Netflix's adaptation of Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher series is a sensation, and has prompted Sapkowski's American publisher, Orbit Books, to print 500,000 new copies of the books in the series. In a recent interview, PW asked the author to discuss the new show, what projects he has on his plate, and more.
What were your first thoughts when you were approached about allowing Netflix to adapt your Witcher series?
I considered the offer of adaptation with mixed feelings at first. The Polish adaptation of 2001 was, let's say, far from ideal. Very far, in fact. That's why I didn't look at this new offer excessively favorably. My attitude, I confess, was rather lukewarm, if not outright cold. But, step by step, the situation has changed. As they say in TV news: the parties have reached an accord.
The Witcher is Netflix's #2 show after just two weeks, and U.S. sales of your Witcher series are skyrocketing, forcing Orbit to print another 500,000 books to meet demand. Did you expect this kind of a sales surge from the adaptation, or was it a surprise to you?
Honestly? I was optimistic, of course, but did not expect such results. Nothing at such scale. The wheel of fortune turns in my favor. For the moment.
What do you think is resonating with audiences about your Witcher books and their adaptations right now, in the political/cultural climate of 2020?
I am a bit puzzled to understand what political climate has to do with my books or their adaptations. I personally abhor politics and try to stay as far as I can from it. I consider my books politically neutral. And if by "cultural climate" you mean growing popularity of fantasy literature and movies, I agree, fantasy is ascendant. It wins more and more fans, even among people who weren't particularly fond of the genre so far.
Many of the monsters found in your Witcher series are named after, or based on, creatures from Slavic mythology. Can you talk a bit about your work's major cultural and literary influences?
I am Polish, but in my writing I do not give any preference to Slavic mythology. It is in fact very rich and abundant, therefore I use it profusely, that's for sure. But I do not forget other mythologies, folklores nor bestiaries. It all depends on what is needed—or necessary—to the story I am telling. Is it Russian kikimora or is it Portuguese bruxa or is it Japanese kitsune or the Arabian roc? The story dictates the necessity. And, mostly, I put aside existing mythologies and invent something myself. From scratch, so to say. Nothing serves the story better than one’s own invention.
Does all this attention mean a new Witcher book will be in the works soon? What else are you working on?
My future plans are vague, nothing is fixed yet. I have some plans for a new Witcher, and also some for historical fantasy. The latter includes my Hussite Wars trilogy, the first part of which, The Tower of Fools, is to be released in English by Orbit later this year.