Paul S. Kemp “Ask Me Anything” Recap

June 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Posted in Angry Robot, Books, Fantasy, Interview, scifi/fantasy, Star Wars, Star Wars Books | 2 Comments

Author Paul S. Kemp did an “Ask Me Anything” chat on reddit which covered a wide array of topics and questions. You can check it out here or our edited recap below.

Paul S. Kemp: I shall now answer the questions in your head but that you’re afraid to ask.

  1. Twice. But I was drunk the second time.
  2. Milla Jovavich.
  3. Of course not. Jesus, man. Get some help.
  4. Seven inches.
  5. Sure, but only if you wore the right kind of boots.

Question to answer 1: have you ever tried to pet an ewok?

PSK: Nice.

Brent Weeks: I was going to ask a question, but in your intro you said you didn’t want any questions from me. Yes, me. ME! The one in the hat. How’d you know I was in a hat? I never wear a hat! I thought it was a clever disguise. Oh, crap. That counts as a question, doesn’t it? Ah! And that, too! Well, never mind. Carry on, sir.

PSK: We meet again, my old nemesis. Last time I saw you, your readers were kicking Cale’s ass in the Suvudu cagematch. I can carry grudge, Weeks. Oh yes I can. :-)

Any particular story behind where the names Egil and Nix came from?

PSK: Alas, no. Egil is from “Egil’s Saga,” and epic that I translated from Old English in Law School. Nix just fit.

Do you find that your career in law helps educate all of these criminal rogues you seem to keep writing about? Do you find it hard to side with your lawbreaking characters?

PSK: All lawyers are criminals at heart, brother. It’s easy to get in the heads of the lawbreakers. :-)

Before I end up criticizing it in my review of A Discourse in Steel, I’ll give you a chance to defend how ‘The Upright Man’ isn’t just a copy/paste in concept from The Righteous Man what’s up with that?

PSK: It’s actually a concept older than either of those books. The term “Upright Man” is just old guild cant for the leader of the guild. I didn’t make it up. I tweaked it in the FR novels to “Righteous Man” because he was a spell-casting priest and I though it fit better in that case. But they both derive from the same term in old thieves’ cant.

Someone is breaking into your house in the middle of the night, and you have a rope, a can of spray cheese, and a ten-pound dumbbell handy. What do you do?

PSK: I say to him that his life is forfeit unless he walks this tightrope I’ve strung up while holding this ten pound weight over his head while I spray him in the face with Cheez Whiz. Also, he must do those things while singing In A Godda Davita. Backwards. Begin.

Do you have any update on your Star Wars duology that was announced back in 2010? We currently know next to nothing about it. Are there any details you can share or do you at least know when we will get some details? Any sort of vague time-frame of when it will be released?

PSK: I wish I could say something. Here’s the thing: The Disney deal and announcement of the new movies is a big deal. I’m on standby at the moment. That’s about all I can say. :-/

First off, I just wanted to say that I was a huge fan and thanks for the great books you have put out to help keep me entertained. With the Cale series, I really enjoyed the dark feel you were able to show. Ever since reading this series of books, I find myself looking for other books where the hero does not fit the “Good” alignment. There are a rather small number of books out there that are able to hold the reader while still retaining its dark nature. Do you find this tone a challenge, or does this make it that much more enjoyable to write knowing that you can get away with more from the main characters that other authors?

PSK: I don’t find the tone a challenge. It just fits my sensibilities. I know that’s not much of an answer, but there it is.

If Cale were to wear a glove, would not the shadows under the cloth (avoiding spoilers here) fill in the blanks of anything that might be missing?

PSK: I think they would, yes

If you could pit Cale against any of the other great D&D heroes out there, who would it be and what do you think the outcome would be?

PSK: Man, I never venture into that him v. him kinda thing. The winner is just a function of who’s writing the scene. :-)

Hi Paul, I have a question. The friendship and trust shown in the first book between Egil and Nix is incredibly well written. Do you have a similar friendship you based them on?

PSK: I do. Being candid (and let’s just get all warm and fuzzy here, why don’t we?), I’m a bit of an introvert and have not a ton of friends. But those I have I’m very close with and value enormously. Egil and NIx are very much in that vein.

What is your favorite fan moment from over the years?

PSK: For my favorite, I’ve got two groupings: I’ve heard from readers with serious illnesses who’ve said that my books have helped them get through rough times. Behind that, I’ve heard from servicemen and servicewomen who’ve told me the books helped them get through the boredom/fear/drudgery of deployment. Those are just incredible emails to receive.

