David Gemmell's last interview


Well-Known Member
Jun 15, 2006
Righty ho everyone,
I have an interview coming up with DG so if anyone has any questions then please let me know, I'll do my best to get as many in as I can however I cant guarantee to get them all in. Also if you are after a Gemmell Wallpaper I do have one currently for Shield of Thunder and will hopefully get a Drenai one created as well as a Rigante one when I get the time.

Anyway, I leave it to you all, questions will be sent off in about a week so you have that long to get some questions in.



EDIT: And here's the full interview:

1) The lands of the Drenai all have a name, however what is the collective name for the world and is it different for the name of the continent to which they all inhabit? Please let us know all names concerned.

It is very tempting to just come up with a name for the world, and pretend it was all part of a great plan. The truth is a tad more prosaic. I wrote the original Drenai story, called Siege of Dros Delnoch, while waiting for cancer tests. I did not expect the story ever to be published, and literally chose the name Drenai because it sounded similar to Dorsai, which came from a series of books by Gordon R Dickson. These were splendid sci fi novels about a warrior race.

Once the books became succesful I wrote more based in the same world, and found myself slowly building different cultures, and discovering others.

2) We have heard of Missael the man, Missael the god and the other pantheon deities. Are the two one in the same and how did the world come to change from the ancient pantheon to the source and are the demons also ancient humans or are they part of the Illohir?

Missael the man and god are one and the same. Once Alexander the Great died he was deified. Several hundred years later there were shrines and temples to him. For me Missael was like an in joke. The ancient world of the Drenai, remembered now only in folk lore, talked of the days of Missael, when fire rained down from the sky. These were missiles. The ancient world was ours. As to the Illohir and the demons I have a rough story in mind about them, and dont want to say too much about it now.

3) What is, in your opinion, the best novel you have written so far, or the most you've enjoyed writing, so to say?

The best is not for me to say. Ask a hundred fans and seventy [or more] will say Legend is the best. But look around on the net and you will find other fans talking of Lion of Macedon, Morningstar, Waylander, Ravenheart, and others. The most enjoyable was Legend. It was written without the pressures of publishing, the expectations of critics and fans, and the need to pay bills through writing. It was just a joy to put together, written quietly in evenings or lunch hours.

4) What would you recommend to anybody who wants to write fantasy, specially people who read your work and are inspired by it?

Writing is an acquired skill. You dont get good at it unless you write and write and write. Many people tell me they'd love to write a book, or that they will one day 'when they have the time'. Writing is like marathon running. You dont just pull on a pair of trainers and run 26 miles. You work at it, building stamina, struggling through cramps and muscle strains. Writing is no different. My advice to writers is dont talk about it, do it.

5) Upon the completion of the Troy series do you plan to write something else about the ancient civilizations, or will you go back to the Drenai? Yet you have also mentioned an interest in the Native American tribes, are we likely to see a standalone or the continuation of another series such as the Rigante?

For reasons too personal to go into I have no plans at the moment for what will follow Troy. I would like to visit the Rigante one more time. I would also like to complete the Skilgannon series. There is also a Byzantine character who fascinates me, and would make a wonderful book. Time will tell.

6) Of all the characters that you have created, which one has given you the most joy to write?

Druss the Legend. I love that old boy more than I can say. I dont think I ever wrote a single line of his dialogue. I just threw a situation at him and the words leapt on to the page. Just as if he was speaking himself. Once years ago, when typing a Druss piece in a newspaper office during a lunch hour I suddenly said: 'Damn, I wish I'd said that!' My friend George looked at me as if I was loony. 'You did say it DG,' he said, softly. 'I was watching you type it.'

'No,' I said. 'That was Druss. I cant come up with dialogue like that.'

7) With over thirty novels to your name how do you keep your characters so fresh and interesting?

Damned if I know - but looking ahead to the next question. I have to admit that some people dont think I do...

8) Every so often reviews are written that claim you are too formulaic, how do you react to comments like this and how do you see your own work?

My work is formulaic. I write about heroes in desperate situations, outnumbered and facing annihilation. This is where my interest lies - ordinary men and women in extraordinary situations, requiring massive courage. It is inevitable that readers will feel a sense of similarity - even deja vu - when reading my stories. How do I react to criticism? Depends who is making it. If it is a fan who feels let down by a piece, then I am concerned. If it is a reviewer who pans me I couldnt care less. No writer is going to please everyone, and if he attempts to he will only increase his chances of pleasing no-one.

