The Truth behind Theft of Swords and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

I’m honored and incredibly excited that Orbit’s release of the first book in my Riyria Revelations, Theft of Swords, has been selected as Library Journal’s Fantasy Debut of the Month for September.

In the conclusion of LJ’s review they said, “VERDICT: Fans of Fritz Leiber’s classic “Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser” novels should welcome the adventures of Hadrian and Royce. A winning debut for fantasy lovers.” This is not the first, and probably won’t be the last, time that my series has been compared to Fritz  Leiber’s classics that were mainly published between 1940 and the mid 1970’s. As my series features two unlikely heroes, a larger fighter and a smaller thief, there are valid reasons to make correlations between the two.

But here’s my dirty, little secret…I’ve never read Leiber’s works, so any similarities are completely coincidental. I know. I know. You’ve just met me and already I’m admitting to what could be a fatal fantasy faux pas. Yes, I admit that I’m not an expert in all the classic fantasy that has come before I showed up. But my shame goes even deeper…I didn’t even know that F&GM even existed! Let me explain how I found out about them.

In the opening of Avempartha (the second book of Theft of Swords), Royce and Hadrian are confronting Wyatt Deminthal (who, in The Crown Conspiracy, framed them for the murder of King Amrath). In setting the mood for the scene I wrote, “Behind him, he could still hear the music of the Gray Mouse Tavern, muffled and tinny. Voices echoed in the distance, laughter, shouts, arguments; the clatter of a dropped pot followed the cry of an unseen cat.”

I received a piece of fan mail, or perhaps it was I review I read…it was so long ago that I don’t remember, but the salient point is that the reader gave me a tip-of-the-hat for my tongue-in-cheek, wink-wink homage to Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, especially given the professions, descriptions, and general camaraderie between my main characters.

My first response was, “What the heck does that mean?” So I went to the oracle of all things: Google. Once I discovered his books, I realized that sometimes people give me too much credit. The name of the inn was actually just plucked out of thin air. The choice actually had more to do with pairing the inn’s name with the “unseen cat” than anything else. I could have just as easily selected The Black Cat Inn and made the noise a barking dog, and doing so wouldn’t have meant I was trying to interject Poe into the scene.

If I had read F&GM, or even known the books existed, it’s possible I wouldn’t have written my series. I wouldn’t have been enthusiastic about writing something that had already “been done.”  So in this case my ignorance saved the series.

So, you may wonder if I’ve subsequently corrected my faux pas and read Leiber’s books—alas no, and the reason isn’t because I plan to add additional novels past the end of Heir of Novron. For those that don’t know, I wrote all six books before publishing any of them, which allowed me to interweave long running mysteries while still keeping each book self-contained, through its own conflict and resolution. Writing this way doesn’t lend itself to “tacking on,” so the series ends where it ends. But here’s the thing…I love my wife and she loves Royce and Hadrian (thank God they’re fictional or she would probably leave me for one of them, although I’m not sure which). When Robin finished the series she moped for weeks. To this day she constantly cajoles, needles, and sometimes threatens me to, as she puts it, “bring them back.” For the record, I’m not opposed to more books with Royce and Hadrian; after all they had plenty of adventures before the opening chapter of Theft of Swords. So despite all the recommendations I’ve had over the years, I’m still avoiding Mr. Leiber’s series…just in case.

So there you have it. I may not be the genre savvy writer who plants hidden messages from past masters that you might have hoped for. (Well I do have a few of these, but the Gray Mouse Tavern wasn’t one of them). I hope my confession doesn’t get me kicked out of school before I even have time to figure out where my locker is. I’m sure that if you let me hang around, I might let some of my other secrets slip out, and if nothing else, my inexperience with how things are “usually done” might provide a bit of entertainment.