Interview with Chris Wraight

He’s written about the Iron Hands, the Space Wolves and the White Scars. Is it because he’s a nice guy that he writes about the meanest bastards in Warhammer 40k so well? Who knows! But Chris Wraight has spared some time to speak to the Bolthole.

Not pictured: The pile of slain foes that are Chris Wraight's seat.

Not pictured: The pile of slain foes that are Chris Wraight’s seat. Or the happy, not-a-seat fan he just met.

He2etic: What is the writing process like for you? If you were to describe the process in what word, what would it be?

Chris: One word: difficult. More words: It varies tremendously. I tried to make a commitment not to write weekends and evenings, which sometimes works but tends to fall over when a book is due in. On good days it’s a fantastic way to make a living: creative, exciting and challenging. On bad days it’s just very hard work.

The internet is both a blessing and a curse, of course. I’m always very touched when people get in touch to say they’ve enjoyed something; equally, it’s very easy to find people who hated it. My favourite part of the writer-thing is probably the live events, particularly the Weekenders. Real people is what it’s all about. To chat to someone who enjoyed a book is both a buzz and a privilege.

He2etic: What kind of music and musicians do you think best exemplify the Warhammer and Warhammer 40k universes?

Chris: When I’m writing I normally listen to film scores, partly because I’ve always liked them (ever since Danny Elfman’s music for Burton-era Batman), and partly because I think a good BL book ought to be fairly cinematic: the job of the books in some ways as giving Warhammer the big-screen treatment on the page, and a score gets me into the head-space for that. Hans Zimmer would definitely be the composer for a 40K movie, and that strikes me as no bad thing.

“Real people is what it’s all about. To chat to someone who enjoyed a book is both a buzz and a privilege.”

 

He2etic: How do you approach character development? Do you prefer to see how the character evolves as you go, or do you put more planning into it beforehand?

Scars (episode 1), by Chris Wraight.

Scars (episode 1), by Chris Wraight.

Chris: Most of the characters are fairly well planned out in advance, especially so when taking on established canon creatures like Bjorn or Schwarzhelm.

People have (rightly) high expectations that BL versions of the Codex characters will stay faithful, and while you can’t please everyone it’s important to at least try to produce something recognisable.

Secondary characters, in my experience, tend to change more during the writing process. The Blood Claws in Battle of the Fang weren’t even in the synopsis, so their stories evolved along with the fighting.

In my most recent book, Master of Dragons, there’s a minor character whose role changed several times as I was writing, ultimately in a way that I ended up liking very much. You’re constantly making decisions as things go along, which is one of the pleasures of story-telling.

He2etic: Were there any particular pieces of fiction that inspired you when writing of the Iron Hands?

Chris: Fiction? Not that I can think of. The imagery for the Hands came more from films, I think. Terminator was in my head quite a lot, and I had James Horner’s score for Aliens on loop when writing the hive-scenes.

Wrath of Iron, by Chris Wraight.

Wrath of Iron, by Chris Wraight.

He2etic: You’ve written books set in both Warhammer universes. Do you find yourself preferring one universe more than the other in anyway?

Chris: I find writing Fantasy comes a little easier, if I’m honest. I think that’s partly due to the fictional world being rooted in a historical real one, at least to some extent. In books like Iron Company, for example, it was fun to think about how real blackpowder weapons functioned, and then translate that to the fantasy environment.

The human characters in Fantasy are also recognisably placed in a pseudo-historical setting – early modern Germany (or Medieval France, etc.). They have similar, albeit altered, concerns to people in real-world settings, so there’s something to latch on to there.

40K is different. It’s such a vast and extreme backdrop that the leap of imagination needs to be bigger. I find Space Marines very difficult to characterise, as well as the general sense of colossal, mind-bending carnage that’s taking place all the time.

I don’t think I’ve ever got it quite right, though it’s always fun having a try. One day I’d love to try something non-Space Marine-centric in the 40K field, like an Inquisitor novel or an Imperial Navy saga, though the audience for such a thing might be… small.

