Diablo 3 - "The Order" Book Interview with Nate Kenyon

Uploaded by OMFGcata on 14.05.2012

Her face was shiny, her eyes ringed in dark circles
and her mouth continued to move, as if it were about to speak
But she said nothing
Judging from the state of the house, she could not have much money left
and that along with the stress of taking care of a child
may have been more than she could bear
What was it she had said to him last night
Whispering. All the time, inside my head, they won't let me rest
They tell me terrible things
Close contact with demons often drove a person mad, and it could have an effect years later
like ripples, growing in a pond
Gillian refused to look at him, one hand was behind her back
"What do you have there?" He asked, keeping his tone casual, although his sense of alarm was growing
"Nothing" She took a step back and shook her head
"Let me see it Jillian" She shook her head again, holding out her other hand as if to stop him
Her back was against the door now and he caught a flash of something shiny as she shifted her body
She seemed to be fighting a great inner battle, her face crumpled, her lip trembling
A tear slid its way down one check, then she shook her head again
And abruptly her expression changed, growing hard and angry "No"
"No, you leave this house right now Deckard, you're no longer welcome"
"I think you should sit down, let me make you some tea"
"I don't want any tea! You would probably just enchant it to keep me quiet"
"Isn't that what you do? Your kind likes to bury things in the past and keep them there
"Like what happened to you in Tristram"
"You don't know what you're saying"
Gillian's expression changed again, her voice grew lilting, almost playful
"I grew up with him. Don't you remember? Until he disappeared"
"Enough!" Cain shouted "Don't speak of that"
His rage and self loathing boiling to the surface, he made a move towards her
Gillian brought her hand from behind her back. She held a large knife, it's edges stained red
Now he knew what he smelled when he entered the house, the coppery scent of blood
"I was cutting meat" She said "For our dinner, chopping it up"
"Gillian, where is the girl?"
"She's sleeping, they told me I must not disturb her"
Gillian suddenly smiled, it was a wide and predatory smile
like a snake about to swallow a mouse
And that is just a tiny bit of the new thriller Diablo 3 The Order
A new story that bridges the gap between Diablo 2 and 3
And today we are lucky enough to have the man behind such books as The Reach, Sparrow Rock
and for you Blizzard fans you might know him from the book Starcraft Ghost: Spectres
Award winner and author of The Order Mr. Nate Kenyon
Nate, thank you for joining us
[Nate Kenyon] Glad to be here, thanks for having me
[Jesse] Can you tell us a little about The Order before we start just grilling you with questions about this book
[Nate] Yeah sure, it takes place a few years after Diablo 2, so in between Diablo 2 and Diablo 3
It's after the battle of the mountain and most of the people that participated in that believe the danger is over, but Deckard Cain does not
So he continues to wander Sanctuary, and he's obsessed with a large number of signs, a growing number of signs that indicate a new invasion is on its way
One that will dwarf everything else that has come before it
And so he's determined to follow these signs that might help him stop the demon uprising, and find out whether there are Horadrim left
Another key part of this novel is whether he is the last of the Horadrim or not
And he's also haunted by events of his past
Things he's kept hidden, kept buried so deep that he barely remembers them at all
but they will come to the surface soon
So during the course of the book he travels to Leah and finds her and rescues her essentially
The origin story of how they come to be a family is in this novel
And they go on the road and they go searching out a way to stop this invasion they see coming
And that's it in a nutshell
[Jesse] I think what's so great about the book itself is that, even though it takes place between Diablo 2's expansion and Diablo 3
is that a lot of it actually deals with, I guess for a better term, the retconning of Diablo 1
Because for all of it's awesomeness, Diablo 1 really doesn't have that much of a story
So a lot had to, you had to go back and add stuff to that to make it flow with 2 and now 3
I think, to me, one of the best parts of the book was the look back
At not only events that occurred with the hero from Diablo 1, but also Deckard Cain's childhood, and I think that alone
What was it like having to go back and sort of rewrite the saga of Diablo from it's origin and then make it flow into Diablo 3
[Nate] Great question, funny you picked up on that
It was a main goal of all of ours, of Blizzard's and mine
This was really an attempt to kind of reboot the franchise in novel form
Blizzard was very intent on sort of restarting things
And having this novel introduce new players, new readers, as well as inform hardcore fans about what has come before
So that was really important. And for me personally, what I wanted to do was really dig into Deckard Cain's character, his past, his history
There's an awful lot about Cain in the games, in associated content
But there isn't a lot about who he really was, who he is, what shaped him
And I wanted to tell that story, that was the thing that was most interesting to me when they came to me to talk about doing this book
So I hope, I think I created a compelling back story for him
Something that is full of drama and trauma and things that he has to deal with and overcome
And things that inform who he is and why he is who he is in the games
And why he acts the way he does
