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Author Interview: Peter McLean

December 7, 2016

This is the first in a series of Author Interviews I am conducting and boy have I got a terrific one to start you all with.

 

Introducing Peter McLean, author of Drake and Dominion and coming next year Damnation.

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Imagine yourselves in a dark room, a smoky bar perhaps with weathered wood everywhere you look, floorboards stained and a little sticky, the scent of sweat, beer and… sulfur? Buy a drink, sit back and enjoy. Gosh, it’s a little dark in here, oh, there we go. A nice little candle for the table, with a flickering flame… huh, I didn’t realise there was a draft. I guess it is a little chilly.

Hi Pete, it is so good of you to give up a little of your time today to talk to me about yourself and your amazing books!

Hi Laurie, thank you for having me here!

Published through Angry Robot, Drake and Dominion written by Peter McLean are available right NOW! See links below…

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https://www.amazon.com/Drake-Burned-Man-Peter-McLean/dp/0857665111

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https://www.amazon.com/Dominion-Burned-Man-Peter-McLean/dp/0857666126/

 

Okay, publicity over, lets get into the tough stuff…

First up, tell us a bit about yourself. (How do you spend your day? Do you work? What do you enjoy doing in your free time?)

Well, I’m 44 and married to Diane, with two grown up children and two lively grandkids who keep us busy. At the moment I’m writing full time – I left one job at the end of July and must admit I’m rather putting off having to look for the next one at the moment!

Now, tell me about your writing… What age were you when you started?

That’s actually a tricky one to answer – I started writing when I was in highschool, but I never really managed to finish anything. I didn’t get serious about it until about 2009, when I completed my first novel. Needless to say that never saw the light of day!

How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I think I always have done, really. My mother was an English teacher and I grew up around books, and in my teens I devoured everything by Stephen King that I could get my hands on. A disproportionate number of his characters are writers, and somehow I just got the idea into my head that that’s what I should be too.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Oh, tough call. I practically ate books when I was a kid, but if I had to pick just one it’d probably be Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s a sort of 70s proto-Harry Potter based on Norse Mythology, and it’s wonderful. There’s a combination of childhood innocence and growing supernatural menace about it that struck exactly the right note for me.

Favourite book as an adult?

Heh, the impossible question! I’ve read so many wonderful books over the years I’d really struggle to pick a favourite. I suppose if you base it on the one I’ve read the most number of times it would be When the Lights Go Out by Tanith Lee. That’s my go-to comfort book, the one I read when I’m feeling down or just don’t feel like reading anything else. It’s a weird, creepy little story that doesn’t even make a lot of sense, but Lee’s writing is absolutely perfect and the sense of unseen forces moving in the background is very powerful.

Who inspires you?

Oh, all sorts of things inspire me. Mythology, history, architecture, old gangster movies, conversations I’ve overheard in the pub or on the train – you name it, there’s a story in it somewhere. I think it’s a combination of many influences. I’ve studied magic for a long time for one thing, so much of the occultism in my books is drawn from real sources albeit exaggerated for dramatic effect. The setting itself has come from a lifelong love of the seedy side of life, from growing up on The Sweeny and Callan on the telly when I was a lad through to Lock Stock and all its imitators in the 90s. My dad is a South London boy so maybe it’s just in the blood, I don’t know.

Tell me a bit about Drake: Book One of The Burned Man Series? How did you come up with the idea for the series and for your main character Don Drake?

This is a bit mad, but Drake started with a single line. Small acorns and all that… it all started with a thread over on the Absolute Write forums where we were challenging each other to write a great opening line to a story we hadn’t written yet. I came up with what is still the opening line of Drake, and it had such a great response I knew I had to follow it up with a short story. That short story was published in an anthology put together by SFFWorld.com in 2013, but I wasn’t satisfied with it. There was so much more story to tell about Don Drake that the short story turned into a novel, and that novel turned into Drake.

Have you always wanted to write adult fantasy?

Absolutely – I’ve been reading fantasy since I was in my early teens and can’t imagine ever not wanting to read more, but I also love gritty crime fiction and stories about gangsters and hard-boiled PIs. I think my work fuses the two influences into something that, while still recognisably fantasy, has a foot in both camps.

