Dave Wolverton (born 1957) is a science fiction author who also goes under the pseudonym David Farland for his fantasy works. He currently lives in St. George, Utah with his wife and five children and is best known for his Runelords series.
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David Farland is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author who has penned nearly fifty science fiction and fantasy novels for both adults and children. Along the way, he has also worked as the head judge for one of the world’s largest writing contests, as a creative writing instructor, as a videogame designer, as a screenwriter, and as a movie producer. Here is his story:
David Farland was born John David Wolverton in Springfield, Oregon in May of 1957, the fourth of six children. He lived in Oregon for the first 18 years of his life. As a child his family was quite poor, so he worked as a farm laborer from the age of 8. At the age of 11 his father opened a small meat company in Monroe, Oregon and he began working as a meat cutter by the age of 12.
Early in his teens he developed an interest in science, and would sometimes skip high school in order to sit in on college classes in biology at Oregon State University.
At the age of sixteen he wrote his first books—a field guide to the mustelidae family of mammals and a book on the development of nuclear weaponry in the United States.
It was at about this time that Dave discovered his love for fiction when he read Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings. Soon afterward Dave began devouring fantasy and science fiction novels as fast as he could, enjoying the works of such authors as Ursula K. LeGuin, Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, Stephen Donaldson, and so on. After he exhausted his local libraries, he began making up his own fantasy stories and telling them to co-workers.
He’d only been doing it for a month or two when one friend, Paul Toups, suggested, “Why don’t you take all of this stuff and put it in a book!”
So the next day, Dave bought a used typewriter and went to work, writing the first ten chapters of a novel about a boy who goes to a school for wizards.
Soon Dave discovered that writing was harder than it looked. He abandoned his first couple of novels halfway through, but Dave began studying how to write fiction and a lifelong passion began.
At the age of 18, Dave moved to Idaho and attended Rick’s College, then served for two years as a missionary in Chicago, Illinois. At that time, he wondered whether becoming a writer was a practical goal, so when he returned from his service as a missionary, he enrolled in Brigham Young University where he studied microbiology, planning to become either a physician or a genetic engineer.
But his interest in writing wouldn’t die. He eventually realized that he wanted to write novels on the side, regardless of what he did for a living, so he began writing short stories. His first short story “The Making of Charlie Littlehorse,” won him a small prize at a university competition and was published in a student journal.
After that, Dave began voraciously studying stories and submitting his work to magazines. When his first few short stories didn’t sell, he decided to try to earn some extra money by winning contests. He set a goal was to win first prize in a contest, so he wrote several short stories in 1986.
He changed his major at the time, deciding to make writing and editing his life’s work. He set up his own coursework through the University Studies Program at school, hoping to prepare himself for a double life as a writer and editor.
Through his program, he studied Modern Literature, Creative Writing, and Editing. The course was so successful that the university used it as a model for their English/Editing double major, and it was soon adopted by over a hundred other universities around the United States.
Dave spent hours working on his writing every day, and made some interesting breakthroughs as he studied the field of storytelling. In 1985 he developed the Stress Induction/Reduction Theory of Storytelling, which basically suggests that all forms of entertainment—storytelling, sports, and so on—serve as an emotional exercise for their audience with the end of releasing stress. Using some of these new theories, Dave penned several stories in rapid succession.
At the end 1986 he was rewarded for his efforts as these stories won first place in every contest that he entered.
Writing as Dave Wolverton
In 1987 Wolverton won the International Writers of The Future Gold Award, the highest honor available to an amateur writer of science fiction and fantasy. His story, “On My Way to Paradise,” was written while he was quite ill with the onset of Epstein-Barr syndrome. He battled high fevers and extreme fatigue for over a month as he polished the story, gleaning ideas for it from lucid dreams caused by his feverish state.
One of the judges from the contest, Robert Silverberg, was kind enough to recommend Wolverton to a number of editor friends in New York, and this caused some buzz as the awards ceremony neared.
He was flown to the World Trade Center where the checks and awards were presented by such luminaries as Isaac Asimov and Mark Hamil (Luke from Star Wars). There, a number of editors from major publishers introduced themselves and asked Wolverton to submit a novel proposal.
Within the week this led to a three-novel contract with Bantam books. His first novel, On My Way to Paradise, hit #3 on the Locus Magazine science fiction and fantasy best-seller list, won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award as one of the outstanding science fiction novels of the year, and catapulted Wolverton to prominence in the writing community. Dozens of books followed over the years.
