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 Guy Haley about his new novel The Devastation of Baal, the first instalment in the brand new Space Marine Conquests series, which is available to buy right now.
Let’s get straight on with the interview – over to Guy.
Track of Words: What’s the elevator pitch summary for The Devastation of Baal?
Guy Haley: You know that massive battle between all the Blood Angels successors and Hive Fleet Leviathan that’s been mentioned in the lore for years? It’s that, in widescreen bookarama-vision.
ToW: Without spoiling anything, who are the main characters and what do we need to know about them?
GH: There are a lot of characters, but Commander Dante, Chief Librarian Mephiston, and Chapter Master Gabriel Seth of the Flesh Tearers are chief among them. Dante I have of course spent time with before, but the latter two are drawn from Darius Hinks and Andy Smillie’s depictions respectively. Hopefully my book carries on their stories in the same glorious manner of those writers.
ToW: Where and when is it set?
GH: The clue’s in the name! It takes place almost entirely in the Baal system, and mostly on Baal itself. It all happens just before the Great Rift opens, (and a little bit after, to be honest).
ToW: Is there anything that you’d recommend readers check out before reading this?
GH: I would recommend Dante, by Guy Haley (that’s me!). This book is not exactly a direct sequel to that novel, and you don’t need to read Dante to enjoy The Devastation of Baal, but it would enhance the experience. Darius’s Mephiston novel and Andy’s Flesh Tearers stories will also add to the fun.
ToW: Why this story? What made you want to write this in particular?
GH: Because it’s a massive battle that we’ve been gradually building up to in-universe for the last decade or so, it’s cataclysmic for one of the primarch gene lines (cough, Sanguinius, cough). I wanted to write a follow-up to Dante, as that finishes with the Chapter Master heading back home to defend his homeworld; I wanted to see more of the devastation than just a couple of paragraphs of colour text in a rulebook. For many reasons I was keen to tell this story.
ToW: What were your main influences when writing it?
GH: From outside of Warhammer 40,000, very few, but it is a book that resonates deeply with the background and it has a lot of connections and references to events and people 40k fans will be familiar with from both novels and the game.
ToW: Did you draw upon any real-life experience to help you plan or write it?
GH: Seeing as I’m not a genetically enhanced superhuman living on a death world, and nor have I ever fought off a limitless swarm of locust-like aliens driven on by an inimical, implacable alien will, not really…
ToW: How does the final product compare to your original concept?
GH: It’s a lot longer! An average Warhammer 40,000 book is between 80-110,000 words long. This one is nearly 130,000! It’s a big fat tome of Space Marine versus alien mayhem. Otherwise, it is almost exactly what I set out to write. Hopefully it has the emotional heft I was after.
ToW: Has anything changed much from your first ideas?
GH: If I could, I would have made it even longer still.
ToW: This is the first novel in the Space Marine Conquests series – can we expect something similar to the Space Marine Battles series with this book, or is there a different feel to it?
GH: Despite the name change, it’s Space Marines, having battles. I imagine you’ll get the same sort of vibe from it. I think the new series name is just to differentiate this run of books from Space Marine Battles, which all take place before the Great Rift. This is a new era, after all. Handily, the Devastation of Baal covers both periods. On the other hand, this is only the first, so who knows where the series will go?
ToW: How does this story compare to the rest of your work? Is it a familiar style, or a departure?
GH: Oh I don’t know, I’d ask the readers that. I have a range of styles, I like to think. They’re probably not as cunningly different as I want them to be. You can definitely tell I wrote it.
ToW: Do you have plans to continue any aspects of this story, or is it a standalone piece?
GH: Kind of. I would like to write more Dante novels, especially taking his story forward into the brave new world post Cicatrix Maledictum. But you get the whole of this particular event, start to finish, and what it means for the Blood Angels, in this one book.
Big thanks to Guy for taking the time to answer these questions. Keep an eye out for a review of The Devastation of Baal coming soon! If you fancy taking a look at some other Rapid Fire interviews, just click here.