|Author Paul B. Thompson|
Author, Paul B. Thompson began his association with Enslow Publishers in 2007 with a 160-page biography of Joan of Arc. His interest in history forms a link through his body of work for Enslow, including his most recent effort, the fantasy fiction trilogy called "The Brightstone Saga." The first book in this venture -- The Brightworking -- was published this fall to positive reviews. Following up The Brightworking is our January 2013 release of Book II -- The Fortune-Teller. The trilogy's culmination -- The Battle for the Brightstone -- is scheduled for a Fall 2013 release.
We recently spoke with Thompson about his writing, how he approaches his work, and the rewards and challenges he faces as an author of historical fiction and fantasy fiction.
Enslow: What inspires you to write and why?
Paul: There are several ways to answer this question. For one thing, I love writing. It's the most satisfying work I've ever done (and I've done a lot of different things in my life). I am inspired by what I read also. History is my first and foremost love when it comes to books, and I thrilled to many a page when I was young. My fiction writing is almost always an adaptation of history--whether in plot, character, situation, style, or setting. Even my science fiction and fantasy writing is historically based.
On a more personal level, I am always inspired by wife, Elizabeth.
Enslow: Would you say you experience writer’s block more or less when writing your sorcerer and wizard characters than with your historical fiction characters?
Paul: Not at all. I have never experienced writer's block. In my view, sorcerers, wizards, robots, aliens, or any other fantastic character are really just people under their robes, rivets, or scales. Truly alien or magical characters would be very difficult to write about or understand, since their place in reality would be far different than ours. To keep things realistic, a wizard can be considered the doppelganger of any other driven, powerful type: a banker, a general, a scientist, et. al.
Enslow: How is your writing process different for historical fiction books from your fantasy fiction books?
Paul: It's different in a very obvious way. Historical fiction requires precise research. You need to know names, dates, places, etc. in order to be historically accurate. And boy, do you hear about it if you're not accurate! Fantasy fiction only has to be internally consistent. If the hero's eyes are blue in Chapter 3, they need to be blue in Chapter 11, unless there's a plot reason they've changed. Readers notice mistakes in fiction too, but they're less vociferous than history buffs.
Enslow: How is the Brightstone Saga different from your Dragonlance series? How are they similar?
Paul: Dragonlance was created by other people, and six books were published before I had a hand in writing any. It was very popular, and still has a very loyal fan base. Over the years I've gotten a lot of flak about not cleaving to the holy writ of Dragonlance lore. Some of this criticism was deserved, but most of it wasn't. Because I did not originate the series, a lot of fans decided I had no right to change *anything* about the series, even after I wrote or co-wrote more than a dozen titles in the series. (Do I sound grumpy about this? I am.) The Brightstone Saga is my story, start to finish, so this problem of faithfulness does not arise.
Another difference is the 'pitch' of the stories. Dragonlance was aimed at a general audience, though in fact the majority of Dragonlance readers are males between 15 and 25. The Brightstone Saga is meant for much younger readers, and I hope it is enjoyed by boys and girls alike. Dragonlance had very strict guidelines on the level of sex, violence, occultism, etc., you could put in, though the enforcement of these guidelines tended to vary with who was editing you. Because The Brightworking Saga is intended for younger readers, there's no question of loading it with mature themes and actions.
Similarities between the two series are a medieval setting, the use of magic, non-human characters, monsters, etc., and a general reliance on Western traditions of good vs. evil. Both series are youth-oriented. The heroes tend to be young people, though Mikal and Lyra are actually younger than typical Dragonlance protagonists, who tend to be past their teens.
Enslow: What types of books have influenced your writing of fantasy fiction?
Paul: History, surely, particularly ancient history up to the onset of the Dark Ages--say 4000 BCE to 470 CE. You can see this in the names and politics of The Brightstone Saga. Mikal's home country, Phalia, is modelled loosely on medieval Germany. The Florian Empire has aspects of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the seagoing realms of ancient Greece.
As for fictional influences, I always enjoyed the historical fantasies of L. Sprague de Camp, Fritz Leiber, and C. L. Moore--de Camp especially. I stopped reading new science fiction and fantasy some years ago (busman's holiday), so contemporary writers have not influenced me. There are other famed fantasists I will not name whom I actively dislike, and deliberately avoid their work.
When people ask me, what is the best fantasy novel ever written, my usual answer is THE WANDERING UNICORN by Manuel Mujica-Lainez. A great book.
Enslow: Where did your idea for Master Harlano, the evil wizard from the Brightstone Saga, come from? Is he based on anyone you know?
Paul: I'll take the 5th Amendment on that. I had a supervisor many years ago who acted like Harlano (smiling when he was about to do something really unpleasant). He never turned anyone to stone, but he could bore you to death.
Harlano's politics are old-school, counter-reformation, and reactionary. There are many examples of this kind of thinking throughout the history of world, even today.
: What obstacles did you face creating the imaginary medieval world in the Brightstone Saga?
Paul: It wasn't hard. I've been writing fantasy since 1985, and I've read many novels and works of non-fiction on the pre-industrial world of western Europe. The concept of magic in The Brightstone Saga wasn't hard either. It basically works like magnetism. The hardest part of the plot was the social order. In real medieval times, most men, all women and children had zero rights and privileges. If I wrote a realistic story set in medieval times, modern readers used to social and political diversity would be appalled. Even so, you have to adapt modern sensibilites to a fantasy setting, to give the flavor of the Middle Ages or ancient times without the Hobbesian desperation. Having working magic helps, since access to magical power is open to anyone. Indeed, the cause Harlano fights for is determined to undo this democratic access to the power of magic, so it all dovetails together well, I think.
Enslow: Without giving anything away, what can readers expect from “The Fortune-Teller” the second book in the trilogy that’s coming out in January?
Paul: More action! The Brightworking is structured like a mystery--the main thrust of the plot concerns Mikal's gaining knowledge about magic, Orry, and the world he lives in. The Fortune-Teller is a chase story. I won't give away who's chasing whom, but a lot more ground is covered, and some wild new characters turn up.
Enslow: What specific challenges did you face while writing “The Battle for the Brightstone” the third and final book in the Brightstone Saga?
Paul: When writing an epic, it's important to include a human scale, so things don't become detached and impersonal. Grand forces are at work in Book III, but I had to keep Mikal and his friends at center stage, so the readers will know how they feel and what they experience. Empires, lords, armies and navies clash, but it's a slightly older and wiser Mikal (and company) who have to come through. Do they save the world? Stay tuned!
We'd like to thank Paul Thompson for taking the time to do this interview.
Anyone who wishes to review The Fortune-Teller may request a complimentary copy by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Fortune-Teller and The Brightworking can be purchased directly from Enslow Publishers. The books are also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Institutional buyers may also purchase them from their preferred vendor.