Interview with Peter McLean (PRIEST OF CROWNS)
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.
Welcome back to the Hive, Peter! Congratulations on the release of your final book in The War for the Rose Throne quartet. Can you tell us a little of what readers can expect in Priest of Crowns?
Hi, and thank you for having me back! What can you expect in Priest of Crowns? Well, a conclusion I guess. An end. This whole series, this trilogy that ended up having to be four books, has always been heading here. I knew the very end when I first started writing Priest of Bones, and now we’ve finally got there. This is the end of Tomas Piety’s memoires, for now at least, although that’s not to say it’s the end of Tomas Piety. It’s certainly the end of what he has to say about this part of his life.
How does it feel to have completed the series? Are you nervous to see how readers will respond to the finale?
It feels great, honestly, for all that I will miss these characters now it’s finally done. Although Priest of Crowns will be my seventh published novel, it marks the end of my first completed series. My first attempt, The Burned Man, was dropped by the publisher after three of a projected five books so never really wrapped up properly. Getting to finish this at the scale it needed has been wonderful, and I owe Jo Fletcher Books a debt for allowing that to happen.
As to how readers will react, well I guess we’ll see. Early reviews have certainly been very favourable, which I’m incredibly grateful for, although I may have broken a few hearts along the way.
Honestly, anyone who expects a gangster story to have an entirely happy ending hasn’t been paying attention.
With every book, Tomas Piety has grown in leaps and bounds as he goes from being a mob boss to working with the government. Did his narrative evolve naturally throughout the course of writing each book or had you always planned his entire story arc right from the beginning?
As I say, I’ve always known where this was going. The way I see it, despite its Fantasy trappings this is a classic gangster family saga in the tradition of The Godfather and Goodfellas. The traditional gangster’s story arc only ends one of three ways:
He gets gunned down, he turns snitch, or he goes into politics.
Tomas was always going to go into politics, and make a grab for power. Listen to him:
Respect, power, authority, those were the levers that moved me.
That clue was right there for you in Priest of Gallows. Tomas is a driven man, a man determined to put the filth and abuse of the slums he grew up in as far behind him as he possibly can, and make a better life for himself and his family, especially his adopted son.
I’d written the last page of Priest of Crowns before I’d even finished writing Priest of Bones, but that’s just how I work. I always know where I’m going, even if I don’t entirely know how I’m going to get there at the time. Finding out is half the fun.
You have some fantastic side characters, Jochan, Billy and Bloody Anne being amongst the reader’s favourites. Which of your side characters will you miss writing about the most? And do you plan to write any spin off novels or novellas featuring any of them?
I will miss Bloody Anne so much. I have actually already written a stand-alone short story about her (The Blade’s Edge) which appeared in Grimdark Magazine last year. I quite deliberately wrote Anne to be the best mate I wished I had, in the same way I have always wished Druss the Legend was my dad.
Would I write a spin-off? Absolutely, if anyone wants to publish it!
If you were a member of the Pious Men, what kind of role do you think you would be best suited for? How do you think you would fare?!
Who, me personally? Well I work in Cyber InfoSec when I’m not doing this, so I think something along the lines of what Fat Luka or Iagin does would suit me just fine. Propaganda and misdirection, I can do that. The actual bloody violence is best left to younger folks.
Which author(s) would you say have had the biggest impact on you? Are there any who have inspired you whilst writing The War for the Rose Throne?
In terms of writing influence in general, David Gemmell, Tanith Lee, Michael Moorcock. Hands down, no competition. Especially David Gemmell. Him and Lee are my patron saints of writing. Specific inspiration for this series has been more cinema and TV than other books – The Godfather and Peaky Blinders being the most obvious examples, but also Band of Brothers and Sons of Anarchy.
We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
I enjoy editing a hell of a lot more than I enjoy drafting. Once you’ve written the thing, then you can start turning it into something good. I always say if editing is sculpting your statue, drafting is dragging the sodding block of marble into the studio in the first place.
Ok, a fun question and one we love asking everyone! Which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
Not a cat! Much as I love cats, they are fickle creatures and not to be trusted. A battle cat would turn you over to the enemy in a heartbeat for a sniff of tuna. I’m going for a bear. Seriously, always bet on the bear.
A bear looks a bit more ferocious too.
Tell us about a book you have recently loved. Any hidden gems we need to add to our TBR?
Oh gods, so many. One of the huge perks of being an author is I get sent more free books than I can possibly hope to read. I have just finished and hugely enjoyed a book I got sent for a blurb, which I’ve provided, but I don’t think it’s even been announced yet so I probably can’t talk about that. Before that, I’ve mostly been reading thrillers as I don’t tend to read a lot of Fantasy while I’m writing it. Sundial by Catriona Ward has been a definite highlight.
Are you planning anything fun to celebrate the release of Priest of Crowns? Do you have any upcoming virtual or in-person events our readers may be interested in?
You know what, it’s a weird thing. I finished Priest of Crowns over a year ago and I’ve written a whole other book since then, so it doesn’t really feel “new” to me anymore. I was going to be at FantasyCon but events have rather torpedoed that, so I don’t know. I’d like to get down to SRFC if they’ll have me, but other than that events are mostly virtual at the moment.
What’s next for you, Peter? Is there a new series you’re working on? Do you plan to continue writing in the grimdark fantasy genre?
I’m working on a new thing, but not a series. I’m aiming for my next book at least to be a stand-alone, although something very different. The project on my desk at the moment is I suppose best described as a supernatural gothic horror love story, in the vein of The Sandman.
As you know I love The Sandman, so very excited for that.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
Well, first and foremost it’s enjoyment, I hope! I’m a storyteller and entertainer at heart, and I want you to be entertained.
And possibly disturbed, just a little bit. Nobody should get too comfortable.
Don’t worry, you’ve nailed the disturbing part!
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Thank you for hosting me, it’s been a pleasure!
Priest of Crowns is out today and you can order your copy HERE