After reviewing Brimstone Angel I began an epic quest, one that took me to far away lands, made me fight great creatures, and face the gods themselves, all for an interview with author Erin M. Evans.
Turns out it’s a lot easier if you just ask.
When reading Brimstone Angels Realms fans get a very heavy Post-Spellplague (4th edition) feel to the book. How important was it when you approached this book that 4th ed Faerûn had to feel different then before?
It was important to me to make the story fit in as part of the world as it exists. But to be honest, I came at it from the opposite perspective. The world changed in a lot of ways with Fourth Edition, and I think it can be easy to get stuck on just what’s new and different, especially when you’re a new author trying to make your mark. Too much of that and you can lose sight of what makes people love the Realms. I wanted Brimstone Angels to feel like a Realms book—adventure and intrigue and just a little whimsy; characters you want to read a shelf of books about; and a story that inspires you to play in the world too. At the same time, things did change a lot, and I was working with elements that were very different—particularly the dragonborn and tiefling races. For me, the challenge became honoring what came before and weaving in what was new at the same time. And hopefully, when you fold it all together, you get something that feels old and new.
In previous interviews you said you tried to avoid a Faustian approach to infernal pacts. Where did you derive the idea of the collecting sub-culture amongst the devil? How will we see it expand in the upcoming Lesser Evils?
A warlock pact is a bit of a resource sink for devils—you have to manage this connection and feed powers to the warlock as long as it’s intact. Why do that? I ruled out the Faustian pact early on—Farideh’s not the sort of character who would give up something as irreplaceable as her soul, and Lorcan’s not the kind of devil who would go straight to that trade without having a better sense of the lay of the land. But it occurred to me that in the Hells, status is everything. So if you can’t get that the standard way—by corrupting and collecting souls and impressing greater devils than yourself—you might find other ways. Which made me think of geek culture—not everyone is going to appreciate your mint-condition comics collection or your two-hundred signed Realms novels, but another collector will be impressed by all the footwork and effort that took. So these collector devils spend their energies (or their minions’ energies) seeking out warlocks to convince into pacts—trying to get sets that show off their skills. In Lesser Evils, you’ll see more of Lorcan’s warlocks and you’ll see what happens when a collector doesn’t tend to his set.
A very prominent part of Brimstone Angels dealt with the devils. You seemed very at home in the devils mind. Should we be worried (joke)? How did you go about preparing yourself for to write such evil?
Oh, you know, torturing orphans, kicking puppies (joke). Actually I loved writing about the Nine Hells, because I think for that society to continue, devils would have to be extremely tuned into what other people and devils are thinking, wanting, and planning. They’re always on high alert, and cambions like Lorcan might have a very calculating sense of how they present themselves. They’d be very anxious, which is a state of mind I am familiar with.
As for the evilness, I thought about what you might do if everyone was an enemy and the consequence for failure was always that you were going to be killed. In the Hells, that’s life for Lorcan. Add in a fierce temper and a sense of inferiority and you might do terrible things, too.
The Prologue for Brimstone Angels was one of the best prologues I have ever read. The manner in which you wrote the seduction of Farideh was enticing. I found myself wanting to say yes before she could. Did this require a painstaking amount of edits and rewrites?
I’m so glad you liked it! This was the first thing I wrote for the book, so a lot of it was feeling out the characters. There are lines of dialogue that came out of it that, for me, summed up and cemented who these people were. The core of it didn’t change much as I revised—this was where the characters were wholly themselves and unaffected by the book’s larger needs, I think—but in the process of revising the prologue expanded quite a bit to include depictions of the village of Arush Vayem, examples of what life there was doing to Farideh, an introduction to Mehen, and the first lessons in pact magic Farideh gets. At the time, I was very worried, because it’s really long for a prologue—it’s almost a short story tacked to the front of the book. But my editor looked at it, read it and reread it and declared there was nothing to cut without losing what made it work. It is, in the end, an example of how bending “the rules” is sometimes in order.
Havilar and Farideh are sisters, and their dialogue and relationships were handled very realistically. Were you able to draw on your own family experience for this novel?
Oh yes. I have two sisters and we’re very close. Growing up we were always in each other’s hair. You grow up with someone who’s that intertwined with your life and they affect you in ways you can’t necessarily see until you have a lot more distance. You were the cut-up, so she was the responsible one. He was the athlete, so you were the bookish one. You all think that your parents like someone else best or go easier on the other. My favourite scene to write, though was the fight Farideh and Havilar had in the woods—it took me a long time to realize that some of the worst fights my sisters and I ever had weren’t even about what we thought we were arguing about.
You were an editor for WoTC. What made you decide to dive into the Faerûn and transition to a writer?
I always joked that I was a writer who edited rather than an editor who wrote. I didn’t plan to write for Wizards, but I’d always been interested in writing novels. I had shared some pieces I’d written on my own with my fellow editors as part of a fiction swap we were trying out. When the Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep series was looking for authors for the last two books, the editor, Susan J. Morris, asked if I’d be interested in auditioning based on one of those pieces. They did a blind call (where the author’s name is taken off the submission) and she and Ed Greenwood really liked my idea for The God Catcher.
How did you get involved with WoTC?
I answered an ad. J I was working for a small press on the weekends as an acquisitions editor/whatever they needed, and at a day job doing content management for a company that did science presentations for kids. I loved the small press, but they couldn’t afford to pay me much, and my day job was burning me out. The job listing was originally for an editorial assistant, but since I had experience (and they were seriously in need of more editors), they hired me in as an assistant editor instead and shortly after, I was editing The Citadels series.
What is it about the Realms that drew you to it?
My favourite thing about the Realms is the depth of it. When you write a story set in Faerûn, you have literally tens of thousands of years of history to draw on. There is nothing I love better than thinking about how people would have been influenced by this event or that person and how would that have changed as the years passed? One of my favourite lines in The God Catcher is where the main character thinks of someone being “mad as the wizard under the mountain” as though that’s just a phrase people know. Because even if people in 1479 DR don’t know who Halaster Blackcloak is, he’s someone who certainly made a mark on Waterdeep and that would carry down in small ways as well as large ones.
Is there anything you can tell us about Lesser Evils? Just between you and me……..and the internet?
I think if Brimstone Angels focus was on Farideh and Rohini, the focus of Lesser Evils is on Farideh and Tam, the Selunite Harper. So you’ll see more of him and who he is under the surface—and more of his organization…and one of their ancient foes, the Zhentarim!
Up next is one of 42 Webs’ ‘signature questions’. This is a small question that while growing up I always wondered about authors?
What is your favourite book/author? Why?
My favourite book would have to be To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. It’s a time-travel story set in Oxford England. I love the humour and the very complex plot that still manages to suck you right into its tangled threads. It’s one of those books I’ve read and reread and I still enjoy it more every time.
Erin M. Evans can be found on her website Slush Lush