Monday, 12 June 2017

David Guymer Interview

This week I have another fantastic interview for your reading pleasure.

Looking at the Black Library catalogue, David Guymer has a growing number of titles to his name, covering pretty much every aspect of the Warhammer and Warhammer 40k universe, including well known names such as Gotrek 7 Felix and The Beast Arises series. I'm sure you'll be as interested as I was to know what inspired him to become a Black Library author and how he balances that with family life and hobby time...

The Eye of Medusa

You are one of the few writers that write both Warhammer 40k and Fantasy novels, do you have a favourite? Did you play these games before you started writing about them?

Well I don’t think I’d want to do either to the exclusion of the other, but if I had to pick a favourite then I’d pick Fantasy. 

It was Warhammer Fantasy (4th edition) that first got me into the hobby, and even after picking up Warhammer 40,000 my old school gang never got into it in the same way. The exception was Necromunda – we took to that in a big way! I still play it now. More than that though, I do think of myself more as a Fantasy writer than an SF writer or even just ‘a writer’. I find that I can wing it a little bit with Fantasy. As a scientist by trade I make more of an effort with 40K when it comes to getting the details right. Guy Haley (a great SF writer) once said that he likes to have at least one piece of genuine science in each of his books. Guy’s 40K books are undoubtedly a good deal better than mine, but you’ll find more genuine science than that over here!

Did you spend a lot of time hobbying before you had kids? What have been the biggest changes to your hobby time since they came along?

I started when I was 12. I remember that because the lead blisters had age limit 13 printed on the back and collecting Warhammer felt like sticking something to The Man. I collected Skaven. My friend collected Chaos Dwarfs. The two races, incidentally, featured in White Dwarf 182. Impressionable or what.

In addition to about 15,000 points of skaven, my Imperial Guard, Blood Bowl team, etc, etc, I collected and played the Star Trek CCG and did a lot of roleplay, predominantly WFRP and later World of Darkness.

No geek stone was left unturned.

I dropped out of pretty much everything though when I went to university, mainly because I couldn’t cart 15,000 points of skaven from Lowestoft to Aberystwyth. I did managed to pick up again after I graduated, but never quite with the same breadth or scale.

The main difference since my daughter came along (she’s 3 now) is my approach to the hobby. The main enjoyment I used to take from it was in anal army design (not power-gaming, just the simple pleasure of figuring out where that spare seven and a half points could go…), with actual battles coming a close second. My models were rarely painted. Now it’s more difficult for me to find a free afternoon or an actual person to play against, so I devote most of my hobby time now to assembling and painting. 

It’s worth noting that the GW kits are a lot more complex than they were when I was 12! And I do still enjoy pouring over Army Books and devising imaginary armies.

Ikit Claw - my first ever miniature 
How do you find the time to do the day job, look after the family and still get a bit of hobby time in?

You want the dark secret. Well come close. Closer. The secret is…

The secret is I really don’t find the time. Not nearly as much I’d like anyway. If I’ve made my word target for the week and I’m happy with the quality, then I’ll do a little painting over the weekend. Family commitments permitting. The last time I properly gamed though was when my parents organised a family holiday – me, my sister and her boyfriend naturally all packed our Necromunda gangs!

Does your daughter get involved with the hobby? Did you encourage her to?

My daughter was certainly fascinated by the Necromunda table on that trip, but she’s a little young yet to embrace the magic. I’ve read to her from Malus Darkblade and taken her to GW stories when I do signings and tried to sneak Warhammer Armies: Skaven into her hands, but nothing’s quite sunk in yet.

What’s the best thing about your daughter's involvement from your point of view?

She likes to play with the Ikit Claw and Headsplitter miniatures that I keep on my desk alongside a 4-star dragonball and a massive to-read pile as writing mascots. That’s kind of… sweet, even if she’s going to snap Ikit’s banner pole one of these days.

Headsplitter - moved onto my desk as a writing mascot when I started the Blood Bowl story 'Last Sniff of Glory' and remained there ever since
Did you always want to be a Black Library author?
It was never something I’d imagined I could do.

I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer, although in hindsight the pre-requisites were always there. Massive geek. Voracious reader. The germ of an idea and the desire to write it didn’t come to me until I was 22-23 and working towards my PhD (Microbiology, in case anyone’s interested) and it was several years after that, after months of unemployment, that I made a start on that fantasy novel. That particular gift to the world remains unfinished, but I think I owe it to myself to get back to it one day

I discovered the Black Library submission window by chance. A random googling took me to Bill King’s blog and a link, which I followed. I saw there were just 2 weeks still open and almost gave up thinking that wasn’t nearly enough time, but then just sat down and wrote the damned thing and, crucially, submitted it.

I’ve been massively fortunate.

Games Workshop is one of the three universes that shaped me.

All I need now is for Forgotten Realms to produce more fiction, the publishers of the Star Trek novels to start responding to my e-mails, and I’ll really consider myself lucky

Why do you think we and our kids still love traditional wargames, considering the ever increasing popularity off electronic games? It’s not like 40k is ‘pick up and play’ when you have to buy, assemble and paint he miniatures before you can even play a game…

I’ve sunk about (checking my Steam account…) 92 hours into Total War: Warhammer and am still trying to club together enough people for a Blood Bowl 2 league (Seriously, contact me on Facebook or Twitter if you’re interested) so this is a question I can’t answer.

My guess is that it’s a social thing. When you’re around a table, you’re not just playing against other human beings, you’re playing with them, with armies that you’ve bought and made and no online game can replicate that. There’s a reward in creating an army, or painting a really spectacular character, and even after twenty years of gaming there’s still nothing like seeing two hand-painted armies lined up across a terrain-covered board, ready to do battle.

My Necromunda gang - or those of them who are fully painted... (note the Catachan sergeant!)

Who is your favourite character in any of your novels and why?
This is probably the toughest question you could ask. Every book comes with its own favourites so it’s difficult to look beyond the last book or my current work in progress and be objective.

I think though that my favourite character is one who takes the plot out of my hands and does his own thing, regardless of what I had in mind. So that would be Gotrek and Queek. 

I always remember this one scene in Headtaker where the Sharpwit character is trying to persuade Queek of the need to do a particular thing, because his plan is awesome, but what that really is was me trying to persuade Queek of the need to do this particular thing. Characters like that will force you, the writer, to stop and think at times, but they’ll almost write themselves at others, and your books will be a wilder and less predictable ride for them being in it.

Just read Headtaker and find out what I mean.

Many thanks for your time David.

You can follow David on Twitter @WarlordGuymer - a blog dedicated to The Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40k - Get in touch on Twitter: @davetgent

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