Writing in a preexisting fictional world presents a whole different set of challenges for authors used to building their own worlds. Lucky for Josh Vogt, he has the talent to write in both a shared world and in a realm of his own creation. He has two books debuting this month: one set in the Pathfinder RPG and one set in a world of his built on his own. I’ve asked him about what it’s like to work in someone else’s sandbox versus writing in his own universe.
1. You have two books debuting this month. The first one is Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes which is a tie-in novel for the Pathfinder RPG. How did you get involved in writing a tie-in novel. Were you a fan of the RPG first?
I’ve been a gamer—both tabletop and video games—most of my life, so I was decently familiar with the Pathfinder world of Golarion from the get-go. One of the things I’ve always had as a focus in my writing career is diversifying the sort of work I do. So once I’d begun to get a few professional sales under my belt (short stories and the like), I started researching various RPG developers and publishers to see about writing for them. I emailed around, offering writing samples, and James Sutter, Paizo’s executive editor, was one of those who actually replied! He liked my writing, wanted me to pitch some short stories, and eventually ended up buying a couple for Paizo’s weekly free fiction posts. Those became The Weeping Blade and Hunter’s Folly. At that point, he asked if I wanted to pitch a novel and…well, how could I refuse?
2. Your main character, Akina, a female dwarven barbarian, sounds so fierce. How much say did you have over her story? Did the guidelines set out by the RPG restrict your creativity in any way?
After James and I settled on the central novel concept, I worked up a rather in-depth character and plot outline which he and the rest of his team had to approve. So a lot of it originated from my end and then had to be tweaked here and there to ensure it all fit within the lore and gameplay mechanics. All the characters in the story are of my own conjuration, as is the main plot.
Sure, I had to be aware of certain limitations the world imposed, but in all honesty, Pathfinder has such a huge variety of settings, spells, weapons, races, monsters, and more that sometimes the creative challenge was narrowing down my options! In revisions, there were a few points where I had to substitute a particular spell or beast because it didn’t work as I originally wrote it, but there was never anything book-breaking, fortunately.
3. Do you have a favorite scene with Akina? Anything you can share without spoiling the story?
Some of my favorite parts with Akina—aside from the fight scenes, of course!—are the ones with her brother, Brakisten. I enjoyed getting to bring in familial dynamic into the story, showing that, while Akina may not have a “softer” side, per se, she definitely cares about certain people in her life and is willing to go to great lengths to protect them. Her relationship with Brakisten is strained because of her long absence from home and other troubling circumstances, but you can sense the underlying bond between them.
4. The title of your second book, Enter the Janitor, gave me a good chuckle. Ben, a grizzled old janitor, sounds like several janitors I’ve known. Tell us more about him and his apprentice. How did these two come together?
Ben is one of those guys who you’d easily overlook or write-off because of his appearance and initial impression—though his rough and gruff exterior is a bit of a shield he puts up thanks to some nasty troubles in his past. Then there’s Dani, who starts out highly germaphobic and has her own “shield” in the form of gloves and massive amounts of sanitizer gel. They meet in a college library when Dani accidentally intrudes on Ben’s efforts to neutralize a particularly mucky monster causing trouble on campus. Things go a bit downhill from there…
5. Did you find world-building for your own story easier or harder than working within a world already established by the RPG?
Each requires a unique approach. When I build my own world, I often outline it rather heavily, defining what’s possible, mapping out the boundaries, and establishing the rules of engagement, as it were. With an RPG tie-in, all those are previously established and the effort comes from learning those pre-existing boundaries and rules so the story meshes with them properly. I might say dealing with my own setting is a tad bit easier because if I have to rewrite a few rules along the way for the story’s sake, no problem!
6. Do you have a favorite scene with these two characters? Again, without giving away spoilers.
There’s a scene just a bit beyond halfway through the book where Ben and Dani get separated when dealing with an extremist cult and have to fight their way back together. It’s a confrontation where they realize just how much their dynamic has changed since they first bumped into one another back in the library, and how much they’ve come to rely on one another, even in such a short time. It also provides a bigger turning point for how they interact, with a bit more mutual respect.
About the Author
Author, freelance and editor, Josh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). He’s a member of SFWA, as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. You can find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt.