Today I am interviewing Gareth Hanrahan, author of the new fantasy novel, The Gutter Prayer, first book in the The Black Iron Legacy series.
◊ ◊ ◊
DJ: Hi Gareth! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Gareth Hanrahan: By day, I’m a game designer, creating adventures and rules supplements for tabletop roleplaying games. So, I spend all day writing about monsters and heroes and sinister plots, then switch over to Scrivener and… write about monsters and heroes and sinister plots.
Fortunately, I like monsters and sinister plots. Heroes… are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.
I’m based in Ireland. Bearded. Early 40s. Two or three children, depending on when this interview gets posted.
DJ: What is The Gutter Prayer about?
Gareth: Three thieves in a fantastical city are betrayed by the master of the thieves’ guild. One’s caught and imprisoned, one escaped, and the third is ransomed by an eccentric history professor after she starts to have bizarre magical visions. The three thieves reunite and plot to use this new power to get revenge on their former master. What they don’t realise is that this strange gift has deep and terrible connections to the secret history of the city, and they’re not the only people who seek to use this gift.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Gutter Prayer and the series?
Gareth: It’s sort of a conceptual stew – there’s lots and lots of stuff in there. Worrying about climate change and just-in-time delivery while wandering around a grocery store. Tim Powers novels, especially DECLARE. Dungeons and Dragons monsters. Thinking about what the Crimean War – and the 19th century in general – might have looked like with magic alchemy. Some old BBC Series like the original House of Cards and Seven Wonders of the Victorian Age. Time misspent on World of Warcraft. Robert Holdstock’s Lavondyss.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Gareth: Cari’s a thief. She ran away from home at a young age, and never expected to come back to Guerdon. She’s never been at peace anywhere, and tries to avoid entanglements. But now she’s got mysterious visions exploding her brain, and she doesn’t know how to run away from that.
Spar’s the son of a former master of the thieves’ guild, and was the heir in waiting until he contracted the Stone Plague, a magical disease that’s slowly turning him to stone. Alchemical drugs can slow the disease, but there’s no cure. He can see his future very clearly, and there isn’t much left of it.
Rat’s a ghoul – one of the corpse-eating monsters who live beneath the city. He’s one of the few who creeps out onto the surface, and has human friends – if he spends too much time below, he’ll move onto the next stage of ghouldom. He found Cari on the streets when she was sick, and brought her to Spar.
The three of them are unlikely friends, but their friendship hasn’t really been tested yet.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is your favorite side character or character with a smaller/brief role in story? Why?
Gareth: I’m very fond of Dredger, a dealer in second-hand alchemical weapons. The alchemists’ guild of Guerdon produce all sorts of horrible weapons of mass destruction – poisonous gases, eggs that burst into monsters, knife-smoke, plagues, fires that never stop burning – and Dredger’s business model is to come in after the battle and scoop up those unhatched eggs, those still-infectious plague victims, the more manageable bits of ever-burning flame, and resell them. He’s got a nicely phlegmatic attitude to living in a world full of weird dangers.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the The Black Iron Legacy series like?
Gareth: The book’s set in the city of Guerdon. Sprawling, damp, grey, the skies choked by emissions from the alchemists’ factories. 19th-century-ish London or Edinburgh, maybe, with more worm-monsters. Guerdon’s a sordid, corrupt and often violent city, but it’s much much safer than the rest of the world.
Out there, the Godswar rages. The gods have gone mad, and are fighting against each other, hurling armies and saints against the temples of their rivals. As gods can’t be killed outright, only slowly ground down, there’s a big market for alchemical weapons – and that’s a market Guerdon’s happy to serve.
So, it’s the end of the world, but it’s a profitable one.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Gutter Prayer?
Gareth: There’s a chapter half-way through – it’s the Interlude – that just flowed. It’s not directly connected to the rest of the novel, as it’s describing events off in the Godswar. It’s a very different style, and was fantastic fun to write as I didn’t need to worry so much about continuity and co-ordinating the viewpoints of all the different characters.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Gareth: I honestly don’t know. I’m proud of the ending, which makes sense but took me by surprise – I’d stacked things against the characters, and didn’t know how they’d get out of the final challenge. I hope they’ll be eager to find out more about Guerdon, and what happens next – the book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but it doesn’t return to the status quo either. The city’s forever changed by the events of The Gutter Prayer.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the The Black Iron Legacy series? The Gutter Prayer is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Gareth: Well, The Gutter Prayer was written as a standalone, and only became part of a larger Black Iron Legacy series later – and I don’t know how long the series will be. The theme, I think, will be exploring the nature of legacy, of consequences; how finding a perfect solution isn’t always an option, and today’s victory contains the seeds of tomorrow’s problems. How well-meaning people can make terrible decisions.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Gutter Prayer that you can share with us?
Gareth: I’m not sure if this is funny, but it’s a little foodie.
Her worshippers crowd around her as she enters the city. The land can no longer grow food to feed them, but the goddess has not forgotten them. As she walks through the crowd, the starving mob reaches out to touch the hem of her robe. A single touch is enough to revivify the contents of their stomachs. A few seeds or half-digested leaves or – for the lucky – a little scrap of meat all sprout back to life. Others have not eaten in so long that there is little in them for the goddess’s magic to work on, but there is always something to be blessed and nurtured, some foreign body or intestinal flora. Bellies swell and the people retch joyfully.
Not all survive her kindness. Some burst from within as a cornucopia erupts inside them. Tall stalks of corn sprout from their stomachs and push out their throats, their eye sockets. Apples and berries spill out of their mouths, choking them. They vomit wine. Killed by fruitful blessings, they stumble after Arla as her entourage or spread out into the crowd to feed those who could not reach the saint. Her bountiful dead.
(For shorter quotes, I’ve been tweeting a line a day, starting here: https://twitter.com/mytholder/status/1074663643915145218 )
DJ: Now that The Gutter Prayer is released, what is next for you?
Gareth: I’m finishing up edits on the sequel, currently titled either The Shadow Saint or The Divine Machine. I’m also working on a series of adventures for the Fall of Delta Green roleplaying game (spies vs the Cthulhu Mythos in the 1960s), and material for the 13th Age fantasy roleplaying game.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Gareth-Hanrahan/e/B00420E5NM/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Gutter Prayer the The Black Iron Legacy series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Gareth: The three thieves aren’t the only major viewpoint characters. We also get a look at their adventures from other perspectives, including those of Jere Taphson, a thieftaker (sort of a cross between detective and bounty hunter), and Eladora Duttin, an academic tasked with uncovering Carillon’s connection to the secret history of the city.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Gareth: Thank you!
◊ ◊ ◊
*** The Gutter Prayer is published by Orbit and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
◊ ◊ ◊
A group of three young thieves are pulled into a centuries old magical war between ancient beings, mages, and humanity in this wildly original debut epic fantasy.
Enter a city of saints and thieves . . .
The city of Guerdon stands eternal. A refuge from the war that rages beyond its borders. But in the ancient tunnels deep beneath its streets, a malevolent power has begun to stir.
The fate of the city rests in the hands of three thieves. They alone stand against the coming darkness. As conspiracies unfold and secrets are revealed, their friendship will be tested to the limit. If they fail, all will be lost, and the streets of Guerdon will run with blood.
The Gutter Prayer is an epic tale of sorcerers and thieves, treachery and revenge, from a remarkable new voice in fantasy.
About the Author:
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. Follow him on twitter @mytholder.