9) Magic appears throughout the majority of novels, what are the rules of magic as you see them and are they there purely to be used as a plot device or are you delving into something deeper of the human psyche through mans means to use anything that comes to hand?

The magic I generally use in the novels is a mixture of the 'modern' - tekekinesis, telepathy, faith healing - to the more generally accepted fantasy magic of witchcraft, spells, demons and were beasts.

10) How do you keep track of characters and events from previous novels in future projects?

With enormous difficulty, and the help of researchers. It can be a huge embarrasment to be on tour and have a fan ask you a deep question about a character you just dont remember.

11) Certain characters in the latest novel appear to have influences in the real world, for example when we see Odysseus is he based upon yourself as a storyteller or is it something else? If so what?

I dont know quite how Odysseus came to be formed. I had one idea for him, but when I started writing his whole personality just came out differently. So I went with it. I think he works well, and he always makes me smile. Yet another character who writes his own dialogue.

12) Rumours have been circulating yet again that you are currently in negotiations for the film rights to some of your books. What is the case to this latest rumour and how likely are we to see a film of one of your books?

(In case any of it appears to be true, I'm available to appear, take photo's, consult etc. Did I forget to mention that I'm cheap? LOL) I still refuse all film offers. Not prepared yet to surrender my characters to Hollywood Hell. [This high principled view would change in a heartbeat if I was to run out of money!]

13) Throughout the time that you have been writing how would you say that the worlds changed and how would you say that your writing style has change to accommodate the new beliefs or are you steadfast and use the worlds events to put your own views across?

Not enough hours in the day to tackle that one with any depth. The world we live in has changed beyond all recognition to the world I grew up in. For me the toughest change to take has been the way cowardice has become an accepted - even preferred - lifestyle choice. Governements encourage us to be cowardly, the police insist we are cowardly, schools are forced to promote the need for cowardice. Think about it. Back in the Sixties if you saw a crime being committed you were encouraged to be a 'have a go hero'. Tackle the criminal. If you got hurt doing so you'd likely get a medal. Now Governments tell us not to get involved, police advise us to stay safe. Now if someone breaks into your house you need a manual to work out how to deal with it. Whack him in the head and he dies and you are likely to be charged with manslaughter and jailed. If he whacks you in the head he'll be out in no time.

Recently a woman was stabbed and left bleeding to death because police refused to go into the house in case the criminal was still there. When my father was mugged some years ago, and badly beaten up, a policeman told me he was partly to blame, because instead of handing over his pension money as he should have he was stupid enough to punch one of the muggers.

Schools are now being forced to cancel adventure holidays, because youngsters might get hurt rock climbing, or mountain walking, or kayaking.

We need to rediscover the virtues of individual heroism.

14) With George RR Martin and now Marriane de Pierres having Roleplays available for their worlds, is there any likelihood for a Gemmell Roleplay to come out or is there something that holds you back and what are your views on this?

Not something I've ever really thought of.

15) Troy has been a tale long in the telling that you have always wanted to write, now that you are two thirds into the project is it how you envisaged it or is it more a case of the tale is really taking it out of you and something that you have wished that you never started?

I've enjoyed Troy, but it has been a mighty tough exercise. The research has been endless, the re-writes prodigious, and the attention to detail has sapped my stamina enormously. Hopefully when it is finished I'll look back and think it was all worth it.

16) Your writings take full use of weaponry and armour, how do you keep track of what is and what is not available to the people of the world, for example we know that in Winter Warriors gunpowder for fireworks is available yet it hasn't appeared as an item of war yet. Is there any particular reason for this or is it more a case of your own dislike of the weapons. For example in The Last Guardian, one of the comments is 'Where is the skill in weapons like these?'

I keep in touch with armourers and swordsmiths, and am currently studying bronze age weaponry. I had fun with Jon Shannow and his pistols, but the Jerusalem Man books were really just a homage to the works of Louis Lamour, my favourite author. You cant get his works in the UK any more. I have been tempted recently to acquire the rights to his best novels and publish them myself.

17) Throughout the Drenai novels the Joinings level of intelligence has been changing from natural cunning through to human speech, is there a reason for this or is it just something that you thought would work well, for example Gravas would have created problems without being able to speak to Stavi in Hero in Shadows, so some means of development was required?

As with all developments there would be advances in the Joinings technology. Giving them speech was a push, because the vocal chords of a wolf are just not geared for complicated sounds. But you are right. For Stavi to form relationships with the Joinings there had to be a level of vocal communication.

18) At the website I've been having fun creating Gemmell Merchandise (for example toy joinings and t-shirts) is there anything that you'd like to see made that has yet to be attempted or is there anything that takes your fancy?

