The bleak midwinter
‘I am a shadow, a nothing.’ Virgil Elland
I can’t quite believe it’s that time of year again. Christmas. Even with the best of intentions, it’s impossible to avoid the clichés as that day approaches – ‘hasn’t it come quickly?’ ‘where does all the time go?’ ‘Oh God, I swore I’d start my Christmas shopping earlier this year…’ The odd thing for me is that 'winter' actually started in April, when I began planning the third book in the DestinyQuest series: The Eye of Winter’s Fury.
Usually when I look back on a year, I try and focus on the positives – but for me, this year has been, for many reasons, an annus horribilis. And yet, from all the negatives that have assaulted me left, right and centre, there is, thankfully, one positive on the horizon. Book Three. I’ve often heard it said of writers that they produce their best work under trying circumstances, when it becomes their outlet for the tumult of emotions that they are feeling. Indeed, as I quote Hemmingway (of all people) at the start of Book Three:
‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’
The Eye of Winter’s Fury is what I would call my ‘Empire Strikes Back’. It is when you will discern a notable shift in tone. For Book Three we are in the frozen north of Valeron – a harsh and unforgiving wilderness.
I wanted everything about this book - the characters, the setting, the tone – to evoke this savage frontier. When you take on the mantle of Book Three’s fated hero (see the portrait below – an interpretation of the character by the fantastically talented David Wyatt), you will feel and experience their journey. And it's one that I believe is both emotional and powerful. I want, in my own small way, to continue to lift the genre of gamebook writing, to make these books feel more like literary works that could be enjoyed by a casual reader just as much as someone who loves the dice-rolling and game aspects.
That’s not to say the 'game' is playing second fiddle to the 'book'. In DQ3 I am introducing some cool new features to improve combat and make it feel more strategic and dynamic. Amongst the new ‘toys’ to play with, there will be:
- A death penalty system – each defeat could now have consequences for your hero!
- A new category of special ability – an added dimension to planning your hero strategies
- A new mini-game – it’s not all questing and combat, now you have further challenges to explore.
I have a vision for how I want these books to pan out – to create a series that, when combined into a set, tell an epic story; one that I don’t think has truly been attempted in a gamebook format before. I almost liken it to George R. R. Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’ (if I may be so bold!) in that each book (like the chapters in GoT) gives a different character-driven perspective; jigsaw pieces that lock together and build towards giving you the bigger picture – the final reveal. I have a strong sense of where I want this series to go. In fact, in true J.K Rowling fashion, I have already written the epilogue of the very last book; the last scene that will herald my end of the DestinyQuest series and perhaps pass the mantle onto others.
But I have to get there first – and like all ‘unexpected journeys’ you have to embrace the ups and downs, and keep plodding on regardless. I may not have thirteen Dwarves to share the journey, but I know I have the fans – so a big thank you for the ongoing support. It means a lot!
I’m really pleased that gamers are now able to enjoy Book Two, released in November. It may be a long wait (again) for the next book – my publisher is now looking at Feb ’14 as the tentative release date – but I’m positive that Winter’s Fury will be worth the wait.
Ah, ending the year on a positive after all ;-)
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. As always, keep those dice rolling!
Of steel and bone, and stolen fires bright
Of tresses gold and halls of silver light.
Lay him down, in ice and peak of stone
Till horns sound deep and vengeance brings him home.