Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Reading the text: Laura Resnick

Posted by Randolph Carter on June 24, 2009

purifying fireAuthor website:

Could you take a minute and explain what The Purifying Fire is about?

The Purifying Fire (Jul/09) is part of a new series, “Planeswalkers,” being published by Wizards of the Coast, based on their popular fantasy card game, Magic: The Gathering. (The first “Planeswalkers” novel was Agents of Artifice by Ari Marmell in Jan/09.) A Planeswalker is a powerful mage with the unique ability to travel anywhere in Magic’s multi-planar Multiverse.

The Purifying Fire is about one of these planeswalking characters from the game, Chandra Nalaar, a young and impulsive female fire mage who hates authority, is trying to master her enormous talent, and tends to get into trouble.

During the course of the novel, Chandra enrages some elves, becomes the target of goblin assassins, pursues a mysterious artifact, gets captured by a mad vampire prince, locks horn with a powerful cult, and reluctantly teams up with an enigmatic stranger who she’s pretty sure is trying to collect the bounty on her head. The story culminates in her confrontation with the Purifying Fire, an ancient and little-understood phenomenon that will change everyone’s lives, though not in the way anyone expected.

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.)?

No. Playing Scrabble or Monopoly the old-fashioned way was (and still is!) the entire extent of my “gaming” experience when Wizards of the Coast contacted me.

So then, what was it like for a non-gamer to dive headfirst into the deep end of Magic: The Gathering in order to write a story true to the Multiverse of the game?

It was daunting! The world of Magic is a huge, complex game that’s been going on for many years. So I often felt like I was in one of those dreams where you’re taking a final exam in a class you’ve never attended, or appearing onstage in a play you’ve never rehearsed.

However, the Wizards of the Coast people had prepared an excellent Writer’s Guide to the Multiverse which helped me a lot. They also gave me many links to material on the website specifically related to my character or to what I needed to know, thus narrowing down the sea of available information into just the stuff that I really needed. Members of the game’s creative team met with me by phone to discuss the Multiverse and answer all my questions. And my editor was readily available with feedback and answers whenever I contacted him.

Would you mind explaining what the process was like for getting the contract with Wizards of the Coast for this book?

I found an email in my in-box one day from a Wizards of the Coast editor, asking if I’d be interested in doing this. When we talked, I explained that I’d never done anything like this before and knew nothing about gaming; but the editor said they were looking for a good fantasy writer (the editor knew my work) and could give me the background materials and information I’d need for writing in their world. And so we got down to business.

Stepping back a bit, what was the process like in getting your first book published?

Way back in the mists of time, I read a book called How To Write A Romance and Get It Published by Kathryn Falk, publisher of Romantic Times Magazine. Using that as my mentor, I wrote a romance novel and started submitting it to romance markets. Then I wrote another romance novel, then a third, and was working on my fourth when I got an offer for my first one. Thus I started my writing career in the romance genre, under the pen name Laura Leone.

However, I wasn’t well-suited to writing romance, and after about 14 books, I moved on. I’ve been writing fantasy full-time ever since, with a traditional fantasy series at Tor, an urban fantasy series at DAW, a lot of short fiction, and this new book from Wizards of the Coast.

Were you a big reader as a child/young adult? What were some of your favorite books and/or authors growing up?

I was indeed a big reader, and still am. And I’ve always loved adventure reading, which is no doubt why I became a fantasy writer (it’s high-adventure with Good & Evil and magic).

As a child, I devoured books about girls who had adventures (ex. Nancy Drew, Beverly Gray). As a teenager, I mostly raided by parents’ well-stocked bookcases, since there wasn’t much YA fiction in those days. In those years, I read Leone Uris, Ed McBain, Mary Stewart (still a favorite) Elizabeth Peters aka Barbara Michaels (ditto), Winston Graham’s Poldark series, Jane Austen, Victoria Holt, and T.H. White’s Once and Future King (which took me almost a year, and which was unforgettable), and historical novels (ex. Gone with the Wind). I also read a lot of spy novels as a young adult—we were still living in the Cold War, and espionage was a thriving adventure-market in fiction.

Would you mind talking a little bit about your literary influences?

I never wanted to be a writer, mostly because I grew up in a writer’s house (my dad is science fiction writer Mike Resnick), so I knew what a god-awful lifestyle it is and how crazy most writers become. There were always writers hanging around the house, and aspiring writers hanging around my dad, and since I happened to be there, I heard him say over and over and OVER to people two things that have always influenced my writing:

1. Chase your heroine (or hero) up a tree in the first paragraph, start throwing rocks at her in the second paragraph, and don’t let her come down until the end of the story. (I’ve since then heard many eloquent descriptions of dramatic conflict, but this is the one that has always stuck with me.)

2. The only thing really worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself (which is a quote the old man adapted from William Faulkner).

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

Oh, yes! At least for me, writing is mostly about REwriting. I envy writers who talk about racing through a first-draft in a flood of creative gush. I get creative gush maybe two days out of the year, if I’m lucky. The rest of the time, I write a book by laboriously sweating blood onto the page… and then revising it twenty times, until it’s good enough to send to an editor. As the saying goes, writing is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

By contrast, what would you say is one of the most rewarding things about being a writer?

I particularly like the moments when the book surprises me—when I’m typing along and suddenly someone in the story says or does something that I wasn’t expecting, or when an event occurs that I never saw coming. That means the book is taking flight and developing beyond the feeble range of my conscious plans.

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

1. Write. Very, very few people ever do more than TALK about how they’re going to write. Yet this profession is all about is writing and completing story after story after story, year after year after year. Moreover, writing isn’t a miracle, it’s a craft—and you only get good at it by practicing it. Which means writing, writing, writing.

2. Learn the business. The single most common mistake made by the tiny percentage of people who –are- actually writing is that they don’t educate themselves about the highly competitive profession they aspire to enter. A good starting place is the “Writer’s Resource Page” of my website at It’s got links to books, websites, blogs, workshops, and organizations focused on the craft and the business that either I or working writers whom I know recommend personally.

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

Probably because of my ignorance about gaming, I have no idea what an “MMO” is. But in any scenario, I would choose to belong to the race and class that’s sitting poolside with a large umbrella drink.

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

I’d like to say thanks to gamer Craig Goodrick, who showed me at Constellation in Oct/208 how Magic works as a game. I’d never seen it before, though I was by then signed to do the book and had a lovely box of my own cards, courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.

>>>Oh, and I’ll be signing copies of the book at Gen Con, in Indianapolis, on August 15.<<<

*   *   *

Laura Resnick is the author of such fantasy novels as Disappearing Nightly, In Legend Born, The Destroyer Goddess, and The White Dragon, which made the “Year’s Best” lists of Publishers Weekly and Voya. Laura has also published about sixty short stories, as well as the nonfiction book Rejection, Romance, and Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer. Her upcoming novels include The Purifying Fire and Doppelgangster. You can find her on the Web at

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