To say that Andy Cull is a creative genius is putting it mildly. The UK screenwriter and film maker (currently residing in Australia) is a renaissance man of sorts. Best known for his work in supernatural horror, his credits include writing and directing the critically acclaimed feature The Possession of David O’Reilly, In The Dark, and Urban Gothic, the cult television series where he worked tirelessly as a writer.
Besides his work in film, Andy is hard at work on his first novel and has turned his attention to writing Skyrim fiction and modding. He’s created two brilliant Skyrim characters, Morgen and Reyda, and is allowing the Skyrim Fansite to publish their amazing stories in the coming weeks. Before we launch the first installment however, Andy graciously took time from his busy schedule to give the Skyrim Fansite an exclusive interview where he shares his experience and passion for writing and creative works of art.
Andy Cull Interview With The Skyrim Fansite
Skyrim Fansite: You’re a screenwriter, a film maker, a novelist, and a modder. With all your artistic ability, what is it that drew you to Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls to showcase your talent?
Andy Cull: I’m a big Elder Scrolls fan. I’ve ploughed hundreds of hours into the games, but I had never thought about the possibility of beginning to mod for them. I guess Skyrim really caught my imagination at the right time. I’m currently working on my first novel and wanted to write some shorter pieces too. The stories of my characters seemed to really fit well with that.
Skyrim Fansite: I want to ask you some questions about your novel, but first I have to ask what the modding experience was like. It sounds like you didn’t have a lot of experience going into it.
Andy Cull: I didn’t have any. I’m pretty determined when I get an idea into my head, and once I knew that I wanted to bring the stories that I had in my mind to life in the game, I read a lot of tutorials and watched a lot of the excellent videos that are available to learn the skills to create my followers. As time has gone on I’ve made some really good friends who have tested my work, advised me and answered the many questions I’ve had as I’ve worked. There’s a fantastic community modding for Skyrim who are really prepared to help each other out when needed.
Skyrim Fansite: Well, I have to say that your mods are a testament to your determination and hard work. They’re top shelf, and both Morgen and Reyda are amazing. I suppose your determination is a great strength when it comes to writing a novel. How do you keep your focus and find the discipline to tackle such a massive project?
Andy Cull: Thank you! The response to Reyda and Morgen has been fantastic! I will definitely be continuing to work on more followers and more projects for Skyrim. In terms of the novel – I guess as a writer you learn to be pretty determined. When I was working in film it could take five years from finishing a script to getting a feature into production. You have to make a decision early on and ask if you’re in it for the long haul. I definitely am. I can’t imagine doing anything else and so far I’ve been lucky enough to have some success which has given me the opportunity to carry on with more projects. In terms of keeping focused – that’s a tough one and at times, like most people, procrastination wins out! Fortunately my procrastination is generally to work on another story I’d like to explore, so I’m generally writing on one project or another.
Patience and having a routine also really helps.
Skyrim Fansite: Good advice for novelists and anyone with a goal in mind. So you began your professional writing career as a screenwriter?
Andy Cull: I started out in the theatre when I was at Uni. I formed my own theatre company which I wrote and directed for. After touring the UK for a couple of years I realised that I was trying to write features and put them on the stage. Moving to film was a natural progression from there.
Skyrim Fansite: Was working in film stressful? It seems like it would be (deadlines, producers, directors, etc.).
Andy Cull: It’s challenging You have to be very flexible as a writer working in features. There a many, often conflicting, creative voices involved in putting a film together. That’s the reason I’ve chosen to direct most of my own projects and why I’ve turned down some others. It means there’s one less voice and, for that, a more coherent vision.
Skyrim Fansite: It sounds fascinating, and I suppose was a great experience in helping to hone your craft as a writer. I’d like to ask you a few broad questions about writing, and then a few specifics about your Skyrim stories concerning Morgen and Reyda if I could. First of all, what do you feel is the greatest challenge in writing?
Andy Cull: Sticking at it for the long haul. I think people put a lot of themselves into their projects and it can be understandably disheartening when success doesn’t come along overnight. You have to make a commitment to your work and know that it takes time both to hone your skills as a writer and to achieve your goals. Try not to take it personally. Rejection doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It just means you are a writer! It’s the same for everyone.
