INTREVIEW: Gav Thorpe on Dark Angels
I finished reading the Legacy of Caliban trilogy by Gav Thorpe and knew I had to pick his brain a bit about the world altering events that occurred in it.
Let me warn you now, this entire interview is filled with spoilers as we discuss many of the twists and turns that occur throughout the series. If you haven’t read it yet and don’t want to have the surprises ruined for you then turn back now, otherwise, welcome to the secrets of the inner circle.
Tyler: You are pretty well known amongst the Black Library authors as being associated with the Dark Angels (as well as the Eldar, Elves, and Raven Guard), what drew you to the most secretive of Space Marine chapters?
Gav: Conflict. The Dark Angels have a built-in internal conflict, between the different circles of knowledge and secrecy. It doesn’t take much to create friction between two characters, whereas with other Chapters you have to push things a little further, maybe distort slightly the brotherhood Space Marines would have in reality.
Tyler: Ravenwing, the first book in the series, came out back when the 6th edition codex for the Dark Angels was released. The last novel just came out with the release of the 7th edition codex, which was about 2-3 years later. How much of this trilogy was planned from the get go, and how much of it developed organically as you wrote it?
Gav: The overall structure was in place form the conception. It examines how the Hunt might progress, so the story moves from the Ravenwing through the Deathwing getting involved until the entire Chapter gets drawn in (actually, several Unforgiven chapters). As part of this, I always envisaged having a couple of lower level characters remaining throughout, whilst each book would have a point of view from a known character – Sammael, Sapphon and Asmodai (because fans seemed to want both in equal measure when I asked who they preferred) and finishing with Azrael. I also knew that in order to ‘scale up’ the conflict to make it big enough for Azrael to be involved, it would have to be a pretty big episode in the Chapter’s history, Having written Angels of Darkness, it made sense to resurrect the plot of the Fallen from there and turn the stakes up to maximum!
Tyler: Over the course of the trilogy you got to write pretty much every major player in the Dark Angels stable, including Cypher. Who was your favorite to tackle and who was the trickiest to write?
Tyler: Ravenwing acted as an introduction for us into how the Dark Angels operate and the level of secrecy their Battle-Brothers are kept in, while The Unforgiven featured a lot of dramatic reveals and had the duty of tying up the plot. This allowed Master of Sanctity to delve into the complex chapter politics amongst the inner circle and the different companies. Was this planned when you started or something that developed due to the nature of it being the middle book?
Gav: I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but I suppose the politics are something that are inevitable once the Hunt continues and the consequences ripple up the chain of command.
Tyler: Which of the three novels was the most challenging for you to write and which was the most rewarding?
Gav: Ravenwing was the hardest simply because beginning things but making them satisfying in their own right can be a difficult balancing act, plus the Codex was still being written so there was fluctuating research materials to read and absorb. Getting characters down and straight in your head takes time, and coming back to them is easier. It was also the book that threw up the most obvious difficulties when looking at the day-to-day logistics of trying to a keep a secret within the brotherhood of warriors – just exactly how are the different circles of knowledge maintained? I loved writing Sapphon and Asmodai, as I mentioned, but I also got a real thrill from The Unforgiven simply because I knew it was a storyline that would blow everything out of the water, for the story and the fans alike, as well as flirting with the appearances of Cypher and cool stuff like the conversation with Luther.
Tyler: In The Unforgiven we learn that Luther is indeed kept prisoner within the heart of the Rock, something that had long been hinted at. Were the details of his imprisonment, such as the stasis field and his mental instability, something given to you by GW or were you allowed to develop it on your own?
Tyler: Besides Astelan and Cypher, the other major antagonist was Typhus. What drew you to writing about the Herald of Nurgle as opposed to one of the other major Chaos villains?
Gav: Well, I can’t get into that too much because of potential spoilers for my forthcoming Horus Heresy novel. But, there’s already history established in my novella The Lion, that ropes Calas Typhon (now Typhus) into the fate of the Dark Angels.
Tyler: Is it difficult utilizing such an iconic villain? I always found it a little endearing that Azreal and company thought they were going to be the ones to finally kill him after 10,000 years. It seems like since Typhus is so thoroughly embedded in the 40k lore and game that it would limit what could happen to him in the story.
Tyler: Do you see this trilogy as a story of the Dark Angels as a whole, or more specifically the story of Anneal and Telemanus?
Gav: Both. Annael and Telemenus are examples from the lower ranks, the ‘common man’ viewpoint that allowed me to look at the grand conspiracies and conspirators with innocent eyes – and hence are perhaps also the eyes of the reader in many regards.
Tyler: When Angels of Darkness was written the Horus Heresy had barely been explored, which allowed you a lot more freedom to create the history that you needed. It was also one of the first books to really explore that time period. The Unforgiven has a ton of connections to the Heresy series, some we have already seen, such as from The Lion, and some yet to be explored. Do you find it harder to write stories that weave themselves into the Heresy now since that series is still being written and fleshed out and is a lot more concrete?
Tyler: The ending of The Unforgiven is pretty game changing. Was this something you created for the story or a revelation to you to include if you wanted?
Tyler: I personally love how time travel is being utilized more in Black Library novels. The time distorting affects of the Warp have always been mentioned, but rarely explored. Now we have it occurring in both your novel and John French’s Ahriman: Sorcerer. Is this an area of the Warp that you have always wanted to explore as well?
Tyler: What effects do you think this will have on the Dark Angels going forward?
Tyler: Can we expect to see more of Astelan in the future?
Tyler: Now for some questions unrelated to the Dark Angels. You have mentioned that you are writing your first novel for the Age of Sigmar. What challenges do you find while writing for this new setting? Do you have to approach it completely differently to how you wrote Warhammer Fantasy books?
Tyler: If you were given free reign to write about any event, person, or topic from the AoS or 40K universes, what would it be?
Tyler: Now that the Old World is gone, can you share some of the unused story ideas you had for that setting? What would have been your dream book for Warhammer Fantasy?
Tyler: If the Lion and Azreal could meet, what would they say to each other? Do you think the Lion would be disappointed with how the Dark Angels have turned out in the 41st millennium?
Tyler: What books can we look forward to reading from you in the immediate future?
Tyler: Any final thoughts?
Tyler is a life long painter and hobbyist and took home his first Golden Demon award at the 2012 Chicago Games Day with a follow up at the 2013 North American Games Day. More of his work can be found at his blog, Mengel Miniatures.