Monday, November 5, 2012

Forgotten Realms Author~Erik Scott de Bie Interview

As many of you who regularly read my blog may already know, I met several of the Forgotten Realms authors at GENCON 2011. It was an amazing time and I was particularly lucky to speak with Erik Scott de Bie for an hour or so about writng, etc. 

Over the last year or so, I have corresponded with Erik and he has been kind enough to help me out and continues to encourage me to press on. That being said, I asked him if he would grace Eye on Ashenclaw here with an interview and he agreed. Now we may all know what it is like to work for Ed Greenwood!

How did you get involved in the Forgotten Realms setting?

When I was 12 I read a novel called Darkwalker on Moonshae, the first Forgotten Realms novel ever published, which started my crush on the setting. But it wasn’t until the next year, when a friend of mine handed me a copy of Elfshadow and we started up a Forgotten Realms campaign that I fell in love with it. I’ve been into the setting ever since.
I first started writing in the Realms professionally for the Maiden of Pain open call, which I didn’t win, but my sample caught the eye of then WotC book department head Peter Archer and editor Phil Athans. They kept me in mind for a limited call, which became my first novel Ghostwalker.

How is it working with Ed Greenwood?
Ed Greenwood is an extremely intelligent, classy, genuine person. I’ve met few people as good at making you feel welcome, and he can (and will) literally talk to anyone for any length of time. He’s a good friend and colleague to have. Also, having Ed’s email is indispensible for Realmslore questions.

Give us a brief synopsis of your book(s)
My Shadowbane series is an ongoing quest of my vigilante paladin Kalen “Shadowbane” Dren--a thief who turned to a life of noble struggle against evil. Shadowbane: Eye of Justice, the third in the series, sees Kalen return to Westgate, the city where he grew up, in part to redeem the Eye of Justice (the organization that trained him), in part to find a lost friend. It also tells the story of Myrin Darkdance, an amnesiac wizard and Kalen’s best friend, who recovers some surprising pieces of her forgotten past. And, of course, their respective quests are complicated by the interference of a dangerous and mysterious elf shadowdancer.

When did you start writing? What inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing fiction since I was 8 or so (I wrote an epic galactic war story between two alien races, illustrated by yours truly), but I started writing seriously in 7th grade. My first story was meant to be ten pages and ended up being closer to fifty. I wrote my first novel in high school as a reaction against being bored out of my mind in honors chemistry class. And I’ve been writing a novel or two a year ever since.

If your books were made into a movie, who would play the roles?
That is a dream/nightmare question! I’ve had very vivid images of characters in my mind as I’ve been working. For instance, Arya from Ghostwalker should be played by Charlize Theron (circa The Italian Job), while the ghostwalker himself would be Ed Norton (circa Fight Club), Lord Dharan Greyt would be Alan Rickman (circa Harry Potter mid series), Lyetha Elfsdaughter would be Gwyneth Paltrow, and Meris Wayfarer would be Orlando Bloom. Ilira “Fox-at-Twilight” Nathalan (Depths of Madness, Shadowbane series) should be played by Evangeline Lilly (unless Elaine gets her for Arilyn Moonblade) or Olivia Wilde. When it comes to the Shadowbane series, Kalen I see as Chris Evans (Captain America) or Chris Hemsworth (Thor) or perhaps Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the detective from Batman Begins, or the main character in Looper), while Myrin should be someone like Zoe Saldana (Star Trek).

What would be your choice for a superpower?
Teleportation. So much of our life is lost in transit. Also, it’s just awesome.

Who is your favorite author?
Neil Gaiman. For reasons that should be obvious to anyone who has read Neil’s work. He hooked me with Sandman (particularly book 4, Season of Mists), and I really like Anansi Boys: funny and exciting and clever all at once. The thing about his work is that it seems effortless.

What are you reading now?
Right now I’m working on Bullied by Carrie Goldman (a non-fiction book about bullying and how to prevent it), The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule (a non-fiction book about Ted Bundy), Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (a fantasy novel and the first of Sanderson’s popular Mistborn series), and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (a philosophical novel about an architect and a substantial basis for the philosophy of Exceptionalism). I pair that with a lot of comic book trades that I go through in about an hour or so: X-Men, Avengers, Wonder Woman, those are my favorites. So pretty diverse, I guess.

