Panic View: Paul S. Kemp

I’m a big fan of Forgotten Realms, it’s no secret, so when the good people at Angry Robot Books gave me the chance to not only read the latest book by Paul S. Kemp but evn get an interview with the author himself……..let’s just say I jumped at the chance.

Your most popular character to date has been Erevis Cale.  When you first penned him for the Sembia: Gateway to the Realms series was it always planned for him to get a spin-off trilogy or was that just a pleasant surprise?

A bit of both.  I wrote my novella Resurrection (from The Halls of Stormweather) and Shadow’s Witness (the first full-length Erevis Cale novel) with a hopeful eye on continuing Cale’s story for many books.  I thought I had a compelling character and I’m always an optimist, so I convinced myself that so many people would love Cale that Wizards of the Coast would ask me for follow-up stories.  And then, holy shit!   That’s exactly what happened!  I’ve been smiling ever since. J

Meanwhile, Cale and his companions have appeared in eight novels and several short stories, and they’re still going strong, with Godborn soon to come.

Erevis Cale is an Assassin-Butler.  From where did he come from?  What inspiration did you draw upon for him?  Is butler more of a full class or a prestige class?  What are its requirements?

Back in 1999, WotC was looking for characters/stories for a new series they were launching, called The Sembia Series.  By then, I had gotten on the radar of line-editor Phil Athans, who’d enjoyed a writing sample I sent in sometime before.  So he asked me to pitch for Sembia.  WotC sent me a packet of information that listed eight character “slots” they wanted filled, all of them associated with a rich merchant family (the Uskevren) in the merchant kingdom of Sembia.

One of them said, “The Butler.  He gets things done for his master.”

I picked that one and from it developed Erevis Cale, letters man, spy, and assassin, ostensibly in service to a thieves’ guild but secretly loyal to the Uskevren family he’d come to love and respect.

“Butler” in this case is a prestige class.  Prerequisite include the ability to brew a mean cup of tea and the ability to drive a hand span of sharp metal into the base of another man’s skull. Cale, uh, qualifies on both counts.  J

This year marks your return to the Realms with Godborn.  We haven’t seen you in the Realms since 2008.  What made you want to return? Is this the long awaited return of our favourite assassin?

Oh, I never really left the Realms, as such. My heart has always been there.  I love the Realms – its history, its optimism, its wonders and ancient mysteries.  It’s just a blast of a setting.

But business issues came between WotC and me for a time. Basically WotC got peanut butter in my chocolate, I got chocolate WotC’s peanut butter, and then the killing began.  After countless deaths, we called and truce and ironed things out.  🙂

As you mentioned, Godborn marks my return to the Realms and it will, indeed, continue the story of Cale and his companions (and Cale’s son, Vasen).  It picks up the threads laid down in The Erevis Cale Trilogy and The Twilight War Trilogy.

What else can you tell us of Godborn?

Alas, not much.  Big news to share, but I’m not authorized to share it just yet.  Soon, though.

You have also written in the Star Wars expanded universe.  What was it like when you found out you could write in the world of X-Wings and lightsabers?  Are you a fan of the saga yourself?  If so was there a moment that blew your mind away as a fan?

The first thing I felt was exhilaration.  How cool that I get to write in a setting known and loved by hundreds of millions of people worldwide!  Yes!

The next thing I felt was stark terror.  How horrifying that I get to write in a setting known to hundreds of millions of people worldwide!  Oh, shit!

But the fear was short-lived and now it’s just completely, totally, unadulterated bad-assedness.  Seriously.  Enormous fun.  I work with great people at Del Rey and Lucasfilm and have wonderful fans all over the world.

And yes, I’m an enormous fan of the saga, as are my sons (both 8).  The first scene in Star Wars has always stuck with me and always will.  It blew me away when the Tantive IV appears on screen, and then we get the slow, ominous reveal of the enormous bulk of the Star Destroyer.  Just awesome.

You’ve been called a strong defender of Shared Fiction.  What is it about Shared Fiction you like so much?

I actually got that reputation not so much for “liking” shared world fiction (though I do) but because I dismiss as hopelessly ignorant anyone who claims that shared world fiction (tie in fiction, in particular) is of low quality.  It’s a nonsense attitude held by people addicted to hierarchy and compelled by a need to feel better about themselves or their work by shitting on other people.

I don’t want to give it much more attention than that.  It’s silly.

With your soon-to-be released sword and sorcery novel, The Hammer and the Blade, you’re starting off in your own world.  If I’m not mistaken this is the first book you’ve written in your own world.  What made you want to spread out into worlds of your own creation?

Indeed it is my first full-length novel set in an original world (though I’ve published short stories in settings of my own creation).  I’m very excited about it.  The Hammer and the Blade is my attempt to echo the joyous, unfettered storytelling I experience when I read Howard’s Conan stories, or Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser tales.  I’ve had fun writing all my novels, but this was the most fun I’ve ever had writing a story.  Egil and Nix (the protagonists) are just a blast to write.

I wanted to write something that hearkened back to old school sword and sorcery (in that it’s a hugely fun read), but give it a “modern” spin (in terms of pacing, prose, and theme).   I think The Hammer and the Blade accomplishes those two things, and my desire to write a story like that (with more on the way) is the reason I wanted to write in a world of my own creation.  I needed a blank canvas to tell the story I wanted to tell.

Your book is often known for their chilling villains. Where do you gain such inspiration for such antagonist?  Does your life as a lawyer aid you in your creation of evil? (joke)

That’s a hard question and I get asked it a lot.  I still don’t have a good answer.  My mom and wife have occasionally looked at me with alarm after reading about one of my villains.  I suppose I’ve got some dark, deep seated issues somewhere in my psyche, yeah?  J

Up next are my two 42 Webs ‘signature questions’.  There are small questions that while growing up I always wondered about authors?

What is your favourite book/author? Why?

Favourite book: Swords in the Mist, by Fritz Leiber.  It’s a classic sword and sorcery featuring Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, wonderfully paced, with outstanding characters, and containing what I regard as one of the best sword and sorcery stories ever written, “Lean Times in Lankhmar.”

Favourite author:  A tie between Michael Chabon and China Mieville, because both of them write such spectacular prose that it makes me seethe with good-natured envy.  J

What is your most memorable comic trade/graphic novel? Why?

Man, I haven’t read comics in such a long time.  One that sticks with me is a series of issues in Amazing Spider Man when Kraven the Hunter captures Spiderman, drugs him, buries him alive, and assumes his identity for a while.  In the end, Kraven kills himself.  He just wanted to feel what it would be like to be his most elusive prey for a while.  I think it’s stuck with me so long because it’s one of the earliest comics I remember reading that dealt so frankly with adult themes (Kraven in existential crisis and killing himself).  Similarly, the whole sequence in Daredevil (who remains my favourite hero to this day) with Typhoid Mary and Kingpin. Very adult stuff and wonderfully told.   This question reminds me that I need to get back into comics.  I miss them.  🙂




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3 Responses to Panic View: Paul S. Kemp

  1. Paul Weimer says:

    Not surprised by the favorite book answer, of course. 🙂

  2. Pingback: 42 Webs Interview with Paul S. Kemp « Roqoo Depot

  3. Pingback: Geekdown: Auto-Buy Author List | 42 Webs

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