I'm waiting to see whether Raven Armoury ever complete the Swords of Night and Day. I'd like to see that. And I would dearly love to see Waylander's crossbow created. Years ago someone suggested a Druss doll. Pull the string and it would say: In your dreams, laddie.'

Which is what I said to the guy who suggested it.


Active Member
Jun 16, 2006
I would like to know what inspired him to write Legend, and how much trouble he had getting a publisher to read and accept it.


Mark Robson

Dragon Writer
Aug 31, 2004
Daventry - England
For me, Legend felt like a glorified battle for Minas Tirith. There were many parallels between the settings. How much did Tolkien influence that first book?

People often accuse Gemmell of being formulaic. Does he see his work in this light?

The first two of the Rigante novels tied together nicely, and I felt he could have followed on the story of Bane quite easily. Why the 800 year gap? For me, this made the third book feel like the start of a new series. Was that the intention?


High Druid
Sep 10, 2005
Alnwick, England
i would like to know what influences him to write? i.e. when he sits down does he have anything that he keeps as a constant, music etc or does he just start writing. also tell him he's my favourite author, i know that's a bit childish but i think he's great.


Well-Known Member
Jun 15, 2006
If it goes the way Im planning it will be a written interview rather than just q&A's so I will if people would like to see it here. It will however also be going on my own site.


Unreg. Mutant Moderator
Staff member
Feb 1, 2005
Newcastle, UK
Lots of questions so feel free to pick & choose to suit your theme :)

Q1: Does he have any plans to do any further work in other historical settings?
So far we've had:
Greek/Middle East (Macedon series & Troy series)
Roman Britain (Last Sword of Power)
18th C Europe (Rigante "Sword in the Storm" series)
Medieval Britain/Europe (Drenai & earlier Rigante works)

Q2: How important does he consider research when preparing his novels, especially in relation to armour technology & manufacture?

Q3: Does he consider the use of magic in his novels to be merely a useful plot device or does he have a more structured underlying concept with it's own set 'rules & limitations' in mind when he uses it.

Q4: What authors does he admire or inspired him to write - if any?

Q5: Does he have any plans to develop an official website?

Q6: How does he deal with redrafting his work? Has he ever taken out characters & plotlines from some of his novels and regretted it?

Q7: How would you feel about your characters/novels being optioned into other media & would you consider taking an active part in the process? (i.e. animated series like Discworld or TV mini-series like Dune)

Q8: Which book have you taken the most pleasure in/found easiest to write and why?

Q9: What was the last book you read for pleasure?

Q10: How can fans find out when you're out & about doing book signings & the like (I always seem to find out when it's too late! :) )


Well-Known Member
Jun 15, 2006
Q5: Does he have any plans to develop an official website?
Ive asked that one before and this was the answer I got :

"There are a number of great sites dealing with my work. I dont have the time to keep a site up to speed, and my work/life motto is that old saw: 'If you cant do it well, dont bloody do it."


Well-Known Member
Jun 15, 2006
Oh and as to question 10. You'll find out pretty damn quick this time I promise you. When I get the dates, hopefully in the next week or so, I'll post them so that everyone has a chance to see where the signings are. After that its up to you to get a ticket, although please remember that the venues wont get the tickets until a month before and added to that they sold pretty damn quick the last couple of times, so if a venue attracts you go to them, hand over the cash for the ticket, take a receipt and make sure you're one of the first to have a ticket. AS otherwise you could miss out. Its been happening more and more the last couple of years.


Well-Known Member
Jun 15, 2006
Just to let you all know that there will not be a tour this year due to health reasons. DG is sorry about this as he loves meeting the fans, but these things do take priority.

I'll let you know more as I do.

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Nov 23, 2002
I'm not sure if @drosdelnoch is still around, but I managed to track down the interview he did via archive.org and pasted it into his original post.

Turns out this may have been David Gemmell's last ever interview, so I've amended the title accordingly.


by day Stuart Orford by night Dark Lord's scribe
Mar 22, 2012
Mercia, UK
I can't believe I hadn't read this interview before now. I would have love to have met him in person.
I met him once at a book signing. He took time to speak to everyone in the queue and not just a 'Hi, how are you'.

I told him that the reason I liked his books was that no character felt safe. He replied and said that he enjoyed a good thriller but what frustrated him as a reader is that the hero was put through the wringer but you always knew he'd survive. In fights, in war, people die and as such he didn't want to cheat his readers.

He came over as a genuinely nice bloke.

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