Available Now DH:LoF – Tales of Promethea is a collection of short fiction set in the fictional country of Promethea, first laid bare in the award-winning, critically acclaimed RPG Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein.
With stories from both new and established talent from within and without the role-playing game world, Tales of Promethea gives both new readers and those already familiar with Victor Frankenstein’s country a chance to explore this terrifying, wonderful place.
Today we're taking a look inside the heads of a couple of the contributing authors Kate Harrad and Stuart Boon...
I’ve only done a couple actually, so it’s all still quite shiny and new. I’d love to get to a position where I could go ‘oh, another author interview, what shall I say this time,’ but I’m a long way from that at the moment. Picture me bouncing up and down like an excited five-year-old going ‘someone wants to ask me questions! someone wants to ask me questions!’
Despite having launched right in there, we should probably do some introductions. So, who are you and what do you do?
I’m Kate Harrad. My first novel, All Lies and Jest, was published byGhostwoods Books last year, and I blog as Fausterella. Which is also the name of my self-published short story collection and of one of the stories in it – a Faust/Cinderella crossover, unsurprisingly. I’ve also published a couple ofgenderswitched stories – classic novels with the genders switched round – which is probably what I’m best known for if I’m known for anything, since I wrote about it for the Guardian.
Mostly, though, I work for the NHS, look after two children, organise parties for my friends, and attempt to keep up with as much pop culture as I can manage.
Your bio on The Guardian's website makes use of many descriptives, but 'busy' certainly applies. How do you structure your time to manage to get in the writing that you do? Obviously you've learned to do without sleep.
If only! I managed it last year because my younger daughter was still a baby and slept a lot. Now she’s turned two and all of my writing time has disappeared. I need to go back to writing on my phone during my commute to and from work. Or train her up as my secretary, but so far her typing mostly looks like GGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIII, which may only be meaningful to other two-year-olds.
Tease us! What's your story in the anthology?
It’s about a sacrificial cult who worship Frankenstein, and who donate body parts to the aristocracy as part of their religion. And about the way the village around them reacts to that, and about the moral qualms of the doctor who performs the operations. So it’s quite dark. Well, I thought it was quite dark before I read some of the other stories...
DH:LoF is, amongst many things, an RPG. Are you, or have you ever been, a gamer of any sorts? Is that something else you cram into your terrifying schedule?
I used to be an occasional gamer, yes – a couple of my friends write RPGs, so the ones I’ve played have been written and GMed by them. I enjoy it but I’m terrible at it: the last game I played, I got killed by a vampire right at the end after completing the quest, because I invited her into my room and gave her a hug. I will never live that down. But when I have time (hmm) I’d love to get back into it, and possibly get killed less.
When did Promethea appear on your radar? How did the invite to participate in the anthology come about?
Tim Dedopulus, my publisher, is also a games writer and has been recommending me to people, which is much appreciated. So I’ve ended up meeting (on or offline) people like James Wallis, Greg Stolze and you, and various co-writing plans have been hatched, though some are on hiatus while we all try to find time for them. I’m very pleased to have been invited to write for Dark Harvest and would love to write more RPG fiction – the experience of writing within an existing universe is new to me and has been enormous fun.
It's all very well being invited to contribute to one of these anthology things, but quite another to actually participate. What was it in the DH:LoF setting that drew you in? Where did the story first come from?
When I read up on the Promethean universe I knew it had to contain people who actively embraced the masochistic aspect of the dark harvest. And it fitted in with my own preoccupations with strange cults and twisted religion (which is what my novel’s about, too). I was an evangelical Christian as a teenager and now I’m an atheist, and there’s a bit of my brain that’s very obsessed with all that. I liked the idea of taking the already disturbing concept of the bodies of peasants being used for the benefit of the upper class, and giving it one more twist to make it a voluntary act.
What's your writing process? Are you terribly spontaneous, or frighteningly structured, or are you... Oooh! Shiny thing!!
If I write too much structure in advance, I find it difficult to write the story. So I try to do it all in a few bursts – gather all the context and the characters and the general story in my head, mix it all together, and hope it rises in the, er, oven of my brain. If I wait too long to write it down, it tends to deflate.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m trying to write a second novel, but it might have to wait till my daughter’s in school. Other than that, short stories as and when. I recently had a story in Glitterwolf magazine, about a society where people have started transforming themselves into pure narrative. And I have two stories in Salome Jones’s upcoming book Red Phone Box, which is a novel/short story collection including one by Warren Ellis. There’ll be aKickstarter for that coming in January.
If you could point to one other thing you've done to date as a particularly fine example of what you do, what would it be?
I’m very fond of my play, Looking Busy, which is about a group of people who know the world is ending and that only two of them will be saved. The first half is them trying to deal with that, and the second half is set after the end of the world, with a power struggle between the human survivors and God and the angels. It’s a comedy. Sadly I can’t literally point anyone to it as it’s not published anywhere, but if anyone would like a funny full-length play with five characters, do let me know.
