Listen to Radovan & the Count

Did I happen to mention the first wave of Pathfinder Tales is now available at audible.com? That includes all five of the Radovan & the Count novels, as well as Elaine Cunningham’s Winter Witch, to which I contributed the kissy bits.

You can see all of my Pathfinder, Forgotten Realms, and Iron Kingdoms books on Audible right here. And here’s Winter Witch.

And if you come back to this page tomorrow, you may have a chance to win one of the Pathfinder Tales audio books.

 

Creative Colleagues: R.A. Salvatore

R.A. Salvatore

R.A. Salvatore

Every now and then, I’ll pester one of my creative colleagues with five questions about his or her work. Most of these folks are friends, a few are secret enemies, and one has been blackmailing me for years.

Few authors become famous for their tie-in fiction. Along with Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, and a scant few others, R.A. Salvatore is an exception. While he’s written original novels, tie-ins for Star Wars and Tarzan, as well as other characters in the Forgotten Realms, Bob remains best known for the dual-scimitar-wielding Drizzt Do’Urden.

1. In games, the roll of a die often determines success or failure. How do you instill a feeling of uncertainty in your characters’ actions without it seeming random, on one hand, or pre-ordained on the other?

Well, there’s the $64,000 question. Of course it’s pre-ordained, since I’m writing a book (sometimes I might get surprised, but rarely to the level where someone loses a fight he/she was supposed to win!). Again, this is a point where writing is x and gaming is y and never the twain shall meet. I certainly wouldn’t sit around rolling dice to determine the flow or outcome of a battle.

2. Your work first became popular while D&D was in its second full edition. Now that the game has launched its fifth and you can look back on the changes to the setting and the development of your characters, how do you see them relating? That is, have some changes in the rules—or in the Forgotten Realms setting—had a big effect on your characters’ arcs?

Actually, the first books came out under 1st Edition! The changes to the game have created a love/hate relationship. When they went to second, I got a call from the FR Coordinator, Jeff Grubb, asking me how I was going to kill Artemis Entreri, since all the assassins were going away with the edition change. We argued for about 20 minutes when Jeff put his foot down and said that all the assassins had to go and if I didn’t do it, they would have to. So I told him that Entreri wasn’t an assassin, but a fighter-thief who takes money to kill people. Jeff thought it over for a moment, then agreed. And that’s the gist of my relationship between the writing and the game over the last quarter-century, where I’m constantly lurking in shadows and playing semantic games to keep my story flow as honest to the story itself as possible.

I mean, obviously jumping a world’s timeline 100 years is going to cause issues with a human character, since 140-year-old humans don’t fight very well.

3. At a writers’ group meeting, one of my TSR colleagues said that what he most wished for as a writer was to have one of his characters become iconic, like Burroughs’ Tarzan. As one who’s enjoyed exactly that sort of success, do you think it’s a good thing to wish for? Is it everything one might hope, or is there a Monkey’s Paw side to the phenomenon? Does the popularity of Drizzt have a downside?

It’s an amazing thing on so many levels that the downside is buried. Because of Drizzt, my work gets allowed into the lives of others, and that’s an amazing blessing. Let’s be honest, it also keeps me employed doing something I love with a character who has become more of a friend than words on a page.

The downside, of course, is that when an author has a successful series (much like a TV actor), he/she becomes locked in place in the minds of many readers. There’s a reason Robert Jordan stayed with Wheel of Time until he death, and it’s the same reason JK Rowling’s non-Harry Potter book didn’t perform as expected. The reality is simple: go away from your main series and you’ll have to pull readers along by the nose. I consider my DemonWars novels as good as anything I’ve written—in many ways better, honestly—but they remain under the long shadow cast by Drizzt. Even within the Realms, convincing Wizards of the Coast to let me do a novel that doesn’t feature Drizzt is a difficult fight.

4. You’re such a cinematic writer that I have to imagine you’re as influenced by films as much as by prose fiction. Who are some directors, actors, or just genres of films that inspire your work?

I think that’s a fair supposition! I go back to the old Dragonslayer movie with Peter MacNicol as one of my favorites (which is why I named the centaur in DemonWars “Bradwarden.” Also, the Rankin-Bass animated Hobbit stays with me to this day. I love what Ron Moore is doing with Outlander now on STARZ. Rome was another series that grabbed me.

 Going back to when I was a kid, movies like Jason and the Argonauts, War of the Worlds, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Robinson Crusoe on Mar, The Three Musketeers (the version with Michael York, of course!) all kept me enthralled on Saturday mornings.