The strangest?

PSK: I had a female fan who got very fixated on Darth Malgus (from Deceived) and seemed to be conflating me with the character in correspondence. I finally had to tell her (gently) that I wasn’t my characters, that she was moving into inappropriate territory, etc.

I really enjoyed The Hammer and The Blade and how well it honors the sword & sorcery genre. It has been tough to find good, new S&S writing lately. Do you see it as being a bit out of favor?

PSK: I don’t see S&S as out of favor, but I think it’s often misunderstood and/or under interpreted. Lots of reviewers seem to assume books that are so much damn fun can’t also have something to say. Those reviewers are, you know, wrong.

Any newer recommendations you might have?

PSK: John Sprunk’s Shadow series, Doug Hulick’s Among Thieves, Howard Andrew Jones’ work. All winners.

Have you written other stories in the same world as the Egil & Nix?

PSK: A couple, yes. They appear in Ephemera, a collection of my short stories. Those set in the same world as Egil and Nix are “The Spinner” and “Confession”. They’re set in slightly different times, however.

I know, as of now, you have no plans for Star Wars at the moment. If they called you tomorrow and said you can choose any place in the current EU to write in, what era would you most want to write in?

PSK: I prefer writing in the eras that have had very little development. So I’d be looking at something in the future or something in the distant past (Old Republic or earlier).

Plug: I highly suggest picking up Ephemera. Lots of great stories in that one. Paul has a great handle on Lovecraftian horror.

PSK: Loves me some HPL, I do. Just reread “The Shadow Out of Time” not long ago. Just brilliant.

What’s your all time favorite fantasy series?

PSK: Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser tales.

What convinced you to start writing and especially for Forgotten Realms?

PSK: More happenstance than anything. I loved the Realms and they held an open call at the time I was thinking seriously about writing. Once I started, I just couldn’t quit, man. :-)

Whenever you prepare yourself to right a book, what kind of thought process to you go through to organize your ideas and plots for your story? Ie: outlines, or write w/e comes into your head and feels right, etc

PSK: I always work from detailed outlines, but while building the outline, I usually just sketch ideas and snippets of dialog and whatnot as it comes to me. Once it reaches a critical mass, I sort it into an actual outline and off I go.

How much time do you spend on worldbuilding as opposed to writing your stories?

PSK: Depends on the novel. In the Egil and Nix novels, I’m more interested in dialog and pacing and action than I am in writing a gazeteer of the world. Instead, I leave some of the world implied, with lots of “hooks” to grab a reader’s imagination (Ool’s Clock, the Archbridge, the Demon Wastes, etc.). Then I let the world open up gradually for the reader.

In other settings (even shared settings like FR), I’ve done a lot of world (or at least city) building ahead of time, because some of the nitty gritty details of the setting were important to the story.

Hey Paul, who are the modern fantasy authors that you look up to the most, and what’s so great about what they’re doing?

PSK: I admire Mieville enormously. The man’s prose is unmatched and his imagination is just incredible.

Hi Paul, when you’re not working on your own projects, do you turn to other fantasy novelists, or do you prefer to get out of the fantasy worlds?

PSK: It varies. There are times when I want to read something mainstream (like Daniel Woodrell, say), but I invariably return to genre. I sort of clear my palate with something non-genre, then go on a genre binge (though I’m a slow reader, so “binge” isn’t exactly a breakneck pace in my case).

What was the first thought or idea or scene that led you to write The Hammer and the Blade?

PSK: The opening sequence. I conceptualized it very much like the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Top three favorite whiskeys?

PSK: Ardbeg, Taliskers, and Jamesons (which is blended and not expensive but very solid for a very modest price; drinking one now).

Top two favorite books?

PSK: McCarthy’s The Road, Leiber’s Fafhrd and Mouser Tales (can’t pick one so I’m cheating and naming them all).

Top one favorite font in word?

PSK: Unholy. Maybe you meant something else? ;-)

I need some days off work so I can read all the books I want to, including A Discourse in Steel. What’s the best sick day excuse you can think of, Paul?

PSK: I killed my last boss, who gave me a hard time about sick days, and I need a day off to clean up the blood. Is that all right?

Mr. Kemp, if you could choose a motion picture from the elements of science fiction, fantasy or horror; which would you personally like to officially novelize? (or re-novelize?)

