Pat Kapera has been a familiar figure around the gaming industry for some years. His biggest splash to date has been the Spycraft Role-Playing Game, a high-tech, James Bond-meets-Man from U.N.C.L.E-meets-Mission: Impossible espionage game. He has also worked on some of the most prominent licensed properties in the hobby gaming industry, including the Battlestar Galactica RPG. The hobby gaming market is a HUGE potential market for fledgling writers, as a many of the game companies are actively looking for talented, creative writers who love the industry. It’s a great place to get some experience and writing credits. The downside is that pay rates are commensurate with the level of experience they’re looking for–2-3 cents a word in many cases. Unless of course you manage to start and run your own game company, like Pat Kapera. He’s made a go of it with a hot property, and is a darn fine fellow with whom to sit down and have a beer.
PK: Well, gravity can be a harsh mistress, especially when you’re carrying around the mass I am, so I’m not sure if I’d call it an arc. Maybe a pond skip, or a tractor pull.
I fell into writing, actually – started out thinking I’d avoid growing up as long as I could before settling into whatever middle class job best suited my talents at the moment and kept me out of prison longest.Then I befriended a small inky fellow named Jim Pinto, whom I later caught at the Alderac Entertainment Group booth at a local con. Assuming he was trying to steal something, I alerted AEG’s head mistress on site, Maureen Yates, and much to my surprise she informed me they’d hired him as the editor of Shadis Magazine. (She apologized, of course, but explained that due to California labor law it would be too expensive to take the offer back.)
I figured that if they hired Jim they’d hire anyone, so I asked whether they had any spots open for someone with RPG experience (playing, not writing – remember, I was still a professional slacker at this point). Lo and behold, they were looking for an editing intern and she brought me on under DJ Trindle. I worked on a few books, each time doing a little more, and by the time my internship was over I’d scored a cover credit on Way of the Lion for Legend of the Five Rings. They brought me on full-time after that – again, I blame some fluke of the California labor laws – and I spent the next eight years working on pretty much everything they made.
During the last few years that I was there I decided to carve out my own little corner of things with Spycraft, which is still a big chunk of what I do today. Spycraft opened a lot of doors for me and let me work on a ton of exciting new projects, like the Stargate SG-1 roleplaying game, which I co-developed with the amazingly talented Rob Vaux.
I left AEG in 2005 and set up shop with my two co-designers on Spycraft’s second edition, Alex Flagg and Scott Gearin. We formed Crafty Games (www.crafty-games.com), which is the new home for Spycraft and many of our other endeavors. I’m also freelancing, with gigs like the Battlestar Galactica RPG and some other stuff I can’t talk about quite yet.
Boy that was long-winded! Guess *that’s* what keeps all this mass aloft.
TH: What is The Story of Pat? Is it a novel? A short story? A poem? A limerick?
PK: I’d like it to be a great and expansive TV series bible, with lots of carefully constructed character arcs and big, WOW-ZINGER cliffhangers. Sometimes it actually feels like that. Other times it feels like a phone number drunkenly scrawled on the back of a cocktail napkin – so full of promise, if only I could make out the last digit…
TH: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you know?
PK: The first time I saw my work in print. No joke. I’d dreamed of being a writer before that, of course – who doesn’t? – but it was the physical reality of it that finally sank in and took hold.
TH: A lot of established writers seem to have a stack of writing somewhere that will never a see the light of day. I’m talking about stuff that perhaps helped you learn and develop your craft, like the five novels the author had to write before he could get to the good one. Do you have anything like this?
PK: Like anyone I’ve written my fair share of stuff that’s never been published but my abrupt start didn’t really allow for much material without a predetermined home. In that way my career’s been more like that of a journalist than a writer – my successes and failures have all been fairly public. I appreciate that, actually. I think it brings me closer to the audience and invests them more heavily in my work.
TH: Of course, most writers want to have bestsellers or make some sort of artistic or literary impact. Is there some unrealized accomplishment that you’re striving for in the near future?
PK: I want to live comfortably – not extravagantly, just comfortably – working with people I respect and admire on things that I love. Half of that statement’s already true, so I consider myself a pretty lucky man.
