Interview with Edward Bolme
Given below is an interview conducted between the Scribes of Candlekeep and Edward Bolme. Edward is the author of book 1 of the Forgotten Realms novel from the Rogues Series: The Alabaster Staff. This interview was carried out on 22th August 2003 following the release of this novel. This material cannot be reproduced without permission.
Interview with Edward Bolme – Author of 'The Alabaster Staff' (The Rogues Series, Book 1)
1. Where did you get your inspiration for the characters of the novel?
Various places. Kehrsyn was the initial challenge: creating a rogue that did not offend my personal ethics and code of honor. She was created piecemeal, but on the whole I am pleased with how she turned out. The coin trick, by the way, came from a guy I know.
Demok, so my wife says, is me, or at least what I wish I could be. She’s probably not too far off the mark. Eileph is a Red Wizard parallel to a character I played in D&D. The others were taken from various FR sources, and their situation adjusted to fit the needs of the story.
As for descriptions, I pull things from the events of my life. For example, Massedar’s appearance was taken from a guy who sat near me on the bus.
2. How familiar are you with the Forgotten Realms and its history and lore? In particular, that of Unther?
I am by no means a walking encyclopedia of FR knowledge. The amount of reading that would be required to become a true FR sage staggers the mind. While this does not bother me (if I’m writing in Unther, I don’t need to know what’s happening in Baldur’s Gate), it is clear that I need to better submerge myself into the setting. The embarrassing appearance of a “match” instead of a “tindertwig” proves that. AARRGGHH!
I do have a complete set of 3e FR books, and referred to them constantly while writing.
3. Did you have to do much research on Unther, Tiamat etc. before starting your novel or were you given specific details on what to use in the story?
I was left to do my own research. I’m a professional; they expect me to educate myself (although my editor is always happy to answer questions).
The only thing I really had to study was Unther, because although it is a part of the Realms, it also has its own unique feel. I studied the FRCS and Old Empires books very carefully, and to my dismay, there were some problems between the two. Between the FRCS and Old Empires, several adjectival words meaning “of Unther” appeared, specifically Untheric, Untheri, and Untherite. I worked out a grammatical system that used all three forms in a systematic fashion, and yet still covered most of the uses in the various passages in these books.
4. Did you choose to base the novel in Unther? Were you faced with any challenges and was it difficult to write on a previously untouched area of the Realms as far as novels go?
I wanted to set my novel in a place heretofore ignored. This gave me a few advantages: it planted my standard somewhere, it allowed me to begin to define a new area, and it greatly diminished my chances of accidentally contradicting some other work.
I poked through the FRCS and chose some half dozen places that seemed to have the right ambiance for the book, the right amount of chaos and instability. I gave that list to my editor, who pared out those that had been covered in other books. That left only three, and of those, Unther seemed the most compelling.
Really, for me, it’s easier to write someplace new than someplace that has already been covered; that way I don’t feel any pressure to conform to other writers’ treatments.
5. The Zhentarim feature as one of the many forces in “The Alabaster Staff”, would you like to write a novel with more heavy involvement of the Zhentarim?
Bad guys are always compelling, so yes. The only concern I have about using the Zhentarim as a major villain is the chance that they are as overused as bad guys as Harpers are as good guys.
6. Did you choose the particular organizations such as the Church of Tiamat, the Zhentarim and the Red Wizards, or were they part of the instruction for writing the novel?
I was given no requirements for the novel, other than the stipulation that “the main character needs to be a thief doing thiefly things.”
Once I’d settled on Unther, everything else fell into place. All of the various factions were already given in the FRCS, and I could have added another couple, if I’d wanted to. If I’d had another two books, I would have made it a multi-thread story that gave more air time to each of the factions warring for control.
7. Have you any future plans to write more on Kehrsyn in a novel?
There are no specific plans at this time, but I certainly have ideas. It all depends on what happens with Eberron, WotC’s new fantasy setting.
I am glad to see this question asked, though, because it implies that I made Kehrsyn a compelling character, which was my goal from the start. ;-)
8. There are many twists, surprises and tense moments in “The Alabaster Staff”, what inspires you to write this way?
This is almost two questions, so I’ll split my answer. (Spoiler warning!)
