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Peter V. Brett: fantasy under the skin

Peter V. Brett is an American writer who caused quite a stir in the US and English market since his first novel “The painted Man” hit the shelves. This book due for October 2009 with Milady has already sold itself well around the world.
Last September, during his stay in Paris Peter V. Brett kindly accepted to answer some questions…

Par Emmanuel Beiramar
24 mars 2009 | Mis à jour 24 mars 2009
Peter V. Brett: fantasy under the skin
Peter V. Brett: fantasy under the skin

Could you introduce yourself for our Internet users?

Hi, I’m Peter V. Brett, I’m an American author and I’m very excited about being published in France by Bragelonne. I learned French in high school, and my wife is a fluent French speaker, so it’s very thrilling for me to have a book coming out in France.  And I’m happy as this gives me an excuse to visit your country.

Could you describe in your new fantasy saga in just few words?

“The painted Man” is the first book in a series set in a world where demons have risen out of the depths of the Earth, from the very ground itself, to attack everything around them, and in particular hunting down and killing human beings. Theses creatures are magical, and immortal, so humans believe they have no way to fight back against them. People hide behind magical wards that they paint on their doors and windows to prevent the demons from getting at them. And every night, people are trapped inside their houses. They are unable to travel more than a day from home lest they be caught outside when the sun sets.
The story is set around three characters: three children whose lives are touched by the demons. They grow up realising that they can’t live the way everybody else has been forced to live, hiding every night and pretending that it’s alright if people die each day from the depredations of these creatures. As they grow older during the course of the first book, they start to to become powerful in their own right. Each of them in their own way confronts the demon problem, and provides their part of a hopeful solution. The series, called “World’s End”, continues for at least two more books, introducing some new characters while keeping the ones that we’ve already met. It portrays how all these desperate people are eventually forced to come together and unite to bring humanity back from an age of extinction.

Your universe seems to be both classical and original. Where do you find your inspiration? What are your influences?

The first book I read in primary school, and which didn’t have any pictures in it, was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I think that sort of set me on the path towards becoming a fan of fantasy. I’ve always loved fantasy more than any other type of literature. After that, I read the “Shannara” series by Terry Brooks, and moved on from there to R.A. Salvatore’s “Forgotten Realms”, and then to Piers Anthony, and Celia S. Friedman, and a hundred other authors, basically reading anything I could lay my hands on. I also read a lot of comic books while growing up, so I like to think that I pulled bits and pieces from all of those different stories and media to provide me with ideas. But I think more recently, reading George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones in his “Ice and Fire” series really motivated me to reach beyond what we see in traditional fantasy and try to do something a little more complex and different. I don’t know if I’ll ever write on Martin’s level but I certainly intend to try.

Could you tell us about the genesis of your books?

I was taking a writing class at New York University, where we were allowed to show any work we’d previously written, but we also had to write something new for the class. We had an homework assignment which consisted in writing the first chapter of a fantasy novel. So I wrote a solo short story about Arlen, who had wanderlust and liked to travel. But he could never travel more than a few hours from home, because he had to make sure he was back in his house by dark or else he would be killed by demons. He was always wondering what was over the next hill and roaming over the entire distance he could travel safely, but still curious about what lay beyond the perimeter. To be honest, I wrote the story very quickly, handed it in to my instructor, got my grade, and I didn’t think about it again for a while. But as I was working on other projects, I kept thinking about Arlen’s demon problem and about what was over that next hill. So finally, I decided to help him find out.

Have you already written the next books?

Currently, I’m contracted for three books. But it’s somewhat open-ended. The second book is about seventy percent written and the remainder is planned in meticulous detail. It will be completed this year. And I have a plot for the final book of the series. I also have extensive notes for two additional books that I’d like to do. So my hope is that this series will be approximatively five books. I definitely have a beginning, middle, and end to the story, and I don’t want something that will go on forever. But I’m also very excited to explore the world a little more and maybe show readers what’s beyond the borders of the map that they see in the first book.

There is actually no villain in the novel. But there is an atmosphere of omnipresent fear…

On the surface, “The painted Man” may appear to be a book that is just about demons, and the action, and the characters. And it is that on one level, which is fine because it’s meant to be a very exciting story. But underneath that, I always wanted to write a story about fear and the nature of fear. I started writing the book right after the events of 9/11. My father-in-law and my mother-in-law were actually in the Twin Towers during 9/11, they were among the people who were evacuated and survived. But I remember the crippling nature of the fear at the time, and how it spurred some people to run away and other people to stand there in a state of shock, without knowing what to do. And then there still others, particularly the firefighters and police officers, who ran into the buildings to help people. So fear spurred some people into leaping into action without forethought. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. And over the years, while I’ve been working on the book, that theme has been reverberating in the world, with America’s reaction to the attacks and to the worldwide fear of terrorism and how we’ve behaved with it. There’s nothing in “The painted Man” that offers an overt commentary or says one way or another how I feel about all that. But I wanted to try and capture that complexity in the story and show that fear can in many ways be an incredibly powerful motivator, or prevent you from doing things you would otherwise do easily. So, with that in mind, I opened the story not with the demon attack, but with the aftermath, where you see people trying to pick up the pieces after hiding during the attack. I started the story that way to help make that feeling resonate in the reader. I hope I was successful.

All around the world, publishers are battling to buy the rights to your first book. What do you think about that?

I’m surprised. I’m very critical of my own work. I tend to think it’s not very good and tear it apart, rewriting frequently and always second-guessing everything in it. So I’m continually surprised that people seem to like it and I’m astonished how quickly it has managed to sell throughout the world. I think I’ve benefitted a lot from the new blogging culture on Internet. Having my own blog, being able to write regularly there, and direct people to my website, as well as having some really wonderful people who got hold of advance copies of the book and got excited about it and wrote about it on their own websites. And that encouraged other people to take a look. I think that helps a great deal. I also have a fantastic agent, who I couldn’t have done without. It’s still very surreal to me that all this is going on, especially since I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life and never expected it to happen.
 

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Bilbo le Hobbit Game of Thrones Le Trône de Fer Dragon Age
(Le prélude du Seigneur des Anneaux de J.R.R. Tolkien) (Le Trône de Fer) (La saga de George R.R. Martin) (Le jeu de BioWare)
Les Vengeurs The Walking Dead La Roue du Temps Diablo 3
(Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk...) (D'après la série de comics de Robert Kirkman) (L'épopée de Robert Jordan) (Il n'y a pas que World of Warcraft chez Blizzard)
The Amazing Siper-Man Torchood Le Disque-Monde Assassin's Creed
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The Dark Knight Rises Camelot
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Conan le Barbare Spartacus : Blood and Sand
(D'après Robert E. Howard) (Sexe et sang chez les gladiateurs)
Harry Potter et les Reliques de la Mort
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Twilight : Révélation
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Pirates des Caraïbes 4
(Jack Sparrow est de retour)