‘Children of Fire’ Interview with Drew Karpyshyn
Our interview with author Drew Karpyshyn covering Children of Fire, the first book in his new original fantasy series The Chaos Born.
How did the idea for Children of Fire begin?
Drew Karpyshyn: It actually came from the seeds of an idea I had way back when I was in high school. Anyone who reads it will see that it was inspired by the works of authors like Terry Brooks and David Eddings, with a dash of Stephen King horror thrown in… these were some of my major influences. Over the next 15 years I worked at it off and on, refining and revising the story until I finally had it where I wanted it. It then took me another ten years to finish the first book, largely because I was working at BioWare and writing a number of other novels (Star Wars and Mass Effect) at the same time.
Were there any unexpected developments in the story? For example: any ideas that deviated from your initial outline?
DK: I like to make an outline early in every project, knowing full well that it’s a guide that will often lead me down unexpected paths. I don’t want to spoil anything about the novels, but there were a number of changes I made as I reworked and perfected the story, though the core elements remained basically the same.
In the telling of the story, there’s a sweeping landscape that is created: the Sea of Fire, the mortal world, the Great Forest, the Frozen East. Did you find yourself creating a map to keep it all organized?
DK: I’m not a very visually oriented person, but I did once draw a very, very crude map just to keep it all straight. A friend of mine with some actual artistic talent saw it once and commented that it looked like a five year old had drawn it. But as ugly as it was, it let me wrap my head around the geography enough to focus on the action and characters of the story.
The wizards in this story draw upon Chaos magic. It’s a powerful form of sorcery, but not always predictable. Many things can go wrong and it can have many side effects. Many inhabitants in the world live in fear of it. Furthermore, it’s hinted that if used without constraint, Chaos magic can be corrupting. What drew you to use a magic system that is so dangerous to both its users and those around them?
DK: I think a key element in fantasy fiction is making sure there is a relationship between the power of magic and the consequences. A wizard who can do anything without cost or danger is boring in my opinion; there has to be a cost or price and an element of risk whenever you call upon supernatural powers. If you don’t have that, you lose a lot of the interesting conflict – wizards can just use their power whenever they want without even worrying about it to get out of difficult situations. I find it makes for far more interesting characters if they know there is a chance magic will actually make something worse, yet do it anyway.
In addition to Chaos magic, there are mentions to Old magic and Chaos magic. How are the two different?
DK: Old magic simply refers to a time before the Gods created the Legacy, a mystical barrier to shield the mortal world from Chaos. Old magic is more pure and powerful, because in the current age it’s harder to draw on Chaos since you have to somehow pierce the Legacy to do it. But because magic is rooted in Chaos, there are always going to be unforeseen consequences and backlash whenever a wizard unleashes a spell in the mortal world.
One of the main wizards in the story is Rexol, who appears on the cover. He serves as a mentor in the book, yet he’s not one without flaws. Did he change any as you developed him or was he always set as a shady wizard out for his own selfish desires?
DK: Initially he was more “Gandalf” like – wise, patient and very much an idealistic vision of what a wizard should be. But as I worked with the story I realized flawed and complex characters are much more interesting than the spotless, morally pure hero. Rexol is now a darker and – I think – more compelling character.
In the book, the main villain unleashes a host of hellish minions, seven of which arrive on the mortal world to enforce his will. Each minion was truly unique and bizarre in appearance. Did you draw on any inspiration for their creation?
DK: I didn’t have any direct inspiration for the Minions. Like all authors, everything I do can be traced back to other stories I’ve read, or shows I’ve seen, or pictures or myths or legends I’ve been exposed to. For me, it wasn’t about using a specific inspiration, but rather taking the feel of Chaos and expressing it in various forms that would fascinate and repulse the readers.
There are several powerful talismans that play a key part in the book. Yet these magical objects almost have a mind of their own. Are the talismans truly sentient, or is it a matter of them bringing out something sinister in those who are near them?
DK: I don’t want to get into this in too much detail, as unleashing the power of the Talismans is a key part of the tale. I will say that each one is unique, and each one has very different powers. They influence the mortal world and anyone who dares to use them in ways that are specific to each Talisman, but there is a common pattern if readers look for it.
What kind of adventure can readers expect in the next book in the series?
DK: The second book is called The Scorched Earth. Without giving too much away about it or the first book, the title hints that the events will escalate. Scorched earth is a military term used for large scale armies and invasions, so that kind of gives you an idea of the direction we are heading.
We want to thank Drew for taking the time to answer our questions. Readers can check out Children of Fire in hardcover and digital formats. For a full list of participating retailers, you can check out Random House’s product page which also includes an excerpt from the book. If you’d like to stay up to date with Drew Karpyshyn, you can check out his official website or follow him on Twitter.