It’s been ten years since we last heard from Tiger and Del, the titular characters of Jennifer Roberson’s romantic fantasy series. In the following email interview, Roberson discusses their return in the new novel Sword-Bearer (paperback, Kindle), including why fans won’t have to wait another ten years for their next adventure.
For people who haven’t read any of them, what is the Tiger And Del series all about, and what kind of world are these books set in?
Initially, the subtext of Sword-Dancer, the first volume, was to address what was then called “male chauvinist pig” mindset and behavior. The book was written in 1984, and published in ’86, so the topic (and terminology) still loomed large. While I wrote Del as a feminist, mostly I wanted her character to prove by doing that that women could be equally competent as men in the same jobs. In Tiger’s Southron world, women were subservient, so Del’s personal freedom was alien to him as well as other Southron men. In Del’s Northern world women were able to be whatever they wished, no questions asked.
As the series continued, this subtext became less overt because Del had proved herself and Tiger accepted her skill. Certainly they continued squabbling about various beliefs and differences between men and women, but it became banter as opposed to verbal confrontation. Also, I wanted to entertain the reader with adventures, not bog them down in continual discussions of sexism.
And then what is Sword-Bearer about, and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the other Tiger And Del books, and especially the previous one, 2013’s Sword-Bound?
Sword-Bearer is a direct sequel to Sword-Bound, and picks up six weeks after the end of that volume. Because it has been ten years since Sword-Bound came out, I purposely put in callbacks to certain early adventures, even as far back as the first volume. I tried to provide context so readers either could remember those prior adventures, or else get enough from my description that they could move on without feeling completely lost. But there were certain happenings in Sword-Bound that set up part of the plot-drivers in Sword-Bearer, things that weren’t actually cliff-hangers, but were unresolved.
Where did you get the idea for Sword-Bearer; what inspired it?
Nothing specific inspired it, just the desire to write about Tiger and Del again. Tiger is a blast to write, and I love getting inside his head. And while I certainly hope to amuse readers with some of the banter, I’m also amusing myself. It’s just plain fun to write these characters.
The previous novels in the Tiger And Del series were epic romantic fantasy stories. Is Sword-Bearer one as well?
Sword-Bearer is exactly like the others in tone, though Tiger is a bit more contemplative when it comes to aging. He and Del have a healthy sexual relationship, which is re-established in this volume, and I think this one carries on the same romantic elements established in the others.
So what are some of the things — both literary and not — that had a big influence on Sword-Bearer?
The only thing that influenced Sword-Bearer were the seven earlier volumes in the series. I don’t say that to be glib, just that my head is full of prior adventures and Tiger’s and Del’s personalities. The first one, Sword-Dancer, was somewhat influenced by the old Mickey Spillane novels with a world-weary narrator, but I wouldn’t apply that to the other novels.
Mariah, Luka, Cassie, Sumi, Dancer
What about your corgis and your cats? How did they influence Sword-Bearer? Because corgis are usually crap with continuity but great with action, while cats are excellent when it comes to dialog but crap in describing food.
[laughs] Well, all of them both amuse me and frustrate me, so that certainly may be considered an influence.
Now, as we’ve been discussing, Sword-Bearer is the eighth book in the Tiger And Del series. But is this a series where you have to read every book in the correct order, or can someone start with Sword-Bearer?
It’s difficult for me to answer that because I’m so familiar with the characters. I specifically tried to write Sword-Bearer so that it could be read on its own, which is why I provided context with my callbacks, but several reviews mentioned that people would enjoy it more if they read the previous seven.
That said, for a while the volumes were being published closer together, so it probably wasn’t necessary for someone to read the others first, or in chronological order.
Hollywood loves turning fantasy stories and romances into movies and TV shows. Do you think Sword-Bearer — and, really, the whole Tiger And Del series — could work as a bunch of movies or a show?
I have always felt this series would work as a series or film, and in fact Sword-Dancer was optioned, though nothing came of it. Now that we have streaming services and limited series, I am convinced this series would be ideal for this format. With eight novels, there’s plenty of material to work with, and of course the showrunners might hire writers to do scripts unrelated to the books, so that would offer additional material.
I have had gamers approach me, but when I’ve sent them to my agent to discuss licensing, they’ve disappeared. A comic book artist also swore she would see these novels done as a series, but that went nowhere also. I have had several of my novels, including the historicals, discussed for options, but, again, nothing happened.
So, if someone wanted to adapt Sword-Bearer and the rest of the Tiger And Del series into a TV show, who would you want them to cast as Tiger, Del, and the other main characters?
The casting game has gone on as long as the series has been in print. Readers love to make suggestions to me. Once Hugh Jackman [Logan] came on the scene I felt he was Tiger — he had the look and the dry comedy chops — but he’s kind of aging out of the role now. Physically, Jason Momoa [Aquaman] is relatively close to how I see Tiger, to some degree. For Del, I liked a younger Charlize Theron [F9]. But Del’s a sturdy six-footer, so they’d need to cast tall, or shoot whomever tall. In the latter novels there’s Tiger’s adult son, Neesha, to cast as well, but I haven’t really put any thought into that. But all three “leads” are good-lookers, so that has to play a role in casting. Of course looks are in the eye of the beholder, too.
What about if someone wanted to make a game based on the Tiger And Del series? What kind of game do you think it should be?
I have no idea. I’m not a gamer, so I wouldn’t know where to start. I would probably contact Michael A. Stackpole for advice, as Mike and I as pros go back over 30 years, and he’s been intimately involved with gaming for longer than that. I can certainly see the use of skill levels in sword-dancers in training, and in the dances themselves.
So, is there anything else people should know about Sword-Bearer?
That it’s highly accessible for people who have not read much fantasy, and that for those who have read the seven earlier novels, Tiger is at his Tiger-ish best.
And most importantly: The ninth volume will be out by the end of the year, as I’m taking the series independent. It does not yet have a title. I’m just glad to take Tiger and Del out of the storage closet and dust them off again. There are many more tales to tell.
Finally, if someone enjoys Sword-Bearer, and they’ve read the rest of the Tiger And Del novels, which of your other books or series would you suggest they check out next?
If they specifically enjoy the tone of Tiger as narrator and they enjoy banter, I would send them to Life & Limb and Sinners & Saints, the two novels in my urban fantasy series, Blood & Bone. These are set in the real world, not a created fantasy world, and my two protagonists — Gabe, the ex-con biker; and Remi, the Texas cowboy — are fantasy / sci-fi fanboys. There are plenty of callouts to fantasy / sci-fi TV shows and movies. [For more on Life & Limb, check out this earlier interview.]