Posts Tagged ‘Interview’

EXCLUSIVE – Erin M. Evans Interview: ‘Fire in the Blood’ by Alfred Cloutier

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Erin M. Evans Interview: Fire in the Blood

by Alfred O. Cloutier


Alfred O. Cloutier was able to sit down with award-winning author Erin M. Evans, writer of Fire in the Blood, the third book in the Forgotten Realms series Sundering.




In Fire in the Blood Erin M. Evans continues the riveting tale of her Sundering character, Farideh, as she becomes embroiled in a Forgotten Realms-flavored game of thrones.


In a direct follow-up to the third book in the Sundering series, The Adversary, young warlock Farideh falls into the midst of a battle for the throne of Cormyr. As the war brought on by the Sundering rages across Faerûn, princes and princesses, wizards and rogues scheme to capture the seat of power of the Land of the Purple Dragon—with Farideh and her allies caught squarely in the middle.



What is Farideh up to?

In Fire in the Blood, Farideh travels to the Forest Kingdom of Cormyr, home of her sister’s lover, Brin. Brin’s been in the series since the beginning, and this is the book where you meet his family and unravel his conflicts—beginning with an unwanted engagement to the princess of Cormyr and a brewing succession crisis. Alongside that, you have Farideh coping with the realization that she’s a Chosen of Asmodeus, the god of sin, and trying to figure out where she stands with Lorcan. And then all Hell breaks loose.


Is there any relation between the Dragon Throne and The Wyrmskull Throne?

None at all. The Dragon Throne is a nickname for the throne of Cormyr. Before it was settled by humans, Cormyr was ruled by the Purple Dragon, Thauglorimorgorus.


Does Fire in the Blood pick up where The Adversary left off?

It picks up around a month later, when the party has settled into life in Cormyr (for various values of “settled”).


Have you been playing the new edition of D&D? What do you think of it?

In my game we just converted from the play test rules, but we’ve been having a lot of fun! I’m playing a paladin, instead of my usual spellcaster, so I can’t compare directly—but I’ve been really excited and pleased by the direction things are heading. The emphasis on making the game your own is wonderful.


Last time we corresponded, you mentioned you played at the Extra Life fundraising event (for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals). Do you plan to play again this year? Who will you play as?

I will indeed! On October 25th, I’ll be participating in a day of gaming through Extra Life, raising money for Seattle Children’s Hospital. Donations help decide what kind of character I’m going to play—what benefits, what equipment, and—this year—even who. Each donation buys you votes: you can choose from an assortment of characters who appear in my novels. (Check out more information here).


OK, your blog is called – what’s up with that? 

Well, once upon a time I was an intern for a small press, with another woman. One of our jobs was acquisitions—we read the slush pile. For those of you who don’t know, “slush” is unsolicited manuscripts, the book proposals aspiring authors without agents send in. I love reading slush. It’s inspiring and funny and really exciting when you find something you want to buy in there. I was so enthusiastic, the editor suggested we start a blog about slush-reading. So “Slush Lush” was my nom de plume for that endeavor (which never quite came together) and I took it for the name of my blog.


Have you ever had a problem incorporating some story element dictated by another author’s work in the Forgotten Realms shared world?

Fire in the Blood overlaps with Troy Denning’s Sundering novel, The Sentinel. When I was writing my first draft, he was wrapping up his final. The descriptions of the army that attacks Marsember didn’t quite line up with what I was expecting—or what I had written already. At first, you panic—there is no way to fix this except a total rewrite! But it ends up pushing you to think of clever solutions. In my case, it’s sort of a surprise, but it tidied up a couple of minor lore questions and helped characterize Raedra, Cormyr, and Shade all at once.


Who is the master of continuity for Forgotten Realms – Ed Greenwood, or someone else? I would imagine that to be a tough job that only goes noticed when something is off…

To an extent, everyone is. Matt Sernett is the official Wizards of the Coast world person. He’s the one you go to when you need to know everything there is printed about the Royal Magician or Azoun V or what have you. Ed Greenwood on the other hand is good for questions like “Is there a kind of wood that you could get in this place that would be attractive to carve and okay being left out in the elements?” The open-ended stuff is where Ed is invaluable. Susan J. Morris is my editor, and she’s a veritable encyclopedia of obscure D&D details. And in between, it’s good to follow the path through more specific experts—Brian Cortijo is a designer and expert on Cormyr, who created several of the characters I used for Dragon articles. Troy Denning described Marsember (a nearby city) in the same war.  You want to make sure you get the best batch of information you can.


