Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Interview with Peter McLean, author of the Burned Man Novels, and Review of Dominion

Please welcome Peter McLean to The Qwillery. Dominion, the second novel in The Burned Man series, was published on November 1st by Angry Robot.

TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, Dominion (A Burned Man Novel 2), was published on November 1st. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote Drake to Dominion?

Peter:  Hi, thank you for having me back. Yes, I think my process has evolved and continues to do so. Drake was my first novel and I wrote it over the space of two years, in which time it evolved from a single line to a short story to a novel as I discovered the setting and the characters for myself along the journey. By the time I started writing Dominion I had the majority of the characters already in place, and a clear idea of how the world works. I outlined Dominion a lot more than I did Drake, and was able to write it a lot quicker as a result. The third book, Damnation, which comes out in May 2017, was written completely from an outline, so as I continue to grow as a writer I’m definitely becoming a plotter rather than a pantser.

TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when Drake came out that you know now?

Peter:  Oh gosh, everything really! I knew nothing when I started, I didn’t even have an agent (I still haven’t, in fact), and I got my break with Angry Robot through their 2013 Open Door submissions window. It’s been a very steep learning curve but I’ve been lucky enough to have a great deal of support from my editor and the lovely folks at Angry Robot, as well as the Society of Authors here in the UK.

TQTell us something about Dominion that is not found in the book description.

Peter:  Papa Armand the Vodou priest gets a much bigger part in this book. I really like him as a character, and he gave me a good excuse to hit the books doing my research on Vodou.

TQYou described Drake in 140 characters or less as "A demon-summoning hitman and a murderous, chain-smoking angel fight Furies and the Devil himself in a search for redemption."

Please describe Dominion in 140 characters or less.

Peter:  Betrayed by the ones they most trust, Don and Trixie’s search for redemption becomes a battle to stay alive – and keep their souls intact.

TQWhich character in the Burned Man series (so far) surprised you the most?

Peter:  Trixie, definitely. She becomes a much more complex character as the series unfolds, going from a task-driven soldier following orders to an independent person in her own right.

TQThe Burned Man is a horrible, nasty archdemon. He's also incredibly funny and oddly (very oddly) endearing. How difficult is it to balance his vileness and his humor?

Peter:  It may say a lot about me, but I find the Burned Man very natural to write. There’s something in the Burned Man that is part of the Old English tradition of the Lord of Misrule, which I think you could also see in earlier versions of Batman’s Joker character. He’s totally amoral but takes nothing seriously, and says whatever comes into his grubby little head. Devoid of any sort of moral conscience or sense of right and wrong, he’s pure human nature with the restraining bolt removed.

TQHow many tunnels are there under London? Did you explore any of them for the novel?

Peter:  I honestly wish I knew, but it’s a lot. I wish I could have gone exploring but apart from the London Underground and the old Cabinet War Rooms nothing is open to the public. There really are disused Tube stations down there that have barely been touched since the Second World War though, and great vaulted Victorian waterworks, not to mention the old River Fleet which was covered over and built on in the 19th century. I did a fair bit of Internet research, mostly on Urban Explorer forums where you can find some amazing photos people have taken in places they really weren’t supposed to be.

TQPlease tell us about the Dominion cover.

Peter:  I’m really pleased with the cover. It’s by Chris Thornley again, the same artist who did the cover for Drake. I love his work, and he’s done another marvellous job of blending the supernatural elements with the urban noir feel of the series. I was even allowed to design a little bit of it myself! You can check out some more of Chris’ awesome work at Raid71.com

TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Dominion.


“No, I’m not in the business of bumping off sweet little old ladies, but murderous devil-worshipers? Yeah, those I’ll kill.”

“I love her, I really do, but she is a bit mental if I’m honest about it.”

TQWhat's next?

Peter:  The third Burned Man book, Damnation, comes out in May 2017. We’re all done with the edits on that now, and although I very much hope to bring you more Burned Man in the future I’m currently working on something new. More on that soon, hopefully!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Peter:  Thank you for having me!

A Burned Man Novel 2
Angry Robot, November 1, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

In the tunnels deep under London, the Earth Elementals are dying.

