Please welcome Peter Orullian to The Qwillery. Trial of Intentions will be published on May 26th by Tor Books. The Unremembered: Author's Definitive Edition was published by Tor Books on April 7th.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Are you a plotter, panster or a hybrid?
Peter: Thanks for having me. The biggest challenge is wanting more time to write, and making peace with the fact that (for now) I still have to work the day job. I get up at 3:30 a.m. to write before going to towk. I don’t mind it. I like the early morning hours. But man, if I had all day to write . . . I think about how much more productive I could be, and I have to take a breath and try not to get to anxious about it.
That said, I’m also always trying to improve. That’s a different connotation to “challenge” than you’re probably using. But I’m always trying a new technique, or incorporating things I learn. I’ll keep pushing myself as a writer until I drop dead.
And I’m a mix of plotter and panster. I don’t have vast reams of notes on every chapter I write. But I have a general sense of what will happen. What I find, though, is that having this outline actually encourages me to color outside the lines. I wind up doing all kinds of things that aren’t in my outline. Go figure.
TQ: In addition to being an author, you are a vocalist among other things. How does music affect your fiction writing?
Peter: I think the music side of my life affects everything else in my life. Everything. I hear the world as much as I see and taste and smell it. That probably accounts for the fact that I listen to practically every genre of music—still working on EDM, though.
With my writing, then, I suspect music enters in a couple of ways. Most obviously, I have a music magic system. I’m happy to report that my early readers say it’s unlike anything they’ve ever read. I began building it with a notion: Magic in my world would be built on what I call “governing dynamics.” In other words, there would be principles akin to mechanical law in our world, e.g. magnetism and gravity. This just made sense to me.
Then, I figured that different cultures would develop their use of magic in different ways, but all still based on governing dynamics. The central principle here is something I call: Resonance. You can see where I began with an acoustical principle from our own world. But then I imbued it with new properties. Notably, Resonance has a quality very akin to quantum entanglement. The upshot is that I have several magic systems that all appear to work rather differently, but the reader understands they’re all unified by Resonance.
Beyond all this, though, I’ve built entire cultures that pivot on music; it’s their ethos, their way of communicating, and even the way the conduct war.
I have conservatories, and traveling troupes, etc., too. And even more fundamentally, there are performance taverns where folks go to escape their troubles by hearing some great music. Some of my favorite scenes are in just such a place.
TQ: In April, The Unremembered (The Vault of Heaven 1) was re-released in an Author's Definitive Edition. What makes this edition definitive?
Peter: Well, without going into all the gritty details, let me just say that not all writer/editor marriages were made in heaven. So, when I wound up with a new editor, one thing led to another and we decided that it would be best all around for me to do the book the way I’d intended to the first time. So, the Author’s Edition of The Unremembered is different in many respects: it’s vastly shorter, layers in some things that help it tie to Trial of Intentions better, the list goes on. It’s also got a glossary, exclusive short story from the POV of a creature from the Bourne (an area of my world)—by the way, this character is a POV character in Trial of Intentions, as well as chapter epigraphs, and even the first few chapters of Trial of Intentions. But the text is the main thing. Much stronger.
TQ: Trial of Intentions (The Vault of Heaven 2) will be published tomorrow. Please tell something about Trial of Intentions that is not found in the book description.
Peter: I can’t even remember what’s in the book description. Heh. So, I’d probably say that one key thing about the book is: There’s a whole society of science in the book—colleges of mathematics, astronomy, physics, etc.—that factor importantly in the story. This has a lot to do with turning expectations upside down regarding one of my main characters. And I love the chapters set in this society.
I’d also add some of the character motivations go rather deep in Trial of Intentions. Specifically, I deal with the topic of suicide. The book’s not about that. But a few of the characters have this in their lives, and they’re dealing with the fallout. Those scenes are rather intense. I had a friend make this choice not long ago. And though it was always the case that suicide was part of my world—I’ve created a world with some harsh conditions—I can say that with hindsight, my personal experience got underneath the words. It got into the DNA of these characters and what they go through.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Trial of Intentions?
Peter: Lots of stuff on mathematics, physics, philosophy, and cosmology. Also astronomy. I’m an amateur astronomer, so that was the most fun.
TQ: You've written a number of short stories set in The Vault of Heaven world ("Sacrifice of the First Sheason", "The Great Defense of Layosah", "The Battle of the Round" and more)? How do these stories fit in with the novels? Is there a recommended reading order?
Peter: No particular reading order is necessary. What I found is that some of the historical events were too big to put in the books. But they were stories I wanted to tell. So, I wrote them separately, with an to making them work on their own. Then, some of the tales are akin to “origin stories” for some of the characters.
If a reader reads the short stories first, they have these great “aha” moments when reading the books, because they have the deeper context when certain things are referenced. On the other hand, for readers of the books, if they’re interested in going deeper on events and people and the world, the short stories allow them to dive in on certain areas. The stories and books can work independently. But I think they’re stronger taken together.
TQ: In The Vault of Heaven series who was the most difficult character to write and why? The easiest and why? Which character has surprised her the most?
Peter: I’m not sure any one character was harder or easier to write than the next. With each, there were scenes or sections in the book where I either revised more or less.
