Gareth Hanrahan’s three-month break from computer programming to concentrate on writing has now lasted fifteen years and counting. He’s written more gaming books than he can readily recall, by virtue of the alchemical transmutation of tea and guilt into words. He lives in Ireland with his wife and twin sons
Interview with Gareth Hanrahan
What cool and exciting things have been happening in your life recently?
There’s a six-day-old baby daughter in the next room. I don’t know if that counts as cool or exciting for anyone other than my family. At the very least, it explains why I’m running low on cool and exciting things recently.
Actually, thinking about it, the launch of my first novel probably counts as cool and exciting, so I should probably mention that. However, it happened a whole month ago, and it’s been a really busy month involving very little sleep, so I can be forgiven for letting it slip my mind.
(Also, I can be forgiven for initially mistyping “sleep” as “slepe” and staring at it for several minutes, trying to work out why there’s a little wiggly red line under it.)
Do you...do you need a nap? You sound like you need a nap.
Is your recent book part of a series? If so, can you tell us a bit about where the story is heading?
THE GUTTER PRAYER is the first of the Black Iron Legacy series. The second, THE SHADOW SAINT, should be out late this year or early next year. Both books focus on surviving members of the Thay family, a once-influential family in the city of Guerdon who died in mysterious circumstances. In the first book, the alchemists of Guerdon create a god-killing weapon. The second book explores the consequences of that weapon…
Can you tell us about what you're currently working on?
Right now, I’m not working on anything for obvious reasons. THE SHADOW SAINT is drafted and with the editors. I’ve got a few short stories in various stages of production, and lots of novel ideas – I’m planning on starting a new book in the next month or two.
Putting on my other hat of ‘roleplaying game designer,' I’m also working on a campaign for the FALL OF DELTA GREEN 1960s-spies-vs-the-Cthulhu-Mythos game, THE BORELLUS CONNECTION, while outlining THE BOOK OF THE UNDERWORLD for 13th Age.
Have you ever written characters that you truly despise? Why or why not?
Hmm. I’m stumbling on the ‘truly’ qualifier. I mean, I despise lots of my villains – THE GUTTER PRAYER is replete with fanatics, cruel tyrants, liars and outright monsters. However, a villain either (a) has a misguided sense of their own rightness according to their own moral schema, even if that’s as simple as ‘might makes right’ or (b) knows what they’re doing is wrong, and despises themselves – and both (a) and (b) can engender sympathy from me. Either they’re monsters, but don’t see themselves as such, or they’re monsters but feel bad about it – and in both cases, I can’t completely despise them, as I can see things from their point of view.
I've gotta disagree on you there. There's definitely an option (c) where a villain knows what they're doing is wrong and either doesn't care that it's wrong or even relishes it (i.e. the "pure evil" villains, like the Joker).
If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about? Why?
Probably something about story structure, and how it applies to writing novels, interactive storytelling, and game design. It would involve a lot of hand gestures and absurd similes. Storytelling is what I know, and hand gestures and absurd similes are 80% of how I communicate. (The other 20% is mostly apologies and offering to make a cup of tea.)
Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else required for your creative process?
Having “must haves” that aren’t absolutely fundamental (like, say, a keyboard and screen) is a bizarre concept to me. It’s putting up a barrier to your own productivity. I might prefer to write with regular cups of tea, internet disabled, VNV Nation or Halo soundtracks playing, in the early morning… but life is going to get in the way, so none of those things are required. I’ve gotten lots of writing done in hospital waiting rooms and playgrounds. You write when there’s time. (I should add that I’ve been a full-time writer for a long time; my instincts and opinions were shaped from years of frantically typing to make rent, so I come at questions like that from a very practical perspective.)
Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?
I’d phrase it as “the characters can make suggestions, and I’ll usually follow them.” I’ve found that my subconscious is a lot smarter than I am – if I write some detail or character quirk that I hadn’t planned, I often find that detail or quirk becomes much more important later on. At the same time, I have to keep a check on things, at least in The Black Iron Legacy books as they’ve got multiple POV characters – if I let every character run off and do completely unexpected things, the books would become unmanageable. So, any suggestions that I can’t incorporate into the overall plan for the story get ignored.
What kind of impact do you want your book(s) to have on readers?
I like labyrinthine books – books that are so full of possibilities that the story only touches on some of them, and there’s always the haunting feeling that if only the characters had turned left instead of right, there’d be another novel, another story there too. Books that you can reread and find new elements, books that you think about after you’re done. Books that don’t tie everything up so neatly that it feels like everything was engineered to fit together and there was never any other possibility of how the story might go.
I’d like readers, therefore, to feel a little lost in THE GUTTER PRAYER.
What, in your opinion, is the worst mistake an author can make?
Giving really pretentious answers, like the one above.
I thought it was fine!
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Writing is digging. It’s primary industry, like mining or farming. It’s often hard and frustrating, and some days all you do is smash through worthless rocks or dig fruitlessly in mud. But you’ve got to put the work in. You’re extracting raw materials from the noosphere, and that’s a worthy thing to do.
If you could have a dinner with one fictional person, who would it be? Why?
The computer Deep Thought, from the Hitchhiker’s books.
I have several follow-up questions for it.
If you could go to any fictional world, where would you go? Why?
Iain Banks’ Culture. I mean, if I’m only getting one trip, I may as well go somewhere comparatively nice.
If you could have one (real life) skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be? Why? How would you use it?
Everything comes down to self-discipline. Hell, the ability to stop checking Twitter alone would be useful…
Good luck with that.
What might we be surprised to know about you?
I’m almost entirely harmless.
The part of that reply that’s surprising is left as an exercise for the reader.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
Be kind, be patient, and eat the rich.
What creature is better: dragons, zombies, or aliens?
Isn’t “alien” a category error here? I mean, given a choice between “awesome big scary flying fire lizard," “walking corpse” and “pretty much anything conceivable in the vastness of the interstellar depths," the last one is a no-brainer.
Dragons > zombies, though.
You can find Gareth Hanrahan on Twitter and his website. The Gutter Prayer is available on Amazon here.
The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!