So, like I said, it's interesting that you caught on to that, I think that was a definite intention of ours
My only concern with it is I didn't want to bog down the story of the book itself
in a lot of regurgitating of stuff that happened
We were also very intent on keeping a very current plot line, something very compelling, very epic
and dark and fun as part of this, and dealing with these, the way I dealt with them, as you know, is with mostly memory flashbacks and dream sequences that are fairly brief
but hopefully bring some of the more iconic moments and interesting moments back to readers
[Jesse] You can definitely tell you're a thriller/horror writer, because those flash back scenes
and some of the scenes where it's Deckard and, I don't want to give too much away
Deckard and Leah and they're in the "New City"
There's a lot of really great scenes
Because essentially Diablo is a supernatural story, so I really like how you did that, and the flashbacks as well I thought were really good
I actually wrote a note, here on my list of notes
In The Order, we get some much needed character development, not only between Cain and the hero from Diablo 1
but Cain in himself, his motivations and his regrets and his relationship and back story with Leah
which I thought was sort of a great overall summary of what happens overall in this book
I think the biggest question I had based off of that is
This book I want to say is the first time that we've actually had a Deckard Cain main character story
I mean there's The Book of Cain, but that's a book written by him about the lore
There's like Sin War and there's all these other stories
but they're about other heroes, about major events in the lore
but nothing is really about Deckard Cain as a character
It hit me that, for all of his good intentions and well wishes, he's essentially an old feeble man
But he's the driving point of all the action of this book
How was that to write, because I imagine that had to have been very difficult
[Nate] Yeah, you zeroed in on my second biggest concern when I talked to Blizzard about this project in the first place
The first was how to handle rebooting things and giving everybody enough information
and compelling information without bogging the story down
And the second one was Oh my God, you want to tell an epic horror thriller
from the vantage point of an old man as the hero
Not just like a side character, supporting character, but as the hero of the book essentially
And there was a lot of debate actually with Blizzard and with me and others about whether he should be a hero or not
and what that means, what does that actually mean
And I actually thought that debate was really valuable for me in writing it
because it actually ended up defining, I think, the book for me
What does it mean to be a hero, is Deckard Cain a hero, even though he's not going to really knock peoples heads off
and run around like your typical swashbuckling hero
But is he a hero nonetheless by the end of this novel
My intent was to make that happen
And it was challenging at times
but it also gave me an interesting way to build little bits and pieces of the plot in fun, unique ways
Because if you're writing your typical thriller, horror novel
You've got some muscle bound hero who is able to physically fight his way out of places
It gives you an easy out, but with this book you have to come up with something a bit different
And I think that makes the book stronger, I think, in that Cain has to use his other skills
His knowledge, his intelligence, those are his strengths
So he's the perfect character to tell the story, he really is
And that's why we ended up doing what we did, because he knows so much
he's a scholar, he knows the history, he's been through these events of D1 and D2
So he's the perfect person to kind of provide a focal point for retelling the lore, retelling the story, while still moving the plot forward
[Jesse] That's actually one of my favorite parts of the book, the back story of Deckard Cain
Most people, and this is why even though he's an old man he's sort of believable as a hero
because I think he has that sort of Gandolf syndrome
where he's an old, wise man, but when he's running into battle at the end of the last movie or whatever
no one really cares, it's like go Gandolf, it's that kind of mentality
What's so great is that in the Diablo series of games
he's essentially just an old wise man who tells you wise things and helps the hero along on his quest
He's sort of your Yoda
In this case the flashbacks show the character before that time
and it's sort of like witnessing someone who you always knew was one way turning out to be completely different
His character is much more complex than you would think
He was not always this great wise man
In fact for most of his life, he sort of wasn't
Without getting into too much can you sort of explain why you guys decided to make the character that way
[Nate] Yeah, definitely
One my biggest interests, one of the reasons I write and that I personally think as a writer
is one of the most important things you can do is character development
If people don't care and understand a character
It doesn't matter how big the plot is, how exciting the book is, it's just going to fall flat
It's going to be spectacle, right, it's going to be like watching a train wreck or something
It may be horrible, it may be thrilling, scary
but ultimately unless you've got a loved one on that train you don't care as much as you might
That, for me as a writer, that is job one I think
And what I want to do with all my characters, the good and the bad guys
is to make them complex, well rounded, people
And I want the readers to be able to look at even the evil people
