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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Chris A. Jackson

Please welcome Chris A. Jackson to The Qwillery. Pirate's Prophecy, Pathfinder Tales 31, was published on February 2nd by Tor Books.

Interview with Chris A. Jackson

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Chris:  I wrote a little in college and was thoroughly discouraged by the Short Story Writing course I took, so I didn’t really try again until many years later. I have, however, been a gamer (fantasy and SF tabletop role-playing games, for the most part) for about forty years. In graduate school, I created my own world and ran my friends through a two-year epic adventure. What I didn’t realize at the time was what great training this was in world building, plotting, and characterization. When we had finished, I had a stack of source materials about three inches deep. I hated to throw it away, so I decided, with the players’ permission, to novelize the adventure they played. The book turned into a trilogy. It was pretty rough in retrospect, but it taught me how to write. From there, I branched out into other stories set in that very same world.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Chris:  I’m a plotter simply because I don’t have the memory to be a pantser. I do sometimes write short stories with only a vague idea in mind, but for novellas or novels I have to have an outline. That doesn’t mean I always—or ever—stick strictly to the outline. The hardest part of writing, for me, is self-editing that first draft. I can correct errors like typos and clunky sentence structure readily enough, but all of the information in my head doesn’t always hit the page, so I often leave gaps in information that I can’t see. I solve this problem with beta readers. Fortunately, I have several very good ones.

TQDescribe Pirate's Prophecy in 140 characters or less.

Chris:  An unwelcome gift of prophecy, whispers of a devastating secret weapon, and pirates turned spies to thwart the machinations of devils.

TQTell us something about Pirate's Prophecy that is not found in the book description.

Chris:  The story is about hard choices. How far will you go, what are you willing or unwilling to do, in the course of your mission to avert a war? Pirate’s Prophecy is all about making those choices: fight or flee, kill one or risk thousands, lie or tell a damning truth.

TQWhat appeals to you about writing novels in the Pathfinder Tales?

Chris:  Many things, actually. I had played Pathfinder for years before pitching myself as “the guy who can write pirate novels for Pathfinder” to James L. Sutter, so writing for a game I love to play is just too cool. Second, the Paizo folks are cool people to work for. Just look at their amazing message boards, fan interaction, and RPG Superstar competition, and you can tell they listen to their fans. Look at their iconic characters and game products and you can tell they are the most inclusive RPG publisher out there. On top of all that, working with Paizo’s editorial staff has been a pleasure. Sometimes you just click with an editor, and life is good.

TQYour bio at the publisher's site states that you live "on a sailboat in the Caribbean." Have any of your experiences with your sailboat influenced Pirate's Honor, Pirate's Promise and/or Pirate's Prophecy?

Chris:  Quite a lot, but more from my youth than my current sailing. I worked with my father as a commercial fisherman off the coast of Oregon as a kid, then with the National Marine Fisheries Service in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska while in college. The experiences with heavy weather, ship handling, sailing tactics, wind, and sea, have helped to breathe life into the nautical aspects of my stories. I didn’t start sailing until later, and I’ve used some of that, especially navigating shallow channels strewn with coral heads (Yikes!). The experience that greatly influenced the creation of Celeste, Stargazer’s navigator in my Pathfinder stories, is standing night watch. Staring up at the night sky when you’re hundreds of miles from shore is hypnotic and awe inspiring in a way difficult to describe. That feeling is an integral part of her character. When Celeste gazes at the night sky, she hears the song of the heavens. So do I.

TQIn Pirate's Prophecy who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Chris:  The easiest, by far, has to be Snick, a secondary character and member of the crew of the Stargazer. She is a gnome rogue, and the ship’s engineer. She’s also a devilishly clever prankster, ingenious, and loyal to her friends until death and sometimes after. She’s just so much fun, I sometimes wish she was the primary character. *sigh* The most difficult, strangely, is Torius Vin. Why? Because he is the hub around which all the rest of the characters revolve. He is complex and problematic, passionate and emotional (though he hides his feelings under a mask of piratical bravado as often as not), and he is the one who has to make the really hard decisions. He’s the captain, after all.

TQWhich question about Pirate's Prophecy do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Chris:  This is a hard one. Okay, first let me explain that there was much discussion about the cover image for the novel. Once I saw it, I fell in love with it completely—the cover artist is Remko Troost, and the entire truly awesome image can be viewed here—but I was not without reservations. The question I have not yet been asked is: “Does the cover actually represent a scene from the novel?” The answer is, unfortunately, yes.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Pirate's Prophecy.

