Posts Tagged ‘Novel’

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.

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