Monday, December 15, 2008

Interview - Peter V. Brett

Peter V. Brett went to the University at Buffalo where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Art History. He made his debut this year when his novel “The Painted Man” was published on September by Harper Voyager. The novel will appear in 2009 in the US under the name of “The Warded Man” at the Del Rey (reviewed here). Also in 2009 on August will be published the sequel of his debut novel, “The Desert Spear”. Peter lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife Dani, their new daughter Cassandra, and their evil cat, Jinx.

Dark Wolf: Peter, thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
Your debut novel “The Warded Man” (“The Painted Man”) is strongly set in the fantasy genre. How much interest do you have in the genre? What made you write inside the genre?
Peter V. Brett: I have enormous interest in the genre. Epic fantasy has always been what I loved reading, right from my early childhood. I’ve only read a handful of science fiction books, and I am generally bored by other genres or straight fiction. So when it came to writing, there was never a question in my mind. Fantasy was it, and I don’t expect that to change.

Dark Wolf: With such an interest in Fantasy may I ask who are your favorite authors and which are your favorite titles?
Peter V. Brett: Oh, so many. I’ve read hundreds of fantasy novels, though even that is only a tiny fraction of what’s out there. How about I just list 10 of my favorite books in no particular order?
1. The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien
2. The Elfstones of Shannara, by Terry Brooks
3. Homeland, by RA Salvatore
4. Master of the Five Magics, by Lyndon Hardy
5. When True Night Falls, by CS Friedman
6. The Shadow Rising, by Robert Jordan
7. The Runelords, by David Farland
8. A Game of Thrones, by George RR Martin
9. His Majesty’s Dragon, by Naomi Novik
10. The Subtle Knife, by Phillip Pullman

Dark Wolf: You proved to be very ambitious writing your novel in difficult conditions, on your way to work, on the subway… What made you keep writing? Did you want at one point during your writing to abandon?
Peter V. Brett: Never. Writers, myself included, frequently use “I don’t have time to write!” as an excuse for not producing, but it’s a lie. When things are important in our lives, we MAKE time to do them, and they get done. When they’re not important, we don’t. Writing is important to me, and so I made time for it during my commute, and at home each night, even when it meant less time spent doing other things I enjoy. I think I would keep on writing even if no one ever bought anything I wrote again. I just feel… better about myself when I am writing, and sometimes, I am as eager as anyone to see what happens next.

DW: I know that theoretically “The Warded Man” is not your debut novel, you wrote other novels too. But how did this novel become the first published one? Is there a chance for the other works to see the light of print?
PVB: It’s true that I wrote some other books before The Warded Man. It became the first to be published, frankly, because it was better than the others. I think I learned more about writing with each subsequent book I’ve written, and those early works reflect a lot of errors that I have since learned to spot and correct.
However, I do think those other books hold some promise, and I have not ruled out going back and fixing them after I finish all this demon business. Right now, I have more demons stories than I know what to do with, and that is my main focus.

DW: “The Warded Man” has quite a story in itself and I read that it suffered a lot of changes since the initial manuscript. Do you miss those changes? Is there an element dropped from the manuscript which you regret not including it in the novel? Is there one which will appear in the future novels?
PVB: While my US and UK editors made comments and suggestions, I always had creative control of my manuscript, as is the case with most authors. For instance, my US publisher asked that I make the final manuscript 10% shorter than the original, but all the final decisions about what to cut and where were mine.
I honestly feel the book is better for the cuts, even though some of the deleted scenes are, in my opinion, quite good. They were sacrifices to the gods of pacing and plot, and worthy ones, at that. I will be posting many of those deleted pieces on my website so that readers can still enjoy them, and there are a few that made their way into the sequel, The Desert Spear.

DW: Speaking of changes, did you follow a precise structure established since the beginning or did the story suffer changes while you were writing it?
PVB: I think all stories change as they are written. It’s kind of inevitable. I am a meticulous planner, writing out detailed outline stepsheets for everything I can think of before I start writing prose, but even so I frequently have ideas or insights while writing that can cause the story to veer off in an unexpected direction. It’s one of the reasons writing is so fun.

DW: Lately many fantasy novels try to come with new and innovative elements in the genre and one of them I believe to be your novel. Do you think that the fantasy literature can improve? Do you think that these new elements can drive new readership toward fantasy genre?
PVB: I think literature can always improve. That’s not to say that classics of the fantasy genre like The Lord of the Rings or the Morte D’Arthur won’t always be so, but as our cultures change and evolve, so too must our media in all its forms, in order to keep current and avoid stagnation. There are a great many writers out there now testing the limits of the fantasy genre and having a great time at it. I’m happy to be considered part of that, and wish I had more time to read the great variety available. I think there have never before been so many fresh voices and new ideas in fantasy as there are right now. It’s a wonderful time to be involved in the industry from a creative perspective.

DW: Your fantasy world seems quite dangerous and a hard place to live. Where did the idea come from and what inspired your created world?
PVB: I always wanted to write a book about demons, but I think a lot of the emotion behind it was inspired by how I and my fellow New Yorkers felt during and after September 11. I was working in a midtown Manhattan high rise office at the time, and was given a terrifying view of the smoke as the Twin Towers burned, and the panic on the streets. Even for a long time afterwards, the fear in people was palpable, and in many, it became an ingrained thing. I wanted to write about that, and used demons as a metaphor. But also, I wanted to write about the inner strength of those same people, the strength that made them forget their differences and band together to help one another pick up the pieces, even strangers they’d never met.

