Guest Post: “Inspiration” by Howard Andrew Jones

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By now you’ve probably seen that old questions people ask writers so regularly – where do you get your ideas?

In this instance I can actually answer. I was inspired to write my new book for Pathfinder Tales by an interesting spot on the map of their game world. I’ve long admired the way Paizo seamlessly blended story hooks into their settings, and when I sat down to think about the location of my third novel set in Golarion I was drawn to a strange little coastland far to the south.

I don’t like writing where a lot of people have already gone. Not only is there even more background material to read – and a greater potential to miss something — it feels like I have less room to simply make stuff up, which is one of the big appeals of writing for a living.

JonesHA-AuthorPicYes, tropical Sargava had been painted in broad and compelling strokes, complete with its colonial minority ruling over native tribes, and the constant threat of invasion held off by a tenuous alliance with a league of pirates. That’s what drew me to the place. But there was all sorts of room for me to improvise details and people and places and politics, even professions.

I wanted to do something completely different, so I made my main character a woman of mixed race, though her obvious native blood makes her a target of prejudice. She’s descended from a long line of salvagers who dive for treasures amid centuries of sunken wrecks.

One question I still get a lot is what the difference is between fiction I write for Pathfinder and that I write on my own.

Well, every genre has certain peculiarities. A lot of time mysteries have first person narrators, and most fantasies have swords. Epic fantasies frequently have elves, and game fantasies definitely do, along with dwarves and healing magic and gods who are not just real but who sometimes answer the prayers of their followers.

When I run games I tend to prefer them a little more sparse, magic wise, which is another reason I like to set my Pathfinder Tales out in the wilds, away from civilization. But there is more magic in the book than you’ll find in my creator owned stuff. It’s expected of the genre.

But I think a good game novel has much more in common with a good fantasy novel than it has differences. Pathfinder editor James Sutter wants fast paced stories with compelling characters and the rest of the Pathfinder Tales writers and me strive to deliver – not just because we want to please the editor, but because he has great storytelling instincts.

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In this case, my principal characters and setting are a little different than in my previous Pathfinder books. You won’t find any dwarves or elves wandering into the narrative. Instead, most of the characters are human, their divisions being along tribal and colonial lines. The only important non-humans are very different, being lizard folk.

I had a blast writing about a heroic elf in the first two books, but it’s a lot of fun writing about a creature that countless other writers haven’t already defined.  I loved setting him into adventure alongside Mirian Raas and her allies, and I hope some of that enjoyment transfers to my readers.

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Howard Andrew Jones is the critically acclaimed author of The Desert of Souls, The Bones of the Old Ones, and Pathfinder novels Plague of Shadows, Stalking the Beast and the hot off the presses Beyond the Pool of Stars. A former Black Gate Editor, he also assembled and edited 8 collections of historical fiction writer Harold Lamb’s work for the University of Nebraska Press. For more on his writing and novels, be sure to visit his website, and follow him on Goodreads and Twitter.

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