with Erin M. Evans, Author of The Adversary
By Cape Rust
The following interview was conducted via e-mail by correspondent Cape Rust, speaking with Erin M. Evans, author of The Adversary, part of The Sundering series of novels from Wizards of the Coast.
Chaotic Neutral. I grew up with two sisters—and we all shared a room. For around the first half of my childhood, we moved around a bit—my dad was in the Army. Then my parents got divorced, and I lived with my mom, while my dad moved to Texas. I’m related to some really smart, creative people—we always played really zany games and had lots of projects going on at once. We’re always talking over each other, especially when we’re working on something. A great environment if you want to be a writer.
2. How did growing up in the Midwest influence your writing?
It’s possible growing up in the Midwest made me gravitate toward characters who aren’t as open about what they’re thinking or feeling. I think that’s very much my expectation—that people aren’t going to unburden all their thoughts and feelings when they decide to talk—and that’s the “Midwest style.”
3. If you could pick one thing about St. Louis and transplant it to Seattle what would it be?
The museums. Forest Park in St. Louis has an amazing zoo, a great art museum, cool science center, outdoor theater, etc. (plus, there’s the off-the-wall City Museum downtown). They’re world-class and, in Forest Park, they’re all paid for by taxes—no admission. So it’s common to see people jogging in the zoo or sitting on a bench just taking in paintings on their lunch break, or taking a picnic and sitting in the free nosebleed sets of the Muny. I miss that ability to enjoy attractions without needing time to make a day of it.
4. What made you decide to study Anthropology?
I have always been fascinated by cultures and by what makes people tick as a group. I think it’s part of that “outsider” feeling you can get as a geek—why do those kids do what they do? Why does this behavior that makes no sense to me happen? What do they get out of it? What makes us “us” and them “them” and all of us the same and different?
5. Do you ever watch the show Bones, and if so what do you think of it?
It’s a show I’ve caught, but I can’t watch it—though not for the reasons you’d think. I’d moved away from home by the time Bones was airing and several members of my family told me they liked watching it because Emily Deschanel’s character looked like and reminded them of me. They liked watching it because of that…but that made me feel really odd watching it.
6. Could you tell our readers a little about your big road trip?
After I graduated from college, my now-husband and I bought a 1983 Minnie-Winnie RV (which we named “The Chairman”) and drove around the country for nine months. We saw a lot of really amazing sights, met interesting people, and eventually drove The Chairman up to Seattle when my husband got a job at Xbox Live. For me, it was not only a really amazing experience but a kind of chrysalis for me as a writer—I had time to write, and time to read. I ended up reading everything I could get my hands on, since I was buying paperbacks at thrift stores (10 for $1 or 25 cents each means if there are six books you want, you find four more you could stand to give a whirl). That broadened my horizons far beyond just following my own taste and I’d like to think I learned a lot about writing.
7. Other than slowing things down a bit, has being a mother changed how you write?
It makes me much better at grabbing the time I do get!
As far as what I write, I think it’s actually made me a little more ruthless. There’s a saying that I always thought was kind of hokey, about how having a child is like wearing your heart on the outside of your body? But now that I have a son, I get it. It’s terrifying to think about all the new ways the world can hurt you now that you love this very vulnerable person so much. And as awful as it sounds, it gives me such good ideas for how to put characters through the wringer.
8. At what point did you decide that you could and should be writing fantasy?
When I was fifteen I read a book that I really hated—pretty much the first time I can remember that ever happening. So I chucked it and wrote a book of my own. Which was terrible, because I was fifteen and I’d never written a book before, but it was a start! And it turned out to be something I loved enough to keep on doing for all the years after.
9. Were you a gamer growing up?
I played a lot of board games and eventually we had a Sega Genesis (and much later a computer!), but no one really ever introduced me to things like RPGs growing up. Which at times I regret so much—and others I am really glad, because when I consider how much of my time was used up writing fantasy stories and drawing all sorts of heroes and monsters and mythical characters, I’m pretty sure D&D would have booted out things like “schoolwork” and “fresh air.”
10. What are your first memories of D&D?
My first memories are of the cartoon! I wanted to be Uni.
I didn’t play my first game of D&D until I was twenty-three, and a friend decided to run a game for a group of us. I dove right in with a neutral evil half-elf sorceress, not realizing that was probably a little advanced. The game folded pretty quickly (I think there were eight or nine of us trying to play), but I loved it. I’m starting in a new game of D&DNext this week—my first paladin.
