New Release Interview: The Annotated Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks


brooks-annotatedswordAfter more than a year, it’s here.

The Annotated Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks is available at fine booksellers everywhere. It is the culmination of a year’s work. I began that work in November 2011, re-reading a book I had read a dozen times before to create 200 questions for Terry that fans might like answered. Terry and I then set down twice and I interviewed him, many of the questions dealing with the stringent editing process that Lester del Rey put him through.

The result is a book we are both proud to publish. I happen to think fans enjoy re-reading a book like The Sword of Shannara every so often. They will love the behind-the-scenes material. This is also a great book for fantasy readers who have not read The Sword of Shannara. It’s where Terry’s career stems from and millions of readers aren’t wrong.

Now that the book is in bookstores, it is time to ask Terry some questions about it. Here they are with his answers about The Annotated Sword of Shannara:


Shawn Speakman: THE ANNOTATED SWORD OF SHANNARA is released to fine bookstores today. It has been 35 years since SWORD published. What was it like returning to the book that started it all for you?

Terry Brooks: A little weird. As you point out – 35 years. That seems several lifetimes ago. I had to skim through the book to be sure I remembered everything I wrote. Pretty much, I did. But what was fun, too, was thinking back on how that book came together. Lester del Rey was hands on all the way. He even warned me to be prepared for Tolkien fanatics to hate the book. Mostly, that didn’t happen. It was a grand experience, and I liked reliving it all these years later.

Speakman: How did this annotated edition come to be?

Brooks: Del Rey Books, my long time publishing house (since day one) suggested that since I had never done an annotated edition, maybe this would be a good time to do so – a celebration of 35 years of the book’s release date. I liked it because I wanted to include the old Hildebrandt brothers illustrations along with the old memories of how the book was written and then rewritten countless times. You spend lots of time, expend lots of sweat, you keep lots of memories, mostly good.

Speakman: You talk a great deal about Lester del Rey in the annotated edition. What is your favorite memory of Lester?

Brooks: Oh, so many! I guess the one that tickles me most is connected to the acceptance letter he sent me. After telling me he loved the book and wanted to publish it, he went on to list his credentials as an author and editor. That made me smile. Everyone in the field knew who he was. But I guess he was taking no chances.

I remember how tough he was on all his authors, but always in a good way. if you could step back from your emotions and your conviction that it was your work and no one else should even think of touching it, he was the best at making a book stronger in every way.

Speakman: People tend to think your work is largely inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s work but your main influence is very different. Who is it and how did he influence SWORD?

Brooks: Well, Tolkien was very influential in providing me with a framework for telling the kind of story I wanted to tell. But I came to Tolkien late. By the time I read Lord of the Rings, I was already a junior in college. The writer who really rocked my world – starting all the way back to my sophomore year in high school, was William Faulkner. I loved his stories of the Compsons and the Snopes and the other characters who populated Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. What he had to say about the human condition and the ways that secrets and moral weakness destroyed families was unforgettable. It was the ingredient I wanted to add to my own work more than any other. His influence with Sword is less obvious than in other books, but you can find it in the general concept of how a hunger for power and privilege undermines and destroys people’s lives.

Speakman: Why do you think your fans — and new readers — will like THE ANNOTATED SWORD OF SHANNARA?

Brooks: I don’t know. Because it’s cool? Got a great cover, some interesting notes, all those old drawings, and a reasonable price? Is this a trick question? I never know exactly about why people read me; I’m just glad they do!

To learn more about Terry Brooks, visit his website at! The Annotated Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks is in fine bookstores now!

Join the quest for the Sword again…