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Tell Me – Dave Gross

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

The one time I met Dave, he described himself as "the evilest nice guy you'll ever meet" AKA an author and a GM. He was right, he really was a nice guy. Thus, I am please to present what it was he wanted to tell me about pitches.

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Pitching the Pitch
 
Most of my writing in the past few years has been for Pathfinder Tales, always with the same pair of mismatched protagonists. Count Varian Jeggare and his hellspawn henchman Radovan first appeared in the novella “Hell’s Pawns” (my love letter to film noir), but since then their travels have included four short stories, another novella, and three novels. Queen of Thorns is the latest.
 
For almost every story with “the boys,” I try to do something a little different, often inspired by my latest film binge. I even pitch them Hollywood style. For Prince of Wolves, I told my editor it would be “Indiana Jones in Transylvania.” I described Master of Devils as “Varian and Radovan vs. every Kung Fu movie ever.”
 
While my original idea for Queen of Thorns also had a Hollywood angle, the outline soon drifted far from movie inspirations. Rather than drawing on films, I found myself using the Pathfinder setting as my principal and almost sole source of inspiration.
 
Part of that inspiration comes from the map of Kyonin. Ages ago the elves fled the world of Golarion to avoid a cataclysmic event. By the time they returned, demons had claimed their land, and they have fought ever since to reclaim it. Now and then, they stumble upon an ancient ruin—obviously of elven design—that not even their eldest sages can remember.
 
From the start I knew my plot involved the search for a missing person. After researching the map and sourcebooks for Kyonin, I traced a path through sites with evocative names like Omesta, Erithiel’s Hall, the Walking Man, the Wandering Spheres, and the Endless Cairns. Finding a common thread in their histories, I wound it around the personal story of the elven father Count Jeggare had never met.
 
Besides the map, the most important influence from the Pathfinder setting came from its depiction of elves. Except their enormous irises and ears, they resemble Tolkien’s famous version of the fey folk. Under the surface, however, there are a few other slight differences.
 
The elves pity their “Forlorn” kin, elves raised in human cultures. Likewise, the elves tolerate but do not fully embrace the gnomes who settled Kyonin in their absence. Some of those gnomes suffer from a magical ennui known as the Bleaching. Reviewing these facts of the game world, I knew I had to include a Forlorn elf and a Bleachling gnome. They made excellent foils for the half-elven Varian and the devil-blooded Radovan, no less outsiders among their own people.
 
Unlike the more familiar elves of fantasy fiction, Pathfinder elves strive to embody guile, lust, and revenge, the three stings of their chief goddess, Calistria. No one better embodies those stings than a Calistrian inquisitor. Naturally, I had to have one in the story. But for contrast I also wanted to include a classical elf ranger, an incomparable scout and archer. The fun came in showing how each character embodies the passions of their goddess in different ways.
 
When it came time to promote Queen of Thorns, I found myself fumbling for a Hollywood pitch that no longer existed. Sure, you can see some Tolkienesque elements in the setting, and the demons serve a role similar to that of a certain infamous xenomorph. Now that I write those words, I wonder whether I should just give in and start describing the book as “Lord of the Rings meets Aliens.” However, the truth is that Queen of Thorns, more than the previous two Varian & Radovan books, is almost purely a Pathfinder novel.