Peter Mclean – Priest of Bones! Priest of Lies!
Today we are joined by author Peter Mclean to discuss his books and more! Melissa sat down with him and they talked had a great time.
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Interview scheduled by Jeffery Haas
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Peter Mclean Interview
[00:00:00] Melissa: this is spoiler country and I’m Melissa searchin today on the show. I’m so excited to welcome the author of the war for the Rose throne series. The brilliant Peter McClain. Come to the show,
Peter Mclean: Melissa, thank you for having me on.
Melissa: Thank you. Thank you. So, just to give a little bit of background, we know each other sort of through Twitter, the writing community on there and through pitch Wars, you’re very active on Twitter and so we’ve kind of, engaged for the past couple of years.
So I’m really excited to get to chat with you today.
Peter Mclean: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Melissa: Cool. so Peter, when did you start writing and how long did it take for you to get published the first time? Oh,
Peter Mclean: good grief. I’ve kind of been writing on and off since I was in high school. I think that I’ve only sort of started taking it seriously in my late thirties.
Cause I was married, build a new career, all that sort of thing. That’s distracts people from [00:01:00] what they do obviously, but now I got back into it. I’m trying to think when it was now probably in the late two thousands or thing. And, yeah, I wrote, I used to be on a forum called SFF world. We did a lot of.
Flash fiction and short story competitions and all that kind of thing. And they put out a self published anthology of short stories done by members. And I had a short story in that. And, I told you, I can’t know what it was called now, but I liked it a lot. And I thought, I know I could make a book out of this.
So I did I’ll turn it into a novel, which became Drake. The first of the Birdman books, which are current, are now published by angry robot. There are modern day set, urban fantasies. And I shot that around a couple of agents and didn’t really get anywhere. And then I threw it into the angry robot, open door, open submissions, period.
One year, it must’ve been about 2013, I think. And they actually, they actually picked it up and they published that and the next three books in that series. So that was a [00:02:00] Drake, dominion and damnation in the burn man series. And then, then I wrote priest of bones, queried that again and landed my agent, Jenny gala.
Boy, who’s now at DML in New York, and we sold that to ACE at penguin random house in the United States and Joe Fletcher books in the UK. So there’s, there’s two of those out now. Pristine lawyers came out last year and we’re going to have priesthood gallows out next year. And the final of the four priests of crowns in 2022, obviously start everything into a bit of a spin, but that’s the current plan anyway.
Melissa: Yeah. Has COVID affected your, your writing at all? as far as like your mental state or anything?
Peter Mclean: No, not really, to be honest. I mean, I do a corporate it day jobs, so I’m completely set up to do that from home. I’ve got my own office, so I can, I can carry on doing the day job, or right in the evenings and weekends, same as I always did.
I think the only thing is because I’ve got my dedicated [00:03:00] office at home, which is where I do my writing. Is now also where I do the corporate nine to five. I do feel a bit like I never leave this room. Other than that now. I mean, A fairly small rural religious city in the United Kingdom. So where we are, it hasn’t actually had a massive impact when we had the same lockdowns everybody else has, obviously, but it’s not told through the local community, like as in some of the biggest cities.
So does that to be thankful for definitely.
Melissa: Yeah. That’s very fortunate. So you are still able to go to the store and, you know, do sort of like your, your, your things that you did beforehand without too much interruption.
Peter Mclean: Exactly. I mean, that was. That was quite a few months in the UK when all the bowls and restaurants and theaters and everything was shell, but it’s, it’s kind of opened up again when it did open up again.
And now they’re starting to shut things down again. Cause it wasn’t. Very successful to be perfectly honest, but I mean, life goes on. It’s one of those things, you know, I just think [00:04:00] at my age, my granddad was at war, so I think it could be worse. You know what I mean?
Melissa: Absolutely. Yeah. I think that we have a lot to be grateful for and I think, you know, we do live in a time where, we’re just so used to getting everything.
you know, on demand, you know, we’re a very impatient society. So I think, when you compare it to, yeah, with people that went to war and had to deal with, you know, much greater catastrophes, that’s a good way to look at it, puts it in perspective.
Peter Mclean: Yeah. I’m, I’m very much a count your blessings kind of person almost.
Melissa: Yeah, no same. I try to stay as positive as possible. so I’m curious, what is your writing process like? Like take me through it. Are you an outliner? for those who aren’t, you know, writers, we have this whole. Term called plotting versus pantsing, meaning, you know, planning a book out to the detail or writing from the seat of your pants.
what’s your process?
Peter Mclean: Yeah. I’m kind of a little bit of both. So I’ll do an outline. I can completely a book or get lost. [00:05:00] I’ll do an outline at a fairly high level and it’s kind of. The major plot beats of the story. So it was hours almost like storyboarding it like you would if you’re writing a movie, but I guess I kind of pan, so you get from one to the Alva and I’ll let things evolve.
And if a character does something unexpected that I like, I’ll just change the. Projected outlined to accommodate what I’ve just written rather than say, Oh, no, he can’t do that because the outline says X, always that kind of thing. So a little bit of both, but you know, every writing book you read, especially Stephen King’s on writing, which is a really, really good book as a writing manual is fantastic biography.
I’ve always thought, but there’s, he’s got this absolutely hard rule. Thou shall not edit as you go. And plus it all out. Like I do the absolute opposite of that. I edit the thing obsessive as I go as though each day’s writing session by fixing what I wrote the day before, which I know everybody says don’t do that, but that’s what works for me.
