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William C. Dietz Interview (June 7, 2008)

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UNSC Trooper

Joined: 11 Jul 2007
Posts: 81
Location: Overlooking a rebel hideout from an orbiting UEG patrol frigate.

PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 6:38 pm    Post subject: William C. Dietz Interview (June 7, 2008) Reply with quote

Interview with William C. Dietz
June 7, 2008

We all know that you are a bestselling author of several Science Fiction novels, including tie-ins to Star Wars and Hitman. How did you embrace the prospect of writing a novel for Halo?

I was invited to write Halo The Flood by Random House/Del Rey who owned the rights to publish Halo tie-in novels at that time. I wasn't familiar with the game, but immediately bought an X-Box, and played it. (Remember, this is about seven years ago, before everybody had some sort of gaming console.) I've always been a fan of first person shooters and the moment I began to play I knew Halo was something special. Especially when compared to playing Quake, Doom, and Unreal on my PC!

Still, before agreeing to write the book, I wanted to make sure that other gamers liked it as much as I did. So I went down to the local game store to carry out some market research. The guy behind the counter told me that Halo was flying off the shelves--and that was all I needed to know. I went home, called my agent, and agreed to write the book.

You’ve mentioned in your biography that you served with the US Navy and Marine Corps as a medic, which provides an advantage to writing military fiction. How has your experience in the military influenced your writing of Halo: The Flood?

There are lots of people who write good military science fiction without having served, and I should point out that while I served, I never saw any action other than in the bars of Honolulu! So I don't consider myself to be a veteran in the real sense of the word. That being said I was immersed in the military cultures of both the Navy and the Marine Corps long enough to pick up on a lot of the traditions, mannerisms, and values that the various branches have in common. And I think that knowledge colors and informs my military science fiction.

The 26th century UNSC Marines seem an awful lot similar to the US Marine Corps, in that they have the same motto, dog tags, and Meals-Ready-to-Eat at their disposal. However, this does appear to be somewhat peculiar, considering the Marines in Halo are part of an international, interstellar fighting force hosted by what seems to be the United Nations. Has the UNSC Marine Corps also absorbed other traditions of the USMC, such as battle tactics, insignias, shoulder pins, anthems?

I am not authorized to speak on behalf of the Bungie team where the Halo universe is concerned, so I'm not sure about specifics like insignias, shoulder pins and so forth. But yes, there's no mistaking the fact that the UNSC Marines are based on the United States Marine Corps, and I think that's fun! Of course maybe that's because I spent some time with what we called "The Green Machine" and enjoy those references.

Major Antonio Silva knows about John-117’s abduction as a child and his indoctrination in Naval Special Warfare, even though that information is held classified by the intelligence service. How did he find out, and why did Captain Keyes release that information?

Wow! It has been seven years since I wrote the book... So details like that are not exactly top of mind at this point. I would have to go back to the book and my notes to see what if anything I have on the subject and I'm totally slammed right now. Sorry about that.

Did the ODST’s under Silva’s command wear ODST Body Suits during the resistance on Alpha Halo, or did they wear regular Marine outfits?

No, to my mind the ODSTs were wearing standard body armor, and standard marine uniforms, but not Body Suits. That is how I saw them in my mind's eye.

What is your response to some of the negative reviews and criticisms of The Flood? Do you think you did a good job? Was it difficult to write a story based on the plot and main characters of an action-FPS videogame?

I haven't read all of the reviews of Halo The Flood--there's so many! But of those that I have read, the negative ones often say something to the effect that the book is just like the game, so why read it? What those readers may not realize is that I was hired to novelize the game. That means taking the game and turning it into a book. Which is different from writing a completely new tie-in story like the books Mr. Nylund wrote. Or, put another way, I did what I was hired to do.

However, in an effort to bring something additional to the book I requested permission from Bungie to insert brand new material in between some of the cut scenes, consequently dropping some of the levels in the game. Thereby giving readers a glimpse of what was happening in between missions, and off-camera so to speak, hopefully adding depth to the overall game/book experience. Many reviewers took note of that--and give me credit for it. And I appreciate it!

How did Bungie choose you to write The Flood? How did they contact you?

I wasn't part of the deliberations of course, but I assume that I was chosen because of my long running and very successful Legion Of The Damned series, which is about a futuristic French Foreign Legion. I was contacted through my literary agent in New York.

How did you start your writing career? Do you have any advice for new writers? Since this is a fan fiction forum, we have many members who are interested in following a writing career, or at least writing on the side. What challenges did you face when you started writing for publication?

I think the first step in any literary career is to read a lot of books. The second step is do a lot of writing. And it doesn't have to be fiction. Prior to writing my first novel I went to college, got a job as a news writer, and wrote all sorts of marketing communications materials for large corporations subsequent to that. The point being that I was using the tools and getting better the more that I did so. I set myself the goal of writing a novel during college, but years went by, and I never got around to it.

At some point I told myself that I would write a book by the time I was 40, but when 39 arrived, I still hadn't started. So I sat down and went to work on the premise that while the novel probably wouldn't sell at least I would keep the promise to myself. Well, long story short, that first book did sell! And it sold the first time I sent it in.

