Interview with Peter Orullian, author of THE UNREMEMBERED, now on special sale through Tor Books!

This is incredibly exciting for me, and I'd like to thank Peter for graciously giving me the opportunity to interview him. The hardback of his book The Unremembered is on sale right now for $7 on Amazon; click here to take a look.

Peter Orullian
I first met Peter at the Caped Conduit 2011, a sci-fi/fantasy writing convention held here in Salt Lake City every year. My wife Becky and I were making the rounds to all the hourly panels that we found interesting and pertinent to my own work, and stopped by one called "To Cliche or not to Cliche". As you can probably guess, the subject was figuring out when stereotypes, cliches, and tropes are appropriate in genre fiction (hint: more than you'd think). Peter was on the panel with a few other authors: Michael Collings, Berin Stephens, Suzanne Vincent and Tracy Hickman. Each panelist took turns talking about a lot of incredibly interesting things, but it was Peter Orullian who really struck me. Through the entire panel I kept thinking, "Who is this incredibly passionate dude with long hair, and why haven't I heard of him before?" I could tell whenever he spoke that he really cared about being at the con, and more than that, he cared about writers and writing in general.

After the panel, Becky and I stopped him in the hall and told him how we enjoyed his comments. Surprisingly, he took the time to talk to us for about five whole minutes, really paying attention and clearly investing in speaking to us. He told us about his new book titled The Unremembered that had come out, and showed us a copy he had with him.

We've spoken several times since then, and Peter has always been extremely amicable. I can think of no one I would rather have as my first Published Author Interviewee. So without further ado, I'll jump right into the good stuff. Ladies and worms: Peter Orullian.

Peter was born and raised here in Utah. He graduated magnum cum laude from the University of Utah, and later met his wife before moving to Seattle where he currently lives. He works full time, but still fits in writing, getting up at ungodly hours to write the second book in "The Vault of Heaven" series, a trilogy he sold to Tor Books. The first volume, The Unremembered was released earlier this year in April.


Take a look at the great recommendation by Terry Brooks (author of the numerous
SHANNARA novels) and ogle the beautiful cover art. Then go buy it. Really. Here. Now.


So Peter, tell us a little about yourself. Are you married?
Indeed. I snagged a good one, too. We went to high school together, but didn’t date until we’d both graduated. Actually, in high school, I dated her best friend. Don’t know what that’s about. She’s got a great sense of humor, though. Maybe that’s it.

What about kids?
Yes, two. Both are wicked smart. My son has perfected the Vector (from Despicable Me) butt-slapping dance. When we go to the bookstore, my daughter chooses books on geology, astronomy, geography . . . girl’s going to be a scientist. She’s starting to doubt the whole Santa thing. The other day, my son, who’s younger, says, “If you don’t believe, you don’t get presents.” Because she really does want to believe, she articulates this bit of logic: “I do get presents, therefore I must believe.” Love that kid!

What do you do for a living?
I work at Microsoft in the Xbox division. I’m in marketing—read: “separate you from your money.” So, ya know, if you gotta work . . .

Having a full time day job, how do you find a balance between work, writing, recreation, and your family?
Tough. I get up a little after 3:30 a.m. every day to write. I work at it until about 7:30, then I head off to a long day at Microsoft. Come home. Eat. Kids. Wife. Sleep. Repeat. Oh, and I fit in music there somewhere, both listening and playing. Takes a lot of discipline. But I have little choice now; Tor bought three books, and they wants ‘em.

How long ago did you first start writing?
Not easy to answer, actually. I wrote once every few years, for a single evening, when I was very young. Nothing sustained. Then, just out of high school, I did a few short stories. Very Stephen King-esque. (BTW, I recently re-read those, and I think they hold up pretty well.) Then, later, in college, I wrote an Honors Thesis, which was a couple hundred page piece of fiction called Skinwalker, based on the Navajo legend—more King-like prose. But I didn’t kind of get serious until about ten years ago, I guess. And ­real­ seriousness probably began about five years ago. So, pick your poison.


Tell us a bit about The Unremembered.
(He refers me to the back of the book, retyped here for your pleasure.)

