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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wisdom's Grave Trilogy Completion Interview with Craig Schaefer (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Living End 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Plain-Dealing Villain
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Killing Floor Blues
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Castle Doctrine
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Double Or Nothing
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Neon Boneyard
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Sworn To The Night
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Detonation Boulevard
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Instruments Of Control 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harmony Black
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Red Knight Falling
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Glass Predator
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Cold Spectrum

Today we are glad to have Craig Schaefer with us and like last year, he was very gracious to answer a few questions for us. We chat about his Wisdom's Grave trilogy and all the twists, secrets, and ramifications it entailed. This interview will hinge upon some spoilers for the trilogy so be warned.

Q] 2018 marked the completion of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy and also marked about four years since you first published The Long Way Down. It felt like the completion of the Phase one of your grand story arc ((to paraphrase from the MCU, with the DF, HB & RC books). Would you say that’s a fair assessment?

CS: Definitely. Once I got a handle on what I was aiming to create, I couldn’t help but mentally parse it that way; I’m not even a big fan of the Marvel flicks, but the concept of a “cinematic universe” is so popular and ingrained it’s hard not to view it through that lens.

Q] With Bring The Fire, you had a lot of reveals with regards to the trilogy as well as some of the deepest questions about the state of the universe. How did you decide on what you wanted to put in it versus what you choose to hold back?

CS: It mostly came down to what fit the narrative flow of the story. Nobody likes infodumps; there were a couple of bits I ended up trimming not because I didn’t think readers would find them interesting, but because I couldn’t find a way to make them relevant to the characters and the plot. They’ll show up in later books, eventually, when and where they properly fit.

This happened with characters, too. My original ambition was to have every single (living) character from all of my previous books make a cameo at some point, and that was the first idea to land on the cutting-room floor. Fan service is fun, but it’s got to take a back seat to story.

Q] Sworn To The Night has also made it to the 2018 SPFBO finals. So many, many congratulations on that front. How did you feel when you found out about it? How do you rate its chances?

CS: Very pleased! I don’t rate its chances particularly well (the trilogy as a whole is fairly divisive, people largely either really like it or really don’t – thankfully, more land in the former category than the latter), but anything that gets my work in front of new readers is a net positive.

Q] After the events of Bring The Fire. Will the Owl & the Knight Characters be making future appearances in any of the Faust or Harmony books?

CS: Their influence will definitely be felt. Given the new status quo of the multiverse, they’ve got a lot to deal with, but their influence will definitely be felt. More than that, I can’t say just yet.

Q] Another character that drew my eye was Rosales. She was a fascinating character who while being evil (so as to speak) was fun to read. With her seemingly being on the same spectrum as Jessie (with regards to her powers), will we get to know about her past?

CS: In my original outline, Rosales was slated to die in the final showdown. Ultimately, I was having such a good time writing her that I decided to get self-indulgent and gave myself a way to bring her back sometime. In a world of cosmic schemes, it’s fun to have a villain whose ambitions largely amount to “make enough money doing villain stuff so I can stay in bed, eat pizza and watch reality TV.”

She’ll be back sooner or later, and I’d like to get her and Jessie in a scene together to see what happens. (Possibly violence, possibly Netflix and chill. It could go either way.)

Every now and then I play with the idea of a stand-alone book involving a Suicide Squad style team-up of minor antagonists from the Faust/Black novels, and doing it as a gory pitch-black comedy. If I ever actually write the thing, Rosales will definitely be on the team.

Q] The Wisdom’s Grave trilogy ended on such a strong note and with so many revelations. As a reader, it becomes easily apparent as to how much planning has gone forth in all of your series so far. Can you tell us when you began planning for this trilogy as you nearly had to write sixteen books before you could write this trilogy?

CS: I’d say I started planning in earnest three years ago. As soon as the greater scope of my fictional setting started to unfold, I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to take it and where the first crescendo would land. At this point I think readers know me as a writer who plays a long game, and I knew I had to make this work.

