Interview with Riptide author Paul S. Kemp

October 25, 2011 at 7:24 am | Posted in Interview, Star Wars Books | 3 Comments

In order to kick start the release of Star Wars: Riptide, we interviewed Paul S. Kemp to pick his mind on a range of topics. From his non-Star Wars works to Riptide, the questions vary in subject matter and do include a few spoiler questions. However, the spoiler questions have been placed at the very end of the interview for those who are avoiding spoilers and there’s a nice warning to give you a heads up. Without further ado, here is our Star Wars author interview with Paul S. Kemp.

In your short story collection Ephemera, you wrote several stories with Lovecraft themes.  What’s your favorite Lovecraft story?

PK:  The Dreamquest of Unknown Kath.  It’s so wildly imaginative that each time I read it I find something else to marvel at.

What was your inspiration for Marlboro Man? Do you ever plan on picking up that story again?

PK:  That story seems to have stuck a chord with readers of Ephemera.  I’ve gotten a lot of fan mail about it.  I don’t think I can point to any one thing that served as inspiration.  Most of my writing features religious themes to one degree or another, and in Marlboro Man those ideas are plain.  I was a bit taken with the idea of an angel (maybe) going through an existential crisis, not because God doesn’t exist, but because God doesn’t care.

In the Erevis Cale Omnibus, Cale becomes a powerful character.  What kind of guidelines or restrictions did you put on yourself when writing that character to keep you from getting too carried away?

PK: You know I’m not sure that power level is all important when it comes to writing a story. Whether a character is personally quite powerful or quite weak, the trick is to keep set up a compelling conflict with a worthy antagonist, and you can do that irrespective of a character’s power level.  It’s true, however, that the form of conflict takes vary as the power level of those involved varies, but that.

Egil and Nix is getting a new story next year.  How does this duo compare to other heroic (or anti-heroic) duos in literature?

PK:  Hmm. The Egil and Nix stories (beginning with The Hammer and the Blade, to be published by Angry Robot in August 2012) draw on the classic sword and sorcery stories that I’ve loved since I was a teen, but told through my own stylistic lens.  So they harken to the stories of Fafhrd and Grey Mouse, the Elric stories, Conan (to a lesser degree), and the Thieves World’s anthologies, they still feature the gritty tone and religious/moral themes (the role of faith, fate vs. determinism, ends vs. means, and so forth).   Unsurprisingly, then, are elements of Fafhd and Conan in Egil, the Mouser and Shadowspawn in Nix, and yet they still (I hope) a fresh take on those archetypes.

Does your wife read your novels? If so, is there any particular series or story that she likes best?

PK:  She does, and she’s enjoyed them all one degree to another.  But I think she enjoyed DECEIVED the most, and I’m not surprised by that.  Much of my work features hyper masculine protagonists (Cale, Riven, Khedryn, etc.) doing hyper masculine things.  DECEIVED was a bit of a departure from that, and I think that worked for her.

What’s the last good book you’ve read?

PAUL S. KEMP:  KRAKEN, by China Mieville.  Wildly imaginative implied world, incredible prose, and a fun story.  I recommend someone read something by Mieville at least once.  He’s not for everyone, but I think he’s such a unique writer that everyone should experience one of his books.

What’s the most challenging character you’ve written?

PK:  The Sojourner, the antagonist from the Erevis Cale Trilogy, who was an ancient, amoral, inscrutable being of enormous power.  Trying to capture the enigmatic nature of his mental processes while still making him (and his motives) understandable was tough.

You’ve done several characters that are very mathematical in nature.  For instance Marr is big on math, as is the Sephris in the Erevis Cale novels.  Is there an interesting reason behind that?

PSK: Well, I always say that I went to law school to avoid math, but at the same time I’ve always been fascinated with the implications of advanced mathematics in interpreting the world.  I read a lot of “physics for laymen” books (by authors like Brian Greene, Hawking, and the like) and find them engrossing.  I think mathematics as the language that describes the creation and operation of the universe, and when I think about it that way, it connects in my mind with concepts like truename and arcane formulae.  I find that connection (abeit a fanciful one) fun to play with, so I enjoy using characters like Marr and (especially) Sephris, who see the world through the filter of their mathematical genius and therefore have a different take on events.

Was there any constrictive criticism from Crosscurrent and Deceived that you really took to heart when writing Riptide?

PSK:  Not so much.  I’ve been doing this for awhile and have to come to trust my voice and storytelling abilities (informed by feedback from my editors, of course).  Every story is going to work  for some readers and not for others.  Ideally, there are many more of the former than the latter, but all you can do as an author is tell the best story you can.

How do you like working with clones?

PSK:  They were a temperamental bunch, prima donnas really, but in the end we managed to work together pretty well.

Now for some question that you might not be able to answer…

Is there going to be another Jaden Korr book?

PSK:  Alas, I can’t answer that.  I can say that I’m contracted to do more Star Wars books for Del Rey, but I can’t discuss subject matter just yet.

And now for something completely different…

Which do you like better: Ewoks or Hutts? Which would win a fight?

PSK:  Well, Ewoks are cute and annoying, plus they damn those drums incessantly. The Hutts, on the other hand, are kind of gross and drool a lot.  So if I had to pick, I’ll go with the cute and annoying Ewoks.  As for who’d win in the fight? Neither. The Hutt would eat the Ewok by swallowing him whole, and the Ewok body would deliver a lethal hairball for the Hutt.  Both would die cursing the other, though the Ewok at least would be cute while doing so.






In Riptide, you never answered what Mother really was, though you left plenty of hints and possibilities. Can you give a definitive answer or did you want to leave that up to the readers?

PSK: With an entity like Mother, I think she works best when some mystery adheres to her nature.  I know this can be tough for some readers, especially for Star Wars readers, many of whom want each and every detail of continuity spelled out in encyclopedic detail, but I think elements of mystery in the setting preserve a sense of wonder and give us all things to speculate about.

Why did the One Sith want to replace Jaden? Or is that something you want to explore further in future novels?

PSK: Are you sure it’s “Jaden” they wanted to replace?

You made a rather interesting choice with Jaden in the book. Recently you posted about intellectual and emotional threads in writing. Was Jaden’s fate an intellectual or emotional move (or both)?

PSK: Jaden’s story in RIPTIDE has emotional closure (or at least I attempted to give it that) but not intellectual closure, in that once we learn what’s going on, a whole host of other questions arise.  In fact, the big implication of the novel has been little discussed by early reviewers (though I did get one email asking me about it).  I’ll be interested to see if there’s more discussion of that point after the official release date.

Throughout Riptide the characters often state that people are not equations, yet wouldn’t the technology used at the end of the book be a result of scientists breaking people down into equations in order to get their tech to work?

PSK: Ah, but I think that was the mistake made by the scientists.  Human (or clone) emotions and moral thinking can’t be reduced to equations or simple analysis.  My intent with having the characters making those points was to highlight that complexity.

We’d like to thank Paul again for taking the time to answer our questions, and we hope everyone enjoys Star Wars: Riptide. We also recommend that you check out Paul’s website Paul S. Kemp, Fictioneer.

Posted by: Skuldren and Dancelittleewok.  All the latest Star Wars interviews


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