Interview with Richard A. Knaak

Richard A. Knaak

At what point did you know you wanted to be a full time writer? Describe the journey that led to your first published novel.

From the moment I started reading, I wanted to create my own stories. I think I wanted to do it full time when I was in high school, but assumed it would be something I did on the side for years. However, in college, I began to get more serious and ended up with a writing degree. I assumed that I would work in something related, but my first jobs actually just paid the bills while I wrote.

One day, I was reminded by someone that TSR, a gaming and book company, was only an hour and a half from me in Lake Geneva, WI. By this time, I’d been out of college for a little over a year and had seriously submitted a couple of manuscripts (one of which came very close). I drove up to TSR and asked to speak to an editor. After some shock, one of the editors came out and spoke with me (the luck of the utterly naïve). He took my writing samples and said that if I didn’t hear from him in a couple of weeks to give him a call.

I didn’t hear, so I called (expecting the worst). Turns out that they really liked my samples, especially one, but were only publishing this one series of their own. Was I interested in submitting to some anthologies for the series? I naturally said yes, ran out and bought the available books in the series, then submitted the ideas. They bought three out of four, put me in all three anthologies, and then, based on the fact that they really liked the way I handled honorable characters such as knights, asked me to do a story called the LEGEND OF HUMA. That book went on to become a NY Times bestseller.

Oh. The writing sample they enjoyed? I sold that shortly after to another publisher. Book called FIREDRAKE. First in my Dragonrealm series.

 Your Dragonrealm series is incredibly extensive. What inspired you to write the series and how do you feel it’s changed and progressed over the years?

I’ve always loved dragons. I wanted to do something with all the traditional things of epic fantasy, but also with its unique quirks. Traditional, but new. I’d already envisioned the first 4 books. I wanted the magic to be wild, the characters to be memorable, yet fit it all together with subplots spreading throughout the saga.

I think it’s stayed very true to its nature, but with my growing skills, I’ve been able to better add depth to both the characters and world.  I’ve had situations in previous stories create new directions that I wouldn’t have thought of going. I’ve discovered that the characters have often rewritten their own futures. I like to think that, even 15 novels and 9 novellas in, that the Dragonrealm remains fresh. Characters have died and alliances have changed at times, but the story is still the story.

Despite having written so many original novels, you are also well known for your contribution to licensed properties such as Warcraft, Diablo and Dragonlance. How did this come about? 

Well, as you saw in a previous answer, I pretty much stepped into Dragonlance as if by fate. My success there led to other offers. I enjoy playing in other people’s worlds and I try to stay true to what they’ve built. Often, though, I’m asked to alter some things so that those series can grow. Nothing I do is done without direction of the creators. At this point, I’ve also been writing long enough that people who read my earlier work, especially the LEGEND OF HUMA, have grown up and started companies of their own. That’s especially the case with Blizzard, which owns Warcraft & Diablo. Several of the folks in charge at that time grew up on Huma and so I was at the top of a short list. I was definitely honored.

What do you enjoy most about writing in these worlds and how does it compare to writing your own original work? 

It’s fascinating to work in someone else’s world. I not only get to be an explorer, but to add my own mark. It’s amazing to see what others have come up with. Just as important, it stimulates ideas for my own works. There are things I know I can’t do in those series, but I can in my own worlds. Obviously, I enjoy creating my own the most, but I’ll never tire of playing in other sagas.

Black City Saint is quite different from the majority of your other work. Describe the series for new readers looking to check out something new? 

Prohibition Chicago, bootleggers, Saint George and the dragon, elves, reincarnation, ghosts, shapeshifters. This is the current world of Nick Medea, formerly Saint George. Cursed to guard the gateway between our world and Feirie after slaying its previous sentinel (the dragon), Nick followed the ever-shifting gate as it slowly moved along until misfortune brought it to Chicago in the 19th century. There, forced to release the dragon that is now part of him in order to stop the king of Feirie, Nick discovered that the gate is now permanently stuck near Lake Michigan’s edge (invisible to most). Since then, he’s tried to keep dark forces from both sides from using the gate’s power, while trying to discover why the woman he loves — and whom he saved from the dragon way back — keeps getting reincarnated, only to at some point die a terrible death

History can kill…and it’s coming for Nick.

You have likely inspired many younger writers, but who would you say are some of your biggest influences in the Fantasy genre? 

Roger Zelazny, Andre Norton, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edgar Allan Poe.

How important is reader/fan interaction to you as an author? How do you most prefer interacting with readers ?

I think that it’s very important, but should not overwhelm you. I have a fairly good social media presence. Without my readers, I could work on all the stories I do. They enable me to have more time.

Fantasy has changed a great deal in the sense that there are many sub-genres such as Grimdark that are quite prominent in the market. As a writer that has been popular since the late ‘80’s what’s your take on the state of Fantasy fiction now compared to when you started writing? 

It’s spread into so many directions. That’s great. Not everybody wants to read the same thing all the time. I read some of the different sub-genres.

What is it about Dragons that inspired you to base so much of your work around them? 

They’re the epitome of fantasy. They represent magic, imagination. There’s so much that can be done with them.

When you are not writing, what’s taking up most of your time these days? 

Well, my life has gone through some tremendous changes this past year and I only recently moved, so,  good portion of my time is just settling in and letting things normalize again. I’m trying to read more and I enjoy old movies. I like long walks…hmm. This just turned into a profile.

You’ve also recently started the Rex Draconis series which began with a couple of shorter novels. Can you talk a bit about this series and the structure of its releases? 

REX DRACONIS is a bit of an homage Dragonlance and those who enjoyed my work in it. However, it’s very much a new world. It has a long, internal history and races both old and new to readers. This first set of books all take place during what’s called the Dragon Moon, which can last anywhere from a day to years. This looks to be a long one and ancient powers are trying to manipulate the human-led kingdoms and the minotaur empire into a war for reasons that will become apparent. There’s a number of subplots and unusual characters. Tiberos is a world rich with possibilities and I intend to explore it more after this cycle. There will be 6 novels total, including the two shorter ones I wrote in order to easier introduce readers to the setting. SHADOWS OF THE DRAGON MOON just came out and I’m working on OF DRAGON’S BLOOD. That means two more after that. I hope people will check them out.

Here’s my favorite question. What’s next for you in 2020 and beyond? 

Well, as I mentioned, I’m working on the 4th Rex Draconis novel. Also planning the next Dragonrealm book, SWORD OF GHOSTS. I have some projects for other  people. More Black City Saint, sequels to a novel called DRAGON MOUND, and some new projects, such as ROGUES GALLERY. Yeah, I have a lot planned….

What one piece of advice would you be able to offer for new and aspiring writers from all the years you’ve spent in the field? 

Write. Keep writing. Find some consistent time to write. Be stubborn. There’s no age limit on writing and, with indie publishing on the rise, there’s no reason why your voice can’t be heard one way or another. I’m a traditional/small press/indie hybrid.

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Twitter: @RichardAKnaak

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