This week I am interviewing Fantasy author, Peter McLean. The first book in Peter’s new series, Priest of Bones, is due to release in October this year.
Thanks for joining us today Peter. First off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a British author living and working in Norwich, near the east coast, a couple of hours from London. I’m married with two grown-up children and two grandchildren. I’m the author of the Burned Man series of urban fantasy books, and my new series, War For The Rose Throne, launches in October from Ace/Roc and Jo Fletcher Books.
What book are you currently reading and are you enjoying it?
I’m currently reading the Ciaphas Cain, Hero of the Imperium omnibus from Black Library, and it’s an absolute hoot. It’s one of the very few light-hearted 40K series, written in the style of The Flashman Papers.
Your novel, Priest Of Bones, is set to release in October this year, what is the book about?
Priest of Bones is basically a gangster novel set in a fantasy world. It tells the story of army priest and former gangster Tomas Piety, who returns from war to find his criminal empire has been taken from him by a foreign gang. In the process of reclaiming what was his, Tomas finds himself drawn into a shadowy world of government agents, spies, and conspiracies. Barnes & Noble called it “Peaky Blinders with swords”, and I think that’s pretty much on the money.
What was your favorite thing about writing Priest of Bones?
I’d wanted to write a proper “swords and horses” fantasy novel for a long time, so it was a treat to finally be able to do that. I greatly enjoyed shaping the city of Ellinburg where the story is set, basing it partly on Edinburgh in the early Tudor period and partly on industrial revolution-era London.
What was the hardest thing about writing Priest Of Bones?
Strangely enough, getting the economics right. I’m rather obsessive about worldbuilding, I have to confess, and Tomas Piety moves in world of money and business so I felt I had to make the economics of the city’s industry at least plausible.
Which of your characters do you most enjoy writing and Why?
Oh, Bloody Anne for sure. She was Tomas’s sergeant in the war and since returning to Ellinburg she has become his second in his criminal operation, the Pious Men. She’s a hard-bitten soldier, a ruthless killer with a tragic past, but her and her woman Rosie end up being the most successful relationship in the book. The thing I love about Anne is her utter loyalty to Tomas, and the depth of the friendship between the two of them. In a world where almost nobody can be trusted, Tomas and Anne have an unshakable bond that’s really quite special.
Priest Of Bones, seems quite different from your previous series. What inspired you to write it?
As I said I’d been wanting to write a fantasy for ages, but there’s a lot of fantasy already so I wasn’t sure what I could bring to the genre that would feel fresh. I certainly didn’t want to write about a chosen one destined to defeat a dark lord, or anything like that. I do like crime fiction though, and I was re-reading The Godfather at the time, and something just clicked in my head and said “Do this. Do this, but with swords”. So I did.
What drew you to writing Grimdark Fantasy?
This opens the “what is Grimdark” can of worms, doesn’t it? I guess most of the fantasy I enjoy reading is what’s commonly called Grimdark – Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Anna Smith Spark and so forth – but it’s more that that’s just how my head works. I’m never going to be an “elves and unicorns” kind of writer, that’s for sure!
What book/series has had the greatest influence on your writing?
Probably Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy. Writing for me is character voice first, everything else second, and Joe’s narration in Logan’s and Glokta’s POV scenes is just a masterclass in voice. I first read The Blade Itself about ten years ago, before I’d even started writing my first novel, and I’m very glad I did. I learned a lot from it.
In your opinion, other than Tolkien’s works, which fantasy series has had the greatest influence on the fantasy genre?
Oh boy, that’s a tough one! I think different works have influenced the genre in different ways. Stephen Donaldson and Ursula Le Guin proved that fantasy other than Tolkien could be considered literature, and Terry Brooks’s Shannara series proved that fantasy could sell in vast quantities. Those two things helped open the genre up to mass appeal in the wake of Tolkien, and opened the gates for the massive expansion of popularity that followed.
If you could write in any fantasy world, which would you choose and why?
I have to say, I’d really love to write a Star Wars novel one day. You listening, Disney?
If you could write a book using another writers character, which character would you choose and why?
David Gemmell’s Druss the Legend, hands down. I just want Druss to be my dad, basically.
Now for some fun questions. An evil wizard casts a spell on you and transports you to a world from a fantasy novel. Which fantasy world would you want it to be?
Ah well, do I get transported as me or as a character? Because I was going to say Westeros, but if I went as me I’d be dead by sundown!
You cannot return from the fantasy world you have been sent to and are doomed to spend the rest of your days there, what profession do you choose to take up?
If I’m stuck in Westeros I’m going to set up shop as an undertaker. I’ll never want for work, that’s for sure.
What is the weirdest place you have found yourself working on a book?
On the balcony of my hotel room at the Disney resort in Florida last year, franticly taking calls from my agent as we did the deal with Ace/Roc for Priest of Bones. I kid you not, I felt like one of those authors you see in TV who always seem to be inexplicably wealthy!
What weird writing rituals or habits do you have?
I’m not really big on that sort of thing, to be honest. I tend to write in the evenings and sometimes long after midnight rather than in the mornings though. It’s not just because it’s frowned upon to drink whisky at 9am, honest…
Why should readers check out your books?
If you like fast-paced, character-based thrillers set in a fantasy world, I’m your guy! I hate trying to sell myself, so I’ll leave you with what Mark Lawrence had to say about Priest of Bones: “A charismatic and very more-ish book with solid prose and a strong voice. Priest of Bones is a story of organised crime with shades of the Godfather. It sounds grim and dark . . . and it is . . . but our priest of bones is quite the humanitarian for a ruthless crime lord. With high-tempo action it’s just very fun to read.”
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions today!
About The Book
‘Sixty-five thousand battle-shocked, trained killers came home to no jobs, no food and the plague. What did Her Majesty think was going to happen?’
Tomas Piety takes his duties seriously: as a soldier, as a priest of Our Lady of Eternal Sorrows and as a leader of men. He has come home from the war to reclaim his family business, to provide for his men and to ensure the horrors of Abingon can never happen in Ellinburg.
But things have changed: his crime empire has been stolen and the people of Ellinburg – his people – have run out of food and hope and places to hide. With his best friend Bloody Anne, his war-damaged brother Jochan and his new gang, the Pious Men, Tomas sets out to reclaim what was his.
And as Tomas is dragged into a web of political intrigue by the sinister Queen’s Men, forced to work against the foreign infiltrators lurking in the backstreet taverns, brothels and gambling dens of the Stink, one thing becomes clear.
The war has just begun.
‘Charismatic and very more-ish’ – Mark Lawrence, bestselling author of Red Sister
‘Fans of Daniel Polansky, Mark Lawrence or, dare I say, Blackwing will most appreciate this book’ – Ed McDonald, author of Blackwing
About Peter McLean
Peter McLean was born near London in 1972, the son of a bank manager and an English teacher. He went to school in the shadow of Norwich Cathedral where he spent most of his time making up stories.
By the time he left school this was probably the thing he was best at, alongside the Taoist kung fu he had been studying since the age of 13. He grew up in the Norwich alternative scene, alternating dingy nightclubs with martial arts and practical magic.
He has since grown up a bit, if not a lot, and spent 25 years working in corporate IT. He is married to Diane and is still making up stories.