PSK: Inception. Because then I could be certain what the hell happened at the end. :-)

Dear Paul, Your books inspired me to keep going during a very hard part of my life, so I’d like to thank you. And since I suppose I had better ask a question, how did you come to work for WotC? Like did you do a lot of work beforehand for other publishers or was WotC your first big deal? Thanks!

PSK: Actually, I only had a couple professional short story sales to my name before I signed with WotC. I got on board with them by submitting a chapter of a trunk novel in response to an open sub they had going at the time. Erevis Cale (and 10 Cale novels and running) came out of it. Can’t complain. :-)

What is your 30 second sales pitch for your books?

PSK: Everyone who reads my novels gets free whiskey! Also, they’re fun, deceptively layered, and I know how to bring it.

I read your blog regularly. Did P90x get you to your goal of having Mrs. Kemp say Dayum I am married to that?

PSK: On not less than two occasions, Mrs. Kemp has seen me shirtless and said, “Damn. You look GOOD.” :-)

Your Everis Cale write ups for Suvudu 2012 cage match ups were fun. Were they as fun to write as they were to read?

PSK: They were a lot of fun to write, yes. I wish I could have finished that run out with a showdown against Rake. I had a fun idea in store. Woe.

You are trapped in a death match with another speculative fiction author. Who would you pick? Why would you pick them?

PSK: Chuck Wendig or Chris Holm, because I know with either of them the deathmatch would be instantly converted to a contest of Tequila shots. And everybody wins there.

I’ll be awaiting my whiskey, thanks. ;)

PSK: Argh. Hoisted on my own petard.

No questions, just wanted to tell you I absolutely loved Crosscurrent although I haven’t been able to get my hands on Riptide yet :C Thanks for your contribution to a universe that’s very near and dear to me!

PSK: Much obliged. FWIW, I think Riptide is my best Star Wars novel.

Are you actually Chuck Wendig without the beard? 

PSK: I have a beard! Chuck and I are not the same but I do regard him as a kindred spirit. A sweary, drinky, kindred spirit.

Serious question….. Outlining, do you do it, or do you free flow write? Longhand or strictly typing?

PSK: I always outline. Writers who don’t outline are not to be trusted. ;-)

You have A beard, not THE beard. ;)

PSK: That’s a fair point. :-)

How much do you feel your interests in literature, television, film, music and such influence your writing? I know these things shape my creative endeavors, wondering if I’m alone in this. The “2 + 2 is always 4” quote always made me think of Twin Peaks, for instance. Btw, HUGE fan of everything since Resurrection, keep it up!

PSK: Thanks, Stanley. It’s a huge influence. Huge. Whatever I’m consuming at the moment (mediawise) invariably leaks into my writing, so much so that I try to be mindful of what I’m watching/reading/listening to while writing particular works. So, while I wrote Crosscurrent, I was watching Firefly and BSG, and the influence of both if pretty obvious in both books.

Another example: With the Cale stories, I watch Deadwood. In my mind, Riven is Bullock.

You have to choose one whiskey to drink forever. Go.

PSK: Taliskers.

Would you become a Shade if you could?

PSK: No.

Are you still the king of condiments, namely ketchup?

PSK: My reign over condiments everywhere is UNQUESTIONED.

What’s a slubber?

PSK: “Slubber” is a term of disrespect, used to diminish/minimize the subject.

Do they say ‘fak’ all the time for fear of censorship or some kind of ratings/sales issue? Is anybody fooled by the alternate spelling?

PSK: The goal isn’t to fool. It’s just an alternative. Though part of it is an obvious work around for the use of “fuck.”

Even if just in your head, how well developed is the world in which the Egil & Nix Tales take place? Just the city and the surrounding couple days travel? Or are there whole continents out there in notes somewhere?

PSK: A lot is bumping around in notes and in my head, particularly the big, historical events.

Paul, I have yet to read any of your books…. what book (not your favorite) of yours has the best chance of getting me hooked?

PSK: The Hammer and the Blade. Just read the first chapter. You’ll know right away if you’re going to love it.

What are you reading right now?

PSK: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars.

What author inspired you the most?

PSK: Leiber, followed by Moorcock, followed by Howard, followed by a few others, including Salvatore.

Wikipedia says you are best known as an author of Forgotten Realms novels. You and the Drizzle dude are locked in a room together and told only one of you can leave. How do you determine who gets freedom?

PSK: I challenge him to a contest: “Pronounce your name correctly and you can leave. Otherwise, I leave.” No one can pronounce Drizz’t correctly. I’m free, Jerry. AND I’M LOVIN’ IT!