“Stepping up to doing it professionally makes things a bit different – it’s no longer an indulgent business of doing it when you fancy it or when inspiration strikes – it’s a day job, and you need to get words on the page at a pretty consistent rate.”

 

He2etic: If you could cast anyone to play the roles of main characters in your work, who would you pick?

Sword of Vengeance, by Chris Wraight.

Sword of Vengeance, by Chris Wraight.

Chris: The best suggestion I ever had was for Sean Connery to play the Khan. To see the full majesty of this idea, just Google ‘Zardoz‘.

He2etic: Do you have any long term projects for writing? For example, do you intend to someday spin your own franchise or complete a long novel series?

Chris: Right now I’m concentrating wholly on BL stuff and have lots of ideas for stuff in that setting. Despite writing a handful of novels in both worlds, there’s so much to learn and it’s still very much work in progress. I’m lucky enough to have been given the chance to write some Heresy material recently, and that’s a whole new landscape to get immersed in and try to understand.

Both Warhammer franchises are such huge worlds that there’s still loads I’d love to have a crack at. My ultimate wishlist would be (for 40K) a trilogy on the fall of Iyanden, and (for Fantasy) the Great War against Chaos. I can dream, I guess :)

He2etic: Who are your favourite characters amongst both those you’ve written, and by other authors?

Chris: In terms of stuff I’ve done, I’m probably fondest of the Fantasy characters: Magnus Ironblood, Pieter Verstohlen, more recently Imladrik in the War of Vengeance series. In 40K/Heresy stuff, I loved writing for the White Scars and like Shiban very much, as well as Targutai Yesugei (who’s really Graham’s character, but he very nicely let me continue his story).

As regards other BL authors, the primarchs are the most compelling for me, Russ in Prospero Burns and Magnus in A Thousand Sons being particularly memorable and nicely drawn.

“You can’t write about the world, even in a fantasy sense, without having lived in it. Get out of the house, meet people, travel, experience new things – you can only tell stories if you have them.”

 

He2etic: Are there any books, movies, television series or even games that you think are mandatory viewing for struggling writers?

I liked Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip for that, and of course there’s The Shining (all work and no play, and all that). In terms of sheer story-telling perfection, you can’t go wrong with a good Pixar film. The Incredibles was wonderful – funny and clever, Up was heartbreaking. Jim Swallow told me once that every up and coming writer should watch and study the original Die Hard to see how to construct a tight, smart three-act action story. I did, and he’s right.

Blood of Asaheim, by Chris Wraight.

Blood of Asaheim, by Chris Wraight.

He2etic: Any advice for new authors?

Chris: I get asked this from time to time, and never really know what to say. That’s not because of being precious or protective, just because, like a lot of authors, I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled into this thing, have very little idea how I’m still here, and no clue at all how long it will last.

Neil Gaiman talks about the Imposter Syndrome, and he’s quite right. However, in the interests of saying something rather than nothing, I have two thoughts:

1. Read your favourite books again and find out how they do what they do. Good writing, to an extent, can be learned.

2. You can’t write about the world, even in a fantasy sense, without having lived in it. Get out of the house, meet people, travel, experience new things – you can only tell stories if you have them.

He2etic: Have you always written? Was it something that came with time?

Chris: I’ve always wanted to write, and have done so on and off since being at school. Stepping up to doing it professionally makes things a bit different – it’s no longer an indulgent business of doing it when you fancy it or when inspiration strikes – it’s a day job, and you need to get words on the page at a pretty consistent rate. Like all writers, I’ve been learning on the way – making mistakes, screwing up, occasionally getting the odd thing right.

Sword of Justice, by Chris Wraight.

Sword of Justice, by Chris Wraight.

Writing in a shared world brings its own challenges. You’d like to think that you can being original ideas into the setting, things that strike you as being cool or interesting, but you’ve always got to be careful not to step outside the mythos or mangle it into something else. We get a lot of help from the editors with this, of course, but in the final analysis it’s our name on the cover. All fun, though frequently terrifying.

He2etic: What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Chris: I try to keep something like normal working hours. That means starting the morning around 8 or 9, breaking for lunch, writing a bit more in the afternoon and then stopping around 6 or 7pm.