5. If the writer is the Dungeon Master and the characters are the players, which of your characters is the rules lawyer? Which is the min-maxer? Which is the master thespian? Who’s the edition warrior? Who’s the one most likely to kick down the door? And who’s the first to loot the bodies?

Oh, boy… Catti-brie is the Rules Lawyer, Drizzt the munchkin and thespian, Bruenor the warrior, Wulfgar kicking down doors, and Regis looting the bodies before they hit the floor. And I’m not really the game master, Jarlaxle is. I’m just the front guy, really.

Creative Colleagues: Erin Evans

Erin Evans

Erin Evans

Every now and then, I’ll pester one of my creative colleagues with five questions about his or her work. Most of these folks are friends, a few are secret enemies, and one has been blackmailing me for years.

Erin Evans and I were presenters on the same panel at the Writers’ Symposium at Gen Con a few years ago. We exchanged pleasantries, but we didn’t get to know each other.

The truth was I was afraid of getting too close.

Erin had just released a Forgotten Realms novel featuring a tiefling protagonist, and I’d recently done the same in the Pathfinder Tales line. You’d think we’d want to talk shop.

It’s hard for me to explain the rest without referring to “Unaccompanied Sonata,” an Orson Scott Card story about a musician who’s raised in isolation from any outside influence interfere with his growth as an artist. While that idea is ultimately silly when applied to the real world, I guess that story stuck with me, especially when I see authors—often writers I like and admire—lifting lines, names, or other elements from the work of others.

Thus, when I discover someone has written something similar to what I’m doing, I get nervous that maybe I’ll steal their ideas, even subconsciously. The only way to be sure (no, it’s not to nuke them from orbit) is not to read their work.

Thus, my conversation with Erin began with ana confession.

1. While tempted by the good reviews, I’ve resisted reading your Farideh novels for fear that I would subconsciously lift your ideas about tieflings. Do you find yourself embracing or resisting reading novels similar to your own work? Or do you seek inspiration in non-fantasy fiction?

Me too: Heard nothing but good things about Radovan and the Count, but it feels so easy to do! (Even though the longer we both go, the more I think we nail down our respective paths, and the less likely we are to veer).

I panic every time I read a novel that has similar elements to one of mine, even if objectively it makes no sense to worry. I mean, once I panicked because The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin had “similar elements” and it’s so brilliantly done. I hovered on despondency. Then my editor pointed out that “soul is fused with a more powerful entity” and “is attracted to dark, dangerous non-human entity” are not exactly, you know, an entire novel. But then I’ve had people tell me titles that remind them of certain parts of my books, and I can’t read those. I’ll save them for later, when I’m onto something else.

2. What first drew you to a devil-blooded character? Which of her human qualities does her infernal heritage most emphasize?

I like tieflings because they’re weird. So often you get fantasy races and they feel like better humans. Tieflings are inarguably alien—especially the devilborn, Asmodean tieflings I work with. They can’t hide who they are and who they are isn’t something most people want to be or be around. They’re like the opposite of elves. But at the same time, deep down, they’re human. They’re just normal people who happen to have big horns and weird eyes and a tail, and so they’re marginalized for it. And because they’re not a homogeneous culture in FR, there’s room to look at how a variety of people would cope with that. Do you throw yourself headlong into the version of you other people respect? Do you fight it and try to change opinions? Do you just grit your teeth and ignore it? Do you hate right back? Do you internalize it and hate what you are?

3. I enjoyed your live tweeting of gaming with your son. How is running a game for him more challenging than playing with adults? How is it just plain better?

So what I actually do is tell an ongoing story to my two-year-old which we call D&D (or as he says, “D&D&D&D&D&D&D&D&D&D&D&D”) The Continuing Saga of Issy the Tiefling Fighter, if you will. There’s no dice, there’s no minis, and it never ever ends. Right now it’s mostly him choosing which inn to stay in—he’s kind of obsessed with what the signs look like, what the bedrooms look like, what’s for breakfast, etc. But we play it because I play D&D once or twice a month, and he gets so upset I’m going without him.

I’ve DMed for adults once. I was terrible because I ran it like a novel: Here is the adventure and so no you cannot try and pick that lock, I want you over here. But that’s not remotely an option with my son. I’ll have a pirate hand him a treasure map to Harpy Island and mention off hand that it’s smelly. And he’ll refuse to take the map because he might want treasure but he doesn’t want to go somewhere smelly. There’s no planning. It’s entirely made up on the spot. It’s a little like writing on a deadline, because if you get stuck, you have no choice but to get unstuck.