Who is your favorite character to write?
That’s really tough, because I thoroughly enjoy all my characters. The ones I don’t enjoy are the ones who get the dead in short order.
Of my Realms work, I love writing the protagonists from my Shadowbane series a great deal. My favorite is probably the elf shadowdancer Ilira “Fox-at-Twilight” Nathalan, whose evolving outlook/status fascinates me: over the course of a century, she changes from a sly, witty, party girl into a more mature, dark, sensuous, treacherous noblewoman. She is sexy and kick-ass the whole time, but in different ways at different points in her life. I also really enjoy writing about Myrin, because she’s surrounded by lies, secrets, and intrigue, which I unravel gradually. Kalen really excites me when I get to talk about his struggles with his faith and his calling, and I also really love watching him kick the tar out of a bad guy. And there’s a special place in my heart for the thoroughly duplicitous but noble Lilten, whose powers are complex and cool and whose history is a bottomless well of intrigue. And she’s not a Shadowbane character, but Aryande (from “Body in a Bag,” from Realms of the Dead) is great fun to write.

Outside the Realms, I like writing about the protagonists from my World of Ruin series--Regel, Ovelia, and Mask--who have cool triangles of tension and loyalty that make them a fun challenge. My con artist bard Tarrant Akayn from my Pathfinder writing is also a favorite. I also really enjoy my flamboyant gun-mage “M,” which is short for Morgan (from the story “Witch Fire” in Beauty Has Her Way) and my wacky mad scientist Circe (from “Dr. Circe and the Separatist Man-Cheetahs” in Growing Dread: Biopunk Visions). And of course, Stardust and Lady Vengeance (from my superhero novella “Eye for an Eye,” in Cobalt City Double Feature) are unmatched in sheer geeky glee.
See? I just love all of my characters.

Do you have a writing process?
I am such a disorganized writer. I write when I have time, usually listening to music, often with a cat and/or dog curled up next to me, and occasionally with a scotch on the rocks in my hand. Which makes the typing somewhat slower but is totally worth it.

What do you do when you aren’t writing?
Work, game, design. I have a full-time day job as a tech writer contractor for the Boeing Company, which keeps me busy between 30-40 hours a week. I run twice-monthly 4th Edition D&D Forgotten Realms and an Academy X-themed superhero campaigns, and I play in two different twice-monthly 4e D&D campaigns, as well as a rotating game night with some gaming industry folks. I also moonlight as a professional game designer for D&D (Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea, Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond, Neverwinter Campaign Setting, and several DDI articles and D&D Encounters seasons) and recently for Margaret Weis’s Marvel Heroic Roleplaying system (I’m a minor contributor to the Civil War books and one of the primary authors of the forthcoming Age of Apocalypse event books). And I try to find time to hang out with friends, play video games, and spend with my wife and our cats and dog.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Try and stop. If there’s any way you can be happy not writing, do that. If there isn’t, well, then my condolences, but you are doomed to be a writer.
I say this because writing is a tough business. It grinds your heart and soul right out of you, causes headaches and stress disorders, and makes you lose countless hours of sleep. You can give it your all and you still meet with rejection after rejection, and the odds are you still won’t be financially successful.
Do not write for the money. Do not write for the respect. Do not write for the history books.
Write because you enjoy telling stories. Write because you like providing good things for people to read. Write because you have to--because there is nothing else you can do that will make you quite as happy as writing.
Write for you, and no one else.
Do not give up. This will be hard, and more discouraging than any other quest you can undertake. You have to have that drive that will not let you back down or give up, that will force you back up off the mat after every single knock-down punch. You have to believe in the quality of your work, believe that you will find an audience, and believe that you will succeed. At the same time, you need to listen to feedback, constantly tweak your work to make it better, and have enough self-respect to hire a decent editor for yourself.
Also, do not neglect your family, friends, or responsibilities. You’re going to suffer, but don’t make yourself a martyr.
For more specific advice, check out this post on my blog:

