Author Spotlight – Kai Herbertz
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Kai Herbertz!
Dr. Kai Herbertz was born in Düsseldorf, Germany in 1977. He is an indie author and indie game designer, who used to work as a scientist. After becoming a Diplom-Ingenieur in electrical and electronics engineering at the RWTH Aachen he earned his PhD in electrical and electronics engineering at Imperial College London.
In August 2015 he published his fantasy novel “Age of Torridan” via Kindle Direct Publishing.
In June 2016 he founded the company Herbertz Entertainment UG (haftungsbeschränkt), which released its first game “Das Katastrophenspiel” at the SPIEL16 games fair in Essen in October 2016 and its second game “Albedo” in 2017.
Welcome to the Hive, Kai. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
Hello Fantasy Hive – thank you for having me! The most recent book I read was “Minimum Wage Magic” by Rachel Aaron. Coincidentally, it was also a great book I’ve read recently! The novel is set in the same universe as Rachel Aaron’s Heartstriker books, which I have not yet read. However, after this excellent urban fantasy novel, I needed more and immediately bought the Heartstriker series. In the meantime, the second book of the DFZ novel series “Part-Time Gods” was released.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I assume that the reality warp imbues myself with special powers – otherwise I don’t think most authors would fare well in a hostile fantasy world… Anyway, I imagine I would be the loyal paladin, wielding the vanilla equivalent of fantasy weapons – a plain old boring sword.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, how do you like to work? (In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit?) Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
While I wrote my novel “Age of Torridan,” I met up with my best friend in the library and we would each work on our respective creative projects. Typically I have a Word document with a brief chapter by chapter outline, but when inspiration strikes I also do not have a problem to deviate from my outline and pursue the new idea.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
Apparently I was subconsciously influenced by both Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson. Of course my novel is a far cry away from being either a Rothfuss or a Sanderson, but what I mean was that I committed some accidental plagiarism: in my novel I included the line “his words a whisper,” which I thought was a genius way of phrasing things and figured I had come up with that on my own. A few years later I reread Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn The Final Empire and was appalled to see that very line in his book. I must have been impressed by it on first reading it, but forgot about it until my subconsciousness pulled it out while writing my own novel. Likewise, one of the characters in my novel is called “Dagon” and on rereading Rothfuss’s “The Wise Man’s Fear” I noticed that there is also a prominent character called “Dagon,” although I still think I came up with that one independently while playing around with the word “dragon.”
I guess something like that happens quite frequently: I remember reading the first Game of Thrones book nine years ago and being impressed by the “crunching snow” in the prologue. With just one word the noise the person made and also the thickness of the snow was described. After seeing that, I encountered the very same phrase in numerous other novels.
As for collaborations, I would love to work with either Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Danielle Shipley, or Rachel Aaron.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
Can I do both? I’ll do both, even though technically it is not TV anymore, but one of the major streaming services. I have not finished watching a series recently, but started to watch “Star Trek Discovery.” I don’t like this re-imagination of the Klingons, who used to be honourable warriors in the Next Generation days, to cowardly suicide bombers, but I have heard that eventually the series gets better, so I am giving it another chance. Currently I am six episodes in.
As for games, I am both an avid board game player and a video game connoisseur as well. Board game wise the most recent game I played (apart from my own game “Albedo”) was “Wingspan,” which did not look like a game I would enjoy, but which ended up being a terrific experience. Despite losing, I had a great time and being able to enjoy your time even when things do not go your way is one of the hallmarks of a great game to me personally.
When it comes to video games, I was most impressed by “The Witcher 3” recently. I have played video games ever since the 80s and even though nostalgia usually makes one value earlier experiences more, I have to say that the Witcher 3 was hands down the best game I have ever played. A lot of other authors played the game and complained about being limited in the dialogue options, but I appreciate the approach CD Projekt Red followed: you are not playing yourself in the game, you are role playing a very specific person, namely Geralt of Rivia. Therefore, all the options you have are decisions that would be in character for Geralt of Rivia. The decisions and their outcomes may be different, but they are always true to the character and you are not able to play Geralt in such a way as to go against his personality. I did not see this as a weakness, but considered it a strength, as it allows the authors to tell a very compelling story, whereas they would not have been able to do that, if they had to account for a generic character that the players make their own. The way they provided different possible endings to numerous story elements also helped to tell a satisfying story, whereas other games eventually weave the narrative back to the same ending, no matter what your decisions were in the game.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
A good friend of mine once said that the meaning of life is to meet up with dear friends to share a meal and regale each other with entertaining stories. In that vein, I would host a garden party with small potatoes for dipping in various sauce pots on a beautiful summer day.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
When it comes to writing, I am about twenty thousand words into the sequel to “Age of Torridan.” The new novel picks up where the last book ended, but there is a different protagonist. It is difficult to talk about this without spoiling the first book, so instead I am going to tell you about my other creative endeavour, which is game design.
For the time being I restricted myself to designing short 30 minute card games. The most recent project is an expansion for my science fiction card game “Albedo.” Regardless of whether I am working on a novel or on a game, a few weeks ago I reserved a short URL, which always redirects to my latest work in progress. So if you ever want to see what I am up to, simply go to www.forw.de
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
The old “write what you know” is great advice, if one knows how to parse it. A lot of people interpret it to mean “stay in your lane,” but to me the significance of that piece of advice is to imbue your writing with truth. If you do not have personal experience with something then it is a call to do your research, so that you actually do know and can make more informed narrative decisions rather than assuming things.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
Quite frankly, I have not figured that one out, yet. However, I am going to peruse the other author spotlights to learn a few techniques. My current method is to still sit down and write, but when I am in a funk the time usually goes by without any significant headway on my project. Having an accountability buddy usually helps, which is why I used to meet up with my friend in the library.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Originally I wanted to say ancient Rome, but I figured that this would be a widely popular choice. I actually checked and saw that it was V.R. Cardoso’s choice, so you are getting my second pick instead.
Since I am a huge fan of the American musical “Hamilton” I’d love to experience that time period and witness a rogue colony’s rise to eventually become the world’s most influential super power.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Going back to the beginning, I urge everyone to check out the DFZ novel series by Rachel Aaron. The first book “Minimum Wage Magic” was a page-turner and I am very much looking forward to reading the second novel “Part-Time Gods.”
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
Here is the log-line for “Age of Torridan:” A disillusioned knight, who is framed for murder by a mysterious wizard, sets out to clear his name and ends up discovering himself.
It is a standalone novel, but as I said I am working on a sequel that deals with a few loose ends.
Brilliant. Thanks again for joining us, Kai, and good luck with the sequel!
Thank you for having me and talk to you soon!
Kai Herbertz is a game designer and the author of AGE OF TORRIDAN. His latest board game Kickstarter, ALBEDO: YGGDRASIL, is live until July 31st 2019.