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Brandon Sanderson author of The Way of Kings (review here)

Lou Anders Editor of Pyr Books

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Benjamin Parzybok author of Couch (review here)

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Character Interviews

Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's Soulless

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Atticus from Kevin Hearne's Hounded


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Alif: The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

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Redshirts by John Scalzi

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S.M. Peters debuted with Whitechapel Gods (Roc, 2008), his take on Steampunk. I adored Whitechapel Gods so I was eagerly awaiting his sophomore effort Ghost Ocean (Roc 2009), which is his first Urban Fantasy recently reviewed here. Peters doesn't have a blog or even a site so I was intrigued to interview him to learn a bit more. Read below to get to know Peters a little. MH: Hello Mr. Peters, welcome to Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review. Thank you for taking time to answer our questions. Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself? SMP: I am six-foot-two; I have the build of a varsity athlete, blonde hair and blue eyes, a chiseled jaw and perfect teeth. Oh… I also have a day job as an astronaut and wrestle lake-monsters in my spare time. Any other facts I divulge about my life can only serve to reveal the dark and terrible secret that I am quite possibly the most boring human being alive today. MH: What did you want to accomplish with Ghost Ocean? What themes were you exploring and do you think you succeeded? SMP: I didn’t set out to accomplish anything with Ghost Ocean, which I’ve always found to be a laudable goal. I started and ended this with Te – the book was written to give her life. There’s something profoundly personal about her story for me, and I love her in some way I can’t understand. If Te were real I think I would be madly infatuated with her but I’d never pluck up the courage to even say “Hi.” The supernatural aspects of Ghost Ocean spilled out from a thought that’s been nagging me for years regarding urban fantasy – when the characters first see unholy, inhuman horrors, they tend to react with a rather pedestrian “fear” instead of an earth-shattering up-ending of their entire belief system. The one exception in my eyes is Vampire$ [MH: the title does end with a dollar sign] by the aptly named John Steakly, which depicts the whole range of physical and psychological damage that comes with encountering and fighting the supernatural. I wanted to bring some of that into this book. Whether I’ve succeeded or not is a decision left to the reader. MH: I’m a fan of fictitious towns. What sparked the idea behind St. Ives and Ghost Ocean? SMP: The original conception of Ghost Ocean was to base the whole thing on nursery rhymes. While fumbling for ideas, I read a few omnibus collections and realized, first, that many nursery rhymes were potentially traumatizing to their target audience, and second, that it wouldn’t work as a concept for a novel. I dropped the idea but shades of it remain in the name of St. Ives (“When I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives.”) and elsewhere. The visual template for St. Ives came from my home town of Kamloops, BC… or what it would have been if it were more gothic and interesting. The other half of the equation is another thought that’s been kicking around in my head for an equally long time. I’ve often read the ancient myths and wondered whether there was any truth to them. Since I’ve never really been able to accept the creed that we modern people are rational and superior while the ancients were backwards, superstitious savages, I have been forced to assume that highly rational people in ancient times accepted the existence of gods and monsters. What if there was some basis for that belief? What if the creatures of legend did exist in some form? Where did they all go? St. Ives was one possible answer to that question. MH: What Fantasy books have left you in awe? Which writers have influenced your work the most? SMP: In truth, I haven’t been able to read an honest-to-goodness novel since I did my two years of Lit at university. I find much of my inspiration in the genius of graphic novel writers like Gaiman, Ellis, Ennis, Bendis and Moore (and recently, Jeff Smith). I also have an insatiable appetite for indie and small-run graphic works because that’s where you find the really mind-bending, avant-garde storytelling. If I had to pick a guiding influence from traditional Sci-Fi, I would definitely pick Roger Zelazney’s Lord of Light. MH: Have you always wanted to be a writer? SMP: I’ve been writing as long as I’ve been able to chew on a No. 2 pencil, but I’d never considered seriously pursuing it until a long succession of failures in monotonous day jobs forced me to really ask myself what would make me happy. My turning point was when I saw the movie Comedian, in which Jerry Seinfeld comforts a doubt-filled up-and-coming comic with the simple question “Well, what would you rather be doing now?” To my absolute shock, I had an answer. Did I always want to be a writer? That’s a different question entirely. Would anyone want to be chained into a relationship with a mercurial mistress muse who sits just on the edge of the great hole between soul-crushing mundanity and glorious, overarching inspiration, occasionally kicking little bits of golden prose into your brain in the form of old tin cans and soccer balls and giggling at your ineptitude when you can’t string it all together? …Well, I guess I do. Damn. MH: Getting published by a major house can be difficult. What was your road to publishing Whitechapel Gods like? SMP: Honestly, I feel that I really lucked out in that regard. I scraped some money together and went to the Surrey International Writer’s Conference in Surrey, BC, in October of 2005. At the time, all I had to my publishing credit was one short story, called “Ticker Hounds”[On Spec Winter 2005] which was a sort of prototype for Whitechapel and includes early versions of Oliver, Missy and Hews. At this conference you can book time with editors, publishers, agents and authors to talk about your own work. I signed up for fifteen minutes with Liz Scheier of Roc (since moved elsewhere and good luck to her). I spent this precious fifteen minutes vomiting up incoherent summaries of setting and conflict with enough mumbling and stuttering to put a sleepwalker to shame. To my continual bewilderment, she told me it sounded (!) interesting and asked for the first fifty pages plus an outline. I sent them the instant I got home, and, as they say, the rest is history (history being a one year period of anxious back-and-forth discussion and revisions until the contracts finally came in the mail). Remember this story when someone tells you to put more effort into your sales pitch than your actual work. MH: Between Ghost Ocean and Whitechapel Gods it is clear you’ve built two very different worlds. How much back-story have you written or have you created most of it as you go along? SMP: Backstory is something of an enigma with me. I often write pages and pages of it and then rarely use those pages in any meaningful way. My writing style is distressingly organic, and I’m often up at all hours chewing my nails down to the wrist worrying if the book is ever going to work out (I’m doing that right now). Backstory shifts with every new chapter and I allow it to, trusting my muse to ultimately bless me with what I’ll need, usually only after I’ve groveled at her feet sufficiently and filled my quota of anxious whining. On my revisions, I go through and try to make it consistent. MH: How do your stories take shape? Are you a detailed outliner or more streams of consciousness? SMP: I work in images. I see scenes, in full colour. I know instantly when I get one of these that it will be, somehow, one of the defining moments of the story. I write towards these, hoping that they will happen, hoping that the moment will crystallize as I envisioned it. It’s really not up to me – the words pull me there or they don’t. I’ve always found intellectualizing or planning a story to be counterproductive. MH: Whitechapel Gods has one of my favorite covers illustrations from 2008. Are you happy with the covers you’ve been given and how important do you think they are to a book’s success? SMP: The great irony of writing is that no matter how much effort you put into your story, the cover alone will sell it or sink it, and authors have no control over covers. My editor just emailed me asking for descriptions of things – Boiler men, cloaks, the Stack – and that was the sum total of my involvement. If I hadn’t lucked out and got Cliff Nielsen as my artist for Whitechapel, I’d never have had a second book and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. That said, I love both covers. The cover for Whitechapel was the perfect level of creepy, and the jaunty tip-of-the-hat on such a horrific character represented the book’s inner life for me. I also love the cover for Ghost Ocean. When my editor emailed me to ask for a physical description of Te, most of my response was concerned with her not being Anita-Blake sexy. But, calloo callay, the illustration is almost exactly as I pictured her. There’s even a bit of a twitch in her far eye. MH: You’ve written two very different standalone novels. Would you ever consider writing a series? SMP: When I first started writing professionally, I gave myself two and only two rules: 1. I will never use the phrase “and now the hunter becomes the hunted,” and 2. I will never write a fantasy trilogy. Well… I might be in the process of breaking the second rule. Ghost Ocean has turned into just such a creation, against my every effort to write something else (stories like being in threes, alright?). The sequels are turning out to be weird enough to hold my own attention, so I have hope for them. …If I ever break the first rule, you have permission to show up at my house and shoot me between the eyes. I’ll thank you on my tombstone. MH: What are two things about you most people don’t know? Do you have a pet monkey you keep sequestered in the backyard? SMP: Yes, actually. My pet monkey, Barnabus, is a hyper-intelligent radioactive mutant and I send him out to put straws up people’s noses while they sleep. I’d lock the window tonight if I were you. MH: You’ve done Steampunk and now Urban Fantasy, what’s next for you? Can you tell us a little about your next book and when it might be released? SMP: I can tell you nothing, ever, about release dates. I only find out when my book shows up for advance ordering on Amazon. The next two in the works are two sequels to Ghost Ocean which deal with the inevitable conflict between the Old Country and the vast powers of the human race. I’m hoping Roc will pick them up, but there’s been no word yet (speed is not a high priority in the publishing business). In terms of future projects – I can’t say. I really can’t. Stories just seem to worm their way out of me once their alien-like incubation period is over. MH: Is there anything else you’d like to say? SMP: Thank you very much for hosting me on your website. Oh, and don’t eat any tepid chicken. MH: Very good advice and good luck with the lake monsters and continuting the world of Ghost Ocean. Thank you for your time. Cheers! Ghost Ocean Book Link: US Canada UK Whitechapel Gods Book Link: US Canada UK


