Categorized | Authors, Features, Interviews

Matt Hughes, Liane Merciel, and Tim Pratt Discuss Their Forthcoming Pathfinder Tales Novels

Posted on March 21, 2012 by Flames

Welcome back to Golarion–the world of Krunzle the Quick, Isiem the wizard, and Alaeron the seeker of forbidden knowledge. Here you’ll find lands such as Cheliax, Numeria, Druma, and Nidel where greed, secrecy, and savagery await heroes and readers alike.

Below, the authors of three forthcoming Pathfinder Tales novels discuss how they came to the world of Golarion and what stories they found there.

Behold, Matthew Hughes ( who writes science fiction, crime, and media-tie novels as Matthew Hughes, Matt Hughes, and Hugh Matthews. He is best known for his Archonate tales, including Template in the Planet Stories line, and his recent Hell and Black trilogy. His Pathfinder Tales novel Song of the Serpent is due out in 2012.

And, behold Liane Merciel ( who is the author of The River Kings’ Road and Heaven’s Needle both a part of the Ithelas series. Her Pathfinder Tales novel Nightglass is due out in 2012.

And lastly, behold poet and Hugo-winning fiction writer Tim Pratt ( who writes under his name and as T. A. Pratt. He is the author of such books as Briarpatch, Blood Engines, and the forthcoming Forgotten Realms novel Venom in her Veins. His Pathfinder Tales novel City of the Fallen Sky is due out in 2012.

And now, gird yourself for the next installment of the Flamesrising series on the Pathfinder Tales!

What drew you to the world of Pathfinder? And how did you come to write a Pathfinder novel?

    Liane Merciel: Golarion is just a really fun world. It is impossible to read two pages of the Inner Sea World Guide without being overwhelmed by hooks and mysteries and tantalizing possibilities, all sketched out juuuuust enough to capture your imagination and not let go. Every classic conflict of fantasy is represented somewhere in its pages, and countless new ones besides. You can’t look at this sandbox without wanting to play inside.

    Tim Pratt: I played a lot of D&D in high school, and my group pretty quickly moved on from the established settings and pre-made dungeons to our own homebrew campaign world. Being something of a cross-genre aficionado, I combined a lot of disparate elements into that world — high fantasy mixed with bits of Spelljammer science fiction, gothic horror a la Ravenloft, thri-kreen mantis people with clockwork prosthetic limbs, “artifacts” appropriated from comic books of the ’90s (give a lich the equivalent of the Infinity Gauntlet from the Marvel Comics universe, and you’ve got yourself a pretty badass villain), homemade psionic powers that were more like mutant superhero abilities — if it was fun, we did it. What appeals to me most about the Pathfinder universe is the fact that it has a similar inclusiveness (with, er, fewer ideas swiped wholesale from comic books) — you can tell traditional dungeon crawl stories, or you can have guys fighting killer mechanical men from outer space in Numeria, or you can have pirates sailing on the edges of an endless hurricane, or guys kicked to death by the vicious chicken-footed hut of Baba Yaga, or men becoming gods. The wild mix of the arcane, the folkloric, the mythic, the horrific, and the science-fictional, and the potential tonal range from true tragedy to slapstick comedy (or both in the same story — gnomes, anyone?) is intoxicating. You can really tell any kind of story you want in the Pathfinder universe, as long as it has some awesome fantastic element. That appeals to me.

    Matt Hughes: I was in the bar at World Fantasy Convention in Calgary and got talking with Erik Mona, who’d read my Archonate novels and wanted to know if I had one he could publish. It happened that I had a space opera called Template that had been published in a limited edition by a small press in the UK. I gave it to him and he bought it.

    A year or so later, Erik asked me if I’d like to write a tie-in novel set in the Pathfinder universe. I said, “Sure.” At that point, I knew nothing about Pathfinder other than it was a role-playing game that, like D&D, bases its rules of magic on the ideas of Jack Vance, whom I revere.

    I talked it over with Erik and James Sutter, and we decided that a picaresque tale about a traveling thief in the rich land of Druma offered possibilities. I sat down and wrote it.

    Tim Pratt: As for how I came to write a Pathfinder novel (mine is called City of the Fallen Sky) — I heard they were looking for authors, and had my agent get in touch, and talked with James Sutter (who became my editor) about the sorts of ideas I had. We settled on one we both loved, and away we went!

    Liane Merciel: As for how I got hooked in: Pierce Watters, the Planet Stories editor, read and reviewed my first novel, The River Kings’ Road. (He liked it. Yay!) I wrote a little intro blurb to go with the review, and in the course of that blurb it came out that I had a gaming background. The Paizo team, upon learning that, asked whether I would be interested in trying my hand at Pathfinder fiction — to which the answer was an immediate “HELL YEAH!”

    What’s the coolest thing about your Pathfinder novel? What element could only happen in the world of Pathfinder?

      Matt Hughes: The characters. I’ve got a conniving thief, an ex-mine slave who’s read a lot of books, an exceptional young troll, a completely hairless but charismatic dwarf, and plenty more. Plus a lot of snappy dialogue.

      Only in Pathfinder? The attempt to reinvigorate dwarves and revive their former greatness that’s a subplot of the story.

      Tim Pratt: My favorite thing in the book is the relics of the Silver Mount. I love the glimpses I was able to give of Numeria, the “savage land of super-science,” where the landscape is littered by the remnants of the Silver Mount, which is (maybe) a crashed spaceship or cross-dimensional vessel — certainly, it’s alien, and full of strange things. My novel isn’t set in Numeria, but my main character spent some time there, and I got to do a couple of flashbacks about how he acquired his relics from the Silver Mount, which all have… unusual properties. And, when combined, those relics are even more unusual.