So by the time I’ve [00:06:00] got to the end of the draft, it’s pretty much done.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. And I’ve actually been hearing a lot of authors, say that recently I started doing it myself too. so yeah, that hard rule I think is, and that probably works for him really well. And I think that it may have been not outdated, but just, you know, the, the industry is constantly changing.
as we, as we all know, so. You know, I think that a lot of authors are doing that now because, yeah, we, we have to get either there’s more pressure to get books out a little bit quicker. so you know, the other role he has of, of writing a first draft and then putting it away for three months. Well, that’s just not always realistic when you have deadlines and mouths to feed, you know?
So yeah. I agree with that.
Peter Mclean: Exactly. That I think, I mean it all, but as you say, obviously works for him. He’s one of them. Biggest best sellers in the world and bought out. So I think what’s changed is the idea that, because something works for somebody successful, it will work for everybody else. And that’s just not, I mean, Stephen King’s method works for Stephen [00:07:00] King.
It doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried it, it just isn’t how my head works. So I think the big thing for any writer I think is to find the process that works for you because we’re all different, we’ll think differently, every different creative process and a large pile of. Getting the hang of it for want of a better word is to find the process that works for you individually.
Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. No, that makes total sense because yeah, we’re going to be on our own path. everyone has their own, path to publication as well. And now with the internet and, the indie publishing there. It’s so many different variables now. So you really do have to kind of find, you know, you have those, those authors that can write a book and two weeks, and then you have some that, you know, take years just, you know, people like George R.
Martin, who, who is still, I think, working on the last game of Thrones book.
Peter Mclean: Oh, I don’t think it’s even the last one. Is it supposed to be another two? But yeah. I mean, how anybody writes a book in two weeks? I have no idea, [00:08:00] but I mean, like you say, I’ve heard of people who do. So, I mean, I’m, I’m somewhere in the middle.
I think it probably takes me six to eight months to write a book of Broadway and then.
Peter Mclean: I think that’s about right. I’m certainly not one of these people that takes years and years for it. Thankfully.
Melissa: so you did mention, you kind of wrote, in high school, but you didn’t really start actively pursuing it until you were in your thirties.
Did you always want to be a published writer from the time? Absolutely.
Peter Mclean: Yeah. Yeah. I really did. I said, I always knew I wanted to do, but I think. Certainly in my teens and early twenties, I was realistic enough to realize two things. One, I wasn’t going to make a living at it suddenly in Australia way and two at the time, I just wasn’t good enough so that you have to learn to write by writing.
I’ve done. I’ve never done a creative writing course from MFA or anything like that. I’ve taught myself to write by reading a lot and writing a lot. And I [00:09:00] still think that is the best way to do it. Absolutely written. Junk trunks novels before I wrote Drake and they were my apprenticeship all over them as they were a lot of fun to write and a couple of close friends read them.
But I think I knew deep down that I wasn’t there yet.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. It’s very rare to get, you know, the first thing you ever write published, it’s near impossible. Really?
Peter Mclean: It has happened. I mean, there are some absolute outliners. Who’s who had a bestseller with their very first attempt at a novel, but it’s highly unusual.
It really is.
Melissa: Yeah. Well, and so when you were reading, when you’re a kid, what were some of your favorite books that inspired
Peter Mclean: you? Oh, well, I, I grew up as Wesson as a teenager. I grew up reading mostly horror, actually. I’m an old, old, I was a teenager in the early eighties. So there wasn’t a hell of a lot of fantasy about, I mean, you had the obviously Lord of the rings, which I read when I was young, [00:10:00] Narnia Michael milk.
I read got a lot of his stuff. They were quite instrumental in shaping my view of what fantasy was, I think. But other than that, you had Terry Brooks has Chanera. That’s God awful. John Norman bondage books. I can’t remember the name of, but there wasn’t a lot of fantasy about, but in those days, the horror sections in the bookshops used to be enormous.
So, I mean, I grew up on Stephen King, James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Sean Hartson, all those kind of guys. And I’m Irish. I read a lot of crime fiction as well. Or the Gutfeld when I was probably far too young to be reading the golfer, Mickey spur line, Aliyah, LDN, Fleming, James Bond books, all that kind of thing.
I think it was probably Tenneth Lee that got me into fantasy later in the eighties with transmit the first one as I read, well, it’s probably the birth grave and then the flat earth cycle.
Peter Mclean: So you know, that stuff that was more in the, the older school, more cock style offender, sales, I [00:11:00] think it’s wonderful stuff, but it’s very different to what people are rising today.
Go and load.
Melissa: Yeah, it’s quite a difference. I, grew up in the eighties. I’d probably a little bit younger than you, but I was, I was born in 79, but I did start, start reading pretty, early on. And I, I know that there wasn’t even then there, you know, when I was probably 14, 15, there wasn’t a ton of fantasy.
and I did start reading a little bit of piers Anthony, which is, it’s kind of, yeah. It’s a little out there. it’s kind of Saifai fantasy in a, in a science sources, its own thing. But, but yeah, the horse stuff was also more prominent, like Anne rice and Stephen King.
Peter Mclean: Yeah, I don’t, I don’t know what happened to the origin moment.
There are still a lot of, loads of people still ricing, horror. I don’t know where it’s getting sold now. And I don’t know what his logging bombs, mobile book Waterstones over here, which is our equivalent big box bookstore. The horror, the horror section is like one shelf. Block, whatever you [00:12:00] call it. One shelf unit.
And it’s nearly whole Stephen Kingery rebrands. There’s just so little of it mainstream available. And I don’t know where it went because it used to be such a huge Homer.
Melissa: Yeah. And you would think because the horror film industry is still very large. yes. You would think that would translate into books as well.
Peter Mclean: What up and fantasy seems to be going the same way I’m going again. It’s still big on TV’s supernaturals and it’s one of, one of those on a 15 16th season, and it’s still hugely popular, but the, the trend of fantasy books definitely seems to have dropped off quite a lot of notice.
Melissa: Yeah, no, absolutely. I started writing urban fantasy and I’ve just recently, I’m sort of getting more into like the paranormal romance.
aspect that seems to be really in demand right now. Everyone wants the, the vampires falling in love that kind of a thing. more so than they actually care about, you know, the urban fantasy quest type of, of books. So it is interesting how that trend is changing.
[00:13:00] Peter Mclean: Yeah, it’d be interesting to see what drives these sort of big shifts and most popular more isn’t I dunno.
Melissa: Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, I don’t know if it’s like, you know, hidden, critics that say one thing and then it sways people a certain way. You know, who knows how that they’re orchestrating the strings, you know?
Peter Mclean: Absolutely. Well, I guess if we did with would be huge best-sellers
Melissa: well, yeah, well, you’re, you’re pretty much there.
so yeah, that brings me to, your, your series, War for the Rose throne, your first book, in that serious priest of bounds. I’m, I’m really curious. a lot of people have compared it to Peaky blinders or the godfather it’s fantasy crime fiction. what inspired you to write priest as bones?
Peter Mclean: Oh, well you hit it right on the head. There is fantasy crime fiction. So those are my two favorite genres to read crime fiction and fantasy. I don’t just want you to mash the two [00:14:00] together. I don’t know. Have you ever read Denny Joe Abercrombie?
Melissa: I have not.
Peter Mclean: So he writes superb fantasy fiction, but there’s a scene in his book.
Bus of cold wet as an assassins on the trial of the heroin. And he goes to, what’s supposedly a fantasy opium den kind of thing. Beats up the local gangster. How I’m going to write about that guy, not the assassin, thousands of books about assassins. I want to write about the guy that runs the house because I just haven’t really seen it before.
I love gangster gangster books, crime novels, really big fan of gangster movies. My one of my favorite genres I must’ve seen. Good fellows and godfathers we’ll have one of them thin kind of thing. Yeah. So I want to take something like that and your classic swords and horses. So many historical type of fantasy with not much magic in it and just Ram them together and see what comes up with an order.
I already had the title because. Well, I cannot write a book until it’s got a title [00:15:00] and it never, it never changes. They were important to me. And I’d written priest of bones on a post-it note about a year before and have the faintest idea of what it was or what was going to do with it. I just thought it sounded kills.
I wrote it. Right. So why not make the gangster a priest
is yeah. One of those little lightning bolts of inspiration moments. That’s what we’re going to do. But yeah, I mean, it is very good. It’s is a gangster novel with a fantasy hassle rather than a fantasy novel about banksters of excellence. It’s quite short by fantasy standards is 120,000 words. When you say your big fat Robert Jordan doorstop is easily a quarter of a million.
Some of them pushing 300,000. So by fantasy standards, it isn’t a long book. I wanted it to feel like a crime thriller. It’s got that sort of length, that kind of pacing, short chapters, keep turning the pages kind of thing. And that’s what I was going for. [00:16:00] Anyway. I think it works a little bit that it did.
Melissa: Yeah, well, yeah, I know, obviously it’s working pretty well. And I think by doing that, you’ve sort of opened up this new type of a sub genre. and I I’d be interested to see how many writers, you know, get inspired by your books and, and try to, you know, write in that genre as well. You know,
Peter Mclean: I’d love to say that.
Melissa: So, you’ve also recently, they just announced on Twitter that the warfare, the phone Rose throne series is being adopted for television. Yeah.
Peter Mclean: Yeah. Well, it’s, it’s, it is, it’s been optioned for television, which I don’t think is quite the same thing. But, yeah, it’s been option by heyday television in partnership with NBC or universal.
for those that don’t know, heyday is the TV company owned by David Heyman who made the Harry Potter movies and Tarantino time in Hollywood. So it’s got some very serious backing, which is fantastic. And I know that. tight. I are actively [00:17:00] looking for a screenwriter at the moment, but I mean, it’s wonderful news, absolutely thrilled about it, but I know I’m aware enough to know there are a hell of a lot of steps between selling an option and seeing the TV show on screen.
So I’m not, not putting the cart before the horse on that one, but it is absolutely amazing. It’s not something that I ever thought would happen.
Melissa: Well, it’s very exciting. And I think. That is sort of, you know, what I think every author, you know, that’s their, their goal, their dream, you know, to see it on the big screen, whether they admit it or not publicly, I think deep down inside, everyone wants to see that happen.
so that’s just awesome. Congratulations. First of all, it’s huge. so did you, did you do anything to celebrate? I mean, it’s you, what, where were you when you got the news?
Peter Mclean: Oh, well now you see I’ve known for a free year. I just haven’t been able to say anything. Yeah. I always based been under NDA for about, I don’t know, 13, 14 months.
So I can’t actually remember. I [00:18:00] know I was, I was astonished cause I mean, I didn’t. Never entered my head and at agent, United talent had reached out to my agent because Haman had apparently read the book and reached out to this guy at UGI. And I can only issue him, said, get me this or whatever. I don’t, I don’t really know.
That’s all I want to call with this big short movie agent. And I’m just thinking stuff like this doesn’t happen to people like me and he shopped it around and a few months later I’m on. On a call with Tom Winchester at heyday and he’s head of production. Again, I’m thinking they must have confused me with somebody else.
It’s incredible. But now I’ve had to sit on that news for a very long time, because you know, there’s all sorts of contractual reasons why you can’t announce things before it comes out in deadline or whatever, but
Melissa: yeah. It’s been,
Peter Mclean: yeah, it has been every time I see a tweet and somebody is like, you know, what are you most want to see adapted for TV?
And by page to pick, you said it was about a week before the announcement would priesthood bones. And I was like,
[00:19:00] Melissa: yeah, that’s really cool.
Peter Mclean: But yeah, it’s been very super surreal. But it’s extremely cold.