Chris:  Here are a few:

Torius dealing with the Ostenso harbormaster:
      Saying no to Lothera was like saying no to a summer squall. It would come anyway, and seem twice as violent for every ounce of resistance. Best to reef sails and run before the wind...

Vreva speaking to her feline familiar, Mathias, after his recon aboard a Chelish flagship:
      “Well?” She glanced around, careful to keep her voice low. “Did you learn anything?”
      *Yes.* Mathias leapt into her arms as she started up the street toward the Officers’ Club. *I found out that the Devil’s Trident has one badass tomcat ruling the bilges, and he didn’t like the atten¬tion I paid to his cadre of kitties.*
      “Well, you get what you—” Vreva started to scratch him behind the ears, but her fingers came away bloody. “Mathias, you’re bleeding!”
      *So is he, and it was totally worth it!* He flicked his tail and yawned, showing his teeth. *I think I’m in love. I just have to decide with whom.*

And here’s a taste of a little nautical mayhem:
      Close enough. “Slack sheets!”
      The sailors obeyed, slackening the lines so that Stargazer’s sails flapped in the wind. The ship slowed, but not much.
      “It’s gonna be close!” came a cry from the crow’s nest. Lacy Jane had a better vantage than anyone else aboard.
      Torius held his breath.
      The tip of Stargazer’s bowsprit shattered the brass lamp hanging from the galleon’s port stern corner post. Thillion swore loudly and inventively as glass showered the foredeck.
      “Windy!” Torius admonished.
      “You said leave paint!”
      Torius braced himself. “This is gonna hurt!”
      “Grapples away!” Grogul bellowed.
      Stargazer swept past the galleon’s stern close enough to spit on the weathered wood.

TQWhat's next?

Chris:  I have another Pathfinder Tales pirate novel already submitted to Paizo for publication next year, and something a little different in the works for the one after that, the details of which I can’t reveal yet. As for other publishers, I’m writing a nautical fantasy novel for Privateer Press in their Iron Kingdoms game world that will continue the exploits of the same crew of scallywags in my Privateer novella, Blood and Iron. I’m continuing my own successful Weapon of Flesh series of magical assassin stories with Weapon of Pain releasing this summer, and Weapon of Mercy next summer. I’m also writing novels for a newly formed publishing endeavor, The Ed Greenwood Group. My first, Dragon Dreams, set in the contemporary fantasy/horror universe of Hellmaw, released in November 2015. I’ll be following up with a pirate fantasy, Queen’s Scourge, due to release in 2017, and a sequel to Dragon Dreams in 2018.

I’m also writing some short fiction. Legendary Games is putting out Legendary Planets, a seven-chapter, swords-and-planets-themed adventure for Pathfinder and D&D 5e. I’ll have a serialized short story in each chapter. Lastly, my short story, First Command, will be in the soon-to-be-released Women in Practical Armor anthology from Evil Girlfriend Media. Of course, there are always potential projects on the misty horizon. Readers can subscribe to my newsletter at for updates and announcements.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Chris:  My pleasure!

Pirate's Prophecy
Pathfinder Tales 31
Tor Books, February 2, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Chris A. Jackson
Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, and board games. Pathfinder Tales: Pirate's Prophecy is the continuation of their popular novel series.

Captain Torius Vin and the crew of the Stargazer have given up the pirate life, instead becoming abolitionist privateers bent on capturing slave ships and setting their prisoners free. But when rumors surface of a new secret weapon in devil-ruled Cheliax, are the Stargazers willing to go up against a navy backed by Hell itself?


Pirate's Honor
Pathfinder Tales 14
Tor Books, August 18, 2015
     eBook, 368 pages
Paizo, May 14, 2013
     Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Interview with Chris A. Jackson
Rough Seas A pirate captain of the Inner Sea, Torius Vin makes a living raiding wealthy merchant ships with his crew of loyal buccaneers. Few things matter more to Captain Torius than ill-gotten gold-but one of those is Celeste, his beautiful snake-bodied navigator. When a crafty courtesan offers the pirate crew a chance at the heist of a lifetime, it's time for both man and naga to hoist the black flag and lead the Stargazer's crew to fame and fortune. But will stealing the legendary Star of Thumen chart the corsairs a course to untold riches-or send them all to a watery grave? From award-winning author Chris A. Jackson comes a fantastical new adventure of high-seas combat and romance set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Pirate's Promise
Pathfinder Tales 24
Tor Books, August 18, 2015
     eBook, 484 pages
Paizo, January 6, 2015
     Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Interview with Chris A. Jackson
Torius Vin is perfectly happy with his life as a pirate captain, sailing the Inner Sea in search of plunder with a bold crew of buccaneers and Celeste, his snake-bodied navigator and one true love. Yet all that changes when his sometimes-friend Vreva - a high-powered courtesan and abolitionist spy in the slaver stronghold of Okeno - draws him into her shadowy network of insurgents. Caught between the slavers he hates and a navy that sees him as a criminal, can Torius continue to choose the path of piracy? Or will he sign on as a privateer, bringing freedom to others - at the price of his own? From fan-favorite author Chris A. Jackson comes a tale of espionage and high-seas adventure, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

