We have an interview with Peter Orullian regarding his series The Vault of Heaven. Below he answers some questions about himself, on how he built the fantasy world contained in THE UNREMEMBERED, and more.
What’s interesting about Peter Orullian is that he’s a musician and a marketing professional as well as a fantasy writer. Below he fills us in regarding this interesting amalgam. Let’s welcome Peter!
How much of your writing is influenced by your musical abilities?
It’s an interesting question. On the one hand, my fantasy series—The Vault of Heaven—has a magic system based on music. And music is woven into the fabric of entire cultures. And even speech. Beyond all that, music and song matter in the everyday lives of many of my characters.
On another level, I care a lot about the musicality of language. Lyricism. And I try to infuse my writing with my sense of those things. Others will judge if I’m successful, but I’ve had readers and reviewers comment on that, so maybe I’m on the right track.
So, whether explicit or implicit, I think music in fiction matters to me.
Tell us your top three favorite fantasy books and/or authors?
Before I answer, let me set a little context. I’m of the opinion that Fantasy is an umbrella genre under which you have all the “traditional” fantasy subgenres, e.g. epic, sword and sorcery, etc., but also horror and science fiction. Some call it “spec fiction”—short for speculative fiction. It’s related to what Clive Barker calls “the fantastical.”
And while there are certainly writers of epic fantasy and other closely-related subgenres that I like quite well, if you ask me my favorites, then I probably say:
Dan Simmons. Everything he writes. But in particular, Summer of Night is just a beautiful, amazing book. It helped me realize that ten and eleven-year-old protagonists are among my favorite. They still believe in the magic, even as they fight passing into the world of what’s “real.”
Stephen King. King takes a bad rap sometimes because he’s so damn successful. And it’s not that I love every book of his. But students of fiction note his level of craft is startlingly high. And his collection Night Shift changed my life.
Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson was the Stephen King of his day, so to speak. And Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde both chilled me, kept me up late reading, and introduced me to the “duality of man” theme, which fascinates me to no end.
I think the creation process is most fun. There’s a certain satisfaction in polishing a story into something better than where it started. But those raw ideas that make you have to write them are what get me out of bed at 3:30 a.m. to write each day.
On characters, I love each one for a different reason. That’s hardly an original answer. What I can say, though, is that I think characters are defined more by the difficulties in their lives than their triumphs. To that end, the tortured backstories of my characters, and the painful scenes of their current lives in the books, give me the most satisfaction. Sounds twisted, doesn’t it? But if they outlive these things, whether physical danger or emotional wounds, they become stronger and more sympathetic. I kinda dig that.
What are you trying to show readers when you write your fantasy?
Well, I don’t write “cause” fiction. I’ve no agenda, really. I do happen upon theme, though, but only in hindsight. When I’m done with a story, I can often stare at it and say, “Oh, so that’s interesting. There’s an undercurrent there.” In THE UNREMEMBERED it has a lot to do with choice and consequence. In TRIAL OF INTENTIONS it has a lot to with intentions.
All that said, with this series—The Vault of Heaven—I did have this notion of using some of what readers might find familiar in fantasy to ease them into my world, but with the deliberate plan to move them toward what I think is unique about my series. As an example, Tahn, one of my main characters, seems at first like an orphan farm boy. (You’ve heard that story, right?) But by the end of THE UNREMEMBERED, you start to realize that’s not the case at all. And in TRIAL OF INTENTIONS you realize nothing could be further from the truth.
The same holds true for the rest of my storylines in the series. I suppose I’m guilty of wanting more people to read fantasy, because I think the genre is a rich one. And I hope my work might just hook a few into giving fantasy a go.
Sell us - why should someone read THE UNREMEMBERED and your soon-to-be-released book 2 of the series, TRIAL OF INTENTIONS?
Hmmm. Well, I’m probably not a great salesman. But I can tell you about some of what I really like about the books.