TH: What are some of the things that inspire you?
PK: Everything inspires: music, places, people, feelings, things I watch and read. Every writer should develop the discipline to watch the world with a scavenger’s eyes because everything’s worth re-using eventually.
TH: What are the most successful ways you have used to promote yourself and your work? Are there any promising marketing avenues that you might yet explore?
PK: Be approachable and talk to everyone. I spent a goodly chunk of my first few years as a writer just getting to know people, and I still try to get out there as much as I possibly can. There is no better promotional tool than you, and you should use and abuse that tool for all it’s worth.
I’m always on the lookout for new ways to promote. It comes naturally, as I spent a few years at AEG wearing a marketing hat. Plus, I’ve seen more than a few projects fail not because they were bad but because no one knew they existed. Sadly, though, I don’t think there’s a “magic bullet.” Sure, folks occasionally stumble on a brilliant scheme for a particular product but ultimately promotion’s all about diligent elbow grease. Learn to spot the opportunities and seize them when they show up. Like this one, for example: www.crafty-games.com.
TH: Have your reached the point at which you realized that you had “made it” as a writer and author? If so, can you describe the milestone or circumstances? Do you recall how that felt?
PK: I think I’ve achieved a certain moderate success in the hobby gaming market but there are still quite a few avenues for me to explore, so I wouldn’t say I’ve “made it,” no. If I had to pick a single highlight thus far, I’d say it was the AEG dinner at the GAMA trade show where we premiered Spycraft’s first edition. AEG put on a great spread that night, with hundreds of books set out at the tables, one to a guest. It was a sea of silver across the entire hall.
I remember DJ saying, “This is all for you.” I don’t think I’ve ever stood prouder.
TH: Some say that professional writers have to look at themselves as a business, a branded commodity. Do you take that approach?
PK: Not all the time but I see the value in it. Especially in this age, when the cult of personality is so pervasive, I think it’s critical for anyone selling their services to take stock of their perceived value as a name. That’s true in any profession, obviously, but even more so for writers and other entertainers who attract and nurture fans. As we all know, fans will make up their minds and proselytize whether you want them to or not. You might as well get involved in the process.
TH: What can readers expect to see from you in the near future? What are you working on?
PK: Right now Crafty Games is dancing around the 800-lb. gorilla’s feet with Fantasy Craft, a traditional adventure gaming toolset. This fall we’ll be putting out Ten Thousand Bullets, a street noir opus by Alex Flagg. Both use our in-house system and will be supported by a range of PDF products.
I’m also wrapping up the long-gestating World on Fire series (our current espionage setting), which was the only thing I left unfinished at AEG. Crafty inherited it when we broke away from the company and it’s had something of a turbulent life since, so it’s exciting to finally get all that material in players’ hands.
On the freelance front I’m going to be editing the Colonial Military book for Battlestar Galactica, and I’m hoping I can follow up with some other ideas I’ve had for the line. Jamie Chambers and his crew have been really open to new ideas, and I love working with MWP (Margaret Weis Productions).
Beyond that… We’ll see. I try not to plan *too* far out, as it kills your ability to adapt to new opportunities – and there are always new opportunities.
TH: What is the most memorable moment (good, bad, or other) you have had in your life as an author?
PK: I don’t know that I could narrow it down to just one actually. Professional writing has changed my life in so many ways and provided me with so many incredible experiences. I’ve visited other countries and met people who I know will remain close friends forever. I’ve been privileged to work with wildly talented folks on projects that a lot of aspiring writers never dream of tackling.
Most memorable… Outside the launch of Spycraft, it might be a tie between all the times someone whose work I’ve read and loved for years, or whose career I’ve followed since well before I started at AEG, took the time to chat with me. My earliest of these memories was Peter Adkison, who went out of his way to invite me to one of his parties at my very first GenCon (about a week after I was hired at AEG). Another was Tracy Hickman, who randomly invited Kevin Wilson (the other father of Spycraft) and I to lunch a few years later. That’s one of the things I love about the hobby gaming market so much – it’s filled with genuinely good people.