Hello folks, and welcome to what will be the last author interview for February. Today, we have Anthony Reynolds himself in the spotlight as he talks about the Word Bearers, Bretonnians, Villains and his future works.
Anthony Reynolds brought the Word Bearers Chaos Legion to the forefront with his excellent novels featuring the Dark Apostle Marduk and his battle-brothers of the 34th Host. He has also written about the Knights of Bretonnia, telling the tale of one in particular, Calard, and Chlod. And of course, he has also worked extensively with the Games Workshop Design Studio in the past so he has seen both sides of the lore and has helped shape it.
Shadowhawk: Like many of the other current authors for Black Library, you have spent some time in the GW Design Studio. What kind of things did you work on and how did you get started with that job?
Anthony: I was pretty lucky, really. Back in 2000/2001 I was backpacking around the UK and needed some cash, and got a temp job working at GW taking orders on the phone. I met another Australian in the company, Glen, and he was nice enough to set it up for me to have a cuppa with Andy Chambers, where I blathered on about gaming and writing. I must have said something right, as Andy organised to get me writing on White Dwarf for a few months. By then, they were looking for a few new Assistant Games Developers, and I was fortunate enough to get one the jobs (along with Phil Kelly and Andy Hoare). I ended up spending about four years in Games Development, working mainly on Warhammer (writing army books, such as Wood Elves, Bretonnians, Lizardmen, Hordes of Chaos, etc.). Good times! I then moved into the management team for a couple of years, where I was in charge of the art side of the Studio, before moving back home to Australia.
Shadowhawk: Any particular fond memories of your times in the Design Studio?
Anthony: I have HEAPS of fond memories from my time in the Design Studio. It was a real privilege to work with such wonderfully talented people, and many of my closest friends are folks I met while working there. I miss them loads.
Shadowhawk: Dark Apostle, a nitty-gritty tale about a Word Bearers Host led by some truly villainous characters, is one of your early novels. What attracted you to the warriors of the XVIIth Legion?
Anthony: My first book was Mark of Chaos, based on the computer game of the same title. Gav Thorpe was writing the script at the same time I was doing the book, which was fun – many ‘meetings’ in the pub. It was also incredibly tricky at times, as things were changed in the game as I was writing (and after the book was finished), so it was rather difficult trying to make everything line up. The guys that made the game really liked the book, as it turned out, and I ended up writing the storyline and script for the follow-up game, Battle March.
Dark Apostle was my second book. I was attracted to the Word Bearers partly because I found the idea of these uber-religious fanatics who genuinely believed in what they were doing really interesting (and scary), and partly because I’d really enjoyed writing about the ‘bad guys’ in Mark of Chaos, and wanted to explore that further.
Shadowhawk: Dark Apostle eventually turned into a trilogy with the release of Dark Disciple and then Dark Creed. Was a trilogy always in the works or did it grow organically?
Anthony: It was designed to work as a standalone book, but with an eye to making it into a trilogy from the start. If the book had tanked, it would have stayed as a single book. Thankfully people seemed to dig it, so I got to write more Chaos nastiness.
Shadowhawk: You have mentioned before that the villains have always been what caught your eye in fiction, such as Skeletor, to use your example from a recent interview on the Black Library blog. Why the villains of all characters?
Anthony: The bad guys are often just more fun, and I don’t think I’m the only one to think so. It can be obvious at times that the writer/director/actor is having more fun with the bad guys than the protagonists, giving them the best scenes and the best lines. Of course that might just mean that the protagonists are boring, nothing characters, but the bad guys often just seem to have a lot more life to them – they tend to really relish what they are doing, even if it really quite horrible – and that’s quite interesting to watch/read, I think.
Shadowhawk: The current tale of Marduk and his Host comes to a close with the Word Bearers Omnibus. Have you hit all the checkpoints that you wanted to or are there things left to tell that you would like to explore further?
Anthony: Oh, there is certainly still more to tell, though I’m happy to have a bit of a break from them for a while.
Shadowhawk: Has the tale of Marduk really come to a close and will we be seeing him sometime in the near future? Who have your most favourite characters been in the series?
Anthony: Well, I’ve just been working on a new short story called the Vox Dominus that takes place after the action of the omnibus, so no, the story has not yet come to a close. The end of the short story also pretty much demands a follow up, but as I said above, it’s not necessarily a tale I’ll be telling right away.
Of the Word Bearers themselves, my favourites were probably Burias and the Warmonger, but I also really enjoyed writing about some of the lowly minor characters, like Varnus from Dark Apostle (the poor bastard).
Shadowhawk: How did you prepare to write about villainous and often starkly evil characters such as the Word Bearers and the Dark Eldar?