Do you get demographic information on who is reading your books? Who would you like to have reading your books?

The closest I’ve gotten is the breakdown on who follows me on Facebook and Twitter. (Facebook says I’m very big in Jacksonville!). The majority of my readers are adult men, but I think that’s partly because those are the readers the Forgotten Realms has always been primarily aimed at. Beyond that lays the Fog of Marketing


To be honest, I don’t like demographic marketing—I get the purpose of it, but it always seems to leave someone out in the cold. The people I want reading my book are the people who will enjoy it. I’m gratified to hear from hardcore Realmsfans who love them, from fantasy readers who were surprised and delighted by them, from men who hooked their wives and girlfriends on the Realms with them—and from women who got their partners reading the books.


How was the response to The Adversary?

Very good!


If you were writing outside the umbrella of Wizards, what kind of stories would you write? Would you insert any allegory, or roam into more mature language and situations?

To me, the setting doesn’t have the kind of limitations people usually assume. I love allegory—The Adversary is about coping with depression and the way relationships and connections provide support for us in our darkest hours. How do you weather than and how does it shape you. How do you learn to trust yourself again.


It’s also about fighting the scary shadow-goddess of loss over people with magical powers. It can be both. It should be both. I don’t even know how to write these books without thinking about both!


I do wish sometimes I could drop an f-bomb. That’s about the only thing I’m not allowed to do, but that’s more the setting than anything. So far as “adult situations” and violence are concerned, I think I go as far as I want—especially in Fire in the Blood.


Do you visit exotic locations, or even museums to get inspiration for stories, or story details?

Since the books I’m writing right now aren’t set anywhere real, I tend to pick up details as they cross my path. The most exotic location I ever snagged a book detail from didn’t even involve leaving the country: the plaguechanged tree that forms the Ashmadai grove in Brimstone Angels was inspired by the banyan tree in Lahaina, HI.



About Erin M. Evans


ERIN M. EVANS got a degree in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis–and promptly stuck it in a box. Nowadays she uses that knowledge of bones, mythology, and social constructions to flesh out fantasy worlds. She is the author of The God Catcher, and she lives in Washington State.


About Alfred O. Cloutier


Alfred O. Cloutier has contributed to Dragon Magazine, and has edited for a number of other gaming publishers. He can be found here, on Facebook.



Are you a fan of Erin M. Evans, Forgotten Realms or Fire in the Blood? Buy this book by clicking here or the link below!

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Grand Prix Richmond ‘Crackgate’ Originator Identified and Interviewed!


The plot simply continues to thicken. Professional Magic the Gathering player Matthew Sperling posted recently on his blog an in-depth interview with the individual responsible for what is now known as the ‘crackgate’ scandal (see post “Wizards of the Coast Responds to ‘Crackgate’ Scandal”). The individual, identified as Sid Blair, took photos of numerous unidentified gamer’s rear-ends at Grand Prix Richmond 2014 and then posted the photos to Reddit, as a joke.


During the interview, Mr. Sperling asks Mr. Blair the motivation behind the photos:


“My goal was to make myself and my friends laugh. We have an odd sense of humor and find this sort of thing funny. I decided to post the pictures I took the day after I got back. I figured a few people would think it was funny, and the rest of the world would think I was really weird. I kept it anonymous and never intended to shame, bully or harass anyone.”


You can read the interview with Mr. Blair in it’s entirety here.


What do you think? Harmless fun or malicious intent? Let us know in the comments below!


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Richard Lee Byers Discusses Latest Forgotten Realms Novel – Interview by Alfred Cloutier


Richard Lee Byers Discusses Latest Forgotten Realms Novel [and the Possibility of an Objective Metaphysics?]

Interview by Alfred Cloutier


Richard Lee Byers recently sat down via Skype and discussed his entry in The Sundering series: The Reaver; and may or may not have secret information about what happens to your soul when you die. The Reaver is set to release on Tuesday, February 4th of this year.


Battleground Games & Hobbies: What have you been reading lately?


