Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Age of Reynolds: An Interview with Josh Reynolds

There have been many terrific stories and books set within the Mortal Realms from several different authors, but none have been as prolific as Josh Reynolds. With five complete AoS novels to his name, and a multitude of novellas and short stories, we have spent more time in the Age of Sigmar with Josh's characters than any other. Today he talks a bit about his three most recent stories, Plague Garden, Spear of Shadows, and Hammerhal.

Tyler: There was quite a bit of a gap in the Age of Sigmar fiction for awhile, then we had three new stories released within a few months of each other, all penned by you. Plague Garden, Spear of Shadows, and Hammerhal. I guess right off the bat, which one of those three was the most difficult and rewarding for you?

Josh: Spear of Shadows is the answer to both, I think. It was the sort of big, loud fantasy novel I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but I also had to cram in a metric ton of background and world building. It was a difficult balancing act, but one I think was (mostly) successful.

Tyler: Plague Garden carries on the story of Gardus, which is someone you have written in the past. It also ties in the Bullhearts' storyline from Hunt for Nagash a bit. Was this something you approached Black Library about continuing, or are the Hallowed Knights a faction you were really interested in exploring more?

Josh: Both, actually. I was interested in picking up some of the loose storylines and running with them. I’m of the mind that the stories of the characters (both heroes and villains) who appeared in those first few Realmgate Wars books should continue to be explored, now that the setting has developed some. And the Hallowed Knights are an interesting sub-faction within the Stormcasts – their focus on faith allows for some neat explorations of how that sort of thing works in Age of Sigmar. Too, Gardus is a fairly unambiguous hero, and I like writing about good guys being good guys, you know? Not all the time, but occasionally it’s nice to write about heroes being heroic.

Tyler: In Plague Garden we also start seeing Stormcast who break the mold we were formerly familiar with. The most obvious of these is the inclusion of female Stormcast, who were implied before, but never actually explored. We also see Stormcast, who while heroic, are not the most pure of heart and noble in the traditional sense. All of this, to me, made them feel even more human and believable. What made you want to explore these aspects?

Josh: Really, I just wanted to show that, divinely empowered they might be, they’re all still human. Too, they’re all essentially draftees in a war they barely comprehend, which means you have a high disparate group of individuals linked by a very tenuous connection (i.e. faith) which means something different to each of them. As far as including female Stormcast – well, like you said, they were implied. I just thought I might as well make them explicit.

Tyler: The character of Gutrot Spume was a ton of fun in Plague Garden. Was this book really just an excuse for you to write a pirate novel in Age of Sigmar?

Josh: Maybe a bit. I just really like him! I think he needs to be in more stuff.

Tyler: Without spoiling too much, the ending to Plague Garden explores an enemy in a direct fashion that we have yet to see in any GW fiction, as far as I know. Was that an intimidating scene to write and how do you even approach something like that?

Josh: Not really. I’ve shown Khorne before, in Legends of the Age of Sigmar: Black Rift, and this wasn’t much different. A bit more Lovecraftian, but basically the same. I approached it in the same way, with the god as more a force of nature than a character.

Tyler: Spear of Shadows has made a huge splash in the AoS community. Many people think of it as the Gotrek and Felix of AoS, was this what you intended when you started it?

Josh: God no. There can be only one Gotrek & Felix. Mostly, I just wanted to write a big, loud fantasy novel, like I mentioned above. Something a bit lighter in tone, with a classical feel to it. I wanted to have a bunch of characters go on an adventure, and not worry about the meta-plot very much.

Tyler: You are well known for creating little ties and bridges between your different novels, with either characters or locations popping up as cameos or even integral parts of the plot. I would say that Spear of Shadows is your magnum opus of that so far, integrating nearly every novel you have written in some way or another. This is a part of your books I really enjoy, and it really rewards readers who follow along and creates a true sense of immersion in the world. A believability that transfers from one novel to the next. Where as Dan Abnett was the Daniverse in 40k, you now have what people call “The Age of Reynolds” in AoS. Can you talk a bit about this cross pollination in your books? How many notes do you need to keep to keep all of the characters, locations, and storylines straight?

Josh: I don’t keep notes, though I probably should. Mostly what I do is, when I need to add a bit of colour to a scene, I look back through the stuff I’ve written to see if I’ve already created something, be it a person or a place or whatever, that I can plug into said scene. It’s laziness, rather than creativity, really. Too, I like running threads through different books – the Kels of Ekran, for instance – just to see if anyone notices. And calling it ‘The Age of Reynolds’ gives me entirely too much credit for just doing my job. Guys like David Guymer and Clint Werner have added just as much to the setting as I have.

Tyler: Spear of Shadows has the most main characters in it out of any AoS novel I have read so far. Was it hard keeping track of all of them and making sure that they all got the time and attention they needed to stay relevant?

