Ian was pleased to offer our friends at Games You Loved an exclusive preview of Legend of the Lost as well as a Q&A style interview about the changeling trilogy, making the link between great storytelling and gaming.
Here’s how the interview went:
How Our Love of Gaming Comes from Our Love of Stories
We are really pleased to be the first online channel to feature an exclusive interview with Ian P Buckingham, about the Launch of his new children’s changeling fantasy series, Legend of the Lost.
Q: You’re a former Omnicom director, famous in management consultancy circles for influencing major brand transformations and books on management and brand, including Brand Champions, real grown up stuff. So why the move into children’s literature?
Having spent so long dealing with issues and challenges in board rooms, watching intelligent adults struggle to make sense of their world a fair way downstream from childhood dreams, I have been increasingly trying to re-connect managers and business owners with customers, employees, even shareholders. I’ve been using storytelling as a way of engaging, becoming better communicators and better leaders as a result.
I’ve run countless workshops on creating compelling stories and narratives and change journeys. These have usually referenced the classic hero’s journey structure of mythologist Joseph Campbell and his ilk to show how timeless and instinctive storytelling should be. But I have always harboured a desire to work with people upstream, to write for a younger or more open-minded audience before, I guess, the cynicism and the bad habits set in.
Q: The first book in your trilogy is a classic-style children’s fiction thriller. It has a real sense of the legendary sword and sorcery about it with a modern twist. People are going to recognise iconic villains like the werebeasts, faerie folk and dark sorcerers. They will also identify with the journey of discovery the children go on to combat evil, uncovering special powers and magical items on the way. For me it felt it had a strong gaming feel to it at times.
Well, I’m glad you noticed. In terms of the story, I grew up reading classics like the Grimm brothers, Blyton’s Enchanted Wood and Flying Chair series and the Hardy Boys books. I then moved onto Lewis and Tolkien then the Star Wars books when older. After that I voraciously devoured superhero comics, then pulp fiction detective classics then horror writers like Stephen King. Then Ian Livingstone’s fighting fantasy work came along with other output from the Games Workshop and the work of Gary Gygax and co which all became major influences as I started AD&D role-playing. Fantasy writers like Moorcock, Howard and Iain Banks played their part too.
I personally started gaming on an Atari with all its unique charms. But I can still remember the thrill of the first narrative games like The Hobbit on my ZX Spectrum. I have been bitten by the first-person gaming bug ever since. Most recently addictions have included Shadow of Mordor, Battlegrounds, Medal of Honour and the Assassin’s Creed series. They all have strong stories at their core.
There is clearly a basic instinct in gamers to honour the demands of storytelling narrative and the rules and rituals we learn when our parents read us our first and most basic tales. The oral tradition of passing on stories, myths and legends is as old as time. It’s a powerful instinct and I believe online and vintage gaming is now a key part of the same tradition.
Squaring the circle, I can see gaming and gamification playing an increasingly important role in formal executive education and school too.
Q: So why write for young children, why not older gamers?
I guess I wanted to be part of the process that influences people earlier. I studied children’s literature and what a lot of people don’t realise is that much literature for kids is actually morally instructive. It teaches kids how to make sense of challenges, avoid danger and the informal rules and rituals of their culture. Sure there’s some of the usual good vs evil stuff in my books. But in an age of sensationalism and extremism I’m also pointing out that not everything is black and white, right and wrong, good and evil. Characters have layers of complexity and vulnerability, strengths and weaknesses, important lessons we sometimes forget.
The books were also hugely influenced by our own kids. We have always shared stories together and have made up stories together, like on long car or plane journeys. I’ve always encouraged them to mix up their experiences and their entertainment and play. I’m, especially conscious that we live in the electronic age and how it can dominate so we’ve never simply handed over i-phones or tablets as surrogate babysitters. Too much of that goes on. We have deliberately read together, then gamed together using Leapfrog and other teaching systems, instructional PC games like Age of Empires, then watched the classic film stories together and talked about the then, read comics together. It’s been a privilege to gradually introduce them to the stories, legends, characters and then the games I loved.
We’ve handed down classic systems like our Game Boys, Game Gear etc before buying the newer systems and that’s been a real joy. The process of going from watching Batman the series to the films to playing the Lego games then X Box and Playstation games, for example, has been great fun for all of us.
Introducing them to characters like Zelda, Rayman, Mortal Kombat and the Sonic family on the Wii where the whole family could bring their favourite characters to life has been a real rite of passage for us all.
It has been great fun to then transfer all that classic and contemporary storytelling and characterisation into a series of books, written together, to create a series that is recognisable but very different.
Q: So would you still call these kid’s books?
CS Lewis, author of the Narnia books famously said:
“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
Remember what I said about having to re-teach leaders and managers about storytelling to engage key audiences? Well, another one of my favourite quotes is by JM Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan:
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”
Who makes the rules that we have to “adult” at some stage and have to stop playing?
And why do so many adults turn off their imaginations as they get older and lose the basic rules of making up stories?
A business or brand vision should be inspiring, not corporatey shouldn’t it?
Same applies to the best books and the best games.
Q: Tell us more about this link between the books and gaming.
Well, I understand the joy of retro gaming because I am a retro gamer. I know what a great story is because I grew up with them myself. I still seek them out.
I have deliberately written these books for adults to enjoy reading to and with their kids, for kids to read independently or even adults to read alone. And in an age with so many distractions, the stories have to be compelling to compete or complement other forms of entertainment available.
Remember when the Harry Potter books first came out and the publisher printed versions with adult covers so they wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen reading them? Well, this trilogy is in that Potter tradition. But I think we’ve now grown past having to hide our indulgences. We should embrace and encourage the inner child and never let that light go out. We should and can be “out” about simple pleasures and be as proud to read classic stories as we are to play classic games, without feeling it is a guilty pleasure or something to hide.
Q: Turning this around, do you think you could see this book or the series becoming a film or…a game even?
I would certainly love to see the series become a game or even a film of some sort, possibly an animation. That would certainly have a nice synergy about it. There’s a very strong journey theme with the characters discovering special powers and magical items that help them overcome interesting threats, challenges and enemies. It would lend itself to our sort of first-person battle game to play as an individual or team, Lord of the Rings style and would appeal to all genders. Be a great project to work on, that’s for sure. And I have a couple of junior executive producers in mind who could certainly consult on the project…
We encourage our followers, especially those with kids between 7-11, young adults or who just fancy a classic to add to their book collection, to pick up a copy of Legend of the Lost, the first of Ian’s changeling trilogy.
The first edition print run is out for orders now via all the key online outlets and will be arriving in Waterstones and major bookshops this Summer.
We have a strong hunch that these fresh books by a quality writer are going to become collectable classics.
Remember, you heard it here first folks!
If you want to find out more or the notion of a collaborative gaming venture based on this trilogy appeals, then get in contact by dropping us a line here or contact Ian direct via the website linked to the books or connect with him on twitter, Linkedin or other social media.