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Tracy Hickman

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Tracy Hickman   Tracy Hickman is the New York Times best-selling co-author of the Dragonlance, Darksword, Death Gate, Sovereign Stone, and Dragonships series. He's been inducted into the Origins Hall of Fame. Pyramid magazine stated that Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weice are "basically responsible for the entire gaming fiction genre." The Dragonlance series alone has sold over 20 million copies. He and his wife, Laura, also created the classic adventure Ravenloft and the Oasis of the White Palm, as well as the Bronze Canticles series.

Buy Tracy Hickman's Books at the following locations: (downloadable audio books) (independent bookstores)
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This episode originally aired on 11/5/2009 with the following authors:
Note: The following interview has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show. Please excuse any typos, spelling and gramatical errors.

Interview with Tracy Hickman

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Matthew Peterson: Iím speaking today with Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, New York Times bestselling authors of Dragonlance, Darksword, Death Gate, Sovereign Stone, and the Dragonships series. Theyíve both been inducted into the Origins Hall of Fame, and Pyramid magazine stated that theyíre ďbasically responsible for the entire gaming fiction genre.Ē The Dragonlance series alone has sold over 20 million copies. Thanks for being on the show today, Tracy and Margaret.

Magaret Weis: Oh, thank you for having us.

Tracy Hickman: Itís good to be here. I donít know, are we to be blamed, then? [laughs]

Magaret Weis: [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Itís your fault. Well, I remember when I was a kid seeing those little metal dragons and all the different characters for the role playing games and . . . never had any money to buy any of them, but . . . had to live vicariously through friends. So, you guys are responsible for a lot of that stuff.

Letís start out with the Dragonlance series. Tracy, tell us the story real quickly about how that all came about?

Tracy Hickman: Well, Dragonlance came about out of a lot of desperation, actually, I think, and very much out of hard times. In my case, my wife and I were out of work and had been out of work for several months and could not get a job, couldnít support the family. But we had written together, my wife and I, Laura, had written several game adventure modules that we were kind of selling on our own. And now, in reflection, without a great deal of consideration for anybody elseís copyright. [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Tracy Hickman: But at the time, we had heard that TSR Incorporated would purchase these adventures for maybe $500, which was an outrageous sum of money to someone who had none. And that winter we couldnít take our children to church because we couldnít afford shoes for them. So in an effort to buy shoes for our children we sent these two adventure modules into TSR hoping they would pay us something for them. And as a result of that, they turned around and offered us a job. Actually much on the advice of Mike Gray, who is now a vice president of Hasbro. So, we packed up all of our belongings and headed East, crossing the plains the other way.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Tracy Hickman: And while we were crossing the plains, we were talking about what could we possibly bring to this company that would justify them paying us money to design games? And it was somewhere in the flat lands of Nebraska, and they are really quite flat, that we came up with the idea of dragons of war and riding these dragons into war and the whole basis of Dragonlance. So, it was actually us being out of work for six months that gave us the creative desire and the hunger I guess to create that. Margaretís own story is very similar.

Magaret Weis: Yeah, yeah. I was coming off of a bad divorce. I was a single mom with two kids and wanted to get the heck out of Dodge. And I had applied to this company that I thought sounded really cool, TSR Incorporated. And I just found out about Dungeons and Dragons, the game, and I just thought that it was so neat. And they had a job up for book editor and I applied and interviewed with Jean Black, got the job, borrowed money from my parents, moved myself and my kids to Lake Geneva and got there, and the check was going to take two weeks to clear, so we lived off my daughterís birthday money. [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Oh no.

Magaret Weis: But my job as book editor, I was put in charge of the Dragonlance project, to work with this guy named Tracy Hickman. [laughs] And heard him tell the story of Raistlin, and Caramon and Sturm and Tanis and fell in love with it.

Matthew Peterson: And Tracy, your dad wasnít too keen on the idea of you taking this job.

Tracy Hickman: I can remember once we had the job offer, my parents called me up on my neighborís phone, since our phone had been disconnected.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Tracy Hickman: My mother cried mostly.

Magaret Weis: [laughs]

Tracy Hickman: My father said, ďSon, donít move to Wisconsin and fail. Youíve failed at everything youíve done so far. If you fail in Wisconsin I canít afford to bring you back.Ē So he said, ďWhy donít you bring your family, come down here. You can live in my basement. I know the owner of the local Sizzler and thereís an opening as a cook over there.Ē So, presented the choice between living in my dadís basement and working at the Sizzler, or moving my family across country and working as a game designer. It was really kind of a short trip for me to make that decision.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Tracy Hickman: I knew that I had to succeed at something. And I had a lot to prove. Which also, I think, in all of these difficult elements, and the difficult times that we lived through became a part of it. It became a part of the drive that we had to make this happen and to make it right. You know, I look back on those times, I donít really begrudge those. We had an old saying that we used to banter around the company a lot which was, ďThat which doesnít kill us makes us strongerĒ. And that was very true, I think, in our case.

Matthew Peterson: Well, I think thereís millions and millions of people in the world today that would say that you made the right choice. [laughs] Thereís way over 150 books now in the series. And of course, you two havenít written all those. Thereís other authors now that have jumped on board for the Dragonlance series, but the first few: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Winter Night and Dragons of Spring Dawning, that was my introduction to Dragonlance. I read those, actually listened to the audio book a few years ago. I understand that there was a movie about Dragons of Autumn Twilight?

Magaret Weis: Yes. Yeah, an animated film.

Matthew Peterson: An animated one. I just found out about that today. I looked at some of the cast: Michael Rosenbaum who did the work for Flash on Justice League.

Magaret Weis: And Kiefer Sutherland did Raistlin.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah! And Lucy Lawless is in there. So you guys have really come a long ways. What was your impression about the movie that was made, the animated one? I havenít seen it yet.