His first novel combined cyberpunk with Latin American magic realism, but Wolverton didn’t want to be limited to any particular type of fiction, so he followed his first book with a pair of adventure novels set in the far future on a world created by genetic paleobiologists. The first of the pair, called Serpent Catch, debuted the same month as Crichton’s Jurassic Park.
Wolverton first hit the New York Times best-seller list (at #7) with his fourth novel Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia. He then went on to write The Golden Queen series, along with dozens of other books. His books were soon translated into more than twenty languages and were sold in over a hundred countries, while his readership climbed into the millions.
But his work at that time was all in science fiction, and his first love—fantasy—was unfulfilled. Indeed, shortly after writing his first book and hitting the bestseller list, his editor at Bantam asked what he wanted to write next. “I’d like to write a big fantasy,” he suggested. But his editor said, “You’re a best-selling science fiction writer. Most people take twenty years to get where you are! We don’t want any fantasy from you.”
So Dave began “easing into” fantasy, and after ten years as a professional novelist, Dave gave himself a birthday present and began writing his first big fantasy series, The Runelords.
In 1999 Dave set the Guinness Record for the world’s largest book signing with the science fiction novel A Very Strange Trip.
Writing as David Farland
Writing as David Farland, Wolverton was able to fulfill his dream of writing fantasy. He switched names to avoid confusing his science fiction fans, since he was writing in different genres. He also felt that this would help with the positioning of his book, since books listed under Wolverton typically get shelved down on the floor, where only very small elves can find them. (The last name Farland comes from a great, great, great grandmother.)
He soon became an international best-selling fantasy writer with over a dozen books on the stands, and is one of very few authors to be a New York Times bestseller under more than one name.
In England he has been promoted as “The New King of Fantasy,” and in the U.S. his books have hit #1 positions on several bestseller lists, including the science fiction and fantasy bestseller lists for both the Walden’s and the Barnes and Noble bookstore chains. The third book in the Runelords series hit the New York Times Bestseller list.
Beginning in 2005 Dave began publishing his bestselling Ravenspell books for middle-grade readers, and he currently has several new books in the works.
As a Video Game Designer
In 1998 Dave began working part-time to help create video games at Saffire studios. For example, he helped design the story line, monsters, and weapons for StarCraft’s Broodwar, which won rave reviews in gaming magazines and was a #1 international bestseller in 1999.
He also wrote the story and script for Xena: the Talisman of Fate, which hit high on the Nintendo 64 bestseller list at Christmas in 1999, and Dave went on to script several other games. He had lots of fun, but found that the job didn’t pay particularly well.
As an Editor and Teacher
In college Dave studied editing, modern literature and writing, and was hired as an undergraduate to help professors raise their books and articles to publishable standards. He also worked for several years as a writer and editor in the computer industry for major corporations like Novell and WICAT.
In 1991 Dave was invited to act as a judge for the Writers of The Future Contest, the world’s largest science fiction and fantasy writing contest for new authors, and was soon promoted to the position of Coordinating Judge. As Coordinating Judge he acted as first reader—screening thousands of stories over the next eight years. He also edited the anthologies, taught writing courses to the winners, and made numerous personal appearances—often at DragonCon in Atlanta, where he headed up the writing track for a few years.
In 1999 Dave was invited to teach the science fiction and fantasy writing at Brigham Young University, and over the years he has taught dozens of writing seminars around the US and Canada and appeared at hundreds of conventions. Over the years, many of his students have gone on to publish with tremendous success, including New York Times Bestsellers like Stephanie Meyer, Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, Jessica Day George, James Dashner, and Dan Wells.
Dave has also worked as something of an acquisitions consultant for publishers. In 1992 and 1993 he worked for Gibb-Smith publishers, helping them find manuscripts for children’s books, and he recently accepted a similar position for Tor books. In this capacity, he will recommend manuscripts for publication to the president of the company, so as he judges contests and teaches his writing workshops, Dave keeps an eye out for talented new writers.
Not willing to give up on teaching completely, Dave writes an advice column called, “David Farland’s Kick in the Pants.”
As a Movie Producer/Screenwriter
In 2002 Dave went to work in Hollywood as a movie producer, where he led creative meetings with screen writers, visual artists, and directors. He also worked on movie greenlighting and financing, taking meetings with movie studio heads and investors both in the US and abroad.
More recently, Dave traveled to China to work as a screenwriter on a major fantasy franchise, and is working more intimately in the film industry.
However, for the moment, he is home working on upcoming novels.