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How An Editor Almost Cost Me My Career With Author Peter Orullian - Transcript for Ep 102 of Horribl

(Transcription services provided by Renzee Lee. See contact info at the end of the interview for pricing information.)

Welcome to Horrible Writing. The rawest, most candid, in your face writing show on the interwebs, because none of us have time to suck. Let's do this.

Paul Sating Welcome to Episode 102 of Horrible Writing. I'm your host, Paul Sating.

One of the things that this show has always done in its history is talk about the author journey over craft. There's a billion shows - of people much more successful and smarter than I - about the writing craft.

I don't want to do that. I wanted to always take another angle. This time around, I'm really honing in on the journey aspect of something related to, maybe, considered more the business side of writing. And I have an absolutely phenomenal author who's going to come on and talk about it with me. We're going to talk about editors; maybe horrible editing stories; how an editor can maybe kill a career.

And I have with me none other than Peter Orullian; an epic fantasy author. You may know him from his Tor books; The Vault of Heaven series. And he does some other stuff, including a very cool project from the progressive metal band - back in the day, still today, but kind of back in my teen years - Dream Theatre; those of you who know about Dream Theatre. He worked on a book called The Astonishing off of their concept album. Really cool project. Peter, welcome to Horrible Writing. It's great to have you here.


Thank you. I'm glad to be here.


You and I did some chatting offline - of course, like always I do with all my guests - about topics and how we can center that around the author - aspiring author, blooming writer - journey. And you proposed one that I get a lot of questions about. And when I told the secret Facebook group for this show that you were coming on and what you were going to be talking about, I said, "Hey, let me know if you want anything specific I could ask Peter." I got flooded with questions, as you can imagine.

So there's a lot of people interested in this topic, and you were really cool - and fans of this show know it's all about empowerment through candor - and I've seen you speak. I've seen you present on numerous panels up in Norwescon in Seattle. Folks, if you are in the Seattle area on Easter weekend, or you can get here, that is one of the best bang-for-your-buck conferences you'll ever be able to attend because it has people like Peter there sharing their insight.

Before we get into the dirty details of your editing story - your editor story - can you kind of give us an idea, a little fun here, what's worse? Editors or agents?


Well, it depends on your editor and your agent. They come in flavors. On the agent side, there are agents who behave like editors, and they will alert you to that fact that once you sign up with them. And by the way, 'sign-up' is kind of in air quotes because most agencies don't have a formal agent-author agreement. A lot of it is - the terms are fairly consistent in standard across the industry, but there's few that actually do a written agreement. So writers need to decide if that's important to them.

But the agent - some of them want to get in deep, and they want to participate in some of the story. You know, suggest changes. Obviously, at the end of the day, the writer makes the decision, but a recalcitrant writer may find an agent that wants to be deeply involved; not as interested to represent an author who won't take input.

And then on the other end, there are those who really just mail - they just mail your work in. So the writer needs to decide what they want from their agent. If they are glad to take input, and they trust the agent, then that's a good match. But I know writers who don't want any input from an agent. All they want agent to do is have the connections with the editors, mail in the manuscripts, and get the deals done.

And then there's also a stripe of writer who doesn't want an agent at all. They don't want an intermediary who's taking a percentage. So writers need to make these decisions on what works best for their career.

With editors, it's kind of the same. There are editors who are super aggressive and they just really red line in a very heavy-handed way - almost influencing the voice of the manuscript. All the way to editors - and these stories are legion in the writing circles of editors who are so busy, and I understand this, but they're so busy that their editorial input is very, very limited. And a lot of what you get is, they still represent the books internally at all the appropriate meetings, but they're more like shepherds for getting the book through the process.

Versus the older, romantic idea of editors who cultivate talent. We don't live in an age anymore where a talented writer can be groomed and grown over time to build an audience. We live in an entertainment era where books need to find immediate hit success; otherwise, the writers will find themselves very quickly out of a contract or out of a publisher.


With your own personal journey - the audience for this show, like I said, and like we chatted about, are newer writers, aspiring authors, maybe a few folks who have a book or two or a collection out there of poetry, but we don't have an extensive library as a collective for the most part. When you are a younger writer, approaching this journey of dealing with your first editor, can you kind of give us a little back story of who you were, what you have been through? And then post that first editing experience. What did that journey - what did those experiences - teach you?


