Interview with Author Richard Lee Byers
O.k this guy's written for the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms series, D&D is pretty metal and his take is on the darker side which he is well versed in also having penned the novel he is perhaps best known for the Vampire’s Apprentice. So not only does he write epic fantasy and vampire novels but he also has written prose for Marvel’s X-men novels. So all the bases are covered when it comes to my reading interests. This Interview took place back at last year's Dragon-con, but I jut got the rights back from a another site I wrote this for. So here it is...
What is it like writing in a pre-existing world like Forgotten Realms?
Richard Lee Byers: The most fundamental thing I can say is that it's like writing historical fiction. If I were writing a western, I wouldn't be free to deviate from what the facts were of living in the old west. When I am writing forgotten realms, I can't stray from what has been established about life in the forgotten realms. That’s the most basic thing. You can't trash the setting. It has to endure beyond your particular story so that other people can use it. The company needs to continue to make money off of it and all that kind of of good stuff.
There are often certain key pieces of it you can't trash. A lot of times when you are first coming into one of these settings, you look at it and have a genuine intrest in it. You see there's this big conflict that’s infused in a lot of material or this big arch villain or this big mystery that people have been wondering about for centuries. Your first impulse might be "I'm going resolve that big conflict, or I'm going to take down that big arch villain, or I'm going to solve that big mystery”. A lot of times that's exactly the story they don't want you to tell. Those tensions drive a lot of product and are intended to drive product for many years to come. Sometimes you can do a big story that usually comes because they decide they want to change the setting and move forward in a certain way and can you think of a cool adventure story in which this change will occur.
With the new Forgotten Realms project “the Sundering” did you have to work with the other authors involved?
RLB: Each book in the sundering tells its own separate story about its own separate character so we didn't have to coordinate in the sense, that we coordinated earlier when we did the War of the Spider Queen, where its all one story. Book one end and the characters are about to step through this door and book two begins with the characters stepping through the same door. The Sundering is not like that we all have our own characters, but we did have to coordinate in terms of being synched with the overall time line of the Sundering, to one degree or another each book had a particular job in terms of dramatizing certain events that were going to happen in the sundering.
You’re a fencer, does that help you write fight scenes?
RLB: It helps tremendously with the moves you can make with the sword. The basics of actual swordplay, beyond that you learn things that are relevant in terms of depicting any kind of hand to hand combat, in terms of feinting and distance and time. You can't realistically take it all the because modern fencing is not the same as sword fighting where you are trying to kill the other guy. The weapons are a lot lighter. You can do a lot of tricky hand moves.
Having written modern horror vampires in Vampire’s Apprentice as well as Fantasy oriented vampires for Forgotten, how do you differentiate the two mythologies when writing them ?
RLB: With fantasy vampires, in World of Darkness or Forgotten Realms its pretty cut and dry that you are going to write it the way the Monster Manual says they are or every body is going to say you are not true to the world damn you. There is so much stuff you just pick what serves a particular story, when I did Vampires Apprentice Anne rice and Chelsea Quinn Yarbrough, hit big with the glamorous sexy vampire anti hero, it makes sense logically as vampires have a lot going for them so you can see why people fantasize about being one. If you write them that way they are sexy, have super powers and are rich from compound intrest over the centuries. When I did vampires apprentice I was reacting against all that, not that I though those books were bad , but they have already gotten that covered so maybe I should go back the other way, I picked the things for vampires apprentice, that would make being vampire a horrible curse that you would never want. although he can make people see him as a normal human being, he is actually a rotting corpse. he is in constant pain, he can't feed on people without killing them because his bit is poisonous , and so he has to deal with the reality of being a murderer. I did every thing I could to make it nasty, because with these fantasy creatures, they aren't real you can do what ever you want, as long as you are consistent and don't change the rules on the reader half way through. depending on what you do , some people who like a particular interpretation might not go along for the ride.
You have done some X-men prose novels, if you did your toe into writing comics what would be your dream DC character and your dream Marvel character?
Dream DC…Batman, that’s an easy one. Marvel becomes tricky, X-men
wouldn't be my first choice. I love Dr strange, I love spider-man, I love Hawkeye, I love the Thing. I had a Dr. Strange & Spider man or Dr. Strange & the Thing team up that I was going to pitch to Byron price, that publishing program ended before I got a chance to do that.
What do you have in the works that we should keep your eyes open for ?
There is a private press Iron Kingdom, I have a novella set in that world, there's an Blaggards kick started project, Ragnarok. I have three publishers that I am waiting to get with my agent and negotiate the contracts, I have some self published stuff on Amazon , I recently did a collection of sword and sorcery stories set in my own world call the plague knight, and more recent collection of horror stories.