Melissa: All right. Yeah. Well, and I know it. Yeah, like you said, there’s a lot of steps involved. do you know, you probably don’t know at this time, but, are you gonna have any kind of say, I know that they kind of go, it goes either way, you S you see authors are either super involved, you know, like George R.
Martin or, or, Rawling. and then you have other authors that are like, now I literally just sold the rights. And then they told me to have a nice day
Peter Mclean: though. Gotta be somewhere in between. Consultancy role on it. I mean, George R. Martin obviously worked in film and TV before he was an author. He knows the industry inside out.
I wouldn’t know how to be involved to that extent. I must’ve known that I’m not a script writer or mode TV person. And so, but at the same time, I wouldn’t just Chuck it out and say, do what you like. And I don’t think that’d be a shame and you know, that they wouldn’t be involved to an extent and how, [00:20:00] how much.
I don’t really know. I guess we’ll, we’ll have to see as it progresses, it’s a whole new world for me. I must made.
Melissa: Oh, I bet. I think that’ll be so exciting. once it starts going, just to be able to, you know, go on set and see your world come to life before your eyes. I think that would be something I, is that something you’re looking forward to?
Peter Mclean: Absolutely. Especially as heyday or a British company. So they’ll. Presumably work on it in this country. I would imagine. So hopefully I can go to set us on board if we get to that point. That would be amazing.
Melissa: Yeah. Well, I think that, especially in England, the, the locations they’re so much more.
Authentic, you know, historically I would think that it would just, everyone would film there to be honest, when you’re doing a,
Peter Mclean: yeah, I do my hair and Prague in the Czech Republic. They make an awful lot of historical fantasy TV because I mean, the architecture is just perfect for it. It really is.
[00:21:00] Peter Mclean: Yeah. The city in the book Ellenburg is completely based on Edinburgh in Scotland.
Melissa: Wondered about that because I thought that this, the pronunciation sounded similar. So I was wondering if, have you spent a lot of time in Scotland?
Peter Mclean: Yeah. Quite a lot. Edinburgh is my wife’s home city. That’s where she’s originally from and she’s still got family up there.
So we do try, and obviously we can’t go this year, but we do try and get up at least once a year acid. Absolutely beautiful. So there’s really nice.
Melissa: I mean, we, we definitely want to go. My, my boyfriend is, was born in Edinburgh. Yeah. Raised in the U S so he, but he hasn’t been back, I think, since he was in his early twenties.
but yeah, that’s definitely on our list. As soon as we’re out of this, lockdown. We definitely want to go over there and check it out. Cause I would imagine the scenery is very inspiring for a writer.
Peter Mclean: Scotland is absolutely beautiful country. It really is. If you do get the journey is well-worth doing
and so, you know, just let’s play fantasy for a [00:22:00] moment. If you actually had, you know, up to you, two casts, anybody, who would you think for in your mind would play? Thomas and bloody Anne.
Peter Mclean: Oh, now you say I keep getting asked this and I’m hopeless actors. Cause I’m just don’t I don’t watch TV. Thomas.
I’d love to say Tom Hardy. If I thought we could get him, he is probably slightly too old for the character, but I don’t care because he’s just brilliant.
Melissa: Amazing. He’s
Peter Mclean: amazing. There’s a British actor called God. And that’s where I’m going to forget his name. I told him it was at this aid and, I forget his surname.
He was in Poldark. If you saw that on BBC America.
Melissa: Oh, okay. I’ve seen,
Peter Mclean: I can’t remember. But yeah, I mean, Tatiana wouldn’t have the faintest idea, to be honest with you, Aiden Turner.
He was the vampire in the UK version of being [00:23:00] human as well. It’s really, really scary in that he suddenly looks the pallet as well. Bloody an item. Yeah, it’s what I would hate was B if they put it her up for the TV post to be this bitter skilled battle hub and soldier and all of,
Melissa: I got a scar on her face.
Peter Mclean: Yeah, exactly. If I put some flawless. 20 year old girl with the ball, it would just ruin it. So fingers crossed.
Melissa: Well, you know, I think, we’re, we’re moving more towards the trends where, where people were films are getting cast a lot more authentic, and those, those roles are kind of getting blurred finally, where there’s not the stereotypical, you know, alpha male and a damsel in distress character.
I mean, it’s taken a long time and they’ve made progress, but I do feel. In 2020, especially, we’re seeing a lot more obviously diversity, and just more women [00:24:00] that don’t necessarily have to be all gussied up. You know, they can be the strong heroine and, but not in high heels.
Peter Mclean: Definitely that, yeah, like you say, he’s taking his time, but I think we’re getting there in the end, which is good.
Melissa: Very good. Very refreshing. So I think you’ll probably be in good hands.
Peter Mclean: Oh, definitely. I know I’m in very good hands with this, Julia. Definitely.
Melissa: yeah. And you actually have quite an extensive cast of characters. how do you keep track of that while you’re writing? Do you have like a story Bible or files?
Peter Mclean: Yeah, I do have a, a story Bible, a world Bible. It’s got everything in it. I mean, you’ve got to remember stupid things like. And I would wear the skull or is, or the face of somebody that hasn’t been in the last two books. If they bring back, if you know, she’d bring the back, let’s go, I’ll come kind of thing.
Melissa: Yeah. I
Peter Mclean: tell her, yeah, like that. And how many, if you said how many terrorists there are on the palace? You’ve got to remember how many [00:25:00] stars there are in the palace, so it doesn’t lose whatever. Grow one more. You’re not looking
Peter Mclean: thing about keeping a character Bible for your extensive class list is getting to use the strike through font when you kill one off
Melissa: very fast.
Well, I can imagine in a gangster novel, you’d probably have a lot of character deaths.
