By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth, describing it as “a pleasant surprise – an official tie-in novel that truly lives up to the critically-acclaimed Uncharted franchise.” We are therefore delighted to present an exclusive online interview with the award-winning author of the book, Christopher Golden!
Hello Mr Golden, thank you for your time and welcome to AMO. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
I’m an American writer, native to the Boston area, and have been writing full time since 1992. My first novel, Of Saints and Shadows, was published in 1994. Since that time, I’ve written dozens more, including horror, fantasy, mystery, and thriller novels for adults and young adults, as well as short stories, comic books, video games, and TV and film scripts.
How did you become a writer?
I always wrote, but for a long time I thought that I would end up working in film. It wasn’t until my senior year at university that I realised I wanted to write novels for a living, and that I began to believe I would be capable of doing that. I had only written short stories before, but I had this epiphany, in which I understood that if I could write twenty short stories, there was no reason I couldn’t write twenty chapters of a long one. I started that novel, originally called Shadow Time, in the fall of 1988, and I sold it in 1992, though it didn’t see publication until 1994.
Titan Books recently released your latest book, Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth in the UK. What is the premise of this tie-in novel?
It’s a tie-in to the fantastic and phenomenally successful Uncharted video game franchise. I love the games, and that’s always necessary for me to want to do a media tie-in. If the passion isn’t there, it just isn’t worth it. The games are full of history, mystery, folklore, and pulp adventure, and all of those things are right in my sweet spot. The Fourth Labyrinth springboards off of the murder of one of Sully’s best friends. If you’re not familiar with the series, it revolves around a treasure hunter called Nathan Drake, and his best friend and mentor, Victor Sullivan. When Sully’s friend is horribly murdered, Drake and Sully are drawn into a very dangerous mystery involving the dead man’s beautiful daughter, ancient labyrinths, hooded assassins, and greed. A typical day in the life of Nathan Drake.
Did you collaborate with Naughty Dog at all whilst writing this book and if so, where their any particular conditions in place?
The people at Naughty Dog were great, particularly Amy Hennig, with whom I had regular contact. They had to approve everything I did, from the outline to the final manuscript. There are always conditions when you’re working with a media tie-in, not least of which is that while you’re allowed to play with their toys, you must put them back in the toy chest when you’re done, in the same condition in which you found them. That means you can’t kill any of the ongoing characters, or change them substantially, and it also means you can’t reveal any parts of their past that have not already been revealed in the official, canon materials, in this case the games.
Do you know if Naughty Dog consider the book canon?
You’d have to ask them. I’d like to think so. There’s certainly nothing in the book that would conflict with the canon.
Are you a fan of the franchise yourself? How familiar where you with the Uncharted universe before writing the book?
Absolutely. When I was first approached, I hadn’t played the games at all, but I was intrigued. History and mythology are passions of mine, and I love the kind of rollicking adventure and self-effacing pulp hero that Uncharted so successfully brings to life. But I didn’t say yes at first. I wanted to play the games and experience it for myself. Once I had done that, I signed on immediately.
You seem to have captured the personalities of Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan perfectly – how difficult was this to do and did you sometimes have to go back and rewrite their dialogue if it didn’t quite sound right?
Of course I tweaked the dialogue while I was revising the manuscript before delivering it, but it really wasn’t difficult. The folks at Naughty Dog have created fantastic characters. Drake has such a great Nathan Fillion meets Indiana Jones quality to him, and Sully is so wonderfully curmudgeonly. I could hear their voices as I wrote, and I’m happy that people seem to think I pulled off their characterisation well.
Nate and Sully are the only characters from the games to appear in this tie-in novel – was that a deliberate decision?
Absolutely. The past and future of the other characters is so uncertain at the moment that Naughty Dog did not want me to start filling in the blanks on my own. But to be honest, I was happy to be able to do my own thing and find my own way. The relationship between Jada and Sully complicated Drake and Jada’s relationship in a great way, putting her out of bounds romantically, so while there could be flirtation, it was more about them developing a camaraderie than a romance. I really like her. If I have the opportunity to write another Uncharted novel, I’d like to see Jada return.
