The Witcher continues its trek across the countryside. The popularity of the Henry Cavill-led show has led to a spinoff anime called Nightmare of the Wolf, a soundtrack featuring Jaskier’s tunes, and even a 500,000-book reprint of the original series. We reached out to Andrzej Sapkowski, creator of The Witcher, to get his thoughts on the series and the fan resurgence it’s inspired. His answers were surprising.
In this industry, you end up interviewing a lot of people. Most of the time it feels like a complicated dance, with the interviewer and subject weaving through questions in an effort to either get to the truth or avoid revealing too much of it. It can be exhausting. But every once in a while, you have the opportunity to talk with someone who chooses not to hide behind layers of avoidance, over-politeness, or dishonesty.
In Gizmodo’s talk with Sapkowski, conducted over email, there was no dance. I held out my hand for the first song, as usual, but Sapkowski flicked it away, choosing instead to sit down at the nearby bar and tell me what’s what. For better or worse. The end result might not be as pretty, but it was definitely refreshing.
Sapkowski talked about his reservations on having a TV adaptation of The Witcher, what surprised him the most about the production process, why he doesn’t play video games, and why of course getting a half-a-million reprint of his book series made him happy. What else did you expect: despair? Below is our full interview.
Gizmodo: When you were first approached about doing a show adaptation of The Witcher books, how did you feel about it? Did you have any reservations?
Andrzej Sapkowski: I must confess I was reluctant at first. I have been approached before by many people, mostly far from being serious. So I practically lost hope and was difficult to persuade when suddenly another offer appeared. But this specific offer was businesslike and the people behind it sympathetic. I had every reason to react positively.
Gizmodo: How involved were you in the production process?
Sapkowski: Not very much, on my own request. I do not like working too hard or too long. By the way, I do not like working at all. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone at me.” John 8:7.
Gizmodo: Was there anything you insisted be included or fought for?
Sapkowski: For the record: I strongly believe in the freedom of an artist and his artistic expression. I do not interfere and do not impose my views on other artists. I do not insist on anything and do not fight for anything. I advise. When necessary. And asked for.
Gizmodo: Were there any creative changes the show made that you agreed with, or even changed your view of your work?
Sapkowski: It was inevitable. The process of transforming words into pictures cannot be done without some losses. But I’d rather keep the details to myself.
Gizmodo: What surprised you the most about the production process?
Sapkowski: A lot of things. Even though I am not so easily surprised. Believe or not, when I write I don’t see any pictures. It is not a visual process with me. I see letters only and I work with letters. So, when I see some visualisation of my work—be it comics, games or movies—sometimes I am really surprised. Mostly pleasantly.
Gizmodo: What do you think translated best to screen in the show adaptation?
Sapkowski: My name appears in the credits. I cannot praise the show. It wouldn’t be decent.
Gizmodo: What do you feel didn’t successfully translate to screen in the show adaptation?
Sapkowski: I would have to be an idiot to say. My name appears in the credits.
Gizmodo: How would you compare The Witcher show to the video games? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each medium?
Sapkowski: I cannot compare anything to video games, because I have never played any. Since I was a kid I haven’t played any games—with a possible exception of bridge and poker. Video games are simply not for me, I prefer books as entertainment. Anyway, in my opinion TV series and video games—any of them—cannot be compared. They are too different in approach, making—and objective. You cannot compare spaghetti carbonara with a bicycle. Even though both have advantages and disadvantages.
Gizmodo: What was your reaction to learning your books were getting 500,000 reprints after the release of the Netflix show?
Sapkowski: How do you expect I answer this question? That I despaired? Shed tears? Considered suicide? No sir. My feelings were rather obvious and not excessively complex.
Gizmodo: The Witcher’s popularity has seen a resurgence since the show, both with the books and the video games. Why do you feel that is?
Sapkowski: I am tempted to say that this happened because of the author’s exceptional talent, but I won’t do that, I am too modest. I’ll answer your question with the Latin proverb: habent sua fata libelli, books have their own destinies.
Gizmodo: For fans of the show who haven’t read your book series before, what are you hoping they get out of reading it for the first time?
Sapkowski: Let them convince themselves. So wait no longer, guys and gals. Read the books.
Gizmodo: What are you most looking forward to with the future of The Witcher show, which has already been renewed for season two?
Sapkowski: Allow me to quote Joe Abercrombie, the author whose books are very much to my liking: “Life is, basically, fucking shit. Best to keep your expectations low. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
Gizmodo: Any additional comments?
Sapkowski: None whatsoever. Thank you.