Friday, December 23, 2016

Guest Post - Jen Williams

Sing a Song of Skyrim
by Jen Williams

I’ve written before about how the video game Dragon Age inspired a love of old-school fantasy in me, which in turn led me to write the Copper Cat trilogy. What I haven’t spoken about really was how much influence Skyrim had – possibly because I didn’t fully realize the extent of its impact until after I’d written the books.

The truth is, I was playing Skyrim all through the writing process for The Copper Promise, and I’m certain now that my decision to open the book with one very dangerous dungeon crawl was directly inspired by all those draugr-haunted caverns and icy tunnels of death. The fact that my main character, Wydrin of Crosshaven, wears an awful lot of boiled leather could be traced back to my efforts to craft some decent hide armour, and as for her affection for mead… well to be fair, I suspect that does come directly from me.

Dragon Age might have planted the idea of complex sword and sorcery characters, but Skyrim taught me a lesson in atmosphere. I’ve never played another game like it in that sense; whether you’re hiking up the side of a mountain in a blizzard, unexpectedly rounding a fort to catch a spectacular view of the riverlands below, or just sitting in a tavern listening to a bard sing, Skyrim has an enormous, and almost magical, sense of freedom.

Part of this, I think, is that you are never really nailed down to the central narrative. You go where you want, do the quests you fancy, or just set out to see what’s at the bottom of that cave (usually something dreadful yet profitable). You meet other characters along the way, but mostly you move in and out of their lives – you take them or leave them, or leave them in pieces on the road. Skyrim, for my money, gives you the clearest sense of what it would really be like to be a lone adventurer in a dangerous fantasy world.

A lot of this is down to the many ways you can spend your time. You can set yourself up as an alchemist, collecting ingredients and selling your potions on; you can become a skilled blacksmith and armourer, making your own weaponry and trying it out on hapless cave bears; or you can make jewellery, and learn to enchant your pieces. You can even spend vast amounts of time hunting the best cuts of meat, or harvesting clams, and then learn how to make fortifying dinners. Why is this so satisfying? There is an odd feeling of self-sufficiency to Skyrim, – a sense that you are making it on your own, with hard won skills. My elf-mage has recently enrolled in the mage college, and spent some time investigating the ruins of Saarthal at the instruction of her tutors. We’ve learnt a lot that may advance the cause of magic, but in reality my elf was checking inside every burial urn for coins, because that kitchen extension won’t pay for itself, damn it.

It might sound a little odd, but I think this training in ‘living’ in a fantasy world was invaluable to The Copper Promise and The Iron Ghost – Skyrim gave these stories of wild magic and dragons a light sprinkling of blood and mud. That, and I got to play one of the best games ever made.

About Jen:

Jen Williams lives in London with her partner and their cat. She started writing about pirates and dragons as a young girl and has never stopped. Her short stories have featured in numerous anthologies and she was nominated for Best Newcomer in the 2015 British Fantasy Awards.

You can find Jen online at her website:, on Twitter @sennydreadful and on Facebook.

About The Iron Ghost (most recently released, second-in-series 'The Copper Cat')

Beware the dawning of a new mage…

Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of suddenly being very much in demand for their services.

When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin – retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by ancient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, making a reappearance, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking…

Release date: Jan 3 2017 (US/Can) / Jan 5 2017 (UK/Commonwealth)


About The Copper Promise (first-in-series 'The Copper Cat')

There are some tall stories about the caverns beneath the Citadel – about magic and mages and monsters and gods.

Wydrin of Crosshaven has heard them all, but she’s spent long enough trawling caverns and taverns with her companion Sir Sebastian to learn that there’s no money to be made in chasing rumours.

But then a crippled nobleman with a dead man’s name offers them a job: exploring the Citadel’s darkest depths. It sounds like just another quest with gold and adventure … if they’re lucky, they might even have a tale of their own to tell once it’s over.

These reckless adventurers will soon learn that sometimes there is truth in rumour. Sometimes a story can save your life.

No comments:

Post a Comment