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[SFFWRTCHT] A Chat With Author Peter V. Brett

Peter V. Brett’s debut fantasy novel The Warded Man released from Del Rey Books in 2009 and the second, The Desert Spear arrived in 2010. Parts 1 and 2 of his Demon Cycle series, a third book, The Daylight War will come out in February 2013. Brett graduated with a B.A. in English Literature and Art History from the University of Buffalo in 1995 then spent years in pharmaceutical publishing before turning back to his first love. His short fiction is collected in The Great Bazaar & Other Stories. He also released the illustrated novella Brayan’s Gold set in his novel universe and the comic book Red Sonja Blue. Available online as @pvbrett on twitter or via Facebook and his website at and resides with his family in New York.

SFFWRTCHT:  Where’d your interest in SFF come from?

Peter V. Brett: My first comics, fantasy novels & D&D dice were my older brother’s castoffs. He moved on, but I fell in love. The first movie I ever saw in a theater was Star Wars because I was tagging along with him and his friends.

SFFWRTCHT: Well good for older brother for finding someone to appreciate them! Who were some of your favorite authors and books?

PVB: Martin/Game of Thrones, Clavell/Shogun, Brooks/Elfstones of Shannara, Jordan/The Shadow Rising, Hardy/Master of the Five Magics, King/The Gunslinger, Eddings/Belgariad, Farland/Runelords. I could name authors I love all night. It’s a great time to be a reader. All writers stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before.

SFFWRTCHT: When did you develop an interest in writing and how did you pursue that? Classes? Workshops? Learn on your own?

PVB: I wanted to write SFF since I was in high school. Took some classes with writing in mind, but mainly got a standard Bachelor’s Degree in English and practiced on my own.

SFFWRTCHT: Did you experiment with fanfic back then?

PVB: Yes and no. This is something I have blogged about: .

SFFWRTCHT: I’d love to know what your favorite comics were too. If you read comics.

PVB: I read pretty much every Marvel comic in the 80′s and 90′s, and half the DC books.

SFFWRTCHT: Did you start writing fantasy or SciFi?

PVB: My first book was a fantasy/Sci Fi mix. From there it has been all Fantasy. It’s where my heart is.

SFFWRTCHT: Were you involved in Cons or fan costuming as a kid? Or was D&D your main entryway?

PVB: I mostly went to comic book conventions, but as anyone familiar with cons knows, there is a lot of overlap.  I was never into costuming, though. At least not for myself. I never liked being the center of attention.

SFFWRTCHT: How long did you write before making your first sale? Did you start with shorts or novels?

PVB: I practiced consistently between ages 17-35 to produce a saleable novel. I always worked on novels. Never shorts.

SFFWRTCHT: What drew you to fantasy? And what are the key elements of a good fantasy for you?

PVB: The Hobbit drew me to fantasy. I always preferred stories with magic over tech. SciFi was third after superheroes. In epic fantasy I look for strong multiple POVs, a solid magic system and worldbuilding, and a compelling story.

SFFWRTCHT: The Warded Man (aka The Painted Man) introduces three young people, Arlen, who runs away to escape his cowardly father after his mother’s death; Leesha who goes to live with the local Herb Gatherer aka healer and learn her arts, escaping her abusive mother and intended mate; And Rojer, whose parents sacrifice themselves to save him from demons at a young age, is taken in by an entertainer and apprenticed.  Each has special magical gifts and their destinies are bound to intersect. Do you start with characters, plot, world? Where’d the idea for the Demon Cycle originate?

PVB: None of the above. They grow together as the story advances.  As for the idea, no single place. I stole ideas from hundreds of things!

SFFWRTCHT: What did you do with all your “practice” novels? Ever think about reviving the plot of one?

PVB: They’re in the drawer gathering dust where they belong. Sometimes want to revive them, but I slap the fool out of myself.

SFFWRTCHT: Given your focus on novels, what was the experience like to write Brayan’s Gold?

PVB: I really love the Subterranean Press novellas. They are an amazing steam valve for side stories.

SFFWRTCHT: I loved the idea of the painted/tattooed wards in The Warded Man. Where did that idea come from?

PVB: Google Otzi the iceman. He tattooed magic markings on himself while the rest of us were still learning the wheel. I wanted the series to start very low magic, so I created a system that was barely understood and difficult to use. Magical symbols/circles that repel evil is nothing new. Every human culture has had this, so it resonates.

SFFWRTCHT: It was unique to imagine them warded not just on objects and buildings but on people as well.

PVB: It’s all objects, until one nutjob starts putting them on his skin. Adventure ensues.

