Interview with Andrew Trainor, Author of BLUEFALL

BLUEFALL by Andrew Trainor
  • Tell us the story behind the story. How did BLUEFALL come to be?

Years ago, when I was working as a professional actor with time on my hands in-between the hectic, but often sporadic, schedule of auditions and filming on set, I filled up virtually all my free time gaming in virtual worlds; this was a habit I picked up from my older brother when I was very young, often gaming with him and his friends over our computers. One day, I decided to use my credit card to purchase a virtual item in the game DOTA 2 – this item was purely cosmetic. It made my character look different but offered me no advantage in the game. The item’s cost at that time was the equivalent of $8, and I bought it because I wanted to stand out – to have some level of status in this game. A small part of me felt ridiculous spending money on a video game, but that didn’t stop me. Some years on, the developers of DOTA 2 issued a patch to the game that made this particular item no longer “droppable,” meaning that no new copies of the item would ever be found in the game. The supply growth was immediately cut to zero. Forever.

Immediately, the effect of this imposed rarity caused the item’s real-money value to sky-rocket to over $1500. The effective return on my initial $8 investment of a staggering 18750%, over a period of just four to five years, would have caused any stock-market trader or investment enthusiast to get excited by the possibility of immense gains. So, I made some money with my first ever virtual purchase – completely by accident. But what if I had foreseen this rise coming, and had pre-emptively purchased 10 of the item? Or 100? Or 1,000? It was this notion that sparked the idea for the story that would eventually become Bluefall.

Real-money involvement in virtual worlds is not a new thing. Back since the early days of the massively popular World of Warcraft, Chinese companies were hiring workers at pittance wages to “gold-farm”. Basically, they would find the most efficient process to gain virtual capital in the game, and then repeat that process over and over for 24 hours a day. The practice was against the game’s terms of conditions, but that didn’t stop the gold-farmers. These companies were obviously making enough money to justify their operation. World of Warcraft attempted to stop users from purchasing in-game capital for real money, but the sellers just went to platforms like eBay and conducted the transaction there.

Eventually, as it stands today, the World of Warcraft developers ceased trying to prevent these transactions and instead adopted their own “official” means of injecting real-money into the game. Users can now purchase “subscription time” – 1 month’s access to the game – and sell that to other players for a certain amount of gold. Thus, a functioning and official Economy and currency exchange was born. The same process has been repeated in various other games across the MMORPG genre. In every game, you can find someone willing to pay real money to look better, be stronger, stand out, and gain status – I myself was one of those people. And wherever you find money and a lack of strict regulation, you find sharks and opportunists ready to swoop in and exploit the market in order to get rich.

Bluefall, in a sense, is already happening. From that understanding, I only needed a model to progress with for the story, and I found a perfect framework in replicating/breaking down the causes and timelines of a real Economic crash that occurred in 1990’s Korea with the chaebols – Samsung, Hyundai, LG, etc. Add in my passion for sci-fi, a touch of detective noir, and the building blocks for the story were in place. That was over two years ago.

  • What was the most challenging aspect of writing BLUEFALL?

I first approached the idea 4-5 years ago, but grew frustrated and never finished it. Once I felt ready to revisit the subject, there was nothing remotely challenging about writing Bluefall at all — it was a sheer pleasure. But it wasn’t until I was able to approach the story with a fresh perspective that everything finally opened up for me. So I guess I’ll say the most difficult part was that initial ‘failure’, but I see now that it was a necessary part of the process and I look back on even that part of the journey as part of the greater joy of writing Bluefall.

  • What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

There’s a couple of layers to this, but I think the most important message (to me personally, at least) in Bluefall is that we cannot hide from who we are — not even in a virtual world. Not through wealth, not through escapism, not through addiction, not through obsession, not even through the lies we tell ourselves and the ones we love in our desperation to dull the pain of reality. Until we can face ourselves as we are, we will always be unhappy.

  • Tell us a little bit about your background and how it helped inspire your work.

I’m a gamer who has over a year’s worth of playing time on WoW and another year spread out among a couple other MMOs since back in the days of the original Everquest, so I’ve always been interested in virtual worlds and fascinated by them. I studied Economics in college before I went into writing, so this concept is really just a direct blend of those two different parts of my past.

  • Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits?

I come up with an idea that I think is cool and I try to hold onto that initial feeling of excitement for as long as I can. When it’s gone, I try to remember what I loved about it and that sometimes helps me get back on track. I write when I feel like it and sometimes that means staying up all night. Other times it means I won’t write for weeks.

I start with a cool idea, then form it into a story, then create a world for that story, then I populate that world with people. From the characters comes everything else. The specifics are different every time, but most of the things I’ve written (that were actually finished or turned out any good) have come about in that general way.

As to keeping everything organized when creating a vast world, I know there are other writers who about worldbuilding in a different way, but I don’t feel as if you need to meticulously plan out every single detail of a Universe to create one. You start with the big blocks and fill in some little ones, and when you’re confronted with making a choice you decide what works or makes sense with what you already have. It’s a strange kind of cause and effect process, i.e. you make X decision, so the next decision must be Y, and because you chose Y then the next decision must be Z. You can ask yourself any possible question about a Universe and answer it with some variation of that same process. There will always be inconsistencies at first, but rarely will you be presented with a situation where those disconnects can’t be resolved, so if you’re paying attention and aren’t afraid to make adjustments or rethink details when necessary, it doesn’t all feel so overwhelming. Everything starts with a single decision and from there blossoms into a living Universe, much like life came from single-celled organisms and adapted, by necessity, into complex, rational beings.

  • What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

I just finished the Mistborn series and have returned to rereading Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. What can I say? I’m a huge fantasy nerd.

  • Which authors do you admire?

Brandon Sanderson, for his work ethic; Sam Shepherd, for his artistic versatility; and Stan Lee, for his magical ability to turn stories and characters into modern mythology.

  • What have you learned from this experience?

Don’t be afraid to dive into the unknown – whether that is a genre you are uncomfortable with or a format you’ve never tried before. (Bluefall was my first graphic novel, after all.) But just as important as the fearlessness in an artist is the humility; asking for help and trusting those you choose to collaborate with is an absolutely necessary – and hopefully, enjoyable! – part of growing as an artist. Writing can often be a very solitary profession by nature, but I’ve recently come to realize that most of my favorite professional experiences were those rare opportunities to work with other creatives and watch them lend their own unique artistic vision to my work. Inevitably, the story becomes better for it.

  • What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

“Write what you know” – or, even better, “Write what makes you come alive.” I wasted so much time in my formative writing years trying to figure out what people wanted to read. It was agonizing! This revelation has become a cliché by now, but everything became so much easier and more enjoyable for me when I focused on trying to write the type of stories that I wanted to read instead.

  • What are you working on now?

Bluefall: Vol. 2!

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