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 spoke to Robbie MacNiven about his new White Scars novel The Last Hunt, which is available to buy right now.
Let’s get straight on with the interview – over to Robbie.
Track of Words: What’s the elevator pitch summary for The Last Hunt?
Robbie MacNiven: Tyranids attack a White Scars Honour World – a place they’re sworn to defend – and the forces of the Khagan answer the call without realising that there are more sinister forces involved…
ToW: Without spoiling anything, who are the main characters and what do we need to know about them?
RM: The main lead is Joghaten Khan, Master of Blades and commander of the White Scars’ 4th company. He’s always been accused of being more of a fighter than a thinker, and is coming to terms with the fact that the Chapter’s librarians – the Stormseers – have singled him out for a very special task.
Related to that is Qui’sin, the Stormseer attached to Joghaten’s company. He’s young for his rank, but possesses wisdom in advance of his years. Guiding Joghaten from warrior to leader soon becomes the least of his worries, given the dark forces at play.
ToW: Where and when is it set?
RM: Darkand, a steppe world, just following on from the events of the Gathering Storm. The Great Rift is a recent event and Guilliman’s return is still a rumour in some parts of the Imperium.
ToW: Is there anything that you’d recommend readers check out before reading this?
RM: There’s no required reading, but if you like the White Scars (and you should, they’re an awesome Chapter) definitely check out Chris Wraight’s Horus Heresy work. I’d argue you should read Scars even if you’ve not read any other Heresy books.
ToW: Why this story? What made you want to write this in particular?
RM: In a way it seemed like a natural progression to go from the Carcharodons to the White Scars – both are relatively little-known Chapters with a feral streak. In truth though the White Scars are half a galaxy apart from the Carcharodons and, indeed, another ‘tribal’ bunch they’re often compared to, the Space Wolves.
The idea that they’re a bit of a savage crew is really just a misunderstanding bred from ignorance of their culture. They’re one of the most sophisticated of all Space Marine Chapters, so delving into that was really interesting.
I’ve also had a soft spot for tyranids ever since their 3rd edition codex. Warriors of Ultramar was the first Black Library novel I ever read, so I always wanted to feature them as antagonists someday.
ToW: What were your main influences when writing it? Did you draw upon any real-life experience to help you plan or write it?
RM: The White Scars have a load of cultural cues. They’re not just a straight Mongolian lift – there are also elements of Hunnic, Chinese, Korean and Japanese history, art and traditions in there, thanks in no small part to Chris Wraight’s aforementioned work.
I was aided to a degree by the fact that I’m a history student, and already had some reference regarding the Mongolian and Hun background. I tried to expand that as much as possible with other east Asian elements. That, and I read every piece of preexisting White Scars fiction I could get my hands on!
Sadly, I’ve only ridden a motorbike once, so I didn’t have much reference for that, but I did my best!
ToW: How does the final product compare to your original concept? Has anything changed much from your first ideas?
RM: It was possibly the most fluid novel I’ve written to date – there were a few changes, and some big plot points that were introduced as I worked on it. In that sense the finished product is fairly different from the original pitch, but I don’t want to spoil anything!
ToW: How does this story compare to the rest of your work? Is it a familiar style, or a departure?
RM: I think it’s hard to pin down my style given that I’m still pretty new to all this, and hopefully it’s still developing! For the most part though I feel as though it’s pretty recognisably Robbie-ish. I particularly enjoyed all the gruesome ‘nid descriptions – watch out for more of them in the future!
ToW: Do you have plans to continue any aspects of this story, or is it a standalone piece?
RM: Currently it’s standalone, but with an eye to a series. I’d certainly like to revisit them in the future, but that’s at least partly dependent on sales. You know what to do, folks!
Big thanks to Robbie for taking the time to answer these questions. Keep an eye out for a review of The Last Hunt coming soon! If you fancy taking a look at some other Rapid Fire interviews, just click here.