Some Thoughts with ... Django Wexler

18 Jun 2024

The Author/s

Django Wexler

Django Wexler

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.

The Interview

1.- Could you introduce yourself to Jamreads’ readers?
 Hi! I’m Django Wexler, author of How to Become the Dark Lord and Die Trying, The Shadow Campaigns, and other fantasy novels. Apart from being an author, I like to play games of various sorts and paint miniatures.

2.- How did you start writing?
 When I was a teen, I got very into D&D and other TTRPGs. I was almost always the DM, which l liked because I had lots of stories I wanted to try. But I got a bit frustrated with it because playing out the kind of complicated plots I wanted is hard at a gaming table. So I started writing instead, getting into fanfic at first and then transitioning to original novels.

3.- The Shadow Campaigns was what we could call your presentation letter to the world. How did that idea appear? What would you say made it special?
There were two pretty clear influences there. First, I read George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones and loved it (this was back before he was a household name). In particular, I liked the way he brought knights-and-castles fantasy back closer to its historical roots, more grounded in the time period of 12-13th c. England and Scotland. I decided I really wanted to do a project like that, but in a different time period so it would feel distinct.
 Later, one of my historical wargaming buddies gave me David Chandler’s The Campaigns of Napoleon and that time period really had the feel I wanted! So Shadow Campaigns began, at least, as “Game of Thrones, but in the Napoleonic Wars”, although like all books it diverged a lot as I wrote it.

4.- During your career, you’ve also touched YA fantasy, with your series The Forbidden Library. How would you say it is different writing for this concrete age segment? Did your process change?
 Surprisingly, it wasn’t all that different! I hate the idea of writing “down” to kids, so I did my usual thing and mostly let my editors warn me when things were too advanced, which wasn’t often. The structure of the books is a little simpler, and they’re definitely shorter, but other than that, it was business as usual!

5.- How would you say it was writing Burningblade and Silvereye?
I had a really good time with these. There’s a lot of really fun characters, which is always my favorite part—writing a character I enjoy is always a pleasure. Plus, the world is very strange, which gave me the opportunity to invent a lot of weird, gross stuff like gooey flesh-monsters. 

6.- Your latest release is How To Become The Dark Lord and Die Trying, the first on the Dark Lord Devi duology, a more humorous proposal. Would you say it is more challenging to write these kinds of books instead of “serious” fantasy? How was getting this duology for publication?
 Definitely more challenging, comedy is hard! It just made me super nervous throughout. I had no idea if the weird stuff I thought was funny would actually land with readers. Fortunately, my editor was onboard from the start, and I had some good beta readers (my wife Casey first and foremost).

7.- How did the idea of Dark Lord Davi appear? What pieces of media would you say influenced you in its creation?
Dark Lord Davi is definitely anime-influenced. In particular, there are two isekai anime that are kind of mashed-up to make this story: KumoNani (So I’m a Spider, so What?), which is about a girl reincarnated in a fantasy world as a monstrous spider who eventually becomes a dark lord, and Re: Zero, about a guy sent to a fantasy world who gets trapped in a mysterious time loop. When I first had the idea for Davi, Spider x Re:Zero was the pitch!

8.- After more than 10 years writing, would you say your creative process has changed?
 A bit, but less than you’d think! I have a lot more experience now, so I’m more confident at being able to hit target lengths, estimate schedules, and so on. I tend to do pretty detailed outlines, so the process for each book is similar – brainstorm, outline, then write out the draft!

9.- Apart from your original creations, you’ve written for different IPs such as Dungeons & Dragons and Magic The Gathering. How does it work? Does it change much from creating your own fictional world?
 These are a lot of fun!  It depends on the project, usually you get a story brief from the people on the IP side, and they give you some idea of how much you’re allowed to deviate.  Often you can propose your own ideas, too, and they’ll have some continuity person to make sure things stay true to the universe.  Once the outline is basically done, then it’s more like writing one of my other books.

10.- What can we expect from Django Wexler in the future?
 Lots of fun stuff! I have a short aeropunk novel called Last Stop coming in October, which is the first in a fun pulp series. Dark Lord Davi #2 should be out next year, and I’m working in a space opera trilogy after that!