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12/11/2016

An early holiday present: surprise interview with William King!

Holidays are coming, but on my little slice of internet they're already here. I present to you an interview with one of the biggest legends of fantasy writing - William King.

Now before you'll read the interview itself, I just wanted to say that for me, getting interested in Warhammer would be impossible without the classic "Gotrek and Felix" series, about the infamous Old World duo. Before that I only really knew a bit of elven lore and... that was prestty much it. After reading the first two omnibuses however, I've understood that there is so much more to Warhammer Fantasy, than just army book. Novels, short stories, the classic RPG's - it all became known to me, beacuse many years ago I've decided to pick up two big books in a bookstore in London, and give them a go. It was a choice that I've never regretted. So I wanted to say: thank you Mr. King. Thank you for bringing so many people into this hobby with your talent and writing skill. We owe you a lot.

Mainly those two, legendary chaps!
Now... just read the interview, and I hope you'll like it.

Xathrodox86: What was your inspiration for creating the characters of Gotrek and Felix?

William King: They came from running a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Campaign back when the game first came out in 1986/7. The most popular player character type with my players were slayers. When I got involved in the original Warhammer fiction project,  a dwarven slayer seemed like a good choice.

My first thought was to make Felix an elf to get the maximum chalk and cheese comedy from the pairing, but somehow a human just seemed to work better. After many years of reflection, I can see why. A human character provides a baseline point of view character for the reader who is probably easier to empathise with, and it certainly made it easier to explain the background of the Empire and point out Gotrek’s quirks. This would have been a lot more difficult with two non-human leads.

Xathrodox86: Did you had to convince your editors to let you write that iconic duo the way you wanted?

William King: None at all. Everybody really liked them from the get-go.

Xathrodox86: What is your favorite Slayer novel/story? Which one was the most fun to write?

William King: My favourite is Daemonslayer. I brooded on it for many years before I wrote it. It’s between it and Skavenslayer which was the most fun to write.

Xathrodox86: Did you had an ending in mind, when you began writing their tales? If so, what was it?

William King: I had no real ending in mind when I started, and I came up and discarded many alternative endings while I was writing.

Xathrodox86: Would Felix ever settle down and start a family? Would it be possible for him to lead a normal life, away from adventures?

William King: Yes. I think he would. The main reason Felix went adventuring was because he was forced into it by his oath to Gotrek. If under any circumstances he was released from the oath, he would probably head back to the Empire, settle down and write up his adventures. I see him as being a bit like Bilbo or Sam in Lord of the Rings in this respect. I think he would probably be nostalgic about his adventures and miss them but as he got older comfort would be more and more important to him. I speak from experience here.

Xathrodox86: You've also written the "Space Wolf" saga. Where did you seek inspiration for the character of Ragnar?

William King: I worked on the original Space Wolf army book with Andy Chambers. Ragnar was one of the characters. He seemed like a logical one to tackle when GW asked me to write a 40K novel.

The main thing about Ragnar was he was not really a typical Space Marine or even Space Wolf. He was always a bit of an outsider, mainly because it is usually easier to explain an exotic society or organization such as the Space Wolves from the point of view of someone who is slightly out of sync with it. This may seem to contradict some of what I said about Felix and the origins of Felix and Gotrek above, but Felix is an outsider in his own way too.

Xathrodox86: Which character from Ragnar's saga, apart from himself, was the most fun for you to write? Which one was the most interesting?

William King: There was a demon in the second book, Botchulaz, I think his name was, what always amused me. Aside from that, Sven and most of the flawed Space Wolves in the fourth book. Usually it’s the ones who make me laugh who are my favourites. That’s why we saw so much of Grey Seer Thanquol in the fantasy stuff.

Xathrodox86: What was the main difference in writing a posthuman, like Ragnar and ordinary men and women, like those in your "Macharius" trilogy?

William King: With the Space Wolves, the main difference is their senses, which are so much keener than a human’s. That affects the texture and style of the writing most. There’s also the fact that they are basically super-heroes. They exist in a different and more epic sort of world from normal people.

Xathrodox86: Lord Solar Macharius was one of the greatest commanders in the Imperium's history. What was your main goal, when you were writing his tales? To showcase his greatness, or the inevitable end of his dreams, just like it was in the case of his predecessor, Alexander the Great?

