Park City fantasy novelist and board game designer Justin T. Call readies local events
What: Author and game designer Justin T. Call
When: 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, March 14
Where: Dolly’s Bookstore, 523 Main St.
What: Author and game designer Justin T. Call
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Monday, March 16
Where: The Summit County Library Kimball Junction Branch, 1885 W. Ute Blvd.
UPDATE: The events featuring local fantasy author and board-game designer Justin T. Call that were scheduled for Saturday, March 14, at Dolly’s Bookstore, and on Monday, March 16, at the Summit County Library Kimball Junction Branch have been postponed due to coronavirus concerns. For information, visit dollysbookstore.com and thesummitcountylibrary.org.
Fantasy novels and board games are a match made in heaven in the mind of author Justin T. Call.
Call, who will make appearances Saturday at Dolly’s Bookstore and Monday at the Summit County Library Kimball Junction Branch, is currently writing “Master Artificer,” the second book in his “Silent Gods” series. In the meantime, readers can enjoy his debut novel “Master of Sorrows.”
His tabletop gaming business, Broomstick Monkey Games, has already released the board game “Imperial Harvest” and is currently working on a follow-up, “Royal Strawberries.”
Call plans to talk a bit about himself, his novels and do some readings during his appearances. And he will also break out a large-scale version of “Imperial Harvest.”
“I’ll teach people how to play the game,” said Call, the former curation director for the Game Makers Guild of Boston, New England’s largest group of independent board game designers and play testers. “If they want to keep playing, we’ll set up the actual game on a table.”
Call, who lives in Summit Park with his wife and two sons, said his fascination with games and fantasy stories hit him when he was a teenager.
“I started playing role-playing games when I was 13 or 14,” he said. “The role-playing games with books and dice at a table influenced my personal preferences for reading. At that time, I didn’t know I wanted to write fantasy, although I started writing stories had some fantastic, science-fiction or fantasy things in them.”
Playing games and reading fed Call’s love for creating games that follow narratives, which he found useful for writing stories.
“Sometimes in gaming, 90 percent of that narrative isn’t touched, and I figured out that I could take all that material and make it into books,” he said. “I like telling stories. I remember in fifth grade that I was told to write a three-page story. I wrote a nine-page one, because I wasn’t done telling the things that I wanted to say.”
The author said he can’t pinpoint when he decided to write a fantasy-novel series, but the thought was always in his head.
“I knew that when I was doing it I wanted to dig in deep and do it right from the start,” Call said. “I didn’t want to write four of five books that weren’t very good, so I spent 10 years developing a story.”
Call wrote “Master of Sorrows” in 2011 for his master’s thesis at Harvard, where he studied literature and creative writing.
“Hearkening back to role-playing games, there was a one-armed character I developed who was an elf,” he said. “He lived in a society of grey elves who looked down on other elves.”
Everyone in that world hated the grey elves because of this racism, according to Call.
“So I wondered what it would be like for one of the grey elves to be born with a deformity in that society,” he said. “I developed that character, and he became an outsider and was ostracized.”
As Call began writing “Master of Sorrows,” he decided to get away from elves, but that character kept showing his face. So he changed the narrative to involve gods, and elemental magic.
Call looked at the differences between Western mythology, which features the elements of earth, fire water and air, and compared it to Eastern mythology, which is often centered around five elements — fire, water, wood, metal and earth.
“I thought if Eastern mythology could add more elements, I could go the other direction, and only use three,” he said. “So in my book, I have three gods who represent three elements, and then I added a metaphysical aspect.”
Call took 10 years to build the mythology that surrounds this ostracized character, Annev, whose name is derived from the Gaelic word “ainneamhag,” which means phoenix.
“I’ve taken a lot of the Gaelic language and turned these names and phrases into words that are pronounceable in English,” Call said. “Annev happens to be the reincarnation of one of the evil gods.”
When creating stories, Call, who also has a background in acting, doesn’t usually base his characters on people he knows. Instead, he draws on his training to figure out the motivations of his heroes and villains.
“I’m more likely to place myself in the character’s position and decide what I would do if I were them,” he said. “When doing this, I want people to empathize with the characters, whether they are heroes or dark lords.”
Once Call finished “Master of Sorrows,” he started Broomstick Monkey Games, and developed “Imperial Harvest,” a fantasy game that he released in 2015.
“I have been going back and forth between games and books since then,” he said.
Call’s love for the writing process, and his keen imagination, are what motivates him in his storytelling and game development.
“I enjoy outlining a story that I haven’t written, yet, because I get to play around and see where the pieces fit together,” he said. “I like plotting things out, and I can adjust my expectations when I do get to a draft.”
In addition to his books and games, Call, who looks up to authors such as David Eddings, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfus, Christopher Ruocchio and R.A. Salvatore, is also a screenplay writer and English teacher.
“I have written screenplays that have been paid for, but haven’t been made into movies, and I teach English to students in China online,” he said. “In high school, I decided to be a novelist, screenwriter, actor or teacher, and it’s satisfying to me to look around and realize that I’ve done all of that.”
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