Author Interview – Paul S. Kemp

The last monday of January welcomes an interview with another new author to join Black Library this past year, so give him a warm welcome people! Paul Kemp is quite a prolific writer for the Forgotten Ralms setting and has also worked in Star Wars Expanded Universe as well over the years.

Paul started off for Black Library with a short story for the Age of Legend anthology that is set within the Time of Legends meta-series for Warhammer Fantasy. A Small Victory has received a lot of praise so far and if the interview with him below is any indication, we can expect a lot more stuff from him this year. One of his recent works is also the novel Deceived, featuring the Sith Lord Darth Malgus who also features in Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bioware’s recently-launched MMO. Looking at that cover, Malgus inspires shivers and goosebumps aplenty.

Shadowhawk: A Small Victory, your short story in the Age of Legend anthology, marks your entry into the ranks of Black Library’s finest. What can you tell us about this project and how it all came together?

Paul: Christian Dunn approached me (via Facebook) a few years ago about writing in the Old World, but my schedule and his openings didn’t align for a while.  Finally we were able to bring things together for a story in Age of Legend.  I was really excited about.  I love Warhammer and had wanted to contribute something for a long time.

Shadowhawk: Any plans to take this forward and do more short stories in the setting or perhaps even a novel?

Paul: Christian and I have traded emails about future work so I think I can say yes, absolutely I’ll be doing more Warhammer stories in the future.  Again, it’s just an issue of scheduling.

Shadowhawk: Any other factions or events or characters you are looking at for potential stories?

Paul: I have some rough ideas, but I have to keep those to myself for the moment.  🙂

Shadowhawk: How does the Warhammer Fantasy setting compare to other fantasy settings you have written for?

Paul: Warhammer’s setting is darker and grimmer than either the Forgotten Realms or the Galaxy Far, Far Away. That said, the stories I’ve written in Forgotten Realms and Star Wars are darker, and grimmer than the average stories in those settings. Thematically, Warhammer has a built-in moral dualism lurking in the background (Law v. Chaos).  The Realms has nothing like that, but Star Wars does (in the Light and Dark sides of the Force). The upshot is that I feel right at home in Warhammer.

Shadowhawk: You have done extensive work in the Forgotten Realms setting, particularly with Erevis Cale who has featured in several novels and short stories alike. How has it been like, working in such an extremely popular setting?

Paul: It’s been a blast.  The setting is rich, layered, and much beloved.  The editorial folks I’ve worked with at Wizards of the Coast have been top notch and they’ve generally given me free rein to write the kind of stories I want to write, with the kind of characters I want.  It’s wonderful.

Shadowhawk: For someone who knows you only through A Small Victory, how would you introduce them to Erevis Cale?

Paul: I’d say that Erevis Cale is an assassin and a priest, a deeply conflicted man whose loyalty to his friends and family is matched only by his ruthlessness for his enemies. He’s very much an “ends not means” kind of man, more likely to settle a dispute with blades than fists.  And yet he struggles with who he is,  tries in some ways to be a good man, a man of conscience, even as events seem designed ever to remind him that he is, in his core, a killer.

Writing Cale’s evolution through his novels has been a real joy.  For anyone interested in picking up the Cale stories, I usually suggest starting with Twilight Falling, book one of The Erevis Cale Trilogy.

Shadowhawk: Your work so far encompasses three massive settings: Star Wars, Forgotten Realms and Warhammer Fantasy. Which has been the most fun and exciting to write in so far?

Paul: Oh man, that’s like picking which of your kids is the smartest! They all have their appeal .  Warhammer aligns well with my writing sensibilities.  The Realms is almost like my first love, having starting both my D&D playing and writing careers in it.  But I suppose that if I had to choose, I’d give Star Wars the nod.  I mean, it’s Star Wars, a worldwide cultural phenomenon.  It’s something special to be able to contribute to it in even small ways.

Shadowhawk: How is writing for Star Wars different from writing for Warhammer Fantasy?

Paul: Star Wars has more editorial cooks in the kitchen, which means navigating the points of view of several different editors.  With Warhammer, I worked only with Christian. That said, my various editors in Star Wars have had very light hands, so no complaints here.

I don’t have much experience with Warhammer fandom just yet, but Star Wars fans are seriously, seriously intense.  It’s very cool 99.99% of the time, but you do sometimes get some oddball emails/comments from folks who take things just a tad too seriously.

