Its a Monday today and that means that we have a brand-new interview for your reading pleasure. This week it is Andy Hoare taking a stroll through these parts and talking about his old and new work alike.
Andy has worked on several codexes and armybooks for the Games Workshop Design Studio, particularly Witchhunters, Tau, Imperial Guard, Dark Angels, Orcs and Goblins, Lustria, Lizardmen and also the latest main rulebook editions of both Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 as well. Andy’s credit also includes work on several expansion liness with Apocalypse, Storm of Chaos, Eye of Terror and the Thirteenth Black Crusade among others.
With Black Library, his credits include the three Rogue Trader novels and The Hunt for Voldorius as well as a few short stories. He has also worked extensively with Fantasy Flight Games, working for their various role-playing game franchises licensed through Games Workshop, Rogue Trader, Dark Heresy, Deathwatch and more. One of his latest books is Deathwatch: First Founding which details the direct successors of the loyalist legions at the end of the Horus Heresy.
Shadowhawk: Like Graham and Gav, you have worked with the GW Design studio in the past. How has that experience been for you?
Andy: Working in the Design Studio was incredible as I got the chance to work with some of the most influential and creative people in the industry, people like Rick Priestly, John Blanche and Jes Goodwin, whose work I’d admired for years. It’s extremely hard work though, and customers really only see a tiny proportion of what goes into a project and the massive number of people involved.
Shadowhawk: You have written about a fair variety of topics in both Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy: Space Marines, Rogue Traders, Beastmen, Dark Elves and many more. This may sound like a fairly simple question but it is nevertheless an interesting one – how do you pick your subject matter?
Andy: I get asked this quite a lot, especially by people who’d like to submit work to Black Library or elsewhere. For me it’s been one of two things – occasionally, an editor will ask you to pitch a story just to see what you come up with, while on other occasions you’re asked to write on a particular subject. The former is potentially dangerous, as even if you’re given fairly free reign you still have to have an appreciation of the value and credibility of anything you produce. I sometimes get asked by prospective writers if they can invent their own alien species and things like that (the answer should be obvious!) You have to have a feel for the settings, what appeals to people the most and remember that if someone’s paying you to write for them they get the final say!
Shadowhawk: What are the challenges in writing for these two different yet thematically linked settings? How do you approach these challenges?
Andy: To be honest, the general themes of both are broadly similar, but there’s plenty of scope for variation, especially with Warhammer 40,000. Both settings draw heavily on very strong archetypes, which is the main reason for their popularity. Warhammer 40,000 can accommodate a lot of different settings, characters and story types, while with Warhammer you have to be a lot more sensitive because the Warhammer world is a lot more focused and constrained. In Warhammer 40,000, you can destroy entire planets (as I did when we ran the 13th Black Crusade global campaign – the doom of St Josmane’s Hope was my fault!).
Shadowhawk: What explored areas of these two settings would you like to explore further? Similarly, which unexplored ideas would you like to trailblaze?
Andy: The drive to trailblaze is always there, but you have to be very disciplined about not getting carried away! When I was writing codexes and army books for the Design Studio I was always very conscious of the value of seeding ideas that can be picked up by others working within the settings, whether its through Black Library, Fantasy Flight Games or any of the other companies with licences to play in GW’s worlds. I’ve seeded ideas in army books and seen them grow into fleshed out ideas in other places, so I’d always go back to the source material to look for these types of inspiration before attempting something new. As an example, I have a bit of an itch to write something based on a Death World, a classic Warhammer 40,000 setting based on a strong science fiction archetype, and there’s plenty of inspiration that could feed into that, especially in the original, first edition of the Warhammer 40,000 game. Whether this translates into a short story, a novel, a role-playing adventure or something else I couldn’t say right now, but when you feel so drawn to something the end result should be all the better.
Shadowhawk: You are a prolific writer for Fantasy Flight Games, who publish a wide variety of Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy RPGs. How did that come about?
Andy: I was very lucky in that I was working in the Design Studio when the Dark Heresy role-playing game was being developed and as soon as I heard that Rogue Trader was being planned I just had to get in touch with Fantasy Flight Games and offer my services as I was (and still am) a keen player of the original Rogue Trader incarnation of the tabletop game. As it turned out, Fantasy Flight Games, who had just got the license to produce role-playing games set in Games Workshop’s worlds, had just taken on a guy called Ross Watson to oversee their Warhammer 40,000 role-playing line. I already knew Ross as he’d worked for the US White Dwarf team and we’d met at LA Games Day a few years before. I started out writing for FFG in my own time, and when I later went freelance could do it more or less full time, as and when they needed me.
Shadowhawk: What part of the dev cycle for these RPG’s are you involved with?
Andy: Fantasy Flight work very closely with GW’s licensing team to ensure their release plans are as good as they can be, so in terms of my place in that cycle, they come to me once a book has been given the green light and ask they for a synopsis based on the book’s vision. Most of my work has focused on big picture background, but I’ve written a fair few adventures as well as more technical rules and the likes.
Andy: The actual process is very different, but both rely on an appreciation of the core nature of the settings. Writing a novel takes a very different mindset to writing role-playing game material, but when you’re working with a setting as well developed, yet in some ways hard to pin down as Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 you have to be very disciplined. You have to be pretty humble, trust to your editor or project leader, put your own ego in a box somewhere and accept that whatever you do someone won’t like it!
Shadowhawk: Keeping up with all these different hats you wear, has there been any cross-pollination of ideas between the three over time or any inspirations or practices you’ve adopted to fit the different styles so to speak?
