Another fine Monday morning and you all know what that means! That’s right, we have another author interview to tickle your fantasies today, this one with none other than William King, one of Black Library’s earliest authors.
For those of you who don’t know, Bill has written several successful novels for Black Library such as the Space Wolf novels featuring the young Blood Claw Ragnar Blackmane for Warhammer 40,000 and the Gotrek & Felix novels featuring, well, Gotrek & Felix. He also wrote two short stories for the mammoth anthology better known as Let the Galaxy Burn. And much more of course.
So without further ado, here’s the man himself.
Shadowhawk: Blood of Aenarion will be your first novel for Black Library after a very long time. How does it feel to come back to the Warhammer Fantasy setting?
Bill King: Great. I’ve always loved the setting and it was a pleasure getting to grips with it again.
Shadowhawk: Tyrion and Teclis are some of the greater heroes of the current age in the setting. What was it like writing for these two and exploring the High Elf society?
Bill King: In some ways it was very different from the sort of sword and sorcery I have previously set in the Warhammer World. Tyrion and Teclis are noble heroes with family connections to some of the most powerful people in the world, not wandering adventurers like Gotrek and Felix. This gives the series a different tone right away.
The twins stand at the centre of a huge chunk of the Elvish mythos. They are lineal descendants of Aenarion. They have inherited at least one of his mightiest enemies. They have ties of blood with Malekith which makes them a focus of his attention. That’s not a comfortable place to be!
This is all to the good because it means they are standing at the center looking out. The politics of the Elves swirl around them, even from a very young age. These can be very treacherous currents to navigate. One of the things I tried very hard to convey in these books is the difference between the surface of the Elvish world and what lies underneath.
Ulthuan is a very glamorous place and the rhetoric of the situation is that everyone is noble and gracious and upstanding. Everything looks bright and shiny and clean, particularly compared to the grubbiness of the rest of the Warhammer world. The reality is that elves are just as self-interested as anybody else, more so since they live longer. They are an intricate, bitchy society of bored immortals who fill their lives with political intrigue while maintaining a superior front.
Writing about the twins themselves posed some challenges, particularly Tyrion. He is absolutely fearless. I mean this quite literally. At age 16, he is prepared to face a Greater Daemon of Chaos. My normal method of generating tension is to have the central characters put in situations that are terrifying and look at their emotional response. This is tricky with Tyrion because he knows no fear. He is also psychopathically self-confident in many ways. In his case, justifiably so. He is just as deadly and as attractive to women as he thinks he is.
Teclis is much more my cup of tea—bitter, twisted, sarcastic and flawed.
Shadowhawk: You have mentioned on your blog and other interviews that you are also currently working on a Warhammer 40,000 novel called Angel of Fire. Can you tell us some more about this project?
Bill King: It is basically the first book in a trilogy, told from the point of view of an Imperial Guard soldier who ends up as one of Macharius’s bodyguards and who thus gets to witness the career of one of the Imperium’s greatest soldiers. I chose to tell it this way because Macharius is a genius and I am not, so I thought I would have a sort of Doctor Watson character there to narrate things.
The first book is basically the story of how the narrator Leo comes into Macharius’s service during the opening battles of the Crusade. It is set on the Hive World of Karsk and features a really vicious Tzeentchian cult.
Shadowhawk: Macharius is one of the most pivotal figures in the setting and especially for M41. What has it been like to write about such an important character in the 40k background?
Bill King: I would not want to give the wrong impression here. The first book is more of an adventure story about the meeting of the main characters. Macharius is not quite the titanic figure he is going to become. Part of the point of the trilogy is to show him turning into the Macharius we know in later years. In Book One, he is still relatively young—ruthless, brilliant but basically decent and idealistic. He is modeled on Alexander the Great in his youth in this. As the trilogy progresses he becomes grimmer and darker and much more ambiguous.
Shadowhawk: Your take on the covers for your Tyrion and Teclis trilogy as well as for Angel of Fire?
Bill King: Raymond Swanland is a brilliant artist and has done an astonishing job on all of these covers. The Angel of Fire in particular is brilliant. I have the Tyrion/Aenarion pic on all my computer’s desktops these days!
Shadowhawk: Within the GW/BL fandom, you are best known for three heroes: Ragnar for Warhammer 40,000 and Gotrek & Felix for Warhammer Fantasy. Any plans to reacquaint yourself with these characters? Ragnar especially needs some attention.
Bill King: No plans at all at this stage, I am afraid.
Shadowhawk: Some of your early work set the mood and tone for the two Warhammer settings. Looking back at your years of work for both, is there anything that you would have done differently in insight?
Bill King: I can’t take much of the credit for the mood and tone—that was all set long before I came along and I just ran with it. Both settings are the products of huge teams of very talented people, not all of whom get the credit they deserve. Jes Goodwin, in particular, had a massive influence on the background and actually on many of the things I have written.
Shadowhawk: What can we look forward to from you with regards to Black Library outside of the current trilogies you are working on?
