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Interview with Christie Golden

Dance of the Dead

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have the pleasure to open this online interview with the lovely Christie Golden, author of some of the greatest books in the Ravenloft novel line. Christie won many awards and wrote over twenty-five novels, and several short stories in the fields of science fiction, fantasy and horror. She has over a million books in print.

Christie can be credited also for breaking the glass: she launched the Ravenloft book line in 1991 with her first novel, the highly successful Vampire of the Mists. She followed up with Dance of the Dead and The Enemy Within.

In a grand conjunction with the FoS current Souragne project, Mrs Golden agreed to make an interview on the Dance of the Dead novel, a great novel based in this swamp domain.

This thread here is devoted to this interview: post your questions and Mrs Golden will jump in once in a while to answer them.

Mrs Golden's agent asked us not to discuss about that controversy about Anton's new drawing with a moustache and the reaction of the Souragne people to it Please keep this discussion about the Dance of the Dead novel!

We'd like to thank again Jim Sowter, aka Strahd from the web site Worlds of D&D, to help us orguanize this cool event.

JoŽl

JoŽl of the Fraternity:

When I made researches for our Souragne Gazetteer, I found the name Bouki often related to a rabbit in the crťole folklore, as it is in the DoD novel. What kind of research / knowledge did you have of (the fascinating) crťole folklore when writing this book? Other similar Bouki trivia in the book?

Christie:

I am a great lover of mythology and folklore, and I have this wonderful book called, appropriately enough SOUTHERN FOLKLORE from which I drew heavily. Bouki and Lapin are rather famous mythic characters, hailing in their origins from Africa. Usually Bouki is a rather dim donkey and Lapin (French for "rabbit") is a clever rabbit. This is likely also where the slave stories of Brer Rabbit came from. Rabbit has always been a "trickster" character, and I wanted to use them in the storyline. I made them both rabbits to keep things simpler.

Also from this wonderful book I learned about the will-o-wisps, or "willens," and that some of them were not necessarily evil beings.

Unfortunately, this is the book where you'll start to see some of the clashes I had with "upper ups" who kept insisting that Ravenloft be "darker" than I originally wanted to paint it. I think it no coincidence that VAMPIRE, which has the most hope in it, is my most popular Ravenloft book and ENEMY, which is the darkest and most depressing, is the least popular. Because of this, I was allowed very few "good" characters; hence the fact that my bunny loahs are flesh eaters.

Nathan of the FoS:

I've always been curious as to the link betweent the Maiden of the Swamp and the Dark Powers. Anton ends up with a surprising amount of power over his own domain (being able to isolate it in the Mists, for example) after her instruction, because she taught him "things mortals weren't meant to know." Does that mean that she's privy somehow to the inner workings of Ravenloft?

Christie:

Ah, the Maiden of the Swamp. What I was trying to do with her is illustrate the incredible power of Nature (and your "green maiden" guess isn't far off, she does have a lot in common with the mythic Green Man!). The contrast between "fruit and flower" magic versus "bone and blood" is natural versus unnatural. Perhaps in Ravenloft it's hard to find anything really "good," but it is such a lush place, even with all the decay, that nature/growth really is very powerful there. Much more so than in, say, a desert climate or an arctic realm. Things are always dying but things are always being reborn, perhaps even nourished by rot. That's not "good", that's simply nature and the balance. So a "nature goddess" might be able to root better in the dark domans (sorry, bad pun!) than say a goddess of "light".

Jasper:

Before you wrote Dance of the dead (and Vampire of the mists before that) how much exposure did you have to the Ravenloft setting?

Your novels have the feel of Ravenloft down pat but I can't seem to tell if your a gamer or not.

Christie:

Ravenloft had only just come out--they sent me the First edition as research for both of these books. I'm not sure when the second edition came out. I have never actually played it, although I have done lots of tabletop RP in my day (and currently do lots of RP on the MMORPG World of Warcraft). What I tried to do with each book was delve into the origin behind the land--in this case, voodoo, Southern folklore, New Orleans culture. I even made a trip on a riverboat to NO for research, and it was invaluable.

Fortunately also, this world wasn't really fleshed out very much by the time I got my hot little hands on it. So I was able to create a lot of it myself. Misroi, for example, was only termed the "zombie lord"; I originally did him as a zombie himself, but my editor, Jim Lowder and I talked about it and I recast him as an extremely handsome Gothic anti-hero. Think Timothy Dalton in his prime. Much nicer than a zombie--and evil doesn't have to be physically rotting to be rotten.

Keep 'em coming!

Drinnik Shoehorn:

One question I have, which could be applied to Vampire of the Mists and The Enemy Within (one of my favourite Ravenloft novels, I admit), is how much information on what you have to write are you given for a RPG novel?