The rules are designed to prevent insanity setting in and total desocialisation, but they tend to get waived when a book’s due in or there’s too much on.

This year’s been very busy, as it turns out. That’s great for a freelancer, but I reckon I’ll need a break once the current book (Stormcaller) is delivered. There are only so many seven-day weeks you can pull before everything starts to look a little hazy…

He2etic: When it comes to reading, do you have any guilty pleasures? Stuff you know is trash but read anyway?

Chris: No, not really. My reading’s been pretty good over the last few months, and I’ve been enjoying the things I’ve picked out. Movies and TV, on the other hand, are a different matter. I have a strange liking for Columbo. And Bullseye. Go figure.

Thanks again to Chris Wraight for his time! Tune in next week for another interview on The Bolthole.

Interview with Joe Parrino

Joe Parrino, one of the Black Library’s newest authors, lets us pick his brain non-Hannibal style. We spoke to him about the writing process and he had a fair bit to say.

Lord and Commander of the Chickens, Joe Parrino.

Lord and Commander of the Chickens, Joe Parrino.

He2etic: What is the writing process like for you? If you were to describe the process in one word, what would it be?

Joe: Systematic.

I struggled a long time with answering this question, and then, like a bolt from the heavens above, it hit me. Systematic. I write in a linear fashion. I start at the beginning and chip away at something until it is written.

Then I comb through it, making changes both minor and major until it resembles something I am happy with. Very rarely do I jump about and write later sections before I’ve laid the groundwork.

That said, I do get flashes of words, often bits of dialogue or character descriptions that fly in at random moments. A prime example of this would be the prophecy scenes in Nightspear, but those are the exception and not the rule.

He2etic:  Who are your favourite characters amongst both those you’ve written, and by other authors?

Joe: My favourite characters tend to be ones who wind up being rather minor in the story. Amonther Numeriel is one. I spent a long time thinking about his backstory. In my characters, I’m attracted a lot to tragedy. How much more tragic a backstory can you get with a survivor of Iyanden’s doom who thinks he’s failed his family?

“Places like Antietam and Gettysburg, Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg, held a mystique and influence over me. It instilled a love for history in me that I have never shaken.”

 

Prestoff is a favourite character of mine for an entirely different reason. I realised, on the train down to Nottingham for the Horus Heresy Weekender, just how much of me was in that character. His journey mirrored my own. I had just moved to the United Kingdom when I began writing that story and a lot of that uncertainty made its way into his character. Obviously our journeys diverge a bit.

He2etic: Speaking of characters… Going from writing about the Tau to the Grey Knights is a pretty drastic change in the philosophy of your characters. Aside from the codexes, what other sources did you draw inspiration from for your tales?

Witness, by Joe Parrino.

Witness, by Joe Parrino.

Joe: I grew up in Maryland and, about once a month, my dad would take me to the local battlefields of the American Civil War. Places like Antietam and Gettysburg, Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg, held a mystique and influence over me. It instilled a love for history in me that I have never shaken.

This is what first brought me to 40k, that sense of future history that is very much inspired by the past of our own world.

In writing Witness I actually drew a lot of inspiration from that childhood experience and what I was going through at the time. The American Civil War has always fascinated me and the Brindleweld are modeled very much after the armies of the period.

There’s even an explicit reference to this. There is just something about the long marching lines, the drums and fifes and the streaming flags has always resonated with me and this was distilled into the Brindleweld Ninth Division.

“I also watch HBO miniseries, period dramas, etc. I can’t really put my finger on specific works that inspire my writing… Generally, it is more a means of me absorbing the information and my subconscious synthesising it into useable material without my explicit attention.”

 

I spent a long time thinking about the Brindleweld regimental culture and what it would mean for the humble Guardsmen to encounter a Space Marine, let alone a Grey Knight. I wanted to bring across the religious rapture that would surely occur when encountering the very proof that the God-Emperor exists.

The Patient Hunter, by Joe Parrino.

The Patient Hunter, by Joe Parrino.

