Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Peter Orullian?
My rote answer is that I have two abiding passions in life: writing, and music. In addition to my fiction, I’m also a musician. I spent many years in classical voice training. And I love almost all kinds of music: jazz, Broadway, classical, etc., in addition to rock and metal.
By day, I work for Xbox, which is good, since I’m a gamer. But I’m also a dad. Kids are awesome.
Your next novel, Trial of Intentions, was recently published by Tor. It’s the second in your Vault of Heaven series. How would you introduce the series to a potential reader? And what can fans expect from the new novel?
When I started my series, The Vault of Heaven, I had this idea: Write a series that uses some of the familiar elements of the genre to gently lead readers to someplace new. Someplace my own. That idea begins to kick in with the first book. Then, with Trial of Intentions, it kicks into high gear. Things aren’t what readers are expecting. And a few of my early readers have said they’ve loved having me violate their expectations.
As to what to expect? Well, in Trial of Intentions, I go much deeper on the music magic. Again, readers are telling me they’ve never seen a magic system like this. So, that pleases me. And by the way, it’s not a system of lullabies we’re talking about here. Sure, there are some softer, more poignant moments of song. But it gets aggressive. A lot.
There’s also science in Trial of Intentions. A whole society dedicated to it, with different colleges for astronomy, physics, mathematics, cosmology, etc. I’m rather fond of those sections of the book.
Then, you have a lead character who rather than trying to escalate to a grand war, is desperately trying to prevent war before it happens. It was a fun challenge juxtaposing those who are doing all they can to prepare for a world war, while one man is trying to find a solution through a diametrically opposed means to avert war.
I also deal with the sensitive topic of suicide. It’s a tragic part of a few of my characters’ lives. It gets deep into the page as part of their motivation for what they do in the book. I recently had a friend make this choice, so it’s kind of raw for me. I wasn’t even aware it was resonating as it was. But in hindsight, yeah, it got into the writing. The book isn’t about suicide, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that those portions of the book became more meaningful for me, and for those characters, as they struggle through the aftermath.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I’ve always wanted to write a fantasy series. I love the genre. The time just finally felt right to do it. As for inspiration, I don’t wait on it. Can’t. I have a day job, so I get up at 3:30 a.m. to write before going to work. I sit, down an energy drink, check email, and get going.
That said, I do adore good imagery — of all kinds: photography, sculpture, painting. And music — though I don’t write to music — is at the heart of me. I think much of what I do has a musical thread to it.
The first genre book I can remember reading is The Sword of Shannara. That was a magical time, being exposed to a whole new world of storytelling.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
Telling stories is something I’ve always done, whether writing them down or saying them out loud — as I did extemporaneously to my little sister when we were kids. So, it’s always kind of been there.
And I love the industry. We have our challenges. But what industry doesn’t.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
Well, as I mentioned, I get up early to write. That’s my routine. I do a lot of my research before starting a book. But every book has demanded new research as the writing goes along. That’s okay by me, though. Taking time to delve on a new topic so I can create authentic details is deliciously fun. I like learning new things. That can start with the internet, but I prefer talking to real people who have an expertise in the thing I’m trying to learn about. For example, with Trial of Intentions, I talked with a NASA astronomer and scientist — who actually beta-read for me, too.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I think I’ve always known I wanted to write stories for people. Other than a few muse-induced writing frenzies, the first thing I recall is a play I co-wrote with a friend in sixth grade. It was a mystery. But we got half way through and realized our craft wasn’t up to the task. So, we turned it into a melodrama, complete with strobe light. Was fantastic!
What¹s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I think it’s mostly healthy. We have some great writers telling great stories. Some are pushing bounds. Some are firmly in the conventions, but making them fresh. I like both ends of that spectrum. As for my work, I mentioned I had this idea of carefully leading readers from someplace safe and familiar to someplace unique and my own. Kind of like a crab placed in a pot of room-temperature water that is placed on a burner to slowly boil.
Trial of Intentions is where things begin to really amp, I think. With any luck, I’ll have drawn some new readers to this genre I love, while pleasing tried and true genre fans with the things I believe are unique about the series — some of which I mentioned above.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m working on book three. And I’m also working on a concept album set in the same universe. It’s about all I have time for, given my day job, and family.
I’m reading The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons. Also reading some music theory books.
What¹s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
It might not be as surprising, but I have toured in Europe fronting metal bands. That was a blast! There are few things in life like singing a rock show in front of thousands of fan who are singing every word with you. Trust me.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Oh, man, a ton. Trial of Intentions getting out there. A trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota. More time with my kids this summer. The next installment of Star Wars. Whatever Dan Simmons writes next. The Expanse series on Scifi. The Shannara series on MTV. Finishing my concept album and hopefully performing it in a few places. The next Dream Theater album. The next Geoff Tate album. And getting to talk with some of the readers of my books. I love connecting with them and chatting about stuff.
Peter Orullian‘s The Unremembered and Trial of Intentions are both published by Tor Books, and out now. For more on Peter’s fiction and work, be sure to follow him on Twitter, Goodreads and check out his website.
Also on CR: Guest post on “Magical Worldbuilding”