Anthony: I never wanted them to be moustache-twirling caricatures, so tried to make them all have believable, understandable motivations – however repugnant they actually were. They might be sadistic and disturbed, but I wanted the readers to be able to at least understand why they did what they did. I always loved how characters like Tony Soprano and Al Swearengen can be so vile yet charismatic, human and understandable enough to hook you in. That was the kind of thing I wanted to go for with the Word Bearers. And coming up with the horrible things that they got up to was actually a lot of fun…
Shadowhawk: You have written quite extensively in the Warhammer Fantasy setting, with particular regards to Bretonnians and Knights. How did it all start?
Anthony: Well, I wrote the current Bretonnian Army Book, so it comes from there, really – though I was also a fan of the Bretonnians long before then. I did a heck of a lot of research for that army book, and the whole conceptualisation phase – working with the concept artists, others writers, sculptors etc – was incredibly creative. That phase generated a wealth of material – far more than could ever fit into the army book itself, so I tried to incorporate a lot of that material into the novels.
Shadowhawk: Given your love of villains, why Calard?
I loved writing Calard’s story, seeing this privileged young guy slowly coming to terms with his responsibilities in an incredibly hostile world. At the end of the day, it’s a story of family, relationships, and growing up, and that kind of story has always interested me. He’s just a young man, with no supernatural powers (at first, anyway…) – it takes some serious cajones to know that virtually everything is stronger, meaner, faster and more dangerous than you, yet still stand up and face the darkness.
Shadowhawk: The tale of Calard spans several different formats and is collected in yet another omnibus from you. What has the ride been like for you and what changes have Calard and his manservant wrought for you?
Anthony: The omnibus is two novels, a short story and two novellas – around about two hundred and seventy five thousand words worth all up – and it is fully complete, containing every story that I’ve written involving Calard. I really enjoyed the ride, seeing him grow up to become what he does, as well as seeing Chlod wheedle his way out of every unfortunate situation he found himself. I like to think that they both found their place in the world in the end.
Anthony: Chosen of Khorne was an awful lot of fun to write, especially the parts told from Kharn’s point of view. It’s a tale about a couple of World Eater rivals vying for the right to lead an attack against the Imperium. One of those warlords has managed to secure Kharn’s support. Mayhem ensues, of course. I can’t wait to hear it.
Anthony: No current plans, but who knows, eh?
Shadowhawk: What’s your opinion about Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s take on the Word Bearer in 30k? Any communication between the two of you in that regard?
Anthony: I’ve not met Aaron in person yet, but we’ve had contact via the magic ju-ju of the ‘tinterwebz. I really like what he did with the Word Bearers in 30K, it added a lot of depth to their background. I think its great having more than one author associated with particular factions – each writer brings something new to the table, fleshing them out further. It keeps things fresh, and ensures the faction doesn’t get stale. Aaron’s Word Bearer work certainly re-enthused me for the XVII Legion – he breathed fresh life into them for me.
Anthony: Sound really distracts me, so I tend to try to blot out any noise with music. My musical taste is pretty varied, but my writing favourites include things like Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Mozart, Tom Waits, and soundtracks such as Inception, Hellboy, Dracula, Tron, Gladiator, etc. I’ll often listen to something that reflects the mood of what I’m writing – I listened to Inception non-stop when writing Torment, for instance.
Anthony: Hmmm. I had so much fun writing about Kharn that I’m quite keen to write some more about the World Eaters, but I think there are interesting things to explore in pretty much every faction. One thing I’m particularly interested in at the moment is looking at the Adeptus Astartes and seeing how they relate to regular humans, so that is something I’d be keen to look at in more depth at some point.
Anthony: My two favourite Warhammer races have always been the Wood Elves and the Undead (vampires, specifically). I always quite fancied about the Blood Dragons, in particular. I was quite pleased that I managed to get both the Wood Elves and vampires/undead into my Bretonnian stories, so that kind of scratched those itches – to a point.
Shadowhawk: Any original stories you have been working out over the years that you are looking to get published?
Anthony: Yeah, I have a bunch of original ideas that I’d really like to see realised in the next few years, including some kids’ books, and an original fantasy story. Just need to find the time to write them!
Anthony: I’m really excited to hear my first audio drama, Chosen of Khorne. I also love the fact that it is the same actor that is playing Kharn in both my audio drama and Aaron’s – I love that continuity.
Shadowhawk: Anything else happening this year you are absolutely stoked for?
Anthony: Of course! And you guys will be the first to know about them…
Anthony: I’d definitely be cheering for Calard. He wouldn’t win, and he’d know it, but he wouldn’t take a backward step.
Anthony: Thanks for reading my books! Without you guys, I wouldn’t have been able to keep writing about Marduk, or Calard, or had the opportunities that I’ve had – so thanks everyone. Also, I love hearing from folks, so feel free to contact me on my blog (which is, ahem, a little in need of an update), or twitter if you have any questions or comments. I’ll also try to pop by the bolthole a little more frequently than I have of late.
As mentioned earlier, this is our last author interview for a while. We are currently working on getting more authors on here, and not just Black Library authors, but from other publishers as well. So stay tuned!