n the 2nd book of the multi-author Sundering series, the shadow legacy of Erevis Cale lives on even as his old foe Mephistopheles seeks to stamp it out at any cost. Cale’s son Vasen—unmoored in time by the god Mask—has thus far been shielded from the archdevil’s dark schemes, alone among the servants of the Lord of Light who have raised him since birth.
With the release of The Godborn, we spoke with author Paul S. Kemp.
Wizards of the Coast: The Godborn is officially the second book of the Sundering series, but it is also a stand alone novel that introduces readers to a new cast of characters. How does your novel fit into The Sundering?
Paul S. Kemp: Well, the events of the novel – personal events, character driven events – are happening against the background of the very large, macro-events that comprise the Sundering, and the two collide and mix in interesting ways. We see, for example, that some characters who take a large scale view of events (like Telamont Tanthul) are making decisions based on their understanding, or lack of understanding of the events unfolding around them. Others, like Gerak and Vasen, don’t have that broad understanding of world events, yet their personal stories nevertheless intersect with the events of the Sundering.
Understand, too, that the Sundering isn’t just one big event, or even a handful of big events. It’s a continuum of interrelated events unfolding across Faerûn. R.A. Salvatore’s story (The Companions) showed some early inklings of what’s going on. The Godborn moves things a bit further forward. Erin Evans’s novel, The Adversary, will take things still further, and so on.
WotC: Who is Vasen Cale and why should I like him? Have you run him through the character builder?
PSK: Vasen is the son of my signature character Erevis Cale. He is an interesting character, noble and self-sacrificing. His blood, the blood of his father, gives him an affinity for darkness, and his upbringing and his faith (he serves Amaunator) give him an affinity for light. On the surface this would seem to make him conflicted, but he’s long ago reconciled these two parts of himself. But the events of the book challenge that reconciliation. We’ll have to see if he can keep himself pulled together.
And no, I never ran him through the character builder. I don’t generally like to think of the characters in my fiction in terms of class and level and whatnot. I mean, I have to know some basics about class and level and so on, but I don’t think about it consciously while I’m writing.
WotC: As a player of Dungeons & Dragons, are there certain things about the game that you enjoy bringing to life on the page?
PSK: I love bringing the flavor of the game and its monsters and settings to life in novels. So depicting the terrifying moments of a shadow dragon winging silently out of a night sky? Yes, please. Detailing this or that particular prayer of a faithful pilgrim of Amaunator? You bet. Communicating the disconcerting feeling one must get when bodily jerked by a spell across the planes? I love that stuff.
WotC: The Godborn will be your ninth novel with Wizards of the Coast. It’s safe to say you enjoy writing in a shared world. Can you tell us a little about what it’s like to write stories in a setting that has so many moving parts with other writers and gamers creating material alongside your creation?
PSK: I’d say it’s safe to say I enjoy writing in certain shared worlds – those where I love the setting and where creative constraints are minimal. And both of those things are true for the Realms.
It’s exciting and somewhat humbling to write in the Realms, which I regard as the most detailed fantasy world ever created this side of Middle Earth. Interacting with other creators who bring the setting to life is creatively invigorating. I feed off that. It’s a blast. Just reading the sourcebooks is hella fun.
But – here’s the ‘but’ – remember how I mentioned that it’s one of the most detailed fantasy settings ever created? The downside of that is that there’s a lot to keep track of, so you have to take great care to stay consistent with what had gone on before and with what’s going on, lo, at that very moment. That can be a challenge, but that’s when you rely on other editors, authors, and designers to help keep you on track.
One of the things particular to the Realms (but not present with the other shared world in which I write – Star Wars) is the impact of the game on some readers. Some readers are gamers first and readers second (which is, to be clear, totally cool) and they interpret the fiction through the lens of the game. But I’m very much a writer first and game/rules guy second. I regard game rules, candidly, as incidental to the storytelling (and distinguish here between game rules, which I regard loosely, and setting lore, which is gospel).
My job is to tell a great story and I worry very little about how the events in a book square with the current iteration of the rules. So I’ll sometimes get a question or comment like: How could X possibly defeat Y when X is a only a 20th level wizard, and Y is an archdevil on his home plane?
And my answer to that is: He could do it because doing it served the story.
WotC: Drasek Riven has a seemingly very nice pair of dogs, but another character has some rather nasty cats. Does this reflect your pet preference?
PSK: Ha! Having had both cats and dogs for pets simultaneously (*insert Venkman’s Ghostbuster quote here*), I’ve chosen to remain in the eternal blood war between canine and feline.