Paul S. Kemp: Sure! I’m a father to three young children, have been married twenty years, smoke too many cigars, drink just the right amount of scotch, and have a day job as a lawyer. Oh, I also write Star Wars, Forgotten Realms, and original world fantasy novels and short stories.
BH: For folks who haven’t had the chance to read it yet, Can you tell us about The Hammer and the Blade?
PSK: You bet. The Hammer and the Blade is a sword and sorcery novel, my attempt to tell a story in the vein of Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Mouser tales, or Brackett’s Stark novels, or Howard’s Conan tales. It’s fast paced, with compelling characters (I think) in the form of Egil and Nix, with lots of action, and a gritty, but enormously fun feel.
PSK: That I love writing a pure strain of sword and sorcery. The fantasy work I’m most known for at this point is my Erevis Cale stories, set in the Forgotten Realms, and those are very dark, very gritty, and are a kind of blend of sword and sorcery and heroic fantasy. I love Cale and crew and am going to keep on with those stories, but boy did I have a lot of fun with Egil and Nix in The Hammer and the Blade.
BH: What challenges did you face, if any, in writing The Hammer and the Blade?
PSK: Honestly, this was the easiest novel I’ve ever written, partially because it was so much fun, partially because it just fits my mental space right now. The words just poured out.
That said, some of the scenes with the villain were challenging to write, given their subject matter.
BH: Who is the biggest influence on your work?
PSK: Tough to say who’s the biggest. The most direct influences are probably Leiber, Moorcock, and Howard, but it was Tolkien who won me over to fantasy in the first place.
PSK: I think the desire has always been there, but there came a point in law school when I realized that I hated law school. Right then I decided to try to pursue writing professionally (I’d only dabbled up to that point).
BH: What’s the best part of your job? What’s the worst part of your job?
PSK: Oh, the best part is the readers. There’s really nothing quite as rewarding as receiving emails from active duty soldiers telling you that your stories helped get them through a tough day or just alleviated boredom, or hearing from a young reader who is, after reading your story, actually enthused about reading. It’s great stuff.
The worst part is that certain subset of broken people who populate the internet and embody the worst kind of nastiness. Facing that kind of thing comes with the authorial territory, but it still saddens me. I just don’t understand those folks.
BH: For you as a writer and/or reader, what qualities make for a good read?
PSK: I like a pacy novel, with incisive dialog, and interesting characters. Characters are foremost for me, as a reader and writer. I don’t want to invest in a world. I want to invest in the characters who live in it.
BH: Name three things you couldn’t live without.
PSK: My family, some kind of writing project in process, and good whiskey.
BH: Own up to a guilty pleasure.
PSK: Budweiser Select 55. It’s terrible beer, and I usually figure life is too short for terrible beer. But once in a while, when I want something that approximates the taste of beer, but want it low calorie, the Bud 55 gets it done.
BH: What music are you listening to these days?
I listen to Pandora, so I get all kinds. I’ve had a thing for bands with female British lead singers lately, so: Florence and the Machine, Kate Nash, Lily Allen, etc.
PSK: Led Zeppelin II. Rocks and has all kinds of fantastic imagery in the lyrics (including some Tolkien references).
BH: What book or books have you read lately that you thought were especially good?
PSK: Mieville’s Kraken was especially good – great prose, solid characters, wonderful setting.
BH: What would you like to see change or see more of in the Fantasy genre?
PSK: Oh, I don’t know a whole lot needs to change. I guess I’d like to see the whole “justify fantasy/spec fic” discussion go away (it’s really a silly discussion and born of insecurity) and a willingness to embrace the idea that a fun story is valuable in and of itself (it’s great if it does more than that, but a story well told justifies itself).
BH: What does the future hold for you? Any new projects you can spill some beans on?
PSK: Lots going on. My next Forgotten Realms novel, Godborn, will be released before long. My next adventure of Egil and Nix, A Discourse in Steel, will release in July next year. And somewhere in there, my next Star Wars duology (subject matter still secret) will be announced. Great stuff. I’ve been very lucky.
BH: Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
PSK: There is. I’ll say “Thank you.” I’ve got great readers/fans, and I sincerely appreciate all the support they’ve given me over the years.
I want to say a big THANK YOU to Paul S. Kemp for taking the time to partake in this interview. Thanks for classing things up around here, and for producing some damn entertaining fantasy. Keep up the good work!