Hi everyone, Petrik from Novel Notions here. Today I’m bringing you an interview with Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, the author behind the recently released debut, The Gutter Prayer. I have read and reviewed The Gutter Prayer since last year and upon finishing it, I immediately claim that it will be the best fantasy debut of 2019 and I’m sticking by my words. It was really that good if you stick through it. I decided then that I simply have to interview the author so here we are.
You can check out my review of The Gutter Prayer on the blog and I hope it will convince you to order it if you haven’t already done so. Now, without further ado, here is my interview with Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan.
- Hi, Gareth! Thank you for doing this interview with me. Tell us a bit about yourself, your newest book, and the main inspirations behind its creation.
Thank you! Both for the opportunity of the interview, and for the wonderfully kind review!
I work primarily as a writer in the tabletop gaming field, writing for games like The One Ring, Trail of Cthulhu, and 13th Age. I live in Ireland; I exist in the space between wasting time on twitter and wrangling six-year-olds.
The Gutter Prayer is an epic fantasy novel – or “urban alchemy-punk fantasy thieves’ guild takedown novel” as my friend Ken summarised it – about three thieves who are betrayed by the master of the thieves’ guild, and use a newly-discovered gift to hear the voices of the city’s bells to take their revenge. At least, that’s the starting point – the story expands to cover multiple potential apocalypses, lost gods, intrigue and murderous candles. Inspirations… it’s an odd Venn diagram. Some of the circles are obvious – the city’s a mash-up of my native Cork, London, Edinburgh and a bit of New York, a little bit of Waterdeep. The ghouls and Crawling Ones are straight out of Lovecraft, and I spend a lot of time thinking about the ramifications of monsters and magic when working on tabletop roleplaying adventures. Other inspirations are more obscure – I’m not quite sure how I got from worrying about peak oil while shopping in Tesco one day to mad gods tearing at the foundations of reality, but that’s in there; so’s lots of Victorian engineering, bits of real-world history and politics, a fascination with underground places…
- What were the biggest challenges you faced during the time of writing The Gutter Prayer?
Finding time to finish it, and actually finishing it.
My day job is also creative writing about monsters and magic, so every hour I spent on the novel was an hour of writing time that could have gone towards work I was already contracted to do. Most of the first draft got written in early-morning chunks before the official start of the working day, or at weekends. It took a lot of discipline both to put in the time – and, when it was nearly done, to make sure I stayed on top of other commitments while also getting the novel done. The sequel was a lot easier to justify to myself!
The other big issue was actually sticking with the story to the end, instead of getting distracted and starting something new. I have the usual sky-high stack of first chapters that’ll never see the light of day, as well as two other nearly-done novels.
- Excluding books, were there any other influences from other media that influenced your writing or the creation of The Gutter Prayer. Let’s say video games or movies for example?
You mentioned the Bloodborne computer game in your review, which I was completely unaware of – I haven’t played a console game in a long time (by a strange co-incidence, it stopped around the time the twins arrived six years ago…), so I missed that. I played a few hours of Dishonoured, which is obviously similar in a lot of ways, and a lot of Thief back in the day. Tabletop games were a bigger influence – Call/Trail of Cthulhu for the Lovecraftian elements, the Saints are a little Unknown Armies avatars, D&D for monsters and mayhem, Blades in the Dark for thieves and necromancy. Oh, and the _original_ House of Cards, the UK one, is an oddly strong influence. Alan Moore’s From Hell and V for Vendetta – the comics, not the movies.
- Were there any specific research you did for The Gutter Prayer or did it all just came from your imagination?
I didn’t do any research for the book itself – rather, the book came out of discarded bits of research I did for other projects. I wrote up a very, very early version of the Tallowmen, for example, for a bestiary book a decade ago, and the idea of a wax horror sat around in the attic of my brain. Stick enough stuff up there over the years, and eventually the ceiling gives way under the weight and a novel-thing falls down, a ragged monstrous child born from psychic leaf-humus and bits of ideas. And then you lasso it, shave it, and pitch it to publishers.
“Where do you get your ideas” is a lot less important than “how do you keep and tame your ideas”.
- I’ve read your book and I think everyone who has read them will agree that your book can be considered dark and brilliantly original. Was this the type of story you’ve always wanted to write?
I don’t know if I can agree it’s original – I know where all the bits came from, so from my perspective there’s little new in there other than the arrangement of the components – which I know is a horribly bloodless way of describing a story! I’m very happy with how the story works, how it builds in complexity while still all coming together at the end, and how it mixes impossible perils like gods and magic with conventional intrigue and action. Finding the balance between cohesive, self-consistent world-building and a sense of mystery and enchantment is tricky.
I’m surprised I wrote something this dark – two of the other novels I’ve done were both humorous.
- Your book has an amazing cover art. Admittedly, it was also the first thing that grabbed my attention. Do you have any part in the creation of the cover? Or was it all up to the artist, Richard Anderson? Do the main trio in the cover look exactly as you imagined?
Orbit – wisely and correctly – picked the wonderful Richard Anderson, and already had the basic concept of the cover. I supplied some visual references, and was involved in lengthy discussions about how to make it seem more like a fantasy novel (the answer is “more cloaks”, if you’re curious). It all came together very smoothly, and it’s absolutely beautiful – so many people have said they were drawn to the cover first, before they heard the concept of the book.
Cari and Rat are as I imagined them; for some reason, I never thought about how Spar would look from a distance. In the book, he’s cursed with a disease that’s slowly turning him to stone, bit by bit. So, while I could envisage parts of him – his face, his hands, the scaly slabs on his back – I didn’t have a clear conception of how he actually looked.
- Last question. What’s next after The Gutter Prayer? How many books will be in The Black Iron Gods and when can we expect the sequel?
The second book in The Black Iron Legacy was originally titled The Divine Machine, but that may not be the final title – it may be called The Shadow Saint, but ask me again in a week. It’s set several months after the events of The Gutter Prayer, when the city’s rebuilding and Kelkin’s called a general election. Meanwhile, the godswar’s drawing closer, and various factions are looking for ways to tip the conflict in their favour.
I don’t know how long the series will be – it’ll depend on sales. The second book gives a satisfying ending, so if it’s just those two, I’ll be happy.
But if lots and lots of people buy the Gutter Prayer, and I get to write more books in the series, I’ll be even happier!
Thank you so much once again for doing this interview! Best of luck with your debut and its sequel! 🙂
You can pre-order the book with free shipping by clicking this link!