Peter Mclean: There is quite a lot of body cam. Yeah,
Melissa: yeah, no, I know what you mean. I was just editing one of my books the other day and I realized. As I’m reading that Mike, the type of couch I had in the scene changed, it went from a leather couch to a velvet couch and I’m like, okay, someone’s going to catch this.
So yeah. Yeah, we get so caught up in the story itself and the characters that you, you sometimes overlook, you have those little details, which is great. That’s why we have editors.
Peter Mclean: Exactly. Oh, honestly, my copy editor soaked me for myself with Brewster bones. She really did. I don’t know if you probably haven’t actually read it, [00:26:00] but the.
The end of the plot is very, very time dependent. You know, certain things have to happen on certain days for it to work and bless her. My copy editor spotted that somehow I had my final climactic week was a day shorter than all my other weeks. Oh, wow.
Does do not get enough credit for the amount of workloads though.
Melissa: Yeah. They run
Peter Mclean: me down. They have a such a specialist job as well. It must be so difficult. I mean, she sent me. Excel sheets filled out with tables of the days and what happened when, and I’ll let you know this better than I do.
Melissa: Yeah, there’s just, I mean, you have to put on two different hats, you know, when you’re being creative and then when you have to go in and edit, and I think for authors, we’re very more, we lean more towards the creative side, so it is hard to put on that hat and yeah, copy editors and, and, and book editors are a godsend, because they, you know, [00:27:00] they draw attention to like things that we were like, Oh no, it sounds amazing.
And they’re like, no, actually, you know, it’s, it’s. Purple prose or it’s this or it’s that, so, yeah, it’s, it’s very, we’re very fortunate to have good editors. And like you said, they’re so underrated. I mean, they just, the work, they do the slog of, you know, because we’re not their only clients, you know, that suite, we tend to think it’s just my editor, but.
It’s like, no, they probably have, you know, eight to 10 other, you know, others that they’re doing the same thing with. So, yeah, exactly. so how many books, obviously, you mentioned priest of gallows.
Peter Mclean: Yep.
Peter Mclean: So, sorry, go ahead
Melissa: next year, correct?
Peter Mclean: Yeah, that should be mailed June next year, depending on everything, but somewhere around there.
And then there’s, there’s a fourth one. It was originally going to be as a story though. It was originally going to be a trilogy. It is [00:28:00] now a quartet. So the fourth book was priest of grounds, which is going to be out in 2022, probably in the summer. But, yeah, it was going to be a trilogy because as traditional fantasy books come in trilogies, but except sometimes they tell them they don’t have to.
John Glenn and famously did an extremely popular, quartet as well. I dunno if he did it on purpose or by accident, but I done it completely by accident. So as I say, I’m very thorough with the outlining. And I’ve always known how the last book in this areas is going to end since I was writing the first one.
I outlined it, that sort of how I story board level. So I knew where I was going and I had my outline for what was then book three and final. And it was a 15 page outline and I’d written 50 old thousand words of it. And I thought. You know what Pete you’re on page two of the outline, this didn’t get to work
off a million word book, and I know what it might be very popular, but [00:29:00] so I tell the agent she was so that we can do. And, Had conversations with Joe Fletcher. Who’s absolutely wonderful and incredibly understanding. And we said, can we make it two more books instead of one more book because this, that and the other.
And she was like, yep. I agree. That sounds like a good idea. Make it two more books. Wonderful. So we made it two more books and I looked at the outline and I thought, right, jot that in all of them. And then I looked at the outline for what’s now book three. And so. Yeah, well, now it just stops McClain. That is no use to matter pace about a plot gymnastics.
So I had to put a full books worth of narrative elk into what was effectively a book just chopped it off was nobody’s business, but we go there in the end. I mean, Gallo’s down and it’s been edited and Joe’s very happy with it. So that works. But Alma dies just.
Melissa: So that will, that brings me to my next question then. So it is definitely going to end at four.
Peter Mclean: It is definitely going to end up for, yeah, I know exactly where it’s going on. Well, I’ve already written the final [00:30:00] scene of the vinyl book, so I know where we’re going. It is going to be full. I don’t want to be one of these series as that goes on forever until everyone’s lost interest in it.
People have died of old age with all the last ones come out kind of thing. There’s no, what I want to do, I know the story I’m telling and. Well, I thought I could tell it in three books. I can definitely sell it
Peter Mclean: so that will be eight and under something else.
Melissa: Okay. Do you have any plans to do any side stories or spinoffs of, of any of the characters?
Peter Mclean: Couple actually, they’ve been in, grim dark magazine, which somebody will listen as more of a hurdle online. in Colin’s as published very big nine founders deal with this. And myself, so, which is nice. So yeah, I did, an origin story for Billy, the boy, which is told from Billy’s point of view, and I did a spinoff bloody and the story as well called the blades age issues.
These were in, Oh [00:31:00] shit. No, I think Billy’s story was cold hunger and the lady, I think that was an issue I’d seen, but it could be Roman Melba, but I said it’s a little searchable on the grim dope magazine website anyway.
It is, there’s a really high quality stuff in there. Good articles and interviews and things as well. So it was, that was a pleasure to do. I’d love to do some more of those. I mean, in, in the fullness of time, if I ever get the Jones, I’ll I just do what Mark Lawrence did with his road brothers anthology, because he’s friends with films, books are kind of.
Narratively similar to the restaurant folks into their first person with a Motley crew of side characters. And he did a short story for each side character and publish them as an anthology.
Melissa: I would
Peter Mclean: quite like to do something like that.
Melissa: Yeah. That sounds really interesting. I think that, I think fans of the books will, would want something like that because it kind of gets it all into the same, the same book.
