Set on an Earth devastated by nuclear disasters, global warming, plagues and marauding demons, Brooks's Armageddon's Children unites the Tolkien-influenced fantasy of his Shannara series with the urban fantasy of his Word and Void trilogy.

Why did you make your near-future Earth so scary?

I want readers to find it scary because it reflects what I see as the logical conclusion to what we are doing to ourselves in this country and much of the world. Most of my work in the planning and writing of this book was done before Katrina and before what has happened in Iraq. We're ruining the environment. We've become careless with our world and careless with ourselves and the way we run our lives, and we need to sit back and take notice.

Why does Hawk, the leader of the tribe of outcast kids in Armageddon's Children, have an alarming guard dog named Cheney?

I didn't name that dog "Cheney" for no reason! Cheney was named by Hawk after an old-time politician who was known as and referred to in books as something of a bulldog personality. Hawk liked the image.

How did you make Armageddon's kids and Owl, their physically challenged "mom," so wonderfully real?

As for children, all you need is a few of your own and the ability to pay attention to how they act with each other. These days I have my grandson Hunter and his friends as role models. Owl is a fabrication, but she's typical of people I've met dealing with a disability of one form or another. I like writing about people struggling to overcome circumstances of all kinds. How do they do it?

The heroes of your novel, Logan Tom and Angel Perez, call themselves the Knights of the Word. Are you a Knight of the Word?

Yes, I guess I'm closest to the Knights of the Word like Logan Tom. The nature of what they do is very solitary, and that's what writing is like, too; it's not dangerous, but you're cut off from things all the time.

Is there a talisman that can save our world?

Isn't it funny that one thing we don't want to do is to see things change? It's one of the themes I've used in the 15 books of Shannara—that whatever else is going to happen, nothing is going to stay the same for this world or any world. The closest thing we're going to get to a talisman? Change—and understanding the right way to implement it.