SciFiNow: How happy are you with how Season 1 of The Shannara Chronicles has turned out?
Terry Brooks: Well, in spite of what some readers think I’m very happy with it. I thought it turned out well, I spent a lot of time persuading people that it was never intended to be an exact replica of the book; it was intended to be an adaptation. If you an appreciate it as a companion piece to the book then you’re fine, and I’m very happy with the way it came out. I liked the production values, I thought they were fabulous; I really admire the actors, we spent some time with them. So I don’t really have anything bad to say about it. I thought it was good.
How close is the portrayal of the characters to how you envisioned them when you were writing the books?
I thought it was good all the way around, and I wasn’t unhappy with any of them. But I didn’t go into this project with preconceived ideas about how the characters should look. I did have preconceived ideas about what they should embody when they were on screen, so in that regard I was completely happy with all of them. I thought they were just terrific, and for me they defined those characters. Now, I’ll probably never be able to read anything again that doesn’t remind me of the actors, and I think that’s probably a really good thing.
Were there any portrayals that you particularly enjoyed?
Well, I told Poppy [Drayton] “You’ll always be my Amberle”, I’ll never see anyone else in this role, and she was really good. But I like all of them; I like Manu Bennett very much, I think he completely captured the character of Allanon even though physically he’s not the same as the character in the book, and some people made much of that, but I said, “It doesn’t matter. Once he’s on the screen you can’t take your eyes off of him.” He’s set the tone exactly for what Allanon should be. And of course John Rhys-Davies has been one of my favourites for years and years. I was happy with him, I thought Austin [Butler] was perfect in the role of Wil, because Wil is naïve but also determined, and I thought he captured that, and his ability and lack of worldliness at the same time. And Ivana [Baquero] was wonderful. Eretria has to be fiery and difficult, and she caught that well. So everybody was good – I really liked them all.
Elfstones Of Shannara is the focus of Season 1. Is there any reason why this was chosen to adapt rather than first book The Sword Of Shannara?
I kind of lobbied for Elfstones. I felt that Sword came with too much baggage. First of all, it’s always been called too close to The Lord Of The Rings, and that’s a valid comparison, so that’s one reason to back away from it. More to the point for me was the fact that it has no major female characters. For TV you’re looking at demographics all the time, Elfstones did a better job with that because it has two very strong female characters, it has kind of an offbeat love story, it has what I think is the best ending I’ve ever written. Those things all made it attractive to me, and when I met the writers they all said of the bat that they wanted to do Elfstones, so we had an agreement right from the beginning.
The Shannara books have been mooted for adaptation for a number of years. How did this finally come about?
I had a young man named Dan Farah, who was a Hollywood producer, and he came to me about a dozen years ago and said, “Is anyone doing your books at this point?” and I said, “No,” so he said, “I’d like to try,” and I said, “Well yeah, but how old are you?” He sort of laughed it off and said, “I can do it, I’ve done some stuff,” so I said, “Yeah, if you can, you go do it.” So he charged off, and I didn’t hear from him for a while, then he made a connection with Sonar Entertainment, they decided they wanted to finance it and do it as a TV show.
The next step was making a connection with Jon Favreau, who has a tremendous amount of influence, and from him to the showrunners – Al Gough and Miles Millar, who are seasoned TV veterans and were very interested right from the beginning – and from then to find the actors and so forth, and then the network.
We took it to about a dozen networks that we thought might be interested. As you know, fantasy is kind of the 800-pound gorilla in all entertainment, so obviously there was interest, but I thought it would go to a different network than MTV; I didn’t think MTV would be serious about it, but they actually made the strongest pitch for why they should do it, and I’ve always liked the idea of going somewhere where you’re unexpected, and they wanted to change the direction of their whole network, getting rid of all that reality junk. So I liked the idea of that, and they were really willing to stand behind it, both with support from resources and also with publicity, production and so forth.
So I ended up going with them, and it seemed like the right choice considering how things have gone.
Obviously some changes had to be made, but were there any elements from the books that you were determined had to be kept?
Well, we had a couple of disagreements about whether something should be done in a certain way – you know how that goes. Obviously, a TV series is collaborative. You have a lot of different voices in there saying what they think ought to happen at any given time, and I’m only one of those voices, so there were a couple of times… the things that I really wanted to keep I was able to make happen. As much as possible I wanted to keep it true to the books, and as much as I could persuade them to make it available to different age groups, because that’s true of the books as well. I like to keep out all the sex, bad language, that sort of thing, because I have a lot of readers who are ten years old, I don’t think we should chase them off; this should be a family experience and not like Game Of Thrones.
