Interview with Darius Hinks

When not strumming away at his guitar, Darius Hinks spends his time crafting novels for the Black Library. With his new book Orion: Tears of Isha about to be released, Hinks found some time to speak with us about it, and remind us that it often takes a character to craft a character.

He2etic: What is it that draws you to Warhammer over Warhammer 40k? What are your favourite things about the two universes?

Man of wonder, Darius Hinks.

Man of wonder, Darius Hinks.

Darius: Well, I live in Nottingham, so I have hands-on experience of a grimy, plague-ridden, semi-feudal society. That’s probably part of it.

The other thing that draws me in is the endless stream of lunatic heroes that spew out of GW’s design studio. The Warhammer universe is like some kind of weird cake stand, stacked with bizarre, gaudy characters. And they’re all just waiting for someone to pick them up and drop them into a novel.

I don’t really have a preference between the two settings. I look out for the characters I think no one else would tackle and see if I can fit them into a narrative. It’s just worked out that they’ve mostly been in the Warhammer setting.

He2etic: What do you think about the artwork for your novels?

Darius: The covers have all been spot on, but Sigvald in particular is just as I imagined him. If you peer closely at his expression it’s quite unnerving. He’s got such a dangerous gleam in his eye. It’s clear he’s about to do something entirely inappropriate. The artist was a chap called Cheoljoo Lee and I think he’s reet clever.

“It’s a long-held ambition of mine to write something this epic and it’s great to be on the home stretch and see all the threads coming together.”

 

He2etic: What hobbies do you enjoy? And what armies are your favourite?

Darius: I recently ‘painted’ some ogres, but I used orange and they now look like really angry fruit. My main hobbies are reading and trying to make music. I just rattled through Neil Gaiman’s latest children’s book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I thought it was brilliant and terrifying. He’s great at describing parents from hell. There’s a good kitten in it too.

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

Orion: Tears of Isha, by Darius Hinks

Orion: Tears of Isha, by Darius Hinks

Darius: I’ve always been annoyed by authors who whinge about writing. It’s hardly the coal face, is it? At the moment, though, I’d have to describe the process as ‘challenging’.

I’m on book three of the Orion trilogy and I’ve left myself more far loose ends than I know what to do with. It’s like the literary equivalent of Twister and if I don’t finish it soon I’m going to sprain something.  (I might ask JK Rowling to write it for me under a pseudonym.)

But it’s still great fun. It’s a long-held ambition of mine to write something this epic and it’s great to be on the home stretch and see all the threads coming together.

After Orion, I’m planning on cleansing my palette with something non-GW and then, if they’ll have me back, working on some smaller Warhammer books that require less mental wrestling.

He2etic: What kind of music do you listen to? Is it important that you listen to music while you write?

Darius: I used to listen to all sorts of music when writing, but for the Orion books it’s mainly been classical. It’s the usual suspects  – Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven etc. I tried listening to The Rite of Spring (seemed appropriate) but my cats kept rioting.

When not writing, I mainly listen to slacker indie guitar bands led by singers who can’t hold a note. I hate singers who can actually sing. Apart from Chan Marshall of Cat Power. Her voice is so perfect that I can forgive her for occasionally being in tune.

“I do find it vaguely unnerving when I read back through some of the really bloodthirsty stuff I’ve written. Some sections of Tears of Isha are so vile I had to skip over them when checking the proofs.”

 

He2etic: Can you tell us more of how the Warhammer Hero novel Sigvald came to be?

Darius: I couldn’t quite believe that no one else had snapped him up. He was such a gift. Only a few paragraphs of information existed about him, but it was all gold: a deranged, all-powerful, hedonistic, vain, funny, tragic antihero – what more could an author ask for?

He2etic: How do you write such gritty and realistic action scenes?

Darius: As I said, I live in Nottingham. Ahem… Actually, I’m not sure. I grew up reading gruesome horror novels (Clive Barker, etc) so maybe that’s it.

