Welcome to this instalment of Rapid Fire, my ongoing series of quick interviews with Black Library authors talking about their new 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 or listen to it.
In this instalment I spoke to David Guymer about his latest novel, in the Horus Heresy Primarchs series – Ferrus Manus: Gorgon of Medusa, which is available to buy in limited edition hardback right now.
Without further ado let’s crack on with the interview – over to David.
Track of Words: What’s the elevator pitch summary for Ferrus Manus: Gorgon of Medusa?
David Guymer: Ferrus Manus stakes his claim to be named Warmaster.
ToW: Without spoiling anything, who are the main characters and what do we need to know about them?
DG: With a book like Ferrus Manus (or Headtaker or Thorgrim…) the other characters sort of exist to orbit the guy with his name on the cover and show off his traits.
There’s a few characters in here that readers will likely recognize – Amadeus DuCaine, Gabriel Santar, Solomon Demeter, Gaius Caphen, and of course Ferrus Manus himself. On top of that there’s Moses Trurakk, an Iron Hands’ fighter pilot, Tull Riordan, an Army doctor, and Akurduana, a captain of the Emperor’s Children who is named in the Forgeworld source books but who I had particular fun embellishing. Then there’s an Ultramarine, a Thousand Son, a few Gardinaal, three more Primarchs and possibly even one Emperor.
There’s a few more characters in here than I’d normally try to get away with.
ToW: Where and when is it set?
DG: Apart from the first few pages it’s set almost exclusively on and above the planet Gardinaal Prime, the capital of a non-compliant human civilization.
It’s set at the height of the Great Crusade, many years before Ullanor. It’s a time when everything is going right for the Imperium (on the surface at least!), but also one of great change. Primarchs are still being rediscovered, the Fist of Iron is still shiny and new, Mars is slowly supplanting Luna and the Urals as the engine of the Imperium, and within the Legion Medusans are starting to displace Terrans. It struck me as the perfect moment in time to show Ferrus Manus at the height of his powers.
ToW: Is there anything that you’d recommend readers check out before reading this?
DG: The beauty and the sadness of this book is that Ferrus Manus hasn’t had a great deal of attention before this. For obvious reasons. Reading Fulgrim though would give you an outside chance at getting at least one joke.
ToW: Why this story? What made you want to write this in particular?
DG: I wanted to write about Ferrus Manus because I’ve always had a thing for characters/races/etc. that I feel have been underdeveloped or unfairly treated by the lore. It makes me sympathize with them and just makes me want to dig deeper and find out more. I don’t think any character has been less fairly treated by the lore than Ferrus Manus.
Why this story? Using the Fall of the Lords of Gardinaal from the Forgeworld supplements was actually Laurie Goulding’s idea, but Gardinaal Prime is just a setting. What the story is really about is Ferrus Manus. It’s about his attitude towards his brothers, his father, his children, the mortals he commands, and his ability to lead, whether he has the temperament to be Warmaster.
ToW: What were your main influences when writing it? Did you draw upon any real-life experience to help you plan or write it?
DG: I was initially going to answer, ‘hell no, are you crazy?’ but then I thought about it a little bit and thought, ‘well maybe a little.’
Readers of my work for 40K have often commented on the quality of the science in those books. As a former scientist, I like to think that’s no accident. Exploring a Warhammer or 40K setting, or even a military fantasy of my own devising, from a doctor’s perspective, was something I’ve been wanting to do for ages and Tull Riordan (based on the doctor from Battlestar Galactica) did scratch that itch for me. I also did a ton of fun research to write Moses Trurakk’s aerial combat scenes, even going so far as to watch Top Gun for the very first time.
ToW: How does it feel to have written the first ever novel focusing on Ferrus Manus – exciting? Terrifying? A mixture of both, and more?
DG: No terror, weirdly. There was a bit of terror writing the last Gotrek and Felix novels, but not here, maybe because he’s had so little written about him. I think the terror in these situations largely arises from getting the character wrong somehow or omitting some vital fact that an earlier author has mentioned.
I’m much more nervous about the other Primarch novel I’m hoping to be writing…
ToW: How does the final product compare to your original concept? Has anything changed much from your first ideas?
DG: Some novels change drastically as I write them, while others tend to stick more-or-less to the blueprint. This is one of the latter. There was one little bit in the middle where, once I got there, the plan seemed a bit pedestrian, and it needed the stakes raising for one or two of my characters. It worked, and gave the characters a lot of valuable stuff to talk about. One of them under some duress!
Nowadays, I tend to sketch out my novels only in the simplest terms and plot in detail just two or three chapters ahead. I find that gives me the best of both worlds, freedom in the moment and the safety net of knowing more-or-less where I’m going.
ToW: How does this story compare to the rest of your work? Is it a familiar style, or a departure?
DG: All my books are a little bit different.
My new editor recently marvelled that Hamilcar Bear-Eater and Kardan Stronos could be written by the same person, or that I could just switch between the two like that. The Hamilcar and Headtaker stories are definitely closer to ‘my’ voice, and with other novels it probably takes me 10,000 words or so before I settle into a consistent style and tone.
Writing Horus Heresy though is something different again. Those books always feel more introspective to me, a bit more thoughtful and a bit less action-driven. The ability to reference real world places is a really subtle but nicely effective way of making the Horus Heresy feel more poignant, as if this is something that could happen and we’d better take note. I like to think I’ve followed in that fine tradition with Gorgon of Medusa.
ToW: Do you have plans to continue any aspects of this story, or is it a standalone piece?
DG: I’d love to write more, and I wrote a short story called A Lesson in Iron for the Black Library Weekender event anthology, but this is probably a one-off.
Huge thanks as always to David for taking the time to answer these questions. Keep an eye out for a review of Ferrus Manus: Gorgon of Medusa once the standard edition is released! If you fancy taking a look at some other Rapid Fire interviews, just click here.