And you can just flip through
Peter Mclean: possibly. Yeah. I [00:32:00] mean, story collections are a much harder sell than novels. I’ll be mock self road brothers to start with. And it was only when it was doing well. Just publish a voyage of pigs out, at least not more famous than I am. I dunno if I’d get away with it, but it’d be a lot of fun to do if nothing else.
Melissa: Right. Well, and also I think, you know, and this is obviously projecting far into the future. but you know, if the television show gets up and running and it does really well, you know, they may ask you to do more if, you know, cause I think typically shows, do one book a season, for the most part.
Yeah. So would you be open to just for writing stuff if they were like, we need more, you know, More stuffer for the
Peter Mclean: sound. Oh, absolutely. It would have to be slightly different stuff. So not autonomous piracy because Thomas, his story is told at that point.
Peter Mclean: I think, I think a bloody and spinoff book could have legs.
Definitely is she’s actually my favorite character in the [00:33:00] whole thing. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’ll never say never we’ll have to see what happens, but I think there’s at the end of camp, obviously can’t give away the plot or the next two books, but at the end of the book for the door is still open for several characters to have further adventures of sort
Melissa: of thing.
Yeah, no, I, I love those types of endings where it’s you get the finality, but at the same time, you’re sort of like got this window to appear into and think, Oh, I wonder what they’re off to now. They’re they’re still doing their adventure.
Peter Mclean: Yeah. I mean, you look at a Lord of the rings and mostly Frodo’s story was very much told.
I know, but I’ve read a while. Sam Gamgee did next book.
Melissa: Yeah, exactly. There’s a lot of characters in that series that you’re kind of like, Oh, I wonder what, you know, their origin story was or what they’re doing, you know, even just the Lego last character, for example, and the whole else. the Elvin race, I thought that would be a [00:34:00] really fun series.
you know, if talking had done that, but
Peter Mclean: I’m not really a fan of L Hans in fantasy writer. I don’t know. But now.
Melissa: What’s your, what’s your favorite, fantasy creature?
Peter Mclean: No, I don’t really go in for that sort of thing, but certainly from Tolkien is the dwarves definitely like that. Yeah. Basically agri Scotsman.
Melissa: Oh my gosh. I’ve never thought of it that way. You’re so right.
Peter Mclean: Yeah. But I prefer the fans. That’s a weird thing to say.
I like fantasy books that don’t have very much fantasy in them. If that makes sense. Yeah. If you look at my stuff, that there is magic in it, but they’re not about magic. They’re about human people, doing people, things I don’t go in for, you know, that sort of thing. Dragons. And I was much, much in the way of wizards and that sort of thing.
Right. [00:35:00] Personally, I love completely out there fantasy, but it’s of a different kind. I mean the friend ed McDonald wrote a series called the Raven’s milk, which starts with black wig and they are very fantastical as it is very, very much nothing like historical period of ELLs, but their own dragons and elves and things.
It’s a kind of. Post magical apocalypse, diesel punk, almost kind of setting with Canon, the nail and lights and boring, godson, horrible monsters, roaming, the desert that was formed when this basically new magical nukes went off. And this is what’s left of the world after that. So it’s very, very different, but in a different kind of,
Melissa: yeah, I like that with the Ravens smart.
Peter Mclean: Oh yeah. Yes. The first one’s called black wing. That is really, really good. And, another friend of mine, Anna Smith, spark rights. it’s, it’s kind of black metal fantasy for want of a better word for it. She wrote a series called the MPO is a dust, [00:36:00] which starts with called broken knives. And it’s kind of a cross between young soar on those on a heroin bender and Alexander the great didn’t die when he should have done.
Well, she cites was got backer as a biggest influence and. Yeah, she makes him look cheerful to an extent, but by often nominalist written like almost like Homeric, Homeric, poetry, very different to your average fantasy book. But that’s the kind of thing I like, you know, different, but it is a way around
Melissa: the thing.
Yeah. Sort of, I think like six of crows, was, was similar to that. I don’t know if you’ve read that one by Leovardo
Peter Mclean: I have, I’ve heard of it. I haven’t actually read that one, but yeah, no, I’ve heard good things.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. It’s similar sort of fantasy worlds and there’s magic, but it’s, it’s, they’re regular people in a sense, like what you were describing.
she has this whole, you know, the geisha [00:37:00] verse. but yeah, it’s dark and it’s. Kind of, you know, that atmosphere of like being murky and the dark alleys and the old taverns and the ships and you know, that kind of feel to it.
Peter Mclean: Yeah. Yeah.
Melissa: Now, did you ever see yourself, writing in, any other genres in the future?
Like any other honors that you want to explore?
Peter Mclean: Possibly, I would like to do a straight crime thriller one of these days, which seems everybody’s, everybody’s trying to do that at the minute because they know the market for that psychological thrillers, especially at the minute is vastly better than the rocket for fantasy.
And I read a lot of that kind of stuff and I really, really enjoy it. So, but I mean, it’s, it’s a big change. Every genre has its own conventions to extend it. Doesn’t that. A lot of conventional fantasy, but you can only break the rules when you understand [00:38:00] what they are. I think I know, certainly your more procedural type of crime novels very much have their conventions and the same way that category romance has very strict conventions that the readership expect you to follow.
Yes. I think the thrill of milk is the same, so it would be. A very steep learning curve, but it’s something I would like to do. I must have met a couple of my fantasy writer, friends have got thrillers on the go at the men and I, Jen Williams has got one coming out early next year, interested to say so I’d certainly like to do that, but, that’s probably.
Well, I write fiction of it and love written for Warhammer, almost of baseball, whether that’s science fiction or if it’s fantasy and space, really, I
Melissa: suppose. Right.
Peter Mclean: That’s a lot of fun to do. But when you write for a Zoomer IP, that’s preexisting, they’ve already done all the heavy lifting for you. You know, if you write we’ll hammer, you’re not doing any well building because you give them that.
