Michael Williams, Bard of Krynn
Monday, September 11, 2006
Dragonhelm speaks with the Bard of Krynn, Michael Williams.
Dragonhelm: Andrewgray asks: "How were you first approached to write for the Dragonlance saga?"
Michael Williams: The whole arrangement was transacted at gunpoint. Actually, I approached Margaret and Tracy, as I recall. I was on the initial Dragonlance design team, and Margaret had read and enjoyed some of my poems. So the convergence was right: I approached Tracy in a Wisconsin parking lot (as I recall, it was winter, and--I'm more definite about this--he was wearing a magnificent, only marginally absurd cowboy hat when I drew near). From the beginning he was amenable. That was the good thing about both Margaret and Tracy--nothing excluding or territorial about them. If it made the project better, they were game. And they tried me out on four or five poems for Dragons of Autumn Twilight. They liked them, and continued to ask for more poems through the next five books of the two trilogies. It was only a step from the first poetry to short fiction and then to the novels I wrote for the series.
Dragonhelm: How do you feel about being referred to as the Bard of Krynn?
Michael Williams: Somewhere between flattered and indifferent. I always temper my acceptance of praise with the awareness that there are a lot of people as well who didn't like the poems. So be it, I liked what I did, and whether it qualifies me as a Bard, I'm not the one to judge.
Dragonhelm: What inspired you to create so many wonderful poems for Dragonlance, and how do you feel that they have added to the setting? Would other fantasy settings benefit from having poetry?
Michael Williams: The inspirations were, quite simply, Margaret's and Tracy's setting and story. I think what the poems did was to add to a sense of a large, old, and deep culture in Krynn, where people would sing and reflect and meditate. I certainly think that poetry is an asset in most of the fantasy settings I've seen it: poetry estranges language in a lot of the same ways that fantasy estranges reality, so the two go together.
Dragonhelm: Clive and Reinbowarrior want to know: "When you were writing the Canticle of the Dragon and the Song of the Nine Heroes, had you read the some of the Chronicles or were you inspired through discussions with Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman about the setting and plot?"
Michael Williams: Mainly discussions, as I recall. I don't think I worked from text very often, though I believe I did see manuscript of the Legends trilogy in order to understand the occasion of the poems.
Dragonhelm: In the recent podcasts for the book tour of Dragons of the Dwarven Depths, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman discussed the origins of some of the songs of the Chronicles. Tracy mentioned that during that time, you had come up with a song for Caramon. Tell us about that.
Michael Williams: Tracy would remember that. Most of my dealings in Dragonlace were conducted through Margaret, and Tracy and I touched base primarily to go over a few possibilities for poems and to make each other laugh. The poem was simple and direct:
Dragonhelm: Margaret and Tracy also mentioned how the phrase "Look Raist, bunnies!" came about and how it went from being a joke to one of the most celebrated moments in Legends. Tell us about that moment.
Michael Williams: Fueled by bourbon on a night that we were roleplaying part of the story (they did that, as many of you know, to test plotting, characterization, and the potential for certain scenes), I imagined Caramon attracted (and distracted) by the play of shadow on light in a very precarious setting. He makes shadow pictures, and entertains himself so much that he has to announce his achievement to Raistlin. I never played him smart. But M & T transformed the moment into something poignant and entirely unexpected from its rather silly beginnings.
Dragonhelm: Tanthalus wants to know: I'm not sure if Margaret or Tracy have contacted you, but is there any chance of having some of your poems in the next two volumes of Lost Chronicles? Your poems were an integral part of the first two trilogies, and it seems kinda wrong to not have them in the lost Chronicles.
Michael Williams: Thanks. No, we have made no arrangements regarding more poetry, and I don't foresee our doing so for a while. I'm very busy on a number of writing and educational projects.
Dragonhelm: Khaisai asks: "I remember reading through the Annotated Chronicles and restraining myself from looking at the last page with Raistlin's Farewell on it until I'd finished the whole thing - I was very eager to see what comments there were about it, as it's one of my favourite pieces written by you. I was interested to read that you felt it was a bit 'strained and flat in conclusion' - I was wondering why you think that is, and if you had the chance for a rework what changes you would make (if any) to try and change that."
Michael Williams: I wouldn't change it now. I abandoned it in despair, and what you do when you can't get part of a poem right, no matter how many angles you approach it from, is go on and write another.
Dragonhelm: Dr._Teeth asks: "How does it feel to be such a polarizing figure in the Dragonlance galaxy? Everyone seems to either love or hate your novels, (specifically the two Galen Pathwarden books). I really like them by the way, more Weasels Luck than Galen Beknighted, but I would really like a third Galen as an adult story. Was that ever discussed any?"
Michael Williams: Polarizing? It feels....well...extreme. One way or the other. I like to think it's because those books are strong and unusual in the series. I don't think many of the others are like them. That can be either good or ill. I've never thought of bringing Galen back. Should I?
Dragonhelm: Budgie21 asks: "Your poem "The Journey" really touched me. In addition to having memorized the whole thing I've also got it typed up and kept in my notebooks. Are the first and second verses seen through the eyes of a gold dragon? Or is it just another hawk?"
Michael Williams: Thanks for the heartfelt response. I believe that the beginning of the poem is from the point of view of the hawk, but I leave some of that to the imagination of the reader.
Dragonhelm: Tracy Hickman wants to know: "Whatever happened to the classic film lyrics you wrote for 'Trademark Jail"?"
Michael Williams: Damned if I know. Impounded with all the drugs we smuggled into Lake Geneva?
Dragonhelm: Terminal_echoes asks: "In Weasel's Luck (best book EVER) who was your inspriation/model for Galen Pathwarden? I ask this because perhaps by coincidence, in the old (and I say classic) movie Dragonslayer, the main character's name is Galen Brandwarden who also looks a lot like the Galen of your book and shares similar nerdy mannerisms."
Michael Williams: Pure and utter accident. That's the long and short of it, and it was a great embarrassment to me when I saw the closeness.
Dragonhelm: Are you planning on returning to the Dragonlance world anytime soon? If so, what sort of projects are you going to work on, or what projects would you like to work on? What other projects are you working on?
Michael Williams: Working on another novel, set in the U.S. from the late 1960s through to the present. It's a magical realist coming of age book. I should be South American.