Strangely enough, in the two weeks or so since my last post, autumn arrived in the Pacific Northwest with the stealth and subtlety of a runaway train. It always amazes me how fast summer ends around here. Growing up on the East Coast, I think of September as a month where you still get to do summer-ish things if you can work them in around your school schedule. Out here, you just wake up one day and suddenly it’s having a hard time getting to 60. Our summer was pretty dry, hot, and smoky out here, so I’m happy to see some cool weather and rainy days. If I’m lucky, I’ll get another hike in around Mount Rainier before the snow starts to fall in the mountains—the fall heather is really something to see. But the year is flying by swiftly!
Okay, on to the next novel in my series of retrospectives: Corsair.
Book two in the Blades of the Moonsea trilogy, Corsair picks up the story of Geran Hulmaster a few months after the events in Swordmage. Geran and his family have reestablished a tenuous hold on their ancestral domain after rallying Hulburg to victory over the villains who threatened the town in the previous book, but now Hulburg is menaced by pirate fleets in the Moonsea. Someone’s got to do something about the pirate problem, and naturally that someone is Geran (and his friends). As in Swordmage, Corsair is a story painted on a smaller canvas than the Realms-Shaking Events of The Last Mythal or The War of the Spider Queen, and the plot emerges from Geran’s personal relationships (particularly his ties to his family, and the return of his worst enemy).
Here’s a little secret about my writing process: I often look for good sources of inspiration that can help me out with the project at hand. For Swordmage, that inspiration was “westerns”—Geran is the long-lost native son returning home to face the cattle baron who’s taken over the town. In Corsair, I tried to bring just a little of the pulp-action fantasy stylings of Edgar Rice Burroughs to the story. There’s a little dash of John Carter or David Innes that comes out in Geran’s efforts to infiltrate the Black Moon pirates and rescue a kidnapped princess (well, a kidnapped romantic interest, anyway).
While I didn’t use anything as mechanical as a character class as a resource for Corsair, I did incorporate another “D&D-ism” as a major plot point: Spelljammer. For the first time in the 3rd Edition or 4th Edition era, a novel touched on Realmspace, spelljamming, and the Tears of Selune. I didn’t necessarily set out to write the only Spelljammer novel of the decade, but as I developed the book’s outline and looked for ways to dial up the Edgar Rice Burroughs factor, the idea of “dialing it up to 11” just appealed more and more to me. My very first project as a staff designer with TSR was the old Spelljammer sourcebook Rock of Bral, and I’d always liked the fantasy-space vibe of the setting. I ran my idea past WotC’s Book Department fully expecting to be shot down, and to my surprise they said, “No, that’s great, you should totally do it.” So I did!
Anyway, Corsair was a lot of fun to write. The characters were definitely beginning to come together, the villains made things *personal*, and I got to write a good sea chase. After all, who doesn’t like pirate stories?