Dead in the Deep - An interview with Ben Dever & Vincent Lazzari



In November, Librogame Land awarded Dead in the Deep Best International Gamebook, 2019. In January of that year, Alberto Orsini of Librogame Land discussed the process of writing the first posthumous Lone Wolf title.
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Librogame Land (LL): Now that it's been a while since LW30 was released, let's talk! What are the human and professional feelings to see in the bookstores - what, (beyond the legacies) will be the last book by Joe Dever!

Vincent Lazzari (VL) : Well Dead in the Deep’s not the last book Joe will have contributed to. He left scenario, material, ideas, and big surprises for two more books, exactly like for LW30, with perhaps fewer details, I admit it. But he’ll deserve to be credited in LW31 and 32 the same way as in LW30. Now, if we consider the release of LW30, my feelings were mixed when I saw for the first time the printed books at Raven’s booth, with the Italian fans eager to get their copies. On one side, I felt incredibly sad to see that book released without Joe to sign it. I attended Lucca Comics & Games six times, but this time he wasn’t here any more to welcome his fans. That moment made me really realize something had definitely changed. In the first minutes I felt even a bit ashamed to take his seat, but we (Ben and I) had to sign those books, it was part of our new duty, and I can’t say I wasn’t happy to meet again the dedicated fans and friends I had met all the previous years! Their support was crucial. On the professional level, I have to admit on the other side this release was a huge relief: we simply did it. Thanks to all the incredible help we received from the “Wolf Pack”, we managed to write one of the three books we promised we’d do. In fact, that’s one of the first things Ben and I said to each other after we signed our first copies. That’s a wonderful achievement, and a pleasure and honour to work with Ben on this project. He such a kind and fun guy to work with!

Ben Dever (BD): Thanks Vincent! The feeling is mutual. When my dad asked me to do this it felt like an impossible task, and it would have been impossible without Vincent’s help. In fact, about fifteen or so people have contributed in some way to the book, by proofreading, playtesting, editing, etc. It’s become a real group effort, which is a wonderful thing. Seeing the book on the shelves was a really amazing feeling.

LL: This thirtieth volume reverses the scenarios of books 21-29 and gives us a new horizontal plot: can you confirm that together with 31 and 32 it will constitute a sort of trilogy in its own right?

VL: Joe gave us all the specifications so that the three last books build the great climax he planned for his saga. So the answer is simply yes. You saw that the final events in LW30 (and perhaps one, or two, or three, or more side events!!) heralded something bigger for the next books, didn’t you? Well, this feeling might be true, and much more is to come.

BD: It’s really the conclusion of so many different threads, and the twists and surprises that dad laid out for us are really clever, unexpected, and satisfying. It’s the culmination of a life’s work. The books have always had a wonderful pace to them, but as the saga draws to a close there is so much action to get through that I think they will be really exciting.

LL: Let's talk about volume 31. How much will Joe's contribution be reduced and how are you going to fill the biggest gaps that will inevitably exist?

VL: We have all his notes and his dictated specifications, and we’ll do our best to ensure it will be well rendered. For the gaps, we’ll do exactly as we did in LW30, if it might relieve you. In the Librogame’s forums, I was delighted to read, in the oddly-named topic “Lazzari vs Dever” that some fans enjoyed meeting several characters returning from the previous books. Well, for some of these characters, it was purely our work, we added them to the story based on the data we found in the existing LW material. And as the readers seemed to have enjoyed, we’ll do the same in the next books, there’s a lot of space for several characters, places and storylines to return (besides those Joe specifically asked us to make return, of course!), if necessary of course. For each situation, each character, each background aspect, we thoroughly check all the already existing LW medias in order to avoid inconsistencies, and we’ll continue to do so.

BD: The main skeleton of the story exists, and we were extremely fortunate to have that. Not just the notes, but the time in the hospice in the final two weeks of his life, in order to take detailed notes and record a lot of dictation. Personally, it was also good to have something to work on with him during that difficult time. Something to focus on. It helped him cope, I think. And it felt like once he had given us this information a great weight was lifted and he could allow himself to let go. But Vincent’s right, there are still a lot of gaps and detail for us to fill. But you do need to put yourself into the writing otherwise it doesn’t feel right to have your name on the cover. But taking small pieces of prose from previous books, and certain turns of phrase that my father used, to give the writing his tone of voice, has been an interesting experience. There’s one instance in particular that has special relevance. In the opening section of Dead in the Deep, at the memorial for Black Hawk and Swift Sword, Lone Wolf gives a short eulogy. The final words of this speech were the same words that I used in my father’s eulogy, at his funeral. But they weren’t written by me – they were written by him. They were the final words of the eulogy that my father gave for his mother – my grandmother - at her funeral. So Lone Wolf’s words were actually my father’s.