DW: Beside the use of demons as a metaphor to a present reality did you transpose other problems and situations of our world into your novel?
PVB: I think having characters in a novel deal with issues and themes similar to those people deal with in the real world is what makes a story compelling, so of course I try to do that whenever possible. Religion, sexuality, courage, ethnocentrism, the loss of loved ones, and countless other issues are dealt with by the characters as they go on their adventures, and hopefully some of those themes will resonate with readers and relate to the trials they face in their own lives.

DW: I’ve noticed that the Krasians from your story resemble a lot with the Arab culture and society. Did the Arab culture inspire the Krasians and how did other cultures inspire and influence your story?
PVB: The Krasians are inspired by a number of cultures, though the Arab influence is the most obvious. They are also modeled after the Spartan citizen soldier model of ancient Greece, the war philosophies of Sun Tzu, martial arts from Korea and other countries, etc. I wanted to make them a society whose entire culture was designed to fight a war they had little hope of winning. I think there’s a tragic beauty to that.
For most of the other places in the first book, I was going for a more Western feel, making the broken kingdom of Thesa a combination of the pseudo-medieval setting of most fantasy books and the American old west.
As I’ve said in other interviews, though, there isn’t meant to be a particular political statement in the conflict between the two cultures. I try hard to tell both sides of the story, and create a world that is complex and raises moral questions about the actions of all its leaders, just as ours does.

DW: The glimpses of your fantasy world, geographically, historically or religiously, were very intriguing and made me want to see more of it. Will these aspects of the novel be developed in the future novels of your series?
PVB: I hope so. There are places I have planned outside the borders of the map in the book (which covers an area approximately the size of Texas), but it may be a while before I have good plot reasons to go there.

DW: When I am thinking of your upcoming novel, “The Desert Spear”, I have to admit that I am looking forward to two particular conflicts with which you teased the reader in “The Warded Man”. And I refer here to a discovery of Arlen regarding the Core and to the final phrases of your novel. Would the upcoming novel be centered on these events? Can you reveal something about “The Desert Spear”?
PVB: No comment about the Core. That will be dealt with eventually, but I am giving no spoilers. The Desert Spear will focus mostly on the life story of the Krasian leader Jardir, and his campaign in the north, as well as the story of Renna Tanner, the girl from Tibbet’s Brook whom Arlen was supposed to have an arranged marriage with. Of course, it will also feature Arlen, Leesha, Rojer, and plenty of demon ass-kicking.

DW: I really liked your novel and I was thinking that now I have a new ongoing series which I follow. Will your series be settled into a trilogy or will it be developed in more volumes if I’m permitted to ask?
PVB: I am contracted for three books at the moment, but it was never a trilogy in my mind. My plan for the series was always for it to be done in five books. I have a definite end in mind, but I want to take a little time to explore the world and characters before I get there. Afterwards… who knows what the future holds? I have some other projects I would like to work on, but if there was interest, I would certainly consider revisiting the demon world, most likely with an entirely new cast of characters. I already have some notes and ideas, should that come to pass.

DW: Besides finishing your series do you have some ideas for a future novel or other projects?
PVB: Yes. As I said above, I hold some hopes of returning to some of my earlier, non-demon books. I have 2.5 books of an entirely different series written, with notes for two more. I also have some other ideas I would like to develop when I have the time. I’m still fairly young at 35, and I hope to have decades of writing ahead of me. Even though it can be incredibly difficult and stressful at times, there is really nothing I would rather be doing.

Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been a pleasure.
Thank you for the opportunity. I really enjoyed it.


Anonymous said...

Hey Dark Wolf, very cool interview there! :-) It's great to see Peter and The Painted Man getting the recognition they deserve. :-) I join you in looking forward to reading The Desert Spear!

Anonymous said...

Dark Wolf, great interview.

I really like when Peter states "Writers, myself included, frequently use “I don’t have time to write!” as an excuse for not producing, but it’s a lie. When things are important in our lives, we MAKE time to do them, and they get done. When they’re not important, we don’t."

That's a great way not to look only at writing but at life in general.

Mihai A. said...

Dave, thank you very much. We have a little to wait for "The Desert Spear" but I believe it will deserve it :)

Harrison, thank you very much. And it is true that statement is valuable in everything we do :)

RedEyedGhost said...

Great interview!

One question, Peter mentions that his US editor had him cut some stuff, does this mean The Painted Man and The Warded Man have different content?

Mihai A. said...

Thank you very much :) That is a very interesting question, thanks. I should ask Peter about this :)

Anonymous said...

The US and UK copies of the manuscript were edited simultaneously, with final creative control resting with me. I turned in the same final manuscript to both publishers, so the only difference in the texts will be Anglicization (ie "colour" instead of "color", etc.), and the references to the title character. The books should otherwise be identical behind the covers.

Mihai A. said...

Thank you very much for the answer, Peter. You are the most kind :)