Why? Partly because I had chosen to write space opera at a moment when there was a market for it, partly because an editor happened to take an interest in me, and partly because I wrote a fairly entertaining story. It was called WAR WORLD, since renamed GALACTIC BOUNTY, and now more than 20 years later it is still in print. A minor miracle in itself. In any case the main thing that would-be authors should do is write, write, and write some more. Just keep trying. It's still difficult to launch a conventional writing career, but there are lots of Internet related opportunities these days, and that's a great place to start.

One of the biggest issues many fans had with The Flood was your characterization of the Chief. Do you agree that you wrote the Chief as out of character? If so, what difficulties may have lead to this?

Apparently, judging from your words, there must be some folks who feel that I wrote the Chief out of character. That's news to me. All I can tell you is that the Bungie folks, who care deeply about the character and the universe never raised that issue, and approved the book as written.

However, there's no doubt that every author is different, and will approach characters differently. So if Nylund's rendition of the Chief is different from my own in subtle ways that would be understandable.

In The Flood you reference Project Orion. How significant was the established background that Bungie gave you on this, and would you be interested in possibly returning to write a novel centered around Orion?

Bungie gave me a great deal of background material which was extremely useful in writing the book. As for writing a book centered around Project Orion, or any other aspect of Halo, I would never say never. Writing Halo The Flood was a lot of fun, and the Bungie team was great to work with, so you never know.

Are there any stories in the Halo universe that you would like to return to pen?

I don't have anything specific in mind, no. But it's a wonderful universe, which is full of exciting possibilities, so it wouldn't take long to come up with something!

How much leeway did Bungie give you when you were writing The Flood? Were they looking at every step of the writing process or were you allowed liberty to go where you wanted?

As mentioned earlier the task was to novelize the book, so I was expected to stick to the game, except for the new pre-approved sequences that I added.

Who was your favorite character of The Flood?

The Chief of course.... How could it be otherwise?

Out of all your novels, such as Earthrise and Deathday, do you compare them to The Flood?

It's extremely difficult to compare my own original novels to tie-in novels because of the fact that I can go anywhere I want with my own work and must stay within the boundaries of whatever universe I've been hired to work in where tie-in books are concerned. Each form has its advantages. I love the freedom of working for myself, but it's a whole lot of fun being part of a team too, and working on a for-hire project that you believe in. Halo being an excellent example.

Do you ever probe fan fiction for ideas? As T.S. Eliot once said, ‘Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal.’

No, I don't. Fortunately I have lots of ideas and I'm grateful for that.

How do you view fan fiction in general? Do you enjoy seeing what people have done with characters you created?

Like most authors I'm thrilled when someone is so engaged by a story or character that they want to participate by writing themselves. And what a great way to practice the craft of writing! Of course it isn't appropriate for people to take characters and universes created by others and attempt to profit from them. I haven't had that problem so far as I know--but other authors have.

When writing The Flood, how much of the story and equipment in it was given to you already, and how much of it was created by you?

Again, because I was hired to novelize the game, so it was mostly a matter of playing the game and translating it into words. I was allowed to add material however--which would be everything that didn't appear in the game!

If you had been able to write The Flood without being limited to the levels shown in-game, how much differently would you have done it?

That would require quite a bit of thought... Perhaps more of the same, meaning more side stories, and more time spent with Covenant characters ala Halo 2.

Who are some of your favorite writers/biggest inspirations?

Heinlein, Asimov, Norton, Twain, Kipling, Kafka, Reeman, Cornwell, Doyle, Dumas and many more, all in no particular order.

What career would you have followed if you were not successful at writing?

I was a TV Director/Producer (News & Marketing type stuff) long before I wrote a novel, and was reasonably good at it.

Do you play Halo 3? If so, do you play on-line? If so, do u haz recon?

Are you kidding? I LOVE Halo 3. No, I don't play on-line because I know all you guys would beat me! <Grin>
And, I'm busy writing, writing, writing.

We would like to thank Mr. William C. Dietz for taking a reasonable amount of time out of his schedule to sit down, talk to us, and explain his wonderful endeavors in writing. We wish him all the best of luck with his projects and writing career.

All best wishes, Halo.Bungie.Org Fan Fiction.

Last edited by UNSC Trooper on Sat Jun 07, 2008 6:45 pm; edited 2 times in total
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UNSC Trooper

Joined: 11 Jul 2007
Posts: 81
Location: Overlooking a rebel hideout from an orbiting UEG patrol frigate.

PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave, can you please stick this thread into a public forum. Maybe the Fan Fiction Announcements forum?
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IRC Channel Operator

Joined: 27 Feb 2007
Posts: 435
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, is it really seven years since The Flood and Halo CE?

On the subject of complaints about the Chief being OOC, I wonder how close together FoR and The Flood were written? Mr. Dietz may not have even gotten to read it before it was published. I'd never noticed any huge differences in their characterizations myself, but it's been a while since I've read any of the novels.

Anyways, thanks for organizing this, Trooper, and thanks, of course, to Mr. Dietz.
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Joined: 29 Jul 2004
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Location: Grand Rapids MI

PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great job, UNSC Trooper. I think this was an excellent idea and it's nice to see it actually get done and posted.

C.T. Clown
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