Well, I spent a lot of time trying to develop my craft. And this is - there's still a lot of writers who do that. Increasingly there are writers who I think are short-circuiting that process in the interest of getting their books listed with Amazon and other places because publishing - self-publishing - is so easy to do now. And distribution, at least through online retailers, is so easy to do now.

So there's a significant number of - call them young writers or new writers - that I don't think they spend as much time as on the craft of writing as they probably should. The truth is, is that should never end. The desire to always write your best book and learning new tricks of the trade, elements of craft, that should never end.

I spent a significant amount of time building my craft - which isn't to say that I've arrived by any means. I still make tons of mistakes, and I'm still learning. But that process included principally, and most importantly, reading a lot and writing a lot. There's no substitute for practice. And the first many, many, many books you write should be considered just that. And you may sell some and have some success, but the truth is, is it takes many books to really get into a place where you're writing at a mature level.

You can supplement that with going to conferences. If you're the kind of person who feels like they need, or would benefit from writer's groups, these are additional elements. Of course, there are books, And there's a whole cottage industry on books about writing, and some of those are good, and some are less good. The best way to find those is through recommendations.

I did that for a long time. And then my story to publication is kind of boring because although every story's different, mine is kind of traditional in that I submitted to an agent, the agent liked my writing, but he didn't like the particular book I had sent him. But I found that he represented more than one genre. So I'd sent him originally a thriller novel, and when I saw that he'd represented Robert Jordan, I said, "Well, I've written a fantasy." And the fantasy had been on the shelf for eight or ten years, but I figured - why not?

So I sent it to him. He really liked it, and he sent it to Tor, and I wound up with my deal. So it was really kind of the standard - find an agent, the agent sends it to the publisher, the publisher buys it - which is the kind of old tried and true.

Then, once it was bought by Tom Doherty, I got a three-book deal. I was assigned an editor internally, and that editor had been the editor for one of their other big fantasy writers. Not Jordan, but he'd been the editor for probably their second-largest epic fantasy writer. And I didn't know any better, because I've never been in it and of course, you kind of step lightly because these are relationships of trust. And you're young; you don't want to upset the apple cart.

So I took all the editorial input really well. I'd made a bunch of suggestions at the very outset because the book had been on the shelf for so long. And I sent an epically long email to this editor saying, "Look, I'm a far better writer than this manuscript represents given when it was written, and my vision on the story has changed." But he summarily dismissed all of that and proceeded. And I didn't stand my ground on that. And that's the biggest learning I had - is that there's a diplomatic way to be firm, and the writer needs to gauge how to navigate that with the personality of the editor they're paired with. But you know, your's is the name on the cover.

Now, of course, the publishing company can always elect to not publish a book. Usually, their contracts stipulate that. That's part of the arc of gauging the person - the editor - and what's really important to you in the manuscript and stand firm on those things. You have to acknowledge that they have a certain expertise and that you're paying for that, as a manner of speaking. You're hoping that they're coming to it with all the best intentions and a good work ethic and experience.

But in my case, I wound up with an editor who had - and I didn't know this - but had quite a reputation for overediting. He was by bi-located from the office, and so there was some scrutiny on just how much he was actually working. He had some personal things going on that I think were diving his attention. He was later fired from Tor for sexual misconduct. So there was just a bunch of stuff.

In addition to all of that, he was notorious on his wait times. So he wouldn't even look at book - like when I turned in my second book I had to wait . . . I was waiting for a year before he even looked at the book. So it was a perfect storm of badness with this particular editor, and I wound up requesting - through my agent - an editor change. There is this kind of unwritten industry sort of, not rule, but guideline that suggests that sometimes author-editor relationships are just bad pairing. It's just like bad marriages, and it's kind of a gimme. So if it's just not working maybe you just need a different editor. Tor was certainly that way. I got moved to another editor just before - and unbeknownst to me - before my editor was fired.

The unfortunate consequence for me is that all of the things I wanted to change about that first book but was disallowed to do so became the very things that manifested themselves in negative reviews.

And so it was a momentum killer. And it's very hard to recover from those kinds of things because that first book sets the tone for the series. So when you're writing a series, and you're paired with an editor, and there's enthusiasm and all these good things, you, at the end of the day, the writer really needs to be sure that the book that goes out is a reflection of their intent.

The good news was, later Tor allowed what they called 'an author's edition' where all of this stuff came to light, and the book was republished an 'an author's edition' with most of the changes that I had wanted - which is great. But again, in some respects, it was too late. So while I've had some success with that series, it was not the breakaway success that anybody wanted. And while you'll never know for sure, sometimes I wonder if I had been a little bit firmer about the change and insisting on the changes that I had wanted, if things wouldn't haven't panned out differently from a sales perspective for me on that series.


Oh yeah, absolutely understandable. Peter, thank you for sharing that. It's obvious that obviously, not all editors are created equal. I'm curious, was sharing that very candidly - which I do appreciate. One of the things I love being able to deliver to listeners of the show are what I call . . . I'm an ex-military guy, so we're on big on tips, tools, and tactics; we talk about that in our debriefs all the time.

So Peter of today, reflecting on that Peter, what are some of the tips, tools, and tactics that you would share with younger writers specifically about maybe being - if you, in a perfect world, had more influence and control - how you would have dealt with that editor, in that situation, in the moment assuming, of course, that you had the power to do that? What can newer writers do now to prepare themselves and actually maybe be able to put the brakes on something like that they feel is running away from them that could result in what you just talked about with the sale's outcome?


That's a good question. Mine is sort of a very unique story. But if a writer found themselves in that kind of situation, I think one of the recourses they need to be able to have is with their agent. And so one of the candid questions that a writer can talk to an agent about when they're in that sort of courtship period on whether or not they're going to work together is maybe run a scenario like this - Like, let's say I'm really at an impasse with my editor. To what degree is the agent able and willing to get involved to help mediate something like that? And I think it's rare; I don't hear tons of stories where there's this kind of impasse.

But if, as a writer, if you're convinced that what's going on with the book is going to have a negative effect on your career, and the editor is just intractable, I think the author needs to - I mean, first try and work it out with the editor - but if that's not going to find resolution, then I think the agent needs to be able and willing to step in. And what that means is, some agents don't want to get involved in contentious discussions because I think they're worried about the rub-off effect that might have on their relationship with the editor. The potential to sell to the editor; other books from other writers.

So you need an agent who's willing to do that, and maybe has the negotiation skills to do that with diplomacy and tact. And that speaks to the second thing I said, which is the ability - being able to do it is different from being willing to do it. So you have to have confidence that the agent has the right level of either weight. Like, there are some agents that represent so many writers and have such industry weight that the editors will stipulate to the things that they may common ask or request on behalf of the author.

Agents that don't have that kind of a client list or reputation are going to need to rely on great negotiating skills and diplomacy. So if the agent you have, or considering, either doesn't have the heavyweight list or name or the skills to meditate rough patches, then you can still work with that agent, but then you kind of go in knowing that if you hit some bumps it's going to be on you to navigate them.


Just for a context, so you're aware, and maybe it might help you form or frame your response, a good number of listeners are pursuing the trade route. There is obviously a huge contingent that are also Indy already, or that's a route that they're going to take for themselves when it comes to publishing. So with that framework, what would you say to a newer writer when it comes - in terms of looking for your editor - looking for what you want out of an editor, and obviously for those Indys who are out on their own looking for editors, what would a writer need to know about themselves before they go on that hunt for an editor?


Well, a valuable thing to know about yourself as a writer, is what your strengths and weaknesses are. And every writer's got them. There's no writer that's good at all the elements of craft. A couple of examples with big names - you can look at someone like Sanderson - Brandon Sanderson - he is masterful at plot.

By contrast, if you look at someone like Pat Rothfuss, Rothfuss - and this is by his own admission - it takes him a long time to work at plot. But talk about voice and lyricism in the writing, Rothfuss is a master. So if you wrote out all of the elements of craft - like the central ones like plot and voice and characterization and setting, etcetera - writers come at varying levels of ability on these things. And, of course, you work at them all, but writers are just different in this regard.

So having a sort of candid self assessment of those things is really good so that when you start looking for an editor you can be proactive and say, "Hey, look, while I want you to look at all elements of craft and get in on pacing and voice and all of these things," you can say, "Hey, there's some things that I feel like I'm still growing at" - like maybe I'm not really good at characterization - "so I'm glad to take more input and more suggestion on characterization."

If you feel like your superpower is plotting, you may say to the editor, "You're welcome to provide plot input, but if you're spending time and I'm paying you by the hour, don't over-index on plot because I'm comfortable that I've arrived at a good plot for the book.

