It’s wonderful to return to the world of Dungeonspace Adventures, and “The Dragon of Dread Peak” does not disappoint. What is it about exploring this world of tech and magic that appeals to you?
It’s been a weird trend in my fiction the past few years that I feel like merging the fantastic with the grounded creates something fresher, at least to my eye. Also, I have always been a fan of novels and stories where a grounded reality close to ours comes into contact with fantasy. “Dragons in modern city streets? How would that work?” I think my interest in all of this goes all the way back to the Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg. In that, regular people are transported into their role-playing game characters. Here, I was interested in the idea of—what if regular people and their RPG characters were one and the same? What if there was no difference?
Taking ordinary people and introducing them to the fantastic is kind of what we do as writers of fantasy, isn’t it? It makes sense that stories about that literal thing would hold some interest for me.
Tell us something of what inspired this particular story.
This trilogy of Dungeonspace stories (and yes, there will be a part three!) are about how we find ourselves as we grow up, how we rise to challenges, and how we struggle with the expectations of others that we didn’t ask for or really want. Flip, the poor guy, isn’t entirely sure what he wants out of life, which is something we have in common. But he’s determined, no matter what, to do the right thing and not let anybody down—which I think comes pretty much from my own character also. I hate letting people down more than anything.
Like with most stories, this one is a mix of ideas, personal life events, and genuine fiction, thrown into the mental blender, and turned into a story-paste. It’s hard to pick out one particular element as something inspirational for it, other than “role-playing games!” As always, I’m playing with tropes that have been bouncing around in my head since I first picked up some dice and began to play at age five.
Each character in “The Dragon of Dread Peak” is well realized and fleshed out. Flip must balance the real world stresses of family, failure, and his interest in Basher. Basher continues to grow and learn through her own metamorphosis. Dom faces trials in d-space and how people perceive his so-called failures. What would you say was the most difficult part of juggling continued character development and the events in “The Cavern of the Screaming Eye”?
This is the first sequel to anything that I’ve ever written, and just trying to keep my vision of the characters consistent (at first) with who they were in the first story was a real challenge for me. I’m not experienced in writing long-form work, or series of any sort. I re-read “Cavern” about ten times, taking detailed notes about the characterizations, so that I could create a sense of continuity from one story to the other, while expanding things. Hopefully each of our characters evolves in “Dragon” quite a bit further. They’re going to need that evolution to survive what’s coming next.
The team is warned that Briggsby is a supreme jerk and he doesn’t disappoint. People familiar with role-playing games will recognize his sort instantly, the smarmy wizard and information broker, the man sitting in the shadowy back corner of the bar, the wizard given over to debauchery who keeps to his own thoughts in a cold, ruined tower. Why did you decide to play with this particular trope rather than other old favorites such as the surly barbarian or the charming rogue? Did you have a favorite class/race combination when you first started playing RPGs?
My first RPG character was for basic D&D, and he was an elf. Basic didn’t have classes and races as distinct things, so elves were a kind of fighter/wizard combination. I loved that character, and the adventures we had have stuck with me for nearly thirty years. So I’m partial to elves and spellcasters from that experience. The odd spells of D&D have always fascinated me, as well as the names. It’s probably no surprise to any RPG veteran that Briggsby’s name is meant to be a reference to an old-school wizard.
The great thing about Dungeonspace is that it’s vast and I have a lot of stories I want to tell. Briggsby isn’t the last archetype I’ll be exploring by any means. Actually, Briggsby will get his own story. I’m interested in seeing what happens to him when he uses the Phylactery of Youth. It’s not going to work in exactly the way he expects.
And like any great dungeon module series, this story ends on a cliffhanger potentially fueled by another familiar fantasy trope, brother against brother. Can you share hints of what readers can expect in (what I can only hope will be titled) “The Legions of Orocutus”?
The next time we meet up with our band of d-space adventurers, they’re going to be preparing for imminent invasion. You’ll see a bit more of how Braxis City defends itself from incursions. Flip’s strange new powers will continue to grow, which is good. He’s going to need them in the fight against Rash and the Legions of Orocutus. But as usual, the possibility of invasion isn’t the only problem the kids will have to deal with. There will be relationship woes and homework and curfews.
And yes, that’s a very good title idea indeed! We’ll see if the story matches it as I write it. Most of the time, the title is the last thing I come up with, but with Dungeonspace, it’s usually the first!
By the end of the sequence, Dungeonspace will be in a different place. You can expect some interesting changes in the aftermath. And that sets me up nicely for the first novel . . .
You wear so many hats that it must be difficult to carve out time for yourself. What does Jeremiah Tolbert do to recharge his batteries?
I like to go to the movies. That’s about as close as I get these days to uninterrupted space and time to think and experience things, and as a parent of a toddler, I don’t really get to do that often anymore. It’s definitely hard to find time that isn’t devoted to trying to make a living, to supporting my family. I probably don’t get a chance to recharge often enough. I have taken the summer off from writing since finishing “Dragon,” but I should be starting the next story any day now. Aaaaaany day now . . .
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