Author Interview: N.R. LaPoint
We sit down with the author of the isekai novel Gun Magus.
N.R. LaPoint lives deep within the Great Wisconsin Wilderness with his family, numerous musical instruments, and a large personal library.
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Low on luck, but not ammo
The last thing Kenneth Jericho needed was a gunfight and car chase with human traffickers. What started as a bad morning only got worse.
A flash of light sends Ken to a strange world filled with magic, hideous monsters, beautiful women, and seemingly unlimited ammo.
With pistol in hand, Ken is thrown into a race against time to stop a local ganglord’s reign of terror. But is the thug the brains behind the violence, or is someone – or something – else pulling his strings?
Today, I have an interview with author N.R. LaPoint.
This is a great discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the isekai genre and how LaPoint made his novel stand out from the crowd!
Gun Magus is a fun isekai adventure. What do you enjoy about this genre?
I find the most enjoyable thing about isekai is that it gives a mundane character the chance for a type of adventure they wouldn’t have in their world. It opens up a lot of possibilities for some truly off-the-wall possibilities. A lot I’ve seen stick to traditionally fantasy settings, but I used it as an opportunity to mix in some magitech, some classic Final Fantasy influence, plenty of 80s style action (and cheesy one-liners), and some John Carpenter-esque horror.
“One of my favorite things an Isekai can do is allow its protagonist to use their skills learned in their old world and translate them in a new way. “
One of my favorite things an Isekai can do is allow its protagonist to use their skills learned in their old world and translate them in a new way. Light Unto Another World had its protagonist using his military training and general know-how to come up with interesting solutions. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime has its protagonist use his skills from a thankless, dead-end job to rewarding effect. I think there’s something uplifting in that.
Were there any specific isekai stories that made an impact on you as a writer?
I’ve heard C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia described as otherworld fantasy, so I’m going to count that as a big one. There was a line in The Last Battle where a character is trying to explain to others that heaven is more real than Earth, that the universe operates on a qualitative continuum. “It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!” That conversation set the groundwork for the universe in which my novel Chalk operates.
Many isekai I’ve encountered have been an example of what not to do, sadly. The anime Log Horizon had potential, but got bogged down in RPG elements and suffered from the genre’s strange problem where religion just seems to disappear from the equation entirely. Most of the isekais that follow the RPG trends tend to get weighed down with mechanics, rather than entertaining. So, nearly anything that felt like it could be “LitRPG” got axed from Gun Magus.
Yakov Merkin’s Light Unto Another World has been a fun take on the genre and probably put it in my head to see what I could accomplish if I was to take on the genre. That story has been taking on a lot of the problem elements typical to otherworld fantasy successfully, so it showed that it could be done and be done well.
Can you talk a bit about how your books fit in with the Superversive / PulpRev movements?
I always aim for my stories to be uplifting in some manner. My protagonists are plainly heroic and virtuous, and evil is evil. I’ve found that heroes that are actually heroic and adventurous are far more interesting, likable, and inspiring, than anti-heroes or the modern pop hero assailed by continuous existential crisis.
Some of the ideas and characterizations in Gun Magus actually sprang from ongoing conversations with other Superversive / PulpRev authors. The hero, Ken Jericho, jumps right into fighting villainy simply because it’s the right thing to do. He doesn’t even consider wringing his hands or hedging about it. He’s a tad foolhardy, but that’s probably one of my favorite traits that he possesses.
Would you share a bit about your faith and how it influences your stories?
I am a convert to Catholicism.
As far as how my faith affects my work, my protagonists are always virtuous, and if they are a person of faith, they take it seriously. They have their quirks and aren’t necessarily the most modest (note Kasumi from the Raven Mistcreek series), but there are no sex scenes and there never will be. The closest thing to it are some off-screen antics between married couples. I think the closest thing I’ve written to swearing is a use or two of “Hell.” Apart from some violent content, my stories are probably surprisingly clean.
Themes I touch on tend toward the spiritual realm as well. Raven Mistcreek faces off against actual demons and gets help from angels. The evil in my stories tends toward the notion that evil is the lack or perversion of good, and I find villains that willfully choose evil to be much more terrifying than sob stories that are bad because they have a sad background that made them bad.
