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.
For this slightly special instalment I spoke to David Guymer about his new Age of Sigmar audio drama box set, Realmslayer. This is a bit of a beast of a release, coming in at over 4 hours long, plus an extra disc of bonus material, not to mention featuring BRIAN BLESSED as Gotrek! To mark the occasion, David and I reached out on Twitter to gather a few extra questions on top of the usual ones. I’ve rolled David’s answers to those questions in below, and flagged which ones came via Twitter.
You can order Realmslayer right now, but before you do that let’s get to the questions and David’s answers.Track of Words: What’s the elevator pitch summary for Realmslayer?
David Guymer: The most famous Slayer of the World-That-Was makes his appearance in the Mortal Realms.
And he doesn’t like it much.
ToW: Without spoiling anything, who are the main characters and what do we need to know about them?
DG: As most people will probably be aware from the Warhammer Community site and from reading the product description on the Black Library page Gotrek returns without his longtime companion, Felix. Those of you who have read Slayer will be able to figure out why. The onus then is on Gotrek to seek Felix out, and make amends for his last unfulfilled oaths. I don’t want to give too much away here, but there will be plenty of big characters to help and hinder the Slayer along the way. Some new. A few old.
ToW: Where and when is it set?
DG: Gotrek first appears in a fyreslayer lodge in Aqshy, the Realm of Fire, but his quest to find Felix will take him to plenty of exciting places from there.
ToW: Is there anything that you’d recommend fans check out before listening to this?
DG: The previous Gotrek & Felix novels, I suppose. But if reading fourteen novels (excluding audios, anthologies, and three non-timeline entries) sounds like a bit too much background reading then just checking out the penultimate novels of the series Kinslayer and Slayer will show you how Gotrek got where he is in Realmslayer.
ToW: Why this story? What made you want to write this in particular?
DG: At the time of writing Slayer I didn’t know anything about the new setting that was being built to replace the old Warhammer, but I’ve been thinking about the return of Gotrek Gurnisson ever since I said my goodbyes. I never really pitched the idea to anyone, in fact it was Laurie Goulding who first suggested Realmslayer to me a couple of years ago, but it was too soon. Age of Sigmar was still new. It needed to establish its own tone and panoply of heroes before it could handle the return of a heavyweight like Gotrek. Now, Age of Sigmar has matured into its own setting.
Now, it’s ready.
ToW: What were the challenges of taking such a beloved character from the Old World and writing about them in the Age of Sigmar?
DG: The biggest challenge, and the first doubts that I had to contend with, was whether Gotrek could possibly work without Felix. The audio format may have given a little inadvertent help with that as the shot is wider, and you don’t really have one character in the role of viewpoint and narrator in the traditional prose sense. With the four disc format, I also decided that each individual story would bring a character who represented some aspect of what Felix was. Add in Gotrek’s ongoing quest to locate Felix and, well, you could argue that Gotrek isn’t here without him after all – Felix is very much present.
Bringing an Old World classic like Gotrek to the Age of Sigmar was honestly the best bit. He hates that dwarfs now ride magmadroths. He hates that you can’t get a Bugman’s anywhere. He hates that Teclis is a god now. From my very first thoughts on this I wanted Gotrek to represent the old fan who never got on board with the Age of Sigmar. He’s the guy who snarks on message boards, who closes his eyes and prophecies the doom of Games Workshop. He’s the guy who sets fire to his Tomb Kings. But he’s in the Age of Sigmar now, he’s got to deal with it, and in doing so, reluctantly acknowledges that there’s a place for him in it.
Twitter: What materials did you refer to when writing Realmslayer?
DG: The only thing I really referred too often was my trusty copy of Grudgelore, which I keep as safe beside me as any dwarf would his family kron. The Fyreslayer Battletome proved invaluable and I consulted my rather out-of-date Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves once or twice. I cracked open the Word documents of Kinslayer and Slayer for the odd factoid, but for most Gotrek & Felix stuff I can still rely on my memory.