Fire in the Blood

Fire in the Blood

4. What was your background in writing and reading before you worked for Wizards of the Coast? Who were some of the authors who first inspired you to write?

I started telling myself stories very young. I had a lot of sleep problems due to anxiety and this was how I occupied my frantic little brain. I was in early high school when I started writing, trying to get these stories down, and by college, I knew it’s what I wanted to do, at least in some fashion. I read voraciously—to the point that I’m never sure who really influenced me. Those years are kind of a blur of books. I still find people suggesting a book to me and about halfway through the description, it’s like the sun dawns. Oh! I’ve read that!  But the vast majority was still fantasy and soft science fiction, with a sprinkling of literary/mainstream stuff (I had a serious John Irving kick in high school, followed by an Elmore Leonard phase in college).

But there’s one phase that I think must have made an impact: from the summer of 2003 through the spring of 2004, my now-husband and I drove around the country in an old RV. Up until then, my book habit was largely library-fed, but without a permanent address few libraries will let you borrow books. Our budget was obviously tight, but I found thrift stores were a good source of a book fix. One thing though: they sold paperbacks for 25 cents apiece or 10 for $1. So if you wanted more than three books, you really had to find ten books to buy. So I came to read my first western, my first vampire novel, my first true crime novel, my first chic-lit novel, my first military science fiction, and more. More than anything I think reading that widely made me appreciate what different genres do best. Romance novels are great to study for how to use character headspace. Mystery novels require a really tight structure, and the best ones know how to camouflage it so you don’t see the scaffolding, so to speak. I think Westerns are great for establishing character and setting quickly, but also for seeing how to use the tropes your readers expect without falling into the same story all over again. My writing from this period of my life is choppy and crazy and changing month to month, so fast that you can almost see these lessons synthesizing into a writing style. It’s a mess. But by the time I was invited to submit a story for Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep, everything had settled and I could write a book.

5. What draws you to fantasy as opposed to any other genre? What other genres do you feel you incorporate in your Realms novels?

For me fantasy is a way to make the internal external. Magic and monsters and strange happenings can all be metaphors for something bigger while still being just fun elements. I could probably argue that the Brimstone Angels Saga is an exploration on the anxiety around transitions and the social costs of marginalizing groups and how we handle mental illness—but it’s also about magic and devils. It can be both and it gives readers a way to approach these big, heavy, scary things without having to face them head on. The Adversary is, in a lot of ways, about depression—how it warps us and how we cope with it or don’t. I can’t tell you how many readers have told me that aspect of it spoke to them in a profound way, even though the “depression” is explicit in the big, scary shadow goddess of nihilism and her Chosen, the Nameless One. The way the characters cope with facing these threats in combination with their own demons still provoked a reaction.

And on the other hand, a lot of readers never mention it because they were focused on the Harpers and the prison escape story and all that fun stuff, but I have to believe it makes an impression regardless.

 

Erin’s latest novel, Fire in the Blood, hit book stores yesterday. Check it out, and keep track of her next release at her blog or on Twitter.

 

Creative Colleagues: R.A. Salvatore (Preview)

R.A. Salvatore

R.A. Salvatore

Every week or so, I’ll pester one of my creative colleagues with five questions about his or her work. Most of these folks are friends, a few are secret enemies, and one has been blackmailing me for years.

To most people reading this blog, R.A. Salvatore needs no introduction—but I won’t let that stop me.

Bob and I run into each other at conventions now and then, where he’s always friendly and personable, the epitome of the “regular guy.” It never occurred to me that he’d be anything else, at least not until I was touring U.S. military bases in Germany to promote Dragon magazine and the then-upcoming 3rd edition D&D. While mentioning upcoming Forgotten Realms novels, I referred to R.A. Salvatore by his first name. That elicited a gasp from one of the attendees.

“You call him ‘Bob’?” said a young soldier.

“Well, sure.”

“Did you ask permission first?”

Maybe I should have led with “Mr. Salvatore,” since the Drizzt novels had already made him a big deal by the time I joined TSR. Still, I knew Bob was a gamer, and the minute you hear his voice on the phone, you know you’re dealing with an unpretentious guy. It wasn’t scary to ask him for a story for Dragon, even after I had to go through his agent on the standard contract (an unusual occurrence at Dragon), but even the agent didn’t make things difficult. It was all easy, regular-guy stuff.

