We sit down with Matt Forbeck, an American game designer and New York Times-bestselling author who has written short fiction, novels and comic books, both original work and from universes such as Halo and Blood Bowl.
Halo: New Blood is one of his most recent novels, which centres on the popular character of Edward Buck as he goes from a seasoned ODST squad leader to a Spartan IV. Buck then goes on to fill the ranks of Fireteam Osiris in Halo 5: Guardians.
So, without further ado, let’s see what Matt has to say:
BGE: How did you get into writing?
Matt: I started out as a tabletop game editor and designer when I was fresh out of college, back in 1989. I worked for Games Workshop on a student work visa, and then plunged into full-time freelancing, and I’ve been at it ever since.
I started writing novels back in 2003 or so, mostly tie-ins for Dungeons & Dragons and Blood Bowl. Since I’d started in tabletop games, moving into novels about those games felt natural, and I had a wonderful time with it. Since then, I’ve had around thirty novels published — including a number of original works — which many more on the way.
BGE: What’s your favourite aspect to writing?
Matt: I actually love the process of writing, of stringing words together into sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and stories. That’s the thing that sustains me through rejections or bad reviews or any other kinds of flak that might come my way. The work itself matters more to me than how anyone accepts it.
That’s not to say that I don’t love excellent reviews or do my best to tell a good story at every turn. Reaching an audience is a massive part of being a professional writer, after all. But even on the worst days of being a writer, I still love actually writing.
BGE: You recently penned Halo: New Blood, featuring community favourite Edward Buck, voiced by Nathan Fillion in Halo 3: ODST and Halo 5: Guardians. How did you approach the character and his progression from ODST to Spartan IV?
Matt: I’d played through Halo 3: ODST twice before I landed the contract for the book. The folks at 343 asked me for a number of different ideas for a novel, and I pitched the Buck story hard. ODST is one of my favorite games in the series, and I couldn’t wait to have a crack at showing what makes Buck and his friends tick.
While I worked on the novel, I played bits of the game again, and I listened to Nathan Fillion’s voice work over and over, getting his patter down in my head. I had to know him inside and out, and it all gelled together well.
I knew that Buck wouldn’t leap at becoming a Spartan — especially if it meant leaving his team behind. So I came up with a plot that would spur him into finally making that leap in a way that felt authentic to the character. When I started out, I didn’t know for sure that Buck would be part of Halo 5 too, but once I found that out, it made the whole venture that much more fun.
BGE: Was the process made easier or more difficult due to Nathan Fillion’s portrayal of Buck?
Matt: Easier, I think. Nathan does such a great job of breathing life into Buck, of making him believable and real. That made it easier for me to find Buck’s voice and channel it as I wrote the story. Nathan’s portrayal of him guided me the whole way.
Bam! Said the lady!
BGE: As a Halo fan, are there any aspects of the fictional universe that you would like to write about?
Matt: Millions. The Halo universe is such a huge place, so vibrant and diverse, that I could spend a dozen lifetimes just scratching its surface. I’d love to get back to more stories about Buck and Dare at some point. I’d like to know more about Fireteam Osiris and their earliest missions together. There are so many heroes to tell stories about and not nearly enough time.
BGE: Describe your daily routine when writing a novel?
Matt: I get my kids off to school in the morning and then shackle myself to my desk until they get home. I try to use email and Twitter as breaks from the routine without getting sucked too far into them. If I’m on deadline, I’ll often write at night as well, after everyone else is asleep. Rinse and repeat.
In a longer view of my time, I tend to jump around from comics to novels to encyclopedias to tabletop games to video games, so I don’t write fiction every day. I like shaking things up to keep myself fresh. In the end, all that matters are the stories you can tell and the fun you can have with them.
BGE: It’s no secret that you’ve worked on Blood Bowl for Games Workshop. How does that universe compare with other franchises?
Matt: It’s absolutely ridiculous! Blood Bowl, for those who might not know, is a fantasy football game, in which the fantasy involves orcs, vampires, dwarves, elves, and so on playing a murderous version of American football that repays creative risk-taking and judicious cheating. It’s filled with all sorts of bad jokes too. The fans drink Killer Genuine Draft and Bloodweiser, for instance.
Despite all that nonsense, it’s fantastic fun. I wrote four novels and five comic books for the game — and worked on the game for a bit way back in the early ‘90s — and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard. (Check out our review of Blood Bowl 2).
BGE: What are you currently working on?
Matt: Today, it’s a tabletop roleplaying game based on my Shotguns & Sorcery series of stories and novels. That should be out in 2016 from Outland Entertainment. After that’s done, I’m getting back to the fistful of novels I have under contract. Just having fun and feeding my family by making things up for a living, the way I like it.
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We’d like to thank Matt for taking the time out to speak to us, and we look forward to reading more of his work. If you would like to get your grubby mitts on his recent novel, Halo: New Blood, then follow the lazy link below.
Flugel Meister (Dave) is a longtime video gaming fan, who's love for all things pixelated began way back in 1980, when he ventured onto his brother's Grandstand console before progressing to a Dragon 32 and then a Spectrum 48K. That's right. he's old. When he's not gaming, he can be found swimming in the country's reserves of cheesecake.
Follow him on Twitter: @DavidPMcDougall