Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Reading the text: Ken Scholes

Posted by Randolph Carter on April 28, 2009

Lamentation cover

Author website:


Could you take a minute and explain what Lamentation is about?

Certainly. When an act of violence takes out the scholarly City of Windwir and the Androfrancine Library that it houses, the nations of the Named Lands scramble to solve the mystery of who did this terrible deed and why. The novel follows the lives of primarily four characters – and the metal man they find in the midst of the ruined city – as their lives are changed by the devastation and their world slides into war.

What was the process like for you in getting published?

Well, it’s kind of happened in stages for me. I started out writing and submitting short fiction. It took about 75 rejection letters but I finally saw my first short story come into print back in 2000. It appeared in a small magazine called Talebones. Then, over a period of several years, I kept at it and saw more stories published until my first larger sale – a story that place third in the Writers of the Future Contest. Shortly after that, I started placing stories in other large markets like Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales.

Then, in 2006, after years of friends and family and even a few editors strongly urging me to tackle a novel, I wrote Lamentation on a dare from Jay Lake and my wife, Jen West Scholes. I was quite surprised when my first novel sold right out of the gate to the first publisher I’d submitted to…and even more surprised when they offered me a contract for all five volumes in the Psalms of Isaak series. From there, I found myself caught up in the world of revision, copyediting, galley-proofing and all of the other bits that go into the writing along with drafting the actual books.

All in all, it’s been a pretty fun but busy process. I think being tenacious has come in handy for me.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Literally everywhere and anywhere. Writers often get asked where they get their ideas. I think they’re actually all around us if we’re looking for them. I try to keep my senses open to what’s going on around me and play a lot of “What If” with whatever I see. Sometimes it’s a smell, sometimes a person on the side of the street. Sometimes it’s a haunting bit of music or a line of poetry, an article in a magazine or a misheard remark. Wherever it comes from, into the soup it goes along with the rest of the ingredients it takes to cook up a Story.

Are you or have you ever been a gamer? What has your gaming experience been like (board games, pen & paper RPGs, console & computer games, etc.)?

I have/am. I started out with board games of course – the standard classics like Risk, Monopoly, Life. I jumped into pen and paper RPGs (D&D, Boot Hill, Top Secret, Gamma World) at about the same time I fell into Atari and lost myself in hours and hours of play. Text games for the TRS80 and Apple showed up in there to wow me, too. Later, I followed the NES system up through the N64 and dabbled in some computer games like Savage Empire, X-Com, Fallout and Fallout 2, Baldur’s Gate and others. But eventually, I moved away from computer games as my writing career became more important to me – it was too much of a temptation to sit at my desk and play games. So I moved to the Xbox and the Xbox 360, which I continue to play (very very rarely) to this day.

Have you ever ventured into online worlds? If so, please explain what that experience has been like.

Alas, I’ve not. I have a good friend who did and after watching him at it for a bit I knew that going down that road would take away valuable writing time, especially the games with such a high degree of community building alongside the dungeon crawling. I was easily able to envision a future where I did nothing but game and go to the dayjob, so I dodged that bullet. I’m sure it’s a ton of fun – but I know myself too well.

Would you say that your gaming experience has had any effect on you as a writer? Please explain.

I would say that it’s had a very powerful effect on me as a writer. D&D and the other games of that ilk really informed me to the waltz that takes place between the player and the DM – something I now see as The Storyteller’s Waltz. I think those days as a DM really helped me see the give and take that needs to happen to give the reader a satisfactory experience in the tale you’ve concocted for their entertainment.

Grind is a term used frequently in gaming vernacular referring to something that is rather repetitive or unpleasant that one engages in in order to progress in the game. Would you say there is grinding in the writing process? Please explain.

Well, truth be told, any of it can grind under the right circumstances. But consistently, my least favorite part of the process appears to be revision and the series of subsequent passes one has to make through a manuscript before it’s really ready for the world. Still, it’s an important part of the job. And I don’t know where I’d be without people like my editor and copyeditor along with the team of readers who go through my first draft. Their eyes and hands upon each book are really critical.

Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?

Absolutely. Read a lot. Write every day. Find a writer’s group or a group of readers to read and offer constructive input on your work. When it’s done, send it out to market and get on to the next project. If you’re writing short stories, take advantage of the Writers of the Future contest – it will teach you to write to deadlines and can land you a nice award, a pro-level publication (and payment!) and get you into an amazing workshop taught by Tim Powers and K.D. Wentworth. I tell would-be writers to keep sending stories until they either win or are disqualified based on their number of publications.

You wake up to a world where Lamentation has been made into an MMO. What race and class would you play and why?

Well, so far we only have one race in the series but I’d definitely be a Gypsy Scout. Maybe one that had gone rogue to live over the Wall in the Churning Wastes as a freelance guide….

Is there anything else you’d like to share with this gamer/reader audience?

Nothing off the top of my head but thanks so much for having me on the site! To find out more about me or my writing, please visit!

One Response to “Reading the text: Ken Scholes”

  1. […] He calls this series Reading the Text, and has interviewed writers like Sarah Monette, Ken Scholes, and Alan Campbell.  I’m very pleased to join such ranks.   My interview on gaming, being a […]

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