Hunted by something they know only as the Rotman, the Elementals have no one trustworthy they can turn to. Enter Don Drake, drunken diabolist and semi-reformed hitman, and an almost-fallen angel called Trixie.

When Don learns that Rotman is actually the archdemon Bianakith, he knows this is going to be a tough job. The fiend is the foretold spirit of disease and decay whose aura corrupts everything it comes near, and even the most ancient foundations of London will crumble eventually. Now Don, Trixie and his ever-annoying patron the Burned Man have to hatch a plan to keep Bianakith from wiping out the Elementals and bringing down the city. But the Burned Man has other plans and those may have dire consequences for everyone.

The past never stays buried, and old sins must be atoned for. Judgement is coming, and its name is Dominion.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ The Devil You Knew / Deeped & Down / Great Irresponsibility / London’s Burning ]

Qwill's Thoughts

Don Drake, diabolist, is up to his eyeballs in problems in Dominion, the second novel in the Burned Man series by Peter McLean. But Don can tackle anything with the help of Trixie (an angel who nearly fell) and the guidance of the Burned Man, an archdemon stuck on earth in a fetish. Don agrees to help some Earth Elementals that live below London's Underground system. Their underground home is being destroyed by the Rotman who is really another archdemon.

In Dominion McLean gives more background into the early days between Don and The Burned Man. This is fascinating and plays an important roll in Dominion. Don is trying to be a better person since the events in Drake. Being a diabolist makes that very challenging, but there are lines that Don won't cross now... it seems. I don't think we've fully seen the depth of Don yet.

Trixie, who almost fell, is also trying to be better and change, but struggles. She is very straightforward and often does not get the nuances of human speech. She can't stand The Burned Man, but does realize he's a necessary evil in some ways.

Many of the characters from book 1 make appearances in Dominion. I was especially happy to see Papa Armand, who is a Houngan (a Vodou priest of the Haitian tradition). He's charming, fabulous, handsome, and very dangerous if he's not your friend.

The Burned Man is his usual awful self. He has no filter whatsoever. I adore him even though he's frightening, very clever and evil.

I thought I had figured out what was going on several times but McLean kept moving the end game in surprising and wonderful (for the reader; not the characters) ways. Dominion is deeply layered and intricate much like the tunnels under London and has huge consequences for both Don and Trixie. Things happen that change both of them.

There is a lot of expected snark and humor in the novel. There is plenty of action, battles and danger. McLean delves into several different mythologies and magic systems giving depth to the story. Dominion is wonderfully crafted and full of terrific characters. This is a marvelously complex story. There will be repercussions from what has happened in Dominion. I can't wait to see where McLean takes Don, Trixie and The Burned Man next.


A Burned Man Novel 1
Angry Robot Books, January 5, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
Cover Art: Raid71

Hitman Don Drake owes a gambling debt to a demon. Forced to carry out one more assassination to clear his debt, Don unwittingly kills an innocent child and brings the Furies of Greek myth down upon himself.

Rescued by an almost-fallen angel called Trixie, Don and his magical accomplice the Burned Man, an imprisoned archdemon, are forced to deal with Lucifer himself whilst battling a powerful evil magician.

Now Don must foil Lucifer’s plan to complete Trixie’s fall and save her soul whilst preventing the Burned Man from breaking free from captivity and wreaking havoc on the entire world.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ One Last Hit / Both Ends Burning / Going Underground / London’s Finest ]


A Burned Man Novel 3
Angry Robot, May 2, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook
Cover Art: Raid71

Don Drake is living rough in a sink estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh, doing cheap spells for even cheaper customers while fending off the local lowlifes. Six months ago, Don fled from London to Glasgow to track down his old girlfriend Debbie the alchemist.

With the Burned Man gradually driving him mad, Don meets with an ancient and mysterious tramp-slash-magician, with disastrous consequences. Now his old accomplices must step in to save Don from himself, before he damns himself for good this time.

File Under: Urban Fantasy

About Peter

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 begun studying since the age of 13.

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.

You can find Peter online at his website, on Twitter @petemc666 and on Facebook.


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