Q] It was heartening to see how the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy ended in contrast to the Revanche Cylcle with regards to the bonded Characters. With your books, it’s not often that the characters get a happy ending. This was particularly sweet since we know how throughout the millennia and through various worlds, the Story has played out. Was that a purposeful twist?

CS: Purposeful and mandatory, considering the themes I wanted to explore with the trilogy. Ending the trilogy on a sour note, with the Story repeating again, would have been – I’d go so far as to say ethically, morally wrong. Not everyone comes out of the trilogy with a happy ending (or survives it at all), but it ended the way it needed to end.

Q] With your books being so intrinsically tied in with each other. I noticed one curious aspect that you mentioned about the Garden of Eden. Is the Garden of Eden referenced in The Living End (Daniel Faust #3) the same as the one mentioned by shepherd in Bring The Fire?

CS: Exactly the same. And as per the epilogue to The Neon Boneyard, there’s still a stable gateway in Mexico, now in the Network hands. (Which reminds me of a tangential issue, because it comes up in that scene and I’ve been asked if it was deliberate:
- Yes, the Mr. Smith from Neon Boneyard is the same Mr. Smith who shows up in the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy.
- Yes, he’s been murdered twice, by two different people.
- Yes, there’s a reason for this.)

Q] On a side note, the Shepherd mentioned that events on the Planet of Eden along with the family that resided on it were somewhat of an epic shitshow! Do you think you would ever be able to tell that specific tale?

CS: It’s definitely going to come up. Not very soon, we’ve got some other business to take care of first, but it’s going to come up.

Q] Following on from the Phase One aspect of your grand story, Will there be more phases to play out since the Enemy was surprisingly silent amidst all of the events of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy. With the whole Paladin-Enemy conflict that's ever present on the horizon, are you at liberty to reveal if that’s the central conflict of the next phase?

CS: As I mentioned, originally every character I’ve written was supposed to appear in the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy. The Enemy was the first to go, simply because he’s Daniel’s nemesis and I couldn’t find a way to fit him into the trilogy in any kind of satisfying way. A lot came down to exposition. Specifically, trying to avoid it. The entire story of the Enemy involves a lot of background lore and buildup, little of which was directly relevant to the trilogy’s plot, so bringing it in would have involved a ton of extraneous background. That said, the next phase is all about the Enemy and the Paladin, so expect that conflict to take center stage now that the trilogy is complete.

Q] One of the curious things that was unearthed was that the Story was thrown awry as the Characters are supposed to be reincarnating simultaneously but that wasn’t the case. What was the specific reason for this mechanism to be thrown off?

CS: Imprisoning the Enemy broke the entire mechanism. (I’m avoiding massive spoilers, but as we learn in Bring the Fire, it wasn’t a very elaborately designed system to begin with.)

Q] As mentioned in the Daniel Faust books, the Enemy was imprisoned on a desolate world. That seems like a tale in itself. Will that story be ever explored? Was that due to the machinations of the other Characters or due to the inhabitants of that planet? 

CS: It will be, yes. I can’t say more about that just yet, but it’s going to come up. (And as some readers have noticed, one of the very first antagonists in my books – the sole surviving Smoke-Faced Man – has been off-stage for a long time. That doesn’t mean I forgot about him, hint hint.)

Q] One of the fascinating things that came up was that the Story has thirteen Characters. However not everyone’s stories are tied in together. Does this mean that Story is finally broken or will that only be done once the Enemy-Paladin conflict occurs.

CS: The Story still exists, baked into the fabric of the multiverse. For now. Which means, of course, that Daniel Faust still has to deal with the burden of having the mantle of the Thief, and you can expect more development on that front very soon. Whether things will end with the Paladin/Enemy showdown, or if our heroes will come up with something a little more tricky…well, I’ve already said too much.

NOTE:  Part II of the interview focussing on Craig's upcoming books and plans will be posted tomorrow.



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