Literary Lunch: Dragonlance is back

By Heather Lee Schroeder
July 6, 2006

APPETIZERS: In search of werewolves

You may be a skeptic (like me), but there's no doubt that Wisconsin author Linda Godfrey's "Hunting the American Werewolf" is carefully researched. Godfrey, who will read from and discuss her book at 7 p.m. Thursday at Barnes & Noble West, 7433 Mineral Point Road, explores, through interviews and other journalistic investigation, numerous sightings of a creature that has a wolf's head and walks upright in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and other parts of the nation. The best part? You don't have to believe to have fun at this reading.

ENTREE: Dragonlance is back

It had been 15 years since Wisconsin author Margaret Weis had written about the Companions in the enormously popular Dragonlance fantasy series, so she was a little nervous to return to the characters.

"It really was like going back and meeting old friends," she says of the experience of co-writing the new Dragonlance book, "Dragons of the Dwarven Depths," with her writing partner Tracy Hickman.

The first Dragonlance book was published in the early 1980s to enormous success. After the original six books about the Companions, a group of disparate friends who set off on a quest to save the world, Weis and Hickman moved on to other characters for their ongoing series, the most recent installment of which was published in 2002.

But the Companions' books hadn't included all the material Weis and Hickman had developed. Two years ago, Weis told her writing partner that she wanted to revisit the Companions' storyline and put in what had been left out. When the writing duo proposed the idea, their editors were delighted.

The Dragonlance series grew out of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. Both Weis and Hickman worked for TSR Inc., the company that developed the original game. "We fell into a really good way of working," Weis said. "I was the writer and Tracy was the storyteller. It was very important to us that the book be in one voice because both of us had read books where you could tell where one author ended and another started."

To this day, the duo works on plotting the books in the Dragonlance series for several days (a process complicated by geographical distance - Hickman lives in Utah and Weis in Wisconsin), and then Weis writes. Hickman works on "world building" and determining how the magic works. "I always joke that I always get the characters in very dire circumstances and then I can never get them out so I have to call Tracy and say, 'Look, this person's going to die. What should I do?' " Weis said.

Coming back to the Companions' story has been rewarding, but also challenging at times. The passing years had dulled Weis' memory of certain elements of the story. Luckily, the series has a large and engaged fan base. Often Weis found herself asking questions of her fans, who, as she recalled with a laugh, "know more about it than I do."

Weis, who lives in Lake Geneva with her border collies, writes about two books a year - some with Hickman and some alone. Weis and Hickman also are at work on two more Dragonlance books to follow up on this latest entry. Titled "Dragons of the Highlord Skies" and "Dragons of the Hourglass Mage," they will be seen in bookstores in 2007 and 2008.

Weis will read from "Dragons of the Dwarven Depths" at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Borders West, 3750 University Ave. Weis' and Hickman's concurrent book tours are available via podcast at

DESSERT: Well-deserved honors

A special shout-out is due University of Wisconsin-Madison English professor and author Emily Auerbach for her selection as a 2006 Wisconsin Academy fellow. The award, which is given through the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, honors men and women who have achieved "extraordinary lifetime accomplishment in the sciences, arts and letters."

In addition to her life as an author (most recently, the well-received "Searching for Jane Austen"), Auerbach has engaged in a rich volunteer life for many years, bringing literature to prisons, libraries and schools. She also co-founded and directs the UW Odyssey Project, which brings an introductory humanities course to people who might not otherwise have a chance to attend college.

The academy also awarded fellowships to physician Molly Carnes, history Professor William Cronon, conductor John DeMain, arts administrator Walter Sava, museum curator Peter Sheehan, and transplant surgeon Hans Sollinger. The 2006 fellows will be inducted into the academy on Oct. 22. Congratulations to all!

Heather Lee Schroeder's "Literary Lunch" appears twice a month. E-mail: Web site:

©Literary Lunch 2006