When rumors of threatened strife from ancient enemies reach the eastlands of Aeshau Vaalthe, those rumors auger an onslaught of raids and destruction more severe than any since the legendary Convocation of Seats, a gathering unknown in the land for generations without number.
For an author's son, a true threat would mean taking up a legendary weapon with hands that have never touched steel;
For an expectant mother, it would mean learning the harsh toll the world exacts from its children, and the latent power of her song to ease their suffering;
For the simple huntsman, it would mean discovering his lost childhood, and facing the truth behind the words he is impelled to speak each time he draws his bow.
These three, aided by an exile who fosters orphans in a desolate waste, a rogue member of a powerful ancient brotherhood, and a woman warrior of a legendary race, will fight the past even as the face a dark future.
Because the threats are more than rumor...

(Peter continues.)

As for where THE UNREMEMBERED fits in the broader fantasy genre, it’s squarely in the epic category. Lots of fantasy books these days are marketed as ‘epic’ by publishers, because they want to appeal to that audience. But most of them aren’t epic, really. But by most definitions of epic, THE UNREMEMBERED qualifies: war, conflict of nations, social tumult, scale, moral questions, family implications—you get the point.

How long after you completed The Unremembered was it published?
Ten long years. I wrote a few books afterward. Later on, when I found a new agent, the first thing he sold was the fantasy. Goes down like that sometimes. It’s all about patience with writing and publishing. Which means I’m constantly being tested. . .

If you could describe the process of writing The Unremembered from the first draft stage to the initial release day in one word, what would it be?
Glacial.

Where (chronologically) does the writing of The Unremembered fit into your other works?
Second. I wrote a dark thing very much like a Dan Simmons or Stephen King's novel first. After THE UNREMEMBERED, I wrote a couple of thrillers. Someday, I’m going to publish those thrillers. I’m quite proud of them.


I hear you are working on the next book in the "Vault of Heaven". Does it have a title yet? How is it progressing?
I do, but it hasn’t been unveiled yet. I imagine that’ll happen when Tor puts out the cover. I have to say, though. I quite like the title. I think it’s got power.

On the writing front, I’m closing in on the end. I’m going to have a whole lot of self-editing to do, though, as it’s gotten very big. I scoped a huge amount of story for the second volume. So, first draft complete pretty soon. Then, merciless cutting.

Why did you choose to write fantasy? What attracted you to that genre over other genres like science fiction or historical fiction?
Well, I do write in other genres, as noted above. Oddly, most of my published short fiction is SF. But I love writing fantasy because you can explore questions that if you tried to deal with in a contemporary novel would get readers panties in a bunch. Try writing a fiction book where good/evil—even if it’s all grey-like and ambiguous—is prominently featured and it’s present-day. You’ll immediately polarize your audience. People are funny that way. But with a fantasy, it’s somehow safe to explore such things. Plus, you know, magic, dragons, like that.


What has it been like to meet your fans, and talk about your fiction with them?
All smiles. I can’t tell you what a thrill it is. I wrote a book I’d like to read. So I get all nerdy talking about the intricacies of my world and plot and characters with folks who’ve read my book—if they want to, that is.

How do you get in the mood to write?
I get up. That sounds snarky, but honestly, if you’re finding yourself needing to get in the mood, you better question how bad you want it.

What do you do when you feel like your day's writing is crap?
Never satisfied; always content. My vocal trainer taught me this little bit of wisdom. Essentially, it means: I’m at peace with where I’m at, what I’ve done; but I’m always stretching for better. Hard to go wrong with this approach.

What is the hardest part about writing for you? Coming up with an idea, building an outline, writing dialogue?
Right now, it’s not over-lamenting that I don’t have more time to do it; and related to that, not hating on writers who do. They don’t suck for getting to write full time, honest.

Which one of your characters do you relate to the most?
Yes. Lame answer, right? But here’s the thing. They’re all me. And none of them are me. I’ve invested a lot of heart into all of them. There are things about each that I love: Grant’s uncompromising nature; Vendanj’s willingness to do anything to achieve his goal; Sutter’s good humor; the tragic backstory of Jastail; Wendra’s music capabilities; Braethen’s marriage of knowledge and desire; Tahn’s ability to relate to all of the above, and his passion for the sunrise. Gosh, I could get all sappy on you here . . .