Skyrim Fansite: Well said. Are there any writers that you draw inspiration from and whose work influences you?
Andy Cull: I’d say my writing has been primarily influenced by film-makers over the years. I’ve always been a huge Hitchcock fan and so his work has definitely shaped some of my ideas. My favourite authors are James Ellroy and JG Ballard. There’s no one working on modern fiction who can tell stories like Ellroy. His works are dense, dark and brilliant!
Skyrim Fansite: Ellroy definitely has a unique prose style, and I can see some of that in your work as well. For me, I find your writing style very engaging. Your Morgen and Reyda stories are told in the first person and their voices really draw the reader into their worlds. It’s very intimate. Before I go any further though, I want to make certain I don’t give away any spoilers! You’ve graciously allowed us to publish your stories on the Skyrim Fansite and for that I sincerely thank you.
Andy Cull: You’re very welcome! Thank you for publishing the stories! The first person aspect of my writing has followed me through my screenwriting and film-making (both in Louise Paxton and The Possession Of David O’Reilly) and into the prose writing. I’ve been interested in video games for a long time. In their ability to engage us in ways that films often don’t. Actually being there and being able to experience the lives of the characters is so much more involving and immediate than film often is.
Skyrim Fansite: In that regard, I suppose Skyrim offers a great medium to tell your stories. Morgen and Reyda’s tale is very true to the game, but transcends it as well. Your characters come across as very real individuals — people that we care about. For me, Skyrim is a game that breaks the boundary between genders and refreshingly treats women as equals as men. There are many strong women characters in-game (Morgen and Reyda included). That being said, did you find it challenging to write from the perspective of two women? What did you learn from the experience?
Andy Cull: I’ve written from mixed perspectives for most of my career. In part from frustration as a horror writer that there weren’t enough truly strong female characters in horror any more. My novel’s lead character is a woman who has lost her son. Strong but beaten down by a terrible loss. You’re right about Skyrim. It’s great to see a video game promote strong female roles. There aren’t enough of those in video games or film in my opinion. I’d go as far as to say though that it’s more accepted in video games than in film. It’s great to see an emerging medium leading the way and I hope it continues.
Skyrim Fansite: I’ve picked your brain on writing, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about your Flickr page. Did you create all the Skyrim and character images yourself?
Andy Cull: Yes, they’re all mine. Some of the characters will become followers in the future some will be characters in quests associated with my followers. The grumpy looking guy (Ulfgar) is my current character. I wanted to play as someone with some depth. He’s not your typical Dragonborn Nord hunk. He’s an older, tired warrior who’s seen too much bloodshed. I’m relatively new to shooting Skyrim as I’ve only been doing it for just over six months but it is such a beautiful game that I tend to find myself playing for five minutes and then shooting or character designing for ten!
Skyrim Fansite: The images are fantastic, and I can see your director’s touch in how the images are composed. Before we close the interview, I’d like to ask on a personal note how you’re liking Australia, and if you have any advice you can offer to aspiring writers?
Andy Cull: Thank you very much! I’m glad you like the shots! I’ll definitely be continuing to shoot Skyrim for some time to come.
I love Australia! It’s such a beautiful country and I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome by the people I’ve met since I’ve been here. It’s a BIG change from the UK but a really exciting one!
In terms of advice for aspiring writers… If you want to be a writer – write. That’s it. It’s as simple and as hard as that. I’m quoting Neil Gaiman here in part but it’s very true. You have to keep at it, don’t be disheartened and do some EVERY day without fail.
Skyrim Fansite: Excellent advice! And I’m glad you’re liking Australia From everything I know, it sounds like an amazing country. Is there anything else you’d like to say in regards to Skyrim, your work, etc.?
Andy Cull: I don’t think so. I think we’ve covered a lot today. It’s been great to talk to you! I remember how hard it was as a writer when I started out so if I can help anyone else I’m very happy to.
Skyrim Fansite: Thanks Andy! It’s been a real pleasure and I appreciate your time and willingness to help others.
And get ready! Andy Cull’s Skyrim fiction will be published here soon!