Twists and surprises I use because it’s what I like to read. Plus, frankly, it keeps the job of writing more enjoyable. Story arcs that progress smoothly from one end to the other are not compelling to me.
This novel has more than its share of twists, because the whole premise of the novel, as stated by Tiglath, is that nothing is as it seems. The young thief that opens the book is not the main character. The evil dragon priestess is a pretty nice lady. The cultured merchant prince is neither nice nor a merchant. Kehrsyn really isn’t a thief, and her father isn’t her father. The Thieves’ Guild is an insurgent group. The dead god is still around. And the staff itself, aside from having a decoy, is believed to be a variety of different things throughout the book. Etc.
As for tense moments, to quote Stephen King, “What makes you think I have a choice?” I like to write hard-core material, scenes that have a visceral impact. For example, I open The Steel Throne with a seppuku scene. It’s tough to get more visceral than that!
More so, I have to write them. It’s the way my brain works. I want the reader to experience the scene with the character; I want fantasy to feel real. That’s why I spend so much time describing the action, the blood, etc., when Kehrsyn kills the Tiamatan; I want his death to have an impact. I’ve read too many books where the slaughter of 50 orcs is treated as an incidental event.
Likewise, when Kehrsyn lies of the floor, cold blood soaking into her cloak, enemies prowling around and admiring her hair, I want the reader’s kidneys to twitch in fear. I want to create scenes that, hopefully, people think about after they have finished the book.
9. Is there anything that you would have liked to add into the final story or that was cut that you would have included?
Surprisingly not. For once, I wrote to length on the nail. I was supposed to write 90,000 words, and I came in at roughly 90,300. There were no cuts, nor did I feel I had to squeeze anything out. In fact, the only change I might make is that I would have formatted page 9 a little differently. And that’s a pathetically small niggle.
10. If you had to write a novel about anything and based anywhere in the Forgotten Realms, what would you chose to write about and where would it be based?
Honestly, I’d stay right where I am. I chose Unther in part because it hadn’t been touched on. I have no one else to compete with, as it were. So I’d probably do a book or a series that covered the whole of the Mulhorandi invasion, touching on minor events like those in The Alabaster Staff, as well as epic battles and political machinations.
11. Are you working on anything else for the FR novel line?
Not at the moment, and having no fiction to write is driving me nuts. However, I may have an FR short story appearing in late 2004. I am also pitching for a shot at Eberron.
12. How did you get into being a writer and how long have you been writing for “Wizards of the Coast”? Are you a freelance author?
The whole story is rather long, and something I will explain in depth at bolme.com. Basically, I started out submitting an adventure for the Paranoia RPG back in 1985. It got accepted. Thus began an interesting career as a freelance game designer. I was eventually able to parlay the Paranoia gig into a novel. I also wrote for Castle Falkenstein, Cyberpunk, Cybergeneration, Legend of the Five Rings, Men in Black, Necroscope, Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards, Shatterzone, and Star Trek TNG.
Anyway, my career waned, and was eventually back-burnered. Then WotC announced plans for the L5R novel line. I submitted two proposals, and while neither was accepted, I did get a short story as a sort of consolation prize (“Dragon’s Paw” for The Dragons of Magic). That led to another short story (for Neverwinter Nights), and then to The Steel Throne for L5R. And that, in turn, led to the Forgotten Realms.
13. Do you play D&D and the Forgotten Realms campaign? If so, do you play or DM, how often and for how long have you been playing?
I play D&D, but it’s usually homebrew campaigns. I’ve been playing since the original white-box D&D, starting back around 1975. I have been both DM and player. For a long time, I DMed exclusively. Of late, I have been a player more often.
14. What is your favorite D&D character class and race?
Truly, probably an elf wizard. Partly because I like the challenge of playing something that starts out weak. Behind that, a human paladin, cleric, or monk. I have absolutely no desire to play a gnome or halfling, neither will I be a barbarian or bard.
15. What is this charity group you’re supporting?
They’re people doing a great thing for needy people. They operate with next to nothing, but they have a vision. Aside from the orphanage, they run a day care for free for local residents, so parents don’t have to abandon their children (locking them indoors or letting them run the streets) when they go to work. Their website is http://www.ranchodesusninos.org.
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