HALO: POINT OF LIGHT – An interview with Kelly Gay

Halo: Point of Light by Kelly Gay releases March 2nd 2021, continuing the story of Rion Forge, 343 Guilty Spark (now just ‘Spark’), and the Ace of Spades crew.

But before it sits comfortably in your hands (and lives rent-free in your minds), Kelly sat down with me to talk about this momentous new release.

Herein lies some hints of what’s to come, along with Kelly’s unique authorial insight into the stories, characters, and themes of the Halo universe.

Grab a mug and pull up a chair, Spartans!

Before we begin…

If you’re looking to quickly catch up on the story of what happened to 343 Guilty Spark after Halo 3, I’ve got you covered!

You can also check out my spoiler-free review of Halo: Point of Light.

Welcome back, Kelly!

It feels like absolutely no introduction is needed at this point, as this is your fourth Halo story (and third Halo book) over the last five years. How does it feel not only to come back for another round, but to be part of the furniture now?

Thanks, Alex! 😃 Glad to join you once again and talk shop.

I feel really fortunate to continue with these characters, to see how they evolve and where their journey takes them. As they have grown, so have I.

I’ve settled in to a good writing process with these books, and working with the franchise continues to be an awesome experience. It definitely doesn’t feel like five years have passed!

You were at Halo: Outpost Discovery in 2019, part of a rockstar panel line-up of authors (Christie Golden, Troy Denning, Matt Forbeck, Jeff Easterling) to talk about your experience as a writer.

Considering how solitary writing so often is, was that a moment where everything ‘got real’ for you?

Yes, absolutely. What an amazing experience. The entire weekend, walking around Outpost, getting to hang out with fans, and meeting the people I’ve worked with over the past few years in person, as well as getting to know Troy and Matt and all the other Halo authors…

Just seeing firsthand the love that people have for this universe, it makes you realize that we’re all one big Halo family and we have so much in common.

I’m absolutely dying to talk about this book! What was the most exciting part for you about Point of Light?

Oh man, I’ve been dying to talk about it too.

When you get to play with some ultra cool aspects of the universe you want to shout it to the world. That’s one of the best parts of the job, to take characters and aspects, both big and small, that you might see in game or media and expand it further, to put a story behind it and/or a future in front of it

Halo: Renegades left us with something of a new beginning for The-Ancilla-Formerly-Known-As 343 Guilty Spark (now ‘Spark’).

Going into Point of Light, catching up with the Ace of Spades crew, where are these characters at in their great journey?

They’re all at a crossroads.

The Ace crew has been together for a few years now. The siblings, Niko and Lessa, are beginning to look more closely at their futures and what kind of life and impact they want to have. Ram has some big decisions to make.

Spark is at a significant point in his existence, having already led a life as Chakas and as 343 Guilty Spark, so he has to decide what life he wants now, who is he now, what is his purpose and where does he fit in.

And Rion is going through some growing pains as well with her family and envisioning what a life beyond her salvaging days might entail.

Art by WILL CAMERON (‘PIXELFLARE’), used with permission — Website | ArtStation | Twitter

Would you say it’s these wonderfully flawed characters that really ‘grounds’ you as a writer?

When dealing with such complex, esoteric lore across years of this franchise, it can be so tempting to dive into that ocean and never get your head above water…

It does ground me, as I’m tied to only relaying those new discoveries through the eyes and actions of the characters. It keeps me in check when I want to go off on massive lore dives for sure.

But it’s also one of my favorite paths to take because this newness, the awe and drama of discovery, is a shared experience with the reader. We’re all seeing it and feeling it for the first time. We’re in it together. It’s why I choose to tell the story from multiple points of view, so we can get first hand experiences as they happen.

The research and development is mostly where I dive into the ocean and stay submerged for long, long stretches. In fact, I think for Renegades and Point of Light I spent as much (if not more) time in this phase than in writing the first drafts. Even then, I’ll stop in the writing to check a bit of history and end up losing a day or two of writing lost in lore. Not that I’m complaining!

By the same token, did you know that you would be writing perhaps some of the biggest tectonic shifts in the Halo universe since the Forerunner Saga?

The process of opening those kinds of doors must be quite a mix of excitement and intimidation…

I knew the scope would be big, definitely, but it was all excitement and wanting to jump right in.

And it never felt intimidating because all those big moments and shifts are tunneled through the characters, and as such it makes the writing more intimate and relatable.

To really break things down here, what would you say some of the core themes of Point of Light are?

It’s all about relationships, finding your people, your place in the universe.

It’s about family and those we leave behind, and how unfinished business can weigh us down or push us in new directions…

It’s about sacrifice and letting go.

While we’re endeavouring to keep this spoiler-free, I think we can throw readers a bone here with a yes/no question…

That Halo ring on the cover – it’s exactly the one folks think it is, right?

Yes? 😉

One of the things that really stood out to me in Point of Light was how you deal with the ideas and mechanics of ‘predestiny.’

A lot of stories play with this in very conventional ways, but I found your exploration and the ambiguity around it really interesting in how it ties into the baggage these characters carry and what they believe in.

Is this something you have a lot of feelings about as a writer?

Oh, we could talk for hours about this…

There are times in Point of Light when the question of a predestined fate arises, but the goal was to look at the idea in a more malleable way, taking into the account the history of the Halo universe and from whence these ideas arose.