Shadowhawk: Certain themes turn up in both like corruption, duty, sacrifice, and the Warp is basically the Dark Side of the Force. But in general, the Star Wars universe is more optimistic. Do you agree?

Paul: I agree completely.  Star Wars is, ultimately, about hope triumphant, about progress and improvement (both personal and cultural), and in that regard it is quite optimistic.  Warhammer, on the other hand, is about holding on by your fingernails to the crumbling remains of the few good things that still exist, all while enemies within and without threaten to twist it into something unrecognizable.

Shadowhawk: Star Wars has a strict canon system while Warhammer is more open. How does that make for a different creative process?

Paul: Star Wars is much more detailed (in terms of lore) than Warhammer, but the galaxy is so big that there’s room to spread your creative wings if you like.

Shadowhawk: How would you say that the Star Wars compares to Warhammer 40,000?

Paul: Alas, I have no experience with WH40K.  I know, I know.  I’ve got a couple of the novels on my TBR pile.

Shadowhawk: What character or event or faction in Warhammer 40,000 would be your top choice to write for if given the choice?

Paul: See above.  😉

Shadowhawk: What can you tell us about your current Star Wars novels? Any projects in the works?

Paul: Indeed.  I’m signed to do at least two more hardcover SW novels for Del Rey, but I’m not yet allowed to discuss the subject matter (which we only recently squared away).  Soon, I hope!

Shadowhawk: You also recently sold a series idea to Angry Robot: The Hammer and the Blade. The first novel comes out this summer and the second one is to be released next year. What can you tells us about it?

Paul: I’m very excited about this.  The Hammer and the Blade is the first novel featuring Egil and Nix, a pair of rogues, tombtappers, and swords for hire.  Egil, the brooding, surly priest of the Momentary God, provides the muscle, while Nix the Quick, aka Nix the Lucky, aka Nix Fall of Dur Follin, a thief and wit of renown, provides the brains (or so he thinks).

With these books (the second tale of Egil and Nix, A Discourse in Steel, will release in 2013) I’m trying to echo the sword and sorcery tales that I’ve loved for decades (Leiber’s Fafhrd and Mouser stories, Robert E Howard’s Conan tales, Brackett’s Stark stories), while at the same time bringing to them a somewhat more modern sensibility (in terms of prose, subject matter, and pacing).

I think the The Hammer and the Blade is one of the best novels I’ve written. I’ve been posting excerpts from the novel in the lead up to the release. For anyone interested, you can find them here.

Shadowhawk: What is your writing process like and how do you get yourself in the writing zone?

Paul: I find it helpful to spend some time at the end of each day thinking about the scenes I plan to write the next day.  Gets me in the proper mindset.  Then I sit and write.  There’s not much more to it.  I work from detailed outlines almost all the time and I try to end a writing day in mid-scene rather than at the end of a scene.  I find it’s easier to get started the next day when I end in media res, as it were.  Also, I just follow my nose somewhat – if a scene in the book is just begging to be written, I write it, even if it’s out of sequence (in fact, I write all of my novels way out of sequence; usually writing the end scenes fairly early on, for example).

Shadowhawk: Any particular music you listen to while you write?

Paul: Nothing in particular.  I just turn on one of my Pandora stations:  Either my Soundgarden channel, my The Cult channel, or my Florence and the Machine Channel, and off I go.

Shadowhawk: What are you looking forward to the most for 2012, both in terms of your own work and otherwise?

Paul: As for my own work, I’m most looking forward to the release of The Hammer and the Blade.  I’m that excited about it.  I’m also excited about watching our newborn daughter (now three months old) start crawling around and doing all that cute baby stuff. 🙂

Shadowhawk: Any plans to attend either Black Library Live 2012 or the Black Library Weekender in November?

Paul: I avoid the metal birds and Chaos-infused sorcery that allows them to fly, so probably not.  😉

Shadowhawk: Anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Paul: You’re all awesome? 🙂

I’m not Twitter (@paulskemp), Facebook (as Paul S. Kemp) and hope to see you on one or both.  I’m occasionally entertaining and/or insightful.


Hope you guys enjoyed that short and sweet interview. I certainly did. I’ll second that Paul is quite entertaining and insightful on twitter! Other than that, hope to see you all later this week on thursday when we have a guest post from John C. Scott, self-published author of The Legend of Adam Caine (Link). You can find a review of his novel here and his blog here.

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