And the way you can get at that is having good beta readers who can give you candid feedback on elements of the book or of your writing. So that when you're looking for an editor - and then the other things you can do is you can ask the editor for their list of titles and authors they work with. And then call down on those authors and ask them about their experience and what those editors are good at; what they are not good at - so that you can pair yourself well with someone who can help you build the best book. Because at the end of the day what you're contracting for is someone who's not going to try and refashion the book in some way, but to help make the thing you've written the best it can be. And that's where, I think, sort of a major distinction in editors.

There are some who don't seem to understand that their job is simply to yield the best story or the best book from the thing you've created. Instead, they often are kind of remolding it after what they, in their head, think it should be. And in a wild west of editorial now, as writers are kind of becoming the publisher, finding good editors is key because going into publication without that - that's what separates, I think, the successful self-published writers from the unsuccessful. And of course, as soon as I say that there are counterexamples, but in the main, that's going to be true.


Right. When you were talking earlier, you mentioned - you used the phrase "a relationship of trust." So I got two last questions for you before we talk about your horrible writing experience - and these are going to come from a Facebook group.

Those of you who are new to the show - welcome; I'm glad youre here. Come find us over on Facebook Horrible Writing Writer's Support Group - but Jennifer Worrell and author AC Ward had questions that were close enough I think I could squeeze them into one question for you.

They wanted to know about how you - and I think you kind of hit on this earlier - Jennifer wanted to know how you know, or how you feel out, what editor advice comments will make/break your piece; your work. And then AC Ward had a closely related one to ask about: how can you tell - what's your warning sign that your voice is being edited out of your work?


Well, I think the second one first. And it's really rather simple. Voice is . . . There are a number of elements of voice. There's word choice, which is key. There's sentence length; the use of fragments. The character; they'll have defining characters around hobbies and education and spiritual infinity - all of these things that are the makeup of who they are that influence the way they say things and where they come from when answering questions.

So the writer, if they've done their work, they know the character. They know who they are and how they would respond; the words that they would use. Their reactions to things; their emotions.

And so if an editor is introducing or wanting to change language that somehow is in conflict with everything the writer knows about the character and how they're going to interrelate to the world, then you just sort of immediately know. And sometimes that is done without any sort of guile or etcetera on the editors part. Maybe they think another word is better. And if this happens all of the time when there's a word that can perfectly convey something that you could substitute for a number of words, or a lesser word, or maybe more high falutin word.

But the truth is, is it's not a word that the character would use, so then it is out of character. And then what you've done is you've introduced a change or a slip in voice. So I think it's very obvious to a writer when they see a change in - this can be syntax; where clauses are used in a sentence - and I know that in the strictest sense that there are the best ways to do that for clarity. And of course, clarity is really, really a key element of writing a book. But if that were true, and we all used the same syntax, then we'd all have the same voice.

And so I think the second one is - if the writer really understands the character well, then any sort of editorial change that doesn't sound like that character - or if it's omniscient voice, same deal - then it kind of rises to the altitude of the writer themselves or a narrator. They'll know if it sounds like the narrator. A good trick for that is, you can read it out loud. That usually obviates a stumbling of eloquence or of flow or of cadence or lyricism that the writer can hear.

Now the first question I'm going to ask you to repeat since I gave you such a long answer to the second question.


No worries. Jennifer Worrell was asking about - I thought you were going to go with it right where you were talking about that. But the advice, comments, feedback that you get from the editor - how do you know when it's going to be advice that makes your work or breaks your work?


Well, I'm not sure what she's asking there. There's one reading of her question that is, is it having a devastating impact on the whole story in a way that creates it a success or a failure? In that case, if that's the question, then you kind of look at the depth of the editorial.

I was talking about this earlier when - in the editor relationship. There are some editors who overedit. They get really, really deep, and the subtext there is that you're not a very competent writer because there needs to be so many changes. But the truth is, just as often as - and sometimes that's the case. Sometimes writers don't have as much level of craft, and that level of editorial is helpful.

