Novel: The Warded Man (US/Canada); The Painted Man (UK)
1. Pitch the first novel of your series.
The Warded Man is set in a world where demons called corelings rise out of the ground each night, hunting and killing any living thing they can find. Immortal and seemingly indestructible, the only defense against the corelings are magical symbols called wards, which hold the demons at bay until they are banished by the dawn. Humanity has been reduced to small, isolated pockets, beaten down by centuries of nightly depredation.
The story follows the lives of three very different protagonists, all scarred in their own way by demon attacks, who grow into adults who begin to resist the demons, each in their own way, and offer humanity a glimmer of hope. It is a study on the nature of fear, and a ripping adventure to boot. There will be several books in the series, but The Warded Man is also a stand-alone book with a full story arc and closure.
2. What are your favourite three books?
Ugh. Very hard to pick just three, but after some consideration:
Shogun by James Clavell
The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan
The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks
3. In the books you've written, who is you favourite character and why?
This is a surprisingly hard question. I almost feel like a parent being asked which of their children they love best. Arlen, the main protagonist in The Warded Man, is the eldest, so to speak, so he’s been with me the longest. His story is also the most resonant to me personally. I think all my character are like me in that they are ridiculously stubborn, but beyond that I try to make their personalities wide and varied.
4. If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?
Absolutely not. I put those poor people through the wringer. I may be a parent to them, but I am all about the tough love.
5. If you could live in your fantasy/sf world, would you? Would you live in somebody else's?
I certainly wouldn’t live in mine. The real world can be a horror sometimes, but it is nothing compared to the one my characters have to go to sleep in. I’ll take global warming and worldwide financial crisis over rampaging demons any day.
I might live in some of the more pleasant sf worlds, though. The Star Trek Earth is pretty swell. I would definitely trade my TV and microwave for a holodeck and a replicator.
6. What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?
The first novel I ever wrote was called An Unlikely Champion, and I wrote it in High School. It was under 50,000 words, and I wrote it in just a few months. It was never published because it was a horrible, horrible book. I have since hunted down every copy in existence and removed them all from circulation.
7. What was the hardest scene for you to write?
Tempering scenes. That is, scenes where you deliberately put your characters through horrors to toughen them up, because you know a storm is coming, and they need to be strong to weather it. To again liken it to parenting, it feels like intentionally exposing your kids to chicken pox so they can develop immunity early. It’s a terrible thing to do, but heroes need a thick skin.
8. Share an interesting fan story.
What’s most interesting right now is that all my fans are in other countries. The Warded Man was published last year in the UK, Australia, Poland, South Africa, and Japan, even though the US/Canada rights were purchased long before those other markets. It’s bizarre, getting fan mail from the other side of the planet when no one in your own country has ever heard of you.
9. What was the most fun book signing, convention, etc. you've attended and why?
New York ComicCon this year was the best by far. I’m a huge comic book fan, and have been going to the NY and San Diego ComicCons for years. This year, though, to promote the launch of The Warded Man, Del Rey had the book cover made into the admission badges for half of the 70,000 attendees, which meant I got to walk around the convention with 35,000 people wearing my name around their necks. I still feel like I imagined it sometimes, though you can see tons of photographic evidence on my blog (http://www.petervbrett.com/blog).
When it came time to do my book signing, I was supposed to sign for just half an hour, but the crowd was so big that I was at it for over an hour and a half. The publishers kept telling me I could stop if I wanted, but I would have been happy to sign all night.
10. If you still have one, what's your day job?
Right now? Daddy. I have a beautiful 7 month old daughter named Cassandra at home who makes writing during the day pretty much impossible, so daddy works the night shift to write. Before that, I spent 10 years in pharmaceutical publishing. Not a career I’d recommend.
11. If you don't, how long did it take before you could support yourself only on your writing?
I was very fortunate to have Del Rey books purchase two sequels in addition to The Warded Man, and to sell foreign rights to those books in a number of markets. My publishing obligations became such that the only way to meet my deadlines was to write full time. So far, so good.
12. What is your university degree in?
English Literature with a minor in Art History. I used to joke that such a degree qualified me for nothing, but it seems I have proven myself wrong.
13. Do you think it is easier to write fantasy or science fiction?
I expect it’s about the same. Writing a compelling story with characters that people relate to is the difficult part, and that goes for everything from mainstream fiction to genre work. The rest—magic or futuristic technology or what have you—is just window dressing.
But that said, I think different people have different aptitudes, and mine definitely lie with fantasy. I enjoy science fiction as a reader, but never had much interest in writing it.
14. When and where do you write?
Everywhere and anywhere. Most of The Warded Man was written on my smartphone during my daily commute to and from work. Once I got used to typing with my thumbs and blocking out distractions (with the aid of my iPod), I began writing anytime I had a few minutes to spare. On line at the bank? Knock out a few paragraphs. Waiting for the movie to start? Edit that troublesome section. Can’t sleep? Write without getting out of bed.
Even now, when I am writing “full time” and have more access to my desktop computer, I still work quite regularly on the phone, synching it back to the desktop whenever I plug it in. Sometimes I go for walks to get some exercise, and literally write while I walk, even when my fingers are freezing. That’s love.
15. What's the best/worst thing about writing?
When characters come to life. It can happen all of a sudden, when you’re written a character long enough that they become like a voice in your head. It’s a wonderful, amazing feeling… until they start to argue with you over the plot and refuse to do as they’re told. Leesha in The Warded Man is like that. I can’t tell that girl anything. She does what she wants.
16. What is something you didn't know about the publishing industry before you had your fist book published?
Well, I had worked in publishing for over a decade, so I had a head start, but there were a lot of aspects to being a full-time writer that I was woefully unprepared for (who knew there was so much paperwork?). Thankfully, I have an amazing agent, Joshua Bilmes, who held my hand through the worst of it.
17. Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?
Write every day. Never stop trying to improve, and never turn in something you know in your heart isn’t your best work. Be your own harshest critic. Most of all, if you really love writing, never quit. I wrote four books before I sold The Warded Man, but I don’t regret them or consider them failures because I learned a great deal from each one. Inspiration and great ideas are wonderful, but it’s perseverance and hard work that finish a book.
18. Any tips against writers block?
Writers love to blame their lack of productivity on writer’s block, but it’s just a state of mind we use to defeat ourselves. Remove yourself from distractions and just power through it. Get on a train, put your headphones on, and write on your phone. It works every time for me. J
19. How many rejection letters did you get for your fist novel or story?
Three, but that’s only because *I* rejected years of work prior to that on the grounds that it was not yet of professional level. (And I was right.)