally visiting? Any scenes that you won't be visiting in order to keep an air of mystery?

Tracy Hickman: Well, we certainly can't go EVERYWHERE! I'm sure that there will be many horizons on Krynn that will remain just beyond our reach -- calling us onward.

Dragonhelm: How is writing the Lost Chronicles different than writing the original Chronicles? What has over 20 years of experience brought to the new trilogy?

Tracy Hickman: One of the more interesting debates that Margaret and I have between us when starting this project was our approach to style. Both of us have grown tremendously as writers over the last twenty years -- and gratefully so! Yet in going back, we wanted these new books to integrate with the originals -- so that one could, for example, read Autumn Twilight, then Dwarven Depths and move on to Winter Night and feel a sense of continuity. The question was: do we go back to writing in the style we wrote twenty years ago? Ultimately, we decided that was wrong -- that it would be better for us and the reader to try to honor the innocence and hopefulness of the original text with our current style rather than try to write as we once did.

Dragonhelm: Why did you go back to the War of the Lance era rather than doing a trilogy set in the current Age of Mortals timeline? What do you think fan reaction will be?

Tracy Hickman: The original impetus for doing a new Dragonlance series actually came from Margaret. She asked me what I though about the idea of rewriting the original series. We had both grown considerably as writers in the twenty years since we penned those first books and it would have been nice to apply our acquired skills to our early works. But on reflection, we realized that those works -- unpolished as they might look by our standards now – are beloved treasures and considered classics by many. To rewrite them, we decided would be wrong.

Tracy Hickman: However, I suggested that it would be better for us to finish what we had once started -- to explore those parts of the story we had to take out of the original work because of space or other considerations. It would also be an opportunity for us to explore aspects of the original story that we couldn't get into at the time.

Tracy Hickman: More than that, it felt right: a completion of the circle begun so many years ago.

Tracy Hickman: As for the reaction of the fans to the new series, I can only hope that they will enjoy it as much as Margaret and I are enjoying writing it. It takes us all back to a great time in Dragonlance history -- and allows us to enjoy it in new ways.

Dragonhelm: Dragons of Summer Flame was originally slated to be a trilogy called Chronicles II. Will you revisit the Chaos War eventually as well?

Tracy Hickman: We've said before that we have written the last Dragonlance novel about five times now. (wink) But I honestly believe that this is our last visit to Krynn. It completes the circle for us -- takes us back home where we began -- and both Margaret and I feel that there would be no better way for us to leave this world.

Tracy Hickman: Margaret and I have new worlds to conquer once again.

Tracy Hickman: In fact...

Tracy Hickman: On the upcoming book tour, we plan to talk through a new series that we hope to write together.

Dragonhelm: Excellent! I was wondering if new worlds were on the horizon for you two. So when is the book tour for Dragons of the Dwarven Depths, and what part of the country will you be visiting?

Tracy Hickman: I've posted as much as I know about our tour schedule on the Dragonhearth Harbor message board. It's a rather strenuous tour but we'll looking forward to seeing as many people as possible. We'll also be podcasting from the tour -- a first for us. The cities, as I understand it, include Ann Arbor, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Dayton and Cinncinatti, Ohio ... then we'll be at Comic-con in San Diego, followed by an appearance in that same city ... then San Francisco, Seattle, Colorado ending with Lexington, Kentucky and Charlotte, North Carolina. There may be other cities being booked as well -- but those are the ones I know of thus far.

Tracy Hickman: Of course...

Tracy Hickman: We'll also be at the Gencon Game Convention in Indianapolis the first part of August and at the Dragoncon Convention in Atlanta the first of September. I'm going to be spending way too much time on the road -- but it will be great meeting with the fans.

Tracy Hickman: Margaret also has a couple of additional signings as well.

Tracy Hickman: I'll pretty much not see home for more than a few days at a time for about a month and a half.

Dragonhelm: Speaking of podcasting, tell us about the Dragonhearth. You seem to take a different approach to it than most podcasts do, which sound like morning talk shows. How did the voyages aboard the dreamship begin?

Tracy Hickman: Angel, our media-savvy daughter, introduced us to podcasting. Laura and I both thought it would be a great way to improve contact with our audience. I use to be a director of television and -- my father being a professor of broadcast communications -- was pretty much raised with production in my blood. I listened to several podcasts and realized that I wanted our sound to be unique -- and very different from talk radio. I wanted a concept to run as a foundation for the show but one which would tie together all the different creative ventures -- and adventures -- Laura and I embark on from time to time. The romance of sailing across the sea of possibilities -- exploring the realms of imagination -- just seemed to fit what we do and how we live.

Tracy Hickman: We didn't just stop there -- we developed our own sound and even hired fabulous voice talent -- Samantha Jane Robson -- to give our audio a professional edge. I love working in audio; it was so exciting that we even have started performing one of my favorite books on podiobooks.com.

Dragonhelm: What sort of equipment and software do you use with your podcast? What advice do you have for aspiring podcasters?

Tracy Hickman: You might be surprised at how little I need to produce a podcast like DragonHearth...

Tracy Hickman: First of all, you need an excellent microphone -- and by that I mean excellent! I use a Rode shotgun microphone that was originally intended for being mounted on a digital camera. It reproduces great sound. The first thing you need is clean and clear source audio.

Tracy Hickman: Then I use Adobe Audition for audio editing although most people can get away with programs like Audacity. Also, you can hire voice talent for surprisingly reasonable rates via the web from places like Voice123.com. That's where we found Samantha.

Tracy Hickman: I also use an Olympus DS-2 digital recorder for when I'm on the road. But there is something more than equipment that a good podcaster needs...