Or they wrote me a story about. [00:39:00] X doing Y in this bit of the setting, you know? Okay. Trundle off and do that. But you know, you’ve not got to do the building of this coherent world, which if you’re racing original science fiction, there’s a lot of heavy lifting to be timed on nobody’s idea of a scientist shoppers,
Yeah. That’s the fun of it. part about fantasy is, I mean, even though you do have to have some sort of consistency with the rules and you know, the, the world building at the same time, you can literally just make up your own sense of gravity if you, if you want, you know.
Peter Mclean: Yeah, exactly. That. Yeah. I think that’s a lot of the fun of writing fantasies.
You’ve got that almost complete creative freedom, pretty much do anything you like within realms of sensible Misbah. Right. I know when I was writing urban fantasy and I set it in London and I had to be very careful, never to specify exactly where in London we were, because I don’t want to spend all day on Google street view, making [00:40:00] a call to shop on that corner.
And Elizabeth lingers, you know, there’s gotta be some pedant in relationship. I’ll load up a funny convention story. Oh yeah. I was on a panel. I was about, well building actually. With, three or four other roses. It was either, I didn’t really know at the time. And I was making pretty much this point and I said, you know, if you’re setting it in a real place, you know, you’ve gotta be absolutely bang on.
Cause I know it doesn’t matter. I said, but they’ll always be that one guy, the panelists sitting next to me, turned to me and said, Actually I am that one guy,
Melissa: you know, it’s so true. I, I D I’ve done the same. I have a magical world building, but I also do some, real life settings. Kind of blend the two, but I have an app. I have an Atlas next to me, a Google. I’ve I’ve literally had to Google. Okay. How [00:41:00] long would it realistically take for them to track from the bottom of this mountain, to the top of this mountain in Romania or whatever, because you do think about that with, with the way that the internet is now, there’s going to be one person that’s like, Oh no, that’s, that’s not possible that that’s not enough time for them to walk.
That Hillary, it is amazing how we have to, you know, it gives you anxiety that you’re like, I should just, why am I even doing this? Let’s just make the whole thing up.
Peter Mclean: Yeah. I know exactly that I’m going to, I think it was one of the things I struggled with with fantasy actually is travel times and distances because you know, I’ve never written a horse and you have to do enough research that yes, it would have taken roughly.
Then days for arguments, like to cover the distance, given the amount of light bells is carrying and the weather conditions. And it was a little thing doing there. Actually, you can’t just, my I’ll just make everything
Melissa: right. Yeah. That’s true. Or if you’re on a ship, you know, realistically, how long would it take for them to [00:42:00] sail from, you know, this Island to that Island or, you know yeah.
You have to have to do your research and that’s, that can be fun. That’s part of the fun is doing research for a book. I mean, I don’t know about you, but do you, Do you get excited? Like when you first have that idea, how, how much time do you actually spend on, on doing the research? Is that a fun way? I
Peter Mclean: tend to do it as I go, but yeah, I do enjoy it.
I’m a big armchair fan of social history. I’m not much into it. You lineages of Kings and Queens and things, but what interests me is how real people, normal people lived in a given period. So, I mean, I was writing priest of bones. It’s a roughly Judah ish setting. Yeah. So there’s a yeah. English historian called Liza who writes social history of the variety of different periods.
And she wrote one called Elizabeth’s London about obviously. London under the Judah queen Elizabeth the first. And it’s absolutely fascinating because it’s not about life. A [00:43:00] court is about butchers and weavers and fish wives and real people. And that’s the sort of thing that interests me. Most of my characters are poor people from the streets, basically, certainly in the first book.
So I wanted to get a sense of what their lives would have been like.
Melissa: Yeah and
Peter Mclean: go,
Melissa: yeah, they’re definitely, they’re more, as you were saying, it’s not told enough. And I think they’re more relatable. People want to read about a character that they can identify with, not, you know, a King or queen that, you know, you’re never going to be on the throne in your life.
Peter Mclean: That, yeah. Yeah, I think so.
Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. Are you, so w we talked about you have the two books coming out, in the next couple of years, aside from that, have you started anything new at all, or are you just kind of taking a break and working on edits and working on that last, the last word for the Rose throne book?
Or, or do you have like another idea that sort of, I like to call them plot bunnies?
Peter Mclean: That [00:44:00] kind of, yeah. Well, I’ve always got plopped bunnies. I’ve got popping all over the place, but I’m not, I’m forbidding myself from actually working on them because I have got a deadline for breeze to grounds. So gallows is down now.
That’s been through edits this. Is waiting on a copy, edit posts at the moment, and then that will be done, but, have got covers of, see, I’ve actually seen the cover for Priesta crowns yet, which is surreal because I haven’t written the thing and managed to get the same cover designer for the whole series.
And, Joe’s view is, look, we’re going to get her to do the fourth one. Well, we’ve got a time kind of thing, because if we give it six months, she’s booked for two years, we’re in trouble. So, so yes, I have seen the cover for preschool crowns, which does not yet exist. So I need to send someone back into existence as my primary focus for the next six, eight months.
Melissa: You know, your covers are absolutely beautiful. who was the cover artist?
Peter Mclean: Casey Anderson. Whose books up about me publishing, but it’s also freelance. So yeah, I’ll [00:45:00] absolutely overjoyed with them. Now the two new ones are every bit as good as the first two. I think she has a fantastic designer and very, very glad we managed to get her again for the second two.
Melissa: Oh yeah, absolutely. Cause you can definitely see from the first and the second book, the consistency you can tell right away, it’s the same artist. So that’s awesome that you can have that going through the whole series
Peter Mclean: absolutely continues through those same sort of motifs and design fails. Fantastic.
