By Kurt Anthony Krug
Even though he has 14 novels under his belt, New York Times best-selling novelist Paul S. Kemp isn’t planning on quitting his day-job as a lawyer any time soon.
“I’ll just keep juggling both,” said Kemp, 44, the in-house counsel for Caretech Solutions, a technology company in Troy.
The 2000 University of Michigan Law School alumnus lives with Jennifer, his wife of 21 years; their twin sons, 8; and their 1-1/2-year-old daughter in Grosse Pointe Farms. Another daughter is expected in August.
He continued, “Some days it’s hard, but you learn to make time for the important stuff. For me, it’s my family, my day job, and my writing. Once you get a little ways into writing career, you get to the point where you can write polished prose after a short time. I usually can get in 1,000 to 2,000 words after the kids go to bed.”
Kemp’s latest book, A Discourse in Steel – a sword and sorcery novel – isn’t so much a sequel to last year’s The Hammer and the Blade, as it is a follow-up that features his characters Egil (pronounced “egg-gill”) and Nix.
“I’m trying to write these books as stand-alones so a reader can pick them up in no particular order. One needn’t read the first book in order to understand the second book. It would help because there’s cross-referencing, but it’s not essential,” said Kemp, who added that a third book featuring Egil and Nix – A Conversation in Blood – is scheduled for next year.
Egil and Nix are warriors who give up their swords to open up a bar and a brothel, but find themselves once again taking arms.
“They think they’ll settle down after the opening chapter of The Hammer and the Blade, but things haven’t worked out that way,” explained Kemp. “The buddy duo is as iconic in sword and sorcery fiction just like it is in cop movies. There’s the straight man and the humorous man. One has the muscle and one has the speed… It’s very archetypical.”
In A Discourse of Steel, the duo runs afoul of the Thieves Guild. Their friend Rose, a telepath, is traumatized after reading the mind of a thief; she’s in the thief’s head when he’s murdered. As a result, she’s accosted by his thoughts, memories, and knowledge as his and her memories intermingle. In short, she’s losing herself. Since she knows too much about the Thieves Guild and is very emotionally unstable, the guild sets out to kill her, which Egil and Nix won’t allow.
“(Egil and Nix) both come from a deep, abiding love I have for old school sword and sorcery fiction – Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Moorcock… Those stories for me had a profound effect when I was young. They have an unabashed, unapologetic verve. They’re not ironic, they’re not bleak; they’re optimistic and enormously fun. My books have some dark elements, but I want to tell a ripping yarn and capture that adventure book feel. I didn’t see a lot of that on the market. I’m known for dark stuff, but I love the kind of stuff too with a sense of wonder to it. I didn’t see a lot of that out there; this is an homage to the adventure fiction I love,” explained Kemp.
His next book, The Godborn, debuts October 1. It is a “Forgotten Realms” novel, which is part of the “Dungeons & Dragons” role-playing game franchise that has spawned numerous sword and sorcery novels. It’s also the second part of “The Sundering,” a 6-book event written by different authors. The first book, The Companions – debuting in August – is written by New York Times best-selling novelist R.A. Salvatore.
“Each book shows different aspects of each event. They’re not sequels by any means,” said Kemp. “There are some connections, but they’re small.”
The Godborn features Vasen Cale, the son of Erevis – the protagonist of six novels and two short stories by Kemp – and Drasek Riven, his father’s former compatriot. They join forces to battle Shar, the goddess of darkness, who hopes to plunge the world in eternal darkness. As they confront her, the Sundering is set on its course.
Kemp is also contracted to pen two more Star Wars books, which expand on the blockbuster movie franchise created by George Lucas. The adventures of these beloved characters have continued in numerous novels, comic books, video games, as well as spawned numerous merchandise, including ac-tion figures, role-playing games, lunch boxes, et al.
However, Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars media franchise last year for more than $4 billion have tripped up Kemp’s plans.
“The Disney acquisition put my situation on standby. I’m not sure when that’ll unfold. I’ll get some clarity when Episode 7 comes out and things will be less muddy from my perspective,” said Kemp. “Eventually, I’ll do another Star Wars book; I just don’t know when.”
For Kemp, the best part of being a novelist is the interaction he has with fans.
“I get e-mails from readers with some frequency – whether it’s my Erevis Cale novels or, more recently, my Star Wars novels – who have had significant challenges in their lives,” said Kemp. “They’ll send me e-mails telling me how my novels got them through a dark point in their lives, or I’ll get e-mails from soldiers who are reading these things in the field. ‘It’s been a godsend for us because it helps us got through a highly stressful time… it’s a great escape for me’ and all that. As much as I love the creative process, turning a blank page into a story, I hope people have a lot of fun reading them. Getting those kinds of e-mails, those kinds of responses from fans, is the best thing about being a writer.”
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