Were there any scenes that just creeped you out to write? Or gave you goosebumps?
Yeah, Wendra’s scene in the high-mountain pass when she confronts the Bar’dyn and finally looses her dark song. I can both see it and hear it. Gives me chills.

Also, there are several scenes in book two which have been tough to write. You’ll see. But readers will have to confront some stuff when they come upon these ones. Hope you all survive. Bwa ah ah ah ah.

Pretty much all your characters in the Vault of Heaven have some sort of tragic past; where do you think your inspiration comes from, and do your characters ever depress you?
I guess I feel like it’s less interesting if a character’s history is daisies and parasols. We tend to be defined more by the trials in our lives than anything else. Plus, ya know, pre-industrial worlds are tough on folks. Beyond all that, I like giving my characters internal struggles and something to try and overcome. Where’s the inspiration come from? Well, our world has its share of strife, if I need source material. Mostly, things just occur to me as I’m writing or creating a character. But nah, I don’t get depressed. I’ll put it this way. Probably the nicest thing a reviewer ever said about the book was something to the effect of: The dark moments make the rays of hope shine the brighter. I butchered that. But she was referring to Tahn’s stint in prison. It’s a dark passage in the book for many reasons. And yet, there are some sublime moments that take place there. So, a ray of hope in the dark, maybe.

You've talked a lot elsewhere about how important good characters are. Do you have any particular process for developing your characters that you would like to share?
It’s somewhat instinctual. I will say this, though. As much as I love magic systems, and world building, and dragons, and sword fights, and all the rest of it, what you come away from a book with is a feeling (maybe a relationship, if you want to go that far) with the characters. That’s what you’ll remember, mostly, when the experience of reading the book is done. So, I kind of put some time in on characters. And it’s been gratifying that one of the fairly uniform comments from fans and reviewers has been that they think I did this well. I don’t wish to sound arrogant. I’ve got room—as all writers do—for growth. And even where characterization is concerned, I’m always putting in my time. But I think the investment of thoughtful energy in their creation is paramount. You can go a long ways by simply asking; What matters most to my character?

Do you have any words of advice for us aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. When someone beats down on your dream, let it make you mad enough to try harder. Defy the naysayers. Keep at it. If you show up at your writing desk every day, eventually good things will happen.

Do you know when you'll be stopping by Utah again for a signing?
Man, I don’t. I hope it’s soon. I may try to tag Brandon again for a joint signing like we did a few months back. With any luck, it’ll be in the spring.

Is there anything else you'd like to say, comment on, plug, pitch, or geek out about?
Well, if you manage to publish this soon, folks can get the hardback of THE UNREMEMBERED on Amazon for 7 bucks. That’s cheaper than the paperback will be. So, deal hunters take note. The paperback releases in February for readers who like that form factor. As for geeking out, I’ll turn to my music side for a moment and say: Folks, you need to be listening to Trans Siberian Orchestra! You’ll thank me.

Thanks Peter, I really appreciate you making yourself available to your fans! Hopefully we get some good hits on the interview and spread the word about your book.


Be sure to check out his site, watch some of his own interviews, listen to some of the music he's done, and read all the extra goodies.

3 comments:

  1. This was such an awesome interview! Makes me like this guy and want to read his books. Trevor, I think you asked really good questions. Thanks, this was fun and interesting to read.

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  2. Anonymous12:49 PM

    I am Amber's sister, Marissa, by the way, and I just wanted to say I really enjoyed this interview! I am always looking for new authors and I especially love good fantasy right now. Thanks!

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  3. I absolutely loved this interview. Peter was an awesome subject for a first interview. He was personable, into the interview, and obviously happy about sharing thoughts about his book and about writing in general. I also like the way he was willing to talk with you as an up-and-coming writer rather than putting his nose in the air. I was also impressed with your questions, Trevor. They were well thought out and showed a thorough knowledge of your subject and background of the author. Awesome job!!! I can't wait to read your own book!

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