And sometimes not even to publish the book, but to start learning the craft - having someone who really gets it, edit the book, and look at the changes they're making - can start to suggest to the write elements of craft that they need to work on. But if you get that kind of a heavy edit, and then you look at that and you see that there is a systemic problem with the book in clarity, or whether or not the engine of the story - the plot - is compelling and moving the reader forward, the editorial, the comments, and the revision and the red lining - it won't be a secret. It won't be hard to deduce as you look at that. If it's improving the book, or whether it's just changing the book. And that's where I was talking about there are editors who revise voice and revises cadence and all of these kinds of things based on preference, versus what's best for the story; the manuscript they're working on. When the writer reviews a deep edit like that, where there's so much feedback, it'll be obvious if the feedback that is being given is improving the work or changing the work.

The other way to read that question is just . . . not on the sort of the larger scale with the whole book, but whether or not the small scale - like in a scene or in an interchange between characters, or whatever the case may be - if the feedback is actually improving the passage and I've never found it . . . And writers are different, so I can go from my own experience - but I've never found it hard to deduce whether or not the changes are in line with the character; if they're improving clarity or impact - any number of ways that an edit could improve a section or piece of dialogue.

The great news is that you can get that kind of an edit, and you throw away the stuff - if you're using track changes you disallow on the stuff that you don't think improves it. Because at the end of the day, the editorial input - it's only function should be to improve what's already on the page. And if it doesn't, if all that really doing is changing it, then you just disregard it. And there's a degree of this that's just instinctive, but it grows out of the author's confidence that they know the story they're trying to tell.


I think you hit on that beautifully right there on the end. Folks, if you need to rewind for like a minute to really get down to . . . Because, Peter, that's what I see quite often with the newer writers who ask these questions of the show or in that group is - it boils down to that confidence and that almost acquiesce to authority - the editor is the big-all-end-all. And I think those tips, tools, and tactics are really going to help a lot of folks push through those moments where they are looking at the sheep that's bleating track changes and have the confidence to say, "No, not today. Thanks a lot; appreciate it."

So last question on this agent/editor stuff - NJ boyer, another upcoming author, wants to know what are some of the red flags that you would recommend new writers look out for when it comes to working with a new editor?


Well, one is responsiveness. So if your emailing or communicating with your editor, and you're not getting prompt responses, that's a problem. It's true that so many of these folks are so overworked; they're managing huge lists of writers - and that can be whether your self published or traditionally published. But you need someone who is communicative. So it's a huge red flag if they're not getting back to you.

There's some other things. If you get editorial input whether it's - usually you'll get an editorial letter if it's a traditionally published book and then you'll get a manuscript with track changes; there are still some editors who write on hard copy. Whatever the case is for how you receive the feedback - if in reviewing . . . And by the way, the feedback is a gift. The feedback - if it makes your book better, you should be really, really happy about that. Because that means it's going to be more successful and a better experience for the reader and you're going to make more money; all of those good things.

But if the changes you see are refashioning the story, reshaping the characters, if the changes are not consistent with the story you're trying to tell and the way you're trying to tell it, then that's a flag. And then that's where you kind of press pause, and you get on the phone with the editor and say, "Hey, look, I really appreciate you want to help me make the best it can be. Some of this feedback is changing character voice." Or, "It's changing plot."

And you can ask probing questions like, "Hey, look, tell me why you don't think the plot is working, and let's talk about that," and you can decide whether you're misaligned on what the story is.

With the characters, you can advocate for the way you've written it. You need to say, "Hey, look, this is who this character is. This is how they think. This is how they talk. So when I go through your feedback, anything that's not consistent with that - those are just changes that I won't make. Not out of any sort of intractability on my part, I just need to sort of keep the character voices consistent and resonate."

So a deep edit can - it's a gift, but as you review it, it'll be a flag if you see the editor rewriting your book. And those are the big ones. If they're communicating - your editor's communicating with you, and if you're kind of on the same page about the story you're writing and you're really just kind of in it to make it the best book possible, there aren't any red flags. But those are the two bigs ones in my view.


I appreciate that, Peter. Now, new listeners if you've never listened to an episode before, I'm going to ask Peter an interesting question here, and some of you may not understand why I'm asking it.

I'm going to ask him to share a horrible writing experience. It's on-brand for the show, but that's not the only reason. Actually, the reason is is because whatever Peter is about to say - and I have no idea what it is; we don't script this stuff out - but whatever he's about to share is something real. Something that has happened to him in his own writing journey.

