With the release of The Orb of Xoriat, Worlds of D&D asked Edward Bolme if he could take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions. As usual Edward graciously acquiesced.
Worlds: What is your earliest memory of telling a good yarn?
Ed: Telling a yarn? That would be my first lie, when I was about four. But it wasn’t very good; my mother saw right through it.
I first tried my hand at creative writing when I was eleven or twelve; re-reading those stories – both incomplete – makes me cringe.
Throughout junior high and high school I honed my craft by game mastering D&D, RuneQuest, and others. I didn’t really try my hand at creative writing again until college, when I cranked out a series of vignettes and eventually a science fiction short story. Everyone who’s read that story loves it, and it took an honorable mention in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest, but I’ve had no luck getting it published. Seems people don’t like present-tense fiction.
Worlds: What was the first story you had published?
Ed: For pure fiction, that would be Title Deleted for Security Reasons, a Paranoia novel. Aside from some persistent grammatical errors, I am still very proud of that book.
I have done fiction back-story work for role-playing books, most noted of which was Six-Guns and Sorcery, which won an Origins Award. That would be my first story, unless you count the entirety of Rache Bartmoss’ Guide to the Net, which, although it was a game piece, was written as a collected set of memoirs.
Worlds: What inspired you to write in your younger years?
Ed: As a kid, science fiction. I loved Star Trek. I wanted to create cool worlds like that.
Worlds: And what are your inspirations now?
Ed: These days, ideas lodge in the interior of my skull and refuse to leave until they see their way onto paper. And I look through source material and look for what-ifs.
Worlds: If you have the spare time to read a novel these days, what do you like to read?
Ed: I manage a TCG team, I have a wife, a daughter of 5, a son of 3, a cat, a dog, a mortgage, and a freelance writing career. I have very little free time. Thus, the novels I read are all research; these days, that means Eberron, or thematically relevant books.
When I do read something for myself, it’s typically non-fiction. I most recently read The Miracles of Exodusby Colin Humphreys, a fascinating re-evaluation of the historical records and available evidence that turns conventional wisdom on its ear.
Worlds: Do other external sources, such as TV & Movies, have any influence on your writing?
Ed: Absolutely. I love a good tale, I love creative storytelling techniques, and I love the wide variety of vehicles to get the action going. Whenever I run into a scene or twist that I like, I put it in my reservoir of ideas, and look for a chance to use it.
For example, an under-riding current of The Alabaster Staff was that nothing was as it appeared. I stole that theme quite freely from Pitch Black. Praxle’s first scene in The Orb of Xoriat was drawn from any of a number of noir espionage films.
Worlds: When you are not busy writing, or thinking about your next project, what do like to do to just kick back and relax?
Ed: Games. Board games, role-playing games, computer games, volleyball or ultimate Frisbee games. And, when I can, hiking or camping. Which, with the aforementioned pets and children, can be a challenge.
Worlds: If you look back over your body of work so far, is there any one book that you are proud of the most?
Ed: Game-wise, it’s definitely Rache Bartmoss’ Guide to the Net. It’s all first-person from Rache’s point of view, and Rache is a psychotic sociopath who’s so brilliant and talented he’s on a whole new level. Writing that, I went so far over the top that sometimes even I didn’t know what I was writing about. My editor felt that writing Rache had to be deeply therapeutic for me.
Among my novels and short stories, I think I am probably proudest of The Steel Throne. I got to rock the Empire, kill characters, play with ninja and samurai, and do a sweeping epic story. It covered a span of something like twenty years and an area hundreds of miles in each dimension. In sharp contrast, The Alabaster Staff unfolded over seven days within the confines of in one city.
Worlds: You have written novels, and other material, for Wizards of the Coast for a long time now, working in various campaign settings. What was it that interested you in making the move to Eberron?
Ed: Two things. First was the chance to stand out. While The Alabaster Staff was very well received, the fact is that in The Realms, I am no one, and likely to remain no one. Authors like Salvatore and Cunningham rule the roost there, so much so that many readers only pick up their books. New authors like me could take years and years to build up a following large enough even to reach second-tier status. In contrast, Eberron has a level playing field. As one of the early authors in the line, I have the chance to become a first-tier writer with only a couple books under my belt. I can’t pass that up.
Second is the fact that Eberron seems to suit my style more. Many of the reviews posted on The Alabaster Staff comment on its different style. For example, “This book is slightly different in outlook to the usual Forgotton Realms fare, it seems a little darker (but not in a drow pantomime way) and a little bit [more] dirty and gritty than many of the books.” I write dark and visceral material. One of my best friends avowed that I don’t write fantasy; I write horror. And Eberron, with its tone, is a better fit.
Worlds: Your latest novel is titled The Orb of Xoriat. In your own words tell us what it is about, and what themes you selected to explore.
Ed: What’s The Orb of Xoriat about? It’s about 90,000 words, give or take.
The book centers on the recent re-discovery of the dreaded Orb, a relic of the Daelkyr War. Several factions vie for its ownership. However, as with all of the War-Torn series, the main theme of the book is the exploration of how the Last War has scarred the lives of those who fought in it. Several characters throughout the book—main, supporting, and bit players alike—have been forever changed by their actions and by the results of that war.
I also play around with good, evil, right, and wrong in the murkiness that is the world of Eberron.
Worlds: How did you find the editing process on this book? What is it like working with Mark Sehestedt?
Ed: Since it’s likely he’ll be reading this, I want to go on the record as saying that Mark is a gem of a person, both personally and professionally. He’s funny, articulate, generous, and a sweltering pile of robust manliness.
But just between you and me, he’s a great guy to work with. He must have let me off easy on The Steel Throne, because he had very few comments to make on the outline and draft. With this book, no such luck. Many revisions of the outline, heavy commentary on the draft. All of them good, too, darn it.
And yet he’s so supportive that even when he sends you a galley swimming in red ink, you still don’t feel like you’re falling short of the mark.
Worlds: You have a story, The Weight of Water, in the upcoming Eberron anthology Tales of the Last War (Q1 2006). Can you tell us anything about the characters in that story, or which part of Eberron will be featured?
Ed: It takes place on the border between Aundair and Karrnath. The story pits Teron (one of the main characters from Orb) against a paladin of Karrnath in some guerrilla warfare.
Worlds: So what’s next?
Ed: I’m working on a trilogy proposal. Mark is currently hacking it to pieces; I’m sure. If all goes well, the first book will release in August 2007. And some plot hooks carefully buried in Orb will rise up at that time.