Interview with Kevin J. Anderson author of Siege of the Tower.

The husband-wife team of Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta have published an astonishing number of high-profile Science Fiction and Fantasy books, including major contributions to the expanded universes of Star Wars and Dune. Kevin Anderson’s work has garnered an impressive number of awards and nominations. He has written for Lucafilm and collaborated with big names like Dean Koontz, Brian Herbert, and (hard to believe) Neil Peart of Rush. The Andersons operate their own publishing house, WordFire.Press which has picked up rights to publish and republished big names like Alan Dean Foster, Frank Herbert, and D&D favorite Tracy Hickman.

But way back in the day, before Kevin J Anderson was a well-established name in the biz, he and his wife received a commission for a modest project with TSR’s Endless Quest series under the imprint of Greyhawk Adventures.

I recently obtained a copy of the rare book Siege of the Tower and reviewed it here. I caught up with Anderson via email to ask a few questions about how he came to be a Greyhawk writer.

Greyhawkstories:

How did you land the contract with TSR to write Siege of the Tower?

Kevin J. Anderson:

That was an interesting project that NO ONE ever asks about! Brian Thomsen was the editor at TSR, and he was a friend of ours. We (my wife Rebecca Moesta and I) were working writers, just about at the time we were quitting our day jobs and becoming full-time writers, and so we were open to new projects. Brian asked us if we were interested in doing a D&D “choose your own adventure” book, which were just starting to become popular at the time.

Greyhawkstories:

Siege of the Tower reads pretty faithful to the D&D genre. It reads like a campaign adaptation of a module. Were you already familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, or did you need to do a crash course in the game?

Kevin J. Anderson:

Oh yes, I played it all the time in college. My DM, in fact, was Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who is now an award-winning and bestselling author herself. In fact my very first published trilogy, GAMEARTH, GAMEPLAY, and GAME’S END, is D&D fantasy adventure. We would play every Sunday night with a group of friends, and our game became the basis for my trilogy and for Kris’s first published novel, White Mists of Power.

Greyhawkstories:

Were you familiar with the World of Greyhawk setting?

Kevin J. Anderson:

Not Greyhawk, as such. Just the general D&D universe, but we polished up on Greyhawk before writing the book.

Greyhawkstories:

The “choose-your-own-adventure” genre seems like a baffling way to create a narrative. How did you go about constructing the novel?

Kevin J. Anderson:

Choose-your-own-adventure was a “thing” at the time, but we had never tried one before. But it sounded like fun. So, Brian Thomsen gave us a cover painting, something TSR already owned, showing an ugly ogre and other ogres laying siege to a medieval castle. He told us that was the cover, so we agreed to set up a story around that painting. Rebecca and I brought in three other writer friends of ours for the project, and we all camped at our house for a weekend. We developed the main story, and then brainstormed all of the possibly storylines. We had a huge piece of paper, like a flowchart, mapping all the story possibilities. BUT the important thing was that every single storyline brought the reader to the scene that was on the cover.

With the other authors, we each retreated to separate writing rooms, and everybody wrote their storylines. It took the team a weekend to produce the book, and then Rebecca and I took the consolidated manuscript and polished it all up before delivery. We were all pretty pleased with how it turned out and how much fun we had. The book went unto production and Brian Thomsen, the editor, was very happy to send us the final copies.

Remember when I told you that he gave us the cover painting, and how we worked hard to make sure that every possible storyline showed that scene—burly ogres with clubs laying siege to a castle tower?  Well, when we received the final covers, we were shocked to see a demon on a flaming skeleton horse … which had nothing to do with the story. We called the editor in distress, “This isn’t the cover painting you gave us!!!”  He groaned and said “Oh, not again …”

Siege

 

Borderwatch

Greyhawkstories:

That explains the mystery of the cover. The artwork you described is a Paul Jaquays piece that appeared on the cover of the module Border Watch. The artwork on Siege of the Tower is the Jeff Easley piece that appeared on the cover of the 1992 boxset From the Ashes.

Kem Antilles is a pseudonym. Could you explain it? It sounds like a Star Wars reference.

Kevin J. Anderson:

Since so many other authors worked on Siege of the Tower, we wanted a name that was not obviously male or female, so we came up with “Kem.” I’ll confess, Antilles was an homage to Wedge Antilles from Star Wars.

Greyhawkstories:

If given the opportunity, would you ever be interested in returning to the World of Greyhawk?

