Richard A. Knaak is the prolific author of over fifty novels, ranging from Dragonlance to Warcraft to Dragonrealm and, most recently, the roaring 20s urban fantasy Black City Saint. (Yes, I loved it, and you should definitely go out and try it.) And Mr. Knaak has been gracious enough to answer a few questions. Let’s get right to it!
You have a new book out now titled Black City Saint; would you agree with some who say it is a departure from the type of books you are best known for like Dragonrealm?
It is and it isn’t. It’s true, I’ve not written much in the urban fantasy subgenre, but the elements in Black City Saint still in some way harken back to my epic fantasy. However, I look at each book I write individually, not as of one subgenre or another. In the end, I just try to tell a story.
How long has the idea for this urban fantasy been percolating in your mind? How long did it take from conception to finished product?
The idea had been percolating a couple of years prior. Altogether, from conception to finished, I’d have to say about 3 1/2 years.
Did you plan out every detail of Black City Saint before you began writing, or did it evolve organically during the writing process?
Why prohibition Chicago as the setting for this urban fantasy? How did it aid you in setting the tone of the narrative?
It was a fascinating and underused time period in the field. In addition, having grown up around Chicago, I’d heard many of the stories about the Roaring 20s, including, of course, those involving Capone, Moran, and others. It just seemed natural to finally use it. In fact, the setting helped incredibly in setting the tone, more so than I could have imagined.
There are several historical figures in this story; how much research did you do about them, and did that history change your original ideas for any of the characters?
I tried to locate all characters and situations relevant to that moment in time and found that some of them especially altered elements of the story. The depth they added I also found helped make Nick’s situation seem more imminent.
It goes without saying that there is a lot of hidden back story to all the characters in Black City Saint; how much of that have you already planned out? How much will you probably use?
There’s quite a bit of back story for each, most of which I plan to use, if given the chance. I think each of the character’s experiences will be essential to the overall storyline.
How difficult is it to blend the character’s history into the ongoing narrative of an action-packed story?
Fetch is slowly becoming a fan favorite like Oberon from Kevin Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles; does it surprise you that he has clicked with readers so much, or did you sense his appeal as you were writing?
It doesn’t surprise me. Fetch is a very appealing character. Even when I started writing him, I knew that he would be almost as complex a character as Nick himself, but with that otherworldliness and humor that rounds him out so well. At the same time, he has that dangerous edge that we’ve not seen the last of.
Any favorite character in Black City Saint? If so, who and why?
Besides Fetch? Nick and the dragon. I put them together because of their situation. The dynamic between them fascinates me. They are by no means friends, not even good allies. There has always been that dangerous gulf between them of which Nick must always remain wary. The dragon is a danger that means that the pair will always be dueling on some level.
As a writer who has played in other people’s worlds (Warcraft, Diablo, Dragonlance) and created your own (Dragonrealm), which is more satisfying? Why?
Well, I would have to say that playing in my own worlds is more satisfying, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy playing in other people’s words a lot. With my own creations, I can take the paths I want, whereas even if given a lot of leeway, I still have to remain true to what someone else has created. That’s perfectly fine, of course, but there’s nothing like expanding your own work.
When you are writing, how do you keep all the little details straight about a world, remain consistent to past stories, yet still find a way to surprise fans who want to be amazed yet are also looking for one little inconsistency to pounce on you about? Has a reader ever nailed you on a small mistake you overlooked?
I try to keep a lot of notes nearby, but, yes, things will slip through. This happens with either my own world or someone else’s. In the latter, even those who created the world will often miss elements. We do try to catch everything, but no one is perfect. We have been caught. That’s different, though, from having to adjust or even change something due to necessary advances in that world’s storyline (this especially in something as massive as Warcraft has become).
How many writing projects do you juggle at one time? Do you ever catch yourself accidentally using ideas from one story in another without meaning to do so?
Several is the best answer I can give. For the most part, I’ve kept things separated.
What projects should your fans look forward to in the near future?
More Dragonrealm, some Pathfinder . . . things I can’t mention yet.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Richard A. Knaak is the New York Times- and USA Today-bestselling author of The Legend of Huma, WoW: Wolfheart, and nearly fifty other novels and numerous short stories, including works in such series as Warcraft, Diablo, Dragonlance, Age of Conan, and his own Dragonrealm. He has scripted a number of Warcraft manga with Tokyopop, such as the top-selling Sunwell trilogy, and has also written background material for games.