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Last night, the 20th of June 2018, one of my biggest dreams finally came true and I got to meet the one and only Raymond E Feist, (author of the Riftwar Cycle, Faerie Tale and The Firemane Saga) at Brisbane City Hall in sunny old Queensland. Initially apprehensive as to whether I would actually get to meet the man himself due to time constraints, my partner in crime and I waited in line with the other 1300 odd people, anxious as to when they would finally open those doors.

Upon waiting for almost an hour as the line gradually got longer (it ended up snaking around the building from the front doors of City Hall to 3/4 of the way to George St. That’s around a 350m long line and people were still joining it) the doors finally burst open and it was havoc. Dymocks Brisbane had set up to the left hand side of the doors to the main room selling both signed and unsigned copies of Feist’s latest offering, King of Ashes, and people weren’t wasting time in getting their hands on the loot. Ushers were tentatively endeavouring to direct people to the upstairs balcony so as the crush of people wasn’t ridiculous when everyone went to leave (we went for floor seats because photos). People were pushing their way in the doors of downstairs so as they could get the best view. Carefully we entered the main auditorium and found seats 4 rows from the stage in the middle aisle.

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After we got seated, I thought I would take the opportunity to take some photos of the crowd and stage while I still had the chance. The main usher was delightful and endeavoured to direct people around where I was perched trying to take photos of the set before Feist’s grand entrance (thankyou kind sir, I got a few good shots *hat tip*).

This however is where my signing story gets a little ugly… In the five minutes I was gone, literally 10 or so metres away, my bookworm buddy was patiently waiting and guarding our stash we were waiting to get signed, when a rather rude lady stomped up to her and told her to move. She took this as a ‘please move your legs, I’m trying to get through’. Instead it was intended as a ‘get your things and leave your seats’ – apparently not having followers on Instagram and following Feist for years makes you unworthy of aisle seats. I am quite proud to say that Tiny Tornado held her ground and insisted that we had fairly found our seats and I would be back shortly. Upon returning and having a conversation with said person, they moved on their way. However this does make me fear for younger people within the fandom – just because you havent been with an author since the beginning, doesnt mean you don’t enjoy their work as much as the next person.

After the seating debacle, it was a short 20 minute wait

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for Feist to finally appear! Following a short speech by Rebecca Randle of Brisbane City Libraries, the man himself, accompanied by the evenings MC Aimee Lindorff, entered the auditorium to riotous applause. The audience was then notified that with a 1300 strong crowd, we had doubled his Melbourne appearances number. Of course, the crowd went nuts again…

‘Environment will shape your story if you want it to or not. Go next door to see the King and it’s a novella, a short story’

Raymond E Feist, 2018 on world building in a fantasy novel

The first question asked by Lindorff was, of course, ‘Why now?’. Feist proceeded to explain in his own quirky way that now felt like a good time to write another book. After family problems, health issues and just generally feeling crappy for a good while leading to a hiatus from writing, he woke up one morning to a voice asking him ‘Who is the King of Ashes?’. After months of wondering, more time remembering how to world build (apparently World of Warcraft helps with this, as does Dungeon and Dragons) and then finally sitting down and writing the story, the result was the first instalment of The Firemane Saga. In true Feist style, when a baby cried, he quickly proclaimed that there’s critics everywhere and the questioning was once again resumed.

‘You and I have our own dialogue. And it happens at separate times. And only you get to hear both sides’

On telling a story and the praises/criticisms he receives from his readers.

When asked about telling a story and how he builds his characters, Feist told the crowd that he simply thinks hard about what makes people ‘do the damned foul things they do’. He also made comment that the dialogue he has is two-sided but only the reader gets to hear both of them. A sneaky comment about him having set a precedent for number of books in a series by our MC lead to a firm NO! from Feist, with him stating there would be only 3 books in the Firemane series to uproarious laughter from the hordes.

On whether he would do any more collaborations, Feist stated that while he would love to collab with various authors, its a money thing and publishers nowadays don’t really like the idea of it. There was talk of Lucifer being renewed, and the fact that Firefly never would be, Feist’s long-term publication meaning he is Harper’s longest running author, and when asked his motivation for Nakor, he firmly replied that he had no idea.

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The time then came for the mass exodus so as the signings could begin. As everyone began to rise from their seats, Feist made one last speech to the masses, explaining that he has been coming out to Australia since 1987 and it has become a sort of second home. He also made comment that unfortunately due to time constraints and nerve damage in his hand, he would be unable to sign more than one book per person, there would be no personal dedications nor would there be any posed photos as we would have just under two hours to get everyone out the door. With close to 1300 people all vying to be first in the signing line, the crush within the auditorium was beyond ridiculous. As everyone started to leave, Feist hung around for a little longer talking to this lady, a long-term subscriber to his mailing list, even ‘dating back to the Cornell days’. It was quite a touching moment to behold with Feist commenting that he hadn’t seen her for almost 15 years but actually remembered her and he hoped that she would continue to read his works.

While the wait was long for signings, the general consensus was that

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people were happy. I spoke to a few lovely people about various signings they had been to (I sang my love of Kristoff from the roof tops – many google searches and ‘I’ll have to check him out’ ensued) and the line gradually snaked through the building. Almost 90 minutes later, when it finally came time to get my book signed, Feist was ever the well oiled machine, making quick comments to everyone and quickly signing everyone’s various editions. After quickly sneaking around the table and getting a giggle from Feist as I selfied away, the night was over. The hall was abandoned once again. A 2 1/2 hour drive home rounded out the night, and mini me was the happiest she has been since she last ‘met a famous person’.

Raymond E Feist is in Australia for the Sydney and Perth legs of Supanova 2018. Last night’s proceedings were brought to the public by Dymocks Brisbane and Brisbane City Council’s Writers in Residence series. After a 4 1/2 hiatus by Feist, King of Ashes was released April 2018.