This is my first published fiction book, so you can imagine I'm not only working as an author. I'm a game designer for Path of Exile, responsible for level layout and design, along with the environment team at Grinding Gear Games. I was a CG artist on other games, and trained as an artist. I also wrote screenplays back then, and I still like to produce what artists tend to call ‘personal work’. Some of the background radiation informing this book grew out of a script called The Invisible King of the World, about a child goddess chased by a demon. I guess writing a long fiction book is a sort of beautiful, solitary pursuit, but now I can announce mine and I’d like to invite you to support The Wizard’s Harvest Table, which has many aspects a Path of Exile player would notice: portals, magic, demons, rare items, ruined cities, monsters, minions, corruption, conquest and struggle. It’s ready now, so there’s no waiting or pre-orders to worry about. The Wizard’s Harvest Table was written in fragments, when I was a lecturer in game art, and I even started making a game from the content in UE4 that I called Strata; images from that effort made part of the portfolio I submitted when applying to Grinding Gear Games.
The story evolved over three years, still in parts, but the binding or framework idea sort of came when another lecturer I knew, Simon Jackson, now also working at Grinding Gear Games as an effects artist, was talking about the concept of a portal story. And I thought, what is that? I’d never really thought of there being a ‘portal genre’, as a thing in itself. I’ve always been interested in science fiction and a sort of cyberpunk that has medieval qualities, the sort of thing Ian McQue paints. Then I realized, it’s totally the right idea. Being a fan of Giraud’s Airtight Garage (Le Garage Hermétique), a comic about as old as me as it happens, this genre seemed the right direction to go, so I started to plot out what I thought might be the required incidents in a journey where portals were the key transition from scene to scene. About the same time, I was hired by Grinding Gear Games to work in the environment team as a level designer, which is fantastic, and I just kept writing and editing in the dead of night. I accept that portals are very far-fetched, but in my mind it feels almost like the book’s events really happened, and I’m more or less relating memories of a vivid dream or hallucination. At first my efforts were split between science fiction worlds and fantasy worlds. As I developed the details, gradually the unique parts got more attention and focus, whereas the genre staples drifted off into ‘higher worlds’ far from the main action. Then I started over and became interested in the humour and folly in the scenes, given it’s a story with a crew and a large number of characters, a ship of fools?
I also introduced incantations, which are rather like the words of power in Skyrim (these reminded me of the classic Sourcery spell book by Steve Jackson that I’d been fascinated by when I was a kid). Frank Herbert’s Dune has them too, right? ‘My name is a killing word.’ With incantations and portals you get some pretty cool possibilities, and a key conflict in the story is that the magic of the Harvest Table is starting to wane, an opening for demons and lurkers from dungeon dimensions.
By now I really wanted to illustrate the content, but it wasn’t finished yet, so I committed to just writing, to see the book through; it had taken a good shape and I was spending most of my time working towards production, where you hire an editor, get feedback, attempt the final manuscript, hire a proofreader, ingest the changes, and also design a cover. This was about the time we released the game expansion Atlas of Worlds 2 and the Abyss league.
The cover came right at the end, as I’d tried designs myself and wasn’t at all happy with my sketches. Another colleague Jared Wikeepa began a cover illustration of this key scene you read right at the start of the book (which we’re hoping to release as a print). Then I came across a very detailed demon painting with a cool landscape by a Polish artist, Adrien Biłozór, who agreed to license it and adapt his artstation post so it had the resolution needed for 6”x9” US standard novel size, and we made some changes to bring it in line with the book’s atmosphere. The original painting is called The First Gate of Hell, which is great! What could be better? The Wizard’s Harvest Table is full of underworld imps and demons, and dangerous, unvisited lands. So, if you like medieval, magical fantasy with a dark, gritty atmosphere, you can order direct or go to Amazon.com and look for The Wizard’s Harvest Table by Thomas Mooney, 375 pages, paperback, available for USD 18.95 from April 9th. If you do get the book, feel free to respond with any questions, reviews and comments.