Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Gareth Hanrahan?
I’m still pretty vague on that question, to be honest. I appear to be a writer and game designer living in Ireland. A preponderance of evidence suggests I’m married with twin sons, and I have it on good authority that I’m tall with somewhat absurd legs. I hope to have a more final answer to the question “who is Gareth Hanrahan” at some point, but ideally not for another forty or fifty years.
Your new novel, The Gutter Prayer, will be published by Orbit early next year. How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
It’s a fantasy thriller set in a quasi-Victorian city, a mostly godless city of thieves and alchemists. Three such thieves are betrayed by their former boss and seek revenge using newfound occult powers; along the way, they discover the secret history of the city and their importance in a much larger play for power. It’s full of alchemy, monstrous weirdness, intrigue, architecture and stabbings.
It’s part of a series called The Black Iron Legacy, but the story’s very self-contained.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I wrote the first 20,000 words or so without really knowing where I was going – I just wanted to write some fiction that was absolutely mine. I don’t think there was a single dramatic spark of inspiration – I just piled material onto that desire to write until something caught fire.
Inspiration’s a matter of unexpected connections or congruencies – anything and everything can inspire something in the right circumstances.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
My mother introduced me to The Lord of the Rings at a young and impressionable age.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
At this point, I don’t know how to do anything else – I’ve been a full-time writer for virtually my entire adult life. I suppose I must probably like it, but I can’t conceive any other way to live!
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I’m suspicious of having any specific writing rituals or circumstances – it helps to be able to write anywhere, until any circumstances. I reread Cal Newport’s Deep Work every so often to guilt me off twitter, which helps.
Research – it’s valuable to be omnivorous. Read widely and wildly. Stuff that doesn’t seem immediately useful can pay off in a future project.
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 always wanted to write, although I assumed it’d be a hobby or side job, not my actual career. My first published work was an adventure for a Blue Planet roleplaying game supplement. I haven’t looked at it in years, but inspired by this interview, I just dug it out and reread it. Before rereading, I’d have said I was fond of it, but not anymore. Leave the past stay drowned!
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
Fantasy is one of the ways a culture dreams; to be escapist, you’ve got to be escaping from something. Based on that thesis, the genre’s full of grimness and worry at the moment, but is reaching for something brighter, and The Gutter Prayer fits with that trend. But I’m not a critic – I don’t pretend to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre as it currently stands, or to have a good perspective on the whole enchilada. (Writers don’t always know what they’re writing – I know there are aspects to The Gutter Prayer that I was totally oblivious to except in retrospect.)
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I’m editing the second book in the series (provisionally titled The Shadow Saint). I’m also working on a campaign for the Fall of Delta Green roleplaying game (American spies vs the Cthulhu Mythos in the 1960s) titled The Borellus Connection, writing dialogue for a computer game, and sketching out another fantasy novel or two.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I’ve started on Michael Fletcher’s Manifest Delusions series. Most of the non-fiction I read is for research – I just finished The Bomb: A Life, about the history of the atomic bomb, and now I’m off to 1968 and the French student riots.
If you could recommend only one novel or book to someone, what would it be?
That’s nearly as hard a question as the first one!
Right now, I’ll go for Masks of the Illuminati, by Robert Anton Wilson – Joyce and Einstein team up in a pub in Zurich to fight occult crime.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
A friend once compared me to Steerpike from Gormenghast, and warned that if I ever snapped and stopped being terribly nice, I’d conquer the world.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
I think I’m legally obliged to say “the birth of my daughter in February”, right?
Other than that – I’ve got my eye on The Hod King, The Empress of Forever and Swords of the Serpentine. Oh, and I’m really looking forward to Worldcon 2019 in Dublin. It’s so nice of them to have Worldcon in Ireland the same year my debut fantasy novel comes out!
Also on CR: Review of The Gutter Prayer