Are you given a chapter breakdown or a synopsis you have to work from or are you given a loose outline and free reign?

I've always thought the novels of Ravenloft can be overlooked when it comes to the setting, so how does it feel when you've given the setting two great characters? (I'm referring to Jander Sunstar and the take on Anton Misroi you have in Dance. It's my opinion that if it wasn't for the way he was depicted in Dance that he wouldn't be as interesting as he is today.)

Christie:

That's a very good question, and it varies from project to project.

For VAMPIRE, I actually answered an audition. They had the title and the basic idea they wanted to see, which was that Ravenloft was new and that an older vampire from the Forgotten Realms comes to Raveloft and teaches Strahd in the ways of vampirism. I submitted an outline and the first chapter, the work was read "blind" (without anyone knowing who the author was when evaluating the work) and suddenly at 27 I was launching the Ravenloft line.

When I created Jander, I tried to think of the icons of both horror and fantasy--of course he had to be a vampire, but what is more "fantasy" than an elf? Ta-da--the world's first elven vampire. I play WarCraft and on my server there are a lot of elven vampires, I keep wanting to apologize and say "Sorry, my bad!"

So pretty much everything other than Strahd's history and the fact that Jander was an older vampire was my creation. I remain very, very fond of Jander, and you all might like to know, if you don't already, that VAMPIRE is going to be rereleased in September as a trade paperback, with Jander on the cover!

I pitched everything for DANCE, I liked Souragne and Richemulot the best; I understand there was a family of riverboating werewolves that got killed off. Heh, that would have been fun to play with as well.

I am very glad I went with the handsome Misroi, it was much fun to write someone so charming and yet so thoroughly despicable. His mansion was a blast to create as well; I took thigns I had seen in old New Orleans homes and made them creepy. Like the skeletal hands that held back the drapes--those were modeled on brass children's hands that did the same thing. And the woman trapped in the bone piece who was writing? Based on an actual Victorian piece, the candlelight made the image carved into the ivory flicker.

LUCIFERABADDON:

Did you ever imagine the possibility of a sequence for Dance of the Dead? In case of a positive answer did you put some thought into this idea? Thanks.

Christie:

No, I never really thought of a sequel, nor did TSR at that time seem very "into" doing more than one book on a subject or a character. I did hope that folks might incorporate Larissa and her showboat into their campaigns. I kind of sent her off with that being "open."

Cure:

Your work on watery Souragne and on a riverboat plying the watery arteries of the Core and beyond stoked my interest in the rivers of Ravenloft. In so far as you mention Richemulot with all its (water loving wererat infested) cities dominating the Musarde and the idea of werewolf riverboaters (likely with loyalties to Verbrek), did you ever ponder (perhaps in a flight of fancy) a novel spanning the Musarde River? And what elements gothic or fantastic might you suggest for fleshing out this key, yet underdevelopped, artery of the western Core? For example, did you conceive of your riverboat as being completely unique, or one of many albeit far more magical, and did you conceive of its captain being a loner on the waters, or part of a community plying them? Any background on your conception of river trade and commerce in Ravenloft would be greatly appreciated.

Christie:

That would be an intriguing idea! I never got that far though, I had a few ideas but nothing more and really haven't done much thinking beyond that. The idea of a showboat was suggested by the mentions of riverboats, and originally originally the boat was to be magically powered by what few "good" creatures were found, making it even more exotic.

JoŽl of the Fraternity:

Jander was the first elven vampire? This is also one of the first TSR novel that had an heroine instead of a powerful iconic hero and it made the story flow in a better way IMHO. The novel had a human and easily relatable heroine, while keeping true to Ravenloft's powerful domain lord. So the end result is less fantasy then Vampire and much more gothic, which is cool (IMHO again).

Your bio shows you are very close to art in your private life. Where did you get this cool idea of dancing the Dance fo the Dead, i.e. that the art of dancing can be so powerful?

Christie:

I do think it has a more Gothic feel to it, especially Southern gothic (as well as being New Orleans-ish...is that a word? LOL!). And it was fun to take the "damsel in distress" heroine idea and make her her own rescuer, as it were.

Art is EXTREMELY powerful. In my first original fantasy novel, INSTRUMENT OF FATE, I worked with the idea of song, although again, the protagonist is a human female with not much more than her own guts to get her through. For her, song is a comfort and a refuge. I'm a singer, so that was easy. Not a dancer, but I have always been intrigued by the power of creation in any form. Go with me on this for a sec--don't you wonder what happens to music when the last note has died away? Or the characters in a book after you put it down? What about the kinetic energy released in dance? What happens to the creation when the creating stops? Or does it ever?

So yes, the idea of art/magic connection has always interested me.

