Kocham Książki: The Painted Man and The Desert Spear are among the best-selling fantasy books i.a. in Poland. How did your adventure with fantasy start? Why have you decided to choose this particular genre?
Peter Brett: The first book I ever bought and read by myself was The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien, and that began a life-long love of fantasy stories that led me to hundreds of other books, many of them from other cultures and dating back thousands of years. Stories of imaginary places have a rich history in every world culture and civilization, with a common thread of exploring questions about our humanity, lives, and beliefs.
I decided young that I wanted to be a fantasy writer. I finished writing my first novel when I was 17. The only problem was that the book was terrible. So I wrote another. It was better, but still not good enough. I wrote another after that, and another after that. Each book got a little better, until finally I was brave enough to show someone.
The Demon Cycle is a brand new world, new solutions and new characters. Where do you cull the inspirations and ideas from?
Many of the fantasy stories I used to read when I was younger were full of grand adventures, powerful wizards and larger than life heroes. Those were wonderful, but the characters were sometimes hard to relate to. I wanted to tell a more grounded story that focused on the everyday lives of normal people.
At its core, The Painted Man is a study about fear. In the story, humanity is nearing extinction. The people live in a oppressive state where demons come out each night and hunt them, hindered only by complex symbols of protection that require constant maintenance. The demons are immortal and almost impossible to kill with ordinary weapons. It is the terror that the demons instill in people that is the primary driver of the tale. A lot of this has been pulled from my own life experiences, and what I see in the world around me. I try to give an accurate interpretation how people would deal with these feelings.
The Demon Cycle‘s characters (including the demons) are well-rounded in the slightest detail. How does the process of their creation look like?
Building the characters and the world they live in was a slow process that took several years. I wasn’t writing professionally at the time, and thus wasn’t in a hurry. Even the secondary and tertiary characters in the small towns and villages have background stories. Some of those stories will be told, and others will stay locked in my head or in my notes, helping me inform the characters’ actions even if their personal drama is never revealed to the reader. I think this allows me to present three dimensional characters who are more believable, but it’s a lot of work!
In the same way, there are a lot of details about the cultures, demons, and magic system in my notes that may never come out in the story, but provide a firm foundation for the things that do.
Most writers have some specific preferences concerning their writing conditions. How about you? Do you need peace and silence to create, or just the opposite?
It’s interesting, but even now, I do my best writing on the New York City subway. You would think a camped seat in a noisy, crowded metal tube far underground would be a terrible condition to write, but I put in earphones to block out the noise, and with no internet and nothing to distract me, I fall deeper into the story than I do at my office, where I have high speed internet and am surrounded by thousands of books, comics, toys, etc. and can get up whenever I want to get a snack, fix a drink, or go to the bathroom.
Writers are easily distracted.
Our Polish translator, Marcin Mortka, says that being an editor or a translator of your books is a pure pleasure. Who has the distinction to read the very first version of your books? Your wife, friends or editor?
I usually keep my writing close until it is finished in my mind, but then it goes to my beta readers, a small group of people including my wife, my agent, and a handful of friends. Most prominent of these is author Myke Cole (www.mykecole.com) who had been reading and critiquing my writing since we were in college together. There are a lot of his ideas in my books, and a lot of mine in his.
After those people have given me feedback and I have incorporated it into the book, I then send it to my US and UK editors for another round of comments and editing, and then on to the various other countries for translation.
Many fans are inspired by your books and they create drawings, tattoos, figurines and many other gadgets. Do you perceive it as a good sign? Can it also be a source of inspiration?
There is nothing more satisfying to an artist than to see your work inspire others to create art of their own. I love everything my fans make, and go out of my way to showcase and encourage these things on my website, often giving great prizes to the most creative bits of fan art.
We have a contest going on right now! http://www.petervbrett.com/2011/12/05/fan-art-contest-2/
In the 21st century, eBooks and audiobooks are becoming more and more popular. Do you think that they can replace traditional books?
I think there is room for both. People have been predicting the end of print publishing since the invention of the printing press, but it has lasted, and I think it will continue into the foreseeable future. That said, the eBook market will continue to grow, and I think that is a good thing, too.
I have an iPad that is never far from my hands, with all of the popular eReader apps. I do about 50% of my reading on the device (both prose books and comics), and the rest with traditional paper books. I love the feel of ‘real’ books, but I also really enjoy the convenience of eBooks, especially when I am traveling and don’t want to be overladen.
But I always bring a paper book for takeoff and landing!
Unfortunately, less and less people in Poland read books. We are wondering whether it is a world-wide phenomenon and how can something be done with it. How about your country?
I don’t have the statistics handy, but it seems to me that with the rise of eBooks, more people are reading than ever. Until we develop technology to download data directly into our brains, the book will continue to be the most efficient medium we have to share detailed information and story.
That said, I do think it’s important to read to children and instill in them a life-long love of books. I read to my daughter all the time, and at 3 years old, she is already beginning to sound out words and understand them on her own. It is such a wonderful feeling.
Is any of The Demon Cycle‘s character especially important for you? Do you identify with any of them?
I identify with all of them in some ways, because they are all a part of me. I have always had a close affinity for Arlen. He was my firstborn, and has been living in my mind for 13 years now. We’ve had some bitter arguments and I’ve done some awful things to him over the years, but he’s still like family. I feel the same about Rojer, Leesha, Jardir, Renna, Inevera, Abban, and even some of the secondary characters like Selia Barren, Ragen and Elissa, etc.
Great Bazar and Brayan’s Gold have recently been published. It made us really happy. Are there more surprises for your fans?
I am so glad you are enjoying those stories! My plan is to do one short novella set in the Demon Cycle between each novel, so there will be at least three more to come. I really enjoy writing these stories, telling the ‘lost tales’ of Arlen and other characters that did not fit into the full novels.
You are working on the third volume of The Demon Cycle. Can you tell us how many pages of Daylight War have you already written? I am not denying that Polish fans cannot wait for it 🙂
I’ve written about 150,000 words out of an estimated 225,000 or so. The book will likely be a bit longer than Painted Man and a bit shorter than Desert Spear. I will be turning in the manuscript in the spring of 2012, but I am not sure yet when it will be published. I am very proud of how it is coming out and hope you like it!
Your books are translated into many different languages – Polish, Japanese, German or Portuguese. Are you planning to launch a world-wide offensive?
Soon I will be everywhere! I don’t plan to stop until my work is available in every language and country in the world. It’s so thrilling to see the different foreign editions. I love them all and keep two of each on a great bookshelf above my desk.
What are your writing plans in the very near future? Any new goals that are waiting to be achieved?
I am focusing all my attention now on finishing The Daylight War. I will then take a break to promote the book and work on a couple of side projects like a novella and some more Red Sonja comic books like the one I published earlier this year. Then it will be back to work on book 4, which is tentatively titled The Forest Fortress.
You are a writer but, for sure, also a reader. What do you read in your free time? What kinds of books can be found in your bookcase?
These days I have several books going at once. The paper novel I am currently reading is The Cold Commands by the fabulous Richard K. Morgan. The eBook I am currently reading is A Perfect Shadow, by my friend Brent Weeks. In paper comics am reading Brian Wood’s Northlanders, and in eComics I am reading Criminal by Ed Brubaker. I am also listening to Daniel Abraham’s novel The Dragon’s Path. There are so many wonderful authors these days. There’s never been a better time to be a reader.
Thank you very much for the interview. We look forward to successive volumes oft The Demon Cycle.
photo: November 20, 2014 – New York, NY : Portrait of author Peter V. Brett. CREDIT: Photo by Karsten Moran for Peter V. Brett