But I want you to frame that - look at what Peter has accomplished. Look at where he is in his author journey. He has come through whatever this thing is, and he's come out the other side - probably a whole lot smarter and more experienced - but still surviving. Still out there creating awesome things. We all can do this. We've got to flip that paradigm sometimes, but we can all do this. Peter, with that said, I'd love to hear what your horrible writing experience is.


Well, the truth about that for most writers is that with very few exceptions, writing careers are like a sign wave. And they go through crests and valleys. And often the career will even crash. And they could rebound with a great book. They can rebound with a pseudonym.

But very few writing careers kind of just follow this onward and upward sales trajectory and level of brand acknowledgment from the writer's name, etcetera. So with that said, while I've been at this a while, I don't have a vast number of novels out. And my first book contract was with Tor. And I got that through an author-agent relationship where - was a consequence of me firing another agent.

So I have two kind of related - there are actually many, and most writers have many - but two related stories I'll tell you. And the first is that I self-published a collection of Christmas stories ages ago. And I sent that into an agent that is very well known in the genre fiction world. He writes his own books on writing and gives seminars on writing. He loved it, and he took me on as a client.

And then time started to progress. I had sent him my epic fantasy that ultimately Tor published. Took him forever to get back to me on that, and I started to kind of worry about his level of commitment and involvement. And we finally met in Seattle for lunch one day, and he kind of went through the first chapter of my fantasy, and basically proceeded to tell me that we were going to put this on the shelf and he wanted me to start writing the thriller books. Because I had pitched him as a writer on wanting to write many genres - which I have done and want to do more of - and so being new I just sort of said, "Yes, we'll do that."

And then fast forward, I sent him in two thrillers which he sat on for so long I finally just - and by the way, he'd been meaning to also sell my self-published book to a traditional publisher and try to get broader distribution and a marketing plan, etcetera - and nothing materialized.

And what I came to learn is that he had a couple clients that he spent most of his attention on - took on lots of new writers who weren't getting very much attention - while he was writing his own books and creating his own sort of brand as a fiction educator. And so I fired him and I - by the way, I know a couple of other writers who fired him. I also know a couple of huge genre writers who are still with him. So obviously agents work differently for different people.

But that's what led to me - when I started to look for a new agent - I started submitting those thrillers that I had written for him. And I got an agent who loved the writing, but it was hitting right at the time The Davinci Code was dominating the charts. Thriller fiction editors were all looking for the next Davinci Code, and he said, "It's a bad time for thrillers." That's when I went back to him with my fantasy that had been on the shelf for eight or ten years, which he liked. He sent it to Tor, and they bought.

So there's this challenging agent-author relationship that I went through where I - every young author, at least in my time, really, really wanted that agent. They thought that was the first huge step. And I felt the same way. And it was tough to have to fire him because I was then kind of like going back to square one. And this is why I started with this reality that writing careers go through these ups and downs.

So then, I wound up at Tor, and I got paired with an editor - and I've talked about this a little bit even in this interview - but there was a bad pairing. And that editor had one of the same problems. He was not communicative; wasn't getting back to me. And he was not taking any of my input on this aged manuscript. And so that manuscript wound up getting published with all the flaws I'd told him I wanted him to change, and that sent the series on the wrong trajectory both for me - and for Tor at the end of the day.

So the more awful experience was basically having a very sort of promising start with Tor sullied a little bit by the fact that this editor was not committed. And when he did get into revision and editing, he was ignoring any of my input and overediting to create - refashion the book with his own ideas. And that ended up eventuating in a sort of reboot for me at Tor. But as any writer that knows, it's really hard to - you lose confidence. It's really hard to reboot the series.

So the cautionary tale there is that across agents and editors, which is where you and I began, you need someone who is excited enough about your material that they stay engaged; they stay communicative. Because it's deaf if they don't because it's basically just a telltale sign that they're not really interested in your work. And then, once you get to the point where they're engaged, you have to be on the same page. And if you've got an agent or an editor who has their own idea what the book you're writing should be, then the fact that you're not aligned is going to spell disaster for you and your career.


Thank you for sharing those stories, Peter. It's an empowering, it's intimidating - I can understand why that would be intimidating for a lot of us to hear; it is for me as well. But it's encouraging to see that - even with the significance of those . . . I mean, those could have been complete momentum stoppers for a lot of people, and you were able to persevere through that. It's really encouraging.