JoŽl of the Fraternity:

Fascinating topic indeed, Dear Ealasaid There is a lot of thoughts and emotions put into art, so the idea that some kind of vibe is remaining is intriguing.

When doing research on Souragne, I read many reviews on the net, and one of them I did bookmark as well written and funny. Here's an excerpt:

This book is surprisingly romantic and has a wonderful heroine who can give Buffy a run for her money. And the hero's a fascinating creature, and there's a really sexy demon that, should he turns his attentions to me, I'm in definite danger of roasting.

When you are writing, how do you build your characters' personality? Was Larissa, Anton, Willen (or others) inspired by a character or a person you know?

Christie:

Ealasaid, wow, haven't heard that name in a long time!

That's a lovely review, that woman needs to go read my new series! (ON FIRE'S WINGS and IN STONE'S CLASP have been published so far...interestingly enough the series is called the "Dancers"!)

I always have trouble answering stories about characters, because character development and dialogue have always come easily and naturally to me. The characters come very soon after the initial spark of the concept, and they really just want me to tell their stories. I never model a character after someone I know. The most interesting character in the book to me from the "where did he come from?" perspective actually was a minor character, Dragoneyes. He just showed up, fully formed...I never was able to get much of his past out of him but he was very distinct. I was also very adamant about his name--names were a bit of an issue in this book. I wanted to keep more "normal" names, as that seemed to be the gist of some of the Ravenloft realms, but I was told that I had to make them more "fantasy sounding" But Dragoneyes was Dragoneyes, and stubbornly refused to yield on it. *shrugs* I had another character in my most recent book, Jareth Vasalen, do the same thing. Pretty much folded his arms and glared when I tried to change his name.

In VAMPIRE, Jander very strongly resisted being evil. I created him that way--I think I still have the scene where he stalks through the asylum, his "cold eyes raking the scene." Just felt so terribly wrong. When I made him a more compassionate and tragic character, then he started to come to life for me. Another character in one of my original novels, KING'S MAN AND THIEF, launched into a diatriba in one scene where he was supposed to just murmur assent about somthing. I felt like a journalist running around with a tape recorder as I typed.

Now--I'm not losing my mind. What is happening is that I have let my subconscious go to work on the characters, and when I try to make them do something that's wrong for them, it's almost like a warning signal. I have learned to trust that feeling and fight for it.

I actually love it when that happens.

gomez:

I enjoyed Dance of the Death, I liked Anton Misroi a lot more as he was described here than in later game supplements (where he was made some kind of zombie). I htink they later solved that (don't recall where though).

He had this 'phantom lover' feel over him - very charming, but very deadly, and it was very doubtful that you would end up right if you would involve yourself with him.

Still, while you know there is dark evil heart beating (?) in his chest, he had a strange 'redeemable' aura - he seemed very lonely, and somehow, I got the feeling (a delusion, no doubt) that he migth just be able to shake of his evil nature, if given a new chance.

Of course, that is impossible as a darklord, but I wondered if this was an impression that only I had, or that it was intentional?

Christie:

Oh, they did make him a zombie? After telling me I shouldn't. LOL! I'm glad they managed to unzombify him then.

I don't think anyone is "unredeemable," at least they shouldn't be. We have free will, and what we do is a matter of the choices we make. Besides, something that's "completely" good or evil is BORING don't you think? As I've said, I kept bumping my nose against that. I think a completely evil character is one-dimensional. Heck, I even tackled Satan in my novel A.D 999 (written under the pen name Jadrien Bell) and managed to give him lots of shading. Hm, come to think of it, my Angelo does owe something to Misroi....

My opinion is that Misroi doesn't think he can be redeemed, but when he sees something that's essentially good and beautiful and pure, he secretly wishes he could be a part of it. But that thought comes and goes. I think he's really glad Larissa could stand up to him. He's proud of her and admires her. To bend her to his will to be would lose her. He is a bit sad in that I think.

Ail:

I read this book a long while ago, but I liked it very much, and especially Larissa Snowmane. So much that I'm using her in my campaign.

But what I wanted to know here is, what kind of life did Larissa take after the book ended ? Do you think she would ever go back willingly to Souragne ? If I recall right, she too learned from the Maiden of the Swamp. Does she think she still owes something to the Maiden and believes she should, ultimately, undo the evil the Maiden did unwillingly in teaching Misroi by battling, or redeeming him? what would she most likely do, redeem him probably? Or did that final scene, where she loses her love through her dreadful Dance, unhinge her somewhat? Could it have altered her views and morale compass? Do you think Larissa views herself as a successor to the Maiden of the Swamp?

Now, on a more general basis, how did you begin writing? Did you take special formation before doing it, or was it mostly your talent that made you successful? What kind of research and preparation do you do, and do you feel it is geared to specific genres of writing or could you write mostly anything? Is there such a thing as a fantasy-writer instead of simply a writer?