Gun Magus fits well with other novels you’ve written. Lightsinger (2018) is about some teenagers who are teleported to another world, and Chalk (2020) seems to have some manga influences. How does Gun Magus compare with these?
I’d like to think it is different enough, though it does have the feel of something I’ve written, which I suppose is unavoidable. The mention that Chalk has manga influence amuses me because if it does, it was unintentional. Author friend Josh Griffing was the first to point it out in both Chalk and its sequel Dusklight. I took it as a challenge, and intentionally loaded Gun Magus with anime influence. Zephyr, the love interest, is probably the most obvious, being the cute, bubbly, magical girl type.
Gun Magus was much more explicitly influenced by 80s action film than the others. There is a thread of influence by the likes of John C. Wright, John Carpenter, and H.P. Lovecraft that runs throughout my work, though. The threats my heroes encounter tend toward the cosmic.
Your other novels starred young female leads. What is the biggest challenge in writing each gender?
The biggest challenge in writing a male character is making him interesting and not just a projection of myself. I originally began writing Gun Magus as a first person story, but it came off as flat, so I reworked the entire beginning and ended up with something far better.
In writing female characters the biggest challenge is not repeating myself. I enjoy writing the bubbly/cute personality types, but overdoing it would eventually become boring and probably get readers to start rolling their eyes at seeing the same character over and over again.
The action that leads up to Ken “getting isekai’d” is longer than typical—he doesn’t merely get hit by a truck. Can you discuss your thoughts behind this scene?
My thoughts were something along the lines of “how insane can I make this?” To my thinking, it was a good way to show what kind of hero the reader was going to be stuck with for the rest of the book. Instead of somebody who gets suddenly overpowered as a result of being isekaid, Ken is shown to be an action hero before that takes place. Hopefully that made him a bit more endearing than a weaker individual becoming some sort of power fantasy.
“How insane can I make this?”
Funny thing is that I think Ken specifically notes that he was not, in fact, hit by a truck.
Ken collects a handful of anime girls during his adventures. Who is your favorite?
Zephyr. And she’s supposed to be, since she’s the sweet, pure, love interest of the story. The original concept was to take the “harem anime” trope (of which I am not a fan) and turn it on its head to some extent. The spider-girl Pok was probably the most fun to write, though, as she has some (very) obvious jealousy for Ken and Zephyr’s relationship. She acts on it with an almost half-hearted effort because she’s actually a good person and likes Zephyr.
Ken has no desire to return home at the end of the adventure. What do you think makes an isekai world appealing as a permanent escape?
*Insert Tolkien quote about escapism here*. I think people have some innate desire for adventure, and the mundane world we live in has become so bureaucratized that it seems a bit like a prison. I think that’s where the stereotypical isekai story holds its appeal. For Ken, he had nothing to go back to and faced almost certain constant assault from lawyers if he returned to his world. There was a hilarious line in A Princess of Mars, where John Carter muses that the green martians have one element of happiness that those on Earth do not have: They have no lawyers.
Originally, your concept for Gun Magus was a stand-alone novel. Due to the enthusiastic response from readers, are you considering a sequel? Where would you want to take these characters?
I would love to do a sequel, and the joke that has been made is that it would be called Gun Magus 2: Gun Harder. It was fun to write, and the feedback that I’ve gotten suggests it was even more fun to read. I’ve heard of two people reading it in one sitting. So, a sequel is a possibility, but I have a bunch of projects I want to do before that happens. I’m currently working on writing Archangel: Raven Mistcreek, book 3, and editing my Dinosaur Warfare trilogy. After that, I have a couple other worlds I’ve written short stories for that I want to explore more fully. So it might be a while.
It might be fun to throw the characters into Earth and have them deal with the original issue of traffickers that Ken faced in chapter one. There are a lot of possibilities. Does Rolfwin ever get his curry? Do any of the characters finally find a priest and get married? Did anyone on Earth actually notice that Ken disappeared? Was he presumed dead? How many more one-liners can Ken spout off?
What do you hope readers take away from Gun Magus?
I hope the takeaway is a desire to read more pulprev and superversive material. There’s a lot of talent in that circle and most of it is surprisingly awesome.