The influence for the tau came from a bit more esoteric place. At the time I was studying a lot of political theory and I spent a long time considering what tau political structures would work like. I found myself asking questions like ‘Do the tau believe in private property?’ and ‘What would the appeal of the tau be to the unwashed masses of the Imperium?’

Due to the constraints of such a short story the questions weren’t fully able to be explored, but they linger beneath the surface. As someone who has always had a keen interest in languages, I sat for a long time with the Lexicanum article on the tau lexicon and tried to immerse myself in their language. This led to the heavy use of tau words and concepts when we get into Vre’valel’s perspective.

For Nightspear, I tried to tackle the story in another direction and explore a different style. I wanted to delve into the eldar method of storytelling and veer the writing to mirror the non-human perspective and thought process. I looked at oral storytelling and how that functioned. Because I lived in Scotland, I also took inspiration from Scottish myths and legends. This is especially prevalent in the naming conventions for the eldar.

He2etic: Thus far, you’ve written 40k exclusively. Have you given much thought to Warhammer fantasy tales at all? If you could, what would you like to write about in the Fantasy universe?

No Worse Sin, by Joe Parrino.

No Worse Sin, by Joe Parrino.

Joe: Warhammer fantasy was actually my introduction to the GW IP.

Way back when, in the misted hazes of my youth, it was Trollslayer by William King that first caught my eye and started me down the path. Once upon a time I even started collecting and painting Fantasy armies (Dwarfs, Tomb Kings and Wood Elves). Very shoddily, I might add, but they still sit enshrined on a shelf in my house.

Since then, my tastes have been inclined towards 40K, but I haven’t forgotten my roots. I still pick up the odd book or three from the Fantasy side of things, especially if it has dwarfs in it. I was a huge fan of Stephen Savile’s Von Carstein trilogy.

The Vampire Counts have snagged upon something in my psyche (despite being a complete pansy about zombies) and I would love to write something involving them.

He2etic: Are there any dream characters or settings you want to write about? Such as in other franchises?

I would sacrifice my left eye to be given a chance to write about the Alpha Legion. I find them absolutely fascinating and would love to get a chance to delve into the XX Legion. The Inquisition is another area I would like to explore.

In terms of other franchises, there aren’t too many that I actually follow. I tend to read universes spawned by specific authors (typically fantasy ones) rather than other franchises. Growing up, I used to be a huge Forgotten Realms nerd, but that was replaced by Warhammer Fantasy and 40,000.

Maybe, given half a chance, I’d love to do something in Joe Abercrombie’s fictional setting, but I’m much too enamoured with his own take on it to slice off a bit for myself.

“I have recently started plotting, planning and writing a novel of my own devising in the aforementioned world loosely inspired by the Jacobite Rebellions of the 18th Century.”

 

I’m in the midst of planning, plotting and writing a fantasy novel loosely inspired by the Jacobite Rebellions of the Eighteenth Century. So obviously I would like to write something set there.

He2etic: We’ve asked other authors before what kind of music they listen to while writing and the answer is frequently “lyric-less soundtrack” type answers, so we’re spicing it up. What composers do you think best capture the tone of the Warhammer 40k universe? And of course, what do you prefer to listen to while writing?

Joe: When writing or planning I tend to listen to a lot of Hans Zimmer. His work conjures a sense of movement and excitement for me. Building from very slow parts to fast sweeping pieces, his work conjures a narrative of his own. Its much too light hearted in my mind, though, to perfectly encapsulate the grim darkness of Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000. It does make for great pieces of music to write to.

For composers that capture the Imperium I would fall back to Strauss II. His waltzes are what an Imperial citizen (provided they had the wealth and status) would relax to.

The Brindleweld would listen to a variation on the music their real world counterparts once enjoyed. They’d kick back around a campfire and in their parlours and listen to fiddles, banjos, pianos and reminisce of the glory of war and the melancholic hope to return home.

Eldar music, in my mind, exists on several different planes at once. I think it’d be something that conveys emotion in a much better way than modern human music does, conveys images psychically and is heartbreakingly beautiful to listen to.

