Today we have a very special Q&A post with the author of Pathfinder Tales: Gears of Faith, Gabrielle Harbowy plus a giveaway of her new novel!
“Pathfinder is the world’s bestselling tabletop role-playing game―now adapted as a series of novels.
Keren is a sworn knight of Iomedae, proper and disciplined in every way. Her girlfriend, Zae, is the opposite―a curious gnome cleric of the clockwork god, who loves nothing more than the chaos of her makeshift hospitals. When a powerful evil artifact is stolen from a crusader stronghold, both knight and gnome are secretly sent to the great city of Absalom to track down the stolen bloodstone.
Sure, they may not be the most powerful or experienced members of their organizations, but that’s the whole point―with legendary champions and undead graveknights battling at every turn in their race to recover the stone, who’ll notice one young knight and her gnome? All they have to do is stay alive long enough to outsmart a thief capable of evading both gods and heroes.”
1) Kara: Obviously, you love Pathfinder and this really shows in your level of detail in descriptions and imagination in the book. What is your perfect character and how does he/she differ from Keren and Zae?
Gabrielle: My perfect character is one I’ve never played before!
In writing this novel and, essentially, having to play all the characters and understand the mechanics of a lot of different classes and options, I’ve definitely learned to step outside my comfort zone. I love playing healers and support classes, and that’s what I’ve always gravitated toward in tabletop RPGs, but now I want to dig into all the options and try everything at least twice.
I don’t roleplay Keren or Zae at the table, mostly because I don’t want to have to keep novel continuity separate from in-game continuity. “Remember the time we– oh, right. That didn’t actually happen.” It would make things twice as complicated for me if they diverged! My current Pathfinder characters are a haunted Oracle whose belongings get shifted around by the spirits of everyone she’s killed; a very impatient Tian human fighter (of the “I respect your desire to negotiate, but can’t we just kill all the things?” variety); and a Tengu (ravenfolk) mage.
2) Kara: What advice would you give readers and gamers new to Pathfinder and Pathfinder Tales?
Gabrielle: Pathfinder is a collaborative game and Pathfinder players are very helpful people, so don’t be concerned about knowing every rule before you show up at the table. You can use a premade character to get a feel for things without getting bogged down by multiple books’ worth of rules, or to try different classes to you find one you enjoy. It’s totally acceptable to say “Okay, how do I roll for that?” or “Where do I find that on my character sheet?” or “Here’s what I want my character to do. Can I do that? What’s the best way to go about it?” and everyone will chime in to help you do your best. Pathfinder works best when the party is a team that strategizes together, so new blood is always welcome because it brings new possibilities to the table.
For readers new to Pathfinder Tales, my advice is basically the same. The novels might require you to piece some things together from context, but the novels (or series of novels within the Pathfinder Tales line) are engineered to stand alone. They’re enhanced by knowledge of the game lore, because you’ll recognize things and appreciate references, but specific knowledge of the game isn’t necessary to enjoy the novels. They’re set all over the known Pathfinder world, and they’re all meant to be accessible starting points.
3) Kara: There’s quite a bit of in-depth mechanical description in Gears of Faith, and the Clockwork Cathedral is amazing! How did you come up with that and the descriptions for the clockwork devices?
Gabrielle: One of the exciting things about writing tie-in fiction is that you can take something that fascinates you, that’s just a concept or a couple of sentences in a reference book, and really flesh it out and make it your own. I find the Clockwork Cathedral fascinating, and I had a lot of fun translating its bare bones into a living, functioning building. The shape of the Cathedral was already in the canon, as were the giant gears that swing down at varying times to block off the hallways, and the fact that there are no amenities inside. I got to think realistically about what that would mean, what it would feel like and look like, and describe that through the wonder and incredulity of someone new to it all. I particularly enjoyed exploring the contrast between Zae’s first impressions, being overwhelmed by the eccentricity of the place, and the total nonchalance of her fellow students for whom it’s become commonplace.
Sometimes the ideas drive themselves. Without giving away too much, I’ll say that, for example, when a character says something, “be careful not to get stuck inside the gears,” it becomes kind of necessary and obvious that, at some point, someone’s going to be in danger of getting stuck inside the gears!
For the mechanical devices, I did a lot of research. I looked at spells in the game and thought about which of them were practical to house inside of objects and then activate, and how to make the object and its activation method appropriate to the device.
The failed devices were the easier ones to come up with than the working ones, because that just meant taking things to their logical extremes. I wasn’t bound by practicality. Like, take the Bleed spell. That spell means that someone who’s dying and has been stabilized, becomes unstable and resumes bleeding out. Well, you don’t need to go to the effort of magic to craft an object that can do that, when you could just use a sword!
Some of the more whimsical devices didn’t make it into the book, just because I had to strike a balance between creating fun objects and remembering that the characters were under a bit of a time crunch to solve the central mystery…but I’m holding on to the blueprints of those objects for future use.