Thank you. I may be sounding rather mis-informed, and I must confess, in this field, I am. I haven't read your biography and despite loving Souragne I will only make a detailed study when my players finally get there (but I have already read a few books and sites on Voodoo, and mostly its African sources).

Curiously, I have read all your Ravenloft novels, even unaware they were all of the same author (I have read a couple more of the RL line) and I like all of them. To this day, your version of Maalken / Tristen is the one I prefer.

This is rather long already, so I'll stop here. Sorry if I bothered you or made stupid questions, I didn't mean to.

Christie:

Wow, a lot of questions...I think Larissa has been sobered by what happened. She grew up hard and fast. I don't know that she's particuarly keep to return to Souragne, but if she was needed, she would go, painful though it might be. She would want to do what she could to honor what Willen stood for. I think she is sadder, but stronger. I don't know that she feels she "owes" anything to the Maiden, certainly not enough to feel compelled to return.

I started writing when I was old enough to hold a crayon. I used to make "books" for my teachers, stapling big pieces of construction paper together. I had some wonderful English teachers in high school and junior high who encouraged me and let me experiment. In college, I did not really take many classes, just honed basic writing skills in English on reports and stuff. If you want to be a fantasy writer, it's likely you're already a fantasy reader. There is a weeklong course called Clarion you can take, but it guarantees nothing. It could help a lot, or it could really discourage you if you are a bit sensitive about sharing your writing. I wrote for newpapers and magazines and I've written fantasy, SF, horror, thrillers, essays, reviews....I can write pretty much anything. In fact I'm thinking of a mystery series one of these days. In my opinion, a writer is a writer, is a writer.

Hah! Guess you like my work without realizing it. Ah, Tristan. That was interesting. I wrote the book when all the information there was on Nova Vaasa was a tiny little writeup in the first edition. I gave Hiregaard his first name, backstory, everything. And then in the second edition of the Ravenloft campaign, it all got changed, and I start getting hate mail about "how I couldn't even be bothered to do my research" and "you got it all wrong" and so on. The perils of writing in a shared world! Quite frustrating, but you just have to laugh. It goes with the territory, though I do wish people would check pub dates and stuff before attacking me.

Ail:

Thank you for your answer. As a side comment, that hate-mail you received reminded me of a short essay that made me laugh years ago, and still does, about Tolkien not writing good Middle-Earth novels for a roleplaying-game system. Here: http://tolkien.cro.net/tolkien/cclark.html

It was purposefully and very well written, and although some people don't like this, I find it hilarious.

Christie:

Haha! Yes, I was once told by a frustrated gamer that he couldn't "play' VAMPIRE out as a game. I told him that novels and games are very different. They both take skills to write, but the goal is very different. One is designed to be experienced passively, the other needs to be open ended so the player can contribute. The novels aren't meant to be played, they're meant to be read as an adjunct to the game. Frankly, too, they should be able to stand on their own as a "good read," so that those who don't play the game can enjoy them as well. Tie-in work is not easy!

PS: I just read the link you mentioned....it is not serious, but rather a brilliant piece of satire. The usage of good spelling and grammar alerted me when I started that the poster was likely too smart to not understand that the books were written before the game, and by the time I got to "Blade of Bannara" instead of "Sword of Shannara" I realized what was going on. Still, really great stuff! Too bad it wasn't for real, that would be even funnier.

gonzoron :

Hi Ms. Golden! Let me first thank you for being here. Although it's been years since I've last read them, your three Ravenloft novels are some of my all time favorite parts of the setting, and Vampire especially is a favorite novel of mine in general. (I've also dropped Larissa into a cameo in my campaign, and hope to use her more fully later.)

I was wondering what, if anything, you had read about where the other writers of Ravenloft took your creations after you'd written about them. And what your opinions were on those developments. I saw above that you hadn't heard about the changes to Misroi. Are you up on the latest status of Larissa, Tristen, etc? Specifically, how do you feel about the official stance that Jander was "saved" by the Mists at the end of Vampire? (Did you know the cult of the Morninglord is still going strong in Barovia?) I know part of writing for a shared world involves giving up control over your creations, but is it a weird thing to experience? Do you feel the need to keep tabs on your characters?

Also, congratulations on the reprinting of Vampire. We know that at least one other Ravenloft novel (Death of a Darklord) is being reprinted. Do you know if the reprints will continue? Any plans for a reprint of Dance, or (dare we hope) new novels? Would you be interested in writing for Ravenloft again if the opportunity came?

And here's a random one: Who's your favorite Darklord? Least favorite? Favorite domain? Least favorite? (Just about every member here has answered those questions at some point; might as well continue the trend.)

