Some Thoughts with ... Matthew Ward

3 Nov 2023

The Author/s

Matthew Ward

Matthew Ward

Cat-servant and owner of more musical instruments than he can actually play (and considerably more than he can play well), Matthew Ward is an author, creative consultant and VO director.

He lives near Nottingham with his extremely patient wife – as well as a pride of attention-seeking cats – and writes to entertain anyone who feels there’s not enough magic in the world.

The Interview

1.- How did you start writing?
That’s a complicated one. I know I used to love writing stories all the way as far back as primary school, and I dabbled in and out of it for years after. I had a couple of brushes with trying to write novels twenty-odd years ago, but it would take another decade before I really launched into it.
I’m terrible at works-in-progress, and novels are very, very long works-in-progress. I had to feel out a way of working that would mean I felt like I’d achieved something at the end of the day, even if I didn’t really have something finished to show for it.

 2.- You were a principal architect for Games Workshop’s Warhammer and Warhammer 40k settings for a decade, how was that experience?  
My involvement with Warhammer 40k started roughly halfway through my employment at Games Workshop and was just about the best time to dive into the grim darkness of the far future. There was an interest in broadening out the setting in a way not seen for several years, shining a light on new stories and new perspectives on well-trodden events, and I think it’s fair to say that those of us working on it at the time seized on the opportunity.
A lot of what we’ve seen in the years since – especially as regards the inter-connected storytelling – has its roots in those times. Sometimes it’s a little odd to see events and characters I introduced being mentioned in the same breath as the ones I pored over in the mid 90’s … to say nothing of them becoming the foundation of alternate media, such as video games (or even Magic: The Gathering cards, a couple of which have my words on them, which is very – good – strange to see).
My time with Warhammer’s more bittersweet, because of how things concluded with The End Times. It’s a very strange thing to be told “You know this setting you’ve loved since you were a teenager? We’d like you to destroy it.”
Erm. Okay.
On the other hand, I still get to linger in the before, thanks to my work writing for and directing the vocal performances on Fatshark’s Vermintide franchise (as I do on their Darktide games as well).

3.- After that, you started writing stories on your own worlds. Would you say the process is much different, and how?
Oh, there’s a lot more creative freedom. Working on company IP is a lot like freelancing: you get a brief, some steers, a lot of stakeholders (and stakeholders’ ideas), and then bake the components into final product with as much of yourself as you can squeeze in. There’s very little of that when you’re working for yourself, and all of it self-imposed.
Beyond that, the process is the process: you start at the beginning, and when you get to the end, you stop. There’s a lot more discipline required because – except in very rare circumstances – no one’s going to lean on you to get things done.
It’s also important to have people you can trust to be your sounding boards for ideas, good and bad. “Does this work?” and “Now, this might sound mad, but …” My wife (Lisa) and my agent (John Jarrold) really are unsung heroes in this regard. Some stuff just needs to be said aloud so that you know it’s real … and between them they hear an awful lot of stuff aloud.

4.- Could you tell us more about the Legacy Trilogy?
It’s a tale of successive generations trying to escape a war-torn past and the mistakes of their parents. Heroes and villains mingle freely … and often cross and recross the dividing line as the world changes around them. But mostly I think it’s a story about freedom, and how far you’ll go to save those you love. Some of the characters go a very, very long way indeed, and even when I abhor their decisions, I love them for having to strength to make those choices.
It's a series to dive into if you love Dark (but not necessarily Grimdark) Fantasy, character-driven stories and a reasonably non-magical world haunted at the corners by gods, spirits and monsters.

5.- Some of your works have also been part of the Frostgrave world. Could you tell us more about this period of your life?
That’s so far back now I don’t even remember how I fell into it. I’ve half a notion that Joe McCullough (the creator of Frostgrave and its sci-fi sister, Stargrave) was looking for entries in a short story anthology and the rest took off from there. This was back in the early days of the game, before the setting was fleshed out, so there was a lot of freedom in what it was possible to create.

6.- With The Darkness Before Them you are starting the Soulfire Saga. How many books are planned? What is the current state of this saga?
How does the joke go? “How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” I know there are definitely two, because I’m handing back the edits for the second one, The Fire Within Them, later this week. There’s probably a third, because I’m writing it at the moment (and then there’s the matter of the Book Two cliffhanger to consider).
But, you know, plans …

7.- As you have a relatively long career as author, would you give any advice to an author starting now?
Trust yourself. You’ll have to trust other people as well, of course, but it all begins on having the confidence to know when you’re right and when you’re wrong; to be honest with yourself as to which writing jobs you’re taking for the money, and which ones you’re doing because that’s why you’re in the business in the first place … you know, that whole “passion” thing.
Everything else flows from there.

8.- What can we expect from Matthew Ward in the future?
I have to admit, I’m wondering that myself. He’s prone to shooting off at odd angles when the fancy takes him. I know he’s still prodding and poking at Coldharbour, his London-based horror series, and there's a couple of other projects circling right now. But I think he’ll have to get the Soulfire Saga out into the world before any definite decisions are made.
It’s going to be a busy few months.