and go you know what, I kind of understand how they got to that point, and that's what is interesting to me
The line between good and evil is pretty thin in real life, and hopefully in good fiction
So that's what I wanted to do with Deckard Cain, and with the bad guy, which we can talk about too
I kind of wanted to make them alter egos almost
And show how Deckard Cain might, in different circumstances, in a worse situation for various reasons
might have become the dark one, or at least there's an echo of him in that character
I think in order for you to really understand Cain and why he is who he is
you need that back story, you need to see him evolve as a person
From the place where he maybe wasn't the person he wanted to be
To the place where he finally reached
And that all has to do with his motivations
and why he does what he does and why he is who he is in the games
It's because of what he went through and who he is, who he was as a younger man
I think that was a real focus of ours, to build his character in that way
and I hope it gives real depth to the book, and makes readers and players go
Oh, ok, I get it, I understand why he was that man in these games
And what his motivations are and why he's chosen to take on Leah and do what he did
[Jesse] So let's talk about the Dark One because
Basically a servant, slave, raised up to greatness by a lesser evil, we won't spoil too much
Why did you decide to go that way with sort of the villain of the story
Because you're right, he is sort of the perfect foil for Deckard
What was the reasoning, besides having some evil demon lord being the enemy, why did you guys decide to go that route with the story
[Nate] One of the reasons I don't want to get into, because I think it would spoil too much about who is behind him and what the reasons are
We kind of wanted him to be a bit of a puppet, a bit of a person who could be manipulated in the right way
But the other reason is, and I said this a little already
I really wanted him to be Deckard's alter ego, Deckard's dark one
Because this book is really, we thought about calling it Deckard Cain for a while
This book is really about Deckard Cain, it's his story in many ways
And again I think what I found most interesting, and probably Blizzard too
is his personal journey, how he became to be who he was, and why
and the Dark One provides like an alternate universe almost
Of a man who was a wannabe scholar
really wanted to be what Deckard Cain became, in a way
But for various reasons, both in his character and external forces and otherwise, turned in another direction
And that's something that Cain, in this book, struggles with, Cain struggles with this his whole life
is that he has some influences, internal influences, that are selfish, that are different than they might present to folks who don't know his back story
And he constantly struggles with that, and he's guilty over it
He wants to be redeemed, and that drives him now
But here's this guy who he's up against who is a terribly evil person for many reasons
who he can see himself in, in a way, and I think that's terrifying to him
So that's why I wanted to set it up that way
It was a very clear choice to make a parallel there and to try and build him in that way
[Jesse] I know this totally derails the direction of the conversation, but I just want to say
Deckard Cain as a school teacher is probably one of the greatest mental images I've ever had
I just imagine him in a room and no one cares what he's talking about and he's just reading from old books
[Nate] Well that's the thing, that's exactly right, that's part of the thing that drives his character, right
You think about him, in a way he's an educator right, he's a wise old man
people listen to him in the games and stuff, he's smart
But he's woefully miscast I think dealing with seven year olds or whatever, it's just a different
And he knows it, you know, but that is sort of his unfulfilled early history
And I agree with you, I think it's a great image of this, of
Even though we know he was younger, obviously, when he was teaching
I personally still see him sitting in that classroom as an old man and a white beard
how he is now in the games, and it's a funny image to have
[Jesse] But this book doesn't just have Deckard Cain, there are two other major characters in the book
Without me just throwing questions at you, would you like to talk about those two
in a way that will probably save you from giving away too many spoilers
[Nick] Hahaha, yeah. One of the major characters is the monk Mikolov
That was something I added in actually, I can't remember whether it was
It may have been after outline, Blizzard, we can talk a little bit about the creative process with Blizzard too
which is fantastic and a lot of fun to get into
But it's a very long and careful process and we come up with a very detailed outline
And I don't think that the monk was actually in that, he just, I felt like we needed him
And I felt like it fit really well because I wanted him to
I wanted there to be a tie both between some of the characters that occur in this book from earlier games and novels
and then tie them into new characters in D3 and the monk seemed like a great one for me to build in
So I created this character who I think is another really interesting character
He's got his own complicated history and struggles and personal struggles and demons and things that he has to try to overcome
in his quest to try to help, so we've got him
And it's a neat like odd couple with him and Cain I think
Here's this young, muscular, very physically fit monk and an old man hobbling around
and an eight year old girl thrown in there, it's an interesting traveling group
