Today’s interview is with Ryan McDaniel, author of “Blind Barthon” and one of the editors of the anthology.
Where did you get the idea for your story?
The spark of the story was when I was reading The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland and a realization hit me like Thor’s hammer. The insight was that these stories were told around the campfires of Vikings. My perspective on the stories changed from words written on a page to a window into another culture. Its hard for me to put to words, but I suffice it to say that I had a much greater respect and reverence for myths after my new insight. That was the spark that made me leap to my computer and start writing “Blind Barthon.”
Do you plan to write more stories in that setting or with those characters?
No, I think this is the only adventure that Barthon is going to go on. But of the wider world that Barthon lives in, I don’t know. Readers might be exploring more of Normondor, Athalia, Astrogad, Harrowfell, and the Reach in the future.
What was the appeal of Sojourn for you?
The appeal of Sojourn was unlocking the potential of the Fear the Boot community. A common problem in RPGs are GMs that railroad their players. And the common criticism on Fear the Boot is: “why don’t you just write a novel if you want to control everything?” Well, in my opinion, that’s what happens. The anthology might be subtitled: “When Game Masters Give Up and Write Their Own Stories.”
What was your favorite part about writing for the Sojourn anthology?
The fact that Laura and Dan (my partners in crime as I like to think of them) are so great to work with. A few people have asked me if I had any advice for someone who wished to do as I did. I always smile and say “work with people who are smarter than you are.” Because if I was the only one running this show, Sojourn would have never happened.
Did you learn anything while writing your story, if so, what?
I learned that an audience will follow me in an unconventional story. Of the few people to whom I have spoken about my story, they had nothing but nice things to say. Also they had nothing but good things to say about the entire book as well.
Is there any trivia or behind-the-scenes information about your story you would like to share?
Well I actually have two bits of trivia, and both of them are short. One may have noticed that in “Blind Barthon” none of the female characters are mentioned by name. The mother is referred to as “mother.” Likewise the potential brides are referred to as in relation to their fathers: the farmer’s daughter, the warrior’s daughter, etc., all except one, of course, and that is the final bride, Edda. The name is a reference to the Prose Edda, a compilation of Norse poetry that comprises most of the Norse myths. The Prose Edda, at least to my knowledge, is our only substantial link to the Scandinavian mythology. Without the Prose Edda we don’t have Odin, we don’t have Valhalla, and Marvel Avengers have one less member. So not only is Edda a bridge to the spiritual realm by being an elf, but she is also a bridge back into Barthon’s true heritage.
The second bit of trivia is that the Barthon story started out as worldbuilding material. For this fantasy world—that I am still developing—I really strive for a sense of realism and authenticity. I have a Nordic culture in my world, and I wanted to give them a mythology that I would be happy with. “Blind Barthon” was one of those myths that I wrote up, and I thought, “Others might actually like this odd story.”
What was the biggest influence on your story?
The inspiration of the story is from Joseph and Francis Gies’ Life in a Medieval Castle. There is a section of the book that discusses the customs and philosophy of love and marriage in the Middle Ages. Most of the lessons that Barthon is given by the gods are based on facts that I learned from the book.
What’s your favorite part about editing?
The favorite part about editing for me is taking someone’s awesome story and making it the best it can be. I remember a middle school art class where the teacher would take my artwork and start altering it right in front of my face. She did this to everybody too. It made me just want to scream (also she wasn’t a very good teacher anyway). She always said she was “helping” but it ruined whatever I was working on. Because it wasn’t mine. That is not how I edit. If I start going in and started altering their story, then it’s my story, not their story.
What’s your least favorite part about editing?
The worst part about editing is giving frank and honest criticism. I suffer over those emails so much, because you can’t just tell someone their work is garbage. You have to do it diplomatically. And if I am going to diplomatically tell someone that there work is garbage, then I am going to make damn sure that I can defend my points. Whenever click the send button it always feels like lobbing an active grenade. I’m just praying that the damn thing doesn’t blow up in my face.
Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
I would like to thank everybody who has bought a copy and has helped spread the word. No matter what it was, big or small, I appreciate it.