William King: I used Alexander as a model because he actually was the original model of Macharius. What I was trying to do in the series was show just how awesomely horrific the 41st millennium is, if you are an ordinary human soldier. It’s a sort of cross between Lovecraft and WW1. Not sure I managed it!

Xathrodox86: Was it especially difficult for you to write the characters of Tyrion and Teclis, them being elves and all? Where did you seek the inspiration for their stories?

William King: The thing with non-humans is they usually take a bit more thought to portray than a human. With Felix, mostly I just asked myself what I would do in any given situation (if I was a lot braver and better looking than I actually am.) With Tyrion and Teclis, I had to think what does it mean to be a semi-immortal demigod. I was fortunate in that I worked on the original High Elves book with Jes Goodwin and a number of other very talented and thoughtful people. We spent a lot of time trying to imagine a feudal, magic driven society peopled by extremely long-lived people, so I had some answers. If I had to point to two sources of inspiration for Tyrion and Teclis, it would be Michael Moorcock’s fantasy stuff and Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword. Weirdly, when I was writing Tyrion, I used to ask myself what James Bond would do.

Xathrodox86: You've also included the character of Teclis in "Giantslayer", your last Gotrek and Felix novel. Do you think that in the end, Gotrek respected the elven mage for all his work in defeating the minions of Chaos? Would it be possible for them to work together, in the future?

William King: They could work together against a common enemy, sure, but at the end of the day Gotrek is a dwarf and Teclis is an elf. In the Warhammer world that carries a lot of baggage. Respect? I am not sure Gotrek really respects anything except perhaps his commitment to his oath. He’s always struck me as a bit of a nihilist.

Xathrodox86: Did you ever worked on any kind of RPG? Did you play them?

William King: I’ve played RPGs since 1977. I’ve no idea of how many different RPGs I have played but it’s a lot. The last game I played was Robert Schwalb’s brilliant Shadow of the Demon Lord, a couple of months back. Mostly I play World of Warcraft these days.

I worked on The Mutant Chronicles RPG and Waste World. Recently I wrote some fiction for Shadow of the Demon Lord. I also backed the Kickstarter. I really like the world.

Xathrodox86: Are you going to write more fiction for Black Library? If so, what will it be?

William King: No plans. I sort of feel like GW has gone in one direction and I have gone in another. It used to be very easy for me to write Warhammer fiction because I had a lot of the background at my fingertips. That is no longer the case.

Xathrodox86: If given the chance, would you return to any of your earlier works? In which direction would you take them?

William King: I’ve never really thought about. Most series take on a momentum all of their own and suggest their own directions. I had no idea Gotrek and Felix would end up where they did when I first started. Ditto Ragnar. I did with Macharius, of course, but that was baked in.

Xathrodox86: Of all your works, which one is the one that you enjoy the most to this day?

William King: Usually the one I am writing now. It’s that way with most writers, I think.

Xathrodox86: Apart from various Warhammer novels and stories, what are your other works?

William King: I have written a grimdark, gunpowder and magic series called The Terrarch Chronicles set in a world ruled by what might best be described as Nazi elves. The closest approximation I can think of is Glen Cook’s Black Company books.

I’ve written a grimdark sword and sorcery series about a human monster hunter called Kormak. It’s reached ten books now with another two on the way. It’s been a lot of fun to write.

I am just about to release a cyberpunk military SF series about a super-soldier called Stormtrooper 13. It might best be described as an unholy hybrid of Judge Dredd and Starship Troopers. This one made me laugh a lot.

I wrote the World of Warcraft novel Illidan last year.

Thanks for the questions!

Xathrodox86: Thank you Mr. King. It's been an honor.

So there you have it. Wow... I must say that writing this interview was quite a task. I usually don't like using that word, but I really did felt like a squealing fanboy. I'd like to thank Mr. King for the chance to ask him all those questions and for the wonderful answers, that I've recieved from him. If you want to see what the author of "Gotrek and Felix" and "Space Wolf" is up to now, visit his website. William King can also be found on Facebook, and he always answers any questions that are directed his way, by many, many people. It's so great to see authors who actually interact with their fans and care about their questions and opinions. Thank you once again for all your hard work, Mr. King.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

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