My books deliberately provide no answers or messages. I'm drilled in the habit of objectivity and also aware that the steady drip of fiction has more power than facts to shape opinion, so I handle it with caution.
Recreating the experience of, say, bereavement in my own head is pretty rough. I was used to switching off from emotions every day of my working life as a journalist, but in fiction, you have to feel it 100%, or else it's a flat experience for the reader.
I'd probably play games obsessively if I didn't write, although I admit I don't read novels partly because I don't enjoy it, not just because it's the wrong side of the creator-consumer barrier for me. I'm a visual writer. I think in moving 3D images and write down what I observe.
I still have a lot of military contacts, and friends and readers who've served or are serving, and they react really strongly to G.I. Joe. I've lost count of the number who've said, 'Oh, I just loved it as a kid. I had all the figures; it really made me think.'
The art of storytelling is in development, not fact sheets. There are posts you have to hammer into the ground from the start just to get going, but if they don't hold up the house you build, you can change them or take them out.
A novel can do something that films and TV usually can't – a glimpse inside the characters' heads. I write very tight third person point of view, so the reader is right behind the eyes of each character, seeing what they see and feeling what they feel.
All the things worth writing about are outside me. I'm a lens, not a source. And even if it's not always a comfortable journey, it's always a stimulating one.
If you go back and look at the early promos for Gears 1, you'll see just how different the characters were from the actual first game, both in appearance and background. And it's an evolutionary process.
The biggest battles in human history can only ever be seen through the eyes of the bloke on the front line, and that's by definition a very focused view and one that will vary from individual to individual.
Games are getting more interesting. I mean, when we talk about books, they can be anything from a summer blockbuster to 'War and Peace' – well, games are the same. I think the creative side is catching up with the technology.
People lose it when I say this, but I'm a novelist who doesn't read novels. There are lots of good reasons for not reading novels! I'm also a game writer who doesn't play games – I keep everything very separate. The only crossover with me is comics. I write them, and I read them passionately.
I'm still an old-school reporter at heart. Writing fiction satisfies my journalistic need to hear and relay the testimony of everyday people at the center of events.
Whether I build a character from the ground up or develop one, whether within my own copyright or in licensed work, I can step into that character's mind. It takes a kind of voluntary dissociation akin to method acting, military planning, marketing, or detective work: to think like the other guy and work out what he's going to do next.
I'm a visual person – when I write, my input is always visual. I worked in television for several years.
I've got a particular way of writing novels, and that carries over into the way I write comics and games, too. I'm a news journalist by background, so I approach everything as reporting – I treat it as real, I ask the questions I'd ask in a real situation, and I let the characters speak for themselves.
G.I. Joe has a heart and an attitude that feels right and familiar to me, so they could have ray guns, and they'd still feel more like real troops than many other franchises.
Writing is like a rollercoaster ride for me, an adventure. I love exploring the world through 'playing' people who are absolutely nothing like me.
The thing about games is, players often say they don't care about story, but then if you took the story out, what would their reaction be? If no one cared about story, we'd all still be playing Pac-Man. There's nothing wrong with Pac-Man, but the point is, there's a genre of games in which you want to become part of that world.
I do still read comics since I started writing for DC, but nowhere near as much as I used to, and I'm finding now that it's becoming harder to read comics as a consumer, so I think I'll have to make the call there and stop reading them.
Characters have changed my mind about some very fundamental moral issues, and that's the real satisfaction in the way I write – the ultimate learning experience.