Guy Haley, Keeper of the Sagas

The War of the Wolves is coming… this Saturday sees the Horus Heresy series reach a confrontation that’s been teased for years, as Leman Russ leads his Space Wolves to attack Horus himself in Wolfsbane. Guy Haley is the author behind this new novel, and he’s here to talk about writing Space Wolves. Take it away, Guy.

Guy: Space Wolves! Surely among the most immediately recognisable of all the factions in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. And lucky old me, I got to write about them. That is so incredibly amazing!

But wait! The very last thing you want to do when penning anything in this universe is upset the fans, and Space Wolves have a huge pack of them. They’re quite vocal too, howling, ahem, their woes when they perceive things to have gone awry (though they do wag their tails when happy).

I’ve written and spoken many times about working in the glorious, gothic milieu that is Warhammer, replete as it is with mythic overtones, awesome technologies, weird magic and a superabundance of skulls. Skulls make everything better.

As a recap, here are points I’ve made at length in the past about writing Warhammer 40,000 (and by extension, the Horus Heresy):

1) Respect the material.

2) Respect the work other people have done with the material.

3) Stray neither too far from, nor cleave too closely to, the archetypes.

There are other commandments one should adhere to when heading deep into the future, pen in hand, but these do for a start. In order to achieve the above, two things are of paramount importance.

1) Do your research.

2) Develop a feel for the background.

The first is lots of reading. The other is more ineffable and requires time and judgement, but it basically means not breaking stuff that might get you fired while making it even more awesome than it was before.

But there’s one area I’ve not spoken about, and that is the fans. How much attention should you pay to the fans of a particular faction? I shall be annoyingly gnomic and say: none whatsoever, and all the attention in the world.

I don’t go on forums like some of my peers. And if I do rarely peek, I never get involved in arguments or explanations (Hey, I’m not aloof – if you want to talk to me, I’m on Twitter as @GuyHaley). But I know that Space Wolves are much beloved by many, many people. I also know some of them are bit sad, shall we say, about how many times the Space Wolves have ‘lost’.

It seems some Space Wolves fans want a big win for Russ and his Fenrisians, and you all know you’re not going to get that here. By the Underverse, most people seemed to think the book would be called “The Wolf Cull”. Come to think of it, 
Wolfsbane isn’t a propitious title either.

Giving people exactly what they want is not respecting them, I believe. For starters, not everyone wants the same thing. Also, I very much regard writing Warhammer as similar to writing historical fiction. We know that Russ set out to fight Horus. That might seem… scratch that, that was an immensely crazy thing to do, but it is what happened. To give him a big win here would be like rewriting Waterloo so Napoleon came out on top. My role as a historian of the future is to examine the evidence from limited sources, postulate why events took the turns they did, and then present them in an exciting and engaging manner.

In this way, 
Wolfsbane is my token of respect to all you Space Wolves out there. You won’t find a soaring victory for the VI Legion in its pages – what you will find, though, is a depiction of the Legion that draws deeply on Chris Wraight, Dan Abnett and earlier works. You will get to know Leman Russ in a way you never have before, visit Fenris in summer, explore the relationship between the Rune Priests and the warp and, most importantly, you will learn .

I did a lot of reading, talking and thinking about this book, because I understand how much the Space Wolves mean to everyone! For my money, I’d say Leman Russ is the most human of the primarchs. He’s irreverent, headstrong, loyal, occasionally hypocritical. His likeable nature makes the tragedy of the Heresy when viewed through his eyes even more poignant. Writing him was a pleasure, and I really hope my love for him comes through.

So, I didn’t listen to you fans who wanted a big win. Nor is this the battle of Yarant, as many assumed. But I have tried my utmost to write the coolest, the most exciting and most believable Space Wolves book, a book crammed with little nuggets that’ll make you go ‘Aha! That’s why that happened!’ – moments that will pound your heart and wring your tears.

I may not have succeeded, but I tried the best I could for Fenris, for Russ, but most importantly of all, for you.

You can get your hands on Wolfsbane and see Guy’s take on the Space Wolves (and find out just what those cryptic hints mean!) this Saturday when the hardback is available to pre-order, and both eBook and MP3 audiobook editions will be available to download.

If you want to meet Guy and talk to him about the Space Wolves, he’s doing a pair of events – and you can also ask him a question about Wolfsbane in his Ask the Author session – submit your question on the Black Library Facebook page now.

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