ChristieGolden :

I was a little disappointed that the history of Tristan and Nova Vaasa got so thoroughly overhauled, any writer would be I think, but I'm sure they had their reasons. Cool that the Morninglord cult is still going so strong! Woot! I don't know if you all know this but Jander has appeared in several Forgotten Realms anthologies, including the Best Of (reprinted the story from REALMS OF INFAMY), so I've been able to "keep up" with him, sort of. Jander is by far my favorite Ravenloft character I've created, so I'm pleased that not too much has been done with him since the book. I know there have been some scenarios and things and by and large I am fine with where they've wanted to take him. Several years ago TSR and I were talking about a sequel, but for various reasons it never materialized. I sure wouldn't mind doing another one, I am a little surprised by how happy I am that Jander is "back" in my life with the reprint! I can't wait to see the cover. I always pictued Anthony Andrews from his Brideshead Revisted days (wow, I'm dating myself) but I suppose Orlando Bloom would do...

For Dumont, I always pictured David Warner. And of course Timothy Dalton for Misroi.

No word on reprinting the other two at this point.

Haven't heard too much about Larissa or Tristan recently.

Hm....It's been so long since I've seen anything Ravenlofty it's hard to comment. Probably my favorite is Misroi, since all I had was a name and I got to really create him!

Ail:

As an occasionaly reader of novels, I find they (novels) are invaluable to get a good grip on the setting. For example, I read Vampire of the mists when I was planning the Barovian part of my campaign. I loved it, and I liked Sasha's relation with Trina. I put some elements from it in my campaign, obviously in different form: the circle, references to Sasha and the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind (merely as hooks, as of yet), the history of the cult of the morninglord and general attitude of the population.

Having read the novel makes it all the more worthwhile when we now read in the Gazetteer that the Cult of the Morninglord defends compassion towards lycanthropes but does not explain why, and it feels even better when we as DM know that we can let the players know that and understand it is really ancestral and very rare knowledge. If they can appreciate that kind of information, digging novels set in the past is truly precious.

Christie:

Fascinating that the Cult defends compassion to lycanthropes. And yep, I'm sure that's where they got it. Very very cool. Thanks for sharing that.

Heh, I loved Trina

JoŽl of the Fraternity:

In Dance of the Dead, I like how the paternalistic and well trusted figure of Larissa's uncle quickly becomes distorted and devious (and I note that Larissa later has to face another paternalistic controling caracter when she met Anton). Ever discussed that with Mr Freud?

How did you plan the writing of this specific novel? Did you have a detailled story board, or just a general idea of the story? What did TSR knew of the story before you wrote it?

You said TSR wanted darker novels. What did they made you change or tweak in Dance of the Dead?

Christie:

Haha! No, I never discussed it with the good doctor, but perhaps you might want to...though sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!

I sold this on an outline, I can't remember how detailed it was, but probably about fifteen or twenty pages or so. Generally when I write an outline I've got the beginning, end, and several of the "big" scenes planned out. This means that I don't end up writing myself into a corner 160 pages in and have to start all over again, and the publisher has a general sense of where I'm going and the overall feel of the book.

Lesse, for Dance...hm....well, like I said, I wasn't allowed to have any "good" animals on the boat, which was disappointing at first, but I had fun creating the ones I did have. I had to make the names more "fantasy" and less normal, like Tom or something. I was instructed to kill off a major figure, preferably Willen. I would have preferred to have him simply unable to leave the island, and therefore unable to be with Larissa--I thought that would be tragic enough--but it was made very clear to me that someone needed to die. Had I been a more experienced writer I would have challenged a lot of these instructions, but this was only my second novel so I went along with it. It's not really very usual for a publisher, even a publisher of tie-in novels like STAR TREK, to tell an author to kill a character. I think unfortunately decisions like these, instead of making the mood dark and sinister and threatening, only made it feel depressing and hopeless. We read horror and gothic stories to be scared and challenge the darkness, not to lose to it all the time. Sure you lose a few, and frankly I'm kind of "known" for killing of characters one comes to really love (read ON FIRE'S WINGS at your own peril). But there has to be a good internal reason for it. It's got to feel "right", not just done for shock value. You've got to win a few. There's got to be hope. The morning always comes, even in Ravenloft. So in hindsight, I wish I'd fought a little harder for a few things. On the plus side, they talked me into making Misroi a sexy, dashing villain instead of a zombie, which in the end was an excellent decision.

Rawr.

Oh, one thing I wanted to be sure I mentioned...I was VERY proud of the "minxes." I liked the pun. A "minx" is a mischeivous, somewhat playful and irresponsible but charming little girl; my "minx" were basically were-minks who became beautiful young women with thick, luxurious brown hair. I always wanted to see their stats somewhere official, but I don't think that ever happened.

