A short while ago I was given the opportunity to read and review a new book set in the Runescape universe. The book was titled Return to Canifis and is the second book of the series written by T.S. Church.
Well, along with the book I was also given the chance to talk to the author, pick his brains and generally make his life a misery.As an avid reader, and of fantasy especially, how could I say no? The following interview is the result.
WolfsGamingBlog: So, how did writing books set in the Runescape universe come about? What attracted you to the Runescape universe, and what made you think it would be perfect for writing a book?
Church: A long time ago, though not quite in a galaxy far far away, I used to enjoy role-playing games based on fantasy worlds. That was when I was at school, before the Internet was around, and a group of us would sit huddled over tables with papers and dice for too many hours at a time. So years later, having given up such games since the age of 16 or so, I was interested to see how the advent of the Internet had changed the way such games could be played. So it was more by accident than design than I stumbled across RuneScape in truth. Recalling the novels that supported the pen and paper games I used to play, I decided it would be great for a world as complex as RuneScape’s to have a background series of books. On January 01st, 2007, I sat down and started to write, a 1000 words a day, with a rough plot line. Six months later or so I approached Jagex with it and after a number of meetings we decided to go ahead.
WolfsGamingBlog: Do you have a good relationship with the Runescape crew? After all, it’s their universe that you’re writing in about.
Church: Yes I have – any ideas from me are vetted by their story curators to check I’m not treading on any toes or possibly upsetting any planned releases. If you check out RuneScape’s facebook page there are photos there of a Q&A we did on Saturday night (26th March). It was a fun night.
WolfsGamingBlog: This is the second book you’ve written based on both the Runescape universe and the same characters. It certainly has an ending that would leave room for a third book. Can you tell us whether a third book in the series is coming or are you planning on working on something else?
Church: A third book is planned. I couldn’t up sticks and leave after an ending like that in book 2. However I am always thinking up new ideas and situations that I keep in an ideas file. You can’t lose those little gems that nag you in the moments before sleep – that would guarantee an irritable start to the following day.
WolfsGamingBlog: I have to admit that I don’t play Runescape, and that I hadn’t actually read your first novel, yet it felt fairly easy to get into Return to Canifis and understand the characters and world, despite some references to past deeds that left me a little lost. Was this an active decision to try to allow new readers to get into the novel, or was it simply something that occurred naturally?
Church: It was a very deliberate decision and I think it is one that worked. The big question is whether I can do it again for book 3, for the end of book 2 is a very sharp cliff hanger. That is something I am working on now actually.
WolfsGamingBlog: Despite Theodore and Kara-mier being the main characters, Gar’rth the Werewolf is really the main focus of the book as events are linked to him in numerous ways. What made you decided to expand on Gar’rth in this book?
Church: This was always to be his story really. There was a great deal of mystery about him in book 1, Betrayal at Falador, and continuing that on for a second book would have been a tease too far I believe. The love triangle between Kara, Gar’rth and Theodore is a theme that dominates the stories as well. Both appeal to Kara in different ways, and as the series progresses on their actions will determine how they are perceived in each others’ eyes.
WolfsGamingBlog: How did the story of Return to Canifis come about? What made you decide to go down the darker story style that dominates the book?
Church: In book 1 the enemy, Sulla, was a human warlord, albeit with unnatural allies such as Jerrod. And it took place in a mostly human realm. The sequel now moves to a different nation, Misthalin, and neighbouring Morytania where the undead dwell across a holy river. So by its nature it would be darker. It is also necessary to shake the heroes out of their comfort zone. Kara and her friends are famous now, after battling against Sulla’s armies, but facing the undead? That’s a very different thing. The story itself came about mainly due to exploring Gar’rth’s heritage and why it is Jerrod was sent after him. Obviously his friends would have to go with him so I needed a mechanism to provide for that – hence the embassy.
WolfsGamingBlog: We get to see into the minds of the main characters often in this novel, and that makes it much easier to understand them. How important was this for you when writing the book?
