The End – A Conversation With Joshua Simpson & Kristene Perron

***SPOILER ALERT AHEAD! (For Warpworld books 1 through 4)***

As we prepare to send the final chapter of the Warpworld saga out into the world and launch our final guest blog series on the Warpworld Comms, Josh and I thought it would be fun to share some behind-the scenes talk and photos of our experiences working together for almost ten years.

Kris: First, Josh, holy crap, it’s been almost ten years!

Josh: Yeah, and honestly it does really feel like it, too. But then I’ve been through: the job I had when we first met, going back to college to further my career, changing at the tail-end of my time back in college to an entirely new career, and then working at that long enough to become a known and established figure in my field. So, I really do feel that decade.

The original version of the Warpworld Vol. 1 cover which we, wisely, decided to toss away and start over! #Amadoesnotwearmakeup

Kris: My body definitely feels the decade! Ow. This whole crazy adventure started when you asked me about working with you on a story idea you’d come up with. It was just supposed to be a fun little RPG-type of writing game. Did you ever imagine it would morph into five published novels and a couple of published side stories?

Josh: At the time, I felt the idea was the solid foundation of a potential novel, which is why I broached it with you in the first place. Whether or not it turned into a book (or five), I wanted somebody I felt could do justice to what I felt was a solid idea. Boy, did you ever.

Kris poses in front of the early version of the “Warpworld Inspiration Wall” , Nelson, BC, 2011

Kris: Lol…I can be enthusiastic when I like something, yes.

Josh: So, we wrote basically a book and a half worth of material before deciding that, yes, something that was eating this much of our lives needed to be put to work. Our first question was where to cut it, and then where do we go from there. At that time, we had a pretty good skeleton outline running ahead to the end of the third book.

Kris: Oh, let’s talk about the third book, Ghost World. **And remember, folks, there will be spoilers for the first four books ahead!** I clearly remember when I suggested, “Hey, let’s split Seg and Ama up for almost the entire book!” You were skeptical, lol.

Josh: I don’t specifically recall that, but it did turn into quite a writing experience. I really felt that Ghost World was where we hit our stride because it was the first manuscript we wrote from beginning to end with the entire intention of making it a book. But before we dive too deeply into that, I want to touch on the second book, Wasteland Renegades a bit.

The Great Refuge of Masada, one of the inspirational images we used for the Wasteland and Julewa Keep in Wasteland Renegades

For me it’s kind of the sentimental favorite in the series—I love everything about it from the story, to the cover, to the subtitle. What’s funny about Wasteland Renegades is that we had so little to start with when we began the second draft rewrite. Because we hadn’t been plotting to write a book, the action flowed very organically from one scene to the next in our game, and the climactic battle in Wasteland Renegades was essentially just another episode that initially launched almost directly from the conclusion of the original novel.

We had to basically write an entirely new story to take us from the ending of Warpworld to the ending of Wasteland Renegades, and I felt we did a pretty darn good job.

Kris: Me too! (I am admittedly biased). Wasteland Renegades was where I felt we really got to know our characters, particularly Seg and Ama. I will always think of it as the “honeymoon’s over” book. And that book is also where Fismar took center stage. He’s such a reader favourite. I think we made a few folks unhappy when we killed him.

Josh: Uh, yes. Yes, we did. I hear about it. But there had to be prices paid, there had to be consequences, both external and internal. Fismar’s nature was essentially self-destructive from his earliest scenes, and only his supreme competence kept him alive as long as it did. I liked him as much as anybody and writing that scene was a bit wrenching. But that’s a good thing, in general. If it’s wrenching for you as a writer, it’ll be wrenching for the reader too. Bleed on the page, as Hemingway said.

Poor Fis… 🙁

Kris: Speaking of favourite characters, I know we love all of our dysfunctional imaginary children but do you have any favourites after all this time?

Josh: Moud. For just the pure joy of writing, I love Moud. In the original draft of Ghost World, she was an unnamed throwaway, a voice of conscience that was meant to send Shan back to Julewa Keep.

I have no idea which of us decided that her expanded dialogue in rewrite merited bringing her back to Julewa with Shan, but whoever had the idea ended up making my day more than once because, for whatever reason, I feel like Moud brings out the best of my wit. To this day, my favorite line in the whole series is “I’m too old for this. That’s exactly what they told me, they said ‘Moud, you’re too old for this’ and they gave me a shiny metal bit and a two week pay voucher and—”

Is Gelsh the first Safety Inspector in SFF?

Gelsh is another favorite, though he probably suffered more than anyone from the rewrites. His prominent role in the first draft of Forbidden Revelations got whittled way back and while he still gets to showcase what I like about him (his loyalty, his morally upright nature, his wit) it doesn’t match up so well as what we had in our original version of the fifth manuscript.

You?

Kris: Ditto on Moud. No character arc, just sass and crankiness from start to finish. Gelsh for the same reasons as yours—he has so much heart. Shyl is the character who felt most like me as time went on. But Maryel really grew on me the most as the series progressed for a few reasons. First, she’s tough as nails but not inflexible. Second, I loved her relationship with Jarin. She kept him honest (no easy task). Also, it was important to me to show older people who were not just stereotypical Wise Mentors. Maryel was smart, strong, and sexy. We need to see more characters with grey hair and wrinkles that are multidimensional.

Josh: Yeah, the council member bloc (Jarin, Maryel, Shyl and Ansin) were a vibrant part of the story for me. They allowed us to play with the grand level politics on one hand, and have the denizens of Julewa Keep living through the front-line consequences on the other.

If not for Moud, Shyl would have been a favorite. She’s so damn cool, smart and capable and level-headed.

Seeing your book on a shelf (next to Rothfuss and Pratchett, no less)… best feeling ever! Thanks, Otter Books!

Kris: I’m also very proud of our villains. I have a friend who tells me every time I see her that Lissil MUST die at the end. She is very insistent.

Josh: Oh yes, Lissil is the hall of fame villain in the series, nobody else comes close. I mean the other villains come and go and people don’t mind seeing them die, but they really want to see Lissil go down.

And so of course we changed our plans from the original outline, where she died in the fourth book, in order to bring her back in the fifth book. See, if you hate her that much then we have to keep her around, folks.

Kris: Hee hee. I want to switch gears for just a moment here and talk about real life stuff. Let’s get gritty. You know the question I’ve been asked the most during our entire run on this series is how we work together across the vast distance between wherever I am in the world (usually BC, Canada) and Texas. People are amazed by the technical details but, honestly, I think the human side is the most complex. We were virtually strangers when we started and we’ve spent thousands of hours working and messaging together since then. It hasn’t always been easy, has it?

Sometimes Josh was busy being an ACTOR!

Josh: Oh no, no, it wasn’t always easy. I mean we have a fairly compatible nature between us, so it’s not like it was all havoc and chaos. But there was an adjustment period, compounded by various life stresses we were both going through (moves, job changes, financial issues, college, scheduling difficulties, etc.)

There were mostly good days, a few bad days, and we both had to adjust. I’m me, you’re you, and we had to learn where our middle space was. What really impresses me the most, a thing I noticed with the fourth book and onward, was how well our conflict resolution became honed. Essentially, we can feel going into a disagreement (artistic, business, whatever), who is feeling more solid on the subject. Because I trust you completely, I’m fairly comfortable in going with your gut if I can tell that you’re feeling more strongly about a thing than I am. Our disagreements these days tend to be very functional things—we each make our case, then we go with the stronger gut consensus.

Kris’s first public event: The Warpworld Vol. 1 launch at the Nelson Library, 2012.

Kris: True. I’ve done some presentations at writing events on co-authoring and I always talk about the importance of the need to be honest and also to keep business and friendship separate. It can be tough. But you were a good yin to my yang. I have a tendency to get really wound up and hyper and worried about everything being perfect, perfect, perfect, which is just plain impossible in storytelling. You helped me relax and enjoy the story. So, thank you!

Josh: And your relentless organization, attention to detail, and methodically rigorous scheduling helped keep me on track. Neither of us knew that we would fit so well together, work-wise, when we started this. One of life’s happy coincidences.