What sets your books apart from others of the genre?
My work is very genre bending. My first book, Ghostwalker, was a fantasy western, wherein a cloaked hero swept into an isolated frontier town to avenge himself against the men who killed him fifteen years previous. Sort of High Plains Drifter in the Forgotten Realms. My second book, Depths of Madness, was a fantasy horror story along the lines of Saw: a group of characters awaken in a dungeon, not knowing each other, and have to work together to escape.
My Shadowbane series is kind of superhero fantasy fiction: the characters are larger than life and are often brought low by flaws both human and superhuman. The main character, Kalen Dren a.k.a. Shadowbane is sort of the “Batman of the Realms,” a thief turned vigilante paladin who acts the part of a mild-mannered guardsman by day but dons black leathers and a cloak to fight evil the guard can’t touch by night.
My World of Ruin series is high fantasy, but it’s also post-apocalyptic and a little bit cyberpunk with strong environmental themes. The story is set two thousand years after a magical war wiped out most of the people of the world. The long-ago fallen empire has left behind airships and warmachines (mostly clanking and on the verge of breaking down since no one remembers how to build them), as well as magic-enhanced relics that put out smoke that pollutes the world. Magic stands in for fuels--fossil, nuclear, etc.--and technology is warped by magic going into its construction. Against this backdrop, I weave a story that is high fantasy but also so deeply based in the characters’ interpersonal relationships and intrigues.
A final point about my work in the Realms specifically: Since I’ve grown up in the setting, I have a particularly wide view of the setting. I thread all kinds of references and homages through my work which are subtle enough to be missed by a casual or first-time reader, but which a seasoned Realms fan will pick up on and appreciate. Maybe that makes me just a geek. You decide. :)

Is it true you’re writing the fourth, as-yet-uncontracted book in the Shadowbane series?
You guessed it! Wizards has not yet contracted me to write another book (their resources are invested in their large-scale Sundering event), and doing so is a nebulous “in the future” arrangement. I’ve decided that the story needs an ending (maybe not THE end, but a possible end), and I might as well write it while it’s fresh in my mind. So I’m just writing the fourth book, which is called (working title) SHADOWBANE: KINGDOM OF NIGHT. I’m hoping that eventually WotC wants the book, and will jump at the chance to buy a fully realized and edited manuscript. And hey, if you want to help make sure that happens, check out my website for ideas how to help support the series:

Where can we find you on social media?
I am on Facebook (Erik Scott de Bie is my personal account, and Erik Scott de Bie is my author account), Twitter (@erikscottdebie, #shadowbane), and my website can be found at I am also active on the Candlekeep boards (a web forum for Realms fans, Hit me up, and let’s chat!

Erik Scott de Bie is a twenty-something (almost thirty-something!) speculative fiction author, best known for his work in the Forgotten Realms fantasy setting. His fifth novel, SHADOWBANE: EYE OF JUSTICE (third in the ongoing Shadowbane) series came out in September, and his current NaNoWriMo project is the (as-yet-uncontracted) fourth in that series. He is an avid contributor to the Cobalt City superhero universe, from lending his voice acting talents to the character of Stardust to his recent novella in COBALT CITY DOUBLE FEATURE. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies such as BEAUTY HAS HER WAY, HUMAN FOR A DAY, WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME, and WHEN THE VILLAIN COMES HOME. He also moonlights as a game designer, having contributed to numerous D&D projects such as PLANE ABOVE: SECRETS OF THE ASTRAL SEA, SHADOWFELL: GLOOMWROUGHT AND BEYOND, the NEVERWINTER CAMPAIGN SETTING, and multiple seasons of the D&D ENCOUNTERS program. He lives in Seattle with his wife, multifarious cats, and a hyper but cuddly dog.

“Sword of Shadowbane” (prologue to SB: EOJ, sample chapter—don’t read chapter 1!)
“Heir of Shadowbane” (free e-story)
Chosen of the Sword” (free e-novella)
“A New Purpose” (story included in the Shadowbane bundle, AFTER the main book--see table of contents)
Book 3: Shadowbane: Eye of Justice (Wizards, Kindle, Nook, Kobo)  (note the prologue is set between "The Last Legend of Gedrin Shadowbane" and "Heir of Shadowbane")
Shadowbane 4 (working title) ???

Other Realms novels, not in the Shadowbane series but related:
Ghostwalker (Wizards, Kindle, Nook, Kobo): A fantasy western
Depths of Madness (Wizards, Kindle, Nook, Kobo): A fantasy horror story

Non-Realms work, specifically anthologies:
When the Hero Comes Home (Kindle)
When the Villain Comes Home (Kindle)

I'd like to thank Erik for joining us and for giving us a glimpse into his world. (Now go buy some books!)

 Please join me and the other amazingly talented authors over @ Skulldust Circle where we have formed a Writer's Circle that must be seen--a collection of brilliant, up & coming independently published speculative fiction authors with much to give both now and in the future!

All of my work can be found on AMAZON -- Kindle versions here

See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Please visit MY HOME PAGE to enjoy an extended reading experience, see direct links to purchase my full length novel, Covenant of the Faceless Knights, the short stories: Wothlondia Rising, and to see what else Ashenclaw Studios, LLC has in store in the future!

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