Gotrek & Felix: Road of Skulls (2013) – Written by Josh Reynolds – Published by the Black Library.
Welcome to the fifth installment of the Anxiety’s interview series. The highly-prolific and highly-skilled Josh Reynolds is my guest this time out, and we’ll be talking about Josh’s latest release GOTREK & FELIX: ROAD OF SKULLS as well as a few of past books, including NEFERATA and his short story contributions to multiple anthologies. As always, I want to thank Josh for agreeing to talk with me. For a full list of Atomic Interviews, check out the dedicated page, and for a full list of Josh’s available work, please check out his Amazon Author Page.
I have been incredibly thrilled with the reaction from readers about the Atomic Interview series and I can definitively state that the interview series will continue for the foreseeable future. Josh is the fifth author interview and there are five more authors scheduled in the coming weeks. If you enjoy hearing from these authors, let them know. And a reminder that it’s an incredible benefit to authors if you leave them a review at your bookseller of choice.
The official description of GOTREK & FELIX: ROAD OF SKULLS
Gotrek and Felix: unsung heroes of the Empire, or nothing more than common thieves and murderers? The truth perhaps lies somewhere in between, and depends entirely upon whom you ask… Gotrek and Felix race to the dwarf hold at Karak Kadrin, finding it besieged by one of the grand armies of Chaos warlord Garmr. When King Ungrim Ironfist speaks of the legendary ‘Road of Skulls’ and of the hated foe’s attempts to open a portal into the Realm of Chaos, Gotrek senses that a great doom awaits him – though it may not be the one he would choose for himself. As the king’s own son leads his army of Slayers to fulfil an ancient prophecy, it seems that Garmr’s hour of victory may be at hand.
On to the interview!
Mark Bousquet (MB): Let’s start with a general question. You are not only a highly-skilled writer, but a ridiculously productive one. Just skimming your Amazon author page, you’ve already had two novels (NEFERATA and GOTREK & FELIX: ROAD OF SKULLS) and several short stories (in STEAMFUNK and several other anthologies/magazines) published this year, and we’re not even through March, yet. In 2012, you had short stories appear in 16 anthologies and also released a novel. Even taking into account the vagaries of time involved between writing a story and seeing it in print, that’s a high work rate. How do you go about deciding on projects? Do you actively look for anthologies to contribute to because you prefer short stories, is it professional strategy, or is it simply how the ball has bounced?
Josh Reynolds (JR): It’s a little from Column A, a little from Column B, frankly. At the beginning of each month, I make a list of open anthologies or magazines, and make a note of the ones that sound interesting. Once I have that list, I do some research. I look at what other books the publisher or editor has released, I check to see whether they accept reprints, that sort of thing. Then I look at the money involved. After that, I look at the theme for the anthology or issue in question, if there is one. Finally, I check to see whether or not I have the time to get a submission in before the deadline. If the money’s good, and the theme is particularly interesting, I’ll make the time to submit something, if I’m able. And if the money’s crap, or the theme is boring, but I’ve got a lot of free time, I might still submit, especially if they take reprints.
Basically, money + interest + time = submission. I guess you could call that a professional strategy.
MB: You’re most recent novel is GOTREK & FELIX: ROAD OF SKULLS, which is part of the Warhammer universe. You’ve written in the Warhammer universe before and you’ve written Gotrek & Felix stories before, but this is your first time taking over the Gotrek & Felix novels. How did you approach this long form assignment? Was it a matter of merging your style with the work that had come before yours, or did you approach it as simply trying to tell the best Gotrek & Felix story you could?
JR: To be honest, I approached it as I approach everything related to tie-in work or IP that I don’t actively own—i.e., very carefully. With this sort of thing, you want to tell the best story you can, within the limits you’re given for a particular project. At its core, a tie-in novel is a form of advertising, as well as a narrative, so you have to balance those two things as best you can and still deliver an entertaining experience for the reader.