And I don’t think I’ve been overly surprised by any of the characters. They’re pretty much behaving as I tell them to. It has been interesting, though, to note how much readers like Jastail. He’s pretty dastardly and broken.
TQ: What do you hope readers take away from the Trial of Intentions specifically and from your fiction in general?
Peter: Well, first, I want folks to know that they can dive into my series and world with Trial of Intentions. I wrote it as an entry point to the series, so you don’t need to have read the first book. As to talkaways, with Trial of Intentions I’m working to turn the crank on taking the familiar in the genre and change into what’s unique about my world. It’s things like the music magic, the use of science by one character to try and avert war as opposed to escalate to war (though, he may not succeed), and character motivation that are rooted in different kinds of painful pasts. And riding on top of all this is the notion of: intentions. I think they matter. And I weave them into the magic, the politics, the language.
In general? I’m not a writer of what some call “cause fiction,” by any means. Like many writers, I hope readers are entertained. But I will say that when a reader closes the books, my desire would be that they feel the least bit more hopeful. I know that sounds a bit maudlin, but I’d like to think that my stories introduce a sense that, despite the pains of life, there’s reason to hope.
TQ: What's next?
Peter: Well, I’m working on book three. And I’ve got several short stories coming out in anthologies over the next several months. Also, just released are The Vault of Heaven, Story Volume One, and The Sound of Broken Absolutes. The short stories you mentioned above, as well as some new ones, are in the story volume. And Broken Absolutes is a novella that goes deep on the music magic. These all work on their own. But they’re also a good one to sample the universe where my books are set.
TQ: Thank you fro joining us at The Qwillery!
Peter: Thank you very much for having me. Fantastic questions!
Trial of Intentions
Vault of Heaven 2
Tor Books, May 26, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 672 pages
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 mortalkind--in the vast and inhospitable wasteland of the Bourne. The magical Veil that contains them has protected humankind for millennia and the monsters are little more than tales told to frighten children. But the Veil has become weak and creatures of Nightmare have come through. To fight them, the races of men must form a great alliance to try and stop the creatures.
But there is dissent. One king won't answer the call, his pride blinding him even to the poison in his own court. Another would see Convocation fail for his own political advantage. And still others believe Convocation is not enough. Some turn to the talents of the Sheason, who can shape the very essence of the world to their will. But their order is divided, on the brink of collapse.
Tahn Junell remembers friends who despaired in a place left barren by war. One of the few who have actually faced the unspeakable horde in battle, Tahn sees something else at work and wonders about the nature of the creatures on the other side of the Veil. He chooses to go to a place of his youth, a place of science, daring to think he can find a way to prevent slaughter, prevent war.
And his choices may reshape a world . . . .
The second title in the Vault of Heaven series, Peter Orullian's Trial of Intentions is a mesmerizing fantasy epic that turns the conventions of the genre on its head
The Unremembered: Author's Definitive Edition
Vault of Heaven 1
Tor Books, April 7, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 480 pages
Peter Orullian's epic fantasy debut The Unremembered has been critically acclaimed, earning starred reviews and glowing praise. But now it gets even better. In anticipation of the second volume in Orullian's epic series, and for one of the few times in our publishing history, we at Tor are choosing to relaunch a title with an author's definitive edition.
In addition to stunning updates to the original text, we're also including an exclusive short story set in the world of Vault of Heaven as well as a sneak preview of the sequel, Trial of Intentions, and a glossary to the universe.
The gods who created this world have abandoned it. In their mercy however, they sealed 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 who's unaware of the dark forces that imperil his world, in much the same way his youth is lost to memory. But an imperious man who wears the sigil of the feared Order of Sheason and a beautiful woman of the legendary Far have shared with Tahn the danger. They've asked him, his sister, and his friends to embark with them on a journey that will change their lives . . . and the world . . . forever. And in the process, he'll remember . . .
The Sound of Broken Absolutes
Vault of Heaven Novella
Descant Publishing, May 16, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 192 pages
Two men. One old. One young. Both possess a gift. A gift of music with the power to change things. Even destroy. The younger is called back to his homeland. To war. The other embarks on an inward journey into his past as he sets to repair a broken viola. An instrument with meaning to him. A resonant kind. The music each man will make will have an absolute quality. And it will change them both.
The Vault of Heaven, Story Volume One
Descant Publishing, February 3, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 252 pages
A mother considers the unthinkable to stop a war. A husband may lose everything to watch over a world. A scrivener learns the terrible risk in the words she’s translating. The power of many sacrificing as one. These and more are the stories collected in this volume. Stories of people. Stories of war and sacrifice and friendship. They help weave the rich fabric of Orullian’s epic fantasy series, The Vault of Heaven, deepening the resonance of the world he’s created.
Peter Orullian works in marketing at Xbox, including 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. He is the author of The Unremembered and Trial of Intentions. He lives in Seattle.
The Battle of the Round
Tor Books, April 12, 2011
eBook, 31 pages
In wartime, what price honor, when the odds are against you, the enemy is remorseless, and it is the eleventh hour? A Sheason who lives to help his people faces a terrible choice on the battlefield when all defenses have failed and the only choice seems to be to do the one thing that separates him from his most hated adversary.