So there were some discussions about that, but by and large, they stayed pretty true to things. There was nothing really graphic – except for one scene I didn’t like – but aside from that, no. I lost a couple of battles along the way over different things, but by and large, it really turned out the way I wanted it to. It had the feel I wanted it to have, so I can’t spend too much time complaining about it.
Have there been any discussions about Season 2?
There have been some discussions about where it will go from here involving the parent company Viacom, so my feeling is that we’re in it for the long haul unless, of course, ratings don’t live up to expectations or something happens with the actors and so forth, but beyond that I believe everybody in the MTV/Viacom company sees it as a long-term project, and the people who have been involved with the show are very wedded to it, which surprised me, because I didn’t expect the kind of passion I found in the actors and directors and writers and everybody else to want to do this. They really fought for that, so that was a very pleasant surprise to me. Obviously I would fight for it, but I’m always surprised that other people are so passionate about it – I guess I can’t get used to the idea.
In a sense, with the books you have a ready-made fanbase. How helpful have you found that?
It’s been pretty helpful – it’s been kind of a two-edged blade, because the readers are the most passionate about us changing anything, so those are the ones who I hear from most of the time who say, “Why did you do this?” or “Why did you let this happen?” or whatever. Some of them do not appreciate the fact that it’s collaborative, like I mentioned earlier, so somehow I have some sort of magical control over this thing. But by and large the readers have been very supportive. They have been loyal to it and showed it strong support right from the beginning when we were first starting out, so in general when you have that ready-made audience it’s hard not to appreciate the kind of support they bring to a project in terms of just getting it off the ground.
Going back to Season 2, would you say it’s more likely to follow directly on from the events of Season 1, or jump ahead in time like the books to the events of The Wishsong Of Shannara?
This is an interesting debate that’s ongoing. When I first saw this I thought, “Well, we should just move on and do a whole new season that involves the next book and forget about this season.” But of course MTV said, “Are you crazy? We’re building fan support for these actors, we can’t boot them out of there and bring all-new people in!” And I said, “Well, they could be the same characters, just the children or whatever…” that didn’t work.
It became clear that they were going to build the story around the actors they have right now, and that was going to be the thrust of the story no matter what. But they are free to remove elements from other books, and I think they will do that. They’ve already been talking about Wishsong and using bits and pieces or large chunks of that storyline and building around the characters they already have, which isn’t too difficult to do. So that’s what they will do. What shows tend to do when adapting books is do the first season and then go off in different directions, so I forsee my duty as being to help them get there in the best way possible.
With the way things end for Amberle, is there any chance that we will see Poppy Drayton again in Season 2?
Yeah, actually, although you might wonder how, and I won’t tell you, but we gave some serious thought to that, and there was a lot of talk about bringing her back out of the tree and so forth, but I said “No, she’s a tree [laughs], you can’t bring her back, that’s terrible storytelling, you have to find a different way.” So then I told them how they could do it, so we’ll see. But yeah, I think she’s signed on for another season or so, and she’ll back for that. I know that she probably wishes she’d gotten a different role, because she really liked the series, but her life was finite in that particular storyline.
Are there any of your other books you’d like to see adapted – the Word & Void trilogy, for instance?
We’re talking about doing something with that at some point, yeah. All of my energy has been focused on getting to a second season and getting this show successful, so you don’t get too far ahead of yourself, and all of a sudden the thing that got you there isn’t there anymore. I’ve got a couple of different projects in the works that I’m hoping to see happen, the biggest one is Magic Kingdom at Warner Bros, which is on the verge of being made into a motion picture with Steve Carell starring. That’s been there for three years, and I’m hoping that something will come of that because it’s been a long struggle. All of those things are percolating out there.
Your latest novel, The Sorcerer’s Daughter, is out soon. Can you tell us anything about that?
It’s the third book in a three-book set that’s loosely connected to my characters. Sorcerer’s Daughter wraps up some of the storylines we’ve seen from characters in my other books. These last three books – the Defenders Of Shannara series – have been an effort to move away from the big, sweeping epic, and talk more about smaller, more intimate types of struggles, more character-driven. I am more wedded to these characters in a number of ways. There are still high stakes, but you feel it more on a personal level, so I’m hoping that’ll resonate. When I’m done with that I’m going to write the end of the series.
The Shannara Chronicles: Season 1 will be available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray from 6 June 2016. For all the latest news about the biggest TV shows, pick up the new issue of SciFiNow.