MB: Every universe, whether it’s Marvel Comics, Doctor Who, or Warhammer, has its own set of loyal fans who love to explore the whole of that universe. The larger and more successful a universe becomes, however, the more daunting it can seem for outsiders to find a way in. For publishers, of course, that’s always a fine line to navigate; they want to please their hardcore fans but no one is opposed to bringing in more readers. How insular is ROAD OF SKULLS? Does it work as an effective gateway into this universe or is it a book designed more to please the faithful?
JR: All you need to know to enjoy Gotrek & Felix: Road of Skulls is the basic premise behind the series. The book was designed to be ‘continuity-free’, so even if you’ve never read ANY of the G&F books, and are only passing familiar with who the characters are, you can read it and enjoy it. Or, that was the intent, at any rate. Whether it succeeded or not isn’t for me to say.
MB: Who are Gotrek & Felix, and what role do they play in the Warhammer universe?
JR: The Gotrek & Felix series is the longest running Black Library Warhammer series, having been around for well over a decade. It was started by William King back in the early nineties, continued through the ‘00s by Nathan Long and has now fallen into the collective lap of myself, David Guymer and a few other lucky souls.
Gotrek Gurnisson is a Slayer — a dwarf who has taken an oath to die in battle in order to redeem himself for some unknown crime. Felix Jaeger is a poet, former rabble-rouser, and swordsman who awoke from a night of drunken debauchery to discover that he had sworn an oath to accompany Gotrek on his suicidal quest and to write an epic saga recounting the Slayer’s doom. Together, they fight crime; also demons, and dragons, and pretty much everything else that the Warhammer universe can throw at them.
MB: Prior to ROAD OF SKULLS, you released NEFERATA: THE BLOOD OF NAGASH, part of the Time of Legends series from The Black Library. I understood almost none of what I just wrote. Can you give us a rundown of Neferata, Time of Legends, and the Black Library?
JR: The Black Library is the fifth largest science-fiction and fantasy publisher in the world, and the publishing arm of Games Workshop. Time of Legends is, to quote the BL site, ‘a series exploring the legendary heroes and events that shaped the Warhammer world.’ NEFERATA is the first volume in the Blood of Nagash trilogy, depicting the rise and fall of the vampire-kingdom of Mourkain and exploring the machinations and motivations of the first vampire, Neferata. The BoN books are a follow-up to Mike Lee’s Rise of Nagash series, and the sequel to NEFERATA, Master of Death is due out next year.
MB: Both of these novels can fall under the large umbrella of “Fantasy.” Is this your preferred genre to write in? You’ve written in other genres, of course – do you look to vary up the genre you’re writing in, or do you just let the universe place whatever opportunity it wants in front of you?
JR: Variety and volume, as Rachelle Gardner says, are the watchwords of a professional writer. I write what pays … if its fantasy, I’ll write fantasy. If it’s mystery, I’ll write that. I don’t honestly have a preference, though there are genres that I find easier to write in than others. Fantasy, interestingly, is not one of them.
MB: Switching over to your short stories, you were part of three holiday-themed anthologies this year: the PULPWORK CHRISTMAS SPECIAL, the PSYCHOPOMP CHRISTMAS SPECIAL, and HORROR FOR THE HOLIDAYS. Talk to us about these stories, if you would.
JR: Well, the first thing to mention, I think, is that the stories in all of the stories feature the same set of characters—the Royal Occultist, Charles St. Cyprian and his assistant, Ebe Gallowglass. “Feast of Fools”, in the Pulpwork Christmas Special, sees the duo facing off with the sinister Saturn Society on a Boxing Day in Yorkshire. “Merry John Mock”, in the Psychopomp Christmas Special, finds them tackling a strange cult and demonic swine on a Christmas Day in the Channel Islands. And in Horror for the Holidays, St. Cyprian and Gallowglass battle the demonic Krampus on Christmas Eve in “Krampusnacht” and face down a trauma-eating entity on Remembrance Day in “The Dreaming Dead”.