SFFWRTCHT: Is your magic based on any particular culture?

PVB: No, while symbol magic is culturally common, I made up all the mechanics for the story.

SFFWRTCHT: The Desert Spear actually retells part of the first book through a fourth POV character’s POV, Jardir. I found him less likable than the others. Jardir and Arlen are competing demon killers, trying to lead the people to rise up against the demons plaguing them each night.

PVB: I don’t know that Jardir is less likeable. He is the favorite character of many of my readers. Desert Spear shows that Jardir is a different kind of hero, but nonetheless, his goal is saving the world. Plus, Jardir is trying to lead people. Arlen has had leadership thrust upon him.

SFFWRTCHT: What works for you? Write much, cut a lot, or do you work on different things, or inch it forward as a whole piece?

PVB: Inch forward as a whole.

SFFWRTCHT: Explain a bit about the various types of demons and how they work please.

PVB: My demons are all elemental. Rock demons, flame demons, etc. Each has its own powers, but all are virtually immortal.

SFFWRTCHT: One of your interesting creative choices is that at least so far, I have not found a central antagonist. The situation serves as an antagonist with the demons themselves but there’s no central dark leader. I thought that was interesting creatively.

PVB: I am not convinced central antagonists exist. Everyone is a hero in their own POV and a villain in someone else’s.

SFFWRTCHT: It’s true and the central villain is rarely a reality in real life. Lots of little conflicts tend to be the norm. But the Darth Vaders of storydom can sure be fun. Speaking of villains…(Fellow Author Myke Cole sits in for a moment)  You’re good friends with Myke, who has been to the Middle East as a soldier and has a lot of military training. There’s also a lot of hand-to-hand combat in your book. Did you ask Myke Cole over to teach you that? How much research did you do?

PVB: Learned more about writing action from RA Salvatore than from Myke. Ask him how I used to kick his ass fencing.

Myke Cole (interjecting): It was a draw! He didn’t really need my help with combat stuff. He always had a good feel for it.

SFFWRTCHT: How has the development of Myke and yourself as writers influenced each other?

PVB: One of us is Shakespeare and the other is Marlowe. We’re still trying to figure out who is who. Myke has been my beta reader for decades. I would not be here without his help.

MC: That goes both ways.

SFFWRTCHT: If Oscar Britton (protagonist from Cole’s Control Point series) fought Arlen who would win?!

PVB: Oscar would still be hemming and hawing about whether they should fight when Arlen tore his spine out.

MC: They would never fight. They have adjacent permanent seats at the Museum of the Moving Image.

SFFWRTCHT: I think Myke already told me but for posterity: Do you outline or pants it?

PVB: Outline the pants right off of it. It’s like making it up as you go along, but without all the writing yourself into a corner.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you use Scrivener or other “writing software tools”? Write to music? Any rituals?

PVB: I write on Docs to Go on my iPad. It syncs wirelessly with my desktop, and I work in Word there. Shift back and forth constantly. Always, always music, though selections depend on my mood. I like to write on the subway. It is peaceful when the internet goes quiet. Takes getting used to, but now it is very natural. Anywhere I can put on headphones and not be bothered by anyone for thirty minutes or more works now.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you just use the virtual keypad then or an external one?

PVB: Both. Virtual when out and about, external whenever I have a writing desk (hotels, etc.).

SFFWRTCHT: What’s your writing time look like-specific block? Write til you reach word count? Grab it when you can?

PVB: All of the above.

SFFWRTCHT: What’s your favorite part of writing, and what do you hate (but you do it anyway because it’s necessary)?

PVB: Favorite: Finishing and looking back at what I did. Hate: The rest of it.

SFFWRTCHT: What can you tell us about The Daylight War? Does it pick up where Desert Spear ends? Is there a gap?

PVB: Daylight War picks up exactly where Desert Spear ends, and the action within covers about a month thereafter. TDW will focus 1/3 on the life story of Jardir’s wife Inevera, with the other 2/3 covering ongoing story/chars.  I like breathing life into the full cast.

SFFWRTCHT: Did you plan this as a series? Are there any plans to do more with this world?

PVB: Demon Cycle was always planned as a quintet, though I have novellas and at least one standalone book planned for after.

SFFWRTCHT: Last question, what future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?

PVB: I will hopefully be writing four more issues of Red Sonja Blue this year, in addition to a new novella for Subterranean Press. As for novels, I am working on the fourth of a series of five while juggling edits on the third, then I have one standalone book. That will keep me busy till 2020.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011  Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. A freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction and also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.