The Road to Broken Blade
"I'm thinking Tolkein meets Dashiel Hammet," I said, though that's not where it started.
Magic swords, assassins, ancient cities; the rhythms of fantasy are etched in my bones. My earliest memories include snippets of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, A Midsummer Night's Dream and the Chronicles of Narnia, all read to me by my mother and grandmother. I quite literally can't remember a time in my life when I didn't know the names Puck, and Gandalf, or the poetry of Bilbo Baggins.
I was a free range child, raised by hippies and fans, let loose to wander to my heart's content, both in my inner city neighborhood and the area around the family farm in northern Minnesota. In between I read what interested me and went to the St. Paul Open School where they encouraged students to follow where their dreams and talents led them.
In my case that meant that I spent an enormous amount of time reading. Not just traditional fantasy, of course, though that was always my first love as a reader, and later, as a writer. My first success in the field came with the WebMage short story and the fivenovel series that grew out of it, a fantasy/cyberpunk crossbreed, but I'd always hoped that I would get the chance to write something a little more classically sword and sorcery.
So, when my editor at Ace, the wonderful Anne Sowards, and I started discussing what I might do next after SpellCrash, I was delighted when she suggested that she'd be open to a traditional fantasy series. At that point, I said, let me go away and think for a couple of weeks and then get back to you with an idea.
I came back with the idea for an epic fantasy/detective noir crossover hero. Aral Kingslayer, a man with a dark and violent past, a drinking problem, and a corroded but unbreakable sense of justice. His only friend is literally his own shadow, an elemental creature of night named Triss; companion, familiar and backup conscience all rolled into one. That's a start, but it's not a story. For that you need history, a world, a sense of purpose.
So I made Aral a former temple assassin for the goddess of justice, a man who was raised to kill the nobles and kings who are beyond the reach of traditional justice, a man whose goddess was murdered by her fellows in the name of stability. I set him down in the thousand year old city of Tien, and in the classic noir style, I brought in a beautiful woman who needed a job done.
Of course, in this kind of story, the client always lies. Broken Blade is what happened on the way to finding out the truth.