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Exclusive: Massively's interview with the author of the first DDO novel

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Tie-in novels are nothing new in the world of MMOs. We've had several in the last year alone, both for Guild Wars 2 and for RuneScape.

You can add the world of Eberron to that list, as the first Dungeons and Dragons Online novel will be hitting the shelves this September. It's early days, of course, but we've spent some time chatting with the author of The Shard Axe. Marsheila "Marcy" Rockwell has completed the book's final draft and had lots to say about what fans will find in this novelized version of Xen'drik. Follow along after the jump for your first look at The Shard Axe!

Massively: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to write a novel set in the world of Dungeons and Dragons Online.

Marcy: I sold my first short story to Marion Zimmer Bradley back in the early '90s when I was in college, and I've had dozens of short stories and poems published since then. But my big break in terms of novel-writing came in 2003 when I submitted a proposal for an open call Wizards of the Coast was having at the time. It was for a novel in The Priests series (Maiden of Pain), set in the Forgotten Realms. While I didn't get picked to write that novel, I did get placed on a short list of writers who were given the opportunity to submit proposals for other upcoming projects, including some set in the then-brand-new world of Eberron. One of my proposals struck gold, and Wizards published my first Eberron novel, Legacy of Wolves, back in 2007.

I was actually writing another Eberron novel when my editor contacted me to let me know that Wizards wanted me to do a novel that tied directly into the DDO game. I was happy to set aside what I was working on and delve into the game, and I've had a lot of fun playing ever since. I hope my enjoyment of the game (both online and PnP) comes across in the story I've written, and I hope people will have as much fun reading The Shard Axe as I did writing it.

Can you give us an outline of the plot of The Shard Axe?

"Success builds character; failure reveals it." – Dave Checkett

The Shard Axe is, broadly, the story of a Sentinel Marshal -- someone who has received the highest honor House Deneith can bestow -- who earned that coveted title by failing at the most important task she ever had, and what she does in the wake of both that triumph and that failure.

Or, to give the somewhat tongue-in-cheek elevator pitch, it's In Plain Sight meets Xena: Warrior Princess (sans Gabrielle) with a dash of Criminal Minds and maybe some The Wild, Wild West thrown in for fun. All done Eberron-style, of course. And, yes, there is the distinct possibility that I watch too much TV. Heh.

How much of the familiar in-game world will we see in the novel?

The Shard Axe starts out in very familiar territory for DDO players, namely, Korthos and the Wavecrest Tavern. The main character, Sabira d'Deneith, also spends some time in Stormreach -- the Harbor, the Marketplace, and a couple of the enclaves -- before moving on to some new territory. Players will see a lot of familiar faces and places, but hopefully they'll get a slightly different perspective on them than they've had in the past and maybe even a glimpse behind some of the doors that are closed in-game.

Is the novel set in Xen'drik alone, or can we expect a look at the wider world?

The events of The Shard Axe begin in Stormreach (Xen'drik), but the characters eventually wind up in Khorvaire, the continent to the north where most of the action from the previous (non-DDO) Eberron novels takes place. There, they spend most of their time in a region not really touched on in any of those previous novels. So hopefully the book will have something new to offer both those who've never picked up an Eberron novel before and those who have read them all.

What audience do you feel the book will appeal to most? DDO players alone, or will pen-and-paper DnD fans be able to appreciate it? How about those unfamiliar with the game world but looking for a good fantasy read?

A writer's first and foremost goal should always be to tell a compelling story, so I hope The Shard Axe does that and that it will appeal to people who love to read, regardless of the setting and maybe even regardless of genre. But beyond that, my hope is that the book will appeal to both DDO players and fans of the PnP game, especially since it incorporates places and people that are familiar to and loved by both groups. Consistency between the two "versions" of Eberron is something that I worked hard to achieve with this first DDO book, so hopefully I've succeeded in writing something that will get DDO players interested in the PnP setting (and the other Eberron novels) and that will get the PnP players interested in trying DDO. Otherwise known as the elusive "win-win" scenario, heh.

What sort of inhabitants and situations might readers encounter beyond those in the known game world?

Since part of The Shard Axe takes place in Khorvaire, readers can expect a few creatures/races they haven't seen in the DDO game (or, for those readers who haven't played DDO but are familiar with the Eberron novels, creatures/races they haven't seen in any of those previous books). Where I've used creatures/races that are in DDO, I've generally tried to have them doing different things than players will have seen in-game. None of the creatures dies a bloodless death and then dissipates into nothingness, for instance.

As for situations they'll encounter that they might not have experienced in game play, there are too many of those to mention, but suffice to say there will be plenty of action and no lag whatsoever.

Thanks for your time, Marcy!

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