So of course the other major character is Leah
She was another reason why I was so interested in writing this book
Her character is fascinating to me, was from the very beginning
her origins, her back story, where she comes from, how she's raised, and who she is
I won't give a lot away because there are a lot of important plot points in this book
And it's tough to talk about them without giving too much away
She's fascinating, she's troubled, she's complicated, she's strong, but she's damaged
She's very damaged and Cain comes along just in time for her, to literally save her life
That forms a bond, although its not immediate certainly
It forms a bond that carries them through the rest of their lives, into D3
I really love the fact that I was able to establish their origin story in this book
which is so important for the IP
[Jesse] And actually some of the really great scenes in the book take place during that time
when Leah is in the house at the beginning of the book
It definitely has a creepy, you can almost visualize the movie adaptation kind of thing
where it just flows very well, and it's kind of like, you can see it happening in a really, I don't know
I don't want to say too scary
[Nick] A dramatic way
[Jesse] Yeah, yeah yeah, exactly
I thought that that was pitch perfect
The thing that I actually really enjoyed is, a lot of people played the Diablo 3 beta
So they sort of know the relationship with Leah and her sort of story and who she is related to from that
But at the same time there's, the book sort of expands on that in a way that you are like Whoa, ok
Wait until the later parts of this game, because it's going to be awesome
And so it was definitely a lot of hype for the game, and I was very excited about that
What I also enjoyed was the monk, Mikolov, had like a back story
that didn't just set up his back story, but it set up the entire order of monks
that is the new class in the game
You had mentioned development, how was it writing, not only about a character
but about the entire set up for a class you would play in a game associated with the book
[Nick] Yeah, it was pretty exciting
Like I said before, it's really exciting to work with Blizzard
They're incredibly professional, creative people
Very demanding, exacting in what they do, which I love
But at the same time they're very open to collaboration, very open to my ideas
Working on something like this is such an iconic franchise, and the game is so eagerly anticipated
To be able to work alongside that and be privy to some of the things that they were working on that were very top secret
And to be help develop some of that stuff, even on sort of a
within the novel it's a bit different, but fleshing things out and developing some of that back story, it's really a thrill
I mean I think about that a lot, the details of these monks, of Cain's back story, of Leah
So many things will be forever remembered
As part of Diablo lore and that's something I worked on, and that's pretty exciting, and humbling to
It was fun
They're just great people to work with, they really are, I couldn't imagine a better relationship
[Jesse] So in my mind, every time I talk to an author who has worked with Blizzard, I always imagine
Chris Metzen sort of like descending and like
This we'll use, and this we won't use, and then like reascending and disappearing again
That's how I imagine that happening
[Nick] Yeah, that's pretty much it
[Jesse] That sounds about right
[Nick] He comes down from the ceiling
[Jesse] He puts on his shades like CSI Miami, comes up with a witty one liner and then disappears, that's how I imagine that happening
[Nate] Yeah, Chris is great, he's a strong personality obviously, and has a ton of amazing ideas
I didn't work with him a ton, on a regular basis it was more with the creative team
And he would come in for meetings and we'd talk about some of these major plot points and go over things
and then at the end we'd kind of sit down and go over the grand scope of the idea and everything
He's actually, one on one he's very receptive, very interested in your ideas, my ideas
And he knows his stuff, which is really inspiring
He's got a real clear vision, he knows the IP obviously
and so it's really fun to talk to him
But yeah, the development process for this, it was in some ways similar to Starcraft Spectres, in some ways different
I mean this was a bigger book and different in many ways
But it's a phone call or two with their team, it's basic story idea that they've fleshed out
and then it's me kind of taking that and some ideas from the calls and putting a long outline together
with a bunch of my thoughts and my ideas
And then I fly out there and meet with them for a day or two and we just spend all day
kind of brainstorming and this incredible kind of creative process where I get a ton of lore from the lore team
I sit down with creative and we go over the whole outline and every plot point and we talk things through
In the case of Diablo until late in the evening, and just really hash out
And that is, I'm a people person, more outgoing, less solitary than some writers maybe
So that to me was really exciting, because writing is a pretty solitary process
but when you're collaborating like this with people who are creative and smart and interesting
it's a really energizing process where you're sitting there throwing things back and forth
like Oh, what do you think of this, I don't know, what if we did this, oh yeah that's fantastic
Wait, that's not going to work because of this, ok
And you just go through it like that and people inspire each other and you get to a point where you reach a story that you all love
[Jesse] You are definitely a braver man than I, I would have