Nightspear, by Joe Parrino.

Nightspear, by Joe Parrino.

I’ve got a strange habit when it comes to music. I’ll often find and fixate on one track or one album and that will usually last a week or more. Then I jump off to something else that catches my ear. I do return to albums, but usually after a few months, when I happily rediscover them lurking in my library. The cycle then repeats.

He2etic: If you could cast anyone to play the roles of main characters in your work, who would you pick?

Joe: I don’t really visualise actors in the roles of my characters as I write. This question threw me for a bit of a loop.

Russell Crowe and Mark Strong immediately spring to mind. Mr. Crowe looks perfect for some upcoming Space Marines of mine while Mark Strong’s voice is perfect for any Son of the Imperium.

He2etic: Do you have any long term projects for writing? For example, do you intend to someday spin your own franchise or complete a long novel series?

Joe: I have recently started plotting, planning and writing a novel of my own devising in the aforementioned world loosely inspired by the Jacobite Rebellions of the 18th Century. Not content to just use one aspect of history, I’m also lifting inspiration from the American Civil War and the American War for Independence. Basically, the novel and the series that may some day follow, are my love letter to the parts of history I have always been obsessed with. Hopefully, between projects for the Black Library, this series will take more shape and emerge onto bookshelves at some point in the distant future.

He2etic: Are there any novels you would consider required reading? Are there any movies or television series that inspire your work?

Joe: There are several authors that I always recommend to friends when they say they want to get into Fantasy or Science Fiction. Joe Abercrombie and George RR Martin always top the list.

In terms of TV, I watch a lot of historical documentaries and tend to derive a lot of inspiration from them. I also watch HBO miniseries, period dramas, etc. I can’t really put my finger on specific works that inspire my writing (outside of a few documentaries like the Civil War). Generally, it is more a means of me absorbing the information and my subconscious synthesising it into useable material without my explicit attention. Sometimes I will get inspired by a particular phrase of snippet of sound that I hear on TV or in a movie, but those are rare moments.

Big shout out to Joe Parrino for his time today! You can follow him @jtparrino

Follow the @BLBolthole on Twitter for updates, articles and more. This blog’s art was crafted by Manuel Mesones, and you can check out his portfolio.

“Marching Time” Is Nearly Out!

We interrupt your Tuesday interview for an important announcement. After months of work, the new Bolthole anthology is finally upon us!

The all new Bolthole Anthology, out this week!

The all new Bolthole Anthology, out this week!

War takes a new twist when every mistake can be erased and every military and historical theory can be tried and tested in reality. Containing twelve great new stories of desperate assassinations, battle correction scenarios and total war, Marching Time will challenge your preconceptions of time travel unlike anything before.

Authors and stories include:

“Subliminal Reserves” by A R Aston.
“Flár Ragnarök” by James Fadeley.
“Marked for Death” by Ed Fortune.
“Family Ties” by Lauren Grest.
“The Lost” by Mark Grudgings.
“Fractured” by Alec McQuay.
“Army of One” by Ross O’Brien.
“Regicide” and “Ultionem Lapsis” by Mark Steven Thompson.
“Ripples” by Jonathan Ward.
“The Lost Blitzkrieg” by C L Werner.
“Hero of Magong” by Griff Williams.

Available on Amazon later this week. Author interviews resume next Tuesday.

RiaR Marooned: “Stranger” by VictorK

Every month, the Bolthole’s “Read in a Rush” competition serves up flash fan fiction. 1,000 word tales usually set in either of the Warhammer universes, but sometimes in original settings. The winners will be posted on the blog. 

Stranger
by VictorK

The fire warrior hid beneath the stinking carcass of some alien beast and so survived the barrage that wiped out what remained of his cadre. In subsequent reports and other tellings he would emphasize the creature’s panic and the weight of the corpse pinning him down, but in his dreams he relived the fear and awoke with shame. The greenskins moved on, claiming only a few trophies from among the fallen Tau. The last that Shas’la from Vior’la saw was a large ork taking the ta’lissera knife that had bound the cadre together. He wanted to cry out, but his throat seized.

