Following the war-torn events in The Ambassador, grizzled ex-general Kaspar von Velten returns to the frozen lands of Kislev to continue his role as the Empire’s ambassador to the court of the Tsarina. But with the massed hordes of Chaos rampaging from the north, Kaspar must uncover the dark agents hidden within the city before they can bring the defences tumbling down. As a combined Empire/Kislevite army ride out to meet the dark Lord Archaon in battle at a vital rock formation known as Ursun’s Teeth, Kaspar faces a desperate race against time!
After finishing The Ambassador, I took a well-earned break from freelance writing and spent my evenings going out, reading books, watching films or playing with my X-box. Yes, I told myself, a nice little break before getting back to writing, that’s what I’ll do. Of course, a little break turned into a looooong break and before I knew it, there was three weeks to the deadline for final handover and not a word was written. Cue a frenzy of late nights and furious typing. Fortunately, since this was the second part of a series, I already knew my characters and setting and had my style already in place. That made it so much easier to get back to work and the words just poured out of me, my fingers typing the words and dialogue even before I knew what they were. The result was that I knew my characters so well by this point that I knew what they would be saying and how they would be reacting without even thinking about it – which was an amazing feeling and one that, if you’ve experienced it, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
As was normal for me when writing a book, I was helped immeasurably by having some of my friends reading the chapters as I was going along and giving me their feedback (take a bow Andy Hoare, Anthony Reynolds and Phil Kelly – thanks guys as always). Halfway through the book, Phil was giving me his thoughts on one of the chapter when he said that something had occurred to him as he was reading the latest offering. When I asked him what he meant, he told me that he had just realised who Kaspar reminded him of. Me. At first I didn’t know what he meant, but as I went through earlier chapters and thought back to scenes in the Ambassador, I realised he was right. Unconsciously or consciously (I honestly don’t know which) I appeared to have put myself onto the pages of the book, though without the heroic characteristics of Kaspar of course. Hmmm…did that now mean that I was as grumpy as Kaspar? At first I hoped not, but then when I thought of all the good characteristics of Kaspar, I realised that wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Not that I’m indulging in any wish-fulfilment fantasies here, but at the end of the day, Kaspar is just an ordinary man who tries to do the right thing where he can, and if that reminds a good friend of mine of me, then I can’t see that as a bad thing, eh?
Anyway, with the feedback I was getting from the guys, the writing was going well and I was on coursed to finish on schedule, which was nice. I was liking what was coming out and the novel was romping home to the triumphant finish, where everyone goes home for tea and medals, the bad guys are defeated and the hero gets the girl. Unfortunately, as anyone who’s read the novel knows, that’s not quite how it ended up. (SPOILER – Anyone who’s not read the book might want to skip the next bit if they don’t want the ending ruined for them…) The original ending had Kaspar doing just that, going home in triumph, but then my girlfriend and I split up – which left me in a pretty dark place for a while. And that spilled into my writing. At the end of the book, at the Battle of Urzebya, Kaspar is killed by Aelfric Cyenwulf and doesn’t get to go back to Kislev and the waiting Sofia. It a downer of an ending and anyone who’s attended psychology 101 would probably have a field day with what this all says about me, but even after I emerged into my happy place again and I reread the ending, I think that it’s the right one. This is Warhammer after all, a grim world of perilous adventure, and there are no happy endings. Well, most of the time…