I would be personally nervous to have the backing of all of Blizzard
and the guys up top, who, these are their brain children
and basically you are the re-teller of their story
I would not only be honored but I would be scared to death that I would screw something up
[Nate] Yeah, I think there's definitely an element of that
But you feel very supported, you feel like there's a safety net there because their creative team is always there
their lore team is amazing, so during the course of
I mean ultimately you can have as many brainstorming sessions and conference calls and back and forths as you want
but eventually you have to sit down and write this thing
And when you do it, I'm doing it the way I write every other book, it's sit down in a room by myself and write it
That is when it gets kind of scary, you hope they like it, you hope it goes the way you want it to
But what I meant with the safety net thing is that they're always there, an email or a call away
for me to bounce stuff of off
So if I have an idea that I want to tweak or something I'm not sure whether it's correct
I kind of shoot an email to one of their lore team or to Micky or to James and others on the creative team
and say hey, what do you think about this, does this work, does it make any sense
Then we'll go back and forth
So that gives you a bit of a feeling of relief, that there is help there
And I do have to say the wikis out there and all the stuff I had read in preparation for this book
which was an extensive amount of stuff, are really helpful
It's amazing, they're very accurate for the most part and very detailed
So you can find almost anything you need to find, if you dig, and so there's that too
[Jesse] And now this shall be added to those, an entire new section
Which you know, that has to feel good, you're now part of the internet lore as well
[Nick] It feels fantastic, and that's what I was saying earlier, it's amazing to me that
I think I still have trouble getting around the legions of fans out there that are going to play this game
and experience the story, whether they read the book or not
The back story that they will get from this book
That was something I worked on, and that's really exciting
[Jesse] And as one of those many legions of Diablo fans
I definitely have to say this book changes my perspective going into the game
When I played the beta and met some of the characters, I had one opinion
This drastically changed that
It's a great book, but if you're a Diablo fan it's sort of a must read
because it definitely covers a lot of stuff that you aren't going to find in a wiki at all
It's actually a great book, and I'm glad I got the chance to read it, thank you very much
[Nate] Oh, well that's great to hear, because that was really, really important to me
The biggest thing going into these books, I'm far more worried
while I do these books, both Starcraft and this book, in disappointing the fans than I am in disappointing Blizzard
I don't know if that makes sense, but it's true
I mean I want, I'm so intent on making this book work for the fans who want to read it and are interested in Diablo
Not letting them down, that's job one
Amazing fans, they're so committed and so connected to this property to all of Blizzard properties
I just want to make it right for them
That was the driving force behind spending months reading everything I could get my hands on
all the novels, the graphic novels, Blizzard internal documents and wikis and all that
just to make sure that I knew as much as I could to not screw this up
[Jesse] Before we go, is there any last sort of tie in that you have, maybe with the book and Diablo 3
or anything you would suggest someone who picks up the book really focuses on while reading it
Is there any final words of wisdom that you would like to impart on us
[Nate] Well there certainly would be if I didn't worry about spoiling stuff
[Both laughing]
So I guess I have to bite my tongue on some of the things I would say, pay attention to this and this and this
I know there's some frustration out there within the fans that this book is coming out the same day as the game
I think that was, believe it or not kind of a coincidence
with the publishing schedule of Simon and Schuster and Diablo, Blizzard's publishing schedule for the game
So a lot of people are going to want to play the game obviously
I'm hoping that people will still pick up the book and read it in between sessions or whatever
because I really think that, you said this earlier, I think that reading this book first or during
the playing of the game will really change the way that players experience the game too
And so hopefully people will do that
Overall it's really, I hope just a really fun story, a really epic kind of scary
action packed novel, and people will enjoy it for that
I think there's some really cool new creatures and monsters and creepy stuff
particularly the ending and how we tie all that together
While also bringing some old iconic characters back in and some nods to earlier novels
and characters that appeared there and that people really get a kick out of all that
So I guess that's what I would want to say
[Jesse] Nate Kenyon, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us about The Order
[Nate] Thanks very much for having me, I had a blast
[Jesse] And that's it guys
So if you're interested in a great story, or just a Diablo nerd who needs to know what happens I recommend it
It will be on bookshelves and online tomorrow
So when you're done ODing on Diablo, back away from the monitor and sit down with the book
Thanks for watching, or listening, and more great interviews to come, so I can say to you...
To be continued