Melissa: Their cover designers, I think also are underrated to a degree. I mean, we get all the, you know, the success, then we get the, notoriety for the book itself. But I definitely think, the artists are just way under appreciated. They’re amazing.
Peter Mclean: Oh, absolutely. I would people, I think to the general public don’t realize how much of a team sport it is.
I mean, yeah, we write the words. But the woods, we right on the woods, they ended up in the book and it, by the time it been through development led it’s structural Lloyd edits, copy edits, proofreading, and all the rest of it. And then, so you’ve [00:46:00] got cover designers, artists. They’ll be your agent. Awful. All of this is well acknowledgements.
He says to my show, these people do get.
Melissa: Yeah. Yeah. I know my acknowledgements are always like three pages long. It takes that
Peter Mclean: definitely. Well, it really does them. And especially then if you’re factoring in beta readers and there’s a lot go under thing, awful lot of people putting time and effort into a finished book.
Melissa: Yeah. And then you have, did you get, you ended up getting a fantasy map for the book?
Peter Mclean: there’s a city map in the first two books. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the second ones. Cause a lot of them without giving too much away, I’ll set elsewhere. So she’ll be using the map. We’ve got makes sense.
But. So if we want to do another one or not.
Yeah, I wasn’t sure. Cause I, I actually, I have your book and, but I [00:47:00] picked it up at a, at Emerald city comic con back in, I think 2017. I managed to get the advanced reader copy. So I don’t think, and that doesn’t,
Peter Mclean: that doesn’t have the map in it.
Melissa: So I have to order another
Peter Mclean: That’s what
Melissa: we looked at. I love maps.
I’m a sucker for fantasy maps. I think it really adds so much to the book.
Peter Mclean: Yeah, they’re awesome. Phantom. Some of them has worked out really well. The one in priest of bones is just a map of Ellenberg at his disease deliberately. A bit rough and ready and hand sketched looking because that’s what the people in Ellenberger alike.
But I mean, you look at somebody and pause. Dust has got a phenomenal world map in it still. I mean, there’s this sort of thing. Get get an 83 version of framers. I was like, beautiful.
Melissa: Yeah. Well, that’s what I was gonna ask you. Did you, end up framing your map?
Peter Mclean: No, but I’ve got the book covers frames. I’ve got copies of all my books up in my library,
[00:48:00] Melissa: which
Peter Mclean: is incredibly vain, but I don’t.
Melissa: No, not at all. It’s no, I don’t think it’s saying. You know, writing a book is hard. It’s probably one of the hardest things. And, yeah. I mean, it’s your accomplishment. I think that, yeah, you should frame it and blow it up and put it in front of you. So it acts as a reminder too. I think also when you have those days, as we all do, where you start getting that imposter syndrome.
Yeah. And you can kind of, you know, look up and be like, okay, I did this. I can do it again.
Peter Mclean: Yeah, exactly. That I’ve done it five times where I’ve done it six times now, what on your five covers ups over? So do it again.
Melissa: Cause I, I don’t know about you, but I sometimes when I sit down to write a new book, I literally will have this moment.
I’m like, wait, how do I do this again? You know, it’s, it’s that very first blank page. And then as soon as you write that one, just one sentence, you’re kind of like, you know, off to the races, but do you ever have that moment where like, Oh boy.
Peter Mclean: Oh, absolutely. I think [00:49:00] everybody does, as you say, you sit down and think I have forgotten how to write a book.
And it comes back quick enough, but yeah, he’s a strange little mental state for a little while. Isn’t everything.
Melissa: Yeah. What did I do? Yeah. Great. Well, I know you’ll probably have to get going. I, I think it’s, it’s, like I said, it’s eight hours ahead where you’re at. I’m in California, you’re in the UK. but I did want to ask just one question. cause I get this question a lot too. What advice would you give aspiring authors and what was the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Peter Mclean: Oh, I think the best piece of advice is read a lot and write a lot. Which is from Stephen King’s on writing. I think a lot of aspiring authors get so caught up in ricing. They forget to read, to write by writing, [00:50:00] but also by reading and not just reading for pleasure, but you need to learn to read critically.
So I think when you’re trying to learn to write, read a book, you enjoy and think, why am I enjoying this? What has the author dumb in this sentence? This paragraph. To make it have the impact it’s had. And it’s kind of like doing English lit back and I always go, you know, you have to learn how to deconstruct what’s in front of you and analyze how the authors achieved, what they have and then try and adapt your own style to emulating it.
Peter Mclean: Yeah. Yeah. The advice I’d give anybody, you sit down and write and just do the thing you’ve got to breathe. You’ve just got to practice until it becomes good bags. You can’t expect to write a lot of Hilary mantel on your first go is just not going to happen. It’s not apprenticeship thing again, you know, you gotta go to put the hours in.
Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. Great. Well, thank you so much [00:51:00] for coming on today. This has been really fun. I got to learn more about you. so I definitely want to thank you for coming on and I want to let everybody know that you can find Peter’s books on Amazon and of course at your. Local bookstore, please, please support in deep bookstores.
if you’re able to, and then, you can also find Peter on Twitter. I highly recommend following him on Twitter. I love your Twitter feed. It’s very entertaining and insightful. And so, you can find P at, at Pete M C. Six six, six, and then you can also check out his website, TALEN, rafe.com, and we’ll put all those links in the show notes so people can find you and find your books.
And we look forward to seeing what happens with that, the TV ad, adaptations. So, yeah. So thank you so much for coming on.
Peter Mclean: Oh, thank you for having me on the show. It’s been a little fun.
Melissa: Awesome. And please come back any time we want to keep track of what’s going on in your [00:52:00] career. And, as you have your next release, I’d love to have you back on to chat about it.
Peter Mclean: That’d be, that’d be lovely. Thank you.
Melissa: Awesome. Awesome.