Hello. It’s me, Dominic Green. I write things. Mostly I write things in Interzone, a British magazine, and one of the things I wrote in it was once nominated for a Hugo award (Clockwork Atom Bomb, 2006). A Hugo is a shiny thing won by other people <sob>. I am British. I am more British than Winston Churchill (whose mother was American), the Queen (who is essentially German) and my dog George (whose father was French, and who is ethnically Canadian in any case. Following Brexit, I’m thinking of reporting George to the authorities).
One of the newest things I have written is called Warlords of Llantatis, which you should buy a copy of for every member of your family, including your elderly Puritan aunt Temperance. She’ll dig the bit where the guy shoves the game console up his bottom. You can find it on Amazon UK and Amazon US.
Warlords is set in a near-future online roleplaying game – an old one, bypassed by more modern products, and now only favoured by older players playing it out of sheer nostalgia. In this game, a character has appeared who has no name. Not just no player ID, which the game mechanics shouldn’t allow in any case – his player has no idea what his real-world name is either, or even where on the planet he lives. He claims to be living in one room, held against his will, his only means of communication a games console one of his jailers has foolishly given him without realizing it connects to the outside world. In order to find out where and who he is, it will be necessary to keep his character alive for long enough to ask a great number of questions. Luckily, the players he has fallen in with, though two overweight middle-aged men in real life, are in the game the mightiest warriors Warlords of Llantatis has ever seen.
Let’s play a game. Let’s imagine that you just asked me how long it took me to write the book, what prompted me to write it, and how I write books, and that you care about my answers. I’m glad you asked me all that, and I’d like to structure my answer into eighteen separate parts. Okay, I’m kidding, put down all those sharp objects and stop aiming them at my head. It took me five years to write the book, but only because I was writing parts six and seven of a series of YA science fiction novels (Ant and Cleo) and a novel (Smallworld) at the time. I wrote the first couple of chapters of Warlords in 2009, then waited till 2013 before I started on the rest of it. The first couple of chapters are rather different from the rest of the book, being the Silmarillion part of the story that comes before the Lord of the Rings part. This Silmarillion part comes before the action and describes the creation of the world of Warlords, not by Iluvatar, but by a gaggle of jobbing programmers (fun fact – the book J R R Tolkien always wanted to write was The Silmarillion, but his publishers forced him to write four books about tiny people with hairy feet before reluctantly agreeing to publish The Silmarilion after his death, the miserable bastards).
What prompted you to write the book, Dominic?
The same thing that makes most people want to either write or game – a feeling that I wanted to be on the inside of the story, looking out, the same feeling you get at the moment where you finish the book and think to yourself: ‘Tomorrow morning, I will wake up, and I will once again be in a cheap hotel in Euston, not in a log cabin in the Misty Mountains.’ So you make your own story. That’s the reason why I started tabletop roleplaying in the 1970s, and it’s the reason why I have World of Warcraft and The Secret World accounts. Warlords of Llantatis has a cast of thousands of characters who are all in the game of the title because they want to feel they are the heroes of their own story, rather than cops, insurance salesmen or IT managers.
How do you write your books, Dominic?
Well, shucks, ma’am, I just plumb sit at the keyboard and durn it if stuff doesn’t just come out of my head. I don’t have difficulty writing. I have literary diarrhoea. I don’t just have it, I can spell it too.
I do plan books out beforehand. Sometimes I even draw maps of castles and deck plans of starships. The Ant and Cleo series, in particular, is now getting complex enough for me to have to keep detailed data files reminding me who everyone is, what planet they come from and what colour their skin goes when they’re embarrassed. In Ant and Cleo, the main characters usually age about a year per book, so I also have to keep track of everyone’s ages.
I find volume is easy to do – a two-hundred-page book will flop out of me onto the page in no time at all. The big problem is making sure it makes sense once it’s there (I’ve read White Shark by Peter Benchley, and P.B. definitely didn’t do that last step with that one). If the weather’s fine, I write sitting outside a café with George sitting next to me. He provides an unbiased critical viewpoint. The only negative point is that I frequently have to wipe his drool off the laptop screen. Hell, sometimes I have to wipe my drool off the laptop screen.
I’m going to pretend now that you asked me What Gives Me Inspiration To Write. Well, that’s a very interesting question. This particular novel contains elements of cyberpunk, elements of object-oriented programming, and huge unashamed chunks of Dungeons and Dragons and World of Warcraft, seasoned with cartoon violence and genuine real-life weirdness perpetrated on me by friends and enemies in the roleplaying hobby. If you feel any of the characters in this book are too weird for real life, just log on to a MMORPG server some time. I once walked into a bar in Stormwind and was greeted by a dwarf (a player character) dressed as a maitre D. He greeted me, showed me to my table, asked me if I’d like to see the menu, served me a very nice virtual meal, stood dutifully by the table while I ate and drank, and then bade me a good day. I have absolutely no doubt that he did this to everyone who ever walked into the bar. Some people want to vanquish dragons. Others just want to serve you a glass of Dalaran Noir.
Here’s a link to Saucerers and Gondoliers, the first Ant and Cleo book, which is suitable for children:
Here’s a link to Elder Shepherd. I’ve just published this, and it’s my take on the James Bond genre. It is not suitable for children, and contains class A drugs, guns, lesbians, Christians, explosions, tax accountancy, literati painting and cars being driven unsafely from the outset and throughout.