Now I want to give folks - now, you've shared so much for so many people and helped all of us on our journey, I want to give you an opportunity to kind of brag about yourself. For people who aren't familiar with you - though many of the people who found out you're going to be on the show were absolutely thrilled and wanted to know how I did it. And I didn't tell them that I tackled you at Norwescon to get you to do this, but they are excited to hear about what you've got going on, and maybe possibly what's coming out as well.


Well, to go from the general to the specific - if you like to tell stories - if at the heart of things you're a writer or a storyteller may be a better term- then you just keep doing it. And if you do that, you're going to keep improving. And while there's no certainty that - you can control only what you can control, which is your productivity. So going through these challenges, it's possible to persist and to succeed for sure. And there's always another angle to take on how to do that.

So, I've still got a book left on a contract I have with Tor to deliver, which is great because there's wonderful people over there. Because I have built a reputation around my writing and my understanding and passion for music, a lot of my writing has music as a factor. And so that led to my being able to do the novelization of a concept album by my favorite band.

And so it's a tie-in, so to speak, in the same way that Star Wars or Star Trek might be - except that the band gave me full license to create inside that world to really blow it out and do things there. Most tie-in work doesn't give you that kind of freedom.

So it was awesome for me too. I wrote a book called The Astonishing, which is a tie-in to a Dream Theatre album. And that was amazing, and it's led to some other work in that same regard that's coming out later this year. I'm doing another piece of fiction that's tied to another album by a member of that group.

And then I because I've been in and around and just made friends, I've have a forthcoming collaboration with Brandon Sanderson with an urban fantasy series. And that also has a music pivot. And Brandon knew that I knew this culture. And he read my books and blurbed them, so we got talking about it one day and just found that we have this really great alignment. So there's still a lot of work to do to get that underway, but there's some real positive things that can grow out of all of this despite where I came from.

And so I've got - I should have over the next year or two - I should have a new Tor book, another book out with a heavy music influence from a major metal band, and then the first in a new urban fantasy series with arguably one of the biggest genre writers working right now.

And that's just - it might not happen that same exact way for everybody, but I found that being congenial - not being too overbearing in your touchpoints you have with people in the trade - goes a long way because everybody knows that we're all trying to make it while working hard to succeed. But it's also easy to sort of smell desperation if nobody likes to be overwhelmed by or inundated by someone's requests or needs.

So kind of establishing yourself as someone who's easy to work with, has a good attitude, has a good work ethic - creating that sort of personal brand is really important. And it can be hard early on because there's such a desire to succeed and a desperation. You really have to hold that in check and just put yourself in the places and times - conferences or conventions - that you build those relationships because over time they can bear fruit.


I really appreciate you saying that. Folks, that's just bonus content right there. But that's one of the reasons why I was absolutely thrilled to have you on. Because you showed it at the cons that I've seen you at; just how giving you are when I approached you at this recent one about the interview. You were totally approachable and so giving of your time, and you have been here. And now you wrap up an entire episode with a section where I was going to try to help you allow to pimp yourself out, and you gave more helpful advice to other upcoming writers. That's just stand up stuff; it really is. I really, truly appreciate you doing that.

For those of the listeners who are really interested in your work, what you've got going on and those appropriate touchpoints, where can they find you on the internet?


My website is just my last name; so it's - O-R-U-L-L-I-A-N. Most of my fiction - the books, and I have a ton of short fiction that's been published - all of that is up there. Some of the forthcoming stuff; there's information about that. So my website's the best place, and from there you can also get to all my social channels. So if you go to, you can get information on other news outlets I use, or engagement outlets I use, to talk with fans and writers about any and everything.


That is really cool. Peter, you've helped so many this morning. I know there were a ton looking forward to hearing this interview, which will be out in a couple weeks. I want to really, honestly thank you for your time and all the guidance that you've shared with us today. You've been a wonderful guest to have on. Thank you so much.


You're welcome. Thanks for having me.


This has been Horrible Writing, and hopefully, after this episode, you suck less than you did at the beginning. I am Paul Sating; your host extraordinaire. You can find me over on the TwitterVerse at @paulsating and @writinghorrible, and over at Until next time, suck less.

Transcription by Renzee Lee over at Renzee Lee Freelancing. For fast turn around times on content writing, transcription, and editing services, email Renzee at

Originally Posted: September 2019

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