MB: People love to claim DIE HARD as their favorite Christmas movie, but I have argued far too passionately that DIE HARD isn’t a Christmas movie – it’s a movie that takes place at Christmas. The story could virtually take place at any time of year – all we need is a company party, a mostly empty building (I like to think there was some lonely woman on Floor 5 who played Solitaire on her computer through the whole thing), and a reason for John to come visit. In no way does this make DIE HARD any less of a film, but it’s not in my top 50 films I’m going to toss into the Blu-ray player if I want to feel the Christmas spirit. When you write holiday stories, how much do you look to make the holiday itself play a role in the story, or is it a matter of taking the best story you’ve got and morphing it into a holiday story? I know that I’ve done both over the years, and this is one of those areas I’m always fascinated to hear from other writers about their approach.
JR: It depends on the story, really. Of the stories mentioned above, for instance, “Merry John Mock” is only tangentially a Christmas story. It could have been set at any point on the calendar year, given that it’s about the dark holiday traditions of an isolated community. But, I needed a Christmas story, so it got set at Christmas, rather than the Equinox, or Solstice or what have you. But “Feast of Fools”, on the other hand, is based around Saturnalia, which has ties to Boxing Day and the Christmas holiday season as a whole. “Krampusnacht” is about the Krampus, which is as Christmas-y as the Yule Lads and that time Santa fought a cannibal. Basically, I look for a way to make the holiday front and center first, and then, if that doesn’t work, I improvise.
MB: You and I also share a similar quirk in that if someone goes to Amazon and types our names into the search box looking for our work, they’re likely to see other people with “our” names come up first. You share a name (if one looks for Joshua Reynolds) with a famous 18th century painter and I share a name with a fellow academic who wrote a rather popular book (though he spells his first name with a ‘c’ instead of a ‘k’) and with an actor that was in Slap Shot. Do you find this frustrating? Did you ever consider writing under another name?
JR: I have actually written under different names. I’ve written as ‘JM Reynolds’, ‘J. Morgan Reynolds’, ‘Joshua M. Reynolds’ and now I’m going by ‘Josh Reynolds’. But beyond those minor derivations I’ve never been much for going by pseudonyms, though I have had people tell me that they’re a sign of success. If I thought it would help sell a book, I’d happily use one, but, given how easy it is nowadays to ferret out someone’s true identity, I don’t really see the point. My name isn’t obtuse enough to put off a casual reader, and my authorial identity doesn’t have any baggage attached to it that I’m aware of, so, for the time being, I’ll stick with ‘Josh Reynolds’.
As to sharing my name with other, arguably more well-known people (including an Australian footballer and a stand-up comic), well, I’m of the mind that folks who are looking for my stuff will probably realize that I didn’t write Discourses on Art, and if not, well, I’m sure they’ll enjoy the book regardless.
MB: Who is Josh Reynolds and what’s next for you? When is your next release due to hit the shelves?
JR: I’ll just cut a bit from my official author’s bio for this one: ‘Josh Reynolds is moderately skilled and exceptionally confident writer-for-hire. If you pay him, he will write for you.’ I’m like the A-Team, only with words, and I don’t require drugged milk to get on an airplane.
And my next novel is due out in December, with a fair few short stories popping up between now and then in various places to keep everyone entertained. I may possibly have some other stuff coming out between now and next year, but I’m not entirely certain I can talk about it, so I’ll keep quiet about those.
MB: And finally, where can people go to learn more about you and your books?
Well, that one’s easy. If people want to learn more about me, they can just visit my site, http://joshuamreynolds.wordpress.com/ where they can find out all about me, my upcoming projects, and such and so on and so forth. There’re links to my social media what-nots like Facebook, as well as an up-to-date listing of all of my available work.
And that’s that for another interview. Thanks again to Josh for taking the time to participate. We’ll be back with Atomic Interview #6 at the end of the week, where I’ll talk to Barry Reese about his current release, THE ADVENTURES OF GRAVEDIGGER, VOLUME 1 and other works. Thanks for reading, all!
When he’s not talking to other writers, Mark Bousquet is doing some writing himself. He is the author of multiple novels and collections, including the recently released The Haunting of Kraken Moor, Gunfighter Gothic, Stuffed Animals for Hire, Dreamer’s Syndrome, Harpsichord and the Wormhole Witches, and Adventures of the Five. He has also published a review collection entitled Marvel Comics on Film, which covers every cinematic and TV movie based on a superhero from the House of Ideas. A complete listing of all his work can be found at his Amazon author page.