The first manuscripts from the Shannara saga are now forty years old, yet Terry Brooks continues to rejuvenate his fantasy worlds with new generations of characters. A Princess of Landover is his latest novel (released this month), and on the horizon are movie adaptations of both the Shannara and Landover series.
During Comic-Con 2009, Terry took time to chat with our event reporter, Mark Newheiser, about the nature of writing careers, fantasy epics and generational sagas, adapting work across media, and finding some of the best inspiration in newspapers.
Mark Newheiser: I know that a lot of authors started very late in life, or even kept a career going very late, like Lloyd Alexander.
Terry Brooks: Or Frank McCourt.
MN: Right, or Tom Clancy—he had a full career being a top gun and then got into writing. It's kind of inspiring for me since I could wait until I'm fairly far along in life and start a whole 'nother new career afresh. What do you think it is about writing compared to other things that allows people to be successful that late, and keep turning out better and better things when most people fall off in a lot of careers?
TB: I don't think it makes too much difference with writing when you start. It's not a physical endeavor, so as long as you're mentally alert, and more importantly you love what you do . . . That's the most important thing about writers. The writers that I know personally all connect strongly with their material and are very invested in their work, and that can happen at really any point in your life. A lot of people don't find their way to writing quite so quickly, and finding their way and making that jump, that leap of faith sometimes, is what takes some time. And of course you know there's dozens and dozens of writers who have written many books and been rejected over and over again because they just haven't connected with the right editor, in the right publishing house, who's willing to take that chance. Look at Elmore Leonard, favorite example, who was turned down repeatedly for his work before he finally broke in. And I think that's more the common story than someone who just says, "Well, I'll go be a writer," and starts out being successful.
MN: Do you think it makes any difference how old you are and how much experience you have in the tone and quality of your work?
TB: Well, I do. To some extent that's true. I think you need to get some seasoning, as a human being, with life. I think it helps to be out in the world in some capacity and interact with people, learning about characters, learning about character, the way that people interact, learning how dialogue works. That all takes time and life in order to happen and you just can't invent it out of whole cloth. You can find some of it just by reading what other writers have done and make sense of it that way, but I think to develop your own style you have to have lived some years, and sometimes that helps tremendously with older writers who have had a lot of seasoning, and learned a lot of lessons about the world and are able to use that in their writing.
MN: I have a question for you about mythology. I know Tolkien, for example, was hugely invested in learning about Welsh mythology and all these different Nordic traditions, and you yourself mined in Wizard at Large the tale of the bottle that gets sold cheaper and cheaper every time. I like that story a lot.
TB: Yeah, me too.
MN: And yeah, you use dragons and all these other things. What's your approach to mining other people's mythological characters as opposed to creating your own? How much are you borrowing from them and how much do you want to make for yourself in your world?
TB: Well, it depends. I mean, in Magic Kingdom, which is very lighthearted, those stories are all connected to fables and fairy tales, and at least part of that is a direct connection to stories that influenced me as a young reader. But I hate research, I'll be honest with you, I don't like research, I never have liked research, and I'm not going to change now. So I very seldom do a lot about researching something in preparation for a work. The only exception to that was I did a lot of work with Welsh mythology and history when I wrote the Word & Void series, with Owain Glyndŵr and Nest Freemark, and so on and so forth. But here's my problem: I'm influenced by the style of other writers, but I don't necessarily like their material, and I have admittedly a sizable ego, which I think most writers do, and I think that what I do is better, at least for me, than what other writers do, and if I were to take somebody else's work I would say, the first thing is we have to make it better than it is. I have a problem, interestingly enough, that I want to rewrite the story. And to be successful as a writer, you first have to have a very strong connection with your material. Strong enough that you're going to be able to spend a year living with this book, morning, noon, and night, all the time, in your head, as well as on the page, and not get bored or burned out, and that's what most writers find out at some point, is that that's something you have to find a way to before you start to write. So for me it's much easier to start by saying, "Well, what interests me today?" And I find most of that by reading newspapers. Things I read in the newspaper about the way the world works, about connections between people . . . usually get me pissed off, and then I start from there. And I say, "What can I say about this in a story that would resonate with readers?" And I kind of "what if, what if, what if," and take it from there, and so forth, and eventually I get to a point where I've got a story firmly enough in mind, that I want to write it. That's how I get to almost every book that I've written.
