Happy Monday morning folks!
Today we have our third author interview, this time with Nick Kyme, author of various Black Library publications such as The Tome of Fire series, the Dwarf novels Oathbreaker and Honourkeeper for Warhammer Fantasy, Fall of Damnos, Horus Heresy: Promethean Sun, the audio drama Thunder from Fenris and many others.
His latest includes the third Salamanders novel, Tome of Fire: Nocturne which is currently available in both print and digital form, the short story Blueblood in the Sabbat Worlds Anthology and also a Salamanders short story, The Burning, in Hammer & Bolter 14.
Nick is also an editor with Black Library, and has worked particularly on the Heroes of the Space Marines anthology.
Shall we dive in to the interview then?
Shadowhawk: Let’s bring out the big guns: The Tome of Fire series. Who, what, where, when, why, how? How would you describe the entire series in a 100 words or less?
But if pushed, I’d say: it’s a story about grief and brotherhood and ultimately, at its heart, it’s an epic war story that probably has more in common with fantasy than sf. It’s about humanity amongst beings that are far evolved beyond human, and also about human virtues and failings – betrayal, jealousy, masochism, pride honour, loyalty, sacrifice – it’s all in there, articulated and experienced by a cast that grew in the telling.
Let’s just say, it was a very different beast at the end to the one I had initially envisaged some four years ago…
Shadowhawk: What are your plans for the Salamanders after this series? Any chance Vulkan He’stan, Tu’shan and the other characters from the series could make a come-back?
Nick Kyme: My original intent was to write this trilogy and then move on to something else. It seems the characters have other ideas… I’ve pretty much wrapped up the Tome of Fire saga, and although you’ll see several old favourites in the new series, it’ll mainly be new faces that populate the Circle of Fire.
Oh, yeah, did I mention that? I’m going to write another trilogy.
I have plans for further novellas and short stories to help round out the old era and usher in the new. Certainly, there’ll be some characters in the new trilogy that simply won’t stay dead… Sure, Vulkan He’stan and Tu’Shan will likely feature to a lesser or greater extent but the next series will have a slightly different flavour to ToF. Lot’s for me to figure out at the moment, though…
Shadowhawk: You have also written about the Salamanders for the Horus Heresy, with the Limited Edition novella Promethean Sun. Can you tell us about how that project got started and give us your thoughts on how successful it has been?
Nick Kyme: My understanding is that Promethean Sun was incredibly successful. Certainly, I’ve had a lot of fantastic feedback about it. Feels like part one of a trilogy of HH material for the Salamanders that I’m writing. Can’t say too much about that, but I’ll be returning to the Legion in the near-ish future.
As for how it got started, my editor asked me to write a Salamanders novella for BL’s limited edition hardback series and it turned from a 40K project into a 30K one. Obviously, I would never pass up an opportunity to write for the Horus Heresy and ever since getting involved/invested with the Chapter, I’ve always wanted to tell a story about Vulkan and Promethean Sun was my opportunity to do just that.
Shadowhawk: One of your next projects for the overall Warhammer 40,000 setting is yet another Horus Heresy novella, this one about the Gorgon, Ferrus Manus. What can you tell us about it?
Nick Kyme: Sure, this is one of four novellas written by myself and three other great BL writers. Compiled together, they’ll make up The Primarchs, an anthology of four novellas about Fulgrim, the Lion, Konrad Curze and, of course, Ferrus Manus.
The Gorgon sort of feels like Vulkan’s sparring partner amongst the other primarchs. Certainly, he’s probably the closest to him. With this story, I wanted to show how the two are so different from one another. Ostensibly they are both forge smiths and masters of working metal but Ferrus Manus is concerned with function and not craft. His mindset is very much like that too, and he certainly does have the same regard for humans as Vulkan does.
The Primarch of the Salamanders does feature (very briefly) in the story and there is a link between Feat of Iron (that’s the name of the novella, by the way) and Promethean Sun, although the two tales have very different flavours. The former is about a journey of discovery while the latter very much a war story.
I think that’s probably enough, suffice it to say though that you will not see Ferrus Manus or his role in the Heresy the same again after you’ve read it.
Shadowhawk: Captain Cato Sicarius and the Ultramarines 2nd Company. What drew you to them? What were your goals for them and how close are you to accomplishing them?
