Interview with G.D. Penman, The Witch of Empire series

Thrilled to welcome G.D. Penman to the blog. He was kind enough to chat with us and share his new book The Wounded Ones.


Book 2 in the WITCH OF EMPIRE series

GENRE: Urban Fantasy / LGBTQ / Detective


Demons and serial killers are Iona “Sully” Sullivan’s bread and butter, but nothing could have prepared her to face off against the full weight of the British Empire at the height of its power. With the War for American Independence in full swing, she finds even her prodigious talents pushed beyond their limits when citizens of the American Colonies begin vanishing amidst rumors of crop circles, hydra sightings and worse. Through a wild and lethal adventure that will see her clashing with the Empire around the world and beyond, the only constants in Sully’s life are an undead girlfriend, a giant demon crow that has taken a shine to her, regular assassination attempts by enemies on all sides, and the cold certainty that nothing and nobody is going to make it out of the war in one piece.

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Interview with G.D. Penman

What is the first book that made you cry?

I cry at the drop of a hat. I cried reading the Hobbit. I am a very poor yard stick for what makes normal people cry. The last thing to have me sobbing for a good length of time was probably The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Whether I love it or not, writing is still work. The world’s greatest bricklayer is still coming home with sore arms. The world’s greatest chef is still crashing into bed after a twelve hour shift.

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

I’ve seen more writers hamstrung by a lack of ego rather than an overabundance. So maybe the question should be about how much ego is appropriate. I am still trying to find the right levels of ego for me, but I keep phrasing the sweeping statements about my transcendent genius as jokes to provide myself with some plausible deniability.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I’ve written under a great many pseudonyms over the years. I was a professional ghost writer up until 2020. In all likelihood, you already have something that I’ve written inside your house. It is already too late!

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

If a book doesn’t do something new then there was no point in writing it. And the idea that “giving people what they want” means regurgitating the same shit over and over is kind of insulting to readers. There is a balancing act to be struck, where readers need enough of the familiar to follow what is going on, but that is a craft issue, not one of philosophy.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

It is a strange thing, but most of my favourite books were ones that I didn’t like to start with. It was only on a second attempt that I slipped into the rhythm of the story and fell in love. Poppy Z Brite’s horror, N.K. Jemesin’s Broken Earth, Even Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana all repulsed me at the first attempt and are now ranked among my favourites.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I moved to a new computer recently and my trunked books folder is now a little over 1GB in size. I’ve buried more books than most people have had hot dinners but I never throw anything away; there will always be some seed in every project that excited me enough to sink words into it. Some meaty morsel that I’ll go back and cannibalise one of these days.

How many hours a day do you write?

Wake up. Coffee. Invasive owl Russian lesson. Walk dog. Write. Lunch. Write. Smoke. Write. Dinner. Write more, if there is a deadline. Sleep. Totals up to somewhere between six and nine hours depending on how badly I’ve screwed up my scheduling.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

Cooking has always been my other love. So I’d like to think that I’d be doing that as a living. Probably in a food truck with a ridiculous pun name.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I realised pretty early on that reviews of my books mess with my head. If they are bad, then I internalise all the complaints and it ruins my ability to write. If they are good, then I convince myself that I’ll never be able to live up to the impossible standards that I’ve set. My brain is evil. So I don’t read reviews.


AUTHOR LINKS: Website | Twitter


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Sully stubbed out her cigar like the ashtray was her mother’s face. The last coils of smoke twisted in the air to join the geometric patterns that drifted in a blue cloud around her. There were three assassins this time, and three weren’t nearly enough. Sully set her glass down on the bar and let the mouthful of gin clear her sinuses. After an hour of quietly sipping liquor in the stuffy walnut paneled comfort of the train’s bar, Sully’s patience had run thin. The young men in three-piece suits might have blended in perfectly back in jolly old England, but here in the Americas, their blandness made them stick out.

Sully swiveled on her stool to take in the lay of the room. “Are we doing this or not? Because I’ve got a thirsty vampire waiting for me back in my cabin and that sounds like a lot more fun than this bullshit.”

The men had been studiously avoiding eye contact with Sully and with each other for the whole trip, but now they all looked up, as if they needed to confirm that their cover was blown before acting. Amateurs. Sully set off the concussion spell that she had been tracing in gin on the bar-top for the last ten minutes, spellfire racing over the liquor. The whole carriage rocked on its rails, and bottles and glasses flew through the air, a maelstrom of chaos that Sully’s contingency shield turned into a whirling dervish of shattered glass around her. All three assassins were moving now, leaping up from their tables and casting their own spells, but they were two moves behind her.

Her next spell seared the broken glass around her, sending molten droplets across the red carpet on their way to scorch half of one assassin’s face off. The other men switched to casting shields and that delay gave her enough time to cast a more complex incantation. The next lance looked like white fire, and while the blond killer managed to get a shield up, the white flames used that dense structured magic as fuel, expanding out to consume him, leaving nothing behind but a heap of ash.

The last one got an attack off before Sully could give him her undivided attention. A ray of moonlight was launched from his fingertip, refracting through the spinning glass to pepper the whole room with patches of frost.

Sully let out a bark of laughter. “You’re trying to take me alive? They really didn’t give you fair warning when you took this job.”

A new spell exploded in a corona around him, a nova of silvery blades that shredded what was left of the upholstery as they flew at Sully. Apparently, this one wanted to live more than he wanted big cash prizes. Sully dove into a booth as the blades and glass collided in a deafening, stinging explosion all around her. He didn’t let up. A roiling wave of green fire swept through the cabin, stripping the walls to bare metal, annihilating the furnishings and reducing the cowering bartender to a stripped skeleton. Sully did her best to ignore the strange absence of heat as the fire rolled over her shields and concentrated on the task at hand.

She rose to her feet on the bare metal of the hollowed-out cabin. The assassin wasn’t smiling despite his change in fortune. Maybe he was a professional after all. She launched another white lance at him and he didn’t bother with a shield. His duelist instincts took over and he cast a traveling spell to jerk him out of the missile’s path. It didn’t work. The white fire hit him square in the chest. He vanished in a flash of light as his own magic consumed him from the inside out.

Sully staggered to her feet and let her protective spells drop. She took a deep breath of the fresh air that was pouring in through the new ventilation that her would-be killers had provided to the cabin. If portals and traveling spells hadn’t been blocked by the Magi of Manhattan, then why would she have been on a train to begin with? The British really needed to hire smarter help. The last few assassination attempts had been almost insultingly lackluster.

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