Devastating Baal, with Guy Haley

You may remember Guy Haley from such hobby articles as “Summer in the Garden of Nurgle” and “Rotten Good Fun”. As well as being a hobby guru and semi-professional goblin, he’s also a writer of fantastic stories for Black Library, and that’s the hat he’s wearing for us today as he, er, interviews himself about his new novel, The Devastation of Baal. Take it away, Guy.

Guy: As you’ll have seen on this very website, there’s an exciting new series of Space Marine Conquests books out now! And yours truly, humble scrivener goblin (second grade), was asked to write the first. I’ve been asked a lot of questions about this book, so I thought I would gather them together and answer them right here for all to see. Basically, I’m going to interview myself. To make it easier, I bought this magic mirror from a nice chap with a bird’s head. He said if I squinted at it really hard it would enable me to speak with myself, and it only cost me a part of my undying soul. Cheating? Oh hush, it’s a journalistic conceit. Let’s get on with it.

Q – Do you pitch books or are you commissioned to write them?
A – You know, people ask me that a lot. I’m even asking myself! And that answer is: both. For a while, I was operating as the Black Library’s fixer – when a book went unwritten for whatever reason, like writers being suddenly unavailable, or squig infestations of the Games Workshop printatorium. Recently that’s changed a bit, and I’m finding myself still being asked to write specific books, but within a much looser brief.

Q – So did you pitch The Devastation of Baal, or did you get commissioned to do it?
A – I was commissioned to write Dark Imperium and The Devastation of Baal at the same time. But I was given free choice as to what they would be about. They both had to feature Primaris Space Marines in some capacity – that was the only stipulation.

With Baal, I had to pitch quite hard. I persevered because I really wanted to write this story. I had intended to touch on the tyranid attack on Baal in a sequel to Dante. This was a great opportunity to immerse myself in it. We’ve been building up to this event in the game for years. It is a big deal. I thought it would be a shame to have it left at a few paragraphs in the main rulebook until someone got round to writing a novel about it. Someone would, eventually, but I believed we should do it now because it’s a great bridge between the old background and the new.

Q – Is it a sequel to Dante? Is it Dante 2?
A – Honestly? Yes. However, I was aware that it sits in the Space Marine Conquests range, and made sure that you can read it on its own. But you will find it a richer experience if you read Dante first.

Q – What happens then?
A – After decades fighting the tyranids and trying to stall their advance through the Red Scar, the Blood Angels have their backs to the wall. A giant tendril of Hive Fleet Leviathan has broken through the shield worlds and is heading directly for the Blood Angels’ home planet of Baal, at the edge of the Red Scar.

The light of the Red Scar’s stars is toxic, so the region is a bit of a desert in space, lightly settled and exploited only for its rare resources. But on the far side are hundreds of Imperial worlds, rich pickings for the ravenous hive ships. Dante and his warriors are the only thing in Leviathan’s way. Though Dante tried to stop the aliens at the Cryptus System, he knew the invasion of Baal would happen, and he called upon every Chapter of Sanguinius’ line a few years back. All but the Lamenters show up. There are tens of thousands of Space Marines in this book, the greatest assemblage since the Horus Heresy. But are they going to be enough to stop trillions of tyranids? And can they actually learn to fight together as one unified force?

Q – How many Blood Angels die?
A – I’m sorry. I’m a goblin. I can only count up to five. Let’s say lots.

Q – How many spaceships get blown up?
A – See above. Definitely more than five – I can confirm that.

Q – Were there any problems in writing this book?
A – There always are challenges, I’d say. I prefer that to “problems”. One was the sheer length of the story – so much happens that the novel just got longer and longer, reaching 500 pages in the end! But a big book is a fitting way to kick off a new series. Another was turning what could have been an incidence of deus ex machina into a legitimate subplot. And because this is part of the all-new meta-narrative of Warhammer 40,000, there was a fair bit of back and forth with the Design Studio. I even came up with a kill list for approval! Did I mention that a lot of people die?

Q – Do we see other characters from other authors?
A – Mephiston plays a big part, as does Gabriel Seth. Darius Hinks and Andy Smillie have done such awesome work on them. I read all the Blood Angels and related material to make sure I got them right. People like Albinus from David Annandale’s stories also appear.

Q – What state is the Baal System in after the attack?
A – It is literally devastated. Things will never be the same again. You will see genuine change in this novel, for the planet, its moons, its people and its defenders. When it is all over, the Blood Angels are set up nicely for the new now, but, well… like I said, a lot of them are dead.

Q – Any more Blood Angels novels in the offing?
A – I definitely want to write a third book at some point. It’d be interesting to see how the Primaris Space Marines integrate themselves into the Blood Angels and how they deal with the Flaw. I’d also like to visit the incident that saw Dante appointed as Chapter Master. I only go so far as his captaincy in Dante, and there are no flashbacks in The Devastation of Baal to carry that on. But at the moment there are no firm plans.

Q – Thank you for your time, Guy.
A – My pleasure, Guy. Um, this mirror is going all swirly. There’s something nasty in it, and I don’t mean my face. Does anyone know how to turn it off?

We’ll thank Guy there and leave him to deal with his new Chaos-inflicted existential crisis. You can order your own paperback copy of The Devastation of Baal now, or download the eBook from the Black Library website, iBooks and the Kindle store (in the UK and US). Let us know on Facebook what you think of it!

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