Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Shawn Kass, author of Towns and Towers

Shawn Kass was born in Killeen Texas. He attended a series of colleges while serving as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force. He earned five degrees in subjects including Mathematics, Psychology, Education, and Secure Computer Systems Networking. While on active duty from 1997 to 2006, he was stationed stateside in Texas, California, Florida, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. and while overseas, he served in several Middle East locations.

Upon exiting the service, Shawn became a high school math and science teacher educating students in Washington, D.C., England, and Michigan.

MDB: Why gaming? What prompted you to dream up a virtual world?

SK: I have been a gamer since my parents brought home my first Atari system back in the 80s. The idea of writing something like this, however, didn't strike me until I read Ernest Cline’s amazing book, Ready Player One. Since then, I did some research on other popular LitRPG titles like the Play to Live series and The Way of the Shaman, and then made sure to compliment them by doing something slightly different. I didn't want readers to have to sift through all of the stats and data, and so I shoved that into the background and focused more on the exploration of a beginning game player in a new world.

MDB: If you could transport yourself to the world you created, would you do so? And if you did, which of the game characters would you like to play?

SK: To be honest, I think I would jump into the game. I would want to bring my wife with me as my player two, and I think the experience would be incredible. The main character, Sam, is modeled off several of my own reactions to the gaming world and the tropes usually associated with JRPGs, but I would have handled a few things differently if it had been me. For instance, I think I would have spent more time leveling up by killing off small non-threatening creatures rather than jump in and face some of the trials Sam had to go through.

MDB: In your opinion, is playing MMORPG games just mindless entertainment and a waste of time? Or does it help one grow and develop one's particular skills and character traits? If so, which ones?

SK: Gaming is a bit of both, and it depends on the player. After a long day at work, sometimes it’s nice to just plug in and explore a new world, like I am doing with No Man's Sky, and other days I just want to hack and slash my way through hordes of bad guys. With technology the way it is today, gamers are able to connect globally, and I think that level of social networking is amazing.

MDB: What do you find more exciting: to play a game or to write about it?

SK: That’s tough. Playing games is fun, relaxing, and at times frustrating, but then again, so is writing. My wife would tell you that when I am doing either, I go into my own world, and time becomes a very fluid thing. I will say that act of creating something and having others enjoy it is better than playing through a game and talking about it with another player.

MDB: Can we expect your new books to expand into other genres? What genres would they be?

SK: I have several books out already in sci-fi, and I invite people to check them out. As for my next couple of projects, I expect that there will be some sci-fi, a ‘whodunnit’ detective novel, and at least one if not two more books in the Towns and Tower series. As for which one will be next, it totally depends on the voices in my head, and what they decide.

MDB: Which other LitRPG authors would you personally recommend to your friends and readers?

SK: Ernest Cline, D. Rus and Vasily Mahanenko’s work have all been excellent and exciting reads.

When Sam’s new video game system arrives in the mail, he unexpectedly finds that it isn’t the one he sent in for repairs, and instead he has received some sort of limited edition model. He soon finds out how unique the model is when after downloading his newest game he is transported into the system and expected to play through the role of his character without access to the real world, or any of the informationally packed strategy guides he is used to using. Handicapped by his own impatience to start playing, Sam is left to figure out the new world which he has fallen into. He has no weapons, no armor, no save points, and no way home. The only thing he has going in his favor is his experience, and his willingness to game more.


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