Dan Koboldt is a scientist and author of The Rogue Retrieval, a brilliant fantasy/sci-fi story about a stage illusionist sent to a world where magic is real. The fact he’s also a fellow Harper Voyager Impulse author means he’s cool in addition to being a great writer. Him being a scientist and an author just means he’s showing off, but don’t hold that against him, like I said, he’s cool and a great writer.
One of the most common questions authors are asked is “where did the idea come from?” Well, Dan was brave enough to answer it, and do so here.
What Inspired The Rogue Retrieval
By Dan Koboldt
When you write a book and manage to get it published, one of the most common questions you’re asked is “Where did you get that idea?” For me, there’s a short one-line answer that I hand out a lot: I got the idea for The Rogue Retrieval after reading an article about a Vegas illusionist. That’s only a partial truth. There were actually three sources of inspiration for the story that became my debut novel.
Epic Fantasy Classics
I first read The Lord of the Rings in the fourth grade. This wasn’t a school assignment; my parents had given me the trilogy after I’d finished reading The Hobbit. My 4th grade teacher, in fact, was not a fan of how much time I spent reading rather than paying attention to her. But Lord of the Rings drew me in, and sparked a love of epic fantasy that’s lasted more than two decades.
I went on to read other epic fantasy authors – Raymond Feist, Terry Brooks, Tad Williams. I spent almost as much time in Midkemia and Recluce as I did in the real world. When I started writing fiction of my own, I wanted to create secondary worlds that were just as engrossing. That was inspiration #1.
When I was in high school, I heard about this effort to map the human genetic code, something called the Human Genome Project. Part of the work was being done right in my hometown of St. Louis, at Washington University School of Medicine. I knew I’d probably enter a technical field, and I thought it would be so cool to join an effort like that. Fast forward about ten years, and I joined the Genome Sequencing Center at WashU as a genetics researcher.
I love cutting-edge science, and because of my profession, I’m exposed to it every day. Geeky futuristic tech is my bag, and I wanted that to become part of my writing, too. But this created a problem for me. There are epic fantasy books, and futuristic sci-fi books, but rarely books that incorporate both.
The Modern Illusionist
About four years ago, I read an article about Teller, the silent half of the famous magic act Penn & Teller. The article – which I’ve long since lost track of – described his efforts to get patent/copyright protection for his illusions. Apparently, whenever he developed a new trick, these hacks would reverse-engineer it and run off to perform it in Europe or other places without even acknowledging him.
It got me thinking about how modern technologies –things like high-def video and the Internet – have changed even the field of performance magic. I wondered how a modern illusionist would fare in a world that hadn’t even invented electricity.
Barring time travel, the only way that could happen would be if we discovered another world. And I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if that discovery were made not by a gaggle of precocious children, but a large and powerful corporation. This became the unifying element that let me write epic fantasy themes, sci-fi tech, and a modern illusionist into a single book: the story of a Vegas illusionist who infiltrates a medieval world.