Kevin J Anderson:

Interested?  Well, always. But whether or not I can fit it in with the deadlines is another thing entirely!

Greyhawkstories:

Since writing Siege of the Tower, you’ve gone on to write an astonishing library of titles. For readers who want to check out your other works, with what stories do you recommend we start?

Kevin J. Anderson:

Spine of the Dragon  is my big new epic fantasy trilogy. The second novel will come out soon, and I’m writing the third and final novel right now. I also have a really ambitious space opera series, The Saga of Seven Suns. The best thing, though, is to join my readers group at wordfire.com and I’ll keep you up on all the new stuff. You also get a free collection of my short stories.

Greyhawkstories:

One more thing. Just for fun, tell us about your relationship with Neil Peart.

Kevin J Anderson:

That’s a long story. I knew Neil for 30+ years before his passing last January. My first novel, Resurrection, Inc., was inspired by the Rush album Grace Under Pressure. Neil read the novel and wrote me. We were friends ever since. Not only did we write the novels Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives together, we also did a creepy short story, Drumbeats, and I’m just putting together a signed, limited and illustrated edition, which will be released soon. You can preorder at wordfireshop.com

Drumbeats

 

Siege of the Tower

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Siege of the Tower is an obscure and often-overlooked piece of Greyhawk fiction that deserves a place with other Greyhawk books. Read the review below and an interview with the author Kevin J. Anderson as well.

In 1982, TSR launched a series of books modeled after the popular Choose Your Own Adventure genre. The new series appeared under the title Endless Quest, publishing forty-nine titles before its relaunch in 2018. Most of the titles are generic Dungeons & Dragons fiction, but some were based on other TSR games and related franchises. According to a Wikipedia breakdown of the series, only two of the books are deliberately set in the World of Greyhawk: Siege of the Tower and Bigby’s Curse.

Siege of the Tower takes place during the Greyhawk Wars era, before the fall of Continue reading “Siege of the Tower”

The Stirges’ Nest

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Seventeen

Thomas Kelly

“From where has this one come to your lands?” Kristryd asked the duke’s daughter. He was certainly no Celine elf nor grey of Silverwood. She saw that clear enough. A long dandyish coat with polished brass buttons hung draped over his slim form. Boots of striding laced up to his knees. Tight-fitting elbow-length silken gloves concealed his hands and forearms. Colorful scarves like the kerchiefs of the Baklunish harem girls adorned his head. Baubled jewelry dangled from his ears. Trinkets, charms, and precious stones hung from a slender-linked silver chain about his neck. Glittering gems set in rings adorned his fingers. Kristryd observed that he conversed easily with the duke and seemed at home among the nobles in the palace yard at Tringlee.

“Deravnye is from Seltaren in Urnst,” Nevallewen replied. “He is a most distinguished elf.”

Overhearing his name, the foppish stranger turned to Kristryd and the duke’s daughter, executed a formal bow, and introduced himself properly, “To my kinfolk I am Deravnye, but I am simply Xaxa among friends.”

“Xaxa? Is that a name?” Kristryd asked. To her, all elves seemed effeminate, but this one more so.

“It’s a diminutive form. Xaxalander in full. And it is a name among the people of Urnst.”

“It must be a difficult burden to bear such an uncouth string of syllables!” the duke’s daughter flirted with feigned distaste.

“My lady knows that I am an uncouth elf. A rogue, expert treasure-hunter, dungeon explorer, magsman, and adventurer,” Xaxa returned the flirtatious jest. Continue reading “The Stirges’ Nest”

Companions of the Silver Wolf

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Greyhawkstories.com is a place for collecting stories set in the World of Greyhawk. For two decades, readers at Canonfire! have been treated to the tales of “The Companions of the Silver Wolf,” an adventuring party in the best tradition of the Flanaess. Now the author of those stories, Jared “CruelSummerLord” Milne, has collected his work into a trilogy available on Greyhawkstories. It’s not just fan-fiction, it’s fun fan-fiction.

Read all three at Greyhawkstories.com.

Continue reading “Companions of the Silver Wolf”

Head of the Medusa

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Sixteen

Thomas Kelly

Those sons of Celene who gathered the dead and committed them to the priests of Sehanine came upon a place of battle ringed about with many corpses. In the midst of these they found a toppled and broken stone sculpture of a single warrior. Though the flesh had been made stone, the petrified warrior still wielded his armor, weapons, and gear. “This is no work of an artist’s hands,” Onselvon said when he saw the broken remains. “This was Amras the son of Telfinwe.”