MN: Thinking really long term here, I hope you keep writing forever, but at some point you're going to have to—
TB: At some point I'm going to die.
MN: At some point you're going to die, sad but true. How do you hope to leave your work, in what state—for example, L. Frank Baum had other people write Oz books after he was gone, you've written a Star Wars book yourself, and they've kind of franchised it out and done a lot more stuff with it. Is it more attractive to you that people will keep telling stories in your world forever, or would you rather kind of wrap it all up completely and say, "This is finished, this is ended"? Do you want it open or closed is what it all comes down to.
TB: Well, I'm a big believer in not wrapping up all the loose ends or closing things up. And all of my books basically reflect the fact that life goes on after the story ends, and so not all the loose ends are tied up, and you don't know for example what happens to some of the major characters, you have to imagine it. And I get a lot of readers saying, "Well, when are you going to write about what happened to these people?" And I say, "I'm not going to, it's for you to decide." That's part of the reader interaction. So you know, I expect that my family will very likely talk to the publisher about franchising my work out after I'm gone, the kids and the grandkids. And I don't have any problem with that, I really don't. My part of the work is my part of the work.
We have a lot of writers today who are major writers and are having factories of writers do their work, they're not doing the work, but their name is the big name on the masthead, that's what sells the book. But somebody else, in very workmanlike fashion, sometimes with great skill and talent, is telling their stories for them. So it's not as if this isn't going to be any good and it isn't going to work out, so I don't mind that. What I don't want to do is work with somebody else.
MN: You want to still have control over it as long as you're doing it?
TB: While I'm doing it. My report cards as a child always read, "Does not play well with others," and I don't. When it comes to my writing, I'm very, very protective of my work. I don't let other people fish around in my pond. I know a lot of it goes on with fan writing, I don't care about that, that's fine with me as long as they're not trying to sell it. The idea of collaborating with somebody else, I can't even imagine. I mean, talking to people like Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert, who are both friends, [I wonder,] "How in the world do you do this thing?" And they found an accommodation that makes it work. But for me the accommodation is, "You sit over there and don't say anything, and I'll write this." I just think that that would be very difficult for me to do because I'm very controlling about things. . . . You know, my editor doesn't even see my work, ever. Nobody sees my work until it's done. When it's done, then they see it, and they may say, "You need to change this," and I may need to, but just the whole process for me is very circumspect and very much under my auspices while it's happening. That's the basic way I look at it.
MN: Speaking about having control of your work, I know there are plans to do an adaptation of The Elfstones of Shannara, is that right?
TB: A movie.
MN: What's your philosophy towards adaptations like that? Some people, like in the first Harry Potter movie, take the shot for shot route, reproducing the book faithfully, and some other times they try to go with the general spirit of the plot points, but change the things they think work better in a movie as opposed to a book. What's your perspective? How do you hope they do it?
TB: Well, I have very strong feelings about this, and they were shaped in large part by writing Star Wars [the novelization of Episode I: The Phantom Menace], working with George Lucas. One of the things he did that attracted me to the project was he said, "I want you to write this differently than the movie. I want you to write other scenes, I want you to focus on Anakin Skywalker, I'd like to see more written about him that I didn't get into the movie. He gave me freedom to change his dialogue, to excise things that he was putting in, and put back things he had taken out. He gave me basically carte blanche as long as I didn't screw him over in some fashion. I just thought that was a tremendous way to approach it, and I think what he got, which most filmmakers don't get, is that the book ought to be a companion piece to the movie, and that they're different media. I look at that when I look at movies. For me, the movie's going to require—of any book I've written—it's going to require it be an adaptation. It's not going to be a word by word, blow by blow because there's no room for that kind of thing. So I want the filmmaker to take it, and make it work in a different way. Take the basic story and find a way to film it so that it's wonderful. And if he changes things, or moves things around, or combines characters, that's part of the process and I can accept that. I don't have trouble with it. I think some of the readers will have a lot of trouble with it, the way all readers do when they get invested in the book. But the book is the book and the movie is the movie, or the comic, or the manga, or whatever. That's something different than the book. So as long there's the book, and that's not changed, I'm happy.
MN: I think that makes sense.
TB: I hope so!