As the fire warrior pulled himself free the Kroot who had scattered when the first enemy shells burst over their formation emerged from the jungle. A savage strain of the species, each wore a unique tattoo on the side of his face. They regarded Shas’la with vacant, dim eyes. The fire warrior could appreciate their low sort of cunning, but he dared not draw closer to his erstwhile allies. Their shapers, some of their limbs hacked off to be consumed by Orks later in a bizarre reversal of the Kroot ritual, lay dead among the Tau. Shas’la resolved to ignore the aliens. He slung his plasma rifle, searched the bodies for ammunition, and started the hike back to the command post.

The Kroot followed.

Shas’la crested the last hill in time to see the last transport leave. He didn’t reach the base itself; swarms of greenskinned brutes blocked the way. The fire warrior could feel the cold hand of panic reaching up to tickle his heart. He was being left behind. Worse, the Tau didn’t know he was alive. Shas’la allowed himself to retch in the bushes. One of the Kroot concealed behind him edged forward, as if inquiring about his distress. Shas’la said nothing; he didn’t know the language and there was no shaper to translate. He was the last Tau on the planet.

The fire warrior retreated into the foothills to escape the marauding Orks. The rains and the Kroot followed him, and he spent many nights huddled beneath an alien tree, the eyes of the Kroot surrounding him. They will eat me, Shas’la thought. He had long gone through his own rations and could keep down little of the local flora. They will eat me and try and steal my language, and my culture. They will make themselves Tau and eat us all…Shas’la’s hand sought for the hilt of the knife that wasn’t there, and finally succumbed to sleep.

When he awoke, he was being carried. Malnourishment and the cold had sapped his strength, and now he found himself bound to a litter carried between the Kroot. Shas’la thrashed and cried out until a scaly claw clamped down over his mouth. Quiet, the Kroot silently demanded. Shas’la heard the rumble of ramshackle vehicles nearby. He complied, and soon fell asleep again.

There were more Kroot when Shas’la awoke. Others who had been left behind. They laid the tough bits from their hunt before him and he devoured the meat until he felt like retching again. Shas’la’s body would not let him die. The Kroot formed a circle around him and sat together around the firelight. They chatted amongst themselves in their clicking, guttural tongue. But they all stole their glances at the Tau. Still hoping that he might fade away and join his ta’lissera, Shas’la finally studied the Kroots’ faces. They were young; the ones who broke and ran lived. Cowards all, he thought. How long had they lived among the Tau? Couldn’t they tell a shas’la from a shas’o? Shas’la sought the knife again. He could not die until he held it again.

At first, Shas’la tried to teach the Kroot the way of the fire warrior. In the absence of the Tau, the Orks soon fell into fighting each other. Shas’la struck. The results were not to his satisfaction. Each Kroot seemed to be a Greater Good unto himself and would not support the others as was required by Fire Caste doctrine. Shas’la returned to sketching in the mud to plan his raids, but to no avail.

Kroot started dying. Shas’la could not deliver the unity and victory that the Tau promised. Once again, he feared that he would be eaten. The rains came again and he retreated with his new cadre to wait for a better fighting season. Shas’la accompanied the Kroot on their hunts for the first time, sacrificing the aloof posture he believed command required to try and form a bond with the aliens. What he observed opened his eyes. The Kroot feasted on their kill and howled to each other through bloody maws. Shas’la saw them as one, and followed every hunt thereafter.

Kroot could not become Tau, but Shas’la could bend them to the Greater Good. His raids became hunts, and he led from the front and ate from his kills. Orks from miles around sought him out, hoping for battle. Shas’la disappointed them and then struck when their war-lust had dissipated. He recovered his knife and drove it through the skull of the warboss who had severed his ta’lissera. He sheathed the knife, but did not yet feel complete. Shas’la ate the greenskin’s heart.

That night the fire warrior awoke to a roaring blaze and blank stares from his Kroot. They seized him, bound his legs, and threw him down before the fire where the young Kroot held him down. Shas’la screamed and cursed them as traitors, fearing that now he had become mighty the Kroot would at long last make him their meal. The strongest among them took his knife, and Shas’la cursed even louder.

