Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Reading the text: Brian Ruckley

Posted by Randolph Carter on May 7, 2009

fall-of-thanes-coverAuthor website:

Could you take a minute and explain what Fall of Thanes is about?

Fall of Thanes is the last book in my fantasy trilogy The Godless World, which started with Winterbirth a couple of years ago. It’s all set in a world abandoned by its Gods, and the story follows various characters caught up in the resurgence of a particularly bitter and brutal war that’s been being fought, on and off, for a very long time. In the midst of all that strife, though, a new and rather different threat has arisen, and most people don’t recognise it until it’s more or less too late. So in this final book, all the different plot strands come together and we get to find out who lives, who dies, and whether the world’s heading into darkness or light. Or something in between.

What was the process like in getting your first book published?

It was actually a lot easier than it could have been. I got lucky and was signed up by the first agent I sent the manuscript to. After that, I left them to get on with the business of trying to place it with a publisher and busied myself with other things. It took a while – a year or two – but it ended up with a very good publisher. I had to do some rewrites – which also took a while, but all of which improved the book – but in general everything went very smoothly. It all reminded me how useful patience is as an attribute for a writer.

Where do you happen to find inspiration for your work?

Anywhere and everywhere. A lot of the ideas that pop into my head – or any writer’s head, I’m sure – it’s impossible to say specifically where they’ve come from. They emerge from a combination of a whole range of different influences and inspirations that’s all sloshing around in my head in very undisciplined fashion. I’m interested in history and in current events, I read all kinds of stuff, I’ve travelled quite a lot to some unusual places: it all feeds in to the process somehow. I’m just never entirely sure how.

Are you or have you ever been a gamer? What has your gaming experience been like (board games, pen & paper RPGs, console & computer games, etc.)?

Oh, I was a big gamer when I was younger and had loads of spare time. Pen & paper RPG – mostly AD&D, but also a bit of Traveller, a bit of a fun but very obscure post-apocalyptic game called Aftermath! – and plenty of the old map and counter wargames that companies like SPI and Avalon Hill used to put out (Third Reich and Squad Leader were probably my favourite of those). I’ve sunk plenty of hours into PC games, too. My preference there is for God games, rts and rpg. Never really got into shoot-em-ups in a big way (although like a lot of people it was probably Doom that originally got me hooked). All of this gaming has gradually been squeezed out of my life to a large extent by other things: jobs, family, writing (all of which are good and important things, so I can’t really complain too much!). I still manage to fit in a little bit of PC gaming now and again, but I can only dream of having enough time to get back into RPGs or the wargames.

bloodheirHave you ever ventured into online worlds? If so, please explain what that experience has been like.

It may sound a bit silly, but quite a while back I made a very conscious and deliberate choice not to explore the MMO world. I know myself well enough to understand that if I ventured into that scene and enjoyed it, I would unable to resist spending utterly absurd amounts of time on it. I’ve been given a sort of mini-tour of WoW by someone who plays it a lot, and I can definitely see the appeal (unlike Second Life, which I’ve explored a little bit on my own and found it mildly interesting but nothing more than that). I think all of this online gaming stuff is an incredible, revolutionary development and if there were a hundred hours in the day instead of a measly 24, I would absolutely be there playing away like crazy. But sadly there aren’t.

Would you say that your gaming experience has had any effect on you as a writer? Please explain.

To some extent, yes. When I was in my D&D years, I was more often the DM than a player, and I guess that tendency towards world building and being the puppet-master has some connection with writing big fantasy novels. One slightly more obscure possible connection is that with both the wargames and the PC games I used to play, my preference tended to be for the more strategic level stuff, and that aspect gets quite a bit of emphasis in my books too: big battles, the ebbb and flow of military campaigns.

Grind is a term used frequently in gaming vernacular referring to something that is rather repetitive or unpleasant that one engages in in order to progress in the game. Would you say there is grinding in the writing process? Please explain.

You bet there’s grinding involved. How much probably varies from writer to writer, but in most cases I’d be pretty sure it’s a lot. Writing can, on occasion be both repetitive and unpleasant. You can spend a lot of time feeling like you’re making terribly slow progress, inching towards the ultimate goal of typing ‘The End’. Apart from anything else, a big chunk of your time isn’t spent writing at all, but rewriting. It’s all much less glamourous than some people seem to imagine. But it’s also terrifically rewarding when things go well, and actually seeing a book on a bookstore shelf with your name on it is undeniably a good feeling.

Would you have any words of advice for the would-be-writers out there?

The most basic advice is probably: if you seriously want to be a commercially published writer, you have to write. A lot. You have to write even when you don’t feel all that much like writing, because otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll never actually finish anything. And once you’ve finished something, chances are you need to go back to beginning of it and rewrite it. Grind, in other words! And once you’ve finished something, and revised it and rewritten it, you need to be open to the possibility – indeed the near certainty – that it’s still not perfect, and learn to accept and listen to and learn from constructive criticism.

You wake up to a world where your Godless World trilogy has been made into an MMO. What race and class would you play and why?winterbirth-cover1

There are only two real possibilities that would appeal to me. I have a group called na’kyrim – they’re the halfbreed offspring of human and inhuman parents – who are the only beings in my books who control supernatural powers. Playing one of them would offer certain unique opportunities. But I think the most fun would be to play as one of the Inkallim: they’re a sort of fanatical religious warrior sect, and their by far the most remorselessly, skilfully violent characters, with absolutely no fear of death. Great fun, in other words.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with this gamer/reader audience?

Only to say thanks for inviting me over here, and if anyone wants to know more about me or my books, the place to go is

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