Church: This is the main difference from book 1, where I didn’t limit myself Point-of-View wise. This meant it was harder to focus on any one character, so a decision was made to stick with a core cast and see the adventure unfold before their eyes. I think actually it’s worked much better in book 2 than in book 1. In terms of writing a novel in a way it is actually easier, as you can limit yourself to what you need to divulge. A big part of the learning experience, for me, in writing this book was to learn to let go, to be content with not having to explain everything to the reader, which used to be one of my pet rules. It’s a very fine balance though.
WolfsGamingBlog: Without giving too much away, what was your favorite part of this book to write?
Church: I think it was probably the first half, when the heroes reunite. There are a lot of subplots going on and it was good fun to have them all meet up after six months apart. Especially fun was Lady Anne and Kara.
WolfsGamingBlog: The book is away to hit bookshelves soon, and reviews are starting to come in. Are you feeling nervous or confident about the reception Return to Canifis will get?
Church: Very much so! It’s always a nerve-wracking time. I am confident that it will be well received, as I think it’s a better book than Betrayal at Falador. That said, it is aimed at a slightly older audience with more intrigue and behind the scenes stuff than its predecessor. So yes, I am nervous.
WolfsGamingBlog: Let’s get away from the this specific book for the last few questions and focus on you. Have you always been an avid reader of fantasy? Or do you just write it?
Church: I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi when I was younger, then took a hiatus from that during my time at university where I concentrated on the classics. It’s only recently, since I started to write fantasy, that I returned to reading it.
WolfsGamingBlog: Apart from your own, what books do you read?
Church: I vary my reading material widely, and I often have several books by my bedside. At the moment I am reading a John Le Carre novel, two books on popular science, the first book in the exciting Cherub series for teenagers, and the second book in the Prince of Nothing novels, The Warrior Prophet. There are probably two or three others that have disappeared under my bed as well.
WolfsGamingBlog; How did getting your first book published feel?
Church: It was a very exciting period. And it was unique as well, for as well as being the author my company ended up being a publisher.
WolfsGamingBlog: What’s your writing process? Do you have a set amount of time per day you write for?
Church: I did for book 1. Book 2 was a more rushed affair as it was the first book which I wrote from start to finish with an editor working on it as well. The whole thing was written in a highly stressful two months or so. It’s an experience I don’t care to repeat – neither does the editor either! With book 3 I will have a more realistic time to work in, and I will set aside time each day to work on it. I will, just as importantly, set aside time not to work on it, for it’s too easier to become very unfit sitting in front of a computer all day.
WolfsGamingBlog: Have you ever had that vague feeling that this must all be a dream, and that at some point you’ll have up and go back to a normal job?
Church: I’ve had a nightmare where that happened.
WolfsGamingBlog: According to the “About the Author” section you do actually play Runescape in your spare time. C’mon, spill the beans on your Runescape character, you know you want to.
Church: I’ve had the character since late 2006. My highest skill is 68, most of the others are mid-fifties. I’ve tried to wheedle free stuff from the RS programmers but they’ve said no. Think I’ll have to try and rig the grand exchange instead! As for my username, that’s going to remain secret – otherwise people would hunt me down….
WolfsGamingBlog: It may be cliché, but it has to be asked: Any tips for aspiring writers out there? Apart from the obvious “learn how to spell”.
Church: This is a question that comes up in every Q&A session and there are a lot of things to say, too many in fact. I am going to try and answer this more comprehensively on my own site in the near future as it is only right that I give people an answer if they’ve taken the time to ask. Most fundamentally, I would say that you should write as a hobby, and that you should make writing itself its own reward. If you write something with the belief that you will make a huge amount of money very quickly, then I would urge you to think again: at the first setback you will probably lose interest. However, if you write because you like it, you can overcome any number of setbacks. And in this game, there are a great many indeed.
WolfsGamingBlog: It has been an absolute pleasure speaking to you, and hopefully I didn’t make you sigh too often.
Church: Ha ha. Thanks for questions. I appreciate the opportunity
So there we have it. By time this interview is live Church’s new book will be available to buy, so I suggest you get out there and pick up a copy.
And, of course, a big thank you to Mr. Church who took time out to patiently answer my questions.