Bob’s Forgotten Realms novels are a big deal, his fans legion and adoring. So maybe I did hesitate before asking him to do a Creative Colleagues interview. I shouldn’t have worried. Not only did he reply right away, but he answered all the questions, not just the five I’d asked him to pick.

Thus, to preview the eventual full interview and draw some eyes to this page before several other worthy authors make their appearance, I’ll drop a sample question in now and then. Here are two.

This summer's Rise of the King is the second volume in the Companion's Codex.

This summer’s Rise of the King is the second volume in the Companion’s Codex.

As an avid gamer and prolific author, in what ways do you find tabletop roleplaying inspirational to your fiction? In what ways do you find it a completely different creative pursuit?

I try to keep my gaming and my writing separate, but little bits of the game scenarios inevitably bleed in. Usually it’s just anecdotes that happen in the gaming sessions—funny stories, clever remarks, that sort of thing.

Many gamers imagine themselves writing novels based on their characters one day. What advice or warnings would you offer them?

Typically, characters played in games are a collection of idiosyncrasies more than an actual human being. And that’s the most important ingredient in writing a story: the readers have to connect with the character on a human level (even if that character is a dark elf or dwarf or whatever). Drizzt wasn’t ever a character I played in a game, but he could have been—again, that’s just a starting point, however.
Come back next week for a chat with Realms author Erin Evans, whose latest novel, Fire in the Blood, is coming soon.

Creative Colleagues: Jeff Grubb

Jeff Grubb

Jeff Grubb

Each week, I’ll pester one of my creative colleagues with five questions about his or her work. Most of these folks are friends, a few are secret enemies, and one has been blackmailing me for years.

Before I went to work at TSR, I’d met a handful of the designers and editors at conventions or RPGA events, but not Jeff Grubb. Oh, I’d seen him on a panel or two, but I’d never worked up the nerve to approach him. Alone among the designers of TSR, he intimidated me. You see, I was a Jeff Grubb fanboy.

His name appeared on some of my favorite unconventional game products, like the Manual of the Planes, Spelljammer, and the then-recently released Al-Qadim, which vied for Ravenloft and Oriental Adventures as my favorite D&D setting. But where he’d really impressed me was with the Forgotten Realms comic and the Alias novels, the first of which, Curse of the Azure Bonds, made me think game tie-ins could also be terrific novels.

Jeff maintains my devotion by being one of the several members of the Alliterates who always make time for a few pints when I’m in town, and because he follows my lead in hat fashion.

1. I probably never told you that Azure Bonds was the book that made me realize that game tie-in fiction could be really good. Looking back on those characters, what do you think set them apart from those we were used to seeing in tie-in fiction?

I think part of it was that we didn’t know any better. We weren’t trying to write tie-in fiction so much as we were trying to write fiction. Our models were Tolkien, Twain, and Wodehouse (the Wyvernspurs are very close to the Woosters).

But another component was the fact that we did not have major characters that we had to write to. In those first years we were all pitching characters and concepts hard and heavy—we didn’t have to write about a particular character from the movies or earlier books. You look at the early strata of the Realms, and you see a wide variety of characters, and would be hard-pressed to say at the outset that this dark elf supporting character was going to be the break-out star.

2.   You are also one of the folks who really turned me on to kung fu movies with your Mad Monkey vs. Dragon Claw module. In your fiction and game design, where else do you draw inspiration from other media (like Chop Sockey movies)?

Ah, Mad Monkey. I was so the wrong person to be assigned that one. Here’s the tale: In those days, we had to lay out the entire year’s publishing in advance, which often meant giving titles for projects before we knew what was going into them. One of the titles was Mad Monkey vs. the Dragon Claw. I had no idea what that meant and, once I drew that in my queue, campaigned to change it. Jim Ward, our boss, not only refused, he told the upper management that I really wanted that title and would resign if they changed it. No, really. Thanks, Jim.

But, rising to the challenge, I corralled some of Zeb Cook’s old martial arts films and watched a lot of “Kung Fu Theatre” late in the evenings. Since I had already done a more traditional adventure with Ochimo: The Spirit Warrior, I was able to throw in some more of the outrageous nature of the genre without fear. It was trying to ape the vibe of an old Run Run Shaw film.

That one was a case where I was looking at a particular genre, but I more often like to pull from multiple sources when I’m working on a project. Al-Qadim has a lot of the historical Middle East in it but also has the Arabian Nights as written by Burton and the version as understood by Americans, Harryhausen films and Sinbad. I really like to delve into the histories when I’m working on something; there are reasons things are the way they are, and I like uncovering them and presenting them in a new light.