The music. Music has been done before, of course. Even music magic has been done. But I’ve never seen it done the way I’m doing it, and I’ve had reviewers tell me the same. My music magic system is something I’m rather proud of. And I get a fair amount of email from readers saying how much they like what I’m doing there. So, if you like music, or if you like unique magic systems, you might dig it.
The science. There’s not much of it in THE UNREMEMBERED. But in TRIAL OF INTENTIONS, there’s this whole science thing. I can’t say much without doing spoilers, so I’ll restrain myself. But if you like things like astronomy and physics and math and philosophy and cosmology . . . well, you get the idea.
The war. And not for the reasons you might think. Yes, I have war. And there’s even an entire kingdom who excels at something I call gearworks, creating siege engines and the like—a war nation, if you will. But one of my main characters also spends time (and this is where some of the science comes in) trying to avert war. It was an interesting challenge to write simultaneous plotlines where some are unifying and escalating to war while others are using rational means to try and prevent it from happening in the first place. The discovery process in each of these was a blast to write.
The magic. I’ve mentioned there’s a music magic system. But at a higher level, I spent time devising what I call a “governing dynamic” for my world and magic systems. In other words, you’ll find more than five discreet magic systems in my world (that’s just what I’ve built so far), but they all ladder-up to a unifying set of principles. And primarily it’s what I call: Resonance. It just stood to reason, to me, that a world would have governing laws, akin to celestial mechanics, that indicate how things will work. But also that cultures would tap into those governing laws in their own ways. They might not even all call those governing dynamics the same thing. But readers would be able to look across them all and say, “Yeah, I get it. It’s all operating on the same set of principles.” I dig that idea, too.
The self-slaughter. This is intimated in THE UNREMEMBERED. And in TRIAL OF INTENTIONS it steps into the glare of the spotlight. I deal with suicide somewhat. Not constantly, of course. But there’s a very salient reason for it. And it’s at the emotional heart of one plot thread. It was tough, because I had a friend do this not long ago. Those scenes are raw. But I think they’re honest.
So, that’s a bit about what I think is interesting in the series.
Beyond being a musician, writer and marketing professional - what do you like to do for fun?
Oh, plenty. I love sports. Most of my writer friends don’t. And I even take flack from them for it, but whatever.
I love the mountains. I have a Jeep, and I love going off-roading. Getting up to places other folks can’t. Remote places.
I love astronomy. I’d rather spend time staring at the stars than most other things. That’s just how much I love the night sky.
More than all this, though, I love spending time with my family. Kids are the awesome!
PETER ORULLIAN has worked in marketing at Xbox for nearly a decade, most recently leading the Music and Entertainment marketing strategy for Xbox LIVE, and has toured as a featured vocalist internationally at major music festivals. He has published several short stories. The Unremembered is his first novel. He lives in Seattle. www.orullian.com.
About the book:
Powerful storytelling. Epic characters. THE UNREMEMBERED has been critically acclaimed, earning starred reviews and glowing praise. But in working on the second book in the series, Peter Orullian realized that some core truth was missing. He found that truth and further realized that to tell the story correctly, he needed to go back. To the very beginning. For one of the few times in our publishing history, Tor is choosing to relaunch a title in order to honor the author’s vision of a compelling recasting of this epic fantasy series.
The gods who created this world have abandoned it. In their mercy, however, they chained the rogue god—and the monstrous creatures he created to plague mortal kind—in the vast and inhospitable wasteland of the Bourne. The magical Veil that protected humankind for millennia has become weak and creatures of Nightmare have now come through. Those who stand against evil know that only drastic measures will prevent a devastating invasion. Tahn Junell is a hunter blissfully unaware of the dark forces that imperil his world. Then two strangers—an imperious man who wears the sigil of the feared Order of Sheason and a beautiful woman of the legendary Far—come to the Hollows, urging Tahn, his sister and his two best friends to leave. They will not say why, but the journey upon which they embark will change Tahn’s life…and the world…forever.
First released in 2012 THE UNREMEMBERED is now available in Trade Paperback.
Tor Books | April 2015 | Trade Paperback | 480 pages