Hey Paul! What is your opinion on Gene Wolfe as a writer?

PSK: He’s excellent.

Hi, Paul. Ever considered taking a shot at writing comics (either tie-in or creator owned)? Do you read any comics/have a favorite comic?

PSK: I haven’t read comics in a very long time. My favorite in my late teens was Daredevil. I tend to favor the scrappy, highly trained, relatively low powered guys.

I’d love to see some of my novels adapted into comics. Not sure if I’d be the right guy to write them, though. Different format. I once tried my hand at writing for video games — I stunk at it. Different skill set from writing fiction.

I would not say “no” to an Erevis Cale graphic novel.

PSK: It almost happened some years back, but alas, fell through. Never know, though. :-)

What’s your thoughts on digital format? How about with music as well?

PSK: Uh, I’m not sure I understand the question.

Ebooks are obviously changing the publishing landscape. I like that ebooks have essentially a perpetual shelf life, which means authors can build a backlist like never before. On the other hand, self-publishing has resulted in a flood of really bad books on the market, which can make it hard for readers to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Are you more or less smart?

PSK: Yes (more or less).

Any plans for short stories in the Egil & Nix world?

PSK: Eventually, yes. But writing short stories is a different thing than novels and I’m, uh, less good at it. I much prefer the longer form.

In your 10 Questions on Chuck Wendig’s blog, you mentioned Doc Savage. I’ve been interested to read some of those. Any favorites?

PSK: I read Doc Savage so long ago that it evokes more of a feeling anymore, than a detailed recollection. Devils of the Deep, maybe? The Annihilist?

Wife and I are having our 4th child in January.. don’t know the sex yet. Any suggestions for an awesome name?

PSK: Oh, man, that’s putting me on the spot. Boy: Jack. Girl: Grace.

Funny thing: My sons are Roarke and Riordan. My daughter is Delaney. We’ve got a fourth on the way, a girl. If we give her a name that starts with D, I can rightfully refer to my kids as R2D2. :-)

Ha thanks for the reply. I’ll let the wife know the options. Love your Forgotten Realms work, so i went and picked up The Hammer and the Blade on the way home. If it’s as good add I expect, I’ll grab the sequel tomorrow!

PSK: Rock on, man. If you’ve enjoyed my FR work, I think you’ll dig Egil and Nix.

Hello, Paul! I am a big fan of your Star Wars novels, especially the two Jaden Korr books. I was wondering, if you had any advice for a beginning writer who knows WHAT he wants to write, but doesn’t know how/where to start.

PSK: This will sound trite and maybe a little glib but here it is: Stop thinking about it, stop asking other writers questions about it, and actually sit down and write. That’s the hard part. The very, very hardest part. All smart, imaginative people have lots of ideas and so on and so forth. But if you want to be a writer, the great secret is that one must actually write. Go for it, man.

Pants, are they really the greatest arch nemesis of writers?

PSK: No. The actual arch-nemesis of writers is Og, the Scaled Beast of Nar. Pants are only his nefarious tools. Little known fact: Levi Strauss was a secret cultist of Og. As was Gloria Vanderbilt. Look it up.

What band/musicians would be the soundtrack for EGIL AND NIX and for Erevis Cale?

PSK: For Egil and Nix: AC/DC, with a smattering of GNR (every time they enter Dur Follin, we get Axl screaming: “You know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby.”

For Cale: Led Zeppelin with occasional bits of the most psychedelic of Pink Floyd’s catalog (the latter especially when Cale and crew visit the Shadowfell).

If those crazy kids over at Suvudu asked you write a Star Wars book again and you had to pick ANY era, what era would you pick and why?

PSK: Anything that’s not well developed — Old Republic again, further back in the past than that, far into the future.

Please tell me The Sundering happens because Cyric kicks a puppy in Riven’s presence. Even if that’s not what’s going to happen that’s the explanation I’m going to stick with.

PSK: Have you read ARCs of the novels? That’s right on, man. NO ONE KICKS A PUPPY IN RIVEN’S PRESENCE OR THE WORLD SUFFERS.

Do you do any fantasy gaming? D&D etc, or Console/PC games?

PSK: I used to play D&D regularly (usually as DM), but life has gotten in the way of gaming in recent years. Hoping to remedy that at some point.

As for console games: I restrict myself to shooters for the most part, so I don’t get too invested in story. They have stories, true, but you can just log on, shoot some shit, then log off and not feel like you MUST go on (e.g. Gears of War 3).