Was Don based on anyone you know? You perhaps? 🙂

Oh, Don Drake isn’t me – I’m no angel but I’m not that bad! As to where he came from though, that’s a tough one. He’s a bit of David Callan from Callan, a bit of John Constantine from Hellblazer, perhaps a dash of Sonny Corleone from The Godfather… and yeah ok, maybe a tiny little bit of me!

What is your writing process like?

I think “evolving” probably sums it up best. Over the last three years I’ve gone from basically “making it up as I go along” to a much more structured approach. I sold my first two books having already written them, and produced the synopsis afterwards. The third was sold on spec from a synopsis, which I then turned into an outline that I turned into a book. I approached my latest project the same way, planning it all out in advance before I really got into the writing. The thing still drifts and evolves in the writing, of course, but it’s a much more focussed approach than I had a few years ago and I find that works better for me now.

How long did it take you to write Drake? And Dominion?

Drake took probably two years to write, growing very organically as it did from opening line to short story to novel. Dominion was a lot faster, as I already had the world and the characters all set up in advance. The easy bit is always the characters – these people tend to jump into my head pretty much fully formed, and I get to know them as I’m writing them. Getting the plot right, and the pacing, is the bit that takes work.

I understand you are working on the third book of the series? How is that going?

Way ahead of you, Laurie! Book three is all done, titled Damnation and coming out in May from Angry Robot again. You can even pre-order it now!

Woooo… yes! excuse me a minute while I just pop over to Amazon… keep yourself busy for a moment, maybe buy another drink?

https://www.amazon.com/Damnation-Peter-McLean/dp/0857666649/

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Okay, I’m back, very excited and a little frustrated because I want it NOW!

Ahem… Here is a tough question for you… Which is your favourite out of the three Burned Man books?

My favourite of my books is always the most recent one 🙂

Now as you know, Trixie is my favourite character! Who is you favourite character from the Burned Man series and why?

I must admit it’s Trixie for me as well, although I do have a soft spot for the Burned Man himself, little git that he is! Trixie’s character arc interests me the most as she grows from soldier to free agent, and yet the Burned Man is always there in the background pulling the invisible strings that move the rest of the cast.

How long do you plan the Burned Man series to be?

Well I love writing these books and will be happy to keep doing so as long as readers want to keep buying them. There are always more stories to tell.

Tell me a little about Dominion (Book Two)?  Imagine I have bought it, but haven’t started reading yet (I will, I promise 🙂

Dominion picks up six months after Drake finished. The story starts with Don and Trixie trying to save the Earth Elementals who live under London from a rampaging archdemon, but nothing is ever as simple as it seems. This one is a little darker, and puts the characters through the wringer a lot harder than I did in Drake. Both Don and Trixie undergo some fairly fundamental changes in this book. You’ll meet old friends and new enemies, and you may not be able to tell them apart. Judgement is coming, after all, and it’s name is Dominion.

Can you give us a hint about Book Three?

I can do better than that, I can give you the official blurb:

Don Drake is living rough in a sink estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh, doing cheap spells for even cheaper customers while fending off the local lowlifes. Six months ago, Don fled from London to Glasgow to track down his old girlfriend Debbie the alchemist.

With the Burned Man gradually driving him mad, Don meets with an ancient and mysterious tramp-slash-magician, with disastrous consequences. Now his old accomplices must step in to save Don from himself, before he damns himself for good this time.

Over and above that, I can safely say that Damnation is again darker than its predecessors and takes poor Don to some very strange places.

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Finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to write a book?

Read voraciously, not just in your chosen genre but everything you can get your hands on. Write until you finish something, and be prepared for your first stories not to sell. Like any craft you have to learn by doing. I don’t believe those arbitrary statements you hear like “you have to write a million words before you sell one” but you do have to put the practice in to get good, same as anything.

Do the work.

Thanks heaps Peter, I really appreciate your time today.

 

Kinda glad to get outside, gosh is it day time already? Gee, that sun sure is hot!

If you want to find out more about Peter (Do it! Go on do it!) you can visit any or all of the below sites.

 

Website: https://talonwraith.com/

Twitter: @PeteMC666

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PeterMcLeanAuthor/

Publisher Page: http://angryrobotbooks.com/our-authors/peter-mclean/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6519144.Peter_McLean

 

And if you want to read my review of Drake… Read it here.

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