Sarah Udoh-Grossfurthner Interviews Miles Nelson

Miles Nelson, video game-design master, takes a walk on the wild side as he switches from Manga drawing to prose writing in his debut novel, The RiftMaster

‘How do you hold on to hope when you’re being repeatedly wrenched between worlds?‘ This is the central question in Miles Nelson’s The Riftmaster.

Sarah: Great question! So, Miles, how do you hold onto hope when you’re being repeatedly wrenched between worlds?

Miles: Hahaha! Find out in the RiftMaster!

Sarah: Lol! Fair enough…can’t blame a girl for trying. Let’s get right into our interview then…

Q. The Riftmaster – an apt title considering the storyline of your book, how did you come about it, what inspired the title?

A. If I’m honest, the title was the first thing to come about of this book! It was a working title at first and for a while also contained a ‘the’. But I knew the character of the Riftmaster was going to be the main focus a long time before I had started the book, and perhaps wouldn’t be the only one by the end. I also know their name sounds dramatic and a little bit pretentious (which suits them perfectly) but as the Riftmaster states in chapter 3; “I chose it because it’s easy to translate between intergalactic tongues.”

Q. Life, as we all know it, can be quite unpredictable; just like the sea and everything related to the sea (tide, rift and so forth); would you say you intentionally crafted the story to bring this inherent symbolism between life and water (or rift) to play in the Riftmaster?

A. I don’t think so, not consciously at least! But I’d love people to come up with more of their own interpretations just like this. For the most part, I used the concept of the Rift as it’s a staple in scifi as well as being a common mechanic in videogames. I have always loved worldbuilding, and because of my fascination with nature, loved stories featuring long journeys as well, so naturally, I wanted to write a story about a journey through numerous different worlds. However, I also wrote the story during a time of significant upheaval and depression; so the isolation presented in the book could be seen as an allegory for this.

Q. What is the one thing you would like your reader to take away after reading Riftmaster?

A. Over the course of the book Bailey, the main character is forced to re-examine his own personal biases in order to grow and change. I’ve always hoped Riftmaster can help someone else to do the same.

Q. Videogame designing and writing – one could say both are a form of storytelling. Still, what made you decide to morph from ‘designing’ stories to writing them?

A. Game design is generally more about the mechanics and machinations behind the game, and making it feel good to play, rather than story! We do, though, work alongside the writers and narrative designers, and whole hosts of talented artists. Unlike writing, it’s a massively collaborative process, and no one person has a definitive say on a feature or function.

I was a bit of an all-rounder, though; I loved making pixel games, and my final project was a fully designed, playable and animated educational game about the endangered black-footed-ferret. My obsessions flip rapidly, though. By the time I’d made it through university, I’d pushed myself far past burnout. I decided to put coding aside for a while, get a job, and get back into the hobbies I’d long left behind.

Q. Still on designing versus writing stories, did you always know that you were going to ‘write’ eventually?

A. I was writing first, actually; I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember, all the way from nursery school until I left to go to sixth form at age 16. Before I could write, I’d have my grandad scribe for me, and let me draw the illustrations! I’d finished writing 2 novels by age 17, and too many short books to count. I barely scraped by in English literature and language, though, and hated every second of it at school. I doubt I could have stuck with creative writing in further education. I never saw it as being my dream career until very recently, as a result.

Q. What was the first story you wrote? Were you happy with the result?

A. If we’re being technical, my first story was ‘The Night Puppy’, written at age 8 about a ghost dog who wants to reunite with his owner in the stars. My first true novel, though, was written at age 16. I won’t share the title as it’s probably still out there somewhere, buried on the worldwide web, but it was a sci-fi novel of 200,000 words. It had a vibrant cast of 14 main characters, all of whom were white and straight. There was also a romance that was shoehorned in, for some reason. And questionable ethics when it came to genetic engineering. Looking back at it now makes me die a little inside, but I was very proud of it at the time

Q. Videogame designing and writing. Now that you’ve done both, which is more taxing? Which is more enjoyable? Which is more fulfilling?

A. While game design is certainly more taxing, I enjoy it very much. That being said, the task of designing a game never seems to end. There are always features to add, bugs to fix, and little quality of life things to change. No game is ever perfect, and it is incredibly difficult to make it as a solo designer as I’d like to. While game designing is something I love to do, writing gives me more of a feeling of progress, and the pride that comes with having made something complete.

Q. Who is the audience for Riftmaster? Is it suitable for all age groups?

A. Riftmaster is suitable for all age groups, as it contains no swearing or sexual content, but tackles some heavier themes which I feel would be best appreciated by readers above the age of 15.

Q. Finally, will you ever go back to designing video games, or is that area of ​​your creativity and career packed up, boxed up and stored for good?

A. Although the processes and creativity need a very different mindset, a lot of what I learned from game design ended up being applicable to writing. My pixel art evolved into the symbols used to decorate my works, and then into full illustrations and cover design. My problem-solving skills led to unconventional plot devices and tropes. I’ve also planned out a story that delves into the ethical questions surrounding giving videogame NPCs advanced AI, based on the knowledge I’ve learned first-hand.

All in all, I’d love to make games again one day. I just need the perfect inspiration to strike.

Miles, we have come to the end of our interview. Thank you very much for your time. I, and all booklovers out there, wish you the very best with The RiftMaster.


How do you hold on to hope when you’re being repeatedly wrenched between worlds? College student Bailey Jones is plucked from his world by a mysterious and unpredictable force known as the Rift, which appears to move people at random from one world to another. Stranded on an alien planet, he is relieved when he meets a fellow human, the self-styled Riftmaster, who is prepared to assist him. Although curious about his new companion’s real identity, Bailey hopes that, with years of experience of the Rift, this cosmic traveller can help him find a way to return to Earth. But first, as the two of them are ripped without warning from one hostile planet to another, Bailey must rely on the Riftmaster to show him how to survive. Riftmaster, an adventure, an exploration, is concerned with loss, and letting go, while still holding onto your humanity and identity, even when life seems hopeless.


Even though it was midday, the sky was pale pink, as though locked in a perpetual sunset. The light from a rusty-red sun tinted the snow rosy, rendering Seven-horn almost invisible up ahead of him. The mountain-dweller was easiest to spot whenever he turned back to wait; when his large, black eyes revealed themselves for just a moment.

There was a small moon in the sky, hanging like a pale bauble next to the sun. And as Bailey scanned the horizon he caught a glimpse of another – a massive one – just barely clearing the jagged peaks of distant mountains.  Shrouded in fog and low-hanging clouds, this massive moon was visible only for a moment before clouds once again swept it from view.

A thick mist pooled ominously in the valley far below the mountain slopes.

Bailey paused in wonder, committing the view to his memory, before hurrying to catch up. Before he turned away, he risked one last glance down at the valley beneath, not liking the sight of the fog swirling in its depths. Was there anything down there?

Plants? Warmth? Oxygen?

Anything… alive?

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