Author Interview – Ben Counter

Morning folks! Today we have our second author interview, this time with Ben Counter, author of various Black Library publications such as The Grey Knights series, the Soul Drinkers series, Daemon World, Horus Heresy: Galaxy In Flames and many others.

His latest includes the sixth Soul Drinkers novel, Phalanx, which is now available to pre-order for print, as well as his novella for the Architect of Fate anthology, Endeavour of Will.

So let us get into it!

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The Bolthole and You

We all come to the Bolthole for a variety of different reasons. Some of us come for one or two specific reasons, while others come because of the whole experience. So I thought it would be a great idea to really explore what some of these reasons are. Mind you, this is not an extensive list and is not meant to be, but I just want to highlight some of the key ones that I feel are the most important.

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Why Warhammer?

Your Monday morning fix is brought to you courtesy of Jonathan Schafer, long time member of the Bolthole (and several incarnations of the Black Library forums before that) who has gotten all excited about us starting a blog and kindly offered to write some articles for us. We are equally excited to have him on board, and so without further ado…

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Interview – Laurie Goulding, Black Library Editor

Hello and happy friday! Today, as a treat for you all we have an interview with Laurie Goulding who very kindly offered to answer a few questions for us – officially, his title is of Submissions Editor for the Black Library. If you don’t know what that means, then you have come to the right place…

Laurie Goulding, before his morning coffee has kicked in


Hi Laurie, how are you today?

I’m good, actually. I’m full of enthusiasm for the work I have to do later, and looking forward to some gaming with my new-and-improved Necron army this evening. It has been a Good Day™ so far.

You are the submissions editor for the Black Library, right? What exactly does your job role entail?

I am indeed. Principally I’m member of the Editorial team, so I work with specific authors on their various projects, and act as their representative during BL meetings and planning sessions. The ‘submissions’ part comes in whenever we run an open submissions window or when we are contacted by established authors who want to write for us – I am the first pair of eyes on every submission, and if it interests me then I take it to the rest of the team to decide if we want to see more from this particular author, and how we want to proceed with that.

Black Library is in an interesting (and fairly unique!) position, in that almost all of our fans also want to write for us. We obviously encourage that, because no one knows the Warhammer backgrounds quite like a lifelong fan… and there is a lot of talent out there that we hope to discover by keeping our eyes open and reading what you guys are writing. This year, I have already found THREE new authors and I have a number of good leads. I know that Christian has found a couple too, and Graeme as well.

Another part of my job which I really enjoy is being the unofficial ‘researcher’ for Warhammer 40,000 – basically, whenever an author or editor says “what do we know about such-and-such”, then I dig out every published reference to it, compile them all into something vaguely coherent, and point out the contradictions which could make interesting story points. As a huge fan of the Horus Heresy before I came to work here, I take great satisfaction from now being the go-to guy for continuity on the series! (From ‘Deliverance Lost’ onwards, people who knew me from the online pre-Heresy forum days have commented that you can actually see my influence in there, if you know what to look for…)

Extreme geek-out then! You get A LOT of submissions every time you open up a new window of opportunity – in the hundreds every time. Do you find it a chore or a pleasure to work through them all? How much of each sample/synopsis do you need to read, or is it more a case of heaping stuff into piles to look at later, and piles for the shredder?

Heh, try “thousands”…! I genuinely do find it very exciting to read through every single story in the pile, and while you get some really whacky ideas you also get some amazingly well written pieces. Having said that, the ratios are something like: for every FIVE HUNDRED submissions we receive, I’ll find maybe TWENTY that both fit the style of BL and would have an obvious place in our range. From those twenty, it’s unlikely that any of them will get past all of the other editors without some criticism, but statistically we contact maybe ONE OR TWO of them to take it further.

So really, people shouldn’t take it personally if they don’t get a call back. Aside from the fact that we have so many submissions to look through, which takes a loooooooong time, it is only a very small percentage that actually get through to publication. The best thing to do is to crack on with your next submission, and try to raise your own game as a writer.

I know its cliched, but if you could give everyone who submitted proposals to the Black Library ONE piece of advice, what would it be and why?

Don’t start outside the box. Seriously, this is the death of 90% of all submissions. When we look at a brand new author, someone completely unknown to us, we need to know that this person ‘gets’ the Warhammer setting – we can’t judge that if their first submission is a completely revolutionary new idea which challenges the reader’s preconceptions and takes the story in an unnecessarily ‘clever’ new direction.