Onselvon made inquiries among the survivors and found one named Eldaeron who had fought beside Amras on the High Road. “Tell us all that befell you,” Onselvon urged.

“We fought our way through a clutch of black-armored ogre guardsmen wielding axes and spears. They ringed about the commander of the force, and we hoped to cut the head from the wyrm. Many fell on my left and my right, but Amras and I leaped through a gap in the ring and confronted the commander: a tall half-blood. That one carried a shield which bore goblin heraldry, painted in red. Namely, the head of a gorgon, magically painted with such enchantment that the serpents of her head writhe and move upon the face of the shield. When Amras saw the shield he stopped frozen, even with his sword poised for the stroke. The color drained from his flesh, and in a trice, he turned to solid stone. This I saw with my own eyes, and to my shame, I turned and fled.” Continue reading “Head of the Medusa”

Way of Tears

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Fifteen

Thomas Kelly

“We’re only here to burn the wretched city,” Hroth explained. “Outside of that, we don’t give a shite.” He gestured to the few dozen one-eared hobgoblin soldiers. They stood motionless at rigid attention—a study in military discipline. Many hundreds of miles had they traversed, under and above the mountains. They were footsore and hungry, on the last of the rations, and impatient for the fight. Now this dung-wad wanted to make excuses! Hroth hovered over Urgush and whispered, breathing his foul breath into the face of his lesser, “Where is your fiend-loving strumpet?”

Vantage on the High Road

Urgush Halfblood blanched and turned his face away from the hobgoblin warrior. “She has supplied us with spells, devilshine weapons, and armor too,” he insisted. He knocked his knuckles against the face of his shield to emphasize the point. “Tokens of her good faith!”

Horth’s yellow eyes blazed with menace. “We didn’t march a whole bloody moon for bloody tokens.”

From the height upon which they stood, the hobgoblin warlord and the half-orc looked down upon an open stretch of the Veluna High Road. A long caravan of gnomes descending from the Kron Hills snaked along the turns in the road, heading toward the fairy kingdom of Celene. Urgush pointed a clawed finger toward the caravan and snivelled, “What do you think those fonkin turds are doing? I watch ‘em come and go on that road, in and out, day after day. Buggerin’ elves, turd-nose gnomes, blasted dwarves! Armies and supplies! No one bothers them. No one hinders them.”

Hroth’s single remaining ear twitched. Continue reading “Way of Tears”

A Voice in the Dark

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Fourteen

Thomas Kelly

The fastaal shouted out orders in the elven tongue, assuming himself the commander of the situation. Likewise, the dwarven officers shouted their own commands in their own tongue, each one assuming himself the leader. Arrows punctured flesh, dwarves and elves clutched at wounds, and savages leaped toward them with thirsty blades.

As the chaos of the battle erupted around her, Kristryd seemed to float above it, as if observing these things happen to someone other than herself—as if playing war in a child’s game. The curious detachment had dreamlike quality. Despite the darkness all around her, her dwur eyes could clearly discern the orcs leaping from behind the stones and dropping from hidden alcoves above. So this is how it ends, here on the Low Road, as it ended for my miserable and unhappy husband, she thought to herself. Her thoughts turned to her three sons. Shall I leave them as orphans?

Kristryd Takes Charge

After only a moment of hesitation, she took charge, ignoring both the Celene officer and the long-bearded dwarven warmen. With a natural ease like one long accustomed to the battlefield, she shouted orders in elvish and dwarvish as the need demanded. Her clear-toned voice resonated above the din of battle. “Form up! Wall of shields! Hammers and axes between!” she commanded in the dwarvish tongue. “Archers aim low, drop the first ranks first,” she commanded in the elvish tongue. “Spellcasters! Light spells, magical arrows, and a wall of fire on the flank!”

Both the elves and the dwarves heeded the voice in the dark, for they had already grown accustomed to her translating on behalf of one another. The dwarves raised a wall of shields, hammers, and axes against the onslaught. The elves loosed away volleys of arrows, striking the first wave so that the second stumbled over them. Archosian employed cantrips to create light spells that revealed the enemy, blinded their eyes, and outlined them in fey light. The sturdy dwur wizard Bagbag threw down spells of power worthy of warmages. Nothing struck fear into the orcs as much as Peralay’s dogs. The cooshees silently leapt at the orcs, ripping at throats. Dothmar and Peralay followed quickly with Concluder and Gnoll-Cleaver, both blades naked and unsheathed, flashing in their hands.