Richard Lee Byers: Let’s see… I am currently reading The Thicket by Joe Lansdale and before that The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell.


BG: I’ve read that you used to work in an emergency psychiatric facility, AND your author profile picture in the Forgotten Realms Wiki shows you with a fencing sword and three medals dangling from your neck.


RLB: Yeah, that was back from my competition days. I don’t actually go to tournaments anymore but I still fence three times a week at the club.


BG: Ah, Nice! How have these pursuits influenced your writing?


RLB: I think that the psychiatric stuff mainly comes in when I’m writing about a character that has actual psychopathology. Like he’s crazy or he’s sociopathic, or sometimes it comes in when you want to write about a character that’s not nuts, but is emotionally troubled and has some kind of defense mechanisms operating, which give him certain maladaptive behaviors or blind spots. A background in psychology is very helpful in describing that stuff.


My fencing comes in all the time because my stuff is full of sword fights and combat scenes. I’ve learned a lot about what that would really be like and how to describe it from fencing.


BG: I noticed, from my perspective, that the combat descriptions of cuts and parries were unique and interesting. After reading about your fencing background I wondered how much of that was actual fencing vocabulary.


RLB: It is vocabulary from fencing to a degree, and certainly all the concepts from fencing, in terms of learning about the various ways you can attack and try to fake out your opponent, and the various ways you can defend, distance and tempo of your movements come into it. My stuff’s actually lighter on actual fencing terminology than it used to be in my first drafts. I had a couple of editors get on me about using esoteric terms, they were worried the readers wouldn’t understand. Now I try to get across the concepts, but using more accessible language.


BG: Ah, I’d love to see some of those early drafts, that kind of thing really interests me. Anyway, are you a full-time writer?


RLB:  Yeah, I am at the moment. It’s always my preference to be. But, there was a time, not too long ago, I had some extra expenses, and I had to pick up a part-time online teaching job. Of course, you never know, when you’re a freelancer, what your income is going to look like for the next six months, or the next year, so it’s not impossible that I’ll have to pick up a gig like that again to make ends meet. But, hopefully not, because I’d rather just write all the time.


BG: What does your writing day look like, when do you start, how long do you go for?


RLB: Well I basically start in the morning as soon as I get up, get my head together and take the dog for a walk. Then, I work, not for a set period of time, but I will work until I’ve got a quota of new words written.


BG: Yeah, you work until you’re done?


RLB: Yeah, a good quota for me is fifteen hundred new words a day. It’s enough to make good progress, but not so much that it kills me. Depending on the project or the deadline, I can do more than that if I have to in order to meet my obligation, but it’s rough on me.


BG: How long does it usually take you to do that?


RLB: Well, it really depends. It can take as little as a couple hours, or from the start of the morning to the end of the afternoon. It all depends, sometimes the words are really flowing and sometimes you really just gotta drag ‘em outta there. And sometimes there’s more to think about. Sometimes you have to mull things over and decide what you want to do next and how should you do it.


BG: Do you play D&D?


RLB: Oh yeah, I’ve been playing D&D since it was three beige pamphlets and a white cardboard box. You had to take the crayon and blacken the numbers on the die, that’s when I started.


BG: Have you ever played a D&D session with the characters in your novels?


RLB: The only time I have done that myself is the last time they had an author’s summit meeting–so to speak–that I was at (I really wasn’t there, I had thrown out my back and I was telecommuting to it). They had a little D&D Next Beta Playtest where we had our Sundering characters as our Player Characters. It didn’t go on for too long but it was cool. But mostly, my gaming experience and my novels are separate.


BG: Did you play Anton [Marivaldi, main character in The Reaver]?


RLB: Yeah, we were playing kind of watered-down versions of our guys because it was a low-level thing. They had Elminster, but he wasn’t casting meteor swarm or anything, haha. We were fighting goblins, or kobolds, and that would’ve been overkill.


BG: Did you create Anton, Umara, and the other characters specifically for The Sundering series, or were they originally intended for a different story?


RLB: No they were created for The Sundering.


BG: Right, because when I spoke with Paul S. Kemp, he mentioned that his pre-existing story and characters sort of got folded into The Sundering.