Warrior Priest, by Darius Hinks

Warrior Priest, by Darius Hinks

I do find it vaguely unnerving when I read back through some of the really bloodthirsty stuff I’ve written. Some sections of Tears of Isha are so vile I had to skip over them when checking the proofs. I imagine I should seek some kind of person-centred therapy, but writing is cheaper.

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?

Darius: As I mentioned earlier, I’m working on an idea for a non-GW book. It’s fantasy, but not in the sword and sorcery sense and it won’t go beyond the synopsis stage until the final Orion book is finished (or my editor will kick my face off).

In terms of a series, there’s 40K character I’ve had my eye on for a while. I think he would be perfect for ongoing adventures, but it will depend on whether any other authors nab him before I get to him. I’m not going to mention his name as I’m hoping no one else has noticed how cool he is.

He2etic: Can you tell us more about your work for the Black Library?

Darius: I lose track of all the stuff I’ve written for BL over the years. I wrote a batch of short stories about ten years ago. There’s one I have quite fond memories of, called Calculus Logi.

The first book I wrote was called the Witch Hunter’s Handbook and the first novel was called Warrior Priest. I’ve written a few novellas and the Orion books are my first trilogy. I think I’ve written about seven or eight books but I might be making that up.

Sigvald, by Darius Hinks

Sigvald, by Darius Hinks

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

Darius: My favourite characters from my own books are a husband and wife duo called Jonas and Isolde. They inhabit a section of Warrior Priest that flowed through my fingertips so easily it was more like reading a novel than writing one. It’s the piece of writing I’m most proud of.

They’re villains, really, but I’ve always had a soft spot for them. I’d like to think that they’ll still be out there, entertaining mysterious guests at the Unknown House, long after I’m dead and gone.

Actually, I’d quite like to live with them, in their strange, musical, magic-filled rooms, with all the bears, weird instruments and piles of forbidden books.

My favourite character from a real book is Charles Arrowby from a novel called The Sea, The Sea. He’s a vile, arrogant antihero, but he’s hilarious. And it’s great fun watching him change from git to slightly less gitish git.

Thanks again to Darius Hinks for the interview! 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.

Warrior Priest by Darius Hinks (A Review)

 Another review for you all today as Vivia talks about Darius Hinks’s Empire Army novel, Warrior Priest. Just as with our last, this review is an interesting one too and we hope you like this one as well. Enjoy!

My first book by Darius Hinks was Sigvald, a wonderfully mad, dark fantasy novel about a Slaaneshi champion and his adventures in the Chaos Wastes. It was with excitement and great expectations I went on to read his first novel, Warrior Priest.

We are introduced to the main characters as they save a woman from being burned at the stake for witchcraft. She is saved by them, but not in the way we expect. The saviours and heroes of Warhammer are dark and brutal and in Warrior Priest we get a fine example of that sort of hero in the Sigmarite priest Jakob Wolff.

Almost from the start there is tension between Anna, the Shallya priestess, and the warrior priest. Their ideologies are opposites; one is a healer and the other a warrior, and gives an interesting view into the different religions of the Warhammer world that is rarely seen. Not as much as I would have liked to see but glimpses from time to time. They dislike each other and it doesn’t change much as the story goes on.

The atmosphere in the first half of the book is reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic world. War has left Ostland in ruins and people cling to faith in desperation and it’s hard not to feel they’re in a hopeless situation. Hinks conveys this feeling of despair with grey, rainy days, filth, mud and desolation. It’s a very dark world depicted in Warrior Priest and that’s exactly as it should be. The degree of violence is high and horrible in its brutality; I like it as this gives more depth to the battle scenes. There is one very atmospheric fight with man against beast, which gave me the chills.

