Leominster, Mass. author R.A. Salvatore hopes to place a ninth book on the New York Times bestseller list next month.

Sea of Swords, Salvatore's 35th book, is the 14th in the "Dark Elf" line of books published by Wizards of the Coast. It is set in the shared fantasy world of Forgotten Realms, where barbarians and dwarves, dungeons and demons, swordplay and magic are commonplace.

Sea of Swords is the first book in several years to feature the dark elf himself, Drizzt Do'Urden, the popular character for which Salvatore is best known. His absence has allowed the most recent entries in the "Dark Elf" series to focus on characters who are normally part of Drizzt's supporting cast.

"The fans made me realize I want more Drizzt," Salvatore said. Even with his happy return to writing the Dark Elf, Salvatore insists he'll continue to expand Drizzt's world with "new friends, new stories – but not new generations. There will be no 'son of Drizzt'!"

Salvatore's dark-skinned hero has appealed to many readers since his debut in 1988, having sold six million books in the USA and translated into more than 20 languages worldwide. His fan base encompasses many groups, from adolescents who empathize with the outcast protagonist, to forty-year-old women who have never played Dungeons & Dragons.

"If I knew what made Drizzt so popular, I'd bottle it, sell it, and make that my living!" Salvatore laughed.

The author describes his character as a good person who is extremely skilled at what he does, but who occasionally makes mistakes and tries to correct them. Drizzt's code of honor may make him predictable, but Salvatore keeps throwing him curve balls.

He intends his books to be "good, fun adventure – a rollicking rocket ship ride – that a reader can finish in eight hours."

Sea of Swords won't be Salvatore's only claim to fame in the coming months. A few weeks before "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" is released in May, the local author's novelization of the Lucas film will hit bookshelves. Salvatore, who previously released the Star Wars book Vector Prime, hopes to celebrate the dual release with a movie premiere and book signing at the local Loews Theaters in his hometown of Leominster, which he has invited Terry Brooks, author of the Episode I novelization, to join him. The certainty of this celebration remains to be seen.

Salvatore's own characters may also be hitting the silver screen soon. Fireworks Television recently agreed to develop a live action television series based on Hasbro's Forgotten Realms setting. Rumors indicate that a feature film or miniseries adaptation of the early Dark Elf books may also be produced.

Unlike the Forgotten Realms and Star Wars – shared universes where other authors also tell stories – Salvatore also plays in a world of his own creation. The DemonWar saga, a seven-part story, will continue next year with Transcendence before concluding in the 2003 release of Immortalis.

Despite his enjoyment and success with these other tales, Salvatore knows where his heart lies. "If I had to choose one book, one character, to define my career and define me as a writer – it'd be the Dark Elf."

Sea of Swords, a 352-page hardcover, will be released on October 30th for $25.95.

(Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 29-Oct-01)