A place for you to ask questions of some of the Black Library authors themselves.


Postby O'Seishin » Sun Aug 13, 2017 11:56 am

Greetings Duke Leto,

it's great to hear that there's a determined effort going on to restore the Bolthole to its former glory. I recall the days when BL still had its own forum, which obviously drew fans in more readily because it was right there. I only found out about the Bolthole because I was 'recruited' at the first (and so far only) BL Live event I attended (as an author at least...) It would be great if the Bolthole could get some official recognition - say a link from BL's site - but I understand why the company is cautious about that. Somehow you need to raise awareness and draw more fans in. I agree it's beneficial if authors engage on here so I'll try to do my part from time-to-time, even though I'm a fringe BL writer. Let me start by answering your question about juggling the demands of being a freelancer across different fields.

The concise version is that it's an awkward, frequently frustrating position because of conflicting deadlines and commitments. I'm afraid I don't have any great tips to offer for making it work. It really comes down to figuring out what's most important to you and balancing your creative aspirations with your practical life responsibilities. Since I've always striven passionately to steer clear of serious responsibilities I have some latitude for making...eccentric...decisions, but even then it's difficult. Bluntly, I've lost a lot of television clients - and income - because of the writing work. Do I regret that? Hell no! You only live once, right?

So the longer version...

You're correct, I'm a television editor by profession, specializing in trailers. These days I'm mostly engaged by BBC Worldwide so you won't see my work in this country, but a few years back I was across a lot of BBC One drama, including Doctor Who, which was damn awesome (for once a valid use of that much-abused term!) for an SF geek like myself. I might have had reservations about the direction, tone and format of the resurrected show, but it was still Doctor Who so I was thrilled to get close to it, even if I was only cutting the trailers.

Well, I backed off from that - and deflected a promising career trajectory - to write 'Fire Caste'. When the novel commission came through I quit my staff job - and with it the best work - and went freelance, essentially so I could edit part-time and focus on writing. From a professional point of view it was a reckless move, especially since I'd just turned forty, but I couldn't give both paths 100% and I knew which way the Dream lay. Forget Doctor Who - this was 40K, the mythos I loved about all others - the one I’ve followed avidly since Rogue Trader days even if I haven’t played the game since my twenties. No, I couldn't blow this chance...

In truth, despite the gamble I took, I haven't built on that opportunity the way I might have. In part this is because reality, no matter how staunchly one defies it, has an unsettling habit of intruding upon dreams. Secondly, I couldn't - and still can't - write reliably to a brief or stick rigorously to a synopsis. I keep on finding and then following peculiar tangents of plot and character that were never agreed upon with my commissioning editor. For me writing is an inherently unpredictable process. Intuitive rather than rational. One might even say chaotic. The Ultramarines are most definitely not my spiritual Space Marine chapter (now there's a fun question to put to each writer...)

While this instinctive approach is fascinating, it's also profoundly unwise for an aspiring writer, especially one seeking to break into a well-established and lore-rich shared universe like 40K. In fact, for those hoping to write professionally for BL I'd give this advice: Don't do it my way.

I've been very lucky to last this long. My editors have been patient despite the headaches I've given them, but if I’d been more disciplined and less individualistic I'd have a lot more stories out there. Naturally I’m completely incapable of taking my own advice on this.

Anyway, I hope this somewhat rambling reverie is of interest, or even use.

To briefly address the matter of my weaker story titles... 'Fire Caste' made me very worried. 'Vanguard' made me embarrassed, especially since it was sitting alongside other Mechanicus stories with classy titles like 'The Enigma of the Flesh' and ‘The Infinite Circuit’. 'Genestealer Cults' just made me sad. At least that book did what it said on the cover. Mostly. Then again, I got my way with 'Cast a Hungry Shadow' and many people couldn't make sense of that title, so what do I know?

As to your question about my name, 'Fehervari' is Hungarian. It translates to 'Of the White City', which is pleasingly dramatic. I speak the language so Hungarian words and names occasionally appear in my writing.

Lastly, please don't worry about picking up a second-hand copy of 'Fire Caste'. Throne damn it, the novel has been out of print for years and, being a collector, I also dislike ebooks (I get the logic, but…they’re not real!) I'm just glad people still remember and occasionally read that mad, dark story.

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Postby O'Seishin » Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:47 pm

Greetings Xisor,

thanks for the enthusiastic words about 'The Walker in Fire'. Of all my stories it's the one that gave me the fewest headaches and was genuinely fun to write - something I honestly can't often say. For that reason above all else, I'm very fond of that one.

I was uncertain about being assigned a Salamander character because, like the Ultramarines, they're not an obvious fit for me. I'm all about dark, tormented individuals and philosophies, while the Salamanders, despite their penchant for self-branding, are pretty sane and reasonable by 40K standards. However, as it turned out, there was a seed darkness in Garran Branatar's psyche so I was good to go!

Moreover, having a relatively straight character at the heart of the story was a nice balance for a rather eccentric team. I'd been desperate to return to the Angels Penitent/Resplendent since 'Crown of Thorns' so this was a golden opportunity to pick up that thread. Malvoisin's tortured arc was actually more important to me than the Deathwatch mission, which was a fairly traditional action romp.

Unexpectedly the Brotherhood Of One Thousand character turned out to be my favourite. Paradoxically the sheer blandness of his chapter's name had always intrigued me. I mean every chapter is ideally meant to be a brotherhood of one thousand so why give your faction such a generic name? That's what got me thinking about their obsession with numbers...and then cybernetics. Before long they'd become deeply peculiar and I fell in love with them. Like the Penitent/Resplendent, I hope to return to them some day because there's a LOT more to say about those guys.

Lastly, you hit the nail on the head with the Skitarii. I found them immensely difficult to work with as protagonists, but wonderful as antagonists. While they're not big on angst or introspection, they're damned creepy and lethal in action. The Rust Stalkers and Infiltrators, who I didn't have access to when I wrote 'Vanguard', are particularly freaky so I jumped at the chance to write about them here.

'Walker' was also the first time I worked with Laurie, who was an absolute delight to collaborate with. Seriously, that man's knowledge and enthusiasm for 40K is boundless, but it was his readiness to trust my flights of eccentricity that I most appreciated.


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