RLB: My Sundering book is kind of the odd book out in a way because most of the other writers, I think all used pre-existing characters, and their Sundering book is simultaneously the next book in an ongoing series that was all their own whereas mine is all new characters. You’re picking up characters you’ve never seen before, which maybe makes it accessible, that makes it a good thing.


BG: How are your characters affected by the overall events in The Sundering? What is their role in the event?


RLB: Well The Sundering is this great cosmic change that is affecting different parts of The Realms in different ways and I’m writing about the Sea of Fallen Stars. It’s basically taking the form of a natural disaster: It’s raining all the time, there are floods rising and rising, crops are failing from lack of sunlight and it’s hard times. In this setting, we have the face of two very different gods vying for the allegiance of the people. Each one is saying “follow the path of our deity and you’ll survive and ultimately prosper.”


Those two deities are Umberlee, who is the goddess of the sea, who represents rage and greed and the ugliest kind of survivalism at any cost. Then you have Lathander, who is a god who’s been gone from the Realms for a hundred years and is now returning. Lathander represents hope and rebirth and love your neighbor kind of ideals.


Each of those deities has a Chosen, the particular agent of the god with supernatural powers. My hero, Anton Marivaldi is a ruthless pirate who starts out really caring for nothing but himself and his own profit and yet he becomes central to the struggle and is the person who will ultimately make it come out one way or the other.


BG: Something I’ve asked the other Sundering authors: what inspires you most when writing about Forgotten Realms?


RLB: I would definitely start out by saying it is this rich, detailed world. It is fun to build on what all these other talented creators have done and try to add a couple of stones of my own to the mosaic. It’s a world that is big enough and complex enough you can do various kinds of stories under the general rubric of heroic fantasy. I’ve done a caper novel, I’ve done a spy novel, I’ve done Year of the Rogue Dragons, which is my version of the big epic fantasy that is Tolkienesque. I’ve done The Haunted Lands which is very dark fantasy/horror oriented. I’ve done my Brotherhood of the Griffon series, which is kind of military fantasy about a mercenary group, and now I’ve done my big pirate story! Which is also a story which deals with themes of hope and rebirth and recreating yourself. I really like there’s room to tell different kinds of stories, and so many brilliant creators have worked on it, starting of course with Ed [Greenwood].


When I do a project like The Sundering, or War of the Spider Queen, I actually get to work with those people. I get to sit down in a room with Bob Salvatore, Ed Greenwood, and Troy Denning and bat ideas around. If you don’t think that’s cool, you shouldn’t be a creative person. All the other writers on The Sundering are just awe-inspiring and super-nice people. It’s terrific to work with them.


BG: Ah, that’s great. In those conversations, sitting around the table, I was wondering do you have a formal metaphysics for Forgotten Realms, i.e., do you have a guide as to what interactions are for  “souls,” “spirits,” “gods,” and “mortals?”


RLB: That information is there. The tricky thing is that occasionally they change it, the concepts in the overall D&D game may change, and what works best in the Realms. There is a metaphysics of what happens when you die, what souls really are, how gods really work, how magic works and all that. In my stuff I try not to get into that so much. Depending on what you’re writing about, if you’re writing about the undead, you have to get into some issue as to what can happen to your personality after death. I definitely try not to get into the minutiae of it, or hook it all into the rules of D&D because I don’t have to. The kind of fantasy fiction I write, it works better to be vaguer and more impressionistic about that. Normally I’m writing from the viewpoint of a mortal character who wouldn’t know so the narrative doesn’t have to know either.


BG: Who would enjoy reading The Reaver? Whom do you consider your audience is when you write a novel like this?


RLB: Well, it’s basically for anybody who likes a fantasy adventure story. It’s got a lot of action, it’s fast-paced, it’s got a lot of monsters, and magic. If you like books where characters evolve and grow through the story, this is a good one. If you want to learn about what the Forgotten Realms is going to look like going forward, I cover a bunch of that stuff.


BG: That’s great, thanks so much for your time.


RLB: My pleasure!


Richard Lee Byers

Richard Lee Byers

Richard Lee Byer’s books can be found on He is active on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. He also writes a monthly column at

About Alfred Cloutier:


Alfred Cloutier

Alfred O. Cloutier has contributed to Dragon Magazine, and has edited for a number of other gaming publishers. He can be found on Facebook.

Join the Battleground Games & Hobbies community  forums!

Please don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @battleground_gh!

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