Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Reading the text: Richard Lee Byers

Posted by Randolph Carter on August 14, 2009

unholyAuthor website:

Could you take a minute and explain what your Forgotten Realms series The Haunted Land is about?

The three volumes are Unclean, Undead, and Unholy.  It tells the story of a civil war in a land ruled by evil wizards, and focuses on several characters who play pivotal roles in the conflict.

It appears you have a short story included in the recent anthology, Gamer Fantastic, entitled “Griefer Madness.” Would you mind talking a little bit about your story and how you got involved with this project?

My story for Gamer Fantastic is one of my very few science fiction stories (I generally do fantasy or horror.) It’s set in a near future where LARPs have become hugely popular, and people play in a sort of theme park where high technology provides what seems like a very realistic experience. My story is about a detective searching the park for one particular player. Since everyone he meets is masked in the guise of a PC, and since there are people trying to stop him, he doesn’t have an easy time of it.

I was invited to submit a story because I see Kerrie Hughes, who’s one of the editors, at Gen Con every year. We often end up talking on the same writing panels.

gamer fantasticAside from Forgotten Realms, what other shared world universes have you written for?

The Marvel Comics Universe, the World of Darkness, the world of Magic: the Gathering, Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion multiverse, the world of Warhammer, the Scarred Lands, Valdemar, the Land of the Diamond Throne, the Nightmare Club, and possibly one or two others I’m forgetting.

Would you say you have a favorite universe to work in?

It’s a toss up between the Forgotten Realms and the Marvel Universe.

What has your gaming experience been like (pen & paper RPGs, console & computer games, etc.)?

I started playing and GMing D&D back when it was three beige pamphlets in a white cardboard box. I’ve also played and GMed GURPS, DC Heroes, Champions, and Call of Cthulhu. I’ve never really gotten into computer gaming.

Have you ever ventured into online worlds? What has that experience been like?

I’ve never gotten into online RPGs. I’m afraid to. I imagine I’d love it, and would want to spend as much time playing as some of my friends do. I haven’t got the time to spare.

Would you care to share an amusing and/or interesting anecdote from your gaming days?

Honestly, nothing is leaping to mind. I’ll note, though, that my gaming days aren’t over. My friends and I still get together and play from time to time. The game I current run is d20 Call of Cthulhu set in 17th Century France (the milieu of The Three Musketeers.) In addition to Call of Cthulhu, the game draws from the Swashbuckling Adventures sourcebook that came out a few years back.

How would you say your gaming experience has influenced you as a writer?

I don’t think it’s influenced the way I write. It made me confident that I could write game-based fiction, and as a result, I tried to sell to those markets.

undeadWere there ever times when you felt like your gaming got in the way of your writing?

No. I’m pretty disciplined about writing, and I’ve never let that happen.

Have you found there to be any drawbacks to writing shared-world fiction?

You can get typecast as a shared-world writer, and then publishers may be less open to publishing your non-franchise fiction.

By contrast, what would you say you enjoy most about writing shared-world fiction?

I like it that there’s a guaranteed audience, and that some of them will let you know what they thought of your work. I’ve done non-franchise stories that I thought were pretty good, and yet I’ve never heard from a single person who read them. That won’t happen with a Forgotten Realms story. And a lot of the shared worlds are intriguing and fun. If you like Spider-Man, why wouldn’t you enjoy writing a story about him?

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m in the middle of writing a new Forgotten Realms trilogy. I just turned in Book Two and will write Book Three next year. Until it’s time to return to that project, I’ll be developing various proposals on spec. Or, if somebody bites on one of the proposals I already have in submission, I’ll get to work turning that into an actual book or whatever.

How do you tend to escape these days?

I fence twice a week. Epee, mostly, although I still mess around with foil and sabre once in a while. I play No Limit Hold ‘Em when I get the chance. I’ve already mentioned playing D&D from time to time. Other than that, just the usual stuff that everybody does: go to the movies, watch TV, listen to music, read, etc.

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

You have to arrange your life so you sit down and work on a regular schedule, week after week after week. You have to finish the stories you start. You have to put them into submission so editors have a chance to buy them. You should take advantage of the various written and online guides that can teach you about proper manuscript format, query letters, and the other things you need to know to look like a professional. Never pay anybody to critique, edit, or represent your work.

uncleanYou wake up to a world where your Haunted Land series has been made into a role-playing game. What race and class would you play and why?

Well, The Haunted Land is set in the Forgotten Realms, so it actually does tie into an RPG. If I was going to be reborn into the Realms, I guess I’d choose to be an elf. You might as well have the longest lifespan you can get, right? Class is tougher. I dearly love swordplay, so my inclination is to say Fighter or Swashbuckler. But on the other hand, it’s hard to say no to all the miraculous abilities that Wizards possess.

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

I’m grateful to everyone who’s given my fiction a try. If you’d like to check out my blog, you can find it at If you’d like to email me, there’s a link on the site. My next novel is The Captive Flame, Book One of The Brotherhood of the Griffon, due out in April, 2010.

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