Exclusive Interview: “Arkham Horror: The Ravening Deep” Author Tim Pratt


California is known for sun and fun. But for writer Tim Pratt, it’s also where he conjured an ancient evil. Well, an ancient evil in a story, that is.

Which is just one of the things you’ll learn in the following email interview we did about Pratt’s new supernatural adventure novel, Arkham Horror: The Ravening Deep (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), which is connected to fantasy Flight’s H.P. Lovecraft-inspired card game, Arkham Horror.

Tim Pratt Arkham Horror The Ravening Deep

To begin, what is Arkham Horror: The Ravening Deep, and when and where does it take place in relation to both our reality and the reality of the game?

The book is set mostly in Arkham in the 1920s, and a little bit set in a horrifying structure in the sea. It’s about a man named Abel Davenport who survives a shipwreck and finds safety in an abandoned mostly submerged temple, where he discovers a relic belonging to the extinct cult of a dead god called Asterias. Abel is so grateful, devotes himself to the restoration of that deity. Then…things go awry. He ends up in Arkham, in bad shape, where he crosses paths with Diana Stanley, a member of the Silver Twilight Lodge who wants to take down that organization from the inside, and a cat burglar named Ruby Standish, who has her own goals. They end up in the crosshairs of Carl Sanford, the manipulative and merciless magus of the Lodge…but all four of them might have a common enemy in the form of the revived cult of Asterias.

Where did you get the idea for Arkham Horror: The Ravening Deep?

My editor encouraged me to create my own horrible eldritch deity, and I was thinking about that while taking a train ride along the California coast. As I looked out at the sea, I was recalling Mythos stories involving the Deep Ones, and began to contemplate the ocean as a battlefield. What if there were other things down there? Things the Deep Ones had been in conflict with, once upon a time? I really like starfish (they are very weird, and different species are weird in different ways), so I thought: can I make a horrible starfish monster be really creepy? I could indeed.

In the interview we did about your novel The Fractured Void, which was connected to the strategy game Twilight Imperium, you said you hadn’t played that game before writing Void. How familiar were you with Arkham Horror before you started work on The Ravening Deep?

I do play Arkham Horror, and have for ages. In the mists of history I even played the RPG version, Call Of Cthulhu. I’ve played the Arkham Horror card game as well. I like Mythos games in general, and have played lots of them; The Doom That Came To Atlantic City is a lot of fun too.

Is that why you wanted to write his novel?

Oh, I just really like the Mythos, and in the course of my career have written a fair number of stories inspired by (and sometimes commenting on) the works of Lovecraft, Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith, Derleth, etc. Being asked to write an Arkham Horror book fit my interests anyway. My basic criterion for whether I take a tie-in writing job is: “Would this delight my 14-year-old self?” Enthusiastic “yes” for this one.

So, what makes The Ravening Deep an Arkham Horror story as opposed to one that’s part of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos?

All Arkham Horror stories are Mythos stories, but not all Mythos stories are Arkham Horror stories. It’s Arkham Horror because it’s got characters from the game, mainly. Diana Stanley is an investigator from the game, Ruby Standish is an Ally, Carl Sanford pops up in the game text here and there, and the Silver Twilight Lodge is a location in the game (and was created as part of a Call Of Cthulhu campaign back in the day originally). When I write tie-ins I always try to incorporate a lot of tasty lore.

Now, all of the Arkham Horror books are cosmic horror stories, and it sounds like Arkham Horror: The Ravening Deep is as well. But are there any other genres at work in this story?

There’s a bit of body horror (though Arkham Horror aims for PG-13 or less, so it’s not as gruesome as it could be), and some cult-on-cult scheming, and there’s a heist. In general, I’d say the books are more supernatural adventure than cosmic horror, just to keep with the feel of the games.

Arkham Horror: The Ravening Deep is obviously not your first novel, though it is your first Arkham Horror novel. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on The Ravening Deep but not on anything else you’ve written?

Not nothing else, since I’ve done Mythos stuff before in my short fiction, but sure. In addition to the OG Mythos people I mentioned above, I love more modern takes on the subject matter by writers like Kij Johnson, Elizabeth Bear, Victor LaValle, and Ruthanna Emrys, too.

How about non-literary influences; was Arkham Horror: The Ravening Deep influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?

The Arkham Horror games themselves, of course.

Of course.

There’s a neat Lovecraft-inspired video game called The Sinking City that I liked, too. And though I experienced these after I finished the book, so they aren’t influences, I will mention a couple of other things that have the right vibes: the movie Underwater with Kristen Stewart, which totally failed in its marketing because I didn’t know it was Mythos-related until I watched it, and indie video game Dredge, which is, of all things, a cosmic horror fishing game. It’s a delight, and also includes horrible starfish.

What about Starro, the horrible starfish from DC Comics and the second Suicide Squad movie?

It did not.

In The Fractured Void interview I mentioned a moment ago, you said when you initially pitched ideas for your Twilight Imperium novels, you sent them three, thinking they’d pick one, but they liked all three. Did something similar happen with Arkham Horror and The Ravening Deep?

I did pitch them one other idea they ended up passing on for various reasons, partly because it had some more hardcore horrific themes, but I may end up writing that one as a story or novella for my own amusement. Once I hit on the idea for The Ravening Deep, we all knew it was the right one, though.

As for more Arkham Horror work from me, I don’t have anything to announce yet, but let’s just say we’re talking about things.

As we’ve been discussing, The Ravening Deep is connected to the board game Arkham Horror. But do you think someone who likes Lovecraft but is either not a fan of the game or hasn’t played it will enjoy it, too? And understand it?

Oh, absolutely. There’s no board-game specific knowledge needed. It’s just set in that world: 1920s eldritch horror adventure.

And then, on the flipside of that, do you think it could work as part of the game?

Oh, sure. I created a creepy god and a creepy cult, and I would not be sad to see either one appear in some future expansion, and Abel would make a great investigator.

In a similar vein, do you think Arkham Horror: The Ravening Deep could work as something else? Like a movie or TV show or a video game?

I just write the novels, but sure, I like a good adaptation. The special effects sure would be fun.

Tim Pratt Arkham Horror The Ravening Deep

Finally, if someone enjoys Arkham Horror: The Ravening Deep, which of your other novels would you suggest they check out?

Probably my urban fantasy stuff, which gets Mythos-tinged at times, namely the Marla Mason series starting with Blood Engines.



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