Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Reading the text: Dena K. Salmon

Posted by Randolph Carter on June 29, 2009


Discordia: The Eleventh Dimension

Could you take a minute and explain what Discordia: The Eleventh Dimension is about?

Two online friends are forced to join an RL quest in the world that inspired their favorite MOR.

Too short? How about this: a classic gamer/coming-of-age-in-a-parallel-world novel that traces the difficult and often monster-strewn path from boyhood to man/zombie hybrid–with additional, bonus sections featuring a fictitious game manual and a genuine glossary. (Gosh–that’s beautiful. Is it just me, or does anyone else see movie here?)

Forgive me here, but the author blurb from your book reads: “Dena K. Salmon lives and writes in Montclair, New Jersey, where she is locally renowned as the most inept gamer to have ever wielded a mouse. She enjoys going on solo quests, but rarely accepts an invitation to group unless there’s someone else at home to play her character during the tricky parts.”

You’ve obviously played MMOs before. What have you played and what has that experience been like for you?

The experience has been deeply humiliating. Here’s me–a person rich in years, mother of two extraordinary women, able to interpret road signs in six foreign languages–getting “u suxz” whispers from a random lvl 12 night-elf hunter (we’re talking WoW, obvs). It hurts, but does not surprise.

I have always been bad at games. When I was in graduate school, I spent many a quarter at the video arcade playing Star Wars, Pac Man, and some kind of auto racing game. My skill level never exceeded Truly Abysmal.

I did enjoy playing Zork on our first PC–so much easier to cheat. [Game aficionados have probably guessed my age from this line-up. It’s like counting rings on a tree.]

So, who at home would be more adept at playing an MMO than yourself? And what has been their experience with MMOs?

Hmmm…more adept…tough one. Well, I’d have to say–all of them: husband, offspring, both dogs–all of them. That’s pretty much the size of it.

We’re primarily a WoW family, though I recall a brief dabble with Eve Online. The young people enjoy their platform games (Grand Theft Auto 4, Oblivion), and computer games such as Bioshock, God of War, Diablo, and Diablo 2 (back in the day).

The youth are highly skilled, but if eldest offspring offers you a ride home, take the bus. Please.

What kind of research did you end up doing for the book?

Lots: game design, game play, Celtic legends, medieval architecture, hunting, field dressing–the list goes on. In addition I’ve misunderstood vast quantities of theoretical physics.

Would you mind discussing what the process was like in getting Discordia published?

It all started when I was born. My parents knew at a glance that one day I would write: little squiggles at first, then actual letters. Before long, I learned to spell (never very well, unfortunately). Eventually I found an agent, and Hyperion bought my book. It was that easy.

On average, how much time per week would you say you spend writing?

Depends on how you define “writing.” If we can include character development (daydreaming), research (e.g., sewage systems through the ages, invasive plants of western Europe, the Amazon rankings of authors I know), dog walks/scene development al fresco, maintaining creative energy with nourishing meals, tapping into the collective unconscious for 6 to 7 hours per night–I’d say approximately 168 hours a week.

How do you keep your writing organized (plot threads, characters, etc.) when writing a book?

I ask myself this question all the time, generally in an aggrieved tone of voice. I use: a writing journal, index cards, legal pads, computer files, a cork board, post-its, maps–I’m all over the place. Lately, I discovered Scrivener, which is a great organizational tool in the right hands (probably not mine).

What writing projects are you currently working on?

Discordia: WorldsWithoutEnd. Coming soon…

Would you say there is grind involved in the writing process? Please explain.

Is there grind involved in life?

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

Learning new things, and hearing from readers.

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

People don’t have to like your book, and you don’t have to like their new couch.

You wake up to a world where Discordia has been made into an MMO (oh, the irony…). What race and class would you play and why?

I’d be a level 1 hobgoblin brigand, and would hang with MrsKeller in a Liander tavern.

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

The whole online thing is this generation’s rock ‘n roll, and a lot of people are upset and confused by the subsequent shift in social discourse. Change can be rough on those who came before you, so try to be kind–and if you happen to group with–say, a level 8 human pally who inexplicably sits down while descending a spiral staircase, do not berate her in party chat: she might be somebody’s mother.

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