JoŽl of the Fraternity:

(about minxes) I don't recall seeing these, indeed ...

I'm thinking of Gelaar's daughter kept in a mirror's mists. This is quite poignant when Gelaar makes her illusions of a forest to relive her of her fears ;(

Where did you get this (nasty!) great idea?

Christie:

I have no idea where I get my ideas. The mirror idea is obviously nothing new, but now that you mention it, "being trapped" does seem to be a major theme in the book doesn't it? The creatures on the showboat, the woman in the bone decoration, Aradnia in the mirror...hmmm....

gonzoron :

Since you haven't been reading the recent Ravenloft stuff, and seem to be interested in the Morninglord developments, here's some more info on where your creations have been lately:

  • The Cult of the Morninglord is strong in Barovia, especially among the Gundarakite minority. (After Duke Gundar was killed, his domain was absorbed by Barovia and Invidia. Ethnic Barovians are in charge, and Gundarakites are oppressed.) There's a secret sect within the cult called the Dawnslayers, or Heralds of the Dawn, founded by Sasha and dedicated to fighting vampires. (which, as noted, preaches mercy for lycanthropes.) The cults dogma and practices have been fleshed out quite a bit. (If you find yourself in a game store and see RL Gazetteer volume 1, check out page 25 for a summary.) The Hands of the Dawn Healer, the mummified hands of an early priest of the Morninglord (strongly hinted to be Sasha), are a holy relic of the church, rumored to grant miracles, including curing lycanthropy.
  • Jander himself showed up in Falkovnia, tangling with a group of vampyres (not vampires, living bloodsuckers). He was updated to 3rd edition rules and it was revealed that his hands are still blackened and painful from the contact with the Holy Symbol. Supposedly he found out somehow how he was saved and now wants to avenge himself on the Dark Powers themselves, at first by weakening them by slaying evil creatures. (most fans don't like the book he was updated in, and especially the way he was updated, so take that last part with a grain of salt.)
  • Larissa is still travelling, now captain of La Demoiselle, renamed the River Dancer.
  • The first time Anton saw print after Dance he was still said to look like a zombie. But 3 years later, that was corrected. He's still a zombie lord, and his natural form is zombie-like, but learned from the Maiden to control his appearance, and usually looks suave and dashing. His curse is that he craves human contact, but is surrounded by mindless slave zombies. He's also developed some power to "mind-travel" to other domains that's never been explained. Interestingly, it's said that Sourange would have been drawn into the Core and joined the continent, but Misroi's sheer force of will prevented it, since he "didn't like what he saw there."
  • Malken's cat fetish has been incorporated into the canon, with the claws of sekhmaa in official history, and the plains cats roaming the land. The Horse theme has blossomed into an all-out obsession for Nova Vaasa. They even name their historical periods stuff like "The Saddling." Green for mourning is still there. Tristen's official history now is that his father was cursed to kill any woman he loved when he killed Tristen's mother in a rage. When Romir killed himself, the curse passed to Tristen. When Tristen killed his first love, he was drawn to Ravenloft and the curse was made into a full alter-ego: Malken. Tristen is retired from the constabulary. The Clever Grey Malken Inn was renamed by the owners to the Clever Grey Mouser to distance itself from Malken. Othmar is still in charge, having not released power in 28 years and flaunting the five-year cycle. The church of the Lawgiver (i.e. Bane) is the state religion, and other religions are outlawed.

Well, hope that's interesting you... Ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be so if you get bored, feel free to stop reading. Just goes to show the huge influence you've had on Ravenloft. Thanks!

Drinnik Shoehorn :

I was just wondering, how long did it take to write both Vampire and Dance? Does it take as long writing your non-gaming books?

Christie:

VAMPIRE was a real baptism by fire and one I'm very grateful for. I was 27, had never sold any fiction before, and had just started a new job when word came they had selected my proposal. I had three months to write it. The bad news is that writing that book and DANCE while working a full-time job dang new killed me; I got sick quite a bit during that time frame. The good news is, I can pretty much always turn out a book now in three months, which has been a tempting thing to offer publishers.

Until very recently, all of my novels (27 at this point) have by and large been three months. The new series, starting with ON FIRE'S WINGS, has been comprised of longer books and 4-5 months is usually necessary simply because of the length and complexity (I am hoping for five books in the series, and have to make sure the groundwork is laid for all the surprises in the end!)

Generally I do five pages a day, which is a comfortable pace for me. You start getting into six or seven or eight a day and it gets tougher; when I did LORD OF THE CLANS on a six week deadline I was aiming for ten pages a day. I was exhausted and non-verbal at the end of each day.

