When I told Erik Scott de Bie to "Tell Me about Shadow of the Winter King" I meant it in all senses. I didn't know a thing about the book but I did know Erik. He's a great author whom I've published and shared a TOC with. We're even working on an RPG project togther. Now, Erik talks about why persistence is one of the keys to writing.
SHADOW OF THE WINTER KING, my latest fantasy novel coming out this week, is the culmination of a long quest that started when I first picked up a pen professionally.
In 2003, before I even submitted the novel proposal that would eventually become my first novel GHOSTWALKER, I wrote a novella about a character named “Tear”: a retired assassin on the run from a very bloody past. That particular writing exercise never went anywhere itself, but the character stuck in my mind. I wanted to capture that particular perspective—to provide a character that was both a deadly warrior and a broken man, torn by regret and longing for a life lost to him.
In 2004, writing for the Forgotten Realms setting, I crafted a character called Arya Venkyr: a canny, capable knight who faced impossible odds without flinching. That book was a stand alone, but again, I never forgot the character or her uncompromising sense of duty. Not Arya herself, exactly, but a character like her: passionate, determined, and unwavering. And having just read Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart, I absolutely wanted to instill some of that same erotic power in the character: to up-end expectations of female characters the way Carey does so eloquently in her work.
In 2005, I ran a warmage in a D&D game who broke the mold of what one might expect in a spellcaster: an androgynous waif of a creature who spoke in a rasping tone and wore to hide a body ravaged by destructive magic. I played “Mask” exactly once, but the character persisted as a NPC with (as you might expect) a massive, complex back story. Mask was the most compelling NPC I ran in that game: vicious, sardonic, fatalistic, but with an undercurrent of undeniable destiny. Unforgettable.
These disparate characters had one thing in common: I needed to write more about them.
I first wrote about the World of Ruin in 2005-2006, about the time GHOSTWALKER came out. I loved writing in the Forgotten Realms, but that wasn’t an end-point. I wanted to tell stories that were entirely my own in a setting entirely of my own creation. This was my first genuine attempt at that, and I got to the point of shopping it around to agents.
Most of them turned it down, and for good reason. The novel I created was flawed—too dark, too squicky, not quite balanced—and will never see the light of day (don’t worry!). A few saw the potential in my style and setting, and I received important words of encouragement, particularly from the late Brian Thomsen of TOR. I had what it took, but this particular book wasn’t quite ready. Not yet.
The novel may have failed, but the setting that came out of it was a dark masterpiece: a fantasy world after environmental collapse, reduced to a new Dark Age after greed and excess destroyed civilization. Where empathy was a rare, almost perverse impulse, and cruelty was the nature of life.
Thus, with these four elements, I crafted the book I’d wanted to write all along: Shadow of the Winter King, the debut of my sweeping World of Ruin series.
And that was the first lesson this book taught me: sometimes the writing process is messy and unexpected, blossoming out of failure and dead ends. You pull inspiration and concepts from things you’ve done, things you’ve dreamed, and sometimes it all fits together into one amazing whole.
The second lesson was perseverance, which is a writer’s first and most essential trait—before talent, connections, or anything else. Whenever you get knocked down, you pick yourself right back up and keep writing.
And the third lesson is something that all artists know well and true: when you believe in something, you make it happen.
Erik Scott de Bie is the author of numerous speculative fiction novels and multifarious short stories. He dabbles as a game designer, occasional fitness junkie, and swordsman. His latest work, SHADOW OF THE WINTER KING—an epic tale of love and revenge set in the dark full-metal fantasy World of Ruin—will be available soon through Dragonmoon Press. Catch up with him on his website, erikscottdebie.com, or find him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/erik.s.debie