Sunday, January 6, 2008

My books #1: Spellbreaker


Rassin Abbey has guarded its arcane treasures for centuries. But when their Black Grimoire is stolen, the land of Ruddlestone is plunged into a crisis of epic proportions. For the ancient book holds the key to the legendary Casket of Shadows - and the evil imprisoned within it. Should it be opened, the Infernal Beast will be unleashed to wreak its terrible carnage across the Old World.

On the night of Shekka's moon, scant days away, this will surely come to pass. Unless, that is, one brave hero can retrieve the Black Grimoire in the nick of time - a hero like YOU!

Let me take you back a few years – nearly eighteen, in fact. It is July 1990 and, having finished secondary school, I am preparing to go to university that autumn. I have wanted to write for as long as I can remember and was a huge fan of the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks when they first came out in the early 1980s. Having already sent for a set of writer’s guidelines I sit down to prepare my masterpiece that will break me into the world of publishing. And so, ‘Outlaws of Kaan’ is born.

Suffice to say, ‘Outlaws’ does not float the FF consultant editor’s boat because, well, basically it’s rubbish. However, I receive some very helpful feedback and enthusiastically set about a re-write. Cut to a year later and ‘Outlaws’ has well and truly gone the way of the Dodo. Instead I’m now working on a proposal for ‘Spellbreaker’. With the Background and 100 paragraphs written I send it off and in due course receive a much more encouraging response. This one they like and after a re-write it gets as far as the commissioning editor’s desk at Puffin Books. A re-drafting of the plot synopsis after that and, having finished my second year at Uni, I receive the letter telling me that I have been commissioned. (I still have that letter to this day.) Now all I have to do is write the book – gulp!

I have to say that I absolutely loved the experience of writing ‘Spellbreaker’, everything from plotting the adventure to creating the monsters and villains the hero encounters along the way, from writing the illustration brief to drawing the flowchart for the editors to work from. It was the best paid summer job I ever had and I bought my first word processer (an Amstrad, of course) with my advance to type it up on, having written the whole thing by hand.

‘Spellbreaker’ finally saw print in June 1993, three years after I tried to break into the world of publishing. With hindsight, it’s not my best work (but then you’d hope I would have improved in the intervening fifteen or so years since I wrote it) and others have been kind enough to point out flaws in the game-play along the way. However, I am still very proud of ‘Spellbreaker’ and hold a place for it in my heart.

The inspirations for the book are not hard to see: I had been reading all the Brother Cadfael mysteries I could get my hands on around that time and there’s a fair bit of Shakespeare in there too (and what I couldn’t fit into ‘Spellbreaker’ made its way into ‘Knights of Doom’ a year later), but I’ll put that down to the A-level English Literature course I’d taken. And that’s not to mention the none-too-subtle references to Robin Hood and his ilk that not so much crept in as stormed into the book.

So, if witches, black magic, demons and innocent pastiches of medieval whodunits are your thing, check out the new improved edition available now from Wizard Books.


Blogger Mataeus said...

From an FF fan to others: Spellbreaker is a fine, fine adventure and one you should play if you've never had the chance to do so. It's an extremely difficult book in my opinion, but not NEARLY as hard-boiled as Knights of Doom! Many well devised 'set piece' battles litter the book and it has some of the most memorable moments from all the FF series: The plague village and the acolytes of pain really stand out from memory. It's not a forgiving adventure as I've already mentioned, but I like a certain amount of challenge in anything I do and this gamebook provides it in spades. It's not as well written (obviously, perhaps) as some of his later adventures, particularly Howl of the Werewolf, but the actual gameplay challenge makes up for it. I loved Howl, but after finishing it I think it IS a little too easy going at times. So for me, Spellbreaker and Bloodbones are possibly my favourite Jon Green FF books.

January 7, 2008 at 4:46 PM  

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