3. After Lord Toede and the Forgotten Realms comic, you’d firmly established yourself as one of the funniest writers in the genre. Have you ever felt a danger of being typecast as the funny guy? Or do you welcome the recognition of one of your talents?

Absolutely. I did not want to be (just) the Funny Guy, which is one reason that my novels after Toede, like The Brother’s War, were of a more serious, epic vein. Yeah, there were funny bits and characters, but it wasn’t the hijinx capers that I presented earlier. So there is a lot of swinging back and forth between madcap and serious in my work, but even my serious stuff has a lot of human nature and amusement in it.

Scourge4. You’ve been writing for video games for quite a while. How does the process differ from your years at TSR?

It is more crowded, and you are less in control. Even with large projects at TSR you had a small team: you, maybe a co-writer, an editor, maybe an artist that had already been assigned, and what playtesters you could round up. That was because we were doing so much product that everyone had their own projects and their own strengths.

In a video game we’re looking at a much larger team—everything you see on the screen is there because someone sweats bullets to put it there. As a result there are many voices in the mix. Concept art comes in at an earlier place in the process, and the limitations of the programming will often determine what you can and cannot do within a computer game. Plus, changes can be made in the middle of the game that require continual piecemeal revisions—you never really get to say “there, we’re done,” particularly now that DLC and updates allows us to create ongoing stories in the computer space.

5. You’re one of the few writers I know who’s done successful collaborations, notably with your wife, Kate Novak, and recently with Matt Forbeck. What are the perils and advantages of collaborating?

Big advantage? You are not alone. Big disadvantage? Ditto.

Each of my novel collaborations has been different. Working with Kate was working together every step of the way. We would go to new restaurants to discuss plot because if we then had a big argument about it, we would just never go back to that restaurant again (and yeah, some of the wait staff overheard very odd statements, like “Okay, you’ve reanimated the body. Now what?”)

Working with Ed Greenwood on Cormyr, we had a very strong initial plot that broken into past and present arcs. I took the history, while Ed wrote the present-day scenes. Then we switched and rewrote each other. The editor in charge said after his initial review, “This is much better than I had any right to expect.”

As part of the Guild Wars 2 team, I was part of the initial plotting with Matt on Ghosts of Ascalon but was not originally an official writer. Matt was working long-distance as the ground was still changing underneath him for an as-of-then-unpublished game. I came in after a number of drafts to bring his vision together with that of the company’s.

Each was a different situation and a different process. And if I do another team-up, I’ll probably deal with it in a different way.

You can follow Jeff’s blog at Grubb Street.

Creative Colleagues: Paul S. Kemp

Paul S. Kemp

Paul S. Kemp

Each week, I’ll pester one of my creative colleagues with five questions about his or her work. Most of these folks are friends, a few are secret enemies, and one has been blackmailing me for years.

Paul S. Kemp and I first “met” by both writing novellas for The Halls of Stormweather, the anthology that launched the Forgotten Realms Sembia series. How I’d gotten on board is a longish story, but editor Phil Athans discovered Paul, whose character Erevis Cale would go on to become the undisputed phenomenon of the series in Shadow’s Witness. Paul was the first of my fellow Sembians to grant me permission to use his character in the final volume, Lord of Stormweather, for which I remain grateful.

Later, Paul wrote a story or two for me during my magazine years, and we’d occasionally bump into each other at conventions or, more often, online. We share a love of good whisky but part ways on cigars. While conducting legal battle during the day, he somehow remains a prolific author of both his original fantasy novels and some of the most popular Realms novels. Just yesterday Wizards of the Coast released his latest, The Godborn.

1. You and I got cooking on our writing careers within a few years of each other. I look back with mixed feelings, sometimes wincing at what I wrote 20 years ago, sometimes thinking, “Hey, that wasn’t half bad.” What are some ways in which you’ve improved from your earlier self? What are some lessons you didn’t realize you’d learned until you looked back much later?

Well, my earlier self didn’t have adamantium surgically implanted into his skeleton, claws that can cut through anything, and bouts of uncontrollable rage. Now that I have all of those things I suppose I’ve improved—

Oh, you mean with the writing?

