In case you missed it, the very first Overwatch novel, The Hero of Numbani, released back at the beginning of June. It stars everyone's favorite security bot Orisa, who is a playable character in the popular video game, and more specifically Orisa's creator, Efi Oladele. Following the release of the book, ComicBook.com had a chance to speak with author Nicky Drayden all about Overwatch, lore, and whether there might be a chance of a sequel novel -- among other things!
While the interview doesn't get into traditional spoiler territory, Drayden does explain a number of different odds and ends about the book, so reader beware if you haven't read The Hero of Numbani quite yet and want to go in fresh. But if you want to learn all about how she wrote the book and the stumbling blocks inherent to doing licensed work, keep scrolling to check out our full interview with Drayden!
If you're not familiar with The Hero of Numbani but still want to check out the interview, here's the full description of the novel:
"In the technologically advanced African city of Numbani, in the not-so-distant future, humans live in harmony with humanoid robots known as omnics. But when a terrorist tries to shatter that unity, a hero named Efi Oladele rises!
"Efi has been making robots since she was little -- machines to better her community and improve people's lives. But after she witnesses Doomfist's catastrophic attack on the city's OR15 security bots, Efi feels the call to build something greater: a true guardian of Numbani.
"While Doomfist sows discord between humans and omnics, Efi engineers an intelligent and compassionate robot, Orisa, named after the powerful spirits who guide her people. Orisa has a lot to learn before she's ready to defeat Doomfist, but Efi has some learning to do, too, especially when it comes to building -- and being -- a hero. With Doomfist rallying his forces, and the military powerless to stop him, can Efi mold Orisa into the hero of Numbani before it's too late?"
And here is the novel's cover:
The Hero of Numbani is available to purchase right here for $9.99 as a paperback or $5.99 for Kindle. Overwatch is currently available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Overwatch 2, the upcoming sequel, does not yet have an exact release you. You can check out all of our previous coverage of Overwatch right here.
ComicBook.com: What's the pitch for The Hero of Numbani?
Nicky Drayden: So in the futuristic African city of Numbani, we have this wonderful situation where Omnics, which are just like advanced robots, are kind of been integrated into humanity and society. And it's brought forth this wonderful city that operates in harmony, and everything's going really well. It centers around Efi Oladele, who is an almost 12-year-old genius who loves working with robots and she loves helping her community. And unfortunately, there is an incident at the airport where a faction, Talon, has attacked the airport and is trying to cause terror and chaos in her city that's just been so peaceful. And Efi just really wants to find a way to help her city and help them recover from this danger that's just kind of looming out there.
And it's just really fun. It gets into some of her friendships. She has two main friends, Nadie and Hassana, who always have her back no matter what she's trying to do, even though they might not be as gifted as her in the educational sphere or with robotics or anything, but they're always there to help her out. And also we get to meet some of her family and friends and her schoolmates also. It's just really fun diving into the world and getting to explore what Numbani looks like and what the people are all about.prevnext
HOW SHE GOT INVOLVED
How did you first get involved with this project? Was it something that Blizzard came to you with, you came to Blizzard, a little bit of both?
I was contacted through my agent and it just sounded like such an amazing story. My background, my personal background, is in technology. And so just the idea of being able to write this little black girl who is a genius and loves robots. And it just kind of like really connected with me. And I read a lot of Afrofuturistic stories for myself as well. So it just seemed like a really great fit.prevnext
Had you played the game before? Were you familiar with Overwatch at all prior to this?
I was familiar with Lucio and Lucio-Oh’s, which make an appearance in the book, but I hadn't played Overwatch, but I've played Blizzard games since like forever, since like StarCraft and played Diablo and all that back in the day. So I was really familiar with that, but hadn't played Overwatch in particular.prevnext
THOUGHTS ON RECEPTION
What have you thought of the reception so far?
It's been really positive. People have been just like thirsty for lore. And so it was really nice to be able to give them that into just hide like a level of Easter eggs and stuff within the book that might not be obvious to a casual reader, but to just kind of fleshing out what was already there and kind of asking the question, what comes next or what would be behind that door that you see when you're playing the game? It was kind of fun, and it's always just fun to hear from fans what tickles them and if they’ve gotten certain in-jokes or whatever.prevnext
OVERWATCH TEAM INPUT
Now, you talked about people being thirsty for lore and that's definitely true. What was the input of the Overwatch team on the novel?
Well, they came up with the general concept, but I was just like really excited to have so much wiggle room to work with. I kind of compare it to a scavenger hunt to find the material to work from because there's so much lore within the game and the comics and the video shorts, but it's all over the place, spread out. And so you have to kind of hunt and pick, and they were really responsive, kind of like guiding me along the way, helping to kind of make sure I stayed on the right path and open up ideas and different things, throwing in ideas here and there. And so it was just kind of a fun like collaboration, but also just a lot of being able to put my own spin on things and bring what I have to the table. So it was a lot of fun working together.prevnext
ON STUMBLING BLOCKS
And this is the first major novel for Overwatch, so obviously you're sort of trailblazing here a little bit. Were there any sort of stumbling blocks as you worked within this license?