Twitter: What’s up with Grimnir?
DG: Winding back to the events of the End Times and Slayer (SPOILERS ahead for those of you who’ve not read it) Grimnir allowed Gotrek to take his place, fighting for all eternity to keep the daemons from escaping the Realm of Chaos and overrunning the World-That-Was. Fast-forwarding to the Age of Myth and Grimnir, repaying an oath to Sigmar, gets himself killed fighting the God-Beast, Vulcatrix. His remains formed the ur-gold that fyreslayers use. Vulcatrix’s became eggs that hatched the magmadroths the fyreslayers ride into battle.
Many fyreslayers believe that the gathering of a sufficient quantity of ur-gold will herald Grimnir’s return. Can you see where I’m going here? Anyway, you can expect the world’s least successful Slayer to be a little miffed at how things turned out for the Old World.
ToW: How did writing this longer-form audio drama compare to a normal length audio?
DG: I guess it’s not too dissimilar to what I did with my Knights of Vengeance audio series. While you need the meta-narrative arc running across all four discs, like a short novel, each story still has to be relatively self-contained, so a bit more like a set of linked short stories.
ToW: How does the final product compare to your original concept? Has anything changed much from your first ideas?
DG: This bears almost zero resemblance to my original concept. I can barely even remember what my original concept was. I took that into a meeting with Nick Kyme, George Mann, and Black Library’s audio masters and, over the course of an afternoon, thrashed out the outline of four stories and a meta-narrative. It was a fantastic process that reminds me of how other, better, more famous authors, have described what goes on at the Horus Heresy meetings, with writers and editors pinging ideas between them. We did it here because Gotrek and Realmslayer is a big deal, but I wish I could experience that kind of collaborative experience more often. From that point though, the final product is pretty much identical.
ToW: What’s it like hearing Brian Blessed voice dialogue that you wrote?
And he wasn’t even my favourite.
That accolade goes to Steve Conlin, who voices an auric runeson, and actually made me cry with laughter at my own words.
Twitter: Were you tempted at any point to put in the line “Felix is Alive?” just because Brian Blessed was gonna be voicing it?
DG: Maybe not that one. But something very like it.
Twitter: Did you find yourself doing Brian Blessed impersonations as you wrote?
DG: Brian wasn’t actually cast in the part until after I’d finished, so no. The only actor (actress) whose voice I had in mind as I wrote was Penelope Rawlins who I’d heard in Titans’ Bane and personally petitioned to play a certain part in this.
ToW: How does this story compare to the rest of your work? Is it a familiar style, or a departure?
DG: I’ve done a lot of Gotrek & Felix. I’ve also done a lot of characters who are allowed to give the Age of Sigmar a bit of gentle ridiculing (see my Hamilcar short stories, and look out for the Champion of the Gods novel next year). In those respects it’s rather similar. But for the reasons mentioned above, the lack of Felix, it feels different somehow. It feels bigger.
ToW: Do you have plans to continue any aspects of this story?
DG: Robbie MacNiven’s Gotrek novella, The Bone Desert, is now common knowledge, so it’s probably safe to assume that there will be more Gotrek stories coming. I certainly hope to be allowed to write more.
Twitter: Will Felix get his own series of books?
DG: I’ve read a lot of fun rumours about Felix Jaeger. So let’s hope so. I think I read on Bell of Lost Souls that he’s the Celestant-Prime.
As always, I’d like to say thanks to David for taking the time to answer these questions. Thanks also to everyone who contributed additional questions to this interview!
Keep an eye out for a review of Realmslayer coming soon. In the meantime, there are still tickets available for the Black Library Weekender taking place over the 3rd and 4th November, where you can pick up copies of Realmslayer and even meet David AND Brian Blessed! I’ll see you there.
If you fancy taking a look at some other Rapid Fire interviews, just click here. If you’ve got any questions, comments or other thoughts please do let me know in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter, or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.