Ail:

Hi again! The last posts have asked mostly around things I wanted to ask you. From what you said, can I assume that you always make a general plan before you write a book, I mean, you have a plot written and then just fill the holes? Do you make a story arc for each character before writing, I mean, do you already know what is going to happen at the end of the book before you write the first page, and what is the purpose the character is trying to achieve?

Now that you are more experienced, do you still have to follow hints from the editor, or are you the sole responsible for the book?

Another question, please. When you write, do you worry about the style of language you're using? Do you look for rare and difficult words or quite on the contrary do you try that your text is easily readable? Or do you not even worry about that?

Lastly, do you revise often, or when you have written your pages for the day that is final work.

Thank you very much for your answers.

Christie:

Once you've broken in, it's ideal to sell you novel based on an outline rather than "on spec," i.e., after you've written the whole thing. This lets the edtior know where you want to go with the story at a stage where he or she can give input and it's easily correctable. For the author, it means money before you have written something that perhaps it turns out you won't be able to find a market for. So I've become a master at writing outlines. And you know what? I hate doing them, but I love what they do for me. When something goes nowhere, I know it in a few sentences rather than after a hundred pages. So yes, I know absolutely where the book is heading. It's like a road map--a very detailed guide, but that doesn't mean I can't make changes as I hit those places in the book. I tend to follow fairly close to outline from a plot standpoint, but things do start taking on a life of their own with regards to character. And editors know this.

I'd say I get more requests to change things with tie-in work rather than my original fiction, because of the nature of the beast. When I do something like a Ravenloft book, they are hiring me to write their book. Usuallyi t's their characters, certainly their world, and they own all rights to it. When I do my own work, the publisher is publishing MY book. Much less changes are requested, though I love working with a good editor. She or he can see things I can't and help me make the book better.

Each writer has his or her own "voice." But sometimes that 'voice" can change from project to project. For Star Trek, I like to use clean, easily readable language, because that fits in well with the feel of the show. For my DANCERS series, it's more lyrical. But word choices are often very definite--that's why we have such a rich vocabulary! Once I have the voice feel down for a book I don't worry about it, it just flows.

Each day I read what I've written the day before, tweak and polish it, then do that day's writing. I like to leave a week or two at the end to go over it all. But generally, the first draft I turn in to the editor is what goes through. I don't have the luxury often of having a second or third crack at a book before it goes to print.

Ail:

I forgot to add another question: do you ever read fan made material about the settings you write to? If you do, what do you think, in general, of its quality, and do you like, or do you not care, that so many people are willing to write about games they love and share it with others?

Were you to run a game, would you consider the fan made material as important to read and know as the canon material, or worth taking ideas from?

Thank you once again.

Christie:

Until very recently, I had found no fan fic on anything I've written. Sniff, I'm a failure! *sob* Then I ran across a Jander short story on the web that was very well written, even if, er, it had him being attracted to another male elf....Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would say! But Jander definitely likes females. I was flattered and I enjoyed reading it.

If I were to run a game, I'd go to the source, just like I would do with a historical novel I'm researching. I'd want to make my own stories from the source material. Perhaps if I knew something from another novel that I liked, I 'd incorporate that, but I wouldn't take anything from another fan. That's their work. I'd want to do mine.

JoŽl of the Fraternity:

That's very AnnRicey :) Moving from topic, but ... what do you think of her work about vampires?

What other books have you written do could inspire us RLers in our games, i.e. book about horror, great villains?

Do you have trivia or other interesting details on the writing, editing, publishing, fan reactions to Dance of the dead?

Christie:

Anne Rice is indeed the Source, isn't she? I liked THE VAMPIRE LESTAT the best of the three I've read. It was very claer to me that TSR wanted a sort of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE type of novel--older vampire teaching younger--but I wanted to make it as different as I could. Of course Strahd is no Louis, and Jander is no Lestat. Strahd was set up by that point as a villainous character and rather than have "bad vampire and badder vampire" I wanted a "good" vampire, at least as good as I could make him. I have had a lot of people tell me they think the world I've set up for the Dancers series would make a great RPG. I'd love for someone to give it a shot and report to me about it. The books are not horror per se, but they have that Christie Golden trademark dark and dangerousness about them I think. First one's ON FIRE's WINGS, out now in trade paperback, coming out in August in mass market. I did get asked about what I wanted to see in the cover art, something that doesn't always happen to authors, and I thought having Larissa dance with the snake and summoning the zombie would be a cool cover. I actually have the original art for the cover, it's great. Some people say that my face looks a lot like Larissa's...I have a picture on the Wizards of the Coast website and on my own. You be the judge!

Ail:

It's very interesting that you give these numbers (about writing). When I write the logs for my campaign, I make between 4 to 8 pages a session, and that takes me at least 3 to 4 hours to write. I strive to do it on one single day, but most times I need to make it in two.

The problem with this, of course, is lack of motivation sometimes, which reflects in the incoherent quality of the whole.