Andy: There has actually. I was asked to write a section on the White Scars for a Deathwatch supplement called First Founding, and the fact that I’d written two novels in a row featuring characters from that Chapter allowed me to get to grips with them in a way I might not otherwise have been able to do, or not without a lot more thinking anyway. The same is partly true of the fact that I wrote three novels about Rogue Traders and often write about them for Fantasy Flight. I also wrote an NPC for the FFG Rogue Trader adventure Lure of the Expanse who is a member of the Arcadius dynasty, the family of the characters in my Rogue Trader novels, which was quite fun.
On a slightly wider point, as an author or games developer you do develop your own palette of background characters and places whenever you work, which sometimes take on a small life of their own. You do this because there’s such a vast wealth of canon out there you don’t want to contradict what someone else has written. In my case, I’ve made numerous references to an Imperial Navy warship called the ‘Wrote for Luck’ and an Ork one called the ‘Growler’, and both have been mentioned in several codexes, novels and roleplaying supplements. They’re not central characters, but they’re there in the background like extras appearing in a long-running TV show, and I know that if I kill one off I won’t upset another author’s novel and cause a tear in the space-time wossname!
Shadowhawk: Hunt for Voldorius was one of the first Space Marines Battles novels. What got you interested into the White Scars and what are your thoughts on the end result?
Andy: My interest came about when my editor on Star of Damocles asked if I could include them, as they hadn’t been explored all that much. I’ve always really liked them as they work off of a strong archetype which translates very well into the Warhammer 40,000 setting, so I was happy to work them in. By the time I was approached to write Hunt for Voldorius the character of Kor’sarro Khan had been developed for what was at the time the new edition of the Space Marines codex, so I was keen to take it further still. The main thing I did was introduce a fair few cultural idioms into the way the Chapter’s Battle-Brothers talk and relate to one another, as well as the way they view the world. I think that was reasonably successful, though how much of a base archetype you take with you when you translate it into Warhammer 40,000 is always a matter of personal taste.
Shadowhawk: Any more plans for Kor’sarro Khan and the Third Company?
Andy: When I was approached to write Hunt for Voldorius there was a rough sketch of a trilogy in place, so there’s certainly scope for more further down the line if the readers and Black Library want it!
Shadowhawk: Savage Scars is the third novel in the Rogue Trader series. What has this journey been like for you?
Andy: A very interesting one. Rogue Star was my first novel, and I went into it pretty much blindfold! I was working in the Design Studio at the time and my manager was very encouraging, seeing it as an opportunity to expand my skills to the benefit of my day job writing codexes and White Dwarf articles. I wrote the second novel in the middle of a pretty serious illness, so that was interesting too. I wrote the third one having become freelance, so by that time things were different again. Editorially things changed over that period too, so while in the early stages of the trilogy I was encouraged to explore a subject that hadn’t been expanded on all that much (Rogue Traders). By the time of writing the third book it was clear that while the first too had been well received (apart from by those people who think I don’t know how space combat is fought!) they were a little niche. There’d also been quite a lot of time between Star of Damocles and Savage Scars, so I needed to make the third book work as a standalone novel and as the climax of a trilogy, while appealing to a broader customer base without losing the established characters and their own arc. I’m pretty pleased with the end result though.
Shadowhawk: Have we seen the last of the Arcadius dynasty and the Damocles Crusade?
Andy: Hopefully not! One of the more popular Rogue Trader characters is Brielle, the somewhat surly and wayward daughter of the bearer of the Arcadius Warrant of Trade, and I’ve written two short stories featuring her. One was published in the Fear the Alien anthology, while the other will hopefully make an appearance in Hammer and Bolter at some point. In terms of them featuring as the main characters in their own stories, I think short stories are best and if they’re to appear in a novel it’ll most likely be as secondary characters.
In terms of the Damocles Crusade, I deliberately ended Savage Scars with the crusade forces being pulled out as Hive Fleet Behemoth arrives on the Eastern Fringe, so if the story were to continue that would probably be the direction it would go in. Another option might be to go back and explore some of the things that happened between each book, probably in short story form, as there’s plenty to explore there.
Shadowhawk: You have a short story coming out in the next Time of Legends novel, the Age of Legends anthology. What can you tell us about it?
Andy: I do – I was asked to pick an existing event in the Warhammer timeline and write a story based around it, and it occurred to me that Bretonnian histroy was a great resource that hadn’t been exploited a huge amount. The story describes the Sack of Brionne by the Dark Elf Beastlord Rakarth. It’s called The Last Charge, so it’s unlikely to end well 😉
Andy: Well, I have two novels with the Black Library editors right now, plus a number of short stories and once that lot’s finalised I’ll certainly be pitching some more ideas. As I said earlier, I really want to set a story on a Death World, maybe with a stranded squad of Space Marines having to fight for survival and make it off world before it eats them!
Shadowhawk: What are you looking forward to the most in 2012?
Andy: Getting married, the world not ending, that sort of thing.
Andy: Well, thank you for asking! Get the Girl, Kill the Baddies is a little set of narrative tabletop rules I’ve been playing around with for a while and that I’ve put up on my blog for people to try out. It’s really just a bit of fun based around how my friends and myself play, but if anyone wants to try them out and comment I’d be very interested to hear their feedback.
Andy: I could tell everyone to be excellent to one another, but that would just be silly…
Shadowhawk: Congratulations on getting engaged!
Andy: Thank you!
Well folks, we hope you enjoyed that interview as well. Andy’s novels and short stories can all be found on the Black Library site, either in print or in digital formats.
Next week we will be bringing to you author Josh Reynolds, who is one of Black Library’s latest and is already making a lot of great buzz.