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 Nick Kyme about his new novel Old Earth, book 47 in the epic Horus Heresy series, which is available to buy now. I was lucky enough to pick up a copy at the Black Library Weekender – once you’ve read this interview, check out my review by clicking on the link at the bottom.
Let’s get straight on with the interview – over to Nick.
Track of Words: What’s the elevator pitch summary for Old Earth?
Nick Kyme: Having returned from the dead, Vulkan undertakes a gruelling journey to reach Terra before the coming siege, braving both the war of the Shattered Legions and the daemon-haunted Webway.
ToW: Without spoiling anything, who are the main characters and what do we need to know about them?
NK: There are several well-known characters from the lore including Vulkan (of course) and Shadrak Meduson, and Barthusa Narek and Eldrad Ulthran. Vulkan travels with three Salamanders who will be known to anyone who has read previous novels: Barek Zytos, Atok Abidemi and Igen Gargo. They become Vulkan’s sword warriors, his inner circle. They are all war veterans and the only Salamanders who know that Vulkan is alive.
ToW: Where and when is it set?
NK: The book moves around, starting out on Mount Deathfire, before heading off into the void and eventually the Webway. Some of the story also takes place on Terra in the advent of the upcoming siege. It’s set post the events of Praetorian of Dorn and around the time of the end of the Webway War featured in The Master of Mankind.
ToW: Is there anything that you’d recommend readers check out before reading this?
NK: Read Deathfire (and Vulkan Lives beforehand, if you’ve not read that). Shattered Legions also provides some useful context for the Iron Hands strand of the novel.
ToW: Why the story of Vulkan and the Salamanders? What made you want to write about these guys in particular?
NK: It’s a wonderful tragedy for a Legion of noble heroes. That spoke to me. The losses they endured at Isstvan V, the courage it took to endure and carry on, the hope represented by their primarch. It felt uniquely human for an ostensibly inhuman band of brothers. Plus, all that fire mythology and warrior-smithery was just 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?
NK: I’d say the other books in the series that connect to it since it follows several characters’ stories who featured in them and brings those stories to a conclusion. The stunning art, and thirty something years of Warhammer 40,000 mythology was a big inspiration. I did a fair bit of research into volcanoes and volcanic phenomena, and read up on the mythic cycles of the classical word when thinking about Nocturne and its legends/prehistory.
ToW: What was the biggest challenge in writing this book, and finishing off the arc you started with Vulkan Lives?
NK: It was just that, the finishing off of an arc. Once you reach that point and know you have no further books to catch any dangling threads, the pressure is on to encapsulate everything in one last volume and for it to be succinct enough that it doesn’t overstay its welcome but long enough that it feels satisfying. There are a lot of diverse locations in this novel, and several hefty storylines to juggle. Blending those together, so that it felt like one overall story, connected to Vulkan and what came before in the other books, and tying up a bunch of threads from other novels was something I had to plan meticulously.
ToW: How does the final product compare to your original concept? Has anything changed much from your first ideas?
NK: It’s fairly well intact. I did have a subplot involving the Thunder Warriors that never made it to the final cut, partly because of space but mainly because I felt it no longer fit with the version of the novel that Old Earth finally became. Other than that, the plot, the characters, it all adhered to my original concept for the book.
ToW: How does this story compare to the rest of your work? Is it a familiar style, or a departure?
NK: I’m sometimes told I have quite a varied style that can change from book to book. I think this one feels like a mixture of the grittiness of Vulkan Lives, particularly in the Iron Hands parts of the story, and the more mythic overtones of Deathfire in the beneath Mount Deathfire chapters on Nocturne and the parts of the book that take place in the Webway.
ToW: Now that this particular arc is completed, do you have plans to revisit Vulkan and the Salamanders in the Heresy or elsewhere?
NK: I will, I am sure. In fact, there’s an upcoming short story I’ve written that delves a little into the relationship between Vulkan and the Emperor. I also plan on finishing off the Circle of Fire series, begun with Rebirth, that I had to put on hold for a while as I wrapped up some other projects. Beyond that, I can’t say for sure, but I would not be surprised if Vulkan and I cross paths again.
Big thanks to Nick for taking the time to answer these questions. If you’d like to read more about it, check out my review of Old Earth here! If you fancy taking a look at some other Rapid Fire interviews, just click here.