Bill King: At the moment my plate is full with Macharius. There is the slight possibility of a couple of short stories about Macharius and Tyrion and Teclis, if I can get my act together enough to write them. These days I find short stories harder to write than novels.
Shadowhawk: You have branched out in the last few years with your own novels and with self-publishing. Can you tell us how it all came together and how you see it all going forwards?
Bill King: In the case of the Terrarch novels, it was quite simple. They were sold in a number of foreign languages but not in English. Editors seemed pretty leery of a Lovecraftian gunpowder military fantasy series. The Terrarch world is not a very conventional fantasy background and more than a few marketing departments had a problem with that.
A few years back I began reading Joe Konrath’s blog and that convinced me that epublishing was a viable method of getting the books into print. Eventually I just went for it. As it turns out, it was one of the best things I have ever done. The books have sold a couple of thousand copies over the past few months and sales are rising. The reviews have been good. At a 35%/70% royalty rate it is possible to make very decent money (in writer terms!) even at prices of £2.99/$3.99.
Going forward, I think e-Readers are the future of mass-market publishing and e-Books are where most of the money will be made. I certainly plan on writing more independent books. It is incredibly liberating to be able to write in genres that I love (like Sword and Sorcery) but which very few publishers are interested in and still know I can still find an audience.
Shadowhawk: To fans who know you only through your work for Games Workshop and Black Library, how would you entice them to read the Terrarch novels?
Bill King: I have no idea! If they know me from BL and don’t already like my writing, there would be no reason for them to try these books. They are written by the same person after all. They are very dark, very violent and told with some humour. They have Lovecraft-style Elder Races and Nazi Elves. The best I can say would be check out my blog. I deal with the books in some depth there.
Shadowhawk: Traditional publishing against self-publishing: how would you advise new writers who are breaking into the industry about these two avenues?
Bill King: I can’t really say. I very much doubt that any of the things that worked for me when I was breaking into traditional publishing would work today. That was almost a quarter of a century ago and it is a very different world now. If I were starting out today I would probably try to do both. I would certainly experiment with independent publishing. There are people out there with no track record in conventional publishing who have sales far dwarfing mine. It’s fast, easy and you get feedback quickly. I also very strongly suspect that if you are successful in the self-pub arena mainstream publishers and agents will come knocking on your door.
Shadowhawk: What would be your advice in general to new writers?
Bill King: The usual—read a lot, write a lot, write what you love. And one more thing—if you intend to be a professional learn to manage money. It is an essential skill for a freelancer!
Shadowhawk: Your favourite past-time when you are not writing or researching for your next novel?
Bill King: Travelling is my all-time favourite pastime but I usually include a bit of research and a lot of work while doing that. Blood of Aenarion was written on a long trip through South East Asia with my family. Bane of Malekith was partially edited in Tokyo. Other than that I read, I play role-playing games and computer games. I like to walk and I like to cycle and sitting around shooting the breeze with friends and family makes me happy.
Shadowhawk: You have mentioned before that you used to be a hardcore PvP player in World of Warcraft. With a new expansion around the corner, any plans to go back?
Bill King: I have gone back! I’ve been playing on a PvP server. I am levelling from scratch just for amusement, sometimes in the company of my son, Dan.
Shadowhawk: What are you looking to most for 2012?
Bill King: My wife and I are expecting a baby any time now. Seeing him is the thing I am most looking forward to.
Aside from that, Guild Wars 2 if it comes out!
Shadowhawk: Will you be attending Black Library Live in March next year?
Bill King: I will indeed.
Shadowhawk: Two last questions: Ragnar or Macharius; Gotrek & Felix or Tyrion &Teclis?
Bill King: To write about I can’t really pick. If I had to spend time with any of them in person, it would be Felix minus Gotrek. I fear the experience of meeting any of the rest of them would not be particularly pleasant for me!
Shadowhawk: Anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Bill King: I would be very grateful if you buy my books! But seriously, thanks for taking the time to read this, and thank you for your questions, Shadowhawk.
Well, after that interesting interview, I wish Bill the best for the coming year and congratulations on the new addition to the family as well! Thanks for answering all our questions, Bill! Looking forward to some great Black Library and else-wise goodness from you.
Blood of Aenarion was released this month as a hardback and its two sequels, Sword of Caledor and Bane of Malekith will be released each successive December from now.
Angel of Fire, another hardback, will be released in July next year. Watch this space and we will do our best to let you know when a sequel is coming out.
Until then, you can check out Bill’s Terrarch novels on Amazon’s Kindle Store by going here. Also, his stand-alone e-Short, Guardians of the Dawn is currently available for free from the Kindle Store.
Next week, we will have an interview with a very different author, one that those of you who are/were big fans of Wizards of the Coast and Forgotten Realms will recognize quite well. To give you all a clue (a major one), he is one of the authors who has contributed a short story to the Age of Legends anthology, which comes out next year.
So until next week then!