Unlike most of the stories inspired by the Halo video games, understanding Kelly Gay’s novella Halo: Smoke And Shadow doesn’t require you to have played Halo 5: Guardians et al. to completion. Now Gay is continuing where her novella left off with the novel Halo: Renegades (paperback, Kindle). In the following email interview, Gay discusses what inspired this story and how it connects to the Halo cannon (and not just the games, either).
Your novella Halo: Smoke And Shadow was an expanded version of the short story “Into The Fire,” which was included in the Halo: Fractures collection. Please tell me Halo: Renegades isn’t an even long version of that story.
Renegades is a sequel to Smoke And Shadow, continuing the story of Rion Forge and crew ten weeks after Smoke And Shadow. We see how the crew is dealing with events in the last book and what transpires as they try to make Gek ‘Lhar pay for his crimes while steering clear of ONI. Being in possession of a Forerunner A.I. and knowing the location of a Forerunner debris field puts a very large target on their backs.
And how does Halo: Smoke And Shadow connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the games, and other books?
There are, of course, connections to Halo Wars, via the John Forge/Spirit Of Fire storyline, as well as some personal character connections to other books like [Greg Bear’s] Forerunner Saga [Cryptum, Primordium, Silentium], [Karen Traviss’] Kilo-5 trilogy [ Glasslands, The Thursday War, Mortal Dictata], and [Peter David’s] Hunters In The Dark, [as well as the live action movie] Nightfall.
Halo: Smoke And Shadowended on a bit of a cliffhanger. When did you come up with the idea for Halo: Renegades, what inspired it, and was that always the plan when you were writing Halo: Smoke And Shadow?
When I was writing Smoke And Shadow there was no plan for a novel at the time, though I had some ideas of how I’d like to continue the story should Gallery [who publish the Halo novels] and 343 Industries [who make the Halo games and oversee all things Halo] want more. The major storyline began to take shape after learning they did indeed want to expand on events in Smoke And Shadow.
So is there a reason why, instead of writing Halo: Smoke And Shadow as a novella with the hope you’d be able to continue that story, that you didn’t just write a novel that combined Halo: Smoke And Shadow and Halo: Renegades?
Since I was writing for an intellectual property, it wasn’t a decision I could make. Those who own and acquire the licensing rights / property — in this case 343 and Gallery — are the ones who make those decisions: which books to publish, how to release them, which authors to hire, and so on…. As a new author to the franchise, it might have been a matter of seeing how my writing and the smaller stories appealed to readers before committing to a full-length novel? Purely speculation on my part, though.
Now, Halo: Renegades, like all the Halo novels, is a sci-fi space opera. But are there any other genres at work in it as well?
Drama. Adventure. Definitely a few sub-genres at work in this one.
Are there any writers, or specific stories, that were a big influence on Halo: Renegades but not on Halo: Smoke And Shadow?
I drew my inspiration from the Halo canon and its wealth of media, particularly the Forerunner Saga by Greg Bear as the series holds a key connection and story continuation from that series to Renegades.
How about movies, TV shows, or video games; did any of them have an influence on Halo: Renegades? Besides the Halo games, obviously.
In specific regards to writing Renegades, it was really influenced and driven by the characters created in Smoke And Shadowand the vast media resources the Halo universe has to offer — a full immersion, if you will, in the universe for the crafting and writing duration of both stories. In an overall sense, the things I enjoy writing about and the styles that have influenced me as a creator can be found across media, everything from The Wizard Of Oz to The Fifth Element. As a kid of the ’80s, I grew up on G.I. Joe, Wonder Woman, Conan, Charlie’s Angels, The Goonies, Indiana Jones…so all those things certainly influenced me early on.
One of the things I found interesting about Halo: Smoke And Shadow was that it’s one of the few Halo books that doesn’t require you to have played the Halo games, or even know what they’re about, to understand and enjoy. Was that by design or happenstance?
Thanks! Writing understandable and enjoyable stories is always by design.
And can the same be said for Halo: Renegades?
Renegades can indeed be read without having to read Smoke And Shadow as the reader will find information on previous events to get them up to speed. However, I believe the experience is richer having read the novella and having already developed a relationship with the characters.
So is this the end of the story Rion and the crew of the Ace Of Spades, or are will the saga continue in another novel or novella?
I’ve enjoyed working with 343 and Gallery, and I’m very fond of the people and the characters, so I’d be game to continue if that’s something they decided to do. On other fronts, I’m currently finishing up a fantasy novel and plotting a sci-fi novel, both speculative.
As you know, some people binge books the way they binge Netflix shows and M&Ms. Do you think people should read Halo: Smoke And Shadow and Halo: Renegades back to back, or is there some story-based reason why you think they should take a break in between?
I’m definitely in the binger category. So, no. No story-based reason. I’d like readers to approach it in whatever manner they’re comfortable with whether that’s binging, or reading as things release, or taking some time in between, or coming to it late and working their way back… Whatever works for them.
Finally, if someone enjoys Halo: Renegades, and they’ve already read Halo: Smoke And Shadow, which of your other novels would you suggest they check out next?
Hmm. Perhaps my Charlie Madigan series [The Better Part Of Darkness, The Darkest Edge Of Dawn, The Hour Of Dust And Ashes, and Shadows Before The Sun]. They also have a no-nonsense, capable heroine lead. Urban fantasy. Adventure. Drama. Humor…single mom detective, working the supernatural underground of Atlanta. And shenanigans. Always the shenanigans.