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 CL Werner about his new Age of Sigmar novel Overlords of the Iron Dragon, the first novel to feature the Kharadron Overlords, which is available to buy right now.
Let’s get straight on with the interview – over to Mr Werner.
Track of Words: What’s the elevator pitch summary for Overlords of the Iron Dragon?
CL Werner: A Kharadron trade voyage seeks to overcome their dismal profits by searching for a vein of aether-gold revealed to them by the sole survivor of a duardin exploration fleet. Things go from bad to worse, however, when the crew of the Iron Dragon discovers that there is a Tzeentchian cult with its own designs for the aether-gold.
ToW: Without spoiling anything, who are the main characters and what do we need to know about them?
CLW: There are really three main characters. There is Brokrin, the captain of the Iron Dragon who is somewhat on his last string where his backers are concerned. He lost a fleet to a gigantic aerial monster and now the Skyhold is rampant with rumours that he and his ship are cursed. Brokrin is desperate to turn a profit from the voyage, but at the same time takes his responsibility to bring the ship and her crew back safely with extreme severity. He is continually trying to balance risk against potential reward.
Gotramm is a younger duardin, the captain of the privateers on the Iron Dragon. He has his own reasons for needing the voyage to turn a healthy profit – with a good share he intends to marry his rinn back at the Skyhold. He is both ambitious and principled, which leads him to some degree of internal conflict over the course of the story.
The final member of the core cast is Drumark, the sergeant of the Grundstok thunderers. He is a brash and rather uncouth sort. Bold and brave, but ultimately fairly simple in his outlook.
ToW: Where and when is it set?
CLW: The story is set in the skies of Chamon and takes place after the Realmgate Wars novels. Things have calmed down, slightly, but the threat of Chaos remains prevalent and pernicious.
ToW: Is there anything that you’d recommend readers check out before reading this?
CLW: It would probably not be remiss to check out some of the other novels and stories taking place after the Realmgate Wars. In particular there is the first part of the Eight Lamentations series: Spear of Shadows by Joshua Reynolds which provides more of a look at non-Stormcast protagonists within the Age of Sigmar.
ToW: Why this story? What made you want to write this in particular?
CLW: The story as it unfolds offers plenty of weird and exotic locales inhabited by strange and terrifying monsters: just the sort of thing that I enjoy writing. I think the story, as mentioned before, offers a more grounded (if that is appropriate to say when dealing with sky-ships) view of the Mortal Realms than the reforged perspective of the Stormcasts can provide. The Kharadron aren’t fighting a divine war, they’re just trying to turn a healthy profit.
ToW: What were your main influences when writing it? Did you draw upon any real-life experience to help you plan or write it?
CLW: Sadly one of the more odious characters in the novel was based on a former co-worker! Fortunately nobody from Black Library!
So far as influences go, whenever you are doing an adventure story with weird monsters and a ship, the obvious inspirations are the Sinbad stories and Homer’s The Odyssey. You really can’t go too far wrong when looking back to the old masters.
ToW: This is your third Age of Sigmar novel, after Wardens of the Everqueen and Lord of Undeath – how are you finding writing about these brand new realms and, in this case, a brand new faction?
CLW: The biggest thing about the Mortal Realms is, simply, that they are BIG. Each of them is many times the size of Warhammer’s Old World, so much so that you really have no limitations so far as your setting goes. You can create entire new cities or mountain ranges, bizarre forests of singing crystal and swamps with liquid copper instead of water. Whatever will benefit the narrative and can be imagined is at least potentially viable when it comes to the Mortal Realms. It is at once both very liberating and very intimidating to have that amount of freedom.
The Kharadron Overlords are a great faction. Writing them was a blast and they have a unique style about their technology that is very evocative. Describing all their fantastical science and especially their dazzling array of weaponry made for some exotic battles. I also like their mindset: profit-driven but at the same time bound by the ponderous Kharadron Code. They are quite a bit unlike the dwarfs of Warhammer while at the same time evoking some elements of the same archetype. I found them, at least, to have this amazing ability to be both familiar and new at one and the same time.
ToW: How does the final product compare to your original concept? Has anything changed much from your first ideas?
CLW: The final story is often a bit different from the initial concept and Overlords of the Iron Dragon was no exception. I had a minor character who became much more prominent in the final draft, a major character who receded into the background as a supporting character, and another character who largely evaporated entirely from the story. Maybe the hardest thing was switching the narrative to where a character I really enjoyed and became attached to has a different denouement than originally planned. I can’t really go into that too far without hitting spoiler territory.
ToW: How does this story compare to the rest of your work? Is it a familiar style, or a departure?
CLW: I think the closest Overlords of the Iron Dragon comes to anything I have done before would be Wulfrik, and in that sense only in the sense that both are voyages that progress from one location to another and continually present the heroes with daunting challenges at every turn. Overall, I am not certain it is fair to call it a full departure from my previous work but there is a bit more of my familiar style in play than, say, a story like Wardens of the Everqueen.
ToW: Do you have plans to continue any aspects of this story, or is it a standalone piece?
CLW: I am not sure that I can fully answer this final question. There is a prequel short story that may be appearing soon. There are aspects of the story I’d like to return to, but it certainly works as a standalone.
Big thanks to Clint for taking the time to answer these questions. Keep an eye out for a review of Overlords of the Iron Dragon coming soon! If you fancy taking a look at some other Rapid Fire interviews, just click here.