For many years the only chance a fan had of speaking to Terry was to meet him at tour events or conventions.
With the establishment of this website in 2000, Terry began accepting two questions from each fan per month. On the last day of the month, five questions are randomly drawn. Terry answers these five questions and they are posted monthly for your enjoyment.
This post, however, is a special edition of Ask Terry. I asked fans to send in their questions about The Shannara Chronicles and Terry has answered. Hope the answers illuminate the decisions made by Terry and the writers.
Note: This section may contain spoilers!
SPECIAL EDITION: TV SHOW ASK TERRY Q&A
In an effort to give you some insight into the decisions that were made by myself or by the writers of The Shannara Chronicles, I have decided to respond to the most thoughtful and insightful comments. Bear with me, pass my answers on, try to live with my decisions. At the end of the day, they are mine to bear.
Shawn Speakman writes: Now that we have reached the halfway point in The Shannara Chronicles, it is time to ask you some of the questions that many of your long-time fans have. Some of them are angry questions, so bear with me while we get your opinions on the TV show.
We’ll begin with the Gauntlet, the race that opens the entire series. Why did you and the writers decide to create the Gauntlet and why did you decide to start the TV show there with Amberle when she doesn’t enter the book until well into it?
Terry Brooks replies: What, are you an idiot or something? I didn’t have anything to do with the gauntlet. The opening was perfect when I wrote the book! Why would I change it?
Okay, snark aside, I’ll tell you why. As I keep saying, TV works differently than a book. A book can open in a more leisurely fashion. But in TV land, the story has to open with something exciting happening right off the bat, a hook to draw the viewers in. This might be due to the current 11.5 second attention span of most humans, but it also has to do with technology and the way everything moves much more quickly than 30 years ago.
So Al, Miles, and I decided we needed a more impactful opening. They came up with the Gauntlet. I loved it. Right away, we are immersed in the Elven city of Arborlon, the Elven culture including the story of the Ellcrys, three of our main characters, and something suspenseful and dangerous to witness. I thought it was brilliant when I read the script for the episode the first time and still think so.
Same with starting there rather than with the slower opening of the Elfstones book. A lot of information has to be put out there quickly in order for anyone to understand what was happening, and the writers found the best way to do that beginning with the race. Also, all the main characters need to be introduced early on in a ten episode season, and it needed to begin with Amberle. Holding her out until episode 3 or 4 like the book does made no sense.
Mike H. writes: WHY, why is the Dagda Mor a Druid? He’s a demon leader in the books who’s been locked away for millennium? Why is the Reaper a warrior instead of the Reaper of death, who moves silently?
Terry Brooks replies: Mike, you ask a good question. Let me start out by saying there is much not yet written about the Forbidding and the demons contained within it. Among those things are the individual histories of the creatures trapped within, including the Dagda Mor. For the sake of this story, he is a fallen Druid turned demon.
The warrior look of the Reaper is (a) because it works better visually than a shadow, and (b) we tried to avoid CGI as much as possible.
Mike H. writes: Why is Slanter in this version at all? He’s a tracker in the series, in a totally different generation of characters. Why did you accept all these changes?
Terry Brooks replies: Mike, again. I gave the writers freedom to do this and more, to change things up. If you stick around, you will discover the reasons behind this. Remember what I have said all along. This is not paint by the numbers; it is a true adaptation with changes allowed. I like what they have done and what they intend to do with Slanter later. Doesn’t hurt to be a little creative.
Thierry writes: How much creative involvement do you have with the TV series The Shannara Chronicles? I noticed that you’re an Executive Producer on the show. What did that mean, exactly?
Terry Brooks replies: I consult on virtually everything connected with the story, beginning to end. If I don’t think something is right or don’t like the impact, I say so. The writers and MTV pay attention and we work it out. But I don’t go throwing my weight around or acting like a child when they do something they feel is necessary to the success of the story. And I don’t insist they follow the book to the letter. So I guess I am sort of an advisor and resource.
Dan Ichigo writes: Why did you sell out to MTV? Personally, I’m going to tell everyone I know never to purchase a novel by you because of the travesty you have allowed.
Terry Brooks replies: Dan, Dan, such anger! Sell out? Travesty? What do you know that I don’t? If you loved the books, why would you forsake them because you don’t like the TV show? The books haven’t changed. The TV show doesn’t define the stories. Maybe you need to just stick to the books.
Tony writes: Why was Stee Jans left out of the TV show? He was such a critical character? And in the history on the TV show, is there no Leah, Culhaven or Callahorn?
Terry Brooks replies: Time and space constraints required that some things be cut. We talked about Stee Jans early on. He is not essential to the Elfstones story, but he may well show up in the series down the road. As for why there isn’t any Leah, Culhaven or Callahorn, none were esssential. There is a finite amount of money available to spend, so you pick and choose accordingly. Those other cities were not crucial to the telling of the story, so they got cut to allow for other things.
Rehan Khan writes: Why was Changeling/Manx killing Eventine changed to Changeling/Arion? The Manx reveal was absolutely great in the book.
Terry Brooks replies: The book is the book, the TV show is the TV show. The writers wanted to use the Changeling’s skill set more frequently than the book did. They liked the idea of morphing him from one episode to the next. I have to say I think it works. The book was different, but that doesn’t mean the TV show has to do the same. (Funny, I keep saying that but no one is paying attention)
Evan Lorentz writes: Do you feel there was a deliberate shift to make the characters more “young and modern” on the show than they come across in the book? (I know the goal is to reach a wider/different audience, but I frankly didn’t recognize the tone or flavor of your writing AT ALL when I tried the show.)
