My Favorite Bit: Brian McClellan talks about PROMISE OF BLOOD

My Favorite Bit icon

Today we have a debut novel, so please give a very warm welcome to Brian McClellan. His epic fantasy Promise of Blood, just came out from Orbit.

Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving.  But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and greedy scrambling for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies:  the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.  Stretched to his limit Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.  Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth.  No modern educated man believes that sort of thing.  But, the thing is, they should.

What’s Brian’s Favorite Bit?


Promise of Blood CoverOne of my favorite things as a reader is meeting new and interesting characters. As a writer, I want to give my audience the same opportunity to enjoy dynamic heroes, anti-heroes, and villains. I’m deeply invested in each of my characters, but, like any parent, I have my darlings. In Promise of Blood, there are three secondary characters that I particularly enjoyed writing.

The first is Olem, a sergeant in the Adran army and bodyguard to Field Marshal Tamas. Olem has a special “Knack”: he doesn’t need sleep. This unique magical talent makes him a prime candidate for his line of work. Olem is calm, collected, and usually seen smoking one of his hand-rolled cigarettes. He’s a perfect right hand man, always ready to dispense advice or carry out an order. The common soldiers look up to him, while none of the officers seem to notice that he wears a beard against army regulation.

Olem may have been the easiest character for me to write. As a man with simple tastes and quiet loyalty and competence, he’s the kind of character that provides an excellent backbone to the narrative.

Mihali is a larger-than-life character. As the greatest chef in all the Nine Nations—and probably the world—he’s earned the title “Lord of the Golden Chefs.” Monarchs open their treasuries to book him for their banquets.

But there’s something not quite… right about Mihali. It could be sorcery. Or he could be insane. Mihali is that delightful character that is unpredictable within the confines of the society in which he resides. He rubs elbows with noblemen, merchants, kings, and peasants, and he believes that all people should be fed equally. He’s the type of man you’d want to spend all afternoon with, even if he does have some absurd ideas about religion. Just don’t call him a cook…

Ka-poel may be my favorite. She’s been the constant companion of Captain Taniel Two-shot for over a year now, accompanying him when he returned from the war in Fatrasta. No one knows much about her—not even Taniel. Her past and her strange, unfamiliar sorcery are a mystery.

Most see her foreign clothes, freckled skin, and diminutive stature and dismiss her out of hand for an “uneducated savage.” Others think she’s an imbecile because of her silence. In reality, Ka-poel is a mute.

Writing a fully realized and interesting character without any dialogue ended up being a great deal of fun. All her communication must be done through hand signs and miming—and Taniel does not speak her primary language. When I first started writing her, I thought that she would be incredibly hard to bring to life. But Ka-poel’s silence became her strength. It allowed me to keep her intentions hidden from the other characters as well as from the reader.

It’s exciting as a writer to be able to create a character that you can empathize with and relate to. It’s even more challenging and rewarding to create characters that the reader feels just as passionately about. After all of the research, world building, and complicated plotting, my ‘favorite bit’ of the writing process is still the characters.


Promise of Blood:  amazon | B&N | indiebound | audible

Twitter @briantmcclellan


Brian McClellan lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife, two dogs, a cat, and between 6,000 and 60,000 honey bees (depending on the time of year). He majored in English with an emphasis on creative writing at Brigham Young University, where he was a student of Brandon Sanderson. He attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp in 2006. In 2008, he received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest. His first novel, Promise of Blood, is came out internationally from Orbit Books on April 16th with a sequel, The Crimson Campaign, to follow in February 2014.

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