Jonathan Green started writing Fighting Fantasy novels when he was still a teenager, and has an impressive range of novels to his name. He is currently running Kickstarter to produce YOU ARE THE HERO, a book celebrating 30 years of Fighting Fantasy.
You’ve been writing Fighting Fantasy novels your entire adult live. What has been your favourite project so far?
I can’t single out just one so I’ll have to say Howl of the Werewolf and Night of the Necromancer. Howl because I went at it all guns blazing, fearing I might never get the chance to write another Fighting Fantasy gamebook ever again, and Night because of the conceit, the hero dies at the beginning and comes back as a ghost in order to solve his own murder, which I can’t believe hadn’t been used before.
Tell us about YOU ARE THE HERO.
It’s a 'coffee table' book celebrating 30 years of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, the publishing phenomenon created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. YOU ARE THE HERO will tell the story of Fighting Fantasy, from the early days of Games Workshop right up to the present day, and beyond. I have already interviewed Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone – who are both keen to have their story told – as well as all manner of other individuals involved in the creation of the series, or people who have been inspired by it.
Are adventure gamebooks still relevant today, or are they fuelled by nostalgia?
I believe that gamebooks are still relevant today, but then I would wouldn’t I?
Children still love to read, as do adults, and they aren’t permitted iPads in school yet, at least not in the ones I’ve visited. And of course apps may well be the way gamebooks are going, but the success of companies such as Tin Man Games shows there’s still a market for interactive fiction out there. Besides, people love video games, and many of them have less interaction, in terms of choices available to players, than a traditional gamebook.
But I would have to agree and say that the current gamebook renaissance has also been fuelled by nostalgia. People who were ten years old when The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was first published now have ten years olds of their own, and inevitably start to relive their own childhood memories and experiences through their children.
The important thing is what we do with gamebooks now that the genre has been revitalised with the release of many classic titles in new formats, and with more professionally produced new content than has been seen in decades.
What are the differences between writing a conventional gamebook, an interactive app and a regular novel?
The app and the gamebook are actually very similar. The main difference is that you can introduce achievements and unlockable content in the app version, such as you might see in a video game. Also, depending on the software, writing an app can make the process of writing a gamebook easier in some respects.
The differences between writing a gamebook and a novel are manifold. Everything’s written in the second person present tense for a start. Character development has to be handled differently, and yes, there can still be character development. You have to write more concisely. You can’t easily include flashbacks or scenes from another character’s point of view.
Of course the great thing about writing a gamebook over a novel is that you can explore every narrative path you like, whereas in a novel you have to stick with just one and follow it through to its ultimate conclusion.
You’ve written tie-in adventure gamebooks for the likes of Doctor Who and Warhammer 40K. How different are these from regular gamebooks?
The combat systems vary - or don’t exist at all - but other than that the process was just like writing any other gamebook except that I had to stay true to the respective universes during the writing of them. But that’s just the same with writing non-gamebook tie-in fiction.
Is there a particular 40K project you’d love to do?
I’d love to write a Space Marine Battles Book but I’ve also got a cool idea for a new Path to Victory gamebook I’d like to work on if I get the opportunity.
Is there a particular tie-in franchise that you haven’t written that you’d love to write for?
Well I’ve recently written a Judge Dredd short story, so that’s ticked another franchise box for me. To be honest, right now I’d rather develop a new franchise of my own as I’m writing for so many different existing franchises already, including Moshi Monsters.
What inspired you to write the Pax Britannia series?
I’m not sure to be honest. I remember reading on the 2000AD website that a new imprint called Abaddon Books was looking for authors. I followed the link, read the guidelines, then emailed editor Jon Oliver outlining a two paragraph pitch for the world of Pax Britannia. I made up the name Ulysses Quicksilver on the spot, thinking I could change it later. Only I never did.
However, a few years ago I stumbled across some notes I had made for a 2000AD Future Shock which I never submitted, which was pretty much the outline of the Professor Galapagos plot line from Unnatural History. Only the name of the main character was different.
I would imagine a host of influences had all worked on the old grey matter and percolated through to produce the Pax Britannia pitch, including Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula, Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Tim Power’s The Anubis Gates.
What is the appeal of Steam Punk for you? Do you prefer the steam or the punk?
There’s something very appealing about the artistry of the workmanship of the Victorian industrial age and Steampunk as a genre (or flavour, as I like to describe it) fulfils the ‘What if?’ criteria of speculative fiction so well.
The Victorian era was a time of great confidence, scientific advancements and optimism, whilst also being one of the darkest periods of British history. That dichotomy is very appealing to a writer too.
But Steam or Punk? Steam, definitely.
Who would win; Gereth Yaztromo, Malcador the Sigilite or Gandalf the Grey?
Gandalf, seeing as how he’s pretty much a superhero-wizard-angel-thing.
Truth or Beauty
Truth, which in itself can often be beautiful.
Simpsons or Futurama?
Tom Baker or Matt Smith?
Hmm… Matt Smith. No! Tom Baker. No, hang on, Matt Smith… Ummm…
Video Games or Traditional Games?
Video Games. I’m going to be crucified for that one!