About two thirds into the story, it changes pace and the reader is forced into the point of view of another character that is suddenly introduced. Important for the story as he is, his inclusion feels disjointed from the rest of the story and comes out of nowhere.  I can’t help think these chapters could have been improved by extensive editing and it makes the story lack structure. It’s puzzling why we get such an in-depth view into this character and yet Jacob, the star of the story, is left mostly undeveloped. The story doesn’t really recover from it and the ending is by the rulebook, a mocking villain with dastardly plans of Evil, though the villain’s master was exciting but it’s nothing remarkable. It was hard to keep on reading until the end as I thought the main plot was turning weaker and weaker.

The last chapters display Hinks’s penchant for gore and revolting details including bodily fluids and entrails all over the place. There is a particularly disgusting and graphic scene that almost made me wretch, concerning corpses and the semi-dead, quite realistic considering the circumstances. This is what the author excels at and what I love to read. His descriptions are very vivid and intense. Be aware of this and also don’t eat while reading. I totally lost my appetite several times throughout the story.

The last fight between good and evil was unconvincing, it was over rather quickly and left me wondering if this was the author’s manner of saying that evil can be small and petty. The problem is that I didn’t think it was handled very well; the plot just fell apart, no matter the efforts of giving us a background story in earlier chapters. The actual ending feels more of an afterthought from the writer and was fascinating but rather unnecessary to the main story. The story and characters deserved a better closure.

The characters aren’t always consistent either: Ratboy, Jacob’s acolyte, has an inexplicable attraction towards Anna, the priestess. Perhaps this is Hinks’s way of pointing out that everyone in this mad world is corrupted and weak, but it isn’t really dwelled upon, interesting as it would have been. Another minor character is left completely out of a big portion of the story despite having a good start in the beginning.

Which leads me to my other complaint: the main female character in the story Anna is used as the ‘romantic’ interest of a few of the male characters throughout the book. I could argue this works with the story and the setting but is leaves me disappointed once again with the female characters (nothing new when I read a Black Library novel). In his defence Hinks writes the women better than most but Sigvald is a better example of this and he isn’t afraid of showing their more disturbing sides.

It doesn’t stop me from sighing every time this happens with the poor underused women characters. It’s also how they’re described; the men tend to be put in better light than the women, in unbridled male-worship. You can’t escape the fact that the Black Library stories favour the men, and considering that the writers are mostly men it puts an interesting angle into this. Think what you want but hey, it’s there. Take a look from all sides.

Despite the books many flaws I’m quite pleased to say that Hinks avoid many of the usual, and annoying, Black Library clichés. His characters are flawed, they come across as real people and we understand them. They suffer, they get hurt and their faith is strong. His dialogue is realistic and he doesn’t fall in to the trap of stilted speech to convey a sense of archaism or an epic feel – something most Black Library stories are guilty of and not in a good way. When this happens, it throws me right out of the story and makes my teeth hurt.

At times it feels as if the world of Warhammer and its many horrors is the main focus of the story, not the characters. I’m not complaining, it’s a place that has a wonderful dark atmosphere, sometimes bordering on horror, with many layers of secrets and that is what we want to read about. It’s as much part of the stories as the characters.

Read and enjoy it but don’t expect the same thrill and brilliance of Sigvald, Hinks second novel.  Most importantly keep reading Darius Hinks because he is an interesting author and I expect many dark and violent tales from him in the future.

Many thanks to my betas, Merci and Liliedhe. Their help was much appreciated.

December Artwork Roundup

December was a spectacular month for Black Library artwork. We have had some truly amazing art being shown for future novels as well as the Advent Calendar “quiz” which saw speculation in the fandom ramping all the way to 11 and beyond.

So let’s take a peek into just what got released for December and what we can expect in the future.

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November Artwork Roundup

November has come and gone, and with it we have been treated to a host of wonderful artwork from Black Library, whether it is for the novels or the audio dramas. All of Black Library’s artists, everyone from Neil Roberts and Jon Sullivan to Cheoljoo Lee and Winona and many others have done some great work this year and they seem set to deliver even better for next year.

So withour further ado, here is some of the Black Library artwork for the month of November for some of 2012’s most anticipated releases.

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