As an author, and since you said you don't revise intensively, do you ever feel that some day's work was not as good as it should have been, or is somehow inferior to the work of the other days? If so, how do you even that out? And if not, how do you do to always keep the same quality?

Is your text then reviewed by an editor or a proof-reader before it goes to press at last?

Thanks.

You have been so nice in answering all our questions that I do feel motivated to ask you more and more.... Hope that does not bother you.

Christie:

Of course some days are better than others. Some days I really feel inspired and the pages fly. Other times it's like pulling teeth. The funny thing is, sometimes the pulling teeth days/scenes are better than the inspired days...that's where technique comes in. If I waited to be "inspired" I would never finish anything! I do believe that there's a "muse" of sorts, but sometimes she takes the day off--and the work still needs to get done. I do go over the previous day's work, as I said, and I also make sure to give myself a week or two to do an overall edit. I learn a lot as I go along and I have to make sure the first part is in line with the final part! Yes, I always have an editor and a proofreader. I do not always get the chance to revise the first draft, though. There's a saying out there, "You don't write, you rewrite." And while that's true to an extent for all writers, it is less true for me--I have to make sure my first crack at something is pretty damn good in case I don't get a second.

And do please keep the questions coming; I'm happy to answer them!

JoŽl of the Fraternity:

I've finished reading it again this morning. I think you had Anton depicted as a very credible, evil but refined being. You make him say two things that are very clever and absolutely in character:

  • Everyone is trapped-in one way or another. Some have prettier cages, that's all.
  • eep down inside all of us, there's a monster- Some spend their lives trying to fight it. They fail. Some coexist unhappily with their beast. They are miserable." He dragged her to her feet and grabbed her shoulders. "Larissa," he purred, "you and I celebrate it."
These descriptions of Anton (and others thing he say) are so cool When I wrote the expanded background story of Anton for our Souragne project, it was modeled after the novel (And he looks human too, don't worry!). In fact, we used it a lot in this project for inspiration and world building details.

Another comment (I do not have questions anymore), I loved the end scene with Willen going on the raft. It is very poignant, and brought me watery eyes again, which is unusual for me. Bravo! I think you made us like your heroine very much, so we became very empathic at her emotions. It was cute and cool.

Willen's character would normally annoy me, in his all smile, over the top disneyesque gentleness, but I liked him a lot. His real nature had to do with it, but the way you had him described surely made him more palatable and credible.

Lond! How can you be more evil then him? Next thing you know, he ate your baby! Run!

Christie:

Yeah, Anton is the sociopath poster boy, isn't he? Frankly, in real life, evil isn't very sexy. Criminals are a pretty stupid lot and often very...well...icky. In fiction, though, it's a lot of fun to play with.

I wrote a book that's very hard to find these days, but it's still out there, called A.D. 999, written under the pen name of Jadrien Bell. It won the Colorado Author's League Top Hand award, but unfortunately didn't sell very well. You want some fun and suave evil? Try Satan and Loki, together for the first time! I jokingly call it "Satan and Loki's Excellent Adventure." Satan takes the name Angelo and is advisor to King Ethelred the Unready, and Loki....well, he's the Antichrist. The basic idea is, Angelo has found a way to bring about the end of the world prematurely--a cosmic loophole that will let him reign forever. A crippled young monk and a pagan witch-wife are all that stand against him.

Angelo definitely owes a debt to Misroi.

What made Willen work was that he was genuine, I think. He wasn't cutsey or saccharine...he was just...NEW. Experiencing all this for the first time, a being really of light and purity making a choice out of a love that's so simple he can't understand why anyone wouldn't make that choice. He wasn't just an innocent person, he was "other," and his innocence wasn't naivety or ignorance it was because there was nothing that could prepare him for existence in a human body. I think that's why he wasn't eye-rolling. At least not too much I hope.

Heh...I loved that the band in Buffy was called "Dingos Ate My Baby"/

Christie:

Well, all, looks like this has run its course. You asked some great questions and it was really fun to revisit DANCE OF THE DEAD.

I'd love it if some of you might be willing to give my new series a try--in the end, writing my own stories was always what I wanted to do, and like any other business, it's all about selling. The first book in the series is called ON FIRE'S WINGS, and it may be a bit hard to find for a period until the mass market paperback comes out in August. The second one is easier, it's called IN STONE'S CLASP. Give 'em a shot and drop me an email to let me know what you think.

Take care, and watch out for the mists!

Christie Golden

www.christiegolden.com

JoŽl of the Fraternity:

Many thanks Christie for the opportunity to ask you these questions. It was very interesting.

As discussed, we'll summon you again in the mists for the rerelease of Vampire :)

Thank you again for your time and cheerfulness!

 

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