If any foe struck up a conversation with Fastaal Dothmar, Concluder struck twice in reply, putting in the last word. If any orc’s ugly head strayed too close to Peralay’s reach, Gnoll-Cleaver removed the offensive hairy bulb from its shoulders. The battle ended swiftly with the orc host falling back in retreat and cooshees, elves, and dwarves in full pursuit. Continue reading “A Voice in the Dark”

The Drawing of the Veil

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Thirteen

Thomas Kelly

The ambassador traveled to and fro between the nations of the alliance. Often she went afoot but, more often, clinging precariously on the back of a hippogriff and holding tight to a cavalryman of Enstad. Wherever the fragile alliance began to fray, Kristryd arrived to stitch together the rending seams and heal the wounds of insult with eloquent salve and articulate balm. If ever a nation began to flag or grow weary, she arrived with fiery words to stir hearts and strengthen resolve.

Reflections on Diplomacy

In all these efforts, she relied much on the magic of the silver-framed mirror. Many long hours, each day, she gazed intently into its reflection. Those who saw her doing so thought her very vain indeed. “See how she loves to look on the delicate lines of her fey face!” the dwarven women sniffed. “More olve than dwur, that one. And she loves none more than Kristryd!” Continue reading “The Drawing of the Veil”

The Suel Spell

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Twelve

Thomas Kelly

Hroth’s yellow eyes narrowed as he peered heavenward. Half a dozen horse-birds wheeled about the sky over the holy city like vultures circling over a dying warrior. The nostrils of his thick blue nose flared as he sniffed at the air. “Elves!” he spat. Even at this distance from the city, Hroth and his warriors could hear the blaring alarm of the goblin war horns and the beating of the drums.

“Drop the corpses girlies!” he ordered. “Double time all the way home!”

His soldiers dropped their packages: a dozen orange-skinned carcasses, all of them beheaded, some of them also pierced with arrows, the fletching still visible in the wounds. Hroth unshouldered his own burden, a heavy burlap bag containing the dozen heads that once belonged to the bodies.

Three weeks earlier, when those heads were still attached, the priests of Grot-Ugrat dispatched missions to both Celene and the Duchy to protest the city’s innocence in the matter of Druid’s Defile, for rumor of those events had reached the temple. By then, dwarves, elves, gnomes, and men had been spied advancing into the mountains. The envoys to the west went before the duke. Grind his bones! Hroth snarled to himself as he kicked at one of the leering severed heads. Grind all their bones! The duke gave no heed to the protestations of the ambassadors, nor did he honor the custom of parley. No. Not that noble one! What did he do? Murdered them all. Continue reading “The Suel Spell”

Declarations, Councils, and War

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The Hateful Wars: Chapter Eleven

Thomas Kelly

The officers gave Kristryd the stirrup and bade her take a place behind the rider’s saddle. Dwarves prefer not to ride on mounts, not even ponies or pack horses. A helmed cavalry officer peered down at her from atop the hippogriff, “This noble beast on which you are to be carried is called Emolasmairim. She has borne none upon her wings except me.”

The Elite Cavalry

The officer extended a hand to the dwarfess as she put foot to the stirrup. “I am Darrion, captain of the queen’s cavalry. Wrap your arms fast around my waste. Lean with me when I lean, but not overmuch to the left or right,” the rider told her as he hoisted her up to the back of the hippogriff. Kristryd shifted about behind the saddle, gripping the beast between her knees and wrapping her arms around the armored waste of the cavalry officer. Emolas spread her great wings and flapped them thrice as if testing the air before leaping into a full gallop. Kristryd had once ridden a horse while at school in Keoland, but on that occasion, only at a slow trot, led by lead-rope in the hand of a squire around a track. That experience terrified her enough. Now she hurtled forward through the air, the wind whipping all about her and snatching away her breath. Her legs clamped the hippogriff tightly and her arms held the rider fast. The beast moved in spanning leaps, landing talons first, then launching again from hoofs behind, faster than she might have supposed. The terror increased when she realized that her mount charged full speed and headlong toward the edge of a precipice. To her left and to her right thundered along the rest of Celene’s elite cavalry, all galloping wildly toward the cliff’s edge. For a moment she launched weightlessness, and her stomach dropped. Then she felt the lift of the great wings as they beat against the air, and Emolas climbed toward the mountains. Continue reading “Declarations, Councils, and War”