The knife cut him along his right temple, shallow. The blood was allowed to flow over that side of his face, and the Kroot studied its path. He cleared some rivulets away, and let others stand. When he was satisfied, he wiped the Tau’s face clean. A fire-heated quill was drawn to the fire warrior, who regarded its cooling point with a promise to kill all of the savages. The strongest got to work, pricking Shas’la along the same course as his blood. The fire warrior fell silent. Shas’la regarded the tattooed faces of his cadre and let himself weep.

Another fighting season passed before Shas’la, his armor long broken and his rifle replaced by a crude Ork construct, stood in the wash of a descending Tau dropship. Reinforcements at long last. The Shas’o, in pristine armor with a drone over his shoulder, stepped down to the planet so many of his people had bled for. He regarded the lone Tau and his Kroot, The Shas’o’s gaze lingered on Shas’la’s tattoo.

“Berras.”

The Tau word for ‘stranger.’ Shas’la Vior’la Berras felt something turn in his stomach. He returned the greeting with a crisp salutation and reported his hunter cadre for duty.

Interview with Nathan Long

Nathan Long takes a few minutes to tell us about what it’s like being a writer. A veteran screenwriter of 15 years before becoming an author, Nathan has a fair bit of thought to share with us today.

Character-craft Master Nathan Long.

Character-craft Master Nathan Long.

He2etic: What is the writing process like for you? If you were to describe the process in what word, what would it be?

Nathan: Wait, is that two questions or one? Uh, my one word answer would be, “Structured.” By which I mean, I build a structure for each story before I write it. I almost never “wing it.”

He2etic: What kind of music do you listen to while you write?

Nathan: Mostly soundtracks, Conan, Lord of the Rings, etc. But I try to match the music to the subject matter I’m writing, so if it’s something science-fictiony I might write to trance or electronica.

“I tend to come up with plot ideas before I come up with the characters to put in them, so my character creation is strongly influenced by the role the character needs to fill.”

 

He2etic: Who are your favorite characters amongst both those you’ve written, and by other authors?

Nathan: Favorite characters by other people: Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Leiber, and Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser. Favorite characters by me: uh, it’s really hard to choose. I like them all because they all give me the opportunity to write in different voices and explore different aspects of my psychosis… er, I mean personality.

He2etic: What are your strongest influences when it comes to character creation?

Jane Carver of Waar, by Nathan Long

Jane Carver of Waar, by Nathan Long

Nathan: I tend to come up with plot ideas before I come up with the characters to put in them, so my character creation is strongly influenced by the role the character needs to fill.

For instance, with The Blackhearts, I didn’t come up with Reiner first, then build the story around him, I came up with the idea of “The Dirty Dozen in the world of Warhammer” and then sat around thinking about what kind of person would lead such a group.

He2etic: Are there any dream characters or settings you want to write about? Not just those in the Warhammer universes, but in other franchises or even of your own make?

Nathan: I have plenty of my own characters that I am dying to bring to the public’s attention, but, yes, there are a few established characters I would love to write. Top of the list would be Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and in fact I actually wrote an F+GM fan fic, which you can find on the ‘Free Stories’ page of my blog.

Others would include Solomon Kane, Catwoman, the Creeper, the Aliens franchise, the Bordertown series, Buckaroo Banzai, and I’ve always wanted to adapt a kids story called the Weathermonger into a movie, though I think the BBC might have beat me to it.

“I would say screenplays require tighter, simpler plots than novels, and a focus on a fewer number of characters.”

 

He2etic: What are your favorite drinks, both alcoholic and not? Do you occasionally partake while writing?

Nathan: I don’t drink alcohol, but I drink absolutely gallons of tea when I write. My favorite is oolong tea. It is the nectar of the gods.

Bloodborn, by Nathan Long

Bloodborn, by Nathan Long

He2etic: If you could cast anyone to play the roles of main characters in your work, who would you pick?

