Welcome to a new month. Today I bring a very special interview to you all. I had the recent pleasure of interviewing Gareth Hanrahan, author of one of the most impressive debut novels in recent years – The Gutter Prayer. I couldn’t resist reaching out to this guy for an interview, and was honoured when he replied.
Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Down below is a link to The Gutter Prayer, go check it out.
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Primarily, I write tabletop roleplaying games – that’s my real job, so to speak, absurd as it sounds – and indeed, is. I’ve also written a dark fantasy novel, THE GUTTER PRAYER, just out from Orbit.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
For plots – I’ll usually start with two or three core scenes that I really want to write, and then try to work back from them to my starting point. Of course, things get tricky once characters and factions get established and start pushing back at the narrative.
For viewpoint characters, it starts with their voice. If I’m going to spend 100+ pages writing in the style of a particular character, it needs to be both distinctive and comfortable. Everything flows from that internal language.
Supporting characters are easier – they’re foils for the protagonists to play off, and/or entertaining for the reader. Once you’ve got those constraints, there are usually only a few ways that character could develop.
Tell us about your current project.
I recently handed in a draft of the sequel to THE GUTTER PRAYER, provisionally entitled THE SHADOW SAINT, so I’m sort of between novels. Right now, all my writing time is taken up working on THE BORELLUS CONNECTION, a campaign for the FALL OF DELTA GREEN roleplaying game – spies and federal agents chasing forces of the Cthulhu Mythos in the 1960s. . .
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
Collectively, the novels are under the rubric of THE BLACK IRON LEGACY. The main character of THE GUTTER PRAYER, by a small margin, is Carillon Thay, a runaway turned thief. She fled Guerdon many years ago, seized by a strange aversion to something in the city. She returned by accident, and fell in with a band of thieves. She’s impulsive, a little selfish, vengeful, but endlessly resilient. The other main characters in the first book are Spar – another thief, more of a noble Robin Hood-esque figure, even though he suffers from the Stone Plague – and Rat, a ghoul. Cari also runs into her cousin, Eladora Duttin, who she grew up with. They don’t get on. (Eladora’s the main character in the sequel…)
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Other than the obvious ones (“read widely! Finish what you start! First drafts are allowed suck!”) I don’t think any one piece of advice works for everyone, so I’ll give meta-advice. Read lots of advice, boil it down to bullet points or actionable items, and then see which ones work for you. Personally, I got more out of Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook than any other writing book, but that’s me – I don’t know if it’ll resonate with you the same way, and that’s fine.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
Lots. The city of Guerdon is basically London mashed up with Cork, Edinburgh and New York; the alchemical stuff takes real-world beliefs and funnels them through the industrial revolution. Elements of Guerdon’s thieves’ underworld and the political elite are drawn from history. Really, anything can be made fantastical or horrific or both just by looking at it closely, and shifting the context very slightly… There’s nothing that can’t be made wrong.
What inspires you to write?
Guilt and tea.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Getting started again. I wrote the first 20,000 words early on, then let it sit for a while before returning under instructions to finish it. Rereading and restarting is like eating cold vomit, but it’s a necessary part of the work.
What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
The interlude. It was a chance to go completely wild with magic and miracles, instead of having to maintain some semblance of a sane reality.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
That I could finish a novel. I’ve written lots of partial novels, but sticking to it and getting the damn’d thing done was something of a revolutionary achievement!
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
Language. I tried to modulate how to wrote to reflect each character. It’s a signal to the reader, of course – short for speed. Longer, more reflective, more considered sentences mirroring the thought patterns of a more reflective character.
What are your future project(s)?
In order of deadline: the second book in The Black Iron Legacy, an adventure anthology for Fall of Delta Green, raising child #3, writing another novel – either Black Iron 3, or something new.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
Who says I can’t be an author? I’ll chew their legs off!
I guess I’d have to fall back on game design. And if you’re cutting me off from creative writing altogether… I honestly don’t know. I’ve been writing all my adult life. It’s like asking me “if you couldn’t breathe oxygen, which gas would you like to respire?” I mean, I can say “argon” if you like, but I’m not sure how illuminating that is for anyone.
(Now that I write that, I suspect that argon’s quite illuminating. It’s a noble gas.)
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
Everything hangs off my twitter account @mytholder.
The Gutter Prayer is available from Orbit Books and from all good bookstores.
Huge thanks for the interview Gareth. You guys may have noticed a lack of activity on the blog lately. That’s down to lack of passion for things recently. I’m trying to recover my mojo.