MN: Here's one slightly personal question for you. I know—again, going back to other fantasy writers like Tolkien and Lewis, for them their whole cosmology was a reflection of their own spiritual beliefs about reality. And they kind of wrote their whole system of how the world works, or how they personally think it should compared to how it does. Does that apply to you in any sense, in your writing about good and evil, and all these fantasy themes?
TB: Yeah, I think it does. Writing fiction isn't an attempt to display how the world is. It's an attempt to display how the world ought to be. And so we're all telling stories the way we'd like to see them resolved, or at least I am. I guess not everybody is, but I'm not a pessimistic writer, I'm a positive writer, so for me, there's always going to be some sense that the good guys are going to win, the bad guys are going to lose. That's kind of my view about the way we ought to approach life—not a negative view but a positive view. I talk about what I see as moral complexities of the world, I talk a lot about the question of responsibility, how much responsibility do we owe to our friends, to our families, to the people we don't even know, how much should we sacrifice. Sacrifice is a big part—sacrifice and redemption—big parts of who we are in this country, and who we should be in the world. And those are issues to be considered. So I write about them all the time because I don't know all those answers, and I'm always looking to see how I feel about complex questions. When you have to choose between two wrongs, and you don't have a choice, how do you know what's the lesser of the two evils? Can you always tell? And we know that people make decisions in this world all the time where they make bad choices by mistake. [Something that was] looking good at the time turns out to be a horrible mistake. How do you live with that afterwards? That kind of thing. So for me those things are all part of what I write about.
MN: Fantasy is a genre that's pretty high on wish fulfillment. Landover is a classic example: this guy wants to escape his life, so he goes to a magic kingdom, and then he finds out it's not nearly as easy as he thought; he has to commit, and sacrifice, and all these things he doesn't want to do. What's your perspective on the role fantasy can take in playing out our desires and the way we want things to be?
TB: Well, I think fantasy as a medium gives a writer a much broader canvas on which to paint. There are boundaries, but there are only the boundaries that that writer establishes, and the only rule is that they must be consistent. And we must have a mirror held up to the world that shows characters behaving in a way that is believable given what we know about the human condition. As a writer of fantasy, you have an obligation to do that, I think. But other than that, you have a tremendous amount of space in which to work. And I've found, having tried a lot of other types of writing over the years, that the freedom I have in writing fantasy is much more fulfilling, and I also like writing big books, I like big themes, I like sagas, we've got multiple storylines that go on and on, I like that big sprawling story concept. And fantasy lends itself as well as anything else to achieving what you want in writing. I think that's probably the thing that fantasy does best. I think readers who don't understand fantasy tend to focus a lot on the fact, "Well, it's magic and fairy tales. Why should I read that?" I think they miss the truth about it in that it can be a strong representation, an accurate representation, of our own world, and of people living in this world. And the magic is metaphorical in a lot of ways for what we do with the situations we find ourselves caught up in that we didn't make and didn't wish to be in in the first place. And it allows us to explore the human condition in a slightly different way. But it's not what the story's really about; it's part of the attractiveness of it. You look at Tolkien, and Tolkien is a perfect example of somebody for whom—magic, yes magic is a major factor but it's not what the stories are about, is it? They're about a whole series of historical events, about the little man with no hope overcoming an insurmountable obstacle, and that's very much a part of who we are and what we come up against in the world every single day of our lives.
MN: Let me ask you more about Landover in general. I think you wrote Witches' Brew in '95, right?
TB: Well, that's when it was published, so yes.
MN: So it's been 14 years or so since you did Landover. What was the cause for the break in terms of closing it off for that long, and what made you decide to come back to it now?