Mr.Kemp I thought you once talked about doing a super hero novel or am I mistaken? Also would you ever run for political office?

PSK: I have an outline for a super hero novel. At some point, I’ll write the first few chapters and shop it. Love to write it someday.

I used to think about running for office, but with all the shit I’v said on the internet now, I’d be an easy target for oppo researchers. :-) Instead I just opine (strongly) on various matters of policy.

Mr. Kemp, it’s so nice to have you. I have read all of your cale books and am looking forward to godborn. Is there a place me and my friends should preorder it to help you out more?

PSK: Order from whichever place is best for you. I’ll be fine whichever way you go. :-)

My favorite character is Riven, hands down. I love his coldbloodledness(<–not a word) while having a relationship with his dogs. And just his character devoplopment in general. Brilliant.

I have one major concern for The Godborn and it is that I read all those books a long time ago. I hope there will be some sort of reminder/spring our memory moments in The Godborn from past events. It got rather complicated at the end. I remember most I think but I have to think hard. 

PSK: There are some callbacks to refresh memories in The Godborn, but not too many. That said, I think you won’t have any problem following along.

Also, Alebar? The paladin guy from the last trilogy was the man. I loved him and I hope you have plans for him in the future.

PSK: Abelar is a favorite of mine, too. Take what meaning from that you will. :-)

I really liked The Hammer and the Blade, but, um… did you intend that readers should feel morally disturbed by that thing that the protagonists arrange to have happen to the villain at the end? Yeah, I know that they didn’t seem to have a lot of other options… but not having other options was more or less the villain’s argument to justify himself all along.

PSK: Yes. I try to make the point that Egil and Nix are disturbed by it enough to ask each other if they’ve done the right thing. It’s something they’ll have to live with from now on.

It’s also (to get a bit meta) an attempt to bring full circle the theme of the novel (which I won’t get into for spoilerly reasons).

Hey, I’ve been hooked on Angry Robot books for several months, and your Egil and Nix books are among my favorite selections from their catalogue (which is of a surprisingly astounding quality). How did you get set up with Angry Robot? Were you just shopping around when you checked them out, or did you seek them out in particular?

PSK: I noticed Angry Robot as soon as the press release announcing their formation went out and asked my agent to submit there.

As you are a whisky man, what is your opinion of Laphroig? If you do not have an opinion, I have a bottle I’d be willing to split.

PSK: I LOVE Laphroiag. :-)

One last aside, thanks for maintaining such an active presence in social media. You replying to two tweets of mine in 24 hours made my fakking day.

PSK: You bet.

Paul Kemp, I purchased your books yesterday and will start on them ASAP. I am especially excited to listen to Nick Podehl’s sweet, sweet pipes serenade me as I drive to work. My question is simple: on a scale of “1” to “Chad Kroeger”, how awful is Brent Weeks’ goatee?

PSK: Well, given my goatee, I think I must respond to this question with a duck and cover. :-)

I forgot to as this question earlier. I am mainly into fantasy stuff when it comes to shows/games/books. Slowly but surely there has been a sci-fi love developing within. The only world I know very well is Mass Effect. As for Star Wars is concerned, I have only watched the movies a couple of times. I’ve always contemplated picking up the Star Wars novels you have written but I don’t know where to begin with them. Any advice you can give me of which book to pick up first? or are each book a standalone of its own?

PSK: I’d suggest Crosscurrent and then Riptide.

One thing I loved about the Cale series was the bond he and Riven developed. How they moved from enemies to a place where they had a common goal and from there it felt like they became brothers. Was all of that planned in the outline?

PSK: If not in the outline, at least in my head. Cale and Riven have always been separated by only a thin line. Each is very similar to the other and secretly respects the other. It was inevitable that they’d eventually grow closer. They understand one another too well not to.

As always, you can find out more about Paul S. Kemp and his novel on his site, or you can follow him on Twitter or Facebook. If you’d like to check out his latest novel, A Discourse in Steel, you can find the links right here (and the eBook links here).

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.


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  1. […] If it’s effecting Kemp – who has generally stayed away from movie characters – could it be a factor in why we haven’t heard much about Sword of the Jedi as well? Note that nothing that has been scheduled – aside from next week’s Crucible – is set any later than Empire. We knew this was a possibility, so stay tuned… (via) […]

  2. […] In the course of promoting the release of the second book in his original sword-and-sorcery series, Paul Kemp was asked about the status of his future Star Wars work and explained that it’s currently “on standby.” Thanks to Roqoo Depot for spotting the comments. […]

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