I don't think there was anything major that I recall. I remember one conversation we had about Efi's age because she's almost 12 years old and just kind of the duration that the novel would take place over. And I remember having a comment we can't have it like be too much of a time can't pass because we're held in place. You can only be 12 and a half for so long, not for a year or two or whatever. So that was like the only kind of thing, I think. You know, stating like Orisa’s, she’s just a month old. So we had to make sure all of this stuff kind of amps up really quickly, which I think is really good for keeping the excitement going within the book because everything happens in this really tight timeframe. So it was a lot of fun.prevnext
AND OTHER STRUGGLES
What would you say came most naturally to you in writing an Overwatch book, and what did you struggle with here? I know you talked a little bit about the timeline and continuity being a minor problem.
Definitely you don't like that sitting on your shoulder. Don't mess up because people will call you out if you mess up, that kind of sitting in the back of my mind. So I was just trying to always just be really careful and double and triple check because you might not see something. And so I'm just trying to like do as much research as I could. I did watch a lot of YouTube videos about what people were excited about in the game and what they wanted more of. And so I let that kind of guide me also, but I didn't want it to guide me too much because I did want to bring my own thing to it. It was just kind of like walking a thin line, but you don't want to feel too much pressure I think because then you just kind of start to shut down.
So mostly just having fun with it and the characters are all so much fun, no matter what side they fall on. So I had to try to keep in their heads and like thinking what they would do. And particularly with Doomfist. He was a lot of fun to get in his head and his monologues were a lot of fun to write, because he definitely thinks he's the hero of the story, and he's people's favorites. So you want to do every character justice.prevnext
HOLLAGRAM DEEP DIVE
One thing that stood out to me, the various Hollagram interstitial bits are very cool. What inspired you to go that route?
I thought it would fun to kind of get a little bit more into Efi's head. So in between each chapter there's kind of like her video blog, which is called Hollagram, which was, I don't know. I thought it was funny. Where she's able to kind of communicate with her patrons essentially about her progress and building her robots that are trying to help her community. And it kind of just like really closely highlights the ups and downs that she's going through. And I really liked that it was a different mode of storytelling because it's kind of this quasi diary-slash-video journal place for her to share her thoughts. You know, the book is written in third person, so we can get a little bit closer into her head and there's some fun images and I think it just really brings more of a multimedia kind of experience to the book, which I just thought was kind of a fun addition.prevnext
HOW IT COMPARES
How would you compare The Hero of Numbani to your previous works?
I think there was a lot of overlap, especially like my first book, which is The Prey of Gods, takes place in a futuristic South Africa. It's firming with robots. There are the helper robots that are pretty similar to the Junies in this book, which Efi builds to support her community, to help her friends and also kind of to spy on them. So she's feeling a little bit left out of her peer group. And in all my books, there's just like robots and the protagonists tend to be younger and there's a young girl who's also a genius in one of my books. And so I felt there was quite a bit of overlap. So I came into it feeling confident that I could write Efi and Arissa because I had written sentient robots and little girl relationships before.prevnext
ANY CHANCE OF A SEQUEL?
Now, speaking specifically of this book, it sort of ends with a note of, let's say, teasing more. Is there any chance of a sequel here? Has there been any talks of that stuff?
I am not privy to any of that, but I guess we'll see.
If there were to be another book, are there any other characters that you would like to explore? Obviously, Lucio, but anyone else?
Good question. I cannot say off the top of my head who I would like ... I mean, the characters have interesting backstories and I think just kind of exploring those stories is a lot of fun because you get to know everybody's motivation and it's fun to see. I don't know. I just think crossover between media platforms… it’s always really interesting to see where you can take different things.prevnext
ANYTHING THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE CUT?
Was there anything that you wanted to work into the book that didn't quite make the cut?
I don't know. I liked Lucio's character a lot, and I kind of wish I could have like added more of him into there because it was so much fun working with him and he's just such a great character, which there's always room for more later. So we'll see, I guess.prevnext
ANY MAJOR TAKEAWAYS FOR READERS?
What do you hope readers take away from the book once they're finished with it?0comments
I hope that they feel empowered and see how important it is to have community and to focus on community because at the heart of the story is what Efi is most concerned about. And they've been through a lot of turmoil. We talk about history and the Omnic Crisis, and while it didn't affect her, it did affect her parents and it has in turn affected her upbringing. And so for people to just kind of realize we're all in this together, to help each other out. She's always helping her neighbors. Efi made like a robot to help her neighbor feed her cats while the neighbor had to go visit her mom who was sick and was out of town for a while. And so I think just kind of all of us pulling together, pulling our friends together now is really important, trying to support each other the best we can.
And I think that is kind of one of the biggest principles that has going in here and also with Orisa getting to learn how to be a part of the community, because she's coming in a blank slate, and she has the firepower and the programming to be a protector of the city, but she has to learn about the people first. And she has a lot of misadventures in her quest and finding out how to be the best protector of Numbani. So that was a lot of fun to write about her mishaps as well as her learning from her mistakes, which are very many and were fun to write. So I hope people can see those parallels and figure out kind of where they fit in.prev
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