TB: Well, I quit writing it because I didn't have a story. I was done with that series. I'd done five books, I didn't have anything else to say, and I was moving at that point into writing Word & Void. I was all caught up in Word & Void, and the publisher also said, "Well, all right, but when you're done with Word & Void, right back on the boards with Shannara." So Magic Kingdom just got pushed back, and I then sort of didn't think about it at all for a long time, but about ten years later, maybe a little less, eight years later, readers started returning and saying, "You know, you have a covenant with us on Magic Kingdom and you haven't done anything with it for a very long time. What's the story here? When are we going to get a Magic Kingdom book?" At first it was a few, and I said, "Eh, you know, I'll get to it." And then it was a lot, and I'd signed a contract many years ago to write that book, and the publisher kept saying, "Where's our Magic Kingdom book?" "Well, yeah, but I've got these books over here. I'll get those done and then I'll get back to you." Finally, they were starting to get—they were sending the bill collector to the door, and I did finally . . . I had to think a while about what the story was going to be, and I decided it was not a good idea to go back with Ben and Willow, not a good idea to go back to a world I'd left fourteen years ago, but instead to focus on the next generation and pick up their daughter, Mistaya, who was a central supporting character in the last of the books, and look at what happens when she turns into a teenager, because at that point I was having some teenager issues—not only with my kids but with my grandson. So, I thought, "That's something I want to talk about, parents and kids, and the way they interact." And you know, the Magic Kingdom books aren't as deep-themed and as complex as Shannara or the other books, so for those books it's always reflected something about my own life, so a little more straight-forwardy kind of storyline. It wasn't so difficult to think of a way to take that teenage-difficult-daughter stage and the struggles of parents and turn it into a storyline that I thought would attract readers. So that's where I'm at with it at this point.
MN: All right. I have one question for you about continuity. Fantasy and sci-fi fans typically like figuring out how the world works and how events connect together. Landover at the moment is kind of its own island of continuity, not to do with your other things, and the Word & Void and the Shannara series have all been tied together neatly by now. Is that something you're able to plan out from the beginning, or do you have to go back and say, "I didn't realize that Shannara was actually going to be the real world later on but it worked out that way."
TB: That's actually accurate. I think it'd be impossible to think that far ahead. I've been writing in the Shannara world since 1969. I would be some kind of genius if I could have thought forty years ahead to where the story would go. Basically, when you're starting to get published, you're just trying to find something that someone will read. One book, just somebody would be attracted to. You don't think beyond that, at least I didn't. After that first book, then I began to think a little bit more, and I wrote book two and three, with big gaps of time because I was also still practicing law. After that, I began to think in terms of a true series, which is what Magic Kingdom was, but for me I discovered that it was impossible to think too far ahead, so basically I was more successful doing one book and finishing the book, and that always told me where the next story was going, and what it was it should be about. Always. And that's still true, I don't rely on the idea of trying to put groups of books together unless it's a single storyline, as it is sometimes in Shannara. And I'll give you an example of that, where you need to think ahead beyond just the next book. I found that was true the first time when I wrote Heritage, in the early '90s, four books, right? Well, four books started out as three books, and so I sort of mapped out what I thought the story was going to be. It was going to involve each of these characters, the center figure in each of the books and so forth, and I knew for sure what the third book was going to be first, interestingly enough. And then I started to write it, and when I got halfway through the second book, I thought yeah, this is going to go four books. So I had to rethink everything. And that's sort of what happens. You have an idea at the beginning, at the end, and pieces of the story along the way, and you have the first book (I do anyway) pretty firmly in mind so you can sit down and at least start writing and see where it's going to go, and then things change. Things change because you change, you get different ideas, you get better ideas, and as that happens, you rework everything that's going to happen afterwards. And that is pretty much what happens every time I write a trilogy. It was even true with Word & Void, where I started out with a cyclical trilogy that would start here and go right back around to here, and it would be three encounters between a young girl and an older guy—Nest Freemark, John Ross—pivotal in their lives and pivotal in the history of the world. That's what I knew. But the storylines changed, after I finished the first story it changed the second story, which changed the third story. So you have to be open to the fact that your ideas today are not necessarily going to be your ideas tomorrow. And what seems like it's going to work today may not necessarily be what works tomorrow. You cannot get too dogmatic.
MN: Here's a question for you about chronology. You're starting off the film adaptations with the Elfstones of Shannara. I know that with some series, like Narnia, there's some controversy over whether you read books in the order they were written, and in which the ideas came out of the author's head, or whether you read them strictly in the order of chronology, from the universe's point of view. What's your preferred way to have your work read, and why are you starting off the films where you are?