LL: We interviewed August Hahn and Richard Ford, both collaborators in different periods of Lone Wolf saga. Both have left unfinished two trilogies of linear stories about events and territories never before explored. Are there any margins to be able to resume and conclude these two works?

VL: I’m an absolute fan of the two first novels of these trilogies, namely Glory and Greed and Dragons of Lencia, in my view they are among the best LW books every written, their contribution to the universe is astonishing, since they shaped Magnamund for the 4 final gamebooks and the climactic events they will depict. So I really hope we’ll be able to publish the sequels in the future. I work closely with August Hahn on many LW projects and I know he has in store the 2nd novel ready for publication, so wait and see.

BD: Agreed. Once the books are laid out and ready to print we’ll make an announcement.

LL: "Blood on the Snow" is already a few years old, but continues to excite many fans. Is it possible to expect other outputs on that platform? Could one think of the final volume 32 also published in that form of a gamebook-videogame?

VL: I’m also a huge fan of Blood on the Snow (not only because I’ve helped to check the background of its scenario. It was a delight to work with Samuele Perseo on this project) and I still admire its gameplay and its dark atmosphere, it’s for real nothing less than a new episode of Lone Wolf (that’s what Joe wanted it to be) that I suggest every fan discovers before reading book 4. As I speak there is alas no new project on this platform, however.

BD: Not on this platform, currently. But we do have other projects on other platforms in development and I’m really looking forward to being able to discuss them.

LL: Have you already wondered about the future of Lone Wolf after volume 32? Will the story be carried out in other ways (what about comics?) or will it be time to bring the curtain down definitively?

VL: Joe always stated book 32 will be the conclusion of Lone Wolf’s saga and we certainly won’t change that. After, it doesn’t mean there won’t be new adventures in Magnamund. You’ll understand we can’t explain further without spoiling book 32!

BD: The Lone Wolf gamebooks are the foundation of the entire world, but there are so many ways to explore Magnamund, and I’m working on a number of new ways into the universe. These things take time and money, of course, but the Wolfpack are a patient bunch!

LL: Ben has started to enjoy it and maybe he will write other gamebooks in addition to his father saga? And what about Vince?

VL: Dead in the Deep wasn’t my first gamebook adventure (I really hope the Italian LW fans will discover one day the 5 bonus adventures I’ve co-written for LW8, 20, 22, 23 and 29!) even if by far the biggest and most important. I have to say I simply love writing gamebooks in the Magnamund setting. For the future? Well Joe and I had a project of a Magnamund gamebook series taking place during the Darklands War, between LW11 and LW12. It is intended to show how the Freelands resisted the armies of the Darklands while Lone Wolf was trapped in the Daziarn (8 years to resist the wrath of the Darklords!! How did they manage to accomplish that feat?). It is supposed to focus on new characters but also secondary characters like Banedon, Nolrim, Melhan (from LW20BA)… I really hope I’ll be able to develop it once the 3 LW gamebooks will be finished. But my focus and dedication are only to Lone Wolf. No projects for other universes, and no universe of my own.

BD: Vincent is the creative lead on the posthumous work, and as much as I have enjoyed the deverising, my job is to look after the business so that all of his ideas, and the ideas of all our amazing contributors, can hopefully be created. Much like Christopher Tolkien, my role is to safeguard the work, bring it to new audiences, and to new mediums, and with Vincent’s help make sure that the quality is always high and that the fans are happy.

LL: Twenty years ago was born Project Aon, who with the permission of Joe has carried on the testimony of Loe Wolf in the era of greater failure of the librogames. What do you intend for the future of this site?

VL: Project Aon heavily contributed to save the Lone Wolf universe during the librogame crisis, to enable the fans to continue to enjoy Joe’s books and discover those they had never read. They also made an astonishing work of editing which greatly helped all the recent reissues. In my view their input is invaluable, and their reviewers even helped to check LW30’s manuscript. I want to thank them here again. Of course, I’d like this site to continue its tasks in the future, with more interactions with www.magnamund.com.

BD: I agree. It’s arguable that without Project Aon, Lone Wolf wouldn’t be able to have enjoyed such a revival. It kept the flame burning. My dad did not think Lone Wolf had a future when he made his ‘millennium gift’, and this was before print-on-demand and self-publishing became easier due to the internet. But the Project Aon license was written before mobile internet became ubiquitous, and before the books became popular again, and it isn’t possible to build a new publishing company and new products if all the work is already available for free! I have been in touch with Project Aon, with all our collaborators, and also the fans that created the free apps to make them all aware that if we all want Lone Wolf to reach its full potential – books, games, apps, audiobooks, interactive TV, interactive film – if we want Lone Wolf to come back, then we do need to tighten up how the work is distributed. Whatever happens, I will try to make sure that everyone is as happy as possible!

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