About Chris

Interview with Chris A. Jackson
CHRIS A. JACKSON is the author of the Pathfinder Tales novels Pirate's Honor and Pirate's Promise. His self-published and small-press work includes the Scimitar Seas and Weapon of Flesh series, which have won three consecutive gold medals in the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year awards, as well as becoming Kindle best sellers. Jackson has also written a novella set in Privateer Press's RPG fiction line. He lives on a sailboat in the Caribbean.

Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @ChrisAJackson1

Interview with James L. Sutter - April 30, 2014

Please welcome James L. Sutter to The Qwillery. The Redemption Engine is published on April 30, 2014 by Paizo Publishing. Please join The Qwillery in wishing James a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with James L. Sutter - April 30, 2014

TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery! How has your novel writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Death's Heretic (2011) to The Redemption Engine (2014).

James:  Honestly, the process was pretty similar—Death’s Heretic taught me the value of an extremely detailed outline, and I did that again for The Redemption Engine. That said, something I learned partway through the new book was the importance of deliberately charting out character arcs. In Death’s Heretic, the character arcs were something I did instinctively as part of the book’s central romance, but in this book—which had no romance element for the main character—I had to be more intentional about it.

I also think that second books are both easier and harder to write. The first time you write a book, you know you have no idea what you’re doing, so you cut yourself a lot of slack (or ought to). What I didn’t realize is that the second time you write a book, you have a much better grasp on the mechanics, yet you also have higher expectations for yourself, so that terror is still there. I’m starting to think it might never go away completely...

TQThe Redemption Engine, was published on the 29th. Tell us something about The Redemption Engine that is not in the book description.

Salim’s badass warrior sidekicks in this one are Bors and Roshad, a pair of married gay men. I was really excited to write them for two reasons: First, because I feel like gay men in committed relationships are something we don’t traditionally see very often in fantasy, especially as capable warriors. Diversity is something that’s really important to us with Pathfinder, as well as to me personally, so I thought it was high time to get a gay couple front and center. The second reason is more about the writing itself—I’ve been finding recently that writing gay romance is easier than writing straight romance for me, possibly because my imagination hasn’t been as deeply infiltrated by stale Hollywood tropes, and I can just write what feels true.

TQ:  Both novels are in the Pathfinder Tales series. How are they related? How do they fit in generally with all the Pathfinder Tales novels and the Pathfinder game?

James:  The Redemption Engine is a sequel to Death’s Heretic in the sense that it stars the same character, Salim, and comes chronologically after the first book, each book truly stands alone, so you can enjoy one without having read the other.

Both books are set within the world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, which I helped to create. It’s a big, robust fantasy setting which pulls from all sorts of different types of fantasy, from Tolkien to Miéville and everything in between. The novels don’t presume that you know anything about the game—they read just like normal fantasy books—but the nice thing is that if you’re interested in learning more about the world or telling your own stories in it, there’s a whole system for doing so! For instance, this book is set in the city of Kaer Maga—a Mos Eisley/Perdido Street Station kind of hive of spot—which I created years ago and detailed heavily in the game book City of Strangers. So if after you read the novel you want a travel guide to the city, allowing you to turn down all those streets my main characters walked past—it exists!

While there are a bunch of other Pathfinder Tales novels, the stand-alone philosophy applies to all of them, and there’s generally not much crossover of characters between authors save for the occasional cameo.

TQ:  Which character in The Redemption Engine was most difficult to write and why? Do you have a favorite character?

James:  I actually think that Salim Ghadafar, my main character, was the hardest because I’d written so much about him in Death’s Heretic. He’s a very mysterious character—a former atheist priest-hunter now forced to work for the goddess of death, tracking down errant souls—and a big draw in the first book is finding out how he got to be this way. So when it came time to write the sequel, I had to figure out how to make him interesting for readers who already knew his backstory while simultaneously not alienating new readers. And while I’d love for him to have that iconic Batman feel, I also didn’t want to write a character that’s exactly the same from book to book—he’s a person, and people change and grow. Figuring out how to make that work required me to step up my game as an author.

