An Interview With Brian McClellan on THE POWDER MAGE TRILOGY
1. When did you first start writing?
The first thing I can remember writing was a short adventure story in third grade. It was only about two pages long, but that’s quite lengthy for a third grader. I ended up winning a class contest with that story.
I didn’t begin writing as a habitual thing until I was about 15 and I discovered people writing Wheel of Time fanfiction online. I found that I really enjoyed it, and soon I was coming up with whole new worlds.
2. Who are some of your biggest influences?
I was influenced immensely by some of my favorite books: Les Miserables, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Chronicles of Narnia, the Arthurian legends, and Conan the Barbarian. Really there are too many to list. In terms of the classics, I always gravitated toward adventure stories. I loved intrigue and duels and harrowing escapes.
3. Where did the idea for PROMISE OF BLOOD come from?
I watched Public Enemies with Johnny Depp and was toying with the idea of a short story set in the 1930s with Tommy guns and magic. That had me thinking about how magic would be used alongside (or counter to) advancing technologies.
Not long after, I sat down to watch the first episode of Sharpe with my wife. We weren’t halfway finished with the episode when I knew that my next project was going to be a second-world Napoleonic epic fantasy. We started hashing out ideas for the magic system that very night.
4. Why mix magic and gunpowder?
To be honest, it’s never been as much about the gunpowder as it’s been the time period. The idea of an industrial revolution taking place in a magic world absolutely fascinated me. How would the people adapt? How could magic be used in an industrial world? Better yet, would magic change and begin to develop along with the technology?
5. The importance and loyalty of family is a huge underlying theme to the book, not only for Taniel and Tamas, but also for Adamat and his family. How much did that guide the plot of the novel versus the political intrigue and war?
I think the answer is different for each character. For Tamas, the coup and the following war are what guides the plot. He is, after all, the one driving the entire story.
Both Taniel and Adamat are along for the ride and while their narratives are shaped by Tamas’, their actions are very much affected by their familial relationships.
6. You have bad guys of both regular and supernatural caliber—really, they are just being attacked from every side. Which was the most fun to write ? The most challenging?
I think the biggest challenge was the fact that PROMISE OF BLOOD doesn’t really have a big, bad villain.There are bad people: traitors, enemies, and . . . entities. They are each working toward their own mysterious ends.
However, there isn’t a Sauron or Wicked Witch of the West, or someone who embodies all evil, and I think a lot of people expect that in an epic fantasy. So it was a challenge to have several villains working from the shadows and to keep the danger to the heroes real and compelling.”
7. Ka-poel is a fascinating, powerful character. What was your inspiration for her?
Ka-poel came out of my desire to have an interesting counterpart to Taniel. I wanted a character who was a little funny and very mysterious, without sending off theobvious “this is a badass” vibes. Taniel is the only one who knows her in all the Nine, and even he doesn’t know her all that well. She’s a mute as well, which makes her both a challenge and quite a bit of fun to write.
8. What sort of research, if any, did you have to do to make the war scenes and the army life come to life ?
Wikipedia is actually a great tool for this kind of thing. Not only does it tend to give fantastic summations of battles, but you can find the correct terminology and it lists sources for a lot of the information which you can then find and read for yourself.
A few books that helped me out were The World in 1800 by Olivier Bernier, The World of the French Revolution by R. R. Palmer, and The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier by Jakob Walter.
9. If you could have one Knack, what would it be ?
Adamat’s. As it is, I’ve got a terrible memory for just about anything. I forget names, faces, and facts. I had a terrible time trying to learn foreign languages in college because of it. To keep track of what’s going on in my books, I have to keep detailed notes about characters, locations, and timelines. A perfect memory would be pretty awesome.
10. What’s next for Tamas in his quest for justice ?
Book two, THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN, begins with Field Marshal Tamas facing down a Kez army that outnumbers his own by a staggering margin. Things only get worse when he’s cut off behind enemy lines with his two best brigades and no hope of resupply or reinforcements.
We get to explore his relationship with his son’s ex-fiancé and with his brother-in-law and find out more about his past.