So its a Thursday this time around, and we have an author interview! Nik Vincent, or Nicola Vincent-Abnett as she sometimes goes by, has been around with Black Library for a long time, right there with her husband Dan Abnett, who has written some of the most popular and most successful stories in Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000.
Nik has edited Dan’s work over the years and is also an author in her own right, having published some of her own Black Library fiction and the horizon is bright for her with regards to her original work. Work which is on track to be published soon!So let’s see what she has to say about her time with Black Library, her interests and her writing styles.
Shadowhawk: To start off, could you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started with writing?
Nik: Like most writers, I began to write because I had no choice. I’ve been telling myself stories for a long time, and Dan and I have been telling each other stories for 30 years.
Shadowhawk: You wrote some of the early Warhammer fiction, Hammers of Ulric and Gilead’s Blood, alongside Dan. What was that experience like as writers starting to explore such a rich setting?
Nik: Those were the early days of Dan writing long-form fiction, after years of writing comics and short stories, so it was all quite experimental. Dan tends to really immerse himself in everything, he simply soaks up background and research material. I tend to be more immediate, and research for details as and when I need them. Working together meant that Dan was my research resource a lot of the time.
Shadowhawk: Gilead has made a comeback with the on-going serialized novel Gilead’s Curse in the Hammer & Bolter eZine. What was it like to revisit such an old character? What prompted the revisit?
Nik: Every time Dan does a signing, an old copy of Gilead’s Blood appears out of a bag, and we’re often asked whether we’d write another one. The advent of the online Hammer and Bolter collections gave us the perfect opportunity to do just that, not least because writing a series of stories over a period of about a year, made it easier to fit it into our busy schedule.
As to revisiting an old character, I only keep in my head the project I’m working on, so Gilead was long gone. When I reread Gilead’s Blood, to familiarise myself with what we’d done before, I loved the character, and the stories, and it all felt remarkably fresh. It might have been different if I’d been thinking about it for ten years.
Shadowhawk: When co-writing, how do you and Dan divide the work between the two of you and how different of a process is it when compared to writing alone?
Nik: It’s pretty simple. We begin by discussing the story, working through ideas. We each throw in our tuppence worth, and, eventually we have a plot. After that, it’s more about who wants or has time to do what. Dan keeps an eye on the story, and I edit and tidy up. We’ve known each other for a long time, so we don’t have a lot of trouble picking up each other’s strands, or style-matching.
Writing alone is a very intense process for me. I tend to write all day every day while I’m working on something, and I finish a book very quickly. It’s all-consuming, so even when I’m making a bed, or washing dishes, I’m still working. I simply couldn’t do it all the time, and I wouldn’t be much fun to live with if I did.
Nik: I’m a huge fan of the Gaunt’s Ghosts. It’s impossible not to live and die with all those extraordinary characters, so when Dan asked me to write a story in the Sabbat Worlds, I had to do it.
I’ve been around the Black Library, albeit in the background, from the very beginning, and the guys are like family. I’ve read all their work and edited most of them, so writing alongside them was quite an intimate experience. Any time I’m asked to contribute to another collection, I’ve got a an idea for a story that I’m itching to tell.
Nik: This question puts a smile on my face. Nick Kyme and I are like a pair of siblings fighting over what’s in the toy box. We’ve been banging ideas around for about three years. I’ve got a feeling we might be close now, so, I’m hoping there’ll be a project with my name on it, once Gilead’s done. It’ll be 40K.
Shadowhawk: Given the choice, which character or event or faction would you like to write for either Warhammer 40,000 or Warhammer Fantasy?
Nik: It’s all about character for me. I’m most likely to pick and choose factions and worlds that work with the story and characters rather than the other way around. The resistance story that I wrote for the Sabbat Worlds anthology wouldn’t have worked as well in the Empire, and Gilead wouldn’t make a good Space Marine. If I could pick one thing, right now, I’d write… Oh dear, I’m not actually allowed to tell you that.
Nik: “Naming Names” was runner up for the Mslexia Prize, and I now have an agent looking after me, which is scary and exciting. There is an SF novel in the mix and two more ideas to work on, so the next five years are more or less worked out in advance.
Shadowhawk: What attracts you to both the Warhammer Fantasy and the Warhammer 40,000 settings?
Nik: I think it boils down to the fact that both universes are open to a broad range of interpretations, which, in turn, means that no two stories are the same. In fact, no two takes on a single story are the same. There genuinely is something here for everyone.
Shadowhawk: When you sit down to write, what is the most crucial element needed to get into the writing mindset?
Nik: That’s a very tricky question, because the answer is ‘nothing’. I like a clean slate. I like an empty mind. I even use the fullscreen mode in Pages, so that all I have before me is a blank screen with my words on it. Since Dan has moved into his new writing room, I have real office-envy, because it’s gorgeous, like a sweetie jar packed full of all sorts of wondrous things. Sadly, I could never work in that environment. My desk is shoved into the corner of a room, facing out onto a yard. It is all grey and pathetic, but by the time I sit down to write there’s a riot in my head and the Emperor-forbid anything should distract me from that.
Shadowhawk: Any particular music you listen to while you are writing?
Nik: I write in the kind of monastic silence that gives clarity to the voices in my head. Seriously, though, the whole ‘nothing’ thing applies to music, too.