It’s funny, but in a way, Richard A. Knack’s novel World Of Warcraft: Dawn Of The Aspects (paperback) may be his most Warcraft-ian book to date. And we’re talking about a guy who’s written nearly a dozen of them. But it’s not because of the story he tells in it, but rather because it was originally released in installments on the Internet like DLC.
With all five parts now being collected in a single volume from Gallery Books, Knaak made himself available to talk about how this book came to be, how playing the game inspires him, and his other non-Warcraft fantasy novels.
For those who haven’t read it online, what is the general story of World Of Warcraft: Dawn Of The Aspects and how does it fit in with the game?
The story deals with the origins of the five Aspects, the great dragons who have protected the world of Azeroth for millennia. They are now without their great powers and have no direction. However, as the youngest of them, Kalecgos, attempts to come to grips with both this event and others, another force steps in and thrusts him into the time when not dragons, but proto-dragons, were the dominant species…proto-dragons that include the five original Aspects before their ascent. As Kalecgos struggles to understand what he is experiencing through a young Malygos — the future Aspect of Magic and Kalecgos’s predecessor — his battle to retain his sanity becomes as significant as the monumental struggle the proto-dragons face against the monstrous Galakrond…
With this novel, the readers will learn essential knowledge about the early age of Azeroth and how those events still have tremendous repercussions in the world’s present.
In writing this book, where did the general idea for it come from? Was it something that the World Of Warcraft people suggested, or did you think it up and then run it by them?
Blizzard approached me with the general idea and I put together a synopsis based on the elements presented me. They made corrections, I wrote a new synopsis, and then we finally put together the story. This is typical. Blizzard is very determined to make sure that all stories fit with the game, either filling in essential material or giving the players a part of the world that the game can’t necessarily unveil properly.
Clearly, writing a book that’s based on a game comes with certain limitations. You can’t, for instance, kill off a main character whenever you like. But do you enjoy working with these kind of limitations?
Since I first began reading, I’ve always found myself delving deep into the worlds others have created. This is just more of that. I don’t see any of it as limiting. I do get to add my voice and I appreciate all the background material, which enables me to add elements that further enrich the story.
How often, when writing a novel like this, do you think of something that’s good but doesn’t work for the book you’re writing, so you save it for one of your own?
Now and then there’s something I can’t use that I keep in mind for my own work, but more often just being immersed in a set realm such as Azeroth causes me to consider plot points very appropriate for that project in particular. The source material Blizzard provides makes it much easier to formulate ideas that will fit into what I’m writing.
Do you ever think of something that’s really, really good, which would work for the book you’re working on, but you keep it for one of your own anyway?
That’s never happened. If it would work for the project, I’ll present it to Blizzard.
In writing a book that based on a game, how much of the game do you have to play for research?
That’s really a hard question to answer. The hours and hours designed for research quickly melt into playing. One doesn’t really end and the other take over. The play is research and the research is play. It’s the best of both worlds.
But how significant are the ideas you get from playing the game? Like, is it more that you get little details and coloring, or do you get plot points or big story ideas?
Overall, details. The general ideas are suggested by Blizzard, but the game brings depth to the tale we’re crafting together.
When you first started to work on World Of Warcraft: Dawn Of The Aspects, was the idea always that it would be a five-part series published online and later collected in a book, or did that come later?
It was intended to be published online, but the idea of it being collected in a book later on was not 100%. That decision came much later, in great part due to reader demand.
One thing about the World Of Warcraft: Dawn Of The Aspects collection that I thought was curious is that it includes a previously unpublished prologue…by someone else. Why didn’t you write the prologue?
The prologue was written at a different time as a self-contained story. I believe it was part of the game world. Although it already existed, I’m very happy with the results. Matt Burns did a very fine job.
How often did you call him Mr. Burns or say “Excellent!” like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons when Matt told you something about the prologue?
Ha! Wish I had! I will say that his story is an excellent addition to the book and he is an excellent person in general to work with.
Though I think I sound more like Bill and Ted than Mr. Burns…
Besides all of the World Of Warcraft you’ve written, you’ve also done a number of your own fantasy novels, both in the Dragonlance series and the Dragonrealm one. How often do you ask the people at Blizzard to make a World Of Dragonrealm game?
Oh, I made the suggestion early on, but I suppose that Azeroth will just have to do. Maybe someday…
Have they ever asked you to write stuff for one of their games? Not a novel, but for a game itself.
There have been discussions in the past, and I’d be happy to do it, but the novels have kept me busy and it’s a pleasure to see my own ideas from those books become part of the world, such as characters like Krasus, Rhonin, and Kalec.
For people who read World Of Warcraft: Dawn Of The Aspects and like it, or people who’ve like your other Warcraft novels, which of your original books do you think they’d enjoy most and why?
Well, Dragonrealm got me into Dragonlance which got me into Warcraft. While I think that the later stories have some added dimension, I definitely recommend either starting with the first omnibus, Legends Of The Dragonrealm, or the first novel of the new Turning War trilogy, Dragon Masters, which reveals secrets about the Dragonrealm’s past that still affect the characters in the main timeline. For those who enjoy the twists and turns and unusual characters I like to work with, this series is a good bet. And if you dragons, you can’t go wrong.
So, what’s next for you, book-wise?
Right now I’ve got a few things going on, but the one I’m working on at this very moment is the continuation of the Turning War trilogy for the Dragonrealm. Dragon Masters is just out, and currently I’m working on The Gryphon Mage, the second book. That will be followed by The Horned Blade.