4) Kara: I loved the diversity in this book! Zae was my favorite character because she’s unique, smart, and quirky, and yet I admired Keren’s inner drive. Their relationship seems like a good partnership. What did you most want to convey to your readers through the diversity of characters and relationships?
Gabrielle: Thank you! What I really wanted most was to normalize the diversity. Here’s a couple who’ve been together a while and aren’t in the new romance phase of a relationship, and they’ve obviously made it work. It’s not a coming out story, because coming out isn’t the only story. And there’s no way to dismiss it with “well, it won’t last.” It’s lasted. It doesn’t matter that they’re both female, or that they’re not both human, or whatever. They’re people having genuine emotions and genuine quirks and flaws. All of the things that might get them looked at askance in our real world just aren’t a big deal.
I have a transgendered main supporting character, and again it’s not a big deal. There are also a few non-binary characters sprinkled in conspicuously (one “extra” in the Clockwork Cathedral is a male gnome in eyeliner and a skirt), and no one cares, singles them out, or places different expectations on them.
In our world, people are still marginalized for these things. And because they’re not what our society sees as its default, it’s rare for people who identify in diverse ways to be able to find themselves depicted in fiction. My intent was that diverse readers would find that perspective refreshing, and readers who hadn’t come across much of that sort of thing might find their horizons widened, and their stereotypes and assumptions challenged. It’s not the big reveal or the punch line or the plot twist. It’s just people being honest with themselves about who they are and/or who they love.
5) Kara: What was your favorite part about bringing the game to life?
Gabrielle: I love Pathfinder’s take on gnomes, which was why I wanted to feature one in the first place. In Pathfinder, gnomes crave novelty and don’t have many hangups about how they get it. They’re long-lived fae-based creatures so they have an outsider perspective on humanity. I had a great time diving into the gnomish mindset. I’ve come to love Zae’s skewed perspective on the mostly human world around her. She gives me an opportunity to take things to their literal extreme, to question things people don’t question, to think about the names of things, and to approach a fascinating world with the kind of wide-eyed wonder that we all eventually lose when we live in a place and see it every day.
In “Inheritance,” the pre-Gears of Faith short story (linked below), Zae explains: “…it’s not just [naïve] curiosity. It’s informed curiosity. I know how big and complicated and dangerous the world is. What fascinates me is all that variety—how the world can be so full of parts that are so complex and weird and beautiful, and interconnected. I’m not fascinated by birds in flight because I think flight is mystical and impossible, I’m fascinated because I understand how it works, and how it works is fascinating. That’s the kind of wonder I see in the world.”
6) Kara: What’s next for Keren and Zae? Will we find out how they met?
Gabrielle: Maybe! They’ve hinted at it, but the whole story might come to light in a future tale. In the meantime, you can check out my short story “Inheritance” (free on Paizo’s website) and see how they acquired Appleslayer, Zae’s brave steed. As for what’s next, I think Keren and Zae are going to stay in Absalom a while, but both of them are at the mercy of their callings. Who knows where they might end up!
7) Kara: What’s next for you? Will you be writing more books with Paizo?
Gabrielle: My next project is a contemporary (not fantasy / science fiction) young adult novel called Hearts Are Jerks, which is about a teenage girl and her adventures navigating polyamory. I’m in revisions on this now, and I hope to be sending it around to agents this summer. It’s also an attempt to normalize the diverse, and give voice to people who don’t get to see themselves and their relationships represented in fiction in positive ways. After that, I’ll be writing the sequel to Of the Essence, which is an urban fantasy novel I wrote in Ed Greenwood’s “Hellmaw” shared-world setting. Would I like to write more Keren and Zae? Definitely. And I’m looking forward to seeing what stories inspire me in Paizo’s forthcoming Starfinder setting, as well.
Thank you, Gabrielle, for answering my questions about Gears of Faith! I will definitely be looking out for your YA novel! Also, many thanks to TOR for sending us the book to feature and for offering a giveaway!
To enter our giveaway, leave a comment on this post answering the following question:
What is your favorite fantasy RPG? (can be tabletop or video game!)
The giveaway ends May 12, 2017. Please check back to see if you’re the winner!
Please note: Giveaway is only eligible to readers from US or Canada.
Gabrielle Harbowy got her start in the publishing industry as a Pricing Analyst at Scholastic. Since leaving the corporate side of publishing in 2006, she has edited for publishers including Pyr, Lambda Literary, and Circlet Press, and spent a decade as the managing editor at Dragon Moon Press. She copyedits professionally and is a submissions editor at the Hugo-nominated Apex Magazine. With Ed Greenwood, she co-edited the award-nominated When the Hero Comes Home anthology series; their latest anthology endeavor is Women in Practical Armor, from Evil Girlfriend Media. Her short fiction can be found in several anthologies, including Carbide Tipped Pens from Tor, and her first novel, Hellmaw: Of the Essence, is available from The Ed Greenwood Group. She also has a Pathfinder Tales novel, Gears of Faith, from Paizo. For more information, visit her online at @gabrielle_h or gabrielleharbowy.com.
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