Tom Huddleston and Cavan Scott are highly experienced writers who specialise in making popular franchise fiction accessible to younger audiences. These brave gentlemen have written the first Warhammer Adventures books, which bring the detailed and complicated (and quite mature) worlds of Warhammer to the 8-12 aged audience. We caught up with them to find out more…
STARBURST: Tom, what’s the elevator pitch for City of Lifestone?
Tom Huddleston: The story is set in the mortal realms of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, a world of adventure and monsters and battles and general mayhem. It follows a slave-girl called Kiri who flees her captors and sets out to find the fabled city of Lifestone, but when she gets there nothing’s as she thought it would be. It’s about friendship and bravery and magic and giant talking rats.
Cavan, how about the story behind Attack of the Necron?
Cavan Scott: Three kids and an alien ape survive the destruction of their planet only to find themselves hunted by one of the aliens behind the cataclysmic event.
Warhammer 40,000 is a well-established franchise; how did you the tackle of creating a Grim Dark story a younger audience?
CS: It was important that we never talked down to younger readers. This is still a dangerous universe, but obviously we’ve got to be responsible, making sure that the peril and thrills are age-appropriate, never getting too scary, while still maintaining the danger that makes the franchise so popular in the first place.
Age of Sigmar is a complicated fantasy setting. What did you do to navigate it?
TH: I did a whole lot of reading. I didn’t grow up with Warhammer, so I had to absorb a large amount of lore in a very short space of time. Luckily, it’s all really cool, exciting, and memorable!
What one thing did you have to take out in order to make the book work?
TH: Truthfully, not much. We had to move some scenes around, but the book came out pretty much fully formed.
CS: Well, we couldn’t have the gore and excessive violence that Warhammer 40,000 is known for – but there’s still plenty of jeopardy.
What character is the most fun to write?
TH: Probably Kreech, the leader of those devious talking rat-men the Skaven. They have a totally unique manner of speech, which is always enjoyable to write, plus he’s just this wonderfully grasping, shallow, self-important, vicious little fiend. All great qualities in a villain.
CS: I think Fleapit the Jokaero, as who wouldn’t want to write a grumpy cybernetic alien orangutan?
Which character would you like to have a long chat with?
TH: Probably Vertigan, the wise old witch hunter who brings the heroes of the book together. He’d have some amazing stories, about everything he’s seen and done in his years roaming the mortal realms.
How long did it take to write?
TH: Longer than it takes to read.
CS: The book has had a long gestation as we spent a long time working out the character, the overall story arc and the right tone. The book itself probably took a month or so to write and edit.
How have the fans been?
TH: On the whole, terrific. There was some initial uncertainty about the prospect of writing Warhammer stories - which have traditionally been rather violent - for younger readers, but that died away pretty quickly once the books actually came out. Obviously, myself and Cavan had to tread a fine line between satisfying the hardcore fans and still making the books kid-friendly, but from the responses I’ve seen I’d say we achieved it. The whole idea was to give Warhammer fans something to share with their own young ‘uns, and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing.
CS: At first, quite a few fans seemed to be worried that this would somehow water down the universe as a whole, but hopefully by now their worries have proved to be unfounded. Certainly, the response to the first book has been fantastic, with lots of parents telling us how great it is to have their kids’ reading. The parents seem to have been enjoying the books too.
What has been the most interesting shift in genre writing in recent years?
TH: I’m sorry, that’s a question for someone else. I buy all my books in charity shops, and am rubbish at following trends.
CS: I think the growth of TV binge-watching and long-form storytelling, from season-long arcs to single-stories told over multiple episodes. That’s influenced everything from comics to books – and even film franchises. Just look at the MCU. Now everyone wants shared universes.
What tropes do you personally avoid the most?
TH: I don’t place a blanket ban on anything. If it works for the story, I’ll use it.
CS: And it was all a dream…
TH: First up it’s the second Warhammer Adventures: Realm Quest book, Lair of the Skaven, in which our heroes have to infiltrate a warren teeming with savage rat men. I won’t spoil it, but let’s just say Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a major influence.
Then I have a new original novel coming out in October, it’s called FloodWorld and it’s an action-packed adventure story for 10+ readers, set in a world where the oceans have risen, submerging the cities. It’s a bit sci-fi, a bit disaster movie, a bit political thriller, and all super exciting.
CS: The next book in the series leads on directly from Attack of the Necron and sees the kids exploring a derelict spaceship – a derelict spaceship stalked by an alien from their worst nightmares. Claws of the Genestealer comes out in May.
Describe your dream project for us.
TH: I’d love to work on a movie adaptation of one of my own books. I think FloodWorld would make a cracking film, though you’d need several hundred million dollars to do it justice.
CS: Writing Superman for any medium, but especially comics.
You’ve written a lot of franchise work. What’s next?
TH: Well, the Warhammer Adventures: Realm Quest series has only just begun, so I’ll be writing those for the foreseeable. There are some really cool stories coming up - as far as I’m concerned, the books just keep getting better. But I would say that.
CS: I’ve written a new five-and-a-half-hour Star Wars audio drama which explores the past of Count Dooku, the Sith played by Christopher Lee in the Prequel trilogy. Featuring a full cast, Dooku: Jedi Lost is published by Del Rey on April 30th. Beyond that… well, that would be telling…
If you could give the 16-year-old version of yourself any advice, what would it be? Would you listen?
TH: I’d tell myself to be more confident in my own abilities. But to be honest, I told myself that at the time and I didn’t listen.
CS: Never stop playing. Life is supposed to be fun. And yeah, hopefully they would, once they’ve stopped trying to be painfully cool - and failing horribly!
Attack the Necron and City of Lifestone are out now. Keep an eye on the Warhammer Community website for the latest news of all things Warhammer.