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?
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?
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.
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.
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.