Erin M. Evans is a former WotC editor and author in the Forgotten Realms setting. Her second, Brimstone Angels, releases this month. I sat down with her recently to talk about her two devilish sisters, a really bad news devil lord, and impending doom.
Q. So Brimstone Angels ties into the Neverwinter releases this year. What aspects of Neverwinter do you play up in the novel?
I liked the idea of this city that’s historically been huge and vibrant and influential, that’s been just razed by catastrophes, but that’s starting to rebuild. I read a lot of news stories from post-Hurricane Katrina NOLA to get an idea of what it’s like. For Neverwinter, what really popped for me is that while the people of Neverwinter are trying to rebuild, there are all these major threats that have sort of entrenched themselves where no one’s looking.
When I started outlining the novel, I went through Cryptic’s story bible for ideas and found myself drawn in particular to the interplay of two big factors—the Ashmadai and the Abolethic Sovereignty. I actually went to them with the idea of a succubus that’s been tasked with corrupting a priest who turns out to be “the Foulspawn Prophet” that Cryptic had put in Helm’s Hold. But then they decided that the prophet should be a woman, so I said, “How about the succubus becomes the prophet then?” They loved it, so now you’ll find Rohini in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting. In some ways, Brimstone Angels is Rohini’s origin story.
(And there are a few easter eggs for fans of the previous video games. J)
Q. What was it like to write a pair of sisters? How did that affect your writing process?
I have two sisters of my own, so that dynamic is one I’m pretty familiar with. I suspect that on some level it’s the same sort of dynamic that brothers have—these are people you’re closer to than anyone, so they can also drive you crazier than anyone. Your very identity, on some level, gets tangled up with who they are. You can be “the smart one” or “the pretty one” or “the athletic one” but whatever your siblings get to be, you don’t. When I bring this up with people a lot of the time, there’s this spark of recognition and they tell me about how their brother was good at running, so they just decided they were bad at running despite going several miles a day. Or their sister was the artistic one, so they stopped drawing and got a new hobby. It’s sad and weird, but I think it happens to a lot of us for a time.
I feel like the scenes with the twins were some of the easiest to write because I’ve been where Farideh (the main character) is—where you just want to go out and be your own person without your siblings—and I’ve been where Havilar is—where you just want everyone to stop trying to change things up on you. I’m thankful to have gotten past that point, and I’m thankful neither of my sisters is a whiz with a polearm.
The funny thing is that I think my sisters will both read the book and decide that Farideh is me, and the other sister is Havilar. But I was much more of a Havilar at that age than either of them.
Q. Who was your favorite character in the book? Which character particularly challenged you?
All of them and all of them? This is a character-heavy book, and writing it took a lot of work that had me pretty much getting into every character’s head for an extended period of time.
I found a lot of the time I butted up against tropes I didn’t want to use. Like Lorcan—he’s the cambion that Farideh has a pact with. He’s a complicated character with a lot to work out—he’s controlling and a little compulsive, but he’s also very noble in his own way. I hope you can see a sort of thread of humanity in him, but he’s unavoidably fiendish. There were times in my first draft where I felt like he was really trying to be the hero—and I think if someone else was writing this book, he might have surged up and redeemed himself right away, because that’s what you expect the handsome bad boy to do in other books, right? But—spoiler alert—Lorcan’s not a prince. He’s an evil bastard. An evil bastard you can occasionally count on, but an evil bastard.
Q. Does Brimstone Angels relate to your previous work in some way (such as your previous novel, The God Catcher)? Are we going to see familiar characters?
For the most part, no. The book is set about a year earlier in the current timeline (around Kythorn 1478), to make room for actions that set up threats in Neverwinter, so Tennora’s still a wizard and Nestrix is still gods know where doing gods know what. One character from my short story, “The Resurrection Agent,” [link?] does return, older and wiser, as a secondary character—a Harper agent. I needed a priest for mechanical reasons, and rather than come up with a whole new character, I pulled the Shepherd out of retirement and gave him a new purpose.
Q. You write a bit about warlock pacts in the novel. How was that? Where do you take your inspiration?
Mechanically, in The Fanged Crown, there’s a character with an infernal pact, so I tried to keep to the suggestions there—patterns of hurns that mark the warlock as a devil’s especially. But the character there was pretty minor, so I had a lot of room to get creative. I wanted to get away from the standard Faustian pact, because dragging that out over a series of books didn’t feel like what I wanted to do. Instead, I created a sort of devilish subculture of pact-holders who collect warlocks of particular bloodlines or attributes, and spend a lot of time hunting for the exact right warlock or poaching their rivals’. The casting style, I tried to make very physical, since a lot of the book is about personal space and bloodlines—plus, it means it’s less like wizardry.
Character-wise, I really loved dealing with the pact. Here’s this very moral young woman who’s spent her entire life being told she has to be obscenely good, that she has the options of maybe two professions that she hates, that she’s pretty much going to be stuck living with her sister in the middle of nowhere because she’s not safe going out into the world. And then she takes this pact—something so far from all that she didn’t even know she wanted it—and suddenly has all this power. She knows it’s a bad idea on paper, but in practice her life is suddenly a lot better. Suddenly she can help people. She’s conflicted and confused and trying to figure it out.
Q. Your book highlights the erinyes and succubus, two creatures that have undergone some flux throughout the editions, as well as cambions, tieflings, and big-time devil princess Glasya. What can you say about that?
I wrote a whole blog post about this, actually. Check it out here: Sexy Devil Women on Slush Lush
Q. I heard a rumor a Brimstone Angels follow-up is in the works. Any teasers you can slip? (Promise I won’t tell anyone!)
The hard part about giving teasers for the next book is not spoiling this one! Let’s see…
Loose ends connect up, but more appear.
- More of the Shepherd.
- Fewer devils—new threat.
- And I’ve been researching sokushinbutsu.
About the Interviewer:
Erik Scott de Bie is the author of numerous novels and short stories in the Forgotten Realms (his fourth, Shadowbane, released in October 2011), as well as a contributing designer to several Dungeons and Dragons products. He feels particularly honored to borrow one of Erin’s toys (Rohini) for the Neverwinter Campaign Setting, and is looking forward to her novel with serious enthusiasm.