Josh: Yep! I went a bit overboard, I admit. But, part of the brief for that book was to show off as many units, factions, etc. as possible. So I just went all in and kept adding characters. I cut out so many – grots, skaven, ogors, raven-sorcerers…the book just kept getting bigger and bigger, and I finally had to start pruning scenes and sub-plots.

Tyler: Another thing you are well known for is creating truly unique locations in your books, whether that’s the gigantic worm with a city on its back, or the Fyreslayer lodge in the center of a gigantic tree. Has the openness of AoS really given you the freedom to do this and is it something you consciously try and do or something that just comes natural with the setting?

Josh: It has, and it is, yes. One of the things we writers are encouraged to do with AOS fiction is to make everything as big and as weird as possible. Which is right in my wheelhouse really. I like coming up with all that weird, Michael Moorcock type stuff.

Tyler: Grungni, the duardin god, makes his first appearance within AoS in Spear of Shadows. How was it being the first person to really craft what this god’s personality would be like?

Josh: I was surprised they let me do it, honestly. I’m not the sort of guy who gets to play with those big, important characters. But I’m glad they did. Grungni was a challenge to get right – he’s got to be everything good and bad about duardin, mixed together and magnified. I hope I succeeded.

Tyler: I know everyone wants to know the answer to this, so I have to ask; can we expect more in this series?

Josh: I hope so. But whether we will or not is out of my control, unfortunately. If you liked it, and want a sequel – let Black Library know, by all mean!

Tyler: Hammerhal, though shorter than the previous two books, is a great story. It combines the lower level human stuff of stories like City of Secrets with the Stormcast battles we’ve become accustomed too. Was it challenging trying to find a balance between the two?

Josh: A bit. The biggest challenge was staying within the commissioned word count, while still giving all of the characters enough time to shine.

Tyler: This story really made the Arcanites feel believable, and almost like a family, with true emotions between the characters. In fact, you are also known for bringing traditionally villainous characters into a more sympathetic light, whether that be Nurgle, Death, or now Tzeentch. How do you approach doing this?

Josh: Mostly, I just try and remember that villains are characters too. They have their own wants, needs and relationships, separate from the heroes’. Everyone is the hero of their own story, and no one thinks they’re the villain.

Tyler: When you were writing Hammerhal were you aware that it was going to be the introductory story for AoS fiction in their anthology book? If so, how did that affect the writing process for it?

Josh: I was, yes. I had to be very careful about explaining the basics of the setting, without drowning the reader in info-dumps. There was a lot of stuff I had to trim back – a scene with Sigmar and Dracothian, for instance – that slowed everything down, and might have been confusing for a new reader. It’s all about walking the line between informative and entertaining.

Tyler: Can we expect more from this series following the adventures of Gage and Aek?

Josh: I hope so! I’d love to write more about both of them, and Serena as well.

Tyler: If you could write about any faction within AoS at all, what would it be?

Josh: Beastmen. I’d really like to explore them, some. Or grots. I think that’d be fun. Oh, and I’d love to write a freeguild book – just dig into how they function, in the field and off.

Tyler: Soul Wars is your next announced novel for the setting, can you talk a bit about that?

Josh: Unfortunately, I can’t. I really wish I could, because it’s pretty neat, but I can’t.

Tyler: Do you currently play and collect AoS? If so, what do you play?

Josh: I do, if not as much as I’d like. I have a 1000 point Tzaangor force that I’m quite proud of, even though my painting skills are…negligible, shall we say? I’m also looking forward to playing Shadespire.

Tyler: After reading Hammerhal I had a strong urge to finish my 1,000 point Tzeentch army which I’ve had assembled for months. Do you have to fight the urge to start a new army after every time you write a new story?

Josh: Sometimes. I do sort of, kind of, want to build a Hallowed Knights force, but I’m resisting the urge. I’m hoping Shadespire will allow me to scratch the itch for multiple armies.

Tyler: Any final thoughts?

Josh: Sure. Feel free to follow me on Twitter or Facebook. I have a blog I update irregularly, where there’s a list of short stories and such I’ve written that you can read for free, if you like. Other than that…if you’ve enjoyed something I, or any of the BL authors have written, we’d be obliged if you could drop us a review or rating on Goodreads and Amazon and such. It helps a lot, though it might not seem like it. And if you have left a review on those sites or elsewhere, thanks! I appreciate it.

I'd like to thank Josh again for taking the time to do this. It's always great catching up with him and finding out a bit more about what went into his novels. If you're over in the U.K. this weekend is the Black Library Weekender, which Josh will be at. As he mentioned, there are a multitude of other authors who have also contributed great work to AoS, like Lord of Undeath by C.L. Werner, Warbeast by Gav Thorpe, the Knights of Vengeance stories by David Guymer, and many more, so be sure to give those all a read as well. The AoS fiction so far has been pretty strong throughout. I also have interviews with all of the aforementioned authors as well as more if you click on the Interviews tab at the top of the website. You can read my reviews of Plague Garden, Spear of Shadows, and Hammerhal at those links.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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