Nathan: Hmmm. Good question, but I’m really bad at this. Lets see…

Ulrika – Tilda Swinton (Well, she’s a bit old for the part, but someone like Tilda Swinton, only 20.)
Reiner – Tom Hiddleston (The guy who played Loki.)
Jane Carver – Sadly, there are no actresses I know who look like I imagine Jane looking.

He2etic: Do you have any long term projects for writing? For example, do you intend to someday spin your own franchise or complete a long novel series?

Nathan: Yes. Jane Carver was planned as a four book series. I have no idea if the last two will ever be written, but I would like to. I also have a few other novel ideas that could easily become series, and right at the moment I’m getting set to announce an on-line comic that I’m writing, which I hope will go on for a very long time. I can’t tell you anything more about it yet, but there will be an announcement in the next few months.

He2etic: Are there any novels you would consider required reading?

Blackhearts the Omnibus, by Nathan Long

Blackhearts the Omnibus, by Nathan Long

Nathan: As follows…

The Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series by Fritz Leiber
The Flashman Papers series by George MacDonald Frazer
The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood by Raphael Sabatini
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
House of Stairs by William Sleater
The Bordertown Series by Terri Windling and others
The Jeeves series by P.G. Wodehouse
Last Call and The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

…I could go on…

He2etic: What advice do you have for anyone trying to make the transition from novel and short story writing to screenplay writing?

Nathan: Hmmm. I can’t really answer that question, since I went entirely the other way. I started as a screenwriter and became a novelist. I would say screenplays require tighter, simpler plots than novels, and a focus on a fewer number of characters. A screenplay is usually about one or two heroes doing something in a fairly short period of time. A novel can be about generations of heroes and take place over centuries.

“I really enjoy telling the smaller, more self contained stories that fall between the cracks of the big momentous things…”

 

He2etic: What’s your favourite part of writing a story?

Nathan: Hmmm. I like all of it, for various reasons, but I guess my favorite parts are the initial plotting phase, where I work out the ending, and all the little twists along the way, and then the polishing part at the end, where I fine-tune everything and add the last details.

He2etic: What is it that draws you to the Warhammer universe? Is there anything it permits you to do that you can’t find anywhere else?

Gotrek and Felix: The Fourth Omnibus, by Nathan Long

Gotrek and Felix: The Fourth Omnibus, by Nathan Long

Nathan: I like that the world is already built, and that it is so clearly defined. World building is fun for me, but coming to a world which already has a well-documented history and established rules makes creating stories in it almost like creating stories set in the real world. You look at the history, see the stories that have already been told about it, then try to find some place or some event or some time that nobody’s touched yet.

I really enjoy telling the smaller, more self contained stories that fall between the cracks of the big momentous things that the history books (or the army books) tell us about, and the richness and depth of the Warhammer background allowed me to do that.

He2etic: And the least favourite part of writing?

Nathan: The first draft is often a slog. Some scenes I love writing, and I breeze right through them, giggling to myself along the way. Others, particularly descriptive passages and stuff where people are traveling, are a grind, and I try to get them over with as soon as possible. My writing tends to be a little light on that stuff, and now you know why.

He2etic: What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Gotrek and Felix: The Third Omnibus, by Nathan Long

Gotrek and Felix: The Third Omnibus, by Nathan Long

Nathan: Hmmm. Up at 8:30. Have breakfast and noodle around on the internet until 10. Write until 12:00. Have lunch. Write until 3. Have a half hour nap. (Yep, sorry, I’m old.) Write until 6 or 6:30. So basically six hours of writing time. But if I’m on a deadline I’ll often work until I reach a certain word count, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes 3000 words have taken me until 11:00 at night.

He2etic: Finally, do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to reading? Stuff you know is utter trash, but you love reading anyway?

Nathan: I don’t read as much as I used to, so I am more selective now when I do read, so less trash these days. But back in the day I burned through Pier’s Anthony’s Xanth books and the Saga of the Exiles books by Julian May.

Neither of those series were trash, exactly, but definitely popcorn books.

Follow the @BLBolthole on Twitter for updates, articles and more. This blog’s art was crafted by Manuel Mesones, and you can check out his portfolio.