Interview with Al Sander

How did you come up with story behind The Wizard from Tarnath Tor?

I’ve always been a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction and for the longest time I’ve had a picture in my head of a desolate city, abandoned completely and suddenly at the height of its power and splendour, with a cold and lonely wind blowing through its once bustling streets.

I asked myself questions about why and how  the city become abandoned, why it had not been discovered or plundered in the years since and the motivations for an adventurer to explore the ruins and the basic plot pretty much wrote itself.

How long did it take you to write it?

I’m not a fast writer, so it took about 3-4 months of writing almost every available evening and weekend to get the adventure to a 90% finished state.  Then followed a frustrating 6 month hiatus due to other commitments before I was finally able to get back to finishing the adventure… so probably close to a year to write from start to finish!

This 6 month break let me review the work with fresh eyes, rewrite a significant portion of the adventure and thread in a new plot element to make the adventure more personal to the protagonist. Although the original adventure was not too shabby as written, this extra time for reflection allowed me to really fine tune the adventure.

It is certainly some of my best work I’ve ever written.

You’re a Windhammer prize winner. How did you find out about that and how was it to win?

I keep up with the various groups on yahoo relating to gamebooks so I saw the original announcement not long after it was posted and I knew immediately I had to enter.

The 2008 competition had a short turn-around time between announcement and final entries and I think the combination of an unusual mix of fantasy/steampunk/world war I for the setting in my entry “Raid on Chateau Feckenstein” and my commitment to take the time taken to do the adventure justice (even with the lack of sleep that implies) was enough to carry the day with the voters.

I was ecstatic at coming first in the 2008 Windhammer competition, especially in lieu of the strong competition faced.

What was the first gamebook you ever read?

Like many other, I started with “The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.”  I had just finished reading “The Hobbit,” which is the first piece of fantasy fiction I can remember reading and I was looking around so something similar when I spotted the WoFM and was intrigued enough to convince my parents to buy it for me. Read it, loved it and I’ve never really looked back since.

What is your favourite series?

That’s a hard one to answer.

The Fighting Fantasy series had many outstanding entries in its long run from “Deathtrap Dungeon” to “Vault of the Vampire” and more recently “Howl of the Werewolf” but also many entries that were flawed in one way or another or even downright poorly written.

The Lone Wolf series gave you a persistent hero and well developed world but tended to follow the same general formula, especially with later books.

The Fabled Lands series has to be one of my favourites but has remained frustratingly incomplete for all these years although it appears there is now a chance there will be new entries in the series forthcoming.

There are many other shorter series with outstanding entries that could be mentioned also but I guess my answer is if you could take the best entries from all the gamebooks out there, put them together in a sort of meta-series, that would be my choice.

If you could choose one artist to illustrate one of your stories, alive or dead, who would it be?

Having seen the early drafts of Dan’s work, I’m already impressed by the quality of art for The Wizard from Tarnath Tor and I’m looking forward to seeing the final result.

That being said, if I had my choice of any artist, alive or dead, I would love to have seen what one of the great renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo would produce if they were alive today and asked to illustrate the work.

How would you like to see gamebooks evolve?

I’ve been excited by the gamebook offerings coming out recently, with gamebooks now being offered in an electronic media, not only as direct ports of pen and paper books but often in ways that uses the strengths of the electronic medium to add to the traditional gamebook format – Gamebook Adventures being an obvious example.

At the same time we have books like Michael J. Ward’s “Destiny Quest” which is in a more traditional printed format but draws to a certain extent to MMORPGS with different coloured “zones” in the book to determine quest difficulty and hero builds to customise your adventurer as you progress through the gamebook.

In the future I hope to not only see the current trends of drawing from different sources and medias to continue but also the development of existing formats to create interesting, high quality gamebooks.

The Wizard from Tarnath Tor will be available for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad in May 2011!

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  2. […] of course, there is also the story, which has been crafted by Al Sander, winner of the 2008 Windhammer Prize for Short Gamebook Fiction, and illustrated by Gamebook […]

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