Tracy Hickman: Oh, the animated film?

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

Tracy Hickman: I think Iíve gone on record that it is the best movie youíll ever hear.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Magaret Weis: [laughs]

Tracy Hickman: The script is phenomenal. George Strayton, especially considering the constraints he was put under, did a fabulous script for us. The voice work was impeccable. Kiefer Sutherland as Raistlin was awe-inspiring and chilling. And all of the voice work that was done in the film was just spot on. The sound track is Oscar worthy and it still moves me today when I listen to the music from the sound track. And as long as you donít have to watch the animation. . . [everyone laughs] . . . youíll have a fabulous experience.

Magaret Weis: Right.

Matthew Peterson: A fabulous experience. Yep. Thereís so many great books in the Dragonlance and I know that sometimes when the movie comes along, it doesnít fulfill the expectations.

Tracy Hickman: Weíve often said to some of the people who have asked us about this, Lord of the Rings was first a Bakshi film. And [Ralph] Bakshiís treatment of The Lord of the Rings was not considered terribly stellar.

Magaret Weis: [laughs] ďWhere there is a whip, thereís a way.Ē [from one of the songs in the cartoon]

Matthew Peterson: I remember watching those old cartoons of Lord of the Rings. My boys have some of the songs memorized, from The Hobbit. [laughs]

Tracy Hickman: You know, but then look what Lord of the Rings turned into.

Magaret Weis: Yes.

Tracy Hickman: The classics of our time. So, I have hope for the future.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Well, you guys are still coming out with books. One of the latest ones that you guys wrote was Dragons of the Hourglass Mage. Tell us a little bit about that book, Margaret.

Magaret Weis: Well, first of all, itís part of the Lost Chronicles series, and the Lost Chronicles go back to the original heroes in the Dragonlance Chronicles and we fill in the gaps. Everything we had to cut out of the book because at the time TSR did not think the books were going to sell and so we had to make it pretty short. So The Lost Chronicles fill in a lot of the gaps and Dragons of the Hourglass Mage is the story of Raistlin after he takes the black robes and goes to Neraka, where he thinks heís going to work for the Queen of Darkness, but his plans change, drastically. [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Yeah, I would have to say Raistlin is probably, out of all the characters, one of the characters I look forward to more than all the others. I just really like him. Heís such an interesting character. So Iím glad to see that you guys are fleshing him out even more. Now you guys are also writing another series called Dragonships?

Magaret Weis: Yes.

Matthew Peterson: Youíve got Bones of the Dragon that came out last year and Secret of the Dragon this year. Whatís that series about?

Tracy Hickman: Well that series is a new epic fantasy that weíre doing that is built partially around Vikings. We think Vikings are really cool.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

Tracy Hickman: And especially culture and their history and their ability to explore the world was extraordinary, the distance that the Vikings could go in their long ships was remarkable. And so that seemed to be a really good jumping off point for us, in terms of the story that we wanted to tell about this amazing world where gods are all at war, one with another, struggling for control of the world itself. The old gods have gotten weak and complacent in many ways in their rulership of the world. And so new gods have come to invade their territory so to speak and to challenge them for control of the world. And this titanic great backdrop of a story is played out in the world and we see this through the eyes of our characters, who are essentially Vikings and who are fighting for the old ways, and it may well be a losing cause for them. We have some tremendous characters that are involved in this and some unique perspectives in fantasy that we havenít been able to examine before.

Matthew Peterson: Well, you guys have done quite a lot. I know, Margaret, you also have some other stand alone books that youíve written in the Dragonvarld series, like Mistress of Dragons, The Dragon's Son, [and Master of Dragons].

Magaret Weis: Yeah, uh huh, that series currently is finished. So, yeah, Iíve got some and Tracyís got some.

Matthew Peterson: Tracy, you did Ravenloft, didnít you?

Tracy Hickman: My wife and I both did the original Ravenloft game module. I think it was I6, I think was the designation it had at the time. And we had created that, yeah.

Matthew Peterson: I know you grew up in Provo, at least you went to Provo High. Thereís a lot of talent from that area, I actually grew up in that area as well and I know you graduated from Provo High, I graduated from Orem High. [laughs] Just like a mile or two away.

Tracy Hickman: Well, you shouldnít have admitted to that.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Weíre rivals.

Magaret Weis: [laughs]

Matthew Peterson: No, but I had lots of friends from Provo High. But seriously, that area, I mean Brandon Sanderson lives around there, L. E. Modesitt Jr, Brandon Mull, thereís a lot of fantasy authors right from that area.

Tracy Hickman: Well, and you also have to understand, thereís a lot of readers of fantasy in this area. Utah, in particular, is one of the strongest fantasy reading areas in the country currently.

Matthew Peterson: Oh! I didnít know that!

Magaret Weis: Yeah, the sales of fantasy books in Utah are the highest in the nation.

Matthew Peterson: Really? Really? Wow!

Tracy Hickman: Yeah, weíre very much into escapism here.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Yeah, letís just read and escape the world. Thatís fun.

Well, Iíve been speaking with Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, New York Times bestselling authors of the Dragonlance series. Thank so much for being on the show today, guys.

Tracy Hickman: Thank you.

Magaret Weis: Oh, thank you very much, I really appreciate it.

Matthew Peterson: Well, everyone, check out after the show to listen to the bonus questions that didnít make it onto the live show. Donít go away, Iíve got R. A. Salvatore, author of many of the Realms of Fantasy books, coming up after the commercial break, and then Iíll talk to Brandon Sanderson, whoís continuing the late Robert Jordanís The Wheel of Time series.

  Read or Listen to the extra questions that didn't make it onto the live show.  

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