Terry Goodkind’s latest novel veers away from fantasy and toward mainstream

For Terry Goodkind, the upcoming release of his new novel, “The Law of Nines,” is a journey into new territory inhabited by some pretty scary people.

James Patterson. Dan Brown. John Grisham, even.

That’s because, after having achieved worldwide best-sellerdom with his 11-volume, fantasy-flavored, epic “Sword of Truth” series, Goodkind’s new book is, by his own description, a mainstream thriller.

And if the Southern Nevada author is nervous about his impending genre-hop, he’s not revealing it.

Rather, all Goodkind is revealing is an almost obscene degree of enthusiasm and excitement.

“The Law of Nines” ($27.95, Putnam) hits bookshelves Tuesday, and Goodkind says the novel represents nothing less than “the relaunching of my career in a new direction.”

Goodkind’s own plot synopsis: “This guy meets this woman and isn’t quite sure if she really exists. He has his own issues because his mother went insane when she was the same age he is now. And, he’s met this woman who keeps telling him weird things and turns up missing, and he isn’t sure if she exists.”

For Goodkind, the shift from fantasy to thriller isn’t as whiplash-inducing as it might appear. That’s because Goodkind never saw his “Sword of Truth” series as fantasy, even if booksellers and reviewers — and maybe even a few readers — insisted on categorizing it as such.

“My books have always been aimed at mainstream readers,” Goodkind says, and the fantasy-related elements found in them were merely products of “the way I told that story.”

“The story I was telling needed a broad landscape. It needed to be a grand epic. It needed to be that background to tell the story,” Goodkind explains. “It was a sweeping epic that needed a sweeping, grand landscape, and it fit very well into the world I wrote it in.”

Now, with “The Law of Nines,” Goodkind says, “I’m writing stories about our world.”

He laughs. “I’ve had enough of scaring people in another world. Now I want to scare people in this world.”

Goodkind isn’t worried that longtime readers may be apprehensive about what is, to him, “a natural transition.” When Goodkind told his longtime agent of his desire to write a thriller, even the agent countered that many fantasy authors wish to write mainstream books don’t quite know how to do it.

“He said, ‘If anyone can do it, you can, but I won’t believe you until you can prove it. I wrote him the beginning of two books. He said, ‘Why did you write two books?’ I said, ‘I wanted to prove it to you.’ “

Long story short: “He was really impressed. After he read the final manuscript, after we sold the book, he said to the publisher, ‘You got a bargain.’ “

It’s “a cool book, an unusual book,” Goodkind says. “It isn’t the typical police story, it isn’t the typical detective story. This is a very unusual story. It’s very different. It really is an exciting ride.”

For Goodkind, venturing into new literary territory made for a pretty exciting ride, too.

“It was like the fun of writing the first book all over again,” he says, having “this bright, shiny new thing I got to create.

“It’s the first time we get to meet these characters, and it’s our first introduction to the dilemma they face, and it’s the first time to tell the reader this entirely new story they’ve never heard before.”

Actually, and genre switch notwithstanding, longtime fans will recognize Goodkind’s voice — as well as, in what just may be a nod to longtime readers, the protagonist’s surname — in “The Law of Nines.”

“When I was writing ‘The Sword of Truth,’ I wasn’t writing fantasy. I was writing a story about characters in great trouble and characters sharing the same kinds of problems we all have,” he says.

Choosing good. Opposing evil. Making choices and living with the consequences. Overcoming obstacles. All are themes of any good story, regardless of genre, setting or, even, the medium through which they’re told.

So, Goodkind says, writing “The Sword of Truth” — in which, he says, “the magic was incidental” — wasn’t different from writing “The Law of Nines” because both, at their core, are about “intriguing characters who are in trouble.”

Goodkind is making extensive use of his Web site (www.TerryGoodkind.com) and other online media –including a contest on MySpace — to introduce “The Law of Nines” to readers. On Friday, he is scheduled to do a book signing at Barnes & Noble, 567 N. Stephanie St., Henderson.

Then, the next day, “An Evening with Terry Goodkind” will be held at an as-yet-undisclosed location. (For updates, visit Goodkind’s Web site.)

In the meantime, fans who still crave a “Sword of Truth” fix will be happy to know that “Legend of the Seeker,” the syndicated TV series based on the books, has been renewed for a second season. It airs locally at 7 p.m. Saturdays on KVBC-TV, Channel 3.

Goodkind says that while he’s proud of the way “Confessor,” the final book in the “Sword of Truth” saga, brought that series to an end, he hasn’t terribly missed writing for those characters.

Actually, he says, “I was so excited about the new characters and the new book, and I was having so much fun, I never really thought about it.

“It was so satisfying to be able to conclude that series in the way I had been envisioning it for over a decade. There’s a sense of completion that gives you satisfaction, and you’re ready to move on to something else.

“For me, as a writer, to be able to create new characters and be able to tell a new story is a thrill,” Goodkind says. “It’s the most fun in the world.”

He laughs. “And they pay me for it.”

Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280.

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