‘The Hammer and Blade’ Interview with Paul S. Kemp
Having read a lot of your other work, The Hammer and the Blade is one of your wittiest stories yet. The dialog between Egil and Nix is down right hilarious at times. When you were coming up with the idea for this story, at what point did you decide on the relationship these two would have with each other?
PSK: That’s an interesting question. I don’t actually recall ever making a conscious decision about their relationship. It was more like “develop the two characters, put the together, and see what happens.” Everything after that just kind of occurred naturally. Part of that, I think, is that Egil and Nix are an absolute blast to write. To me, their respective voices just work really, really well together.
Egil and Nix are definitely a dynamic duo, however, Nix certainly steals the spotlight. Any reason you chose Nix over Egil as the primary focus?
PSK: Well, Egil is more of the “straight man” in Nix’s “All New Spectacular Comedy Show and Variety Hour,” so it seemed natural to me that Nix would make the more compelling narrative voice, with Egil playing off him.
Nix is like the funny, engaging guy you’d meet at a party and take an immediate liking to. But you’d always feel like he was putting on a show. Egil would be the guy at the same party you’d make as taciturn and withdrawn, but who, if you were able to draw him out, would seem the more interesting (or at least thoughtful) of the two.
There are a lot of tantalizing things that get mentioned in passing throughout the story. From Egil and Nix’s mysterious escapade at the Well of Farrago, to Hell’s Eleven Pits. In the world you are creating, is the Hell you refer to a place or more of a separate plane of existence?
PSK: Yeah, that’s one of the things I love about writing sword and sorcery. The world is more “implied” than it is set forth in some kind of gazeteer. The setting gets anchored and established in the reader’s mind with a few very evocative places, and the rest is left sort of mysterious. In that respect, it’s much like Leiber’s Nehwon, or Sanctuary of the Thieves’ World anthologies. The reader learns what he/she needs to know to enjoy the story (and those bits he/she learns are especially evocative/wondrous) as it unfolds, but not much more.
As for the particular question about Hell, let me say, “both,” and leave it at that. ☺
You also mentioned spheres of the afterlife. Can you share any details on what those are?
PSK: I have to stay mysterious here, too. Sorry about that. It will come up in later books, though.
What do you think best sets Egil and Nix apart from other sword and sorcery duos such as Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Gotrek and Felix, or even Cale and Riven?
PSK: Narrative voice (in the case of Nix) and self-awareness (for both of them). One of the things I love about both of them is that despite the pain in each of their pasts, despite a growing sense of world-weariness, neither of them is cynical or jaded. In a way, they each keep each other from that, and that’s one of the reasons they need each other so much.
I’m afraid to discuss the question at much more length for fear of spoilers.
Please tell us you have another adventure planned for Egil and Nix.
PSK: Indeed, indeed! A Discourse in Steel is the second tale of Egil and Nix and will release in July next year.
One last question: the ending creeps up somewhat suddenly. Will the next chapter in the adventures of Egil and Nix pick up where The Hammer and the Blade leaves off or do you think it will jump ahead making this more of an isolated adventure?
PSK: I want each book to be a standalone, such that a reader can jump in at any point. But each will also build off of events and characters from previous stories, at least to some degree (just not so much that a new reader would be lost if he/she didn’t read the earlier stories first).
In that sense, I want them to be like Howard’s Conan stories. You can basically read those stories in any order and have a great ride. Some references might be lost on you if you read them out of order, but not enough to materially affect the experience.
I really enjoyed this story. The dynamic between Egil and Nix was perfect. I also really enjoyed the different layers to the story: whether it was the camaraderie between the characters, the exploration of morality and the treatment of women, or just the odd mentions of mysterious places and people that slowly created a fanciful new world. I really hope we’ll get some more Egil and Nix stories in the future. I’d love to find out what happened at the Well of Farrago, what terrifies Egil, and especially what’s going to happen with Merelda and Rusilla.
PSK: Thank you sincerely. That’s delightful to hear. ☺