Your first submission should be something which could have come right out of an army book or codex (except written as character-driven prose rather than gaming background) and conforms entirely to the established universe. Once we know you’re good for it, we can start to look at your more original ideas.

Also, something which we reiterate time and again – please don’t submit for Horus Heresy or Time of Legends, or draw heavily on the metaplot of those series for your ‘modern’-era story. This will earn you an instant rejection, and we don’t want to have to keep dismissing great writers just because they tried to get around the basic ground rules! We just can’t consider new writers for these brands, unfortunately.

How did you get into the hobby? Were you a gamer or a reader?

Oh, I was very much a gamer. My cousin (some ten years older than me) was an award-winning miniature painter in the late 1980s, and I found his enthusiasm quite infectious. I got Heroquest for Christmas, and Space Crusade for my next birthday… then bought Rogue Trader over the summer and eventually the original Horus Heresy boardgame too. At the age of eleven I was playing in competitive Space Hulk tournaments, and designing rules for a wargame based on my Lego Pirates!

I actually dropped out of the hobby completely at the age of about 17 or 18, when in the traditional manner I discovered “girls’n’beer”. I did some commission painting to pay the bills while I was at university, but my interest in Games Workshop had waned to almost nothing. It was only a few years later when I was trying to explain to someone why British Science fiction is inherently awesome, that I got to thinking about the original Horus Heresy story by William King once more… then by sheer chance, I spotted ‘Horus Rising’ on the shelf in Waterstones, and I knew that I had to get involved with that!

I read the first three Horus Heresy novels in the space of ten days, and immediately started on a pre-Heresy World Eaters army (still growing!) and persuaded my old gaming buddies to dust off their minis too. BLOOD FOR THE PRIMARCH! SKULLS FOR THE GOLDEN THRONE!

Any chance that we are going to see Laurie Goulding’s fictional efforts in print? I know that Nick Kyme has made a big splash with his novels and Christian Dunn has written a game book!!

Heh, well let’s not get ahead of ourselves! I make no secret of the fact that I have always been a keen writer and come from a family with something of a literary tradition, but at the moment I’ve got this huge pile of submissions to go through… maybe one day I’ll get round to actually writing something of my own again… mutter mutter…

What are you most looking forward to in 2012?

BL-wise, I am literally giddy with excitement over Aaron D-B’s ‘Butcher’s Nails’ (gotta love that freakin’ SWEET artwork!) and John French’s HH novella ‘The Crimson Fist’. They both appeal to the continuity geek in me.

In terms of real life, I’m getting married in like, a year’s time. I suspect that if I don’t mention that, I am liable to have my thumbs cut off while I sleep… (BEST case scenario!)

Wow, well I hope the wedding goes smoothly and you don’t have too many “wedding planner” moments. Last question – either/or Smarties or Minstrels?

Hmmm, tough call. Smarties for every day, Minstrels for Sunday best? They certainly make a better cinema snack – much chunkier! Having said that, the four-year old in me still gets excited by the sound of a Smarties tube being shaken. I will sit on the fence and let more worthy gentlemen fight it out, I think.

Excellent – thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

I hope everyone has a good weekend – we have more interviews lined up, with Ben Counter and Bill King to name but two. Check back on Monday for an article by Jon Schafer asking Why Warhammer? See you all then!

Author Interview – Sarah Cawkwell

Morning! As promised, we have an interview with Sarah Cawkwell, triumphant author of The Gildar Rift, which if you haven’t read it already, you should have!

Sarah Cawkwell is actually pretty important to us in the Bolthole – she founded the original forum after the sad demise of the “Official” Black Library forums, and some of us can still remember her early fan fiction efforts – which were very good, as it happens – the fact she has gone from writing fan fiction to becoming a fully fledged Black Library author, with numerous short stories and a novel already in print and one on the way is nothing short of inspirational. So, without further ado…

Hi Sarah, how are you today? What have you been doing?

I got up. I went to work. I worked. Someone in the car park dented my car (the CADS). I came home. I stared at the computer for a while, then slid onto World of Warcraft (one of my guilty pleasures). Then, somehow, HOURS had passed and with no small amount of guilt I got back to editing ‘Valkia the Bloody’. Then someone distracted me with an interview email.

These people can’t be trusted! Lets talk about the Bolthole – it has had a few incarnations since you started it – is this what you envisioned when you set it up?

I didn’t envision the incarnations although it’s great now that the site has its own home.What I envisioned when I set up the Black Library Bolthole was a forum for readers and writers of Black Library fiction to post and critique one another’s work, to read reviews of their favourite books and to have old-fashioned conversations about the minutiae of the novels… in an environment where positivity was the buzz word. There are plenty of other forums out there where bitterness reins supreme – and it has its place, certainly. The Bolthole has always been one of the more polite and friendly forums out there. It’s stayed small and manageable and in that regard… yes. It’s what I envisioned.

