Prequel Power: Terry Brooks on First King of Shannara

Bestselling author Terry Brooks reveals the background to First King of Shannara.

Cover of First King of ShannaraI wasn’t going to write First King of Shannara. Really I wasn’t. I was going to begin work on a new fantasy series, one that I had been mulling over for almost five years, one that takes place in this world in present time. With the completion of Witches’ Brew in the Magic Kingdom series, I was more than ready to tackle this newest project. But then my editor intervened, as editors sometimes will, albeit in a kindly way, suggesting that perhaps I should do another Shannara book first. What? Another Shannara book? Already? I was flummoxed! (You can look it up.) Besides, I didn’t have another Shannara book to give him. The story after Talismans of Shannara requires a two book set, and I definitely wasn’t about to do two.

Then I remembered my oft-considered, but still-unrealized plan for a prequel to the series. It was you, the readers, who kept asking for it. Tell us about the time before coming of the Ohmsfords. Where were Allanon’s origins? How did he become a Druid? How was the Sword of Shannara forged? How were the Druids destroyed at Paranor so that Bremen became the last? Where did Jerie Shannara come from and how did he end up with the Sword? Those were the kinds of questions I would receive on a regular basis. But I steadfastly refused to answer them, saying that it was better if the readers imagined it for themselves, thinking slyly that I would someday write that story myself.

Well, here was my chance. But this seemed to me a hard story to write. The ending was already known to every reader of the series. So how could I make it exciting and suspenseful? I didn’t want to give a bland recitation of the events surround the battle between the rebel Druid Brona and Jerie Shannara and let it go at that. But after some thought and some casting about for a solid plotline, I came up with what I thought was a pretty good story. there were some new characters, including the Borderman Kinson Ravenlock, the Druids Risca and Tay Trefendwyd, the apprentice Druid Mareth and Jerie Shannara’s great love Preia Starle. There were old friends like the once-Druid Cogline. There were more than a few new tales to be told about some familiar people, and a few revelations about how things came to be.

To my surprise, the outline came together in about three weeks. I knew it was going to be a big book, because the story was sprawling and covered a large period of time. Don’t worry, said my editor. Don’t worry, said my wife. I immediately began to worry. But the ease with which the story unfolded once I began to write it was a pleasant surprise. Even Keke the cat got in on the action. Early in the writing of the book, I left the computer on and walked downstairs for a short break. While I was gone, Keke must have walked across the keyboard, because when I came back, the sentence I had left unfinished now read:

‘There is time yet before it reaches us,’ Bremen whispered. I think we should aaaaaaeeaeaeaeeeeeiiiii…’

Of course, maybe it wasn’t the cat. Maybe it was the things that live under the house. Maybe they’re getting impatient. The book I put off doing, after all, is about them.

First King of Shannara was published by Legend on 23 March 1996.

© Terry Brooks. Taken from The Best of Prism UK (The BFS Newsletter), published for the World Fantasy Convention 1997, ed. David J Howe; reprinting material from Prism UK – Editor: Debbie Bennett, Commissioning Editor: David J. Howe.