Part two of an interview with Graham McNeill, author of Ghouls of the Miskatonic
|The Dark Waters Trilogy | Published 25 May 2011|
Welcome back to New York Times Bestselling author Graham McNeill’s interview about his upcoming novel, Ghouls of the Miskatonic, which will be released in the third quarter of 2011! This first novel in The Dark Waters Trilogy is set in the bizarre world of Arkham Horror and captures the foreboding atmosphere of the popular board game.
Miskatonic University professor Oliver Grayson is attempting to return his former colleague’s sanity. Meanwhile the sanity of his student, Amanda, is threatened by nightly dreams of a figure beyond human conception stirring in the fathomless depths of the ocean. Then the appearance of butchered bodies around town brings a cast of familiar Arkham Horror characters into the investigation, just in time to witness a series of bizarre and unexplainable events that culminate in a cataclysmic discovery.
Interested in the first installment of Graham McNeill’s interview? Read Investigating the Horror.
Into the mythos
FFG: Can you describe your approach to the Arkham Horror world? Why did you decide to write a trilogy?
GM: I wanted to write a book that was, at first, steeped in reality. To establish the bucolic world that turned a blind eye to (or wilfully ignored) the lurking terrors just beneath the surface. And then shake it up like a snow-globe. One of Arkham’s greatest feats is to rationalise the many unnatural things that are happening and still continue to function. Keeping the mythos as a central part of the story, while still allowing the townsfolk their illusions was key to making the book work.
The overarching story I wanted to tell demanded a big cast, varied locations and some old-school globetrotting, so as the story expanded in discussions with the editors, we decided that a three-book arc was the way to go to get all that in.
FFG: How do you feel your experience writing science fiction novels like your novels that are a part of the Horus Heresy series affected your writing for Ghouls of the Miskatonic?
GM: Writing Horus Heresy forces you to raise your game, to make the stories bigger and more epic. You’re telling tales cut from legendary cloth, so events, characters and plots tend to be larger than life. That scale was a great help when it came to pulling the curtain back on the immense scope and limitless vistas of Lovecraftian horror, though juxtaposing the ordinariness of normal life with the sheer impossibility of the mythos was great fun. Part of the satisfaction of this book was in writing characters who aren’t superhuman, but are asked to undertake superhuman challenges.
FFG: What is your favorite section or aspect of Ghouls of the Miskatonic?
GM: I loved writing the scene in the speakeasy, as it was a chance to really sell the Twenties, the jazz, the booze and the excitement of the time. Though I also loved the scenes where one of the characters begins to perceive the true nature of the world around him, which allowed me to really get into that Lovecraftian horror vibe, where it’s not the gooey tentacles or sharp teeth that are the most terrifying, it’s the cosmic emptiness and isolation.
FFG: Who is your favorite character in Ghouls of the Miskatonic?
GM: I loved writing Oliver, the main character of the book, as we see him go from mild mannered college professor to a man drawn unwillingly into the mythos. His subsequent transformation and mental challenges were great fun to write. But for sheer, unbridled joy of writing, it probably has to be Finn Edwards. How can you not like writing an Irish bootlegger with a penchant for faery tales learned on his mam’s knee. Actually, Rex was cool…and Minnie…hmmm, thankfully they were all fun to write!
FFG: Do you remember what the first piece you ever wrote was? Did you show it to anyone?
GM: The first piece of actual fiction I remember writing was when I was in primary school, age eight or nine. I had to stand up in front of the class and read out this tale I’d written of a fishing boat that gets attacked by a giant octopus. I don’t have it anymore, but I remember that moment vividly, the class enthralled by the story and me feeling that this was something that maybe I was pretty good at. Perhaps that’s the moment I decided I wanted to be a writer.
FFG: How would you say your writing style has changed throughout the years?
GM: I think it’s become clearer, while at the same time developing a complexity to it that might have been lacking in earlier books. A simple plot is no bad thing, but adding layers to it that allows a reader to enjoy it on different levels is very rewarding. I know a lot more about how a story is constructed these days, the best way to pace the narrative and develop the characters. There’s less rambling diversions or ‘flab’ to the books now, which is good (though they’re getting bigger), because a robust, muscular plot that drives a reader onwards through the action is my holy grail.
FFG: How do you think fans will relate to your characters?
GM: I think they’ll love the combination of familiar faces and brand new ones. It’s always great to see characters you love from settings you know and have them walking and talking, but to see new ones gives you that sense of the unknown. How are these new elements going to interact with the established ones? Who is safe, and who is in danger? A lot of the characters in Lovecraft’s stories are hard to relate to, what with them being professors of ancient languages and so on, so I think readers will enjoy the fact that there’s people in this book they can empathise with and wonder how they would cope with the horrible situations I’m putting them in.
Thanks, Graham! For a sneak peek into the world of horror download the first chapter from the support page. Watch for more previews to be summoned in the coming weeks and pre-order Ghouls of the Miskatonic today!
The Dark Waters Trilogy is a gripping new series from best-selling novelist Graham McNeill.