How does it feel to have handed over the Bolthole reins? Do you like what we’ve done with the place?

It feels kind of strange, but also a relief. Due to commitments (you know… work, life, writing, not necessarily in that order), my time has been very limited. I’m glad that it’s been taken over by a team of people who enjoy Black Library stuff just as much as I do. It’s also nice to see the development of assorted social networking additions (blog, Twitter etc…) I look forward to seeing where it goes.

Hopefully we are going in the right direction! What got you into Warhammer? Were you a gamer? And if not, do you find yourself trawling through rulebooks to make sure you don’t upset any hardcore fans by blowing up a landraider with a laspistol?

I came into the Warhammer universes through reading Black Library fiction first. The gaming element is coming along incredibly slowly. Fortunately, Not So Small Anymore Son and Dearly Beloved are both gamers. They are also both bottomless pits of 40k and Fantasy lore. Whilst I have a pile of rulebooks, codices and army books forming a small pillar beside me, it’s frequently quicker to turn to one of them and ask them ‘What Would Sanguinius Do’?Well, maybe not that question exactly, but you get the point.I trawl the rulebooks regularly because research Is Your Friend.

We all know about your work for the Black Library – have you got ambitions to write your own, original fiction?

Ambitions, certainly. Time? Not so much. I have something that I refer to as Project: Backburner which is my original urban fantasy story. Every now and again I’ll fire it up and toss a few more words into it. For now, given the fact I have to keep a full time job on the go, it’s something which will have to wait.

Have you got any tips for us budding authors still clamouring at the editors door with the hope of getting picked up?

The usual, really. Read, read, read some more. Write as much as you can. The more you write, the better you get at it. Also, for Warhammer specifically… remember the tone of the two universes. That’s actually harder for WHF than it is for 40k. You have a broader remit in WHF and whilst you’re still bound by the lore of the universe, it doesn’t feel quite as restrictive as 40k. That sentence may not make sense. I’m tired. 🙂

When you’re not writing, how do you keep yourself entertained?

Reading! (Books, not the town to paraphrase Sir Terence of Pratchett). Also, I write non-work related stuff to relax. I know, it’s sad. Also, watching DVDs and playing WoW. I’d dearly love to have some sort of massively creative hobby, like being able to sculpt perfect representations of the Thinker out of chocolate, but I have the world’s shortest attention span.

When can I read Valkia the Bloody?

I believe you will find that this lovely, well-tempered lady will hit the bookshelves in the sunny month of July 2012.

Have you got any more signings coming up?

Indeed I do: at Warhammer World on 19th November during the Warhammer Doubles Tournament.

Either or… candy floss or brighton rock?

Candy floss. It’s like eating clouds. Eating rock is like eating… well, rock.

Brilliant – I cant be dealing with brighton rock either! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions.

The Gildar Rift is officially released in December, but you can preorder it NOW from the Black Library website, or you can pop along to Warhammer World on Saturday, buy a copy and get it signed by the author herself. There may even be haribo.

You can follow Sarah’s daily thoughts on twitter @pyroriffic and she has an entertaining blog

Thanks for stopping by. The next interview in the pipeline is with Laurie Goulding, submissions editor for the Black Library, and a man with knowledge. We also have an interesting article by Jon Schafer where he tries to “justify Warhammer”… you will have to come back and read it!

Welcome to the Bloghole!

Welcome to the Bloghole! It is so exciting, I felt obliged to say it twice.

But what is the Bloghole? Hopefully you are familiar with the Bolthole – which was created primarily as a forum to discuss Black Library products, the more general Warhammer and Warhammer 40k universes and to write, read and comment on fiction.

The Bloghole is, uh, a blog for the Bolthole… I guess that the name was a dead giveaway.

We have recently expanded into twitter (@BlBolthole) and thought that a blog would be a good addition to the site, to let you know what we are getting up to, what is coming up on the Bolthole and how you can get involved.

Don’t worry – this new blogging will not detract from our activities on the Bolthole itself, but will give another outlet for us to use.

So what can you expect to see? In no particular order, interviews, reviews, writing articles, guest bloggage, fiction, and competitions!

If any of that appeals to you, then please keep reading. Coming up is a interview with Sarah Cawkwell, founder of the Bolthole, writer of fantastic Space Marine fiction and all around lovely person.