TB: Well, the film part of the question leads to the answer. When we went to Warner Brothers with the project, they had a screenplay, and the screenplay was Elfstones. They did not want to keep that screenplay. But they did decide that they wanted to keep Elfstones as the first book. And there were several reasons for that. I think they wouldn't admit to it but I think they were a little afraid of the obvious similarities between Sword and Lord of the Rings, and they felt like, "If we remake Lord of the Rings we'll be killed." But the more important part was—and this was the part they told me and I think it's true—"We really think that we need a broader fanbase, a broader attendee base based upon characters, and you have no female characters in the first book that are strong. We have two strong female characters in the second book, we have a broader spectrum of supporting actors that we think we can attract talent to, and the story, we think, is a better story." Which is probably true.
MN: I'd probably agree with that. I thought your writing improved as you went on.
TB: It did improve. You know, Sword was the first book for me—not only a first book; it was the first book I wrote all the way through. So, you know, I was very green still when I wrote that book, and I felt like I improved quite a bit between that book and Elfstones, and that was because my editor drove me like a mule on that book, and made me rewrite it and rewrite it and rewrite it, and learn the lessons that I needed to learn, and that was a tremendous benefit. So it's a very strong book and it holds up very well even today, and I think they saw that, and it's a logical place to start the story, and if it's successful they can go on and do Wishsong. They don't have to go back to do Sword in order for that [to make sense]. They can go from there and I think that's kind of what the goal is. If they were to do that in Magic Kingdom, for example, I'd say, you know, do Princess and start with the next generation (which at the moment they're not talking about doing, they're talking about the first book). Take the teenage girl, who's a strong character, and you can start with that base, make her parents supporting characters, and so on and so forth, and you've still got all the elements of a story, and it would work. So it really depends on the material, how much you can do. And I don't feel protective enough that I'd be upset if they chose to go start at a different point, especially with Shannara, which is a generational saga. With generational sagas you can start anywhere in the series really.
MN: I first started with Scions myself, for example.
TB: Yeah, lots of people have started with that as a first book. I'm even amazed how many people start with like Elf Queen. They don't seem bothered by that. I think, "Well, didn't you wonder what happened before you came into this book?" And, "No, we just went back and reread it." So, I don't feel strongly about that. I think it's more important that people feel connected to the material they're looking at, at that particular time.
MN: Let's go back to Star Wars for a minute. I remember you said in your introduction that you had a very uncomfortable experience writing for Hook, but a very good one with all the free rein you had on Star Wars. Do you think you'll ever be working with someone's universes or premises again?
TB: I doubt it. It would take a very special set of circumstances. But then, I said that after Hook too; I said, "I'll never do this again," and then along comes Star Wars. You know, I suppose it would be the same thing, if the right project came along that I felt strongly about. I would certainly have to consider doing it, but I can't envision a scenario for that right now as I sit here, and I don't need to do that kind of work. I didn't want to turn down a chance to work with George Lucas, frankly. But if a major filmmaker came to me and said we'd like you to tackle a project, I'd at least think about it. I don't know. Could be interesting.
MN: Do you have any awareness of the major things going on in other fantasy media these days? There's a whole Warcraft universe with multiple races all fighting and battling, you have the Final Fantasy thing, which is huge on airships, which you did in the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy. Do you draw any of your ideas from there or interact with those concepts?
TB: I really don't, and I suppose it's because I'm not a gamer. I watch no television except baseball. I go to some movies but not a lot. I'm the book guy. Everything I know is connected with books. I don't read comics anymore, although I read comics voraciously when I was younger. I'm still aware of what's out there because I read the newspapers and the trades and I pay attention, but I don't know a lot about any of it. Like my grandson is a huge Halo fan. I know about Halo, but I don't really know anything about Halo. I just know that it's a gaming thing that thousands and hundreds of thousands of people play and love it and so forth. I'm not real influenced by any of this in any specific way because I don't know enough to be influenced. I don't even read much of my own field. I tend to read in other fields because I find I'm looking for material that will suggest ideas, and I find ideas in areas I don't write in. Mostly, when I read stuff in my world [i.e. my field, fantasy], it's either something I don't care about that much, although I may admire the writer's work, or it's something where I want to take the writer aside and say, "You know, you could do a better job with this. What the hell's the story? Don't you have any pride in your work? Do you have an editor?" I mean I really am terrible about that. I'm very much a snot about other people's work. I'm not really impacted by the specifics of other people's stuff. Maybe if I were desperate for ideas, or I didn't find enough in my current approach to things to write the stories I write, I'd be over there searching for things, but I'm pretty happy with the way things work out for me, and I frequently get the ideas for whatever I write about out of newspaper stories, about things happening in the world that just set me off, which most things do. So I think, "I can write about this. What can I write about this?" And it kind of goes from there.
