In part one of our interview Howard talked about one of his new novels, The Desert of Souls, and about historical fantasy; in part two we discussed the works of Harold Lamb and Howard’s efforts to collect and republish Lamb’s fiction; for our third and final installment Howard tells us about yet another newly released novel, and his experience with gaming:
We’ve talked about historical fiction and historical fantasy, but you also have a history with gaming. Tell us a bit about your new Pathfinder novel, Plague of Shadows.
James Sutter, the editor of the Pathfinder line, is pretty selective about what he buys, so when I was invited to submit ideas I had to throw several his way before one finally took. I think the line in the pitch that hooked him was “Jirel of Joiry crossed with Unforgiven.” I made it clear that I wasn’t going to lift the plot or character, but that I was going to strive for a similar feel. As for the subject matter, I think that James described it pretty well in a blurb he posted recently: “It revolves around the exploits of not one but two bands of adventurers journeying in eastern Avistan, two decades apart. The parties are connected by Elyana, an elf seeking to cure her former adventuring partner (and former lover) Stelan from a curse that’s connected to events — and people — from their shadowy past. Elyana’s journey will take her and her companions from Taldor to Galt, into Kyonin and to the Vale of Shadows, where the consequences of events decades before will affect Stelan’s future.”
I wanted a story that started out with a linear feel so that it could move forward with momentum, then added complications as the adventure got under way. I think there are some nice character moments and well-motivated, though unexpected, plot turns. Personality wise Elyana didn’t end up being a Jirel of Joiry knock-off, although she’s definitely a kick butt protagonist, so she has that in common with the famous character. She’s also seasoned and clever, and she’s relentless — she simply never gives up. I had a lot of fun writing her.