Guy kindly agreed to be interviewed for the Four Dads of the Apocalypse, and what a cracker. He has also kindly sent some photos of his miniatures, which are fantastic! Without further ado, I give you writer, veteran hobbyist and dad, Guy Haley...
You are one of the increasing number of writers that write both Warhammer 40k and Fantasy novels, do you have a favourite?
Not really, and actually I don’t have favourites within the settings either. I’m usually assigned work to write, as I know the lore well and can turn books around quickly. That suits me just fine. The fun for me is exploring the different parts of the universes, and coming up with ways to make them seem real.
Did you play these games before you started writing about them?
Yeah, I’m a long time hobbyist. My dad made his own toy soldiers and was a toy soldier dealer, so he got me into wargaming. I used to watch him and his best mate play. I probably really annoyed them, actually, but they let me roll some dice. Later, dad got me and my brother Dungeons and Dragons. Not long after, his war-gaming buddy had us all round to play Warhammer. This was the first edition. It was just Warhammer then! That was in 1983, I was ten years old, and I was hooked. I’ve played pretty much every game GW has made since.
Did you spend a lot of time hobbying before you had your son?
It’s varied throughout my life, depending on circumstances. I’ve never completely given up though. There was a period when I was living in Poland after university where I had no hobby equipment, but even then I relied on White Dwarf to get my fix. I was always very slow in painting armies, but around the mid-90s I sped up. While I was editing White Dwarf between 2004 and 2007 I did a ton of hobby, then absolutely no painting for two years as I was renovating a house and my son, Benny was born. I had nowhere to paint, and no time. I did still play though. Getting my paints down from the attic was a big moment.
What have been the biggest changes to your hobby time since your son came along?
Aside from the pause, none! I probably do more hobby now than I did before my son Benny was born, actually. Mostly because I am more disciplined with my time.
How do you find the time to do the day job, look after the family and still get a bit of hobby time in?
Because I’m a writer, my day is very flexible. I often do a little bit of hobby during the day, usually only ten minutes or so, but spraying a bunch of models for painting later that night can save valuable time. For example, today I had a tiny bit of weathering to put on my Numinous Occulum for Age of Sigmar to get it finished. I did it before I sat down to work this morning. I usually paint in the evening a few times a week for a couple of hours. I have this terrible fear of wasting time. I find it very hard to sit still and do nothing. By painting, I can be doing something that is still creative, but uses a different part of my mind altogether to the writing part. I used to read a lot, but can’t do so much now, as it is too similar to the day job.
My wife is often out working in the evenings. Going out can be hard, so I wargame at home. I try to get one game in a week of GW stuff, usually with my longstanding buddy Steven - we’ve been playing AoS for the last 18 months - and I play historical war-games with my dad up at his place. At the moment we're playing a lot of Saga by Gripping Beast.
Does your son get involved with the hobby? Did you encourage them to?
Benny and I play a lot of games together, of all types. Marvel Dice Masters, X-Wing, Mars Attacks, Star Realms, Pokemon, King of Tokyo, Talisman, Risk, Playstation 4 fare and more. We got Blood Bowl at Warhammerfest, and we had our first game yesterday, which was a blast. He’s tried Age of Sigmar. I haven’t encouraged him to get into the GW hobby much yet. For starters, I think it’s important to let them find their own interests. But also the craft aspect of the hobby is a high barrier to someone his age. He’s only nearly nine, so he doesn’t quite have the manual dexterity yet to paint the models. I'm an okay painter, and unfortunately, I think this can be off-putting for kids. He tried to paint a model, and his reaction to his own efforts was “This looks rubbish compared to yours.” I’ve seen it happen with my friend’s son. His lad plays GW games avidly, but doesn’t paint.
I would love for Benny to get into painting and modelling as it is hugely rewarding, but it has to be handled carefully or he’ll get disheartened
What’s the best thing about his involvement from your point of view?
I just love playing games. It’s a really cool thing to share! My wife went back to work when he was six months old, and I stayed at home while I began my writing career. We didn’t intend to do it that way, it just worked out like that, so he and I have spent a lot of time together. We’ve always done activities together, especially outdoors. Gaming is our indoor shared interest.
Did you always want to be a Black Library author?
I always wanted to be an author. Mostly, I am ashamed to say, because I thought the lifestyle looked brilliant. I’ve been paid to write since I was 23, that’s twenty years now (sheesh). I was a journalist and magazine editor to start with, but the end goal was always to be an author. However, I had no ambition to work for BL. Leaving aside the fact that it didn’t exist until I was well into my twenties, before I went to work at GW HQ, I was warned off writing for Black Library by a publisher. She’d been very kindly mentoring me and gave me loads of great advice, so I took it seriously. Her opinion was because tie-in fiction wasn’t very well respected back then, it was hard to move from writing licensed material. There was a general perception in the wider publishing community that it was of lower quality than “real” writing.
I was never a fan of tie-in books myself either, but not because of the quality which, like all forms of writing, varies wildly. I always hated that tie-ins weren’t canonical in their universes. You’d read a novel about Han Solo or whoever, but then someone would, eventually, make a movie or a TV show that would totally ignore what was in the book.
So although the opportunity was there, I was quite resistant to writing for BL. Bear in mind, that I wanted to be published more than anything and was terrified of torpedoing my career. Eventually I saw I was being silly and submitted the pitch for Baneblade when the model came out. Then nothing happened for three years!
Luckily for me, I got a publishing contract for my first book, Reality 36, just as the last magazine I was working on went bust. By then I had relaxed a lot. I’d had a couple of short stories published. Things were coming together, BL got in touch with me about Baneblade, and a couple of weeks after getting my first contract, I got my second with them.
I’m really glad I ended up working for BL. I find it very satisfying. Our books have developed into something away from traditional tie-in fiction. They are genuine, living parts of the universes that influence the background. I love the games, I love the books.
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…
Years ago the BBC rang up SFX, the magazine I was on at the time, to find someone who could talk about tabletop games, specifically GW. I was sent along to be interviewed. The BBC journalist had done what journalists do, and devised a story that they wanted an expert to justify. The story was that Games Workshop was doing really well, but couldn’t possibly survive in the face of the increasing popularity of video games. When I said something different, they asked me if I could change my opinion! I refused. Here’s why.
All these games are part of the same thing. There has been a revolution in gaming since the 1970s. Computer games, tabletop, RPGs and boardgames have all flourished together. Obviously, video games have a far wider appeal as they do not require so much effort. But there will always be folks who are drawn to tabletop. The craft element is key to its appeal. If I play Mass Effect all the way to the end, I have a moment of satisfaction, then nothing to show for it. Videogames can be a hollow experience. Collecting models, painting them, putting them on a shelf, creating new creatures to beat my opponents… I have something at the end of all that that I can be proud of. Games are social experiences. The face to face aspect of tabletop games is important. It’s a great way to get together with your friends and forget about the world for a while. You’ll never sell twenty-five million copies of a war-game, but they’re not going anywhere.
It’s a common opinion, and looks eminently justifiable, even obvious. But it is completely erroneous. We live in a golden age of tabletop games right now.
Who is your favourite character in any of your novels and why?
Skarsnik. He’s basically me.
Many thanks again for taking the time for this interview Guy.
You'll be able to meet Guy at Warhammer World on the 17th June a he is signing copies of Dark Imperium. You can also follow him on Twitter:
theerrantwolf.blogspot.co.uk - a blog dedicated to The Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40k - Get in touch on Twitter: @davetgent