Let the record show, I was never a gamer, I thought live-action gaming sounded lame, and I wanted nothing to do with geekdom in general. And then I got tricked, yes tricked, into attending a live-action gaming event. Five hundred people were dressed up in crazily detailed costumes, wearing make-up, prosthetics, real chain mail, and running around in the woods like maniacs in the middle of the night. I had to know why.
So, I reluctantly gave it a try. Big mistake. Huge. I fell in love with it, and my life as geek was launched.
It helped matters that I’d been lured into an amazing game called Dragon Crest created by a brilliant guy named Bill Flippin. He’d built a world that was so complex, so gigantic, so real, that it blew away all my pre-conceived notions about fantasy gaming in general. Players had to make heart-wrenching sacrifices, overcome impossible odds, find the hero inside themselves. I mean, sure, they were fighting other players dressed up as bad guys and monsters. But the stress was real. The choices were real. The heroes were real.
And that was when I knew I had to write a book set in this world. I actually wrote THE SLEEPING KING in secret. I told absolutely nobody about it, not even my family. I would do my usual writing for the day (I’ve published fifty suspense and thriller novels), and then I’d sneakily open up the Sleeping King file and gleefully type for a few pages.
As I wrote, I found it pretty easy to describe the characters because I knew exactly what the actual characters looked like from running around in the woods with them. Something like twenty-five of the characters in THE SLEEPING KING are based on real people. The major plot arc of the book was, and is, one of the major story lines being played out in the live-action game. In some ways, I’m more of an archivist than a writer on this project.
Of course, Bill and I dug deeper into the world and expanded the story the players saw into the bigger and more nuanced one that readers can enjoy now. But the main kernel of the story comes from our players.
The hardest part of writing a book that originates in the minds of dozens of players is telling it in a way that satisfies all of them. One character doesn’t like a bad guy in the live game, but to move the book forward, I need them to become allies. I’ve had to negotiate a few peace treaties with players before I could move ahead with the books. One player wanted to be known in the books for making great stew. Done. Another wanted to be known as grouchy all the time. Easy peasy.
But then there was the guy who played the baddest bad guy of all. Would he mind terribly if I immortalized him as a greedy, selfish, psychopathic jerk, please, pretty please? Fortunately, that player is a really nice guy with a big sense of humor, and he agreed to let me write him into the novels in all his horrible glory.
The best part of writing a novel about a live-action game is all the funny, smart, unexpected things a bunch of gamers come up with and then let me weave into the books. It makes writing the stories such a joy. I have this rich, vibrant, colorful world to choose from as I sit down to write. It wasn’t hard transitioning from a live game to a book. But it was murder trying to choose which parts not to put in!
And yes, there are a whole bunch more Dragon Crest novels on the way. Bill and I just finished drafting the second big novel. It’s called THE DREAMING HUNT, and comes out next September. The third book, THE WANDERING WAR is in development right now. As for the fourth book? The players haven’t played it yet, so I have no idea what will happen in it. If and when they save the world, I’ll be sure to write book four!