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Runescape Interviews: T.S. Church Interview

By Guest Writer on January 07, 2011

T.S. Church, author of RuneScape's Betrayal at Falador and the upcoming Return to Canifis, has achieved what many role players aspire to: turning a story of his own, based on in-game experiences, into a publishable work -- and actually getting it published. He had the stones to take his first draft right to the company itself, hoping that the good folk over at Jagex would like it. Lucky for him, they did, and supported him in his efforts to self-publish and secure his current deal with publishing house Titan Books. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Mr. Church via Skype, and he let me in on some if the details of his process, how the book came to be, and how unbelievably lucky he is. Check out the highlights of the interview below.

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MMORPG.com:

So tell me a bit about yourself.

T.S. Church:

I'm 31 years old and I've been trying to write books for a long time, actually. For about 10 years I've written my own stuff, and to be fair, it's stuff that probably most people wouldn't want to read -- essentially, I have been learning my art. I found RuneScape by coincidence when I was looking around online, wondering what had become of the Dungeons & Dragons books that I used to play in school. I had always thought that they could work very well in an online version. That's when I found RuneScape and started playing it.

MMORPG.com:

What prompted you to write Betrayal at Falador?

T.S. Church:

I played RuneScape for about six months or so before I got killed in game -- or thought I had (by one of the Kinshra). I forgot that my character was wearing a ring of life and found myself in Falador, and I suddenly thought that would actually make a very interesting start to a book.

MMORPG.com:

Did you plan on approaching Jagex from the beginning, or was it just for fun?

T.S. Church:

That came into it later on. Everything fell into place after I started writing it -- that was the dream ticket, really. I writing before work and after work, just 1000 words a day, and I thought it might be a good idea to put it to Jagex once it's done. I guess it was always in the back of my mind.

MMORPG.com:

So how did you get that first meeting with Jagex, and what was it like?

T.S. Church:

Basically (my brother and I) made the book as complete as we could and we got it vanity published and ran off about 50 copies at a local printer. They put it in a paperback format for us, with a cover that we designed, and we sent a few copies in to Jagex to have a look through. I think that someone at Jagex referred to the plan as the "work of a genius or a madman" -- and I'm still not sure which is the right answer on that.

NOTE - Betrayal at Falador was originally called 'The Woodcutter's Daughter'. Jagex suggested, after a few meetings with Tom (the T in T.S.) that the title should be revamped.

MMORPG.com:

So they were really open to reading it?

T.S. Church:

It was a new experience for them, as well, and it very nearly went the other way, I think. We just hit the right timing -- it was an awful lot of good fortune to be honest. Jagex certainly seemed interested in seeing what else they could do with RuneScape as a brand and were pretty open to the idea as long as we could work with Jagex and make sure the book stayed true to the game.

MMORPG.com:

Are you now considered dedicated staff at Jagex, or are you a contract writer?

T.S. Church:

I'm not employed directly by Jagex. A private contract writer might be closer to the mark, though.

MMORPG.com:

Are you licensed to write for RuneScape for a set number of books or time?

T.S. Church:

We're not exactly sure how many books we're doing yet. We've got to really see how it evolves and how we get it working with the audience and the games.

MMORPG.com:

What are the chances of you writing for RuneScape-the-game as it develops?

T.S. Church:

I'd love to do that, but truth be told, my time is going to be taken up with the books. I'd like it if things in the books were to influence the game -- that would be quite nice. I've got a pretty good relationship with the content team over at RuneScape now. If they asked, I'd probably say yes...

MMORPG.com:

Tell me a bit about your experience writing Betrayal at Falador. Was it a labour of love? Pure excitement and passion? What about the initial self-publishing process?

T.S. Church:

It was a bit of both, because I did it around my working hours. I'd go to work from 9-5:30 or 6, and made sure I still wrote 1000 words every day, either before work or after. Keeping that up for several months, it had to be a labour of love, really. It was a bit frustrating at times. After Jagex agreed to work with us, it was actually quite frightening because my brother and I had quite a large print run of hardbacks going out simultaneously in the US and the UK, and knew very little about the business of publishing. When we got the first copy back in the mail, though, we knew it worked.

MMORPG.com:

Can Betrayal at Falador be enjoyed by newcomers and established players alike? Where does it fit within RuneScape's timeline?

T.S. Church:

It was written very purposely so that it could be accessible to people who had never even heard of RuneScape. I hope that there is enough world-building in the book so that people can understand what's going on. It takes place about five years before a player character starts the game. The main reason I did that was so that, if any slight changes come along later on, it wouldn't affect the story too much.

MMORPG.com:

Who are your favourite and least favourite characters in the novel? Why?

T.S. Church:

In the game, one of my favourite characters would be Doric (a dwarf who introduces new players to the skill of smithing), but that's probably because of what he's evolved into in the book, as well. My favourite one in the book though, I would have to say is Kara, because even though she's obviously very skilled and tough, she also has a lot of vulnerability underneath. I think she's got the best journey in the book, certainly. My least favourite would probably be Sulla. Not that he's a poor character, but he's a fanatical follower of Zamorak, so he sometimes does things solely for the reason that they are bad things to do. He's almost too evil.

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