Terry Brooks replies: Several parts to this question. Before we pitched the TV show to the networks, we decided early on to emphasize the direct connection between the world of Shannara and our own world. The images, the language, the references are all to achieve that purpose. Obviously, the book is different. But that was because I consciously chose not to reveal the origins of the Four Lands until about 12 books in. So very little of that is in the early books. Part Two. The characters in the show are not more young than they were in the book. Wil, Amberle and Eretria were teens in the book, too. Hold on. Part Three. I wrote the book, oversaw the show. So the tone and flavor probably doesn’t sound like me. But, again, celebrate it for the very good adaptation it is. Don’t denigrate it because it isn’t exactly the same.
Patrick Danforth writes: I understand that the show is on MTV, but why is it so focused on the sex and romance subplot? It’s distracting from what the show is doing right with the original material.
Terry Brooks replies: What? You don’t like sex and romance? Look. The writers wanted a love story worked into the fabric, and the idea of a triangular relationship was interesting. I went with it. Why shouldn’t both young women fall in love with Wil in the course of things? It makes Amberle’s decision at the end that much more difficult. And more tragic for Wil. The sex is off-stage and non-offensive. I don’t see it as distracting. I loved the scene with Wil in the tub and Eretria trying to get the Elfstones off him by allowing him to think she was seducing him.
Corey Brooks writes: Why so much emphasis on modern technology? In the early books I don’t believe they were constantly walking by helicopters and trucks that look like they’ve only been abandoned for 30-40 years. And why do the clothes look so modern and not fantasy-esque like on the early book covers?
Terry Brooks replies: See the answer to Evan’s question above.
James Davis writes: I went into this with an open mind knowing much of your story telling was going to be revised to accommodate the transition to a TV series. I think most fans can tolerate a great deal of adaptation, so long as the characters remain true to your creation. Amidst a growing concern from your fans, do you ever have a moment of doubt or regret about how some of your characters have been altered for television?
Terry Brooks replies: Look, James, if I had total control – something no author ever gets – I might have done some things differently. But film making is collaborative. That’s the nature of the beast. I have learned this lesson from working with George Lucas and on various failed efforts with both Shannara and Magic Kingdom. I know what sorts of expectations are realistic and which are not. So I have schooled myself in what to expect.
Patricia Taylor writes: Why did you say in an interview that this would be family friendly then the screenwriters put in unnecessary sex (esp 5 mainly). Before the series aired I directed family and friends to start watching because they all watch LotR, etc with their kids. How embarrassing was it to call my sister to tell her to not show her 12 & 15 yr old the current episode when they are all hooked and watching as a family? The sexual references were vague enough but the legs spread fucking was GoT worthy, which you yourself didn’t want as a representation of your books.
Terry Brooks replies: This is a problem, I realize. But I got overruled on that particular scene. Otherwise, I don’t think there’s much to apologize for. I wanted the show to be totally family. Mostly, it is. I do have to say that age appropriateness for sex is something the people of this country have been agonizing over for centuries, so I’m darned if I can put a tag to it that won’t offend someone. I did manage to tamp down a few other scenes, and I will continue to try to do so. It will never reach the Game of Thrones level. Not even close.
Doug Hughey Jr. writes: Paranor is not what I imagined it would look like from the books. Do you like the way it was brought to life in the Chronicles?
Terry Brooks replies: Building another castle is expensive, especially for so short a scene. Besides I like their interpretation of Paranor as a great piece of rock hollowed out with halls and rooms and fallen into ruin. It isn’t the book, but as I have now explained in responding to all these concerns in this Ask Terry, it doesn’t have to be. So, yeah, I like the new version of Paranor. And what’s to say the rest of the castle isn’t hidden by magic?
Jeff Budd writes: Which changes were you most resistant to? What changes were proposed and vetoed?
Terry Brooks replies: Oh, that would be telling, Jeff. There were a lot of exchanges about a lot of things. Most of them, I got what I wanted. Besides, the buck stops with me. I approved everything and stand accountable for it at the end of the day. So no point in saying, “Well, it wasn’t my idea.”
Tom Culkin writes: Was it worth disappointing so many faithful readers for a Hollywood version of your books?
Terry Brooks replies: Tom, I knew going in I was going to disappoint some fans. Couldn’t be sure how many, but possibly a lot. My job was to keep the bones of the story and characters intact. Which I pretty much did. This isn’t any different than disappointing fans who tried the books and didn’t like them. Can’t be helped. I will say that the vast majority of people who loved the books seem to like the TV show, too. Think of it as another version, another experience. Besides, I don’t want people to love the TV show more than the books! How foolish would that be? I’m a book guy, remember?
Chris Robinson writes: Who were the other networks that courted you Terry? Why did you go with MTV?
Terry Brooks replies: There were other networks, Chris. We talked to about a dozen. Three made strong pitches for the show, but MTV made by far the most impressive. In terms of commitment in funding and support for solid production values, good actors, they were head and shoulders above everyone else. Also, they are in transition to network programming and promised to make Shannara their most important new project. I also liked the idea of going where no one expected me to go.
Hope some of this helps all of you who have expressed your concerns. These questions are asked by specific people, but they are indicative of the concerns of others. I will say this one more time. Please treat The Shannara Chronicles for what it is – an adaptation. It doesn’t impact the books, which are still and always will be the same. Enjoy it as a different version of a familiar story. Like it or don’t. But you really can enjoy both without either impacting the other.
All good magic,
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