Gobsmacked. It’s a huge honor to be included in the series with such fantastic and well-respected authors. I had to read the email inviting me a few times to be sure it was real. As you can imagine, it’s really gratifying to know that Wizards believes in my stories enough to include me in this project, when I’m such a relative newcomer.
12. How much of you is in Farideh?
I think there’s a kernel of me in every character. I’d say at times Farideh is like the serious side of me, aged down. She’s very much the “older sister” in the dynamic, and I’m the oldest of three girls. (It’s hard to shake the sense that you’re responsible for your younger siblings even when they’re thirty and twenty-eight.) Farideh’s a worrier, much like me, and like I was at seventeen, she’s pretty self-conscious about her looks. I think she’s far braver than I am, far more heroic. She makes decisions a lot quicker, and I’m 100% sure Farideh would not have moved to the other side of the continent without her family.
13. How important is it that she is a twin?
I think it’s fairly critical to the character. I’d say the most important part is that she has a sister she’s so close to—Farideh and Havilar identify themselves in a lot of ways based upon who and what the other is or isn’t. Farideh’s “the smart one” so Havilar feels like everyone thinks she’s dumb. Havilar’s “the cheerful one” so Farideh is more sedate. They rotate around each other in a way, trying to break apart but trying to keep each other near. Making them twins, in my mind, amplifies that. Not only do they want to have each other to lean on while still being their own person, but the people they interact with frequently can’t tell them apart—it would make things that much more complicated. They’re a unit and they’re individuals, which can be their strength or their weakness depending on the situation.
14. In The Adversary, who was the character you were most drawn to and why?
That’s such a hard question! Many of the characters are continuing from my Brimstone Angels series, and I’ve grown fond of them all in different ways. Farideh is always my girl—and I love watching her react to the obstacles I throw her way. Lorcan is always a challenge, but when things sort out he’s the character I’m most proud of. Havilar always has the best lines. Dahl always has the strongest arc. Mehen always surprises me with how much more depth he has. Sairché is wicked, good fun.
But there are new characters too that made me a little giddy when I came up with them. I adore Khochen, the Harper spymaster from Westgate, who’s also a shameless gossip, and Lord Vescaras Ammakyl, who makes me think of James Bond, if James Bond got into pissing matches with Dahl. I can’t wait for people to meet Oota and the Nameless One and Vanri and Samayan. (It was a lot of fun populating this book)
15. How hard is it to jump into a series like The Sundering, knowing that you are writing about world changing activities?
It’s daunting. Changing the world is simple. Living with the results can be hard. This is an enormous event for the Forgotten Realms, and one I think makes the world even more vibrant…but anytime you change something, you choose a path and pass up another. I think the end result is a great bunch of books, but the process of getting those books together had some nail-biting moments for me.
16. During the course of writing this novel was there anything that you really wanted to do, but couldn’t because of the ramifications it would have on the over-all Sundering storyline?
When I was first trying to come up with a story that would involve Farideh in the Sundering, the biggest issue I had was the timeline. Brimstone Angels: Lesser Evils ends in 1478 DR, in late summer. The Sundering begins in 1484 DR, and I was given a time slot that fell between 1485 and 1486 DR. So right away I had to look at ways to fill that time and move my characters ahead. Given the option? I probably would have preferred to set my next book in 1478 DR and continue right along. But the timeline was one thing that was not negotiable.
Fortunately, I like a challenge.
17. What has changed about Farideh, has she grown up at all?
I like to think that she grows up more every book. Just like all of us, she’s adapting to her experiences. The Adversary runs her through a gauntlet and makes her re-evaluate some of her past choices.
18. What has surprised you most about The Sundering series, and why?
Historically, the way of things has generally been that decisions were made about the role-playing game, which were then handed down to the novelists. This time, the effort has been to involve all aspects of the Forgotten Realms in these decisions—that’s a huge change and it’s been wonderful too see how smoothly it’s gone. I think that conversation has really shown in the products.
19. If you could have changed one thing about this book what would it have been?
Truly, I wish it could have been longer. At the outset, I really wanted to show more of people’s lives in the internment camp—how much of it is so surprisingly normal. You get snippets here and there, but not as much as I was hoping for. The reality is, however, that it’s already longer than the standard Realms novel, so things had to go.
20. What does the future hold for you as a writer?
I just turned in the first draft for the next Farideh book, which should come out in Fall 2014, and I have a few personal projects in the works.
21. Finally here is a chance to pimp yourself out, feel free to provide links to your web site and anything else that you think is cool.