LEOMINSTER — After 35 years and dozens of novels, it seems there are more stories left to tell about dark elf Drizzt Do’Urden.
Drizzt, first seen in R.A. Salvatore’s debut “The Crystal Shard” in 1988, returns in the Leominster author’s latest book “Glacier’s Edge,” which hits bookstores Aug. 9.
“Glacier’s Edge” is the second book in Salvatore’s new trilogy the Way of the Drow, which he said “introduced an entirely new culture of dark elves to the reader, one that’s not trapped in the way the original one was.”
Although the land might be different, Salvatore brought several familiar characters into the new series – including Drizzt, the most popular character from his books, which have sold more than 35 million copies worldwide and appeared on the New York Times bestseller list around two dozen times.
Drizzt has come a long way from being what Salvatore has called an afterthought. Perhaps that is because many readers see themselves in Drizzt.
“When I started writing these books, it seemed like every movie had the hero be the guy with the biggest gun or the biggest sword,” Salvatore said in an interview last week. “ … And it really bugged me because the hero should be the guy with the biggest heart. First and foremost, the hero should be the guy who cares and does things for the right reasons, even when he’s wrong, even when he thinks he’s doing something for the right reason, he’s wrong, he’s trying to do right. And I think that’s why this character has connected with so many people over the years, because we don’t see a lot of that.”
Asked which of his myriad characters is his favorite, Salvatore did not hesitate in his reply.
“The answer has to be Drizzt, the main character in the Dark Elf books,” he said, “only because he does essays. And those essays are my way of making sense of the world. I’m trying to do his voice. Sometimes he’s answering me in the negative. Sometimes he is agreeing with me. I’m not going to say which is which. That’s not the point. The point is that I write to help myself make sense of a world that never made sense. And Drizzt has helped me the most.”
Fans of Drizzt will be happy to know there’s another book coming out in September that’s all about him. “The Dao of Drizzt” collects in one volume his essays that try to make sense of the world around him. Salvatore said it will be bound together like a journal and feature an introduction by bestselling fantasy author Evan Winter.
“I can’t wait for that book to come out,” Salvatore said. “People been asking for that book for, like, 15 years.”
Hometown is still home
Salvatore, the youngest of seven children, was born and raised in Leominster. He originally went to the former Fitchburg State College to major in computer science, but switched to journalism after reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” Salvatore credits “The Lord of the Rings” with igniting his love of the fantasy genre and, ultimately, writing his own books.
Salvatore remembers to the day when he started writing what would become “The Crystal Shard”: July 11, 1987. Although that is his first published book, Salvatore’s first manuscript took shape in 1982. (That would become “Echoes of the Fourth Magic,” published in 1998.)
These days, Salvatore’s books take shape on the top floor of his home in his hometown, less than a mile from his alma mater, Leominster High School. Salvatore (the R.A. stands for Robert Anthony, but he’s known as “Bob” around town) plays on an adult softball team in the city called “Clan Battlehammer.”
Changes and a mirror
While some things about Drizzt have stayed the same over the years, Salvatore has seen many things change in the world of publishing since his first foray in the mid-1980s. He said it is “fantastic” to see the recent effort by publishers to increase diversity in their authors, especially in the fantasy and young adult genres.
Salvatore’s own literary genre, fantasy, has shifted from an audience of what he called “mostly teenage boys and college kids and military” to a wide-ranging community that welcomes pretty much anyone. Salvatore credited one of his first editors, Mary Kirchoff at TSR (the original publishers of Dungeons & Dragons), with urging him to add at least one female character to his first book — and he has made sure to avoid that blind spot ever since.
What has not changed over his three and a half decades writing about Drizzt is the message Salvatore wants readers to take from the novels.
“One of the biggest messages in the Drizzt books from day one has been racism is the stupidest thing we have, sexism right behind it,” Salvatore said. “I’ve never wavered on that. That’s the story of the books, is individual agency and ethics. Race is a construct that is meaningless, if you’re talking about people.”
In addition, Salvatore wants readers to know that, in many ways, Drizzt’s Menzoberranzan society mirrors our own.
“When you’re writing a fantasy world, when you’re creating a city in fantasy or culture in fantasy, it’s going to be different,” Salvatore said. “You have to come up with clever things that make it different, but most of those things are going to do the same things that we do in our cultures, fill the same needs. It has to rhyme with history. It has to make sense.”
Salvatore’s next series, Demon War, will debut in 2024 and focus on pirates – swashbucklers in another world, but pirates nonetheless. They will act as if they came right out of “Treasure Island” or “Pirates of the Caribbean,” he said, which means he’s been doing lots of research on them and their vessels.
“The pirate series I’m writing now is going to be an arms race at sea, essentially,” Salvatore said. “I have to know what would work and what wouldn’t. You have to know the basics of sailing and a sailboat. I have to know the terms, the terminology, because even though I’m writing about pirates in a different world, I may change some of the words, but I have to know what they named and why they named them.”
Personally autographed copies of “Glacier’s Edge” and “The Dao of Drizzt” are available for preorder at www.RASalvaStore.com (run by Salvatore’s wife, Diane). For more information on Salvatore, visit his website, www.RASalvatore.com, or his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/TheRealRASalvatore.