      As for “Only in Pathfinder” — a savage barbarian from the North, pursuing my hero while armed with an arsenal of what can best be described as looted and re-purposed alien technology? That’s not something you’re going to find in every campaign setting.

      Liane Merciel: Cool, cool. Hmm. I am not cool. Like, profoundly not cool. So probably the sole cool thing about my book is that Paizo let me use their world — specifically, the ancient, shadow-cursed nation of Nidal for the first part, and the harsh wind-carved deserts of western Cheliax for the second part. Both countries are haunted by shadows, literally and figuratively: Nidal as a result of the bargain that its desperate ancestors struck with a cruel god for survival, and western Cheliax by the black-winged strix, a savage and savagely threatened people fighting to hold their homelands against human incursions.

      Both those things, of course, could only exist (and therefore happen) in the world of Pathfinder. And they were (and are!) a lot of fun to play around with.

      Who is the protagonist of your novel and what makes him or her tick?

        Matt Hughes: Krunzle the Quick. Greed.

        Tim Pratt: His name is Alaeron. He’s an alchemist, and artificer, and a seeker after forbidden knowledge. Essentially he’s driven by insatiable curiosity about how the world works, and he wants to know *all* the secrets. This tends to get him into trouble, especially as he has no qualms about breaking into sacred tombs, or the libraries of wealthy and powerful men, or any other place he thinks he might find something interesting.

        Liane Merciel: My protagonist is a Nidalese wizard named Isiem. In the beginning of the story, he’s just a child taken from his village and plunged into Nidal’s greatest city, Pangolais, where he is expected to master shadow magic. In Pangolais he is mainly concerned with surviving school, as work-study programs in Nidal are pretty unforgiving. Making a mistake will literally cost you an arm and a leg.

        And that experience essentially makes him who he is: a cautious person who relies on diplomacy as his weapon of choice, eschews direct confrontations, and is willing to deal with some truly unsavory characters to accomplish his goals. He isn’t much of a standard adventurer-hero… but he’s seen the horror that his homeland became, and the desire to prevent that from happening again is what drives Isiem’s idealism.

        And what challenge must your protagonist face—internally and externally?

          Liane Merciel: Trying to stay alive, mainly. Trying to stop other people from doing so, occasionally.

          I’m a simple person. I like to threaten my characters with death. A lot of death.

          Matt Hughes: Externally: the intelligent bronze snake fastened around his neck that chokes him if he doesn’t do what he’s told; the magic boots that pull his feet where the boots want to go; robbers on the road; being enslaved to dig for gold; the sorcerer who is determined to learn his secrets — and that’s just the opening chapters. After that, thing really get difficult.

          Internally: greed. And the affronts to his self-esteem that everyone keeps handing him.

          Tim Pratt: Alaeron steals some relics from the Silver Mount in Numeria because he wants to study them, and a vicious assassin is sent by the Technic League to bring back the relics… and Alaeron. My hero flees, and ends up as part of an expedition to explore the legendary Ruins of Kho, the devastated remnants of a flying city that crashed millennia ago. All while pursued by the aforementioned ruthless assassin. As for internally, he has to confront the question of whether or not knowledge is worth all the mayhem caused by his relentless quest for answers. And while Alaeron would never agree that there are some things “mankind was not meant to know,” he might eventually have to conclude that there are some things mankind is better off *not* knowing.

          Oh, and he falls in love with a beautiful ranger who has a tendency to tell lies whenever it suits her, so that leads to some difficulties, too.

          What’s next for you?

            Matt Hughes: I have a novel coming out from Angry Robot Books (under my real name, Matthew Hughes). Costume Not Included continues the story of Chesney Arnstruther, the high-functioning-autistic insurance actuary who (in The Damned Busters) accidentally caused Hell to go on strike and came out of it as a comic-book-style crimefighter with a reluctant demon as his sidekick. The new book brings in the historical Jesus.

            Also, I’ve recently sold a story about an unlucky thief who falls under the power of a minor deity from the forgotten past. It will appear next year in a cross-genre anthology called Rogues, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.

            Liane Merciel: Writing-wise, I don’t know. I don’t have any stories churning desperately in my head and begging to get out. Truth be told, I’ve been shifting my focus away from fiction for a while now; I’ve gotten involved in shelter dog rescue and rehabilitation, and that tends to preoccupy my attention these days. It’s supremely rewarding work, but it takes a lot out of you.

            So if the inspiration strikes, I’ll go back to writing, and if not, I’ll stick with helping the furry foster mutts to live in civilization.

            Tim Pratt: I have another roleplaying game novel coming out, from Wizards of the Coast, in the Forgotten Realms setting, called Venom In Her Veins. It’s about snakes, dungeons, kidnappings, difficult families, and lunatic kidnappers. In terms of original fiction, I’m serializing an urban fantasy novel online, the latest in my series about sorcerer Marla Mason. It’s called Grim Tides, and has been updated at the rate of one chapter per week starting on January 2.


            Any parting words of encouragement, caution, or mischief for aspiring novelists?

              Liane Merciel: Write for yourself, because you love it. There is little external validation to be had in fiction, and it won’t make you happy if you aren’t already. Enjoy the work for its own sake.

              Matt Hughes: You start with a character and a situation. Out of the characters’ needs/desires comes the story. Out of the story comes the plot. Plot is what happens. Story is what it all means.

              But first, master English grammar and syntax.

              Tim Pratt: Writing’s a lonesome business. Try to have fun.

              Liane Merciel: Butt in chair. Fingers on keyboard. And get off the Internet!

              Interview by Jeremy L. C. Jones

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