“I’m done,” said Terry Brooks, one of the biggest-selling fantasy writers of all time, in a recent phone interview. “I just finished that book.”
He means THE book. The final book in the four-part conclusion to the Shannara series. The book readers have been waiting for since, oh, 1977.
“I feel good about it! I finished it about a week ago, and I’m into the editing process. I thought I ended (the series) the right way, and I’m hoping that readers will agree.”
While readers will have to wait to read the final installment, they can meet Terry Brooks in person at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, at the Barnes & Noble in Cedar Rapids. He’ll read from “The Stiehl Assassin,” the third book in the four-part Shannara conclusion, which comes out on May 28.
For those not among the millions of readers who have devoured Brooks’ New York Times best-selling novels, he offers a succinct summary of the Shannara series.
“This started out as positing that we have a world in which science fell out of favor, and also that the background information on it and the knowledge about it was destroyed in a kind of cataclysm so that the few people who survived really didn’t know much about science. And so what would happen? Well, something fills the void, and in this case, I decided it was going to be magic.”
But life is cyclical, Brooks explained. “The ol’ what goes around comes around kind of thing.” So while magic found favor in the beginning, it, too, would eventually go the way of science. “It would become suspect.”
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“And when that happened, then a new science would arise, and the new science would become the thing in favor. What happens in that situation after all these hundreds of years of having magic as the dominant force and science being essentially gone? What would happen at the very end, when the two of them came up against each other?”
“That was always where I was headed, and I took four books to bring that to what I thought was a satisfactory conclusion.”
Before he was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, before he had more than 21 million books in print, Brooks was a fourth grade student in Sterling, Illinois, just off Highway 30.
“I had a teacher tell me that I was a really good writer. You know how kids are. I thought – I bet I could do this! And it turned out I could.”
“I’ve been writing steadily all that time.”
Growing up in a small Midwestern town had plenty of advantages for an imaginative child.
“I tell people all the time — especially young people — that what they don’t have, that I had, was freedom. Everybody’s so scheduled now. In those days, we were just kicked out the door and told to go play and stay out of trouble.”
“It was very freeing, and I think that was a lot of where my imagination developed.”
After publishing The Sword of Shannara in 1977, Brooks published two more novels before quitting his job as a lawyer to write full time.
“When I started out, fantasy was not in favor,” he explained, stating that the form as we know it today simply didn’t exist. “There was Tolkien, there was the Wizard of Oz, but not anything on a regular commercial fiction basis. But that has all changed.”
“Every form of entertainment out there is now using fantasy as a platform. Everything from gaming to comics, to books to movies to TV – it’s all there. You look at what Marvel comics has done, and it’s staggering.”
In fact, fantasy fiction is now required reading at some schools.
“I always thought that would be the end of my career for sure if I became an assignment,” Brooks said with a laugh. “But luckily that hasn’t turned out.”
Imagination and Output
Brooks’ imagination has remained strong well into his adult life. He has a secret for that.
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“I just never grew up,” he said. “It’s not a physical thing, it’s a young at heart kind of thing, where you are able to still look at the world and be amazed at the wonderful things that are out there – nature, sunsets, things like that that just blow your mind. They really do.”
“But also I think it’s a function of the way I learned to think. If this happens, then what would happen here? What if this happened? That’s how you tell a story. You just imagine how it might be. It becomes a habit, a way of life.”
And it’s a way of life this best-selling author isn’t planning to quit anytime soon, even with the close of the Shannara series.
“I’m already looking ahead to what I’m going to do next.”
• What: Terry Brooks will read from his latest book in the Shannara series, “The Stiehl Assassin”
• When: 7 p.m. June 5
• Where: Barnes & Noble, 333 Collins Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids
• Cost: Free