RobB said...

Good interview! This and your positive review of Ghost Ocean gave the book a nudge up a few notches on my to read pile.

Bridget said...

Nice interview. Just posted this on Win A Book.

Anonymous said...

I like his sense of humor. I'll have to check out Whitechapel Gods.

ediFanoB said...

Good interview. Mr. Peters has a kind of humor... I read WHITECHAPEL GODS but to be honest I had some problems with the book. There are several passages where I got lost. But nevertheless I'm eager to buy and read GHOST OCEAN.

Gregory said...

Thanks for posting the interview.... I picked up Whitechapel Gods and have yet to get to it....It will be higher in the cue when I get home in September...

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to S.M. Peters? In his interview, it mentioned that he has 2 sequel novels for Ghost Ocean.

But it seems he's vanished, which is a pity as I liked his 2 books.

Anonymous said...

Where did S.M. Peters go? It's been years since Ghost Ocean and not one word about the guy?

Mad Hatter Review said...

I'm not sure where Peters is now. I actually e-mail him about a year ago and never heard back. I'm not sure if he's moved on to other things or if sales weren't good enough for the series. I hope he makes a return at some point even if it is with something completely different.

Anonymous said...

Why oh why have we nothing more from this wonderful writer??? I am so bummed with checking amazon every few months for years now, and still northing more. Please, publishing world!!

Mad Hatter Review said...

I tried to contact Peters over a year ago and the e-mail I had no longer work. They could conceivably be publishing under a different name now.