Welcome to this instalment of Rapid Fire, my ongoing series of quick interviews with Black Library authors talking about their releases. These are short and sweet interviews, with the idea being that each author will answer (more or less) the same questions – by the end of each interview I hope you will have a good idea of what the new book (or audio drama) is about, what inspired it and why you might want to read it.
In this instalment I asked Justin D. Hill about his new novel Cadia Stands, which is available to order now. Without further ado, over to Justin.
Track of Words: What’s the elevator pitch summary for Cadia Stands?
Justin D. Hill: This is the moment that the 40K universe changes forever. After ten thousand years, the Cadian Gate falls. This novel tells that story, and shows you what it means for the Cadians who survive.
ToW: Without spoiling anything, who are the main characters and what do we need to know about them?
JH: Well, there’s Ursarkar E. Creed, of course, and a few characters from his short stories! But this book is not his story. It’s the story of the common Cadian. There’s Colonel Rath Sturm, a tough as nails colonel, who survived Armaggeddon and who has rallied the final, shredded defenders of Kasr Myrok into a last stubborn resistance.
Major Isaiah Benedikt is one of those Cadians who has been away fighting across the Imperium, and never thought to come home to Cadia, especially under these circumstances.
And then there’s a raw, young Whiteshield, Arminka Lesk who’s trapped in her home town as the attack on Cadia starts. All she ever wanted was to get off Cadia, and she can’t believe her bad luck to be born at this moment in time, knowing now that this will never happen.
ToW: Where and when is it set?
JH: The broad span of the novel covers the Thirteenth Black Crusade, but the story is tightly focussed on the Fall of Cadia and the Cadians who survive. What does it mean for the Cadians to be orphaned? Will the Cadian Shock Troopers survive the loss of their planet…or will their fighting spirit be broken?
ToW: How did it feel writing about a pretty huge part of the biggest change in the 40k setting for…well, maybe for ever?
JH: I couldn’t quite believe my luck! I’ve been a gamer and an Imperial Guard player much longer than I’ve been a Black Library novelist so there was a constant presence looking over my shoulder, saying that if Cadia was going to be destroyed then it had to be done in the right way.
I was an active member of the Forces of Defence in the 2003 Eye of Terror Global Campaign. I wrote a fictional summing up of the campaign and my army – the Crinan IVth – was listed in the back of the campaign summary. So in a way it felt as though I’d already fought in the Thirteenth Black Crusade. I drew on that and all the old fluff to bring this story to life.
The various accounts of Abaddon’s crusade are all versions of the same story. In many ways Cadia Stands has more to do with the 2003 background than the 2016 army books, which tell the story of Cawl, Creed and Saint Celestine. In fact, my editor at Black Library specifically did not want a retelling of the 2016 campaign book, which was great, because I found the point of view of the older background really compelling reading and wanted to do it justice in novel form.
ToW: Is there anything that you’d recommend readers check out before reading this?
JH: I’ve been working with Creed for a few years now. You can get one of the short stories online but you’d probably be best off grabbing a copy of the Legends of the Dark Millennium: Astra Militarum anthology and flipping to p.261 for a novel worth of Creed material. This includes the novella, The Battle of Tyrok Fields, which tells some of this story from the viewpoint of Creed. On top of that you get some great stories from David Annandale, Braden Campbell and Toby Frost. What’s not to love?
ToW: Why this story? What made you want to write this in particular?
JH: It’s something of a long story…I was starting work on a series of novels about Creed a couple of years ago, but when Black Library editorial went through a couple of somersaults and my editor switched positions in Games Workshop, then the project went from a series of novels to a long short story.
When the dust settled I picked Creed up again in 2015, and was starting work on a common Cadian’s retelling of Tyrok Fields when news came to me that Cadia was in fact going to be destroyed. This meant some drastic changes to the novel’s outline, and rather than try and patch it together, I went back to the beginning and rewrote the book entirely. All the work I’d done imagining Cadia away from Tyrok Fields – the life, the kasr, the culture – served as a great backdrop for this novel. But the only character who survived was Arminka, the young female Whiteshield. I kept her. She’s cool.
ToW: What were your main influences when writing it? Did you draw upon any real-life experience to help you plan or write it?
JH: You can’t write Imperial Guard without calling out Dan Abnett. In fact Dan was one of the few authors to write about Cadia, in the Eisenhorn novels. Other Black Library writers who have inspired me are Graham Mcneill, whose Storm of Iron is one of my all-time faves, and Aaron Dembski-Bowden, who’s put his own particular stamp on the universe.
Cadia as a planet is surprisingly under-developed. I think there’s more about it in the 30K novels than 40K, so I got to flesh the world out, just in time to blow it all up. Other 40K sources? The 2003 campaign book was a great help for setting the tone. I also wanted to do something different and couldn’t think of a Cityfight setting since Necropolis, so I pulled out my old Cityfight campaign book and combed through that for inspiration.
It’s like a cake. You throw it all in and mix it up, and hope what comes out tastes good.
Real Life™: yeah, it’s all in there as well…!
ToW: How does the final product compare to your original concept? Has anything changed much from your first ideas?
JH: I was never quite sure of the end-note of the novel: by which I mean, how would the surviving Cadian Shock Troopers deal with the loss of their planet? I left this deliberately vague in my pitch to Black Library. I wanted to work it out through the characters as I wrote their story. That seemed the only authentic way of resolving that answer. They each come to their own conclusions.
ToW: How does this story compare to the rest of your work? Is it a familiar style, or a departure?
JH: The best way of describing this is a development. It’s my second full-length Black Library novel, so I’m learning there, but as Justin Hill, I’ve written ten novels, including the novelisation of the Oscar Winning sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. [And the excellent Viking Fire, which you can find a review of here.]
I approach each book separately. They each deserve their own style and voice. Hopefully, all the positives from my previous work have been brought to this. If this were the Sistine Chapel then Dan, Graham and others have done the work of Michaelangelo and painted the ceiling and walls with their work, but in the corner I’m there with my sharpies colouring in a postage stamp of the 40K universe. That’s pretty cool.
ToW: Do you have plans to continue any aspects of this story, or is it a standalone piece?
JH: The characters in this book have had a great reception in Black Library editorial. So much so that I’m already working on a short story and a second novel. The story should be out sometime this year, I hope, and the novel not long after that.
The post-Cadia 40K universe it’s exciting ground to be working in. Will the Cadians die out through attrition, or will they find some way of carrying their legacy forward? And then there are wider question such as how do other Imperial citizens respond to the fall of the Cadian Gate…
Many thanks to Justin for taking the time to answer these questions. I’m sure, like me, you can’t wait to read Cadia Stands and find out how the surviving Cadians cope – keep an eye out for a review coming soon.