MN: It seems like in your writing you very much like your own particular way of doing things. You see a work of fiction and say, "If I was doing this, I'd change all these things." Do you have any role models yourself—or when you were growing up, was there any fiction you were trying to emulate or be like?
TB: Oh sure, tons of them. I read a lot as a kid, I was a book kid, my parents were book people, so I was surrounded by books from a very early age. My wife, the same thing. And we're still like that, we read all the time. That's what we do. And when I was growing up I was impacted early by many different kinds of writers, at whatever age level I was at, starting out with reading Tom Corbett—Space Cadet, moving up through the Hardy Books, moving up through all those dog and horse stories, moving up through I think about three intensive years of science fiction where I read everything. I read everything, because you could do it in those days; there wasn't that much. I read voraciously because it was the '50s and every kid I knew was reading about robots and rocket ships, and talking about going to the moon and da da da. We were all caught up in this stuff, so that's what we read. Never read fantasy, never read it. I read some things like the Oz stories and that sort of thing, and C. S. Lewis, but, you know, that was just sort of a peripheral thing. So these were impactful, and then I discovered European adventure story writers, and I got off on a whole kick about reading everything by Robert Lewis Stevenson, Alexandre Dumas, and so on and so forth. And then I was in college, and I started reading classics, and I got real impacted by a lot of the writers of classic love stories, English novels of the countryside, and horrible deaths, by reading William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald. And all those writers made a huge impact on me at the time I read them, and many of their traits—you'll particularly see a lot of Faulknerian traits and concepts in what I write, and really William Faulkner impacted me more than Tolkien. Now, not many people think that's true, but it is. I took all of his ideas about Yoknapatawpha County and the ways in which families destroy each other by keeping secrets, and the ways in which they betray each other, and their struggles to find a place in the world where they have betrayed others in the families, and generational sagas—that's all Faulkner. Every bit of it. And then I read Tolkien. I read Tolkien when I was a junior in college. And the thing I liked most about it—I didn't like all those appendices, I said, "This is a drag, I don't care about this stuff." But I liked the central storyline, minus a bunch of the stuff that slowed it down. Because, you know, Tolkien's a scholar, and I wasn't a scholar.
MN: He was building a universe almost, more than a story.
TB: Yeah, and that was really his life's work. That and the trilogy with The Hobbit as kind of an add-on. And building the language. You know, I didn't do any of that stuff. I wanted to write Three Musketeers, in Tolkien's world. So I set out to do a Tolkienesque framework but a storyline that was more of a reworking of my twists on it, of something like The Three Musketeers or Ivanhoe or something like that. And that was really the impetus for everything I did when I started out. It's changed a lot since then, of course, because I'm still looking at what other writers are doing and being impacted by things I read where I say, "Gosh, that was a wonderful story. I wonder if I could do something like that." I think that's what happens: you want to do something like it, that makes people respond, but you don't want to do the same thing. And that's the fine line that we all tread, I think. I read about writers who say, "Well, I don't read other writers because I'm afraid I'll copy them." I'm thinking, "You know, we all copy somebody. You know, show me something that's original and I'll show you something that's not." Everybody's working off of ideas that have already been explored, but it's in a different way, it's with a different voice. I think you can't allow yourself to get caught up and worry about that. You have to write what you feel will work, and the readership will tell you if what you've done is any good or not, your sales will tell you if you're on the right track or if you're not. So far so good.
MN: One other quick question before we go. You've obviously agreed to do this film with Warner Brothers. I'm just curious, do you have any adaptations you've watched that you're hoping it'll turn out like? Are there any films in fantasy or any author's work turned into a movie that makes you think, "I hope it'll turn out like that," or, "That seems like something I'd be proud to have in my canon."
TB: If they can do a Harry Potter series I wouldn't be totally unhappy. If they could do a Lord of the Rings type adaptation that would be very nice. I don't find a lot of the stand-alone ones . . . Those are the two that come immediately to mind as wonderful adaptations that succeeded in taking a story and transforming it into a wonderful series of movies. I thought Princess Bride was wonderful. All right, that's all I can think of.