It’s funny you mention the bit about looking back. With very rare exceptions (usually just to check this or that reference for the sake of consistency across a series), I never read anything of mine after it’s been published. Mostly that’s because I know I’ll just wince, tear it to bits, go on a drinking binge, sink deeply into one of the aforesaid bouts of rage, and go crazy with the adamantium claws and whatnot. On the whole that just seems ill-advised.

It’s a great question, though, and implicitly recognizes that writing really is a craft, something that always can be improved upon, and never really mastered. That’s one of the things that makes it so damn appealing–and sometimes frustrating. In my case, my prose has improved considerably over the years (and still gets a bit better with each book), as has my plotting. Looking back on some of my very earliest work, I see prose that’s solid but not exceptional, and plots that are much more linear than something I’d write today. I didn’t take as many chances with subject matter and point of view then as I do now.

Though to be fair to myself, I think characterization has been a strong suit of mine from day one, so I take pride in that even when giving the stink eye to other aspects of my old work.

2. We’ve both had occasion to write characters other people created. You and the rest of the Sembia team allowed me to include your characters in the final volume of the series, and you and I both wrote Tamlin Uskevren, created by Clayton Emery. What are some of the ups and downs of writing a character you didn’t create? 

Honestly, when I’m writing a character that I didn’t create, they don’t feel entirely mine, so I never feel completely comfortable in their skin (or in their POV). I just don’t know them as well.

When I create my own characters, I try to do a psychological deep-dive into their motivations, drives, insecurities, strengths, the kind of things they may never even recognize in themselves and that may never actually come out in the book, but which have implications for their characterization. When I can’t do that at the outset, there’s a gulf created between me and the character and I can’t ever quite bridge it. I think I can still do good work with a character like that, mind, but it’s not quite the same as creating one from scratch.

I had an experience like this when writing Resurrection, which was the last book in a six book series. In that case each of the six books was written by a different author but featured more or less the same characters. I had a blast writing the book and I’m still proud of the work I did there, but I never felt as at home with those characters as I do with Cale and Riven, or Egil and Nix.

the-godborn3. We both like to write, for lack of a better term, “buddy fantasies.” Where do you draw inspiration for those relationships? Do you feel the term “bromance” applies to sword & sorcery duos?

Hmm. Well, I suppose I draw on classic portrayals in books (Leiber, say) and film (every buddy cop movie ever made, and, perhaps more in line with my style, Eastwood and Freeman in Unforgiven). I also draw on my own real-life friendships and (to a lesser degree) the relationship between my two twin sons.

As for the term “bromance”—if we mean brothers-in-arms, and men who’ll fight and die for one another, then yeah, I think it applies. But there’s a lot of room for maneuvering within that kind of relationship (“Buddy fantasy” covers a lot of ground). The relationship can change over time, or start in different places, or be affected by different things. In my Erevis Cale stories, for example, Cale and Riven begin as bitter rivals and enemies, but over the course of the story their relationship changes, first to a kind of grudging respect, and finally to a brotherhood born out of shared trials. Egil and Nix, on the other hand, start out with a relationship as close as that of twin brothers and so far it’s stayed that way, come what may. Their relationship is the bedrock on which the otherwise chaotic events of their lives play out.

4. You’ve brought some of your characters up from mean beginnings to near godlike stature. How do you keep immensely powerful characters grounded in humanity?

I focus on the small stuff. Riven is enormously powerful by the time of The Godborn, but what people love about him is his snide attitude, his sympathy for the downtrodden, and his love of dogs.

Really gods and very high powered people aren’t interesting because they’re gods or high powered people. They’re interesting for the same reason any protagonist is interesting – because of their internal conflicts, because the reader identifies with their likes and dislikes, their motivations and challenges. It’s only when there’s emotional resonance between character and reader that a reader rejoices in a character’s triumphs and despairs over their failures. Whether a character is really powerful or not is, for the most part, window dressing. You just want that resonance.

5. You’re a well-informed lawyer with political opinions, which sometimes you express online. Have you found yourself more or less likely to post your personal views online after feeling pushback from some of your readers?

Candidly, agreement or disagreement has no effect. I’ve been a politics/policy junkie for a long time, much longer than I’ve been a professional writer, so I have strong, longstanding opinions about a whole host of policy-related things and I’m, uh, happy to share them. Besides, too many people today think that policy doesn’t have much effect on their lives, or that (in America) both major political parties are essentially the same, etc. Neither of those things are true and I’m sometimes vocal in trying to say as much.

Keep tabs on Paul’s latest shenanigans at his website.

And don’t forget to enter the Crossing the Streams contest.