02 October, 2009

Interview: David Gunn


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.



Thanks for taking the time to talk to me David, I am a big fan of Sven's. Now tell me, it must be exhaustingly fun channeling a character like Sven all day. How do you take the edge off after all that adrenaline packed writing?

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.



Smartly dressed, resourceful, and discreet, David Gunn has undertaken assignments in Central America, the Middle East, and Russia (among numerous other places). Coming from a service family, he is happiest when on the move and tends not to stay in one town or city for very long. The author of Death’s Head, Death’s Head: Maximum Offense, and Death's Head: Day of the Damned, Gunn lives in the United Kingdom.

21 comments:

ediFanoB said...

To be honest hard military science fiction is not my taste. But I think the interview is worth for all who want to get some more information about David Gunn.

Anonymous said...

Just finished reading the first in the series, and loved it. First person is hard. First person, present is harder, and is sometimes hard on the reader as well but this is well-crafted, and it WORKS.

Great interview, and I am pleased to see there is a real person behind the pseudonym (yes, I figured quite early that writing hard sci-fi and being named GUNN is no coincidence.)
One writer, as opposed to a team of writers, will have a better idea of character-development and believable progress.

DC Handgun Info said...

All novels are open to criticism, but if you like military SF, you will enjoy the book for what it is: escapist military science fiction with advanced alien technology and insights into politics at both planetary and interplanetary levels.
Sven is a scarcely believable character, but he has his winning points.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know if or when we can expect the new book? There is no mention anywhere of a releasedate for book nr. 4.

Anonymous said...

I recently read and enjoyed the first three books on holiday - reminded me of a modern take on Conan. As for anonymous, try filling the time with Neal Asher (start with "Gridlinked"), or Richard Morgan ("Altered carbon" is excellent), or, there's a fresh face in Gavin Smith, and "Veteran".

Anonymous said...

Given that in February 2009 David Gunn said he was halfway through book 4 & now in May 2011 there is still no news of a publication date you have to wonder if David Gunn is still on the planet. If not that would be a great pity, as we will lose going 6 more rounds with Sven

Alec said...

I have sent a number of email to his publisher without response, to see if the series would be continuing.

If anyone finds anything out, let me know!

French fan said...

I like very much these books!! But no news, I'm afraind about him! He is fine? he thinks he is not a good writer? You know David Gunn, you are wrong! You are the best writer in SC that I like!

Anonymous said...

Guys, it's Sept 2011 and no news anywhere on book 4 yet, I'm really worried about David Gunn. He was talking about cigars and constant hangovers in the interview... then there is what happened to Douglas Adams...

David if you are out there please let us know you are alright. If you are a very private person (working under a pseudonym), just get something general put up on your wikipedia page or something.

Anonymous said...

book 1 came out 2007. book 2 in 2008. book 3 in 2009. here we are almost 2012 - where is book 4?

seagull_k1@yahoo.com said...

I just finished rereading the three Death's Head book's and I am also wondering about the status of David Gunn. Where are you Sir?I hope nothing has occurred to him, and if he has just been unable to get printed, I, and I'm sure any other readers of the books, would get willing to pay for an e-book version. I really, really want to see how it all ties together! Please let us know something, even if it's Sven has taken a longer than usual absence from your head. Thanks for the first three books and here's hoping for six more,

seagull_k1@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

This is torture. when is the next book coming out?

CA Brown said...

Has David Gunn been heard of since 9/11? Has the post-9/11 world kept him busy in "service"? Hope he is still well, whoevere and wherever he is.

Anonymous said...

David Gunn is John Courtney Grimwood.

http://www.j-cg.co.uk/

Anonymous said...

Oh Great! Thank you !

Anonymous said...

If you liked this try the Sten books:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sten_Adventures

Same kind of things.

Anonymous said...

The Sten books are nothing like the Death's Head novels.
For a start they are written in third person, not first.

Lars Ă–rnberg said...

The Sten Books are not the same, but they still make a good series. Sten is a bad ass in a dirty universe full of people that need killing... and he helps them whenever he can.

Can anyone say when Death's Head 4 will come out? I just now realized that I´m re-reading the first three for the third time and its way overdue with a new book. Sven needs to kill someone new.

Anonymous said...

The Death's Head series was cancelled.

An Avid Fan said...

Why would you say such a thing! But to be honest 2013 now and definitely looking that way. (Sigh)

An Avid Fan said...

Thinking about it is that you Mr Gunn? Even if your not, if you know so much can you tell me why.