Waaay back in June of 2018, an editor called Hannah Hughes got in touch to ask if I’d be interested in writing a novel about a character called Gotrek Gurnisson. I had mixed feelings, to be honest. I’ve long been a fan of Bill King’s original Gotrek and Felix novels (Trollslayerwas the first Warhammer novel I ever read) and I felt really honoured to be offered the gig, but I was also worried about messing it up. Some great authors have picked up the Slayer’s axe over the years and he’s become one of the most iconic, enduring Warhammer characters. He’s got such a tenacious hold on people’s imagination that he survived the destruction of the old Warhammer setting and carved himself a place in current, Age of Sigmar lore, so I didn’t want me to be the thing that finally finished him off.
I’m so glad I said yes. I was originally pencilled in to write one novel but I had such fun with the character (and his reluctant sidekick, Maleneth) that I badgered the editors into letting me write two more and turned it into a trilogy. The three books, Ghoulslayer, Gitslayer and Soulslayer along with three linking short stories, fit into Gotrek’s wider, ongoing narrative, but they also work as a fairly self-contained tale. So I was delighted when I found out that Black Library were going to release them as a single, slipcased set.
Then, this week, Games Workshop revealed these images of the set and I think the design is just stunning. Black Library have made a name for themselves for their beautiful book design but I think this is one their best so far. Christmas has definitely come early for me. I don’t know what’s next for Gotrek or if I’ll be involved, but I’m so glad I had a chance to hang out with him for a while.
Thanks to the good folk at Alanera Edizioni, I blagged an invite to this year’s Lucca Comics and Games festival. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, it’s an enormous pop culture carnival devoted to every aspect of geekdom – comics, miniatures, boardgames, roleplaying games, cosplay, computer games, fantasy art etc. and it’s all housed in the beautiful, medieval, walled city of Lucca in Tuscany.
I was there to promote the Italian edition of Ghoulslayer, Sventraghoul but I (along with Kathryn and our boys) spent most of the time cooing over homemade costumes and parades and exploring all the stands. (Kathryn snapped most of these photos.)
I managed to catch up with John Blanche and see his amazing Vodoo Forest exhibition and met a whole host of other artists and authors but, to be honest, my favourite thing about the festival was its magical atmosphere. There were huge crowds of people crammed into Lucca’s narrow, winding streets, but everyone was friendly and chilled and brilliantly weird. We made loads of new friends and we’re determined to get back there again as soon as possible. If you’re even a little bit of a geek, I can highly recommend trying to get over to see it next year.
I’ve not done any painting for a while but the other night the kids went to bed early and I had a spare hour so I thought I’d try another little portrait. Usually I do sketches and try to measure stuff out but this time I just slapped the paint down really fast and I think I prefer this picture to the ones I took more care over. I didn’t use any paint thinner and I like how thick and buttery the paint is. If any of you’ve ever considered trying your hand at oil painting I can highly recommend it as a way to get back in touch with your ten year-old self. There’s something really calming about pushing paint round and trying to make it look like a thing.
Every time I finish writing a novel I have a day or two of clarity. I become aware of real things, like other people, the news, the world etc. It makes me feel a bit like a hedgehog, gummy eyed and confused, emerging from a pile of leaves. I always find it a bit disorientating, to be honest. I’m just wrapping up my eighteenth novel. My editor is checking through the second draft to see if there are any final tweaks we can make. I’m sure it’s been said before but editors really are the unsung heroes of novels (mine, at least). My editor this time round was Kate Hamer at the Black Library and she’s made so many great suggestions. Despite being a massive introvert, I think the collaborative part of novel writing is the part I enjoy most.
Since Soulslayer was released (to some really lovely reviews) I’ve written two more novels, both for Games Workshop, but neither are scheduled for release until 2023 so it will be a long wait until I can see what people think of them. I’ve also had covid (natch) and turned fifty. I celebrated my half century in the same way I spend most of my birthdays – looking confused near a bookshop.
This weekend sees the release of a Warhammer Crime anthology called The Vorbis Conspiracy. I contributed a story featuring my assassin character, Orthoptera (he’s appeared in some of the previous crime anthologies) and this was an unusual project for me. Rather than writing in isolation, the authors based their stories around a central event that threads through the whole book. As a result, it’s somewhere between an anthology and a novel, with characters from different stories interacting and the plots all working to form a central narrative. It was great fun to do and Orthoptera’s a really interesting character to write so I’m hoping to come back to him in the future.
This year has also seen the rerelease of the first book I ever wrote. The Witch Hunter’s Handbook was written nearly twenty years ago and I had no idea it was going to be republished in this fancy new format. It was a blink-and-you’ve-missed-it print on demand product, but hopefully a few more people now know what to do if they discover a plague daemon in their garden shed. (We’ve all been there.)
Ok, that’s all for now. I’m just going to crawl back under these leaves and get back to work. See you on the other side.
Yep, the secret’s out: I’ve managed to hang onto Gotrek’s coat tails for a third novel. Soulslayer has just been announced over on the Warhammer Community site and it was the first time I’ve seen the glorious cover art. It’s by the ridiculously talented Anna Lakisova who also painted the Gitslayer art (see below).
This is by far my favourite of the three Gotrek novels I’ve written. They’ve all been great fun to work on but in this book I really feel like I’ve honed in on the key aspect of these stories: the fractious relationship between Gotrek and his companion, Maleneth. They’re the ultimate odd couple, opposed in so many ways but also bound together by the adventures they’ve shared. They’re both so clear in my head now that I can put them in almost any situation and they take the lead, sparking off each other and dragging me through the story, often in ways I never expected. In this book we see Gotrek fully embrace his purpose in the Mortal Realms, moving on from his past but also finding a way to live up to his ancestry. But the fire in his soul draws the attention of one of the strangest, most interesting races in the Warhammer universe. The Idoneth are, on the surface at least, nightmares summoned from the deep, like a hallucinogenic, half-remembered fable, but in this novel I’ve had a chance to shine a light on what drives them. There’s a damaged but defiant nobility to them that I admire. They’ve been shunned and rejected but, like Gotrek, they’ve never accepted defeat. Pitting them against the Slayer made for some great scenes and allowed me to explore the tragic story of this ancient race.
Soulslayer picks up where Gitslayer left off, with Gotrek and Maleneth travelling through Chamon. I’ve written all three novels to work as standalone books though, so it’s fine to start with the new novel. If you’re new to Gotrek, you actually have various places to jump on. You could go right back to his beginnings in the Old World, with the classic Bill King book, Trollslayer. Or you could listen to David Guymer’s excellent audio drama, Realmslayer, which introduces Gotrek to the Age of Sigmar setting and features the gloriously bombastic tones of Brian Blessed. Or you could just pick up any one of the three novels I’ve written.
Soulslayer is due to be released in 2022 so, if you’re keen to get your flippers on a hardback edition keep your eyes peeled – Gitslayer sold out fast when it was released earlier this year. If you’re interested in knowing more about Gotrek, the brilliant Track of Words site has more info here .
This is the sixteenth full length novel I’ve written over the last decade but no one seems able to stop me so I’m already halfway through number seventeen. For a full list of everything I’ve written, take a look at the ‘my books’ page. More news on the next book soon.