I have been fan of the Death's Head series, hard hitting military science fiction, since its inception. Curious to learn a little about the author, David Gunn, whose pen uses adrenaline instead of ink, I was surprised to find out that he writes incognito. Probably the most relevant source of information on Mr. Gunn, besides his infrequently updated Myspace page, is an insightful interview over at Fantasy Book Critic that I encourage you to read. After plowing through and reviewing Death's Head: Day of the Damned, I put in an interview request and was pleasantly surprised by a positive response.
The main thrust of my questions were aimed at uncovering what it is like to write such intense military science fiction in the first person. Sven, the protagonist of the series, for all his harsh talk is a unique and surprisingly complex character. However, revealing plot from the limited perspective can be a challenge that, apparently, is going to take six more books to finish. I threw a hardball or two, but Mr. Gunn handled them well, channeling a bit of Sven in the process.
Alcohol helps, cigars, thunder storms. Weird as it sounds all help to relax me. Mostly I walk or rough climb hills. There are a couple I know that take you into the middle of nowhere and let you look at a world that hasn't changed in centuries. I'm entirely at home inside my own skin so can go without human company or contact for long periods of time. The cold also works for me. Preferably extremes of it.
How is the next installment to Death’s Head coming along, given that you already hinted at a general objective for the Aux, setting Jaxx Jr. up as emperor? Is there anything you can share with us at this point in time?
I'm halfway through the fourth novel, which if you've read the third, you'll know begins somewhere very far from Farlight indeed. I reckon it's going to take six more books to bring everyone back to where they should be and unravel what needs unravelling. Since we can only see it through Sven's eyes and process it through his brain, we're going to get a little bit more
information and a little bit more of an understanding of the Commonweatlh of the United Free and the outlying empires with every book.
I know some authors who guide their characters and some who are guided by them, and striking a balance between the two can be a real challenge. Does your protagonist drag you along for the ride when you “channel” him, or do you set some boundaries and then let him loose? Essentially, can you describe for us your relationship with Sven?
Sven has been running around inside my head for years. Literally. He was this weird guy in a black uniform in snow-covered ruins, half starving and barely human. Occasionally, I'd think of him and then close that down and get on with what I needed to be doing at the time. But he was always there. Not so much an alter ego. More a elemental force that wandered in from the frozen wastes. It took getting a fever in Central America and crawling around floors halucinating to get him out of my head and onto a laptop. I wrote the first book in a matter of weeks, on adrenaline and a constant hangover.
He's pretty much in control. Mostly I don't know what's going to happen until it does and then the plot goes off on a new path and I think, Right, follow that... There's minimal planning. Sven's a minimal planning kind of guy.
You crank up the intensity of your narrative by writing in the present tense from Sven’s point of view. In retrospect, do you regret the boundaries the limited perspective has imposed on the overall story arc or are you still happy with your choice?
I like that we see what Sven sees. And I like that not everything Sven sees he understands. It lets me unfold his character and increase the scope of the world with every book. Also, he's a fast learner. He's always had the guts. He just never knew he had the brains. That bit of Sven is based on an old friend, now dead, who never quite got that he was a lot brighter than he knew.
With respect to your last book, Death's Head: Day of the Damned, you broadened the scope of the Death’s Head series, gave us a taste of intergalactic real politik, and colored in a lot of blanks for your readers. Much like Sven’s relationship to chess, we are starting to appreciate the size and complexity of the universe in which the Aux live. How did you decide on the shift away from a tightly focused mission driven narrative towards a broader, more complex story?
I've pretty much given the reasons already. The events of the first book lead to the second book, the events of the second book lead to the third, the critical mass grows each time and the scope widens. We begin the series in a cage in a desert fort, about as locked down as you can get, and end the third book... Well, you know where it ends. What matters is one guy, from a cage in a desert fort, now threatens the greatest civilisation the galaxy has ever known. He might not quite have grasped that yet. But he will.