The Last Tavern: At the beginning I would like to mention that it is a great honor for me to be able to ask you a few questions. The first book in your cycle was recommended to me by a friend, quite a few years ago, when we were both studying. He claimed that he hadn’t read something so fresh and interesting in a long time, and we both read a whole lot of books. He already borrowed your next books from me, because in this one he was absolutely right. This is by far the most interesting literary debut I have read since the time of Elantris Sanderson, which has also appeared many times on book covers and dedications. I also notice a certain similarity in the way the actions and characters are presented – is this the author who made the greatest impression on your work? Once upon a time, the works of Roger Zelazny made the biggest impression on me. Are there any other writers
Brian McClellan: Yes! Brandon was my teacher. I was fortunate enough to meet him just before the launch of Elantris, and I took part in his creative writing classes several times. Both his writing and the way he views writing as a business have had a big impact on me. I tend to be more relaxed about my magical systems than Brandon, and my books are also more illustrative, but we are often compared to each other – which is fine with me!
I love the works of Joe Abercrombi and Steven Erikson. I consider her an example in custom character and world building in epic fantasy. Brent Weeks and Robert Jackson Bennet are great (apart from Brandon) at creating magic systems, and Charlie N. Holmberg is great at character building and romantic side-plots.
OT: People undoubtedly change their predispositions and tastes over the years. As a young man, I appreciated the descriptions very highly, I liked reading them and spreading visions of local topographies, buildings and heroes in my head, pushing the dialogues a bit to the background. Later, with time, dialogues started to arouse more and more interest in me, along with the psychological study of the characters and the interactions between them. What are your preferences on this topic? What should prevail in individual paragraphs, in setting up an action and its development? Or maybe the “golden mean” is the most important in everything?
BM: I think everything has to be balanced! As a teenager, I loved huge, epic fantasy books, but as I grew up and started writing my own books, I also lost my patience with long descriptions and chapters of text that never developed the plot. I try to write my own books so that they are more like urban fantasy: the action flies forward, without unnecessary additional text thrown into the narrative. Action is one of the most important things to balance. Too little and you will lose people who love the action. Too much and you will lose people who love machinations and abundance of details. The length of the action scenes should be divided so that some are long and engaging, and others – short and brutal.
OT: The Phoenix on the Sword from 1932 is commonly considered the first fantasy story. To all this, of course, there are thousands of years of spreading tales and legends. It is often said that everything has already been done. And there are common references and patterns to other literary works as well as real events. Personally, I see references to, among others, in the history of Tamas. until the French Revolution or the colonial era. Could you please tell us if, like me, you are a history enthusiast? Are there any specific historical periods and events that you like and refer to in your work?
BM: I love history! In fact, I hardly read fiction at this point. I enjoy listening to podcasts and audiobooks about our own history (I highly recommend Hardcore History and Revolutions Podcast). The story is interesting in itself and also makes a very good inspiration for writing epic fantasy novels. I like to look at real-world examples and then figure out how to put similar narratives in a fantasy world into a fantasy world. Of course, I am a huge fan of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era that followed. These are incredibly interesting periods in history, and it seems they haven’t been touched upon before when it comes to inspiring fantasy worlds.
OT: I mentioned above one of the most interesting characters I have dealt with recently. I have to admit that my friends and I have such a quiet fan club of this hero. It’s hard to describe how happy we were when his backstory was partially shown in the collection of stories. Can we expect something more? We’d love to read much, much more about it. Maybe a prequel? We think there is a lot of potential in this, and we could read about many other events that influenced who he has become.
BM: I’m not sure. For now, I have finished writing about Powder Mages. I moved on to a new series called Glass Immortals (another epic fantasy about flintlock rifles) but definitely left time on my schedule for side projects. I have a few Powder Mage ideas around in the back of my head, but it might be a while before I tackle them!
OT: I have already mentioned the air of freshness that you introduced to the market. I mean, of course, the creation of the presented world not only with an extensive history and geography, but also with a new look at magic and creating a specific antithesis for it. Could you tell us where the idea for using gunpowder came from?
BM: This idea came from several different places! I wanted to write a story about magicians using Tommy Gun rifles and robbing banks in America in the early 1900s. That’s what I had in mind when I saw the Sharpe’s Rifles show, and I immediately decided to use my idea of mages with weapons in the Flintlock Age!
OT: From my short adventure with the pen I remember that it was always the most fun for me to invent new worlds and heroes, and it was much harder for me to systematically develop them. Your most popular series is set in the same world – do you plan to develop it further through sequels and prequels or are you planning to show us completely new worlds presented? What can we expect?
BM: As I mentioned above, I’m moving to a new world. Glass Immortals is a story about a world in which industrialized magic is exhausting itself, and the heroes of the story must save civilization from collapse while fighting a mysterious threat. The first book, In the Shadow of Lightning, should be published in English in 2022. I’m not sure when it will be released in Poland!
OT: The last question I would like to ask is your attitude towards classic RPGs. It is known that you designed the Savage World’s system to adapt to the world of gunpowder mages. Do you play in person? Is SW your favorite system? What are your preferences – do you prefer to be a player or a game master? Is there any gaming anecdote you could share?
BM: Yes, I play some RPGs! I host a weekly live stream on Twitch with some of my writing friends where we explore the world we’ve designed together using the DnD5e system. It’s great fun, and you can watch it on Tuesday evenings at 9:00 PM EST (Wednesday morning in Poland) at www.twitch.tv/typecastrpg .
I didn’t actually play much SW system. It was recommended to me by my RPG Powder Mage consultant. I definitely prefer to play. Being a game master takes too much work!
We would like to thank the author and the Fabryka Słów publishing house for the opportunity to conduct the interview!