Somewhere in the dark void of space, reality is splitting open and David Annandale is stepping through, hopefully to answer a few of my needy questions and not squash me for my impertinence. I’ve already ordered a copy of his limited edition novel, Mephiston, Lord of Death. While I’m waiting for its arrival to review it, I had a few burning questions burst into my skull. Hopefully, I chose them wisely.
Q: First question, what is it like to gain passage through the iron barred gates and earn yourself a much coveted seat in Black Library’s prestigious authorial ranks?
Annandale: I’m no doubt pointing out the obvious when I say that it’s damned exciting. The experience is something along the lines of delighted shock. You mean I get to write about these characters and this world? You mean I get paid to do so? What wonderful lunacy is this? I am very conscious of the privilege it is for a writer to play in this universe, one I most certainly do not take for granted.
Q: Have they requested anything specific from you to write about? Or do you supply most of the ideas behind your stories and then wait for their approval? Also, what kind of time frame, once a contract is agreed upon do you have to finish in? (I’m sure it varies based on shorts versus full-length novels, etc.)
Annandale: All of this varies according to the nature of the project. Some pieces, if they are part of a group of stories or a particular bit of continuity, will need to be shaped to a specific need. Others are much more wide-open. And the same is true for the time to completion. So I hesitate to say to quantify things too precisely.
Q: When writing within a setting like Warhammer 40k, that has so much preexisting “fluff” or background, how much extra time does it actually take to do research? Do they supply you with background material or do they have someone always editing for conflicting issues that might arise? This makes me wonder if you ever feel like you are walking on eggshells, just waiting for one to crack and in response an angry fan base will tear you and your desecration of their holy land to shreds?
Annandale: With a fictional universe this big and rich, there is certainly a responsibility to do one’s utmost to get the details right. I have found the team at the Black Library enormously helpful in this regard. Whatever questions I might have while I’m writing, there is always someone who can give me the answer, and then the editing process is vital in this regard too. The time spent on research again depends on the subject – some characters or factions have a lot more written about them than some others. I don’t think of the research in terms of “extra” time in comparison to non-tie-in work, though. Any book is going to require research, some more than others, and the research for some books is easier than it is for others. The nice thing about researching a Warhammer 40K story is that I never feel that I am alone.
Q: I’ve heard before in forums and other areas the notion that too much “domesticity” in Warhammer and Warhammer 40k is not what the Black Library is looking for? (I’d rather like to see more of it.) So let me glue this together with my question, is there an area you would love to touch upon and write about that isn’t accessible right now?
Annandale: I really haven’t felt myself straining against limitations or barriers. Actually, let me rephrase that: I have, but in the sense that I have been encouraged to push myself creatively, breaking down my imaginative barriers, finding out exactly what I am capable of as a writer. And that’s pretty wonderful. So no, I haven’t found myself wishing I could write about something that was closed off to me.
Q: Has anything come as a surprise since working for Black Library that you didn’t foresee since being published by them?
Annandale: What hadn’t sunk into my thick skull properly until I actually started writing for Black Library was that the enormous variety of characters, settings and even story formats would lead to the creative expansion I just mentioned. For example, Mephiston: Lord of Death represents the most sustained use of first-person and present tense I have ever attempted, and my story for The Mark of Calth involves some fragmentation of sentence structure of a sort that I haven’t tackled in a long time, and exercising that writing muscle again was enormously gratifying.
Q: Do you have a personal favorite, novel or series, currently published through Black Library by another author?
Annandale: I really couldn’t narrow things down to a favorite. If I picked one, I would instantly think, “Oh, but what about this one?” There have been so many times where I have literally cackled with pleasure while reading the books or listening to the dramas. I’ve been sitting here for the last half hour thinking of all the things that have delighted me in the Tome of Fire trilogy, in Eisenhorn, in the Path of the Eldar trilogy, in Know No Fear, in the Night Lords trilogy, in Fear to Tread, in Gunheads, and so on, and so on, and so on. Too much great stuff. So nope. Can’t do it. If I have to pick, I’m going to start weeping.
Q: Last question, would you ever be interested in writing for the Warhammer setting and not that of 40k ? If, so what rocky paths would you traverse down?
Annandale: I’m pretty busy in the 40K universe, much to my delight, but I would certainly be very happy to raise some hell in the Fantasy setting too. As to what paths I would follow, I’m sure whichever one presented itself would be fun, though I do have a fascination with all things reptilian.