A Calamitous Chronicle: Inside Deadlock Rebels with Author Lyndsay Ely
In the wake of the calamitous Omnic Crisis, the world is desperate for heroes more than ever. The young upstarts of the Deadlock Gang might not be the heroes the future-possible world of Overwatch needs, but they’re here, regardless, in all of their riotous gunslinging glory.
Deadlock Rebels is a novel set in the American Southwest of Overwatch during the years of turmoil that followed the Omnic Crisis that explores the founding of the notorious Deadlock Gang. Elizabeth Caledonia Ashe, an opportunistic young thief recently disinherited from her family’s fortune, teams up with local delinquent Jesse McCree and her omnic butler, B.O.B., for a cavalcade of capers.
The novel is written by author Lyndsay Ely, who was well-equipped with a wealth of futuristic Western knowledge from the publication of her first novel, Gunslinger Girl, a tale about a bold heroine who takes on “tomorrow’s West.” Wielding this genre-bending expertise, she composed a tale about daring heists, fast money, dangerous alliances, and how the bonds of brotherhood outweigh the burdens of blood.
We caught up with Lyndsay Ely to discuss the art of novel writing, what it was like to work in tandem with the Overwatch narrative team, and how she captured the voices of our favorite Deadlock rebels.
What did the path to becoming an author look like for you? What was publishing your first novel like?
Well, I wrote for a long time before I ever finished a whole novel, to start—I can remember writing as early as sixth grade! It was my second finished manuscript (amongst many, many unfinished ones) that became Gunslinger Girl, my debut. I was incredibly lucky to have an enthusiastic and supportive publishing team for it, as well as a bunch of writer friends to have my back, because publishing your first book can definitely be an emotional rollercoaster!
How’d you end up in the gaming sphere writing an Overwatch novel?
I’d like to think there was some strange, Blizzard-related karma stemming from how much StarCraft and Diablo II I played back in the day, but like most things in publishing, it was a little bit of luck and a little bit of work. The publisher contacted my agent about potentially working on the project, at which point I drafted a couple of sample chapters. Thankfully, they liked them, because as soon as I started writing within the world, I didn’t want to leave!
What lessons did you learn from publishing your first novel that carried over to Deadlock Rebels?
The big one was not to be afraid of deadlines. Deadlock Rebels is by far the fastest book I’ve ever written, but I’d done some quick-turnaround revisions before, and the characters were so much fun to write that the early drafts came together pretty quickly.
Both Gunslinger Girl and Deadlock Rebels are futuristic Western fiction. What about this genre excites you most?
I’m pretty certain my love of futuristic Westerns started with Brisco County, Jr., a steampunk Western that was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid. And, generally, the elements of a Western mix really well with other genres. Add a little sci-fi and/or fantasy and you get amazing media like Cowboy Bebop, The Dark Tower book series, Star Wars, etcetera. I think futuristic Westerns are especially fun because you can take some of the classic elements—weapons, transportation, a hostile landscape—and get really creative with them.
Were there any specific facets of the Overwatch universe and its characters you were most eager about getting to dig into in your novel?
I generally love anything that bends or blends genres, which Overwatch obviously does a ton of. Even though the novel itself is fairly self-contained, there was always the knowledge that the world around it was widely expansive, and that definitely helped flavor some of the novel’s elements.
What elements of a story are your favorite to write?
Action scenes are easily my favorite. I love the high energy of them, and the challenge of having a lot of pieces moving around a scene, and trying to make it all work (also, you can add explosions to them). Creating characters is another favorite part of writing—lots and lots of characters! A big challenge for me is stopping myself from adding too many characters to a story.
What kind of research did you do for Deadlock Rebels?
I started consuming as much Overwatch content as I could. I watched all the cinematics, poked around fan sites, watched videos of the gameplay, and, of course, read The Hero of Numbani by Nicky Drayden. (Unsurprisingly, I ended up getting pretty invested in many of the characters’ storylines.) And if playing the song from the Reunion cinematic on near-constant repeat counts as research, I did that too (along with several of The Heavy Horses’ other tracks).
Were you an Overwatch fan prior to this novel or did you end up playing any while writing?
I kind of hate to admit this, but I’ve yet to actually play Overwatch! I was definitely familiar with the game though, from video game conventions and gamer friends. My favorite thing about the game is how broad the universe is, the number of characters there are, and the sheer variety of elements within it. I’m pretty sure The Hero of Numbani mentions an Overwatch cartoon in-universe, because I remember thinking how much I’d love to watch that!
Ashe and McCree are both complex characters with a pretty strained relationship. What about both of them and their friendship prior to present-day Overwatch did you enjoy writing most?
These two had a really fun dynamic to play with. They’re a little bit competitive, a little bit teasing, and end up going from strangers turned partners-in-crime to developing a genuine friendship. There’s a bittersweet element to it, too—since we know that their friendship becomes fractured somewhere along the way—but that added a unique facet to the challenge of writing them.
Did you really vibe with any specific character?
I’d definitely have to say Ashe. I love how she’s a little prickly and bossy, but softer on the inside than she lets on, especially when it comes to B.O.B. and her newfound friends. Extremely relatable.
How did you tackle writing a novel where the characters and universe are already mostly established?
Honestly, I’ve been wanting to do something like this forever! Comic books were very much my thing growing up (these days, too!) and I always dreamed of getting to write for the characters I read about.
Specifically, for this story, the biggest challenge for me was trying to imagine the particular time frame of the story, and what the world was like then. Deadlock Rebels takes place not long after the Omnic War, but a couple decades before the current Overwatch era. So there was a fair amount of thinking through what the tech was like, how people were coping post-war, what sorts of recoveries were still in process, etc, and how those things would influence the story’s setting and characters.
What was it like collaborating with the Overwatch team—and, more specifically, the story team?
Definitely different from anything I’d done previously! But who doesn’t like talking about fandom lore? Unsurprisingly, I had many, many questions for the story team. But I also had a ton of fun working on this and, as much as some parts of the story were already set, I was surprised at how much room there was for creativity when it came to the characters, settings, etc.
What do you hope fans will enjoy most while reading Deadlock Rebels? Is there anything else you’d like them to know?
I hope they have fun reading it and getting to know Ashe, McCree, B.O.B., and the others a little better.
And I swear I will play the game someday—and no doubt be very, very bad at it.
Grab your dynamite and get ready for a firefight—Ashe’s Deadlock Challenge is here! Now through July 5, play games to earn rebellious new rewards, including a player icon, sprays featuring your favorite gunslingers, and the Deadlock Ashe skin. Plus, check out Deadlock Rebels, a new Overwatch novel by Lyndsay Ely, and read the first chapter (or have your omnic butler read it to you) now.