Kris: Awww, yes, sometimes life is kind. So, here we are at the end. I know we’re both looking forward to moving on. As much as we love our imaginary children, ten years is long enough. Any favourite memories or thoughts or words to our readers as we wind down?

Some readers took the book more seriously than others! 🙂 We love your dedication, Carl!

Josh: Well, thank you. For everybody who’s ever read it, commented on it, wrote a review, asked questions, for basically any and all engagement with the series, I thank you.

I am ready to move along, I love the world and I love the characters we’ve created, but I’ve also lived with them and their struggles for the better part of a decade. One thing I wanted for certain at the end of this series was a fairly definitive ending. Yes, the surviving characters will have other adventures, but the arc of the Warpworld series—from Seg Eraranat arriving on S’ora and meeting Amadahy Kalder and the two of them going on adventures together—that story has been told.

The infamous Guild insignia

A memory that sticks out, which is funny for how little I knew at the time, was finishing the first draft of the fifth manuscript. We hadn’t even published the first book by that point, but I remember when I wrote the final line, then I wrote “THE”, and you wrote “END”.

It’s a funny memory because it felt like that really was an ending, rather than just one piece of a much, much longer journey. Heck, I think we were two, two and a half years in at that point. We were nowhere near THE END back then.

That time Warpworld was read at Mount Everest base camp! Thanks, Tim & Becky Rippel of Peak Freak Adventures!

Now, yeah, it’s here. And whatever happens from here, there’s going to be five books up on the shelf in the den with our names on them that, for the moment, will represent the sum total of our collaborative writing effort. When my proof copy gets in next week, it’s going to be a real pleasure to put that fifth book up there after I look it over.

Kris: I never get tired of opening up the box and seeing that proof copy for the first time! As for my memories, there are so many. One of the great things about co-authoring is that it’s not so lonely as writing by yourself. We’ve had some fabulous discussions over the years and so many laughs playing with our characters. I recall the time we imagined all our characters at a Thanksgiving dinner together and wrote out their dialogue. I could not stop laughing. Also, the intensity we brought to our first drafts. There’s a scene from, I guess it would have been the fourth book, where Seg and Ama argue and actually go their separate ways. That storyline, sadly, had to be cut, but at the time it got both of us riled up. It was the first time I wrote anything that affected me so physically.

Josh: Ah, yes, the separation scene. I remember that vividly. When you work with somebody the way we have, you get very good at interpreting their mood from their text-based commentary. When I wrote the gut-wrencher on that piece, I could tell you were about to break down in tears.

The final paragraph of the deleted “separation scene”. It wasn’t just Ama who cried.

Heck, it’s a good three or four years later and I still kind of had to stop and think about how to word this, because that was probably hands-down the hardest scene we ever wrote. In rewrite, it became one of those “kill your darlings” pieces because it didn’t fit, but maaaaaan.

Kris: Word. And I just realized that in all my acknowledgements I’ve never thanked my friend Shawn Smart Longino for their much-appreciated assistance in giving our website and blog such an awesome makeover and always helping me out when something goes wrong with the blog or the site and I start freaking out. THANK YOU, SHAWN!!! *standing ovation*

Warpworld even made it onto the set of Godzilla in 2013! Thanks Santino (L) and Rob (R)

To close out, I must also give the world’s biggest shout out to all our readers and everyone who has ever helped us in any way, big or small. It was a tough decision for me to go the indie route because it meant giving up that all-important peer validation that I prize so highly (teacher’s pet, that I am) but, I’ll tell you what, emails or messages or the occasional hand written letter (!) from someone who loved the story so much that they needed to tell us about it, that’s pure gold. I became a writer to share stories with people and it’s been one hell of a pleasure sharing Seg and Ama’s saga with the world.

Somehow it seemed appropriate to sign a book for a fan on a dock!

Josh: Thank you again for sharing in our world. Don’t worry, we will be back.

Kris: We will! And now we’ll wrap up–or “warp” as Josh and I say–and let you enjoy THE…

Josh: …END

About JoKri Publishing

Warpworld is a five-book adventure sci-fi series from JoKri Publishing. Visit us at warpworld.ca