If we look at it from the Librarian’s perspective, for instance, and the idea of Living Time, then we might come to the conclusion that a fated outcome might have been seen or foretold, but that outcome is simply one in a stream of infinite possible outcomes.

Even a geas might be considered a kind of forced destiny, something placed upon a person predisposing them to act in a certain way, pushing them along to some goal or a hoped-for goal (ala their destiny), but this is always subject to chance and chaos and free will—things beyond the control of the geas itself.

For me it’s hard to imagine predestiny in straight black-and-white terms, but if a character has to be tied to a certain fate for whatever reason, then as a writer I’m going to make the path to it gray and dirty and complicated, and then I’m going to make the character and the reader question the validity of it, the interpretation of it, and its origin.

In the end, it all boils down to what you said: belief. Faith in the concept itself, and faith is different for everyone, and every character will view it and grapple with it in different ways.

I really like it when Halo goes to some ‘weird’ places, particularly where the wildlife of the universe is concerned. You clearly had a lot of fun playing with that particular sandbox, didn’t you?

What’s that process like – do you sketch the creatures out for 343?

Ah, the wildlife…

Had loads of fun, yes. There’s a couple creatures we’ll meet in Point of Light. For one of them, I did actually sketch it out after some brainstorming and research—not anything I shared—but just to get the visual out of my head and onto paper to see if it worked as I thought it did.

The other had a brief appearance in one of the Halo games (I won’t say which) and 343 provided me with a piece of early concept art that showed this creature (albeit in a different way than what appears in game). The art is amazing and I really pulled from that visual and then built a background and species traits around it.

Writing for a franchise like Halo naturally entails a lot of collaboration across all sorts of partners. With everybody working from home due to COVID, has that collaboration changed much for you as a writer?

No, not really. Previous to COVID, all of my work with 343 and my editor at Simon & Schuster has always been from home via emails, chats, phone calls…

It’s different in the way that now everyone else is at home, too, so sometimes personal snippets slip through, like my editor making lunch or Jeff Easterling’s super cute dog, Indy, making an appearance, or that time during a 4-way phone call when it sounded like someone burped and everyone got quiet… But it was just Indy. 😃

Indy is a very good boy! In fact, Jeff (GrimBrotherOne) is dropping in here for a moment to provide us with a very special cameo appearance…

Orbital Dog Shock Trooper deployed!

Last year, I got Tim Dadabo to read an excerpt of Halo: Renegades on Cameo, and now he’s coming back to do the entire audiobook narration for Point of Light.

How does it make you feel to know that your story is being read by the voice of Guilty Spark himself?

That cameo last year left me speechless. To actually hear the voice of Spark coming alive and saying words that I’d only heard in my mind… just an incredible moment. So thanks again for that!

And now Tim is voicing an entire novel.

Honestly I never thought anything like that would ever happen, so, yeah, I mean I feel utterly stunned about it and just thrilled to death. And the icing on the cake is that Tim is the nicest guy, really genuine, and put a lot of thought and care into getting the book and characters just right.

Without giving anything away, are there any little details in Point of Light that readers might pick up for Halo Infinite?

Yes, but I’ll let you all discover them as you read. It’s more fun that way.

Cruel ‘pick your favourite child’ question time: do you have any favourite characters in this book, outside of Rion and Spark?

They are all my favorite, just in different ways.

The Librarian holds a very, very dear place in my heart (understatement!) as well as another character… but sharing the name would spoil the reveal… 😉

We’ll be seeing a lot of the Librarian, delving deeper into her own story than ever before – that’s definitely something readers can look forward to!

Thank you very much for taking the time to give us these insights, Kelly. Point of Light is going to be such a treat for Halo fans to discuss over the coming months (and years!).

Do you have any final thoughts to share – are there any particular shoutouts you want to give?

Anytime. And big thanks for having me and giving your time to talk about the book!

Big shouts also to the incredible folks at 343, Jeremy Patenaude, Tiffany O’Brien, and Jeff Easterling, and my editor, Ed Schlesinger at Simon & Schuster—they all are amazing at what they do and there simply would not be a book without them, or without you guys—the readers!

Your support is so appreciated, and I’m super excited to share more of the Halo universe with you.

Halo: Point of Light releases March 2nd 2021.

Written by Kelly Gay, the cover art was made by none other than Will Cameron (AKA ‘Pixelflare’ – Website | ArtStation | Twitter), and the audiobook will be narrated by Tim Dadabo (the voice of Spark himself).

August 2558. Rion Forge was once defined by her relentless quest for hope amidst the refuse and wreckage of a post-Covenant War galaxy – years spent searching for family as much as fortune. But that was before Rion and the crew of her salvager ship Ace of Spades encountered a powerful yet tragic being who forever altered their lives.

This remnant from eons past, when the Forerunners once thrived, brought with it a revelation of ancient machinations and a shocking, brutal history.

Unfortunately, the Ace crew also made dire enemies of the Office of Naval Intelligence in the process, with the constant threat of capture and incarceration a very real possibility.

Now with tensions mounting and ONI forces closing in, Rion and her companions commit to this being’s very personal mission, unlocking untold secrets and even deadlier threats that have been hidden away for centuries from an unsuspecting universe…

Links to purchase:

Amazon (UK | US) – available in paperback, as well as Kindle and Audiobook formats
Simon & Schuster
Forbidden Planet

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