Nick Kyme: The first 40K project I was offered before the Salamanders was Assault on Black Reach: The Novel. This was the little tie-in novella to the 40K boxed game that has Ultramarines and Orks in it. It was my trial piece, I guess, so my goal was simply to write a kick-ass action story that BL liked. They did, so I think I achieved what I wanted there.
Fall of Damnos came later and partly out of a desire to say some more about the characters I’d created (in the case of the three sergeants) and written about. I really like the Necrons as antagonists and had a few sneaky peeks into what was going to be happening with them in the future, so was really able to explore them as interesting antagonists.
It was certainly interesting writing a story about Ultramarines. They get a bit of a hard time with some fans, moaning that they are ‘vanilla’. That’s their opinion, but it’s not mine. Ultramarines are the archetypal Space Marine, they are the template as close to perfection as you can get in the eyes of the Emperor. They have the biggest empire, some of the most archetypal characters and kick utter ass on the battlefield. What’s not to like?
I think perhaps occasionally some people lack in imagination when they think about the Ultramarines and paint them with the vanilla brush. Not so, for me, the Ultramarines are fantastically interesting.
I wanted to explore/touch on elements of that with Fall of Damnos. The main intention with this story, however, was always to tell a battle story. The clue is in the name of the series. I think I injected it with plenty of that, including a number of human protagonists through which to witness the horror of the Necrons. It was part of the whole story of Damnos, focusing mainly on the Sicarius part of the campaign and one day I hope to return to it to tell the other part (the Tigurius, Antaro Chronus bit).
Some fans have queried why the rest of the tale wasn’t told in the book. Answer’s simple: it wouldn’t fit into the book, not if I wanted to do it justice and tell the story I wanted to tell, because, ultimately, that’s what I’m always going to do.
As a writer, you face a lot of decisions with a novel/story and it’s up to you to figure out the best choices to make. In the end, though, you’ll always do what you think is right and I stand by that. Damnos has received some fantastic reviews and feedback, which I am extremely pleased about, so I am happy that achieved all I set out to do with the novel.
Shadowhawk: What are the challenges in writing for mainstream Warhammer 40,000 and for the Horus Heresy? Which is more fun to write? Your future plans for more work in these settings?
Nick Kyme: It’s always about getting the mood and tone right. Details that have the pedants champing at their figure cases are important too, but less of a concern than getting the ‘feel’ right. Both 40K and HH possess different flavours and details, so getting those right and not cross polluting them is obviously a challenge. As for which is more fun to write, I can’t answer that definitively really as they both have different qualities that I enjoy. Certainly, I’d say that Heresy is tougher, mainly because of the freedom that’s on offer. Having a bunch of established background to draw upon, like with 40K, is both useful and comforting to a writer.
Shadowhawk: With the latest Necron Codex justifying your rather surprising and unique approach to the Necrons in Fall of Damnos, how do you see it all going forward?
Nick Kyme: I think we’ll see more Necron POV stuff: novels and short stories for sure. I’d love to hear them in an audio too, that would be awesome.
Shadowhawk: You have done extensive work in the Warhammer Fantasy setting as well, particularly with your Dwarf novels and with Grimblades. What is the attraction of this setting to you?
Nick Kyme: The great thing about Warhammer is that it’s so weird and dark. I caught a review of the Dwarfs omnibus on Amazon a few days where one dismayed reviewer gave it a low rating because there were no happy endings in any of the stories. I laughed out loud; it also made me feel really good that this ‘fan’ had this reaction.
Warhammer’s not WoW or D&D or any of that type of fantasy; it’s dark and gritty and realistic (in a sort of mad, hyper-real way) and that’s what I like about it. If you want fluffy, insipid, fantasy by the numbers tales then Warhammer’s probably not for you. If, however, you want something darker, a much more visceral experience then come on in, the axes are sharp and the blood’s still warm from the battlefield…
Shadowhawk: You are working with Chris Wraight for the Time of Legends meta-series, with the two of you tackling the definitive great war between the Elves and the Dwarfs. Could you shed some light on this project?
Nick Kyme: You’ve pretty much said it all already. Chris and I are writing six books in total, alternating between volumes, to tell the saga of the War of Vengeance for Time of Legends. This is the great war between the elves and dwarfs, the one that signals the end of the Golden Age of peace for the two races. I’m writing the first volume now, entitled The Great Betrayal and Chris will follow up with book two. What I can say is that the story is going to be epic.