How would you describe Nate and Sully’s relationship?
There’s certainly a paternal element there, but it’s much more complicated than that. Sully isn’t his father, more like the roguish uncle who always seems to be trying to charm his way out of a jam. But he IS Drake’s mentor and father figure. I think it would be fascinating to write – or read, or play a game with – a story set in the past, where Drake is younger, and trying to step out of Sully’s shadow for the first time. When we first meet Drake in the game, there’s no question that he’s already done that, to the extent that they’re partners, now, and Drake is the senior partner.
The book also introduces a new female character named Jada Hzujak – how would you describe her character?
Jada’s very smart and capable. She’s beautiful, but not some seductress. When we meet her, she’s mourning the death of her father, who has been murdered, and she intends to make sure whoever killed him is brought to justice. And when she realises that she herself is also in danger, it only makes her more resolute. Jada is younger than Drake, but they have a lot in common. I think that she’s actually a better match for him, in interest and temperament, than either Elena or Chloe, from the games. But the familial nature of their relationship to Sully is a hurdle neither of them really wants to pass. That’s just my opinion, of course. Drake’s love life is not in my hands.
When is the book set? Do you have a concrete idea of when it takes place in relation to the games themselves?
We left it vague quite purposefully. It might be before the first game, or between the first and second. I tend to think the latter, but that’s just me.
How much research was involved when writing the book? The historical details throughout the novel are very impressive indeed…
Thank you. I suspect I did more research for this book than for any other I’ve written. Ecuador, Incas, Alchemy and Alchemists, Ostanes, Egypt, China, Chinese mythology, Crocodile Gods, Human Horns, Santorini, Egyptian cars, Daedalus, Atlantis, and of course, Labyrinths… among many other things.
Are the historical details and locations all based on fact or was some artistic licence used?
Any time you’re looking at history, “fact” is a vague sort of word. What I did was to create an interweaving of various elements from history and mythology. Some of the connections I’ve made are connections that historians and archaeologists have made, and others are things I’ve extrapolated from existing theories. What I found fascinating was how plausible the connections I invented seemed to be, looking at the big picture. (Obviously, not ALL of them. It gets a little crazy near the end. But everything I did is rooted in reality in some fashion, even the weird stuff.)
How did you approach taking a video game that features plenty of shooting and action, and translate that to a plot-driven novel?
Honestly, it’s not that difficult. You need a plot that accomplishes three things: provides a structure in which there will be plenty of occasions for shooting and action, provides mystery and intrigue, and has characters whose personalities and relationships and situations are interesting enough to continue the momentum all on their own, in between the intrigue and action.
Would you like to write more tie-in novels within the Uncharted universe in the future?
Absolutely. I had a blast, and I already have the beginnings of a plot in mind. But I have no idea if there will be more.
Is it easier or harder to write a novel based upon somebody else’s idea?
A little of both. The character work is already done for you, and the tone has been set. But if you don’t get the characters and the tone right, the fans will crucify you.
What’s next for you Mr Golden?
I have two novels coming out in the first quarter of next year. The Secret Journeys of Jack London: The Sea Wolves is the second novel in a trilogy that Uncharted fans will love, because it involves history, mystery, mythology, monsters, and gold. The first novel in the trilogy, subtitled The Wild, comes out in paperback on the same day the new book hits in hardcover (Feb. 28th). Then, a month later, there’s a new novel out by me and Mike Mignola, called Joe Golem and the Drowning City. It’s an insane, alternate history, supernatural novel, flavored with Lovecraft and steampunk.
Thank you for your time! I thoroughly enjoyed reading Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth and think that you have truly done the Uncharted video games justice!
- BOOK REVIEW – Uncharted: The Fourth Labyrinth by Christopher Golden
- GAME REVIEW – Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (PlayStation 3)
- GAME REVIEW – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)