How did you get your start in writing and video games?
My big break came when I answered a Wizards of the Coast open call for novel ideas set in the Forgotten Realms setting in early 2000. They were looking for some new novelists, and I sent in a submission package that eventually led to Temple Hill, my first novel.
As for breaking into games, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was working on my Masters in English at the University of Alberta (also in 2000) when I saw a small ad from BioWarein the English Department newsletter. They were looking for writers. I had the contract for the Forgotten Realms novel under my belt, and BioWare was famous for the Baldur’s Gate series, which was set in the Forgotten Realms. It seemed like a natural fit. I started working in the spring of 2000 and everything just took off from there.
What are you working on now?
I’ve started writing an original fantasy trilogy called Children of Fire. The first and second novels in the series (Children of Fire and The Scorched Earth) will be published by Del Rey in 2014 – I’ll be posting more information on the publication dates and the series over the next year.
What advice can you give to aspiring writers?
You’ve probably heard this before, but the truth is there is no magic formula or easy answer. Write, write, write. Revise. Rewrite. Write some more. Send your stuff out and be ready for rejections. Many, many, many rejections. If the rejections make comments, take them to heart. Don’t necessarily change anything, just be aware of what they are saying and reevaluate your work.
Sometimes its easier to get feedback on short stories, and one site I highly recommend for science fiction and fantasy writers is ralan.com. It’s a great list of resources and markets for all speculative fiction writers.
What’s up with the ending for Mass Effect 3?
Obviously I’m aware of the controversy surrounding the endings, and I think anyone who played the games is entitled to voice their opinion (in a respectful and mature way).
As for me, I didn’t work on ME 3 at all and I haven’t played it yet, so I don’t want to comment on the endings until I see them for myself… and by see them I mean play the entire game, not just watch some out of context video posted on the net.
I’ve ranted about people having opinions based on out of context snippets of content before; it happened to me with both my Revan novel and the last Bane novel. I believe if you don’t experience the entire piece then you aren’t really getting the full effect.
I also don’t want to talk about previous endings that were kicked around, because we always knew the game would evolve, so there were a lot of things on the table… and none of them were beyond the vague idea stage. I do talk about this in my March 15 news update, so you can read that if you’re curious to hear the long version.
Why did you leave the Mass Effect franchise?
I worked on the Mass Effect franchise for several years while living in Edmonton. But eventually I decided it would be better for me and my wife if we moved to Austin, Texas. Since the ME series was being developed in Edmonton, it wouldn’t have been feasible for me to continue on as lead writer. Instead, I transferred over to the Star Wars: The Old Republic team to work on it.
Are you still working on the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO?
I was, until my recent retirement from BioWare in February 2012. Most of my work was done on the Jedi Knight class story, and I did a lot of work for the first two quarterly updates (the Rakghouls).
Now that I’m retired from video games, I’m focusing exclusively on my own projects, like my novels and screenplays. My original fantasy series – Children of Fire – comes out in 2014.
When does the next Darth Bane novel come out?
The third novel in the Bane series – Dynasty of Evil – hit shelves on December 8, 2009. Check out my Novels section for a summary and pic of the cover art. Right now there are no plans to do another one, but you never know what the future holds.
I want to break into the video games industry. Can you help me?
Not really. I don’t have anything to do with hiring people at BioWare. But if you check out the BioWare Jobs website there are detailed instructions of how to submit your application to us. If you want to break into the industry in general, check out the Game Developers’ Conference and Gamma Sutra, a website devoted to game developers. I’d also strongly recommend the Guildhall at SMU –Bioware hires a lot of people from that program, and they have a great placement rate.
Will you look at my story, novel, video game script, screenplay, etc?
No. Absolutely not. There are very strong legal reasons I can’t look at submissions, ideas, or unpublished work from other writers. It just opens the door to all kinds of messy litigation, so I don’t do it. Aside from that, I’m juggling two careers right now. Between working on games for BioWare and writing my own stuff I don’t have time to help other people out with their projects. Besides, what you want is a good editor, not a writer. I know my own style but I probably can’t help you with your work – editors have an entirely different set of skills. Plus, I need time to work on my golf game.