Shadowhawk: You work both as a writer and an editor for Black Library. How do you balance these two jobs? What is the greatest challenge to you as both a writer and an editor?
Nick Kyme: I feel like I wear two hats: one editorial, the other authorial. When I’m at work, 95% of the time, I’m an editor. When I’m at home, in my spare time (what little I’ve got), I’m a writer. Trick is not to let those two disciplines bleed into one another. I’ve managed to do that successfully for the past five years or so. It’s about having the strength of mind and humility to know when to put one or the other away.
Shadowhawk: What part of the editing process are you involved with?
Nick Kyme: I commission and schedule novels. I also read/approve/critique synopses. I believe my role incorporates structural, commissioning, desk and copy editing – quite a task!
Shadowhawk: Your thoughts as both a writer and an editor on the Hammer & Bolter e-magazine.
Shadowhawk: What does your dual job description have to say about about your writing?
Nick Kyme: Not sure it says anything about it, to be honest. Writing isn’t my job, it’s my hobby. I do it because I’m good at it, and I love it. Simple as. Editing is my job, that’s what pays my bills. The two are completely different beasts and I cross those streams at my peril. I suppose what it does allow me to do is empathise with writers in a way that other editors who don’t write can’t really. That’s quite a useful thing to have in my editior’s tool box.
Shadowhawk: What inspires you to write and how do you go about the process?
Nick Kyme: Everything and anything really. I was travelling back from Thought Bubble in Leeds and got chatting to the cabby who was taking me to the station. I mentioned I was a writer and he got quite excited and started asking a bunch of questions, one of which was how do you get your inspiration. I told him that as a writer I needed to be a sponge, and absorb every nugget of information around me. Be that films, books, experiences, people I’ve met, achitecture and so, all of it is useful for getting inspiration. Writing isn’t like a tap, you can’t just turn it on or off as suits. Developing techniques, therefore, to help kick start the creative process is handy.
I will change location often when I’m writing be that different rooms in my house, my girlfriend’s house, at my desk at work (after the working day is done, I stress to add) or in a coffee shop in town. If I’m really stuck, I might do some housework or go for a shower – the more mechanistic tasks or the action of water drumming on my head is great for stimulating creativity, and I know a lot of writers who do something similar.
Shadowhawk: Any other upcoming projects for Black Library or outside of it we can look forward to?
Nick Kyme: Tons for BL, some of which I’ve mentioned in this interview. Suffice it to say, there’s audio dramas, novellas, short stories, novellas and so on for 40K, Warhammer and HH – I have a pretty full plate right now, which is great.
Outside of BL, I’m working on a crime novel that gets attention whenever I go on my regular writer’s retreat with a bunch of fellow author types. It’s slow going but I have a lot of passion for the project.
Shadowhawk: What are you looking to most for 2012?
Nick Kyme: Too much to list all of it here!
Shadowhawk: In an anything goes duel, who is going to win: Dak’ir or Tsu’gan?
Nick Kyme: Ha, ha – Tsu’gan everytime. He’s much more of a badass than Dak’ir. It’d be close though.
Shadowhawk: Last question, how is Shakespeare doing?
Nick Kyme: He’s awesome, thank you. Chilling out in the lounge at the moment as I write this and listening to the Manic Street Preachers.
Shadowhawk: Anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Nick Kyme: Phew, I reckon that’s plenty. Just like to say, thanks for all the support over the years and I hope to dazzle and delight you all in the future with more tales from 40K, Warhammer and HH. Cheers!
Now that was a monster of a review. Lots of exciting stuff in there as usual, particularly the fact that Nick is going to be working on a sequel trilogy to the Tome of Fire saga as well as more Horus Heresy goodness!
The Primarchs and The Great Betrayal are officially available in print next year, but in the meantime you can set reminds for them from the Black Library site directly. Nick also has a short story in the Age of Legends anthology, out in January, titled City of Dead Jewels.
Next Monday, we will have an interview with none other than William King, author of the Gotrek & Felix novels, as well as the Ragnar Space Wolf novels. The mystery author interview will also be revealed soon enough.