We absolutely adored The Adventurers Guild series, by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos, and now that the final book has been published, we caught up with the authors to find out more about their work.
Clark and Eliopulos’s series was inspired by their time playing Dungeons & Dragons, and the interview dives into their love of the game and how it influenced their writing. If you’re a D&D newbie, don’t worry! The books are set in a fantasy world and absolutely accessible for those who have never played the game.
For this interview, you just need to know that DM stands for Dungeon Master, who is the person creating and running the game of D&D. Also, a D&D player usually starts by designing the character they will play, choosing the character’s race (human, elf, etc.), class (rogue, wizard, etc.), alignment (chaotic evil, lawful good, etc.), and other stats.
How did you plot the series? Did you design it the way a DM would design a campaign?
ZC: We kind of both started as players, honestly. Zed and Brock are our favorite D&D character–types distilled. I love scruffy mages, and Nick’s a sucker for wisecracking rogues. I did a fair amount of worldbuilding up front where Freestone was concerned – figuring out the guilds, the history of the Champions, and some of the magic system – but the narrative and the wider world were mysteries even to us when we began.
NE: We did have to pause once or twice per book to make sure we were both writing toward the same ending. But for the most part, we played it fast and loose with the plotting.
This helped capture some of the improvisational spirit of a game like D&D – I didn’t know where Zack would go next, but whatever he came up with, I would have to go along with it and advance the story a bit from there. There’s no writing challenge quite like having to solve someone else’s cliffhanger!
What’s your writing process like? Do you each write for a specific POV (one of you for Brock, one of you for Zed), or is it not that cut and dry?
NE: It’s exactly that cut and dry, actually! Zack wrote the Zed chapters, and I wrote Brock’s.
ZC: That said, we both had to write each other’s characters as well, just from different viewpoints. And all the other characters were shared creations. Part of what made cowriting such a blast was that Nick would surprise me with new traits for Zed, stuff I’d have never thought of. I think it made everyone feel a little richer.
How do you come up with your Dangers? Do you reference a Monster Manual?
ZC: We were definitely inspired by the MM, though we tried not to stray too far into proprietary waters. So many of the monsters in D&D are diluted versions of actual mythological creatures, and some are tropes that appear in tons of fantasy games. We used these to make sure the world felt familiar to fans of the genre but also created some new ones of our own.
Each Danger also has a place in one of Terryn’s otherworldly “planes,” which are nods to popular fantasy concepts like the undead or fairy or the Cthulhu mythos. Once we figured that out, we could invent monsters to fill in the gaps.
Nick also had his own personal method…
NE: Yeah, there were a lot of moments where I needed a quick monster, and what I found myself doing almost instinctively was mashing two animals together. I love watching nature documentaries (I even tend to have them on while I write), and wow, Mother Nature has a wilder imagination than anybody. But animals tend to “stay in their lanes” in nature, so if you put aquatic adaptations on a flying animal or insectoid features on a mammal, it reads instantly as monstrous.
That’s obviously not a new trick. Animal hybrids are all over various mythologies. But I’ve got a new appreciation for the process after writing Book 3, where we needed a lot of monsters. Like, a lot.
Does one of you DM more than the other? How does being a DM affect your writing, if one of you does DM?
ZC: Great question! I think we have a fellow D&D player here. 🙂 The DM, or Dungeon Master, basically tells the story of the game. They control every character and event that isn’t the players themselves. I co-DM our current game with our buddy Teri, taking turns every few weeks so we all get to play. It’s a blast, but it can also be a lot of work, especially when I have a deadline due. But co-DMing is a great way to take some of the pressure off during a busy period.
(Fun fact: Our adventuring team is the Grand Order of Noble Soldiers – or the GOoNS. Don’t know why I’m sharing this, beyond that it still makes me laugh.)
NE: I’m happy to just roll up to the table and play without doing all that prep work. On the rare occasion that I’ve DMed, it’s been for curious first-time players, and that’s definitely fun! For Christmas this year, I’m giving my nephews a D&D Essentials Kit, and I’m hoping to have time to run their first session. They’re sure to keep me on my toes. (Uh, and I hope they aren’t reading this before Christmas. Otherwise, that won’t be much of a surprise!)
Do you plan to put out character sheets for Brock, Zed, Liza, Jett, etc. so people can play D&D as your characters?
NE: As a matter of fact, character sheets for these characters should be newly available on our website this month! (The site is DayofDangers.com.) If we see demand for it, we might add some of the wider cast in the future. But honestly, who wouldn’t want to just play as Liza forever?
ZC: Not enough magic!
What are your D&D characters like? What Hogwarts House are you both, and which Houses are your characters?
ZC: I don’t think I’ve ever played a non-mage character in over ten years of gaming, ha. I love all the spellcasting classes, like wizards, warlocks, and sorcerers. But our current game’s characters are both direct self-inserts. They’re sort of an exercise in “What if I’d been born in a fantasy world (…and were crazy/lucky enough to be an adventurer)?”
Mine’s a half-elf wild magic sorcerer, and he and I are both Gryffindors.
NE: I love rogues and always return to them, but right now I’m playing the new artificer class and having a blast with it. My character is a halfling alchemist with a goat-shaped homunculus, and nothing in that sentence would surprise anyone who knows me even a little bit. Like me, my character is a Hufflepuff through and through!
It honestly took me years to embrace my identity as a Hufflepuff. In hindsight, I can’t believe I ever thought otherwise. That Sorting Hat knows what it’s doing!
Do you plan to write more novels together?
NE: Absolutely! While we have our solo projects, there’s a joy in working together that just can’t be replicated on our own. My solo projects feel like work, whereas writing with Zack feels like a game.
ZC: Couldn’t have said it better.
You can find the authors on Twitter at @ZackLoranClark and @NickEliopulos. The Adventurers Guild series is out now wherever books are sold. Thank you to the authors for this wonderful interview and for sharing their story with us readers!