Every time a talented artist illustrates a character I’ve created (or written, in the case of the Devil Dogs, Aurora, and a very special dilettante I’d like you to meet early next year), I’m knocked out. Two illustrations in particular blew me away by not only capturing the character but doing so in a way that made me feel as if I were seeing him for the first time.
Art by Terese Nielsen
The first was when the incomparable Terese Nielsen illustrated Talbot Uskevren. She’d actually done so twice before, on the cover of The Halls of Stormweather and on the first page of “Thirty Days,” my contribution to the anthology. The latter was an unfortunate spoiler, totally not her fault. While selling me the painting, she confided that she found the excessive reference material from the art director annoying. It seemed prudent not to mention that I’d given him all those images of the New Globe! The painting holds a position of honor in the Tom Gross Memorial Cinema, while a sketch of Talbot resides in our library/game room. I don’t think I have the interior illustration, although I recently surprised myself by finding a sketch to Lord of Stormweather while tidying the archives, so who knows? I can no longer trust my memory, which is great for finding treasures during spring cleaning.
Art by Eric Belisle
My second Eureka! moment in illustration was when I first saw the astounding Eric Belisle’s illustration for Count Jeggare. This art predated the first Radovan & the Count novel, appearing with the web fiction short story “The Lost Pathfinder.” I’m not a fan of the enormous ears on Pathfinder elves (sorry, ear fetishists), so I was glad to see something closer to “Vulcan” or LOTR ears on the half-elven count. His striking elven features surprised me for some reason, but the instant I saw them, as well as his haughty expression and posture, I thought Eric had nailed the character. I’ve seen him this way ever since.
I haven’t been keeping count (sorry), but I think Radovan and Varian might both have about three full-color illustrations outside of book covers now. Including the novels, the count might be one illustration ahead.
Do you have a favorite? Or do you have an actor in mind who personifies one of the boys?
Officially, all Pathfinder Tales stories take place in the “ambiguous now.” That’s a literary convenience meant to blunt the feeling that readers must approach the books “in order,” and I support it for that reason. Still, when you write more than one story with characters whose backstories develop over time, chronology becomes important.
Thus, from the very beginning, hoping the boys would last more than one or two outings, I’ve kept notes on important events in the long life of Varian Jeggare and the shorter but eventful life of Radovan. Taking a cue from the Pathfinder campaign book itself, I assumed the year of each story was 47XX, where XX equals the latter digits of our real-world year.
The exceptions are the obvious prequel stories taking place a number of years earlier than the publication date. If you’re keen on the setting, you can estimate the date by references to monarchs, wars, the founding of countries, and the apparent age of notable figures introduced through Adventure Paths or other game material.
Anyway, I’ve got the secret timeline with dates, at least years, for events like the characters’ births, deaths of family members, attendance at the Acadamae, joining the Goatherds, and stuff like that in case one day they become important, as they’ve done several times in the past couple of books.
It’s not that I’m sick of Radovan and the Count—far from it—but I often want to feature other characters in short fiction.
After Prince of Wolves, I pitched a novel featuring Azra, the mute “witch” the boys meet in Ustalav. (Paizo weren’t keen on the idea at the time.) I pitched Master of Devils instead, and since then it’s been all the boys all the time. Sometimes I considered featuring a different character in web fiction, but since that’s really marketing for the next book featuring the boys—and since often it’d kill the suspense to reveal a character’s true nature before the novel begins—I’ve always featured one or both of them.
What’s your feeling? Do you prefer stories featuring Radovan and/or the Count? Or would you like to see what’s happening with some of the other characters they’ve met (or may meet)? Do you enjoy the web stories set in “the past” or prefer those focused on what happens next chronologically? What elements of the novels (action, horror, mystery, humor, and so on) do you most like to see emphasized in the short fiction?
Please keep your suggestions as broad as possible. “Write a story where Azra and Kemeili team up to fight Razmiran cultists” pretty much ensures I’ll never write that story, but “I’d like to see more of the boys in Egorian” or “stories that show Radovan’s criminal past” or “something else with Blackjack” are useful suggestions.
Over at Paizo, Orthos has recently reviewed all four published Radovan & the Count novels. I link to them for a couple of reasons, apart from the fact that they’re positive reviews.
First, Orthos favors Master of Devils and King of Chaos, while it seems most readers prefer the other two. I’ve been disappointed that some readers shy away from Master of Devils because they don’t dig an Asian-style fantasy setting, so I love seeing that someone who shares my enthusiasm for Chinese fantasy has read the book.
Second, Orthos writes some of the most comprehensive reviews I’ve seen at Paizo, so it’s been a thrill to see a new one pop up every few days as he churns through the series. He’s already covered James Sutter’s and my books, so I expect he’ll be moving along to other Pathfinder Tales authors soon.
Check out all of Orthos’ reviews here.
“The Lost Pathfinder” bridges “Hell’s Pawns,” the first appearance of Radovan and the Count, with Prince of Wolves, their first novel.
This self-serving question is for those who’ve read at least two Radovan & the Count stories and/or novels, prompted by a nice comment by a colleague who’s just begun reading them.
With most of the web stories and with at least the first three novels, I’ve tried to do something different each time I return to “the boys.” For instance, in the novels Prince of Wolves comes from my love of classic horror movies; Master of Devils is my mash note to kung fu movies; Queen of Thorns is my take on elfy-welfy quest fantasy (with thanks to Kim Mohan for that term). Among the stories, “A Passage to Absalom” is an obvious tip of the hat to Agatha Christie. And it all began with “Hell’s Pawns,” which bubbled up out of a brain recently steeped in a film noir marathon.
There are many recurring themes and gags—Radovan’s jacket, his way with women; the boss’s changing view of magic, his affinity for arcane books; Arnisant’s loyalty—but I can’t always sum up the series with an elevator pitch.
What’s your view of the “default” Radovan & the Count story? Should they always travel to new locations? Or do they “belong” back in Cheliax? Is it better that the style of story changes with each new location? Or is there a sweet spot where the boys work best for you?
Cover by Tyler Walpole
Elgalla has struck again with a lovely review of King of Chaos, establishing a new record of ten days for reading the four Radovan & the Count novels and posting a substantial review of each. I dare anyone to break that record.
Apart from the delight I take in the positive reviews, it’s always wonderful to see a reader outside of North America enjoy the books. Some of the most enthusiastic reviews of Black Wolf came from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, which I joked was probably because I drew so many character names from those cultures. My secret hope is that I’ll garner enough readers in distant cities to justify a convention visit.
Someone recently asked me why I link my Pathfinder Tales novels to Amazon more often than to Paizo. It’s true, if you buy from Paizo they, and by extension I, make a little more money. I point to Amazon because it reaches more people who aren’t already aware of the books. More people read reviews there, too.
My first choice of where you buy one of my books is always “your local bookstore,” because booksellers remain the greatest champions of writers. But if you want to know where it’s best to post a review, I think it’s Amazon first, Goodreads second, and Paizo third. If you can press CTRL-C and CTRL-V, there’s no reason you can’t post one everywhere.