I’m very excited to have debut author Peter McLean visiting today, author of the just-released Drake, out now from Angry Robot. I enjoyed this gritty urban fantasy immensely, and you can read my review here. Angry Robot is kindly giving away FIVE finished hardcover copies of Drake, so don’t forget to enter at the end of this post! (And the giveaway is INTERNATIONAL, yay!)
Welcome to the blog, Peter! I had so much fun reading Drake, and I know everyone wants to know about you and your debut. Let’s get started!
BB&B: For those who aren’t familiar with Drake, can you give us a brief synopsis of the story?
PM: Hi, thank you for having me and I’m very pleased you enjoyed Drake. For those yet to discover its joys, Drake is a contemporary noir urban fantasy thriller about an alcoholic, hard-gambling, demon-summoning hitman and a murderous, chain-smoking angel called Trixie.
After losing a game of cards to a demon, Don Drake is forced to carry out one more assassination to clear his debt. In doing so he unwittingly kills an innocent child and brings the Furies of Greek myth down upon himself. From then on he’s on a quest for redemption, in equal parts helped and hindered by his magical accomplice The Burned Man. Don and Trixie are forced to deal with Lucifer himself whilst battling gangsters and evil magicians on a quest to save their souls.
As a debut author, how has the experience of publishing your first novel been? I understand you were discovered through Angry Robot’s “Open Door” submission program?
Wow, well it’s certainly been a hell of a ride! You’re right, I did sign with Angry Robot through their 2013 Open Door program (there’s another Open Door happening right now, by the way!).
Publishers’ Open Calls are never a quick process, and I didn’t actually sign a contract with Angry Robot until February 2015. This was followed by a flurry of activity until I got the final manuscript to them, after which I worked through the editing process with Angry Robot’s wonderful chief editor Phil Jourdan to get it ready for production. I was also fortunate enough to be given a lot of input into the cover art, and I hope you’ll agree Chris Thornley’s (Raid71: http://www.raid71.com/) final design is rather magnificent and I think fits the tone of the book very well indeed.
I’m still working without an agent, something I know not that many published authors do, but Angry Robot are a pleasure to work with and I’ve had substantial help and guidance from the UK’s Society of Authors in things like negotiating contracts and so forth.
Your main character Don Drake is a bit of a mess. He’s a sorcerer/hitman who owes some very dangerous people big time, and he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place, trying to mend his ways after a job goes very wrong. What inspired you to come up with his character?
Oh, well Don’s a special kind of guy. He sort of came to me fully formed, based on a blend of so many people I’ve known in real life. He’s an absolute screw up, as you were kind enough not to say, but then that’s the whole point of him.
Don is a magician and a fairly accomplished one at that, but in almost every other aspect of his life he’s a disaster. His love life is a train wreck, he’s a drunk, he’s a hopelessly bad gambler, he’s a coward until he’s backed into a corner – you get the picture. Take away the magical trappings and Don is every guy who tried to make his way in the world and made an almighty mess of it. But that said, when he is backed into a corner he finds some backbone and he does his best, which is really all any of us can hope to do I think.
Drake runs into some very interesting women in this story, including Trixie, an (almost) fallen angel, and Ally, Meg and Tess, the three Furies, not to mention his erstwhile girlfriend, Debbie. I would say the phrase “The lesser of two evils” applies to poor Drake’s situation. Did you deliberately set out to fill your story with Type-A personality women, or did it evolve that way naturally?
Oh absolutely – there are more than enough drippy damsel-in-distress “I’m only here to be rescued by the hero” type female characters in fantasy already so I didn’t feel we really needed any more of those. Ally, Meg and Tess are as you say the three Furies of Greek myth so are obviously not ladies you’d mess with. I took their mythological aspects and just updated them to give them a suitably modern flavour.
Debbie is human, a chemistry PhD turned alchemist and Don’s long-suffering sort-of girlfriend, but again why shouldn’t she have a personality and agency of her own? Don might see her as a damsel-type, but he’s very wrong about that as he comes to find out.
And then there’s Trixie. Trixie is probably my favourite of all the characters I’ve ever written, in an awful lot of writing over the years. Trixie is an angel but she’s a very Old Testament, Catholic type of angel, not at all the sparkly New Age kind. Trixie takes no shit from anyone, make no mistake about it. She may or may not be largely based on my wife who is a decidedly Type-A personality woman!
I loved Trixie too:-) Your website bio mentions something about studying “practical magic.” Can you elaborate? Were these studies the foundation for your worldbuilding in Drake?
Yes they were – I’ve been studying various forms of occultism for a very long time, and the magic system in Drake is absolutely based on the real-world occult traditions of Hermetic and Goetic magic – albeit grossly exaggerated for dramatic effect.
Now to be absolutely clear, you won’t learn any spells from reading Drake and there are no blood sacrifices in any sort of real-world magic that you’d want to go anywhere near. That said though, I think any other practitioners out there who pick up the book will find one or two things that make them smile.
Now that Drake has been published, what other projects are you working on? There is a sequel to Drake in the works, correct?
There certainly is. I can’t say too much at the moment until there’s ink on the contracts but I think it’s safe to say at this point that you’ll be seeing more of Don Drake in 2016.
2015 is behind us, and I’d love to know what your favorite things of the year were: books, movies, television??
Well believe it or not I still haven’t managed to see Mad Max yet, never mind Star Wars. I don’t get out much… Books-wise I’ve read some incredible stuff this year but if I had to pick two absolute stand-outs they’d be The Death House by Sarah Pinborough, which has the distinction of being the first book to actually make me cry since I was a kid, and Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson which is a just smack-in-the-mouth brilliant post-cyberpunk spy thriller.
I don’t watch much TV really but I’m still (mostly) enjoying Doctor Who – it’s had some bumpy moments this year but Peter Capaldi is a truly superb actor and is almost as good as the real Doctor (which is Tom Baker, obviously!).
Please tell us three things about yourself that can’t be found online.
Ouch – this is actually really hard to answer because I’m not shy about anything and all the juicy stuff has already been told I think! Okay, let me think… I drive an old Jaguar, we had to turn the spare bedroom in our house into a TV/Sitting Room because I turned the actual sitting room into a library, and, um, I have a step-daughter who’s only three years younger than I am. How’s that?
Thanks Peter! It’s been a blast:-)
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. By the time he left school, this was probably the thing he was best at, alongside the Taoist Kung Fu he had been studying since the age of thirteen.
He grew up in the Norwich alternative scene, alternating dingy nightclubs with studying martial arts and practical magic.
He has since grown up a bit, if not a lot, and now works in corporate datacentre, outsourcing for a major American multinational company. He is married to Diane and is still making up stories.
Find the book:
Are you dying to read Drake for yourself, but you don’t have a copy? Well, never fear…Angry Robot has FIVE copies to giveaway to anyone on planet Earth! Simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!