Hannah Scribbles

R.A. Salvatore on “The Hobbit,” Loving Literature, Writing Advice

In Books/Authors on March 9, 2013 at 10:35 am

I met R.A. Salvatore Thursday.

For my readers who don’t know who R.A. Salvatore is, look no farther than your local bookstore. Or an avid fan of the fantasy genre. Or, you could search the New York Times’ bestsellers list. Or my library of extended-universe Star Wars novels. I might be biased, but I’m fairly certain he’s a pretty big deal.

Salvatore is on a book tour promoting his latest book from the Neverwinter Saga, a Forgotten Realms series. Now, I’ve always been intimidated rushing into an expansive universe like Forgotten Realms because I never knew where to start (see: my excuse for not reading Marvel Comics).  So I wasn’t familiar with the winding chronology of Salvatore’s works, and I had never seriously picked up his Drizzt books before. But I knew the Forgotten Realms, and I knew Salvatore’s other writings.

And I knew, more than anything, that I was excited to meet my first fantasy author.

Before the signing, I picked up Homeland, the first book in Salvatore’s Dark Elf Trilogy, and began reading. In 80 pages I remembered what it felt like to build worlds and immerse myself in the lives of my characters. I remembered the emotion, the vividness and the intrigue of fiction. After two years of reading narrative non-fiction, picking up the novel felt like a homecoming.

The crowd asked questions ranging from whether he read online reviews (only the one-star reviews, and only for fun) to future books he had planned. I had 100 questions on my mind but only one on my tongue:

As a writer myself, I wanted to know what pushed him to begin writing. And why did he choose fantasy?

His answer astounded me. R.A. Salvatore, a famous author, told me that school crushed the desire to read out of him. He was forced to read Silas Marner and, later, Moby Dick – which he said could have been a nice short story. He wasn’t allowed to explore his own interests, and by the time he got to college his childlike zeal for literature was dead. He only read to finish school assignments.

Then one winter his sister bought him the Christmas present that changed his life. Of course, he didn’t know it at the time. A 19–year-old college student, he would much rather have received money than the Lord of the Rings book set she gave him. He put it aside and didn’t think of reading it until February when the infamous Blizzard of 1978 hit.

The snow drifted eight feet high, he said. Stuck in his house for an entire week, Salvatore picked up The Hobbit and began: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

He read the entire series three times that week.

When Salvatore returned to college, he changed his major and began writing his first fantasy novel. He started taking literature courses and grew to enjoy reading Shakespeare or Chaucer. To this date, Salvatore says The Hobbit is his favorite book because it changed his life. When he feels proud, he rereads “The Dead” by James Joyce; the novella’s perfection humbles him every time.

After the Q&A session ended, I had him sign the book I’d purchased earlier that day. I confessed to him that I was just starting the Drizzt Series but had to meet him because he was an icon. Then, after welcoming me into the series, Salvatore gave me the best piece of writing advice I ever received.

writing advice, r.a. salvatore, Drizzt Do'Urden, dark elf trilogy

“To Hannah, If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.” — R.A. Salvatore

So, even though he’s the man who killed Chewbacca, I forgive him – and not just because he regretted the act so much that he says it is his one and only regret as an author. I have a huge amount of respect for the man as an author and as an inspiration.

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