I really enjoyed a lot of characters in this book, but my favorite is undeniably Gav, the young street urchin who acts as Salim’s local guide. He’s the quintessential scamp who fancies himself a philosopher, and combines a sort of Dickensian flavor with this constant stream of carnival-barker patter that’s immensely fun to write.

TQ:  Please give us one or two of your favorite (non-spoilery) lines from The Redemption Engine.

James:  Given my answer above, I think I have to let Gav talk a little:
“You know what I value, gov? Bread in my mouth. A shirt on my back. Maybe a girl down on Box Street who likes my patter. Those are values, lord, and I know why they’re called that--because they’re worth what you pay for them. No more, no less.” He gave Salim a pitying smile. “You asked before if I’d bow to a queen, and I said no. But I’d sure as hell take her coin if she was handing out alms. Principle’s slippery, sire--try to stand on it too long, you wind up lying in the dirt. Me, I take care of myself.”

TQ:  What's next?

James:  More of the same! I’m going to take some time off from novel-writing to do another campaign setting book for Pathfinder (currently secret, but it’s one folks have been requesting for a while), and then I hope to return with a third Salim novel that ties together a number of threads from the first two. But of course, before any of that I need to spend some time promoting this book—it turns out that writing a book is only half the job!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us again at The Qwillery.

James:  Thank you! It’s always a pleasure!

The Redemption Engine
Pathfinder Tales
Paizo Publishing, April 30, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with James L. Sutter - April 30, 2014
When murdered sinners fail to show up in Hell, it's up to Salim Ghadafar, an atheist warrior forced to solve problems for the goddess of death, to track down the missing souls. In order to do so, Salim will need to descend into the anarchic city of Kaer Maga, following a trail that ranges from Hell’s iron cities to the gates of Heaven itself. Along the way, he’ll be aided by a host of otherworldly creatures, a streetwise teenager, and two warriors of the mysterious Iridian Fold. But when the missing souls are the scum of the earth, and the victims devils themselves, can anyone really be trusted?

From acclaimed author James L. Sutter comes a sequel to Death’s Heretic, ranked #3 on Barnes & Noble’s Best Fantasy Releases of 2011!

Death's Heretic
Pathfinder Tales
Paizo Publishing, December 6, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with James L. Sutter - April 30, 2014
Nobody cheats death! A warrior haunted by his past, Salim Ghadafar serves as a problem-solver for a church he hates, bound by the goddess of death to hunt down those who would rob her of her due. Such is the case in the desert nation of Thuvia, where a powerful merchant on the verge of achieving eternal youth via a magical elixir is mysteriously murdered, his soul kidnapped somewhere along its path to the afterlife. The only clue is a magical ransom note, offering to trade the merchant’s successful resurrection for his dose of the fabled potion. But who would have the power to steal a soul from the boneyard of Death herself? Enter Salim, whose keen mind and contacts throughout the multiverse should make solving this mystery a cinch. There's only one problem: The investigation is being financed by Neila Anvanory, the dead merchant's stubborn and aristocratic daughter. And she wants to go with him.

Along with his uninvited passenger, Salim must unravel a web of intrigue that will lead them far from the blistering sands of Thuvia on a grand tour of the Outer Planes, where devils and angels rub shoulders with fey lords and mechanical men, and nothing is as it seems...

About James

Interview with James L. Sutter - April 30, 2014
James Lafond Sutter is the Managing Editor for Paizo Publishing and a co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game campaign setting. He is the author of the novels Death's Heretic and The Redemption Engine, the former of which was #3 on Barnes & Noble's list of the Best Fantasy Releases of 2011, as well as a finalist for both the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel and a 2013 Origins Award. He's written numerous short stories for such publications as Escape Pod, Apex Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the #1 Amazon best-seller Machine of Death. His anthology Before They Were Giants pairs the first published short stories of science fiction and fantasy luminaries with new interviews and writing advice from the authors themselves. In addition, he's published a wealth of award-winning gaming material for both Dungeons & Dragons and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

When not writing or editing, James has performed extensively with various bands and other musical projects ranging from punk and progressive metalcore to folk and musical theater. James lives in Seattle with his wife, a gaggle of roommates, and a fully functional death ray. For more information, look him up at or send him a message on Twitter at @jameslsutter.

Interview with Chris A. JacksonInterview with James L. Sutter - April 30, 2014

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