Mike Stackpole on ‘The Crusader Road’

Our interview with author Michael A. Stackpole covering his novel Pathfinder Tales: The Crusader Road.


The Crusader Road was initially announced as an add-on for backers of the Pathfinder Online kickstarter. How did the book wind up in your hands?

Was it? I didn’t know that. I’d been talking to Paizo for a couple of years about doing a novel for them. When things got put in place I was offered “the frontier” as a place to set the novel. I’d just been reading up on all that because I did a level for the Emerald Spire project, so the choice was simple. I didn’t get to set any of the story IN Emerald Spire, which would have been fun (and lethal), but since I’d done the prelim research, the location was perfect.

Were you given any direction or suggestions for the story or was it handed over as a blank slate?

>Primarily a blank slate. Because it was a frontier novel, it called for exploration and such. I began to get a feel for characters, and the politics that would have put them where they were. (More research there, you see.) We went through a couple of rounds of revisions on the outline, then they signed off and I started writing. As with any book, some things didn’t quite go the way I wanted, so character roles got modified, but it all worked out in the end. Jerrad was especially fun to write.

How familiar were you with the Pathfinders setting before taking on the project?

Aside from the work I’d done on Emerald Spire, not at all. But, then, that’s how I am with most all of the projects where I work in someone else’s universe. Being a fan is not always the best way to get into the research mindset you need for writing. I go at the setting with an open mind, looking for story hooks, and cataloging all the cool stuff that I can use along the way.

How long did it take you to write the story?

If my writing notes are accurate, the first draft took just over a month—again, fairly standard. Research and negotiating details, edits and all probably added another two months. I tend to be fairly quick, and when focused in a book, I’ll turn out a lot of words quickly. This book went fast because I was in Jerrad’s head most all the time, so I didn’t have to do much shifting of gears to get voices right again.

One of the strengths of The Crusader Road is the intriguing characters. Were any of them drawn from somewhere else in the Pathfinder universe, or were they all new?

Aside from Baron Blackshield and a couple of NPCs who are part of the setting, all the characters were new. Certainly all the point of view characters were new. And there’s a practical reason for that: characters have to have a growth arc. If I installed a growth arc for an NPC, he’d be different after the book than in the research material before. That makes things tough on a GM if his players have read the novel and he hasn’t. Creating brand new characters gives me a lot more room to play with things.

Amid the tense battles and elaborate plot development, several characters die rather unexpectedly and suddenly in the book. I won’t spoil who they are, but what made you decide to go that route?

Primarily I opted to do that because in a nasty, hostile environment with battles, some folks will die. That they’re not the characters the reader expects to die creates surprise, and that’s a fun thing. In one particular case it was a toss-up if a character would die or be available for a possible sequel. James Sutter and the folks at Paizo decided to let him die, and the groundwork for that death was already laid. I just got to use it sooner rather in a later volume. :)

On a side note, Jerrad, one of the main characters in the book, fights with two sticks which reminded me of the main character in In Hero Years…I’m Dead. Was that an intentional nod?

Gosh, I wish it was but I’m not that clever. I gave Jerrad two sticks because, as a combatant, he’s pretty lousy. He’d hurt himself with anything else. Plus, as a magicker, sticks are probably the most in weaponry that he’s going to run around with. In In Hero Years…I’m Dead, the hero does make good use of sticks, but I don’t mentally think of them as sticks, but shock-rods. That’s why I never made that connection. But if there’s a sequel, I might have to give Jerrad a Yo-yo and see what he can do with that. :)Given the strength and enjoyability of the characters, are there any plans to continue their adventures in future stories?

Great question. I don’t know. I’ll be going to Gencon in a couple of weeks and ask.

And on one final note regarding The Crusader Road, you mention author Aaron Allston in the acknowledgements and how he helped inspire a few changes in the story between drafts. Can you share what some of those changes were?

Aaron and I were talking in between writing classes that we were teaching at Dragon’s Lair in Austin, TX. I’d finished the first draft, and something wasn’t quite clicking. As we talked about characters and growth arcs, I realized I’d missed a key thing. I knew what I wanted Jerrad to become, but I’d never asked myself, nor established, what Jerrad thought about himself at the start. Once I locked that down (including the way his sister referred to him as a mouse), his journey really sharpened. Then I asked the same question of other characters and really streamlined and focused them as well. It’s the little thing that you can miss because you take it for granted, but once established, it makes it all work.

Last but not least, what books can fans look forward to next from you?

I’ve been doing a lot of short and novella length work. But next up for me will be a short novel in my Crown Colonies world, then I’ll start in on Talion: Nemesis, the sequel to Talion: Revenant.

Regarding the short novel for The Crown Colonies, would that take place after Of Limited Loyalty, the second book in the series?

Yes, the short novel will take place about 2.5 years after the end of Of Limited Loyalty, which is about 2.5 years before The Ungrateful Rabble will kick in.


We want to thank Mr. Stackpole for taking the time to answer our questions and we look forward to what amazing stories he comes up with next. If you liked to find out more about Michael A. Stackpole, be sure to check out his website which includes news updates and a store where you can get special deals and signed copies. For those looking to get a copy of Pathfinder Tales: The Crusader Road, you can get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Paizo Publishing’s website.

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.
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4 Comments »

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  1. When was this interview posted? I am very curious on when Talion:Nemesis is going to be releasing?

  2. July 31, 2014

  3. So, does this mean he is writing Talion:Nemesis, and we will get to read it sometime in the near future?

  4. Possibly. Mike is very responsive on Twitter if you want to hit him up about it.


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