Other than that, my novel All Lies and Jest is my best example. It’s set in a slightly-speculative London where the US style of evangelism has taken over – it was a lot more speculative when I originally wrote it but now the real world has practically caught up, which is disturbing. Anyway, it’s got a vampire church in it, and kinky Christians, and an end-of-the-world cult, and a were-mosquito. And a narrator who wants to save the world. It’s a sort of comic speculative dystopian thriller – I’ve never been sure about its genre.
Many thanks for the interview! What are you off to do now?
Well, tonight I’m off to see a gig by occult goth transvestite comic Andrew O’Neill, who I recently discovered when I saw his steampunk band The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. Can’t wait.
More info on Kate and her work can be found at http://loveandzombies.co.uk/
Thanks, Stuart, for agreeing to do this quick interview. Mind you, this is by far and away not your first. I asked one of the other writers on the anthology this question, but it applies in spades to you - do you ever get used to doing these things? Is there a danger in getting too blasé about the whole PR thing?
Being relatively new to the games industry, I've not had a chance to get used to doing PR, as such. I still find quite amazing that people want to hear anything that I have to say! But I also think that interviews can perform an important role in bringing you back to your audience. I think it is important to try and connect, and I certainly appreciate an opportunity to revisit a piece of work or talk about writing in general.
For those few souls out there who are unaware of who you are, who are you and what do you do?
I lead a double-life these days: by day I am a mild-mannered teaching fellow at Strathclyde University and by night I freelance as a writer for a number of different game publishers, including Cubicle 7, Sixtystone Press, Chaosium, RealityBlurs, and, of course, Mr. Iain Lowson. I've also recently taken on the job of line developer of the Cthulhu Britannica line at Cubicle 7, so my plate is pretty full.
What is involved in the position of Line Manager?
Line developing means bringing all the legacy projects that existed before I joined Cubicle 7 to life while looking ahead to what the Cthulhu Britannica line could and should be. It's a lot of managing materials, editing for quality, coordinating with art and layout, and generally making sure that things get done and to a high standard. What matters most to me is that the line grows consistently and solidly with interesting books and supplements that people want to play.
You've won everything of late, except the 100m sprint at the recent Olympics (which was nice of you; Bolt would've cried or something). At the same time as creating all the amazing Scottish Cthulhu material (books, not cloth), you have another full time job in education. How on earth do you structure your time?
As best I can. To be honest much of my time is spent in a kind of 'creative chaos' and I just move from one deadline to the next. Now that I am line developing material, however, I am working with deadlines other than my own so I am beginning to develop a pattern and it seems to be working. The greatest danger for me at the moment is overload. That's something I need to be careful of.
As has been mentioned, you're hitting the headlines with the Shadows Over Scotland book and the related scenario. You're clearly no stranger to horror. Equally, DH:LoF is a little different. What for you are the challenges of each?
The biggest challenge is trying to meet the expectations of your audience. With Shadows Over Scotland, my intention was to write the best Call of Cthulhu sourcebook for 1920s Scotland that I could. Having played the game myself for decades, I had a good idea of what I would want to see, but you've still got to be careful to write for a wide audience. With Dark Harvest: Legacy of Frankenstein, I didn't have the same familiarity to call on, but what I did have was a wonderfully described setting, both rich and detailed. In that case, you are looking for reference material and trying to match the quality of the content and the writing.
When did DH:LoF first come to your attention?
I think I spied it originally when it first came out, but I didn't have a chance to play it until some friends I know picked it up. I remember be struck by the Frankenstein concept. It was a very original setting for gameplay.
When the invite to participate in the anthology came in, what made you agree to contribute? Was there a story already in your head, or did that come later?
The strength of the setting and how evocative it is was what made me agree. The story behind 'A Rending Crack of Thunder' wasn't in my head at the time, no. It was a product of the creative chaos I talked about earlier. I really enjoyed writing it.
Without spoiling the tale, give us the teaser version of 'Rending Crack of Thunder'.
It's a story about brotherhood and betrayal, both in a familial and a national or patriotic sense. It is underscored by the idea of resistance, of power, and of the relationship between dominant and counter cultures. But at its heart is a tale about two brothers who see the world very differently.
What's next for you with the writing?
I am just finishing up a scenario for Sixtystone Press and I'm developing the manuscripts for Cthulhu Britannica: London. I have another big sourcebook project to begin in the new year as well. On top of that there will be regular output from the Cthulhu Britannica line throughout 2013.
It's Christmas! What are your plans?
To relax, actually! I'm going to take some time away from writing and just enjoy the season. No plans to travel, just staying in and keeping warm.
Thanks for doing the interview. What are you off to do now?
I'm having a new boiler installed, so I'll check on that, but then it's back to writing. The excitement never ends!
Dark Harvest website
Tales of Promethea available now
Dark Harvest on the c7 store