Interview with Peter McLean (PRIEST OF GALLOWS)
Peter McLean was born near London in 1972, the son of a bank manager and an English teacher. He went to school in the shadow of Norwich Cathedral where he spent most of his time making up stories.
He has since grown up a bit, if not a lot, and spent 25 years working in corporate IT. He is married to Diane and is still making up stories.
He is the author of the War for the Rose Throne series, beginning with Priest of Bones.
Hi Peter, and welcome back to the Hive!
If you want to know a little more about the Peter and the previous books in his series, you can read David’s previous interview HERE, Peter’s Author Spotlight HERE, and find reviews of his books HERE.
On Twitter, you mentioned how Ellinburg is about two centuries behind Dannsburg in terms of technological development. What about the Skanians? Seeing as how they’re merging as focal antagonists, can you give us a taste of their culture/military/traditions?
It’s not so much about technological development as it is culture and society. I wanted to draw a clear distinction between the oppressed poverty of the provinces and the wealth and culture of the capital, and being a fantasy novel rather than historical fiction I took the liberty of being rather time-period fluid. If Ellinburg is effectively a Tudor city circa Henry VIII, Dannsburg has much more of an 18th Century Regency feel to it. This is why even in Ellinburg the poor people eat Tudor-style food, and the rich sit down to Georgian fare.
As for the Skanians, I have to be careful of spoilers here but Tomas Piety doesn’t know much about them yet. That’s the great thing about first person; the reader only ever knows what the narrator does. Tomas knows what he’s been told: that the Skanians are enemies looking to invade his home, that they are cruel and that they keep slaves in their own country. He’s seen their magic, and its power. But what does he know? Tomas isn’t an educated man, and he really only knows the things he has seen with his own eyes. What you’re told and what is true aren’t necessarily the same thing, after all.
In an earlier interview with Fantasy Hive, you mentioned one of your central influences was Goodfellas. Has that changed since the series developed? What other sources might’ve contributed to the upcoming Priest of Gallows?
Priest of Gallows is an evolution of the series. Following the end of Priest of Lies, Tomas isn’t really even a gangster anymore. He’s something much worse now – he’s government. An emerging theme of the series is that government and organised crime can look an awful lot alike, just on a larger scale. The gangster vibe is still there of course, and as you come to learn more of the Queen’s Men in Priest of Gallows it will be apparent why, but yes the influences have shifted along with the tone. I think I’ve been drawing more on recent current evens with this one, and political dramas like The West Wing and The Thick Of It. There are still plenty of stabbings though, rest assured.
If you were to write a spin-off series, which character/time period would be the focus and why?
If anyone deserves a spin-off series it’s Bloody Anne. Seating her at the head of the table at the end of Priest of Lies was enormously satisfying. While she has two more books to survive yet, I could definitely see Anne having her own adventures at some point. She’s her own woman, and while she learns a lot from Tomas he doesn’t define her and she is perfectly capable of living her own life without him. Plus her and Rosie are such a lovely couple, in their own way.
I initially wrote Anne as the “hero’s best mate” character, but she’s turned into more than that. Anne is Tomas’ conscience, in a way, and the anchor that keeps him grounded when the battle shock is getting on top of him. I think a Bloody Anne book would be quite a different thing to a Tomas Piety book, and I’d almost certainly write it in third person rather than first, but it would be interesting to see the world from her perspective. I did a Bloody Anne short story called The Blade’s Edge for Grimdark Magazine last year, in fact, which can be found in issue 22. This is set during the part of Priest of Lies when Tomas is away in Dannsburg and Anne is left to run things back in Ellinburg, and it was a lot of fun to write.
Any recent reads you’d recommend for fans of your series?
It’s not fantasy, but I think people who like my work will enjoy the historical crime fiction of Laura Shepherd-Robinson. I read her debut Blood & Sugar last year and was struck by just how much the filthy docks and reeking taverns of 18th Century Deptford reminded me of Ellinburg. It’s an action-filled murder mystery, and Laura’s swearing is even more creative than mine! A follow up, Daughters of Night, has just been released and I’m reading that now.
Other than that I’m a huge fan of RJ Barker’s Bone Ships books. Those have some of the best, most in-depth worldbuilding I’ve read for a long time. Highly recommended!
Thanks so much, Peter!
Priest of Gallows is expected for release on 25th May 2021. You can pre-order from: