Thursday, July 12, 2018

INTERVIEW: Guy Haley on Blood Angels and More

Guy Haley is one of the most prolific writers at Black Library and his novels are consistently some of the best ones out there. Dante surprised me with the unique way it handled a Space Marine story, giving us something that stands out from all of the other 40k novels out there. This was followed up with The Devastation of Baal, a sequel that succeeds in continuing the story while also covering one of the most pivotal moments in the new 40k narrative. Today, Guy talks to us about everything Blood Angels, 40k, and even the Mortal Realms!

Tyler: When you approached writing Dante, did you always know it was going to focus more on his formative years than on his actions during the current timeline?

Guy: Absolutely. I wanted to write Dante’s backstory. I believe Black Library had someone else lined up to write this book, but they couldn’t do it. It was just before I started getting the big projects, so having it assigned was a big deal for me. Once I was asked to do it though, I pitched it as an origins novel.

Tyler: One of the things I loved so much about Dante was how different it felt from other 40k book, yet at the same time fit perfectly within the background and setting. It almost had a post apocalyptic young adult feel to it. Was this something you set out to intentionally do?

Guy: Not really. 40k is a huge setting with space for lots of stories. The divide between young adult and “grown up” SF has always been very narrow. I’d say it feels a bit YA because of the young characters and the hellish nature of Baal Secundus. Let us not forget that 40k is a dystopian setting to the very core, so putting youngsters into it is bound to invite the comparison you just made.

Tyler: Devastation of Baal is a sequel to Dante, but at the same time, its own book that can stand on its own. Was this a hard balance to strike?

Guy: I thought it would be, but it wasn’t too difficult. By not focussing solely on Dante, it was easy enough to make it stand on its own two feet. The nature of the story helped. It was perhaps harder to make it work for people who weren’t up on all the preceding supplements that detailed the Shield Worlds campaign; that was a problem I had with Dante too.

Tyler: In Devastation we move away from just Dante and really explore a multitude of characters. Who was your favorite to write?

Guy: Probably Grabiel Seth. I like his attitude. Andy Smillie did a great job fleshing him out (no pun intended).

Tyler: You also take over writing duties for Gabriel Seth and Mephiston, who have previously been handled by other authors. How do you make sure you honor their vision, while putting your own stamp on them?

Guy: I make sure I read as much of other people’s interpretations of the characters as I can. In Mephiston’s case that meant stories by David Annandale as well as Darius Hincks. I’m not too bothered about putting my own unique stamp on them. It’s more important to me that the characterisation and history are consistent. Often, it’s harder to smooth over the differences between other authors’ versions than between theirs and mine. The more recent stories usually trump the older, but I try to get everything in. For example, I included Andy’s secondary characters like Apollus, and gave the apothecary Albinus from David Annandale’s Mephistion stories a role to play.
Tyler: With Devastation and Dark Imperium you’re becoming the go to person for writing about the critical events of the post-Gathering Storm era. Is this a daunting task?

Guy: It really is. It is also very difficult! Guilliman and Dante are, to a large extent, “main” 40k good guy characters. They have a lot to do in the game. Therefore, I can’t change them too much. The challenge is to find a way to portray them that gives them a character arc to follow, but that doesn’t leave them irrevocably altered for the purposes of the wider universe. Hence the story of Dante’s weariness, and Guilliman’s religious musings - these are internal matters that don’t impact on them overly, but are still interesting and important. There are a whole load of other technical challenges and compromises that have to be made too. These are tough books to write.

Tyler: How closely do you work with the background writers to ensure you get it right?

Guy: Very. I send them “cheat sheets” about the books, and I have a few meetings with them a year to make sure we’re all on the same page. 

Tyler: This book had one of the coolest, yet alien looks at the “motives and thoughts” of the Tyranids. How do you write something so inhuman yet make it relatable enough for the reader to grasp?

Guy: Well, I’d say read the book to see how I did it! The important thing with Tyranids is that they don’t come across as men in rubber suits. As with everything, I simply read the background carefully, and extrapolated as best I could.

Tyler: The ending, without spoiling much, sets up a bunch of future plot points with Dante, Seth, and Guilliman. Are these threads you’re hoping to tackle yourself?

Guy: See below for Dante. Guilliman I’ll continue writing for the foreseeable future, but there’s not much in what I’m doing that ties into Dante’s story. (Yet). I’m sure Seth’s continuing adventures will be handled with aplomb by Andy.
Tyler: Can we expect a sequel to this to further follow Dante and the Blood Angels from you?

Guy: At some point I would like to do a third Dante book, but it’ll have to be at a specific time to cover off what I’d like to do, so don’t expect one any time soon.
Tyler: If you could pick any other 40k character to give the backstory treatment too like you did with Dante, who would it be?

Guy: I don’t know, really. Dante (and to an extent the Blood Angels too) was unique in that his background was totally unknown before this. I like to keep my writing different, so I’ll probably avoid origin stories for a while. Also, I often prefer to be given something to write then find the interesting angle rather than me having a list of stuff I desperately want to pen. That’s not to say I wouldn’t do another; I’m sure I will. I just don’t have a burning desire to write any one in particular right now.

Tyler: Will we see any more stories from you set within the Mortal Realms anytime soon or sticking to the far future?

Guy: Yes, you will. I’m not writing any Age of Sigmar novels at the moment, but I am continuing the adventures of Prince Maesa through a variety of formats and media.

I'd like to thank Guy Haley for taking the time to answer these questions and I'm definitely looking forward to more from him in both the far future and the Mortal Realms.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

No comments:

Post a Comment