Tracy Hickman: They need a sense of what makes good programming.

Tracy Hickman: They need to know that interviews by themselves are boring -- that people today expect polish in what they listen to and are discriminating.

Tracy Hickman: They need to know how to tell a story and paint pictures in audio.

Dragonhelm: Recently, you have released The Immortals as a podiobook. What is it like producing the novel as a podiobook? How can fans subscribe? Will we be seeing a reprint of the novel?

Tracy Hickman: I really enjoy producing The Immortals. I have a new sound FX library from Digital Juice that has made creating those chapters a joy. Again, it's all about painting a picture with sound -- giving the story a sense of 'place.' It's available now at podiobooks.com. The book itself is going to be reprinted this fall by Margaret Weis Productions.

Dragonhelm: Is it sort of like the old radio shows prior to the invention of television?

Tracy Hickman: It has a lot in common with old radio plays -- although the format of DragonHearth is more like a media-magazine than a radio play. Even though The Immortals podiobook has the feel of a radio play, we think of it more as an 'enhance' reading.

Dragonhelm: Tell us about the upcoming Parsec Awards at DragonCon. What are they and who will be involved?

Tracy Hickman: The Parsec Awards came about because Mur Lafferty said to Michael Mennenga 'Hey, we should give out an award.' This turned into them wanting to do an Awards presentation at DragonCon. They then called me and asked if I could help them get it on the program. Well, typical of me, by the time the dust cleared we not only had the award program but had established an entire podcasting track at DragonCon.

Tracy Hickman: The award will be presented at Dragoncon...

Tracy Hickman: primarily to honor speculative fiction podcasts whose content and presentation are exceptional.

Tracy Hickman: We'll have a series of independent judges for the final determination...

Tracy Hickman: But the hosting of the show will be done by Michael Mennenga of Slice of Sci-fi, Mur Lafferty of 'Geek Fu Action Grip and 'I Should Be Writing' and myself.

Dragonhelm: I believe Michael Mennenga also mentioned a podcasting seminar going along with the Parsec Awards. Will you be helping with that part of it as well?

Tracy Hickman: There will be an entire track of events involving podcasting content -- I'm probably going to be involved in a number of those -- and we'll be doing 'Southern Fried Killer Breakfast' at Dragoncon this year for the first time.

Dragonhelm: Original recipe or extra crispy?

Tracy Hickman: Extra crispy, no doubt!

Dragonhelm: So thrice upon a time, there was a world that was three worlds. The final novel in the Bronze Canticles trilogy, Mystic Empire, has just been released in hardcover. What was different about this novel compared to the first two in the series (Mystic Warrior and Mystic Quest)? What has changed in 80 years in the Bronze Canticles timeline?

Tracy Hickman: The mystics have become far more formalized in their approach to magic ... perhaps too formalized. Their society is stratified and, despite their protest otherwise, rather bigoted about the line between those who are magical and those who are not.

Tracy Hickman: We see the seeds of their own destruction being sewn.

Dragonhelm: What of the other two worlds?

Tracy Hickman: The faeries of Sharajentei find themselves under siege ... a siege they cannot win. The politics of their world is conspiring against their survival.

Tracy Hickman: As for the goblins...

Tracy Hickman: They are running out of places to conquer ... their supply lines are stretched to the breaking point ... and they are looking for some more 'convenient' place that they can pillage.

Tracy Hickman: Science -- as always -- provides the answer.

Dragonhelm: The Song of the Worlds in the series suggests that the worlds collide. After all, it is a world that is three worlds. Do the three worlds become one?

Tracy Hickman: The Binding of the Worlds does, indeed, take place but in our timeline, not until the end of the sixth book!

Dragonhelm: Sixth book? Isn't Bronze Canticles a trilogy?

Tracy Hickman: Yes ... but we haven't written the Iron Canticles yet, have we?

Dragonhelm: So a new trilogy is on the horizon?

Tracy Hickman: Yes, but not in the Bronze Canticles series yet ... Laura and I are going to let that rest for a time while we write a new series.

Tracy Hickman: We're just finishing up the proposal now so I can't tell you about it yet ... but we're very excited about it.

Dragonhelm: That sounds great. I'm looking forward to seeing what's next. Hopefully someday there might be a role-playing game for Bronze Canticles as well.

Tracy Hickman: I sure hope so ... it's a fabulous world.

Dragonhelm: Speaking of role-playing games, you and Laura are also writing an adventure for the Serenity RPG entitled Out In The Black for Margaret Weis Productions. You mentioned on the Dragonhearth podcast that the story is based on some real-life family history. Tell us about the adventure and what it was like incorporating actual events into the story of Out In The Black.

Tracy Hickman: The adventure is based largely around stories told to me by my Grandmother about the silver mine in which she grew up. I was able to weave those old stories that really happened into an adventure tale for the Serenity universe. I don't know when Laura and I have had so much fun creating an adventure! It deals with a lost treasure from the Unification Wars and a wild, wide open mine on Regina. It centers around the search for this treasure ... and a conniving, snake-oil selling woman whose name and personae changes more quickly than the direction of the wind. It's full of side stories and adventures -- and hopefully players of the game will settle their characters down in this town called Frisco and call it home base for their continuing adventures.

Tracy Hickman: We even include footnotes about the REAL stories from which the characters and adventure are taken.

Tracy Hickman: We are hoping to have it available by the end of July.

Dragonhelm: That sounds like a lot of fun. Tracy, thanks for taking the time to tell us about the latest tonight. We're all looking forward to the podcasts and your other projects.

Tracy Hickman: Thanks! You can find us at www.dragonhearthproductions.com and at podiobooks.com for the book. Come join us on the road and be part of the podcast!