Monday, January 7, 2008

My books #2: Knights of Doom

For years the brave Knights Templar of the Demonkeep have kept the peace in Ruddlestone. But now an ancient evil has reawakened in the land: the sorcerer Belgaroth has returned from the dead and will use his powers to bring chaos and terror to this peaceful kingdom. To ensure his plans succeed, the evil sorcerer has enlisted the services of the Knights of Doom. One heroic knight - YOU! - must creep through a land plunged into war, penetrate the enemy lines and overcome the deadliest foe of them all!

Summer 1993 arrived and with it the publication of my first book ‘Spellbreaker’. Less than a month later, I was into writing my second Fighting Fantasy gamebook. Having been successfully published once already, I found it much easier to get a book accepted the second time around. I had a better idea of what the series editors were looking for and they knew that they could rely on me to turn in the goods, and on time.

I had pitched ‘Knights of Doom’ back in March of that year and as the sample and synopsis seemed to tick all the right boxes, by the July I had been commissioned, with publication planned for the following summer. (At that time Puffin were bringing out three FF gamebooks a year, in the spring, summer and autumn.)

Again, I enjoyed the experience of writing ‘Knights of Doom’, creating the set piece encounters and back-story for the adventure, whilst trying to come up with fiendish ways to challenge the reader. If I am honest, I think I got rather carried away with trying to outfox those people who flick through gamebooks, keeping at least three options open at the same time, with their fingers stuck between the pages as bookmarks, whilst saying that they have any required object when they don’t. In other words, the cheats. (Or, to put it another way, people like me. By this time, when I played a gamebook I was as much reading it to see how it worked and was put together, as I was enjoying a well imagined adventure.)

‘Knights of Doom’ was published in the summer of 1994 with Tony Hough on art duties. The book was in itself something of a first as it marked the first time I had a piece of my own artwork published, in the form of the map that appeared at the start of the adventure.
This came about following my experiences with map art on ‘Spellbreaker’. I had produced a rough sketch map for my first gamebook, expecting the artist to run with it and turn it into a fantastic illustration in its own right. However, what eventually saw print was almost identical to what I had drawn and, truth be told, I was very disappointed. I felt that I could have done better myself and so when it came to ‘Knights of Doom’ I decided to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak.

My editor at Puffin was obviously happy with my efforts as the map I had drawn saw print, unchanged in anyway. I went on to draw the maps for ‘Curse of the Mummy’ and ‘Bloodbones’, and was even commissioned to illustrate the map for Keith Martin’s ‘Revenge of the Vampire’ off the back of it.

‘Knights of Doom’ is yet to be re-printed by Wizard Books but, should it be, you can rest assured that some modifications will be made to the original to make it a fairer challenge.


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