Bearers of the Black Staff begins a new chapter in the pre-history of the Shannara world – now revealed to be our own at a time in the distant future. I got started on this with the Genesis of Shannara trilogy which chronicled the destruction of civilization in the Old World and the efforts of a handful of survivors to escape what would prove to be an even greater cataclysm. Having gotten past that, we now pick up on their descendants some five hundred years later and find – I am sure, to no one’s great surprise – that things haven’t yet been resolved and that survival of those who remain is not yet assured.
What’s both interesting and difficult is that having written the Shannara books early on, I now have to find ways to make this current series dovetail into all the stories we already know while at the same time making everything seem new and interesting and revealing secrets that to this point I haven’t. For example, how did the various Races come to be? How did the magic evolve? We have Knights of the Word in the pre-history, so what happened to them? Did they end up becoming the Druids in the Shannara world of the future? And there is a lot more, so I have to spend some time thinking about when and how to address each of these points.
At the same time, I am just beginning work on a new trilogy in Shannara that takes place in the future following the events in High Druid of Shannara. Think that isn’t confusing? I spend half my time trying to keep straight which of the time periods I am writing in and who belongs in each. Some of this gets resolved by good old fashioned research, which means going back or forward and reading in the relevant books to see what’s what. Some of it gets settled by calling up people who know the books better than I do. At least it keeps me off the streets and out of the bars.
But I think you’ll find Bearers worth the effort, and I personally feel very connected to the two main characters, 17-year-old Panterra Qu and 15-year-old Prue Liss, Trackers and friends who are tested in ways that none of us ever hope to be.
Good reading to you all!