Nicholas Eames is the author of Kings of the Wyld, a novel about a once-legendary band of mercenaries forced out of retirement when trouble unexpectedly rears its head. The plot might sound familiar enough, but Eames gives Kings of the Wyld has a unique rock and roll twist by making these “bands” of mercenaries as famous as rock bands are in our own world. These guys might not play music, but they’ve dished out more than a few “smash hits” in their years on the road, and now the past is coming back to haunt them.
I recently spoke with Eames about his hilarious, action packed novel, and his plans for a follow-up.
Unbound Worlds: I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in the eighties, which was also about the same time I started listening to hard rock and heavy metal. Because of this, I’ve always associated fantasy with this music. It makes sense that I took an immediate liking to Kings of the Wyld: a book that mashes up what seems like an awesome D&D campaign with rock and roll. What sent you in this direction?
Nicholas Eames: I’m not actually sure when exactly the idea occurred to me to equate rock bands and mercenary bands, but I do remember googling it and being certain someone had done so before. If they have, I couldn’t find it, and so I wrote the first three chapters to get a feel for it and then went back to my massive (unpublished) work in progress. [Lead character] Clay Cooper lingered in my head, though, and eventually I went back to explore his story. As for the ‘feel’ of the book, which is definitively unlike the things I was writing before, it was sort of born of irreverence. I’d been writing this serious, self-important story that was all about war and culture and angst, and decided, “Screw it–I’m going to write something fun and funny that doesn’t take itself so seriously.” Alas, the characters ended up deserving a bit more ‘gravity’ than I’d intended, but the result is something that (hopefully) balances humour and heart in equal measure
Sorry, that answer was way longer than I intended!
UW: Is it just me, or did you slip a lot of rock and roll in-jokes into this book? There’s a hotel called the “Riot House”, for one thing, and I couldn’t help but think of “This is Spinal Tap” when I read that Saga keeps losing its bards. Oh, and man oh man, are there some “Blues Brothers” references here or what?
NE: Yep, plenty of rock and roll references, from the Riot House, to Blackheart, to the names of various bands throughout Grandual. Most of them are intentionally subtle, so as to not break the immersion of someone who couldn’t care less about the music references and just wants a story, damnit! And yeah, the perpetually-dying bards are a wholehearted nod to “This Is Spinal Tap” — glad you caught it! Alas, no “Blues Brothers” references were added intentionally, though I’ve heard that before, so perhaps it was subliminal.
UW: I love monsters, and the world of The Band is chock full of them. Cannibal centaurs, kobolds, you name it. Why did you choose to make your world so rich with monsters?
NE: I’d been writing something beforehand that was fantasy masquerading as something else, so when I tackled Kings of the Wyld I decided to toss everything in the kitchen sink in there just for fun. Also, I went largely with common creatures (orcs, goblins, giants, etc.) because not only are they familiar to readers–they’re generally familiar to everyone. I wanted this book to appeal to a broad audience, and though the word ‘goblin’ is a turn-off for lots of folks (including me, depending on the book) the last thing a non-fantasy reader wants to read is you describing in detail your version of an orc that isn’t an orc but is totally an orc but not really an orc because it’s called a ‘snarg’ or something instead. Hmm … snarg isn’t bad, actually. I might use that.
UW: My favorite character is Moog the wizard: He’s hilarious. He’s gay, too, which is something the rest of the band couldn’t care less about one way or the other. Heavy metal and rock and roll bands have a reputation for homophobia. Do you think it is deserved? Would a guy like Moog find a place in that world, too?
NE: Moog’s sexuality doesn’t play a huge role in the story, and nor should it. It just is. I think it’s important (and perhaps a bit rare) to include characters of varying sexualities without pointing it out as unique or out-of-the-ordinary. Call it wishful thinking for the future of our world in general! I’ve taken a bit of flack for making him gay, in fact, and to those who’ve taken umbrage with that I have only one thing to say: buckle up, assholes — I’m just getting started!
Also, there are a few very polarizing figures in the history of rock that broke from societal norms. Most notably, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, whose name was the inspiration for Moog’s deceased husband. As for Rock and Roll’s ‘homophobia’, I like to think even rockstars gain wisdom as they age–as we’ve seen in Lynyrd Skynyrd distancing themselves from the rebel flag, which was once synonymous with their brand.
UW: The novel’s bad guy is a member of a species known as the druins. They’re basically evil bunny-men, like Elric of Melniboné with rabbit ears and sharp teeth. Despite that, they’re genuinely menacing. How did you come up with these guys?
NE: The druins were a later addition to the story–as was Lastleaf, believe it or not! Essentially I just wanted to subvert the classic fantasy trope of having a severe and ancient race by giving them bunny ears. That said, there’s been some fan-art of Lastleaf that still manages to make him look decidedly badass.
UW: Will we be returning to this world? Can we expect a sequel?
NE: There will be at least two more book in The Band series. The next, Bloody Rose, will be out sometime next year, I imagine, and will tell another standalone story set about five years after Kings of the Wyld.