I have the best idea ever for a novel, game, movie…
Don’t care. Don’t send it to me. The last thing I need are ideas. I have more ideas than I’ll ever use. Ideas are the easy part. Everybody has ideas. Transforming ideas into something suitable for public consumption is the hard part; that’s what I get paid for. That’s the art and profession of being a writer. If you really think your idea is good, then you turn it into something useful. Either that, or pay me a hefty up-front fee and I’ll do it for you. But I don’t work cheap.
You seem pretty full of yourself. Are all Canadians arrogant jerks?
No. Most Canadians are polite, helpful and modest. I’m actually on a special list of Canadians authorized to engage in rude and anti-social behavior, along with Tom Green, William Shatner, AlexTrebek, Jim Carrey and Wayne Gretzky. (Just kidding. I don’t even know those guys. Please don’t sue me.) Plus, I live in Texas now, so I’m getting more belligerent by the day.
How do you pronounce your last name?
Karpyshyn… it’s Ukrainian: Kar-pish-in. Rhymes with suspicion, condition and musician: kar-pish-in. And if you don’t know how to pronounce “Drew” I can’t help you.
I want to write for Star Wars. Can you help me?
No. Let me brutally honest: Star Wars is the biggest game in town; they have authors banging down their doors to work with them. I had to publish two novels and write the 2003 game of the year before the Star Wars people would even talk to me, so unless you’re an established sci-fi author with numerous novels to your credit they don’t want to hear from you. If you are a well established author, then you don’t need my help – contact them yourself.
Do I need an agent?
Yes. No. Maybe? That’s tough to answer. I think agents can make things easier, but they don’t necessarily guarantee success… nor does the lack of an agent equate to failure.
I sold my first ten novels without an agent, but those were “work-for-hire” – novels written in existing universes or settings (like Star Wars or Mass Effect). These novels have very set contracts, and as the author you don’t actually control any of the rights.
However, when I wanted to sell my own work I decided it would be good to have an agent. Luckily, Ginger Clark over at Curtis Brown Ltd. decided to represent me based on my previous works, and she managed to sell my original fantasy series (Children of Fire) to Del Rey. I honestly believe I got a lot more out of the deal because of her, so I’d say she’s totally worth every penny of commission she gets.
One thing I will mention is that you should NEVER pay an agent any kind of up-front fee. Check out the Preditors and Editors website for more info.
Did you design your web page yourself?
No, credit goes to EU Cantina, a Star Wars fansite that covers EU news, reviews, books, etc. All code modification and graphics (excluding the three characters on the homepage) were done by them.
I’m stuck at a part in Mass Effect (or KOTOR, or Jade Empire, or Baldur’s Gate)…
Go to the BioWare Forums. They can help you.
Who’s stronger – Darth Bane, Darth Revan or Darth Vader?
It’s a tie. Seriously, I can’t answer this. First, it’s not really up to me to make that kind of call. Second, it really depends on the situation. You can probably find rule books for various Star Wars role-playing games that will give you stats allowing you to compare relative strength. But from an artistic and dramatic standpoint, this kind of question has no “right” answer. Each character has strengths and weaknesses, and they grow and change as their stories progress. On any given day, at any given time, under any given circumstance anyone can win or lose. That’s what dramatic conflict is all about.
I heard you were on the game show Jeopardy. Is that true?
Okay, so nobody really asks this. But I like to brag about it. Yes, I qualified to appear on Jeopardy. The episode aired in March of 2000. Here’s a cool page showing all the details of my Jeopardy experience – J! Archive site. I finished 3rd.
Third? Isn’t that the same as last?
You ever been on Jeopardy? No? Then I guess I finished ahead of you, didn’t I? Besides, my buzzer was sabotaged when they saw I was going to win. It’s an anti-Canadian conspiracy. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.