Django Wexler graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seatt...
Django Wexler graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not planning Shadow Campaigns, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts. You can follow Django Wexler on Twitter as @DjangoWexler.
Nick Sharps: Sell me The Thousand Names in as few words as possible.
Django Wexler: It’s epic high fantasy in a Napoleonic setting, with great battles and a complex world. *BLAM! KABOOM!* (Do cannon sound effects count as words?)
NS: Is there a particular theme to The Thousand Names?
DW: I try not to push in a theme up front when I’m writing a book, so they’re often a surprise to me when they turn up. In this book, the closest thing to a theme in the original conception was the nature of loyalty in various contexts-between soldiers, to commanders, among family, between lovers, in politics, and so on. An unexpected sub-theme turned out to be the nature of gender roles, which really gets opened up in the next book.
NS: What influenced the creation of The Shadow Campaigns series?
DW: It was actually disturbingly simple at the very beginning. I was reading Chandler’s The Campaigns of Napoleon, and I thought, “Okay, I want to write that.” I had previously read S.M. Stirling and David Drake’s series The General, which is an SF series retelling the campaigns of the Byzantine general Belisarius, and I got the idea to do something similar in a Napoleonic context. After that it wandered pretty far afield-you won’t get many plot spoilers for the series by reading French history-but that was my starting point.
NS: It is evident from your writing that you know a good deal about old military structure, tactics/strategy, armament, etc. What was the nature of your research prior to writing The Thousand Names?
DW: All through high school and most of college I basically found history boring and avoided it wherever possible. Towards the end of my college career, though, I met up with a group of historical wargamers (via our school anime club). The way they talked about history was completely different from how it had been presented in my classes-as stories, basically, rather than from an academic standpoint.
I started borrowing books from them and reading a lot, just drifting to whatever I found interesting, which mostly turned out to be the military stuff. At the time I didn’t think of it as “research”, it was just the books I read for fun. As I said above, Chandler’s Campaigns of Napoleon made a big impression on me, as did Schama’s Citizens, about the French Revolution. I also read as much as I could find about the actual experience of battle, which I wanted to get as close to “right” as I could; John Keegan and Brent Nosworthy were helpful in this regard.
Playing wargames helped in and of itself, too.
NS: You graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh — Steelers, Pirates, or Penguins?
DW: As a card-carrying geek, I am required to express a certain degree of bafflement at sports fandom. That said, it would have to be the Steelers. I don’t follow hockey, and nobody I met in Pittsburgh seemed to particularly care about the Pirates, but when the Steelers won an important game they would be out in the streets, setting fire to things.
NS: I noticed from your bio that you paint minis. What are your favorite war games-and most importantly, do you ever war game The Thousand Names, and if so, does this help you plot battles for your writing?
DW: I got into the Games Workshop games in the distant past, but I didn’t really get to painting until after college, partly because the figures can be about as expensive as a solid drug habit. So I̵